Friday, June 19, 2009

Democrats Back to Square One on Climate Bill

House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) on Friday said climate change bill negotiators are heading back to the drawing board after discussions between Democrats “blew up last night.” A meeting between chairmen drafting the climate bill and Democrats on the Agriculture Committee “by and large blew up last night” over the issue of offsets, Peterson said. Specifically, he said, Agriculture Democrats rejected a concept pitched by bill drafters that would set money aside for a new greenhouse gas conservation program tied together with some offsets. “It’s a whole new concept being brought in at the last minute,” Peterson said. “Many didn’t like it. ... The bottom line is we’re not going to consider anything unless we actually see the language and have it for three or four days so we can figure out what it does.” Peterson said he hopes to find some resolution later Friday when he heads into another meeting with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), White House officials and farm groups...RollCall

Eleven Western Governors May Have Unknowingly Given Tax Dollars to Cap-and-Trade Project they Shunned

State taxpayer dollars may have been diverted by the staff of the Western Governors Association (WGA) -- against the wishes of many WGA Governors -- to help pay for a climate tax scheme written largely by California environmental activists that would dramatically increase families' energy costs, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). NTU has sent all Western Governors a letter on the findings of its investigation, which raised "serious questions about the use of taxpayer funds in this effort from states that did not agree to partner" in the project. The several-month investigation was based on voluminous documents released by the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Paul Chesser of the non-profit Climate Strategies Watch (CSW). CSW subsequently made the information available to NTU. "As an organization that receives tax dollars from both state and federal sources, WGA has a responsibility to operate with full transparency and public disclosure in terms of its fiscal activities, where it receives its funding and how and where it spends those funds," NTU President Duane Parde wrote to the Governors. "According to these documents ... WGA actively aligned itself with this effort and became intimately involved in a support role for the WCI's mission and objectives. It is difficult to see how tax dollars from non-WCI states did not subsidize this process." WCI is a collaborative effort among the Governors of California plus Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington that spent the last year-and-a-half developing a proposed Western regional carbon "cap-and-trade" scheme. While the work of the WCI was done in the name of those states' Governors, the WCI process was heavily influenced, and funded in part, by large "corporate-style" environmental groups and foundations. NTU's investigation uncovered a wide range of evidence that the WCI was largely run by staff of the Western Governors' Association, even though the majority of states in the WGA (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming), specifically elected not to endorse the use of their tax dollar contributions in the project...NTU

Hat tip: Paul Gessing

Utah senator confronts attorney general on tactics used in artifact raids

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) on Wednesday grilled Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. on why more than 100 federal agents were needed to round up two dozen suspects accused of stealing Native American artifacts from public land. The day after last week's raids, one of the suspects, Dr. James Redd of Blanding in southern Utah, killed himself. Residents and officials in Blanding, where 16 suspects live, complained that authorities used unnecessary force to arrest nonviolent offenders. "They came in in full combat gear, SWAT team gear, like they were going after, you know, the worst drug dealers in the world," Hatch said, according to a transcript of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington. Then, alluding to Redd, he continued, "I have no problem with going after people who violate the law. But they came in there like they were the worst common criminals on earth. And in the process, this man, it became overwhelming to him, I suppose." Hatch's remarks came a day after Redd's funeral in Blanding drew more than 1,000 people. The Utah Republican also complained about how the operation was announced -- at a news conference in Salt Lake City featuring Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Deputy Atty. Gen. David Ogden. Hatch, noting that he had been in the Senate for 33 years, said: "I felt it was like a dog-and-pony show, to me, and I know one when I see it. And this has all the classic signs of one."...LATimes

This is from the Albq. Journal:

The attorney for longtime art dealer Forrest Fenn said Wednesday his client has done nothing illegal. Fenn's home at 1021 Old Santa Fe Trail was the subject of a federal search warrant executed June 10, in which some 20 federal agents descended on the house, looking for illegally obtained antiquities and records regarding their sale or purchase. Attorney Peter Schoenburg said the agents were armed, wore flak jackets and carried a battering ram. “They were prepared to knock down the door,” he said. “At (age) 78, Fenn let them in.” Vehicles in front of Fenn's home that day came from a number of federal agencies, including the FBI, the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Department. Jones said the search of Fenn's home was part of the same case in which 24 people were indicted in a sweeping federal investigation into ancient artifacts stolen from public and tribal lands in the Southwest. The investigation originated in the bureau's Salt Lake City office and is being coordinated out of that office in conjunction with the BLM...

The R's were oh so quiet when under Bush similar tactics were used on ranchers Kit Laney and Wayne Hague.

Still, it's nice to see Hatch asking these questions. It's time the feds actions against western citizens receive scrutiny and are brought up for public debate.

The R's have complained the D's won't hold hearings on this issue. If they pushed hard enough I'll bet they could get the hearings. They also have the GAO, appropriations hearings and other vehicles they could use...if they want to.

Clean Water Act Passes out of Committee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Clean Water Restoration Act by a 12 to 7 vote Thursday. Under provisions of the act, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says farmers and ranchers would be required to obtain permits for common, everyday activities like driving a tractor near an irrigation ditch or grazing cattle near a mud hole. Tamara Thies, Chief Environmental Counsel for NCBA, says this bill has nothing to do with cleaner water. Instead, she says it reflects activists’ goals of having the federal government controlling our land use and waters. Thies called for the bill to be stopped. An amendment submitted by Senator Max Baucus received the support of the National Farmers Union Board of Directors. The board said by placing existing regulatory exemptions in legal statute and legislatively clarifying the exemptions for prior converted cropland - farmers and ranchers would be able to predict what resources are subject to Clean Water Act regulation with greater certainty...HoosierAgToday

Environment Groups Praise Senate Panel For New Clean Water Bill

Environmentalists praised Senate lawmakers on Thursday for approving legislation that more clearly defines which bodies of water are subject to federal regulation. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted, 12 to 7, to approve legislation sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., that would amend the federal law - Clean Water Act of 1972 - by replacing the term "navigable waters" with "waters of the United States," among other changes. This bill "is a careful balance of restoring and only restoring critical protections for the nations' waters that were in place prior to the Supreme Court intervention in 2001," said Jan Goldman-Carter, of the Wetlands and Water Resources Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. Additionally, Jon Devine, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council's water program, said the council is grateful that the Senate committee has addressed concerns about below-par clean water protection. Ducks Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and Izaak Walton League of American were among other groups that expressed enthusiasm about passage of the legislation...DowJones

Inhofe Leads Opposition to "Biggest Bureaucratic Power Grab in a Generation"

U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led the opposition to a bill that would have huge implications on Oklahoma and rural America. While the bill, S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act, passed out of the EPW Committee today on a party-line vote, Senator Inhofe said he believed the bill would ultimately fail on the Senate Floor. Earlier this week, in a YouTube video, Senator Inhofe called the bill the "biggest bureaucratic power grab in a generation." The little-talked about bill, seeks to "extend the scope and reach of federal water jurisdiction beyond anything that ever existed under the Clean Water Act." "The superficial changes made to this bill don´t change its underlying intention and ultimate effect: to radically expand federal power over farms, ranches, and private property," Senator Inhofe said following the business meeting. "We heard plenty of talk about a grand compromise to address concerns from rural America. Yet in the end, the revised bill, which passed on a party-line vote, still lacks support from a large swath of rural stakeholders. "I am pleased to support Senator Crapo´s hold on the bill. On the very outside chance this bill ever actually reaches the Senate floor, I will work closely with Senator Crapo and others to defeat it and ensure that we protect private property owners, farmers, ranchers, and all those affected by the bill´s regulatory overreach...AmericanChronicle

Expansive Energy Bill Advances In Congress

A Senate energy bill was voted out of committee yesterday, but not before losing the support of two Democrats and a dozen leading environmental organizations. The measure would be the third energy bill in four years -- not counting the huge energy provisions in this year's economic stimulus bill. Like the others, it is rife with controversy over new offshore drilling plans near Florida, the sharing of federal offshore oil and gas royalties, and a mandate for renewable energy that alternative-energy executives and environmentalists say is too weak. It would require 15 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2021, but would allow exemptions that would diminish that target. The proposed bill would also create a new "clean energy" financing agency that would extend subsidized loans and loan guarantees to a variety of projects, including nuclear plants. But a dozen environmental groups yesterday said they opposed it. In a joint letter to the committee, they called the renewable-electricity standard too lax because it allows noncompliance fees to go back to companies, exempts new nuclear plants and certain new coal plants from baseline calculations, and allows energy-efficiency savings to substitute for renewable energy. The groups also said allowing offshore oil and gas drilling so close to the west coast of Florida would "put Florida's coastal economies and wildlife further at risk." The environmental group Friends of the Earth, one of the 12 signatories, separately said that a lack of oversight could turn the "clean energy deployment agency" into a "giant slush fund for nuclear and coal projects."...WPost

Power company tells customers bills could go up 47 percent

Legislation before Congress could drive up electricity bills by as much as 47 percent, Grand Valley Power is telling customers in a letter. Grand Valley Power sent the letter as a part of a national effort by electrical associations around the state and country to alert their ratepayers to the potential costs of cap-and-trade legislation, which is due for a vote in the House of Representatives. The costs of cap and trade “will directly affect your electric bill,” Grand Valley Power said, urging customers to contact federal officials “on this significant ‘tax’ on your electric bill.” Those who stand to be most affected, “of course are the ones who can afford it the least,” Grand Valley Power spokesman Bill Byers said. “We think people need to be aware and voice their concerns if they have any.” The cap-and-trade measure is contained in a 946-page bill, H.R. 2454, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Ed Markey and Henry Waxman of Massachusetts and California, respectively...GrandJunctionSentinel

Oil, gas leases along Front retired

Two more developers have given up rights to explore for natural gas and oil on 18,770 acres in the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area of the Rocky Mountain Front. New leases can't be issued on federal lands along the Front, but existing lease holders are free to explore, said Gloria Flora of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, calling the lease transfer to Trout Unlimited huge. "Even if it got designated as wilderness, those leases would be active and the lease holders could retain all of their rights," said Flora, former supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The latest transfer brings the total of relinquished oil and gas leases on the Front to 83,000 acres, the Northern Rockies branch of The Wilderness Society said. In 2006, Congress banned leasing activity on federal lands on the Front. The same law also provides tax incentives for existing lease holders who choose to transfer their rights. Trout Unlimited has taken the lead in acquiring the leases and then relinquishing them to the Bureau of Land Management for permanent retirement...GreatFallsTribune

Estimate Places Natural Gas Reserves 35% Higher

Thanks to new drilling technologies that are unlocking substantial amounts of natural gas from shale rocks, the nation’s estimated gas reserves have surged by 35 percent, according to a study due for release on Thursday. The report by the Potential Gas Committee, the authority on gas supplies, shows the United States holds far larger reserves than previously thought. The jump is the largest increase in the 44-year history of reports from the committee. The finding raises the possibility that natural gas could emerge as a critical transition fuel that could help to battle global warming. For a given amount of heat energy, burning gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, as burning coal. Estimated natural gas reserves rose to 2,074 trillion cubic feet in 2008, from 1,532 trillion cubic feet in 2006, when the last report was issued. This includes the proven reserves compiled by the Energy Department of 237 trillion cubic feet, as well as the sum of the nation’s probable, possible and speculative reserves...NYTimes

After 90 Years, the Wolverine (Just One) Returns to Colorado

The last time wolverines were known to live in Colorado, Theodore Roosevelt had just died and women had not yet won the right to vote. But now, 90 years later, researchers using radio tracking devices have followed a wolverine into the state. The scientists concede that the return of one animal to a species’ ancient range is hardly cause for jubilation. “Somewhat of an anomaly,” Rick Kahn, an official in the Colorado Division of Wildlife, called it in a statement. But the researchers hope their efforts to track the young male, designated M56, will help explain why only an estimated 250 to 500 wolverines remain in the lower 48 states and what their fate might be in the face of development and climate change...NYTimes

House passes Klamath dam bill

The Oregon House last week moved a bill that puts in motion a plan to remove four Klamath River dams, despite opposition from rural Republicans who said the bill is bad policy. Senate Bill 76 previously passed the Senate largely along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposed. Rep. Ben Cannon, D-Portland, downplayed the long-term implications of the bill and characterized SB76 as little more than a rate cap for PacifiCorp customers. Several steps must be taken before dam removal gains approval, he said, including several studies, approval from federal lawmakers and federal agency officials. Voting against the bill on the other hand, he said, would put in jeopardy the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, the restoration of fish runs in the Klamath River and saddle PacifiCorp ratepayers with continued uncertainty. The bill, he said, caps ratepayer liability at $200 million. And, he said, the Oregon Department of Justice has determined there is a "low risk of taxpayer liability" if costs of dam removal exceed previous estimates. Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, spoke in opposition to the bill and said he believed passage of it gives the dam-removal plan momentum that will be hard to stop. "It's the first domino," he said. "If you tip the first one over, the whole row is going to collapse."...CapitolPress

A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants

When a company called Ausra filed plans for a big solar power plant in California, it was deluged with demands from a union group that it study the effect on creatures like the short-nosed kangaroo rat and the ferruginous hawk. By contrast, when a competitor, BrightSource Energy, filed plans for an even bigger solar plant that would affect the imperiled desert tortoise, the same union group, California Unions for Reliable Energy, raised no complaint. Instead, it urged regulators to approve the project as quickly as possible. One big difference between the projects? Ausra had rejected demands that it use only union workers to build its solar farm, while BrightSource pledged to hire labor-friendly contractors. As California moves to license dozens of huge solar power plants to meet the state’s renewable energy goals, some developers contend they are being pressured to sign agreements pledging to use union labor. If they refuse, they say, they can count on the union group to demand costly environmental studies and deliver hostile testimony at public hearings...NYTimes

Constitutional amendment a positive step
 for eminent domain

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) urged Texans to support a constitutional amendment in November that would limit entities from condemning private property for public development, but urged Governor Perry to use a special session to address eminent domain reform that would further protect property owners. "While the constitutional amendment is a good first step, there is more work to be done to address eminent domain law in the state of Texas," TSCRA President Dave Scott, a rancher from Richmond, Texas, said. 
"Texas needs eminent domain reform that would require condemning entities to adequately compensate property owners when their land is taken," Scott continued. "Additionally, stronger laws are needed to better compensate property owners for impairment to their property once it is condemned." "There is still time to reform the eminent domain laws in Texas by adding it to the priority list during a special session. Now is the time to level the playing field for property owners in Texas."...SWFarmPress

NM agency to enforce OHV laws

The state agency that oversees the enforcement of New Mexico's off-highway vehicle regulations says officers across the state will be conducting roadblocks and safety blitzes. The state Game and Fish Department announced the campaign Wednesday. The agency said the goal is to educate the public and check for compliance with the requirements and safety provisions of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act...AP

PETA wishes Obama hadn't swatted fly in interview

Norfolk-based group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter-in-chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he's bedeviled by a fly in the White House. PETA is sending President Barack Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device that allows users to trap a house fly and then release it outside. "We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. "We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals." During an interview for CNBC at the White House on Tuesday, a fly intruded on Obama's conversation with correspondent John Harwood. "Get out of here," the president told the pesky insect. When it didn't, he waited for the fly to settle, put his hand up and then smacked it dead...AP

Kidnappers free rancher related to former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Kidnappers have released a Chihuahua rancher and Mormon leader who is a distant relative of former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Chihuahua state police confirmed Wednesday night. Meredith Romney was kidnapped Monday near his ranch outside the town of Janos, about 140 miles southwest of Juárez. It was unclear whether he was freed because a ransom was paid. Gunmen shot out the tires of Romney's truck and forced him into another vehicle. They left his wife and grandson behind, relatives in Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune. Meredith Romney is a former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Colonia Juárez, a Mormon colony founded by Americans in the 1880s in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, according to the church's Web Site. The Romney family has roots in Mexico. Mitt Romney's father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was born in a Mormon community in the state of Chihuahua...ElPasoTimes

Powerball winner receives money

A South Dakota rancher who won a $232 million Powerball jackpot is officially a very rich man. Twenty-three-year-old Neal Wanless has received the $88.5 million lump sum, after-taxes payment. State lottery spokesman Mike Mueller says the money first came to the state treasurer's office this week. It was then wired to Wanless' bank. Uncle Sam also has received his money. Mueller says that amount was a little under $30 million. The $232 million jackpot Wanless won in late May was one of the biggest undivided jackpots in U.S. lottery history. AP

UI prof takes leave in midst of bighorn probe

A University of Idaho professor is taking a leave from research duties while the school completes an investigation into her bighorn sheep disease testimony at the 2009 Idaho Legislature and in federal court. The Moscow-based school said Wednesday that Marie Bulgin will step aside from administrative duties at the UI's Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center in Caldwell, and will not be involved in research projects on sheep and sheep-related diseases until the UI's investigation is completed. The move takes effect immediately. The university began investigating Bulgin, a past president of the Idaho Wool Growers Association, after The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the Caine center had evidence since 1994 that bighorns can catch diseases from domestic sheep on the open range. Bulgin was testifying in court and in front of the Legislature that no such evidence existed. Bulgin has said she didn't know about her center's studies, saying they were conducted by others. Her daughter, Jeanne Bulgin, a Caine lab technician at the time, helped with DNA analysis used in the studies...AP

Lightning kills 15 head of cattle

Although lightning strikes damaged homes and trees Wednesday night in east Hillsborough County, no one was injured. No humans, that is. A gruesome sight greeted ranch foreman Jerry Stack this morning at the Bar-S-Bar Ranch on Dorman Road. Fifteen head of cattle, all humpbacked Brahmans, lay dead in an open pasture of the 160-acre ranch, apparent victims of a lightning strike. There were 12 cows, two calves and one bull, Stack said. The ranch raises only Brahmans, and they are used only for breeding. Often, they are sold to ranchers to breed with other types of cattle to increase size. Stack, whose family owned the ranch for years before selling it to Sam Samuels, said he's seen this happen over the 50 or so years he's been in the ranch business, but not to this extent. "I've seen it many times over the years," he said this morning, "three or maybe four at a time; never this many. This is not the first time, but I've never seen this many in one strike. Practically, the whole herd is laying in a pile." By midmorning, a backhoe was next to the cattle, digging a large hole. Stack said he was planning to bulldoze the carcasses into the hole and have them buried by the end of the day...News&Tribune

Song Of The Day #065

Ranch Radio is ready for a little change of pace, so we're offering up two bluegrass fiddle tunes by Aubrey Haynie, Hamilton Special and Long Cold Winter. Long Cold Winter was composed by one of the greatest bluegrass fiddlers, Kenny Baker. Both tunes are available on Haynie's CD Bluegrass Fiddle Album.

Hey, Joe Delk and Bobby Jones, hope you enjoy these.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Champs Return to CNFR to Defend Titles

CASPER, Wyo.--- Men’s all-around champion Wyatt Altoff will be one of several contestants at the 61st annual College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) trying for a repeat victory.

Altoff won the men’s all-around in 2008 competing for New Mexico State University (NMSU) in tie-down roping and team roping. He is a senior majoring in Ag Business. This is Altoff’s fourth CNFR qualification and his last year of eligibility in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), so winning this year’s title would be very rewarding. The Oracle, Ariz., resident plans on moving up the rodeo ranks into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and hopes to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo one day.

“That’s what I’m going up there (to the CNFR) to do, defend my title,” Altoff said. “Winning it again would make my family proud and it would just be awesome.”

While Altoff has the opportunity to win two individual titles at the CNFR, that has never been his focus. He comes from a family of electricians that would go to rodeos on weekends. His dad rode bulls and his mom is a handy roper. His dad qualified for the Dodge National Circuit Finals in Pocatello, Idaho, and one of his first rodeo memories is of riding sheep there. As he got bigger, he found a love for the timed-event end of the arena.

“Since I was a little kid, I entered three events,” said Altoff who also competes in steer wrestling. “Winning an individual event has never been as important as the all around. That’s what I work for, doing well in every event, not just one.”

Altoff will return to NMSU next fall to finish his agricultural business degree. And, hopefully, he will bring another championship with him.

“The CNFR was so exciting last year,” he said. “I’m going in there with a lot of confidence. I’m going to try my hardest and let things happen. Hopefully it will turn out the same.”

Also from NMSU is last year’s tie-down roping champion Johnny Salvo, a sophomore business major. Salvo, from Horse Springs, N.M., may be Altoff’s competition as the defending tie-down roping champ has also qualified in team roping putting him in contention for the 2009 all-around title as well.

Kobi Olineck’s favorite rodeo moment was winning the goat tying title at the 2008 CNFR. She put herself in position to repeat that by winning the Great Plains Region and qualifying for her second CNFR this year. Olineck, originally from Lacombe, Alberta, is a junior at Dickinson (N.D.) State University majoring in education.

Another Great Plains Region athlete that was successful last year is Charles Schmidt, from Keldron, S.D. Schmidt won the saddle bronc title for Black Hills State University in 2008 and is making a bid for the 2009 title. The junior, history major is making his third appearance at the CNFR.

Last year, the team roping title went to Kory Bramwell from Ranger (Texas) College and Kyle Roberts from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. Roberts did the heading and Bramwell roped the heels. This year, they are returning to the Casper Events Center, but will be roping against each other instead of together.

Bramwell is making his third appearance and will be roping with Cody Burney, a freshman from Western (Snyder) Texas College. This is Roberts’ second qualification. His partner this year is Jake Cobb, a freshman at Weatherford (Texas) College.

Walla Walla Community College is bringing four of the six men that earned the 2008 men’s team championship to Casper, Steven Peebles, Rob Webb, Beau Pazky and Sean Santucci. This was the first men’s team title for the Washington college.

“It would be amazing to win it again,” said coach Buster Barton. “We know that it’s possible. I have a lot of talent on my team but the competition at the CNFR is always tough. We are definitely ready.”

A team that has seen a lot of success at the Casper Events Center is the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (UNLV) women. They have won the title twice, and finished second three times. The first year they won the title was when the rodeo moved to Casper in 1999. They were atop the leader board again last year and are bringing two of those team members, Jaymie Leach and Kassi Venturacci, in hopes of a repeat championship.

“That’s what we go to do, win,” UNLV coach Ric Griffith said. “Our team is built around quality and I’m confident we have a good chance for another title.”

The 61st annual CNFR gets underway June 14 with the “Bulls, Broncs and Breakaway” performances at 1 and 4 p.m. Rodeo competition continues with slack June 15 & 16 beginning at 7 a.m. Performances start at 7 p.m. and will be held June 16 and continue through June 20 which is the finals. All of the qualifiers compete in three rounds hoping to be among the top 12 that advance to the finals. For tickets or more information visit

From Rodeo Attitude

Cow burps unregulated by federal government, ranchers hope to stay that way

Cow burps are not regulated by the federal government. And ranchers want to keep it that way. Those burps include methane, a greenhouse gas that ranchers fear could become closely regulated under pending Environmental Protection Agency proposals. Farm and ranch groups are spreading the word that, in theory, the federal government could hit even small ranches with fees and fines for producing methane if the EPA defines the gas as endangering public health. "It's just an unnecessary burden to the rancher," Jason Scaggs, executive director of government and public affairs for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said by telephone from Austin Wednesday. Fiercely independent, ranchers such as Mark Mitchell, who runs about 250 head of cattle between Cheek and Hamshire in western Jefferson County, want the government to stay away from their livestock. On Wednesday, Mitchell fed range cubes to a herd of Brahman, Angus and Hereford cattle, who came mooing and loping across the field for the pellets. By press time, those cubes likely had become methane. Ruminants - including cattle, pigs and sheep, which digest food by softening it and rechewing it - create a quarter of the methane released in the United States each year, according to the EPA. That's just behind landfills and natural gas production and transportation...BeaumontEnterprise

When I started this blog/news roll up in 2003 I never dreamed I would be posting about "cow burps."

Just imagine, though, how this must upset the enviros and the Politically Superior Ones. Just think, these "cow burps" are causing the seas to rise, humans to migrate and the polar bear to go extinct and they are completely unregulated! They must be going crazy.

Hell, we even now have cowbelch chocolate.

The next time I see a cow belch, I'm gonna say "All right, take that you left-wing sonsabitches."

And you just watch, their next target will be...Mexican food.

Forest Service names new chief

Regional Forester Tom Tidwell was named chief of the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday, making him the third consecutive agency leader to come from the Missoula regional headquarters. A 32-year veteran of the Forest Service, Tidwell earned local praise for his ability to get people from opposing sides to work together. Tidwell replaces Gail Kimbell, who was the Northern Region supervisor in Missoula before taking over the Forest Service in 2007. She in turn replaced Dale Bosworth, who held the top job for six years. Bosworth was regional supervisor from 1997 to 2001. The Forest Service's Northern Region commands 25 million acres in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota. That includes 12 national forests and four national grasslands. Before coming to Missoula, Tidwell worked in eight other national forests in three regions. His positions included district ranger, forest supervisor and legislative affairs specialist in Washington, D.C. He was forest supervisor in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. And he has 19 years of firefighting experience, from ground crew to agency administrator...Missoulian

Senators seek investigation into San Juan arrests

Utah's top federal law enforcement official fired back at critics of last week's raid to break up a ring allegedly trafficking ancient American Indian artifacts, saying that agents followed rules and that local law enforcement was notified in advance. "This case involves significant collections of Indian artifacts taken from public and tribal lands by excavators, sellers, and collectors, including priceless artifacts sacred to Native Americans, not 'trash and trinkets' as some have suggested," U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said in a statement late Tuesday. "None of the charges in the indictments is for mere possession of a protected artifact. The charges in the indictment are for trafficking in archaeological artifacts, which includes the sale, purchase or exchange of protected artifacts," Tolman said. Tolman's defense of the raid came in response to complaints from southern Utah residents and even Utah's senators who on Tuesday asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether excessive force had been brought to bear. "The perception in the community is that more han 100 federal agents armed with assault weapons jumped out of black Suburbans and manhandled the accused unnecessarily," Sen. Orrin Hatch said Tuesday. "If that is true, I question the appropriateness of such an extreme show of force, especially given the nonviolent nature of the offenses." Sen. Bob Bennett said he does not condone illegal activity, but questions "whether the level of response was appropriate given the charges." Tolman asserts the raid was handled professionally and by-the-book. He said about 150 federal law enforcement agents and employees participated in the arrests of 23 individuals. Decisions on whether the agents would be armed were made based on established procedures, the suspect's criminal history and whether the defendant was believed to possess firearms. Tolman said that six days prior to the raid, officials notified San Juan County Sheriff Mike Lacy. Local police departments were also warned in advance. San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams said that Sheriff Lacy is conducting an internal investigation into the arrests, interviewing each of the people arrested and asking them to describe what happened and whether they were abused...SaltLakeTribune

Mother fought off cougar to save toddler from attack

Conservation officers in Squamish, B.C., continue to hunt for two more cougars after a rash of attacks, including one in which a mother fought off an attack on her daughter, 3, who couldn't understand why the big kitty didn't want to "play nice." Five conservation officers aided by two dogs and their handlers eventually tracked the cat through several yards and eventually shot it just off Depot Road in the Brackendale neighbourhood, about 60 kilometres north of Vancouver, four hours after the attack Tuesday evening. DNA samples taken from the cougar will be used to determine whether it was the one that attacked the child, they said. The cougar is the second killed by conservation officers since Saturday. In the attack on Tuesday, the cougar pounced on Maya Espinosa from behind as she and her mother were walking their dog and picking berries in Fisherman's Park near the Squamish River. Maureen Lee told CBC News she was turning away to pick a berry when she thought she saw another dog approaching out of the corner of her eye, but it was the cougar coming to attack her daughter, Maya. "All of a sudden it just flew on her, rolled her a couple of times and grabbed her under its belly on the ground like in the fetal position," Lee recalled. "She [Maya] was on her back and he had his paws in her head, and I just knew I had to react quick, so I just jumped in there and wedged myself between the cougar and her on the ground, and I just got up and threw it off my back and grabbed her and booked it," she said. The toddler suffered puncture wounds to her left arm and head, but was recovering well, her mother said...cbcnews

The Clean Water Restoration Act Means Troubled Waters For Property Owners

...For years, the 1972 Clean Water Act has been misused in the name of protecting Americas waters and wetlands. The statute’s original limitation that its key provisions only apply to navigable waters was largely ignored. Instead, the law was broadly applied to a wide variety of circumstances, including remote and inconsequential drainage ditches or temporary puddles and even to completely dry land. The statute’s complex and costly provisions interfered with the economic use of the lands it encompassed, including farming and ranching operations, construction of housing and other buildings, and domestic oil and gas production. Fortunately, two Supreme Court decisions, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States in 2001, and Rapanos v. United States in 2006 partially reined in these excesses. Now, the CWRA seeks to overturn these Supreme Court decisions and make the statute more expansive than ever. In fact, it would turn the Clean Water Act into what some analysts believe to be the most dangerous federal intrusion on private property rights in existence. First, it seeks to remove the limitation that the statute only apply to navigable waters and apply it to all waters of the United States. Then it seeks to broadly define such waters as not just “all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams),” but also “mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds….” Yes, prairie potholes. Note also that the CWRA makes clear that intrastate as well as interstate waters are the purview of the feds. The CWRA is an invitation for federal regulators (or environmental organizations filing lawsuits) to shut down any use of land that they don’t like so long as there is a little water somewhere in the vicinity. If the past is any guide, this law will be used to stop a tremendous amount of economic activity. Though not as far-reaching as Waxman Markey, the CWRA would be a serious blow to the rural economy, not to mention private property rights...TheFoundry

NCBA, PLC Urge Senate To Stop Federal Land Grab, Protect Private Property Rights

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) are urging the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to oppose the so-called “Clean Water Restoration Act,” (CWRA) scheduled for markup tomorrow. This dangerous bill would grant the federal government sweeping new regulatory authority, posing serious concerns about government infringement on private-property rights. NCBA and PLC sent the following letter to members of the EPW Committee today: “The Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), scheduled to be marked-up tomorrow in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, would significantly expand federal jurisdiction over private farms and ranches. This bill amounts to nothing less than a giant federal land grab and would be disastrous to U.S. agriculture. On behalf of the men and woman of America’s farming and ranching community, you must vote against this bill. Anything less is a vote against agriculture. “This bill is unnecessary and unjustifiable, and sets a dangerous precedent towards the continuing erosion of our fundamental constitutional rights as American citizens. No compromise or exemption will cover all of the farms and ranches in the U.S. To fully protect agriculture, the term “navigable” must remain in the Clean Water Act. ..

South Dakota couple files lawsuit against FS for mine destruction

A South Dakota couple today filed a lawsuit against the United States in South Dakota federal district court to recover for the purposeful destruction of the couple’s property by federal employees. Arron and Judy Marston, who own valuable mining claims in Custer County, South Dakota, in the Black Hills, filed their lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which waives federal sovereign immunity for civil wrongs committed by federal agents. In July 2008, the Marstons had filed a FTCA claim alleging that, when U.S. Forest Service employees or their agents entered upon the Marstons’ claims and bulldozed the drift, shaft, and trenches, the U.S. Forest Service engaged in unlawful trespass, negligently destroyed property, and committed a nuisance, as those terms are defined by South Dakota law. In their claim, the Marstons contend that the cost of restoring the drift, shaft, and trenches is $400,185.46. Because the United States took no action on the claim, the Marstons may sue in federal court. “The behavior of employees of the federal government in this matter shocks the conscience,” said William Perry Pendley of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represents the Marstons. “It is astonishing that Forest Service and its employees believe they may destroy private property.”...MSLF

Judge won't reconsider order on 'roadless rule'

A federal judge in Wyoming won't reconsider his nationwide order blocking a Clinton-era ban on road construction in nearly 60 million acres of national forest. U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer on Monday denied a request from the federal government to reconsider his order last August declaring the so-called "roadless rule" invalid nationwide. Brimmer's is the latest in a series of conflicting court decisions that have put the roadless rule's legal status in doubt. Citing the conflicting court opinions, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month issued a directive reinstating the Clinton-era roadless rule for one year. The 2001 rule banned road-building and logging in more than 58 million acres of remote national forests, mostly in the West. Vilsack said last month that his interim directive provided clarity to help protect national forests until the Obama administration develops a long-term roadless policy. The directive gave Vilsack sole decision-making authority over all proposed forest management or road construction projects in designated roadless areas in all states except Idaho. Nevertheless, environmental groups on Tuesday promised to quickly pursue their pending appeal of Brimmer's ruling from last August. Brimmer's ruling ordered a permanent injunction against the federal government's roadless rule in response to a lawsuit filed by the state of Wyoming. Brimmer said the rule was enacted in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act. "By violating NEPA, the USDA and the Forest Service neglected to consider all of the potentially negative environmental impacts the 2001 roadless rule would impose," Brimmer said in his ruling this week...AP

Rep. Lamborn prevents Pinon expansion halt

There was a showdown in the House Armed Services Committee late Tuesday night and Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., prevailed in stopping an amendment that would have shut down the Army's effort to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. Lamborn, a member of the panel, said the committee strongly rejected by a show of hands an amendment that came from Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., that would have stopped the Army from expanding any training area in the future without specific authorization from Congress. The debate came late Tuesday night as the full committee was approving the 2010 Defense Authorization Act, which approves Pentagon programs for the coming year. Lamborn's 5th Congressional District includes Fort Carson and Colorado Springs and he supports expanding Pinon Canyon to provide more training area for Fort Carson soldiers...PuebloChieftain

Salazar eases Piñon stand

U.S. Rep. John Salazar called a truce in the fight over the expansion of the Army's Piñon Canyon training facility Wednesday, saying that he no longer plans to push Congress to enact a permanent ban of the Army's effort. The ban had been Salazar's line in the sand in his fight with the Army over the training facility's expansion, and he said several times that he would get it passed this year. But it was becoming increasingly clear that a permanent ban would be politically tricky, earning withering attacks from Republicans — including the two from Colorado. The Manassa Democrat lost a key vote in a House committee Tuesday night on a related issue, with several fellow Democrats jumping ship. Given that the Army already can't expand without lots of money approved by Congress, Salazar decided there were enough restrictions in place that for now he will no longer push the legislative ban. "At the end of day, we have concluded that Piñon Canyon is off the table for the foreseeable future," said Eric Wortman, Salazar's spokesman, noting that Salazar can continue to deny funding for the expansion through his spot on the House Appropriations Committee...DenverPost

Senator Looks to Lure Army to Texas

It might be a long shot, but U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is working to bring more soldiers to Texas posts -- including Fort Bliss --from as far away as Colorado. Hutchison has her sights on soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., which has run into problems expanding a training range about 150 miles southeast of the post. The Texas Republican said those soldiers would have the best training available in the Army and could be rapidly deployed overseas from either Fort Bliss or Fort Hood, which is in central Texas. "Fort Carson does not have the training ranges that are easily accessible to keep these troops in good shape," Hutchi son said. She is speaking with top Army officials to try to relocate those soldiers to Texas. But, she said, there is another possibility for sending additional soldiers to Fort Bliss that "has more potential." The Army announced last week it would relocate a 3,800-soldier armored brigade combat team that initially was headed to White Sands Missile Range. White Sands lost the brigade, but Hutchison said it would be appropriate to send it to Fort

If there is plenty of space elsewhere, why are they expanding Fort Carson? As I've posted before, having enough space or land is not their problem:

"The Base Structure Report(pdf) for FY 2008 contains the land profile for the Department of Defense. The introduction to the report states, "The Depart of Defense remains one of the world's largest 'landlords' with a physical plant consisting of more than 545,700 facilities (buildings, structures and linear structures) located on more than 5400 sites, on approximately 30 million acres."

The land profile further refines that to 29.8 million acres owned or controlled by DOD. More than 98% of the land is in the US, with the Army managing 52% and the Air Force 33%.

29.8 million acres equals 46,562.5 square miles. How do you put that in perspective? Let's try this: Of the Thirteen Original Colonies, six of them (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire & Massachusetts) would fit into the land mass controlled by DOD, with 8359 square miles or 5.3 million acres left over. In other words, you could add another New Jersey.

29.8 million acres and they don't have enough land to practice? They may have a turf problem or a setting of priorities problem, but they don't have a lack of land problem."

End Piñon Canyon expansion plans

The United States Army is not known for accepting defeat, but there is a time and place for everything. And it is past time for the Army to give up its plan to grab thousands of acres of Colorado. The idea was to expand the Army's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site southeast of Pueblo to accommodate large-unit maneuvers with exercises involving hundreds of tracked vehicles. Conceived at the height of the Cold War, the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site already covers more than 200,000 acres, much of it acquired through eminent domain. The Army's plan was to increase that by more than 400,000 additional acres. (Although opponents claim to have leaked documents saying the real goal is in the millions of acres.)It now seems increasingly certain that is not going to happen. On June 2, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law House Bill 1317. It changed a section of the Colorado Revised Statutes to specifically deny permission for the federal government to acquire any land for Piñon Canyon. Among the bill's sponsors was state Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus. Then Tuesday, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa - whose district includes Durango and Pueblo - announced that an appropriations funding ban that forbids any money being spent on the Piñon Canyon expansion will continue for another year. Some have expressed concern that without the new territory the Army might close Colorado Springs' Fort Carson and leave the state. But the Piñon Canyon site is already one of the military's largest training areas. Where would the Army go? A better question might be to ask if such a facility is really needed given the nature of the enemies facing the United States. Avoiding battle with superior forces is precisely what asymmetrical warfare is all about. And with the United States' advantage in air power and technology, it is likely that U.S. troops will continue to face the kind of tactics they see in Iraq and Afghanistan - not tank battles. There are also numerous environmental objections, as well as complaints from historians and archeologist about ancient artifacts that would be put at risk. But the best reason to drop the Piñon Canyon plan is simple fairness. Absent an obvious and overarching national security need - something not in evidence - the farmers, ranchers and residents of Southeast Colorado simply do not deserve to have their land taken from them. The Army should acknowledge that and move on. DurangoHeraldNews

Global Warming Bill Is A Job-Killer

The party that cares so much about jobs for "working families" sure has a funny way of saving them. Amid pre-summer frosts and hailstorms, the White House this week released a sky-is-falling report on global warming that outdoes even Al Gore in predicting doomsday scenarios. "Heat waves will become more frequent and intense," the report warns, unleashing an apocalypse of "major insect outbreaks" and herbicide-resistant, garden-choking . . . "weeds" (horrors!). "Heat waves" in the Midwest and "extreme heat" in the Northeast will lead to "increases in heat-related deaths." Really? Tell that to berry farmers in Michigan, whose crops have been delayed by a cold snap for the second spring in a row. Or New Englanders, who have seen temperatures drop four degrees below normal. It's all a set-up for a painful government fix. The public duly alarmed, the White House embraces a House bill to control industrial carbon emissions through a punishing cap-and-trade scheme. The Democrats' energy bill would have the effect of de-industrializing America and cost millions of jobs — something its authors, Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, indirectly acknowledge. Buried in the fine print of their jobs-killing bill is a provision to provide relief against massive dislocations. "The Democrats' bill has an unemployment provision that provides 70% of your job benefit for at least three years — in addition to any other unemployment benefits — if you lose your job because of that bill," Rep. Joe Barton, D-Texas, said. "They, at least tacitly, recognize that their bill is going to cost millions and millions of jobs." In other words, the cap on emissions requires a cap on job losses...IBD

DEQ continues issuing permits to coal-bed methane producers using 'flawed' formula

Wyoming environmental regulators are still reviewing an independent report that found flaws in how the state determines pollution limits in certain coal-bed methane discharge water. "We are taking a very serious look at that consultants' report," John Corra, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said Tuesday. "It's new information for us, and we want to dig into it. And we're just not ready yet to say much about it." Meantime, the state continues to review and issue water discharge permits that some contend will result in damage to agriculture land. "We haven't seen anything from DEQ other than business as usual, using the same scientifically invalid methodology," said Jill Morrison, an organizer with the Sheridan-based Powder River Basin Resource Council. Corra said his agency eventually will submit comment to the state Environmental Quality Council about the report. The council is accepting public comment until Sept. 30. Some farmers, ranchers and conservation groups contend the state allows coal-bed methane developers to discharge water with too much sodium and salt, which can damage land and vegetation. The issue is important because stricter controls on salt and sodium could force industry to undertake more costly measures in handling the water...AP

Groups revise lawsuit over shale development

A revised lawsuit against the federal government says it failed to adequately consider the potential climate-change implications of designating 2 million acres of public land for possible oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Thirteen conservation groups made the claim this week in an amendment to their previous lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s allocation of lands for potential oil shale and tar sands development in the three states. The groups say studies suggest 10 new coal-fired power plants would be needed to support a level of initial oil shale development that the BLM predicts could reach 1 million barrels a day in Colorado. The amended lawsuit also includes new allegations that the BLM failed to properly consider air-quality impacts and failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required by the Endangered Species Act. The groups raise the wildlife concern in an amendment to a tandem lawsuit challenging new BLM commercial regulations for oil shale leasing...GrandJunctionDailySentinel

EPA Plan to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Could Ruin Rural Economy

Last year’s rumors that the Environmental Protection Agency was pursuing a tax on methane “emissions” from U.S. livestock generated a strong outcry among many members of our nation’s agricultural community. While concerns over this direct “cow tax” turned out to be premature, the EPA is now pursuing real regulations that could levy damaging consequences on domestic farmers and ranchers. The EPA’s proposed ruling that greenhouse gas emissions should be regulated under the Clean Air Act as a threat to public health would have a severe impact on all sectors of the American economy, including our heartland: the U.S. agricultural industry. Since methane, a natural byproduct of cattle and other farm animals, is considered a greenhouse gas, this proposed finding would expose America’s ranchers to unprecedented legal liability. Though no longer faced with a direct tax on bovine, local farms and small businesses would likely still suffer a hit to their livelihood, incurring steep costs for assessment and preparation for the threat of livestock litigation. Moreover, farmers would also be liable for crop production emissions such as nitrous oxide from fertilizer, methane from rice production and auto emissions from tractor plowing. This kind of ruinous litigation won’t be aimed at just large commercial operations. In fact, federal researchers from the Department of Agriculture estimate that: Even very small agricultural operations would meet a 100-tons-per-year emissions threshold. For example, dairy facilities with more than 25 cows, beef cattle operations of more than 50 cattle, swine operations with more than 200 hogs, and farms with more than 500 acres of corn may need to get a Title V permit. Should the EPA rule that greenhouse gas emissions are a health hazard, more than just America’s aggies would be affected. Other segments of society such as family-run dry cleaners, diners, cobblers and small businesses would be forced to close their doors when faced with the staggering costs to remediate “damages” caused by years of emissions. Just the threat of defending against such lawsuits would send destructive economic ripples through rural America...RollCall

Song Of The Day #064

Today's Ranch Radio will feature the man with the cleanest name in country music, Ernest Tubb. This song is available on his 5 CD box set Yellow Rose Of Texas.

Here's Ernest singing his 1954 recording of Journey's End.

Billy Byrd does a fine job on this cut too. Nothing Fancy, just...beautiful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CBO Projects Waxman-Markey Would Cut Cumulative Emissions by Just 0.5% Through 2020

The Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454 or the American Clean Energy and Security Act) would reduce cumulative emissions by just 0.5% between 2012 and 2020 in the sectors of the U.S. economy regulated under the bill's cap and trade program, according to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the legislation. The CBO analysis is significant in that it is the first published predictions from a government agency about the likely actual impact on U.S. emissions resulting from the version of Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee and now heading towards debate on the House floor...BreakthroughInstitute

Breaking Down the Costs of Waxman-Markey Global Warming Legislation

The idea behind cap and trade is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by putting a price on the right to emit carbon and other greenhouse gases on businesses. Because fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide, cap and trade becomes a costly tax on fossil fuels and the energy they generate. Since 85 percent of America’s energy needs come from fossil fuels, cap and trade would be massive tax on energy consumption if enacted. How high a tax? The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis found that by 2035 gasoline prices would increase 58 percent, natural gas prices would increase 55 percent, home heating oil would increase 56 percent, and worst of all, electricity prices would jump 90 percent. But the direct tax on household energy use is just the beginning. The energy tax also hits producers. As the higher production costs ripple through the economy, the household pocketbooks get hit again and again. When all the tax impacts have been added up, the average per-family-of-four costs rise by $2,979 per year. In the year 2035 alone, the cost is $4,609. And the costs per family for the whole energy tax aggregated from 2012 to 2035 are $71,493. But just about everything we produce uses energy. As energy prices increase, those costs will be passed onto the consumer and reflected in the higher prices we pay for products. Higher energy prices also result in a slower economy, which means less production, higher unemployment and reduced income...Heritage

Climate Bill - Rural folks to face higher increase in utility bills than urban dwellers

Now Peterson, who because of his demands has gotten himself face-time with Waxman, Markey and Pelosi, is being approached by Democrats beyond his committee who are eager to take advantage of his access to the top Democrats. “Now an even bigger impediment to the bill than agriculture is the electricity allowances,” Peterson explained on Tuesday, citing another of the measure’s provisions. Peterson said the Waxman-Markey formula for distributing allowances to electricity producers heavily favors populous states over rural ones, meaning rural-state consumers may face a disproportionately high increase on their utility bills compared with consumers in urban areas. “You have certain states that get significantly more allowances than they actually need, and then you get other states that are, like, at 45 percent of what they need,” he said. “This has created a big revolt with the members. I just had probably six or seven of them come up to me — including three committee chairmen — talking about this.” Peterson alluded to the bill’s sponsors, who hail from California and Massachusetts, favoring their regional areas. “It looks to us that they made a deal on the two coasts with the big guys and didn’t think about [farmers and the Midwest],” Peterson said. “So this, I would say right now, is a bigger stumbling block for Waxman than the ag stuff.”...TheHill

Agriculture Showdown to Shape Next-Gen Offsets, Biofuels

Debates over two looming shifts for the role of agriculture in fighting climate change reached a fever pitch this week. The hot topics included key pieces of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill, and the U.S. EPA’s proposed changes to the renewable fuel standard, which will set minimum volume requirements for different types of biofuels used in U.S. transportation fuels each year, starting in 2010. The outcome of these debates will go a long way to determine how big a player the agriculture industry will be in upcoming carbon and alternative fuel markets — and offer a glimpse of how the government evaluates politically-charged climate solutions with big lobbying budgets behind them. This week’s battles — in a U.S. EPA hearing, fuel standard workshops, negotiations among legislators and in the flurry of press releases that surrounded it all — represent some of the final showdowns in a high-stakes fight over how first-generation biofuels that use agricultural crops for feedstock and agriculture-based carbon offsets will figure into, and compete, in a rapidly changing market...earth2tech

Making the Case for Climate as a Migration Driver

A new report on human migration and climate change, released as delegates from 182 countries gathered in Bonn over the past two weeks to continue hammering out some preliminary language for a new global climate treaty, made its case plainly: “The impacts of climate change are already causing migration and displacement,” the document began, adding that by midcentury, “the prospects for the scope and scale could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before.” The study, titled “In Search of Shelter” and written by a large cast from several nongovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, CARE International and Columbia University, combined climatological and demographic data with field interviews of migrants already on the move. The aim was to provide an overview, with rich maps and an oft-lacking dose of empiricism, of where the changing environment is driving decision-making on the ground and which areas are likely to be hit hardest if things get worse...NYTimes

Sandor Got Obama’s Nod for Chicago-Style Climate Law

A Brooklyn-born economist who gave up teaching at the University of California at Berkeley in 1973 to trade the first Treasury-bond futures is getting his way with the biggest change in U.S. environmental policy in 20 years. And he has an unwitting ally from Chicago. Legislation to let polluters buy and sell carbon-dioxide emissions like pork bellies is the outgrowth of Richard L. Sandor, founder of the Chicago-based network of people trading pollution permits from Beijing to Brussels known as Climate Exchange. It doesn’t hurt that the six-year-old market got $1.1 million of seed money from the city’s Joyce Foundation, whose board included a little-known state senator named Barack Obama. Now the 44th president is determined to enact America’s first limits on greenhouse gases. That the 67-year-old Sandor finds himself working with Henry Waxman, the California Democrat sponsoring the bill to cap emissions from refiners, utilities and manufacturers, is a belated recognition that Chicago-style pragmatism may prevail in the battle between business and environmentalists...Bloomberg

Government Report Details Climate Impacts

The U.S. government’s newest survey of the impacts of climate change is meant to “educate” the public and policy makers about an issue that keeps slipping down the priority list of most Americans. The new report lays out a detailed picture of the impacts of rising temperatures in the U.S., from rising sea levels that threaten the Southeast, to water shortages that will dessicate the Southwest, to the decline of the maple syrup industry in the Northeast. The upshot? Rising temperatures are indisputable and “primarily” human-induced. Climate change poses all kinds of risks to every aspect of American life, but prompt action to curb the emission of greenhouse-gases could help stave off the worst of the impacts. The report is broken down by impacts to different regions and to different economic sectors, here...WSJ

If You Hug the Trees, Can You Have More Renewable Energy and Protect the Forest?

The role of forests in meeting proposed clean energy mandates has become a sticking point as lawmakers consider broader climate and energy legislation. At issue is a definition of what sources of biomass are "renewable" -- a word that is easy to say but harder to put into practice. Varying interpretations have so far appeared in everything from the tax code to the farm bill. The tension comes from the balancing of interests typical of land-use policy decisions. Without looser restrictions, some fear that renewable fuel and electricity mandates may be harder to meet. That argument is especially strong in the Southeast, which has wide swaths of forests but is poor in other renewable resources like wind and solar. But environmentalists oppose easing restrictions on forests, arguing that natural forest habitats could wind up being harvested or thinned with too much enthusiasm or even undergo wholesale conversion to tree farms. Add into the mix the interests of forest landowners suffering from the economic slump, who need income to justify keeping their lands out of developers' hands, along with those of pulp and paper companies that fear rising raw material prices, and the issue becomes even more muddied...NYTimes

Is Obama caving in to coal?

Clear-cutting forests, then blowing the tops off of mountains and dumping the debris into stream beds is an environmentally catastrophic way of mining for coal. President Obama and the green activists he has appointed to run his interior-focused regulatory agencies surely know this. But their contortions over mountaintop mining would make a Cirque du Soleil performer wince. The administration last week announced a number of new restrictions on mountaintop coal mining in the six Appalachian states where it occurs. They are minimal steps that, among other things, will make it harder for mining companies to escape environmental review when seeking permits to blow up mountains. For this, Obama merits polite applause. That's in contrast to the much-deserved boos he received last month from environmentalists after his administration quietly sent a letter to coal industry loyalist Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-W.Va.) saying the Environmental Protection Agency wouldn't stand in the way of at least two dozen new mountaintop-removal projects. It was a dismaying move from an administration that in March had blocked several such projects on grounds that they needed further review -- yet some of the ones it greenlighted in May were as big and damaging as the ones it blocked two months earlier. What gives?...LATimes

Global Cooling Is Impacting Agriculture

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years. There was midsummer snow not just in Norway and the Cairngorms, but even in Saudi Arabia. At least in the southern hemisphere it is winter, but snowfalls in New Zealand and Australia have been abnormal. There have been frosts in Brazil, elsewhere in South America they have had prolonged droughts, while in China they have had to cope with abnormal rain and freak hailstorms, which in one province killed 20 people. There are obviously various reasons for this concern as to whether the world can continue to feed itself, but one of them is undoubtedly the downturn in world temperatures, which has brought more cold and snow since 2007 than we have known for decades. Three factors are vital to crops: the light and warmth of the sun, adequate rainfall and the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis. As we are constantly reminded, we still have plenty of that nasty, polluting CO2, which the politicians are so keen to get rid of. But there is not much they can do about the sunshine or the rainfall...Telegraph

Top U.S. officials pledge 'livable communities' to fight global warming

Three members of President Barack Obama's cabinet today announced a Partnership for Sustainable Communities, to boost affordable housing and alternative transportation to protect the environment and curb emissions that contribute to global warming. The effort adds the Environmental Protection Agency to a "livable communities" initiative that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said was modeled on Portland's mixed use neighborhoods, streetcars and light rail. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson joined LaHood in testifying at a Senate committee hearing on the topic today. The officials outlined six livability principles that will guide their efforts: Provide more transportation choices; promote equitable, affordable housing, enhance economic competitiveness; support existing communities; coordinate policies and leverage investment and value communities and neighborhoods. The principles emphasize redevelopment in existing cities rather than growth in new suburban areas. They also push alternatives to driving, such as mass transit and walkable neighborhoods, and economic development through "reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities (and) services."...Oregonian

Study Says U.S. Winds Are Slowing

A new study holds potentially unwelcome news for wind power developers: wind speeds in the United States have dropped 15 to 30 percent over the course of about 30 years. And one possible cause, according to the authors, is climate change. The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Geophysical Research — Atmospheres, finds that “wind speeds generally across the country are declining, more so east of the Mississippi,” according to one of the authors, Eugene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University. He said that in scattered pockets of the country, wind speeds have risen. The study used two data sets, one spanning the years 1973 to 2000 and the other from 1973 to 2005. The findings may not translate directly into trouble for the wind industry, Mr. Takle noted, since the measurements he used came from anemometer readings at airports — instruments that tend to be roughly 30 feet above the surface. By contrast, wind turbines are 250 to 400 feet tall – and the winds at that height might behave entirely differently, he said...NYTimes

Western states want reins on federal power

Frustrated by the expanded power of Washington, a growing number of state lawmakers are defying the federal government and passing legislation aimed at rolling back the reach of Congress and President Obama. While many measures are symbolic ones declaring the sovereignty of states, some Westerners are taking more dramatic steps. One Utah lawmaker wants to limit federal law enforcement in his state. In Montana, legislators enacted a bill that flagrantly ignores federal firearm restrictions, hoping to force a constitutional showdown. Supporters of the bill want the Supreme Court to eliminate gun controls and, eventually, curtail Washington's ability to set policy on a wide range of issues, including education, civil rights, law enforcement and land use. "It's about states' rights," said state Rep. Joel Boniek, an independent-turned-Republican from nearby Livingston, who introduced the bill. "Guns are just the vehicle." The Montana Firearms Freedom Act seeks to exempt from federal regulation any firearm, gun component or ammunition made and kept within the state's borders. The legislation, signed by Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, becomes law Oct. 1, though federal officials will likely act quickly to keep the measure from taking effect...LATimes

Water supply for millions at risk from fires in Rocky Mtn. forests

Water supplies for 33 million people could be endangered if millions of acres of beetle-ravaged forests in the Rocky Mountains catch fire, a U.S. Forest Service official said Tuesday. Rick Cables, the chief forester for the Rocky Mountain region, told a House panel that the headwaters of the Colorado River, an important water source for residents of 13 states, are in the middle of 2.5 million acres of dead or dying forests in Colorado and southern Wyoming. Severe fires, fueled by these trees, could damage or destroy reservoirs, pipes and other infrastructure that supplies water to millions of people in that region. Moreover, wildfires can "literally bake the soil," leaving behind a water-repellant surface that sheds rain and leads to severe erosion and debris, he said. The loss of so many trees also will reduce shade in the region, which in turn could reduce water supplies in the hot, dry summer months and accelerate snowmelt in the spring, he said. A Forest Service analysis indicates people in San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Tucson, Ariz. who get their tap water from the Colorado River get one quart of every gallon from national forests in the Rocky Mountain region...AP

Judge: Cattle can return to Malheur forest grazing sites

Ranchers will be able to turn out cattle on seven allotments in Oregon's Malheur National Forest as part of a ruling issued Monday, June 15, by a federal judge in Portland. U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty ruled that grazing will be allowed in the allotments as long as the U.S. Forest Service follows a strict regimen of monitoring, fencing and cattle management. The ruling lifts a ban on grazing in two allotments, Murderers Creek and Lower Middle Fork, issued by Haggerty in May 2008. Ranchers who rely on the national forest for grazing were expected to turn out their cattle on Friday, June 19. Environmentalist groups involved in the lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service had requested that Haggerty completely prohibit cattle grazing in eight allotments in the national forest. The U.S. Forest Service requested limited grazing on all but the Long Creek allotment, which the agency agreed to totally rest this year. In his ruling, Haggerty said the agency had demonstrated that its grazing management plans for 2009 would not jeopardize threatened steelhead in the area...CapitalPress

House panel extends ban on Colorado Army expansion

Colorado congressman John Salazar says a House subcommittee has voted to continue a ban on spending Department of Defense money on expanding an Army training site in southeast Colorado. Salazar says the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies approved the language Tuesday as part of the military construction budget...AP

NM ranchers opposed to national animal ID system

More than 100 ranchers attending a meeting in Laguna Pueblo told U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives on Tuesday that they're opposed to a new livestock identification system. The USDA's National Animal Identification System has been billed as a way for producers and livestock officials to respond quickly to animal disease. Under the program, animals will carry devices or tags with a unique number for life. New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association executive director Caren Cowan says many ranchers feel the system would increase costs and invade their privacy. Alisa Ogden, the association's president, says switching from the state's 120-year-old branding system would be like redoing something that already works. AP

Scientists: Fish can learn despite small brains

Scientists have claimed the way fish learn could be closer to humans than previously thought. According to a study by St Andrews and Durham universities the nine-spined stickleback can compare the behaviour of other sticklebacks with their own experience and make a series of choices which can potentially lead to better food supplies. "The findings show that big brains, like those in humans, are not necessarily needed as a pre-requisite for cumulative culture," they write...inthenews

Damn, that makes me look bad.

Song Of The Day #063

On the Ranch Radio this morning is the Ol' Pea Picker himself, Tennessee Ernie Ford singing Anticipation Blues. You can find this song and much more of his early work on the 30 track CD Rock City Boogie.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Old West Mystery (NM), Solved in D.C.

He was little more than a teenager, about 19 or 20 years of age. Small and slight for warfare on the frontier, he had the delicate facial bones of a boy and had likely once been a slave. He was a Buffalo Soldier: one of the legendary African American members of the U.S. Army who served at remote and Godforsaken military outposts in the years after the Civil War. But his grave outside an abandoned New Mexico fort had been violated. His bones were scrambled. And investigators believe his skull, still with most of its hair, became a relic hunter's trophy before it was returned to authorities in a paper bag. Last month, experts working at the Smithsonian Institution matched the young man's skull with a skeleton exhumed from the fort's cemetery, solving a gruesome mystery of looted graves, purloined artifacts, and life and death on the old frontier. It was part of a project of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and federal land, water and law enforcement agencies looking into the decades-long ransacking of the cemetery outside Fort Craig, in New Mexico...WPost

Forest Service will pay legal fees for whistleblower's widow

A U.S. district judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Forest Service to pay the legal fees for a Tongass National Forest whistleblower's widow in her lawsuit against the agency. Judge John Sedwick of the Alaska District Court is the same judge who sided with Glen Ith, a Forest Service employee, in his 2006 lawsuit against the Forest Service over illegal road building on the Tongass. After Ith filed that lawsuit and appealed two Tongass timber sales he had worked on, the Forest Service put him on administrative leave and investigated whether to fire him. Eight months into that forced vacation, Ith's wildlife biology job was eliminated in a downsizing. He died of a heart attack four days later. At the time, the Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency, was investigating whether the Forest Service had retaliated against this whistleblower. They closed the case when he died. Ith's widow, Marketa Ith, would not let it rest. She sued for the complete set of her husband's personnel files, many of which shed light on his superiors' discomfort with his criticism and their discussions of whether and how to remove him... The Forest Service, in out-of-court negotiations, produced many of the documents and withheld others in part or entirety. But in checking the document logs, Ith's attorneys found the agency had withheld some documents it shouldn't have. The agency had not actually produced some documents it said it had given her. One document referenced another that wasn't on the agency's log at all. And some of the documents - written by an agency ethics and personnel relations chief - contained instructions to destroy correspondence about Ith so it couldn't be used against the agency in court. "Tell everyone not to keep e-mails related to this matter," wrote the chief, Melvin Shibuya, who is based in Albuquerque, N.M. After such discrepancies, Ith would not take the agency at its word. She asked the U.S. District Court judge Sedwick to make the Forest Service swear under oath that it had produced all the documents and describe its search for them. Judge Sedwick agreed with her and ordered the agency to do so by June 30. "Based on the facts of this case, the court is not persuaded by the Forest Service's unsworn statement that it has made a good faith effort to respond to Ms. Ith's FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and that it produced all the documents listed in her FOIA appeal." "The court is not required 'to accept glib government assertions of complete disclosure or retrieval,'" his order says, quoting a previous case...JuneauEmpire

In a Small Fish, a Large Lesson In Renewable Energy's Obstacles

President Barack Obama wants to boost the nation's production of energy from the sun as part of an effort to double renewable power generation in three years. Among the obstacles to Mr. Obama's agenda: the imperiled Devil's Hole pupfish. Patrick Putnam is a field manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in southern Nevada. His job is to help the government decide whether the dozens of solar-energy projects that companies have proposed building on federal land in his jurisdiction pose undue environmental risks. After reviewing some applications for as long as 18 months, Mr. Putnam's office hasn't approved any. He says his office hopes to make decisions on at least three by the end of 2010, but that will be "a monumental task." Across the West, companies that want to build renewable energy projects are rushing to stake claims on public land, hoping to grab federal subsidies and take advantage of state mandates that require utilities to obtain more power from renewable sources. The surge is straining the Bureau of Land Management, which is more accustomed to processing permit requests from oil and natural gas companies. The logjam highlights a dilemma for the Obama administration: how to speed the transition to a clean-energy economy -- a shift the president has promised will create millions of jobs -- without trampling the legacy of a previous generation of conservationists, who left in place federal laws and regulations designed to control exploitation of federal lands or protect the habitats of endangered species...WSJ

Hatch and Bennett call artifacts raid overkill

Utah's U.S. senators say they want Congress to investigate the actions of federal agents who arrested two dozen people for the theft of ancient artifacts stolen from public and tribal lands in the Four Corners area. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, both Republicans, said Saturday that the raid was overkill. The two made the comments to the Deseret News during interviews at the state's GOP convention in Layton. One of the men indicted in the raid, James Redd, 60, was found dead on Thursday in an apparent suicide. Redd was a physician and charged with one felony count of theft of Indian tribal property. His wife, 59-year-old Jeanne Redd, also was charged. Of those indicted, 19 are from southern Utah, four are from Colorado, and one is from New Mexico. They range in age from 27 to 78. About 300 federal agents, including many from the Bureau of Land Management, were involved in the arrests. "I'm very concerned about it," Hatch said. "It seems like overkill to me to do that with these people, one a doctor, a pillar of his community. I'd call for a (U.S. Senate) investigation. But I don't chair (and control) the Judiciary Committee." Bennett and Hatch's comments resonated with delegates from southern Utah at the GOP convention. "It was Gestapo tactics," said Larry Sorrell, a rancher from San Juan County. (Redd) was our family doctor," he said. "We've known him a long time. (Federal officials) overstepped their authority big time."...AP

Mysterious bat fungus threatens US wildlife and crops

A mysterious fungus attacking bats in the US could spread nationwide within years and represents the most serious threat to wildlife in a century, experts warned Congress earlier this month. Displaying pictures of bats speckled with the white fungus that gave the disease its name - white-nose syndrome - experts described to two House subcommittees the horror of discovering caves where bats had been decimated by the disease. As a state wildlife biologist from Vermont put it, one cave there was turned into a morgue, with bats freezing to death outside and so many carcasses littering the cave's floor the stench was too strong for researchers to enter. They also warned that if nothing more is done to stop its spread, the fungus could strike caves and mines with some of the largest and most endangered populations of hibernating bats in the United States. At stake is the loss of an insect-eating machine. The six species of bats that have so far been stricken by the fungus can eat up to their body weight in insects a night, reducing insects that destroy crops, forests and carry disease such as West Nile Virus. "We are witnessing one of the most precipitous declines of wildlife in North America," said Thomas Kunz, director of the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology at Boston University, who said that between $10 million and $17m. is needed to launch a national research program into the fungus. The Interior Department and Forest Service have so far spent $5m. researching the problem, closed caves to people on forest lands in 33 states and urged the public not to enter caves or abandoned mines in states with white-nose syndrome. While there is no evidence the people can be harmed by the fungus, they may be contributing to its spread...AP

One surprise: Global warming is not mentioned anywhere in the article.

US Rep. Salazar Says Pinon CanyonFunding Ban To Continue

U.S. Rep. John Salazar says a funding ban on the Army's plan to expand a southeast Colorado training site will be extended for another year. Salazar told The Pueblo Chieftain this week he's been assured by the chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee that the two-year ban will continue. The Army said last month it would not budget money next year to buy land for the Pinon Canyon Maneuver site. But despite not allocating funds for the expansion, the Army has said it is still interested in the site. Earlier this month, Gov. Bill Ritter put another obstacle in the Army's plan by signing a bill that prevents the state from selling or leasing land to the Army for the training site. About 20 percent of the land the Army wants for the site is state-owned. Ritter and some members of Colorado's congressional delegation have said the Army has failed to make its case for why they need the land...AP

Development halts while ‘roadless rules’ are drawn up

One month after 450 incensed citizens filled the Pinedale High School Auditorium to voice opposition against the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA), an innocuous memorandum has halted road building on Forest Service (FS) managed lands. On May 28 the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued Memorandum 1042-154 requiring all new roads built on FS land to first be approved by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The stipulation is expected to halt new development on 58.5 million acres of FS land, although ongoing approved activity is allowed. The rule will be in effect for one year. During that time, the USDA plans to develop a long-term roadless policy. Considering the uproar created by NREPA, the new rule was implemented with a whimper. Sierra Hellstrom, FS Intermountain Region public affairs specialist in Ogden, Utah, said the Sublette Examiner was the first news organization to call about the rule. “It has been really quiet,” she said. Even the memorandum is unassuming. The one-page document simply states: “The purpose of this Memorandum is to reserve to the Secretary decision-making authority over the construction and reconstruction of roads and the cutting, sale, or removal of timber in inventoried roadless areas…” It does not stipulate exceptions for fire control. “There hasn’t been any direction in case of an emergency,” Hellstrom said, adding the agency is waiting for those specifics. “We don’t like to speculate until we have direction from the Washington office.”...SubletteExaminer

An end to the "Snow War"?

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, Arizona skiers may soon be spared the inconvenience of living in one of the Union’s warmest and driest states. Last week the high court removed the final legal hurdle blocking Arizona Snowbowl from making artificial snow with reclaimed sewage effluent on the San Francisco Peaks—a plan which 13 southwestern tribes say will desecrate their sacred mountain. In a long-running lawsuit filed against the the U.S.Forest Service (the ski center's landlord) the Navajo and several other tribes had sought protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that to make snow on the mountain would decrease the "spiritual fulfillment" tribal members get from practicing their religion. By declining, without comment, to act on the tribes' appeal of a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court effectively gave Snowbowl the go-ahead. Lawyers for the tribes say they still have several options (which appear to be long shots) for blocking Snowbowl. For now, though, Snowbowl is free to busy itself with that time-honored Western tradition: moving water uphill toward money...HCN

Wilderness Experts to Congress: Pine Beetle Bad, but Not 'Armageddon'

Congress is set to take a look at the pine beetle outbreak during a hearing this week, and Colorado conservationists will be there to testify. They've been joining with local governments to get across a message: The beetle outbreak is a serious problem, but not the ecological Armageddon sometimes portrayed in the media. Dr. Greg Aplet with The Wilderness Society office in Denver is a forest ecologist who has been studying forests in Colorado for a number of years. He says an important scientific consensus has emerged on the relationship between lodgepole pine forests and these beetles. "The scale and intensity of the outbreak is unlike any outbreak that we've observed before, but that does not mean the end of lodgepole pine in the Rockies." Sloan Shoemaker is executive director of the Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale. He will testify at the hearing that a changing climate means it's time to stop trying to adapt the ecosystem to human-built communities...PublicNewsService