Saturday, January 03, 2009

Programs pay farmers to help prairie chickens

A new state-federal program will pay farmland owners in 11 Missouri counties to set aside land as habitat and nesting grounds for prairie chickens, which once roamed the state's prairies in the hundreds of thousands. Iowa, New Mexico, and Texas are among the states making similar offers to their farmers to reverse the decline in prairie chicken habitat, according to the USDA's Farm Service Agency. Prairie chickens, historic residents of Missouri grasslands, are being managed for expansion in parts of the state. But their need for safe nesting sites and room to roam led to a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Missouri Department of Conservation to create new habitat from cropland. A long-standing USDA program that pays farmers not to plant crops on lands that are highly erodible or that could serve as a buffer for streams or as wildlife habitat now includes prairie chicken restoration efforts as a goal in Missouri and elsewhere....

A Nevada Town Escapes the Slump, Thanks to Gold

Hundreds of revelers crammed into this small town’s community center on a recent Saturday night to celebrate the marriage of Bianca Hernandez and Jose Lomeli. Throngs danced to Spanish folk music well into the wee hours. Beer, wine and laughter were abundant, and several tables were piled high with gifts. “It’s not just the wedding,” said a friend of the newlyweds, Jesse Dias, 34. “Times are good around here. People are happy.” Good times? Happy people? Hasn’t word of the national economic anxiety and resultant austerity made it to this remote high-desert capital of Lander County, 215 miles east of Reno? Yes, it has, but the economic meltdown in much of the country has been a boon to the county and its 5,000 residents, 4,000 of whom live in the Battle Mountain area. The reason: They mine gold in Lander County, a mineral-rich area that is a major reason Nevada, nicknamed the Silver State, is also the world’s fourth biggest producer of gold. And when the broader economy declines and the value of the dollar fluctuates, people buy gold. At current prices — gold hit $892 an ounce on Monday, its highest price in three months and not that far off its record high of more than $1,000 an ounce in March — places like Battle Mountain hum with good-paying jobs and rising home values, making the financial woes of the rest of the country a distant concern....

Yellowstone Is Shaken by More Quakes

More earthquakes are rattling Yellowstone National Park. The small quakes include three more that measured stronger than magnitude 3.0. The University of Utah Seismic Stations said the strongest was 3.5. Several hundred quakes centered under the northern end of Yellowstone Lake have occurred since Dec. 26. No damage has been reported. Earthquake swarms happen fairly often in Yellowstone. But scientists say it is unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days. Scientists have not concluded what is causing the earthquakes.

NMSU Wins Challenge Rodeo For Third Year In A Row

The New Mexico State University rodeo team overpowered the competition for the third year in a row at the New Mexico College – High School Rodeo Challenge in Farmington Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

Both the men’s and the women’s team finished first overall at the rodeo, which is held by the New Mexico Rodeo Council as a contest between college rodeo teams and high school students.

“I am very proud of the team’s accomplishments and am also looking forward to working with some of the top quality high school rodeo athletes I saw during the challenge,” said Jim Dewey Brown, NMSU rodeo coach.

In the breakaway roping event, Brooklyn Chester, of Carlsbad, N.M., won first, with Brittany Striegel, of Aztec, N.M., placing second.

Striegel won first in the goat tying. Kelsi Elkins, also of Aztec, N.M., placed third.

Bay City, Texas, native Trey Bissett won first in the bareback riding. Teammate Dean Daly, of Belen, N.M., won first in the saddlebronc event.

Johnny Salvo, of Horse Springs, N.M., received first in the tie-down roping. Wyatt Althoff, of Gilbert, Ariz., placed second in the steer wrestling.

In the team roping event, header Chance Means, of Cliff, N.M., and heeler Aaron Moyers, of Moriarty, N.M., won first. Tony Steele, of Alamo, Nev., and Casey Felton, of Fallon, Nev., placed second.

For the men’s all-around, Althoff received first, followed by Means. Striegel was named the women’s all-around for the weekend.


1. 795pts. New Mexico State
2. 445pts. New Mexico Highlands
3. 425pts. High School
4. 310pts. Mesalands
5. 275pts. Eastern New Mexico
6. 205pts. New Mexico Jr. College


1. 778pts. New Mexico State
2. 115pts. New Mexico Jr. College
3. 85pts.. High School
4. 33pts.. New Mexico Highlands

Friday, January 02, 2009

NMSU rodeo team members, new recruits receive scholarships

New recruits and current members of the New Mexico State University rodeo team received numerous scholarships for the 2008-2009 academic year.

To qualify for a scholarship, the student athletes must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, be a full-time student, participate in team activities and compete in National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) rodeos.

“Our goal is to recruit good students and good athletes and continue our winning tradition,” said Frank DuBois, former secretary/director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.

Wyatt Althoff, of Gilbert, Ariz., received the L.J. “Curley” McCarey Memorial Scholarship. Althoff is a senior who competes in tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling. He also was the men’s all-around champion at the 2008 College National Rodeo Finals (CNFR) in June.

Belen, N.M., native Dean Daly was awarded the G.B. Oliver Jr. Memorial Scholarship. Daly is a junior and competes in saddle bronc, bareback riding and bull riding.

Sophomore Johnny Salvo, of Horse Springs, N.M., received the H.W. “Bud” Eppers Memorial Scholarship. Salvo competes in tie-down roping and team roping, and won the tie-down roping at the CNFR. He also placed second in the men’s rookie standings.

Brittany Striegel, of Aztec, N.M., received the F.F. “Chano” Montoya Memorial Scholarship. Striegel is a senior who competes in barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.

Kelsi Elkins, also of Aztec, N.M., and a senior, received the New Mexico Federal Lands Council Scholarship. Elkins competes in barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.

Staci Stanbrough, of Capitan, N.M., was awarded the Charlie Lee Memorial Scholarship. Stanbrough is a junior and competes in barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying.

Moriarty, N.M., native Aaron Moyers received the Bubba Echols Memorial Scholarship. Moyers is a senior and competes in team roping.

JoDan Mirabal, of Grants, N.M., received the Williams Family Ranches Scholarship. Mirabal is a junior and competes in tie-down roping and team roping.

New recruit Jessica Silva, of Tularosa, N.M., was awarded the Pete and Lucy Leach Scholarship. Other new recruits receiving scholarships are Jordan Bassett, of Dewey, Ariz.; Coy Burreal, of Tucson, Ariz.; Steve Hacker, of Battle Mountain, Nev.; Kirby Lewis, of Vernal, Utah; Bryce Runyan, of Silver City, N.M.; Tyler Southern, of Las Cruces, N.M.; Rodee Walraven, of Datil, N.M.; and Dustin Wilson, of Browning, Mont.


Photo is available at
CUTLINE: Frank DuBois, front, former secretary/director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and founder of the Dubois Rodeo Scholarship, with, back row from left, Megan Corey-Albrecht, of Bremerton, Wash., former New Mexico State University rodeo team member, current assistant coach and 2008 national goat tying champion; Wyatt Althoff, of Gilbert, Ariz., scholarship recipient and 2008 national all-around cowboy; and Johnny Salvo, of Horse Springs, N.M., scholarship recipient and 2008 national tie-down champion. (Courtesy photo by Shawna Brown)

Margaret Kovar
Dec. 23, 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This is the Westerners son and my dad asked me to let you all know that his ISP went bankrupt and we will be back up and blogging around Jan. 6th. Thanks and have a safe New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Salazar out to tame interior

One Interior Department scandal featured sex, drugs and influence peddling. Another involved politics trumping science in endangered-species rulings. Then there are the agency's intractable problems, such as the $8.7 billion maintenance backlog for national parks or a 12-year-old class-action lawsuit on behalf of Native Americans. The Interior Department manages 507 million acres, equal to about one-fifth of the country. But in recent years, it has had difficulty managing itself. When Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado takes over as interior secretary next month, he'll assume responsibility for a department beset by turmoil. He'll oversee everything from oil- and gas-leasing decisions to relationships with American Indian tribes. And he'll face large expectations from a new president and myriad special-interest groups. Changing the face and the politics of the department is not likely to happen easily or quickly. Salazar, through his spokesman, declined to comment. His past statements offer a guide to how he might handle some decisions. As senator, he has often pushed for compromise. But as interior secretary, he will implement President- elect Barack Obama's agenda as well as his own. "Sen. Salazar is going to be counted on to restore credibility, to restore sound science," said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition....

Environmentalists petition EPA over ozone concern

An environmental group has filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force 16 Western states to revise their air quality regulations in an effort to trim ozone pollution. WildEarth Guardians said in its 25-page petition filed earlier this week that large cities throughout the West have already violated clean air standards limiting ozone and the problem is spreading to rural areas, including northwestern New Mexico and western Wyoming. "The Western states are facing an unprecedented challenge in addressing the impacts of ozone air pollution. For the sake of public health, it is a challenge that must be met aggressively," Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardian's climate and energy program director, wrote in the petition. Ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, forms when emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks mix with sunlight. The colorless gas can irritate the respiratory system, reduce lung capacity and aggravate asthma. WildEarth Guardians is asking the EPA to force New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming to revise their air quality regulations to strengthen ozone safeguards by 2013....

Oregon to pursue mileage tax using satellite tech

A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could work. Now Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he’d like the legislature to take the next step. “As Oregonians drive less and demand more fuel-efficient vehicles, it is increasingly important that the state find a new way, other than the gas tax, to finance our transportation system.” According to the policies he has outlined online, Kulongoski proposes to continue the work of the special task force that came up with and tested the idea of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax. The governor wants the task force “to partner with auto manufacturers to refine technology that would enable Oregonians to pay for the transportation system based on how many miles they drive.”....

White House reconsiders decision on bull trout

The Bush administration is reconsidering its defense of endangered species decisions, following a report that showed political interference in the scientific process. This week, the government informed a federal district court judge that it might amend its position that decisions regarding bull trout habitat were scientifically defensible. “Essentially, they're acknowledging that we were right,” said Arlene Montgomery, “but they haven't figured out exactly how to deal with it.” Back in 2000, Montgomery's nonprofit Friends of the Wild Swan sued the federal government, asking that “critical habitat” be designated for bull trout. The fish were protected under the Endangered Species Act, she said, but no steps were being taken to ensure adequate habitat. Federal officials responded with a critical habitat designation that environmentalists said fell far short of what the fish needed. “It eliminated 90 percent of the proposed habitat,” Montgomery said....

Ethanol Bailout? Time To Shuck Corn

The bailout-seeking domestic auto industry has been criticized as being unproductive and inefficient. It hasn't been helped by mandated fuel economy standards that have done little to reduce our dependence on foreign energy or help the environment. Now the fuel we have been mandated to put in our cars, equally unproductive and inefficient, is also seeking a bailout. Ethanol never made much sense economically or environmentally. It never would have made it to market without congressional mandates and huge subsidies. Having the first presidential contest in the corm state of Iowa didn't hurt either. With oil prices plummeting, it is even less competitive — if it ever was. The product has benefited from a tax credit paid to gasoline producers to blend gasoline with ethanol; a federal fuel economy standard that sets a minimum amount of ethanol to be blended; and a 54-cents-a-gallon tariff on cheaper imported ethanol made in places like Brazil. Brazilian ethanol is made from sugar, not corn. But corn is grown in Iowa, and Brazilians can't vote. Recent legislation mandated increased ethanol use as well as a 51-cent-a-gallon tax credit and more corn subsidies. Over the last two decades the ethanol industry has been kept alive with more than $25 billion in federal handouts. Yet it still can't compete. Five of Iowa's 32 ethanol plants are in bankruptcy. They are operated by Sioux Falls, S.D.-based ethanol giant VeraSun Energy, which itself filed for Chapter 11 on Oct. 31. Eleven plants in other states have also fallen into bankruptcy....

DC scandal linked to Baca

A news release on Monday from the San Luis Valley Water Protection Coalition linked Department of Interior Attorney Thomas Graf to an ongoing scandal involving former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald who resigned in 2006 following allegations that she improperly influenced more than a dozen Endangered Species Act decisions. Similar allegations are now being made against Graf in connection with proposed oil and gas drilling in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. The water coalition has alleged that Graf exercised heavy-handed policy similar to MacDonald’s style in overseeing development of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Environmental Assessment of Lexam Explorations, Inc., proposal to drill for natural gas in the Baca refuge. The coalition asserts that documents acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests confirmed that Graf allowed oil and gas industry lawyers to review and comment on internal drafts of the assessment. A report released earlier this month by the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General cast Graf in an even worse light when it stated that he “aided and abetted” Julie MacDonald. In the new report, Graf, self-described as MacDonald’s “eyes and ears,” allegedly interfered on numerous occasions with high-level scientific decision-making for the Greater Sage Grouse. He was described in the study as having a “remarkable lack of recollection [that] leaves one to speculate whether he was doing MacDonald’s bidding or was a rogue actor simply emulating her policy style.”....

Rainbows came, camped, prayed, left

They came, they prayed -- some say preyed -- and left. For about four weeks this summer, about 7,000 of the free-spirited Rainbow Family -- "the largest non-organization of non-members in the world" -- converged on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The gathering caused several ruckuses in Pinedale and Sublette County, and faded as fast as it arrived. The Rainbow Family gathers during the first week of July to live in alternative communities with their own camps and kitchens, learn different cultures, and primarily pray for peace and harmony with the Earth. But the rapid creation of a community nearly four times the size of nearby Pinedale didn't necessarily lend itself to peaceable relations among townsfolk, the U.S. Forest Service and its LEOs (Rainbow parlance for law enforcement officers), "drain-bows" (Rainbow parlance for slackers) who panhandled and shoplifted, Wyomingites unhappy with hippies, Sublette County residents concerned about the gathering's effects on the land, and Boy Scouts who had planned a conservation project near the gathering. The Forest Service's allowance of the Rainbow gathering irked Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman. It let the Rainbows camp without a permit, which in turn displaced the Boy Scouts who followed the rules to obtain permits, Bousman said. "If the rules are good enough for anybody, they're good enough for everybody."....

'Smart growth' group lobbies against new road construction

Democrats have two goals when it comes to writing a stimulus package: Kick-start the economy, and make it a greener one. But a list of “shovel-ready” road and bridge construction projects pushed by state highway officials to boost the economy and create jobs is a depressingly familiar shade of gray to a group of transit, environmental and “smart growth” advocates. “The stuff we’re seeing is more of the same,” said Robert Puentes, who runs the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Puentes and other members of a new coalition, Transportation for America, have put together a counteroffer they say will meet both goals of creating jobs and protecting the environment. Unlike the lists put forward by state transportation officials, Transportation for America’s is heavy on transit programs and more bike and walk paths. “If we move toward the change people voted for, we move toward a green recovery that could create thousands and thousands of jobs,” said Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America....

Forest Service to yank proposed energy leases

The U.S. Forest Service will ask that proposed energy leases on 13,000 acres of proposed roadless forest land in Colorado be withdrawn from an upcoming federal auction. The Forest Service blames an oversight for the inclusion of the land in an upcoming energy lease sale on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre (un-kum-PAW'-gray) and Gunnison national forests in western Colorado. Regional Forest Service officials say they'll submit a formal request to the Bureau of Land Management next month asking the parcels be removed. The land, part of 4 million roadless acres proposed statewide, was added to the state's plan after the oil and gas leases were submitted for sale.

Christmas expedition met rough weather

In early 1863, the U.S. Congress passed the Arizona Organic Act, thereby detaching the western half of New Mexico and from it creating the Arizona Territory. As provided by law, President Abraham Lincoln appointed the new territorial officials. Among them were John N. Goodwin, governor, and the justices of the Arizona high court. One of the latter was a Connecticut lawyer Joseph Pratt Allyn, named by Lincoln as an Arizona associate justice. He wrote up details of the trip that the party of officials made from Fort Leavenworth across the plains to Santa Fe and on westward to Arizona. Allyn, being a New Englander, was not impressed with Santa Fe's "undistinguished" adobe architecture. But in a letter published in his hometown newspaper at Hartford, he spoke approvingly of New Mexican women seen at a baile. In his words, they danced discreetly and did not flirt. The march westward by way of Albuquerque and Fort Wingate began with pleasant weather in early December, 1863. The government officials traveled in three army ambulances and were followed by a caravan of 66 baggage and supply wagons. By the time this slow-moving cavalcade reached Western New Mexico, the weather changed ,and Christmas was drawing near....

Monday, December 29, 2008

Oil vs. water causes big battle in the Rockies

A titanic battle between the West's two traditional power brokers – Big Oil and Big Water – has begun. At stake is one of the largest oil reserves in the world, a vast cache trapped beneath the Rocky Mountains containing an estimated 800 billion barrels – about three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia. Extracting oil from rocky seams of underground shale is not only expensive, but also requires massive amounts of water, a precious resource critical to continued development in the nation's fastest-growing region. The conflict between oil and water interests has now come to a head. On Oct. 31, Congress allowed a moratorium on oil-shale leasing to expire. That paved the way for the Bush administration to finalize leasing rules in November that opened 2 million acres of federal land to exploration. Oil shale companies acknowledge that the technology required to superheat shale to extract oil is unproven. They also concede that they are uncertain how much water would be needed in the process, although some experts calculate it would take 10 barrels of water to get one barrel of oil from shale. That water-to-oil equation has inflamed officials in the upper Rockies, who are raising the alarm about the cumulative effect of energy projects on the region's water supplies, which ultimately feed Southern California reservoirs via the Colorado River....

Solar Meets Polar as Winter Curbs Clean Energy

Old Man Winter, it turns out, is no friend of renewable energy. This time of year, wind turbine blades ice up, biodiesel congeals in tanks and solar panels produce less power because there is not as much sun. And perhaps most irritating to the people who own them, the panels become covered with snow, rendering them useless even in bright winter sunshine. So in regions where homeowners have long rolled their eyes at shoveling driveways, add another cold-weather chore: cleaning off the solar panels. “At least I can get to them with a long pole and a squeegee,” said Alan Stankevitz, a homeowner in southeast Minnesota. In January 2007, a bus stalled in the middle of the night on Interstate 70 in the Colorado mountains. The culprit was a 20 percent biodiesel blend that congealed in the freezing weather, according to John Jones, the transit director for the bus line, Summit Stage. (Biodiesel is a diesel substitute, typically made from vegetable oil, that is used to displace some fossil fuels.) The passengers got out of that situation intact, but Summit Stage, which serves ski resorts, now avoids biodiesel from November to March, and uses only a 5 percent blend in the summertime, when it can still get cold in the mountains. “We can’t have people sitting on buses freezing to death while we get out there trying to get them restarted,” Mr. Jones said. Winter may pose even bigger safety hazards in the vicinity of wind turbines. Some observers say the machines can hurl chunks of ice as they rotate....

Navy, environmentalists settle sonar lawsuit

The Navy has settled a lawsuit filed by environmentalists challenging its use of sonar in hundreds of submarine-hunting exercises around the world. The Navy said Saturday the deal reached with the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups requires it to continue to research how sonar affects whales and other marine mammals. It doesn't require sailors to adopt additional measures to protect the animals when they use sonar. The agreement comes one month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Navy in another sonar lawsuit the NRDC filed....

The Spotted Owl's New Nemesis

Every chick counts, because spotted owls are vanishing faster than ever. Nearly 20 years after Forsman's research helped the federal government boot loggers off millions of acres to save the threatened owls, nature has thrown the birds a curveball. A bigger, meaner bird—the barred owl—now drives spotted owls from their turf. Some scientists and wildlife managers have called for arming crews with decoys, shotguns and recorded bird songs in an experimental effort to lure barred owls from the trees and kill them. To Forsman and other biologists, the bizarre turn is not a refutation of past decisions but a sign of the volatility to come for endangered species in an increasingly erratic world. As climate chaos disrupts migration patterns, wind, weather, vegetation and river flows, unexpected conflicts will arise between species, confounding efforts to halt or slow extinctions. If the spotted owl is any guide, such conflicts could come on quickly, upend the way we save rare plants and animals, and create pressure to act before the science is clear....

Sinned against Earth? Buy an indulgence

In Mediaeval Europe, people who committed sins were required to confess their sins against God and pay some sort of retribution. The Mediaeval European church, having at the time a total monopoly on religion, came up with the idea of (a) declaring virtually every normal human activity a sin (thereby guaranteeing themselves an unlimited supply of sinners) and (b) providing the sinner an escape from purgatory by offering him an indulgence. In the modern world, people who drive SUVs and fly in jet aircraft are browbeaten into confessing their sins against the climate and shamed into paying some sort of retribution. The Climate Change industry, having at this time an almost total monopoly on the "science," came up with the idea of (a) declaring virtually every normal human activity as detrimental to the climate (giving them their guaranteed sinner base) and (b) providing the sinner an escape from purgatory by offering him a carbon offset. At first, the Mediaeval sinner could expiate his sin by doing good works in public like feeding the poor or comforting the sick while the modern sinner could recycle Dixie cups or plant a bush. But, in both cases, this left the ruling classes out of the loop. So the Mediaeval power brokers began selling indulgences, which allowed the Church to do the good acts for them, and today's offset vendors began selling carbon offsets, which allows the corporations to do the good acts for them....

Bidder said it was easy to rig government auction

A college student who infiltrated a government auction for oil and gas parcels said Monday he didn’t plan to run up prices and disrupt the sale until an auction clerk asked him, “Are you here to bid?” With that, Tim DeChristopher, 27, a University of Utah economics student and environmental activist, showed his driver’s license, picked up bidding paddle No. 70 and quietly seated himself in the bidding hall on Friday. He snapped up 22,500 acres of parcels between Arches and Canyonlands national parks that he doesn’t plan to develop or even pay for. He also drove up prices on other bids by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nobody else has infiltrated a government auction to cause so much turmoil, according to officials at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Investigators submitted reports Monday to federal prosecutors, based on DeChristopher’s own account of his auction play. No decision on charges against DeChristopher was expected until after the holidays, and the case would go to a grand jury first, said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office....

Clean Waste

In choosing Nobelist and alternative energy enthusiast Steve Chu as his nominee to head the Department of Energy (DOE), President-elect Barack Obama is saying he is serious about his plan to invest an awful lot of taxpayer money in alternative "clean" energy schemes. At an international climate summit in November, Obama proposed spending $150 billion over 10 years. Two days later, California Senator Barbara Boxer announced that she will introduce a bill in Congress to spend $15 billion a year "to spur innovations in clean energy." Obama says huge government investment in wind and solar power and other alternative energy technologies can usher in a "new chapter" of clean energy in America. It's a nice, sunny notion — really! — but first he ought to acquaint himself with the old chapters of this sad saga. The problem with most discussions about clean energy is that they take place in an ahistorical, highly naive vacuum. The next big breakthrough is always said to be just around the corner. Investors are too shortsighted to see it, but if government would just pitch in, why, we'd all be driving a fleet of Prius-like vehicles by 2020 — powered by nothing but our own self-esteem, with emissions that will actually reverse global warming. Where's the downside? The downside is in falling for it. America's real history of investing in non-nuclear clean energy is a story of waste and harm on a massive scale....

Pinon Canyon expansion opponents outline arguments

Opponents of a plan to expand the Army's Pinon Canyon training site contend the Army hasn't fully considered the environmental impacts of increasing training there. Not 1 More Acre! and others suing the Army outlined their arguments in an opening brief filed in U.S. District Court in Denver last week. The group and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in April asking a judge to make sure the Army complies with the National Environmental Policy Act before making changes at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. The plaintiffs contend the Army violated the act by failing to fully consider reasonable alternatives to its plan to increase the frequency, duration and intensity of training at Pinon Canyon in southeastern Colorado, such as holding training elsewhere. It also contends the Army didn't include proposals to physically expand the training site when it wrote an environmental impact statement on the effects of increasing training....

Californians Shape Up as Force on Environmental Policy

California Democrats will assume pivotal roles in the new Congress and White House, giving the state an outsize influence over federal policy and increasing the likelihood that its culture of activist regulation will be imported to Washington. In Congress, Democrats from the Golden State are in key positions to write laws to mitigate global warming, promote "green" industries and alternative energy, and crack down on toxic chemicals. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, Californians in the new White House will shape environmental, energy and workplace safety policies. "It's unique in terms of the power of this state in modern times," said James A. Thurber, who directs the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. To find another example of a state wielding such national influence, Thurber had to reach back to Texas in the 1950s, when Sam Rayburn was the House speaker and Lyndon B. Johnson was the Senate majority leader....

Utah now focus of push for lead ammo rules

Conservationists who have battled for years to eliminate lead ammunition they say is the biggest threat to the survival of endangered California condors are now setting their sights on Utah. Successful programs to limit the use of lead ammunition in Arizona and California have cut the number of the giant vultures poisoned from eating bullets in carcasses of animals shot by hunters. But as the resurgent condors expand their range, wildlife officials know they must broaden their focus as the birds journey into nearby Utah. Jim Parrish, nongame avian coordinator for Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources, said video footage has shown that the condors are feeding on gut piles in Utah and have been exposed to lead. He said Utah plans to implement a program similar to one in Arizona that would provide vouchers to hunters for non-lead ammunition, starting in 2010....

Missouri rancher is gone, but mystery remains

The auctioneer sat above the cattle ring and told the crowd what a great herd they were getting ready to bid on. Well-tended, top-notch cows and performance-tested bulls. “They certainly would not be for sale if not for the circumstances,” auctioneer Jim Hertzog said into the microphone. His voice broke with those words and he held up a hand: “Give me a second.” The arena crowd sat stone quiet. Hertzog, wearing a big cowboy hat, took a sip of water. Then, with game face restored, he started the sale: “All right, boys, let’s take a look at ’em.” It didn’t say the cattle were being sold because Cook, 55, hadn’t been seen since he disappeared from the ranch in mid-November. His billfold was found inside the house. No disarray. No forced entry. His pickup still sat in the driveway. “Nobody knows what happened. … He’s just gone,” said Elsie Cash from behind the counter at McBee’s General Store, about a mile east of the ranch. “He used to stop in here all the time, for food and whatnot. Nice fellow. “People ’round here sure are wondering what happened.”....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ranchers were green before it was popular

by Jo Baeza

An old cowboy named Ray Tankersley once told me he calculated that one woman used as much water as 100 cows. How he came to that conclusion I'm not sure, but he assured me he'd "studied on it."

It's true that women use a lot of water from the time they get up in the morning till the time they go to bed, but ranch women use less than others.

When I got married and moved to a ranch in 1956, we had to haul water in buckets from the windmill pipe to the house. Once we put in running water, there was no stopping me. I took a shower every day, washed dishes after every meal, used water to cook for two or three cowboys, put water out every morning for the ranch dogs, cats and chickens.

It took a lot of water to irrigate my kitchen garden in the summer and more water to clean and cook vegetables. The milk cans and bottles had to be scalded with hot water every day.

Our dishwater and wash water, known these days as "gray water," ran out in the yard to water grass and trees. Our sewage went into a cesspool that was blasted out of sandstone rock by Sam Yellowhair using a mysterious substance he called "blue mud."(I went to town to do the laundry when he was blasting.)

The cesspool didn't get a lot of use, as the men were out on the range most of the day and contributed their biodegradable waste to the environment.

When we'd go to town, we'd stop every so often to pick up parts alongside the road. You'd be surprised how much flies off a car or pickup bouncing over a rutted dirt road.

The cowboy's creative eye sees opportunity in what looks like a piece of junk to most people. Everything from mufflers to nuts and bolts went to the shop to be transformed into something useful by a skillful welder or put into a box of spare parts.

Ranchers who had an allotment on the national forest could usually find discarded tools after a forest fire. More than one shovel or pulaski or canteen in the back of a rancher's pickup truck has a "U.S." on it. He figures he paid his taxes. In fact, some of the eating utensils at our West Camp were stamped "U.S." and looked as if they might have been used by the cavalry in the Apache wars.

Many of the early day Forest Service personnel were cowboys whose terminology stuck. Most ranger stations still have a "boneyard" out back full of used parts that might come in handy some day.

To ranchers, the boneyard is the place where dead animals are left. In Arizona, the coyotes and ravens clean up a carcass in no time and the sun bleaches the bones. Nothing is wasted in nature.

Food scraps and peelings were thrown out to the chickens from whence came eggs and occasional Sunday dinners. Manure from the corrals was put on a mulch pile with ashes from the fireplace and any organic material that happened to be lying around. The chickens, ducks, geese and guineas provided pest control without pesticides, and the cats took care of rodents in the barn. The cow dogs kept predators and salesmen away from the house.

One of the words used often around a cow camp was "splice." When you lived an hour or more from town, you didn't run to the hardware store every time you ran out of something. You spliced it. If a horse broke a rein, you spliced the leather. Even if one rein was shorter than the other, you could get back to camp.

Saddle leathers came in handy, too. Like a mountain man's fringed buckskin shirt, a cowboy's saddle leathers were used to patch stirrups and all kinds of things.

Cowboys still carry fence pliers most everywhere they go horseback. If they come across a fence the antelope have pulled up, they can splice the fence even if they don't have any baling wire handy. Fence pliers can be used to cut or tighten wire or pound in staples. The rules for conservation were simple - keep your eyes open for anything useful, and don't throw anything away. The upshot of that was most old-time ranches looked more like junk yards than like South Fork or the Ponderosa, but they didn't have to get federal bailouts to stay in business.

With no television, cellular devices or Xboxes for distraction, the old-time cowboy spent his after-dinner time in the bunk house carving wood, hand-tooling leather or braiding horsehair reins, headstalls and quirts. He patched his boots until they wore out. When they wore out, he kept the old boots for leather.

If he had the means, he might draw or paint. Almost all cowpunchers were storytellers and many amused themselves by singing, playing guitar or making up poetry.

Books and magazines were read over and over. Writing was an arduous labor for most cowboys, but they wrote letters when needed, usually with a pencil on a lined tablet.

It's been along time since women stayed up mending socks and clothing after everyone else went to bed, but they did. When they didn't have mending to do, they would knit, crochet or quilt. Cowboys knew how to sew, mend and cook as well as a woman.

It's been a long time since kids routinely wore "hand-me-downs," but that was the practice in most families. Maybe this "economic downturn" will have an upside. A lot of people today are hearing, for the first time, the old expression familiar to ranch families: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

And don't forget your fence pliers.

*Reach the reporter at

Posted with permission of the author and the White Mountain Independent.

It’s The Pitts: Post Hole Withdrawals

by Lee Pitts

I don’t mean to start another gold rush but did you know there are many fortunes in gold and silver buried in many locales in the great southwest? I’m not referring to mythical mines or undiscovered cities where the streets are paved in gold. Nor am I suggesting that you quit your job and buy a string of mules to go looking for buried treasure that both the Spaniards and the Mexicans left behind on their hasty retreats. I am referring to the money buried in cans, chests and caves back in the days when a “bank” deposit was made by first digging a hole.

With banks and businesses going broke people might once again be bringing their money back to the safety of their own premises where, unlike Social Security or stock in Lehman Brothers, AIG, Freddy and Fannie, it may actually be there when they need it. This explains why safes are the only thing jumping off store shelves these days.

When that parched part of this country where ranches are measured in sections, not acres, was first settled there were no banks to distrust. Even if there were, the banks were usually far away and your bank deposits weren’t guaranteed by the FDIC. If the James gang stole all your money in the bank it was gone.

Back then if you had to travel a long way to buy a string of cattle you had to take your money with you. You could hide some bank notes (often printed by a bank, not the government) in your money belt, but that’s the first place bandits would look, so many ranchers carried gold dust or gold and silver coins. A jigger of gold dust was worth $100 and $1,000 dollars in silver coins weighed over 62 pounds. Such a load made you an obvious target for thieves and when ranchers sensed that robbers were on their trail, or laying in wait for them, they’d stop and hastily bury their money. Many of them never came back to get it either, and even if they did sometimes they couldn’t find it because the landmarks they used were no longer there.

There are countless cases where a rancher somehow managed to make a little money and rather than risk it being stolen on the ride into town he simply buried it. A popular place to bury your life’s savings was under a fence post. It was secure there; maybe even too secure. Sometimes the rancher forgot which post was his bank branch. Even if the rancher remembered the right post the gold was often as hard to find as the smoke from yesterday’s campfire because gold sinks six inches every year in sandy or light soil and the rancher gave up when it was not found at the right depth.

In some cases the ranchers left behind instructions or a map called a “derrotero” but usually the rancher’s secret died with them If they met a sudden or untimely death. “Los muertos no hablan,” was a popular saying. The dead do not talk. Neither do post holes, unfortunately.

If you’ve been unnerved by recent economic events and are considering burying your own treasure there are a few rules that may aid your selfish kids in finding your fortune without spending their adult lives tearing down all your corrals. First, if you are going to bury paper money put it in an airtight container with a silver dollar on top so that your stash will register on a metal detector. And if you are going to leave behind a map use landmarks that don’t change. Your fortune may be planted equal distance between a tree and a certain rock but someone may cut down that tree and move the rock. Or, a sandstorm could alter the landscape and then your kids would have to dig up the entire homeplace. (Although it would be a good way to get the seedbed tilled for your wife’s garden when you’re no longer around to do it!)

Alternatively, you could draw a map and send it to me for safekeeping. If you do don’t set your posts very deep and I’d prefer gold coins. No stock certificates or paper money please. That stuff is hardly worth digging for these days.

Our Fading Heritage

Are most people, including college graduates, civically illiterate? Do elected officials know even less than most citizens about civic topics such as history, government and economics? The answer is yes on both counts according to a new study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

* More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI's basic 33-question test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an "F."
* Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an "A."

Even more startling is the fact that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" comes from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Other results from several basic survey questions:

* Some 30 percent of elected officials do not know that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence; and 20 percent falsely believe that the Electoral College "was established to supervise the first presidential debates."
* Almost 40 percent of all respondents falsely believe the president has the power to declare war.
* Some 40 percent of those with a bachelor's degree do not know business profit equals revenue minus expenses.
* Only 54 percent with a bachelor's degree correctly define free enterprise as a system in which individuals create, exchange and control goods and resources.
* About 21 percent of Americans falsely believe that the Federal Reserve can increase or decrease government spending.

The new study follows up two previous reports from ISI's National Civic Literacy Board that revealed a major void in civic knowledge among the nation's college students. This report goes beyond the college crowd however, examining the civic literacy of everyday citizens, including self-identified elected officials. But according to ISI, the blame and solution again lie at the doorstep of the nation's colleges.

"There is an epidemic of economic, political and historical ignorance in our country," says Josiah Bunting, III, chairman of ISI's National Civic Literacy Board. "It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned. How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience? Colleges can, and should play an important role in curing this national epidemic of ignorance."

Source: Report, "Our Fading Heritage," Intercollegiate Studies Institute, November 20,2008.

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Obama's Black Widow

Barack Obama will be in charge of the biggest domestic and international spying operation in history. Its prime engine is the National Security Agency (NSA)—located and guarded at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A brief glimpse of its ever-expanding capacity was provided on October 26 by The Baltimore Sun's national security correspondent, David Wood: "The NSA's colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the 'Black Widow,' scans millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails every hour. . . . The Black Widow, performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second, searches through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages." In July, George W. Bush signed into law the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which gives the NSA even more power to look for patterns that suggest terrorism links in Americans' telephone and Internet communications. The ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit on free speech and privacy grounds. The new Bush law provides farcical judicial supervision over the NSA and other government trackers and databasers. Although Senator Barack Obama voted for this law, dig this from the ACLU: "The government [is now permitted] to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and e-mail addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it's conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing." This gives the word "dragnet" an especially chilling new meaning....

Obama's attorney general pick: Good on privacy?

Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's pick for attorney general, drew applause from liberal Democrats earlier this year when he denounced the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. A review of Holder's public statements, speeches, and testimony when he was a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, however, reveals a more nuanced record on privacy. His remarks indicate support for laws mandating Internet traceability, limits on domestic use of encryption, and more restrictions on free speech online. He also called for new powers for federal prosecutors, some of which became law under President Bush as part of the USA Patriot Act. n some cases, Holder's statements echoed the position of Justice Department staff members or political appointees, many of whom clashed with civil liberties groups. In others, the former deputy attorney general seems to have gone further than his colleagues in advocating more powers for police....

U.S. Military Preparing for Domestic Disturbances

A new report from the U.S. Army War College discusses the use of American troops to quell civil unrest brought about by a worsening economic crisis. The report from the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute warns that the U.S. military must prepare for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States” that could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” Entitled “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development,” the report was produced by Nathan Freier, a recently retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a professor at the college — the Army’s main training institute for prospective senior officers. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned last week of riots and unrest in global markets if the ongoing financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are beset with credit constraints and rising unemployment, the Phoenix Business Journal reported. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rep. Brad Sherman of California disclosed that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson discussed a worst-case scenario as he pushed the Wall Street bailout in September, and said that scenario might even require a declaration of martial law. The Army College report states: “DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States....View the study here(pdf).

What Is the DEA Smoking?

The Drug Enforcement Administration is in an optimistic mood. A new DEA report insists that the antidrug campaigns Washington has undertaken with Colombia and Mexico in recent years have dramatically slowed the flow of cocaine into the United States. The DEA's principal piece of evidence is that average street prices for the drug have soared over the past twenty-one months from $96.61 per gram to $182.73, which suggests "that we are placing significant stress on the drug delivery system." There's just one problem with the DEA's proclamation of success. We've heard it all before. Many, many times before. For example, in November 2005, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy asserted that a 19 percent increase in cocaine prices since February indicated a growing retail shortage, thus validating Washington's multibillion dollar Plan Colombia, designed to stanch the torrent of drugs coming from the Andean region of South America. "These numbers confirm that the levels of interdiction, the levels of eradication, have reduced the availability of cocaine in the United States," White House drug czar John P. Walters boasted. "The policy is working." And what was the sky-high street price of cocaine that justified such optimism? $170 per gram. Adjusted for inflation, that price was actually higher than the latest price spike to just under $183. Yet clearly that earlier alleged supply-side victory in the drug war was short lived. According to the DEA's own statistics in the December 2008 report, cocaine prices had declined to a mere $96 per gram by January 2007....

FBI Agent Who Dated Actress is Charged With Illegally Accessing FBI Computer

FBI agent Mark Rossini, whose name surfaced in New York gossip columns for dating actress Linda Fiorentino, has been charged with illegally accessing an FBI computer for personal use. Rossini, who resigned Friday, was charged with five misdemeanor counts in a criminal Information filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington. In many instances, when a criminal Information is filed, the defendant ends up pleading guilty. Rossini had been based in Washington but later transferred to New York, where press reports had him dining with Fiorentino at Elaine’s, a well known uptown restaurant. Del Quentin Wilber of The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Linda Fiorentino has ties to Anthony Pellicano, the controversial Los Angeles private investigator, who was convicted in May of using illegal wiretaps and rogue cops to dig up info for famous clients. The Post said that Pellicano’s attorneys in a court filing in March 2007 referenced an FBI report that raised questions about a certain FBI agent’s credibility. The lawyers said the prosecution should have turned over the report during discovery. Rossini was the source of that document, the Post reported, attributing that to “one law enforcement official.”....

Mexican drug smugglers spray bullets, but U.S. officers dare not return fire

A team of Mexican drug smugglers unloaded $1 million worth of drugs across the U.S. border, spraying bullets at U.S. Border Patrol agents with automatic weapons, but the agents dared not return fire – as one official said they fear losing their jobs or ending up behind bars like agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. This time drug smugglers wore military clothing and fired "military type" automatic weapons at U.S. Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel in Tuscon, Ariz., on Dec. 1. The brazen smugglers backed a flatbed tow truck into an 18-foot border fence and unloaded two pickup trucks packed with marijuana into the U.S. as National Guard and U.S. predator surveillance cameras recorded their efforts, and Border Patrol agents were immediately dispatched to the scene. When the agents attempted to stop the pickup trucks, a Chevrolet Avalanche and a Ford F150, the smugglers began driving back toward Mexico. However, U.S. authorities deflated the truck tires before the smugglers could make it to the other side, the Laguna Journal reported. Just then, another vehicle was spotted in Mexico, and a sniper began firing an automatic weapon at the U.S. agents. But agents did not fire back. Many witnesses, including U.S. scientists working in Arizona, report seeing heavily armed illegal aliens crossing border fences in the area. When U.S. agents arrive on the scene, smugglers often pelt them with rocks, strike them with vehicles or fire weapons at them – and agents sometimes face penalties for firing back....

Washington DC Enacts Tough Gun-Control Measure

Nearly six months after the Supreme Court put an end to the District of Columbia’s decades-old ban on handgun possession, the City Council here passed a sweeping new ordinance on Tuesday to regulate gun ownership. The legislation would require all gun owners to receive five hours of safety training and to register their firearms every three years. In addition, they would have to undergo a criminal background check every six years. Councilman Phil Mendelson, who helped draft the bill and shepherd it through the Council, called it a “very significant piece of legislation that borrows best practices from other states.” Opponents said the legislation flew in the face of the Supreme Court ruling in June. “The D.C. Council continues to try to make it harder and harder for law-abiding citizens to access this freedom,” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told The Associated Press....

Court orders gun libel suit back to state

The federal appeals court in Atlanta has ordered a lawsuit claiming New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg libeled a Georgia sporting goods store by calling it 1 of several "rogue gun dealers" to be returned to the state court where it originated. Friday's decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest development in a 2-year legal battle that began when Bloomberg sued 15 firearms brokers in five states, including Georgia. The suit said they were selling weapons that ended up in the hands of New York criminals. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, representing Adventure Outdoor Sports in Smyrna, Ga., argued before the appeals court in September that the suit should be returned to state Superior Court. Bloomberg's lawyers wanted the suit to be dismissed or remain in federal court, because it applies to whether the gun stores violated federal laws.

Clown strip searched at airport

A clown wearing colourful pantaloons, huge shoes and a flashing police helmet was strip searched by airport security guards. Dave Vaughan, 60, who was due to perform for sick children as PC Konk, also had his plastic handcuffs confiscated at Birmingham International Airport. Mr Vaughan was with a crowd of 100 disadvantaged youngsters about to board a charity flight around Britain when he set off a metal detector....

Satellites Spy on Washington from on High

Washington, D.C., home of the CIA, National Security Administration (NSA) and FBI, is a well-known haven for spies and surveillance. But new satellite pictures of the White House, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial show these government agencies aren't the only ones watching and being watched. These latest images from Dulles, Va., satellite-imaging company, GeoEye, are among the first to be collected by the GeoEye 1, a satellite launched into polar orbit on September 6 that can "see" objects on Earth as small as 16 inches (0.41 meter) in size in black-and-white mode or 64.6 inches (1.64 meters) in color. Images from the GeoEye 1, which stands 20 feet (6.1 meters) high and weighs more than 4,300 pounds (1,950 kilograms), so impressed Google that the Internet search giant plans to add the satellite's high-resolution, digital color photos to Google Earth next month. View a slide show of images taken by GeoEye satellites.

Michigan City Bans “Being Annoying in Public”

Last Thursday, the Brighton (MI) City Council approved a local ordinance that tickets anyone caught annoying others in public “by word of mouth, sign or motions.” This is perhaps one of the most obvious infringements on free speech in this nation’s history. This ordinance obviously violates the free speech clause and also to a lesser extent the free association clause. Also the idea of “annoying speech” is so incredibly subjective that it can mean any speech, thus giving the executive (police) the complete and total fiat of determining what speech is acceptable for the community....

US police could get 'pain beam' weapons

The research arm of the US Department of Justice is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, with the intention of putting them into the hands of police to subdue suspects. The two devices under development by the civilian National Institute of Justice both build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon's controversial Active Denial System (ADS) - first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a 2-metre beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person's skin and cause pain. Like the ADS, the new portable devices will also heat the skin, but will have beams only a few centimetres across. They are designed to elicit what the Pentagon calls a "repel response" - a strong urge to escape from the beam....They say this is to "reduce injury to suspects." Another holiday gift from the feds.

Tangled U.S. Objectives Bring Down Spy Firm

After a federal jury in New York swiftly convicted a major Afghan heroin trafficker and Taliban supporter named Haji Bashir Noorzai, the government promptly issued the usual celebratory news release thanking the men and women of the DEA and FBI for their "countless sacrifices" in making the case. Left out was any credit to the party most responsible for the government's victory: an unusual three-man private intelligence firm called Rosetta Research and Consulting. At the instigation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rosetta agents lured Noorzai to America and delivered him right into the feds' hands. He spent 11 days in an Embassy Suites Hotel in Manhattan in 2005, enjoying room service and considering himself a guest of the U.S. government -- until he was arrested. He was imprisoned for three years awaiting his trial, which concluded in September. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in January. Noorzai's capture should have been Rosetta's finest hour. Instead, it led to the company's downfall. A close examination of the case reveals how a spy firm trafficking in sensitive intelligence for profit got sandwiched between conflicting government goals: Noorzai, one of the company's best sources, was considered an asset by the intelligence side of the government, even as the law enforcement side considered him a criminal. The tale reveals some of the rivalries, ugly choices and ironies that permeate this shadowy world. The company that thought it might get a $2 million reward was dragged into an internal Justice Department investigation. The FBI employees who helped the firm ended up in trouble with their own agency....