Friday, February 15, 2008

Bingaman Presses for Day of Recognition for Ranchers U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman is once again cosponsoring a resolution to recognize the “American Cowboy.” The Senate resolution acknowledges the role of ranchers in the development of the West. The resolution states that ranchers embody our nation’s strong work ethic, are good stewards of the environment, and play a major role in our nation’s economy. This year American Cowboy day is July 26, 2008. Approximately 800,000 ranchers are in business across the country. New Mexico ranchers generated $964 million in sales in 2005, the most recent year for which numbers are available. In terms of agriculture production, only the dairies are a larger industry in New Mexico than ranching. “Ranching in New Mexico is not just a tradition; it’s a way of life. This bill would recognize the hard working men and women of our state who continue to keep ranching alive,” Bingaman said. The resolution encourages communities across the country to observe July 26, 2008 as the National Day of the American Cowboy, and mark the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
Senators support forest restoration New Mexico's two senators joined forced to introduce legislation aimed at large-scale national forest restoration projects with an eye toward reducing wildfires, restoring ecosystems and creating jobs. U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, submitted the Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008 Tuesday. Bingaman, a Democrat, and Domenici, a Republican, said the legislation would authorize $40 million annually for landscape-scale forest restoration projects that cover 50,000 acres or more. Competitive grants would be awarded to restoration projects that are developed in collaboration with local communities. Eligible projects must be in need of ecosystem restoration, utilize the best-available science, encourage the use of restoration byproducts such as woody biomass and be located primarily on National Forest System land. Conceptually, the senators said the bill is similar to the Community Forest Restoration Act, legislation Bingaman wrote and Domenici supported. As a result of the measure, which was enacted in 2007, millions of dollars was invested in small-scale forest restoration projects in New Mexico. But this legislation, developed by the New Mexico lawmakers with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would allow the state to compete for bigger grants and treat significantly larger pieces of land. The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008 was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A hearing on the bill will be scheduled for spring....
War Of The Roses Islamofascists demonize Valentine's Day in Arab countries, but here in the West, the holiday draws its puritanical zealots from the environmental left. They've made Valentine's Day a boogeyman. Alone among cash crops, it seems, roses pollute the environment, exploit workers and cause global warming. Quite a lot of blame for one of nature's finer creations, but not if the idea is to turn consumers against the flower trade, much of which is based in Colombia and is sustained with Valentine's Day sales. It's become an annual event. This year, it's "Blood Roses: Valentine's Day in Bogota," as the Huffington Post screeched, smearing Colombia's flower trade as a twin industry to the illegal blood diamond trade in West Africa. Other media reports were almost as bad and as irresponsible. In reality, lawfully produced flowers provide a livelihood to 99,000 poor Colombians, many of whom were driven from their homes by war and the global drug trade — which trashes the environment, too. When Americans buy roses at the market, they help sustain these war refugees by providing jobs to let them lead dignified lives. Targeting Colombia's rose trade is nothing more than attacking poor people out of environmental self-righteousness....
CAO would ‘welcome’ investigation into carbon offsets The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the House said Tuesday he would “welcome” an examination into the carbon offset marketplace, which has been a tool for the “Green the Capitol” initiative he oversees. CAO Daniel Beard was reacting to a letter sent by two top House Republicans to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week, seeking a closer look at the program. As part of the one-year-old “Green the Capitol” project, which aims at reducing the level of pollution created by members of Congress, the House purchased $89,000 in carbon offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange, an offset brokerage company. The company then paid farms in the Midwest to take steps to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of global warming and is released both naturally, such as through the breaking-apart of soil, and by man-made design, such as through coal-burning power plants. Carbon offsets were created to counterbalance the release of carbon into the air through practices such as planting trees, which feed off of carbon and produce oxygen, or employing companies to use non-carbon-producing fuels as energy. Last week Republican Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked the GAO to look into “questionable purchases of carbon offsets” after recent media criticism of the venture revealed that while several farmers who had received money from the House purchase were actively sequestering carbon, they might not actually be using the money to further their carbon reduction efforts....
Will Global Warming Save Lives? A report commissioned by Britain's Health Department says that one blistering hot summer between now and 2017 could kill more than 6,000 Britons. The panel of scientific experts that compiled the study believes the chance of that is 25%. Naturally, the global-warming-will-kill-us-all crowd latched onto that speculation, as did headline writers. "U.K. May Suffer Heat Wave That Kills 3,000," topped a Bloomberg story, while Reuters opted for "Climate Change May Kill Thousands In U.K. By 2017." The panel also said global warming will bring warmer winters, which will cut down on cold-related deaths in Britain. So should we fear human-created climate change or embrace it? Surprisingly, the BBC stood out as one media agent that took enough care to balance its coverage. Under the Web site headline "Global Warming 'May Cut Deaths,' " it reported 20,000 deaths are linked to the cold each year in the U.K. and that those deaths fell 3% a year from 1971 through 2003, a period in which summers warmed but heat-related deaths did not change. In the U.S., a warmer climate could save tens of thousands. Thomas Gale Moore, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who has studied and written extensively about global warming, believes as many as 40,000 American lives would be spared each year....
Sheep versus sheep It's another example of the New and Old West coming into conflict. This time it's bighorn sheep versus domestic sheep or, more specifically, wildlife advocates versus the sheep herding industry. During a telephone conference call yesterday, Feb. 14, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted an interim strategy for separating bighorn sheep from domestic sheep. The policy establishes buffer zones between occupied bighorn sheep range and sheep allotments on federal land statewide. Where the two overlap, however, bighorn sheep will be moved or killed. The Nez Perce Tribe, as well as sportsmen's groups, environmentalists and ranchers, have been watching closely as the state of Idaho and U.S. Forest Service attempt to sort out the problem. Fish and Game's new strategy came in response to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's call for a policy to manage the interaction between the herds by Feb. 15. The governor established a working group led by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Agriculture in response to judicial orders requiring sheep ranchers to pull their sheep off Hells Canyon allotments....
Green Jobbed As the Los Angeles Times noted this week, alternative energy "is becoming one of the darlings of Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill." Democrats even want to include tax breaks for it in the economic stimulus package. A cap-and-trade system to cut CO2 emissions has also found favor. The thinking is that we can radically alter our economy and at the same create millions of well-paying "green-collar jobs." Even some business groups embrace the idea. "The one thing that the Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club agree on," notes energy lobbyist Scott Segal, "is that the answer to climate change is transformative technologies." Maybe so. But claims that spending on green technologies will create "millions" of new jobs, as both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have repeatedly claimed, are false. Such assertions rest on fallacious economic logic that sounds good on the stump but in reality results in a lower standard of living and fewer jobs for all Americans....
Group to pay ranchers for losses caused by wolves A new state program will reimburse livestock producers for wolf predation losses. The new plan will replace the current one, which has been funded by Defenders of Wildlife for the past 20 years. The plan is called for under the state's wolf management plan, and George Edwards with the Montana Dept. of Livestock, says it's not tied to wolf population control. "Whether the wolves are listed. Still listed or de-listed will not affect this program because this program is primarily in place to help livestock producers who have suffered a wolf loss." The Defenders of Wildlife will provide a $100,000 grant to get the new program started, but Edwards says it will take federal funds and private dollars to maintain. The Department of Livestock is accepting donations, and all contributions are tax deductible.
The 2008 House Energy Tax Bill: Repeating Past Mistakes Taxing successful energy sources and subsidizing unsuccessful ones: That is the essence of Washington's energy policy mistakes during the 1970s and early 1980s. These mistakes are about to be repeated in the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008, recently introduced in the House. This bill would effectively raise taxes on the oil and natural gas sector and spend much of the revenue on alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and biofuels. As it did decades ago, this approach would likely backfire and raise prices for consumers while reducing energy security. Congress should craft a new energy policy that relies on the market to meet the nation's energy needs. The bill proposes a number of changes in the tax code, the effect of which would be to raise taxes paid by companies working to expand domestic oil and natural gas supplies....
Save the prairie dogs! - PETA To combat these perceived injustices, a group - the prairie Dog Coalition - is working hard to secure a more stable footing for our burrowing friends, and pushing two ideas. The first, a legislative one, is recognition of a renamed “Prairie Dog Day” in our cities and counties. And they’ve been making headway. This year, the City of Denver joined Boulder in issuing a proclamation celebrating Prairie Dog Day, and giving our rodent residents the recognition they deserve. The second idea is to give another look to our yard-destroying, grazing-land inhabiting, “plague-carrying” neighbors. Says Dr. Lauren McCain, Co-Chair of the Coalition - which comprises some 30 member organizations - “we’re looking to raise awareness on groundhog day, and get people the information they need to know about prairie dogs. Because of population, destruction of habitat, disease and predation, and policies allowing them to be poisoned and exterminated, more than 90% of the historical prairie dog population has been destroyed.” As a “keystone” species, the health of the North American plains in many ways depends upon the continued survival of these social critters....I'm beginning to wonder just how damn many of these "keystone" and "canary in a coal mine" species there are.
The Transportation Commission's Proposed 200 Percent Gas Tax Increase In mid-January, the congressionally created National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission released its final report, which, among other proposals, recommends raising the federal fuel tax by 25 cents to 40 cents per gallon over the next five years and thereafter indexing it to the rate of infla­tion.[1] With the federal fuel tax at 18.3 cents per gallon of gasoline and 22.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel, the commission is proposing that one of the nation's most regressive taxes be increased by a staggering 136 per­cent to 218 percent. These tax revenues would then be spent on a variety of new road, transit, administra­tive, and environmental initiatives, including a 700 percent increase in Amtrak subsidies. While these recommendations are supported by several government-dependent transportation trade associations—including major tax users such as the American Road and Transportation Builders Associa­tion, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the American Public Transportation Association—the Administration, tax­payers, fiscal conservatives, and many Members of Congress have openly criticized the report. To date, critics and skeptics have focused largely on the pro­posed tax increase, which would be little more than a massive transfer of income and wealth from motorists to a much bigger version of today's ill-conceived fed­eral transportation program and the select few who benefit from it....
Alexander gets Restore New Mexico award Dennis Alexander, State Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in New Mexico, was presented the Restore New Mexico Award today in recognition of the agency's participation and financial support of landscape-scale restoration efforts across the state. Jesse Juen, Associate State Director for the BLM in New Mexico, presented the award at the annual meeting of the National Association of Conservation Districts in Reno, Nev. on behalf of all New Mexico partners involved in the program. The NRCS has provided over $4 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program grants to over 100 landowners with federal grazing allotments to restore degraded rangelands in New Mexico. The BLM, landowners and other partners have been able to match or exceed these funds, greatly enlarging the size and scope of the restoration projects....
Keep polar bears off endangered species list The Department of the Interior, in response to litigation from environmental groups, is considering whether to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. For the first time in the history of the ESA, the threat of global warming would be the reason for listing a well-known species. Given the ESA’s sweeping powers, such a move would raise energy prices by putting an end to promising new oil and natural gas production in Alaska. Even more troubling, listing the polar bear could be used as a back door to implement global warming policy nationwide by restricting energy production and use throughout the U.S. This would obviously harm the economy and — considering the ESA’s poor track record — could also harm the polar bears as well. The President should tell the DOI not to take this highly problematic step. While being highly successful in violating private property rights and hampering economic activities—especially for farmers, ranchers, and loggers in the rural West and elsewhere — the statute has done little to protect species....
Lawmakers seek probe of meat safety of School Lunch Program
Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the safety of meat in the National School Lunch Program, citing concerns raised by alleged abuses at a slaughterhouse in Chino, Calif. Democratic Reps. George Miller of California, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Carolyn McCarthy of New York, along with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, are asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., a supplier to school lunch programs, in the wake of release of a Humane Society video showing disabled cows being mistreated. Meanwhile, the San Bernardino County district attorney's office said it will hold a press conference Friday to announce whether charges will be filed against Westland/Hallmark. A phone message left late Thursday for Westland President Steven Mendell was not immediately returned. USDA officials have put a hold until Feb. 19 on meat products from the facility, which are used by major hamburger chains and school districts around the nation. Investigations have found no evidence that meat from disabled animals has entered the food supply....
Rodeos could be modified A Mexican-style rodeo tradition could be history after the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved drafting an ordinance that could go as far as banning so-called "coleadas" or steer tailing, which some local charros or cowboys admit they proudly practice. By a 3-2 vote, supervisors Tuesday approved the proposal that would also reiterate state law prohibiting cruelty to animals. Supervisors also agreed to prohibit tripping or felling an equine animal, or intentionally tripping, dragging, or felling any bovine animal by the tail. The proposal would also require veterinarians to be in attendance throughout the duration of any event using animals and provide local remedies for violations. According to San Juan Bautista resident Martin Marquez, president of the Asociacion de Charros El Herradero de San Martin, steer tailing exercises are happening in the county and are indeed part of so-called "charreadas" or Mexican style rodeo. However, he said, local charros no longer practice horse tripping and instead perform a modified exercise putting the rope through the horse's front legs without making it fall. "It's sad that despite all the pains we've taken to follow the rules, they will be targeting steer tailing which is traditional and part of the charreria," Marquez said. "Coleadas are not cruel and inhumane. How do they know it's painful to the bulls, which fall on soft sand."....
Lake Monster? Los Angeles may have the largest populus, but within its history lurks several anomalies which defy the hustle and bustle of city life. Elizabeth Lake, located close to Palmdale in "north county" was once inhabited by one of these anomalies. It is said that the old lake, one of ten named Elizabeth in California, was created by the Devil who bestowed upon the waters one of his demonic pets, that being a diabolical beast. Sightings of such a creature date back to the 1830s when a Spaniard named Don Pedro Carillo claimed that such a leviathan had burnt down his ranch which sat on the shore. Was a dragon to blame? Don Chico Lopez who also built a ranch near the lake was next to observe the monster some fifty years later during the early 1880s saying that it was winged, and had flippers. Workers reported seeing ominous shadows over the lake cast by the demon and the disappearance of livestock was recorded. In 1886 a Don Felipe Rivera claimed that a creature over forty-feet long, with six legs and two leathery wings had eaten one of his steers, although others claim that the beast was a giant snake. Basque immigrant Miguel Leonis purchased the ranch next and a great deal of land throughout southern California. Legend states that after losing several of his animals, Leonis stalked the beast and attacked it one night, causing injury to its eye after bullets seemed to bounce off its tough skin. The wounded creature skulked back into the lake and soon after allegedly fled, but rumour was rife that many settlers, ranchers and the likes avoided the area for years....
McCain, Clinton Act On Global Warming Senator John McCain took time off from his presidential campaign today to announce the passage of the McCain-Clinton bill to end global warming. "My friends," said McCain, "it was high time that someone reached across the aisle and brought people together on this important issue. I am proud to announce the beginning of the end to global warming. My friend, Hillary Clinton, and I have tackled this tough issue in the true spirit of bi-partisanship." The revolutionary new bill includes measures to fine cattle ranchers up to $25,000.00 per incident for excessive cow flatulence, mandatory purchase of florescent light bulbs by everyone in the US by January 2009, and the end of daylight savings time. A addendum by Senator Ted Kennedy to make it illegal for the sun to shine in certain parts of Florida between 12 PM and 2 PM was dropped from the bill to ensure its passage because of fervent opposition by Christian evangelicals who objected on theological grounds. The bill calls for the creation of The Bureau of Weather Control with an initial cost of 20.3 billion dollars with facilities to be located in Arizona and New York. "This bill will be revenue neutral," promised McCain. "Initial costs will be recouped by the imposition of fines on dairy farmers and ranchers and people who do not comply with the florescent light bulb provision of the new law. The abolition of daylight savings time will serve to stop global warming by having one less hour of daylight and sunshine for a large part of every year. The economy will flourish because this bill creates 20,000 new government jobs for people to inspect cow anuses and light bulb sockets." (satire)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Study: Key Western reservoirs in danger Climate change and a growing demand for water could drain two of the nation's largest manmade reservoirs within 13 years, depriving several Southwestern states of key water sources, scientists warn. Researchers at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Wednesday that there's a 50 percent chance that lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013. "We were surprised that it was so soon," said climate scientist David Pierce, co-author of the institution's study that detailed the findings. The study, which was released Tuesday, found that if current conditions persist, there's a 50 percent chance the reservoirs will no longer be able to generate hydropower by 2017. Lake Mead, on the Arizona-Nevada border and the West's largest storage reservoir, and Lake Powell, on the Arizona-Utah border, have been hit hard by a regional drought and are half full. Both lakes were created by dams built on the Colorado River, which provides water for about 27 million people in seven states. Researchers said that if Lake Mead water levels drop below 1,000 feet, Nevada would lose access to all its river allocation, Arizona would lose much of the water that flows through the Central Arizona Project Canal, and power production would cease before the lake level reached bottom....
Bush forest budget called disastrous A Bush administration spending plan that would slash money for the Forest Service could lead to massive layoffs at the agency charged with managing 193 million acres of national forests, Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday. Spending for the Forest Service would be cut by nearly 8 percent next year, to $4.1 billion, in a budget plan submitted by President Bush. The plan could mean the loss of more than 2,700 jobs — nearly 10 percent of the agency's work force — as well as reductions in dozens of non-fire related programs, from road and trail maintenance to state assistance, land acquisition and recreation, lawmakers said. The only bright spot in the budget was a request to increase spending to fight wildfires by about $148 million to just under $1 billion, Dicks said....
New crop of Western ranchers buck cattle industry to go green Seth Nitschke spent his early 20s working at the country's biggest feed lots before he returned home to start a business raising beef cattle fed on the grasses of the Sierra Nevada foothills. Nitschke, 31, who makes his living herding heifers through pastures near Yosemite National Park, would never call himself an environmental activist, though he's planting saplings to protect nearby streams and runs a light herd to let his pastures breathe. Unlike some of his conservative counterparts in traditional livestock production, he and a new crop of cattlemen are quietly working to minimize their industry's ecological footprint, and are forging unlikely alliances with environmental groups. Throughout the West, cattlemen and environmentalists have locked horns over grazing practices for decades. But increasingly, ranchers are buying into the idea that they have a role to play in protecting open space, be it through preserving private wildlands or promoting sustainable grazing techniques that help endangered species flourish. "This new generation of ranchers knows they have to work on the environmental part of it to survive," said Neil McDougald, a rancher at the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Madera County. "I'll guarantee you the guys driving cows today have a better environmental conscience than the ranchers who were riding around holding up stage coaches."....So there you have it Mr. & Mrs. rancher. You either have an "environmental conscience" or you are a robber of stage coaches. My recommendation to all you stage coach robber types is that you better learn how to sing about peace and love.
Unnatural preservation During the past three years, however, Bradley has been checking on the breeding sites of the black, burrow-nesting Cassin’s auklet, and he’s been finding abandoned eggs; dead, black, cue-ball-sized chicks; and skinny, faltering fledglings. “Most of the chicks have died,” says Bradley, a research biologist with PRBO Conservation Science, a nonprofit founded as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, that has spent the past 40 years counting and observing the birds that nest yearly on the Farallons. “This was as complete a failure response as we’d ever seen before. And we’d been following this species for 35 years.” The apparent culprit: Ocean currents, redirected by rising sea temperature, have swept out of range the millions of tiny krill that the adult birds scoop into their beaks, chew into purple, smelly goo and then spit up for their young. In other words, this unprecedented starvation wave may be a result of global warming. Bradley is one of the experts who knows most about the auklet die-off. Just the same, he’s adamant in his belief that he should not attempt to save any of the dying chicks. To do so, he says, would be considered unnatural and unscientific. “You definitely grimace when you see the guy next door who hasn’t done so well and has died at a very young age,” Bradley says. “We try to maintain ourselves as scientists. But we really feel for the birds.” In the world of natural preservation, it’s not just scientists who take Bradley’s don’t-mess-with-Mother-Nature stance....
Ranchers offered offset grasslands The Forest Service met with 16 Billings County ranchers this week and offered to sell each of them up to a section of land to offset the agency's acquisition of the former Eberts ranch. The ranchers have six months to take their deal or leave it. The agency received congressional authorization in late December to sell odd lots, ranging from a quarter to a section of land, on the Little Missouri National Grasslands, so the 5,200-acre Eberts' ranch does not increase the Forest Service's net holdings in North Dakota. However, Congress did not authorize use of the Eberts' ranch as a grass bank. The authorization dictates that the agency must continue leasing out the former Eberts ranch under grazing agreements with the Medora Grazing Association. The Forest Service bought the ranch last year, renaming it the Elkhorn Ranchlands, to preserve it for its association with Theodore Roosevelt, who free-ranged cattle there in the 1880s. The deal cost $5.3 million, with all but $500,000 from federal funds. Congress also said multiple uses of grazing, hunting and oil development have to continue. By authorization, the offset offers had to go to ranchers who are already leasing the parcels in conjunction with their privately owned headquarters....
Governor raps drilling proposal A small exploratory drilling project proposed for Little Mountain south of Rock Springs is a bad idea that could lead to large-scale development of a popular recreation and wildlife area, Gov. Dave Freudenthal told federal officials this week. Freudenthal panned the proposal by the Oklahoma-based Devon Energy Co. to drill two exploratory natural gas wells in the area. The governor expressed "significant concerns" about the proposal in comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management. The governor worried about impacts on recreation, critical wildlife habitat, sensitive species, air and water quality, among others, and pointed to the area's importance to the quality of life for southwest Wyoming residents. Freudenthal said he doesn't want the project to "trigger the full industrialization" of an "irreplaceable" recreation area. Although the initial proposal is just two wells, "the pressure to expand from two wells seems inevitable," he wrote....
EPA: Reconsider gas field air controls An environmental group seeking stricter air-pollution controls on Colorado's growing natural gas industry is praising a federal order it hopes will "ripple through the Rocky Mountain West." The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the state to respond to objections from Denver-based Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action over a permit for a natural gas compressor station in northeast Colorado. The group argued that state air-quality regulators should have bunched the compressor station together with nearby gas wells owned by the same company when it considered whether to issue an air-quality permit. The state issued a permit based only on the compressor station's emissions. An order issued Friday and signed by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson doesn't reverse the decision but directs regulators to explain it and make any appropriate changes. Grouping the compressor station with the wells as a single source of pollution could trigger the need for more stringent air-pollution controls under the federal Clean Air Act, which Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action favors....
BLM official accused of child rape resigns post Accused rapist Rex Lee Smart has retired from the Bureau of Land Management, ending a 25-year career with the federal agency and six years as head of the Kanab office. BLM spokesman Larry Crutchfield said Wednesday he could not say whether the departure is related to the 13 felony charges Smart faces in a child sex-abuse case. "It is our policy not to comment on personnel issues," Crutchfield said. Smart, 60, faces two sodomy counts, six forcible-sexual-abuse counts, two kidnapping counts and a rape charge, all first-degree felonies. He also is accused of two second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse....
Celebrating Wilderness Wilderness preservation is an American invention -- a unique contribution of our nation to world civilization. The 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act (September 3, l964) has come and gone, and Americans should renew their pride in and commitment to the National Wilderness Preservation System. It is one of the best ideas our country ever had. One place to start the celebration is with the recognition that wilderness is the basic component of American culture. From the its raw materials we built a civilization. With the idea of wilderness we sought to give that civilization identity and meaning. Our early environmental history is inextricably tied to wild country. Hate it or love it, if you want to understand American history there is no escaping the need to come to terms with our wilderness past. From this perspective, designated Wilderness Areas are historical documents; destroying them is comparable to tearing pages from our books and laws. We can not teach our children what is special about our history on freeways or in shopping malls. As a professional historian I deeply believe that the present owes the future a chance to know its wilderness past....
Coyote 'working' wild turkeys entertains Rankin ranching couple Sundown was settling in when a lone coyote came trotting onto Tommy and Edra Owens' homeplace on hardy ranchland north of Rankin down south from Midland. It was suppertime for the coyote, a clever, savvy, adaptable and legendary prairie and rangeland survivor -- the prairie wolf. The Owens couple had finished their supper when Tommy heard the squawking of wild turkeys, who roost in pine trees in their back yard. Tommy went out and along came Edra. They have lived in this old, mostly dry and rugged country for just about forever. Tommy and coyotes both make their livelihood off of less cunning critters, such as sheep and goats, which Tommy raises. Coyotes also savor the taste of fresh meats, such as that of rabbits, mice and other rodents, birds, snakes and insects. They cotton to fruits and vegetables and, when all else fails, carrion. For supper this evening, wild turkey was on the coyote's menu. "We've got coyotes galore down here," Edra said. "But we have all of these wild turkeys." Once outside, Tommy and Edra were "watching this coyote work those turkeys just like a sheepdog." Tommy, who is a hardy and most likeable 6-foot-4 fellow, gentle and blessed with humor and talent, scurried into house and returned with his .30-06-caliber (thirty-ought-six) rifle and, as Edra tells the tale, "shot at him, but he missed. The coyote ran off."....
How ‘bout them cowboys?
These guys and gals are America’s finest. If you’re looking for piercings and tattoos, they’re not readily apparent. In high school they wore cowboy hats and called themselves red necks. Certain administrators thought they were “bad boys.” We knew differently. They were (and are) the greatest products that America manufactures. Honest kids. Polite — shake your hand, look you in the eye — kids who grew up in rural environments where they were force fed solid values and learned basic life skills. They can hunt, fish, rope and weld a blade on the front of an American tank, should someone get caught in hedge rows in France. These days, certain dead souls want to put down cattle and ranching in general. There is a movement against beef — an attack on Ag. Those folks don’t get it. The finest kids this nation has ever produced were weaned on farms and ranches. Curtail farming and you kill the culture these kids were raised in. We should promote Ag, if, for nothing else, the kind of children it produces. You can’t bottle character and sell it. It’s home grown. Like the cattle they raise. How ‘bout them cowboys?....
Trail drives began here in South Texas South Texas, birthplace of the cattle industry, was also the birthplace of trail drives. Cattle were driven from this part of Mexico across Louisiana bayous in the 1700s. After the Texas Revolution, "cowboys" rounded up cattle in the Nueces Strip and drove them east. Cattle were trailed to Ohio, Missouri, and California during the Gold Rush. Herds were driven east to feed the Confederacy during the Civil War, At war's end, vast herds roamed South Texas ranges at a time when there was a great demand for beef in Northern cities. Cattle could be bought cheap in Texas and sold for high prices at railhead towns in Kansas. Texas cattlemen began driving herds north. The great cattle-driving era -- which lasted for about two decades -- began the year after the war, in 1866, when 250,000 longhorns went up the trail. The greatest drive occurred in 1871 when 700,000 head of cattle went north....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

GAO

Wildland Fire Management: Federal Agencies Lack Key Long- and Short-Term Management Strategies for Using Program Funds Effectively, by Robin M. Nazzaro, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations. GAO-08-433T, February 12.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-433T

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08433thigh.pdf

Federal Land Management: Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act Restrictions and Management Weaknesses Limit Future Sales and Acquisitions. GAO-08-196, February 5.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-196

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08196high.pdf

Federal Oversight of Food Safety:
FDA's Food Protection Plan Proposes Positive First Steps, but Capacity to Carry Them Out Is Critical, by Lisa R. Shames, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-08-435T, January 29.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-435T

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08435thigh.pdf
Eminent Domain Proposed To Grab Pfizer N.Y. Plant Affordable-housing activists in Brooklyn, N.Y., are proposing eminent domain be used to seize a prime piece of New York real estate from Pfizer Inc. Pfizer is the same company that inspired economic-development plans in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London after the pharmaceutical giant started building its Global Research & Development headquarters there nearly a decade ago. “Ah, irony,” says Scott Bullock, senior attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, the group that defended Fort Trumbull resident Susette Kelo as the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. City of New London — the property-rights case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The city won the case three years ago. “It shows that once the power goes to government to take properties on behalf of private parties, the tables can easily be turned on you ... if you're out of favor with the powers that be,” Bullock said....I'm sitting here with multiple sclerosis, and I want all drug companies to do well, make profits, conduct research and find a cure. In this instance, though, I hope Pfizer takes it up the ying-yang.
Mayor Bloomberg Compares Threat of Global Warming to Terrorism While he acknowledged that scientists are unable to predict its consequences, Mayor Bloomberg yesterday compared the scourge of global warming to the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Although it is a "long-term" fight, he said, reducing gas emissions may save the life of "everybody" on the planet, the same way that fighting terrorism and its proliferation saves lives in shorter terms. Addressing a U.N. climate change conference, the mayor also announced a new plan to reduce the use of tropical hardwoods by New York City and told delegates that the city plans to host a meeting in June of leaders from 20 major world cities to discuss ways for the largest municipalities to reduce global warming. Other participants in the conference called for a "war" against climate change, in which the United Nations would serve as a front-line combatant. Mr. Bloomberg renewed his call, made first late last year, for taxing countries such as America that emit large amounts of carbons, which are believed to cause changes in the planet's climate....
Bombing away in Socorro, New Mexico Folks living in Socorro, in remote, central New Mexico, are regularly jolted by the sounds of car bombs and calculated cave-ins. It’s all cooked up by the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, a division of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, known here simply as “Tech.” “Energetic materials” refers to anything that blows up, and since people exploding bombs are making life miserable for the American military in the Middle East and other places in the world, Tech’s bomb-testing business is booming. Testing activities have gone on for years, but people living in Socorro have been largely silent as new schemes popped up. After all, it’s the town’s biggest employer: At least 40 percent of the economy is tied to Tech, making Socorro almost a company town. And of course, if you moved here, you most likely knew what you were getting into. But what’s the limit? Schoolteacher Loretta Lowman was painting her house last year when a big bomb blast nearly knocked her off her ladder. The window-rattling explosion rolled in from the backside of “M” Mountain, a 7,300-foot volcanic remnant and landmark in this town of about 9,000. For Lowman, the blast lingered, bookmarked in her mind, and quickly recalled when she heard about a new testing venture. Soon, out there on the edge of its 40-square-mile “field laboratory” a few miles behind the mountain, the U.S. Air Force’s 58th Special Operations Wing, based in Albuquerque, would start practicing dropping stuff....
Idaho Conservation League scolds Otter for bighorn sheep policy The state is creating an environment for more lawsuits over bighorn sheep, the Idaho Conservation League said in a letter mailed this week to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. The governor is using a "top down approach" to manage Idaho's bighorns, the group wrote, by asking the state departments of Fish and Game and Agricul-ture to develop a plan to keep the species separate. ICL wants the public to have a say in developing a policy. "Instead of telling the public what is best for a few, the state should ask the public to roll up their sleeves and craft a workable solution," wrote John Robison, ICL's public lands director. However, Otter is expected to make an announcement soon on the state's bighorn policy, which state agency officials say is mostly finished. Following a year of lawsuits and political posturing over bighorns, the plan is likely to be contentious. A judge closed grazing allotments last year after environmental groups sued, saying massive bighorn die-offs happened after contact with disease-carrying domestic sheep. The governor quietly asked the state agencies to find short-term solutions before sheep are turned out on grazing allotments this spring - and before more lawsuits are filed....
Ranches Transformed Into Endangered Jaguar Reserve Jaguars in northern Mexico have a newly protected habitat today due to the official establishment of the Northern Jaguar Reserve in the state of Sonora. The 45,000 acre reserve, which provides a sanctuary for the world's northernmost breeding population of jaguars, is the centerpiece of a binational effort by the Northern Jaguar Project and Naturalia to safeguard and restore the jaguar in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. "This land is perfectly suited to support North America's largest wild cat," said Oscar Moctezuma, director of Naturalia, the Mexican conservation organization that will hold title to the property. With assistance from the Northern Jaguar Project, Naturalia purchased the 10,000 acre Rancho Los Pavos in 2003. Located in a region of abundant biodiversity, Los Pavos was the first ranch acquired to establish this jaguar reserve. Next, the Northern Jaguar Project spearheaded the purchase of the adjacent 35,000 acre Rancho Zetasora at a cost of $1.5 million with contributions from more than 600 individual donors and private foundations. The final payment for Zetasora was made at the end of January and completes the 70 square mile reserve....
Senate approves expedition of eminent domain The South Dakota Senate has approved a measure intended to speed up state hearings on the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad's application to acquire land by condemnation for its $6 billion expansion project. An opponent said the bill could hurt landowners who believe DM&E is not treating them fairly, but the Senate sent the measure to the House on a 20-13 vote. The bill's main sponsor, Sen. Tom Hansen, R-Huron, said DM&E applied more than a year ago for state approval to use eminent domain to acquire land for a right of way from people who are unwilling to sell. Opponents have used delaying tactics to prevent a state hearing, he said. "The time has come to let the process move forward," Hansen said. But Sen. Jim Lintz, R-Hermosa, said DM&E has caused as much of the delay as opponents have. He said many of his neighbors own land that would be crossed by the expansion project. They know the project is likely to be built, but they want to be treated fairly, he said. "Their concern was not to stop the railroad. Their concern was to get a decent price for what the railroad was taking," Lintz said....
Parks' gun rules may change A proposal to allow loaded guns in national parks is complicating an otherwise uncontroversial public lands bill now working its way through the U.S. Senate. The plan - crafted by the National Rifle Association - was pushed by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn and is endorsed by 47 other senators, including Montana Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester. Those lawmakers - 39 Republicans and eight Democrats - penned a Dec. 14 letter to Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, asking that rules be changed to allow loaded guns in national parks. Currently, guns are allowed, but must be unloaded and properly stored. In the letter, the senators said today's rules “infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners who wish to transport and carry firearms on or across these lands.” Coburn's amendment would forbid Interior from enforcing “any regulation that prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm in any unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System.” It would create one uniform law for guns on all federal lands, including U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service lands - because the current system results in inconsistencies that “are confusing, burdensome and unnecessary,” the letter said. Critics argue the change would prove dangerous, for many reasons, and this week Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., drew up an alternative public lands bill without the gun-rule changes....
Weasel-like animal threatens forest plan Federal authorities have delayed a major forest-thinning project -- aimed at reducing fire danger near Shaver Lake -- because new research suggests the work could harm the weasel-like Pacific fisher. By late March, Sierra National Forest officials plan revisions to further protect the sensitive fisher in the Kings River Project, about 13,000 acres east of Fresno. The project plan, which had been approved in 2006 after more than a decade of work, could be ready again this fall. The delay pleased environmentalists but disappointed a Tulare County sawmill executive who says he needs timber from the area to keep his 125 employees working. Kent Duysen, general manager of Sierra Forest Products, said sensitive species have been studied for two decades. "At what point do you say we need to move on?" he asked. Environmentalists, who last year sued to stop the project, said the U.S. Forest Service is correct to move cautiously....
Bush proposal cuts national forest fire prevention budget President Bush's proposal to reduce fire-prevention spending in the nation's forests has some on edge in Inland Southern California, where three of the last five Octobers have brought catastrophic wildfires. The proposed U.S. Forest Service cuts, assailed by local experts and Democratic lawmakers, came under fire during a hearing on the Bush budget proposal held Tuesday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior Environment and Related Agencies. At the same Capitol Hill hearing, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, the Bush administration's official overseeing the Forest Service, said the upcoming fire season is likely to be as bad or worse than the past fire season, particularly in Southern California. Bush's budget calls for a $150 million increase in federal funding for the U.S. Forest Service to extinguish blazes, bringing the agency's total firefighting budget to more than $1.14 billion, according to figures provided to the subcommittee. But the proposal slashes the agency's preparedness funding by $77 million, including a $13 million reduction in money to remove dead trees and overgrown brush that act as kindling for fires in 155 national forests. That amounts to more than an 11 percent decrease from last year's preparedness budget of around $5.9 million....
Forest Service studying loss of U.S. firefighters to Calif. force A top federal official acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service is losing federal firefighters in California to state and county departments that pay more. But Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, told concerned lawmakers he's still evaluating how much of a problem that is. "On the one hand you hate to lose trained people. On the other hand they're still fighting fires under a unified command system," Rey told a hearing of the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee. They're going to be on the fire line along with the federal firefighters." Lawmakers convinced there is a problem ordered the Forest Service to come up with a plan by Feb. 1 to increase recruitment and retention for Southern California forests. That deadline has passed but the agency is working on it, officials said....
Rainbow Family warned to leave Forest campsite Hundreds of Rainbow Family members started gathering deep inside the Ocala National Forest last week. Many who found their way down Paisley Road to a sandy path around a little spot called Duck Pond - some 10 miles south of State Road 40 - might have seen a notice posted high on a pine tree. "This is an ILLEGAL gathering of 75 persons or more without a permit," the notice put up by the U.S. Forest Service reads. "The max penalty is six months in prison and/or a $5,000 fine." But Monday came and went, and the Rainbow Family remained, determined not to give up the government land they settled on. "We've met here for 13 years, and now they're treating us like criminals," said a woman who identified herself by her Rainbow name, Indigo. She was keeping an eye out for any Forest Service Law Enforcement vehicles Monday afternoon. Sure enough, three Forest Service sport utility vehicles pulled down the path around 2 p.m. "Six-point-o rolling through the Rainbow land," she yelled out to alert her brethren. Many in the Rainbow Family have no plans of leaving Duck Pond, even if they get ticketed upward of $250 a day. A couple dozen in the family already have been ticketed for assembling illegally this week. Many in the Rainbow Family questioned officers on where the regulations and rules were posted. "It's your responsibility to find out what's legal and what the rules are," Watson answered. "We have all the rules posted in our offices." After Tooley left, Forest Service officers came back to inform everyone that they had been approved to assemble at Syracuse Island, about 20 miles north. All Rainbow Family members must leave Duck Pond by 4 p.m. today and make the pilgrimage to the new location. That news and the officers were met with harmonizing choruses of John Lennon and Bob Marley songs. About 50 members banded together on fallen trees around the Forest Services vehicles, raising their connected hands high as they sang about peace and love....Let's see, the Forest Service threw Kit Laney in the federal pen for having cattle on the Forest without a permit. I guess Kit's problem was he couldn't sing any John Lennon songs.
Citations piling up for sleds off-limits Seventeen snowmobilers have been caught riding illegally in wilderness areas and other Flathead National Forest lands off-limits to the sleds, part of a flurry of out-of-bounds recreation over the past two weekends. “We are disappointed that some snowmobile riders are being disrespectful and irresponsible by entering areas that are closed to snowmobile travel,” said Steve Brady, the forest's Swan Lake district ranger. With nearly 800,000 acres open to the machines on the Flathead, Brady asked sledders to “respect the areas closed to motorized use.” Those areas include all designated wilderness, such as the Bob Marshall, Great Bear and Mission Mountains wildernesses, as well as the Jewel Basin Hiking Area. Those forest lands have been closed to motorized use, including snowmobiles, for several decades, Brady said. Still, eight snowmobilers were caught on Feb. 3 while riding in Sondreson Meadows, an area on the western boundary of Glacier National Park. U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers said the group - locals from Columbia Falls and Kalispell - knew they were in a nonmotorized area. Then, on Feb. 9, nine more snowmobilers were stopped while sledding in the Mission Mountains Wilderness. Again, all were locals - from West Glacier, Kalispell and Lakeside - and all were cited....Somebody needs to teach these folks how to sing about peace and love.
Logan River cries out for Wild and Scenic River protection What might we have heard? The bass groan of shifting rock as uplift occurred? Before that the sound of inland seas, Paleozoic waters filled with life we know through fossils? What was the sound of mountain water cutting through quartzite over eons, creating the entrenched meander we call the Logan River? Sometimes when I'm in Logan Canyon, I imagine more recent events: the mute snowfall of ice ages, the creep of glaciers, their retreat. I wonder if I might have discerned the scrape of ice and rock, the thump of glacial erratics dropped. Wild, vast forces created these rocks, these mountain rivers. Today beside mountain water live humans, deer, willow. Hermit thrush, yellow warbler, American dipper live above the mountain water, and cutthroat and browns live in it. The Logan River is a thread of dark water, sometimes placid, sometimes rumbling with melt, rapids white as snow, white as a bufflehead's chest in summer. It's also a river that 80 years ago some folks studied for dams, studies that seem to be at the heart of the U.S. Forest Service's baffling refusal to grant the Logan River - most of which runs wild - the status it deserves as a Wild and Scenic River....I sure wish ranchers could write like that. Wish they could sing too.
Plight of the brumbies "This nation is built on the back of horses," says Carter, 67, a petite grandmother with short red hair and deeply tanned skin who drives an old pickup smelling of the hay and earth that covers the soles of her boots. "They should be preserved and protected." Australia is home to an estimated 300,000 wild horses, the largest such population in the world. This abundance is believed to have put so much strain on the habitat that the Australian government has resorted to controversial mass culling campaigns to protect the country's national parks. Images of hunters chasing herds of galloping horses from helicopters and shooting them with semiautomatic rifles have sent shock waves across Australia, where horses are proud symbols of the country's pioneer spirit. The killing first came to public attention in 2000, when 600 horses were killed in the Guy Fawkes River National Park in New South Wales, about an hour-and-a-half drive from here. Public outcry forced the government to halt the helicopter shooting in this part of the country, but it could not stop aerial and ground assaults, often carried out in secret, in other parts of the vast Australian outback. More than 10,000 horses are expected to be shot in Queensland in the next three years, according to an investigation by a newspaper in the state....
PETA Praises Safeway for Adopting New Industry-Leading Animal Welfare Policies Following discussions with PETA about animal welfare and factory farming, supermarket giant Safeway has announced groundbreaking plans to improve conditions for some of the animals who are killed for its stores. Safeway is North America's third-largest grocery chain, with 1,743 stores located throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to the company's new plan, which places it at the forefront of the grocery industry with regard to animal welfare, Safeway will do the following: -- Increase its purchase of chickens and turkeys killed by controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK)--the least cruel method of bird slaughter--and give purchasing preference to suppliers that use or switch to CAK -- Increase the amount of pig meat it purchases from suppliers that don't use gestation crates--restrictive metal enclosures that confine pregnant pigs--by 5 percent over each of the next three years and give purchasing preference to suppliers that don't use gestation crates -- Double the amount of cage-free eggs it sells to more than 6 percent by 2010 and give purchasing preference to producers of cage-free eggs Safeway's new plan also follows PETA's submission of a shareholder resolution--which PETA has now withdrawn--and independent discussions with The Humane Society of the United States on the issue of cage-free eggs. "While we wish that shoppers would stick to the delicious vegetarian options that Safeway has available, the company should be commended for improving the lives and deaths of some of the animals who are killed for its stores," says PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich....
Machen denies rumored jabs at agriculture Whether or not University of Florida President Bernard Machen called Florida agriculture a dying industry, he faces a political truism: Reality often plays second fiddle to perception. Machen denied Monday that he said "agriculture is a dying industry in the State of Florida" and "not worthy of the investments being made by the Legislature" in the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). Nevertheless, the accusations have generated a storm of reaction among agriculture leaders and their legislative supporters. "He's getting a full-frontal attack from agriculture saying we are important," said Doug Bournique, executive director of the Indian River Citrus League in Vero Beach. "The word's getting very strongly back to the University of Florida that agriculture is very important to this state -- it's the backbone." "Our president, John Hoblick, said he hadn't seen anything galvanize the agriculture industry like this since the penny-a-pound tax," said Rod Hemphill, director of public relations at the Florida Farm Bureau in Gainesville. At issue is how much of a proposed $50 million cut in this year's UF budget IFAS will have to absorb. Stephen Orlando, a UF spokesman, confirmed the university would have to cut that amount from its 2007-08 budget and a similar amount in the next fiscal year....
Livestock tracking delay may put US herd at risk A Bush administration plan to implement a livestock tracking system to prevent the spread of mad cow and other animal diseases is years behind schedule, and further delays could put the nation's herd at risk. The national animal identification program was designed to track the home farm and herdmates of sick animals within 48 hours of an animal disease outbreak. Farmers are not obliged to participate in the program, which was embraced by the U.S. Agriculture Department after discovery of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in 2003. In its 2009 budget plan released on Monday, the Bush administration proposed $24 million for the program to restore funding to a "sufficient" level. A few weeks ago, Congress allotted $9.75 million in fiscal 2008, a sharp drop from the $33.2 million requested by the administration. Some lawmakers have questioned the effectiveness of the program, which has consumed $120 million in federal funding so far. The USDA is worried Congress will be too stingy. If they come in less than $24 million they will be making a decision to slow down implementation of animal ID and will be jeopardizing our nation's herd," Bruce Knight, USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulation, told Reuters....
RFID Tattoos to Make a Mark on Cattle Tagging SOMARK Innovations announced it has successfully field tested its chipless RFID technology for cattle identification. SOMARK's permanent animal ID system works by tattooing the animal with dielectric ink. Data is encoded in the tattoo and can be read remotely using a SOMARK reader. The company reported tattoos were applied in less than three seconds and read instantly during the demo. Read range, data capacity, and other technical details were not disclosed. SOMARK called the field test at an undisclosed US location "a giant leap" for the startup company, though president Mark Pydynowski told RFID Update, "From an order of magnitude perspective, SOMARK is months away from commercialization." The technology can be used on a variety of animals, but the company is focusing on the cattle segment, where it promotes its technology as an alternative to RFID ear tags and other identification methods....
NAIS? Oink!! What would lead a group of Amish farmers in Wisconsin to consider moving to Venezuela? Why are dairy farmers and ranchers in Michigan considering selling their herds? Why, NAIS, of course! NAIS stands for National Animal Identification System. It was originally designed to protect exporters of beef from cattle disease by tagging the cattle, and thus, presumably, make outbreaks of animal disease easier to detect earlier. But the idea has been expanded to include all farm animals, including those not part of the food chain, such as horses, for example, kept on farms as pets, or llamas. Critics suggest that even cats and dogs will be included, eventually. NAIS is voluntary, at this point – at least as far as the feds are concerned. However, individual states can make participation compulsory, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages them to do so. Wisconsin, for example, requires dairy farmers to register their farms, thus acquiring an ID number linked to a Global Positional Satellite monitoring system. Failure to register results in denial of a license to produce milk, thus effectively putting the farmer out of business. No wonder the Amish are considering a move to Venezuela! (However, they may be na├»ve to think that government in Venezuela is any less obnoxious than it is here.) The tagging of animals is not a small job. There are about 1.4 million farms in the United States. If – or when – the tagging of animals becomes mandatory, it will mean inserting tags into 95 million cattle, 93 million turkeys, 60 million pigs, 6.3 million sheep, 1.8 billion chickens, and 2.5 million goats. But the really big producers will get a break. (Isn’t that always the case?) Large farms, where the cattle spend their entire lives cooped up, will be able to register their animals as a single lot. Smaller operators, however, must tag each individual animal, at costs ranging as high as $20 per tag. Veterinarians will be required to report non-compliance that comes to their attention....
Misfits and Why We Love Them One of the great strengths of the Mountain West is our propensity to attract and shelter loners. The sparsely populated crags, windswept plains and river bottoms of this region have given refuge over the years to a special brand of misfit. Those oddballs, mostly harmless, have exerted an anti-homogenizing influence on the region’s culture, which is one reason this area has retained its ethic of individualism so attractive to the rest of the nation. This attractiveness, manifesting itself as lifestyle, has joined metals and agriculture products as one of our most valuable commodities, and fed a massive growth industry, growth itself. A commodity, though, is a uniform product – all sheets of plywood are basically identical – and that’s exactly what our cities and towns and mountains and forests are not. For long decades, while the rest of America ordered food from coast-to-coast restaurant chains, local drive-ins in the economic eddies and backwaters of Wyoming and Idaho and Montana and Oregon continued frying fries and serving burgers, blithely unaware of their own obsolescence. Once common, they’ve become jewels you stumble onto sometimes, when driving long hours to visit relatives. The Mountain West, in this respect at least, is now catching up with the country, and there is plenty to be said for that. Roads get upgraded. Big box stores sprout along newly broadened commercial corridors. Upscale retailers reveal themselves in formerly dilapidated downtown storefronts. Incomes are rising. Yet the ethic of idiosyncrasy is one that’s worth preserving, even as we grow....
It's All Trew: Horse-to-tractor switch laborious The big switch from equine horsepower to gasoline power was about over when I became old enough to remember. I can recall as a young boy, helping harness a team of horses to pull a feed wagon down on the Parsell Ranch on the Canadian River. I never had to farm with horses and I probably couldn't harness a team today on a bet. I do remember the changes made in early tractor wheels when we switched from lugs to knobby tires on our tractors. Dad ordered change-over kits from Montgomery Ward, and we had a blacksmith named "Mac" at Perryton to cut the lug wheels off and weld on the new rims to the old spokes. We were proud to be so progressive in this effort. I also remember the efforts made by dad to weigh the tractors down so the new, knobby tires wouldn't slip when pulling. First we mixed concrete and poured the centers of the wheels around the spokes and later added water, filling the big inner-tubes. When "bar" tread tires were introduced most slippage stopped. The most accurate story of why the farmers changed from horses to tractors is best told by comparing the U.S. Census reports of 1930 and 1940. During the years from 1930 to 1940, census records show the horse and mule population dropped from approximately 52,000 to 18,500 head. During the same time, tractor numbers grew from 8,168 to 12,110. The Roosevelt New Deal programs began in 1934 with tractor numbers increasing rapidly after government benefits began to arrive. The rise in commodity prices, as a result of government programs, made livestock feeds more costly thus making the switch to tractors more desirable. One example cited came from tests showing horsepower farming cost $3 per acre while tractor farming costs from $1.75 to $1.88....
Baxter Black - Large animal vets and bronc riders The Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is making an effort to encourage more young people to participate in the Bareback, Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding events. Simultaneously, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is making an effort to encourage more students to become livestock and equine veterinarians. Does that mean more young people are less interested in riding or doctoring untamed large herbivorous animals? Exactly! In both cases the primary reasons given by the "non-interested" are: the work is too hard and the pay is not enough. American and Canadian young people, as a rule, have become more worldly, resigned to life, and content with the path most frequently traveled, i.e., team roping and pet practice. 'm thinking if you want bronc riders and large animal practitioners, you need to look somewhere other than civilized America. Someplace like Iran, Tierra del Fuego, Mongolia or Louisiana. And there's hope on the horizon. Already, last year's National Finals Rodeo had more roughstock riders from Louisiana than from Rhode Island, Quebec and Kentucky, all together. We should concentrate on luring bullriders from grittier places. Major League Baseball has done a wonderful job seeking hungry talent from countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. There are probably enough baseball players from Mexico and the Caribbean in the major leagues to support their own Low Rider Bus Line....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

FLE

Bush orders clampdown on flights to US The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines. The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as "blackmail" and "troublesome", and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington's requirements. According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said. And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days. The data from the US's new electronic transport authorisation system is to be combined with extensive personal passenger details already being provided by EU countries to the US for the "profiling" of potential terrorists and assessment of other security risks. Washington is also asking European airlines to provide personal data on non-travellers - for example family members - who are allowed beyond departure barriers to help elderly, young or ill passengers to board aircraft flying to America, a demand the airlines reject as "absurd"....
Illegals Begin Leaving Arizona as New Law Approaches For the first time, Mexican officials in Arizona admit there is hard evidence illegal immigrants are preparing to leave the state because a new employer sanctions law is making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to keep a job. Illegal immigrants are flooding the Mexican consulate in Phoenix for documents that will allow them to return to Mexico to enroll their children in school, the consul to Arizona, Carlos Flores Vizcarra, told FOX News. They are also requesting a document called "menaje de casa," which allows illegal immigrant families living in the U.S. to cross into Mexico without paying a tax on their furniture and personal belongings. Vizcarra said 94 families asked the embassy for students transfer documents last month, compared to only three last year. He said several thousand immigrants asked for the tax document. In a separate interview, Edmundo Hidalgo of the non-profit immigrant support group Chicanos Por La Causa, said 30,000 illegal immigrants said in a survey last week that they planned to leave Arizona sometime before March 1, when the state’s tough new employer sanctions law goes into effect. Under the law, employers can lose their business licenses if they hire undocumented workers. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has set up a hotline for citizens to report on employers who hire illegals. He has said enforcement will begin when the law goes into effect. Many deputies have also been given arrest authority by Customs and Border Protection to enforce federal immigration law. So in the course of a traffic stop, illegal immigrants without a driver's license could ultimately face deportation....
Cheney gets tough on gun-rights case Vice President Dick Cheney took the unusual step Friday of joining with lawmakers in signing a Supreme Court brief that goes further in support of gun rights than the one submitted by the Bush administration. The filings were made in a case that challenges the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. It was scheduled to be argued on March 18. Both briefs argue that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns. However, the administration contends that too categorical a ruling could threaten other federal gun restrictions and wants the justices to send the case back to lower courts without deciding whether the handgun ban should fall. Cheney joined more than 300 senators and representatives, led by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who want the court to rule that Washington's ban is unconstitutional. "The vice president believes strongly in Second Amendment rights," Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said. Seventeen Democratic lawmakers and District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton urged the court to uphold the ban. Lawyers with long experience at the court could not recall another case in which a vice president took a position different from that of his own administration....Cheney should have used his influence within the Administration to have the Solicitor General withdraw his brief. This looks like a ploy to me.
Facing backlog, Feds ease path to green card In a major policy shift aimed at reducing a ballooning immigration backlog, the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to grant permanent residency to tens of thousands of applicants before the FBI completes a required background check. Those eligible are immigrants whose fingerprints have cleared the FBI database of criminal convictions and arrests but whose names have not yet cleared the FBI's criminal or intelligence files after six months of waiting. The immigrants who are granted permanent status, more commonly known as getting their green cards, will be expected eventually to clear the FBI's name check. If they don't, their legal status will be revoked and they'll be deported. The decision to issue green cards demonstrates how federal agencies are struggling to keep up with surging immigration applications while applying stringent post-Sept. 11 background checks. About 150,000 green card and naturalization applicants have been delayed by the FBI name check, with 30,000 held up more than three years....
Woman takes plea deal in lousy lawn case When 70-year-old Betty Perry was accused of neglecting her lawn, she became defiant. Perry was arrested, handcuffed and briefly jailed in July for declining a ticket for failing to water her lawn. She agreed on Friday to resolve her case by pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct charge and paying a $100 fine. She also faces six months of probation. Perry was scheduled to go to trial Monday on a more serious charge of resisting arrest for refusing to give her name, accept a citation or allow herself to be handcuffed on her front steps. "She ends up with a sentence that is very minimal and shouldn't intrude terribly on her day-to-day life," prosecutor Andrew Peterson said. "For our part, it accomplishes what we set out to accomplish from the very beginning." Peterson said he was planning to drop the lawn neglect charge anyway because Perry has started taking care of her lawn. But it was important for the city to get a conviction for Perry's "dangerous and violent" actions following an officer's attempt to cite her, he said....God bless them older folks who still have enough American in them to be defiant and defend their property rights.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Sun Also Sets Back in 1991, before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles. To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better "eyes" with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth's climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined. And they're worried about global cooling, not warming. Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada's National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity. Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century. Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle. This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe. Tapping reports no change in the sun's magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere....
EPA’s Relaxed Emissions Rule Struck Down A federal appeals court struck down Bush administration policy allowing some power plants to exceed mercury emission levels, ruling Friday that the government failed to consider the effect on public health and the environment. More than a dozen states sued to block the regulation, saying it would allow dangerous levels of mercury into the environment. The toxic metal is known to contaminate seafood that can damage the developing brains of fetuses and young children. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit negated a rule known as cap-and-trade. That policy allows power plants that fail to meet emission targets to buy credits from plants that did, rather than having to install their own mercury emissions controls. The rule was to go into effect in 2010. The three-judge court unanimously struck down the cap-and-trade policy and the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to exempt coal- and oil-fired power plants from regulations requiring strict emissions control technology to block emissions. Before instituting the new regulation, the court held, the government was required to show that emissions from any power plant would not harm the environment or "exceed a level which is adequate to protect public health with an ample margin of safety."...
Drought-stricken Georgia eyes Tennessee's border -- and river water C. Barton Crattie, a Georgia land surveyor, did not expect to start a border war when he penned a newspaper article about a flawed 1818 survey that placed his state a mile below the Tennessee River. The mistake in calculating Georgia's northern corner, he figured, was just an odd historical footnote, an interesting digression for those who fret that the drought-stricken state will soon run out of water. "Unfortunately for . . . Georgia," he wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "the corner is where the corner is." The corner, however, is now the subject of Georgia state legislation: Sen. David Shafer and Rep. Harry Geisinger introduced bills to set up a commission to proclaim the states' "definite and true boundary lines." With an extreme water shortage in the north, legislators believe Georgians should no longer forfeit their right to the Tennessee River. The resolution has provoked ridicule and scorn on the other side of the border. Tennessee state senators have proposed settling the matter with a game of football -- a dig at Georgia's recent scores. Others have threatened to fire rifles from Lookout Mountain. The bill, supported by almost all of Georgia's legislators, would commission legislators from Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina to investigate claims that the border is actually 5,600 feet north -- meaning the Tennessee River cuts into a corner of Georgia....
Rivals argue over railroad measure A bill to speed up state hearings on a railroad's attempt to use condemnation for its proposed coal-train project brought two old rivals to the state Capitol on Thursday. Former Gov. Bill Janklow and Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern executive Kevin Schieffer squared off in the same fourth-floor committee room where they clashed nine years ago over a bill that became the law that brought them back to town. The measure proposes that a hearing examiner in railroad eminent domain cases may only be excused with a showing of personal bias or prejudice and that a hearing must be held within 60 days of receiving an application for use of eminent domain. Any pending application, such as DM&E's current one, must be decided within 30 days of the effective date of the proposed bill. Several landowners testified, asking the committee to help protect their rights. Keith Anderson, a Fall River County rancher, said the coal line would split his ranch in two, would "tear the guts out of our place. I hope that doesn't happen. I realize that it might. If, after a fair hearing on the coal project, the state decides it should be built, I will live with that decision. ... What I can't live with is having my right to a fair hearing taken away from me by this bill."....
Habitat for Mexican spotted owl to stand A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to designate 8.6 million acres in four western states as critical habitat for an endangered owl will stand, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix upheld the designation of critical habitat in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico for the Mexican spotted owl despite an effort by the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association to overturn it. Just under 4 million acres of habitat affected by the ruling is situated in Arizona, mostly in the northern part of the state. Also included is 2.2 million acres in Utah, 2.1 million acres in New Mexico and more than 322,000 acres in Colorado. The designation is aimed at protecting the habitat from activities that remove forest cover, including logging, cattle grazing, urban sprawl or power lines, said Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, which intervened on behalf of Fish and Wildlife. "We were disappointed, obviously," said association spokesman C.B. "Doc" Lane. "It's pretty bad, actually, that all of the endangered species stuff is done by litigation now. It isn't done rationally. But I suppose that's the way it has to be....
Abuses taint land deals An innovative state law designed to preserve Colorado's scenic open spaces and working ranches has, in dozens of cases, been used to protect everything from multimillion- dollar home sites in gated communities to tiny pieces of land slated for oil and gas development. The law allots generous state income tax credits to property owners who agree to protect their lands from development. But in some cases, a Rocky Mountain News investigation has found, the law has been used to generate tax credits on lands with questionable public value. In addition, the investigation found, appraisals on some properties granted protection have been grossly inflated. The higher the appraisal, the greater the tax credit. The tax credits, which have cost the state at least $274 million since the program's inception, are potentially lucrative, because they can be sold by the property owner for cash. The Rocky's review of transactions found conservation easement deals all over the state map, and far beyond the law's intentions, according to its authors....
New owner to preserve Maclay Ranch The Minnesotan who bought the D.J. and Frances Maclay Ranch has officially taken ownership of the historic Bitterroot Valley spread. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation acquired the ranch last April to help the Maclay family find a conservation-minded buyer. The foundation transferred the deed in December to the new owner, Mark Reiling, a Minneapolis businessman. The purchase price was not disclosed by buyer or seller. Reiling renamed the 3,082-acre property the Sapphire Ranch and put it under a conservation easement to preserve its wildlife habitat and open spaces. “Most of the time, ranchers and farmers and other traditional landowners don't know what's going to happen once they put their property up for sale,” said Mike Mueller, the Elk Foundation's lands program manager. “But this is a case of how land conservation is supposed to work in elk country.” The D.J. Maclay family, which had been seeking a buyer since 1999, turned down offers from developers who wanted to divide the cattle and sheep operation into residential ranchettes....
BLM and Forest Service Announce 2008 Grazing Fee The Federal grazing fee for Western public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service will be $1.35 per animal unit month (AUM) in 2008, the same level as it was in 2007. The fee, determined by a congressional formula and effective on March 1, applies to nearly 18,000 grazing permits and leases administered by the BLM and more than 8,000 permits administered by the Forest Service. The formula used for calculating the grazing fee, established by Congress in the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act, has continued under a presidential Executive Order issued in 1986. Under that order, the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, and any increase or decrease cannot exceed 25 percent of the previous year’s level. An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. The annually adjusted grazing fee is computed by using a 1966 base value of $1.23 per AUM for livestock grazing on public lands in Western states. The figure is then adjusted according to three factors – current private grazing land lease rates, beef cattle prices, and the cost of livestock production. In effect, the fee rises, falls, or stays the same based on market conditions, with livestock operators paying more when conditions are better and less when conditions have declined. Without the requirement that the grazing fee cannot fall below $1.35 per AUM, this year’s fee would have dropped below one dollar per AUM because of declining beef cattle prices and increased production costs from the previous year....
State can pay to keep forests undeveloped It was Ohio's largest privately owned forest, and its price was more than the state could afford. So instead of buying 12,650 acres for $12.6 million, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources bought a promise. It spent $6.3 million on an agreement with the owner, the Forestland Group, that the Vinton County land will never be developed. Such agreements are called easements, and with the help of a recently expanded federal program, they might become the tool of choice for state officials eager to preserve more forestland. The state uses appraisals that look at the value of land if it could be developed and not developed. The state pays the difference. But a U.S. Forest Service program offers states an easier path to easements. Its Forest Legacy program has provided more than $487 million in grants since 2001 to create 1.4 million easement acres in 47 states. The program dates from 1993, but its popularity grew after 2001, when Congress boosted annual funding from $7 million to about $60 million....
SeaLife was good deal for ex-aide to Stevens New documents have emerged in Seward showing that a $1.6 million earmark in 2005 by Sen. Ted Stevens was engineered so it would lead to the purchase of property owned by his former aide, Trevor McCabe, an Anchorage fisheries lobbyist. The public records show that another Washington lobbyist who once worked for Stevens, Brad Gilman, acted as the go-between in the deal, connecting an unnamed "Senate aide" with Gilman's two clients in Seward: the city and the Alaska SeaLife Center, a federally supported marine research center and tourist attraction. Gilman reported that the Senate aide was shopping for an entity that would guarantee the purchase of McCabe's property if it got the earmark, the documents said. Federal agencies had rejected previous attempts by McCabe and two partners to develop or sell the property, site of a derelict building, for a government visitor center and office complex. The result was the sudden shift of the earmark by Stevens' office from the City of Seward, which wouldn't promise to buy the property, to the Alaska SeaLife Center, which had more discretion, according to a phone log written by a Seward official and minutes of the SeaLife Center board....
U.S. Proposes Removing Brown Pelican From Endangered List U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has proposed completely removing the brown pelican from the endangered species list, after almost 40 years. Kempthorne attributed the brown pelican's rebound in part to the U.S. ban on the use of the pesticide DDT in 1972, according to a department statement on Feb. 8. The proposal will be published in the Federal Register and a 60-day comment period will follow, the statement said. Some groups of brown pelicans, for example in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, had already been removed from the list. More than 620,000 brown pelicans are now found in Florida, the Gulf and Pacific coasts as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean, the statement said....
Feds reconsider endangered status for Bonneville cutthroat trout U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials will reconsider whether Bonneville cutthroat trout should be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The decision follows a 2007 settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity. The environmental group sued after the Fish and Wildlife Service decided, in 2001, not to list the trout for protection. After the settlement, the service developed a policy that allows fish and wildlife officials to consider listings based on whether a species is threatened in a "significant portion" of its range. Bonneville cutthroat trout are found mainly in Utah. They also are in parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.
Ariz. seeks to reshape immigrant farm labor Arizona's governor wants to play a leading role in expanding and reshaping a little-used federal program that allows farmers to hire temporary foreign agricultural workers. U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao on Wednesday proposed sweeping reforms, the first major overhaul of the H-2A program in two decades. The changes would make it easier for growers to participate in the H-2A visa program, which is intended to grant work permits to foreign workers for jobs Americans don't want. Gov. Janet Napolitano has called for many of the program changes outlined by Chao, although she would like more state control than Washington has offered. Expanding the program is seen as another way to blunt illegal immigration. In a letter dated Monday, Napolitano suggested Arizona take the lead in future program changes to address the specific needs of border states. If adopted, the rules could streamline a process that now involves at least four federal and state agencies and could loosen housing requirements that growers near the border say make the program more trouble than it is worth....
NYC schools go burger-free after cruelty charges New York City school cafeterias were hamburger-free this week after an undercover investigation revealed cruelty against sick cows at the second-largest supplier of ground beef to school lunch programs nationwide. Schools were told to halt serving beef from Hallmark Meat Packing and Westland Meat Co., based in Chino, Calif., USDA officials said Friday. The suspension will last until Feb. 19, said Eric Steiner of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. State officials said Friday that no products from the slaughter plant were delivered to the USDA distribution centers that service Long Island and New York City schools. New York City schools spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said city schools will resume serving hamburgers next week. City schools serve about 300,000 hamburger patties a week, part of about 800,000 meals served daily, she said....
Loss of schoolhouse felt by mountain residents After years of surviving snowstorms, wildfires and the ebb and flow of mountain residents, the county's only remaining one-room schoolhouse is closing in June because the numbers just don't add up. Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District board members said last week that a $100,000-plus annual budget to run the Palomar Mountain School for seven students this year and as few as three next year was just too much money for too few students. The school, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, has been operating in the Valley Center-Pauma district since 1950. In that time, residents said last week, the school has helped keep mountain residents connected through everything from annual pie auction fundraisers and sporting events to annual Christmas plays. "The school is one of the last things that links the community together," said Dutch Bergman, a rancher whose children attended the school in the 1980s and 1990s. "It's a sad thing to see it go."....