Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nations to Write Treaty Cutting Mercury Emissions

The Washington Post reports:

More than 140 countries have agreed to negotiate a legally binding treaty aimed at slashing the use of the metal mercury, with the goal of reducing people's exposure to a toxin that hampers brain development among infants and young children worldwide. The agreement, announced at a high-level United Nations meeting of environmental ministers in Nairobi yesterday came after Obama administration officials reversed U.S. policy and embraced the idea of joining in a binding pact. Once the administration said it was reversing the course set by President George W. Bush, China, India and other nations also agreed to endorse the goal of a mandatory treaty. The Bush administration had said it preferred to push for voluntary reductions in mercury emissions because the process of negotiating a treaty would be long and cumbersome. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, said yesterday's announcement marks the culmination of a seven-year effort to address a significant environmental and public health problem...

Governments Deal New Blow to Drought-Stricken California Farmers

The NY Times reports:

In a blow to California farmers struggling with a persistent drought, federal authorities released projections on Friday showing that little or no water would be available from federal sources this year for agricultural use. State water supplies were also expected to be severely curtailed, state officials said. The announcements — from the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources — confirmed fears long held by farmers, who had been warned in recent months to expect little water from state and federal reservoirs, which are collectively less than half full. “It’s grim news,” said Tim Quinn, the executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, whose members serve both urban and agricultural needs and represent about 93 percent of water delivered in the state. Federal officials said new estimates showed that the Central Valley Project, the large irrigation system operated by the reclamation bureau, would be able to provide zero to 10 percent of its contracted deliveries. If the zero estimate proves true, it would effectively eliminate hundreds of farmers’ principal water supply. Water supplies to wildlife refuges, cities and industrial sources would also see smaller cutbacks, but agriculture would be hardest hit...

Interior Secretary to Review Controversial Leases

The Wall Street Journal reports:

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Friday oil royalty reform would likely be part of a comprehensive energy bill Congress is drafting. Mr. Salazar, speaking to reporters, also said his department was considering how to recoup billions of dollars in revenues the government believes it's owed from oil companies from controversial Gulf of Mexico leases signed in the late 1990s that omitted royalty price thresholds. "We're going to take a look at those 1998-1999 leases... I'm not sure if it's going to be done through legislation or settlement discussions, but it is something we're considering," he said. Mr. Salazar has said one of the royalty reforms he's considering axing is the royalty-in-kind, or RIK, policy and other programs. The RIK allows companies to pay their royalties to the government in oil rather than cash. Another possible target is the deep water royalty relief program. Industry officials say they're concerned, and such reform could prevent new development, particularly in more costly offshore areas...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Captured jaguar 1st in US to get collar for tracking

The Arizona Daily Star reports:

Arizona officials have captured and placed a tracking collar on a wild jaguar for the first time ever in the United States, the state wildlife agency said Thursday.
The male cat was captured Wednesday southwest of Tucson during a research study concerning mountain lions and black bears. The location of the capture was not released. While individual jaguars have been photographed sporadically along the Mexican border the past few years, the capture occurred outside the area where the last known photograph of a jaguar was taken in January, state Game and Fish officials said in a press release. The jaguar was fitted with a satellite tracking collar and then released. The collar will provide biologists with location points every three hours, the press release said. Early tracking indicates the cat is doing well and has already traveled more than three miles from the capture site, the release said. The jaguar weighs 118 pounds with a thick and solid build, the department said. Field biologists said the cat appeared healthy and hardy. The data produced by the collar will shed light on a little-studied population segment of this species that uses Southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern extent of its range...

Study: Drilling affects mule deer herds

The Casper Star-Tribune reports:

The second phase of multi-agency study has again confirmed that natural gas development is affecting population size and the distribution of wintering mule deer on the Mesa portion of the Pinedale Anticline. The study by Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. concluded that mule deer numbers declined in the Mesa by 30 percent overall during the seven-year research project, which ran from 2000-2007. However, mule deer numbers stabilized and then increased during the final three years of the study. The study was designed to better understand potential energy-related impacts on wintering mule deer in the Pinedale Anticline gas field. The authors said the study's results suggest that efforts to minimize direct and indirect habitat loss from future oil and gas development should focus on "technology and planning that reduce the number of well pads and the human activity associated with them."...

As U.S. Tightens Environmental Rules, Cash-Strapped States Loosen Them

Mother Jones reports:

The stimulus package is an environmental boon, the EPA will probably regulate carbon, and Sen. Harry Reid wants to take a green pen to the Energy Bill. It looks like the best week in years for environmentalists--until, that is, you step out of the Beltway. To help close massive budget deficits, states across the country are weakening environmental rules. Exhibit A is California, where today legislators closed a $41 billion budget gap in part by nixing air pollution rules that would have cost the housing industry millions. The measure delays requirements for builders to retrofit diesel construction equipment, slashing by 17 percent the emissions savings that the state had hoped to achieve by 2014. The move will probably prevent Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley, and other highly polluted regions from meeting federal air quality deadlines. It will also reduce the "green jobs" the state had hoped to create by retrofitting old equipment. The Sierra Club's California director told the LA Times: "With the magnitude of the forces at play here, the environmental issues have taken a back seat to taxes."...

Methane tax

Not all farmers and ranchers are opposed to a reasonable methane emissions tax on livestock. As a farmer and rancher, I think a tax on livestock methane emissions would be a good start toward including the currently externalized environmental costs of raising livestock and an essential step in moving toward a more sustainable food system. The $87.50 for every head of beef cattle that the American Farm Bureau claims the EPA wants to impose on farmers would translate to less than 20 cents per pound in the grocery store. Far from being “unthinkable” or “ridiculous,” developing and imposing taxes on greenhouse gases is perhaps the best and maybe the only way to get all of us to stop living in denial and start developing more sustainable agriculture...Lawrence World Journal ...Ask and ye shall receive

Colorado pursues roadless plan amid questions

Colorado officials remain confident in a state plan to protect more than 4 million acres of roadless national forest land despite calls from some environmentalists for the Obama administration to revive a national standard they say would better protect critical wildlife habitat and watersheds. Colorado, one of only two states to write its own roadless plan, is working with the U.S. Forest Service to clarify language and review why the agency didn't designate certain areas as roadless. The state hopes to complete work in the next six months on rules officials say will protect the land while legal battles continue over a Clinton administration policy. The Clinton administration in 2001 banned new roads on about 58 million acres of forests nationwide. But the rule's status is uncertain following court rulings and a 2005 Bush administration policy that opened some of the land to development. Supporters of the Clinton-era policy hope President Barack Obama restores it and that Colorado shelves its plan, which they say is weaker...examiner.com

Texas may let hunters shoot pigs from choppers

Millions of wild pigs weighing up to 300 pounds have been tearing up crops, trampling fences and eating just about anything in their path in Texas. But now they had better watch their hairy backs. A state lawmaker is proposing to allow ordinary Texans with rifles and shotguns to shoot the voracious, tusked animals from helicopters. For years, ranchers in the Lone Star State have hired professional hunters in choppers to thin the hogs' fast-multiplying ranks. Now state Rep. Sid Miller of the Fort Worth area wants to bring more firepower to the task by issuing permits to sportsmen. "I've had numerous calls and complaints that someone needs to do something," Miller said. "We're losing ground on this problem." If approved, it could be the first program of its kind in the nation. Some other states, like Gov. Sarah Palin's Alaska, allow aerial hunting, but only to control predators, such as bears and wolves...AP

That's One Big Tree

Members of the Trinity Trails Preservation Association in the city of Lucas had a simple plan in mind. They wanted to expand their hiking and horseback riding trails several miles. A walk into a little-used part of an existing nature trail proved educational beyond their dreams when they found giant sycamore trees. The largest tree among them may actually be the largest tree in the state of Texas according to the state's forest service. The tree is 101 feet tall with a trunk circumfrence of 25.5 feet and a crown spread of 126 feet. Plans to expand the trails now include picnic tables, a plaque marking the area and plans to market the trails as a destination spot for people who love the outdoors...MSNBC

Colorado ranchers pray for death of 'death' tax

For Dale Allee, a second-generation cattle rancher in southern Colorado, the idiom that nothing is certain but death and taxes is now a reality. "I just turned 80 last week. You know what that means? That means I'm not going to be around here very long, and somebody's going to have to pay those taxes," said Allee, who fears federal estate taxes will thwart his plans to pass his 4,200-acre Pueblo County ranch to his children. Land-rich but cash poor, Western ranchers are lobbying Washington to exempt them from the estate tax, which can force heirs to sell their inheritance — often to real estate developers — to pay the duty within a nine-month deadline. Washington might be listening, according to the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, which represents 12,000 beef producers in an industry that generates $16 billion a year, making it the state's third largest. "The current administration is lending a favorable ear toward agriculture on this issue," insists executive director Terry Fankhauser. In 2009, the federal government requires heirs of an estate worth more than $3.5 million — if owned by an individual — and $7 million, if owned by a couple, to pay a tax on up to 45 percent of the estate's appraised value. Fankhauser said an average ranch operation with 200 to 300 head of cattle would easily break through that $3.5 million threshold...AP

Meat groups win round in food safety case

Pigs that can't stand up on their own may still be butchered and their meat sold for human consumption despite a state law designed to prevent that, a federal judge ruled Thursday in Fresno. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, made it illegal for anyone to butcher and sell animals too sick to stand. But slaughterhouses argued that the law was too broad and caused meat from healthy animals to go to waste. At issue was whether the state law could take precedence over a 102-year-old federal law also designed to protect food safety. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill ruled that it couldn't...the National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute challenged the law, saying federal law preempts state law. O'Neill agreed, citing the 1907 Federal Meat Inspection Act. "The very purpose of the FIMA is to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply and to minimize the risk to public health from potentially dangerous food and drug products," O'Neill wrote...Fresno Bee

Books reject Wyatt Earp as hero at OK Corral gunfight

Long after the 30-second shootout on Oct. 26, 1881, the legend of Wyatt Earp looms over this former silver-mining town. The lawman's exploits live on in movies and books and draw people here from around the world. But not everyone agrees that Earp was preserving law and order when he led his band against the Clanton and McLaury gang, killing Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury. A recent book and one that's soon to be published contend that the gunfight actually was a murderous ambush led by Earp, continuing a debate that has echoed since the incident. "In Defense of the Outlaws," published by Joyce Aros, a writer with the monthly magazine Tombstone Times, portrays Earp as a thief and pimp who acted out of personal animosity. Steve Gatto, who has published several books about Tombstone, characterizes the gunfight as "cold-blooded murder" on Earp's part. He makes that case in "Hurled Into Eternity: The Story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," scheduled for release in July. Both authors say Earp may have had his eye on running for county sheriff and used the gunfight to enhance his image as a lawman. And they say the evidence shows that the alleged outlaws actually were ranchers and not cattle-rustling cowboys, as they are portrayed. Marshall Trimble, Arizona's official state historian, said people have argued about who started the gunfight since the dust settled. Most historical accounts, including his own, agree with those popularized in movies and reenactments: that Earp and his allies acted to restore order. Based on his own research, however, Trimble determined that Earp was in the right. That's how he portrays him in "Wyatt Earp: The Showdown in Tombstone," a book published last year as part of a series on outlaws of the Old West...Arizona Republic

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Environmental provisions of stimilus bill

From eNews USA:

Clean, Efficient, American Energy: Over $30 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology. $5 billion to weatherize modest-income homes. Further details for this category include: Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion; Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees: $6 billion; GSA Federal Buildings: $4.5 billion; Local Government Energy Efficiency Grants: $6.3 billion; Energy Efficiency Housing Retrofits: $250 million; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research: $2.5 billion; Advanced Battery Grants: $2 billion; Home Weatherization: $5 billion; Smart Appliances: $300 million; GSA Federal Fleet: $300 million; Electric Transportation: $400 million; Cleaning Fossil Energy (carbon capture and sequestration): $3.4 billion; Department of Defense Research: $300 million; Alternative Buses and Trucks: $300 million; Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million; and Training for Green Jobs: $500 million...
Clean Water, Environmental Cleanup: Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $4 billion; Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $2 billion; Rural Water and Waste Disposal: $1.38 billion; Corps of Engineers: $4.6 billion; Bureau of Reclamation: $1 billion; Watershed Infrastructure: $340 million; International Boundary and Water Commission: $220 million; Superfund Hazardous Waste Cleanup: $600 million; Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: $200 million; Nuclear Waste Cleanup: $6 billion; NOAA Operations, Research and Facilities: $230 million; Brownfields: $100 million; Construction on Public Lands: $2.5 billion; Reducing Wildfires Threats: $515 million; Bureau of Indian Affairs: $500 million...

Forestry's share of stimulus bill will go to jobs, fire prevention

The Mail Tribune reports:

Shovel-ready projects that will put people to work quickly while improving forest health and reducing the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires near rural communities will be the focus of federal economic stimulus money earmarked for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Oregon. That was the message Regional Forester Mary Wagner and BLM state director Ed Shepard gave to U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, during a video conference Wednesday. "The instruction we've been given for prioritization is to give the greatest weight to projects that will create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which will create lasting value for the American public," Shepard said. "This is an employment opportunity outside the federal sector," Wagner stressed. "We will address our key priorities and put people back to work." The stimulus package is expected to make $1.15 billion available to the Forest Service nationwide beyond its already planned work, Wagner said, including $650 million for working on roads, trails, abandoned mines, watershed restoration and ecosystem enhancement. An additional $500 million would be earmarked for reducing wildfire threats. Nationally, the BLM and other Department of the Interior agencies will receive funding in three areas, including $125 million for forest health and restoration, $180 million for construction of roads and bridges and deferred maintenance, and $15 million for high-priority hazardous fuels treatment, Shepard said...

Stimulus Bill Promises Environmental, Public Lands Jobs

On February 9, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced that the House and Senate versions of the Economic Stimulus Bill before Congress would "create an estimated 100,000 jobs over the next two years. Both the House and Senate versions of the ($838-900 billion appropriations) bill include over $4 billion in investments in conservation projects, water infrastructure, roads, Native American schools, and other ready-to-go projects." Within Interior, over 80,000 new jobs are linked to program appropriations. Others are not as specific. The largest number are linked to a $1.7 billion National Park Service appropriation to address many problems within the decaying park system and creating 50,000 jobs. A matching Park Service grant program called the Centennial program adds another 5800. US Fish and Wildlife estimates adding 11,000 jobs, BLM infrastructural and environmental cleanup and fire fuel reduction require 8400 hires. US Geological Survey upgrading of scientific facilities adds 5000 jobs. The Park Service will also receive $200 million and seek matching funds for restoration of National Mall monuments, with an unnamed number of accompanying jobs. These employment numbers pale next to EPA estimates of over 403,000 jobs to be created for EPA clean water and toxics programs including Superfund site cleanups. The stimulus bill estimates another 21,000 jobs related to US Forest Service activities including wildfire management...Arizona Range News

Army removes Pinon Canyon manager

The Pueblo Chieftain reports:

The top Army civilian overseeing the proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site has been "temporarily reassigned" to other duties pending an administrative investigation, Fort Carson officials said Wednesday. Tom Warren, formerly the deputy garrision commander in charge of the 238,000-acre training range, has been removed from that job as part of an ongoing investigation, according to Col. Eugene Smith, Fort Carson's garrison's commander. "The investigation does not involve (the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site) expansion in any way," Smith said in a statement Wednesday. "Mr. Warren has been temporarily assigned to other duties." Word of Warren's removal in early February has been circulating among opponents of the expansion in recent days. Warren, with his distinctive beard and long-hair, has been involved in the environmental oversight of the training range northeast of Trinidad since the Army established it in 1983. Often the lightning rod who bore the brunt of angry comments from ranchers at public meetings, Warren also was respected by numerous landowners for his environmental work at the current training ground. Warren was in charge of Fort Carson's Directorate of Environmental Compliance and Management until October 2007, when he was made deputy garrison commander with the direct task of managing Pinon Canyon and its expansion. At that time, the Army was hoping to acquire 414,000 more acres around the training ground, but reduced that target to 100,000 acres last summer...

EPA May Reverse Bush, Limit Carbon Emissions From Coal-Fired Plants

The Washington Post reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency will reopen the possibility of regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, tossing aside a December Bush administration memorandum that declared that the agency would not limit the emissions. The decision could mark the first step toward placing limits on greenhouse gases emitted by coal plants, an issue that has been hotly contested by the coal industry and environmentalists since April 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The industry has vigorously opposed efforts to regulate those emissions, asserting that the policy should be set by Congress. Moreover, technology for capturing carbon dioxide emissions is expensive and virtually untested. Environmental groups, however, say that building new coal plants with conventional technology locks in additional greenhouse gas emissions for the entire 30-to-40-year lifetimes of the power plants, making it difficult to slow climate change...

War Over The Climate Heats Up Even As Climate Itself Cools Down

Get ready for a three-ring circus. In one corner you find those concerned with the recovery of the economy, in the second corner those concerned about threats to national security and in the third corner global warmers who agonize about catastrophic climate change. The battle between these three factions will revolve about the use of energy and will play out in the White House and in Congress, but also in the public arena: • Obama's economic advisers at Treasury and the Budget Office will try to delay any major climate policies that could adversely impact economic recovery. • The National Security Council and Defense Department, and to a lesser extent the State Department, will be concerned with maintaining a strong U.S. economy to be able to act forcefully when foreign problems arise. • The global warmers will be led by energy-climate czarina Carol Browner, EPA chief during the Clinton years, and by science adviser John Holdren, who testified that a billion people might die by 2020 unless greenhouse-gas emissions are sharply reduced. Using all the powers of the Clean Air Act, the EPA may try to impose severe regulations on carbon dioxide, which they would like to label as a pollutant. The outcome of such internal battles is never certain...IBD

Plum Creek land sells for $250 million

Two conservation groups on Tuesday announced the purchase of 111,740 acres of Plum Creek Timber Co. lands in Western Montana for $250 million. The purchase is the second phase of the Montana Legacy Project, which ultimately will involve a total of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek lands being conveyed to state or federal agencies for a total price tag of $510 million. The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land said the most recent closing involves lands in the Clearwater, Lolo, Rock Creek and Swan valleys that eventually will be conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service. The checkerboard lands in the Swan total 44,821 acres. Money for the purchase came from provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill crafted by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont...Daily Inter Lake

Eased drilling regulations get long hearing

The Denver Post reports:

Lawmakers went for a spin on the rhetorical Tilt-A-Whirl for a second day Wednesday over a bill to blunt the effect of a portion of the state's new rules for oil and gas drilling. "I have a feeling I'll need more caffeine for this hearing," Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said in kicking off a committee's second day of debate over House Bill 1255. The bill from Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, would end a requirement that drilling companies must consult with the Division of Wildlife so a new well won't hurt local wildlife. It also would require that wildlife regulations on private land be agreed to by the surface owner before the state could enforce them. (Because Colorado law recognizes a "split estate," people can own the land their house sits on but not mineral rights beneath it.) Proponents of the bill said the state should respect private property rights and trust landowners — in most cases ranchers and farmers — to do what's right for wildlife. "It's the surface owner who knows what's best for wildlife on their land," Gardner said.

Grazing bill seeks to cap value of state leases

In an effort to preserve long-term grazing leases, the Wyoming ranching industry is backing a bill in the state Legislature that would set a cap on the amount that could be bid for leases on state trust lands. Supporters of House Bill 226 say putting a limit on bidding wars for state lands would benefit Wyoming ranchers and the long-term value of state trust lands. "We believe it's not in the best interest, certainly not of the ranching community, but of the state lands either, to just necessarily say the highest bidder that comes along gets these lands," said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, "or to ignore the long-term relationships and the stewardship that a lot of ranching families have brought to these lands for, in some cases, a hundred years." Detractors say the bill would chip away at the status of land the Legislature previously designated to be held in trust for the benefit of Wyoming public schools. Marguerite Herman, legislative chairman for the Wyoming PTA, said her group has decided against opposing the bill, but wants legislators to be aware of its implications. State law already gives existing leaseholders preferential rights to renew their leases, which come up every 10 years. Those rights include the opportunity to match any competing bid for the lease. The law also requires that the leases be limited to ranching use. House Bill 226 would change state law to cap bids by a competitor at "not more than the maximum fair market value" as determined by private land lease rates...Casper Star-Tribune

Border drug war is too close for comfort

Columbus, a settlement of 1,800 people clinging to a wind-swept patch of high desert in southern New Mexico, was a picture of tranquillity. But less than three miles south, in the once-quaint Mexican town of Palomas, a war is being waged. Over the last year, a drug feud that has killed more than 1,350 people in sprawling Ciudad Juarez has spread to tiny Palomas, 70 miles west, where more than 40 people have been gunned down, a dozen within a baseball toss of the border. More -- no one knows how many -- have been kidnapped, and the Palomas police chief fled across the border last year and has asked for political asylum. Now Columbus is on edge. A haven for baby boomer retirees seeking cheap living, small-town values and blissful, if unpolished, solitude, Columbus can't quite believe that a bloody brawl has broken out on its doorstep...Several residents of Palomas have bought property in Columbus recently, paying cash. Skinner, the B&B owner who's also the town's lone real estate agent, had her best sales year in 2008, even with the market nationwide in a nose-dive. New Cadillac Escalades, and cars with thousand-dollar chrome rims, have appeared suddenly, in a town without a single traffic light. Columbus residents think they know what those trends mean: The men who traffic drugs in Mexico are moving their families to Columbus for sanctuary. And where the drug lords go, residents assume, violence is sure to follow...From the LA Times

Texas experiences worst drought in 91 years

Though College Station has seen rain in recent days, Steven Quiring, a professor in the Department of Geography, said 88 percent of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, and 18 percent is in either extreme or exceptional drought conditions. He said Texas is experiencing weather conditions that only happen once or twice every 100 years. "The conditions we are seeing right now have only been worse once, recorded in 1917-1918, so for most of us this is a record event," Quiring, who specializes in Texas weather patterns, said. "These extreme conditions only have a 1 percent or 2 percent chance of happening over about 100 years." One of the contributing factors is whether Texas remains in La Niña or El Niño. "La Niña and El Niño have a big influence on the weather patterns," Quiring said. "We have been in La Niña conditions for the last nine to 12 months and these conditions are associated with drier then normal conditions, particularly when storms are steered away from the southern states, including Texas, decreasing our rainfall." Right now, 168 counties in Texas have issued burn bans, and the spring forecast shows the drought will continue through at least April...thebatt.com

Study of Horse Slaughter Plant Gets ND House Nod

North Dakota lawmakers have agreed to set aside $50,000 for a possible study of a horse slaughter plant. New laws and public sentiment against horse processing have resulted in the recent closure of U.S. plants. Selfridge Rep. Rod Froelich says that makes it difficult for ranchers to dispose of horses that are old or injured. He says North Dakota should try to solve the problem. Representatives voted 89-5 on Wednesday to set aside money for a study. The state`s Agricultural Products Utilization Commission would have to approve the project. The bill says state money for the study would have to be matched by private industry. The legislation now goes to the North Dakota Senate. The bill is HB1496...KFYR-TV News

Team roping represents significant economic development

Peoria, Phoenix, Goodyear, and Mesa have their baseball spring training to lure visitors to their municipalities. With little fanfare Wickenburg has developed a sizable group of winter visitors who come specifically to rope. On any given Tuesday or Saturday the parking lot at Beaver Bird’s Horse World Arena on Rincon Road is completely full with trucks and horse trailers as literally hundreds of men and women participate in several team-roping events. While this is probably the most active local roping site, the area is sprinkled with several more arenas enabling a roper to rope every day of the week. Retired Caterpillar employee and part-time rancher Monte Alkire is a typical roper who found Wickenburg and annually visits strictly because of the roping activity. According to estimates by both Bird and Alkire, there are probably about 200 ropers who stay in Wickenburg during the winter specifically for the roping activity. They stay in recreation vehicles, rented property, motels, and many have even purchased homes. The economic benefits to the town are obvious. This group obviously eats at the restaurants, goes to shows at the Web Center, and shops at the local stores. It is interesting to note that this significant economic engine has naturally occurred by word of mouth without advertising, formal economic development, or government stimulation...Wickenburg Sun

Elk controversy in Washington state

There's a controversy brewing over removing 79 cow elk from the South Rainier elk herd. One side, those opposing the removal, have asked me to post this link to their petition.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Patsy Cline Lip Sync - She's Got You

Gov. Richardson Proposes Modifications to NM Oil Field Pit Rule

Governor meets with oil and gas industry reps, changes will moderate fiscal impact of compliance

SANTA FE – Governor Bill Richardson today announced that he is directing Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Secretary Joanna Prukop to work with the oil and gas industry to modify several provisions of the state’s Pit Rule. The proposed changes would allow oil and gas companies to better absorb the costs associated with the stronger regulations, which were implemented last year. Governor Richardson personally met recently with leaders of the oil and gas industry as well as oil patch legislators to discuss their concerns about the financial impact of the rule. “The oil and gas industry is critical to New Mexico’s economy and these changes will help producers weather the financial storm while still protecting the environment,” said Governor Richardson. The Pit Rule was revised last year with the input of industry, the environmental community and many other stakeholders. It is designed to protect the State of New Mexico and its citizens from any future ground water or other environmental contamination from oil field waste pits, and also to protect the operators from the potentially crippling liability of major environmental impacts. “We are not doing anything to diminish the environmental protections gained by the Pit Rule, but we are going to work with industry to ease the financial burden of compliance,” stated Joanna Prukop, Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Since it went into effect on June 16, 2008, oil prices hit an all time high of $147 per barrel in July 2008 and have since dropped towards $34 a barrel today. The oil and gas industry plays a critical role in the State of New Mexico, and it is important that government and the private sector work together during these difficult economic times. Therefore, the Oil Conservation Division will propose six changes to the Pit Rule to support the oil and gas industry as they move forward in complying with the Pit Rule:

Proposal #1
Below-grade tanks

The Oil Conservation Division will propose allowing industry to use less expensive field screening techniques instead of in-laboratory testing. This proposal will save substantial operator costs and allow industry to close below-grade tanks faster. This proposal requires administrative action by the Oil Conservation Division, to establish approved alternative testing methods.

Proposal #2
Six month extension for removal of free liquids and closure completion regarding temporary pits

The Oil Conservation Division will propose allowing industry two (2) extensions of three months each, for a total of six months, which extends the timeframe in which free liquids must be removed from a temporary pit and the closure completion timeframe for temporary pits and drying pads for closed-loop systems. This proposal requires administrative action by the Oil Conservation Division.

Proposal #3
Pit Rule Exceptions and Administrative Approvals

The Oil Conservation Division will work with the oil and gas industry to grant exceptions to the Pit Rule where they are warranted. The pit rule provides for an exception to any provision except the requirement of a permit, exceptions and modification or transfer requirements. To date, there has been no application for an exception from the Pit Rule and only one application for administrative approval in a field office. In order to receive an exception to the rule, an operator must make application to the Santa Fe office, provide public notice and show that the exception will provide equivalent or better protection of fresh water, public health and the environment.

Proposal #4
Below-grade tanks and/or lined permanent pits

The Oil Conservation Division will propose changes to extend the application submittal dates for existing below grade tanks and lined permanent pits for two years (19.15.17.17 NMAC). This will allow operators more time to amortize the costs related to generating applications and completing associated construction modifications or retrofits. This proposal will require action by the Oil Conservation Commission.

Proposal #5
Below-grade tanks

The Oil Conservation Division will propose an amendment to the Pit Rule that allows most below-grade tanks that existed prior to June 2008 to be retrofitted or closed upon final closure, sale, or transfer. This proposal will require action by the Oil Conservation Commission.

Proposal #6
Waste material burial closure standards for chloride with regard to on-site trench burial

The Oil Conservation Division proposes to increase the content (waste) burial standard for chlorides and to also include a comparison to background concentrations at the site with regard to the implementation of on-site trench burial closure method pursuant to Paragraph (3) of Subsection F of 19.15.17.13 NMAC. This proposal will require action by the Oil Conservation Commission.

PR hasn't been posted on Guv's website, so no link.

Ranchers in Colorado's Piñon Canyon fight a massive Army land grab

Reason Magazine reports:

But Louden, an activist for the group Not 1 More Acre!, puts up with the inconvenience. What the cause asks for, ranchers like Louden give. The alternative is the end of life as they know it. Publicity is a powerful if uncomfortable weapon for people accustomed to their privacy, for whom property lines and personal space are more important than mere law. In the asymmetrical war these ranchers are fighting, they use any weapon they can, because theirs is an opponent that tends to win: the U.S. Army. The Army already occupies 245,000 acres of Colorado’s desolate Piñon Canyon, which it uses for large-scale, force-on-force mechanized brigade combat exercises involving tanks and armored units. But since 2006 Uncle Sam has had his eye on at least 418,000 acres more, to handle increased demand for maneuvers and the expansion of Fort Carson. Most of that land is private property in the Comanche National Grasslands lying between the rustic ranching towns of La Junta, Trinidad, and Walsenburg. The proposed annexation, which would create a contiguous Army-owned area 85 percent the size of Rhode Island, has attracted loud opposition from local landowners, environmentalists, scientists, and politicians. Their combined efforts were enough to gain a congressionally ordered reprieve in 2007, but the Army appears determined to wear them down. In fact, the training ground expansion may be just the first phase of an enormous land grab potentially involving millions of acres. The Army’s land envy is why Louden, the 58-year-old son and grandson of Colorado ranchers, closed Marty Feeds, a Trinidad landmark for almost a century, in the summer of 2008. He could run a ranch, run a business, or fight the land grab, but not all three at once...I've covered this issue from the beginning. This article provides an excellent history of the issue and is well worth your time.

Stimulus package gives a boost to clean energy

The LA Times reports:

The renewable-energy sector got a lift from the economic stimulus package signed Tuesday, with a fix to a crucial tax issue that had stalled projects nationwide. Solar and wind companies said it could take several months for the legislation to get portions of the industry moving again. But some players are already gearing up for growth. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will invest nearly $79 billion in renewable energy, energy efficiency and green transportation, according to a final tally of the legislation by the nonprofit Environment California. Rive and others are hailing a piece of the recovery legislation that allows developers of renewable-energy projects to swap their existing tax credits for cash grants from the Department of Energy. The switch means little to taxpayers, because the cost to the government is about the same. But it removes a huge financing obstacle that has stymied the sector. That's because solar and wind projects are driven as much by tax policy as they are by the weather. Renewable-energy companies historically have relied on tax credits to help them generate competitive returns and attract investors, a process that has been short-circuited by the U.S. financial meltdown...

Escape From D.C.

That President Obama waited until Tuesday to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill during a trip to Denver speaks volumes. He wanted to highlight the bill's green provisions, not its "stimulus." It's strange that so few mainstream media outlets have pointed out the obvious: The bill Congress hurried to pass late last week without anyone having read the entire 1,434 pages will in fact not stimulate much of anything. It is a spending bill, pure and simple. Every dollar the government spends must either be borrowed, taken through taxation or printed. Any way you look at it, every dollar comes from the pockets of the people it will be spent on. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had this to say: "In the longer run, the legislation would result in a slight decrease in gross domestic product compared with CBO's baseline economic forecast." Get that? The economy, under this plan, will be smaller than it would have been, while adding $1.7 trillion to our deficits. Obama said there was "no disagreement" over the need for stimulus. In response, more than 200 economists, including several Nobel Prize winners, took out a newspaper ad saying: "With all due respect, Mr. President . . . we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance." Just as with global warming, it's a non-consensus consensus...IBD

Climate Law Institute Launched in San Francisco

The Center for Biological Diversity has launched the San Francisco-based Climate Law Institute with initial funding of $17 million to fight global warming over the next five years. The primary goals of the Climate Law Institute are to: * Establish legal precedents requiring existing environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and the California Environmental Quality Act to be fully implemented to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, land management, and wildlife management * Establish new state and federal environmental laws and policies to rein in global warming * Ensure all new laws and policies are judged against the scientific standard of whether they will lead to a reduction in atmospheric CO2 from 385 ppm to below 350 ppm * Prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coal mines while quickly phasing out existing coal-fired power plants * Prevent the creation of an oil-shale or tar sands energy sector...SustainableBusiness.com

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for 42 Great Basin Spring Snail Species

Today the Center for Biological Diversity and the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society filed a scientific petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect 42 spring snail species from Nevada, Utah, and California as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. “These 42 species of spring snails are severely threatened by groundwater withdrawal proposed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and other users,” said Tierra Curry, conservation biologist with the Center and lead author of the petition. “Unsustainable groundwater pumping threatens not just these snails but also hundreds of other desert species and water supplies for rural residents and future generations.” Because spring snails are dependent on consistent groundwater flow, reductions in flow will have an immediate impact on their populations. As such, spring snails are an excellent indicator of declining water tables. The spring snails are found primarily in Clark, Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine counties in Nevada and Beaver and Millard counties in Utah. Fourteen of the species occur at only a single location, and 39 occur at 10 or fewer locations. None are currently protected on state, federal, or private lands...Center For Biological Diversity

Can America’s West stay wild?

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Here, the tale of the pygmy rabbit intersects with a long-raging acrimonious debate in the US West. Just over half the land in the West is public land. And what are public lands for – the preservation of “pristine” nature or resource extraction? Historically, management of these lands by state and federal agencies has favored resource extractors far more than conservationists would like. But as western economies change and demographics shift, this emphasis on extraction makes less and less sense, economists say. Steve Herman, a biologist emeritus at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., says cattle may have pushed the animals over the edge. At the site, scientists observed trampled rabbit burrows and broken sagebrush, which the rabbit needs for both food and protection from predators. When cows were finally removed, “it was too late,” he says. “We’ve lost a life form, and it’s likely that our species [is] responsible.” Matthew Monda, the Washington (State) Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) wildlife program director for Region 2, counters that although observers had noted trampled burrows and the rabbits were in obvious decline, there was no decisive evidence that grazing was responsible. In fact, he adds, since cows and rabbits had coexisted for perhaps 100 years to that point, some worried that removing cows might make things worse. WDFW initiated a study to determine “if the grazing that occurred on the area was good, bad, or ugly.” But when the rabbit populations declined precipitously, the study was halted and the cows removed...

Debate Rages Over Elk Feeding

From the NY Times:

When the mighty elk herds of the West were facing the possibility of extinction from overhunting, settlement and neglect a century ago, people here stepped forward and began what has turned out to be a profound biological experiment. They offered food to the straggling survivors. The Jackson herd, now tens of thousands of animals strong, became the foundation for a resurgent elk population. After the federal government stepped in to run the feeding system in 1912, a self-reinforcing loop of tourism, hunting, ranching and politics emerged. Having lots of elk in one place where humans would feed them, year in and year out, gradually became a goal in itself, shrouded with complex motives and enshrined by time. Now a new and tightening circle of challenges is closing in on the elk and the human system that has sustained them, forcing a debate over the science, emotion and economics of protecting these magnificent animals and the landscape they inhabit. At the center is a critical question: Did human kindness backfire, setting the elk up for disaster? A federal lawsuit filed last year by a coalition of environmental groups charges that feeding the elk violates the Fish and Wildlife Service’s charter to manage refuges for healthy populations and biological integrity. Feeding programs, the suit argues, endanger the elk and create monocultures that degrade the landscape for other creatures, like birds, which can no longer nest on feeding grounds stripped of willows by the ravenous herd...

Judge backs Utah men in feather possession cases

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

A judge ruled Tuesday that a federal ban on the possession of eagle feathers by non-Indians is too restrictive, a victory for two Utah men who have fought for a decade to use the feathers as part of their practice of Native American religion. The decision could lead to the return of feathers to the men, who are not federally recognized tribal members, and open the door for others like them to apply to get the feathers, according to attorney Joseph Orifici. "The government has to revisit its policy," said Orifici, a Holladay lawyer representing Samuel Wilgus Jr., one of the litigants. Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said Tuesday the government is studying the ruling and has not determined its next step. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said Tuesday making non-tribal members ineligible to apply for feathers at a national repository and subjecting them to possible criminal prosecution -- the way chosen by the government to protect both eagles and the Native American culture -- puts a burden on the free exercise of religion. The judge also said the government failed to prove the ban was the least restrictive method possible to achieve those goals, a requirement under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The act requires that religious practices be accommodated unless a compelling governmental interest can be demonstrated...

The Navajo Nation Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide in the coming weeks whether to take up an important and interesting case from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving religious liberties and the seminal federal statute – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) – designed to safeguard them. In this column, we will discuss the issues the case raises; the reasons why the Ninth Circuit's resolution of these issues, while understandable, might not do justice to the complex and competing interests involved; and the problems that both the Supreme Court and lower courts face when trying to implement this well-meaning but imperfectly-drafted Congressional statute. The case, Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service, involves an effort by a group of Native Americans to block the U.S. Forest Service's plans to allow artificial snow generated from recycled wastewater (containing small amounts of human waste) to be made and placed on federal lands that are leased to ski operators, but which also are used by the Native Americans for sacred rituals and activities. The plaintiff Native Americans contend that use of such "dirty" snow desecrates the mountain, and thus the ceremonies they hold on it, in violation of their religious sensibilities and rights under the RFRA...Findlaw

Bill gives control over pores to land-owners

Property owners might someday earn extra money from leasing the space between rocks under their land to store carbon dioxide and other substances. Storing greenhouse gases underground rather than releasing them into the atmosphere could help reduce global warming. A bill introduced in the state Senate by Clint D. Harden, R-Clovis, would give land owners control over the subsurface "pore space." Under the bill, if the surface land was sold, the rights to the pore space would go with it, unless specifically excluded. The owners of mineral rights would still have the right to mine oil and gas from pore spaces. Wyoming was the first state to pass a pore-space bill. California and Montana are considering similar measures. Pore spaces could also be used to store compressed air, which can be used to turn wind turbine blades to generate power when the wind doesn't blow. Harden's original bill caused some consternation at the Office of the State Engineer and the Oil Conservation Division. Both are working on a substitute bill addressing their concerns...Santa Fe New Mexican

Several states moving toward horse slaughter

Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Utah's resolution supporting the transport of horses out of state for slaughter in Canada and Mexico is one of several efforts in the nation to reinstate the controversial practice. Legislatures in Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota and Wyoming are working on similar resolutions while lawmakers in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Montana hope to open the gate to horse slaughtering facilities within their borders. A court order, in 2007, closed the country's last horse-butchering plant in Illinois. Horse slaughter for human consumption is banned in the United States. Facilities outside the country cater to markets in Asia, Europe and South America that regard horse meat as a delicacy. A federal bill is pending, HR503, that would prohibit the transport of horses out of the country for slaughter. Proponents of the measure support horse-slaughtering, saying it's a humane way for horse owners to dispose of surplus animals. But animal welfare groups stand foursquare in opposition to an industry they view as cruel and cut-throat...

The call of the tame

High Country News reports:

In 1916, Jack London invited a friend to his ranch in California's Sonoma Valley: "Come to see what I am trying to do with the soil, and with hogs, and with beef-cattle, and dairy-cows, and draft-horses." Who knew that the adventurous, womanizing, hard-drinking public celebrity spent the last years of his short life building a humane "Pig Palace" for his livestock and pouring manure down a slope to avoid using chemicals? London was best known then, as he is now, as a writer. But he wanted his legacy to be in land, not words. He wanted to "leave the land better for my having been," and so he pioneered what we would call today sustainable agriculture on Beauty Ranch, his 1,400-acre farm in Glen Ellen. The ranch, now home to the Jack London State Historic Park, shatters stereotypes...

Rancher cleared of violating rights of illegal immigrants

The Arizona Republic reports:

A federal jury has found that a southern Arizona rancher didn't violate the civil rights of a group of illegal immigrants who claimed he had detained them at gunpoint in 2004, but has ordered him to pay $77,000 in damages for four claims of assault and causing emotional distress. The verdict by the eight-member civil jury on Tuesday also found Roger Barnett wasn't liable on claims of battery and false imprisonment. Barnett declined to comment afterward, but one of his attorneys, David Hardy, said Barnett has a good basis for appeal on the two counts on which he lost because the jury didn't award full damages to the immigrants. For more than a decade, Barnett has been a controversial figure in southern Arizona. He's known for aggressively patrolling his ranch property and areas along highways and roads, often with his wife and brothers, on the lookout for illegal immigrants. The plaintiffs alleged that Barnett threatened them with his dog and told them he would shoot anyone who tried to escape. Barnett's lawyers argued that his land was inundated with illegal immigrants who left trash on his property, damaged his water supply and harmed his cattle. Barnett has been known to wear a holstered 9 mm pistol on his hip and upon encountering groups of migrants, to flash a blue and gold badge resembling that of the highway patrol, with the words: "Barnett Ranch Patrol. Cochise County. State of Arizona." The Barnetts detain and turn over immigrants to the U.S. Border Patrol. In 2006, Barnett estimated that he had detained more than 10,000 illegal immigrants in 10 years...

2 former border agents released from prison

Two former U.S. Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a fleeing drug smuggler were released from prison Tuesday and allowed to return to their homes in El Paso. Jose Compean, 32, and Ignacio Ramos, 40, served roughly two years of their respective 12-year and 11-year prison sentences before President George W. Bush commuted their sentences Jan. 19, his last full day in office. The commutation is scheduled to take effect March 20. Compean, who was held in a federal facility in Ohio, and Ramos, who was housed in Arizona, will serve out the remaining weeks of their prison sentences under home confinement, according to their attorneys. The former agents had been held in solitary confinement for their own safety...Houston Chronicle

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NM tribal resort off to 'dismal' start

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:

Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera on Monday acknowledged that the giant new resort opened last summer on tribal land north of Santa Fe is off to a slow start. However, he declined to discuss a financial publication's report that bondholders are concerned about Buffalo Thunder's revenues. Although he refused to talk specifics, Rivera said the giant hotel and resort is paying off its bond holders. The $245-million Buffalo Thunder resort, with 395 rooms, opened in August, offering gambling, golf, fine dining and other activities. Rivera declined to discuss a recent story in the FT.com, the online version of the Financial Times, that said Buffalo Thunder "could become the first major tribal insolvency this year" because it will be unable to meet its commercial bond payments. One bondholder told the publication that the casino reported $2 million in earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) during the quarter that ended Dec. 31. "The performance was a dismal start for the recently built ... resort and casino," said the bondholder and a market analyst, according to the Financial Times.
The article also said the pueblo would probably not be able to make the next $11.5 million payment, due at the end of June...

Alternative Energy Still Facing Headwinds

The Washington Post reports:

The three-year fight over the Sunrise Powerlink, which is designed to carry solar, wind and geothermal energy, typifies the serious challenges facing President Obama and many of the nation's governors as they tout the power of renewable energy to put people to work and rescue the planet from the effects of climate change. The nation's richest resources of renewable fuel -- primarily wind and solar -- lie in distant deserts, vast plains, and remote valleys and hilltops like this one, far from the populous cities where energy is most needed. Thousands of miles of new power lines will be required to bring renewable energy to cities and suburbs, a vast undertaking that will cost untold billions of dollars in public and private money and will require compromise by dueling interest groups and people such as Tisdale...Yet the $2 billion in the stimulus package devoted to transmission lines is a tiny part of what's needed. "I see it as seed money," said Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. "We need $100 billion to $200 billion worth of investment, and I believe we'll see that money coming from the private sector," he said, though current credit conditions make that difficult. There are other hurdles besides financing, including multiple steps of permitting, as well as logistics and opposition to the transmission lines that would crisscross slabs of unspoiled landscape...

Is environmental journalism endangered?

As news organizations across the country suffer layoffs and pay cuts, and their corporate stock prices sink, industry insiders fear that environmental journalism is becoming an endangered species. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a panel on the future of science and environmental journalism last week, featuring four speakers: Mother Nature Network columnist Peter Dykstra, Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein, J-Lab Director Jan Schaffer and National Public Radio correspondent Elizabeth Shogren. About a year ago, Borenstein told a reporter at the Columbia Journalism Review that, despite a Harvard report stating otherwise, he did not think environmental journalism was in trouble. The story never ran, and Borenstein is glad - about three months ago, he talked to the reporter and rescinded his statements. In one week, three of his science and environmental reporting friends were laid off. For many of his colleagues, the situation is just as real: the Los Angeles Times' Washington Bureau, where Shogren began her environmental work, lost reporters and was merged into parent Tribune Co.'s Washington bureau. Dykstra was laid off in December, after 17 years with CNN. He is a consultant at the Wilson Center. "It's just a little sign of what's happening across the industry," Shogren said...Scripps-Howard

Obama CEQ head is a seasoned California voice

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Californian Nancy Sutley expects to have the ear of President Obama as his chief environmental adviser, reviving a White House office that lay virtually dormant during the Bush years. The 46-year-old, Harvard-educated Sutley expects to meet regularly with Obama, who has moved to improve vehicle fuel efficiency, supported greenhouse-gas reductions in California and shelved plans to open much of the state's coast to offshore oil drilling. Before her appointment, Sutley, a prominent member of Los Angeles' gay and lesbian community, served as deputy mayor of energy and environment and was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's representative on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's Board of Directors. Over the past decade, she worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the West Coast region and as a special assistant to the administrator in Washington under former President Bill Clinton. Prior to that, she was deputy secretary for the California EPA, where she supported the state's landmark policy on climate change and advised former Gov. Gray Davis on energy, water and air-pollution issues...

Biofuels boom could fuel rainforest destruction

From Stanford University:

Farmers across the tropics might raze forests to plant biofuel crops, according to new research by Holly Gibbs, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment. 'If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks,' she warned. Policies favouring biofuel crop production may inadvertently contribute to, not slow, the process of climate change, Gibbs said. Such an environmental disaster could be 'just around the corner without more thoughtful energy policies that consider potential ripple effects on tropical forests,' she added. Gibbs' predictions are based on her new study, in which she analysed detailed satellite images collected between 1980 and 2000. The study is the first to do such a detailed characterisation of the pathways of agricultural expansion throughout the entire tropical region. Gibbs hopes that this new knowledge will contribute to making prudent decisions about future biofuel policies and subsidies...

8 bald eagles that fed on carcass sick, dead

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

At least eight bald eagles became sick or died after feeding on a horse that was euthanized near Enumclaw earlier this month, and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating. Fish and Wildlife Officer Bruce Richards said it's unclear who owns the horse, but about a week and a half ago, a renter on the property north of Enumclaw had a veterinarian euthanize the animal. "Anything that's euthanized with a drug needs to be buried or rendered," Richards said. "Even burying them -- unless you went really deep, birds and coyotes can dig them up." A vet told the man how to dispose of the animal, and he tried burying it, Richards said. But apparently the equipment used in the attempt to bury it broke and the eagles began feeding on the dead horse, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife...

Hoeven denies Ducks Unlimited land buy

Gov. John Hoeven has denied a proposed 598-acre Ducks Unlimited land buy in Kidder County, a decision the conservation group said does not respect private property rights. Hoeven’s decision, announced Monday, follows the recommendation of the Kidder County Commission and the Natural Areas Acquisition Advisory Committee, which advises the governor on land purchases by nonprofits. Ducks Unlimited wanted to buy the land from Bismarck resident Judith Hetletved in Kidder County, east of Bismarck. The property includes idle grassland, pasture, wetlands and a 5-acre site with buildings. Members of the Natural Areas Acquisition Advisory Committee had said they had reservations about long-term easements and would rather see land sold back to farmers and ranchers than to wildlife interests...Grand Forks Herald

Renewed tribal consultation undertaken by federal agency to avoid discord

Indian Country Today reports:

In the wake of criticism over tribal consultation policies, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it has asked tribes to become involved in carrying out new permit regulations concerning bald and golden eagles. Because some tribal nations felt government-to-government consultation regarding changes in eagle rules was inadequate, FWS officials hope this round of review and implementation will be more acceptable. At issue are new rules that allow non-Indians to apply for permits that would allow the incidental take – primarily the disturbing, but in some cases, the unavoidable killing – of eagles under unavoidable circumstances that are, nevertheless, secondary to the need to maintain eagle populations at a survival level, according to the FWS. The new regulations would not change the way in which Natives obtain eagles and eagle parts from the National Eagle Repository, nor would they change the way, rarely implemented, that tribes obtain take permits for religious purposes, the FWS said. Those purposes would be given priority except for emergencies involving human safety...

Call for end to USDA's wildlife killing agency

Conservationists argue in a new report that U.S. taxpayers should stop subsidizing a $100 million program that kills more than 1 million wild animals annually, a program ranchers and farmers have defended for nearly a century as critical to protecting their livestock from predators. Citing concerns about the economy and the potential for a fresh look at the decades-old controversy in the new Obama administration, 115 environmental groups signed onto a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to abolish the U.S. Agriculture Department's Wildlife Services. The American Sheep Industry Association, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and more than 70 other livestock production and state agriculture offices in 35 states countered with a letter citing more than $125 million in annual losses to the sheep, goat and cattle industry as a result of predation. A report by conservationists released Tuesday documents significant increases in recent years in both the number of carnivores killed and the size of the agency's budget — $117 million in 2007, up 14 percent from the average from 2004-06. More than 90,000 of the 121,524 carnivores killed in 2007 were coyotes. But the trapping, poisoning and aerial gunning of the predators also is taking an increasing, unintended toll on other creatures, including 511 black bears and 340 endangered gray wolves in 2007, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press...AP

Oregon AG asks FERC to halt LNG action

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stay its September ruling in favor of a liquefied natural gas project until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the state's challenge. Kroger is leading a state appeal of FERC's decision to approve a proposed LNG terminal on the Columbia River near Astoria. In his motion filed Friday, Kroger wrote FERC must stay its approval because the board didn't comply with the Endangered Species Act and neglected to wait for state approvals before granting the developer a license. The LNG terminal would import, store and process supercooled liquefied natural gas for movement through pipelines. Kroger has said it's a mistake for Oregon to rely on imported natural gas as it seeks energy independence...AP

Salazar shares stimulus impact

New Secretary of the Interior and native San Luis Valley son Ken Salazar told Valley residents on Sunday what the economic recovery package would mean to the Valley, specifically the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Salazar traveled to the sand dunes on Sunday to outline local improvements that will likely be funded by the stimulus approved by Salazar’s former senate colleagues and expected to be signed by President Barack Obama in Denver today. Salazar described the recovery package as “something good for this Valley and something good for this country.” He said the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Valley’s wildlife refuges will receive about $4 million for “shovel ready” projects, in other words projects that are ready to go when the money is there to fund them. “This is a real deal,” he said...Valley Courier

Stimulus Stirs Debate Over Rural Broadband Access

From NPR:

Former FCC economist Michael Katz didn't hesitate to bash rural life last week when he addressed an American Enterprise Institute panel discussion on the broadband elements of President Obama's economic stimulus bill. "Other people don't like to say bad things about rural areas," Katz began. "So I will." The stimulus package includes $7.2 billion to expand broadband Internet access into "underserved" and rural areas. Katz listed ways that the $7.2 billion could be put to better use, including an effort to combat infant deaths. But he also spoke of rural places as environmentally hostile, energy inefficient and even weak in innovation, simply because rural people are spread out across the landscape...Actually, we're strong enough that we don't need your damned old stimulus. You can waste the money elsewhere.

It's All Trew: Modern red tape outgrew family Bibles, tin boxes

Once upon a time, family records of births, deaths and marriages were kept on a page in the family Bible. Expenditures and income were kept written on the back of a feed store calendar hanging on the wall or in the Farmer's Almanac. None of these entries required more than a few lines of space to be clear and precise. If you were fortunate enough to own land, you might have a few pages of abstracts or deeds denoting your ownership. Since most bills were paid by cash or barter with few receipts involved, most people had few "important papers" to protect and secure. This usually involved placing all in a big manila envelope and storing in a closet. The Crash of '29 came along with the Depression, the Dust Bowl and the New Deal programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which required all types of forms to fill out and keep in order to participate. The New Deal forever changed the way America did business. The "dole" was not free. Most government checks, loans and assistance had to be paid back or at least accounted for. Almost overnight, important papers multiplied. Taxes due were based on the amounts of income and operational expenditures which required good bookkeeping and receipts. These papers were best kept for years in case of audit. Social Security arrived, making more papers. Banks began requiring financial statements before making loans. Suddenly, the storage of important papers grew. Penalties and laws put teeth into the need for secure storage...Amarillo Globe-News

Robert E. Cowan 1934-2009

Life-long Cochise County rancher Robert E. (Bobby) Cowan passed away on February 14, 2009 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Born on April 5, 1934 in Douglas, as Ralph and Mattie Cowan’s youngest son, Bobby called the Cowan Ranch and Cochise County his home for his entire life; first at the 4 Bars near McNeal and then at the JO Bar near Tombstone. In addition to the ranching operation he established Frontier Equipment and Holiday Water Company.

Cowan was a member of the King Solomon Masonic Lodge #5 for more than 50 years serving as Master more than once. He was a member of the York and Scottish Rites and a 50 year member of the Pearl of Venus #6 Chapter of the Eastern Star. He was a member of the Sabbar Shriners where he participated in the Fliver and Mounted Patrols raising funds for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

He served on the Tombstone Unified School District School Board for 32 years, receiving a commendation from President George H.W. Bush, and overseeing the relocation of the new High School. He also participated in the Los Charros Trail Ride for many years.

He was a long-time member of the Cochise Graham Cattle Growers, serving as its president in 2000-2002. He was a member of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, serving on its Board of Directors. He was also a member of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Bureau of Land Management Grazing Advisory Board.

He is survived by his daughters, Caren Cowan (Albuquerque, NM), Connie Cowan (LaJolla, California), and Carol Cowan (Tombstone), one grandson, R.W. Cowan Wood, numerous nieces and his wife of more than 35 years, Merle, her daughter and granddaughter Patti and Jenna Bright (Tombstone), and her son Rick O’Steen and his family in Florida.

He was preceded in death by his grandson Jeremy Bright, his parents, his brothers Jim and Bill, and his Aunt Florence Cowan Snure.

Arrangements are being handled by the Hatfield Funeral Home, Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Services for Bobby Cowan will be held in the Tombstone High School Gym located at 1211 Yellowjacket Way, Tombstone, at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 18, 2009.

In lieu of flowers, the families suggests donations be made in Bobby’s name to the:
Mattie Cowan Scholarship Fund, Arizona State Cowbelles Treasurer, Mary Jo Rideout - PO Box 1033, Red Rock AZ 85245; the
Pat Nowlin Memorial Scholarship Fund, Anne Ferguson, PO Box 578 Carrizozo NM 88301; or the
Cattlegrowers Foundation, Inc., POB 7517 Albuquerque NM 87194

Monday, February 16, 2009

Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates

The Washington Post reports:

The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday. "We are basically looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model simulations," Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Field, a member of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said emissions from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have largely outpaced the estimates used in the U.N. panel's 2007 reports. The higher emissions are largely the result of the increased burning of coal in developing countries, he said. Unexpectedly large amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere as the result of "feedback loops" that are speeding up natural processes. Prominent among these, evidence indicates, is a cycle in which higher temperatures are beginning to melt the arctic permafrost, which could release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, said several scientists on a panel at the meeting...

Former NM astronaut speaks out on global warming

Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the moon and once served New Mexico in the U.S. Senate, doesn’t believe that humans are causing global warming. "I don’t think the human effect is significant compared to the natural effect," said Schmitt, who is among 70 skeptics scheduled to speak next month at the International Conference on Climate Change in New York. Schmitt contends that scientists "are being intimidated" if they disagree with the idea that burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide levels, temperatures and sea levels. In his resignation letter, the 74-year-old geologist argued that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making." Schmitt said historical documents indicate average temperatures have risen by 1 degree per century since around 1400 A.D., and the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise. Schmitt also said geological evidence indicates changes in sea level have been going on for thousands of years. He said smaller changes are related to changes in the elevation of land masses — for example, the Great Lakes are rising because the earth’s crust is rebounding from being depressed by glaciers. Schmitt, who grew up in Silver City and now lives in Albuquerque, has a science degree from the California Institute of Technology. He also studied geology at the University of Oslo in Norway and took a doctorate in geology from Harvard University in 1964...From the Boston Herald

Endangered or threatened? Feds review pocket gopher protection request

From the Casper Star-Tribune:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to conduct a year-long status review of the Wyoming pocket gopher to see if the animal requires federal endangered species protections. The small, rare burrowing rodent is known to exist only from Adobe Town through the Atlantic Rim area south of Interstate Highway 80. Agency officials have completed an initial 90-day review of a petition to list the Wyoming pocket gopher as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Pat Deibert, acting director of the USFWS Cheyenne office, said this week that the agency will now undertake a more thorough study of the Wyoming pocket gopher to determine whether the USFWS will propose adding the species to the endangered list at a later date...

Conservation areas lauded to protect land

From the Grand Junction Sentinel:

When it comes to protecting Colorado’s public lands and still allowing the public to recreate there, arguably no one has accomplished that goal better than the Western Slope. For that reason alone, Colorado leaders and conservationists said, other communities likely will look to Mesa County and its regional peers when they try to negotiate ways to protect other parts of the state. Former Congressman Scott McInnis said the Western Slope has succeeded in balancing the use of public lands, particularly mountain biking and horseback riding, with land protections through the establishment of national conservation areas. “It’s a model that’s worked very well,” he said. The Western Slope, according to the Bureau of Land Management, is home to the 122,300-acre McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and the 62,844-acre Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. To set up these areas, McInnis said local leaders and stakeholders negotiated for months how best to protect the areas while letting the public use the land...

Wyoming's $8.8 million cloud-seeding experiment is drawing big-time attention

The Casper Star-Tribune reports:

The Wyoming project isn't the biggest cloud-seeding operation in the world. But, scientifically, it just may be the most important. Boe is one of several scientists working on the five-year Wyoming Weather Modification Pilot Project, an $8.8 million research program funded by the state of Wyoming. The project's scientists, along with state water managers, hope to find proof of whether the decades-old practice of seeding clouds -- trying to squeeze more precipitation out of passing storms -- actually works and that it's a practical option for increasing the state's water supply. Members of the world's science community -- cloud-seeing advocates and skeptics alike -- are watching the project closely. "For a scientist doing research, this is it. As far as in terms of the research, it is the biggest in the United States by far," Boe said. The Wyoming project is in its fourth year, only the second winter in which cloud seeding in earnest has actually been performed. The first two years involved mostly taking measurements and weather readings, obtaining permits from the U.S. Forest Service, gathering other statistical data and getting equipment in place. Cloud-seeding scientists estimate that, if done properly, pumping silver iodide into a cloud will increase snowfall in most cases by about 10 to 15 percent. That's roughly the same percentage of natural variability possible in normal weather patterns....

'Water wolf' could cost Texas billions

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Reliable sources of clean water are the key to a successful economic future for Texas and without them the state and businesses could suffer billions in losses. That was the dire message in a recent report from the office of state comptroller Susan Combs, a longtime West Texas rancher familiar with the agricultural difficulties that come from too little water. "The water wolf is lurking right outside the door," Combs told The Associated Press. "This could actually cost the state a whole lot of money." In the report, Liquid Assets: The State of Texas' Water Resources, Combs' office projected that insufficient water supplies could cost Texans about $9 billion next year and more than $98 billion by 2060. The state also stands to lose tax revenues — about $466 million next year and more than $5 billion by 2060 — if its water needs are not met, according to the report. Among the reasons cited were Texas' rapidly growing population and ongoing drought across much of the state...

Robot ranchers will ride herd on wind farms in future

The Earth Times reports:

Robot ranchers will tend the windswept ranges of sprawling wind farms in the future, according to a team of German robotic scientists. Wind turbine generators already dot the horizon for miles in any direction in many parts of the world. Tending the mighty windmills has been an arduous task for human technicians. Rotor blade damage is a routine, but annoying problem which entails many man-hours of maintenance. But now, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF) in Germany say they are perfecting a generation of robots which will be able to monitor and maintain wind turbine generators on a round-the-clock basis. Their latest helper is RIWEA, a robot that inspects the rotor blades of wind energy converters. Primarily made of glass fibre reinforced plastics, rotor blades have to withstand a great deal: wind, inertial forces, erosion, etc. Until now, humans have inspected wind energy converters at regular intervals - not an easy job. After all, the technicians must closely examine large surfaces - a rotor blade can be up to 60 meters in length - in airy heights...

Livestock Producers from Mexico, Canada and United States Seek New Trade Policy and Market Reforms

Representatives of consumer groups and livestock producer organizations from Canada, Mexico, and the United States today called on leaders to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and address concentration in livestock markets. The groups have been meeting in Billings to address the challenges faced by family farmers and ranchers from trade policy and uncompetitive livestock markets. "NAFTA is not working for Mexican and Canadian farmers," said Gilles Stockton, a rancher from Grass Range, Mont., representing the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). "It is certainly not working for U.S. farmers and ranchers. We also learned that it is not working for consumers." Representatives of Mexican hog producers said NAFTA has severely affected agricultural and livestock sectors in Mexico. U.S. exports of pork to Mexico increased about 40% between 2007 and 2008 and now supply about half of the domestic pork consumption in Mexico, said Alejandro Ramirez González, with the Confederation of Mexican Hog Farmers. Powdered milk imports from the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, and New Zealand threaten Mexican dairy farmers, which supply only two-thirds of the domestic demand, according to Victor Quintana with the Peasants' Democratic Front of Chihuahua. "Hundreds of thousands of Mexican dairy farmers will be driven into bankruptcy if Mexico's federal government does not change current agricultural and food policies, Quintana said...Press Release

Montana - House takes up bill to approve slaughterhouse

The Great Falls Tribune reports:

The House Agriculture Committee hearing room was packed to capacity on Thursday as lawmakers took up a controversial bill that would authorize equine slaughterhouses in Montana. Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, the bill's sponsor, said Montana is ideally suited to help address a national demand for a horse slaughtering facility. "What we're looking at in this bill is, first of all, trying to solve a problem," Butcher told the committee. That problem, he said, is that the last equine slaughterhouse in the nation closed in 2007, leaving horse owners with few options for disposing of sick, injured and unwanted animals. Butcher said House Bill 418 would create a new industry in the state, while at the same time addressing the state's economy-driven unwanted horse problem. Butcher's bill also prevents Montana courts from issuing an injunction to stop or delay the construction of an equine-processing facility. Supporters of the bill said unwanted horses used to be sold for slaughter when there were facilities to take them. When the last horse-slaughtering facility closed, horse owners were left with few options. Supporters also testified that without slaughterhouses owners are forced to pay to have horses euthanized and disposed of, shoot them and bury them on their property, or illegally abandon them. Several county commissioners said that abandoned horses are creating serious problems in rural counties...

Utah - Resolution supporting horse slaughter passes

A nonbinding resolution to allow the transport of horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter passed the Utah Senate on Thursday 19-8 and soon will cross the governor's desk. Sponsors of the resolution -- Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim and Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan -- intended to send a message to the federal government about states rights. Legislation at the federal level would outlaw horse slaughter in the United States and also ban their transport across borders for that purpose...Salt Lake Tribune