Friday, October 17, 2008


Perfect arrow shot saves life It was a one-in-a-million shot, but luckily for Ron J. Leming, his father accurately fired the arrow from his bow the one time it counted the most - as a 500-pound grizzly bear chased him downhill. Ron J. and his father, Ron G. Leming, were archery hunting for elk up the South Fork of the Shoshone River in northwest Wyoming in mid-September, about 15 miles into the Washakie Wilderness from the trailhead. It's an area they are familiar with, having hunted there for the past 15 years. For three days they'd bugled, cow-called and worked the woods, hoping to shoot a big bull. Fall is when elk breed. Big bulls bugle to challenge other bulls in hopes of breeding more cow elk. Hunters imitate the sounds in hopes of luring the testosterone-amped bulls into range. Leming stood up to walk down to his father when again he heard a sound behind him. Turning, he found himself 15 feet away from a full-grown, 11-year-old male grizzly. "I hollered at him," Leming said. "I said, 'Get out of here.' He waited about a half-second, laid his ears back and came at me full speed."....

Thinking Anew About a Migratory Barrier: Roads The mountains in and around Glacier National Park teem with bears. A recently concluded five-year census found 765 grizzlies in northwestern Montana, more than three times the number of bears as when it was listed as a threatened species in 1975. To the south lies a swath of federally protected wilderness much larger than Yellowstone, where the habitat is good, and there are no known grizzlies. They were wiped out 50 years ago to protect sheep. One of the main reasons they have not returned is Interstate 90. To arrive from the north, a bear would have to climb over a nearly three-foot high concrete Jersey barrier, cross two lanes of road, braving 75- to 80-mile-an hour traffic, climb a higher Jersey barrier, cross two more lanes of traffic and climb yet another barrier. Some experts believe that habitat fragmentation, the slicing and dicing of large landscapes into small pieces with roads, homes and other development, is the biggest of all environmental problems. “By far,” said Dr. Michael SoulĂ©, a retired biologist and founder of the Society for Conservation Biology. “It’s bigger than climate change. While the serious effects from climate change are 30 years away, there’s nothing left to save then if we don’t deal with fragmentation. And the spearhead of fragmentation are roads.” Fragmentation cuts off wildlife from critical habitat, including food, security or others of their species for reproduction and genetic diversity. Eventually they disappear. There are some four million miles of roads affecting 20 percent of the country, and in the last 10 years the new field of road ecology has emerged to study the many impacts of roads, and how to mitigate the damage....

World Retreats from Energy Alarmism
Last night, voters in Canada decisively rejected a tax on energy use aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon tax had been the centerpiece of Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion's election campaign. His party suffered a serious reverse at the polls, losing a quarter of its seats. Analysts agree the pledge was a significant factor in the Liberals’ failure to take advantage of the economic crisis. The last thing the Canadian people wanted was extra costs to their families in troubled times. In Europe, the Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski today vowed to block European Union attempts to impose a new measures aimed at reducing emissions next month. Sikorski told an EU summit meeting that, “Poland is ready to veto if there are attempts to force us to accept the climate-change packet in the next months.” A statement from the leaders of several Eastern European countries said, “The vast majority of the EU's greenhouse gas emission reductions have been achieved by less affluent member states at a very high social and economic cost, and it should be recognized.” Senior Fellow Iain Murray comments, “Once again, Washington insiders need to pay attention to what’s happening beyond our borders. The world has realized that the greenhouse gas reductions championed by Al Gore and his fellow travelers come at a very high price, at both the national and household level. If we need to do anything to manage the risk that global warming might become a problem, we need to think of other ways of doing it.”
Western US commercial oil shale leasing still years away Even with most forecast showing growing energy needs in the world, leasing of US federal controlled land in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming for commercial oil shale development may still be many years away, as discussed Oct. 13 at the 28th Oil Shale Symposium at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. Terry O'Conner, with Shell Unconventional Oil, Denver, explained the current progress in leasing oil shale lands administered by the US Bureau of Land Management. He said federal law and regulations have two separate paths for leasing these lands. One path is with research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) leases with the right to expand into a preference right lease (PRL). The other path is commercial leasing. BLM has issued six RD&D leases, five in Colorado and one in Utah. Shell obtained three of these leases. O'Conner said Shell plans to demonstrate three different types of technologies on these leases but will not start work on them until it obtains results from its Mahogany pilot that is on a private lease possibly by yearend 2009 or in 2010. On the Mahogany project Shell uses a situ conversion process that relies on a freeze curtain to prevent ground water contamination....
Finalization of oil shale regulations would imperil taxpayers, water supplies, wildlife, and global warming efforts The Department of the Interior is rushing to finalize regulations that would govern commercial leasing and development of oil shale, a sedimentary rock containing kerogen which, when heated to extreme temperatures, yields oil. Commercial development could pose serious threats to the global climate and the communities, water tables, energy infrastructure and environment of the West. One of the world's richest deposits of oil shale is found in the Green River Basin and harvesting it with current technologies would adversely impact nearly 2 million acres of public lands and thousands of residents in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Oil shale extraction depends on literally melting oil from rock-but technologies to do so efficiently, cost-effectively, and safely do not exist. The Bureau of Land Management currently oversees research and development on federal lands to address unanswered questions, and many companies continue to conduct research on the thousands of acres they own privately....
EPA tightens health standard for airborne lead Three decades after removing lead from gasoline, the Environmental Protection Agency is slashing the amount of the toxic metal that will be allowed in the nation's air by 90 percent. EPA officials, under a federal court order to set a new standard by midnight Wednesday, said the limit would better protect public health, especially for children. They can inhale lead particles released from smelters, mines and waste incinerators and ingest it after it settles on surfaces. The new limit, 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter, is the first update since 1978, when the government helped phase out leaded gasoline. It is 10 times lower than the old standard, 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter. The EPA estimates that 18 counties in a dozen states will violate the new standard. That means state and local governments must find ways to further reduce lead emissions....

European Union Bans Incandescent Light Bulbs energy ministers meeting last week in Luxembourg have given final approval to an EU-wide ban on incandescent light bulbs that would begin in 2010. The switch to energy-saving bulbs, first ordered at last year’s Brussels summit as part of an aggressive energy policy to fight climate change, was approved at the negotiations leading up to a meeting of European heads of state, being held next week. The new light bulb scheme will initially apply to bulbs of 75 watts and higher and the phasing out of the traditional bulbs will come into effect beginning March 1, 2009....
FWP proposes corridor for bison The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing to go ahead with its portion of an agreement that would allow 25 bison a year to migrate north through the Royal Teton Ranch to graze on public land. The agreement is outlined in a draft environmental assessment open to public comment until Oct. 31. FWP is just one agency involved in the Interagency Bison Management Plan, which also includes Yellowstone National Park, the state Department of Livestock, the Gallatin National Forest and the federal Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. The 30-year agreement with the Paradise Valley ranch, which is owned by the Church Universal and Triumphant, would cost FWP $300,000 as well as the costs of building and maintaining fences, cattle guards and other structures necessary to manage bison moving through the ranch, according to the draft environmental assessment. The total estimated cost of the grazing agreement is an initial payment of $1.87 million followed by 19 years of payments of $76,500. The rest of the amount is to be funded by the Park Service and nongovernment partners. The 25 bison that would be allowed to pass through the ranch to Gallatin National Forest land would be first tested for brucellosis. The number could grow to 100 bison in the future....

Wyo. elk study reignites chronic wasting controversy Chronic wasting disease may not devastate elk populations even if it spreads to winter feedgrounds in Wyoming, according to preliminary research released by the state Game and Fish Department. Researchers with the agency are undertaking a long-term study of chronic wasting disease in an elk population. Department officials warn the data is too preliminary for any definitive conclusions. But conservationists say the preliminary conclusion released by the agency indicates more of a potential rationalization for maintaining state elk feedgrounds rather than sound science. The feedgrounds are a hot topic for debate in Wyoming because ranchers and outfitters generally support the feedgrounds because they keep elk away from cattle and help them survive the winter. But conservationists say the feedgrounds should be phased out because they increase the risk of spreading disease. The general belief among most conservationists and some wildlife biologists is that if chronic wasting disease were to spread to feedgrounds, it would devastate elk populations because they are artificially concentrated on feed lines in the winter....
Many private landowners nurture public wildlife As sports men and women gear up for the hunting season, they are also being bombarded with information about how they should vote. At the top of the list is gun rights, but they should not forget public access and habitat protection when flipping the switch in the polling booth. Whether it is trout streams or habitat for big game and "watchable wildlife," private landowners provide a plethora of public benefits, sometimes at substantial costs to themselves. For example, a study from Montana State University estimates that on private land in Montana big game animals consume forage worth more than $31 million — forage that would otherwise go to feed the landowner's livestock. For this, sports people can thank the private landowner who literally provides a free lunch. But is it enough to depend on the benevolence of the private landowner? The great conservationist Aldo Leopold thought not. He is known for trying to inculcate a "land ethic" in the private landowner, but he knew this was not enough. As he put it, "Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest." Unfortunately, many Montana sports men and women resist providing such rewards....

Candidate denies he's a vegetarian
Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown this week accused Democrats of spreading a false rumor that he is a vegetarian in this meat-loving state. "I am not and have never been a vegetarian," Brown said. Brown was responding to an undated e-mail sent by his Billings neighbor, Pat Etchart, to Dennis McDonald, chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and a Melville cattle rancher. McDonald, in turn, forwarded Etchart's e-mail to some cattle ranchers Friday and asked: "What do you make of this?" The letter also has been send to agricultural publications and blogs. In the e-mail, Etchart said that when the Browns moved next door in Billings, Roy Brown invited her husband and her to their house to get acquainted. "In the course of conversation, he told us that he and his wife are vegetarians," Etchart wrote. "At the time, I thought nothing of it, but as Roy now makes the rounds and campaigns for governor, I have a concern. Would it not be a problem, in a state where cattle ranching is such a vital industry, to have a governor who does not eat meat?....This is a good example of what has happened to the Republicans: They're Tomatoes instead of T-Bones. Stewed tomatoes at that.

The record-breaking insect as long as your arm In the stick insect world, it's the queen of the jungle. Stretching to an extraordinary 22 inches, this newly discovered bug is the longest stick insect in the world. Named the Chan's megastick, it was discovered in the Borneo rainforests by a stick insect enthusiast and has been handed to the Natural History Museum in London. The creature is nearly half an inch longer than the previous record holder. Dr George Beccaloni, curator of stick insects, cockroaches and grasshoppers at the museum, said: 'We've known about both the previous record holders for over 100 years, so it's extraordinary an even bigger species has only just been discovered.' The dead creature, a female, was found by a collector, who kept it for ten years. The owner had no idea of its significance until an entomologist, Datuk Chan Chew Lun, saw it in the collection and realised it was a new species. Almost nothing is known about its biology and lifestyle, although it probably lives in the highest canopies of the rainforest, making it hard to spot....
UNL Web Site Explains Details Of COOL A University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Web site explains the details of the Country of Origin Labeling law that went into effect Sept. 30. The law requires labels identifying country of origin on certain foods, including meat, produce and nuts, when sold at particular retail establishments. The Web site, http://cool.unl.edu, will help "anyone in the food system from farm to fork," said Darrell Mark, UNL extension livestock marketing specialist. "There's still a lot of learning needed," he said. "I hope this site accomplishes educating people on what they need to do for their own operation." The law will require livestock producers to document where their livestock was born, raised and processed. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not fully enforce terms of the law until April, "educational compliance" is being promoted now, Mark said. The site includes a series of fact sheets, videos and other educational materials for livestock producers, meat processors, retailers, extension educators and consumers....

Losing the Family Ranch I have been watching with a heavy heart the break- up of family ranches for years. Although each situation is different they all share some commonalities. Most break-ups are caused by the need for fairness. The ranch is usually the only or at least the largest asset that the parents leave their children and there is not usually enough of the ranch for all the kids to make their livings there. And if they split the ranch then sometimes there is not enough left for even one family to make their living. Often it is not that there isn't enough but that some of the heirs have different interests and pursue lives off the ranch, but they still want their fair share of the inheritance. Generally once a ranch is sold whether to an investor or a hobby rancher it is never the same. The tragedy of these losses is the history and the traditional agricultural practices that are lost in these transitions. I guess the reason that I bring this is up is to get people thinking about options and solutions for our ranching valleys....

Soda shop to replace landmark Buckhorn Bar The former site of the landmark Buckhorn Bar and Saloon in Camarillo's Old Town is about to reopen with some lighter fare. The Buckhorn, a Ventura County fixture for decades, will become Rocket Fizzz, whose owners describe it as a family-friendly soda, candy and novelty shop. The store, at 2619 E. Ventura Blvd., will open as soon as mid-November if all goes well, co-owners Ryan Morgan and Robert Powell said. The old saloon closed at the end of 2005 after Powell, the building's owner, did not renew its lease. In the 1930s, Powell's grandfather Jack Richmond bought the property. Rancher Andrew Cawelti constructed a building on the spot in 1905 and rented it out as the Buckhorn Cafe, which later added a bar. For many years, it had a poker room in the back. When Powell didn't renew the bar's lease, he told city officials he wanted to put in a more family-oriented establishment....

COWGIRL HALL INVITES FIVE INTO THEIR FOLD FOR 2008 The induction ceremony for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame is always a fun time. It is held in one of the huge ball rooms of the Will Rogers Coliseum and Complex within walking distance of the Hall. The Cowgirl Who’s Who plus so many ‘movers and shakers’ in the western world attend. The inductees were welcomed by Sharon Camarillo, 2006 Honoree. Those inducted for 2008 were: Beverly Sparrowk, was a rodeo competitor in barrel racing, a performer as part of the trick riding group, “The Fireballs”, later became a rancher and involved in industry activism by being a spokesperson for ranching and conservation. ‘She is someone folks listen to,” said a friend. Prairie Rose Henderson, (deceased), is known as one of the early day lady bronc riders and also competed in horse racing. She continued to rodeo for some time and was known for her elaborate but unusual costumes designed with silk, sequins and marabou feathers. Velma B. Johnston, “Wild Horse Annie”,, (deceased), worked diligently throughout her lifetime to improve the tragic plight of wild horses in the United States. The Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed in Congress in 1971, granting federal protection to these “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West”. Wilma Luna Powell, a second generation rancher, from Plains, Texas. She began early in her life helping her father in all ranching chores including branding, castrating, vaccinating and so on. When she married her husband, Bill Powell, she continued by his side, ranching, raising two boys, and being active in her community. The fifth inductee was Audrey O’Brien Griffin. She was born in Santa Monica, the outskirts of Hollywood, California....
LOS PAYASOS - GOVERNMENT AT WORK

UK: Government loses 20,000 cows Government officials have been forced to admit that they have lost more than 20,000 cows. Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admitted in Parliamentary questions that 20,979 of the animals had been mislaid. The livestock should have been logged on Defra's Cattle Tracing System, devised to protect public and animal health after the BSE and foot and mouth epidemics. However the cattle have disappeared from the system, while another 1039 are believed to have been loaded onto cattle trucks and never heard of again....
Renzi: FBI taped discussions on leadership races Lawyers representing Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) claim that the government “recorded dozens of sensitive conversations concerning House leadership races” after the 2006 elections, according to new legal filings. Renzi’s legal team, fighting 35 criminal counts brought by the Department of Justice (DoJ), contends that the federal government recorded portions of a conference call involving the entire House Republican Conference -- days after the mid-term elections when Democrats won control of Congress. In one of many legal motions filed on Wednesday, Renzi’s lawyers stated, “The Justice Department recorded calls in which Congressman Renzi engaged in sensitive discussions concerning the leadership and direction of the House Republican Party with other members of Congress, including candidates for the leadership.” The lawmaker’s attorneys are calling on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to dismiss all the counts against the lawmaker for a variety of reasons, “including the government’s repeated, deliberate, and continuing violations of [the] Congressman’s attorney-client privilege.” The motions argue that the government recorded more than 50 privileged phone calls between Renzi and his attorney....

J. Edgar Hoover lives! Even in its final weeks, the Bush administration continues its war on our civil liberties. On Dec. 1, Bush ultra-loyalist Attorney General Michael Mukasey will put into effect his new expanded "Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations." To search for any possibilities of terrorist activities, the FBI can now conduct "threat assessments" – in plain language, investigations – on individuals and organizations without any specific evidence of wrongdoing. No judicial warrants are required as Mukasey and FBI chief Robert Mueller suspend the Fourth Amendment's "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects" – outside their homes as well, and in their use of phones, Internet, et al. Moreover, in the course of searching for patterns of suspicious terrorist links, FBI agents, free from Bill of Rights constraints, can – as in the glory days of J. Edgar Hoover – covertly infiltrate lawful groups, deploy informants and "assess" such potential indentifiers in suspects as race, ethnicity and religion. Ah, but FBI agents, say Mukasey and Mueller, must be careful to "avoid unnecessary intrusions into the lives of law-abiding people." Think about that problem for them. As Anthony D'Amato, professor of Law at Northwestern University, reasonably asks – on the University of Pittsburgh School of Law's website, "Jurist" – "how can the FBI know that anyone is a law-abiding person without making an investigative intrusion into his or her private affairs?" Since there is no judicial supervision, and no requirement that FBI agents begin their "assessments" with any specific evidence of wrongdoing, D'Amato asks, "Do the Guidelines provide any limitations to the powers of the FBI?"....
The REAL Violation of Privacy In 2005 the REAL ID Act was passed by Congress as a rider in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief. This new law imposed new security, authentication, and issuance procedures for all state issued IDs such as driver’s licenses in order for an ID to be accepted for official purposes. Every state is required to comply with this act, permitting only extensions on the timelines for which the program must be fully implemented. American taxpayers and their states such as South Carolina and its governor, Mark Sanford, oppose this legislation for various purposes and particularly, for privacy and freedom. With this act, all of a person’s information is put into one central depository by the state in order to be accessed by not only the federal government but other states as well. In comparison, currently various government documents and information such as social security numbers, passports, state IDs, etc. are in different databases. This is beneficial for Americans because if by some chance one of those is hacked into, not all of their information is given directly to the offender. Under the REAL ID Act, however, one foul step and someone can have complete access to all of your information. For example, “North Carolinians Against REAL ID” reported that the Department of Homeland Security has had its databases compromised almost 850 times within the past 2 years alone. The threat is not limited to hackers and other stereotypical wrongdoers. It should also include the government itself. With unlimited access to every American’s information, the government can ultimately know everything about you at all times. You no longer have a right to privacy. Rather, the government will have a right to your privacy. Once the government begins to have access to this information there truly is no way to stop it. Jim Harper from the Cato Institute stated well, “Massed personal information will be an irresistible attraction to the Department of Homeland Security and many other governmental entities, who will dip into data about us for an endless variety of purposes.”....
US Justice Dept builds microwave heat-ray 'rifle' Reports are emerging that the US Justice Department is working on a hand-held version of existing microwave cannons intended for riot or crowd control. The portable raygun could also have applications as a scanner or detector system, apart from being a weapon; and a working prototype has already been built. Raytheon, the American weaponry globocorp which makes the Silent Guardian crowd-griller cannon, has been showing off its microwave weaponry plans to reporters at the AUSA expo in Washington this week. According to separate articles at Military.com and Aviation Week, there are many new plans for the technology. It appears that both the US Marines and Army want truck-mounted units of varying size, allowing them to play wide-angle heat beams over recalcitrant crowds and so perhaps disperse them without having to resort to mass truncheonings or even more aggressive means. More interestingly/upsettingly still, both reports indicate that the National Institute of Justice is looking into a "rifle-sized", shorter ranged heat-ray weapon for use by US cops or feds. The NIJ is the R&D arm of the US Justice Department. Looking at the NIJ website, it appears that in fact a "small working prototype ... that law enforcement and correction officers can carry" has already been built....

Gun control a gray area between McCain, Obama John McCain supports background checks for buyers at gun shows and has his name on a law restricting special-interest group advertising, two positions strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association. So how'd he end up with the group's presidential endorsement? By running against Barack Obama, whom NRA leaders accuse of wanting to put the firearms industry out of business. "Hillary was right: You can't trust Obama with your guns," the association's Political Victory Fund said in a recent mailing. The endorsement reflects the complicated role that gun control is playing in the 2008 campaign. For voters who care about the issue, the most unambiguous record belongs not to McCain, but his running mate. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is not only a gun owner and an NRA member, but a proud hunter who is unapologetic about supporting aerial wolf hunting. From there, things get kind of gray....

Activists rally ’round open-carry heroine Gun-rights activists who traveled to Lebanon from as far away as Pittsburgh in support of Second-Amendment poster girl Meleanie Hain said it was worth the trip. A group of two dozen supporters applauded and cheered when Lebanon County President Judge Robert J. Eby announced his decision yesterday to restore Meleanie Hain’s concealed-weapons permit during a hearing at the Lebanon municipal building. “I wasn’t surprised,” 37-year-old Greg Rotz of Chambersburg said of Eby’s ruling. Rotz organized the gathering of advocates who support the open carrying of handguns as a peaceful show of support for Hain. Rotz faced similar charges after he wore a sidearm to his voting precinct on Election Day last November, later receiving a letter from the Franklin County sheriff demanding that he turn over his handgun. He appealed the decision and was vindicated in January when a judge threw out the case. Yesterday in support of Hain, there were no signs or loud protests outside the courthouse. Instead, supporters merely carried their guns openly as the law permits. Dozens of people wore pins that read “I support Meleanie Hain. Enforce the law, not personal opinion.” County Sheriff Mike DeLeo revoked Hain’s concealed-weapons permit after parents complained about her openly wearing her gun to her 5-year-old daughter’s soccer game last month. Hain appealed, prompting yesterday’s hearing....
FBI: Justifiable homicides at highest in more than a decade The number of justifiable homicides committed by police and private citizens has been rising in the past two years to their highest levels in more than a decade, reflecting a shoot-first philosophy in dealing with crime, say law enforcement analysts. The 391 killings by police that were ruled justifiable in 2007 were the most since 1994, FBI statistics show. The 254 killings by private individuals found to be self-defense were the most since 1997. The FBI says a homicide committed by a private citizen is justified when a person is slain during the commission of a felony, such as a burglary or robbery. Police are justified, the FBI says, when felons are killed while the officer is acting in the line of duty. Rulings on these deaths are usually made by the local police agencies involved. Some law enforcement analysts say the numbers represent changing attitudes on the streets, where police have felt more threatened by well-armed offenders, and citizens have taken greater responsibility for their own safety....

Mexican soldiers crossed clear line The nation's border czar has concluded that Mexican soldiers who held a U.S. Border Patrol agent at gunpoint in August did so after bypassing a barbed-wire fence and other clearly visible barriers to cross into the United States, contradicting claims by the State Department and the Mexican government that the soldiers were simply lost. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, in a private letter to the National Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson, Ariz., described the Aug. 3 border incident as a "potential lethal encounter involving four Mexican armed military soldiers north of the international boundary." "There is a barbed-wire fence and new tactical infrastructure within sight that marks the borderline where the incident took place," Mr. Basham said. "Our uniformed agent, in a marked Border Patrol vehicle, identified himself in both English and Spanish." He also described the tactics used against the agent, including the pointing of automatic rifles at him, as "unacceptable," adding that the incident had been "thoroughly documented by the Department of Homeland Security." He said the matter has since been sent to the State Department "with a request for diplomatic action." At the time of the incident, the State Department described the incursion as a misunderstanding, saying the Mexican soldiers did not know where they were and needed to make certain that the detained agent was who he said he was. It was the same general statement the department had made in dozens of other suspected incursions by members of the Mexican military....

Border Patrol's expanded operation irking farmers Expanded U.S. Border Patrol operations in Washington state have created friction between the agency and a farmers organization, underlining the debate over immigration and the labor needs of the state's multibillion-dollar agricultural industry. The Washington Farm Bureau, which represents thousands of farmers across the state, has spoken out against the roadblocks being operated by the agency in several counties in the state _ including some near agricultural areas. "We're very unhappy with the feds," said Dan Fazio, director of employer services for the Washington Farm Bureau. "We believe these roadblocks violate the constitution, be it the federal or the state's." From apples to raspberries, Washington's agricultural industry is labor intensive, depending on tens of thousands of farm workers a year. The Border Patrol incursions inland touch a contentious issue. Many farm workers in the U.S. are believed to be illegal immigrants, often using fake identification documents to gain employment. Farmers say they already have trouble finding enough workers and Border Patrol operations may scare off even more....

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Stevens says he never tried to hide gifts Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens denied scheming to hide $250,000 in home improvements and other gifts from a corrupt businessman, taking the stand Thursday in his own defense at a corruption trial blocks from the U.S. Capitol. When asked by his lawyer Brendan Sullivan whether he thought his disclosure forms were accurate when he signed them, the Alaska political patriarch replied, "Yes, sir." Stevens, wearing an American flag pin on the lapel of his dark-colored suit, then responded with a soft "No, sir" when Sullivan asked whether he had engaged in any scheme with anyone to hide any gifts. Stevens, 84, was the final witness in his defense against charges that he lied on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal improvements to his modest chalet and other gifts from Bill Allen, a longtime friend and former chief of the oil services company VECO Corp. Before taking the stand, Stevens — a plain-talking, gruff man whose trademark "Incredible Hulk" tie symbolizes his temper and reputation in the Senate — was told by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan that he didn't have to testify. "It's a privilege and a duty," Stevens replied while being sworn in....
Sen. Stevens' wife testifies on his behalf The wife of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens testified in his defense at his corruption trial on Thursday and said she had been in charge of their Alaska home renovations because the Republican lawmaker was too busy. Stevens is accused of lying on his financial disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in renovations on the couple's home and other gifts from Alaska oil services firm VECO Corp and its former chief executive, Bill Allen. Catherine Stevens told jurors that she sent a number of checks to the general contractor and others for various aspects of the remodeling of the couple's cabin in the ski-resort town of Girdwood, near Anchorage. Mrs. Stevens said she believed the couple had been billed for and had paid for all of the work on the chalet. She said she thought that work done by two VECO employees had been covered by bills sent by the general contractor....

Candidates talk energy in the final debate, but don't stray from their usual talking points The third presidential debate yielded nothing new from Barack Obama or John McCain on climate or energy policy, but both candidates pointed to an environmental issue to demonstrate their independence from their respective parties. When McCain challenged Obama to name a major issue on which he's differed with Democratic leaders, Obama mentioned "clean coal," among other things: "I support clean coal technology. Doesn't make me popular with environmentalists." McCain, in trying to distinguish himself from President Bush, said, "I have disagreed with leaders of my own party," and took credit for "bringing climate change to the floor of the Senate for the first time." At one point, moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS said, "Let's talk about energy and climate control," but he then dropped the climate component and asked, "Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?"....
McCain and Obama's environmental policy differences a matter of degree In an August poll of 400 people commissioned for The Salt Lake Tribune and other Western newspapers, just 2 percent of Utah respondents said the environment was the single most important issue facing the country today. And even on issues of particular importance in the West, environment came in fifth, at 8 percent. More important were drilling on public lands (34 percent), immigration (18 percent), water issues (11 percent), and growth and sprawl (9 percent). McCain led the push in the late '80s to rethink the way the Glen Canyon Dam is operated to protect the Grand Canyon National Park downstream. He introduced, with Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman, the U.S. Senate's first climate-change legislation in 2003, and watched it get voted down twice. The GOP nominee also has continued to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. That McCain has let his environmental record and proposals slip into the background might simply be an effort to shore up credentials within the party that has the power to help get him elected president, Patterson said. "It's a reflection," the political scientist said, "of the intricate dance Senator McCain has been doing all along."....So we have to wait until after the elections to find out what kind of a dancing partner McCain will be? What is this "intricate dance"? Is it a two-step, a waltz, or will he boogie all over the West to please the eastern establishment? On the other hand, when it comes to environmental issues, I ain't even in the same dance hall with Obama.
Idaho senators support Snake bill Both senators from Idaho will support a package of public lands bills that includes protection for the Snake River system and the Wyoming Range. Previously Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Larry Craig of Idaho had said they did not support the bill because they feared it would affect rights to Snake River water held by farmers in their state. Craig had gone so far as to threaten to put a hold on the bill, essentially blocking its passage, if his worries were not assuaged. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act – S. 3213 – is a bipartisan collection of bills that have passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during this Congress. It includes the Craig Thomas Snake Headwaters Legacy Act, which would protect 387 miles of rivers and streams in the Snake River drainage under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It also includes the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, which would prohibit further energy leasing in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson Hole and would allow conservation groups to buy and retire existing energy leases. Both measures were championed by the late Sen. Craig Thomas and are now sponsored by his successor Sen. John Barrasso. Sen. Craig “worked with Sens. Barrasso and Crapo for several months this summer to solve a major issue related to Idaho water rights and water delivery,” said Craig’s spokeswoman Susan Irby in an e-mail response to questions. “All parties have agreed upon language that protects Idaho’s water without undermining the objectives of Sen. Barrasso’s Wild and Scenic bill.”....

Mineral rights questioned on badlands ranch site A Montana man who says he owns mineral rights on part of a North Dakota badlands ranch near where Theodore Roosevelt raised cattle wants to test the site for gravel and possibly an open pit mine. Roger Lothspeich of Miles City, Mont., says that if the U.S. Forest Service wants the area to remain pristine it should "get some more cash." He says gravel deposits are all over the ranch and estimates the gravel is worth millions of dollars. Forest Service district supervisor Ron Jablonski says the agency will determine who owns the gravel and other mineral rights. The Forest Service bought the 5,200-acre former Blacktail Creek Ranch from brothers Kenneth, Allan and Dennis Eberts and their families last year for $5.3 million, with $4.8 million from the federal government and $500,000 from conservation groups....They paid $5.3 million without determining who owned the mineral rights? UPDATE New mineral owner wants gravel from Eberts ranch The U.S. Forest Service did not buy gravel and other mineral rights like uranium when it spent $5.5 million to purchase the Eberts ranch in Billings County, and now new mineral owners want to test for gravel and possibly open a mine pit. Roger Lothspeich of Miles City, Mont., said he'll take his gravel, or he'll take his share of money - he estimates the gravel alone is worth more than $2 million in today's market....
BLM delays any new wells on plateau Newly leased oil and gas drilling parcels on the Roan Plateau will remain undisturbed by drilling until June while a federal lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management's lease of the land makes its way through the court system. Environmental groups, including the Colorado Environmental Coalition, sued the BLM and asked a federal judge Wednesday to issue a preliminary injunction barring the leases. She declined to grant the injunction, but BLM officials pledged to keep the land undisturbed until the lawsuit is concluded....
Former BLM chief slams long-term plan The former head of the Bureau of Land Management accused the director of Utah's BLM office Tuesday of bowing to the "raw political power" of the Bush administration in preparing long-term plans for 11 million acres of red-rock desert in the state. Jim Baca, who served as the national BLM boss during President Clinton's first term, warned that the agency's six resource-management plans expected to become final next month would lead to pillaging public lands in Utah. The plans, Baca said, are "really, really disastrous. I think there is malfeasance involved in putting these things forward. . . . What's happened here is just raw political power that wasn't in the public interest." During a teleconference, Baca - New Mexico's natural-resource trustee and a Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance board member - sharply criticized BLM state Director Selma Sierra. Baca and representatives of The Wilderness Society, SUWA, the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance and a spokeswoman for Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., organized the news conference to call attention to the Bush administration's lame-duck push to finalize land plans that would open 80 percent of the 11 million acres to oil and gas drilling....

People-Panther Guidelines Issued as Florida Panther Population Grows There are now between 80 and 100 panthers in Florida, a four-fold increase over the past 25 years, federal wildlife officials said today, announcing new guidelines for human-panther interaction. One of the rarest large mammals in the United States, the Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi, is listed as endangered under both the federal Endangered Species Act and Florida law. Once panthers lived from eastern Texas or western Louisiana and the lower Mississippi River Valley, east through the southeastern United States including all of Florida. Twenty-five years ago numbers fell as low as 30 animals, but recovery actions, particularly genetic augmentation initiated in 1995, enabled the population to grow to an estimated 80-100 panthers. During this same period, the Florida human population has grown 260 percent, from about five million to nearly 18 million people. Because of increases in numbers of people and panthers, urban-suburban areas now interface with panther habitat....

Nesting eagles add twist to battle with Wal-Mart What has been a fierce battle between Wal-Mart officials planning to build a new supercenter and Tarpon Springs residents bent on preserving land on the Anclote River just got more complicated. Nature has thrown a punch of its own. A bald eagle pair has built a sturdy and federally protected nest on the property. For the birds, it's an ideal site: a live pine tree with branches that twist under the nest to support it, a river with clear water to fish and not much disturbance nearby. But it's less than 200 feet from the walls of a planned nearly 5-acre Wal-Mart supercenter. Although bald eagles are no longer on the list of threatened and endangered species, they are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The laws prohibit killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests or eggs....
Endangered Species Act Reforms Will Benefit The West, Business Leaders Say The Western Business Roundtable today lauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service for proposing reforms to the highly troubled Endangered Species Act (ESA). "Reforming the Endangered Species Act has long been a priority of many Westerners who care about the successful recovery of species that are in trouble," the Roundtable said in comments to government. "We applaud the Services for undertaking the challenge of modernizing this key element of ESA. It is important to, among other things, align regulations with recent court decisions and clarify terminology to provide more consistent practices in the field, less confusion for agencies and project proponents, and less of the language ambiguity that so often breeds court battles." Referencing the proposed rule, Roundtable Executive Director Britt Weygandt said the Services' recommended amendments to ESA regulations -- focused specifically on the so-called "Section 7 consultation" process -- make practical changes that will improve the Acts functionality....

Frog pizza ... get it while it's hop A RESTAURANT chain has sparked fury by serving up pizzas with a topping of FROGS’ LEGS. The “Hopper” contains eight limbs on a traditional base with capers and an anchovy sorbet. The £17.95 dish has angered campaigners who slammed it as “barbaric” — because frogs’ legs are amputated while they are still alive. An Animal Aid spokeswoman urged people to boycott London chain Eco. Chef Sami Wasif came up with the idea on a trip to Paris — and called it “refined”. He said: “I’ve been making pizza for more than 20 years and know that London is a city always looking for something new.” He added: “Pizza is something you can experiment with. I might try one with snails on it next.”....I'm thinkin' calf fries pizza. Folks will go nuts over it.

Sims proposes to shut down King County Fair The King County Fair survived the Civil War, the Great Depression and two world wars. But now, because of declining attendance and an ailing county budget, its days may be numbered. King County Executive Ron Sims has proposed shutting down the 145-year-old Enumclaw event, which bills itself as the oldest county fair west of the Mississippi River. It's one of hundreds of belt-tightening measures Sims recommended Monday to the Metropolitan King County Council in his 2009 budget proposal. Closing the fair would save $315,000 in a budget that must be cut by $93 million. Sims said that for years he resisted suggestions that the fair be closed. But its continuing decline convinced him it was time to pull the plug....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Global warming debate heats up While one NASA scientist says man-made catastrophic climate change will cause an apocalypse, another says hysterical pronouncements about carbon dioxide emissions are unwarranted and overblown. James Hansen, a political ally of former Vice President Al Gore, who has popularized the notion the planet is on the verge of calamitous changes as a result of higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, says: "We do have a planetary emergency, but it is difficult because you don't see that much happening. … If we don't bring this under control, we're going to destroy creation." Hansen told a Kansas wind and renewable energy conference last month global warming inevitably will bring about droughts, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and mass extinctions. But Roy Spencer, U.S. science team leader for NASA's collection of satellite temperature data and principal research scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville's Earth System Science Center, says the climate system is not as sensitive to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide as computer models suggest. This would mean "that we have little to worry about in the way of man-made global warming and associated climate change," Spencer said in testimony to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this summer. "And, as we will see, it would also mean that the warming we have experienced in the last 100 years is mostly natural. Of course, if climate change is natural then it is largely out of our control, and is likely to end – if it has not ended already, since satellite-measured global temperatures have not warmed for at least seven years now."....
Alaska glaciers grew this year Two hundred years of glacial shrinkage in Alaska, and then came the winter and summer of 2007-2008. Unusually large amounts of winter snow were followed by unusually chill temperatures in June, July and August. "In mid-June, I was surprised to see snow still at sea level in Prince William Sound," said U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Bruce Molnia. "On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface of the Taku Glacier in late July. At Bering Glacier, a landslide I am studying, located at about 1,500 feet elevation, did not become snow free until early August. "In general, the weather this summer was the worst I have seen in at least 20 years." Never before in the history of a research project dating back to 1946 had the Juneau Icefield witnessed the kind of snow buildup that came this year. It was similar on a lot of other glaciers too....

Wolves back on endangered list Federal wildlife officials said Tuesday they want to remove wolves in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list -- again -- by early 2009. That declaration came on the same day a judge restored the predator's endangered status, as part of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists. It's been less than seven months since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stripped wolves of federal protection for the first time since 1974. The decision transferred control over the animals to state game agencies in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. But after wolves were allowed to be shot on sight across most of Wyoming -- and all three states began planning public hunts -- U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in July issued an injunction to block the killings. On Tuesday, Molloy went a step further, restoring the animal's endangered status. That means the public dispute over wolves in the Rockies will drag on. Ranchers and state wildlife agencies want hunting allowed to curb the wolves' tendency to prey on livestock. Meanwhile, environmentalists insist the wolf population remains in peril and could crash if the states get their way. Molloy's Tuesday order came at the request of federal biologists who acknowledged they had failed to prove the animal had fully recovered from near-decimation last century....

Memos tell wildlife officials to ignore global-warming impact New legal memos by top Bush administration officials say that the Endangered Species Act can't be used to protect animals and their habitats from climate change by regulating specific sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of global warming. The assessment, outlined in memos sent earlier this month and leaked Tuesday, provides the official legal justification for limiting protections under the Endangered Species Act. One of the memos, from the Interior Department's top lawyer, concluded that emissions of greenhouse gases from any proposed project can't be proved to have an impact on species or habitat, so it isn't necessary for federal agencies to consult with government wildlife experts about the impact of such gases on species as stipulated under the Endangered Species Act. The Oct. 3 memo from Interior Solicitor David Bernhardt to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, which was released Tuesday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, concluded that indirect effects on wildlife can't be traced to emissions from any specific source and that cumulative effects "are of no relevance" under the Endangered Species Act. Another document released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an Oct. 10 letter from James Lecky, the director of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Protected Species, agreed with a recent EPA finding that the harm from the greenhouse-gas emissions of a single coal-fired power plant would be so remote that it shouldn't provoke government action. The letter also agreed with the Fish and Wildlife Service, which argued in May, when the Interior Department listed the polar bear as a threatened species, that it wasn't possible to establish a link between a single source of carbon dioxide and specific harmful climate impacts....Go here to read the Solicitor Memo and here to read the NOAA letter.

Forest Service has OSHA violations OSHA found serious safety violations at 10 locations in the Salmon-Challis National Forest and cited the U.S. Forest Service for 51 violations and 77 repeat violations of safety regulations. The violations involved fall hazards, emergency egress design and maintenance, machine guarding, storage of compressed gas cylinders, liquefied petroleum gas, and flammable liquids and electrical hazards. “Federal agencies are required by executive order to comply with OSHA standards and must promptly abate unsafe working conditions,” said Richard S. Terrill, regional administrator for OSHA in Seattle. “These citations put the U.S. Forest Service on notice that improvements need to be made.”....The USFS has 77 repeat violations? Someone needs to cancel their permit.

Shadow looms over solar plan A relative of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and one of his former cabinet secretaries are part of an investment group that could score a lucrative payoff if regulators approve a solar energy complex near the Mojave Desert Preserve. The personal connections have raised questions about possible favorable treatment for a project being touted as a breakthrough in the development of solar power. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is the cousin of first lady Maria Shriver, and former state Environmental Protection Secretary Terry Tamminen were named senior advisers at VantagePoint Venture Partners last year. VantagePoint has a multimillion-dollar stake in BrightSource Energy, which plans to spend up to $2billion to construct solar power plants on nearly six square miles of land along the Nevada border. The project would be the first solar generating station on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. Companies from Wall Street to Europe are snapping up once-ignored wilderness for energy projects....

Gov calls for revision of federal law Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal is once again calling on federal lawmakers to rework a rule that lets agencies bypass painstaking environmental studies in order to fast-track oil and gas drilling. Freudenthal doesn't want the rule eliminated; he simply wants it revised, said Ryan Lance, the governor's deputy chief of staff. "We're going to be active in making sure this is remedied," Lance said. "We've offered specific language to Congress and the energy companies to change this several times over the last few years." The Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, sent auditors to Utah last week -- and tentatively plans to have personnel in Wyoming by the end of this month -- to examine the way the BLM has implemented a legal, but relatively new tool to exempt some oil and gas drilling from environmental review. At issue is a version of what's called a "categorical exclusion," which, in this case, allows land managers to skip in-depth environmental reviews for individual oil and gas drilling projects in areas where three wells have already been drilled, and where a previous environmental analysis was conducted within the past five years....
The “Ill Wind” of Government Policy The federal government encourages development in hazard-prone coastal areas by lowering the risks to residents with policies such as subsidized flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) charges premiums that are not sufficient to provide a catastrophe reserve for heavier loss years and thus encourages development in hazard-prone areas. When the NFIP was began in 1968, it was intended to guide development away from flood-prone areas, thus reducing federal disaster relief payments arising from loss of life and property. Unfortunately, the program, which has become an “ill wind that blows nobody any good,” promotes the outcome it was meant to prevent by shifting part of the cost of building in hazard-prone areas to citizens at large. Ordinarily, individuals respond to the rising costs associated with storm damage by moving out of harm’s way, if ever so reluctantly. Governmental policy thus increases damage costs from storms by neutralizing the market incentives that encourage a retreat from the sea and discourage excessive building in high risk coastal zones. In addition, state government policies subvert the message of insurance premiums. Wind damage caused by hurricanes (which is not covered by the NFIP) has imposed heavy costs on insurance companies, thus causing insurance premiums to increase. As coastal residents have seen their wind and hail insurance premiums soar, state governments have been pressured to intervene. All Southeastern state governments have created state-run Windstorm Underwriters Associations, called “wind pools,” that offer coverage where private insurance is not available and generally at lower rates than provided by individual insurers. In addition, there are other government policies, such as beach nourishment and the replacement of public infrastructure, that subsidize coastal development. A better approach is to allow market signals such as insurance premiums to encourage property owners to undertake activities to adapt to living in a hazardous area or to avoid building in such areas altogether. As insurance companies increase property insurance premiums in order to pay for increasing damage costs, homeowners will increasingly build more storm resistant homes and look for less risky locations....

Otters return to upper Rio Grande A native has returned home after nearly 60 years. Five river otters – a species once found in streams and rivers throughout New Mexico – were released Tuesday on Taos Pueblo in the water of the Rio Pueblo de Taos. The otters were trapped in Washington state under a reintroduction program that involves the pueblo, the state Department of Game and Fish, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico Friends of River Otters, a coalition of citizens, agencies and conservation groups dedicated to bringing otters back to New Mexico. River otters – highly social, playful, semi-aquatic members of the weasel family – are believed to have once inhabited the Gila, upper and middle Rio Grande, Mora, San Juan and Canadian river systems. They were occasionally mentioned in the journals of early settlers, but there have been no confirmed sightings of river otters in the state since 1953. Their disappearance was blamed largely on decades of trapping and habitat loss. A larger release of otters is scheduled on the Upper Rio Grande in November....

Developers and Conservationists Battle Over National Parks In a long-running saga that underscores a broader battle over commercial construction in and around national parks, voters in this tiny community just south of the Grand Canyon have thwarted the latest proposal by hotel developers. Tusayan, with just 500 residents and 174 registered voters, last month narrowly defeated a motion to incorporate as a city, a move that would have given it property-zoning power. The outcome deals a setback to Gruppo Percassi, an Italian developer that long has coveted building permits for ranchland and other property it owns in the area. In 2000, a countywide referendum doomed Percassi's previous project: a $300 million hotel and shopping complex in Tusayan. The tussle near one of the world's natural wonders is likely to continue, and it isn't an isolated conflict. In suburban Philadelphia, conservationists are trying to stop a $250 million museum, conference center and hotel from being built on private land inside Valley Forge National Historical Park, site of George Washington's 1777-78 winter military encampment. Backers of the plan say the complex would be a premier Revolutionary War educational center, while opponents say the location would desecrate the site and result in harmful traffic and pollution. The National Parks Conservation Association, an independent nonprofit group that is leading the opposition at Valley Forge, says a growing number of the 391 U.S. national parks face commercial development threats. Some 4.3 million acres of land inside national parks are privately owned tracts that existed when park boundaries were drawn or expanded....
“Worm Grunters” Collect Bait Worms by Inadvertently Imitating Mole Sounds Worm grunting involves going into the forest, driving a wooden stake into the ground and then rubbing the top of the stake with a long piece of steel called a rooping iron. This makes a peculiar grunting sound that drives nearby earthworms to the surface where they can be easily collected for fish bait. Despite a lot of speculation, worm grunters don’t really know why the technique works. But Catania, an associate professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt who studies moles, thought that the explanation might lie in Darwin’s remark: “It is often said that if the ground is beaten or otherwise made to tremble worms will believe that they are pursued by a mole and leave their burrows.” So this spring he traveled down to Florida and performed a number of experiments to test this hypothesis with the cooperation of veteran worm grunters Gary and Audrey Revell. His conclusion, that the humans are driving the worms to the surface by unknowingly mimicking the sound of digging moles, is reported in the Oct. 14 issue of the Public Library of Science....

Crockett 's grandson no chip off the old block The Oct. 15, 1876, edition of a New Mexico weekly carried a report from Cimarron detailing the death of a Texas outlaw named Davy Crockett. Just a coincidence? That was what everyone thought until Robert Crockett, son of the famous frontiersman and Alamo martyr, came to visit the grave. David Crockett was born in Tennessee 17 years after his legendary grandfather gave his life for the independence of Mexico's northernmost province. He was still just a boy in the 1850s, when his family moved to Texas and settled on a homestead in present-day Hood County that the state set aside for his widowed grandmother. Davy, as the youth was known, struck out on his own in the early 1870s. He wound up in northern New Mexico, where he bought a small cattle ranch east of Cimarron. Bored with the day-to-day drudgery of punching cows, Davy sold the spread, took a room in town and lived off the proceeds. For companionship he chose his former foreman, a no-count sponge named Gus Heffron, who was happy to help his old boss spend his money. Except for the occasional night in the local drunk tank, Davy managed to stay out of serious trouble. Handsome and generous to a fault, he was well-liked by the residents of Cimarron, who were willing to overlook his growing attachment to the bottle. All that changed on the night of Mar. 24, 1876. Davy, in his usual state of intoxication, reached for the door handle to exit a bar at the same exact moment an army cavalryman tried to enter the watering hole. Enraged by the short but spirited tug-of-war, the inebriated Texan pulled his pistol the instant the door flew open and shot the soldier dead. Remembering three other troopers seated at a table behind him, Davy spun around and emptied his six-gun into the trio. He hit all three cavalrymen, fatally wounding two. When the case came to trial six months later, the defendant blamed the triple murder on booze and his bad temper. Had the victims been white, Davy probably would have hanged. But the fact that they were freed slaves made all the difference in the world to the community and the judge, who let the killer off with a $50 fine and court costs. Davy should have thanked his lucky stars and taken the opportunity to turn over a new - and sober - leaf. Instead, he and his drinking buddy Heffron went on a two-week tear....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Rancher remembered as 'courageous'

Memorial services will be 2 p.m. Sunday at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum for Rob Cox, who died Friday, at Mesilla Valley Hospice, after a lengthy illness.

Cremation has taken place. In lieu of flowers, Cox's family requests that memorial donations be made to the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

For many years, Cox, 86, has been considered the patriarch of White Sands Missile Range. Prior to 1945, his family owned 150,000 acres on the east side of the Organ Mountains. About 90 percent of it was sold the U.S. government and became White Sands Proving Grounds and eventually White Sands Missile Range.

But the family retained the San Augustine ranchhouse it has owned since 1893 and Rob and his wife of 51 years, Murnie Cox, continued to live there.

"He's a man who had everything," said former WSMR spokesman Larry Furrow, who retired earlier this year. "He's the most courageous man I've known, the most honest man I've ever known, and quite simply the finest man I've ever known."

With the Cox ranch house within a quarter-mile of WSMR's main post, Cox frequently attended WSMR events and ceremonies the past 32 years. The most important building at WSMR, it's range control center, is named after Cox's father, W.W. Cox.

"He was quite patriotic," said Mark Cox, son of Rob Cox. "... He always said that selling the land to the government was the right thing to do. He often said that if we hadn't, we could have all ended up speaking German instead."

But Cox, a humble man, was more inclined to let his actions doing his talking. On a cold day in January 1945, 1st. Lt. Cox, as a member of Company A, 18th Tank Battalion, 8th Armored Division, led his platoon of M-4 Sherman Tanks, which he called "the Indians" in honor of his New Mexico heritage, into serious action on the Mosell River near Sinz, France.

Gunfire set the area ablaze and disabled several tanks, including Cox's. Although crew members were injured, Cox took action to protect his infantry coming up from the rear as well as maintain communications with other pined-down tanks.

In knee-deep snow and under fire, Cox ran from one tank to another to ensure communications were maintained. He also pulled an injured tank man to safety.

For gallantry in action during the Battle of the Bulge, Cox was awarded two Silver Stars and a Purple Heart.

But Cox rarely spoke about the military awards and downplayed his heroism.

"He didn't like talking about it," Mark Cox said. "He said medals didn't mean anything to him."

Cox was born in Las Cruces on Feb. 12, 1922 to Jim and Fannie Cox. He grew up at San Augustine Ranch and attended Las Cruces High School, where he was a star athlete, and a member of Las Cruces High's national champion stock judging team.

Steve Ramirez can be reached at sramirez@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5452.

WSMR patriarch

• Name: Robert C. Cox

• Age: 86

• Hometown: Las Cruces

• Family: Wife Marilyn "Murnie," sons Robert, James and Mark. Six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

• Occupation: Cattleman, rancher, cowboy

• Public service: Former Sierra County commissioner, served on the New Mexico Constitutional Convention of 1970.

• Military service: Served with the Army's 8th Armored Division in World War II. Fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded two Silver Star medals for gallantry in action.

• Education: Graduated from Las Cruces High School, where he played sports and was a member of the school's national champion stock judging team. Also graduated from Texas A&M University.

Game and Fish panel reaffirms commitment to wild wolves in Arizona The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted to continue supporting the state's role in managing the Mexican wolf-recovery program, which has cost some $18 million since its inception 26 years ago. "We absolutely appreciate how expensive this program is," Terry Johnson, the Game and Fish Department's endangered species coordinator, told the commission in a presentation covering the history of the wolf reintroduction and recovery program. Arizona has borne some $4.6 million of that cost - about half of the state's share coming from federal funds. New Mexico, a partner in the wolf-recovery effort, has paid a tenth of that toward wolf recovery - some $540,000. Reintroducing a predator that was wiped out in Arizona has long been a matter of working with people as much as wolves. Environmental groups and ranchers have often clashed over the program's management. The wolf's recovery area is largely in public lands open to grazing. The program is run under the umbrella of the Active Management Oversight Committee, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the U.S. Wildlife Services and the White Mountain Apache Tribe....

Let wolf leave endangered list The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should appeal last month's court decision placing the gray wolf back on the endangered species list in Wisconsin. The decision, which also affected Minnesota and Michigan, flies in the face of data showing the Wisconsin wolf population is greater than wildlife experts would prefer. The effect is to nullify the states' policies designed to manage the wolf population. In Wisconsin officials were forced to revoke eight permits allowing farmers to shoot wolves attacking livestock. A wolf population that is too large raises the risk of wolf attacks on farmers' valuable livestock. Last year, 30 farms in Wisconsin suffered livestock kills by wolves, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. Wolf attacks, in turn, risk a decline in public support for wolves in Wisconsin. Furthermore, an overpopulation risks disease and starvation for the wolves as well as negative effects on other wildlife....

Washington can’t manage wolves For years humans punished wolves for existing and hunted them to the brink of extinction. Now it is the humans who may be punished because several advocacy groups are insisting that the Great Lakes states be forbidden from reducing their wolf populations. This is an unfortunate idea, and while one can understand the advocacy groups’ goal of making sure wolves have a chance to rebuild their numbers, their procedure is mistaken and will lead to more bitterness about and perhaps harm to the animals they seek to protect. These groups sued to stop a decision by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove about 4,000 gray wolves in western Great Lakes states from the federal Endangered Species List. The wolves have reached management goals, and states such as Wisconsin wanted tools to hold their populations in check. Tools means mainly hunting, of course. That’s the same management tool used to stop deer herds from becoming so large that they decimate forests and crops in their quest for food. While we wait for a legal ruling, Wisconsin residents bear the burden of larger wolf packs. Since 1990, 671 animals — cows, horses, dogs, and others — have been killed or injured by wolves in Wisconsin, and since 1985 the state has paid slightly less than half a million dollars in wolf damage claims.....

Every Bug Is Sacred, Every Bug Is Great There used to be a lot more sage grouse in Nevada and our neighboring states to the north and east, 70 years ago. (But not necessarily 170 years ago, interestingly enough.) Then, in the 1960s, those who seek to drive sheep and cattle ranchers off the land got busy, eliminating both ranchers and state predator-control hunters. Populations of coyote, wildcats, crows and ravens skyrocketed. Those animals are predators of the sage grouse – particularly their young and their eggs. Surprise: Sage grouse numbers declined. In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to recommend the sage grouse for listing as “threatened or endangered,” given that there are still close to 100,000 of them, widely scattered out there. But the Idaho-based radical group known as the Western Watersheds Project sued, arguing that decision was politically motivated. They’re making good headway with U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Boise, Idaho, who has ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to review its decision. Should the green extremists succeed, public land administrators as well as private developers would have to seek permission from federal biologists, guaranteeing “enough grouse remain and habitat is protected” before they could do … well, anything....
Endangered species ruling could slow development in floodplains A ruling that development along dozens of rivers flowing from the Cascade Mountains to Washington state's Puget Sound jeopardizes endangered salmon, steelhead and killer whales could shape future construction in floodplains nationwide. At the heart of the issue is the National Flood Insurance Program, which for 40 years has regulated river corridor development but paid scant attention to endangered species. That could change. The "jeopardy opinion" from the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle , coupled with an injunction blocking development in Florida that threatens the habitat of the endangered Key Deer, may force major changes in the federal flood insurance program. The fisheries service has suggested a temporary moratorium on building in floodplains surrounding Puget Sound . The timeout would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency , which administers the flood insurance program, along with state and local jurisdictions, to sort out what, if any, new building restrictions may be required....
Utah governor says state is "open for business' for oil shale development A U.S. Interior Department official Monday defended, and Utah’s governor supported, the federal government’s push to remove regulatory hurdles to commercial oil shale development on public land. Foster Wade, deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals for the Interior Department, and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, spoke at a Colorado School of Mines oil shale symposium attended by some 350 people from around the world. Wade said the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts on oil shale come in response to the gap between the nation’s energy needs and supplies. “We have an energy demand that we are unable to meet at this point in time. We need to be working on all fuel energy in order to try to make up that deficit,” he said. Huntsman said his state holds an estimated 77 billion barrels of recoverable oil shale. A Republican, he urged the Interior Department to move forward with issuing commercial leasing regulations before a new presidential administration takes over in January. “My bottom line to you is, we in our state are open for business” for oil shale development, Huntsman told the symposium audience, which included numerous industry representatives....