Friday, February 01, 2008

Western U.S. Faces Drought Crisis, Warming Study Says The U.S. West will see devastating droughts as global warming reduces the amount of mountain snow and causes the snow that does fall to melt earlier in the year, a new study says. By storing moisture in the form of snow, mountains act as huge natural reservoirs, releasing water into rivers long into the summer dry season. "We're losing that reservoir," said research leader Tim Barnett, an oceanographer and climate researcher at the University of California, San Diego. "Spring runoff is getting earlier and earlier in the year, so you have to let water go over the dams into the ocean." Summers are also becoming hotter and longer. "That dries things out more and leads to fires," Barnett added. "Our results are not good news for those living in the western United States," the scientists write in their report, which appears in today's online edition of the journal Science. Barnett and his team used computer models to study water flow in Western rivers over the past 50 years. The researchers found that the changes currently affecting the U.S. West have less than a one percent chance of being due to natural variability, Barnett told National Geographic News. His team verified that by running a variety of control tests under pre-industrial conditions that mimicked known natural cycles. What's been occurring recently, he said, is different from natural variability and is driven by the buildup of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. The study also found that more changes are on tap for Western snowpacks....
Canada to become next OPEC The United States' oil dependence on Canada, already America's largest supplier, is about to grow under a plan to build a new pipeline to transport oil from the tar sands of Alberta into the central part of the nation. TransCanada Corporation, a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has announced the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline has been given a final Environmental Impact Statement approval from the U.S. Department of State because of the limited adverse environmental impacts that are expected. The approval is the result of nearly two years of analysis of the project proposal by more than a dozen U.S. federal agencies and other interested stakeholders. Now that the EIS is finished, TransCanada expects to receive authorization soon to begin the construction and operation of the pipeline at the U.S./Canada border crossing. According to the Energy Information Administration, the leading suppliers of U.S. oil in Nov. 2007 were: Canada, 2.431 million barrels per day; Saudi Arabia, 1.620 million barrels per day; Mexico, 1.581 million barrels per day; Venezuela, 1.381 million barrels per day; and Nigeria, 1.306 million barrels per day. According to Canada's Globe and Mail, by 2015 and the completion of the project, Canadian oil exports to the U.S. are expected to increase to three million barrels a day. Plans also are under way to extend Canadian pipelines down to the Texas Gulf Coast where the Texas refineries used to processing the "heavy" and "sour" oil processed from Mexico and Venezuela are well suited to process the sticky crude produced from Alberta's oil sands....
Discovery backs theory oil not 'fossil fuel' A study published in Science Magazine today presents new evidence supporting the abiotic theory for the origin of oil, which asserts oil is a natural product the Earth generates constantly rather than a "fossil fuel" derived from decaying ancient forests and dead dinosaurs. The lead scientist on the study – Giora Proskurowski of the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle – says the hydrogen-rich fluids venting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the Lost City Hydrothermal Field were produced by the abiotic synthesis of hydrocarbons in the mantle of the earth. The abiotic theory of the origin of oil directly challenges the conventional scientific theory that hydrocarbons are organic in nature, created by the deterioration of biological material deposited millions of years ago in sedimentary rock and converted to hydrocarbons under intense heat and pressure. Proskurowski found hydrocarbons containing carbon-13 isotopes that appeared to be formed from the mantle of the Earth, rather than from biological material settled on the ocean floor. Carbon 13 is the carbon isotope scientists associate with abiotic origin, compared to Carbon 12 that scientists typically associate with biological origin....
Senate Takes Up Polar Bear Cause The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing Wednesday to look into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's delay in listing the polar bear as an endangered species. Most Democrats on the committee want the bear listed as endangered while some Republicans have criticized the idea as a stealth means of implementing regulations to combat climate change. The Department of the Interior indicated earlier this month that it would not meet the Jan. 9, 2008 deadline for classifying the bear, and it asked for 30 additional days to consider. Environmentalists, however, are concerned that the listing has been delayed to allow the sale of polar bear habitat along the Chukchi Sea for oil and gas exploration. The sale is currently scheduled for Feb. 6. Andrew Wetzler, director of the Endangered Species Project at the liberal Natural Resources Defense Council, testified that polar bears "stand on the brink of extinction."....
Stoned in Santa Barbara Seventy-five miles northeast of the building, in Santa Maria, there are still men with the skills that built Santa Barbara and its courthouse. One of them is Hank Antolini, the son of Italian immigrant Giovanni Antolini. It was old Giovanni who supplied the stone and supervised the work on the courthouse. Stone had been his own father's craft, and his father's before him, curling back through centuries in Italy. Now Hank, Giovanni's son, and Paul, his grandson, carry on the trade. "Stone," Hank Antolini says, "is the only thing that lasts. History couldn't be written without stone." In 1953 Hank found a nearby deposit of the rare and coveted Santa Maria stone, a type often requested by Frank Lloyd Wright and still used by architects in custom work. The Antolinis today restrict themselves to mining that deposit, located about 30 miles from and 3,000 feet above the city of Santa Maria, surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. Hank and his son dig into their land, Colson Quarry, themselves; their five workers are driven to and from work every day by Paul, and enjoy both profit-sharing and pension plans. But G. Antolini & Sons may soon have no work for anyone. Santa Barbara County planning officials have been conducting an unrelenting regulatory crusade against the Antolinis for years, and the Antolinis aren't confident it will end until they are forced to close their mine. They've been struggling to keep afloat on a sea of extremely expensive bureaucratic requirements--report after report, plan after plan, hearing after hearing--while attempting all the while to run their small business. "It makes running your business like fighting a guerilla war," says Paul, Hank's 35-year-old son. "You never know what they're going to hit you with next." Santa Barbara County is a place where trying to build a luxury hotel can lead to a 15-year approval and lawsuit process; where constructing a McDonald's camp for cancer-stricken kids can be halted by strict permitting conditions; where even greenhouses and raspberry farms are considered an industrial blight....
Grouse need more help, biologists agree Wildlife biologists from five Western states have reached consensus on the latest science regarding sage grouse and energy development. Despite much bristling from those in the oil and gas industry in recent months, the science does indicate that the current level of federal restrictions on the industry is not enough to adequately protect the iconic bird. State biologists from Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota and Utah recently issued a 10-page report to their supervisors that includes recommendations to urge the Bureau of Land Management to base future stipulations on the science. The science includes the research of biologists Matthew Holloran, David Naugle and more than a dozen other published works. According to Naugle's studies in the Powder River Basin, the density and pace of coal-bed methane development is devastating sage grouse, "over and above those of habitat loss caused by wildfire, sagebrush control, or conversion of sagebrush to pasture or cropland. Moreover, the extent of CBM development explained lek (breeding ground) inactivity better than power lines, pre-existing roads, or West Nile virus mortality."....
Lion kitten dies in study Hound dogs released to tree a 7-month-old cougar last Friday unexpectedly caught and killed the kitten -- an episode that is almost unheard of, according to scientists involved in an ongoing mountain lion research project in northwest Wyoming. The accident happened when biologists from Craighead Beringia South's Teton Cougar Project were trying to capture and collar the kitten of an already radio-collared female cougar in the northwest section of Grand Teton National Park, near Moran Junction. For this particular capture, the Teton Cougar Project was working in concert with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service. Teton Cougar Project biologists had been tracking the collared cat and its kitten for a couple of weeks after notifying Game and Fish that the carnivores were making frequent visits to a private ranch within the national park, where the owners keep horses. Howard Quigley, leader of the project, said everyone involved is devastated by the loss of the kitten....
Elk trap themselves When it comes to Mother Nature, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials drove to the Fall Creek elk feedground Tuesday morning in anticipation of a second attempt to lure elk into a trap for capture, only to find the elk had already triggered the trap, complete with nearly 300 elk inside. Exactly what happened remains a mystery, but the rope holding the trap gates open was severed, so the gates slammed shut, trapping the elk inside as they munched on hay that had been placed to bait them into the facility. Tuesday’s effort was part of the third year of a "test-and-removal" pilot project for the Pinedale elk herd. The project was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Brucellosis Coordination Team, with the goal of reducing brucellosis rates in the elk herd, and reducing the risk of transmitting the disease from elk to cattle....
A River Restored: Pulling the Plug A puff of white smoke and a cheering throng marked the official demise of Marmot Dam last summer. Portland General Electric's decision to breach the 94-year-old dam on the Sandy River fit into a recent pattern of utilities choosing to ditch relatively small energy-producing dams to help salmon. But what happens after the dignitaries go home, and a century's worth of mud, rocks and debris tumbles down the river? Researchers are only now learning what happens when you pull the plug. In the case of the Sandy, researchers are tracking the deposition of an estimated 1 million cubic yards of material - nearly 100,000 dump truck loads - that had piled up against the upriver side of the 47-foot-tall dam. On a brisk but clear morning last week, iridescent green water ran atop a bed of river-rounded rocks. Several large gravel bars formed small islands between alders and hulking fir trees rising above both banks. In short, it looked like a river. "This shows that river systems are really dynamic and pretty resilient," said Jon Major, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Vancouver. "They'll recover much faster than people think they might."....
Suit Seeks to Block Oil Search Off Alaska A coalition of environmental organizations and Inupiaq native groups filed suit in federal court in Anchorage on Thursday to force the Interior Department to do a new analysis of the environmental consequences of oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea, off northwestern Alaska. The plaintiffs hope to stop plans to develop 29 million acres, which they argue could harm the endangered bowhead whale, a staple of subsistence hunting, and the polar bear, which is under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The current environmental assessment, the suit says, fails to adequately analyze the impact of the lease sale in the context of a warming climate. The assessment also “understates the potential impacts of oil and gas development,” including the risks of an oil spill, the suit says. The sale of leases in the Chukchi Sea is scheduled to take place next week. While the lawsuit does not seek to block the sale, should the judge agree with the environmental and native groups that the original environmental assessment was flawed, any leases might be voided....
Study: More cars hitting wildlife on highways in Colorado, nationwide Between seven and fifteen elk are hit and killed each winter on U.S. 36 between Boulder and Lyons. The elk are part of the North Boulder Elk herd which spends its summers near the Continental Divide and then travels 17 miles to wintering grounds on either side of the heavily traveled highway. Now Boulder County officials want to protect the herd and motorists from the type of wildlife-vehicle collisions that each year kill more than 200 U.S. motorists and injure thousands more with an annual cost of $200 million to society, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. The collisions, according to a Montana State University study released Wednesday and submitted to Congress by the Federal Highway Administration, says that wildlife-vehicle collisions often kill the animals and "can pose a threat to the very survival of certain species." The study identified 21 federally listed threatened or endangered species in the United States for which road mortality is "one of the major threats to their survival." The report says that accidents between wildlife/domestic animals and vehicles between 1990 and 2004 increased by 50 percent - from less than 200,000 per year in 1990 to 300,000 in 2004. These accidents now represent approximately five percent or one in 20 of all motor vehicle collisions. The study suggests ways that both drivers can the wildlife can be protected. Among the suggestions are wildlife warning signs, animal detection systems, wildlife fencing and wildlife underpasses and overpasses....More wildlife, more cars and I'll be damned if they didn't find more collisions. Go here to read this important and much-needed study.
Point Reyes rangers all revved up about electric cars The latest endangered species to find refuge at the Point Reyes National Seashore feeds on sunlight, is friendly to both humans and the environment and could make a resurgence after being threatened with extinction. Automaker Toyota has told the national park it can keep five RAV4 electric vehicles that rangers have used for the past three years. "Our personnel have traveled 14,636 miles in vehicles that are nonpolluting because they're not using gasoline," said William Shook, chief of natural resources at the national seashore. "We've been in talks with the program manager at Toyota to keep renewing our agreement, and now Toyota is going to let us keep them as long as we like." The park has decorated its vehicles with scenes that showcase the national seashore, including a sea lion, a spotted owl, a tide pool and the Point Reyes lighthouse. They're fueled by four charging stations throughout the park, which are linked to five photovoltaic panels on park buildings, allowing the cars to be powered by the sun....I just chickened out and deleted my comment here. No use getting sued or publicly pilloried.
U.S. Senate Report Debunks Polar Bear Extinction Fears The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the polar bear a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This report details the scientists debunking polar bear endangerment fears and features a sampling of the latest peer-reviewed science detailing the natural causes of recent Arctic ice changes. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that the polar bear population is currently at 20,000 to 25,000 bears, up from as low as 5,000-10,000 bears in the 1950s and 1960s. A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain noted that the polar bear populations “may now be near historic highs.” The alarm about the future of polar bear decline is based on speculative computer model predictions many decades in the future. And the methodology of these computer models is being challenged by many scientists and forecasting experts.(LINK) Canadian biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor, the director of wildlife research with the Arctic government of Nunavut: “Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present,” Taylor said. “It is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria.” Evolutionary Biologist and Paleozoologist Dr. Susan Crockford of University of Victoria in Canada has published a number of papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. “Polar bears, for example, survived several episodes of much warmer climate over the last 10,000 years than exists today,” Crockford wrote. “There is no evidence to suggest that the polar bear or its food supply is in danger of disappearing entirely with increased Arctic warming, regardless of the dire fairy-tale scenarios predicted by computer models.”....
Polar bear protection tops list for bio center's 'new' chief Saving the polar bear and getting more members top the priority list for Tucson's Center for Biological Diversity, says its new director. Kieran Suckling, a founder of the center, resumed the executive director's job this week after the resignation of Michael Finkelstein. Finkelstein was director for three years before resigning for what he said were personal and professional reasons. Suckling, 43, the group's science and policy director under Finkelstein, said getting the polar bear in the Arctic listed as a threatened species is a key step toward focusing the center on global conservation issues. Under Finkelstein, the center's membership grew from 15,000 to 45,000, its annual budget jumped from $2.8 million to nearly $6 million, and the staff expanded from 34 to 58....
Farmers sue in fight over water After months of losing fights over how much water can be pumped to farms from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a coalition of farm groups is striking back with a federal lawsuit blaming state agencies for endangering native fish in the Delta. In a suit filed in Sacramento federal court, the groups ask for a halt to California's practice of maintaining predatory, nonnative striped bass in the Delta for the benefit of fishermen, claiming the policy violates the Endangered Species Act. The bass feed on spring- and winter-run chinook salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt – all protected by the Endangered Species Act – and their dwindling populations harm the overall health of the estuary, ultimately resulting in reduced water deliveries to farmers, the lawsuit charges. "Allowing this destruction to continue when the populations of several of these species – including the Delta smelt – are crashing is outrageous," said Michael Boccadoro, spokesman for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, the lead plaintiff in the suit filed late Tuesday. Biologists already are concerned about drastic reductions in the Sacramento River's fall chinook salmon run, saying it is near collapse. Sport fishermen, however, scoffed Wednesday at the lawsuit's thesis, saying the real threat to the Delta is all the water channeled to farmers through the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project....
Country of origin labeling proceeding to September implementation The COOL law is full speed ahead, with implementation starting midnight Sept. 30, 2008. COOL is an acronym for country of origin labeling. Further delays in implementation are unlikely at this point, but the proposed language in the current farm bill should ease compliance for livestock producers, meat processors and retailers. Under the law, retailers have to prove country of origin by a label on the package or be fined $1,000 per item. They have to comply with an audit which establishes a three-label system for meat products that would differentiate completely domestic products from completely foreign products. The changes in the rules will make segregation, labeling, and record-keeping easier with RFID tagged animals and changes to the audit verification and enforcement rules further specify what business records may suffice for country of origin labeling. The easy way is to use commercial databases built for the task. Even produce farmers will need audit records to comply with COOL. Perhaps most important among the changes for cattle producers is a grandfather clause that considers all animals in the U.S. on Jan. 1, 2008 to be of U.S. origin. But sheep, swine, veal, goat, poultry, fish will need immediate recordkeeping to manage the COOL law as they come to market in a shorter time frame. Still, cattle producers will need to maintain documentation of origin by RFID tagging and branding (using their existing business records) from birth to slaughter and move those records thru stockyards intact from this point forward and or by using a commercial database where animal RFID tag records can be searched by processors and retailers....
Farmers Clog Mexico City; Protest Lifting Of Corn Tariffs Thousands of farmers on foot and on lumbering tractors clogged Mexico City Thursday to protest the lifting of corn tariffs under a free trade agreement, which they say is hurting their pockets. "No corn, no country" was the byword of the protest plastered in signs on tractors and buses, as the angry farmers, some of them leading herds of cattle through the streets, demanded equal treatment with farmers in the U.S. and Canada. While it was mostly peaceful, some tension existed late Wednesday when a column of slow-moving tractors ground to a reluctant halt before a phalanx of anti-riot police that barred access to the Zocalo, the city's main square. Some 1,500 police have fanned out across the city to prevent any unrest stemming from the protest, as farmers from across the country have made their way here, some on foot for 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles), since Jan. 18. A provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement lifting tariffs on corn - Mexico's staple food - kicked in on Jan. 1, 14 years after the agreement between the three neighbors came into being. Many farmers in Mexico have been against NAFTA from the start, but their protest has escalated as the date for lifting corn tariffs approached....
FLE

Student disciplined for pen with gun company logo A student has been threatened with a 3-day suspension from school for bringing to campus, and using, a pen with the corporate logo of the Glock company, a large stylized "G" with the letters "lock" inside. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and the father reports that he was successful in convincing the school officials to not only withdraw the threat, but also the formal reprimand that already had been placed in his son's educational file. "Sounds like under this policy, any student or teacher with the last name of Winchester, Remington, and possibly even Smith (Smith & Wesson) would not even be allowed to attend or work at the school,"....
Credit card company: No more buying guns A major credit card company has issued a letter to a gun dealer canceling his payment processing services because of corporate concerns firearms were being sold to consumers in other states, in "a non face-to-face environment." Now the move has raised the ire of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "Your anti-gun corporate policy is based on ignorance of the law applicable to the sale of firearms," the NSSF wrote in response to the action taken by First Data Corp., which operates Citi Merchant Services. "It is perfectly legal, in fact commonplace, for a federal firearms licensee in one state to sell a firearm to a non-licensee (consumer) from another state," the foundation continued. "What you fail to appreciate is that the firearm is not shipped in interstate commerce directly to the consumer. Rather, as required by federal law, the firearm is shipped by the selling licensee to another federal firearms licensee in the state of residence of the consumer … The consumer acquires the firearm from that licensed dealer in a face-to-face transaction…."....
On Thursday, documents are needed to enter U.S. Starting Thursday, telling a customs agent you're a citizen will no longer be enough to enter the United States. For years, customs agents have accepted verbal declarations at border crossings, but a new rule taking effect this week requires documents to prove identity and citizenship. The simplest way to comply is to carry a passport or a driver's license and birth certificate, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection will accept combinations of about two dozen valid documents. Nothing changes for Mexican nationals and people living in the United States under permanent resident-alien status, who must already show documentation. The new rules requiring proof of citizenship apply to U.S. and Canadian citizens. The Homeland Security Department first proposed the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in the fall of 2005. Under the original plan, anyone crossing the border into the U.S. by any means of travel was required to carry a passport by Dec. 31, 2007. But that requirement got pushed back to 2009 because of confusion and delays in issuing passports. The new rule that takes effect Thursday is a phase of the overall initiative....
Congress helps itself, again Let us pause to salute the US Congress, whose members have once again shown themselves capable of surmounting partisan friction and institutional gridlock when it comes to serving a group of Americans they care about deeply: themselves. When the 110th Congress returned from its holiday recess two weeks ago, the mountain of unfinished business it had left behind in 2007 was still waiting - everything from judicial nominations to bilateral trade agreements to the terrorist surveillance program to the farm bill. But the gentlemen and gentlewomen of the House and Senate made sure that nothing would impede what has become almost an annual tradition: the hike in their own salaries. When the sun rose on Jan. 1, so did congressional pay, from $165,200 to $169,300 - a tidy little jump of $4,100. This marks the ninth raise Congress has given itself over the past decade. With the exception of 1999 and 2007, every New Year's Day since 1998 has triggered a boost in congressional salaries of between $3,100 and $4,900. While the median income of US families has increased by around $11,000 since 1998, the income of their representatives in Washington has increased by more than $30,000. Considering that the latter work for the former, the imbalance between them is striking. It is also unconstitutional. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to pay itself with public funds, but the 27th Amendment circumscribes that authority. It provides: "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened." The amendment limits the power of Congress to change its salary by preventing any pay raise from taking effect until the voters have had their say. Members of the House and Senate are free to alter the next Congress's salary, but they are prohibited from enlarging their own....

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Judge tosses Katrina lawsuit against Engineer Corps A federal judge in New Orleans on Wednesday dismissed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the failure of the city's levee system during Hurricane Katrina's floods in 2005. U.S. Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the Corps, which designed and built the levees and floodwalls meant to keep the below-sea-level city from being inundated, was shielded by a 1928 law that protects the federal government from lawsuits over flood control projects. In his ruling, Duval scolded the agency for "its failure to accomplish what was its task." "Millions of dollars were squandered in building a levee system ... which was known to be inadequate by the Corps' own calculations," Duval wrote in his ruling, issued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana....All that, and they are still immune. Remember that the next time a politician lectures you about "personal responsibility". Making the gov't responsible for it's actions would be a good start.
Corn on the Mob All over the world, food prices are on the rise. For most of the late 1990s and up until 2005, the price of beans on the Chicago Board of Trade had remained stable at about $5 a bushel. Since then, they have shot up over 150 percent, to around $13. Corn has doubled, to $5. Wheat prices have tripled. It all started with the 2005 Energy Policy Act, passed by a Republican congress and signed by a Republican president, mandating that an increasing amount of ethanol be admixed with gasoline. The bill was sold as a road to "energy independence" and as lowering the amount of carbon dioxide we emit, reducing dreaded global warming. By now, 15 percent of our corn crop is being distilled, diverted from the proper purpose for such distillates (i.e. drinking), combusted, and sent out your car's tailpipe. The Act required production of four billion gallons of ethanol in 2006, increasing by approximately 700 million gallons each succeeding year. Enter those familiar characters supply, demand, and price. Supply tightens, prices escalate, and more and more farmers divert cropland from other crops (mainly soybeans and wheat) to corn. In the U.S., most crops are turned into animal feed, but in poorer countries, such as Indonesia (soybeans) or Mexico (corn for tortillas) they are consumed directly. IT'S ONLY GOING to get worse. As if to add more 200-proof to the fire, President Bush, citing global warming in his 2007 State of the Union speech, called for production of 35 billion gallons of ethanol by 2017, displacing 20 percent of our current gasoline consumption with this intoxicating elixir. This is five times the amount mandated in the 2005 Energy Act. He claimed that this would help us get off Middle Eastern oil....
Seashore deer culling resumes The hunters were out with their high-powered rifles but nobody among the growing legion of opponents spotted any deer being killed at Point Reyes. It is no secret, though, that blood is mixing with the rain at the Point Reyes National Seashore this week. Park officials acknowledged Wednesday that gun-toting contractors have resumed what is the most intensive campaign in park history to get rid of exotic deer. The news prompted several protests, including a demonstration Wednesday by nearly two dozen children, and helicopter overflights in an attempt to capture the carnage on video. The National Park Service approved a plan last year to get rid of about 1,100 fallow and axis deer using a combination of contraception and high-powered rifles. A Connecticut company, White Buffalo Inc., was hired to do the shooting. About 400 fallow deer were killed in the late summer and fall, park officials said. At least 80 does have been captured and sterilized with an experimental contraceptive drug called GonaCon....
Appeals court upholds $10.2 million award to injured snowmobiler A federal appeals court panel has upheld a lower court's decision ordering the U.S. Forest Service and a snowmobiler to pay more than 10 million dollars to a Michigan man who suffered severe brain injuries when he was struck by a snowmobile near West Yellowstone in 1996. The panel's ruling stems from a 2004 decision by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula. Molloy ruled that the Forest Service must pay 40 percent of the award for the crash, which left Brian Musselman of Hope, Michigan, with permanent disabilities. Molloy said the Forest Service failed to fix dangerous conditions along the groomed trail where the crash occurred, or warn snowmobilers of the hazard. He also assigned 50 percent of the liability to Jamie Leinberger of Bay City, Michigan, one of two snowmobilers Musselman's family originally sued. The Forest Service appealed Molloy's ruling. But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Molloy, in an opinion issued today....The Forest Service is being held accountable...reckon they will appeal again?...the BLM appealed their "accountability" case all the way to the Supreme Court and won.
Senate panel backs Oregon, Idaho deals A Senate committee Wednesday endorsed an Idaho land swap and a plan to create federal wilderness protection for nearly 14,000 acres of national forest land along Oregon's southern coast. The Copper Salmon Wilderness, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will be included a huge public lands bill to be debated by the Senate. The measure was among 42 separate bills approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Seventeen bills -- including the Oregon measure and the Idaho land exchange -- will be combined in a measure that includes about 60 individual land bills, Senate aides said Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor soon....
N.M. plans to restore high-mountain toad New Mexico environmental officials said they will reintroduce the boreal toad into the state in hopes of restoring the high-mountain amphibian to the region. There have been no reports of the toad in New Mexico since 1996, and the last confirmed sighting was 10 years before that, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Leland Pierce of the state Fish and Game Department said biologists continue to look for the toads but are almost certain they are locally extinct. The closest confirmed wild population is in Colorado. The toad -- 2 to 4 inches long, black and covered with red warts -- might seem unattractive. But it is the only toad found more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The Colorado Department of Wildlife has been breeding the toad and can supply New Mexico with tadpoles, Pierce said. If the U.S. Forest Service approves the plan, New Mexico could begin its recovery plan this spring. Biologists suspect the chytrid fungus wiped out New Mexico's toads....
Bill on track for off-road enforcement State wildlife rangers could give tickets to illegal off-road riders under a bill that gained new strength in the House on Tuesday. Colorado has 14 million acres of national forests and 8 million acres run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, but only 18 forest rangers and eight BLM officers dedicated to law enforcement, said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison. "That's a million acres per officer. Obviously, they can't be everywhere," said Curry, sponsor of House Bill 1069. The bill would let state and county officers enforce federal laws on all-terrain vehicles. It was weakened last week in the agriculture committee, when opponents amended it to require the federal government to post signs whenever a trail is closed to motorized vehicles. Representatives were angry about a change in the way the Forest Service allows all-terrain vehicles. Trails used to be open unless marked closed. Now, everything is closed unless a trail is specifically marked open. Curry convinced the full House to strip off that amendment Tuesday and pass her bill on a voice vote. It still faces one more recorded vote in the House, which could come as early as today....
Group threatens suit over cattle grazing An environmental group announced plans Wednesday to sue Washington state if it approves a proposal to allow cattle grazing on portions of Central Washington's Whisky Dick Wildlife Area, a parcel of rural sagebrush situated between the state's two remaining sage grouse populations. The Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project contends that the state must first produce an environmental impact statement before allowing 160 cattle to forage on two pastures in the Whisky Dick area, about 110 miles east of Seattle. The two pastures proposed as grazing land comprise 8,418 acres of the 28,549-acre wildlife area, a rolling series of ridges and canyons above the mid-Columbia River. Under the proposal, grazing would occur for 30 days this spring. Fish and Wildlife officials say the grazing management plan is part of a larger process to improve land management in the area with the cooperation of local landowners, conservation and environmental groups, and others. Moderate grazing by livestock removes older, rank grass and increases the availability of more-nutritious spring or fall regrowth for elk, thereby reducing chances elk will forage on farmland, according to Fish and Wildlife. The area in question has not been grazed by livestock for 10 years....
Interior orders mineral royalty reforms after report US Interior Secretary Dirk A. Kempthorne, after receiving the final report of an independent study panel on Jan. 25, ordered immediate implementation of recommended mineral management reforms that can be carried out administratively. The report, having more than 100 recommendations, came from a bipartisan panel the secretary formed last year which was cochaired by former US senators Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and Jake Garn (R-Utah). "Where it is within our power to do so, the responsible officials will take action to rectify identified problems. However, other recommendations may require further study or legislative action," Kempthorne said. His directive to Minerals Management Service Director Randall B. Luthi and Bureau of Land Management Director James L. Caswell also orders the two agencies to develop action plans based on the report's recommendations and submit a progress report within 30 days. The recommendations, to be implemented immediately, include additional ethics training for all MMS employees, especially those who deal with oil, gas, and other lessees in a regulatory, collections, or enforcement role....
Video of workers abusing cows raises food safety questions A video showing California slaughterhouse workers abusing dairy cows -- a violation that raises questions about U.S. food safety -- was released by the Humane Society of the United States on Wednesday. The video, which one lawmaker said raises questions about the safety of the nation's food supply, shows Hallmark Meat Packing Co. workers administering repeated electric shocks to the downed cows -- animals that are too sick, weak or otherwise unable to stand on their own. Workers are seen kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter. The society says the video was shot last year by an undercover investigator who wore a hidden camera under his clothes when he worked at the facility. Hallmark Meat Packing Co., based in Chino, California, sells beef to its sister company, Westland Meat, which distributes it to various federal programs, including the National School Lunch Program. Downed cows are more easily contaminated and may carry diseases harmful to consumers. U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations prohibit allowing disabled or contaminated animals into the food supply. Officials said they would investigate....Go here to see the video.
The bovine TB challenge When bovine tuberculosis showed up in a northern Minnesota cattle herd, state officials acted quickly to slaughter the herd and stop the disease. They believed it was an isolated case. It's been nearly three years since that first case of bovine TB, and last week the disease was found in a ninth cattle herd. TB has also been found in 17 wild whitetail deer, including four killed last fall. "With every year that we continue to find infected herds and infected deer it becomes more of a challenge," says Minnesota State Veterinarian Bill Hartman. "We were hopeful we would be able to go up there and eliminate the infection from the cattle rapidly and do the same with the deer. Continuing to find herds this far into it is certainly not a good thing," Hartman says. Controlling TB in a cattle herd is less complicated than fighting the disease in wild deer. An infected herd can be quarantined and slaughtered. Minnesota used a special hunting season and federal sharpshooters in an effort to kill hundreds of deer around farms where TB was found. But a recent aerial survey found the deer population in the area is nearly the same as a year ago....
An orphan becomes the King of Texas An eight-year-old boy in New York City was apprenticed to a jeweler. His parents, Irish immigrants, died when he was five. He worked for the jeweler two years before he ran away and hid in a ship bound for Mobile. It was 1834. After four days at sea, the boy was found and taken to the captain of the Desdemona. The boy said his name was Richard King and that he ran away because he didn't like minding the jeweler's kid. The captain made him his cabin boy to earn his passage. When the ship docked at Mobile, the captain found King a job on an Alabama steamboat. A few years later, the steamboat captain sent King to school in Connecticut, but he left school and returned to the riverboat life, this time in Florida, where he met Mifflin Kenedy, captain of the steamboat Champion. Kenedy took the Champion to New Orleans and then up the Mississippi. He had been hired to select boats for Zachary Taylor's campaign in Mexico. Kenedy wrote his friend King, urging him to join him on the Rio Grande. King arrived in 1847 and became the pilot on the Corvette. King and Kenedy spent the war ferrying supplies up the Rio Grande. After the war, the two formed a partnership with Charles Stillman and bought three surplus Army steamboats. On July 10, 1850, King celebrated his 26th birthday at Miller's Hotel in Brownsville. Two years later, King rode north to attend the Lone Star Fair at Corpus Christi. After passing the alkali flats (El Desierto de los Muertos), the land opened into prairie covered with rich grass. King's party camped near a creek named Santa Gertrudis. King supposedly was struck by the idea that this was ideal cattle country; perhaps there was an epiphany, a thought that, "Here it is; and here is all that is to come." Grass and possibilities. King talked it over with his friend, Capt. Robert E. Lee, who told him it wasn't Virginia, but it was a country with a future. In July 1853, King bought 15,000 acres, part of the Santa Gertrudis grant, from the heirs of Juan Mendiola. He paid two cents an acre.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

States, environmental groups ask EPA to impose emission standards A coalition of states and environmental groups is urging the federal government to curb greenhouse gases from tractors, snowmobiles, riding lawn mowers and other off-road vehicles. California, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey and Pennsylvania plan to file a petition Tuesday asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop emission standards for construction and farm machinery, logging equipment, outdoor power equipment, recreational vehicles and lawn and garden equipment. Off-road vehicles were responsible for about 220 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2007, or roughly the same amount of emissions produced by 40 millions cars, according to California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The EPA also is reviewing other requests filed last year by the same groups to regulate emissions from cargo ships, cruise liners and aircraft....
Property-rights measure qualifies for June ballot A Farm Bureau-sponsored drive for enhanced property-rights protection gained added momentum this month, as an initiative to enact meaningful reforms qualified for the statewide ballot. The measure, known as the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act, will appear on the June ballot. The measure would allow government to take or damage private property only for a stated public use. It would specifically prohibit a government agency from condemning private property in order to turn around and sell it to another private owner. It also requires agencies condemning property to provide just compensation to owners, including reasonable relocation expenses and payment for temporary business losses. "Our measure provides a sensible solution by continuing to allow use of eminent domain for legitimate public needs such as roads, schools and water projects," Mosebar said....
Humans banned on federal lands near Gunnison The federal Bureau of Land Management announced today it has closed federal public lands in the Gunnison Basin to human activity where a series of snowstorms and minus 40 temperatures have stressed wildlife. Mel Lloyd, BLM spokeswoman, said today that such closures don't happen often. "Rarely, if ever, has it happened in Colorado in the last 30 years," said Lloyd. "BLM managers don't like to implement these types of closures, but because of the weather and the herd numbers, it is important." She added that BLM officials haven't seen "snow levels like this since the early 80s and they are approaching the levels of the early 70s." The BLM manages 600,000 acres of land in the Gunnison Basin. Last week, the BLM closed the lands to motorized vehicles with the aim of protecting endangered herds of pronghorn antelope, mule deer, big horn sheep and elk. But the BLM said that other types of human activity near the herds called for today's immediate ban on all human activity now through May 15. Lloyd said that the current closures may overlap into closures in the Gunnison Basin that customarily run from mid-March to mid-May and are used to protect the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a BLM "sensitive species." Because of the depth of snowpack, the length of the BLM closure could be extended several weeks longer, she said....
Green group backs corridor plan A federal plan to designate energy corridors through 11 Western states won support from a Laramie environmental group Wednesday despite being harshly criticized by speakers in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday. Erik Molvar of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance said at a public hearing on the plan that his group commends the federal agencies in charge of the project for taking Wyoming's vast wildlife and nature reserves into account and altering corridor locations based on them. The project to designate routes for power lines and natural gas pipelines is part of an energy bill Congress passed in 2005 to provide more energy to Western states. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and several other federal agencies are overseeing the process. The areas designated by the federal agencies are only "potential" locations for power lines and oil, natural gas and hydrogen pipelines, the Department of Energy's Laverne Kyriss said. She said the aim for the 6,055 miles of energy corridors would be to improve energy reliability and relieve congestion. The corridors as they're proposed right now would mostly cross federal land. About 86 percent would cross BLM land, and another 11 percent would cover U.S. Forest Service land. Any private, state or tribal land that is involved would require more discussion, officials said....
Dead trees may fuel future It could be a solution to Colorado's 1.5 million acres of dead and dying lodgepole pine trees struck by an infestation of mountain pine beetles: turning the rotting trees into ethanol. Canadian companies Lignol Innovations and Suncor Energy plan to build Colorado's first cellulosic ethanol plant, which would convert beetle-kill and other wood residues into motor fuel. The $88 million project received the federal government's blessing Tuesday, with the U.S. Department of Energy announcing its decision to foot more than a third of the total bill, or $30 million. The plant, to be completed by 2012, could be built in Commerce City. "For this plant in particular, its use of beetle-kill was one of the factors considered during evaluation for federal investment," said Kevin Craig, a DOE project manager. The plant's potential for commercialization, its technology and a byproduct of the process, lignin, which is used to make lubricants and other industrial products, were other factors that helped attract federal dollars, Craig added....
This is no time to step back from the Roadless Rule While researching a new book last spring, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Dale Bosworth, chief of the Forest Service. I found him to be an honest, straightforward, forthcoming, and, at times, courageous man. So when I read that he had agreed to the repeal of the Clinton-era Roadless Rule on our national forests--a ruling he supported as a career forester in the Clinton administration--I was shocked. I wrote to Chief Bosworth, suggesting that if he couldn’t deter the Bush administration from its reversal of this epic act of conservation, he should consider resigning in protest. This public act of conscience would draw attention to a tragic step backward. In response, he called me to talk. That the chief of the Forest Service would reach out like this impressed me once again. His willingness to discuss big issues with ordinary citizens and his openness about his beliefs were rare and refreshing. Bosworth expressed two concerns about the original ruling: This sweeping rule, he said, which preserves more than 58 million roadless acres on national forests from further road-building, left no room for boundary adjustments based on what’s really out there. And, he added, the Forest Service needed more outreach to locals who were feeling disenfranchised. He assured me that "we don’t need more roads, we need to decommission roads." He said that large timber companies are dinosaurs with little remaining power, and that our 58 million acres of roadless public lands are not in danger. I was not reassured....
New U.S. Forest Service data reveals positive gains The most recent USDA Forest Service data confirms that US forestland is roughly as abundant today as it was 100 years ago. The Forest Services Resource Planning Act 2007 (RPA data) reveals both state and regional increases in forestland across the country. Among the key findings in the report are: -- There are 750 million acres of forestland in the U.S. today, about the same as in 1907. -- 11 states had increases of over 25% over the last century, and nine had increases of over 30% -- Overall, forestland in the northern U.S. has increased by almost 30%. For more details go here.
Ptarmigan ‘potty break' could bring fines, costs The owner of a Canadian helicopter that crash landed atop Ptarmigan Mountain on Nov. 6, 2007, may face a citation and fines in connection with the incident. Ron Ostrom, law enforcement officer for the Shoshone Forest, said last week a preliminary investigation of the rough landing that disabled the chopper has been completed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He said the agency's preliminary findings, which have been posted on its Web site, indicate the chopper deliberately set down on the mountaintop for what forest officials have termed a “potty break,” as opposed to a malfunction or forced landing. But they set down in the Washakie Wilderness, an area where motorized vehicles are prohibited. The 2001 Agusta A-119 helicopter was unable to leave the mountaintop because its skids were damaged in the landing. When the occupants discovered the damage, they called for help and had to be plucked off Ptarmigan by search and rescue and medical personnel. Apparently the helicopter's three nearly full fuel tanks were damaged during the rocky landing, and fuel spilled both on top of the mountain and at two airports where the craft later was taken, Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody and the Bozeman airport, Ostrom said. He said when snow and weather conditions allow a landing on Ptarmigan Mountain this summer, the Forest Service plans to return to the crash site via a rented helicopter to determine just how much fuel may have spilled from the tanks. Ostrom said estimates now range from a couple of gallons to as much as 50 gallons. He said if the amount is determined to be the greater, based on dead grass and other indicators in the area where the craft set down, the owner could be billed for all costs associated with a hazardous materials clean-up...Could be the costliest crap in the history of The West.
House panel hears of vain efforts on Delta smelt Millions of dollars and untold gallons of water have failed to save the environmentally prominent Delta smelt, officials acknowledged Tuesday. In a sobering assessment, state and federal officials told a House panel that their big investment in the smelt hasn't paid off yet. The concession comes as officials contemplate spending an additional $10 billion or more for new California water projects and related environmental work. "Obviously, we haven't had the success with the Delta smelt that we would have wanted," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson said. "It has declined significantly." The tiny Delta smelt found in the sprawling estuary where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meet has taken on an outsized importance for farmers and politicians....
BLM to Auction Impounded Cattle The Bureau of Land Management is accepting bids to sell 58 head of impounded cattle. Bids must be submitted by 9 a.m., Friday, Feb. 1. The livestock will be offered in three lots: 21 dry cows; eight cows with calves; and 21 calves/yearlings. Successful bidders will receive a certificate of brand inspection for transport and ownership from the Nevada Brand Inspector. The livestock are available for inspection through Thursday, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. Inspections are available by appointment only by calling Amanda DeForest at the Winnemucca Field Office (775) 623-1500. A sale packet is available on-line at www.blm.gov/nv. On Jan. 25, the BLM issued the owner of the impounded cattle a notice of public sale. The owners may redeem the livestock up until the sale time.
California Chinook Salmon Numbers Hit Record Low California Central Valley fall Chinook salmon stocks appear to be undergoing a "significant decline," said Pacific Fishery Management Council Director Donald McIsaac today. Dr. McIsaac warned that if the low abundance is confirmed, all marine and freshwater fisheries that target these salmon stocks could be affected. "The low returns are particularly distressing since this stock has consistently been the healthy work horse for salmon fisheries off California and most of Oregon," he said. The Pacific Council is a federal advisory panel responsible for managing fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. Chinook salmon are also called king, spring, or tyee salmon, and are the largest of the Pacific salmon....
Legal war rages over 3-foot-long, spitting worm Described in 1897 by a taxonomist as "very abundant" a now rarely-found 3-foot-long worm that spits and smells like lilies is at the center of a legal dispute between conservationists and the U.S. government. When Frank Smith discovered the giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus) in 1897, he described it as "very abundant." Nowadays, however, sightings of the worm are rare. The only recent confirmed worm sighting was made in 2005 by a University of Idaho researcher. Before that, the giant worm had not been spotted in 17 years, since 1988. It reportedly grows up to three feet long and has a peculiar flowery smell (Driloleirus is Latin for "lily-like worm"). The cream-colored or pinkish-white worm lived in permanent burrows as deep as 15 feet and spat at attackers. "This worm is the stuff that legends and fairy tales are made of. A pity we're losing it," said Steve Paulson, a board member of Friends of the Clearwater, a conservation group based in Moscow, Idaho. Unlike the European earthworms now common across the United States, the giant Palouse earthworm is native to the Americas. Specifically, the giant worm dwelled in the prairies of the Palouse, the area of the northwest United States. The Palouse has been dramatically altered by farming practices, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted....
Gas pipelines have few rules, property owners discover The roar of an uninvited bulldozer woke up George and Barbara Woodroof on a recent Tuesday morning. Mr. Woodroof took a last look outside his bedroom window at the hill covered with oak trees. A week later, bulldozers had cleared hundreds of trees and a wide swath of nature on the couple's property to make way for a 36-inch-wide, high-pressure natural gas line that passes 290 feet from their home. The Woodroofs don't want the pipeline, but they can't stop Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners from taking their land. Neither can county or state officials. Neither can most courts. The reach of the gas-drilling boom in Denton and Tarrant counties extends to properties miles from the nearest gas wells, adding a twist to the long-running debate over Texas' eminent domain laws. Gas companies often use eminent domain powers similar to governments' to acquire land for pipelines. But unlike government, for-profit businesses condemn land largely without oversight or democratic process. They don't typically go through public hearings, environmental reviews or impact studies. Gas companies need only to fill out a one-page form and pay landowners for whatever land they take – a system far more lax than federal standards....hat tip to Julie Smithson
$9.25M Verdict in Cattle Case Reversed Cattle ranchers who won a $9.25 million federal jury verdict against four large meat packers failed to show that the companies intentionally manipulated or controlled prices, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's 2006 ruling in favor of the ranchers, who had said in their lawsuit that large meat packing companies underpaid producers for live cattle. The ranchers had claimed that the packers knew or should have known of the USDA's error. The appeals court ruled that the ranchers produced no evidence that the packers intentionally violated the Packers and Stockyards Act by manipulating or controlling, or attempting to manipulate or control, cattle prices. To prove a violation, a plaintiff must show that a packer intentionally committed unlawful conduct, the panel said in its ruling. "Therefore, the district court erred when it instructed the jury that a showing of intent was not required and reversal of the district court is necessary," the judges said. From April 2, 2001, to May 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Agriculture misreported the boxed beef cutout prices for choice and select cuts of meat. The lawsuit alleged the meatpackers knowingly used that information to pay less to cattle producers than they would have if the cutouts were correct. The packers denied knowing about the faulty reports before the USDA acknowledged them....
Helmet Use on the Rise in Rodeo Nearly eight seconds into the ride at a rodeo this month, a wildly bucking, 1,400-pound bull named Bruiser thrust a horn toward Justin Koon's face and tossed him into the air. He hit the ground head first - but walked away with only minor cuts. Almost a decade ago, a similar spill left Koon with a fractured skull and in a coma. After that, he traded his cowboy hat for a protective helmet. "I would never put one on because I wanted to look like a cowboy, with my boots, long-sleeved shirt and cowboy hat," said Koon, now 24, said at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. "Now I don't think I'd get on without one." Rodeo, a sport in which the cowboy hat is as much an icon as a bucking bronco, has been reluctant to require its riders to wear helmets. Even for children as young as 5, they remain optional under association rules. But bull riders, including some of the sport's stars, are increasingly donning their own. Rodeo officials estimate just under 40 percent of adult riders now wear helmets, up from 10 percent five years ago. Doctors and researchers say it's not enough. Studies show helmets can prevent catastrophic injuries that can end careers in a sport that paid its top bull riders up to $1.8 million last year. Some medical experts are pushing the sport to encourage adult bull and steer riders to wear helmets, and require them for riders under 18....
FLE

Justice Dept. accused of blocking Gonzales probe The government agency that enforces one of the principal laws aimed at keeping politics out of the civil service has accused the Justice Department of blocking its investigation into alleged politicizing of the department under former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, wrote Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey last week that the department had repeatedly "impeded" his investigation by refusing to share documents and provide answers to written questions, according to a copy of Bloch's letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The Justice Department wants Bloch to wait until its own internal investigation is completed. A department official signaled recently that the investigation is examining the possibility of criminal charges. But that, the regulator wrote, could take until the last months of the Bush administration, "when there is little hope of any corrective measures or discipline possible" being taken by his office. Bloch's allegations show how the controversy, which mostly focused on the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, continues to boil inside government....
Six senators urge delay of new ID rules Six senators from northern New England and New York asked the US Department of Homeland Security yesterday to delay implementation of stiff new identification requirements for people entering the United States by land from Canada. In a letter to Secretary Michael Chertoff, 19 senators said commerce will be stifled and lives disrupted if federal officials go ahead Thursday with plans to end the practice of allowing people to enter the US after showing a document, such as a driver's license, and declaring their nationality. But federal officials say the "honor system" must end now. "There is enormous downside and very little upside to the new hoops they want to put everyone through on the Canadian border," said US Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. "These paper padlocks won't make us safer." Implementing the new rules now would violate the spirit of a law passed last month that delays until June 2009 a requirement that people carry passports or similar documents when entering the United States by land or sea, they said. The senators want Chertoff to delay the new ID requirements until the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is fully implemented. The extra time is needed to ensure the requirements are implemented smoothly and do not disrupt commerce and lives along the border, they said....
Congress Passes Extension of Surveillance Law The House and Senate yesterday approved a 15-day extension of an expiring intelligence surveillance law and the White House backed off a threatened veto, allowing more time to resolve a dispute over the administration's proposal to immunize telephone companies from lawsuits stemming from their cooperation with warrantless wiretaps. Both chambers passed by unanimous voice votes the temporary extension of the Protect America Act, and members then left town for a one-week break. The White House gave its blessing last night to the short-term measure rather than allowing the surveillance law to expire Friday. President Bush had insisted that Congress act immediately to approve a new surveillance measure that includes the immunity provision. "We've had ample time for debate. The time to act is now," Bush told Congress in his State of the Union address Monday, the same day he threatened to veto a 30-day extension....
Greater Use of Privilege Spurs Concern The U.S. government has been increasing its use of the state secrets privilege to avoid disclosure of classified information in civil lawsuits, prompting legislation in the Senate that would provide more congressional oversight of the practice. Though there have been modest increases in the use of the state secrets privilege every decade since the 1960s, some legal scholars and members of Congress contend that the Bush administration has employed it excessively as it intervened in cases that could expose information about sensitive programs. These include the rendition of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation and cases related to the National Security Agency's use of warrantless wiretaps. The privilege allows the government to argue that lawsuits -- and the information potentially revealed by them -- could damage national security. It gives judges the power to prevent information from reaching public view or to dismiss cases even if they appear to have merit. Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit legal organization that has fought the Bush administration's secrecy efforts on the NSA surveillance program, said the state secrets privilege is being abused regardless of the number of times it has been invoked. "The administration is attempting to use the privilege as a back-door immunity to obtain dismissal of any case that attempts to put the NSA wiretapping issue in front of a judge," said Bankston, who is scheduled to testify at Nadler's hearing today. "It is no secret such a program existed."....
Virginia state senator's 'Deliverance' comment riles gun-rights supporters A Bristol Virginia man sparked a statewide political reaction after he said he heard the state Senate’s majority leader insult rural gun owners while standing in a public elevator. "He turns to his companion and says, ‘You can tell we’re debating a gun bill today. Half the cast of "Deliverance" is in town,’ " said John Pierce, a local gun-rights activist who was in Richmond to lobby the General Assembly against a bill to close the so-called gun-show loophole. "I was absolutely floored. ... I think what you’re seeing is bigotry aimed at rural voters and the issues that they tend to support," Pierce said. "Deliverance" is a 1972 film based on the novel by James Dickey in which Atlanta businessmen encountered a backwoods Appalachian culture on a canoe trip in the north Georgia mountains, where rape and murder ensue. The senator’s elevator comment on Monday has been buzzing through conservative Web sites since Wednesday, when Pierce said he sent out an e-mail alert and a news release. "I believe that Sen. Saslaw and many of those who oppose gun ownership truly believe that those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms, those who hunt, those who come from a rural background, are somehow less deserving of respect than the elite urbanites that they consider themselves and their peers to be," Pierce said....
NYC, gun dealers both see benefits in gun sting ruling City officials say a federal judge helped their lawsuit against gun dealers by ruling that there was no crime in sending undercover investigators into gun shops to try to buy weapons illegally. But gun dealers see the same decision as support for their argument that they didn't do anything wrong. The sting operation was conducted two years ago. It was the basis for a civil case Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration brought against 27 gun dealers in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. Bloomberg targeted shops that the city believes are responsible for selling guns traced back to crimes in New York City. Fifteen dealers have settled and agreed to let a special master monitor their sales. Litigation continues against several of the remaining 12 in federal court in Brooklyn. As part of the legal process, attorneys for some of the gun shops argued that the city had itself violated the law by attempting the illegal buys. Gun rights advocates and organizations like the National Rifle Association also have complained that Bloomberg's gun sting was a criminal stunt. And the Justice Department even did its own inquiry as to whether the city was out of bounds. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak said Friday the court had found "that the city's actions do not constitute a crime or fraud."....
Driver’s license privacy Actress Rebecca Schaeffer, co-star of the television series “My Sister Sam,” had a lot of admirers. One admirer, a crazy gentlemen named Robert Bardo, decided he wanted to kill the actress. Killer Bardo had no idea where the actress lived, but luckily for Bardo, the state government of California provided him with his victim’s address. Bardo went to a private investigative agency, claimed that Ms. Schaeffer was a long-lost friend, and asked for help in tracking her down. The investigative agency went to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, paid a one-dollar fee, and was told the address that Ms. Schaeffer had listed on her driver’s license. Bardo took a bus from Tucson to Los Angeles and walked 12 miles to her house. He pressed her intercom button. It was broken, so Ms. Schaffer came down to see who it was. Startled, Bardo left. He came back in an hour and pressed her intercom button again. When she came down a second time to answer the door, he shot her dead. This happened on July 18, 1989. The teenage rock star Tiffany was harassed by another deviant fan who learned her address from the motor vehicle records. Most states, including Colorado, make lots money from selling the private information in your driver’s license, auto registration, and voter registration files. Companies like Equifax buy the records, and then resell them to insurance and other companies. Some of the groups who buy facts about your private life from the state include political organizations to compile voter profiles, universities for research, the Selective Service to check compliance with draft registration, attorneys and prosecutors who want to check out defendants, witnesses, and jurors, and most of all, and companies that sell mailing lists to other companies. Plus the occasional criminal. The government makes you register to vote, register to get a driver’s license, and register to own a car. To lead a normal life, you must give the government these facts. And right now, there’s nothing to stop the State of Colorado from selling its information about you to all comers....
For Sheer Bureaucratic Stupidity, the Winner Is… Hate is a pretty strong word. But not strong enough to express how I feel about the TSA - the Transportation Security Administration or Thousands Standing Around, depending on your point of view - which runs those security checkpoints at American airports. I may fear the IRS, and I may dread the DMV - but for sheer bureaucratic stupidity and its affront to personal liberties, the TSA has earned a special place of loathing in my heart. And apparently I’m not alone. An Associated Press story this past December on MSNBC’s website is titled, “TSA draws travelers' complaints: Security screeners are the most familiar - and hated - face of government.” The story notes that TSA receives about a thousand complaints about its operations every month - which doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of Americans who quietly seethe at security checkpoints but don’t waste their time filing a formal complaint. Deaf ears and all that [...] The story notes that over $5 BILLION a year is being spent on airport security operations and that the vast majority of items confiscated by screeners are cigarette lighters - which at one time were deemed by the TSA to be extremely dangerous, but now are OK. Toothpaste and deodorant are apparently the new weapons of choice by the world’s most vicious, cold-hearted terrorists....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Groups sue over rules for killing wolves Seven conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging new rules intended to make it easier to kill wolves in the Northern Rockies that are killing livestock and having a detrimental effect on elk herds. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Monday. The group's said the rule, published Monday in the Federal Register, could allow wildlife officials to kill all but 600 of the estimated 1,500 wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Federal officials, in announcing the rule last week, said that estimate was unrealistic. The new rules announced Thursday will give state wildlife agencies authority to take out wolves if it's shown they are one of several major factors in keeping down elk herds. The rules prohibit each state from having less than 200 wolves and 20 breeding pair. Before wolves are killed, though, there would have to be a public comment period, peer review and approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most ungulate herds outside of Yellowstone in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are at "record high" levels and above state management goals, according to a federal assessment of the new rules released in September....
Group a force of nature for endangered species From a cluttered, borrowed warehouse in an industrial neighborhood on Tucson's near North Side, a small group of environmentalists is changing the world - one lawsuit at a time. The Center for Biological Diversity staff brandishes the Endangered Species Act like a blunt-force instrument. Leverage from its petitions and lawsuits - more than 500 in 18 years - helped gain protection for nearly a fourth of the 1,351 endangered or threatened plants and animals in the United States. The nonprofit organization that started in 1989 as three idealists in a Phoenix apartment, two of them on unemployment after being fired by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has grown to more than 40,000 members with 11 offices in six states. The center's budget grew tenfold in the past decade. In 1989, Peter Galvin, Kierán Suckling and Todd Shulke were counting and mapping Mexican spotted owls for the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. When they saw that the Forest Service was planning to allow logging in owl territory, they told a newspaper where the birds' nests were, Suckling said. "That was the end of our Forest Service jobs," he said with a chuckle. Suckling, then a doctoral candidate in philosophy, and Galvin, who was studying conservation biology, moved in with Silver, who had recently written the petition to add the Mexican spotted owl to the endangered species list. Together they formed the nucleus of what would be the Center for Biological Diversity....
Green groups combine efforts Forest Guardians of Santa Fe and Sinapu of Boulder, Colo., have joined forces to create WildEarth Guardians, which organizers say will be in a better position to pressure government agencies to protect and restore lands, wildlife and water. WildEarth Guardians will do much of the same work the two organizations did in the past, but also will increase its focus in some areas. "We've created a bigger, bolder and better organization to achieve our goals to restore wolves across the West, protect iconic western rivers such as the Rio Grande and keep wild places like the Sagebrush Sea intact," said John Horning, who headed Forest Guardians and is now executive director of WildEarth Guardians. The two groups have collaborated in the past two years, and agreed to merge a year ago. Forest Guardians was founded in 1989 to save old growth forests in northern New Mexico. Sinapu was founded in 1990 to protect and restore native carnivores in the Southern Rockies. The priorities of WildEarth Guardians are to restore wolves to the West, including protecting Mexican gray wolves in the Gila area of southwestern New Mexico and reintroducing wolves to the Southern Rockies; protecting the Rio Grande from its headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico; restoring species such as prairie dogs across the West; restoring wildfire as a natural process in healthy western forest ecosystems; abolishing the wildlife killing program of Wildlife Services; and inspiring residents of the West to become a cohesive voice to protect nature. The organization has 18 staff members and a budget of nearly $1.5 million. It has offices in Denver, Boulder, Santa Fe and Phoenix....
The Preservation Predicament Conservation organizations that work to preserve biologically rich landscapes are confronting a painful realization: In an era of climate change, many of their efforts may be insufficient or beside the point. Some scientists say efforts to re-establish or maintain salmon runs in Pacific Northwest streams will be of limited long-term benefit to the fish if warming makes the streams inhospitable. Others worry about efforts to restore the fresh water flow of the Everglades, given that much of it will be under water as sea level rises. Some geologists say it may be advisable to abandon efforts to preserve some fragile coastal barrier islands and focus instead on allowing coastal marshes to migrate inland, as sea level rises. And everywhere, ecologists and conservation biologists wonder how landscapes already under preservation will change with the climate. “We have over a 100-year investment nationally in a large suite of protected areas that may no longer protect the target ecosystems for which they were formed,” said Healy Hamilton, director of the California Academy of Sciences, who attended a workshop on the subject in November in Berkeley, Calif. “New species will move in, and the target species will move out.” As a result, more and more conservationists believe they must do more than identify biologically important landscapes and raise money to protect them. They must peer into an uncertain future, guess which sites will be important 50 or 100 years from now, and then try to balance these guesses against the pressing needs of the present. “It’s turning conservation on its head,” said Bill Stanley, who directs the global climate change initiative at the Nature Conservancy....
Does leasing land gouge hunters or protect owners?(Montana) The fee hunting comes in several forms. Some landowners and outfitters may charge hunters a trespass fee. Other ranchers and farmers may provide an exclusive lease to their ranch to a single group of hunters. New to the equation are hunting clubs that, after a membership fee, provide access to cooperating ranches for a fee. Some ranches are owned exclusively to provide hunting and recreation for the landowner, some of whom reside out of state. Realtors even advertise such properties as "private sanctuaries" and tout the landlocked public land to which the new owners will have exclusive access. "There's a fair amount of leasing going on where the licensed outfitter has ranches leased and they're not taking clients out, but if a hunter gets a license and wants to pay to hunt, they'll let him on," Charles aid. "I know of individual resident hunters paying for a lease for their own use. But we're limited in what we actually know." There are an estimated 20,000 private farms and ranches across the state. Private and reservation lands account for more than 60 percent of the acreage in Montana. Out of that 60-plus percent, about 20 percent is in Block Management or leased by outfitters....
Uranium 'capital' awaits good times When a uranium boom hit this former logging and farming community in the mid-1970s, housing was so scarce people slept in campgrounds and cemeteries. Schools, hospitals and bars were jam packed with miners and their families. And young people could buy cars and houses with the good pay they earned in the mines. It was the second boom for the central New Mexico town's uranium industry that started when a Navajo sheepherder, Paddy Martinez, picked up a bright yellow rock in 1950. Then the so-called "Uranium Capital of the World" suffered the bust. In the early '80s, the price of uranium plummeted as the anti-nuclear movement grew and domestic demand stagnated. Eight-thousand jobs disappeared in a few years. "It kind of devastated Grants with all these people leaving, houses empty everywhere, businesses closing," said Terry Fletcher, president of Rio Algom Mining LLC, who has lived in Grants for 50 years. "On my block alone, every two out of three houses was empty." But these days something is stirring. Hotels are booked, restaurants and retail businesses are busy and local drilling companies are swamped with work. A 40-house development, the town's first in 25 years, is being built ahead of the expected arrival of more residents. With the price of uranium up to $90 to $100 per pound, Grants is anticipating good economic times ahead. Uranium company executives say uranium could be a $2 billion industry for New Mexico over its lifetime and bring in as many as 4,000 jobs to the Grants area....
Ranchers take side of power company in dispute over 'tax' But the primary focus of their meeting is what they refer to as the "streambed water tax." The state, however, says the "tax" is actually a lease charged to privately owned power companies for use of the state's navigable riverbeds where hydroelectric dams sit. But ranchers Larry LuLoff of Boyd, Bill Burgan of Roberts and Ed Draper of Red Lodge are not splitting hairs over terminology. They oppose the state's effort to extract payment from power companies, saying it could be a steppingstone to charging similar fees to other users. "It's a bad, bad deal for the people of the state of Montana," LuLoff said. "We got concerned, if they could put a streambed water tax on power companies, the next big usage of water is agriculture." To date, two power companies - Spokane, Wash.-based Avista and Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp - have agreed to pay Montana for their use of the riverbed. PPL Montana is contesting the matter in court. Not surprisingly, the state has a different take than the ranchers. Anthony Johnstone, assistant attorney general, insists that the court case is not about water, but about the use of state trust lands underneath the dams and reservoirs. The constitution dictates that the state, as a trustee of state lands, has a duty to get full market value for the use of those lands, he said....
Sleek Critters Get Second Chance The elusive fisher, famous for its fabulous fur and for picking fights with porcupines, slipped back into the wilds of Washington Sunday. Its mission: to re-establish a homeland. Fishers, cat-sized members of the weasel family, have been missing from Washington's forest landscape for decades, wiped out by early 20th-century trappers. On Sunday, biologists released 11 Canadian fishers -- five males and six females -- into the dense thickets of the park's Elwha River and Morse Creek drainages, near the Olympic Peninsula city of Port Angeles. "They just took off like a shot," said Jeff Lewis, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. "You just see a streak of black rushing across the ground and they disappear." Sunday's release was the first step in a state, federal and privately supported effort to revive the state's population of the sleek, dark carnivores. While Canada's fisher population is hardy, on the U.S. West Coast, fishers have been on the official waiting list for federal Endangered Species Act protection since 2004....
Feds approve Jonah man camp EnCana workers in southwest Wyoming's lucrative gas fields will be housed a little closer to the job site this coming year, after federal officials approved the construction of a new man camp. EnCana Oil and Gas Inc. proposed building the 350-worker man camp -- dubbed the Jonah Workforce Facility -- last fall on 20 acres of Bureau of Land Management land near the company's Jonah Field leases southeast of Big Piney. BLM spokeswoman Kellie Roadifer said the agency concluded in an environmental assessment released Monday that the man camp would be "beneficial" to the workers and residents in the region. Federal officials said the company proposed the facility in an effort to reduce the travel required of gas field workers coming from nearby Big Piney, where an existing man camp houses them. Officials said the worker camp will also reduce impacts to the environment and improve safety on roads around the Jonah Field and Big Piney....
Increase in OHV Use Leads to Stricter Regulations Colorado Division of Wildlife officers would be allowed to issue tickets and fines for unlawful use of off highway vehicles (OHV) on almost 23 million acres of federally-owned land under a bill scheduled for debate this week in the state House of Representatives. One of the most contentious issues to be resolved is which trails will be marked with signs and on maps – those that are open or those that are closed. House Bill 1069, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, was crafted by a coalition of sportsmen, environmentalists and OHV users to support new management policies of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. “For the first time, non-federal officers will be able to enforce regulations on federal land,” Curry said. Violators would be fined $100 and given 10 license suspension points if the violator is hunting, fishing, trapping, or engaged in similar activity on public land. The penalty increases to a $200 fine and 15 license suspension points if the violator is in a federal wilderness area....Ms. Curry must not be familiar with legislative jurisdiction. Either that, or Colorado has waived legislative jurisdiction to the Feds.
Fish and Game tells employees to avoid Marvel Idaho Department of Fish and Game employees have been instructed to halt communications with an environmentalist who is accused of harassing staffers and assaulting a top state official, the agency said Monday. Agency Deputy Director Virgil Moore sent a memo Monday to Fish and Game employees urging them to avoid phone conversations with Jon Marvel, head of Hailey-based anti-grazing group Western Watersheds Project. "Jon's behavior is simply out of hand," Moore said in an interview after the memo was released. "It's a pattern of behavior we've seen toward public officials. And I've asked (employees)to politely withdraw from communicating with Mr. Marvel." Moore alleges Marvel shouted at Wayne Wright, the Fish and Game commissioner who represents the Magic Valley, on Dec. 17 after a public meeting in Hailey about removing wolves from the endangered species list. Moore and another official stepped between the two as Marvel began to shout, and as the men were leaving the building, Marvel cursed at Wright and shoved him in the back or side, Moore said. Fish and Game officials said they didn't press charges or alert police because they didn't want to inflame tensions between Marvel and the department. Marvel has repeatedly harassed and threatened Fish and Game employees in phone calls, Moore said, which also prompted the memo. Marvel has a history of run-ins with government officials. The Bureau of Land Management banned its staffers from communicating with Marvel for one year after an incident in May 2000, when officials said he orally and physically threatened BLM workers during a public tour of rangeland in Cassia County. Marvel disputed the accusations, and no charges were filed after a U.S. Attorney's Office investigation....
The Navy and the Whales ON ITS FACE, the battle between the Navy and environmental groups over the use of sonar off the coast of Southern California pits national security against the preservation of marine life. It is a false choice. The Navy in 2007 began exercises off California to train sailors in the use of mid-frequency active sonar, which emits high-intensity underwater blasts of sound. But the California waters are home to several endangered species, including whales, which can suffer permanent injury or death from the sonar. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued last year in federal court to stop the training exercises unless the Navy adopted mitigation measures to prevent harm to marine life. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California concluded that the service was bound by environmental laws to implement such measures, including a prohibition against using sonar within 12 nautical miles of the coast or when marine life came within a certain range of a vessel. The Navy balked, claiming the court-ordered measures were unnecessary; it cited its preliminary analysis that sonar would not significantly harm marine life. After losing several rounds of litigation, the Navy turned to the White House, which two weeks ago concluded that the service was exempt from one law, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and had the right to disregard the court-ordered mitigation measures and rely on "alternative arrangements" to comply with a second law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Navy has a strong case with respect to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which allows exemptions to the law if the president deems such exemptions to be in the "paramount interest of the United States." It is on far less solid ground in its challenge under NEPA....
Species denied federal protection Two rare salamanders do not need Endangered Species Act protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday. The agency said neither species is threatened by habitat loss, and increased survey efforts are turning up more Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders. "The perception of extreme rarity that's been sort of perpetuated is really not turning out to be the case," said Brian Woodbridge, a Fish and Wildlife biologist. "The more people are looking, the more people are finding them and the wider the variety of habitats that they are being found in." The announcement comes one year after a federal judge ruled that the agency illegally rejected a petition to protect the salamanders and ordered the agency to reconsider....
Going green — at a cost
Increasingly, federal buildings are falling into one of two camps: those that are certified green by the country’s leading independent rating system, and those that just say they are. But Congress last month ordered the government to certify all new buildings and large renovations as eco-friendly and, by March, administration officials will decide which certification will be used. The smart money is on a certification system called Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design, or LEED, which was developed seven years ago by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is the most recognized green building certification program in the country today and has been endorsed by the General Services Administration, which will make the key recommendation on what system to use. But that certification comes at a significant cost. Achieving basic LEED certification can add anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent to the overall cost of a project, while the paperwork requirements alone take hundreds of hours. The LEED system is seen as so costly and time-consuming by some agencies that they’ve given up seeking certification, even though they claim to be building facilities that meet the LEED standards. “I don’t think it’s worth the certificate,” said Lloyd Siegel, director of facilities strategic management at the Veterans Affairs Department. “We’d rather use that money to get more efficient in our energy systems or [window] glazing systems or whatever, rather than just have a certificate to hang on the wall.”....
Senate Confirms New Ag Secretary Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer was confirmed in short order by the full Senate Monday. There was no vote; Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., read a simple request for unanimous consent. "Governor Schafer is a distinguished former governor from our state," Dorgan said. "It's a great honor for our state to have him nominated for Secretary of Agriculture. I ask for unanimous consent." Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., also addressed the matter. "We obviously need a good strong Secretary of Agriculture," Bond said. "And we are pleased to see this body move forward." There was no dissention and Schafer became head of the USDA. Schafer was nominated last fall following former Ag Secretary Mike Johanns' resignation to run for the Senate from Nebraska....
97-Year-Old Cattleman Got Start in 4-H 4-H in Louisiana turns 100 this year and with the livestock show coming up this week we wanted to speak with some cattlemen who got their start in 4-H. In the first of a two part series News Channel 5’s Joel Massey shows us a rancher who’s been going strong almost as long as 4-H has been in Louisiana. For 97 year old Cecil Price of see-per Louisiana working cattle has been a part of his life his whole life. He still moves them from pasture to pasture every day. He opens the gates and they respond to his voice. Like countless Louisiana ranchers, as a boy Price gained skills showing livestock through a 4-h club. It’s a tradition passed on in his family of cattleman. His nephew Clayton Brister is the state president of the Cattleman’s Association and was named cattleman of the year. Brister said, “I was in 4-h when I was young and my sons have too, it’s just been all of our lives.” Price’s herd is unique, since the 1920’s he’s only replaced females with cows born on his farm and the LSU Ag Center thinks his is the oldest crossbred foundation herd in the state....
It's All Trew: Dust Bowl was deadly Until 1930, most agriculture workers, and especially the cattlemen, had retained their independence from government help and interference. However, the Crash of 1929 ushered in the beginnings of the Great Depression. By 1931 severe drought set in all across the Great Plains from Canada to Texas with annual rainfall averages cut in half from normal. By 1933, areas in the Southern Plains began to experience dust storms that eventually grew into the Dust Bowl. Wind velocities often ranged from thirty to sixty miles per hour, with Amarillo experiencing 192 "dusters" between January 1933 and February 1936. Commodity prices dropped approximately 50 percent by 1933 while taxes and interest rates remained unchanged. A total collapse of the agricultural industry threatened in spite of efforts by the Hoover administration and numerous commodity marketing boards. The situation became so desperate, massive federal action seemed to be the only alternative for relief. In June of 1934, almost as a last resort, Congress authorized a Drought Relief Service for purchasing drought-stricken cattle. Depending on weight and condition, the agency would pay $4 to $8 for calves, $10 to $15 for yearlings, with cows, big steers and bulls bringing $12 to $20. Those in the worst condition were killed immediately and buried while others were sent to packing plants for slaughter. Starting in June of 1934, the program ran until late January of 1935 with the government eventually purchasing almost 8.3 million head of livestock providing $111 million in payments to the livestock owners and their creditors....I need to write about the experience my dad had as a kid hiring out to Willis Lovelace to gather cattle for this program.