Friday, November 21, 2008

Huge foe of global warming efforts is ousted from post It's the end of an era -- Michigan Democrat John Dingell has been officially toppled from his post as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a secret ballot, Dingell was voted out by the Democrats 137-122 and replaced with Rep. Henry Waxman, a notable critic and aggressive investigator of the Bush Administration as chairman of the House Oversight Committee. The vote is a victory for environmentalists and a huge new blow for the US auto industry. Dingell was one of the auto industry's biggest supporters -- his wife Debbie is a lobbyist for General Motors and is a descendant of the founding family -- and a consistent for of tighter fuel efficiency [CAFE] standards for automobiles. Dingell and his wife are pictured above right....
The Waxman Wane What could hurt a hurting economy more than an environmental extremist as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee? Meet Rep. Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills. It was a slim margin of 137-122 on Thursday when Democrats voted to buck seniority for next year's session and strip the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, Michigan's John Dingell, of the chairmanship of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Long known as "The Truck," the much-feared auto industry partisan chaired that powerful panel during the entire Reagan administration, George H.W. Bush administration, the first two years of Bill Clinton, and for the last two years — nearly three decades as the committee's top Democrat. Dingell is liberal, but he at least fought against excessive emission standards and other Greenpeace wish list items — simply to protect domestic carmakers. Replacing him is a notorious ideological witch hunter who will bully businesses that resist radical environmentalist groups' demands. The naming of Henry Waxman left green groups beside themselves with joy. "Ding-dong the Dingell is gone," cheered the climate blog for the Center for American Progress, the think tank of Obama transition chief and former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. Waxman's election "shows that a majority of the House Democrats are ready to work with the incoming Obama Administration on effective global warming legislation," according to Clean Air Watch — an organization that seems to want NASCAR racing banned because its exhaust fumes are "putting millions of spectators and nearby residents at unnecessary risk of suffering serious health effects." As Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Chris Horner quipped, "Funny how Dems elected a guy to chair Energy and Commerce who opposes both."....
New environmental cast in D.C. signaled by election today of Waxman, Stevens' defeat To hear some tell it, this is a whole new day for environmental causes in the U.S. House of Representatives, with the election of California's Henry Waxman as chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee. That's because Waxman defeated John Dingell of Michigan in the Democratic caucus' vote, 137-122. Dingell, of course, is a vigorous defender of the auto industry and loathe to lay down mileage standards that would upset Detroit. Waxman, OTOH, is promising to tackle global warming quickly with his version of Cap'n Trade. Waxman's elevation is causing quite a stir among those that follow D.C.'s green politics. Frinstance, the expensive-but-worth-it Greenwire news service had five reporters' names on its story. (At least that's what I've heard. Greenwire is too expensive for Dateline Earth's corporate overlords.) Want more proof of the significance? Listen to Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute: This should provide a loud wake-up call to American business leaders that the 111th Congress is not going to play nicely with them on energy rationing policies. I hope that those who have counseled that "if you're not at the table, you're on the menu," will now realize that they are on the menu and they'd better get as far away from the table as quickly as they can.
New Senate to get major global warming bill Top Senate Democrats on Thursday said they would introduce major global warming legislation early next year, saying Barack Obama's election meant a "sea change" in the battle against climate change. The announcement came just two days after president-elect Obama, in one of his first major policy pronouncements since his historic victory two weeks ago, warned that denial of global warming would no longer be US policy. Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee which will frame US global warming efforts, said the bill would be consistent with Obama's campaign promises for large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The California senator said one new bill in January would be designed to cut global warming gas emissions by spending up to 15 billion dollars a year to spur clean energy innovation and the development of advanced biofuels. The other piece of legislation will direct the US Environmental Protection Agency to set up a cap-and-trade system to stem greenhouse gas emissions....
U.S. intel office adds warming to warnings A U.S. intelligence report coming out Thursday — and likely to grab President-elect Barack Obama's attention — is adding a new variable to the "traditional" mix of factors expected to destabilize the world into the near future. Issued by the National Intelligence Council, the "Global Trends 2025" report includes warnings tied to climate change, the man behind the report said this week and in recent speeches. The overall theme of the report is that the United States will have less influence across the globe at a time of growing climate, water and energy stresses, Thomas Fingar, chairman of the NIC and deputy director of national intelligence, indicated in recent weeks. The fourth of its kind since 1997, the report is meant to help U.S. administrations think strategically and long-term about potential future trends and how they should be dealt with. Obama on Tuesday pledged to act quickly and with international partners to curb emissions tied to global warming as soon as he takes office on Jan. 21....
Interior may get hand in climate rules The Interior Department could play an unprecedented role in shaping the new administration’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists say President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is eyeing the Endangered Species Act, a 1973 law largely overseen by the Interior Department, as a backdoor vehicle to help jump-start the regulation of global warming emissions.If Obama officially recognizes the connection and pushes for action, it would draw a definitive link between industrial emissions and the threat to a declining species, likely necessitating new emission regulations and pressuring Congress to move ahead with cap-and-trade legislation. The quandary is drawing attention to two key appointments: those of the secretary of the interior and the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who’ll play an integral role in how aggressively the policy is applied. If Obama clarifies the global warming link, environmentalists say he would be jump-starting a process that should have happened years ago....
New Rule Would Discount Warming as Risk Factor for Species The Bush administration is finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure that federal agencies would not have to take global warming into account when assessing risks to imperiled plants and animals. The proposed rule changes, which were obtained by The Washington Post, are under review by the Office of Management and Budget and are close to being published in the Federal Register. The latest version of the rule goes further than the language Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued in August by explicitly excluding climate change from the factors that would trigger an interagency consultation. The move is significant because the administration has listed polar bears as a threatened species under the act on the grounds that their sea-ice habitat is shrinking, but Kempthorne has repeatedly argued that this move should not trigger a federal curb on greenhouse gas emissions linked to the melting of sea ice....
Species Act revision still not decided Bush administration officials said Thursday they do not plan to finalize revisions of the Endangered Species Act this week, contradicting news reports saying that they would push the revisions through by Friday so a new administration could not easily undo them. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the revisions eliminate unnecessary procedural reviews for activities that are unlikely to harm protected species. However, conservation groups argue that the change will eliminate the input of some federal scientists. Interior Department spokesman Chris Paolino said Thursday that the revisions are still being finalized and would not speculate on when they would be ready. Some news reports said the new rules must be published in the Federal Register 60 days prior to the Obama administration taking office so that they would officially take effect before the new administration could easily reverse them. But Paolino said the rules actually take effect 30 days after they are published, so there is still time left....Prediction: Bushies finalize regs, enviros file suit, judge issues restraining order, Obama justice dept capitulates to enviros, judge throws the rule out.
Lawyers argue who is responsible for boy's death in bear attack Surrounded by dark wooden walls and bare benches, attorneys argued the finer points of "should" and "shall" in the case of a boy who was dragged into the woods and killed by a bear. U.S. attorneys said in court Wednesday that the federal government is not responsible for the death of Samuel Ives, the 11-year-old Pleasant Grove boy who was dragged from his tent late at night on Father's Day 2007 and then killed by a black bear. Ives's family is asking for at least $2.1 million for his death. The family has filed suit in both federal and state courts against both governments, claiming that they should have been warned of an attack that morning by the same bear on another camper. The black bear was classified as a Level III animal after the initial attack -- which means that it should be euthanized. Wildlife officials did attempt to find the bear after its first appearance but were unsuccessful. On Wednesday, arguments in the federal case centered around legal specifics as to how the Forest Service reacts to hazards. Federal policy is that they "should" assist state wildlife officials in the event of a dangerous bear. That word -- should -- allows for discretionary action on the part of the federal agency and frees them from blame in specific instances such as the bear attack, said assistant U.S. attorney Amy Oliver....
How Clinton Doomed the Spotted Owl: A Cautionary Tale for Greens in the Age of Obama When biologist Jack Ward Thomas handed President Bill Clinton the final copy of his plan for the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest Forest, Clinton asked only one question: "How much timber will it cut?" With this revealing query began the bizarre final chapter in the saga of Clinton's adventure in the rainforests of the Northwest, the home of the salmon and the spotted owl. In the final two weeks of April 1994, the Clinton administration saw its strategy to reinitiate timber sales in Northwest forests come to a shocking fruition, when most of the key environmental groups in the region agreed to lift the three-year old federal injunction prohibiting new timber sales in spotted owl habitat. At the same moment, one of the nation̢'s largest forest products companies announced its glowing support for Clinton's forest plan. Watch how neatly the pattern of events unfolded. On April 14, 1994, the Clinton administration submitted the Record of Decision for its Northwest forest plan to federal Judge William Dwyer in Seattle. A disturbing codicil to the original plan (widely known as Option 9), the 200-page Record of Decision granted a series of last-minute concessions to timber interests that were designed to accelerate the preparation of new timber sales in old-growth and keep the plan̢۪s annual timber sale above the one billion board foot mark--the psychological barrier demanded by the timber industry....
Greens thwart oil/gas development in sensitive areas When Barack Obama spoke in Albuquerque on Oct. 27, Nathan Newcomer, associate director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, gave congressional candidate Martin Heinrich a gift for the presidential candidate. The gift was a book — “Otero Mesa: Preserving America’s Wildest Grassland.” It was not a book to go on Obama’s coffee table but one Newcomer hoped might influence his energy policy. President-elect Obama’s administration is expected to be more environmentally friendly than his predecessor’s. NMWA has been battling the Bush administration and New Mexico’s oil and gas industry for the past eight years over sensitive habitats, such as Otero Mesa. By forming coalitions with regional eco-groups, ranchers, hunters, home owners and local and state legislators, it has thwarted industry attempts to expand into sensitive areas, including Chaco Canyon, Otero Mesa, the Galisteo Basin, the Rio Chama watershed and the Valle Vidal, north of Taos. Gov. Bill Richardson emerged as a hero in the green camp for protecting many of those areas from gas development....
New Mexico Battles Feds to Stop Gas Drilling Near an Aquifer New Mexico officials say a gas drilling proposal on federal lands threatens a pristine aquifer that could someday provide drinking water to 15 million households, but the state's protests have met with resistance from the federal office administering the project. The Bureau of Land Management, which governs development on the 20 percent of New Mexico's lands owned by the federal government, approved drilling on the Otero Mesa, a 1.2 million acre wilderness grassland in southern New Mexico, earlier this month. Because the BLM relied on decade-old data in a four-year-old environmental review, neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the state's environment departments were involved in the decision. But state officials in New Mexico's Department of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources say the BLM ignored evidence of unique risks in that area. They want the BLM to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement, which, under federal law, would then require an EPA review....
Ruling deals a blow to smelt supporters A federal judge Wednesday rejected a request by environmentalists that could have slowed the flow of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to agricultural interests to the south. The 92-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger is the latest in a case involving the tiny delta smelt, which environmentalists say is facing extinction largely because of reduced water coming into the delta and from increased pumping. The environmentalists wanted Wanger to cancel long-term contracts for more than a dozen west side water districts that get water from the delta. But Wanger's ruling said that it would be pointless to renegotiate the contracts to help the smelt, because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has the ability to stop water deliveries to the districts to satisfy requirements of the Endangered Species Act. It also likely sets a legal precedent for nearby water districts with similar contracts that the environmentalists didn't challenge....
Court Says Shell Can’t Drill Near Alaska A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked Royal Dutch Shell from drilling oil wells off Alaska’s North Slope after finding that the Interior Department had failed to conduct an environmental study before issuing the company’s drilling permit. In a long-awaited ruling, the court said that the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency in charge of offshore leasing, had violated the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act by failing to take a “hard look” at the impact that offshore drilling would have on bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea as well as indigenous communities on the North Slope. The decision canceled Shell’s permit to drill at a prospect called Sivulliq, about 16 miles off northern Alaska, and ordered the agency to begin the process from scratch....
EPA Moves to Ease Air Rules for Parks The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing. Documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the administration's push to weaken Clean Air Act protections for "Class 1 areas" nationwide has sparked fierce resistance from senior agency officials. All but two of the regional administrators objecting to the proposed rule are political appointees. The proposal would change the practice of measuring pollution levels near national parks, which is currently done over three-hour and 24-hour increments to capture emission spikes during periods of peak energy demand; instead, the levels would be averaged over a year. Under this system, spikes in pollution would no longer violate the law....
FBI Increases Reward for Suspected Eco-Terrorists to $50K Each On Wednesday the FBI announced it is increasing the reward for information leading to the arrest of four people accused of sabotage attacks in five Western states,”including the largest eco-related arson in history, a $26 million arson at the Vail Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado.” The FBI is now offering up to $50,000 each for information leading to the arrest of Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker, Rebecca Rubin, and Justin Solondz, all believed to be living abroad. Investigators charge the group as being responsible for “25 domestic terrorism criminal actions totaling over $48 million in damages.” The group also is suspected in a 2001 fire at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle. A fire that, ironically, wiped out the portion of the lab that does research on endangered species, wetlands restoration, and urban forestry and gardening. The fire may have killed a good portion of one rare species: the showy stickseed. At the time of that particular incident, Dr. Steve Strauss, plant geneticist at Oregon State University, whose own research was vandalized said, “I don’t call them ecoterrorists anymore. They don’t deserve the ‘eco,’ They’re terrorists against science.”....
Klamath Bucket Brigade November 20, 2008 - If you follow the Klamath River about 200 miles from its ocean outlet, you will meet a 173-foot wall of cement, Iron Gate Dam. Above it are several more. If you follow the paper trail behind the dams, you will have a stack likely as tall. The newest addition: A dam removal deal between the federal government, California, Oregon and PacifiCorp, the Oregon-based multi-million dollar energy company that owns and operates four of the hydroelectric dams. If the deal makes it through a two stage process of evaluation and decommissioning, the project will be the largest dam decommissioning project in world history. Read more from yesterday's Un-dam the Klamath deal struck - Hold applause until 2012. Today's Klamath Falls Herald and News has published articles about the Walking Wetlands Program here in the Upper Klamath Basin. "Two Klamath Basin refuges are working in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation and local irrigation districts to temporarily convert farm fields into wetlands for several years in a program called Walking Wetlands. As a wetland, the fields provide habitat for migratory birds and since the program started, the converted fields have attracted species not seen in the Basin for decades, officials say. In return, the farmland, when converted back into production, is more productive and weeds and pests are reduced or eliminated. After three seasons as a wetland, the soils qualify to be certified organic."....Go there for many more relevant links.

Los Payasos - Government At Work

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A Federal Aviation Administration employee from Southern California took illegal perks from his job — including a plane, yachts and heavy-duty trucks — and an investigation continues into how widespread the practice was, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Steven Bradley Smith, a field technician with the FAA in San Diego, abused an internal computer system to claim surplus items from other government agencies, according to charging papers unsealed Thursday in federal court in Tacoma, Wash. "There's a great concern about who knew what about this — about whether it's something that was systemic, or one guy who managed to find the seam in the zone defense of the FAA," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings told The Associated Press. He said he could not comment further on the investigation. The computer system is run by the General Services Administration and is designed to allow federal agencies to list items they no longer need, so that other agencies can acquire them free of charge. Prosecutors said Smith should not have been authorized to acquire items but managed to anyway — purportedly on behalf of the FAA — using another agency's code number. Among the 215 items Smith obtained since 2004 were a Cessna 210 from the Forest Service, a Boston Whaler from the Coast Guard, several computers and a 44-foot Navy yacht that had been used by the ROTC at the University of Washington, the charging document said....[link]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Changes to Species Act Are Said to Be Near The Bush administration is "close" to finalizing a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be harmed by agency projects, according to the Interior Department. In an interview yesterday, Interior spokeswoman Tina Kreisher said the Office of Management and Budget was reviewing the rule, which could be finalized in a matter of weeks. "I believe that we're close, but there's no final determination from the OMB," she said. For more than 30 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service have reviewed any federal plans that could potentially protect endangered animals or plants. Under the administration's proposed rule, these independent scientific reviews would no longer be required if the agency in question determined that its activities would not hurt the imperiled species....
Killer wolves removed in Montana Two ranchers north of Reed Point were issued permits last week to remove a pair of wolves that have killed sheep on their property. Federal Wildlife Services officials confirmed that a pair of wolves killed three sheep and injured a fourth, which was euthanized, on a ranch north of Reed Point Nov. 9. The ranch is adjacent to a sheep operation where wolves have killed a total of 16 sheep and a goat in six incidents over the past two months, despite the efforts of herders and guard dogs. The federal officials believe that a pair of wolves was involved....
Young NM Boy Recovers From Mountain Lion Attack A young boy was dragged away and clawed by a mountain lion. Six months later, he has recovered and his parents said they couldn't be more grateful. The scars on Jose Salazar's head are still visible. A mountain lion dragged him by the head down a trail in the Sandia Mountains on May 17. Jose's dad chased and caught up with the mountain lion and the big cat eventually let go and took off. After surgeries and a stay in the hospital, Salazar's family said he is happy and healthy. While Salazar is focusing on sports and school now, he said he still has some memories of the attack. "I just heard a growl. I just looked back and saw it and I tried to run away, but it was too late. It just pounced on me," Salazar said. The Salazar family went to Alamogordo in October to tell Jose's story before the State Game Commission. They said they hope it will lead to action in addressing the number of mountain lions in the Sandias....They'll just have to keep on hoping, because the Game Commission has done the exact opposite. It's pretty clear what the Game Commission's priorities are, who they are politically beholden to, and public safety be damned.
Outsiders Target Indian Land for Risky Business Deep in the foothills, miles above California’s Sacramento Valley, the 640-acre home of the Cortina Band of Wintun Indians lies empty except for six houses, a graveyard, and the spot where the band’s ceremonial roundhouse once stood. A sign at the gate warns off outsiders, but on a recent afternoon there is no one inside to drive visitors away. All but 20 or so of the band’s 160 members live elsewhere. Most are scattered throughout California and the West. Some moved as far away as Tennessee and Canada. In 2007, the band began leasing nearly 70 percent of its land to be used for a landfill by a joint project between a Canadian venture capital company and a California waste hauler. The company plans to truck in 1,500 tons of municipal waste a day and bury it deep in Cortina’s canyons. The Cortina landfill is one among dozens of projects across the country for which developers and Native Americans are using Indian sovereignty to bypass state and local regulations and build projects that other communities shun – projects ranging from landfills, big box stores and a massive power plant to casinos, motorcycle tracks and billboards....
Wild Horses There are about 33,000 wild horses on the open range. To control the herds and keep land open for cattle grazing, the federal Bureau of Land Management has rounded up many more horses and tried to put them out for adoption. But adoptions are not keeping up, and some 30,000 horses remain in holding pens. Until the past few days, the bureau had been planning to cull another 6,000 horses from the wild by killing them. Fortunately, the bureau has halted that rush to euthanasia after Madeleine Pickens — the wife of T. Boone Pickens, the oil tycoon — offered to create a one-million-acre refuge for the wild horses already in captivity. Mrs. Pickens plans to sterilize the horses on her land and says she will take any additional horses the federal government wants to cull from the wild herd. Sterilization is the best solution for long-term wild horse management. The federal Bureau of Land Management is finally coming to understand that and is now working with the Humane Society on very promising contraception studies in two herds. The bureau also needs to consider buying back some of its range permits from cattle ranchers. We suspect that in this economic climate, some ranchers would be glad to part with them. The bureau then could leave wild horses on the range — instead of capturing them and paying to feed them — until aggressive contraception comes into play....
Wilderness bills will have new allies, new foes next year Now that two Idaho wilderness bills are officially dead for the year, the Republicans behind the proposals are planning how to get ideas crafted during the Bush era to pass through a Democratic Congress and White House. Sen. Mike Crapo's Owyhee Canyonlands plan to protect 500,000 acres of wilderness and help ranchers in Owyhee County was one of more than 100 provisions in a sweeping lands bill now delayed until January. And Rep. Mike Simpson's proposal to protect 319,000 acres in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains in Central Idaho never even got a start in the Democratic-controlled House. "You never rule it out," Simpson said this week. "Weird things happen in the last days of session, but it looks unlikely right now." Both Simpson and Crapo are confident they'll do better in 2009 - but though they'll pick up new allies on some aspects of their bills, they'll see new pressures as well. Each bill is built on a fragile coalition of traditional land users, conservationists and local governments - but each has been attacked by conservatives concerned about property rights and by the environmental left. New people - and environmental advocacy groups - will have more power, but appeasing the new majority could cost Crapo and Simpson the Republican and Western support they worked to cultivate....
Wash. farmers fight proposed 30K-head feedlot Sure, it's a saga many years old, but a new twist is brewing on Washington's rural nonirrigated lands, where fourth-generation farmers plant wheat and pray for rain. Sometimes there's a harvest -- sometimes not -- but they soldier on in homesteads whose only water supply comes from wells deep underground. Some now fear their wells could dry up if a 30,000-head feedlot moves onto neighboring land in southeast Washington's Franklin County. "Our main concern is our water. If we go dry, we have no recourse," said Blaine Dougherty, who with his brother still farms the land his grandfather bought in 1938. Under laws dating back 60 years, the state allows some wells to be drilled without a permit, as long as water usage is held to 5,000 gallons per day. They include livestock watering, small industrial uses, domestic use or noncommercial watering of a small lawn or garden. But in 2005, Attorney General Rob McKenna issued an opinion that barred the state from limiting the amount of water that ranchers draw daily for their livestock. Critics immediately argued it opens the state's water resources to unlimited use by large dairies and feedlots....
A buck goes nuts in a Town & Country strip mall According to Town & Country police, at approximately 6 p.m. on November 1, a ten-point buck sauntered into the middle of the busy strip mall on Manchester Road. Walking past retailer Home Decorators Collection, the deer stopped momentarily to observe an ornamental deer statue on display in the window. "The deer turned towards the door and tried crashing into the door as if wanting to attack the deer statue," states the police report filed the following day. "[D]ue to the impact with the door the deer broke off its entire right antler...the deer did not make it through the door but bent the door jamb." Injured from its battle with the deer decoy, the buck stumbled its way to the adjacent Home Depot and walked through the store's automated doors. As frightened shoppers hastened their way toward the exits, the deer staggered through the lumber department and into the rear of the store....
Literary Marksmanship AMERICAN RIFLE A Biography By Alexander Rose Delacorte. 495 pp. $30 The title of Alexander Rose's marvelous book says it all: Although "American Rifle" is ostensibly about the history of a piece of machinery, a tool, a killing instrument, it is only in America that the rifle has become an ineradicable part of the culture and can be written about as if it were a living person. "My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus I will learn it as a brother," runs an old hymn still memorized by both Army and Marine recruits. That hymn was intended to serve as an instructive and inspirational credo for young men joining the armed forces who, increasingly, no longer came from a rural or ranching background in which boys started shooting as small children with a BB rifle, got a .22 for their 10th birthday or sooner, and were taught how to shoot and look after a gun by their father, uncle or grandfather, in a rite of passage as old as the republic. In the Old World, firearms were a class indicator: prerogatives of the military or, when intended for sporting purposes, of the landed aristocracy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, throughout Europe and Great Britain, poaching was a capital offense; the ordinary non-landowning man had no need, and no right, to keep a firearm at home, and hanging judges gleefully sentenced those of the starving rural poor who killed a pheasant or a deer. The biggest difference between America and Great Britain was not just the abundance of wildlife, but the all-important fact that in the Colonies it didn't belong to anybody; a good marksman could put meat on the family table every night without being hanged for the act. The firearm above the fireplace became a symbol of self-sufficiency, of freedom, of a potentially classless society (at any rate, one without a hereditary aristocracy), of sturdy independence and of self-defense....
USDA Panel Approves First Rules For Labeling Farmed Fish 'Organic' For the first time, a federal advisory board has approved criteria that clear the way for farmed fish to be labeled "organic," a move that pleased aquaculture producers even as it angered environmentalists and consumer advocates. The question of whether farmed fish could be labeled organic -- especially carnivorous species such as salmon that live in open-ocean net pens and consume vast amounts of smaller fish -- has vexed scientists and federal regulators for years. The standards approved yesterday by the National Organic Standards Board would allow organic fish farmers to use wild fish as part of their feed mix provided it did not exceed 25 percent of the total and did not come from forage species, such as menhaden, that have declined sharply as the demand for farmed fish has skyrocketed....
Planting a new purpose The Rocky Mountain Seed Co. building on 15th Street between Market and Larimer streets is one of downtown Denver's few remaining reminders of the city's agrarian roots. In October, JohnstonWells Public Relations moved into the Victorian-era building, which had housed The Rocky Mountain Seed Co. for 87 years before it vacated the property in 2007. The seed company is now headquartered near Interstate 25 and Washington Street. The historic building's new inhabitants set out to transform what once was a dusty retail space outfitted with 1,200 drawers, bins and cubbyholes of various shapes and sizes into a colorful modern office punctuated by an extensive folk art collection. The redesign plans also were mindful of the building's egacy. But other historians mourn the loss of a link to Denver's agricultural past. People often think of early Denver as a mining hub, but the city also served as the supply center for farms in eastern Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas and the Dakotas, according to Tom Noel. The University of Colorado history professor known as "Dr. Colorado" is also a LoDo tour guide and author of several local history books. Larimer, Market and 15th streets were home to nearly a dozen wholesale, distribution and packaging companies for produce, seeds and meats. Farmers in trucks used to line up at the Rocky Mountain Seed Co. while walk-in customers chatted with the staff about what crops grew best in this region or how to handle hail and storm damage....
Tel Che'e: Apache warrior turned legend Somewhere along a remote creek bed, somewhere in Central Arizona, sometime in the early 1860s, an unknown prospector lay dead. Over his body stood an exceptionally large, broad-shouldered and slightly stooped, 20-some-year-old Apache. From the dead man's clothing, the Apache plucked a single pearl button. Then, along with his companions, he headed off to one of his remote mountain sanctuaries. The scene was not unusual. There were a lot of bodies littering the landscape at that place and time. But the Apache warrior, who would soon fashion the pearl button into an earring, was. His name was Tel Che'e. The whites who later came to his ancestral land, unaccustomed to his indigenous people's foreign dialect, called him Delshay, Deluche, Delche or Del-che-ae. Other Apache chiefs would achieve greater notoriety, but none would bear the enmity of the U.S. military to the degree eventually reserved for Tel Che'e....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens loses re-election bid Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has lost his bid for a seventh term. The longest-serving Republican in the history of the Senate trailed Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by 3,724 votes after Tuesday's count. That's an insurmountable lead with only about 2,500 overseas ballots left to be counted. Stevens, who turned 85 Tuesday, also revealed that he will not ask President George W. Bush to give him a pardon for his seven felony convictions.
The Environmental Motor Company When is $25 billion in taxpayer cash insufficient to bail out Detroit's auto makers? Answer: When the money is a tool of Congressional industrial policy to turn GM, Ford and Chrysler into agents of the Sierra Club and other green lobbies. That's the little-understood subplot of the Washington melodrama over a taxpayer rescue for Detroit. In their public statements, proponents describe the bailout as an attempt to save jobs, American manufacturing and the middle-class way of life. But look closely and you can see that what's really going on is an attempt to use taxpayer money to remake Detroit in the image of the modern environmental movement. Given a choice between greens and blue-collar workers, Congress puts the greens first. This political contradiction has come into sharp relief since President Bush offered a significant compromise late last week on the use of taxpayer cash. Earlier this year, Congress had approved $25 billion in loans to the car companies for "green retooling," and the White House said Friday that Detroit could tap that money quickly for more general purposes with a couple of conditions. The companies merely have to present a business plan to the Energy Secretary showing how the cash would keep them "viable," which is to say competitive as profit-making concerns. This could be a proposal to renegotiate labor contracts, or perhaps a merger proposal, or other plan of action. But here's the real catch for Congress: Mr. Bush said Democrats would also have to remove the green strings that they themselves had attached to that $25 billion. Democratic leaders refused....
War on the Range A new range war is spreading across the Rocky Mountain West. And this time, it's pitting ranchers against a modern-day nemesis: the gas industry. At the center of the conflict is an explosion of drilling for coalbed methane gas over the past decade in iconic Western places like sage-covered buttes and mesas -- wide open spaces that, until recently, ranchers pretty much had to themselves. The number of active gas wells in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico and Colorado has shot up more than fivefold to about 18,000 from 2,550 in 2001. In Colorado, the number of permits for primarily new gas wells has jumped sevenfold to 7,000 a year from about 1,000 at the beginning of this decade. And in Wyoming's fabled Powder River Basin -- where Buffalo Bill Cody and other Old West legends once rode -- the number of gas wells has more than tripled to about 30,000 from about 9,000 eight years ago. Coalbed methane as a whole now accounts for nearly 10% of natural-gas production in the U.S. Along the way, many ranchers have complained of their cattle operations being seriously disrupted -- and in some cases ruined -- because of so much development activity. Some have formed groups to study the impact, lobbied for more regulation and filed lawsuits to hold producers more accountable. But most ranchers have had little choice but to let the drilling rigs in; the 1872 Mining Act gives precedence to mineral rights over surface users of the land. "As a rancher, I want my business protected from the impacts of the oil-and-gas industry," Chris Velasquez, a rancher in Blanco, N.M., said last April before the House Committee on Small Business, which was looking into the effects of oil-and-gas development on hunters, ranchers and others in the West. The 56-year-old rancher said he had to give up the last 22,000 acres of a federal grazing lease where his family had ranched for more than a century because the roads, pipelines, well pads and quarries put in there for drilling had made running cattle uneconomical. Among the problems: In 2001, 20 of his pregnant heifers aborted their calves after drinking contaminated water from a well-disposal pit....
Drilling process causes water supply alarm In July, a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyo., and pulled up a load of brown, oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people. The results sent shock waves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies. Sublette County is the home of one of the nation's largest natural-gas fields, and many of its 6,000 wells have undergone a process pioneered by Halliburton called hydraulic fracturing, which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals several miles underground to break apart rock and release the gas. The process has been considered safe since a 2004 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that it posed no risk to drinking water. After that study, Congress even exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Today, fracturing is used in nine of every 10 natural-gas wells in the United States. Over the last few years, however, a series of contamination incidents has raised questions about that EPA study and ignited a debate over whether the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing may threaten the nation's increasingly precious drinking-water supply....
California’s Tougher Renewable-Energy Targets A Mixed Blessing for Greens California now has the nation’s most ambitious renewable-energy targets. Many environmentalists might wish it didn’t. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set California’s renewable-energy target at 33% by 2020; right now, the state’s target is to get 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s executive order clears the way for the state legislature to draft new laws making the target binding.Why might that be bad news for environmentalists? Because increasing the use of renewable energy means the state must build new transmission lines to carry the juice, even if those pass through environmentally-sensitive areas that could still be preserved if renewable-energy targets were lower. In announcing the new goal, Gov. Schwarzenegger specifically targeted environmental opposition to new projects: “[W]e won’t meet that goal doing business as usual, where environmental regulations are holding up environmental progress in some cases. This executive order will clear the red tape for renewable projects and streamline the permitting and siting of new plants and transmission lines.”
Ranchers brace for change in Washington The outcome of the Nov. 4 election hung like an ominous storm cloud this week as members of the Idaho Cattle Association gathered in Sun Valley for their annual convention. Convention speakers on Monday afternoon predicted that Democrats' riding to a more powerful majority in Washington, D.C., will mean more regulation, additional listings under the federal Endangered Species Act and expansion of national monuments and wilderness areas. For ranchers in Idaho and elsewhere in the West, the specter of change seems most tied to efforts to protect wildlife that conservationists and some federal biologists consider imperiled, such as gray wolves and greater sage grouse. Andy Groseta, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, predicted that the Bush administration will hand off a court-ordered review of whether to list sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the ESA to the incoming Obama administration. Such a listing, which the federal government earlier rejected, could extend across Idaho and 10 other Western states. Ranchers should also fear an increasingly powerful animal rights lobby, Groseta said. Well-financed, these activists' primary mission is to destroy the country's cattle industry, he claimed....
'Rules of the road' set for oil shale drilling The Bush administration gave energy companies steep discounts in the royalties they will be required to pay as it established the groundwork Monday for commercial oil shale development on federal land. Interior Department officials said the 5 percent royalty rate during the first five years of production was needed to spur drilling while still giving taxpayers a fair return. But that rate is much lower than the 12.5 percent to 18.8 percent the government collects from companies harvesting conventional oil and gas on public lands. Monday's announcement sets parameters such as the royalty rate and lease sizes, but it will be up to the incoming Obama administration to decide whether to proceed with leasing. Officials on Monday said commercial leasing was five to 10 years away. The announcement by the Interior Department comes months after Congress — pressured by the White House and Republicans to increase domestic energy — failed to renew a ban on issuing final oil shale regulations....
Yellowstone drops plan to reduce snowmobiles Yellowstone National Park abruptly dropped plans to sharply reduce the number of snowmobiles allowed this winter, drawing a quick backlash from conservationists who want fewer of the machines. Park officials said Monday that 720 snowmobiles would be allowed into the park daily beginning Dec. 15. That's more than double the 318 proposed just two weeks ago. The move marked the latest turn in a decadeslong struggle between snowmobile advocates, who want more recreational access, and conservation groups that say too many of the machines degrade the park's natural beauty. The 720 figure matches the number of snowmobiles allowed for the past three winters in the park, which straddles the borders of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. But the new cap appears to defy a September ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Sullivan in Washington, D.C....
Canada Confirms 16th BSE Case The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed its 16th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The latest case was discovered in a 7-year-old dairy cow from British Columbia; no part of the animal’s carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems, the agency said. CFIA is investigating the source of the infection, including the animal's birth farm and herdmates. The age and the location of the infected animal are consistent with previous cases. Canada remains a Controlled Risk country for BSE, as determined by OIE, so this announcement should not affect exports of cattle or beef from the country....
DAN THE TEAM ROPER AND THE WOMEN WHO LOVE HIM Due to an overwhelming flood of followers to the Dan the Team Roper stories, women who want to meet Dan are creating a tidal of wave of queries about him. For the many that wish to be placed on Dan's "sort" list, please send photo and appropriate information to dantheteamroper@gmail.com. Decent photos will be placed on this site for Dan to browse. Comments and votes will be accepted from his many supporting friends....From Julie Carter, the Cowgirl Sass & Savvy columnist. Looks like they're have fun over there
EPA Proposes "Cow Tax"

The Environmental Protection Agency issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on whether it is appropriate to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act. In order to regulate automobile emissions, the EPA would first have to make a finding that all greenhouse gases endanger public health and safety and should be classified as a "pollutant."

Essentially, the EPA is ruling on whether or not GHG emissions should be classified as endangering public safety. If that finding is made, all GHGs including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would have to be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

The problem with this approach is that once an endangerment finding is made, other provisions of the Clean Air Act are automatically triggered, creating much broader, costly regulation of other sectors of the economy, including agriculture.

IMPACT:

Once an endangerment finding is made, Title V of the Clean Air Act requires that any entity with the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year of a regulated pollutant must obtain a permit in order to continue to operate.

For previously regulated pollutants, a threshold of 100 tons meant that only the largest of emitters were required to be permitted. For greenhouse gases, the situation is much different. Not only would power plants and factories, but also many office and apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, large churches and even large homes would be regulated. Literally hundreds of thousands of entities would be required to obtain permits.

The vast majority of livestock operations would easily meet the 100 ton threshold and fall under regulation. In fact, USDA has stated that any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, or 50 beef cattle would have to obtain permits. According to USDA statistics, this would cover about 99 percent of dairy production and over 90 percent of beef production in the United States.

As the proposal stands today, the permit fees would equate to a "tax" of $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow.

Greenhouse gas regulation under the Clean Air Act would not only adversely impact livestock producers but all farmers. Crop production emits nitrous oxide from fertilizer and methane from rice production, and fields that emit 100 tons of carbon would also be subject to permitting requirements as well. Any Florida farm with 500 acres of corn, 250 acres of soybeans, 350 acres of potatoes or only 35 acres of rice would be forced to obtain Clean Air Act permits.

Emissions from farm machinery and energy used in production might also be added. Regulation of other economic sectors will result in increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs for all farmers and ranchers.

ACTION:

CLICK HERE to send a message to EPA letting them know how regulation of greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act would adversely affect agriculture.

Source: Florida Farm Bureau

The EPA Fed.Reg. notice is here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Administration Moves to Protect Key Appointees Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies -- including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions -- into senior civil service posts. The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs. Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies....
A Dramatic Rescue for Doomed Wild Horses of the West The unwanted horses seemed destined for death. The wheels had been set in motion to put down about 2,000 healthy mustangs, those in a federally maintained herd of wild horses and burros that no one wanted to adopt. The Bureau of Land Management knew that euthanasia was a legal alternative, but officials were proceeding slowly, afraid of an intense public outcry. The wild horses had become too expensive to maintain, and cattlemen argued that turning them loose would be a drain on the already scarce grazing lands of the West. Then yesterday, at a public hearing in Reno, Nev., to discuss the issue, a solution arrived on a white horse, so to speak. Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, made known her intentions to adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. Lifelong animal lovers, the Pickenses just a few years ago led the fight to close the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States. Madeleine Pickens is looking for land in the West that would be an appropriate home for the horses....
High-tech approach to taming New Mexico's wild horses National Forest Service rangers in New Mexico's Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory (part of the Carson National Forest, near the Colorado border) are expecting some high-tech help to aid their efforts to capture and relocate the growing number of wild horses overpopulating the area and threatening to cut off the food supply. Sandia National Laboratories researchers Casey Giron and Josh Jacob are designing a sensor system that can better detect the location of wild horses so they can be more easily trapped and relocated. Although Jicarilla has enough grass and foliage to feed as many as 105 horses, according to a 2004 National Forest Service assessment, more than 425 of the animals are crowded into the territory and have thinned out the food supply. Rustling up that many horses isn't easy. Once the rangers find a group of horses, they have to build a corral and bait it with salt, minerals and hay—and hope the horses come. The horses often shy away from the corrals, because they sense people are nearby (in fact, the trappers watch the corral via surveillance camera from a trailer located 50 to 100 yards (45.7 to 91.4 meters) away and remotely close the gate after horses wander in). The use of heat or air-conditioning in the trailer is even more likely to drive off the animals, which makes for uncomfortable monitoring conditions inside the trailer in extreme weather. Giron and Jacob are building a system that not only allows the trappers to monitor the corral and work the gate from as far away as five miles, but it also alerts the trappers when horses approach the corral, negating the need for them to watch the video screens for hours or even days....I know some old time cowboys who will be guffawin' over this.
The Greenie Wars But in reality, many groups and individuals which fall under this umbrella term have vastly different agendas. Groups commonly termed “greenies” include animal rights supporters, conservation groups and animal welfare advocates, as well as environmentalists. But how exactly do these groups differ in terms of their priorities and goals, and how on earth could they ever come into conflict? For animal rights advocates, the main priority is the rights of individual sentient animals and supporters are essentially in opposition to sacrificing any animal to advance the greater good. All animals, be they endangered or an introduced pest, are given equal rights and consideration. In contrast, the primary aim of conservation groups is to maintain biodiversity, with the focus being on species, populations and ecosystems. Conservationists generally recognize the integral links between wildlife and their habitat and allow that sometimes human intervention may be necessary to prevent loss of biodiversity. Again, this view can result in conflict between conservationists and animal rights groups, and sometimes welfarists too. The most common clashes occur over plans to eradicate non-native species in order to prevent native species declining or becoming extinct. More extreme animal rights supporters consider the killing of any individual animal in order to conserve a native species to be ‘environmental fascism’....
Enviros' Obama To-Do List: Safeguard Climate, Water, Wildlife The end of the Bush administration can't come soon enough for U.S. conservation groups, who believe that the election of Barack Obama has ushered in a "new era of hope" for the environment. "Eight dismal years of environmental abuse and neglect are now coming to an end," said Betsy Loyless, the National Audubon Society's senior vice president for policy. Loyless joined other conservation leaders in a telephone briefing with reporters on Thursday, outlining their commitment to press President-elect Obama to quickly reverse some of the Bush administration's controversial environmental policies. The conservation groups urged Obama to swiftly change current federal drilling policies, tackle climate change and strengthen protections for endangered species and public lands....
National forests see fewer visitors National forests have long been prime recreation spots in the Pacific Northwest and around the nation, but new federal figures show far fewer people are visiting them since 2004 -- especially in this region. Now researchers are trying to determine why people are staying away from the prized public playgrounds, including the nearby Mount Hood, Gifford Pinchot and Deschutes national forests. Their ideas include high gas prices, rising visitor fees, youths glued to television and video games and a busy, urban society with little time for outdoor pursuits. The visitor decline turned up last month when the Forest Service released new figures from visitor monitoring in 2007. The numbers provided the first comparison against figures from 2004. The figures are estimates based on surveys and counts around each national forest. Total forest visits dropped from 204.8 million in 2004 to 178.6million in 2007, a 13 percent decline. Visitors to national forests do not seem unhappy: More than 80 percent said they were satisfied with facilities and services at developed sites. The most common activity for forest visitors was viewing natural features, with 51 percent saying that was one of their pursuits. Only 12 percent said they engaged in more traditional pursuits, such as fishing, and 9 percent hunted. Visits to undeveloped national forest wilderness areas also dropped, from 8.8 million in 2004 to 6.3 million in 2007. Wilderness visits typically involve longer hikes or backpacking. About two-thirds of wilderness visitors were men....The stats show the public is rejecting these wilderness areas, so why are the deep thinkers in Congress creating more?
In Fighting Wildfires, Concerns About Chemicals The red clouds of fire retardant dropped onto the flames near Santa Barbara, Calif., on Friday were a welcome sight for owners of the hillside homes there. “Critical,” Bill Payne, deputy chief of aviation for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said of the retardant’s role in helping to steer the fire away from populated areas, including the exclusive enclave of Montecito. Retardant, whether released by small planes that sweep low through smoky canyons or by DC-10s in 12,000-gallon bursts, has become an increasingly common tool for fighting wildfires. Yet while many residents praise — and even demand — the use of retardant to protect their homes and neighborhoods, the potent mix of chemicals in the most common type can leave scars of its own, hurting watersheds and the fish and other animals that live in them. The use of the most common type of retardant, a fertilizer-like, phosphate-based compound, can vary by state or by who oversees the land where a fire is spreading. Among federal agencies, the Park Service is relatively cautious with retardant because part of its mission is to protect natural and cultural resources for public use. The State of California, however, has the largest aviation fire operation of any state and uses retardant aggressively not only to contain fires — retardant’s intended purpose — but also to try to extinguish them before they reach populated areas. The Forest Service, which oversees the largest share of the nation’s wildfire-fighting operations, has a laboratory devoted to testing retardant produced by private companies. In a sign of how contentious the issue has become, the agency is being sued in federal court in Montana by a group that says retardant threatens endangered species, including salmon, a claim the agency rejects....
New Poll Finds that Majority of African-Americans Oppose Public Lands Bill Senator Harry Reid's effort to pass the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act this week will be a key test of whether congressional liberals continue to take African-American support for granted, says the Washington, DC-based National Center for Public Policy Research. But according to a new poll just released this morning by The National Center for Public Policy Research's Public Opinion and Policy Center, 52% of African-Americans oppose the legislation while only 37% support it. Minorities are particularly vulnerable to home price increases and prices would likely rise following National Heritage Area designation. The poll surveyed 800 African-American adults and has a margin of error of +-3.46%....
Blackfeet pin hopes on oil Blackfeet Indian Reservation officials are hinging their hopes of shifting the tribe's economic fortunes on a billionaire's oil company and an advanced drilling technique that has been successful in Montana. The Blackfeet Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Browning are working with oil giant Anschutz Exploration Corporation of Denver to dig beneath the reservation's lands along the Rocky Mountain Front in search of oil. Oil rig crews on Wednesday finished exploring the first of two areas between the Canadian border and the reservation community of Heart Butte. Crews will next examine samples from both areas to see if a productive oil well can be established at the sites. Officials are optimistic that their five-year journey to drill on the reservation was time well spent. This agreement allows the tribe to tap into the natural resources beneath the reservation, which is something the tribe has been trying to do for years, said tribal Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. "We hope that it's a producing well," Sharp said of the project....Our nation's first environmentalists are saying Drill Baby Drill!
Scientists propose grizzly genetic research Researchers are proposing genetic testing to determine whether grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region interbreed with grizzlies from elsewhere. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey proposed the study Wednesday in a meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in West Yellowstone, Mont. Federal judges in Montana and Idaho are presiding over three separate lawsuits challenging a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April to remove grizzlies from the endangered species list. One argument against delisting is the population's lack of genetic diversity. Some say that could threaten the long-term health of bears in the ecosystem. Scientists say grizzlies from Canada or northwest Montana must breed with bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem at least once every generation to maintain the genetic diversity of the Yellowstone population....Our nation's scientists are saying Drill Bear Drill!
Environmentalists' hysteria loses Last Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court overturned a 9th U.S. Circuit injunction prohibiting certain Navy training exercises in the Pacific Ocean. The decision was a big win for the Navy and for America´s national security interests. The court's ruling was an ever bigger victory for the role of common sense in the realm of environmental regulation. After 30 years of the federal courts acting as a rubber stamp for the fear mongering of environmentalist groups, the high court has finally restore a modicum of balance to the law. These exercises were going according to plan until a lawsuit filed by several environmentalist groups sought to stop them, alleging that the sonar might harm whales and dolphins in the Pacific. Amazingly, a federal judge agreed and issued an injunction prohibiting the Navy from continuing to train as it had for some 40 years. This travesty had its roots at the intersection of environmental law and the legal rules governing injunctions. Those rules are old and generally uniform; a party seeking to enjoin some activity must show that the harm from not stopping the activity would be greater than the harm of stopping it. Those asking for injunctions also must show a court that the injunction is in the public's interest. But in 1978, the Supreme Court tilted the playing field in environmental cases. Where certain threatened species were potentially at risk, the court said in the infamous TVA vs. Hill, protection of these species must take precedence "above all else." Thus, federal courts were given license to issue injunctions regardless of the social or economic value of the activity being prohibited. For the next three decades, the Endangered Species Act was a virtual super-statute, lording over all other federal and state laws. Using the language of the TVA case, the federal courts would forgo the traditional balancing and public interest tests in injunction cases, signing off on injunctions at the mere invocation of the words "endangered species."....
Economists to test water rights system Two economists and a hydrologist are exploring a water market model in which farmers could trade water rights in real-time via computer and see the impact of their actions on the waterway. Economists from The University of New Mexico and the University of Chicago and a hydrologist from Sandia National Laboratories are testing whether such a market would work in the lab. Soon, they'll try it out for real in the upper Mimbres River basin. If the model works, a similar water market could be developed for other New Mexico rivers. The water market model has been developed with the input of about 20 upper Mimbres River farmers in southern New Mexico. The market would allow senior water rights holders on the upper Mimbres River to lease water to other farmers in the basin.

OWYHEE INITIATIVE BILL TO BE PRESENTED IN NEW CONGRESS

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From: Fred Kelly Grant, Chairman Owyhee Initiative Work Group
Jerry Hoagland, Chairman Owyhee County, Idaho Commissioners
Sent: Monday, 11/17/08 6:13 pm

It appears clear that the Owyhee Initiative Bill will not be voted on in the lame duck session of Congress, but will be re-introduced by Senator Crapo in January in the new Congress. Since being recommended for passage by a unanimous vote in the Energy-Natural Resources committee, the committee and Senate leadership packaged it into the Omnibus Public Lands Bill with 149 other bills.

Just prior to the pre-election recess of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the lands package would be called to the floor for a vote during the lame duck session which began today. Last Friday, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the press that the Omnibus Lands Bill will not be voted on during this session.

Today, Owyhee County Commissioners and the Chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group have confirmed with several sources in DC that the bill will not be voted on during the lame duck session. The sources, Eastern, Mid-Western and Western Senators-key staff members-and special interest representatives on the Hill have relayed their belief that the bill will not be brought forward for vote. They also confirm that Senator Reid has assured the sponsors of the 150 bills that the delay does not diminish in any way his commitment to lead the bill to a vote when the new Congress convenes in January, 2009.

Senate sources say that the bill is being delayed because of Senator Coburn’s (R-OK) threatened filibuster of the bill, which could tie the Senate up for a good full three days. With all the funding problems facing the Senate during the economic crisis, leadership does not believe that the three days can be wasted in the short lame duck session. Senate Coburn has opposed the bills in the package because of expenditures of $4 billion over a period of years, and because so many acres of public land will be removed from energy. 60 Senators would be needed to stop the filibuster. Senator Reid said that with the new Democrats coming in for the January session, there will be far less trouble getting the 60 necessary votes for cloture.

So, the Owyhee Initiative Bill will have to wait also until the new Congress convenes. The Owyhee Work Group, a broad base coalition, has worked on the Owyhee Agreement and the implementing bill for nearly 8 years. The sponsor, Senator Mike Crapo, has praised the efforts of ranchers, county officials, conservation groups and recreation groups to put together a local solution to local land use problems....

Monday, November 17, 2008

GAO Reports

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Federal Land Management: Use of Stewardship Contracting Is Increasing, but Agencies Could Benefit from Better Data and Contracting Strategies. GAO-09-23, November 13.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-23
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d0923high.pdf

Bureau of Land Management: Effective Long-Term Options Needed to Manage Unadoptable Wild Horses. GAO-09-77, October 9.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-77
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d0977high.pdf

Oil and Gas Leasing: Interior Could Do More to Encourage Diligent Development. GAO-09-74, October 3.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-74
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d0974high.pdf

Cow farts measured for global warming study

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See the story here. Hat Tip to The Green Line and thanks to Laura at Wolf Crossing for the email.

Let's have a contest.

Who can come up with the best caption for this photo?

The prize will be...well...international recognition for your ingenuity.
Threat of filibuster endangers lands bill A massive lands bill that would have created two new wilderness areas in southwest Oregon appears to be dead for the year, a victim of a filibuster threat and the need to focus on the nation's growing economic woes. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat strongly supports the lands package, but his first priorities in a lame-duck session next week are a planned rescue for the auto industry and extension of unemployment insurance benefits. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has threatened to filibuster the lands bill over what he calls its excessive spending — nearly $4 billion over five years — and the removal of millions of acres of federal property from oil and gas development. "The outlook for this legislation does not look real good," said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "The two big problems right now are the clock and the economy." Coburn's threat meant the Senate could have spent up to three days debating the lands package — time that Reid and other Senate leaders say should be devoted to the auto bailout and other legislation responding to the country's economic crisis....Chuck Cushman with the ALRA sent out an email Sunday saying, "You may hear that the Omnibus Federal Lands Bill has as died. Don’t believe it. Until Congress goes home from the Lame Duck Session, you are not safe. You must act, call, fax, and e-mail both your Senators and your Congressman until Congress leaves town." You can read two recent press releases from Senator Coburn here and here and an analysis of the bill by the Congressional Research Service here.
Coal plants jeopardized over climate The fate of scores of new coal-burning power plants is now in limbo over whether to regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The uncertainty resulted when an Environmental Protection Agency appeals panel on Thursday rejected a federal permit for a Utah plant, leaving the issue for the Obama administration to resolve. The panel said the EPA's Denver office failed to adequately support its decision to issue a permit for the Bonanza plant without requiring controls on carbon dioxide, the leading pollutant linked to global warming. The matter was sent back to that office, which must better explain why it failed to order limits on carbon dioxide. This is "an issue of national scope that has implications far beyond this individual permitting process," the panel said. EPA spokesman Jonathan Shrader said the agency was reviewing the ruling by the appeals panel, which traditionally gives great deference to agency decisions. Environmentalists and lawyers representing industry groups said the ruling puts in question permits - some being considered, others approved but under appeal - of perhaps as many as 100 coal plants. "It's going to stop everything while EPA mulls over what to do next" about how the federal Clean Air Act is to be used to control carbon dioxide, said David Bookbinder, a Sierra Club lawyer. "And that will be decided by the next administration."....
Congress has fast-track power to kill Bush rules President-elect Barack Obama will have limited authority to overturn federal regulations approved in the waning months of the Bush administration. But a little-used power offers the new Democratic Congress an early test of how aggressively lawmakers might unravel such rules pushed through by Republicans. Under a special fast-track authority, Congress could repeal current rules from as far back as May. Many are related to the environment and health. Aside from congressional action, such changes involve a laborious rule-making process that can take years. The Congressional Review Act of 1996, used just once in the past 12 years, could become a sweeping tool for Democrats against late regulations from the Bush presidency. Environmental activists are compiling lists of regulations they believe Congress should target, including ones covering water pollution at huge farms, pollution control equipment at older power plants and hazardous waste restrictions. The 1996 law gives Congress expedited authority to shortcut the legislative process. Once a regulation is repealed, Congress would have to approve any substantially similar new rule. The law allows 60 congressional working days to repeal a finalized regulation once it comes to Congress for review. If the House or Senate session ends before a full 60-day review period, a new 60-day clock starts 15 working days after the new Congress begins. The review period is elongated because Congress takes off August and members adjourn for long holidays or other breaks. That means that depending on when the lawmakers wrap up this year, regulations going back to May could be subject to expedited repeal by the new Congress that will convene in January, said Curtis Copeland, an expert at the Congressional Research Service who has studied the issue....The thing to remember from this is that there is not a single regulation on the books that Congress is not responsible for. They delegated this authority to the executive branch and the 1996 law was an attempt to take some of the authority back, but the gutless wonders never use it. The R's could have used this on the Clinton roadless rule, but didn't. They were too busy protecting their power and positions, which they have now deservedly lost.
U.S. military worries about climate change As a new administration committed to addressing climate change takes office, intelligence and defense officials are laying plans to address the national security implications of a warmer planet. In recent months, U.S. military planners have discussed the impact on personnel, equipment and installations of extreme weather events, rising ocean temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns and stresses on natural resources. Among the concerns: 63 U.S. coastal military facilities and several nuclear reactors are in danger of flooding from storm surges, said Tom Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis. President-elect Barack Obama next month will receive a key intelligence report, Global Trends 2025. Sources who reviewed the document for the government but asked not to be named said the report gives top priority to climate change. The Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), a Pentagon-funded think tank, issued a report last year that called climate change a "serious national security threat." The U.S. intelligence apparatus has worked up the first national intelligence assessment to focus on the implications of climate change for U.S. national security by 2030....With their finger to the wind, they want some of the $$$.