Friday, May 15, 2009

Governor Threatens to Sell California Landmarks

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to make deep education cuts and auction off some of state's most iconic properties -- from the San Quentin state prison to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- in order to close current and future budget shortfalls. The plan, which was announced Thursday in Sacramento as part of a revised state budget, faces political and regulatory hurdles. However, it underscores the drastic lengths the cash-strapped state is willing to consider to fix its ongoing fiscal crisis. Other properties on the governor's list include a landmark concert hall called the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., and fairgrounds in Sacramento and near San Diego. It's unclear how much the proposal could actually raise...WSJ

Army calls for retreat on Piñon expansion

The Army has given up attempts to acquire land for expanding the Piñon Canyon training site in the next year, shifting the money that had been allocated for the purpose to other uses, according to congressional and Army sources. Originally, Army budget makers had planned to allocate $17 million in fiscal 2010 for land acquisition associated with Piñon Canyon, a line item consistent with public statements made by Army officials as recently as this month that the controversial expansion is still a priority. But faced with a push-back from Congress and a so-far unsuccessful strategy focused on leasing land, that money was re allocated to military construction at Fort Polk, La., in the budget's final version, those sources said. The Army still has wiggle room in the way it can spend funds for military construction, but experts say the move is a clear signal that the Army is backing off any effort to buy land to expand the facility, at least in the near term...Denver Post

Salazar Appoints Robert Stanton to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today appointed former National Park Service Director Robert G. Stanton as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management, and Budget. Concluding a long career with the National Park Service, Stanton served as the agency’s director from 1997 to 2001. As director, he oversaw major planning and resource preservation programs at the White House, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Gettysburg, and other national parks and inaugurated and oversaw the National Resource Challenge, a plan to revise and expand the agency’s natural resource programs. Since 2001, he has served as an executive professor at Texas A&M University and a visiting professor at both Howard University and Yale University. He also has provided consulting services to the National Resources Council of America on increasing cultural diversity in conservation organizations and programs...Press Release

N. Fork plight in U.N. spotlight

Sen. Max Baucus last week said he would push to have the North Fork of the Flathead designated as a World Heritage Site in Danger, a dubious distinction as Glacier National Park turns 100 next year. The North Fork will see the international limelight in June, when Will Hammerquist, the Glacier representative of the National Park Conservation Association and Ryland Nelson, of the Canadian environmental organization Wildsight, will testify in front of a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage panel. Several groups on both sides of the border petitioned UNESCO last year to have the North Fork listed, including the Flathead Basin Commission and the Flathead Coalition. Both groups have members with broad interests, but all agree the North Fork should be protected...Hungry Horse News

Environmental alarms raised over consumer electronics

Charge your iPod, kill a polar bear? The choice might not be quite that stark, but an energy watchdog is alarmed about the threat to the environment from the soaring electricity needs of gadgets like MP3 players, mobile phones and flat screen TVs. In a report Wednesday, the Paris-based International Energy Agency estimates new electronic gadgets will triple their energy consumption by 2030 to 1,700 terawatt hours, the equivalent of today's home electricity consumption of the United States and Japan combined. The world would have to build around 200 new nuclear power plants just to power all the TVs, iPods, PCs and other home electronics expected to be plugged in by 2030, when the global electric bill to power them will rise to $200 billion a year, the IEA said. Consumer electronics is "the fastest growing area and it's the area with the least amount of policies in place" to control energy efficiency, said Paul Waide, a senior policy analyst at the IEA...AP

Environmental group serves notice to sue federal agencies over Nevada plan

The Center for Biological Diversity today served notice on two federal agencies that it intends to challenge a government plan for managing a wide swath of public lands in east-central Nevada. The notice puts the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on notice that the center plans to sue over the Ely Resource Management Plan that covers about 11.5 million acres of public lands in White Pine, Lincoln and part of Nye counties, said Amy Atwood with the Center for Biological Diversity. The plan covers ongoing activities such as off-road vehicles, grazing, mining and power plants, Atwood said. "The Ely Resource Management Plan commits to ecological disaster," said Atwood, senior attorney and public lands energy director at the center. "It perpetuates off-road vehicle use in desert tortoise critical habitat and does nothing to promote conservation and recovery of the many rare species in the planning area. And the power plants authorized by the plan would be totally inconsistent with the need to phase out coal immediately."...Las Vegas Sun

Climate change, water shortages conspire to create 21st century Dust Bowl

Dust storms accelerated by a warming climate have covered the Rocky Mountains with dirt whose heat-trapping properties have caused snowpacks to melt weeks earlier than normal, worrying officials in Colorado about drastic water shortages by late summer. Snowpacks from the San Juan Mountains to the Front Range have either completely melted or will be gone within the next two weeks, said Tom Painter, director of the Snow Optics Laboratory at the University of Utah and a leading expert on snowmelt. The rapid melting is linked to a spate of intense dust storms that kick up dirt and sand that in turn are deposited on snow-topped mountains. The dust darkens the snow, allowing the surface to absorb more heat from the sun. This warms the snow -- and the air above it -- significantly, studies show. The problem has been particularly acute in the semiarid Colorado Plateau region encompassing parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. An unprecedented 12 large dust storms have occurred so far this year in the region, and at least two more are projected in the coming months, officials say. "Already we have more than doubled the amount of dust we've typically observed during the last six years," Painter said...NYTimes

Rising Calls to Regulate California Groundwater

For the third year in a row, Mark Watte plans to rely on the aquifer beneath his family farm for three-quarters of the water he needs to keep his cotton, corn and alfalfa growing, his young pistachio trees healthy and his 900 dairy cows cool. That is 50 percent more than he used to take, because the water that once flowed to the farm from snow in the Sierra Nevada has been reduced by a long dry spell and diversions to benefit endangered fish. Since 2006 the surface of the aquifer, in the Kaweah subbasin of the San Joaquin basin, has dropped 50 feet as farmers pumped deeper, Mr. Watte says. Some of his pumps no longer reach far enough to bring any water to the surface. If he lived in almost any other state in the arid Southwest, Mr. Watte could be required to report his withdrawals of groundwater or even reduce them. But to California’s farmers and developers, that is anathema. “I don’t want the government to come in and dictate to us, ‘This is all the water you can use on your own land,’ ” said Mr. Watte, 57. “We would resist that to our dying day.” Although California has been a pathbreaker in some environmental arenas, like embracing renewable energy and recycling, groundwater rights remain sacrosanct. But the state government is facing growing pressure to embrace regulation...NYTimes

Gray wolf: The predator pursued

John Hart squatted in a muddy pasture and examined the carcass in front of him. The wounds on the eviscerated calf, and the tracks all around it, left no mystery about what had happened. Soon Hart would set up traps to capture and shoot the killer: one or more gray wolves roaming the area. Though wolves have enjoyed federal protection from trapping and hunting since 1974, Hart and other federal wildlife agents killed 143 gray wolves last year alone. They have special permission to do so under the Endangered Species Act, as a controversial concession to farmers whose livestock occasionally fall prey to a protected predator. The population of gray wolves, now estimated at 3,000 in Minnesota, has grown so much that federal officials removed the animals from the endangered list on May 4. That puts management of the wolves in states' hands, and Minnesota law allows landowners to shoot wolves in the act of stalking or attacking livestock, guard animals or pets...Star-Tribune

Senate measure would allow loaded guns in national parks

Visitors would be able to carry loaded guns in national parks and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public lands under a provision approved overwhelmingly by the Senate on Tuesday. But final passage of the amendment, which was attached to legislation rewriting some credit card laws to favor consumers, isn't guaranteed. Though it was passed by a 67 to 29 vote, with 27 Democrats, 39 Republicans and one independent voting aye, it could still be stripped from the final bill, which the Senate will continue to consider Wednesday. One Republican, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, joined 28 Democrats in voting no. The measure was pushed by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who argued it "makes no sense to treat (gun owners) like a criminal if they pass through a national park while in possession of a firearm." He was trying to override a March ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that overturned a rule implemented by the Bush administration in its final days. In January, a few days before President George W. Bush left office, people were allowed to carry loaded guns into parks and wildlife refuges if they had a permit for a concealed weapon and the state permitted weapons in parks...McClatchy

Lamar Alexander does whatever the Parkies tell him to do.

2 horses slaughtered for meat, police say

Slaughtered for their meat. That's what police say happened to two horses recently found slain at a Miramar ranch, an incident that has the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals worried that a disturbing trend has crossed the county line. The owner of the ranch in the 4600 block of Flamingo Road, mechanic Humberto Ramos, called police May 6 to report the deaths of the animals. He found them near a gate, lying in pools of blood with their legs severed, less than 50 yards from the road. Their haunches, rump and parts of their abdomen were missing. "My Lord," he said. "Who would do something like this?" Ramos hopes rewards offered by various animal rights groups will help authorities track down whoever killed the 3-year-old and 7-year-old horses of the Paso Fino breed...Sun Sentinel

Dodge’s defining years brought by cattle trade

The burgeoning cattle industry in Dodge City built many businesses and created many wealthy men. The "cattle barons" quickly realized the possibilities of the industry and capitalized on the opportunity. German immigrant John Mueller arrived in Dodge City in 1875 and opened a boot shop on Front Street. He carefully invested his earnings, investing in a saloon and three ranches. By 1879 he was ready to build a new house. He hired a German stonemason and a German woodworker, and 18 months later his mansion was completed. Sitting on a high hill overlooking the booming town and the prairie, the home, now known as the Mueller-Schmidt House Museum, had an impressive exterior and was filled with high-quality furniture. The kitchen was in the basement. On the ground floor were a parlor and the Mueller's bedroom, later converted into a formal dining room. Upstairs were two additional bedrooms. Today the home is Dodge City's oldest dwelling and contains many original artifacts related to the family, including some original furnishings...Dodge City Daily Globe

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Note To Readers

I guess I'm proof lightening does strike twice in the same place. Over a week ago my desktop pc fried, causing me to use an old laptop. The laptop quit me Monday morning about 5am. Right now I'm using a borrowed computer, my new computer is supposed to arrive Friday and should be available for my use Saturday evening. We shall see.

GOP Senators Block Interior Nominee's Confirmation

On a vote largely along party lines, Senate Republicans yesterday blocked President Obama's nominee for deputy interior secretary amid a fight over the agency's new rules on oil and gas drilling. The administration appointee was the first to be turned back on a floor vote. The nomination of David J. Hayes, a natural resources lawyer with experience in federal lands issues, fell just short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote. This was the second time this year that the GOP held together on a major action to block the president's agenda or his nominees on a filibuster vote. Hayes received 57 votes, but he has more support than that. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) switched his vote to nay in a parliamentary move that allows him to bring up the nomination again under fast-track rules should the administration reach an accord with Republicans. In addition, three Democrats who would support Hayes were absent: Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.). Republicans acknowledged beforehand that the vote was not a rejection of Hayes, who served for two years as deputy interior secretary in the Clinton administration; Republicans instead were making a statement of opposition to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's cancellation this year of leases for oil and gas drilling in Utah...WPost

Democrats to Relax House Emissions Bill

House Democrats said last night that they would scale back some of the most aggressive provisions of a bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a compromise designed to win the votes of fellow Democrats whose states rely on coal or heavy industry. Such a deal would give a crucial boost to a measure that is a key priority for both President Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill. It had run aground amid concerns that it would cost too much, or weigh too heavily on states in the Midwest and West. That first draft called for a 20 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Under the new agreement, the goal would be a 17 percent reduction. Also, the bill originally called for all states to get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Under the new version, the standard would be lowered to 15 percent by 2020, plus a requirement to reduce energy use by 5 percent by then through improved energy efficiency, Hill staffers said. The changes also clarified some details of how the government will parcel out pollution credits. Some environmental groups had called for all such credits to be auctioned off, with the money funneled to energy-efficiency projects or back to taxpayers. But last night's compromise said that some of the credits would be given out free -- and that 35 percent of those would be given to local electricity-distribution companies...WPost

White House Memo Challenges EPA Finding on Warming

An Environmental Protection Agency proposal that could lead to regulating the gases blamed for global warming will prove costly for factories, small businesses and other institutions, according to a White House document. The nine-page memo is a compilation of opinions made by a dozen federal agencies and departments during an internal review before the EPA issued a finding in April that greenhouse gases pose dangers to public health and welfare. The document, labeled ''Deliberative-Attorney Client Privilege,'' says that if the EPA proceeds with the regulation of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide, factories, small businesses and institutions would be subject to costly regulation. ''Making the decision to regulate carbon dioxide ... is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities,'' the document says...AP

Biggest Solar Deal Signed

Pacific Gas & Electric, a California utility, announced Wednesday that it had agreed to purchase 1,310 megawatts of solar thermal power — enough to power 530,000 homes. BrightSource Energy will provide the technology — which consists of mirrors that use the sunlight to heat water and spin turbines — and plans to build facilities in California, Arizona and Nevada. It is a lot of juice — though it’s worth noting, as Mr. Woolard himself does, that today’s announcement is really just an expansion of an existing 900-megawatt deal that BrightSource signed with PG&E last year, which was then touted as the largest in the world. BrightSource also struck a 1,300 megawatt deal with Southern California Edison, another California utility, in February — which, to be sure, was described as the “world’s largest” at the time...NYTimes

State commission to consider Montana wolf quotas

The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday to set a tentative quota for Montana's 2009 wolf hunting season. The options range from 26 to 207, based on the size of wolf population that would be maintained in the state. Montana has at least 500 wolves in 84 known packs. Federal rules require the state to maintain a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs. The commission had tentatively adopted a quota of 75 wolves for the 2008 hunting season, but those were never given final approval after environmental and conservation groups filed a lawsuit, arguing wolves were prematurely removed from federal protection...AP

Annual biofuel subsidies will hit $60 billion in 2022 — Earth Track

Doug Koplow of Earth Track, assisted by researchers with Friends of the Earth, has produced a new study, A Boon to Bad Biofuels, on the taxpayer cost of federal biofuel tax credits and mandates. The numbers are staggering. In 2008, federal support for ethanol and biodiesel totalled more than $9.5 billion. The subsidy system has two main components: --The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), which mandates increased blending of biofuels into the national motor fuel supply, ramping up from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion in 2022. --Tax credits including the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), which pays out $0.45 for each gallon of corn ethanol; a parallel program for biodiesel worth $1.00 per gallon; and a production tax credit that pays $1.01 for each gallon of cellulosic ethanol produced. “In their current form, these tax credits scale linearly with production, without limit,” notes Koplow. This means that the $9.5 billion in subsidies in 2008 increases six-fold to $60 billion in 2022, “due both to more production and to a shift to more heavily subsidized cellulosic fuels.” The cumulative cost from 2008 to 2022: $420 billion, nearly 40% of which will go to the corn industry...Open Market

Fight over biomass - Law making it difficult for businesses to expand

After generations of disrespect, wood refuse is the material of the moment. It took two days to run through all the ways it can be thermochemically converted into gasoline, mixed with coal dust for clean-burning pellet fuel or cooked into charcoal to capture carbon emissions at the Montana Bioenergy Workshop in Missoula. And that's assuming it hasn't been assigned to more traditional uses like paper and particleboard. “It's one of the biggest fears we have - that everybody else will take our fuel and burn it,” Roseburg Forest Products Co. plant manager Ken Cole told a group of bioenergy pioneers during a tour of his Missoula factory Tuesday. “The market for pellets and biomass is putting massive pressure on us.” “We could run two shifts a day, seven days a week if we could get the supply,” Christine Johnson said of her Eureka Pellet Mills business. “It's not that it's not there. It's that we don't have the access to it.” Johnson said despite their smaller populations, Germany, Sweden and Canada all produce more wood pellets for heating fuel than the United States. Her facility would love to get hold of otherwise unmarketable beetle-killed trees, but hasn't been able to negotiate contracts on the forests...Missoulian

Pesticide carbofuran banned for food crops

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule Monday banning the use of the pesticide carbofuran on food crops, saying it poses an unacceptable health risk, especially to children. The insecticide, sold under the brand name Furadan, has been under EPA review for years. Its granular form was banned in the mid-1990s because it was blamed for killing millions of migratory birds. The agency began its effort to remove the pesticide completely from the market in 2006. The EPA said it was revoking all allowable tolerance levels for carbofuran on food crops, including those imported, and in the coming months will move to ban the chemical's use altogether, including on nonfood crops, because of risks to farm workers and to the environment. Even though the manufacturer said it would cut back its U.S. use of carbofuran to a smaller number crops, the EPA said the chemical still poses "an unacceptable dietary risk, especially to children, from consuming a combination of food and water with carbofuran residues." The ban goes into effect at the end of the year...AP

Human Strain of Clostridium Difficile Reported in Quarter Horse

The same strain of Clostridium difficile that causes illness and death in human hospitals was reported in a 14-year-old Quarter Horse, according to a paper published in May issue of the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. Clostridium difficile bacteria can proliferate in the intestines and produce toxins that can damage the intestinal lining of horses, humans, and production animals such as cattle and swine. In this case, the sick horse showed clinical signs of colic for 48 hours before treatment. Suspecting a Salmonella infection, veterinarians treated the patient with antibiotics, but the horse failed to respond to treatment and was euthanized. The trouble starts when clinicians treat a horse with antimicrobial drugs (for example, for or pre- or post-surgical infection prevention). For reasons that are not entirely clear, the bacterium is then able to establish itself in the gut and produce the toxins that cause diarrhea, colic, and an acute set of clinical signs sometimes called colitis X. Foals can also get the disease in the first few days of life, when C. difficile moves into an intestinal tract that does not yet have an established normal bacterial flora...The Horse
The following are the posts I had ready for the Monday edition, but was unable to post.

Species Act Won't Be Used to Force Lower Emissions

The federal bureaucracy that safeguards endangered species isn't equipped to tackle climate change, Interior Department officials said yesterday -- declining to protect Alaskan polar bears by cracking down on polluters in the Lower 48. The decision, announced yesterday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was the Obama administration's first word on an emerging environmental question. The 35-year-old Endangered Species Act was designed to save animals from close-by threats such as hunting, trapping and logging. But, now that U.S. species from mountainsides to tropical seas are threatened by climate change, can it be used to fight a global problem? Salazar, upholding a decision made in the last months of the Bush administration, said no. "The Endangered Species Act is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue," Salazar said in a conference call with reporters. Instead, he said, the administration will push Congress to enact legislation setting national caps on greenhouse gases...WPost

CO2 And You

Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, told members of the Senate Finance Committee Thursday that "Under a cap-and-trade program, consumers" — not demonized corporations, we might add — "would ultimately bear most of the costs of emission reductions." This is because industry and other groups (hospitals, schools, any institution that discharges carbon), forced under a federal cap-and-trade regime to buy government permits to release CO2, would pass on their costs to consumers. Cutting carbon emissions by 15% through this method would cost each American household an average of $1,600 a year, the CBO found. In a worst-case scenario, the cost is $2,200 per household. Current House legislation would carry even heavier economic penalties than the CBO's model suggests. Should it become law, it would require that CO2, the greenhouse gas some (but far from all) scientists believe is warming the planet, be cut 20% from 2005 levels by 2020. By 2050, the emissions would have to be 83% below 2005 levels. In light of this, $1,600 a year seems like a bargain...IBD

Your Utility Bill if Obama Has His Way...

What Cap and Trade Energy Tax Would Cost American Households

Any honest economist will tell you that a carbon cap and trade scheme, if it works perfectly, functions the same as an energy tax. The Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill currently under consideration in Congress is no different. In 2007, MIT did a study on the costs of cap and trade and found that cap and trade proposals that would reduce carbon emission by 50% to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 would cost the American household $800 a year in economic losses and $3,100 a year in taxes collected by the federal government. That’s a total $3,900 cost for the average American household! How does this cost compare to other household expenses?

Industry campaign targets 'hydraulic fracturing' bill

Fearing a push by House Democrats to regulate a controversial form of natural gas production, an industry coalition launched a campaign yesterday arguing that new rules would kill jobs and batter the economy. The coalition of independent oil and gas companies says a Democratic proposal to allow new oversight over hydraulic fracturing would slash domestic oil and gas production and cost the Treasury $4 billion in lost taxes, royalties, rents and other payments. But environmentalists and an aide to a Democratic lawmaker backing regulation say the claim amounts to "scare tactics." The industry group says hydraulic fracturing, which uses high-pressure injections into the ground to force oil and gas to flow more freely, has a track record of safety and is regulated sufficiently by the states. Environmentalists and some congressional Democrats argue it threatens groundwater. In addition to adding oversight, they want companies using the process to reveal what chemicals are used -- information that is now considered proprietary. The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act. But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) proposed a bill last year to repeal that exemption. DeGette is now talking with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) about either inserting her bill into pending climate legislation or reintroducing the measure on its own...NYTimes

Ranchers fight to keep grazing in Grant County

Ranchers and environmentalists have locked horns over cattle grazing for years. Now a battered economy and a looming court decision are fueling a full-on battle in Grant County. On one side, ranchers and the county chairman say proposed grazing limits could deal a knockout punch to more than a dozen cattle operations and, because of job losses and lost tax revenue, county social services. On the other side, an environmental group says wild steelhead are in decline because of stream bank damage caused by grazing cattle. "The mood here is not good," says Mark Webb, chairman of Grant County commissioners in Canyon City. "A lot of livelihoods" ride on the pending ruling by U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty in Portland. A hearing in the case is scheduled for June 9. The debate affects an eastern Oregon county that has twice the space of Delaware but just 7,500 residents. More than 60 percent of the county's land is federally owned, and the John Day River system has more miles designated as wild and scenic than any in the nation. At issue are six grazing allotments on U.S. Forest Service land. The allotments, all in the Malhuer National Forest, encompass about 250,000 acres across a vast tapestry of mountains, canyons, meadows and pine forests. Three environmental groups, including the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association, filed a request April 10 for an injunction that would banish cattle from the allotments. Webb, the county chairman, says 17 ranches use the six allotments and that long-term closures could drive at least half of them out of business, worsening unemployment. The drop in tax revenues, in turn, would shrink funds for social services, hurting even Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day, he says. And Webb says an injunction could actually hurt steelhead habitat by shifting cattle to private ranchland, where overgrazing could occur along streams. On the ungrazed federal land, grass could grow out of control in summer, raising wildfire risk. And ranches could even be broken up, he says, resulting in homebuilding and loss of rangeland and habitat...Oregonian

Wolves get a little help from their two-legged friends

A female wolf pup cowered underneath a juniper tree while fish and wildlife workers attempted to coax her into a "shade box" to receive her vaccinations. United States Fish & Wildlife Service biologists Maggie Dwire and Susan Dicks were required to snare Mexican gray wolf No. 1167 after failing to coax her inside the box. The shots were administered and the 13-week-old pup was soon released back into the care of her parents in one of a half-dozen spacious pens located in a remote part of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge north of Socorro. The facility is used as a temporary home for wolves as part of the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, which was approved in 1982. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Web site, the program involves maintenance and a captive breeding program to re-establish a self-sustaining population of at least 100 wolves in the wild within their historic range, which includes parts of New Mexico and Arizona. The recovery project developed after the Mexican Gray Wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1976...El Defensor Chieftain

Government to condemn land for Flight 93 memorial

One man inherited property that his grandfather bought during the Depression. A Lutheran pastor owns a cottage where he planned to retire with his wife. Two others own businesses. But they and other property owners in rural southwestern Pennsylvania knew things would change in the aftermath of United Flight 93's crash on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed 40 passengers and crew and four terrorist hijackers. Plans were soon in the works for a memorial to honor the victims. Property owners say they realized that and were willing to cooperate and help make it happen. But now that the government intends to take their land by eminent domain so the Flight 93 memorial can be built by the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, property owners say they're disappointed and surprised by the plan. They also disputed that negotiations have taken place and said they've either not been made offers, or were only provided offers within the past week. The park service "apologized about the way it's come together, but what's sad is they had all these years to put this together and they haven't," said Randall Musser, who owns about 62 acres that the park service wants to acquire...AP

More than 300 ATV riders protest BLM plan

More than 300 off-highway enthusiasts rallied against a plan that could keep them from riding on a popular trail. Protest organizer Shawna Cox said,"We don't mind people sharing the land, but we don't want them to take it away either." The area in question is the Paria corridor in Grand Staircase-Escalante National monument. It's closed to motorized vehicles, but people ride there anyway because no one enforces the law. That may soon change. Last month, a federal appeals court ruled against Kane and Garfield counties' attempts to assert ownership over some of those roads; that means the Bureau of Land Management could start enforcing the law. Bill McIllwain, president of the Piute Chamber County of Commerce, said, "There's passion here, not only for ATVers, but hikers, ranchers, miners, a lot of people that feel they have the right to the public lands without them being taken away by the federal government." After Saturday's protest, the group went on a drive up the trail as a show of defiance...KSL-TV

Sioux Woman Wins Claim Under 'Bad Men' Treaty

The Court of Federal Claims awarded nearly $600,000 to an Oglala Sioux woman who was sexually assaulted by an Army recruiter. Under an 1868 treaty, the United States must reimburse Sioux members for "any wrong" committed by "bad men among the whites." Elk filed a claim with the Department of the Interior under the "bad men" provision of the Fort Laramie Treaty of April 29, 1868. The federal claims court awarded her $590,755.06. "Based on the record, the court finds that Ms. Elk has suffered a significant amount of pain, suffering and emotional distress as a result of the assault and more than likely will continue to experience these same injuries at least over the next two years," Allegra concluded...Courthouse News

Texas Feral Hogs

The first swine to enter the United States was in 750 to 1000 AD as Polynesian immigrants brought pigs to Hawaii. The earliest record of hogs coming to the Americas is in 1493 when Christopher Columbus on his quest to discover America, had eight hogs on board as he landed in the West Indies. It wasn’t until the year 1539 that hogs first made land fall in the continental US. It was that year that Hernando DeSoto obtained 13 hogs in Cuba on his way to Florida. In the next several years DeSoto traveled around exploring the southeastern US until he died in Arkansas in 1542. At the time of his death, his hog herd had increased to 700. The first hogs to reach Texas resulted from the travels of Rene Robert Sieur de LaSalle.In a failed attempt to reach the mouth of the Mississippi River, LaSalle landed in the Matagorda area on February 18th 1685. Among the supplies brought from the West Indies were cattle, swine and chickens. After establishing a settlement, LaSalle left the area in 1687 leaving behind 20 people, 70 pigs and 18 chickens. The first hogs to arrive with any significance and established a wild population originated with the colonist that settled in Nacogdoches in 1819.An excursion by Mexican Colonial Ignacio Perez and his troops reported good crops of cotton, corn, pumpkins, potatoes and many cattle and hogs. By the middle 1820’s, colonist begin to receive land grants and settle east Texas. Hogs were the most common livestock and all livestock were allowed to roam free in the woods to fend for themselves. The hogs were usually gathered once or twice a year to mark and butcher. It was about 1835 when hostilities began to arise between Mexico and the Texas settlers. Many settlers fled their homes out of fear of the Mexican Troops. The hogs were left behind and eventually became feral...The Vindicator

Little effect from food labeling

Almost two months into the use of country of origin labeling for a variety of raw foods, producers and stores are seeing small effects. March 16, federally mandated rules went into effect to require that numerous foods must be labeled with country of origin. Included on the list are muscle cuts and ground portions of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and goat; fish and shellfish; fruit and vegetables; unroasted peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts; ginseng and some processed foods, such as roasted peanuts. “We’ve seen quite a bit,” Russell’s Supersave manager Tim Russell said of the labeling. However, Russell said he hadn’t seen customers do much label-viewing in the Portales store. Customers, he said, usually aren’t interested in where the food came from unless there’s news of an outbreak. Roosevelt County beef rancher and wheat farmer Matt Rush hasn’t noticed any differences because of labeling laws. “We haven’t seen the impact of that going into effect yet and we’re unsure of where the process is now,” he said. Rush, president of the Roosevelt County Farm and Livestock Bureau, said steps were being taken to try to verify all companies handling the food were applying the country of origin labeling. “From a producer’s standpoint, we do support COOL because we’re proud of our product and what we grow here in the United States,” Rush said. However, Rush is hopeful labeling doesn’t cause problems with Mexico and other countries buying American beef. For every pound of live cattle that comes from Mexico to the United States, Rush said, America sends seven pounds of specialty meat like tongue or brain back to Mexico...Portales News Tribune

Despite good intentions, activists do horses a disservice

There is nothing like an economic slump to demonstrate that the proverbial manure indeed runs downhill. Faced with the increasing need for frugality, people are forced to cut unnecessary expenses, and often, one of those expenses is that of keeping animals - especially horses, since the cost of a single equine's annual feed and care easily tops a thousand dollars. Prior to 2007, owners needing to get rid of a horse had a number of options, one of which was slaughter. Through well-meaning but sadly misguided lobbying, activists succeeded in closing three operational U.S. horse processing plants, forcing slaughter-bound horses across the borders into Canada or Mexico. The ethnocentric "reasoning" behind the campaign to end horse slaughter is purely emotional - the captive bolt gun method of slaughter used in U.S. plants has been deemed humane for equines by the American Veterinary Medical Association, as well as by the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The flooded horse market, coupled with tough economic times, means that unwanted horses have virtually no value, making it impractical to send a horse to slaughter across the border, since the meager profit doesn't come close to covering the cost of transportation...Idaho Statesman

Animal rights activists appalled by Ale House's lobster game

As if being boiled alive and eaten isn't bad enough, animal rights activists complain that lobsters are now being terrorized by a new attraction at the Royal Palm Ale House. Next to the restaurant's bar stands a tall water tank fitted with a mechanical claw. Diners can pay a few bucks for a few minutes of dexterous play: Grab a lobster, and the chef will cook it for you. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida calls the game "cruel" and "inhumane." After receiving several complaints last week, the Fort Lauderdale-based organization is demanding the eatery get rid of the machine or face a two-hour protest on May 22. "To pull off limbs, to poke them in the eye, to otherwise torment these animals ... we just find that appalling," said Melissa Gates, the foundation's managing director. But that's not the way the game works, said Joe Zucchero, president of Marine Ecological Habitats, which manufactures the Love Maine Lobster Claw game. The plastic claws are "extremely gentle," and the Maine company has never had an instance of a lobster claw coming off, he said. "If that were to occur, I would take the game off the market," he said. "As far as tearing lobsters apart, that does not happen. Period." Also, about 5 percent of the proceeds from the games goes toward Touch Tanks for Kids, a Maine nonprofit organization that helps children learn about marine life and caring for the ecosystem, he said...Palm Beach Post

Obama's plan: No extension of border fence

President Obama’s budget blueprint Thursday shelved extension of the controversial border fence beyond the 670 miles already completed or planned — rejecting the much-heralded security approach orchestrated by former President George W. Bush. The Obama administration’s turnabout left funds for roads, lights and so-called tactical infrastructure — but not a dime to extend the pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers erected along roughly a third of the nation’s 1,947-mile border with Mexico. As a Democratic senator representing Illinois, Obama joined 79 other senators in 2006 to support construction of the barrier system, intended to keep immigrants from crossing into the United States illegally. The top financial officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Peggy Sherry, and her team told reporters Thursday that the Obama administration would not extend a barrier network that has irked neighboring Mexico and raised concerns among immigrant advocates. Some Texas’ landowners have stubbornly challenged the fence project, denying or delaying federal access to survey their property in legal warfare that prolonged construction along some parts of the border. As recently as last October, the federal government had completed just a one half-mile section of the 110 miles of pedestrian border fence promised in Texas...Houston Chronicle

Obama reverses stance on immigration

On the thorniest of political issues, President Obama has embraced the enforcement-first position on immigration that he criticized during last year's presidential campaign, and he now says he can't move forward with the type of comprehensive bill he wants until voters are convinced that the borders can be enforced. Having already backed off his pledge to have an immigration bill this year, Mr. Obama boosted his commitment to enforcement in the budget released Thursday. The spending blueprint calls for extra money to build an employee-verification system and to pay for more personnel and equipment to patrol the border. This security-first stance is not unlike that of President George W. Bush, Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who said their immigration bill failed in 2007 because voters didn't trust the government to be serious about enforcement...WTimes

House Committee Debates Guns and Mexican Border

The House Judiciary Committee heard proposals Wednesday for increased gun control inside the United States as a means of cutting down on drug violence along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. "How many officers have to be killed before we impose more gun regulation," asked Representative Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat. Democrats have called for better gun control within the United States which they say supplies 90 percent of the firearms seized in Mexico, guns that have contributed significantly to that country's epidemic of violence. Mexico itself enforces strict gun laws where residents are allowed only non-military, low-caliber guns with long prison terms for those who violate gun laws. But Republicans on the Judiciary Committee argued against gun control in the United States, maintaining that Mexican officials need to do more to stop the smuggling of guns into their country. Committee members noted that the violence has spread deep within the United States. The Tucson Citizen reported, for example, that five men were found dead with their throats slit as far away from the Mexican border as Birmingham, Alaska. They had been electrically shocked before they were killed for a drug debt estimated at $400,000. Texas Republican Lamar Smith commented, "Regrettably, some are using the violence along the border as justification for stricter gun laws." Representative Ted Poe, also a Texas Republican, took a similar line. "It seems like Mexico has a responsibility in keeping guns from coming in," he said, "like we do with drugs."...Courthouse News

Is Farming for Electricity More Efficient?

According to a study by three California researchers, an acre planted with corn for ethanol will provide far fewer miles of transportation fuel as the same acre growing trees or switchgrass, which are then burned in power plants that provide the power to charge the batteries of electric cars. In fact, even ethanol made from cellulose, a technology that does not now exist in commercial form, is not as efficient a use of biomass as burning it in a power plant would be, the researchers found. In a paper published in the current issue of Science magazine, Chris Field, a professor of biology at Stanford and director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution, Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced, and David Lobell of Stanford’s Program on Food Security and the Environment, write that the size of the advantage would depend on many factors. These include the number of miles per gallon any particular vehicle will go on ethanol, and what a battery weighs per kilowatt-hour of energy stored. As batteries get lighter, for example, it takes less energy to move them. But the researchers estimated that a small battery-powered S.U.V. would go nearly 14,000 miles on the highway on the energy from an acre of switchgrass burned to make electricity, compared to about 9,000 miles on ethanol...NYTimes


Trailing a cattle herd from San Antonio destined for Fort Concho in 1877, Philip C. Lee reached the Kickapoo divide and got his first glimpse of the Twin Mountain country. He told a fellow cowboy, "If there's water yonder ... that's where I'm going to locate." He found the Middle Concho River and Spring Creek, west of San Angelo, and thought he had found a bonanza, said his son, John P. Lee, when relating the story to Standard-Times reporter Elmer Kelton in the late 1940s. Philip Casserle Lee was born Feb. 2, 1836, in County Cavan, Ireland. His mother died in his infancy. He was cared for by his grandmother Casserle when his father emigrated to America to work in railroad construction in Philadelphia. Young Philip fled Ireland at 11 years of age, making an ocean voyage to join his father...San Angelo Standard Times

Livestock losses could be in tens of thousands

Although exact loss numbers are still being figured, it is apparent that this year's spring blizzards killed tens of thousands of cattle and sheep in the West River region. Based on estimates putting losses at between 15 percent and 20 percent in the hardest-hit areas, the number of dead calves and cattle could hit 50,000 or more, with a potential economic loss of $25 million. Lamb and ewe losses in Butte County alone are estimated at 10,000 sheep. Other counties in northwestern sheep country could have similar losses. The cattle and sheep deaths, in some locations averaging between 20 percent and 25 percent, have put added financial pressure on livestock producers, according to state Extension Service officials. The federal Farm Service Agency is still gathering data on livestock losses. In Harding County, average losses ranged between 20 percent and 25 percent, with some ranchers losing 50 percent of their calves and lambs, according to Robin Salverson, livestock educator with the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service, based in Buffalo. With 39,000 beef cows in the county, that could mean a loss of about 8,000 calves there. Salverson said as many as 10,000 sheep also could have been lost in the county. Salverson said many of the animals died of disease such as pneumonia and intestinal disorders caused by the cold wet storms...Rapid City Journal

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

The henhousified drinker

Julie Carter

Saving everything is a guaranteed trait among rural folk. Cowboys have to and farmers, because that's what they do.

If you are married, related or a neighbor to one, you have frequently heard them say, "Well, I have to be a saver, we grew up poor. We had clean clothes, even if they were patched, and enough to eat, even though it was mostly beans." Add the "walk five miles to school every day, uphill both ways" and you have it all.

Get the violin.

Not long ago, a cowboy and his wife set out to add a drinker (water tank) for the roping cattle.

The very fact he was going to do this for his wife was a mark of love. She had been putting out the cattle every day, sometimes twice a day, and bringing them in, sometimes twice a day, through four sets of gates that had to be set coming and going.

This feeding rotation was an effort to save that high priced hay and let them pick their own groceries to stay strong enough to be roped. They also had to come in at night. There was no drinker in that trap either.

The head cowboy actually bought a new drinking tub. In preparation for installation, the couple went through the supply of short pieces of water hose, float housings, floats, valve connections, all things saved from the past decades of repairing countless drinkers. The supply was somewhat depleted, but saved just the same.

There was good supply of hose assemblies for replacements because of the frozen winters, where it was easier to change out a frozen hose than try to thaw it. The cowboy would bring the frozen hoses in and put them in the bathtub to thaw overnight to keep the rotation supply steady.

That didn't always make the frozen wife happy since the only thing that would thaw her out after a long, cold day was a hot bath.

Gathering up an armload of the hoses in lengths of one to 10 feet long, they headed out to get the new drinker connected to water.

First job was to make up a float from several old ones. And, it seems all the hoses had one end or the other that was nonfunctional and needed new connections. This required hose clamps which he cannibalized off various other components.

He finally got the valve replaced, built a hose, built a float, got a housing that almost fit over the float and soon there was water in the drinker.

This major project took the better part of the afternoon. The wife was there mostly in an advisory capacity, but did manage to hand him the pipe wrench that takes two hands to pick up, the vise grip pliers, the pipe dope and, of course, generally contribute to the fellowship.

They had been married more than 30 years, worked together daily for most of that time, and as a rule, she did not keep secrets from him.

However, she distinctly remembered being in Walmart and seeing a brand new 50-foot hose for $5.39 and new float that would add about $2 to the bill.

She thought about telling him that, but after serious consideration, decided that all afternoon for two cowboys for a $7.39 savings, was about the usual rate of pay.

Henhouse ways have saved fortunes for the cowboy world. That's why there are so many rich cowboys and why baling wire, twine and tape (electrical and duct) are such commodities.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Jesus on Property Rights and Resource Preservation

Robert Higgs

When I began my academic career, I was fortunate to work in a department of economics in which several of my colleagues, including Yoram Barzel, Steven N. S. Cheung, and Douglass C. North, had a keen interest in property rights and their implications for economic action. I soon began to work in several related research areas, including contractual choice in agriculture, and over the years a number of my articles and important parts of my books have pertained to property rights in some fashion.

Perhaps the most important proposition in the economics of property rights is that people will not care for a resource they do not own as well as they will care for a resource they do own. It is amazing how much fashionable economic belief — for example, nearly everything ever advanced in support of socialism, as well as the bulk of what passes for environmentalist policy proposals — fails to take adequate account of this virtually axiomatic proposition.

But don’t take my word for it — or even the word of any of my illustrious former collegues at the University of Washington. Take the word of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel According to John, Jesus is trying to make a point, but his listeners are not getting it, so he finally gives them a parable he can be sure they will understand (verses 11-13):

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away — and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

Hired hands must be monitored closely if the owner is to prevent them from diminishing or destroying the value of the capital he has provided for them to work with. In postbellum southern agriculture, for example, plantation owners monitored sharecroppers, to whom they furnished mules, more closely than they monitored tenants who furnished their own mules. The typical plantation layout placed the wage workers in fields closest to the owner’s house, the sharecroppers a little farther away, and the fixed-rent tenants in the most outlying areas. This arrangement allowed monitoring costs to be minimized. (Anyone who wants to see a thorough survey and analysis of these contractual arrangements might wish to consult Lee J. Alston and Robert Higgs, “Contractual Mix in Southern Agriculture since the Civil War: Facts, Hypotheses, and Tests,” Journal of Economic History 42 [June 1982]: 327-53.)

If you don’t care for economic theory or econometrics, just read the Bible.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.

Posted with his permission.

Song Of The Day #038 (Mother's Day)

It's gospel day and Mother's Day all rolled into one. Happy Mother's day to all you mothers, but especially to my mom, Wanda Eileen DuBois. I have some great pictures of her from Christmas, but all of my recent ones are on my main computer which you regular readers know is out to pasture right now. So here she is in her younger days. The feller is my dad.

Today's selection is a beautiful song and fits the occasion, "Calling My Children Home" by the bluegrass group Country Gentlemen. Hope all you mothers (and children too) enjoy.

Love you Mom.