Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mexico Halts Meat Purchases From 30 U.S. Plants, Including Top Processors

Mexico suspended meat imports from 30 processing plants in 14 U.S. states, including some of the nation's largest, on Wednesday and Friday, according to a list posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site. The action pushed down beef and pork futures in trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Friday. USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said in an e-mail that Mexico had discussions over the last five business days with the agency regarding concerns about the general condition of meat products, sanitation issues and "possible pathogen findings." "Occasional differences in shipments in trade relationships do occur and allow for the option of notifying specific plants of suspension of those shipments," she said. Among the plants listed on the site are the Smithfield Packing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., the world's largest pork slaughterhouse. Another Smithfield plant in Plant City, Fla., that processes pork, beef and poultry is on the list, along with three plants operated by subsidiary John Morrell & Co., two in South Dakota and one in Iowa, a Nebraska pork plant run by subsidiary Farmland Foods and a Pennsylvania beef plant run by its Moyer Packing unit. Six operations run by Tyson Foods in Iowa, Texas and Nebraska also are on the list. Tyson spokesman Archie Schaffer III said the company had no prior warning from Mexico about the ban and only learned of it when shipments were turned aside at the border Wednesday. The ban could greatly affect the company, as high feed prices already have strained its profits. Mexico represented 23 percent of its $3.8 billion of international sales in 2008, according to company statistics. "No information or explanation was given," Schaffer said. "We're going to be working beginning Monday" to restore trade. Attempts to reach representatives at Smithfield and Swift were unsuccessful. According to published reports, the suspensions may be in retaliation for the United States putting a country-of-origin labeling law into effect on Oct. 1 in response to concerns about the safety of imports. Last week, Mexico joined Canada in opposing the law, which involves fresh beef and pork, in a complaint to the World Trade Organization. Canada filed its complaint Dec. 1, saying it was concerned the U.S. rules were discriminating against Canadian agricultural exporters. The country-of-origin labeling law mandates the separation of foreign cattle and pigs in U.S. feedlots and packing plants. Foreign animals also are required to have more documentation about where they come from and, in the case of cattle, must have tags that indicate they are free of mad cow disease. Canadian farm groups say a growing number of meat plants in the United States are refusing to accept Canadian cattle and hogs for processing since the law went into effect.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snowzilla Is Back!

Snowzilla the giant snowman rose from the dead Tuesday morning after some holiday pranksters thumbed their noses at city orders and rebuilt him overnight. When news of the controversial and world-famous Anchorage snowman's demise exploded on the Internet this week, hundreds of Alaska and Lower 48 readers had two words for the city of Anchorage and anyone else who criticized the crowd-pleasing giant: "Bah humbug." And before dawn Tuesday, in downtown Anchorage, someone erected a small, misshapen snowman at the entrance to Anchorage City Hall: A crude mini Snowzilla brandishing a protest sign that read "Snowmen of the world unite!" Several weeks ago, city code enforcers -- acting when this year's giant snowman was half-complete -- declared Snowzilla a nuisance and a safety hazard. They banned homeowner Billy Powers from building an "extraordinarily large snowman." The city posted its stop-work order at the base of the snowman and on Powers' front door....

E.P.A.’s Doctor No

... So there we have it. One original initiative in eight years, saved at the bell. That’s a poor showing, and the Democrats are hardly alone in hoping for better under an Obama administration. Last week, two prominent moderate Republicans — William K. Reilly, who ran the E.P.A. under President George H.W. Bush, and William D. Ruckelshaus, who served as administrator under both Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan — sent a little-noticed but eloquent letter to President-elect Barack Obama. The gist of the letter was that the E.P.A. could be an enormously positive force in the fight against climate change and oil dependency. All it needed was someone who believed in its mission and was prepared to use the laws already on the books. Granting California its waiver, carrying out the Supreme Court decision, regulating emissions from vehicles and power plants — all this and more, they wrote, could be accomplished with the statutory tools at hand. This exhortation from two veterans of the environmental wars was designed to encourage not only Mr. Obama, but also Lisa Jackson, the woman he has chosen to run the agency. It was also, however, an arrow aimed at the ideologues who have been running the agency for the last half-dozen years — and a lament for how little they have done with the weapons Congress gave them....

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Kind of Santa

A group of Santa impersonators are on the naughty list of Arizona law enforcement officials. A YouTube video posted Monday shows four people dressed as Kris Kringle, white beards and red hats included, covering three speed and red light enforcement cameras in Tempe. Two are covered with boxes - one decorated with Christmas wrap - and the third is blocked with what appears to be a red sheet. The Jackson 5's ``Santa Claus is coming to town'' plays during the more than two-minute video. At the end is a message that reads: ``Ho Ho Ho! Death to the surveillance state! Free movement for all people!'' The group that posted the video also wrote ``lumps of coal to all of those who make it their business to watch and control.''

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Green' Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid

In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create "green-collar" jobs. The debate has centered on two competing principles in the evolving plan: the desire to spend money on what President-elect Barack Obama calls "shovel-ready projects," such as highway and bridge construction, vs. spending on more environmentally conscious projects, such as grids for wind and solar power. Lawmakers opposed to the emerging-technology projects accuse their colleagues of using the financial crisis to push through pricey policy proposals that they say would do little to boost the economy in the immediate future. The largest beneficiary of the shovel-ready construction projects would be labor unions....

In Reversal, Court Allows a Bush Plan on Pollution

A federal appeals court in Washington reversed itself on Tuesday and temporarily reinstated a Bush administration plan to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants. In July, the court struck down the rule, saying the Environmental Protection Agency had exceeded its authority in devising a new emissions-trading system to reduce that pollution, and must rewrite the rule to fix its “fundamental flaws.” Environmentalists criticized the decision as a major setback for clean air. In Tuesday’s decision, the court said that having a flawed rule temporarily in place was better than having no rule at all. The agency must still revise the rule but has no deadline for doing so. The regulation, known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, had been the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s re-engineering of the Clean Air Act. It set significant targets to reduce pollution around the power plants and in the downwind states whose air quality was affected by the emissions....

Prominent Scientist Fired By Gore Says Warming Alarm ‘Mistaken’

Award winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Will Happer, who was reportedly fired by former Vice President Al Gore in 1993 for failing to adhere to Gore’s scientific views, has now declared man-made global warming fears “mistaken.” “I am convinced that the current alarm over carbon dioxide is mistaken,” Happer, who has published over 200 scientific papers, told EPW on December 22, 2008. Happer made his remarks while requesting to join the 2008 U.S. Senate Minority Report from Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) of over 650 (and growing) dissenting international scientists disputing anthropogenic climate fears. [Note: Joining Happer as new additions to the Senate report, are at least 10 more scientists, including meteorologists from Germany, Netherlands and CNN, as well as a professors from MIT and University of Arizona. See below for full quotes and bios of the new skeptical scientists added to the groundbreaking report, which includes many current and former UN IPCC scientists.] “I had the privilege of being fired by Al Gore, since I refused to go along with his alarmism. I did not need the job that badly,” Happer said this week. Happer is a Professor at the Department of Physics at Princeton University and former Director of Energy Research at the Department of Energy from 1990 to 1993, has published over 200 scientific papers, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Howls of protest greet Mexican wolf reintroduction

On a cold, wind-whipped November morning, about 90 minutes south of Albuquerque, N.M., a line of people faces off against a pack of wolves. They clutch poles, nets, and lassos, props not necessarily meant for use, but to make them look bigger. A US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) official tells them not to worry, there’s little danger. But if a wolf tries to break the line, don’t go sticking out a limb. Most of these wolves, an endangered Southwestern subspecies, were born and bred in captivity. They’re the fruit of a 25-year-old plan by the FWS to reestablish the Mexican wolf in the wild. The captive wolves live between two hills on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, their enclosures largely isolated from human sights, sounds, and smells as a rewilding exercise. They can’t be habituated to a human presence; without sufficient fear of people, they won’t last long in the wild. Indeed, only the most fearful will be released at all. The Southwestern wolf-reintroduction program has been less successful than reintroduction programs in the northern Rockies. Different socioeconomic realities and a different landscape have complicated the Mexican wolf’s comeback. Some ranchers near the recovery area, a 6,745-square-mile swath straddling the New Mexico-Arizona border, say wolves have no place there. Conservationists counter that the recovery area, 95 percent national forest, is public land and should be wild, predators included....

Conservationists Request Feds Replace Photo of Wolf

Sixteen conservation and animal welfare organizations today asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to replace the photograph of the “poster wolf” of the Mexican gray wolf program – prominently displayed on the federal agency’s website and in a oversized blowup poster at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters – because the wolf was trapped and inadvertently killed in 2005. The wolf was one of at least 2,911 gray wolves killed as a result of Fish and Wildlife Service actions since 1996, most in the northern Rocky Mountains and upper Midwest, but also including 29 highly imperiled Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest. The killings in the northern Rockies have rendered wolves in Yellowstone National Park almost entirely genetically isolated, threatening their viability and preventing the northern Rockies wolves’ recovery. There are now only about 50 Mexican wolves in the wild – a population that scientists say is already undergoing debilitating inbreeding depression....

Election alters wilderness fight outlook

Some people are wondering how a change in New Mexico's congressional delegation will impact a proposal for designating thousands of acres in Doña Ana County as wilderness. The proposal for an official federal wilderness designation, initially put forward in late 2005, stalled after it lost support from outgoing U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and was opposed by outgoing U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., who backed a different land-use plan favored by ranchers. But Domenici is retiring, and Pearce unsuccessfully sought election this year to Domenici's Senate seat. Replacing them are Sen.-elect Tom Udall, now a congressman from northern New Mexico, and Rep.-elect Harry Teague, both Democrats. Teague, in a phone interview two weeks ago, said he's already spoken to some constituents about the wilderness proposal, but is still gathering information. He said he doesn't have a stance yet. "I don't really have everything I need to have about that," Teague said. Marissa Padilla, a spokeswoman for Udall, said the senator-elect will invite and listen to all of the various parties to build consensus on the wilderness. Udall looks forward to working with Bingaman, Teague and the members of the new delegation to take steps toward the introduction of legislation, she said. Jude McCartin, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that, in January, the senator will begin talks with Doña Ana County residents and the new delegation "with the intention of developing wilderness legislation."....

Fighting for forests

Arthur Carhart: Wilderness Prophet Tom Wolf University Press of Colorado, 2008. A fiery conservationist who came of age in the late 1910s, Arthur Carhart had a penchant for highlighting the contradictions in the environmental movement, not to mention the conflicts of interest at the U.S. Forest Service, which employed him at a young age. The disheartening part of reading Wilderness Prophet, Tom Wolf's new biography, is realizing that the problems Carhart shed light on nine decades ago are still damaging our nation's public lands. Carhart is credited with proposing one of the nation's first wilderness areas, at Trappers Lake in northwest Colorado in 1919. The original idea didn't come to fruition, but the lake received increased protection and spurred Carhart to promote watershed-wide wilderness management to the Forest Service. He battled for sound planning throughout his Forest Service career and against the frantic road-building, timber-harvesting mindset of the agency. "The very future of the nation could fall into decadence, fail, even die, if we do not give the consideration we must to the water wealth and the soil wealth so closely linked to it," Carhart wrote in 1951....

NM's 2008 pecan harvest proved expensive to grow

New Mexico's pecan growers pumped more money than ever into this year's pecan crop and both producers and processors are hoping the market and consumers won't play Grinch when it comes to buying the nuts during these troubled economic times. The harvest is under way in southern New Mexico after colder weather arrived earlier this month, causing the orchard leaves and pecan shucks to dry. Harvesting machines and equipment are humming along orchard rows, shaking the nuts from the trees and gathering them up off the ground. But New Mexico's pecan industry experts and growers say high fuel and fertilizer costs this year made the season's pecan crop one of the most expensive to produce, even while the crop is smaller than in years past due to the tree's natural bearing cycle. Add to the equation the worry by pecan buyers and shellers that market and consumer demand could be affected by the shaky economy, and you could say this year might be a lot tougher than expected for pecan growers....

Idaho pioneer cabin moved to Chesterfield site

A cabin once occupied by a 19th century American Indian woman who was a beloved midwife and healer to southeastern Idaho farmers and ranchers has been moved to the Chesterfield ghost town. For more than 120 years, Aunt Ruth Call Davids' cabin had been just over a small hill from the town site, which is owned by the Chesterfield Foundation. The group helps keep watch on about 27 buildings in this historic Oregon Trail town between Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs in the Portneuf River Valley, including an amusement hall, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tithing office and a store that still operates, selling only products its proprietors say existed before 1916. Last summer, volunteers and members of Davids' surviving family dug a foundation and filled it with cement and lava rocks. The cabin was then dismantled log-by-log and reassembled in Chesterfield. Vernon Austin, a resident of nearby Blackfoot and expert in log-cabin restoration, worked to make sure it was rebuilt as true as possible to its original configuration. According to the 1996 Mormon publication "Our Pioneer Heritage," a Fillmore, Utah, resident named Anson Call in 1851 traded a small supply of flour for a little Piede Indian girl he named Ruth. On Christmas Day 1863, she married James Henry Davids, a young soldier who had served in the U.S. Army unit that had been dispatched in the late-1850s to quell a Mormon uprising in Utah. He later converted to the religion. The Call and Davids families moved in the early 1880s to Chesterfield, where Ruth Call Davids developed a reputation for her use of herbal and natural remedies and delivered most of the babies in the community. According to the 1996 Mormon history, a doctor in nearby Soda Springs named Kackley said, "In case of pneumonia and the caring of babies, Aunt Ruth is as good as any doctor."....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meet the New Climate Change Kid on the Block

Barack Obama announced his new energy team at a press conference Monday, sending a subtle slap down to President Bush by saying his administration would "value science" and "make decisions based on the facts." The four appointments are a precursor to what will be the most enviro-activist administration in American history. That agenda will doubtless extend to supporting nonprofit organizations like the Climate Registry. If you've never heard of it, don't worry. The California-based nonprofit has kept out of the headlines. But it has the potential to be a major player in the ongoing debate over climate-change policy. It's also a prime example of the snug relationship between environmentalist groups and state governments. The Climate Registry's mission is simple: convince companies, organizations, state and local governments, and other entities to sign on and report their greenhouse gas emissions. There are several groups devoted to that cause around the country, but the registry, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, is the most far-reaching. Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, nine Canadian provinces, six Mexican states, and three Native American tribes have signed on as members. Members are not required to report their emissions on a state-, province-, or tribe-wide basis. Instead, they serve as the registry's funding factory, appointing a board member, signing a statement of principles and goals, and paying a voluntary annual fee ranging from $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the state or region's population. They also serve as a catalyst for recruiting entities within the state, province, or tribe as "reporters."....

Global cooling is here

According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2008 will be America's coldest year since 1997, thanks to La Niña and precipitation in the central and eastern states. Solar quietude also may underlie global cooling. This year's sunspots and solar radiation approach the minimum in the Sun's cycle, corresponding with lower Earth temperatures. This echoes Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Dr. Sallie Baliunas' belief that solar variability, much more than CO2, sways global temperatures. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service reports that last summer was Anchorage's third coldest on record. "Not since 1980 has there been a summer less reflective of global warming," Craig Medred wrote in the Anchorage Daily News. Consequently, Alaska's glaciers are thickening in the middle. "It's been a long time on most glaciers where they've actually had positive mass balance," U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Bruce Molnia told Medred Oct. 13. Similarly, the National Snow and Ice Data Center found that Arctic sea ice expanded 13.2 percent this year, or a Texas-sized 270,000 square miles. Across the equator, Brazil endured an especially cold September. Snow graced its southern provinces that month. "Global Warming is over, and Global Warming Theory has failed. There is no evidence that CO2 drives world temperatures or any consequent climate change," Imperial College London astrophysicist and long-range forecaster Piers Corbyn wrote British Members of Parliament on Oct. 28. "According to official data in every year since 1998, world temperatures have been colder than that year, yet CO2 has been rising rapidly." That evening, as the House of Commons debated legislation on so-called "global-warming," October snow fell in London for the first time since 1922. These observations parallel those of five German researchers led by Professor Noel Keenlyside of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences. "Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade," they concluded in last May's "Nature," "as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic (man-made) warming."....

Hell Freezes Over

On Friday, the Las Vegas Sun reported that eight inches of snow had hit the Las Vegas Valley. The 3.6 inches that had already fallen as of late Wednesday near McCarran Airport added up to the most snow recorded for the area in December since they began keeping records 70 years ago. The white powder even dusted Malibu as a winter storm hit parts of California. We commented recently on an Associated Press story claiming that, rather than being "evidence of some kind of cooling trend," such events "actually illustrate how fast the world is warming." But not everybody is convinced. "If the issues weren't so serious and the ramifications so profound, I would have to laugh at it," said David Deming, a geology professor at the University of Oklahoma. "The mean global temperature, at least measured by satellite, is the same as it was in the year 1980. In the last couple of years, sea level has stopped rising, hurricane and cyclone activity in the Northern Hemisphere is at a 24-year low and sea ice globally is also the same as it was in 1980." Speaking of rising sea levels, is Al Gore smarter than a fourth-grader? James O'Brien, emeritus professor at Florida State University who studies climate variability and the oceans, thinks not. "When the Arctic Ocean ice melts, it never raises sea level because floating ice is floating ice, because it's displacing water," he points out. "When the ice melts, sea level actually goes down. I call it a fourth-grade science experiment: Take a glass, put some ice in it, put water in it, mark level where water is. . . . After the ice melts, the sea level didn't go up in your glass of water. It's called the Archimedes principle." Global temperatures stopped rising after 1998 and have plummeted in the last two years by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius. The 2007-08 temperature drop was not predicted by global climate models. It was predictable by a decline in sunspot activity since 2000 and by a cyclical ocean-current phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation....

EPA Starts A "Most Wanted List"

A new Web tool is available to enlist the public and other law enforcement agencies in tracking down fugitives accused of violating environmental laws and evading arrest. “Putting this information on the EPA’s Web site will increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Two EPA fugitives were captured this year, and this Web site could help us find more fugitives in the future.” The Web site includes photos of the accused, summaries of their alleged environmental violations, and information on each fugitive’s last known whereabouts. The alleged violations include smuggling of ozone-depleting substances, illegally disposing of hazardous waste, discharging pollutants into the air and water, laundering money and making criminally false statements...

It's all profiles...just like the FBI. [link]

Here they come. Only this time, it's in green helicopters.

Pollution Exemption Reversed

In a 2 to 1 decision yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down an exemption that for nearly 15 years has allowed refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities to exceed federal air pollution limits during certain periods of operation. Environmental groups hailed the ruling, which overturned a provision, enacted under President Bill Clinton, that permits industrial operations that are starting up, shutting down or malfunctioning to emit more toxins into the air than is normally allowed. The Environmental Protection Agency and an array of business groups argued that the exemption was essential, but the court determined that it was illegal. The ruling affects sources of air pollution across the country: Texas alone has 250 industrial sites, including oil refineries, chemical plants and petrochemical plants, that are affected....

New administration: Secretary of food

President-elect Barack Obama took a big step when he gave former Sen. Tom Daschle, his nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, a broader mandate to coordinate health reform. For whatever reasons, the incoming administration has shied away from such a sweeping, intelligent approach to food policy. Given the president-elect's choice for a new agriculture secretary, perhaps that is just as well. At first glance, former Iowa Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack looks like a very traditional, even backward-looking selection. On farming issues, he supported agribusiness over Iowa counties' ideas about controlling huge pig feedlots and genetically modified plants. And he was a big fan of crop-based ethanol. We suspect Vilsack's oversight of the national forest issues that fall in the Department of Agriculture will be a learn-on-the-job undertaking fraught with opportunities to misunderstand Western issues. We liked the call of columnist Nicholas Kristof for a secretary of food. We need a reformer charged with transcending the 19th- and 20th-century idea of a Cabinet officer serving the needs of farmers. With that perspective, it would be possible to unite producers, consumers and government in delivering diets that are healthy for the people, the land and the economy. We see room for the administration to create smarter food and environmental policies for agriculture over time....

Pima County's new jewel is a grasslands bonanza

Desert grasslands that are Pima County's richest, biologically, are about to be bought and preserved. By the end of this month, the county will close on the first installment of its purchase of the Sands Ranch, a collection of thick, lush and tall grasslands near where Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties come together. It's a 5,040-acre parcel located in Pima County's southeast corner, between the Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains, complete with landscapes that could have been taken right out of cowboy movies. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to buy the ranch for $21 million. The property has been owned by the same family, of ranching pioneer Louis Sands, since 1920. This will be the 11th time that Pima County has dipped into open-space bonds to buy a ranch in the past decade. When the Sands Ranch is acquired, the county will have spent $95 million on ranches, out of about $140 million spent of $201 million in bonds that voters approved for open space in 1997 and 2004....

Navajo panels OK coal-fired plant

The proposed Desert Rock coal-fired, 1,500-megawatt power plant has received right-of-way approvals from three Navajo Nation committees. Language in the resolution states the Navajo Nation will "expressly and unequivocally" waive its sovereign immunity in the case of any dispute related to agreements for the proposed $3 billion power plant. The Navajo Nation would also waive $7.5 million in right-of-way fees. The tribe agreed to collect only $3.5 million in such fees because of the economic benefits — revenues and jobs — it expects to receive.

Longtime gaming holdouts, the Navajo Nation opens tribal casino

After years of saying no to tribal gaming, the Navajo Nation has opened its first casino, Fire Rock, east of Gallup, N.M. Built on a slice of tribal trust land in northwestern New Mexico, the almost 6,000-square-metre Fire Rock Casino has 472 slot machines, 10 table games and a poker room. The bingo room seats 400. It is expected to generate US$32 million a year for the Navajo Nation, about a fifth of the annual tribal budget. Some 4,000 people showed up for the Fire Rock Casino's Nov. 19 opening, with hundreds waiting outside because the facility only holds 1,800, said Patrick Sandoval, chief of staff in the president's office. The tent-like structure is temporary until gaming officials can find another site to put up a permanent building, one that may be accompanied by a hotel and truck stop....

The two Edward Abbeys

A father of five and a supposed anarchist who admired Thoreau’s dictum, “That government is best which governs not at all,” an implacable enemy of the “Anthill State” which was a “technocratic despotism…the enemy of personal liberty, family independence, and community sovereignty,” Abbey was also an advocate for state-imposed birth control. The protagonist of his book Brave Cowboy, Jack Burns, was an archetypical old-fashioned, freedom-loving, authority-hating, barbed-wire loathing cowboy. Abbey grew up idolizing cowboys. For a brief time, he cowboyed. But he hated cowboys. He hated the ranchers who employed them. And he once quipped that if he had enough money, he’d run off and buy a ranch. He also hated cows but loved steak. He personally didn’t like walking. He avoided it when possible. He tore up the desert and ran down closed roads in his famously decrepit pickup truck. But when it came to the approaches of the southwest desert’s natural wonders, he wanted everybody else to walk in. He advised visitors to crawl. He was a “hard-nosed empiricist” who believed in what he could “hear, see, smell, grab, bite into.” And he thought that the whole earth was a living being and that rocks had rights....

Horse owners concerned about proposed transportation legislation

With close to 10 million horses in the nation, Montana horse owners and enthusiasts are concerned about the welfare of the equine industry if legislation is passed banning the transport of horses to slaughter facilities. “H.R. 6598, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2008, would ban the transportation of horses to slaughter, making it a federal crime,” explained Nancy Schlepp of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation during its equine seminar on Nov. 9 in Billings, Mont. “It would also affect the transportation of horses in general, such as to rodeos, ranches or for hunting.” Horses have been transported to slaughter facilities in Canada and Mexico since the Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruling shut down the Texas horse slaughter plants, and the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals shut down the plant in Illinois. Now, animal rights activists, such as the Humane Society of the United States, have been pushing for the passage of this bill, H.R. 6598, to further prevent horse slaughter, which they claim is an act of cruelty. “This Humane Society of the United States is not the Humane Society (Humane Society of America) that looks after the well being of dogs and cats,” said Schlepp. “The Humane Society of the United States is a subsidiary of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). They are creating a war on agriculture Š They have a lot of money and time to spend in (Washington) D.C.” Those in the Montana horse industry are concerned about the number of horses that would be affected and the cost of the consequences of this proposed legislation if it were to become law. “It costs $1,500 to do the process of putting an animal down through the veterinarian's office,” said Jan Parker, who in on the MFBF horse welfare committee. “In Montana alone, it would cost $17 million to take care of these horses.”....

How should you wear a cowboy hat?

Cowboy hats seem to be a way of life here in Montana and across the West. But, one cowboy and his hat are creating some light hearted controversy over when its appropriate to wear a hat. President-elect Barack Obama chose Colorado Senator Ken Salazar to serve as the Interior Department Secretary on Wednesday. The announcement hit the airwaves, but even bigger than his appointment was the controversy over his hat. Blogs and newspaper articles across the country commented over whether or not it was proper for the Senator to wear the hat indoors. We spoke to the President of Rand's Custom Hats to get some insight. "Under the circumstances where they were just being interviewed, and the announcement is on stage, he was showing everybody who he was and what he stood for" explained Ritch Rand, President of Ran's Custom Hats. Rand added that everyone has their own rules they follow when it comes to proper etiquette. He also said the fifth generation farmer probably wore the hat to show his roots, in fact Obama called Salazar "a champion of champions for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities"....Where I was raised, it depended on what you were inside of. In a barn or a gymn, leave your hat on. In a home, a restaurant or on the dance floor, you better get it off....I remember a big fight at the El Corral Bar, all started over a hat being brushed off the hat rack. Pete Griffin can tell you all about it. I have it on good authority that he was right there when it happened. I also heard that, after the cops closed the joint, he helped some dumb cowboy sneak back in to find his glasses. That's what I heard.

It's All Trew: Barbed wire called 'Devil's Rope' for a reason

During the early 1880s, Jacob and Warren M. Brinkerhoff invented and patented 13 varieties of a galvanized ribbon barbed wire with saber-type points. Most Panhandle historians agree this Brinkerhoff ribbon was the most famous barbed wire in Panhandle history as the XIT Ranch used some 6,000 miles of the invention to fence their vast grasslands. Being a wire collector, I purchased several rolls of Brinkerhoff for various reasons. The largest group of rolls came from an old-time farmer in the Channing area whose grandfather had rolled up the wire after purchasing land from the XIT Land Company when they began offering their best farming acreage for sale. A recent construction project here on the Trew Ranch involved fencing a few acres surrounding a new fishing and camping site. For nostalgic reasons, I had the inspiration to build a 100-yard stretch of the new fence using the old XIT ribbon wire. It just might be the only "new " section of fence in the Panhandle using the old Brinkerhoff wire now older than 100 years. This turned out to be a new learning experience for me in spite of a lifetime of working on barbed-wire fences. Before I finished this section of fence, I determined the Brinkerhoff wire was alive and working diligently to thwart every move I made....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The Christmas letter not to write

Julie Carter

The weenie dog in the tutu leisurely leaning back on a sofa pillow did it for me.

Over-the-top Christmas greetings have gone, literally, to the dogs, cats, horses and even a parakeet.

I know it is the season and all that, but geeez Louise, have people gotten that desperate for a life to share? In reading some of them, I wonder why they haven't died of boredom.

It is my belief that a Christmas letter is intended to catch the reader up on the year's highlights, provided there are some, in the life of the sender.

Somehow that has gotten to be such a chore that there are now tutorials on how to write a proper Christmas letter.

These lessons come with tips, suggestions and the inference that bragging isn't really acceptable.

We've all gotten at least one like this:

Sara, 8, has the lead in our community play, Aaron, 10, was recently voted the most gifted and talented child in school and now that Emily is 3, she's started reading. Between ferrying the kids around to school, church and extracurricular activities, Beth gave birth to our fourth child in September. He's already beginning to crawl! Howard has been promoted to CEO of the World. We took three vacations last year to tropical paradises (see photos).

There is no doubt in my mind that the budding Rhodes Scholars and Julliard graduates are in all honesty, just average kids leaving their underwear on the bathroom floor every time they shower, never flushing the toilet and whining when they have to unload the dishwasher.

Mentioning births, deaths, marriages and relocations are quite important, but not if that involves only the pets and not the people.

My favorites are the ones that provide a laugh while the writer laughs at himself:

Tom here! Wow, 2008 has shaped up to be one of those years for the Shoemaker family. So much has happened that it's hard to know where to begin. First, there was that business with the IRS; then the trial, wherein a co-worker's husband accused me of adultery, followed by my third arrest for DUI. And all that happened before June!!

Finding a way to bring interest to a "quiet" life isn't easy, but sharing the lackluster does nothing to quicken the holiday heart of the receiver.

If your story leaves you flat, it won't look any better to the reader on the other end. Make no apologies, just don't write it. Perhaps a Hallmark card is your best bet to "send your very best."

Know when to quit. If someone hasn't sent you a Christmas greeting for three years, take them off your list.

You can tell yourself they are too busy to write, but who are you fooling? They are wondering how long before you take the hint.

Now don't get me wrong, and you will, but here it is. I love my pets. You love your pets. However, you aren't required to love mine any more than I will love yours, most of whom I have never met.

Honestly folks, and I say this at the risk of not hearing from many of you ever again, that Chihuahua has no idea why you dressed him up in that stupid Santa suit for a photo.

Keeping that in mind, if I ever start writing Christmas letters that are signed with the name of my pets, paw prints included, and in the body of the letter, I discuss their annual veterinary needs and issues, just shoot me.

If I talk about the highlight of my year’s work as being the installation of new ceiling fans and how good the new tin looks on the old trailer house, just shoot me.

There is a reason my Christmas letters are mostly family photos. Those, indeed, are worth a thousand words and none of them a lie. We really are hillbillies!

Julie hasn't yet created her 2008 Christmas letter that will contain shameless self-promotion of her new book, Cowboys -You Gotta Love 'em, found through her Web site at

It’s The Pitts: Who’s Blabbing Now?

Proud cattlemen are always bragging about the premiums they got for their calves because they were all one color, all natural, had all their shots, or were all age and sourced. In my experience there is one thing you can do to insure that you’re calves will ALWAYS fetch more money: wean them from their mommas.

To wean or not to wean... that is the question!

Professors and armchair advisors are always urging ranchers to interrupt the mother/child relationship by weaning their calves. But that’s easier said than done. I’d like to see them try to wean calves on some of the places I’ve leased. Oh, I tried it once, just like I tried eating fried tofu once. It made me sick in both cases.

Years ago I grew some hay with my farmer brother-in-law and, unlike now, you couldn’t hardly give the stuff away. Rather than take a big loss I decided to use my share of the hay to wean my calves. In retrospect, if the hay had all burned up I’d have lost less money... and less sleep. I didn’t sleep a wink while all the desperate wailing went on. And that was just my wife, those snot-nosed calves made a lot of noise too. You’d have thought the cows would have appreciated me relieving them of their parental responsibilities but they huddled up like buffalo in a snowstorm and wouldn’t leave the weaning pens for ten long days. And nights!

Weaning calves has been a problem ever since the first cow got pregnant. A century ago a milk cow was a common sight on farms and ranches. Because her milk was for the family, not her calf, such calves were said to be “hit in the head with the churn dasher.” Although they weren’t actually hit in the head, at least in some cases, that’s not to suggest that barbaric ways of weaning didn’t exist. Some rural folks had all the compassion of a rabid skunk and occasionally made a slit down the middle of a calf’s tongue with a knife. Such calves were called “tongue splitters” and they were unable to suck. If PETA and the Humane Society had been around back then they’d have had a field day.

One option has always been to “fence line wean” your calves but ranchers who do this must have much better fences than I do. If I built a six foot high block wall around my corrals the little buggers would burrow under it!

In the old days doohickeys were invented to help with weaning. I have one huge contraption made from two straps of steel that bolted around the calf’s neck. One arm sticks up in the air and another points downward so that when the calf tried to sneak through the fence the arms would hit the barb wire and repel the calf. (I don’t think it would work with my spider-web-like fences.) I have a deluxe model that has two sharp points on the ends of the arms just in case the calf made it through the fence and got back to her mother. In trying to suck these points would hit the udder and the mother’s love look in her eye would vanish faster than a box of donuts at a calf branding. Can you imagine what a cow must have thought when her calf approached wearing such a device? And just think of a poor bull calf or steer trying to impress the heifers with such an un-cool looking device hanging around his neck!

Blab boards, blabs and spike weaners all worked on the same principle. They attached in the calf’s nose like a bull ring and when the calf tried to suck the cow would be jabbed and would kick her calf off. I see now where a company is trying to market an all new plastic blab that works on the same principle. I bet they work too, but I don’t think I will be using them because it means I’d have to rope all my calves twice. Once to put them in and once to take them out. I have a hard enough time getting my twine around a calf’s neck once. I can’t imagine getting that lucky twice!

No, I think I will continue to wean my calves using the easiest and most popular method that ranchers have successfully been utilizing for decades: I’ll just send them to the auction market and let them worry about the precious little darlings!

My Other Posts



For those interested, here are links to some of my recents posts at New Mexico Liberty:

The Bailout State

EPA Starts A "Most Wanted List"

Stimulus Pkg To Curb Prostitution

Federal spending soars 25% before bailout

Uncle Sam Will Pay $450 Billion This Year Just to Cover Interest on National Debt

Cars & Czars, Congress & Compensation

Obama senate seat & an entrepreneurial student

Newspaper Bailouts