Saturday, July 19, 2008

Judge restores protection for Rockies wolves A federal judge has restored endangered species protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, derailing plans by three states to hold public wolf hunts this fall. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula granted a preliminary injunction late Friday restoring the protections for the wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Molloy will eventually decide whether the injunction should be permanent. The region has an estimated 2,000 gray wolves. They were removed from the endangered species list in March, following a decade-long restoration effort. Environmentalists sued to overturn the decision, arguing wolf numbers would plummet if hunting were allowed. They sought the injunction in the hopes of stopping the hunts and allowing the wolf population to continue expanding. "There were fall hunts scheduled that would call for perhaps as many as 500 wolves to be killed. We're delighted those wolves will be saved," said attorney Doug Honnold with Earthjustice, who had argued the case before Molloy on behalf of 12 environmental groups. In his ruling, Molloy said the federal government had not met its standard for wolf recovery, including interbreeding of wolves between the three states to ensure healthy genetics. "Genetic exchange has not taken place," Molloy wrote in the 40-page decision. Molloy said hunting and state laws allowing the killing of wolves for livestock attacks would likely "eliminate any chance for genetic exchange to occur." The federal biologist who led the wolf restoration program, Ed Bangs, defended the decision to delist wolves as "a very biologically sound package." "The kind of hunting proposed by the states wouldn't threaten the wolf population," Bangs said Friday. "We felt the science was rock solid and that the delisting was warranted."....

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cost of Govt. Day in 2008: July 16 July 16 was Cost of Government Day – that day of the year when average Americans finish paying off their share of federal, state, and local taxes and the cost of complying with regulations. “Finally, starting today, you are working for yourself and no longer for Uncle Sam,” said Brian Riedl, senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. This year, Cost of Government Day occurred four days later than last year because of increasing tax burdens, but also higher regulatory costs, according to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), which released its annual Cost of Government Day report at a Washington news conference on Wednesday. “All the regulations the government imposes ... none of them are free. They cost resources. And sometimes you don’t have to send a dollar to Washington ... in order to lose it – you just have to pay a higher price for a car, or a house, or a consumer product because of a regulatory cost,” said ATR President Grover Norquist. The report, calculated by ATR’s Center for Fiscal Accountability, takes into account the total spending burden as a percentage of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), coupled with the cost of complying with government regulations. Norquist said the average American worked:
-- 84 days to fund federal spending
-- 50 days to pay for state and local spending
-- 42 days to cover federal regulation
-- 21 days to pay for state/local regulation
Combined, on average, Americans worked 197 days -- 54 percent of the year -- to pay their share of the cost of government, he said. According to Riedl, in 2008, Washington will spend $25,117 per household, the highest inflation-adjusted total since World War II. That represents $5,000 more per household than in 2001. Riedl said that any plan that would raise taxes to climb out of the economic crisis is “budgetary fantasyland.” He concluded, “Not surprisingly, Cost of Government Day continues to move away from Independence Day and closer to Halloween.”....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Formal charges filed in South Park bison deaths Texas businessman Jeffrey Scott Hawn has been charged with 32 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals in connection with the killing this past winter of 32 bison belonging to South Park rancher Monte Downare. The animal cruelty charges allege that between Feb. 26 and March 14, the 44-year-old Hawn unlawfully and knowingly "tortured, needlessly mutilated, or needlessly killed" the animals. Hawn is also charged with one count of theft of more than $20,000, alleging that Hawn intended to permanently deprive Downare of the bison and a single count of criminal mischief. Cruelty to animals is a Class 6 felony; and the theft and criminal mischief charges are both Class 3 felonies. Hawn is to appear in court on Aug. 4 to be advised of the charges. Pamela Mackey, Hawn's criminal defense lawyer, didn't return a call for comment. The shootings of the bison came shortly after Hawn and his Denver civil attorney, Stephen E. Csajaghy, complained about Downare's bison damaging Hawn's property....
Robert Redford Fights Global Warming With Poetry Robert Redford has been fighting on behalf of the environment for more than 30 years. From producing documentary films about solar power to lobbying Congress, his work has been both in the field and inside the Beltway. These days, he has a new venue for environmental activism: slam poetry. Sponsored by Redford's Sundance Preserve, in collaboration with Youth Speaks, a nonprofit that presents spoken-word performances, the Academy Award-winning actor is getting his message out in rhyme....
Grizzlies kill 71 sheep south of Choteau At least one and possibly two subadult grizzly bears have killed an estimated 71 sheep on two ranches southeast of Choteau since June 13, state and federal wildlife officials said on Monday. Snares have been set on both ranches but as of Monday nothing had been caught and wildlife officials were putting out the word that anyone recreating along the Teton River should be aware of the bears’ presence. Also, homeowners along the river corridor should take care to remove potential bear attractants — such as bird feeders, garbage and dog and cat food — from their yards and to put vulnerable small livestock — sheep, goats, chickens and ducks, for example — in safe, enclosed pens or buildings at night. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks grizzly management specialist Mike Madel of Choteau on Monday said that the depredations occurred over at least five different nights on June 11 and 12 and then again on July 8, 9 and 10. The bear or bears killed 65 head of ewes and lambs owned by Zane Drishinski and six head owned by Bill and Betty Jo Miller in pastures along the Teton River about a mile south of Choteau on the east side of U.S. Highway 89, Madel said....
Governor names 5 to oversee easements Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday named five people to a new panel established to prevent abuses of the state's land-preservation tax- credit program. Four more commissioners will be appointed by the board of Great Outdoors Colorado, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado agricultural commissioner. The commission, created by House Bill 1353, will meet at least once a quarter to review applications for conservation-easement holder certification. The bill calls for several other measures to thwart abuses to the conservation-easement program, including increased accountability for conservation-easement appraisals and creating a one-year holding requirement mirroring the IRS limitation on the value of a conservation contribution for property held less than a year....
Idaho rules on 3 recent wolf killings Idaho Fish and Game officials say 2 of 3 recent cases of wolf killings have been declared legal under state rules. But a third case remains under investigation. That case involves a wolf taken near Casner Creek near Lowman. Agency investigators say the wolf was shot with a small caliber rifle. The two cases deemed legal involve wolves attacking sheep dogs or livestock. A wolf killed by a sheepherder on June 21 in Boise County was deemed legal after investigators concluded the wolf was attacking two border collies. State and federal agents recently wrapped up an investigation into a wolf killed by an Arco rancher after finding the wolf mingling with his cattle....
Preble's mouse still threatened in Colo., not Wyo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it will remove the Preble's meadow jumping mouse from the threatened species list in Wyoming, but keep the mouse on the list in Colorado. The government said the mouse can be delisted in Wyoming because new populations have been confirmed in habitat not at risk for development. But in Colorado, home construction and other types of development continue to threaten Preble's mouse habitat, Fish and Wildlife officials said. “Much of Preble's riparian habitat in Colorado has been severely altered or destroyed by human activities,” said Steve Guertin, director of Fish and Wildlife's Mountain-Prairie Region. “Continued rapid development is expected along Colorado's Front Range as the population continues to grow. Without the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, much of Preble's habitat would be lost.” The Preble's mouse, a largely nocturnal mammal with a tail twice the length of its 3-inch body, lives mostly in streamside habitats thick with vegetation and adjacent foothills of southeastern Wyoming and along part of Colorado's Front Range, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. It can jump as far as three feet to escape predators....
Unlocking the Water Held by U.S. Forests Not So Easy Can forests, which process nearly two-thirds of the nation’s water supply, be managed to help slake our growing demand for water and avert the worst consequences of climate change? A new report from the National Research Council suggests a need for caution in trying to tap greater water output from forests, and recommends more research and citizen involvement to help protect water quality and quantity as forests come under increased pressure from many directions. The National Research Council report, written by a panel of 14 experts, was requested by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the nation’s largest water wholesaler, and the U.S. Forest Service, which manages 193 million acres of land. The report, "Hydrologic Effects of a Changing Forest Landscape," explores how better management of forest resources could increase water supplies and quality and identifies future research needs. The report examines how removing the forest canopy, wildfires, insects, climate change, road networks, and applications of chemicals like fertilizers and fire retardants can affect the water output of a forest....
Rural lawmakers, cattle groups work to block beef imports from Argentina
Farm-state lawmakers have introduced legislation to prevent the Bush administration from allowing imports of meat from Argentina into the United States. Fresh and frozen beef, mutton and other meat imports from Argentina, one of the world’s largest cattle producers, have been banned since 2001 because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. But a pending rule at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would allow imports from certain areas of Argentina deemed clear. Reps. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would prohibit fresh and frozen Argentine meat from entering the U.S. market until the USDA the South American country can categorically prove is free of foot-and-mouth disease. The bill mirrors a similar effort proposed in the Senate by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) last week. The moves follow an intense lobbying effort by U.S. cattle producers....
Brucellosis probe spurs one Wyo. rancher to spay herd
A western Wyoming rancher opted to have 750 cattle spayed rather than tested for brucellosis as part of an investigation into an outbreak of the livestock disease, a state livestock official said Wednesday. State and federal investigators are testing 13 herds for brucellosis, a disease mainly passed among animals, that can cause weight loss, infertility, lameness and abortions. The 13 herds had contact with a herd near Daniel that tested positive last month for brucellosis. Two of the 13 herds tested negative last week for the bacterial infection. Assistant state veterinarian Jim Logan said the rancher who chose to spay his herd had the choice of testing for brucellosis, slaughtering the herd or spaying the herd. By having the animals spayed, he eliminated the possibility that the cows could transmit brucellosis. The herd of 750 "feeder heifers" was not intended for breeding and will likely be sent from pasture to a feedlot and then the slaughterhouse, Logan said. Investigators still need to test 10 more herds in Wyoming. Logan said he expects that testing to take place in August, September and October, when the cattle are brought in from their summer ranges....
Equestrian community still saddled with slaughter debate Beginning in the late 1990s, animal activism organizations, including the National Horse Protection League and the Humane Association, and celebrities as varied as Bo Derek, Willie Nelson and Paul Sorvino, threw considerable weight against slaughterhouses, ultimately succeeding in convincing legislators, state by state, to ban killing horses for human consumption. The last horse slaughter facility in the United States, the Cavel plant in DeKalb, Ill., owned by a Belgian company that shipped horse meat to Europe, closed after an Illinois law made horse slaughter illegal. Cavel International appealed the ban in federal appeals court and lost; the Supreme Court refused to hear the case last month, thus rendering it judicially dead. But what sounds like a triumph for horses, owners and equine aficionados everywhere is actually a far more complex issue, because the question of how to deal with unwanted horses, including debilitated, dangerous and abandoned animals, remains unanswered. In the equestrian community, the subject is so sticky that while everyone is talking about it, no one's using names. One area veterinarian who wishes to remain anonymous believes the emotional arguments against killing "pet" horses fail to confront the realities of starvation, neglect and death from untreated ailments....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Global Warming Led to ‘Black Hawk Down,’ Congressman Says A top Democrat told high school students gathered at the U.S. Capitol Thursday that climate change caused Hurricane Katrina and the conflict in Darfur, which led to the “black hawk down” battle between U.S. troops and Somali rebels. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House (Select) Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee, also equated the drive for global warming legislation with the drive for women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Markey was speaking to 25 students from the World Wildlife Fund's Allianz Southeast Climate Witness Program. The students had come to the Capitol to brief members of Congress on the risks of global warming. The students were from the Gulf States. But Myron Ebell, director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at CEI, told Cybercast News Service that Markey’s remarks reveal his ignorance about the science of global warming. “Yes, that part of the world is subject to drought at times, but it has very little to do with global warming,” said Ebell. “It is subject to drought whether the global average temperature is going up, down, or staying the same. To say you know the conflict was caused by global warming is to show how really ignorant you are of the scientific issues involved.” The students who testified at the event, most of whom had lived in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, described the difficulties they faced after the storm and blamed global warming for the disaster....
U.S. researchers predict global warming may increase kidney stone incidence Among the many diseases predicted to come with climate change, a team of U.S. researchers say kidney stones may become more common as the temperature rises across North America, media reports said Monday. Researchers from University of Texas examined how the incidence of kidney stones would change with increasing temperatures and suggest kidney stones may increase across the United States by as much as 30 percent in the most affected areas. In addition, they calculate the direct and indirect costs of treating approximately 2 million new kidney stone cases annually could increase by 1 billion U.S. dollars by 2050, which is 25 percent more than the current expenditures. Previous research has found the risk of kidney stone formation is increased by low urine volume, which reflects the state of body hydration....This is enough to piss you off.
Environmental Bills Called Pretext to Loosen Border Security Open-border advocates operating under the guise of environmentalism are prepared to push for legislation that could result in an accelerated flow of illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and human trafficking from Mexico into Arizona, according to law enforcement experts familiar with the terrain. The two bills, sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), would restrict federal and state law enforcement officials from patrolling an already porous border area that extends from Sonora, Mexico into Santa Cruz County, Ariz., critics charge. However, some members of Congress and environmental activists maintain the legislation would provide for greater flexibility in enforcing the border while safeguarding natural treasures. Grijalva has proposed extending federal wilderness protection to approximately 84,000 acres of the Tumacacori Highlands within the Coronado National Forest, which is located adjacent to the Pajarita Wilderness that runs along the Mexican border. This wilderness designation would effectively push the Mexican border 30 miles to the north of its present location, according to Zack Taylor, a retired U.S. Border Patrol officer. Kent Lundgren, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO), said the impetus behind the legislation does not come from any public outcry on the part of citizens in Arizona or in other border states, but is instead the handiwork of environmental activists connected with the Sky Island Alliance (SKI), a self-described grassroots organization formed in 1991. The alliance has long opposed motorized activity in the Coronado National Forest and supports the creation of an “interconnected” conservation area across southeastern Arizona. Matt Skroch, SKI executive director, expressed strong support for Grijalva’s Wilderness Act in testimony last year before the House Natural Resources Committee’s national parks, forests and public lands subcommittee....
Bush Acts on Drilling, Challenging Democrats President Bush lifted nearly two decades of executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the country’s shoreline on Monday while challenging Congress to open up more areas for exploration to address soaring energy prices. Democrats in Congress, joined by environmentalists, criticized the step and ridiculed it as ineffectual, while most Republicans and industry representatives applauded it as long overdue. The lifting of the moratorium — first announced by Mr. Bush’s father, President George Bush, in 1990 and extended by President Bill Clinton — will have no real impact because a Congressional moratorium on drilling enacted in 1981 and renewed annually remains in force. And there appeared to be no consensus for lifting it in tandem with Mr. Bush’s action. Rather than signaling a change in the country’s policy, the president’s decision appeared only to harden well-established positions, intensifying an already contentious issue in the middle of an election year....
Efforts on 2 Fronts to Save a Population of Ferrets A colony that contains nearly half of the black-footed ferrets in the country and which biologists say is critical to the long-term health of the species has been struck by plague, which may have killed a third of the 300 animals. A much-publicized endangered species in the 1970s that had dwindled to 18 animals, the black-footed ferret had struggled to make a comeback and had been doing relatively well for decades. But plague, always a threat to the ferrets and their main prey, prairie dogs, has struck with a vengeance this year, partly because of the wet spring. The ferrets are an easy target for the bacteria. “They are exquisitely sensitive to the plague,” said Travis Livieri, a wildlife biologist here who is trying to save the colony. “They don’t just get sick, they die. No ifs, ands or buts.” Humans can catch plague, but it is easily treated with antibiotics. Mr. Livieri is working with the federal Fish and Wildlife Service’s black-footed ferret recovery team, the Forest Service and some volunteers to try to save the colony at Conata Basin by dusting prairie dog burrows with flea powder that kills the plague-carrying insects. Mr. Livieri is also working on a vaccination program, prowling the prairie all night to capture ferrets for injections....
Plan reworks ski-area law A proposal to expand the federal Ski Area Permit Act to recognize winter sports beyond alpine and nordic skiing and promote summer recreation is drawing concern from environmental groups. The draft bill by U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, is aimed at updating the 1986 law to reflect the changing nature of ski resorts operating on U.S. Forest Service land. "My bill would make it clear that activities like mountain biking, concerts and other appropriate uses can be allowed at these ski areas," Udall said in a statement. Environmental groups say they are worried that the language in the draft is too broad. "The concern is that this will open the door for things like water parks or roller coasters," said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild. Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said ski resorts shouldn't get preferential treatment. "The bill needs to be explicit that when it comes to summer activities, ski resorts have to meet the same rules and standards as an outfitter or any other permit applicant," Mall said....
Court: Ore. land plan should consider wilderness Federal appeals judges have told the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to take another look at its plans for about 4.5 million acres in Eastern Oregon — and to consider wilderness values when it does. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday the bureau's plans for the area are too narrow. The judges say the bureau should include in its management plans areas where grass, sagebrush and juniper are reclaiming unused roads. And it said the bureau should manage lands with an eye toward preserving their wilderness characteristics — even if they haven't been designated as wilderness areas. The suit was brought in 2003 by the Oregon Natural Desert Association. It involves land in three counties, Malheur, Grant and Harney, where the bureau leases extensive tracts of grazing land to ranchers....And they are closing roads all across the West. Will these areas "recover" thus creating more wilderness in a never ending process?
Hundreds of wild horses corralled The state Bureau of Land Management said it corralled hundreds of horses roaming free in Nevada in an effort to decrease the number of wild horses. The agency has corralled 161 horses in Nevada's Fox and Lake mountain ranges since Friday, the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal reported. At least 300 horses were corralled last week outside Lovelock, Nev., BLM Assistant Field Manager Arlan Hiner said. The agency said it plans to corral 114 additional horses in coming days. Approximately half of the country's 30,000 wild horses are in Nevada, with others in California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Government officials say they want to decrease the wild horse population to about 27,000. Susie Stokke, manager of the Nevada BLM roundup plan, said the animals are put into captivity because water and food in the wild is scant.
A Battle Over Wild Horses If you drew up a list of things that divide the country, horses probably wouldn't appear near the top. But they should, if the response to NEWSWEEK's interview last week with wild horse advocate Deanne Stillman is anything to go by. She blasted the Bureau of Land Management's proposed policy of euthanasia to curb the wild horse population, claiming that American mustangs deserve better than "a trip to the gallows." But for every defender of the horse's right to roam free, there is an equally hard-core realist who says that management is an inescapable reality. When people from those two camps met on Newsweek.com, it got as wild as the Old West, stretching more than 100 printed pages, including letters from the BLM and the governor of Wyoming. Here were the major dustups, and a taste of the reader comments....
Bush-appointed sportsmen offer conservation ideas An advisory group appointed by the Bush administration says hunters and fishermen - touted as the nation's first conservationists - ought to continue to play an important role as advocates for conserving wildlife and habitat. But the Sporting Conservation Council says conflicting government policies, dwindling interest in hunting, and growing threats to big game, fish and fowl populations have made that role a more challenging one. The council recently released a package of draft reports outlining those concerns and possible long-term policy solutions. Drawn from expert testimony at a conference in Denver in April, the reports will be the starting point for a planned presidential conference on wildlife policy in Washington, D.C., this fall. The goal is a 10-year, national wildlife management policy. Council members said such long-term planning will require bipartisanship - and they've even reached out to both the John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns with the assumption that one of the two will soon be in a position to enact their recommendations....

Monday, July 14, 2008

FLE

EDITORIAL: Border agent murder outrage

The Justice Department and the White House have some explaining to do with regard to the investigation of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar, 35, in January - in particular, whether Washington bothered to request Navarro's extradition.

Mr. Aguilar was attempting to stop two suspected drug smugglers Jan. 19 about 20 miles west of Yuma, Ariz., as they fled back into Mexico. The six-year Border Patrol veteran was trying to lay spike strips to stop the pair when he was struck and killed by a Hummer, allegedly driven by Navarro. The suspect was arrested three days later by Mexican authorities after an international manhunt. The Mexican Embassy in Washington, which announced Navarro's arrest, said he had been driving a Hummer, "presumably carrying drugs," when Border Patrol agents attempted to stop the vehicle, and that "Agent Aguilar was run down, and Mr. Navarro fled the scene back to Mexican territory." The statement said that Navarro (who had served time for transporting illegal aliens to the United States) would be prosecuted in Mexico, but that the Mexican government was awaiting an extradition request from the United States.

Fast forward to last month: Navarro applied for and was granted bail after being "cleared" of an unrelated migrant-smuggling charge. The Mexican government says it knew nothing about Navarro's release until after it occurred, and that it is now trying to put him behind bars. But that begs the question of how Navarro could be released given that the Mexican government itself had issued a statement implicating him in drug smuggling and running down Mr. Aguilar with his Hummer.

But the U.S. government (and in particular, the White House and the Justice Department) also has questions to answer. Mexico said late last month that Washington had not issued an arrest warrant, provided evidence or contacted it regarding Navarro's extradition. Then, on Thursday, Mexico said that U.S. officials did in fact make "a provisional arrest request for extradition purposes" - but did so more than a week after Navarro's release. So, we've heard Mexico's versions of what happened in the Navarro case (both of them.) It's past time for the White House and the Justice Department to come forward with their own explanation of how things were fouled up, and why Jesus Navarro Montes is a free man.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Court says EPA overreached with emissions rule A federal appeals court unanimously struck down a signature component of President Bush's clean air policies Friday, dealing a blow to environmental groups and probably delaying further action until the next administration. The regulation, known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, required 28 mostly Eastern states to reduce smog-forming and soot-producing emissions that can travel long distances in the wind. The Environmental Protection Agency predicted that it would prevent about 17,000 premature deaths a year. North Carolina and some electric power producers opposed aspects of the regulation, and President Bush found himself with some unusual allies. "This is the rare case where environmental groups went to court alongside the Bush administration," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a group that has criticized other Bush administration policies. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the EPA had overstepped its authority. It said the Clean Air Act did not give the EPA the authority to change pollution standards the way it had. Citing "more than several fatal flaws," the court scrapped the entire regulation....
White House rejects regulating greenhouse gases The Bush administration, dismissing the recommendations of its top experts, rejected regulating the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming Friday, saying it would cripple the U.S. economy. In a 588-page federal notice, the Environmental Protection Agency made no finding on whether global warming poses a threat to people's health or welfare, reversing an earlier conclusion at the insistence of the White House and officially kicking any decision on a solution to the next president and Congress. The White House on Thursday rejected the EPA's suggestion three weeks earlier that the 1970 Clean Air Act can be both workable and effective for addressing global climate change. The EPA said Friday that law is ``ill-suited'' for dealing with global warming. ``If our nation is truly serious about regulating greenhouse gases, the Clean Air Act is the wrong tool for the job,'' EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson told reporters. ``It is really at the feet of Congress.''....
EPA dropped wetlands cases after high court ruling The Bush administration didn't pursue hundreds of potential water pollution cases after a 2006 Supreme Court decision that restricted the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate seasonal streams and wetlands. From July 2006 through December 2007 there were 304 instances where the EPA found what would have been violations of the Clean Water Act before the court's ruling, according to a memo by the agency's enforcement chief. Officials "chose not to pursue formal enforcement based on the uncertainty about EPA's jurisdiction," according to the memo, which was released Monday by two Democratic House committee chairmen. The EPA also chose to "lower the priority" of 147 other cases because it was unclear whether the intermittent streams, swamps and marshes flowed into navigable waterways. Chief Justice John Roberts predicted the court's decision would be confusing, saying "regulated entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis." The confusion primarily surrounds temporary streams and wetlands not large enough to be navigable, but which are among the most prevalent types of waters across the country....
Agricultural water pollution on the line The Bush Administration has been trying since 2005 to change Clean Water Act rules so that agricultural interests can dump polluted water into public lakes and streams without obtaining a permit. Each step of the way, Florida environmentalists represented by Earthjustice lawyers have filed lawsuits to block the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) from implementing the new rules. On June 9th, the Bush EPA tried once again and again environmentalists are going to court to block the proposed rules. Click here to read an article about the legal challenge. The rule change proposal is the Administration’s response to three lawsuits – one in South Florida, one in Upstate New York and one in the upper Klamath River Basin. Each lawsuit seeks court action to require those discharging agricultural waste water into a public waterbody through a “discrete conveyance” (i.e. a pipe or a pump) to obtain a pollution discharge permit. Prior to these cases it was assumed that all agricultural discharges were “non point sources” and therefore exempted from the Clean Water Act’s discharge permit requirements. The Florida case went all the way to the Supreme Court which opened the door to permit requirements if agricultural wastewater is moved from one waterbody to another through a discrete conveyance. The Bush Administration countered with the rule change. The implications of extending Clean Water Act permit requirements to agricultural discharges are huge in the West where water has been wheeled freely using subsidized power and giant pumps....
Santa Fe Forest Proposal Would Limit Use of ATVs Santa Fe National Forest officials unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would cut in half the roads available to motorized travel and practically eliminate off-road or off-trail use of motorized vehicles. And then they stepped back to brace themselves for public reaction. "I understand that every time we make a big change, people are really emot i o n a l a b o u t it," said Forest Supervisor Daniel Jiron. "We're trying to leave Santa Fe National Forest for future generations in the best shape possible." The public outcry already has been heard for at least two years, the time that has lapsed since local officials first started work to conform with motorized travel regulations issued for forests nationwide. People who use the forest -- including off-road trails that appeared through usage but never were official routes -- complained that their recreational opportunities were being closed down, while those who oppose the noisy machines, especially in areas where they live, have said not enough was being done to keep them out of the forest. Jiron said he expects to hear more of the same, even though Forest Service officials tried to develop the plans by taking into account input they've gotten so far from the public. On Glorieta Mesa, where there has been controversy over ATV use, no cross-country travel will be allowed, but there will be "minor" camping corridors and one loop trail where motorized vehicles will be allowed, Jiron said....
Wildlife officials kill 2 wolves State wildlife officials killed two wolves belonging to separate packs in different parts of Western Montana on Friday, after two calves and a 600-pound heifer were found dead on private property. "It's kind of the aligning of random events," said Mike Thompson, wildlife manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The USDA Wildlife Services confirmed Monday and Friday that several wolves from the Brooks Creek pack were responsible for the death of two calves on private land near Florence in the Bitterroot Valley. The wolves also chased seven yearling cattle through a fence on the property, but they were unharmed, according to a press release issued by FWP. The Brooks Creek pack has a den near where the Bitterroot landowner is calving, Thompson said. Wildlife Services killed one of the wolves they believe is responsible on private land near the area of the attacks. The pack now has five wolves. North of there, another wolf attack took place. On Thursday, the USDA Wildlife Services confirmed that a wolf from the Superior pack killed a heifer on private land west of Superior....
Booz, Allen & Hamilton, the Army's accomplice in Southeast Colorado Booz, Allen & Hamilton (hereafter Booz Allen), a privately held corporation owned by about 300 senior executives, is the Army's accomplice in their attempted private property seizure in southeast Colorado. Their expertise, they declare, is strategy and public sector mission effectiveness. Booz Allen contracted with the Army for $500,000 to maneuver the ranchers out of their property rights. Skillful facilitators (provocateurs), despite their friendly demeanor, very likely use an advanced version of the deceptive Delphi Method, mind-games developed by the U.S. Air Force's RAND Project, financed by the Ford Foundation. Booz Allen knows the financial/credit history, computer key-strokes, personality traits, political affiliations, friends, associates, medical issues, weaknesses and strengths of every single southeast Colorado rancher and will use that information for the army's objective — the seizure of private land. Their surveys, meetings, polls are a fa├žade — citizen's input is irrelevant. For additional pressure, the Army claims they have a "willing seller" with 100,000 acres, perhaps a newly-arrived non-rancher strategically-placed in order to influence and alter the balance of opinions....
Tribe works to regain lost land During the past 30 years, the Spirit Lake Tribe has repurchased about 50,000 acres of reservation land. Tribal Chairman Myra Pearson knows when acquisition efforts will cease. “When we own it all,” she said. Because about two-thirds of reservation land still is owned by non-Indians, complete ownership won’t happen soon. But the tribe’s rate of buyouts still is brisk enough to alarm local nonreservation taxing authorities. That’s because tribe-purchased land goes into a federal trust, which isn’t subject to property taxes. So, the county, townships and school districts lose those tax dollars. In Benson County, where most of the reacquired acres exist, the annual losses to those taxing entities total about $240,000. The county government’s share of that figure is $89,000....$240,000??
Feds have duty to help pay for wolf kills The U.S. Department of Interior's negative reaction to a livestock compensation bill for animals killed by wolves isn't surprising, but it is disappointing. Keep in mind that the federal government reintroduced gray wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995. About 1,500 of the predators now roam Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The feds administered the recovery program until earlier this year, when wolves were removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Now the three states each have their own management plans for the animals. The states are now responsible for compensating ranchers for cattle and sheep killed by wolves. A conservation group, Defenders of Wildlife, had been paying for documented kills before wolves were delisted. Now, Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., have sponsored a bill that would require the federal government to pay a portion of those costs. Barrasso is probably overstating the problem when he says it's time for the feds to pay "to fix Washington's mistake." While wolf reintroduction has always been opposed by the livestock industry, conservation groups have supported it and don't view restoring the wolf to the environment as a mistake. But the senator is correct when he says the federal government should be responsible to contribute matching funds to the state's compensation trust funds. Critics contend that the compensation program amounts to welfare for ranchers. But losses due to the predator's presence are considerable. The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that wolves killed 100 adult cattle and 600 calves in Wyoming in 2007. Sheep losses for the year were estimated at 100 ewes and 400 lambs. Ranchers' estimates are considerably higher....
Meat Recalls to Name Retailers The Department of Agriculture will change its policy and begin to identify retailers who have received recalled meat, but only in cases that pose the most serious health threat. The information will be provided only in Class I recalls, those of "most serious concern to public health," Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said. The rule will take effect in August, 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. "People want to know if they need to be on the lookout for recalled meat and poultry from their local stores," Schafer said. Listing the outlets "will improve public health protection by better informing consumers." The USDA came under criticism earlier this year for refusing to name retail outlets and schools that received ground beef recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat, citing privacy concerns. That recall, involving 143 million pounds, was the biggest in U.S. history....
Settlers up to no good at Portales Springs
Doak Good had settled in comfortably in his rock and adobe house at Portales Springs, but his peaceful existence did not last long. In 1882 Jim Newman began bringing his cattle from Texas to Salt Lake and established the DZ Ranch near Arch, 11 miles east of Good’s place. Newman’s cattle would drift over to the plentiful water at Portales Springs. Bad feelings developed and violence was bound to follow. After the fight with Gabe Henson, which he blamed on Newman, Good was afraid to stay by himself and he picked up a transient boy about 14 years old to work for him. Old-time cowboy Col. Jack Potter had this to say about the new cowhand, “He was a hard-looking kid; had an old Stetson hat with the crown out, thrown away by some cowpuncher. He had long hair and it stuck out through the crown of the hat. He was dubbed by the cowboys as ‘Portales Bill,’ though I learned later his real name was McElmore.” Good gave him a few dogies or mavericks for his work, and it was commonly believed that he added to his herd by rustling other people’s cattle....
FLE

The Unitary Executive Congress On Wednesday July 9, the Senate voted to pass the FISA Amendments Act. This was a new law the Democratic majority in Congress had opposed in principle for the last five months in defiance of President Bush. They had suffered no political harm for taking the stand. Indeed, they defied him with as much success here as in opposing the privatization of social security. The collapse of the Democratic leadership on FISA was thus a sheer political calculation; yet the panic of the reversal ran ahead of any visible threat. It betrayed an embarrassment at the leadership's complicity with the president -- but in a manner that only increases the embarrassment and only tightens the complicity. The collapse also reflected a weakness of collective character. The fourth amendment sets up a law no executive may stand above: a law that forbids the trawling by the government for information against citizens without probable cause. It says every warrant must be supported by an oath or affirmation which particularly describes the place to be searched, and the things to be seized. Under pressure (but a very general not a particular pressure), the Democrats showed that, for them, the fourth amendment is dispensable in a way in which social security is not dispensable. The new law has these important effects: (1) It reaffirms the president's right to order individual taps as well as massive data mining, on foreign targets and on American citizens with foreign contacts whom the president finds suspicious. (2) It extends from three days to a week the period during which he can spy on a person or many people, abroad or in this country, without telling anyone. (3) It contracts the authority of the FISA court from approval of individual warrants to approval of the general procedures used in surveillance. (4) It replaces the FISA court, as the single approver of individual warrants, with the inspectors general at the government agencies and departments; most of all (it would seem) the inspector general of the NSA. (5) It narrows the investigation around the telecom immunity lawsuits from a sifting for possible violations of the law by the president in seeking warrantless wiretaps -- and by the telecoms in supplying those wiretaps -- to the bare question whether the president had attached a note from a legal authority in requesting help with his searches and seizures. Not "Was it illegal and did the president and telecoms know it was illegal?", but rather, "Did he get a lawyer to sign for it?" has become the question for a court to decide. (6) Not the FISA court but a district court will answer that question for all the lawsuits covering the years 2001-2005....
The Bipartisan Surveillance State The Democratic Congress passed and Bush signed the "FISA Amendments Act of 2008," legalizing the president's longstanding illegal wiretapping program. The law allows broad warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States, so long as the call or e-mail is thought to be international. Eavesdropping on domestic communications is legal for a week before court papers even have to be filed. The telecom companies that cooperated with Bush are immune from civil lawsuits. Most important, the administration's illegal conduct has been retroactively approved and future administrations have wider powers than ever to spy on Americans. The Democratic leadership and virtually all Congressional Republicans approved the law. In a complete reversal of his campaign promise, so did Senator Barack Obama. Last October, his campaign announced, "To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." Instead, he voted to prevent a filibuster and then he voted for the bill. Democrats and Obama supporters defend the betrayal with hollow claims that the law actually protects civil liberties. Why then was Bush so eager to sign it? Missouri Republican Senator Christopher Bond, a leader in this “compromise,” says “the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped.” Two years ago, the Democrats seemed outraged after we learned Bush had ordered the National Security Agency— a military outfit—to spy on Americans without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now they control Congress with good odds at the presidency. Power and the hope for more power corrupt. As Salon.com civil liberties expert Glenn Greenwald notes, “in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by [Republicans], the administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by [Democrats] Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.”....
The New FISA Compromise: It's Worse than You Think
Last month, the House of Representatives passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Congress's latest response to President Bush's demands for expanded eavesdropping authority. The Democratic leadership, seemingly intent on avoiding real debate on the proposal, scheduled the final vote just a day after the bill was introduced in the House. Touted by Democratic leaders as a "compromise," it was supported almost unanimously by House Republicans and opposed by a majority of Democrats. The 114-page bill was pushed through the House so quickly that there was no real time to debate its many complex provisions. This may explain why the telecom immunity provision has received so much attention in the media: it is much easier to explain to readers not familiar with the intricacies of surveillance law than the other provisions. But as important as the immunity issue is, the legislation also makes many prospective changes to surveillance law that will profoundly impact our privacy rights for years to come. Specifically, the new legislation dramatically expands the government's ability to wiretap without meaningful judicial oversight, by redefining "oversight" so that the feds can drag their feet on getting authorization almost indefinitely. It also gives the feds unprecedented new latitude in selecting eavesdropping targets, latitude that could be used to collect information on non-terrorist-related activities like P2P copyright infringement and online gambling. In short, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 opens up loopholes so large that the feds could drive a truck loaded down with purloined civil liberties through it. So the telecom immunity stuff is just the smoke; let's take a look at the fire....
The Worst of All Worlds Why did nearly half the Democrats in the House vote for the "FISA Amendments Act" that's now pending in the Senate, when most of them had opposed warrantless spying and telecom immunity before? The answer is that they were bribed, using your tax dollars. The Washington Post claims a deal was cut: the Democratic Leadership would support the FISA bill if the President would agree to add $95 billion in DOMESTIC spending to the latest Iraq appropriation. In other words, House Democrats voted to continue the war and sold the Fourth Amendment for $95 billion. Republicans say they want less spending. Democrats say they want less war. What's their compromise? More spending and more war....
Domestic spying quietly goes on With Congress on the verge of outlining new parameters for National Security Agency eavesdropping between suspicious foreigners and Americans, lawmakers are leaving largely untouched a host of government programs that critics say involves far more domestic surveillance than the wiretaps they sought to remedy. These programs - most of them highly classified - are run by an alphabet soup of federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies. They sift, store and analyze the communications, spending habits and travel patterns of U.S. citizens, searching for suspicious activity. The surveillance includes data-mining programs that allow the NSA and the FBI to sift through large databanks of e-mails, phone calls and other communications, not for selective information, but in search of suspicious patterns. Other information, like routine bank transactions, is kept in databases similarly monitored by the Central Intelligence Agency. "There's virtually no branch of the U.S. government that isn't in some way involved in monitoring or surveillance," said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and fellow at the National Security Archives at The George Washington University. "We're operating in a brave new world."....
Want some torture with your peanuts? A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal, Inc. website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers (video also shown below). This bracelet would: • Take the place of an airline boarding pass • Contain personal information about the traveler • Be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage • Shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if the passenger got out of line....
U.S. defends laptop searches at the border Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is. For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips. In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data. The Department of Homeland Security contends these searches and seizures of electronic files are vital to detecting terrorists and child pornographers. It also says it has the constitutional authority to do them without a warrant or probable cause. But many people in the business community disagree, saying DHS is overstepping the Fourth Amendment bounds of permissible routine searches. Some are fighting for Congress to put limits on what can be searched and seized and what happens to the information that’s taken. The civil rights community says the laptop seizures are simply unconstitutional. They want DHS to stop the practice unless there’s at least reasonable suspicion....
Gun stolen? Report it Reporting a lost or stolen gun to police seems pretty logical to Mayor Michael Nutter. Not doing it in Philadelphia now comes with a cost — $1,900. Nutter and other city officials yesterday announced that the lost-or-stolen reporting requirement passed by City Council in April and upheld in court early last month will go into full effect Aug. 8. Nutter suggested residents take the next month to take inventory of their firearms in preparation of the new law and report any missing guns to police. “If you lose your piece, call police,” he said at a press conference. “We are serious about aggressively enforcing public safety laws.” The hefty fine will be imposed as a first penalty upon anyone who through the course of a police investigation or any other city investigation has been identified as failing to report their firearm missing within 24 hours, officials said. Second and third offenses by the same person will result in jail time and alleged law breakers will have their cases heard in civil court, Nutter said. The National Rifle Association has already filed an appeal to Commonwealth Court to have the lost-or-stolen law and two other city gun laws, the group’s attorney said yesterday....
While Bloomberg frets about our guns, NYPD can’t keep track of theirs Anti-gun New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should “mind his own store before telling others how to operate theirs,” said the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, after an audit found that the New York Police Department lost track of dozens of guns in its own storage lockers. “While this guy has been bullying gun dealers around the country about so-called ’slip-shod’ operations,” chuckled CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, “his own police department seems to be slipping quite a bit on its own. Bloomberg needs to back off, shut up and get his own house in order before telling others how to operate.” According to the New York Times, “nearly one out of three handguns and rifles that had been turned in to the police could not be immediately accounted for in a Manhattan property clerk’s office.” “We’re waiting for Bloomberg to send a team of undercover vigilante investigators down there to find out what’s wrong,” Gottlieb said. “Can one of his infamous lawsuits be far behind?” Bloomberg dispatched non-police “investigators” to run stings on gun shops in several states more than two years ago, ostensibly to show how easy it is to illegally obtain guns in other states. He then sued gun dealers in five states....
Suing George W. Bush: A bizarre and troubling tale On July 3, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in California made a ruling particularly worthy of the nation's attention. In Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. v. Bush, a key case in the epic battle over warrantless spying inside the United States, Judge Walker ruled, effectively, that President George W. Bush is a felon. Judge Walker held that the president lacks the authority to disregard the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA -- which means Bush's warrantless electronic surveillance program was illegal. Whether Bush will ultimately be held accountable for violating federal law with the program remains unclear. Bush administration lawyers have fought vigorously -- at times using brazen, logic-defying tactics -- to prevent that from happening. The court battle will continue to play out as Congress continues to battle over recasting FISA and possibly granting immunity to telecom companies involved in the illegal surveillance. The story of how Al-Haramain's lawyers negotiated the journey thus far to Judge Walker's ruling -- a team of seven lawyers that includes me -- sheds light on how much is at stake for the Bush administration and the country. It is a surreal saga, involving a top-secret document accidentally released by the government, a showdown between Bush lawyers and a federal judge, the violent destruction of a laptop computer by government agents,....You should take the time to watch the ad and then read this article.