Friday, October 31, 2008

Wyoming proposes changes in its wolf plan Wyoming is revising its gray wolf management plan in hopes of placating concerns about providing enough protection for the animals, but environmentalists said the changes are inadequate because wolves can still be shot on sight in most of the state. The state's revisions include new wording to clarify its commitment to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs of wolves and 150 individual wolves in the state and new wording that further restricts the state's ability to change trophy game boundaries. By revising its management plan, Wyoming is trying to avoid being left out of a new attempt by the federal government to remove the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list. But a representative of an environmental group advocating for the predator said the state's proposed changes are still not sufficient. "We do not feel that this plan goes far enough," Sierra Club representative Melanie Stein said....
Grijalva: Bush policies bad for federal public lands The Bush administration mounted a "concerted strategy" to reduce protections for federal public lands and to open them to all types of industry, a Tucson congressman says in a new report. The report lists more than 40 actions by federal agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management that Rep. Raúl Grijalva says harmed public lands. They often allowed mining, timber and other private industry to exploit resources at the environment's expense, he claims. Grijalva, a Democrat, is a congressional leader on public lands issues, as he chairs the National Parks, Forest and Public Lands subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee. However, Bush administration officials and agency managers have generally defended their actions, calling them efforts to restore balance to public lands policy after eight years of Clinton administration policies that more commonly sided with environmentalists. Federal officials have also cited budget pressures in explaining some of the decisions....
Mountain lion killed in Santa Ritas not rabid Rabies was not to blame for the strange behavior of a mountain lion that stalked a hiker and his dog last weekend in Madera Canyon, tests show. Following protocol, the Arizona Game & Fish Department tracked and killed the lion Sunday. Officials said the lion's overall preliminary necropsy showed nothing out of the ordinary. "He did appear to be healthy," said Leonard Ordway, Tucson regional supervisor for Game & Fish. A few tests are still pending, Ordway said, but so far nothing explains the lion's unusual behavior. Mountain lions usually keep their distance from humans, said Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service in Tucson. That was not the case Saturday, when a man hiking with his dog was stalked in the Santa Rita Mountains, according to Game & Fish....
A Solar Gold Rush Is Spreading From California to New Jersey Solar power is exploding in America, particularly in California. San Luis Obispo's Palm Theatre and Berkeley's Shotgun Players are now the first solar-powered theaters in the country; FedEx's distribution center in Fontana has a solar system covering 20,834 square feet; and Google's Mountain View campus boasts America's largest corporate solar installation. True to its pioneering spirit, California is leading the way -- but that's not to say other states aren't tagging quickly behind. There's New Mexico, with an abundance of arid land and sunlight, offering the perfect platform for large-scale solar thermal installation projects. New Mexico recently welcomed a project from Germany's Schott Solar, one of the world's leading solar companies, which has invested $100 million to build a solar equipment manufacturing plant outside Albuquerque. As the solar industry continues to swell, is there actually a foreseeable downside? Those in the industry say rooftop photovoltaic panels won't be enough to combat climate change; the need is for larger solar thermal systems like Nevada Solar One, the world's third-largest solar power plant, located just south of Boulder City, Nev., which went online in 2007. But big plants, usually built in the desert where the sun shines the brightest, require high-voltage transmission power lines to reach customers in the cities, and where those power lines are supposed to go is a divisive environmental issue. For example, in San Diego, the local utility company has faced opposition to building a power line through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California's largest state park and a vulnerable wilderness that environmentalists have vowed to protect. Similar battles might break out in the future as the need for renewable energy projects conflicts with where, exactly, to put them....
Bureau Proposes Opening Up Utah Wilderness to Drilling The federal Bureau of Land Management is reviving plans to sell oil and gas leases in pristine wilderness areas in eastern Utah that have long been protected from development, according to a notice posted this week on the agency's Web site. The proposed sale, which includes famous areas in the Nine Mile Canyon region, would take place Dec. 19, a month before President Bush leaves office. The targeted areas include parts of Desolation Canyon, White River, Diamond Mountain and Bourdette Draw. The bureau has sought to open these public lands to energy exploration since 2003, though it had earlier classified them as having "wilderness character." But the agency has been repeatedly blocked by federal court and administrative rulings....
Lincoln County mining ordinance urged To protect Lincoln County's natural resources and the health and safety of its residents, an ordinance regulating mining exploration and excavation should be approved, proponents argued last week. Steve Sugarman with the law firm of Belin & Sugarman, which specializes in public lands and water issues, said the U.S. Supreme Court already established the right of counties to impose conditions and regulations on mining operations on federal land, as long as they are not prohibitive. Speaking to county commissioners last week on behalf of Friends of the Capitans, he cited a New Mexico Appeals Court decision that specifically called on counties to regulate development issues tied to mining and not covered by federal or state law, such as traffic, noise, dust, compatibility to adjacent land use and the effect on surrounding property values. He presented ordinances less voluminous than Santa Fe's approach that were passed in Washoe County, Nev., and Mono County, Calif., for use as possible models on which to base an ordinance for Lincoln County. In a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Jackie Powell casting the lone negative, commissioners approved a motion by Commissioner Eileen Lovelace Sedillo instructing County Manager Tom Stewart and County Attorney Alan Morel to begin the process of developing an ordinance. A special meeting will be called, if needed, to issue a request for proposals as a first step. The ordinance would protect private property rights and would not exclude mining, only regulate it....
Sheepman appeals to neighbors for help Sheepman Ron Shirts asked his neighbors for help here Thursday, Oct. 23, in a sometimes emotional meeting on alleged conflicts between domestic sheep and bighorn. At issue is a draft Environmental Impact Statement in which the U.S. Forest Service proposes to eliminate all domestic sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest except for one or two allotments. The reason is the alleged transmission of pasteurella, a form of pneumonia, between domestic and bighorn sheep, said Alan Schroeder, a Boise attorney working with Ron Shirts and his brother Frank on the case. Four ranchers will lose their grazing permits under the proposed action, Joe Shirts said. The Forest Service cannot prove domestic sheep transmit pasteurella to bighorn, Schroeder said. Research indicates bighorn already carry a variety of disease pathogens. More likely vectors of transmission already exist in the Hells Canyon region, including birds. Telemetry data and herder experience show bighorn rarely mingle with domestic sheep on open range, he said. The potential for transferring disease pathogens between them is remote.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Special report: How our economy is killing the Earth THE graphs climbing across these pages (see graph, right, or explore in more detail) are a stark reminder of the crisis facing our planet. Consumption of resources is rising rapidly, biodiversity is plummeting and just about every measure shows humans affecting Earth on a vast scale. Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency. But are these efforts to save the planet doomed? A growing band of experts are looking at figures like these and arguing that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy(emphasis added). In this special issue, New Scientist brings together key thinkers from politics, economics and philosophy who profoundly disagree with the growth dogma but agree with the scientists monitoring our fragile biosphere....There are either environmentalists who mistakenly believe free markets and property rights are harmful to the environment, or there are socialists who are using the environmental movement to bring about the government they want.
Earth on course for eco 'crunch' The planet is headed for an ecological "credit crunch", according to a report issued by conservation groups. The document contends that our demands on natural resources overreach what the Earth can sustain by almost a third. The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. It says that more than three quarters of the world's population lives in countries where consumption levels are outstripping environmental renewal. This makes them "ecological debtors", meaning that they are drawing - and often overdrawing - on the agricultural land, forests, seas and resources of other countries to sustain them. WWF's David Norman says the world will need two planets by 2030. The report concludes that the reckless consumption of "natural capital" is endangering the world's future prosperity, with clear economic impacts including high costs for food, water and energy....Talk about your spin. The enviro's are clearly using the "credit crisis" and the political fallout from same to horn in on the legislative goodies. Watch for more of this tactic in the near future.
Global Warming Fantasies Meet Financial Contraction Whoever is elected president, global warming legislation is going to be passed in Washington next year. Legislation proposed by both John McCain and Barack Obama will require that the cost of energy to become so high that people will avoid using it. The serious question is: why would we do this in the current economic environment? Why would we take away capital that people would otherwise use to invest in companies that produce efficient things when that capital is already being destroyed at an alarming rate? Other nations that embraced the abject environmental failure known as the Kyoto Protocol and imposed higher energy costs are fleeing from climate change policies as their economies implode. Only the U.S. seems eager to commit economic suicide over global warming. Kyoto did nothing measureable about climate change. Global carbon dioxide emissions rose by the same amount they were supposed to fall because of it. All it cost was money. Germany ‘s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is probably the woman most responsible for the Protocol itself, now calls drastic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, "ill-advised climate policy"....
Big Brother vs. Burger and Fries Restaurants in some towns are now being forced to stop using trans fats. According to the latest biochemistry, trans fats are bad for you. No doubt. Many foodstuffs are bad for you, can even kill you, at least in the long run. Maybe — if you eat too much of them, exercise too little, and don’t get flattened by a Mack truck before your vessels clog. But what business is it of anyone in government what risks I take to enjoy my candy bar? And if it’s kosher to ban restaurants from using trans fats, what’s next, outlawing sugar, grease, and fast food? Outlawing fast food? McDonald’s will always be with us. Except in South Los Angeles, where a town council has just passed a year-long moratorium on new fast-food restaurants....No doubt we will soon have a black market for hamburgers and an FEA...Food Enforcement Administration.
Out of this world? Carter Co. rancher makes strange discovery A Carter County rancher discovered a strange object in her pasture, a bulky 'object' that she thought may have fallen out of the clear blue sky. Not knowing exactly what it was, she called First News. Daniel Armbruster has the story. The object that Carter County resident Taryn Walker found on her ranch may surprise you. On a small ranch in rural Carter County, it's not something you see every day. "It's got just really tiny, fine striations on it and then big deep craters, which are just different to me. I just don't know, I just don't think it's like a normal rock anything that’s out here.” Taryn Walker was walking through her pasture when she stumbled upon this. "I thought that maybe it had something to do with a fallen star.” So what is it? We took it to a local geologist and had him crack it open. It’s called chert, an unusual looking rock that formed thousands of years ago. Chert is a very hard sedimentary rock that can contain small fossils....
Actors Join Texas Cowboy Hall Of Fame Actors Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Corbin are headed for the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in January, officials said Wednesday. Jones is an eighth-generation Texan who is well known for both his acting and directing talent. Hall of Fame Officials say he's also an accomplished rancher and polo player. The 62-year-old won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in "The Fugitive." He was also in "Coal Miner's Daughter," "JFK," "Batman Forever" and "Men in Black." Corbin, 68, was born in Lamesa and graduated from Texas Tech University. He now lives and ranches in Fort Worth. He was nominated for an Emmy twice for his role in "Northern Exposure" and appeared in numerous other television series, including "Dallas." Corbin's films include "Urban Cowboy," "WarGames" and "Stir Crazy." Both men were in "No Country for Old Men" and "In the Valley of Elah." Four other 2009 inductees to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame were announced Wednesday. Tyler Magnus was a nine-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, and Rope Myers a former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champion steer wrestler. Ken Welch was a champion saddle bronc rider in the PRCA. The late Jim Bob Altizer is a member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
FBI investigating mailings labeled 'anthrax' Several newspapers and television stations, along with at least one congressman's office, received envelopes Wednesday labeled "anthrax," law enforcement authorities said. Tests have turned up no evidence so far that the packages were dangerous. Investigators said many of the mailings had the same fictitious Sacramento return address and contained an envelope marked "anthrax" and a CD labeled with a digital image of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. So far, all of the powder in the packages has tested negative, said FBI agent Darrell Foxworth in San Diego. The packages the agency has identified so far were sent to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, two Sacramento television stations and the office of Rep. George Radanovich in Modesto, said FBI agent Steve Dupre in Sacramento....
Homeland Security to Change Airline Boarding Process The Department of Homeland Security will take responsibility from airlines for checking passenger names against watch lists beginning in January and will require all commercial passengers for the first time to provide their full name, date of birth and gender as a condition of boarding a flight, U.S. officials said today. The changes will be phased in next year for the 2 million passengers each day aboard domestic and international flights to, from or over the United States. Commercial passengers who do not provide the additional information will not be granted boarding passes, Hawley said, although he said he could envision rare exceptions. Secure Flight cost taxpayers $200 million and five years to develop, and will cost an estimated $80 million a year to operate. Starting next year, DHS has proposed requiring residents of roughly three-dozen friendly nations who can travel to the United States without a visa to register online with the U.S. government at least 72 hours before departure. Airlines and cruise lines also are being required to collect digital fingerprints from all foreign travelers as they leave the country. Next June, DHS also is proposing to require all travelers entering the United States by land to present a passport or similar secure form of identification and proof of citizenship. Finally, DHS is pushing under its REAL ID initiative to require all domestic passengers to present more secure and standardized state-issued driver's licenses or equivalent ID cards as a condition of boarding flights....
Expanding Border Powers Creating ‘Constitution-Free Zone’ That Covers Two-Thirds of Americans The extraordinary powers of customs and border agents to invade the privacy of individuals at the U.S. border are spreading inland and creating what amounts to a “Constitution-free Zone” that covers fully two-thirds of the American population, the American Civil Liberties Union said today in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “The authorities can do things at the border that they could never do to citizens and residents inside our country under the Constitution,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Yet the government is asserting that some of these powers extend as far as 100 miles inside the actual border. It is a classic example of law enforcement powers expanding far beyond their proper boundaries – in this case, literally.” At the press conference, the ACLU released a map showing the 100-mile “border region” claimed by the government, and cities and states that fall within it. The map, which was created using the latest census data, shows that fully two-thirds of the U.S. population, including 9 of the nation’s top 10 largest metro areas, is within the border zone...Go here for their Fact Sheet.
Man evicted for shooting thief A man and his family have been served with an eviction notice after he legally protected his property by shooting at a would-be thief. The unnamed resident at Landera apartments in San Antonio, Texas, took action after neighbors complained about having their vehicles broken into or stolen, KENS 5 Eyewitness News reported. Vandals attacked his apartment, shattering a window and breaking into his car. "It's just tough to swallow something that you work so hard for to get taken away from you so easily," he said. The burglars returned Tuesday, smashed his car window and ran away. The man called police and filed a report. "I just told my neighbor, maybe we should stay up, keep an eye on things tonight," he said. The intruders came back three hours later. "The driver's side guy got out, ran toward my vehicle," he said. Rather than watching strangers steal and destroy his possessions, the man ran outside and fired his shotgun five or six times, according to the report. He managed to hit one of the suspects with a bullet. He is not facing charges. "Texas law states you can protect your personal property, even if it's deadly force," he said. To his dismay, the apartment served his family an eviction notice. "We had three days to leave," he said....
US official: Mexican cartels murder, kidnap in US U.S. drug czar John Walters said Friday that Mexico's drug cartels are crossing the border to kidnap and kill inside the United States, and promised that an anti-drug aid package to help Mexico to fight the gangs will be ready soon. Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, was in Mexico for two days to discuss efforts with local officials to stem killings, weapons trafficking and money laundering by Mexican cartels and their U.S. associates. "Some of these groups not only engage in crime and violence not only in Mexico and along the border, but they come across and kidnap, murder and carry out assassinations," Walters told reporters. "These groups do not respect the border."....
Mexican official: Drug spy says he leaked DEA info A major drug cartel has infiltrated the Mexican attorney general's office and may have paid a spy inside the U.S. Embassy for details of DEA operations, Mexican prosecutors said Monday. The Drug Enforcement Administration's intelligence chief expressed concern about the alleged spy's claims, but said he couldn't confirm that the Embassy had been infiltrated, and that it was too early to pull out undercover agents for fear their identities may have been compromised. Mexico's Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said five officials of his Organized Crime unit were arrested on allegations they served as informants for the Beltran-Leyva cartel. He said there are indications other spies still work inside his agency. The Embassy employee, who also at one time worked for Interpol at the Mexico City airport, is now a protected witness after telling Mexican officials in Washington that he leaked details of DEA operations to the cartel, an attorney general's official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The official said he was not authorized to speak on the record....
Targeted, some drug dealers switch to prostitution A federal crackdown on drug dealers has succeeded in taking some of Boston's most dangerous offenders off the streets, but it is also driving some dealers and gang leaders to pursue another line of criminal work: prostitution. Law enforcement officials and victim advocates say girls as young as 14 have become a prized commodity for criminals who would rather exploit them than run the risk of serving a long federal sentence for dealing drugs. "The girl has become the new drug," said Kelley O'Connell, a sergeant detective who runs the Boston Police Department's human trafficking unit, which has been working with the drug unit to track dealers who may have turned to prostitution....This is progress?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Black-tailed prairie dogs clawing their way back in southern Arizona Popping out of its burrow, a black-tailed prairie dog seems a natural part of this grass-covered expanse. It would seem natural, that is, if the hole into its burrow weren't a plastic tube. Or if a cage weren't keeping it from going anywhere fast. Or if two people from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, camping nearby, weren't keeping an eye on it through binoculars. Seventy-four black-tailed prairie dogs were brought here in early October from a ranch in New Mexico. They're starting out in acclimation pens on 10 acres of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, 45 miles southeast of Tucson. While not everyone around here celebrating their arrival, Game and Fish biologist Kyle McCarty said prairie dogs are key to this area's environment. It's the prairie dog's ability to dig — and dig and dig — that benefits the environment, he said. Prairie dog burrows aerate the soil, help water reach aquifers faster and provide habitats for other species, and the creatures' waste fertilizes the rangeland grasses on which prairie dogs and cattle feed....
Forest Service needs saving from itself The Forest Service wants help saving the forest. And we’re kind of groping for a metaphor here. So did you hear the one about the guy who killed his parents and threw himself on the mercy of the court on account of being an orphan? How about the one about getting Wall Street grifters to advise the federal government on how to dole out $700 billion to, well, Wall Street? So now the Forest Service, with great sincerity and community spirit, wants to set up an advisory group to help update and transform the current, nearly meaningless, quarter-century-old forest plan. It’s an urgent task — given the desperate and dangerous condition of the forest, almost entirely as a result of a century of Forest Service mismanagement. Once upon a time, the Rim Country had rolling miles of ponderosa pines, grasslands and myriad streams. Harmless ground fires burnt through every five years and you could fish Pine Creek. Then the Forest Service took over and started managing the forest as a great, money-losing tree farm. So now, instead of 50 trees per acre, we have 1,000. Instead of harmless ground fires, catastrophic wildfire threatens every Rim community. Instead of organics comprising 5 percent to 10 percent of the soil, they make up about half a percent. Instead of 1,000 miles of trout streams, we have dusty washes. Oh yeah — and the timber industry’s gone and the ranchers are going. Thank you, boys....
Bush Adminstration Proposes Second Interagency Group for Bison n the waning days of the Bush administration, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne Tuesday announced a plan to conserve bison, also called buffalo, with a second interagency group. He said the department will work with state, tribal and agricultural interests to promote cooperative conservation in bison management. There are now more than 500,000 plains bison in North America, most privately owned, in herds of less than 1,000 that are fenced within relatively small areas.
"While the days of millions of free-roaming bison are gone," Kempthorne said, "our initiative acknowledges the important role of bison on the landscape, in tribal culture and in our national heritage. We willl work in partnerships to sustain a strong and well-coordinated conservation effort throughout this country, throughout this century." The Department of the Interior now manages almost 7,000 bison in seven national wildlife refuges and five national parks. Kempthorne says he will establish a federal-state interagency working group to coordinate management and science activities related to Interior's bison herds and to carry out cooperative efforts with other parties. The group will include the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense, the secretary said....Wow, what a great group of managers. Let's hope the bison can survive them.
$10,000 offered in grizzly shooting case The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is offering up to $10,000 for information about the shooting of two yearling grizzly cubs near Union Pass Road on Oct. 19. The bears were found on Warm Springs Mountain west of Dubois. One was a male, the other female, Game and Fish said in a statement. Investigators believe they were shot late Oct. 18 or early the next day. Two hunters reported finding the bears. “Without information to the contrary, we have to assume these bears were taken illegally rather than in self-defense,” Regional Wildlife Supervisor Kent Schmidlin said in a statement....
Sierra fires have become larger and more damaging in the last 20 years Forest fires in the Sierra Nevada have grown larger, more frequent and more damaging in the last two decades, according to a study that suggests much of the blame rests with the government's century-long war on wildfire. The study, published online this month in the journal Ecosystems, found that between 1984 and 2006, the proportion of burned areas where no trees survived increased, on average, to nearly 30%, from 17%. Climate is playing some role, the study said. But it blamed a bigger factor: Federal efforts to quench most blazes quickly have thwarted the Sierra Nevada's natural cycle of frequent, house-cleaning fires and left forests packed with fuel. "This just blind effort to continue to put everything out is probably backfiring on us," said Hugh Safford, a U.S. Forest Service ecologist and one of the study's authors. "We've created our own nightmare." Blazes in mid- and low-elevation forests have grown more severe in large part because there is more to burn. A jump in average annual precipitation across the range since 1908 has promoted forest growth, while a rise in temperature is diminishing the mountain snowpack and lengthening the fire season....
Under the radar: Canada's, Mexico's radioactive waste comes into Utah Federal regulators gave their blessing to low-level radioactive waste from Canada and Mexico that is now buried in Utah. But Utah never got the memo. Nor did the regional radioactive waste oversight organization Utah belongs to. That foreign waste could be imported into Utah without the knowledge of state and regional officials might seem hard to believe in such a highly regulated business as radioactive waste. But federal regulators saw no reason to keep Utah in the loop on such small shipments. Dane Finerfrock, director of Utah's Radiation Control Division, checked his files Monday and found no letters giving a heads-up about the imports, despite the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's stated policy of keeping "those affected" in the loop. There is no listing for such letters to Utah and the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste on the NRC's online information service. "Obviously, the governor [Jon Huntsman Jr.] says it's not alright" for foreign waste to be disposed of in Utah, Finerfrock said. "The only way we can know is if we are notified, so obviously it's not alright." Steve Dembek, an import-license officer for the NRC, said the agency does not notify Utah and the compact when the residual waste is "not significant."....
Track the salmon in California AN INNOVATIVE TRACKING system used in the Northwest came to some surprising discoveries while tracking juvenile salmon migrating downstream to the Pacific Ocean. Scientists learned that just as many salmon or more survived going over eight dams on the Northwest's Snake and Columbia Rivers as others did going down a major river in British Columbia without any dams at all. The study was published in the online edition of the Public Library of Science Biology and it arrives just when salmon advocates are in a battle in federal court with the Bush administration and dam advocates over whether the Columbia Basin dam system can be made safe enough for salmon to satisfy regulations under the Endangered Species Act. What the study suggests is that there's a chance salmon can survive going over dams as easily as traveling down rivers that do not have dams. The tracking system used is called the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking, where fish were implanted with an acoustic transmitter about the size of an almond....
Companies wary as U.S. shapes illegal logging rules A new U.S. law aimed at stopping illegal logging that generates billions of dollars and threatens the world's forests is causing concern among companies on the front line of implementing the legislation. "The intent was good, but I think it lacked many practical features that something of this magnitude ought to have," said Jon Kent, a lobbyist for the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, during a discussion at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The new law, which will be phased in over two years, requires companies to declare the country of origin as well as the genus and species of any wood or other plant material they import, with exceptions for common food crops and cultivars like corn, cotton or cut flowers. Companies that trade in illegally sourced wood or file false import declarations would have their goods confiscated and could face criminal penalties as well....
Document casts further doubt on Wyo's wolf plan A document released Monday further signals that Wyoming might not be part of in a new federal plan to remove wolves -- once again -- from the endangered species list. It appears the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will at least call on Wyoming to drop its "dual status" plan for wolves, and classify the canines as trophy game animals throughout the state, officials confirmed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday released a draft version of a formalized agreement -- called a memorandum of understanding -- meant to address concerns about a possible lack of genetic exchange among the three main wolf populations in Wyoming, Montana and central Idaho. The lack of interbreeding among the three wolf populations -- and an apparent disregard for its importance -- was cited as one of the central inadequacies of the Bush administration's plan to delist wolves, in a recent U.S. District Court ruling. This new formal agreement to ensure "genetic connectivity" could potentially be signed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states in the Northern Rockies....
Hunting of large game with firearms prohibited in Fannin units Hunters are now prohibited from using firearms to hunt large game in the Fannin units of the Caddo National Grasslands, according to an order signed by Forest Supervisor Fred Salinas. The order allows bow hunting for whitetail deer and feral hogs and no larger than No. 4 shot for small game. For more information on hunting restrictions, contact Caddo National Grasslands District Ranger Jim Crooks at 940-627-5475.
Ranchers organize vote on feedlot union issue Ranchers for Country Natural Beef posted election notices Tuesday to settle a long-simmering dispute over whether workers at the feedlots that handle their cattle want to join the United Farmworkers Union. Stacy Davies, who manages the massive Roaring Springs Ranch in Frenchglen and is on the board of Country Natural Beef, says boycotts organized by the union have hurt them economically and calling in the governor and religious leaders to settle the dispute has not worked, so they are holding their own election. The 85 workers at Beef Northwest Feeders feedlots in Nyssa, Boardman and Quincy, Wash., will vote next week, with results to be announced Nov. 10, Davies said. Farm Workers National Vice President Erik Nicholson said they already have signed cards, verified by a third party, from a majority of workers indicating they want to join the union, and charged that intimidation of workers made any new election invalid....So why does the UFW oppose the secret ballot? Watch for national legislation to ok these card signing schemes as the Dem's take over.
Merced farmers struggling with rampant theft Despite new laws and a sheriff's task force in the works, rural crime against farmers and ranchers continues to grow in Merced County. From sprinkler heads to fuel, thefts are happening almost daily. Merced County Sheriff's Department spokesman Tom MacKenzie said thefts have become so common that some farmers don't bother to report them anymore. "They are getting hit daily," MacKenzie said. "But we want them to report so we can have the quickest response." MacKenzie said the department has made ag theft a priority, and deputies will respond quickly to calls from growers....
Don't doctor your pet python A Virginia Beach woman apparently was strangled to death by her 13-foot pet python as she tried to administer medication to the snake, police said. The husband of the victim, 25-year-old Amanda Ruth Black, found her lying on the floor late Tuesday night in front of a large, empty snake cage in an upstairs bedroom of their home, police spokesman Adam Bernstein said. Animal-control officers found the snake, a reticulated python with tiger-stripe markings, in the room. The snake was "extremely agitated and required the force of two animal-control officers to restrain it," Bernstein said. A preliminary autopsy showed Black died of asphyxiation caused by the compression of her neck, and investigators believe the snake killed her by wrapping itself around her and squeezing, Bernstein said....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Army targeted 7 million acres in '04 In the long battle over the Army's plan to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, it's known as "The Big Map" because it shows the 238,000-acre training range northeast of Trinidad swelling by millions of acres until it engulfs the entire southeastern corner of Colorado. While Army officials have disowned or dismissed the map over the past two years whenever ranchers fighting the expansion have waved it as the Pentagon's true goal, opponents finally have unearthed the May 2004 study by Fort Carson planners that explains the big map. The study bluntly urges the Army to purchase 6 million acres of private land around Pinon Canyon, plus another 1 million acres of Forest Service land in a multi-phase process, creating the largest Army training reservation in the U.S. The plan puts the land acquisition costs at roughly $1 billion and says that 17,263 people in five counties would be "displaced." And the first step in that "big map" calls for the Army to purchase 80,000 acres directly south of the current Pinon Canyon site, which is almost exactly what Army officials announced they would settle for in July....
Obama pans Bush's approach to energy development Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says the federal government should collaborate with communities and groups affected by energy development across the West. Obama told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent after his rally in Denver Sunday that another goal should be sustaining the other natural resources in the path of energy development. “I have been troubled by how the Bush administration approaches it, which seems to always have the scales tilted toward unbridled development without considering the views of local communities,” Obama said. “When it comes to oil shale right now,” Obama said, “I think we have to do more research and more science to discover whether or not the amount of oil that would be generated would justify what would inevitably be some disruption of the landscape here in Colorado.” Obama added that it's important for the country to develop its natural resources, and that “Colorado is blessed with a lot of natural resources.” Development plans, though, should include input from conservationists, hunters and anglers and ranchers as well as business interests, he said....
EPA to Issue Controversial Pwr Plant Rules The Bush administration plans to finalize by next week controversial rules that critics say would allow power plants to spew out more pollution without installing new pollution controls, according to people familiar with the matter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had outlined the most recent version of the rules earlier this year. The regulation was aimed at making it easier for older power plants to extend their lifespans and make upgrades without having to install costly new equipment. Under current policy, power plants that make upgrades and increase annual emissions must install pollution-control equipment. But the proposed rules are tied to an hourly rate of emissions. As long as hourly emissions stay at or below a historical maximum, power plants would in essence be treated as if they were running more cleanly, even if their total emissions increased as plant operators stepped up operations....
Arctic is melting even in winter The Arctic icecap is now shrinking at record rates in the winter as well as summer, adding to evidence of disastrous melting near the North Pole, according to research by British scientists. They have found that the widely reported summer shrinkage, which this year resulted in the opening of the Northwest Passage, is continuing in the winter months with the thickness of sea ice decreasing by a record 19% last winter. Usually the Arctic icecap recedes in summer and then grows back in winter. These findings suggest the period in which the ice renews itself has become much shorter. Dr Katharine Giles, who led the study and is based at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at University College London (UCL), said the thickness of Arctic sea ice had shown a slow downward trend during the previous five winters but then accelerated. She said: “After the summer 2007 record melting, the thickness of the winter ice also nose-dived. What is concerning is that sea ice is not just receding but it is also thinning.” The cause of the thinning is, however, potentially even more alarming. Giles found that the winter air temperatures in 2007 were cold enough that they could not have been the cause....
Omnibus Land Package: More Energy Off Limits 1082 pages. $3 billion in earmarks. At least 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil off limits. Congress is at it again. In an attempt to squeeze an omnibus package during the lame-duck session, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid said that beginning November 17th a debate over a public lands bill that includes 160 pieces of legislation will take place. The bill contains ridiculous earmarks such as $3.5 million to celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine Florida in 2015 and $5 million on botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida. Even more alarming is the more than 100 different land-grab bills (bills allowing federal government to take ownership of land) that would restrict access to valuable energy resources including oil shale areas. The reality is that the federal government already owns 650 million acres of land, including 85% of Nevada, 69% of Alaska, 57% of Utah, 53% of Oregon. Basically, the government owns the West....
Reid's Deadly Land Grab One reason Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking about calling the Senate back to the nation’s capital after the election is to seek passage of his Omnibus Land Management Act of 2008. Enactment of this 1,000+ page monstrosity of a bill will be disastrous for American energy independence, as well as for hundreds of millions of poor people living on the edge of starvation around the globe. If that connection seems strained, consider the following: Reid’s bill is actually a combination of more than 100 separate bills, each of which adds to the lands owned by the federal government in the American West. It’s not enough that the federal government already controls more than 650 million acres of Western land. Reid and company want to put millions more acres under the dead hand of the federal bureaucracy, and thereby prevent development of rich new energy resources that could help free America from dependence upon foreign oil. Experts agree there are billions of barrels of recoverable oil in oil shale areas of these lands, as well as massive stores of natural gas and coal. As Americans for Tax Reform notes in a recent letter to the Senate, “by restricting access to land for energy exploration, this legislation is limiting the potential of the economy and directly interfering with America’s entrepreneurial drive. By creating unnecessary new ‘conservation’ programs, million of additional acres of land will be managed by a vast government bureaucracy.”....
Fish policies upheld in court ruling A federal judge in Fresno ruled Monday that the U.S. government has discretion to recognize differences in steelhead fish populations when determining whether they are eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act. U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger issued a 168-page ruling on two challenges to how the National Marine Fisheries Service viewed California's steelhead populations. One case challenged the government's practice of counting hatchery steelhead populations separately from wild populations. The Pacific Legal Foundation had argued that Endangered Species Act listing decisions could be based on the numbers of hatchery steelhead produced each year. Based on that, the foundation had asked the court to remove five separate populations of steelhead from the list of endangered species. In his decision, Wanger wrote that the "best science available" used by the NMFS "strongly indicated that naturally-spawned and hatchery-born [steelhead] are different."....
Bottled water gets the boot in Providence Providence Mayor David Cicilline says he’s signing an executive order prohibiting city departments from spending taxpayer money on bottled water. The ban on single-serving bottles would take effect Jan. 1 and is intended to reduce environmental waste and promote confidence in the city’s water supply....So that's how you "promote confidence in the city's water supply", you ban the competition. Isn't that how the mafia did it?
Rancher sues oil company in ND saltwater spill A rancher is suing an Oklahoma oil company over a pipeline that twice spilled saltwater into a creek and on land where she runs her cattle in northwestern North Dakota. Linda Monson, of Alexander, said nothing but weeds have grown where Zenergy, Inc., of Tulsa, Okla., spilled salty water. "There's nothing growing where they had those spills, and my cows still refuse to drink from the creek," she said. Monson was one of about a dozen ranchers affected by the saltwater spill near Alexander that was discovered in January 2006. The spill has been described as the worst in North Dakota's oil history. The saltwater, a byproduct of oil production, flooded a stock pond and a beaver dam, and flowed into Charbonneau Creek, a tributary of the Yellowstone River. Monson said a similar spill occurred in August 2005 that never was reported to authorities. Saltwater from the pipeline, containing water 10 times as salty as sea water, killed fish, turtles and plants along the creek after both spills, she said....
Is Ranching Sustainable? I hear often from livestock proponents that ranching is an economically sustainable use of western rangelands. Unfortunately many interested in conservation also believe this myth, and it has unfortunate public policy implications. As University of Montana economist Tom Power has noted, most people have a rear view mirror of their local and regional economies. They almost never know what is happening in the present and their ability to predict the future is even less accurate. Ranching is doomed in the West by rising land values. Ranching, like all agriculture, persists on marginal land—lands that can’t provide a higher monetary return doing something else—usually real estate development. When land prices rise to the point that one cannot reasonably be expected to return sufficient profit to pay a mortgage on such property running cows, growing wheat or whatever, it signals the end of that industry—even though it may take a long time for the industry to completely disappear from the regional landscape. It is this long lingering death that fools people into believing ranching is sustainable. With regards to ranching in the West, land values have already marginalized the industry. Few are buying ranches in the West to raise cows, or at least to make a profit raising cows. Today’s ranch purchaser is usually an amenity buyer....
Pasco cattleman sues Agriculture over regulations A Pasco cattleman wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rewrite its regulations on country-of-origin labeling for beef. Easterday Ranches has sued the USDA in U.S. District Court in Spokane. The regulations add to the costs for the U.S. beef industry and consumers, said Cody Easterday, president of the company. Foreign-born cattle have to be segregated from U.S.-born cattle, and the two can't be slaughtered on the same day, he said. Suppliers and buyers need to keep extensive records, and buyers have to ensure the meat is kept separated in the processing plant, he said. Commercial buyers are paying as much as $30 less per head for Canadian or Mexican cattle, while there is no premium on U.S. cattle, explained Easterday, a third-generation rancher whose company markets 60,000 cattle annually. But most importantly, the regulations don't add to food safety, Easterday said, because all beef slaughtered in the U.S. is subject to the same safety inspections. The country of origin regulations also contradict the North American Free Trade Act, Easterday said....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stevens Convicted of Concealing $250,000 in Gifts U.S. Senator Ted Stevens was convicted of all seven felony charges of failing to report gifts from a company in his home state of Alaska, a possibly fatal blow to the career of the Senate's longest-serving Republican. Stevens, 84, was convicted in Washington of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms. He was accused of hiding more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts from Veco Corp., an Alaska oil-services company, Bill Allen, the company's founder, and other friends. ``It's not over yet,'' Stevens told his wife Catherine as they left the courtroom. Later, he said in a statement he is innocent and will ``fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have.'' He said he is still seeking re-election Nov. 4. ``This is obviously the worst possible outcome, not only legally but politically, for Senator Stevens,'' said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. Even so, she said, ``Remember, this is a guy whose poll numbers went up during the trial.'' Stevens, a member of the Senate since 1968, is the first sitting U.S. senator convicted of a felony since 1981, when the late New Jersey Democrat Harrison Williams Jr. was found guilty of bribery and conspiracy. The false-statement charges carry a maximum prison term of five years....
Less Ice In Arctic Ocean 6000-7000 Years Ago Recent mapping of a number of raised beach ridges on the north coast of Greenland suggests that the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free. ”The climate in the northern regions has never been milder since the last Ice Age than it was about 6000-7000 years ago. We still don’t know whether the Arctic Ocean was completely ice free, but there was more open water in the area north of Greenland than there is today,” says Astrid Lyså, a geologist and researcher at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU)....Hey Al Gore, what were the greenhouse gases 6,000 years ago? Will you and the UN blame it on buffalo farts?
Bush Administration Rushes Regulatory Changes Before Time Is Up The Bush administration is hurrying to push through regulatory changes in politically sensitive areas such as endangered-species protection, dismaying opponents on the left, just as conservatives were irritated by rules rushed out at the end of the Clinton administration. Proposals now in final stages of review at various federal agencies affect mining, endangered-species protection, health-care policy and other areas. In some cases, the administration has set unusually short deadlines for the public to comment -- so short that one agency summoned employees across the country to Washington this week to help agency leaders vet 200,000 comments in the space of four days. The rush to cement new regulations is a common ritual at the end of a presidency. When President Bill Clinton left office in 2001, conservatives accused him of pushing through numerous "midnight regulations" -- last-minute changes intended to cement his legacy before Republicans took power. In one January 2001 action, Mr. Clinton barred logging and road building in 60 million acres of federal wilderness -- outraging logging companies and many Western state voters. Earlier this year, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten set a Nov. 1 deadline for federal agencies to take final action on new regulations, allowing an exception for "extraordinary circumstances." Mr. Bolten's directive was aimed in part at avoiding a repeat of the Clinton administration's last-minute rush. Now, with the date approaching, federal agencies in some cases appear likely to extend action past the Nov. 1 deadline....Two gutless "leaders" and we're about to elect another one (no matter who wins).
Watching Yellowstone's Wolves On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took steps to revive a 2007 proposal to remove the gray wolf of the northern Rockies from the Endangered Species List. Environmentalists howled, calling it a last-gasp effort by the Bush administration to delist wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service had officially delisted the wolves in March, and afterward wildlife officials in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana developed management plans that included hunting seasons. In Wyoming, anyone could shoot a wolf at any time in most of the state. A coalition of conservation groups sued in federal court. In July, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy issued an injunction that put the wolves back on the endangered list. Now Fish and Wildlife is reopening its plan for public comment, making clear that it believes the wolves have recovered sufficiently to allow the states to take over their management. Further litigation is a certainty. "All wolf stuff will always be in court," says Ed Bangs, the agency's wolf recovery coordinator. But for every 100 wolves at least six months of age, only 74 will live through the year, Bangs says. Of those that will not, 10 will be killed by government agencies because they attacked livestock. Another 10 will be killed illegally. Another three will die accidentally -- struck by a car, for example. And three will die from natural threats, including being killed by other wolves....
Preserving Western Agriculture and Open Space Perhaps no image is more emblematic of the changing West then an old barn surrounded by field of new houses. The irony in the image, of course, is that as residential development invades the West the agricultural land with its open space and wildlife habitat that draws people here is compromised. “What will happen if you lose us?” asked southwestern Montana rancher Jim Hagenbarth. “The last crop we plant will be a subdivision. It will destroy all the habitat that we’ve worked to preserve.” Hagenbarth spoke as part of a panel discussion on how to preserve working farms and ranches in face of mounting development pressure at NewWest.Net’s 3rd Annual Real Estate and Development Conference in the Northern Rockies in Missoula, Mont. on Friday....
Biofuels might not be the greenest of alternatives Could gasoline be more green than biofuels, the farm-grown darlings of Iowa farmers and Willie Nelson? The counterintuitive, provocative question has been posed by several University of Texas researchers in a pair of recent papers that look at how much water is required to produce fuels such as gasoline and ethanol. The papers underscore the trade-offs at play as the United States plots its energy future. An analysis by the researchers, postdoctoral fellow Carey King and mechanical engineering professor Michael Webber, shows that the entire biofuel production cycle — from growing irrigated crops to pumping biofuel into a car — can consume 20 or more times as much water for every mile traveled than is used in the production of gasoline. "We're trading off foreign oil for domestic water," Webber said in an interview. Webber is also associate director of UT's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. Biofuels make up only a fraction of the fuel at the pump and the federal government has locked in subsidies to encourage biofuel production. Under a current mandate, at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel must be blended into motor-vehicle fuel sold in America by 2012. By 2030, Americans are set to get about 15 billion gallons a year from biofuels. Water consumption by light-duty vehicles, in turn, will increase from 1.4 trillion gallons a year in 2005 to nearly 2.7 trillion gallons in 2030, according to a second paper written by King and Webber, along with Bureau of Economic Geology associate director Ian Duncan. The paper was presented in August at the International Conference on Energy Sustainability, organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers....
Landowners concerned with frog habitat plan The California red-legged frog that helped make Calaveras County famous long ago has now become infamous among some local groups. Proposed expansion of designated critical habitat for the frog, declared a threatened species in 1996, calls for a 4,449-acre section of the county to be part of a statewide expansion of protected areas for the amphibian. According to the California Farm Bureau Federation, FWS rules allow ranching activities to continue despite potential for "taking" of a protected species. However, the Farm Bureau notes the proposed designation can harm ranchers who participate in conservation programs under the federal farm bill as they could see applications delayed by lengthy consultation requirements subsequently imposed. Concern for the frogs' habitat has previously stirred up snags in projects in northern Calaveras County. In January 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to issue a permit to clean up Cosgrove Creek in Valley Springs, making flooding a greater hazard within the area. Franziska Schabram, a Valley Springs rancher, called the delay on repairs to Gillam Road, held up by frog habitat considerations, "a nightmare." Initially, Schabram said she was "kind of excited" when told red-legged frogs were found on the ranch she bought with her husband three years ago. "That's part of the heritage here," she said. However, the gravel road could not be maintained by the county because of the discovery and "fell into total disrepair," she said....
Urban-rural interests squabble over water Neighbors across the West have squabbled over water and who gets to use it since the first irrigation ditches were dug. While many of those decades-old disagreements continue, more and more farmers and ranchers find themselves arguing with urban neighbors. At the height of the development boom, three or four years ago, 1,800 acres a year of prime agricultural land was being converted to urban uses in the Treasure Valley. The Magic Valley and eastern Idaho also saw urban growth. A few irrigation districts in Idaho, including the Post Falls Irrigation District in North Idaho, have become totally urbanized and have either dissolved or changed focus. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, 109 canals throughout the Pacific Northwest are defined as urbanized. Of those, 42 deliver 200 cubic-feet-per-second or more, 23 deliver between 100 and 199 cfs and 44 deliver less than 100 cfs. That creates plenty of potential for conflict, as participants in a summit on agricultural-urban water issues learned....
Mountain lion that stalked Ariz. hiker killed Authorities have killed a mountain lion that had stalked a hiker and his dog in a popular recreation area in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. Coronado National Forest spokeswoman Heidi Schewel said Sunday that the hiker had been walking with his dog on a trail Saturday when he saw the mountain lion following him. She said the hiker shouted and made himself look bigger by waving his arms - "everything that he was supposed to do," Schewel said. When the animal got closer, the hiker fired two warning shots into the air with his gun. When the lion continued to advance, he shot at it, scaring it away. Schewel said the hiker didn't know whether he hit the big cat. U.S. Forest Service officials found the incident troubling because the lion showed no fear of humans....
Forest Service providing copies of easements Long-awaited copies of historic forest road easements started trickling into Missoula County offices Friday, a partial response to an information request county officials made to the U.S. Forest Service. "It's a start," said Deputy County Attorney James McCubbin. "We still have a long way to go on this, but at least some of the information is coming in." On Friday morning, McCubbin received copies of forest road easements held by the Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Co. but only for the Lolo National Forest, and only on Lolo lands within Missoula County. He still has not received easements from other national forests within the county, nor has he received related documents that detail how the easements were to be implemented....
Markets fall, trees don't, raising risk of wildfires Wallowa-Whitman National Forest managers are concerned as the housing construction market continues to stagnate. The decreased demand for wood products means that mills are struggling, and in some cases closing. Without them, says Steve Ellis, the forest supervisor for the past four years, forests, already at a high risk for wildfires, could become even more dense. How is the timber industry affected by the troubled housing and construction market? What we're seeing here in northeast Oregon is that some (timber) sales this year went without bid. That is very unusual. Within the Blue Mountain Forest this last fiscal year, there were several timber sales in which no one came to bid. Last year in Wallowa-Whitman, we had to repackage one sale to make it go. The other thing is that the price that we're getting is less this past year. In September, one (timber sale) went for just the appraised price. Nothing more. ....
Got Weeds? These Sheep Will Make House Calls Chilled by an autumn wind, Enrique Marquez watched from horseback as the sheep gamboled down the mountain. A border collie nipped the heels of wayward ewes. All summer and into the fall, the flock grazed on noxious weeds infesting about 1,000 acres of public lands above the Missoula Valley as part of this city’s effort to restore its native prairie grasses. Nationwide, sheep grazing is gaining popularity as a low-cost, nontoxic tool in the battle to control leafy spurge, knapweed, dalmatian toadflax and other invasive weed species. The approach is catching on in places like Nantucket, Civil War battlefields in Virginia, ski slopes in Vermont and vineyards in California. Tom McDonnell, a staff consultant with the American Sheep Industry Institute, called this kind of grazing a “growth industry.” Mr. McDonnell cited a study by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University that indicated nonnative weeds had invaded 40 percent to 50 percent of America’s croplands, pasture and public lands and were spreading at a rate of 1.75 million acres per year. Sheep grazing is a long-term solution best used in conjunction with other methods, like beneficial insects, controlled burns, herbicides and hand pulling, officials said....
City celebrates woolly heritage This southern Utah city was wild and woolly for a time Saturday morning as residents celebrated their heritage by herding more than 1,000 sheep down Main Street. The parade was part of the third annual Livestock and Heritage Festival, featuring sheep wagons, horses and an impressive collection of antique tractors and pioneer handcarts. The tractors also competed in a pulling event at the Cross Hollows Event Center. Shearing demonstrations with sheep dog herding competitions rounded out the event. About as many spectators as sheep lined the parade route to see the woolly animals that were guided by the crack of a herder's bull whip. The lamb and wool industry began in Cedar City in 1890 when livestock owners realized that the mountains east of Cedar City were ideally suited for sheep, offering meadows with plenty of grass, wild barley and larkspur, a flower toxic to cattle but tolerated by sheep. Warren Williams, one of the parade's grand marshals, and third-generation sheep rancher, said the sheep are taken into the mountains about the middle of June. Some are hauled in trucks to the ranchers' allotments and some follow the same trail used for a century. Williams, whose family has raised sheep for 100 years, said the sheep are brought down from the mountains in October and graze in fields west of Cedar City. In January they are trucked to Nevada where the winters are milder and brought back to Iron County three months later where the lambs are born in April....
Australia's Outback cattle trails under threat from plans to lease and sell them off For generations of Australian ranchers the criss-crossing trails known as the Long Paddock have been at the heart of a frontier way of life which shaped a nation. The trails, together with the grasslands and bush along them that stretch across the Outback from Queensland to New South Wales, were the sinews of a continent for 170 years - mythologised in poetry and song - until drought and the spread of suburbs threatened to destroy them. The trails were started in the 1830s as settlers pushed into Australia's interior. As ranchers went deeper and deeper into the bush, drovers would take the cattle back on epic drives to the coast. They wrote songs and poems about the white clouds and saltbush plains they crossed on the trips, and 170 years later ranchers still rely on the Long Paddock to graze their stock as drought has shrivelled much of Australia's bush grazing. Robert Groth, whose family has worked the land for 156 years, is one of the farmers who has joined forces with conservationists to protest against a feared sell-off of land to loggers....
Trail Dust: Conrad Richter — author of the West The other day, I came upon a fine essay by historian David McCullough that dealt insightfully with the life and writing career of novelist Conrad Richter. Although Richter spent much of his life in his native Pennsylvania, he had a close connection to New Mexico, having lived in the Albuquerque area from 1928 to 1938. McCullough thinks he stands alone as an author of frontier stories that ring true and are veiled in authenticity. And he adds that too little has been said about Richter, even though he won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Reading McCullough's piece brought to mind my own experience with Conrad Richter many years ago. It entailed a long correspondence that began in a rather unusual way. In 1961, I was working as a horseshoer and wrangler at Bishop's Lodge north of Santa Fe. Two other wranglers and I occupied a large bunkroom above the stables....
Pioneer Boykins left mark on eastern New Mexico Sid Boykin was one of the cowboys of the early days on the Llano Estacado who made the successful move from the ranch to the business world. According to Col. Jack Potter, Boykin made his first trip to New Mexico in 1881 with Old Man George Taylor, when Taylor moved the Boot-Bar cattle from Texas. They arrived in December at the Hondo and turned the cattle loose with Jimmy Sutherland’s herd. Sid went back to Sweetwater, Texas, and stayed that winter and then came with Jim Newman to the DZ Ranch in the spring of 1882. Sid worked for the DZ until 1892 and then started in business for himself on a little spread southeast of Portales. He and Lizzie Walters MacDonald were married in 1895. Most cattlemen settled wherever there was room, without the formality of land papers, but Sid filed on his place. He ran about 300 cattle under the “SW” brand and did most of the work himself. His brother, Frank “Babe,” lived with him until 1897, when he married and moved to a place near the sandhills....
The Madam of Missoula When Mary Gleim finally died, the Missoulian had one last heyday with her. In the Feb. 23, 1914, newspaper, editor Arthur L. Stone attempted to recap the colorful, mysterious life of Missoula's foremost mistress of prostitution, without once mentioning the word. She was “of the underworld,” Stone asserted. “Mrs. Gleim had been a smuggler of laces and diamonds in her time,” he wrote. She was believed to be connected with the trafficking of Chinamen and “a great deal of opium” through the “old underground railway which had its outlet at Thompson Falls years ago.” Well, Mary has returned, and she's hell-bent on revenge. “The Missoulian always gets it wrong. I was a legitimate businesswoman, a real estate agent and a capitalist,” she says, fairly stomping her high heel at the foot of Gleim's mammoth headstone in the Missoula Cemetery. She isn't really Madam Mary, but Kim Kaufman of 21st century Lolo. On Sunday, Kaufman will set up her props for the cemetery's annual Stories and Stones historical tour in a ground-length Watteau dress, hand-sewn from a period American dress pattern catalog. She'll hang a railroader's red lantern near the fascinating photo of Missoula's Front Street in the 1890s, Mary's “business district.”....

Cowboy legend's books come home to Millarville Will James was 15 when he left his Montreal home with $10 and a bag of his mom's cookies, heading west to fulfil his dream of becoming a cowboy. James would become a Canadian cowboy legend, whose illustrated books about the West were bestsellers even at the height of the depression. A century after he began his ranching career in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, a piece of James' legacy returned to the province Friday when his complete works were donated to the Millarville Community Library. "His work is as relevant today as it was yesterday because he's capturing that lifestyle that we fear is gradually vanishing," said Wendy Dudley, an author. Dudley presented the books to the library on Friday on behalf of the Will James Society, of which she is a member. His books about Smoky the Cowhorse, Cowboys North and South and Horses I've Known inspired generations of children to fall in love with the rural lifestyle -- including musician Ian Tyson, who wrote a song about his childhood hero....
Arizona's Gadsden Hotel plays host to history The doors of the Gadsden Hotel first swung open in 1907, in the days when Wyatt Earp and Geronimo still blazed the West, and Arizona was not yet a state. The hotel would soon become the home-away-from-home for cattlemen, ranchers, miners and businessmen in the territory. It seemed like the Gadsden was doomed on Feb. 7, 1929, when fire ripped through the hotel. But, like many of Arizona's Old West men and much of its history, it was just too tough to die. The hotel was rebuilt more grandly than its original incarnation. No expense was spared. An authentic Tiffany stained glass mural runs across 42 feet of one wall of the lobby. A beautiful stained glass skylight lets light in from outside and brightens the massive lobby. The columns in the lobby are covered in 14K gold leaf — worth $20,000 in 1929. There were not a lot of hotels in the day that could boast an electric elevator, complete with operator. Travelers were amazed at the accommodations. The five-story Gadsden Hotel was one of the first to feature indoor outhouses in all 160 air-cooled rooms. You could even take a bath and then go down and enjoy a steak in the dining room, as well as a drink or two in the Saddle and Spur Saloon. On your way out the next morning, you could grab a quick cup in the Cattleman's Coffee Shop....
It's All Trew: I've got some issues with the term 'issues' Recently as evening waned, I was sitting in my easy chair waiting for the sun to go down so I could legitimately go to bed. The phone rang and the young lady dispatcher at the Gray County Sheriff's Office stated, "Mr. Trew, we have a deputy just north of your house who is having some issues with a stray bull out on I-40. Could you possibly help him please?" I immediately jumped up, fastened my belt, slipped on my boots, grabbed my cap and pickup keys and started out the door. It was at this time the words, "having some issues" soaked into my feeble brain. This was definitely new ground for my experiences. Now, during my 75 plus years, 60 spent alongside Route 66 and I-40, I have experienced stampedes, runaways, wrecks, strays, bull fights, truck wrecks, immigrant pileups, drug busts, suicides, hopped-up truck drivers, two murders, thousands of foreign tourists, jail prisoner escapees, stolen property, stolen vehicles and truckloads of trash tossed but never in all those years have I encountered a stray bull with "issues."....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy


Always hoping for a profit

By Julie Carter

While the world's markets rise and fall, I've done some pondering on those same patterns in my personal financial history.

Always a short-term goal setter and long-term optimist, there have been a number of projects-for-profit that I've taken on through the years.

Among them were raising Blue Heeler puppies, raising colts, cattle and kids - none of which ever became a viable profit center. Raising kids, while never actually thought of as a profit maker, should be something one can "bank" on in a kind of end-of-the-run security.

Blue Heeler puppies come 18 to a litter and quickly become giveaways in the parking lot of the next rodeo. The colts are first cute, then fun, and then they grow up to be horses that eat more and need to be broke to ride. The best ones either had a strong inclination to buck or would mysteriously come up lame.

The bucking pay-off was that I met some nice orthopedic physicians and chiropractors along the way and the equine lameness kept some veterinarians viably employed - both assuring a negative on my profit line.

The cattle business takes longer in which to go broke because the cycles offer the occasional profit (enticement). Using that to buy a few more head to help the next year's bottom line, the profit and loss perpetuates itself until getting out of the business is not an option. Unless, of course, you want the bottom line to look like the national debt of Argentina.

The kids are an ongoing project. While I didn't ever actually forget one at the Laundromat, their experiences taught them to stay pretty close. Maybe it was my early threats to leave them in a basket on a doorstep before they were old enough to positively identify me.

This last child gets plenty of advice (warnings) from his older siblings and manages to keep a cell phone handy for emergency help.

Raising ranch kids throws a few more "opportunities" into the mix. One cowboy I know, as a young button, grew up working on ranches. He loved the work but particularly loved the horses. All of them.

He loved riding the ones that would buck, loved the ones that were a challenge and the ones that were, supposedly, off-limits to him. One particular high-dollar stud horse, the pride and joy of the ranch owner, was such a horse. As soon as the rancher was out of sight, the lad and another young'un, would saddle the stud and ride away.

The stallion was not "kid" material and whatever it was that kept the pair from getting killed was dumb luck. Danger was near-at-hand from either the stallion or the owner had he caught them.

These same boys also loved to rope. They'd been warned about roping the cattle unless it was absolutely necessary. The boss told them if they needed to do something with their ropes, they could drag up firewood for the winter.

Like most cowboys, young or old, these two were broke. A new rope cost money and needed to be treated carefully, used expeditiously.

One year for Christmas, the rancher gave each boy a new rope. In the spring, he happened to notice one of them was considerably frayed and had a small break in it.

He questioned the young cowboy carrying the worn rope and asked if he'd been dragging firewood with his new rope.

Knowing he was in trouble for roping the cattle or for dragging firewood with a new rope, the lad elected for the truth.

"Why would I want to drag firewood when I have all these cattle of yours to rope?"

The end of that story involves reviewing a cowboy's determination to have some fun, even when the price is likely higher than he wanted to pay.

I haven't given up my long-range optimism for a return on my investment on the kids.

Once this last one is out of school and a ceremonious plate-breaking has taken place, he surely will choose a career path that will let him send money home.

Or, at the very least, help pay for the old folks home I know he's plotting with his sisters about.


Julie’s new book is on presale now. Cowboys You Gotta Love ‘em...buy at www.julie-carter.com

Betrayal Of Landowners



Government Betrays Landowners with Conservation Easements

By Fred Kelly Grant

At this very hour, Colorado landowners are fighting to prevent the United States federal government from taking their land. Ignored by the mass media, hundreds of farmers and ranchers in southeastern Colorado are facing loss of their property at the hands of the IRS. They are victims of “conservation easements” promoted by federal and state governments, land trust companies, and conservation groups.

As landowners dedicated to preserving the open, agricultural use of their land, lured into the “easements” by both the U.S. and Colorado governments, they have been betrayed by those they trusted.

A “conservation easement” is an easement in name only. It is an agreement by a landowner to give up the right to develop his or her land for residential, commercial or industrial use. He/she agrees to keep the land in agricultural use FOREVER, and in return is rewarded either with cash payment for the development value, or income tax relief to the amount of the appraised value of the development rights.

The federal government and the state of Colorado offered inducements for execution of the “easements” by which the landowners donated their land to various land trusts to be held for agricultural use IN PERPETUITY. They accepted the following offers of income tax relief, conditioned upon execution of the easements: federal income tax deductions, and tax credits from Colorado income tax, or the right to sell such tax credits to third parties or the State itself.

In reliance on commitments from the two governments, the landowners donated their land to various land trusts, mainly for two reasons: they wanted to preserve their land as agricultural land forever, and they faced cash flow problems which could be helped by the tax relief. So, they gave away the value of development rights in exchange for tax relief. In most cases, the development rights were far more valuable, money wise, than the assessed land value. But, the landowners placed their desire for continued agricultural use above the interest in a future much higher profit.

The landowners followed the rules. They engaged consultants to help them put together the donation package. They hired appraisers certified by the state of Colorado as honest, ethical, and competent. They had certified public accountants review the appraisals and their financial situations. They hired lawyers to make sure the law was followed in the transactions.

They asked that all this professional help assure them that the Land Trust company, which would own the easement, was trustworthy.

But, after two to three years, one of the donee Land Trusts invited the IRS to review the easement appraisals. That invitation didn’t worry the landowners because they had obtained professional assistance and had been assured they were following the rules.

But, suddenly the IRS announced disqualifications of “easements,” claiming that the appraisals of development rights were highly over stated. The State of Colorado called into question the licenses of several appraisers (all appraisers who have sought full reinstatement have been successful), and the mass media began to talk of a “scandal,” and “sham” appraisals, and cast the landowners as greedy people looking for windfalls. The media reached its libelous conclusions without reviewing the files and determining the facts. But, what’s new? As Will Rogers said, “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.”

In one case, for example, the appraisal of the development rights was challenged by an IRS employee who claimed that the appraiser did not use any comparable realty values in the vicinity. The statement is either an outright lie, or the grossest negligence in history. Within a quarter-mile of the appraised land is a subdivision of high scale homes, and within a half mile is a subdivision of even a higher scale homes situated on a finely groomed golf course.

The appraised land is within two miles of the city limits and a regional hospital. The landowner has water rights that accompany the appraised land, and the land has available water access, which would serve residential parcels very efficiently. Whether the IRS conclusion is a lie may rest on the fact that the federal employee judging the appraised value is not an appraiser, and has been exposed to land appraisal training for a solid two hours.

The IRS has demanded payment of back taxes, plus penalties and interest. In some cases, the demand is higher than the value of the landowners’ property, now that the “easements” have devalued the property. The third parties who bought state tax credits have demanded return of their money. The state of Colorado has turned its back on the landowners, which it lured into the conservation easements. The Governor’s office turns back requests for assistance with the spurious claim that the matter is a “federal” issue. The Secretary of Agriculture, who lives among the troubled landowners, ignores the problem.

The landowners cannot borrow money to satisfy the “return” demands. The banks will not lend money because of the conservation easements, which devalue the land.

The landowners cannot sell their land, or any portion of their land. Buyers are not willing to take on the restrictions and devaluation of the land resulting from the conservation easements. One of the ranchers had a sale in place for a portion of his property. The sale price would have allowed him to replace at least 75 percent of his imminent loss, but the buyer backed out because of the conservation easement.

As the federal and state governments pursue destruction of these landowners, they continue to promote conservation easements. Land Trust companies and conservation groups continue to promote conservation easements, and the Congress created tax incentives in the new Farm Bill that will lure other landowners into reliance on a government, which has proved unreliable.

Colorado at this moment faces a huge federal take-over of private land, which will remove thousands of acres from the tax rolls of the counties. And, the problem in southeastern Colorado is only the tip of the iceberg. There are over 1,800 of these conservation easements throughout Colorado. In the blink of an eye, Colorado can be victimized by massive federal take-overs.

The problem facing Coloradans and Colorado is the beginning of what can be, and will be, a national crisis resulting from transfer of private ownership of land to the United States Government. Counties will suffer from loss of tax revenue; the landscape will suffer from negligent management by federal agencies; the species in the ecosystems will suffer from negligent management; and the law will suffer from a blatant disregard for the constitutional limits on federal government ownership and requirements that property is not taken without just compensation.

All the horrible results from imposition of conservation easements, which private property organizations including Stewards of the Range and the American Land Foundation have emphasized, have come to fruition in southeastern Colorado. They lay ahead for unsuspecting landowners across the Nation.

What you can do to help:

As the governments and Land Trusts turn their backs on the landowners, all individuals in the nation can help. You can call, fax and email your Representatives and Senators who are seeking re-election. You can ask them what they are doing, or will do, to protect private landowners as they protected big business in the massive “bail out” of Wall Street. You can tell them that your vote depends on their willingness to help. You can demand of incumbents that there will be field hearings to determine the truth as to the inadequacy of the IRS reviews. You can demand that they hold field hearings to inquire into, and “fix”, the fraud that is evident on the part of the promoters of the conservation easements.

If you live in Colorado, you can call, fax and email the Secretary of Agriculture and the Governor, demanding that they “fix” the problem caused by fraud perpetrated on the landowners. And, you can write letters to the local and regional newspapers and television stations demanding that they determine the facts, rather than relying on press statements by leaders of the Land Trusts who are complicit in the threat to the landowners. The landowners are ready and willing to show the press the facts as they did to me.

Fred Kelly Grant serves as president of Stewards of the Range and has practiced law for over 50 years. He, along with Stewards of the Range and American Land Foundation are assisting landowners nationwide on property rights issues.