Friday, February 13, 2009

Green Enough?

Newsweek reports:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wasn't an instant hit with environmentalists, who said the former Colorado attorney general was soft on the Endangered Species Act, climate change and other important issues. Could some of his first moves soften the opposition? Last week Salazar halted Bush administration leases of federal lands to energy developers and promised a critical review of outstanding leases. And he denounced ethics scandals that broke last fall, including the revelation that some department employees had exchanged drugs and sexual favors with employees of several energy companies that lease public lands. In an interview with NEWSWEEK's Daniel Stone and Daren Briscoe, Salazar suggested critics get to know his record better, and he promised to put science first. Excerpts: NEWSWEEK: A broad collection of wildlife advocacy groups opposed your nomination, saying your record doesn't show a strong-enough stance on species protection. Salazar: I'm not here to please the environmental groups or the oil and gas industries. I'm here to do the right thing. The fact that there's criticism from the left and the right is something I'm very used to. Those environmental groups should educate themselves on the work I have done. In Colorado, I created the most significant state land conservation program in the history of the United States that restored and protected river corridors, which is basically protecting species. I've been involved in crafting programs to recover endangered fish in the Colorado River system. I was one of the architects in crafting an agreement to recover the whooping crane in Nebraska. I have a history of having stood up to recover species in a way that's real. You say you will value science more than your predecessors. What does that mean? There are a number of pods within the department where there are scientists who do their work without a political agenda. Their work has to be honored. It starts with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the endangered-species consultation process. They're the ones that ought to be making the call in terms of what kind of impact will be created as a result of whatever action will be taken. Secondly, we have the U.S. Geological Survey, coupled with the Bureau of Reclamation. They will be hugely helpful for us as we figure out in a real way how we'll address the reality of climate change. We have, in this department, a very strong group of scientists that have been working on these issues and collecting data for a very long time...

Ethanol, Just Recently a Savior, Is Struggling

Barely a year after Congress enacted an energy law meant to foster a huge national enterprise capable of converting plants and agricultural wastes into automotive fuel, the goals lawmakers set for the ethanol industry are in serious jeopardy. As recently as last summer, plants that make ethanol from corn were sprouting across the Midwest. But now, with motorists driving less in the economic downturn, the industry is burdened with excess capacity, and plants are shutting down virtually every week. In the meantime, plans are lagging for a new generation of factories that were supposed to produce ethanol from substances like wood chips and crop waste, overcoming the drawbacks of corn ethanol. That nascent branch of the industry concedes it has virtually no chance of meeting Congressional production mandates that kick in next year. The decline in fortunes has been extreme for both kinds of ethanol since last summer, when $145-a-barrel oil appeared to shift fuel economics in their favor. Only months ago, refiners in some regions were buying up as much corn ethanol as they could to blend with expensive gasoline, effectively keeping pump prices down slightly. Meanwhile, investors seemed willing to finance plants to produce next-generation biofuels. But since the summer, oil and gasoline prices have plunged, while the price of corn, from which virtually all commercial ethanol in this country is made, has remained relatively high. Refiners are limiting their ethanol purchases to a level required to meet federal blending mandates — a level far below the industry’s capacity...

Ethanol's Backers Get Gassed

From an IBD editorial:

A funny thing happened on the way to all the green profits that were supposed to be in the offing thanks to high prices at the gas pump. Corn ethanol plants "are shutting down virtually every week." An alternative energy trade group says at least 10 of the nation's 150 ethanol firms have closed some 24 plants in three months, with a dozen other companies in distress. Little more than a year after the Democratic Congress passed legislation launching a massive national effort to convert farm crops and agricultural wastes into auto fuel, it's become clear that the production deadlines aimed at greenifying your local gas station can't and won't be met. The many investors who were tripping all over themselves to finance biofuel plants last year are finding that going green can mean losing lots of green. Congress had a grand plan: It would double corn ethanol use by 2015. And by 2022, 21 billion gallons of ethanol and biofuels would be made from formerly useless stuff, ranging from corn stubble to switchgrass to municipal waste. But reality has hit like a ton of corn stalks. The inescapable facts are that corn prices remain at a market-set high, and converting the corn alternative cellulose into liquid fuel is prohibitively expensive. And there are other problems. For one, corn ethanol gets worse mileage than gasoline. For another, ethanol's corrosiveness means it can't be shipped through regular pipelines like gasoline...

Lawsuit Inc. strikes again

A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial:

Over at the courthouse, the first environmental attorneys show up with their carry-out coffee cups, just ahead of the crows, waiting for the windows to open so they can file their latest actions, banning any further attempts at human progress in Southern Nevada. First in line today are the grim reapers of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, suing agents of the federal government for allowing plans to proceed for the development of homes and a golf course at Coyote Springs, in northeastern Clark County. The federal agencies should never have allowed owners of the property to make plans to use their own water rights by digging wells on their own lands, the lawyers will argue in court, because such "groundwater withdrawals" could destroy habitat crucial to the Mojave Desert tortoise and the Moapa dace, a finger-length minnow found only in the headwaters of the Muddy River, 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas. And the aggressors can't lose -- that's the beauty of it. Oh, this lawsuit may be tossed, eventually. But by then there will be scores of others. And the smug and spike-haired plaintiffs will still be reimbursed for their time and trouble, paid off with tax dollars by the very agencies they're suing. No federal judge has ever ruled, "You're wrong; the minnows won't be harmed; furthermore, I find no evidence that you really care one whit about these minnows -- you never visit or feed them -- that instead you've brought this action for no purpose other than causing expense and inconvenience to others, and therefore I'm charging you with all court costs and defendants' attorney fees -- personally."...

Rancher Wants to Know If Oil, Gas Drilling is Polluting Drinking Water

A Pavillion-area rancher told a House committee Wednesday that he is frustrated with an inability to find out what chemicals from oil and gas drilling are being used around his home. He said he fears those chemicals may be penetrating his and his neighbors' water wells. "There has to be some regulation. There has to be some accountability," John Fenton said. He urged the committee to kill Senate Joint Resolution 5. It asks Congress and the president to preserve the exemption for the process of hydraulic fracturing in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee will likely act Friday on SJ 5, said chairman Rep. Tom Lockhart, R- Casper. The committee took testimony Wednesday on the bill, which has passed the Senate. Supporters say it is about maintaining a safe, reliable practice that has been used in 80 percent of Wyoming's oil and gas wells to produce hydrocarbons that would otherwise be unreachable, adding immense amounts of money to state coffers...Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

Bill would block killing of wild horses, burros

The Press Enterprise reports:

Legislation was introduced Thursday in Congress that would prevent the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from killing otherwise healthy wild horses and burros that roam Western states. "It is unacceptable for wild horses to be slaughtered without any regard for the general health, well-being, and conservation of these iconic animals that embody the spirit of our American West," Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., said in a statement. Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has long been an advocate for wild horses on public lands. "Our wild horses are being harmed by antiquated policies," said the measure's co-sponsor Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee. "These policies must be updated to reflect Americans' desire to see these horses protected." Besides prohibiting the killing of healthy horses and burros that are removed from the range, the bill would allow BLM to revamp and expand public land areas for horses and assist in creating sanctuaries. It also calls for strengthening the agency's adoption program and increasing public involvement in management decisions, the sponsors said...

The Clean Water Act and Nonpoint Source Pollution: Implications for Agriculture

Over the past few decades there has been a significant increase in litigation surrounding western water resources, including Nevada's watersheds. Agriculture has been named as a defendant in several cases. Those involved in agriculture need to acknowledge that water, a primary input in the production process, has become a highly valued and increasingly scarce resource. And, federal legislation prioritizes the improvement and protection of water quality involving water resources nationwide. Farmers and ranchers must understand water issues surrounding agricultural activities and social concerns involving water bodies located near their operations. The first step in accomplishing this level of awareness is to understand federal and state laws regulating water quality, implementation of laws and pollutants identified as harmful to water bodies. This fact sheet explains the provisions outlined in the Clean Water Act that specifically address nonpoint source pollution and implications for agriculture...Reno Gazette-Journal

ND Senate begins debate on big-game baiting ban

Spreading corn, sugar beet waste and other bait to attract big game also could help spread livestock disease that would be devastating to North Dakota's ranching industry, advocates of banning the hunting practice say. "Baiting and feeding has become widespread in this state, and has become part of the culture in many areas," said Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg. "It will not be easy for those who have become immersed in that culture to change. But that change must be made, for the greater good of all of our citizens." Studies by state wildlife agencies show baiting carries increased risks for the spread of bovine tuberculosis and other diseases, Olafson said during a state Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday. Opponents of a baiting ban said it would infringe on their property rights and do little, if anything, to prevent disease. During this year's harsh winter, deer are flocking to the farms for feed in any case, they said...Grand Forks Herald

New Sustainable and Humane Food-Animal Certification Underway

A long-time fixture within the animal-handling issue, Temple Grandin, is launching a new certification program to evaluate both sustainable and humane practices of a food-animal production system. The Colorado State University researcher and animal-handling expert worked with Niman Ranch to develop the program. Starting in August, producers or companies that wish to be certified will be audited on 21 core principles. In the case of a multiple-producer company, all farmers and ranchers must receive certification. There will be a certification seal associated with the audits. The 21 core principles include: * Animals must be given the opportunity to care for, interact with, and nurture their young. In the case of swine, farrowing crates are not allowed. * Practices must be implemented that prevent soil loss or degradation in production areas; minimize unacceptable or unintended poor air quality for family, workers and neighbors; and prevent water quality degradation of surface and groundwater resources. * Animals must be fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet. There must be a feeding plan that will guarantee a sufficient, well-balanced diet to appropriately meet the animals' nutritional needs at their stage in life and maintain required body condition scores. Animals shall have access to feed as long as is necessary for them to satisfy their nutrient requirements...Pork Magazine

North Dakota cattle buyer convicted in $7.8M scheme

The Billings Gazette reports:

A North Dakota cattle buyer who drove bankers around Eastern Montana showing them cattle he falsely claimed were his was convicted Thursday in a $7.8 million scheme to defraud banks. The jury deliberated about an hour and a half in the four-day trial before finding Todd Kenneth Horob, 40, of Williston, guilty of all seven counts in an indictment. The charges included false statements to a bank, bank and wire fraud, money laundering, bankruptcy scheme to defraud and aggravated identity theft. Testifying in his own defense, Horob claimed that other witnesses were wrong and denied providing false brand inspection certificates and other false documents to hide the fraud. Horob's scheme collapsed into bankruptcy, where he continued lying on his petition and in a deposition, Archer said. The investigation by the FBI found that Horob spent money loaned to buy cattle on other things and that he lost more than $2 million in the cattle futures market. Wells Fargo Bank, which loaned Horob $5.8 million, caught on and sent bankers searching for cattle Horob claimed to have purchased with the money, Archer said. "They didn't find cows," he said...

Not an ordinary horse trader

A friend to Orren Mixer, Jim Thorpe and D. Wayne Lukas, Nick McNair has owned horses that changed the face of the Quarter Horse world. Born in Mayes County near Strang, McNair was always around horses. His father was a horse breeder. “We always had the best looking horses around,” brother Jake McNair said. On Saturday, McNair will be inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of fame at the Renaissance Hotel in Tulsa. Nominees for induction are chosen by their peers. The rules for nomination state the person “must be or have been, over a period of years, significant in the growth of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse industry, or have been outstanding in his/her area of activity involving the American Quarter Horse in Oklahoma.” McNair doesn’t see himself fitting that criteria. “I’m just a horse trader, and I’ve been lucky enough to come up with some good ones,” he said. “I wish I knew who put me in for this.” Unassuming as he is, horses McNair has owned made a lasting mark in the American Quarter Horse Association. Probably first on that list is Impressive. Impressive is one of the most recognizable halter horses in the world, second as a sire of point-earning halter horses only to Two Eyed Jack...Pryor Daily Times

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bill would designate 23M acres of wilderness

The Casper Star-Tribune reports:

A New York congresswoman has again introduced a wide-reaching wilderness protection bill that would ban logging, oil exploration and other development on 23 million acres across five Northwestern states. No member of Congress from any of the five states has agreed to co-sponsor the bill, which Maloney has pushed in Congress since 1993. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., is a co-sponsor of the latest version. The bill would create 9.5 million acres of new wilderness in Idaho, 7 million acres in Montana, 5 million acres in Wyoming, 750,000 acres in northeastern Oregon and 500,000 acres in eastern Washington. Maloney, who represents New York City, said the bill would protect some of America's most beautiful and ecologically important lands while saving money and creating jobs. It calls for the removal of more than 6,000 miles of existing roads, primarily within national forests. Old logging roads would be removed, and habitat restored in most of those areas, creating about 2,300 jobs and leading to a more sustainable economic base in the region, said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies, an advocacy group. A significant number of Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, spoke favorably of the bill in 2007, and even more lawmakers from both parties are likely to back the bill this year, Garrity said...

Mr. Garrity, wilderness areas are by law ROADLESS. If there are "6,000 miles of existing roads" then these areas don't qualify as wilderness. This is another example of environmentalists and their friends in Congress trying to manufacture wilderness and corrupt the original wilderness concept.

Congresswoman Mahoney, the State of New York contains just under 35 million acres. Is it your contention that none of this is "beautiful" or "ecologically important"? That must be the case since you have not included one single acre of NY in your legislation. None of this land should be acquired and designated wilderness? Surely the livestock producers, sportsmen, mountain bikers, snowmobilers and other motorized recreationists in NY are as deserving of being shut out as their counterparts in the West. Shame on you for denying New Yorkers this wilderness experience.

Obama: Oil lease sale needed scrutiny

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

President Barack Obama said Wednesday his administration's shelving of the oil and gas lease sale in Utah doesn't signal a permanent shift against drilling on federal lands in the nation's energy policy. But the president said he wanted to suspend recent decisions of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and scrutinize them before moving forward. "I think it is entirely appropriate for this administration to take a step back, push the pause button and review what's been with regard to leases on federal lands," Obama said in response to a question by The Salt Lake Tribune. "We had an administration that I think was heavily tilted towards opening up lands to commercial interests, was less concerned with environmental issues and sustainability issues. And I think for our Department of Interior to say, 'Let's just take a look at what benefits we're getting' and "Are we getting a fair deal, are we getting the kinds of royalties that would make sense?' There's nothing inappropriate." He said none of his decisions regarding drilling -- including setting aside a Bush-era plan for expanded offshore drilling -- have caused economic problems with the industry, and that the administration's ultimate decisions will take account of all parties, including industry and commercial interests...

House panel wants to crack down on wilderness camps

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

A House panel approved a bill Wednesday that would boost federal regulations on residential programs for troubled teens, including the wilderness therapy camps that have thrived in Utah's deserts. The bill is in reaction to a two-year federal audit that found thousands of cases of abuse in residential treatment programs nationwide since the early 1990s, along with misleading marketing practices and uneven state oversight. "It is past time to bring these programs to a level of basic safety," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., one of the sponsors of the legislation. The House Education and Labor Committee approved the bill on a vote of 32 to 10. The legislation would set minimum federal standards prohibiting any punishment that includes denying food, water, clothing, shelter or medical care...The bill should be amended to prevent the feds from doing the same things to ranchers.

Bighorn sheep tag sells for $245,000

The owner of a chain of sandwich shops in Champaign, Ill., paid $245,000 for a Montana bighorn sheep hunting tag last weekend at the Wild Sheep Foundation Convention in Salt Lake City. The Wild Sheep Foundation, headquartered in Cody, Wyo., would not release the winner's name, but they said the tag brought in $50,000 more than last year. The highest price ever paid for a Montana wild sheep tag was $310,000 in 1994. "Yes, the bidding was spirited," said Terry Ziehl of the Sheep Foundation. A Whitefish hunter paid $10,000 for a Montana mountain goat tag sold at the same show. Also at the auction, the Mule Deer Foundation sold a Montana mule deer tag for $8,500...Great Falls Tribune

Nature Conservancy buys Idaho ranch

The Nature Conservancy has announced the purchase of the Cottom Ranch, located north of Leadore in the Lemhi Valley. The Conservancy is currently seeking a conservation buyer for the property. The 1356-acre ranch provides key spawning habitat for salmon, steelhead and resident rainbow and bull trout. The upland portions of the property are used by elk, mule deer and sage grouse. The Conservancy will focus its protection on the river corridor and will ensure protection of a small spring creek that provides additional native fish habitat. The project will balance the need for irrigation with adequate flows for native fish. The Nature Conservancy is conserving a place salmon would die for. As part of the Conservancy’s commitment to keep working ranches working, the organization plans to sell the property to a conservation buyer, protecting it for its wildlife while continuing its historic use as a working ranch...Nature Conservancy

Oil-and-gas rights debate draws crowd

The New Mexican reports:

Oil-and-gas industry representatives and advocates of increasing the rights of landowners who don’t own the mineral rights under their property squared off Wednesday before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which drew a standing-room-only crowd. Information about the ownership of mineral rights can be hard to find. Surface rights owners often don’t learn until just before production starts that someone else has the right to drill on their property. The legislation would require oil and gas producers to notify surface owners 30 days before signing a lease with mineral rights owners. It would also require that surface owners be told the identity of the mineral owner and be given time to try to negotiate their own lease or purchase of the rights under their property. More than a dozen people testified on each side of the issue. Supporters included representatives from the Sierra Club, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Santa Fe County, The Environmental Law Center and several private citizens including surface owners and ranchers. Opponents included representatives from Conoco Philips, Chevron, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the State Land Office. Several people who make their living researching mineral rights ownership also spoke is opposition to the bill. Committee members on Wednesday were called to the House floor before a vote could be taken on moving HB 219 forward...

NM water rush: Deep aquifers sought for metro growth

It's been called a modern-day gold rush. But the free-for-all isn't for sparkling bits in a stream, it's for the water - deep underground and salty - that developers and politicians hope will help keep New Mexico's metro areas growing. In Albuquerque and Santa Fe, developers and local governments have staked claims to more than 350,000 acre feet of brackish water in deep underground aquifers since 1997. But the vast bulk of those claims - amounting to roughly 325,000 acre feet - have been filed in the past year. One acre-foot equals 325,821 gallons, which can meet the annual water needs of two U.S. households. In southern New Mexico, the city of Las Cruces and two companies in Otero County also have claimed 35,000 acre feet of water from deep aquifers in the past two months, according to the state engineer's office. Brackish water in deep aquifers has little state oversight because of a loophole in state law that gives the state engineer jurisdiction of water above 2,500 feet unless it has a salt content of less than 1,000 parts per million. "Basically, right now with the way the laws are, it's just a free-for-all," State Engineer John D'Antonio said. D'Antonio is pushing for a change in state law this legislative session to give his office jurisdiction to salty water in deep aquifers...AP

Ranching, farming with arthritis workshop to be held

Workshops to help producers with arthritis farm and ranch are in Worland, Riverton and Wheatland this February. “More than 80 percent of ranchers and farmers experience some form of arthritis,” said Randy Weigel, human development specialist with the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service (UW CES) and project director for Wyoming AgrAbility. “Ranchers and farmers are heavily affected by this condition, which can reduce their ability to perform work tasks efficiently.” Topics include learning the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of arthritis, myths and facts of arthritis and ways to manage pain while ranching and farming. Examples of assistive technology devices that can make life less painful and what to look for when buying assistive technology devices to help protect joints are also part of the workshop...[link]

As I search the internet each night to find relevant articles to post, I've been seeing all kinds of stories about similar workshops, although this is the first one I've seen on arthritis. Now I'm handicapped from an autoimmune disease myself, but I think this is a bunch of bunk. Why aren't there workshops for carpenters with arthritis? Truck drivers with bad backs? Carpet layers with bad knees? Wayward women with the round heel disease?

I'll tell you my suspicions. I'll bet USDA has a passel of ADA money, and they are passing it out to the CES to put on these workshops. To me, the people who are really crippled are the politicians who fund these programs. They need brain surgery.

PETA dresses in KKK garb outside Westminster Dog Show

The animal rights group, which every year stages a protest at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, had two of its members dress in Ku Klux Klan garb outside Madison Square Garden on Monday. Their goal, according to a post on the PETA website, was to draw a parallel between the KKK and the American Kennel Club. "Obviously it's an uncomfortable comparison," PETA spokesman Michael McGraw told the Associated Press. But the AKC is trying to create a "master race" when it comes to pure-bred dogs, he added. "It's a very apt comparison."...USA Today

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Salazar puts expanded offshore drilling on hold

The LA Times reports:

The Obama administration put the brakes on a push to expand oil and gas drilling off America's coasts Tuesday and promised to speed development of offshore wind farms. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he will extend public comments for six months on a last-minute proposal by the Bush administration to open swaths of the California, Alaska, Atlantic and Gulf coasts for drilling. He also ordered Interior staff to compile data on the potential benefits from oil, gas and renewable development offshore and pledged public hearings on drilling, including one to be held on the West Coast. Salazar also said the department would finalize guidelines for developing wind and other renewable energy development, which Bush officials did not complete before leaving office. Salazar called the Bush drilling plan a "headlong rush" based on bad information and tilted toward "old energy."...

Mighty Miss may solve western water woes

During the Rio Grande Inter Basin Roundtable session on Tuesday, Gunnison hay farmer Gary Hausler presented a 1,200-mile $22.5 billion proposal that would take the heat off the San Luis Valley and the West Slope to provide water for Colorado’s burgeoning Front Range cities and thirsty downstream states. Hausler proposed an innovative if not ambitious project that he admitted would not be completed in his lifetime, even if it began tomorrow - a pipeline from the Mississippi River to Colorado. “The Mississippi provides a huge source of unused water,” he said. “It provides more water than can be used.” Hausler proposed that Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska form a new interstate compact, the Central Plains Compact, that would run 1,200 miles of 22-inch diameter pipe from the Mississippi River at a point near Hickman, Kentucky, to Colorado at a point between Denver and Colorado Springs on Monument Hill. The pipeline would include laterals along the way to provide water to all of the states between the river and the Rockies. Hausler estimated the cost of the project at $22.5 billion including permits, rights of way (possibly through eminent domain), engineering and construction. He also estimated the project would span 30 years from idea to construction with about 10 years spent on forming the compact, another 10 years on permits and 10 years on the construction itself. Hausler has a mining and heavy construction background in addition to a stint in corporate finance before becoming a hay farmer and rancher near Gunnison...Alamosa Valley Courier

The Klamath Basin: The Tricky Business of Water Rights in the West

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed to decide whether irrigators in the Klamath Basin "own" water delivered by the federal Klamath Reclamation Project. This latest development is one more twist in an ongoing property rights case that illustrates both how difficult it can be to determine who holds precisely what rights in western water and how property rights claims, even spurious ones, can frustrate ecosystem restoration efforts. Usually, claims of ownership are made to recover a resource from someone else. But that's not the issue here. The United States agrees that when the Project has water available it must deliver that water to these irrigators rather than to anyone else. But the irrigators want more than that. They want the United States to pay them for having limited deliveries from the Project in the drought year of 2001 in order to protect threatened and endangered fish. Having failed so far to get that result in the federal courts, they are now using procedural maneuvering to get another bite at the apple from the Oregon courts. The 2001 "train wreck" spawned litigation on a variety of fronts. The irrigators went the takings route. They have long gotten the benefit of almost all the water in the basin, and have decided to stand on their claimed rights to that water even as the ground shifts from under them. Shortly after the water shut-off, they hired lawyers known for aggressive pursuit of property rights claims, and soon were claiming that the United States owed them a billion dollars (far more than any documented losses) under the Fifth Amendment for having "taken" their water in 2001. The United States Court of Claims ruled for the United States, finding that the irrigators did not have property rights that would support a takings claim, and that their contracts for water delivery were subservient to the Endangered Species Act. On appeal of the takings claim, the Federal Circuit decided that the property issue depended "upon complex issues of Oregon property law." It certified three questions to the Oregon Supreme Court, essentially requesting that the state court resolve those issues, which it has now agreed to do...AlterNet

Conservation group plans to sue feds over Nevada water project

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:

A national conservation group has announced plans to sue the federal government for failing to protect endangered fish and desert tortoises that could be harmed by groundwater development plans in northern Clark County. The lawsuit promised by the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity targets the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management over agreements those agencies struck with the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the developers of Coyote Springs. Officials for the environmental group insist groundwater withdrawals by the Coyote Springs development and the water authority could destroy crucial habitat for the endangered Moapa dace, a finger-length fish only found at the headwaters of the Muddy River, 60 miles north of Las Vegas. The federally protected desert tortoise also faces habitat loss in Clark and Lincoln counties as a result of large-scale groundwater pumping and the residential development it would sustain, Mrowska said. The environmental group today sent the two federal agencies a 60-day notice of its intent to sue. Such notice is required for lawsuits brought under the Endangered Species Act...

First Extinct-Animal Clone Created

National Geographic News reports:

An extinct animal has been resurrected by cloning for the first time—though the clone died minutes after birth. Findings revealed January 23 in the journal Theriogenology describe the use of frozen skin in 2003 to clone a bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, a subspecies of Spanish ibex that went extinct in 2000. Scientists had cloned endangered species before, but not one that had officially died out. Study co-author Jose Folch, of the Center for Agro-Nutrition Research and Technology in Aragon, Spain, said his team plans to try cloning another this ibex this year or next. "We are not especially disappointed for the death of the cloned newborn," Folch explained in an email, because such deaths in cloning experiments are common...

Islam group urges forest fire jihad

The Age reports:

AUSTRALIA has been singled out as a target for "forest jihad" by a group of Islamic extremists urging Muslims to deliberately light bushfirs as a weapon of terror. US intelligence channels earlier this year identified a website calling on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to "start forest fires", claiming "scholars have justified chopping down and burning the infidels' forests when they do the same to our lands". The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the "eye for an eye" doctrine. The posting - which instructs jihadis to remember "forest jihad" in summer months - says fires cause economic damage and pollution, tie up security agencies and can take months to extinguish so that "this terror will haunt them for an extended period of time"....

Western Governors study on renewable energy zones

From the Casper Star-Tribune:

The Western Governors' Association is working to identify the windiest and sunniest areas of the West -- in other words, those areas best suited for major renewable energy projects. Working with the Department of Energy, the Governors' Association this week released a draft study naming areas that contain the most potential for development of renewable energy sources, also including geothermal and hydropower. The study says renewable energy projects could generate more than 235,000 megawatts of energy in the 12 western states, Mexico's Baja California and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Association officials say the "Western Renewable Energy Zone" project is intended to bring more renewable energy online by facilitating the construction of transmission lines between resource areas and population centers. The project is soliciting public comment on its early findings...

Lawmakers decry interference in horse slaughter

The Casper Star-Tribune reports:

The Wyoming House gave preliminary approval Friday to a resolution asking Congress not to interfere with the shipment and slaughter of unwanted horses. House Joint Resolution 8 urges Congress to keep out of state oversight of the transport and processing of horses. Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, who introduced the resolution, said it's a response to a federal bill that seeks to limit horse transport to Mexico and Canada. Americans currently send unwanted horses to the neighboring countries for slaughter, because slaughterhouses in the United States have closed. Wallis said the proposed Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 would be a threat to Wyoming's horse and livestock industries. She said the industries have already been hurt as domestic slaughterhouses have closed because of pressure from animal rights organizations. "It's absolutely decimating to the horse industry," Wallis said. There are an estimated 100,000 unwanted or unusable horses in the United States, according to supporters of the resolution.

Vilsack: U.S. should have single food inspection agency

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday he favors a single food safety agency, but he has not decided whether it should be located in the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration or an independent agency. Commenting on the salmonella peanut butter scandal, Vilsack told the U.S. Rice Federation that the issue of centralization is key because food safety is both a human health and market issue. "We are the only industrial nation to have two systems," Vilsack said, a reference to USDA's responsibility for meat, poultry and eggs and FDA's responsibility for most other food products. Noting that 325,000 Americans are hospitalized every year for treatment of food-borne illnesses and that "millions" of others have food-borne illnesses that do not require treatment, Vilsack said the government must ensure that the food supply is safe...Government Executive

Here's Your Sign

I'm sure Bill Engvall would have a ball with this:

Two people have been arrested for eating an endangered species of iguana in the Bahamas after posting pictures of the grill on Facebook. Vanessa Starr Palm, 23, of Illinois and Alexander Daniel Rust, 24, of Indiana, were arrested last Monday after pictures of the two having an iguana feast in the islands were posted on the social networking website...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama Backs Bush Policy, Invokes "State Secrets"

The Obama administration is backing an anti-terrorism policy of President George W. Bush, urging a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that accuses a Boeing Co. unit of helping the CIA fly suspects overseas to be tortured. The American Civil Liberties Union, based in New York, criticized the Obama administration’s position and urged a three- judge appeals court in San Francisco to revive the Boeing case. Under Bush, the government argued national security would be jeopardized if the 2007 suit against Boeing’s Jeppesen Dataplan is allowed to proceed. Jeppesen was accused of falsifying flight plans to disguise the Central Intelligence Agency’s delivery of suspected terrorists to secret prisons where they were allegedly tortured. “Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement yesterday. “This is not change. This is definitely more of the same.” Holder, who took office last week as attorney general in the new Democratic administration, believes “it is vital to protect information that, if released, would jeopardize national security,” said the Justice Department’s Miller...From Bloomberg

Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability

The entire claim of "state secrets" in this case is based on two sworn Declarations from CIA Director Michael Hayden -- one public and one filed secretly with the court. In them, Hayden argues that courts cannot adjudicate this case because to do so would be to disclose and thus degrade key CIA programs of rendition and interrogation -- the very policies which Obama, in his first week in office, ordered shall no longer exist. How, then, could continuation of this case possibly jeopardize national security when the rendition and interrogation practices which gave rise to these lawsuits are the very ones that the U.S. Government, under the new administration, claims to have banned? What this is clearly about is shielding the U.S. Government and Bush officials from any accountability. Worse, by keeping Bush's secrecy architecture in place, it ensures that any future President -- Obama or any other -- can continue to operate behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, with no transparency or accountability even for blatantly criminal acts...Glenn Greenwald at

A rare peek at Homeland Security's files on travelers

The oversize white envelope bore the blue logo of the Department of Homeland Security. Inside, I found 20 photocopies of the government's records on my international travels. Every overseas trip I've taken since 2001 was noted. I had requested the files after I had heard that the government tracks "passenger activity." Starting in the mid-1990s, many airlines handed over passenger records. Since 2002, the government has mandated that the commercial airlines deliver this information routinely and electronically. A passenger record typically includes the name of the person traveling, the name of the person who submitted the information while arranging the trip, and details about how the ticket was bought, according to documents published by the Department of Homeland Security. Records are made for citizens and non-citizens who cross our borders. An agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection can generate a travel history for any traveler with a few keystrokes on a computer. Officials use the information to prevent terrorism, acts of organized crime, and other illegal activity. I had been curious about what's in my travel dossier, so I made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a copy. I'm posting here a few sample pages of what officials sent me. My biggest surprise was that the Internet Protocol (I.P.) address of the computer used to buy my tickets via a Web agency was noted. On the first document image posted here, I've circled in red the I.P. address of the computer used to buy my pair of airline tickets. The rest of my file contained details about my ticketed itineraries, the amount I paid for tickets, and the airports I passed through overseas. My credit card number was not listed, nor were any hotels I've visited. In two cases, the basic identifying information about my traveling companion (whose ticket was part of the same purchase as mine) was included in the file. Perhaps that information was included by mistake...The commercial airlines send these passenger records to Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Computers match the information with the databases of federal departments, such as Treasury, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. Computers uncover links between known and previously unidentified terrorists or terrorist suspects, as well as suspicious or irregular travel patterns. Some of this information comes from foreign governments and law enforcement agencies. The data is also crosschecked with American state and local law enforcement agencies, which are tracking persons who have warrants out for their arrest or who are under restraining orders. The data is used not only to fight terrorism but also to prevent and combat acts of organized crime and other illegal activity....

FAA says Hackers broke into agency computers

Hackers broke into the Federal Aviation Administration's computer system last week, accessing the names and Social Security numbers of 45,000 employees and retirees. The agency said in a statement Monday that two of the 48 files on the breached computer server contained personal information about employees and retires who were on the FAA's rolls as of the first week of February 2006. The server that was accessed was not connected to the operation of the air traffic control system and there is no indication those systems have been compromised, the statement said...AP

Don't worry, the feds will protect all the data they are gathering on us.

City gun statute targeted

Charges against a city man who fired a pistol into the air to stop a group from assaulting his cousin should be dropped because the city ordinance limiting the discharge of guns flies in the face of state law and the Constitution, the defendant's attorney told a county judge during a hearing Friday. Lancaster city's revised gunfire ordinance unconstitutionally restricts the right to protect oneself and others, a lawyer argued at a hearing Friday. Representing the city, attorney Neil L. Albert said the city is entitled to regulate firearms discharge under state law and the charge against Swinton is appropriate. Swinton said his cousin was being attacked and beaten by a group of assailants and that he fired a warning shot to disperse them. He had a concealed-carry permit for the gun...Intelligencer Journal

A sly fox's take on Idaho wolves

Rocky Barker writes in the Idaho Statesman:

Moscow Republican Sen. Gary Schroeder has been getting a lot of heat for his bill that would authorize the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to offer Idaho's surplus wolves to any state that will take them. Schroeder, a fur trader, hung a wolf pelt on the wall of the Senate Environment and Resources Committee hearing room Monday when he introduced the bill just to show he meant business. Under his bill, Fish and Game will send letters to other states asking them if they wanted any wolves. The strategy he espoused is that if other states won't take our extra wolves, we will have no choice but to open a hunting season or, if necessary, to allow federal agents to kill them. But Schroeder, that white-haired fox, really has another strategy, and it's aimed at the anti-wolf leaders in the state who want to pick a fight we cannot win with the federal government. When a federal judge reversed the Bush administration's delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies, anti-wolf forces across the West sought a response that would put the pro-wolf forces, the states and the federal government on the defensive. The Montana Shooting Sports Association drafted a bill that challenges federal authority to force wolves on the state. The Montana bill, which has since been introduced in the Legislature, would void the state's cooperative management agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and void its wolf management plan. It also would declare that the wolves now in the state were out of compliance with state wolf policy, and any efforts to arrest people for killing wolves in the state would be a crime with a jail sentence. A similar bill may come in Idaho this year. But this battle has been fought and lost already...

Feds pare Colo. gas-lease sale

The Denver Post reports:

The U.S. Forest Service — facing opposition from state and local governments as well as environmental groups — withdrew 67,000 acres from a Colorado oil- and gas-lease sale set for Thursday. The state Division of Wildlife and San Miguel and La Plata counties all filed formal protest letters over the potential sale. Criticism focused on the fact the parcels were chosen based on a 1993 plan with dated science on how drilling might affect land and wildlife. The land is in the Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre and Gunnison national forests and is home to Canada lynx, the Gunnison sage grouse and Colorado cutthroat trout. Some parcels also were in the watershed-protection area that supplies drinking water for the town of Norwood, southwest of Montrose. Norwood officials and the San Miguel commissioners also protested those parcels. "I was particularly concerned two counties and the state Division of Wildlife raised these issues," said Rick Cables, the regional forester for the Rocky Mountain region...

Hot And Bothered

Last summer, doctors in Melbourne, Australia, diagnosed the first case of climate change delusion. It affected a 17-year-old who was refusing to drink water and had been admitted to the psychiatric unit at Royal Children's Hospital. He thought that if he took a drink, millions of people would die from the drought effects of global warming. Doctors said he'd been depressed for eight months and had "visions of apocalyptic events." We don't know if Al Gore has been depressed, but he has certainly had "visions of apocalyptic events" that he's been all too eager to share. He'll be pleased to hear that, according to the Boston Globe, Dr. Robert Salo, the psychiatrist in charge of the unit where the teenager was treated, "has now seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change." Children who are "having nightmares about global-warming-related natural disasters" are also booking appointments. As troubling as climate change delusion is to its victims and their families, it's exactly what the global warming alarmists have been trying to inflict. Last year, for instance, the 148,000-member American Psychological Association, which believes "we know how to change behavior and attitudes," admitted that it was embarking on a campaign to, in essence, condition the public to unthinkingly believe that human behavior is causing an environmental crisis. Among the association's goals was to rid the media of "balanced" reports on global warming and to use taxpayers' money to fund the initiative...IBD

Environmental Protection, in Name Only

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, promised during her confirmation hearing to base agency policies and decisions on science, not politics: “If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide, ” she said. “Political appointees will not compromise the integrity of EPA’s technical experts to advance particular regulatory outcomes.” There are two reasons for skepticism. First, the EPA has long been a haven for zealots in career positions and for scientifically insupportable policies, so it has little integrity to compromise. It has a sordid history of incompetence, duplicity, and pandering to the most extreme factions of the environmental movement, all of which are likely to become even worse during the Obama administration. Second, Ms. Jackson herself is a veteran of 16 years at the EPA, during which she developed some of the agency’s most unscientific, wasteful, and dangerous regulations. While at the EPA, Ms. Jackson worked on Superfund (officially the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act), an ongoing EPA program intended to clean up and reduce the risk of toxic-waste sites. This program was originally conceived as a short-term project—$1.6 billion over five years to clean up some 400 sites (by law, at least one per state and, not coincidentally, about one per congressional district). But it has grown into one of the nation’s largest public-works projects: more than $30 billion spent on about 1,300 sites. UC-Davis medical economist J. Paul Leigh has analyzed the occupational hazards of environmental cleanup projects. He concluded that the risks of fatality to cleanup workers—a dump-truck driver involved in a collision or a laborer run over by a bulldozer, for example—are considerably larger than the cancer risks to individual residents that might result from exposures to unremediated sites...Henry I. Miller at National Review

The Nature Conservancy: We are committed to replacing lost property taxes

From the Clark Fork Chronicle:

Editor's Note: Mineral County Commissioners wrote to The Nature Conservancy Jan. 29 expressing opposition to HB 14, which would convert former Plum Creek Timber lands to public ownership. The county leaders noted that public ownership would result in a net loss of tax revenue to the county, including $30,000 per year to the Alberton School District. The following letter represents The Nature Conservancy's response.

February 9, 2008
Mineral County Commissioners
Mineral County Courthouse
300 River Street
Superior, Montana 59872

RE: Fish Creek and Mineral County

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for your letter dated January 29, 2009, expressing your concerns about the eventual ownership of Fish Creek. As an organization with decades of experience working in partnership with rural landowners and county commissions in Montana, we appreciate and understand your concerns regarding potential public ownership or Fish Creek and the related fiscal impact as conveyed to us by Chris Bryant. our western Montana director of outreach.

As Chris reiterated to you at your meeting on the 29th, we are committed to working with you and the residents of Mineral County to find solutions to the potential fiscal impact on your tax base that could result should lands in the Fish Creek and Nemote Creek areas be sold to the State of Montana. We don't know yet who the eventual owners of Fish Creek will be (state or private), so it's impossible to know the exact fiscal impact, if any, at this time. As Chris has stated, our policy is to pay property taxes on lands while under our ownership. We want to put the tax issue behind us so we can effectively partner with you on issues ranging from stewardship during our interim ownership to eventual disposition of these lands. To that end, we commit to coming up with a solution that mitigates the fiscal impact of state ownership – should that occur – to Mineral County and the Alberton School District. One model of such a solution could be similar to our approach with Powell County, which took the form of a lump sum payment from The Nature Conservancy that Powell County is investing to provide perpetual returns in the amount of their tax loss. Your county's needs and our project may require a different approach, and we will tailor a solution that meets these needs.

We are encouraged by your commitment to work with us through a yet-to-be-created citizen advisory committee. We have a long record in this state with community-based conservation, and we hope we can develop a strong working relationship with residents and organizations in Mineral County. This project is just beginning and will take years of work to successfully complete. We look forward to having you as a partner.

In terms of your position on House Bill 14, we hope that you will take some time to listen to the testimony of the dozens of loggers, ranchers. and Potomac area residents who see this project as a chance to keep their economy and Montana way of life whole. Given what is at stake for your fellow Montanans in the Potomac Valley. we hope you will join them in support of this measure.

Kat Imhoff
State Director

Monday, February 09, 2009

Oregon ranchers sue Forest Service in dispute over grazing

A ranching couple in Dayville, who last summer was forced by a federal court to stop grazing cattle on a Malheur National Forest parcel, is now suing the U.S. Forest Service, stating the agency needs to do something about the wild horses in the area. The federal lawsuit is the latest step in a dispute over which animals — and how many of them — should be allowed in the Murderers Creek area southwest of John Day. And the ranchers say the Forest Service needs to cut the number of wild horses on the Malheur National Forest by about half to comply with the agency’s own standards. For years, Loren and Piper Stout have grazed cattle on a parcel of Forest Service land in the Murderers Creek area. But as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association, a federal judge issued an injunction in 2008 stating the Stouts could not graze cattle in the area while he considered the case. “For a small family ranch like that, that was pretty devastating,” Scott Horngren, the Stouts’ attorney, said previously. The Oregon Natural Desert Association has been working on the issue since 2003, said staff attorney Dave Becker. Its goal is to get the Forest Service and other agencies to study the impact of grazing on Murderers Creek, a tributary of the John Day River that is important habitat for steelhead, he said. Steelhead are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act...

Update: For a more thorough coverage of the issue see Wild horses, elk threaten to overcrowd rangelands

Boom in gas drilling fuels contamination concerns in Colorado

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

When Lisa Bracken noticed gas bubbling to the surface of Divide Creek, which runs along one side of her 60 acres in western Colorado, she suspected another gas “seep.” It had happened once before, in 2004, after faulty natural-gas drilling in the vicinity contaminated the creek with benzene and methane. Her concern, though, is not confined to the small waterway. Her cottonwood and pinyon trees are dying, along with parts of meadowland that her family manages for wildlife, and Ms. Bracken believes the likely culprit is methane seepage stemming from one or more of the 11 natural-gas wells within a mile of her property – though independent investigations have not been able to prove a link. “It is so frustrating to watch the land die,” she says. Bracken does not think the current drought is responsible. “We have seen it go through drought cycles, but nothing like this. The land has lost its ability to sustain itself.” Her concern and that of others is putting new scrutiny on a drilling practice knows as “fracing,” short for hydraulic fracturing. A common component of natural-gas extraction worldwide, fracturing operations inject water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface, opening existing fractures in the rock and allowing gas to rise through the wells. The practice makes drilling possible in areas that 10 to 20 years ago would not have been profitable, including parts of Colorado, which accounts for 6.2 percent of natural-gas produced in the US. The concerns center mainly around the injected fluid. Most comes back to the surface, but 30 to 40 percent is never recovered, according to industry estimates...Colborn’s work and complaints from residents living near drilling operations are spurring policymakers to take a closer look at hydraulic fracturing. US Reps. Diana DeGette (D) and John Salazar (D), both of Colorado, have introduced legislation that would repeal the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for hydraulic fracturing and force energy companies to reveal the contents of the fracturing fluids...

Burning our bucks in the woods

From The Oregonian:

The Forest Service is slated to receive from Congress $300 million to pay for hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal land. Hazardous fuels reduction includes removing small trees from forests, mowing brush and prescribed burning. The National Fire Plan created the hazardous fuels reduction program. The Forest Service says the fuels program is intended "to help save the lives of firefighters and citizens and to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to our communities, forests, and rangelands." Since its adoption in 2001, the NFP's hazardous fuels program has treated fuels on 29 million acres at a cost of $2 billion. So what's been the return on our $2 billion investment? Has the program saved lives, reduced fires or protected communities? From 2001 through 2007, 136 firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. In the preceding seven-year period (1994-2000), 130 firefighters died. Under the NFP, fires have burned an average of 7 million acres each year. In the seven-year period before the NFP, fires burned 4 million acres a year. In the last seven years, firefighting costs averaged $1.4 billion a year. In the preceding period before the NFP, costs averaged half that amount. Under the NFP, 1,482 houses have been lost annually to wildfires (most are in Southern California), compared to an average 563 houses lost yearly in the two years (for which I have data) before the NFP....

Forest Land Area from 1630 to 2002

About 30 percent of the 2.3 billion acres of land area (745 million acres) in the U.S. is forest today as compared to about one-half in 1630 (1.0 billion acres). Some 300 million acres of forest land have been converted to other uses since 1630, predominantly because of agricultural uses in the East. The forest resources of the U.S. have continued improving in general condition and quality, as measured by increased average size and volume of trees. This trend has been evident since the 1960s and before. The total forestland acreage has remained stable since 1900...Source

Alliance with feds proposed

From the Daily Inter Lake:

A plan to coordinate natural-resource planning between Flathead County and the U.S. Forest Service and ultimately make forest management more efficient was unveiled this week by the county's Natural Resource Committee. Committee members outlined operating protocols, a draft memorandum of understanding and a proposed letter that would be sent to Flathead National Forest Supervisor Cathy Barbouletos once the plan is adopted by the county. National forest land accounts for more than half the acreage of Flathead County and it's imperative, committee chairman Fred Hodgeboom said, for the county to promote increased active management on national forest land that will provide long-term sustainable revenue to the federal treasury and Flathead County. The committee cited several detrimental effects from the county's proximity to federal forest land, including increased catastrophic wildfires and exposure to unhealthy smoke levels; damage to watersheds, riparian zones, fisheries and water quality due to increased nutrients from smoke and soil erosion; wildlife losses; spiraling firefighting costs; and loss of income to county businesses from depreciated and ruined timber. A process for federal and local government coordination is outlined in numerous federal laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, the committee noted. The letter to Barbouletos would formally "invoke" that under-utilized coordination process in those laws...

Hawn begins jail sentence

The Flume reports:

Texas businessman Jeff Hawn, who arranged the killing of 32 bison belonging to rancher Monte Downare in South Park last spring, will be treated like any other inmate at the Park County Jail during his 10-day sentence, which began on Feb. 2. At least that's the intention of the Park County Sheriff's Office, which plans to put Hawn to work preparing food for other inmates. Hawn, who is the chief executive officer of Seattle software company Attachmate, surrendered himself to jail on Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. and will spend five days behind bars before a brief respite over the weekend. Then he will turn himself back into jail on Feb. 9 and spend another five days in jail to complete his sentence. Park County Undersheriff Monte Gore said Hawn would be assigned a job he would be required to do, and he would be housed with the general population of inmates during his stay in jail...

New Study Tallies Corn Ethanol Costs

The NY Times reports:

In the latest installment of the debate over the emissions impact of corn-based ethanol, researchers from the University of Minnesota and other institutions found that corn ethanol is worse for health and the environment than regular gasoline, and far worse than cellulosic ethanol. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at various types of fuels’ climate and health costs — defined as a combination of health costs from the emission of fine particulate matter, and climate costs from issues like mitigation, carbon capture and the damage from sea-level rise or crop loss. The findings identified corn ethanol (corn is the main feedstock for ethanol produced in the United States) as more “costly” than cellulosic ethanol or even regular gasoline, though the range of cost estimates was wide and dependent on a large number of variables.

The new study, whick is available here(pdf), says the total cost of gasoline, including climate and health costs, can be half that of ethanol.

See Corn-based ethanol worse than gasoline, enviro study says for more information on this issue, including info on NM ethanol plants and their source of power.

Horse slaughter facility promoted

The Bismark Tribune reports:

Despite federal pressure to ban horse slaughtering entirely, a House committee agreed with two state lawmakers on Friday that the state should set aside money to study the possibility of opening an equine processing plant in North Dakota. Ranchers, veterinarians and horse breeders filled the Capitol's Brynhild Haugland room, where they told lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee that processing unwanted horses for meat is a more humane and profitable alternative than abandoning or euthanizing them. They were testifying in favor of a bill that would set aside up to $75,000 in agriculture fuel tax revenue for a study to see if North Dakota could feasibly - and legally - open a horse slaughterhouse. "The actions in Washington, D.C., have created a problem for horse owners," said Rep. Rod Froelich, D-Selfridge, who is co-sponsoring the legislation with Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River. Froelich said the problem started when the U.S. Agriculture Department stopped funding federal meat inspectors two years ago to oversee the nation's three horse slaughterhouses. The plants closed amid a growing chorus of political fervor to shut down the horse slaughterhouses, leaving horse owners with fewer options for unwanted horses. Congress also is considering a bill that would prohibit the consumption of horse meat. As a result, Froelich said the market for unwanted horses has plummeted, sometimes costing horse owners more money to simply transport their animals to a ring compared to the amount of money they could expect to get in return for them. Greg Kitto, a North Dakota veterinarian who treats horses, told the committee that he's seen an increase in requests for him to euthanize horses in recent years, which he said correlates to the closure of three horse processing plants in Illinois and Texas. While testifying, the veterinarian of 34 years held up a photo of an emaciated horse lying in a field. It had starved to death after its owner abandoned it a few weeks back. Kitto said that is what some horse owners have resorted to because they can no longer care for nor afford the animal, which can carry an annual price tag of about $2,200...

Battling an old enemy - fever tick

The Monitor reports:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's first customer on a Friday afternoon is a golden-brown Beefmaster bull. As he stands for inspection in the pen behind R.Y. Livestock Sales in Rio Grande City, two USDA specialists run practiced hands over his sides, looking for a disease-bearing tick that can grow to the size of a ripe blueberry. Satisfied, they urge the reluctant animal into a stinking, mud-brown bath; he steps uneasily down the stairs of the concrete basin and enters with a pungent splash. The unpleasant swim is a precautionary investment for the animal's new owner, Manuel Izaguirre Jr. A tick infestation on his Circle I Ranch could spell disaster for the small business. With the price of beef low and some big buyers wary of taking on cattle from areas under quarantine for disease-carrying pests, some South Texas cattle ranchers say their business is suffering and under-supported. And on the small, family-owned ranches that dot the region, more part-time cowboys are choosing to hang up their spurs rather than fight an old, costly enemy. For the few dozen ranchers Hidalgo, Starr, Brooks and Zapata counties whose pastures are designated "infected," the dip is a ritual repeated once every two weeks for nine months to rid their animals — and their land — of the Boophilus annulatus, or fever tick, a Central American pest that can carry a vicious bovine disease...

Skilled hazers are steer wrestlers most prized partners

...Coming into the short go-around in sixth place, K.C. had hoped for a nice paycheck, but a hard running steer stole his chances for that. At least his eighth place in the short-go will cover part of the fees and gas for their 1,800 mile trip — once last weekend for the first/second go, then again this weekend for the short-go. Zack’s chances for some earnings hadn’t been as bright as K.C.’s since his first two times hadn’t placed him, but he made the long trip with K.C. to serve as his hazer. We knew he was just as disappointed with the results since a hazer who helps a bull dogger into the win column can earn one-eighth of the paycheck. The Denver winner of the short-go won $7,713; his hazer earned $964 — not a bad deal for a weekend trip. Particularly for the winter “big barn” rodeos (think Denver, Ft. Worth, Rapid City, Houston) but often throughout the season, contestants choose to fly to a rodeo and “borrow” a doggin team. Since winter rodeos are often weeks apart and most contestants aren’t yet committed to driving every single day like they do during the summer season, flying is often more feasible. As long as they’re confident someone they know with a “good” doggin team is planning to haul to the rodeo, they’ll make this choice. Most doggers either have their own team and a traveling partner who serves as a hazer, or they travel in a pack using a top quality horse that may or may not belong to someone in the rodeo rig. In addition, there are some non-contestant cowboys who haul to rodeos (usually regionally) to provide a team and serve as the hazer in hopes of making some money. In that instance, rodeo etiquette usually dictates that one-fourth of the winnings go to the owner of the doggin team. In other situations where only a hazer is needed, one-eighth of the winnings go to him. The arrangements made among contestants vary greatly...From Ag Journal

Basketball player from Texas Panhandle shows grand champion steer at Stock Show

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

Callie Stedje played in her eighth-grade basketball game Thursday night, the Gruver Greyhounds vs. the Spearman Lynxettes. The Greyhounds lost, but Callie didn’t have much time to stew over it. She hopped in her uncle’s pickup, got herself comfortable and settled in for a 389-mile ride to Fort Worth. She pulled in at 3 a.m., just a few hours before having to prepare her coal-black steer Blackjack to be shown at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Blackjack then promptly ran the table. The 1,298-pound European crossbred steer was named grand champion of the Stock Show on Friday, bringing home the prestigious honor to a 13-year-old fifth-generation farmer and rancher...

It's All Trew: Indian trails full of mysteries

Delbert Trew writes in the Amarillo Globe-News:

Few things are more enjoyable to Ruth and I than prowling the Trew Ranch. Now in the family for over 60 years, the changes wrought by Mother Nature and time continually fascinate. Ownership history goes back almost to the end of the Red River Wars of 1875. The ranch abstracts show where Lewis Carhart, founder of Saint's Roost and Clarendon, sold land to Sir Alfred Rowe, an English rancher and founder of the RO Ranch and the town of McLean. He was also body No. 109 recovered after the Titanic sank in 1912. Our north boundary is marked by Old Trails Ridge where Indians traveled from the creek bottoms of Oklahoma to Tucumcari Mountain. This same ridge was chosen to place the Rock Island Railroad in 1900 to 1902. Even later, in 1927, the ridge was designated Route 66, one of the earliest highway crossings America. One short stretch of land 200 yards wide displays Indian trails, an old dirt highway, a coast-to-coast fiber-optic telephone line, the Rock Island Railroad right-of-way, Old Route 66 and both lanes of I-40. A 3-inch rain two years ago left a buffalo skeleton showing in a cutbank buried about 3 feet below the surface. It appeared to be a yearling-past with the hump ribs just beginning to form. Occasionally we find flint scrapers and arrowheads. More likely we find piles of flint chips where an Indian lookout watched over his group camping below in the canyon, while sitting on the cap rock watching for enemies or settlers...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Making a new friend

Julie Carter

Cowboy life is as much about the stops made as the road traveled. The same applies for the cowgirl.

Her cowboy had, all his life, been restless and ambitious. As a couple, they had cowboyed in every corner of their home state of Texas. Twenty-some-odd years into the partnership, they landed on a big ranch they bought in New Mexico. It was their just rewards for the thousands of long hours in the saddle during their formative years.

She had made at least one very good friend at every stop on this Western road of life. And each new place taught her that in every hundred miles across the country, the customs and the cowboys changed.

She learned, sometimes the hard way, that you can't out-native the natives. She discovered that the best way for survival in a new place with new folks was to find a seemingly responsible local and listen to his stories.

Now she was a mighty far-piece from home, so was on the lookout for such a candidate.

She learned that her nearest neighbor was quite familiar with their new ranch. He had worked there as a button and been the foreman for a number of years. When moving to their new ranch, she had noticed the neighbor's ranch entrance sign with his name and brand on it.

As she gradually got settled in and unpacked, she had planned to go meet this new neighbor. However, it happened a little quicker than expected. Her best friend, Heidi the cowdog, also a Texan, had discovered the local porcupines in an up-close and most serious way.

The cowgirl needed help for her Heidi and her head cowboy wasn't in the state. She loaded Heidi in the pickup and headed to the neighbors.

Over needle-nose pliers and everybody that happened to be there helping to hold the dog, the acquaintance was made.

Like all ranchers, they first had to establish a couple of things of common ground. First, it isn't ever a good idea to look in the old cistern. You never can predict what might be in there looking back at you. And second, with the drought, the government and the cattle market, they would all be lucky to still be alive by the end of the year.

Those requisites safely handled, the cowgirl and the neighbor got down to some regular neighborly visiting.

The new neighbor allowed that he knew their place pretty well from working there and would be happy to show her a few things.

They went back to her outfit, saddled up, and rode to a picturesque canyon where he related the history of the area and the fact there were remnants of Indian artifacts and petroglyphs.

She studied the ancient signs that translated to fending off witchcraft, the sign for water, hunting, directions, water carrier, danger, snakes and many of the other special graphics that the Indians had embellished on rocks around their encampments.

Finally she got to one that looked obviously newer than some of the ancient symbols carved in the stone. This resembled a diamond bar diamond.

She thought about that a minute and it finally came to her what she was looking at.

She realized that this was her neighbor's ranch brand.

With a grin that matched his when he saw the recognition in her eyes, she knew things were going to be better now. Knowing cowboys and the ornery nature that often qualifies a friendship, she knew she had a new friend.

No words were needed. It was carved in stone.

Julie treasures her few, close friends, even if they don't have their own petroglyphs, although some of them are that old. Reach her for comment at

Catron County, Wolves & APWE

Catron County, N.M., Commissioner Ed Wehrheim had the information, he had the facts and figures, he had the personal experience, and he understood the issue. What he lacked was a way to educate others about it. Eight years into the Mexican Gray Wolf Reintroduction Project, and millions of dollars in damage to his county later, Wehrheim was ready to stand back and try a new approach. “Before, we’ve always tried to make them follow their own rules and regulations, and we were losing – losing livestock, losing businesses, losing money,” he said. “So we decided to take a page out of their book and work on public opinion.” That was the impetus behind Americans for Preservation of the Western Environment (APWE). “Our object is two fold - educate the public in New Mexico about what the wolf program is doing to their state, and start a fund to help anyone who has legal problems related to the wolf program,” he said. “We have presentations we take to schools, civic groups, business organizations and sporting clubs. We haven’t been turned away yet.” Included in the presentations are the facts and figures that have been causing Wehrheim, his friends, and neighbors so much frustration. “The wolf program has cost the American taxpayer $303,000 per wolf. (Game management groups) are claiming 56 wolves at this point. That’s their own figures – what they say they’ve spent. They say 200 wolves in a five year period will attack and kill or maim over 7,000 head of livestock. That’s their figures again,” he said. “As a county commissioner, who’s lived with this program for eight years now, I’d say their numbers are a little low. Closer to 10,000 to 12,000 head would be more accurate – and that’s just livestock. Game animals aren’t counted. When wolves are training pups to hunt, a pack will kill as many animals as possible; far more than they could ever eat.” “The cost of the Mexican Gray Wolf program to the New Mexico and US economy is well over $60 million in livestock killed, production lost, bankrupt business (outfitters, ranchers, town business), loss of tax revenue, and reduction of tourist visitors, and hunters,” he said. “In current economic conditions, can we stand that?”...From Ag Journal

Wehrheim says APWE has gained 10,000 members by just focusing on mid-size towns on the periphery of the wolf program. He hopes to move to urban centers in the future. They've started a website here. Membership is free but they will certainly accept donations.

USFWS releases wolf survey; Schneberger responds; language questioned

The USFWS has released the findings of their 2008 Mexican Wolf Population Survey:

A total of 52 Mexican wolves were counted in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2008, according to the annual survey conducted by the Interagency Field Team for wolf reintroduction. There were also 52 Mexican wolves recorded in the 2007 survey. Surveys are conducted in January of each year. Pups born in the summer must survive to December 31 to be counted as part of the Mexican wolf population. Fixed-wing aircraft and functional radio-telemetry were used to confirm five wolf packs on New Mexico's Gila National Forest, five packs on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, and six lone wolves - two in Arizona and four in New Mexico. The survey indicated that there were only two pairs that met the federal definition of breeding pairs at year?s end...

Seven of the 10 packs produced at least 18 pups, with 11 surviving until the end of the year. However, based on the definition in the final rule establishing the reintroduction project, the count only recognizes two breeding pairs because by year?s end, one or more of the mates in two packs had died. In addition, three packs had only a single offspring survive until December 31 (survival of two or more pups until December 31 in the year of their birth is required to qualify as a breeding pair). In two of these packs, one pup died under suspicious circumstances late in 2008, resulting in both packs not qualifying as a breeding pair...

Here's the part of the release that the media latched on to, quoting Regional Director Tuggle:

"Except for the illegal shooting or suspicious demise of seven wolves, 2008 would have seen Mexican wolf populations on the upswing again. These mortalities are an intolerable impediment to wolf recovery. We will continue to aggressively investigate each illegal wolf killing to help ensure that anyone responsible is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

That quote led to the headlines like the following:

Feds: Killings hamper Mexican wolf population...MSNBC

Illegal shooting No. 1 reason for loss of critically endangered Mexican gray wolves...New Mexico Independent

Laura Schneberger then responded with her own release:

Solving wolf livestock conflict was not prioritized in 2008 and problem wolves were left on the ground. Some ranchers were provided range riders during high depredation seasons as part of an experimental livestock conflict prevention program but clearly more genuine effort by agency personnel is necessary to develop long term solutions to wolf conflict. It may be too late for some ranchers who have had it with dealing with the agencies.

During 2008 the agency did not see a lessening of wolf removals as implied in their press release. They chose to comply with the wishes of environmental organizations who demanded the agency stop removing problem wolves...

“Instead of admitting wolf reintroduction has natural pitfalls the agency blithely attempts to blame the failures of their program on local people by implying the population would be doing better if people weren’t shooting them. I am not the only one that doesn’t appreciate those kinds of spin tactics but it has become their habit. It is somewhat disingenuous of the agencies leadership to imply that some illegal actions are the cause for their continued failure when the agency themselves have no capture collar or vaccination program for pups born in the wild. This is a sad situation because most ranchers simply don’t bother to call on the agency for intervention anymore because this year they refused to appropriately mitigate livestock depredation despite assurance of Dr. Benjamin Tuggle...

Dr. Tuggle and his press officer purposely placed that language in his press release. It is a fair question to ask why that language, including a link to another press release about prosecution, was used in their release. Was it to impress the environmental community and wolf advocates? Was it to lay the blame on the local citizens for the programs lack of success? Did it have a political/bureacratic motive aimed at the new leadership in the Department of Interior? Possibly he hoped to accomplish all three. We do know it was placed there for some reason.

Read the article in the Ag Journal on how this program is having a terrible impact on families, read Laura Schneberger's comments on the issue, and then read the inflammatory, responsibility-dodging and politically motivated language in the USFWS press release, and you will begin to understand why the local citizenry is so fed up with the mismanagement of this program by federal and state officials.

Tom Brumley dies at 73; steel guitarist for Buck Owens and Rick Nelson

Tom Brumley, a legendary steel guitarist who contributed to the "Bakersfield sound" of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos in the 1960s before spending 10 years performing with Rick Nelson, has died. He was 73. During his years with Owens, from 1963 to 1969, Brumley traveled the world and played on landmark recordings such as “Together Again,” "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" and “Act Naturally.” Brumley, whose "pure" steel sound was known in the music industry as "The Brumley Touch," received an Academy of Country Music Award for No. 1 Steel Guitarist in 1966. Over the last decade, he performed or recorded with artists such as Chris Isaak, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Reba McEntire, Rod Stewart and Martina McBride. Born in Stella, Mo., on Dec. 11, 1935, Brumley was the third of six children. Their father was Albert E. Brumley, a gospel singer, composer and music publisher whose songs included "I'll Fly Away," "I'll Meet You in the Morning" and "Turn Your Radio On." Brumley was later inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame...