Friday, December 12, 2008

Humble building reeks with history

An outhouse that had been sitting for years behind the museum in dilapidated condition was resurrected by Don Sims, the retired Wyoming rancher who previously volunteered his services to restore the old wagon that sits in front of the museum. Sims ceremoniously presented a key to the outhouse to museum coordinator Don Montgomery Tuesday to signify the completion of the restoration project. Amid the jokes and jests, Montgomery said the outhouse is part of history. “It’s important because the outhouse is a structure not commonly in use in this area any more,” said Montgomery. “It represents a time when people did not have the luxury of indoor plumbing. It was an essential part of life.” He said his work on the outhouse attracted attention from occasional passers-by, some of whom knew what it was, and others who didn’t. “One lady asked me what it was, and I told her it was the first ATM ever built,” said Sims. “And she bought it. I kinda felt bad about that, so I had to tell her the truth...For wipin', you take three corn cobs to the outhouse. Two brown and one white. You use a brown one, then use the white one to see if you have to use the second brown one.

Bush revises protections for endangered species

Just six weeks before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, the Bush administration issued revised endangered species regulations Thursday to reduce the input of federal scientists and to block the law from being used to fight global warming. The changes, which will go into effect in about 30 days, were completed in just four months. But they could take Obama much longer to reverse. They will eliminate some of the mandatory, independent reviews that government scientists have performed for 35 years on dams, power plants, timber sales and other projects, a step that developers and other federal agencies have blamed for delays and cost increases. The rules also prohibit federal agencies from evaluating the effect on endangered species and the places they live from a project's contribution to increased global warming. Interior Department officials described the changes as "narrow," but admitted that the regulations were controversial inside the agency. Environmentalists viewed them as eroding the protections for endangered species. Interior officials said federal agencies could still seek the expertise of federal wildlife biologists on a voluntary basis, and that other parts of the law will ensure that species are protected. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said he would seek to overturn the regulations using the Congressional Review Act after consulting with other Democratic leaders. The rarely used law allows Congress to review new federal regulations....

Al Gore rouses U.N. climate talks to more action

Former Vice President Al Gore urged weary climate delegates to agree a new climate treaty next year and drew loud cheers on the last day of difficult two-week U.N. climate talks on Friday. The talks were on course to meet a minimum goal, to sign off on a fund to help poor nations prepare for global warming, but they were likely to delay any decision on climate targets. Gore urged 145 environment ministers gathered in the western Polish city of Poznan to put aside climate blame squabbles which have marred the talks for years and agree a climate treaty in Copenhagen next December. "The struggle is palpable here in Poznan," he said. "It can be done, it must be done," said the 2000 presidential candidate, climate crusader and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "We now face a crisis that makes it abundantly clear that increased CO2 emissions anywhere are a threat to the integrity of this planet's climate balance everywhere." "As a result the old divide between the North and South, between developed and developing countries is a divide that must become obsolete." He said the world's two biggest carbon emitters China and the United States were both ready to lead the fight against climate change. The U.N. talks are meant to push a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which limits neither country....

California adopts the most sweeping curbs on greenhouse gas emissions in U.S.

California regulators adopted the nation's first comprehensive plan to slash greenhouse gases Thursday and characterized it as a model for President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged an aggressive national and international effort to combat global warming. The ambitious blueprint by the world's eighth-largest economy would cut the state's emissions by 15% from today's level over the next 12 years, bringing them down to 1990 levels. Approved by the state's Air Resources Board in a unanimous vote, the 134-page plan lays out targets for virtually every sector of the economy, including automobiles, refineries, buildings and landfills. It would require a third of California's electricity to come from solar energy, wind farms and other renewable sources -- far more than any state currently requires. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been a vigorous advocate of the plan, vowed that it would "unleash the full force of California's innovation and technology for a healthier planet." Businesses, however, are sharply divided....

Dying to support animal rights? Try a PETA coffin

For animal rights activists, sticking up for furry or feathered critters is a way of life. Now it can be a way of death, too. A New Mexico company is building all-wood human coffins in a partnership with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They bear painted slogans, such as "Lifetime PETA Member" or "I saved 500 animals." Another serves up a last laugh that plays on a long-running PETA advertisement: "Told You I Wouldn't Be Caught Dead in Fur!" The coffins, which went on sale last week, are priced from $620 to $670, which includes a $75 PETA contribution. Made of wood, they are designed to be Earth-friendly, with no screws, nails, hinges or animal-based glues. They are assembled by Dienna Genther, 44, a former construction worker from Bellingham, Wash., who operates a company called The Old Pine Box in rural Edgewood, about 30 miles east of Albuquerque. She began handcrafting coffins from pine, cedar, maple and other woods in 2004....

Note to readers

Will be posting during the day, so please check back.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Obama's Energy, EPA & CEQ nominees

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be the next energy secretary, and he has picked veteran regulators from diverse backgrounds to fill three other key jobs on his environmental and climate-change team, Democratic sources said yesterday. Obama plans to name Carol M. Browner, Environmental Protection Agency administrator for eight years under President Bill Clinton, to fill a new White House post overseeing energy, environmental and climate policies, the sources said. Browner, a member of Obama's transition team, is a principal at the Albright Group. Obama has also settled on Lisa P. Jackson, recently appointed chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) and former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, to head the EPA. Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, will chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The appointments suggest that Obama plans to make a strong push for measures to combat global warming and programs to support energy innovation. "I think it's a great team," said Daniel A. Lashof, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "On policy, it's a dramatic contrast based on what I know about the policy direction that all these folks will be bringing to these positions." Obama has not yet settled on his choice to head the Interior Department, another key environmental post, and sources close to the transition indicated that several candidates remain under consideration. Barring any last-minute glitches, Obama plans to announce the appointments next week.

Auto Bailout Bill Lists Environmental Goals above Boosting U.S. Auto Sales

The draft legislation that would enshrine in federal law the agreement that President Bush and the Democratic Congress have made to bailout U.S. automakers lists the environmental purposes of the bill above the purpose of increasing sales of American-made automobiles. Section 2 of the draft legislation states what Congress perceives to be the “purposes” of the bill. The first “purpose” listed is “to immediately provide authority and facilities to restore liquidity and stability to the domestic automobile industry in the United States.” The second “purpose” specifically cited is “to ensure that such authority and such facilities are used in a manner that—(A) results in a viable and competitive automobile industry that minimizes adverse effects on the environment; (B) enhances the ability and the capacity of the domestic automobile industry to pursue the timely and aggressive production of energy-efficient advanced technology vehicles.” Section 3 of the draft bill authorizes the president to name a “designee” who has been dubbed the “Car Czar,” although under the actual terms of the bill this “designee” need not necessarily be a single person. The bill suggests that this person or persons have expertise in “energy efficiency” and “environmental protection.”....

Criticism of Coal, ‘Big Oil’ Helped Obama in Swing States, Environmentalists Say

Pro-environmental candidates were elected across-the-board in key states, unseating incumbents who advocated failed policies connected with “big oil,” said Gene Karpinksi, president of the League of Conservation Voters. The Senate races in Colorado, New Hampshire, and New Mexico were prioritized, he said, because the outcome could directly influence new legislation. Karpinski also said that President-elect Obama has a firm understanding of the connection between sound energy policy, economic growth and national security. With the Senate now closer to a pro-environmentalist 60-seat majority, Karpinski anticipates a strong push for policy changes divorced from the oil and coal industry. Polling results showed that even Republican-leaning voters such as hunters and fishermen were supportive of adopting new energy polices, said Sue Brown, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund (NWF). Over 80 percent of hunters and anglers believe the United States should establish a new vision on energy policy and set a goal to achieve 100 percent of electricity from clean, renewable sources within the next decade, according to a NWF poll, which Brown cited. She also noted that all seven of the congressional candidates endorsed by the NWF prevailed....

EPA Abruptly Backs Away From Proposals to Alter Air-Pollution Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday abandoned its push to revise two air-pollution rules in ways that environmentalists had long opposed, abruptly dropping measures that the Bush administration had spent years preparing. One proposal would have made it easier to build a coal-fired power plant, refinery or factory near a national park. The other would have altered the rules that govern when power plants must install antipollution devices. Environmentalists said it would result in fewer such cleanups. EPA officials had been trying to finalize both proposals before President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in Jan. 20. But yesterday, an agency spokesman said they were giving up, surprising critics and supporters of the measures. The proposal on parks would have changed the rules for new plants being built nearby. Currently, computer models project how bad pollution would be over three-hour and 24-hour periods, to guard against short-term spikes in pollution from nearby smokestacks. The EPA wanted to alter this rule, to focus instead on the average of air pollution over an entire year....

Rare NM bird moves up on ESA list

The status of a bird found in a handful of Western and Midwestern states has become more dire due to the loss of its native prairie habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday announced a change in the listing priority of the lesser prairie chicken with the release of the agency's annual review of candidates for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act. The lesser prairie chicken, a stocky ground-dwelling bird found in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, has been on the candidate list for more than a decade. The Fish and Wildlife Service said new information prompted raising the bird's priority number from 8 to 2, one of the most urgent categories. "It shows that it deserves to be looked at for Endangered Species Act protection sooner than the others," said Elizabeth Slown, a spokeswoman with the agency's Southwest Region. Conservation groups have been pushing the federal agency to grant the lesser prairie chicken protection under the ESA for years, saying the bird has declined by more than 90 percent over the past century and is facing threats that include energy development, climate change and the loss of habitat....

How Much Carbon Does Your Tree Absorb?

A new calculator developed by the U.S. Forest Service helps you estimate how much carbon a tree you plant will sequester over its lifetime. Carbon sequestration -- the process of absorbing carbon into living things so that it stays out of the atmosphere -- is one powerful tool against global warming. Planting a tree is an age-old action for helping the environment. This calculator helps quantify exactly how beneficial it is, aiding homeowners, schools, citizen's groups and governments to choose the best species for their climate zones. The tool is designed for use in urban communities in California, but since California cover so many climate zones, it's likely to be useful for many other areas of the country....

Fear and conservation

How does fear shape the behavior and conservation of deer, moose and antelope, not to mention carnivores such as wolves, bears, and even tigers? What is the natural state of wildlife, and how do animals know or learn which species to ignore or fear? Should we reintroduce predators to former habitats, even though the prey animals may be unprepared for their return? Dr. Joel Berger, Senior Conservationist of the Wildlife Conservation Society, attempts to answer these questions and more through conservation work—both his own and the work of others—around the world in his new book: The Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World (University of Chicago Press, $29). Using his extensive field experience as case studies to examine the role of fear in animal behavior, Berger asks questions and seeks the challenging answers that have implications for local and global conservation. Can naïve animals—such as the elk and moose in the Yellowstone region—relearn the importance of avoiding reintroduced predators such as wolves? Is fear passed from one animal generation to another by culture? Can an understanding of current animal behavior help inform the mysteries of why animals go extinct and how to save other species?....

Box Elder fencing ordinance stands

Box Elder County will remain a fence-out county -- for now, at least. County commissioners tabled the repeal of the current fencing ordinance, which says those who want to keep livestock off property must fence the animals out. At a Dec. 2 work session, the commissioners considered a recommendation from the planning commission to repeal the current fencing ordinance and pass a livestock trespass ordinance. If the current ordinance is repealed, the county would default to state law, which does not specify whether animals must be fenced in or out, but says livestock owners are responsible for damage their animals cause on someone else's property. Ranchers argue that, by putting responsibility for damages on livestock owners, the county is effectively creating a fence-in law. The recommended livestock trespass ordinance would allow the sheriff's office to issue a class C misdemeanor citation to people who are repeatedly causing problems by not controlling animals. At Tuesday's commission meeting, Commissioner Clark Davis made a motion to repeal the ordinance but did not have a second, so the motion was tabled....

Panel gives green light to drilling ordinance

Santa Fe County now has an ordinance aimed specifically at regulating the activities of the oil and gas industry. After more than a year of planning and countless public hearings, the County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an ordinance that appears to have soothed county residents anxious about energy-development impacts and excited the ire of the regulation-phobic oil and gas industry. Santa Fe County began writing new oil and gas regulations in 2007 after a company called Tecton Energy announced plans to explore for oil in the Galisteo Basin area of Santa Fe County. Since then, the rules have gone through dozens of revisions and had several authors, including county attorney Steve Ross, who set out to write the rules himself in three months. The draft approved Tuesday is a massive document that takes a multipronged approach to balancing the rights of oil and gas developers with environmental concerns and capital infrastructure needs. It requires potential oil and gas operators to submit numerous studies on animal habitats and proximity to water sources and to be financially responsible for such needs as new roads and increased emergency medical services....

ASA Board Calls for USDA Investigation of National Soybean Checkoff Program

In the best interest of U.S. soybean farmers, the Board of Directors of the American Soybean Association (ASA) yesterday voted unanimously to ask the Secretary of Agriculture to order an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation and financial audit of the National Soybean Checkoff Program. The ASA petition, filed today with Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), calls for an investigation of the United Soybean Board (USB) and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) to ensure that soybean checkoff dollars are being managed and invested as prescribed by law. Allegations include the improper and wasteful expenditure of both checkoff and federal funds; potential evasion of mandated salary and administrative spending caps by USB; conflicts of interests at USB; use of checkoff funds for prohibited purposes by USB; and wasteful and excessive spending by USB. There are additional allegations concerning improper USB oversight and tolerance of actions that have taken place at the USSEC, an entity created by USB and ASA in October 2005. These allegations include improper conduct by a USSEC employee at USSEC functions; the firing of whistleblowers; improper employee relationships; contracting violations; management malfeasance and the inability of ASA Directors serving on USSEC Board to obtain an independent and objective investigation of the allegations....

William Matthew (Bill) Tilghman

William Matthew "Bill" Tilghman is one of the most celebrated lawmen of the Old West. Having done a stint as a farmer, buffalo hunter, army scout, rancher, saloonkeeper, state senator and officer of the law, Tilghman's resume is impressive even by today's standards (we don't have as many saloon shootouts these days). Tilghman was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on July 4, 1854. Bill left home at the tender age of fifteen to become a buffalo hunter and over the period of five years claimed to have killed 12,000 bison. During this time Bill's older brother, Richard, was hunting with him and was killed during an attack by Indians. While making his living as a buffalo hunter, Tilghman became friends with several historic figures; the Earp brothers, Bill Hickock and Bat Masterson all called Bill their friend. In fact, Masterson referred to Tilghman as "... the greatest of us all." Most of what we know of Tilghman's escapades of the time came from accounts written by Masterson who was to become a sports editor for a New York City Newspaper...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deal struck on forests in climate talks

Negotiators at U.N. climate conference have agreed to give people who live in forests a voice on conserving their lands. That move clears a major obstacle toward including forest protection in a new global-warming agreement. A text of the committee's agreement says indigenous people will have full and effective participation regarding their forests. The text also would give credit to countries for replanting depleted forests. Delegates say that is a key victory for China and India. Wednesday's agreement means the critical issues of financing conservation can now begin.

Bush administration is poised to publish new environment rules

With the Bush administration planning to publish a slew of new energy and environmental regulations by year's end, congressional Democrats already are looking ahead to how the Obama administration might undo them. On Thursday, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is planning a hearing to investigate proposed late-term regulatory rule changes that touch on a range of issues from fuel economy standards to endangered species. A Democratic staff report outlines a number of areas the committee is likely to explore. The most contentious proposed agency actions include: * The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing three new rules governing the source review program that was designed to force power plants to upgrade pollution controls when they improve their facilities. The proposed rules would alter the way emissions are measured, with the likely result that fewer power plants would be required to adopt stronger pollution controls. * The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing regulations to implement the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. Under the law, fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks are to be increased by the "maximum feasible amount" each year to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Defining "maximum feasible" requires measuring the cost-effectiveness of higher standards. But NHTSA has adopted unrealistically low estimates of gasoline prices (lower than those recommended by the Energy Department), which would effectively delay the imposition of higher fuel-economy standards on automakers in the near term. * The Interior Department is planning to issue a number of regulatory changes aimed at excluding climate change as a consideration in implementing the 1973 Endangered Species Act. The department also plans to issue new regulations on coal mining that would exempt some operations from maintaining a 100-foot buffer zone around streams to protect them from environmental damage....

Nature Conservancy Releases "Green" Economic Stimulus


The Nature Conservancy released a “green” economic stimulus package today, advocating for the funds to restore ecosystems, initiate green infrastructure construction, and create much-needed jobs in the process. The package will be provided to Capitol Hill lawmakers, agency staff, and members of the president-elect Obama’s transition team. “This week, Congress is considering ways to develop and deploy the technology, science and labor that will produce a sustainable long-term economy,” said Mark Tercek, President and CEO of the Nature Conservancy. “Conservation offers us one of the best opportunities to accomplish that. By strengthening already-existing federal environmental programs, we can create jobs immediately, and we can also take steps toward addressing environmental threats at a time when they have never been more urgent.” The Nature Conservancy is advocating that a portion of stimulus funding go toward restoring natural systems. Such investment provides human and ecological benefits. Recognizing that the stimulus will provide much needed investment in the nation’s roads, bridges, rails, dams, and levees, The Nature Conservancy is also calling for giving priority to hard infrastructure projects that are compatible with nature. Investing in these “green infrastructure” projects will ensure that stimulus investment will minimize additional environmental damage....Go here to view the package.

Bush Warned of Threats to Desert Tortoise and California Condor on Public Land

The Center for Biological Diversity today notified the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service of its intent to file a lawsuit against the agencies for their failure to protect the desert tortoise and the California condor, as well as other species, in crafting their management plans for huge tracts of public land near the Grand Canyon. The management plans created by the federal agencies govern most activities in the Arizona Strip – the largely public land in northwestern Arizona bordered by the Grand Canyon to the south. The land includes portions of two popular national monuments: Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs. The agencies’ plans authorize a number of activities, including roads and off-road vehicle use; livestock grazing; construction of power lines; oil and gas exploration and drilling; and uranium mining, all of which will result in harm to the desert tortoise and condor in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The plans also fail to require use of non-lead ammunition by hunters on public land managed by the Bureau. The use of lead ammunition has been clearly demonstrated to cause lead poisoning of the condor, and was recently banned by the State of California. At issue in the agencies’ management plans is their reliance on a biological opinion prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that signed off on numerous impacts to endangered species while ignoring others. The biological opinion, and the BLM and Park Service’s reliance on it, both violate the Endangered Species Act.

Former wild horses in inauguration

Some formerly wild horses that are now used by the U.S. Border Patrol in the Spokane Sector will be part of next month's inaugural parade for Barack Obama. The horses operates out of Colville, Metaline Falls and other Inland Northwest locations. Eight of the mustangs will be sent to Washington, D.C., next month to march in the parade with the agency's honor guard and bagpipe and drum team. The agency adopts horses captured and auctioned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and has them trained by inmates in the Colorado state prison system. The horses are then sent to Border Patrol stations in the Spokane Sector, which covers Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana.

Greens move to save tree bears depend on

A decline in whitebark pine trees would likely result in more grizzly bear conflicts with people and a smaller grizzly population in Greater Yellowstone, according to conservation groups. The statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council comes after the group announced Tuesday it will file a petition to protect the tree species under the Endangered Species Act. The group cited numerous threats to the tree, including global climate change, blister rust and the mountain pine beetle. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey point to Glacier National Park as an example of an ecosystem where grizzly bears survive without whitebark. But, those same scientists say the disappearance of the tree species would remove a significant source of calories from the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, likely reducing its carrying capacity for the species. Bob Keane, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, said he has mixed feelings about listing the tree. “This tree is going to need active management in order to keep it on the landscape,” he said. “The Endangered Species Act may not allow that kind of management.” Keane advocates harvesting seeds from whitebark pines that have survived blister rust infections, raising the seedlings, and then replanting these rust-resistant trees. Keane pointed to designated wilderness areas as a place where replanting trees using this technique isn’t allowed...

Lawsuits pile up over further fish protection

As few as 50 tiny longfin smelt would be protected by Delta pumping restrictions that could further crimp the water supply for 25 million Californians, water users said Tuesday in a trio of lawsuits filed against the state. Districts that supply water to cities and farms from the Bay Area to San Diego say the restrictions, approved last month by the California Fish and Game Commission, are disproportionate and do not reflect the best science. The restrictions are in effect until mid-February, when the commission is expected to vote on whether the longfin smelt - a close cousin of the threatened Delta smelt - should receive permanent protection under state endangered species laws. The well-chronicled decline of the Delta smelt already has led to severe cutbacks in how much water can be pumped from the state and federal facilities near Tracy. Now attention has turned to the longfin smelt. The added restrictions approved last month are double trouble, especially in a drought year, water users say....

Study: Hispanics prefer developed recreation instead of wilderness

In addition, it suggested most Hispanics who do visit national forests do not often participate in multiple-day activities like camping. Instead, Hispanics prefer developed day-use sites for activities such as picnicking. They also visit these sites in larger family groups than non-Hispanics, tend to stay longer on the day of their visit and prepare foods on site. This suggests day-use sites such as picnic areas with grouped tables and barbecue pits suited for large groups can better serve these visitors, according to the report. "Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic population in California and the nation," said Deborah Chavez, a Forest Service social scientist at the Pacific Southwest Research Station and one of the report's editors. "It's important for recreation managers on national forests to learn their preferences." he report showed lack of recreation information as among the top five barriers to national forest visitation reported by Hispanics, as well as African-Americans and Asians. Ethnic media outlets might be an effective way to reach these audiences, according to researchers....Forest visits are down 13% and wilderness visits are down 28%.

Eat camels and kangaroos to protect environment, Aussies told

Australians were urged Tuesday to eat camels to stop them wreaking environmental havoc, just months after being told to save the world from climate change by consuming kangaroos. A three-year study has found that Australia's population of more than a million feral camels -- the largest wild herd on earth -- is out of control and damaging fragile desert ecosystems and water sources. The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, which produced the report, plans to serve camel meat at a barbecue for senior public servants in Canberra on Wednesday to press its point. Report co-author Professor Murray McGregor said a good way to bring down the number of camels was to eat them. "Eat a camel today, I've done it," he told the national AAP news agency....

Bill Pickett , the no-hands wonder of the rodeo ring

The National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City finally admitted its first black member on Dec. 10, 1971, but the honor came 39 years too late for legendary Bill Pickett. Pickett's father was born into bondage in 1854 on the trail from South Carolina to Texas. After the Civil War and their emancipation, the family stayed in the hill country along the San Gabriel River. Willie M. Pickett came along in 1870 and after five years of schooling started earning his keep as a miniature ranch hand. Little Bill was barely 11, when he mastered the trick that changed his life.The observant youngster happened to notice that a bulldog could control the orneriest steer simply by chomping down on the creature's upper lip. A few days and several secret practice sessions later, Bill stupefied a corral of cowpunchers by pacifying a number of unruly calves in exactly the same way.
As a range-riding teenager, he gradually perfected the amazing technique and unwittingly invented a new rodeo event. Leaping from his horse "Spradley" onto a speeding steer, Bill would grab the animal by the horns, twist the head and sink his teeth into the critter's upper lip. With the beast completely in his power, he would bring it down while holding both hands high in the air. Moving to the Central Texas town of Taylor in 1888, Bill's first public performance was at the local fair, where the spectacular stunt predictably proved to be a real crowd pleaser....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

1,100-gallon oil spill off Santa Barbara mopped up

Cleanup crews worked Monday to mop up the last remnants of a small oil spill that erupted off the coast of Santa Barbara County over the weekend in the same area where a 1969 spill caused an ecological disaster. More than 1,130 gallons of oil — or 27 barrels — spilled from a drilling platform six miles off the coast, said Carol Singleton of the State Department of Fish and Game. As of Monday, crews using skimmers had mopped up about 882 gallons, and the oil was not expected to reach the scenic area's coastline. There were no reports of injury to wildlife....

Untapped U.S. Oil and Gas Resources Study

The development of America's vast domestic oil and natural gas resources that had been kept off-limits by Congress for decades could generate more than $1.7 trillion in government revenue, create thousands of new jobs and enhance the nation’s energy security by significantly boosting domestic production, a study released Monday shows. The ICF International study, commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (API), shows that developing the offshore areas that had been subject to Congressional moratoria until recently, as well as the resources in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a small portion of currently unavailable federal lands in the Rockies, would lift U.S. crude oil production by as much as 2 million barrels per day in 2030, offsetting nearly a fifth of the nation's imports. Natural gas production could increase by 5.34 billion cubic feet per day, or the equivalent of 61 percent of the expected natural gas imports in 2030. The study also estimates that the development of all U.S. oil and natural gas resources on federal lands could exceed $4 trillion over the life of the resources. According to the ICF study, U.S. crude oil production would rise by 36% by 2030 if development is permitted in the studied areas of the Outer Continental Shelf, ANWR and the Rockies and domestic natural gas production would rise by 10%....The full study is available here.

Transition talk: Interior motives

Buzz in Washington right now is that the Obama transition team is considering two new candidates for Secretary of the Interior: Kevin Gover and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). Most speculation last week focused on Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), but these new names appear to be high on the list as well. The transition team is expected to make a decision as early as this week. Gover currently serves as the director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. He previously served as a professor at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, where he was co-executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute and an affiliate professor in the American Indian Studies Program. He is a member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and a judge for the Tonto Apache Tribal Court of Appeals and the San Carlos Apache Tribal Court of Appeals. Gover served as the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs from 1997-2001, under then-Secretary Bruce Babbitt, working on law enforcement on Indian lands, rebuilding schools, and reforming the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mike Thompson, who has represented the first district of California since 1999, is a member of the moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats. He has an 88 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and earned a 91 percent for the 110th Congress. Despite a high overall mark, he's had some run-ins with enviros in the past, often on issues that he'd influence as DOI secretary. In 2003, he voted for Bush's controversial Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which enviros saw as a massive gift to the timber industry....

130 groups push for Grijalva to fill Interior post

Grass-roots environmentalist support is mushrooming for U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva to be named the next interior secretary, with about 130 groups signing a letter endorsing the Tucson Democrat. For the most part, business-interest groups whose views often clash with those of the liberal, environmentalist Grijalva are staying silent on the Interior Department job — as are many major national environmental groups. The letter Monday backing Grijalva came from a wide range of environmental and animal-protection groups across the country. It surfaced as President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is apparently preparing to make decisions on key environmental appointees. Grijalva also got letters of support in the past week from Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, of which the Grijalva is a member, and from Rep. Grace Napolitano, the chairwoman of the committee's water and power subcommittee.
He also has received support from the Humane Society of the United States, the National Federation for the Blind and the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade group for businesses selling recreational equipment....

Salazar shoots down his chances of becoming secretary of interior

The Pueblo Chieftain reports, “Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar’s name appears to be falling off the list of likely nominees (for secretary of the interior) this week, although the first-term Democrat campaigned vigorously for Barack Obama in this battleground state and has said he wants a Westerner to head Interior.” Only a short time ago, Salazar’s name was suggested as a prospect for Interior, though he is not known to have lobbied for the position himself. Anyone wondering why Salazar was dropped so quickly after his name surfaced as a potential nominee may not need to look much beyond the newly adopted rule to allow carrying of concealed handguns and other firearms in national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges. Without over-emphasizing the importance of this single issue, it nevertheless points up some reasons President-elect Obama might not be keen on Salazar as his Interior secretary....

Ruling on management of roadless wilderness areas will cause more destructive forest fires

The usual enviromental groups sued in the Ninth District Court and, in 2006, Magistrate Laporte concluded that the State Petitions procedure violated NEPA because it was not accompanied by an EIS. In the strangest twist of legal logic, she then reinstated the illegal Roadless Rule, and ordered that the USFS comply with its terms. She made that ruling despite Judge Brimmer's earlier decision, despite the fact that Judge Brimmer reached his conclusions after a comprehensive review of the Administrative Record, and despite the fact that she had no idea as to whether the Roadless Rule complied with NEPA or not. Her decision was odd to say the least, which is confirmed by the fact that the State Petitions procedure was not an environmental action per se but a remedy to fix the original defective and illegal Roadless Rule EIS. Requiring an EIS to fix an EIS sets up an infinite loop of EIS's. Wyoming again filed suit in an attempt to fix the mess created by Magistrate Laporte's decision. In August 2008, Judge Brimmer issued yet another permanent national injunction against the Roadless Rule...In short, Judge Brimmer found that the USFS was more concerned about the political legacy of President Clinton than it was in complying with NEPA and the Wilderness Act...Judge Brimmer is the only federal judges that has reviewed the Administrative Record related to the Roadless Rule. Magistrate Laporte has never reviewed the Roadless Rule Administrative Record because it was never before her. Her analysis was supposed to be limited to whether the State Petition procedure passed legal muster. While she may have had the authority to look at that issue, she surely never had the authority to evaluate the legality or enforceability of the Roadless Rule....

Skepticism on climate change

THE MAIL brings an invitation to register for the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change, which convenes on March 8 in New York City. Sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank, the conference will host an international lineup of climate scientists and researchers who will focus on four broad areas: climatology, paleoclimatology, the impact of climate change, and climate-change politics and economics. But if last year's gathering is any indication, the conference is likely to cover the climate-change waterfront. There were dozens of presentations in 2008, including: "Strengths and Weaknesses of Climate Models," "Ecological and Demographic Perspectives on the Status of Polar Bears," and "The Overstated Role of Carbon Dioxide on Climate Change." Just another forum, then, sounding the usual alarums on the looming threat from global warming? Actually, no. The scientists and scholars Heartland is assembling are not members of the gloom-and-doom chorus. They dispute the frantic claims that global warming is an onrushing catastrophe; many are skeptical of the notion that human activity has a significant effect on the planet's climate, or that such an effect can be reliably measured or predicted. Some point out that global temperatures peaked in 1998 and have been falling since then. Indeed, several argue that a period of global cooling is on the way. Nearly all would argue that climate is always changing, and that no one really knows whether current computer models can reliably account for the myriad of factors that cause that natural variability....

Ban lifted on loaded guns in national parks

The Bush administration has officially lifted a 25-year ban on licensed possession of loaded concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges – and the new rule is set to be published in the Federal Register Wednesday. The U.S. Department of the Interior issued a Dec. 5 statement announcing it has updated its regulations to allow individuals with concealed weapons permits to carry their loaded guns into parks if allowed to do so under their state law. "America was founded on the idea that the federal and state governments work together to serve the public and preserve our natural resources," said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Lyle Laverty. "The Department’s final regulation respects this tradition by allowing individuals to carry concealed firearms in federal park units and refuges to the extent that they could lawfully do so under state law. The restrictive regulations were adopted in 1981 for national wildlife refuges and in 1983 for national parks. It required permit holders to keep their guns unloaded and stowed. However, since the regulation was adopted, 48 states have passed laws allowing legal possession of concealed weapons. The National Rifle Association and almost half of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne calling the old rules "confusing, burdensome and unnecessary" and asking for a policy revision....

Feds laud conservation deal with private entities

The federal government signed agreements Monday with an oil and gas company and a rancher to help protect two rare New Mexico species, deals that federal officials hope will pave the way for cooperative conservation efforts across the country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management reached agreements with Lea County rancher Chris Brininstool and Marbob Energy Corp. of Artesia. The deals are aimed at helping the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard, both candidates for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act. Brininstool and Marbob agreed to take actions to protect the species and their habitat, including modifying fences to reduce collision by prairie chickens and relocating well sites to limit habitat disturbance. In return, Brininstool and Marbob have assurances they will be able to continue using the land even if the species should be placed under ESA protection. Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett called the agreements "nationally significant," saying that until now federal wildlife managers had no legal framework to partner on conservation efforts with ranchers who have federal grazing permits or energy development companies that lease public land.

Rare white bison at Calgary zoo

The Calgary zoo held a special ceremony to welcome a new, rare resident on Monday morning. Blizzard, the white bison, is on loan to the Calgary zoo from the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg for the next five months. The 3-year-old male bison is leucistic and not an albino, meaning that he has a defect in pigment cell differentiation that results in his white hair color. White bison's have a special significance for First Nations Plains People and elders from several Treaty 7 Nations were on hand to welcome Blizzard. "It's a rarity and it's very powerful and very spiritual to us just like the eagle," said Kelly Good Eagle from the Indian Events Committee. Blizzard was born in March of 2006 on the farm of an anonymous rancher who gave him to the Assiniboine Park Zoo as a calf in recognition of his spiritual significance.

Navajo cowboys traveling to Las Vegas to make their mark at National Finals Rodeo

The Navajo Nation has two young cowboys riding into history. Spud Jones and Derrick Begay have reached the pinnacle of professional rodeo, competing for the next week in the 50th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev. Navajo Parks and Recreation Department Manager Ray Russell beams with pride at the prospect of seeing two Navajo cowboys competing in the “Big Show.” In addition to the Navajo competitors, Russell is also happy with the nomination of Dave James as Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Committeeman of the Year. “We have two of our own in the national finals. The intent was to get some of our Navajo rodeo athletes to that level and now we’re beginning to see that,” he said. Beyond the two Navajo cowboys making their mark in Vegas this week, the PRCA has always recognized the Navajo fans as the best in the business....

Monday, December 08, 2008

Obama's lists for Interior, Energy are starting to narrow

President-elect Barack Obama's choice for Interior secretary might come down to two Western House Democrats: a three-term Hispanic lawmaker and a five-term Blue Dog backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva appears to be the leading contender, but California Rep. Mike Thompson has Pelosi in his corner. While Pelosi might have pushed for her fellow Californian before speculation accelerated about Grijalva, Thompson has also been endorsed by two of Pelosi's closest allies -- Reps. Anna Eshoo and George Miller, both of California. Thompson has the backing of hunting and fishing groups, while Grijalva is favored by environmental groups. Former two-term Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber -- another finalist to head Interior -- told the Associated Press this week he would bet on Grijalva. Several other sources following the Obama transition team's deliberations also cite Grijalva -- who chairs the House Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee -- as the likely favorite. But the importance that the Interior Department holds for Western governors, as well as his executive experience, makes Kitzhaber a sleeper pick. A fourth finalist -- Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. -- has also been mentioned in a long list of potential nominees to be Energy secretary. Grijalva was widely praised by environmentalists in October when he issued a 23-page indictment of Bush administration policies on national parks, forests and public lands. This showed "the breadth and depth of his passion about conservation and public lands" and also shows off his experience as head of the subcommittee, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Obama from 56 conservation scientists. Obama's nomination of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be Commerce secretary has not diluted the call from Hispanic leaders for more representation in the Cabinet....

Next on Obama's Dance Card, Mother Nature

There's been a very crowded field in the running for interior secretary. Inslee seems to have faded in the stretch, while former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber and Richard Moe, former vice presidential chief of staff to Walter Mondale and now president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, appear to still be contenders. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), had been edging up a bit, but his rise may now have stalled. There's talk that Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) may be making a move and could land the job. It's not lost on transition officials that Thompson is an avid hunter and angler whose candidacy has been endorsed by sportsmen's associations. President-elect Barack Obama told Field & Stream magazine in September that he wants a sportsman or sportswoman in the post. "I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem," Obama told the magazine....

The Cost Of Green

Both Obama and congressional Democrats believe we can move to a new carbon-free future by "investing" in "green" technologies and infrastructure, while creating millions of new jobs. As it stands, Obama is eyeing $100 billion in "green stimulus" as part of a much bigger package — as much as $700 billion or more — of conventional stimulus. He reckons this will create up to five million "green-collar jobs" and "jolt" the economy back to life. How will the money be spent? "School repairs," according to a Bloomberg report, "could be required to meet green building standards, including low-energy boilers and weatherization. Transportation spending could emphasize public transit, and support for new power sources such as wind . . . could go hand in hand with spending on an efficient electricity superhighway." Sounds great. But it'll take money — plus new regulations that will make it more expensive to do anything with oil, even if there are no reasonable alternatives. Nowhere is it mentioned that these "green-collar jobs" would be terribly costly, and that the planned "investments" are really just subsidies. And, as we know, things that require subsidies aren't competitive in the market, and thus aren't profitable. Claims that such "investments" will create five million jobs are false. It's likely more jobs will be killed than created due to higher costs and increased inefficiency of the U.S. economy. A recent report from the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation found that limiting CO2 emissions under recent proposed legislation would destroy 900,000 net jobs....

Subsidies Spur Crops on Fragile Habitat

The ducks arrive in early April, zeroing in on thousands of shallow ponds fed by melting snow amid a vast prairie. As the pintails, mallards and blue-winged teal make nests in the grass and feed their young on abundant aquatic insects and freshwater shrimp, a 276,000-square-mile area reaching across five states and into Canada is transformed into one of the world's greatest habitats for migrating birds. Now this swath, known as the Prairie Pothole Region because of the depressions formed long ago by retreating glaciers, is threatened by the steady advance of farming. Spurred by federal subsidies and two years of surging commodity prices, farmers increasingly are digging up the grass to plant crops, raising concerns among cattle ranchers, hunters and environmental groups about the future of land where Sioux hunters chased grazing buffalo a mere century and a half ago. Today, signs of change are clearly visible. Emerald fields of ripening crops stand out against a sea of tawny grass in which a single square yard can hold 100 plant species. Rock piles tell the tale of fields cleared to make way for corn, soybeans, sunflowers or wheat. Whether U.S. taxpayers should be underwriting these changes has emerged as a controversial issue in farm country and in Washington....

Government files first brief in Navajo trust case

The outgoing Bush administration filed its first brief in the contentious Navajo Nation trust case last week, raising a new claim about the handling of a botched coal lease. Solicitor General Gregory Garre, a Bush nominee, told the U.S. Supreme Court that the tribe engaged in the same type of behavior at the center of the long-running dispute. The government's brief said the tribe learned through ex parte, or one-sided, communications that the lease dispute was likely being resolved in its favor. The tribe had accused Reagan administration officials of ex parte contacts with a lobbyist for Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company. The tribe said it was forced into signing a bad deal with Peabody as a result of such behavior. But now the Department of Justice says information developed more recently in the case shows the tribe spoke with government attorneys and officials and believed Peabody would have been ordered to pay a higher royalty rate on a valuable coal deposit in northeastern Arizona....

Domestic horses being set loose

State and local officials in Nevada say they're seeing an increasing number of domestic horses being turned loose because their owners can no longer afford to care for them. But experts warn that domestic horses left to fend for themselves likely will end up being hit by cars, killed by predators or dying of starvation because they lack skills to survive in the wild. "They have no survival skills at all," Bonnie Matton, president of the Wild Horse Preservation League, said of domestic horses. Rather than being adopted by wild bands, domestic horses are often attacked. "It's not very often that you find a domestic that is not being torn up or kicked out of the herd," he said. "They can't compete for food; they're not used to that."....

Trail Dust: United against a hostile force

To readers of colonial New Mexico history, the names of Coronado, Espejo, Oñate, Vargas, Escalante and De Anza are quite familiar. Not so another name, that of Gov. Antonio de Valverde (1717-1722) who led a grand expedition against the Comanches and Utes in 1719. At the beginning of the century, those two allied tribes migrated from the northwest into the Southern Rockies. Their first hostilities against the Spanish and Pueblos occurred in the Taos area in 1704. A series of small raids followed. Then in July 1719, the Comanches struck hard at Taos and Cochiti pueblos, killing a number of residents. That awakened Velarde to the serious nature of this new threat. Fueling his concern also were reports that Comanches who supported by Utes were invading the eastern buffalo plains, displacing the Jicarilla Apaches, nominal allies of the Spaniards. Officers in the Santa Fe presidio warned the governor that an army should be sent against these enemies "to punish them for their grave robberies and atrocities." Valverde agreed. Valverde detached 60 soldiers from the presidio and added 45 settlers that "offered voluntarily to serve His Majesty on this campaign." Some 30 Pueblo Indians came in, fully armed, and also volunteered....

Alice King, 1930-2008: Former first lady said children were her legacy

Popular three-time former New Mexico first lady Alice King died Sunday night after suffering a stroke last week. She was 78. "She was a wonderful mother and we got to share her with lots of other kids in New Mexico," said her son, Attorney General Gary King. "She cared about all the other kids in New Mexico. She spent most of her time and energy working on to improve kids' lives in New Mexico." King was married to former Gov. Bruce King, who was with her at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque when she died, along with sons Gary and Bill. King, a major supporter of the Carrie Tingley Children's Hospital, was also chairwoman of the New Mexico Children's Trust Fund. She is credited with creating the state's Children, Youth and Families Department. King, whose 1948 Moriarty High School class had just 13 people, is probably one of the few New Mexicans to go straight from her farm to the governor's mansion. In a recent interview with The New Mexican at the King Ranch near Stanley, she said the adjustment at first proved a little tough. "At the time, I was a young farm girl that had not been off the farm, to tell the truth," she said. "And (I was) changing from living on a farm and rural life. "New Mexico was very rural at the time; we had less than a million people. ... It was very wide open, a long ways in between every town, but there were lots of little towns," she said. "People did things as a community a lot more than they did now. They didn't get far out of the area where they lived." "They" included Alice. And her arrival in Santa Fe from Stanley with Bruce raised more than a few eyebrows. "Well, they didn't just understand ranch life, and they thought a rancher always had dirt on his boots and this sort of the thing, and that was some of the things we'd hear people say, that we don't want someone carrying cow manure in on the rugs in the governor's residence and things. It was just a kind of an attitude that people felt like you just didn't know the city life, I guess. I'm not sure what they felt," she said. "But anyhow, they soon got over that...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Here it comes, ready or not

Julie Carter

Twenty shopping days until Christmas and then it's almost time to file your income taxes.

Right after I looked up from the dinner table on Thanksgiving, I realized that the following Monday brought the first day of December and with it, a landslide of ideas, lists, projects, events, commitments and deadlines.

As soon as I recovered from that particular mental avalanche, which was days later, I realized the first week of December was almost gone. As usual, I'm behind before I even start.

I've had my eye out for clever Christmas gifts all year, but like most years, I either forgot about it if I thought of it in March or I bought it, hid it and don't remember where.

Early gift buying has its disadvantages. While spreading the cost of the holiday throughout the year, it also increases the odds of you paying more for the same thing that will be on sale later. Or, in my case, you find out that perfect gift is no longer perfect because the recipient proudly bought it for herself about the same time you did.

Useful gifts never go out of style and every year they take on a facet that makes them a little different from last year, but still very utilitarian.

Fad colors, embroidered phrases and rhinestones turn a regular cap into something that makes a fashion statement. While the market for "gimme" caps from feed, seed and implement dealers is still quite viable, nothing says cutting edge like a cap that announces, "Jesus ropes here."

Spur straps, once just a piece of leather with a function, now come in colors, animal print and of course, more bling. Some of them are so fashionable that the livestock will need sunglasses to stop the glare.

A favorite gift among the working cowboy set is the thoughtful offering of the cowboys' favorite beverage, usually in aluminum cans but sometimes upgraded to a glass bottle. The ropers refer to it as "aiming fluid," and have determined that the proper amount not only improves their roping but makes pastures greener and girls prettier.

This year's twist is the camouflage container that convincingly offers to those that imbibe the ability to become invisible if enough is consumed.

Then there is the never-ending list of "new" ideas for gifts designed to entice the giver to give to the guy that already has everything.

My choice this season is a giant beach-type umbrella with a base that attaches over the gooseneck trailer ball in the bed of the pickup. This allows spectators to sit in the shade next to the beverage cooler, and watch the roping from the back of the truck.

In these days and times, I sometimes spot something that just won't compute in my cowgirl brain. With decades of thinking I've seen it all, always, something proves me wrong.

Recently it was seeing a big black Hummer pulling an aluminum horse trailer going south through town. The oddity of that combination left me speechless. As my son would say, “That’s messed up.”

Maybe I just need to get out more.

Julie’s new book, Cowboys You Gotta Love 'em, is available for purchase. Visit Julie's Web site for details at