Saturday, July 18, 2009

Algae bloom in Elephant Butte water suspected in dogs' deaths

Elephant Butte Lake water was sampled Friday by the New Mexico Environment Department to investigate an algae bloom that could be toxic to pets and humans, said Toby Velasquez, law enforcement and boating safety bureau chief with New Mexico State Parks. The scrutiny comes after two 3-year-old pit bulls, belonging to a Truth or Consequences woman on a camping trip, became ill and later died after swimming for about an hour along a cove, became ill and later died. Because it was only reported to the state later and after the pit bulls' bodies were disposed of, no one will ever know if their deaths were related to algae, Velasquez said. Humans also are at risk for skin irritations from toxic algae blooms, which form for short periods of time primarily in the summer and are more prevalent in isolated coves. "It's kind of like a virus. It hits some people and not others," Velasquez said...SilverCitySunNews

Treasury Dept. cuts ‘Humor in the Workplace’ job opening

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) on Friday morning called on the Treasury Department to axe a job opening seeking an applicant who can “create cartoons on the spot” in order to introduce “humor in the workplace.” The job posting, offered on, called for the selected candidate to give “two, 3-hour, Humor in the Workplace programs that will discuss the power of humor in the workplace, the close relationship between humor and stress, and why humor is one of the most important ways that we communicate in business and office life.” Buy 9:58 a.m. eastern standard time, the Bureau of Public Debt “determined that it no longer has a need for this requirement.”...RawStory

For the original solicitation see my post here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Limits on Logging Are Reinstated

In a move to protect endangered species, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that his department had reversed a Bush administration decision to double the amount of logging allowed in and around old-growth forests in western Oregon. Veering between swipes at “indefensible” moves by the Bush administration and pledges to step up noncontroversial timber sales, Mr. Salazar said in a conference call with reporters that he was reinstating a compromise reached 15 years ago to limit logging with the goal of protecting watersheds, trout and salmon fisheries and endangered birds like the northern spotted owl. The Bush policy, challenged in the courts by environmentalists, would have allowed timber companies to cut up to 502 million board-feet of lumber annually from 2.6 million acres of forests in the region, or about double the amount allowed under the Northwest Forest Plan, which was adopted in 1994 under President Bill Clinton. In fighting the Bush plan, known as the Western Oregon Plan Revisions — or to its detractors, “Whopper” — environmentalists argued that the department’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the forests, had failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the logging’s impact on endangered and threatened species. Environmentalists also took issue with a related decision that narrowed the extent of protected habitat for the spotted owl...NYTimes

Past Warming Shows Gaps In Climate Knowledge: Study

A dramatic warming of the planet 55 million years ago cannot be solely explained by a surge in carbon dioxide levels, a study shows, highlighting gaps in scientists' understanding of impacts from rapid climate change. During an event called the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, global temperatures rose between 5 and 9 degrees Celsius within several thousand years. The world at that time was already warmer than now with no surface ice. "We now believe that the CO2 did not cause all the warming, that there were additional factors," said Richard Zeebe, an oceanographer with the University of Hawaii at Manoa...Reuters

Who's Afraid of... The big bad wolf?

By all rights, he should have been executed; it was his fourth killing within a year. But in June, federal officials gave a male wolf a rare reprieve. In Catron County’s Canyon del Buey—outside the town of Aragon—Alpha Male 1114, a Mexican gray wolf, had killed and eaten a calf. His mate, Alpha Female 903, was likely involved as well. Under the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction project’s current rules—which include a three-strikes-you’re-out rule for cattle-killing lobos—such a transgression is punishable by death. “That particular animal and that particular pack has represented a really tough set of decisions because we recognize our responsibility to help ranchers if wolves are affecting their landscape,” Bud Fazio, Mexican gray wolf recovery coordinator at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, says. “Yet we also recognize our responsibility to restore wolves to the landscape and give them every chance possible to make it out there.” In this particular case, Fazio says, managers allowed the wolf to remain in the wild where he could continue helping his mate raise their pups—“and therefore restore more wolves to the wild before any future decisions to remove him.”...SantaFeReporter

Westerners tell their stories about gas booms' effects

Filmmaker Zachary Fink said the thing that drew him to make a film about the Rocky Mountains natural gas boom was the “unholy alliance,” as one conservative New Mexican rancher put it, between traditionally conservative ranchers and typically more liberal environmentalists. As a cultural anthropologist, Fink said it was interesting to him to learn how the two oft-opposing sides worked together on energy issues. Through interviews with three different westerners affected by the boom, “Last Hat in Town” chronicles the transformation of wide-open Colorado ranch lands to areas covered with natural gas drilling activity. Fink's intention in directing the film is to give people on both sides of the issue “a voice, and a human face,” Fink said...GJFreePress

States awash in stimulus money to weatherize homes

Ready or not, states are getting a tenfold boost in federal money to weatherize drafty homes, an increase so huge it has raised fears of waste and fraud and set off a scramble to find workers and houses for them to repair. An obscure program that installs insulation in homes and makes them more energy-efficient is distributing $4.7 billion in stimulus funds - dwarfing the $447 million originally planned by Congress this year and the $227 million spent in 2008. That is enough to weatherize 1 million homes, instead of the 140,000 normally done each year...AP

Judge fines pest-control firm for not checking squirrel trap

A judge has fined the manager of a pest control company $1,000 for failing to check a squirrel trap. Tom Homka of Cherry Hill-based Orkin Pest Control was cited for animal cruelty in June. Orkin had set the traps at the Pottery Barn for Kids here. Monmouth County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals police chief Victor Amato said the company left a trapped nursing female squirrel and her baby for several days without sustenance. Amato said the animals were trying to get out of the cages and were dying. The squirrels were taken to an animal hospital for treatment and lived. AP

The Squirrel Police are on the march, with a chief no less.

Treasury Dept. Seeks Contractors For "power of humor in the workplace"

Humor In The Workplace
Solicitation Number: RFI-BPD-09-0028
Agency: Department of the Treasury
Office: Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD)
Location: Division of Procurement

This is a sources sought notice and not a request for quotations. The purpose of this announcement is to seek qualified contractors with the capability to provide presentations for The Department of Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD), Management Meeting with experience in meeting the objectives as described herein.

The Contractor shall conduct two, 3-hour, Humor in the Workplace programs that will discuss the power of humor in the workplace, the close relationship between humor and stress, and why humor is one of the most important ways that we communicate in business and office life. Participants shall experience demonstrations of cartoons being created on the spot. The contractor shall have the ability to create cartoons on the spot about BPD jobs. The presenter shall refrain from using any foul language during the presentation. This is a business environment and we need the presenter to address a business audience...FedBizOps.Gov

Are you laughing - or crying?

Crow Rancher Sues Feds Over Buffalo Herd

Bureau of Indian Affairs agents rounded up 175 bison belonging to a Crow rancher and impounded them until she paid more than $16,000 to get them back, the rancher claims in Federal Court. She says the government had awarded her tribal leases to another member of the tribe without telling her. Nelvette Siemion says she's owned and operated the White Buffalo Ranch with her husband, George Siemion, for more than 39 years. The Siemions say they leased more than 25 parcels of tribal land to raise American bison and other livestock. In mid-May 2008, the BIA allegedly notified ranchers that it planned to impound about 200 buffalo of "undetermined ownership/no brands" in the Fort Smith area...CourthouseNews

TSCRA Applauds Legislation To Phase Out Gov. Subsidies For Corn-Based Ethanol

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) today applauded legislation that would phase out government subsidies for corn-based ethanol over five years and promote the commercial development of second-generation biofuels. The Affordable Food and Fuel for America Act, introduced by Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) would force corn-based ethanol to become commercially viable without the assistance of government dollars and compete with other commodities that use corn for input, but don't draw on government subsidies to remain viable. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, in 2008, feed costs for livestock, poultry and dairy reached a record high of $45.2 billion - an increase of more than $7 billion over 2007 costs. Yet farm gate cattle and calf receipts have remained between $49 and $50.2 billion during the past five years...cattlenetwork

Chairman Wants No New Feds on the Farm

The House Agriculture Committee chairman threatened Thursday to slow the progress of a food safety bill until the concerns of farm groups are addressed. Minnesota Democrat Collin C. Peterson said he is worried that the bill would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate farm activities. “Having read this bill ... they are clearly, in my opinion, going to be on the farm,” he said at a hearing on the issue. Unless his concerns are met, Peterson said he may hold a markup on the bill and report it out unfavorably. If Peterson’s committee gives the bill what is known as an adverse report, that will have an impact on when — or whether — it is brought up for floor action. Peterson is responding to agriculture groups that say a broad food safety overhaul would impose burdensome regulations on certain food producers, especially smaller family-owned farm operations...CQPolitics

Third Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Horse Dies

An outrider horse competing in the GMC Rangeland Derby chuckwagon race at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada, died Friday following a pulmonary embolism. The Thoroughbred was the second chuckwagon race horse to succumb to a cardiac issue, and the third to die at the event in six days. A chuckwagon team horse died from a cardiac episode following a race on July 1. On July 7, another team horse was euthanized on the track after it broke a leg during the race. "Handlers were leading the horse to the barn area when it collapsed," said Stampede spokesman Doug Fraser. Event veterinarians determined the horse had a pulmonary embolism, Fraser said. This condition typically occurs when a blood clot dislodges and settles in a horse's pulmonary artery, blocking the blood supply to its heart. TheHorse

Long flights, long drives bring rodeo contestants flocking to Farmington

A sizzling 98 degrees and a scorching sun welcomed the first batch of National High School Finals Rodeo contestants to the Land of Enchantment on Thursday afternoon. Contestant and animal check-in began at noon Thursday and continues until Sunday. Sandwiches, cookies, cold water and sweating volunteers greeted contestants at shaded checkpoints in the McGee Park parking lot. Traveling with horses had the majority of contestants and their families driving great distances overnight to avoid excessive heat exposure. The horses have a separate check-in process that requires health and identification records and proof of the Coggins test. If owners fail to bring appropriate papers, the horse will be held in quarantine. In addition, all incoming horse trailers are washed and sprayed before being parked on the premises. Precautions are being taken to ease worries about the recent outbreak of the Vesticular Stomatitis horse virus. The virus forced some contestants to leave their horses at home. Seventeen-year-old Ali Mullin traveled three days from Cartwright, Manitoba, Canada. If Mullin brought her horse, she said it would have remained in quarantine for three weeks before re-entering Canada. Instead, she is renting a local horse, which a lot of competitors are doing...FarmingtonDailyTimes

Song Of The Day #085

This morning Tex Williams will give us some legal and financial advice with his The Big Print Giveth.

This song is available on Tex Williams & His Western Caravan: 1946-1951.

I recommend you take his advice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Climate Change And Carbon Credits: Sorting Out The Confusion

...To mitigate greenhouse gases, Tweeten says one solution is to impose a $26 per ton tax at a coal mine or oil well that is designed to offset the $26 cost per ton of carbon dioxide that society has to pay. While no one wants the cost of energy to rise, Tweeten says a cap and trade policy is becoming a popular alternative which would allow heavy energy users to pay for a permit to emit more than their share of greenhouse gases. Following the issuance of permits by governments, a market would develop for the trading of them. But he says the purpose would be to raise the cost of carbon-based fuels to the point that alternative source of energy would be preferred. Tweeten says agriculture would have a difficult time slowing the momentum, because food production accounts for only 13% of manmade sources of greenhouse gases, and biofuels contribute only minor positive results in the limitation of greenhouse gases. He says a gallon of ethanol requires nearly a gallon of fossil fuel equivalent in the form of motor fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, transportation, and processing. However, he says agriculture would have a modest role by supplying only 300 million tons of carbon credits, which means one ton of carbon stored in the soil for perpetuity. He calculates a farmer could break even by spending up to $1.30 per acre annually to retain the carbon, but would lose money if he has to sacrifice more than one-half bushel of corn to hold or sequester the carbon. He says that means no-till production can be the most profitable enterprise, but then again, it requires more carbon-based chemicals to control weeds. Farmers would have the option of selling their carbon capture enterprise to industry, but the result would be minimal compared to the overall cost. Tweeten says authorities project a $50 billion cost to control the climate in the year 2035, but carbon credits sold by farmers for $26 per ton would net agriculture only $390 million. While that is only the US, Tweeten says the world’s nations acting individually would be too small to have any positive impact, and many times they have other priorities, such as poverty, disease, conflict, or food insecurity...AgNetwork

Reflective roof paint repels the heat

On bright days, the rooftop of the Anaheim Hilton is so blindingly white that it looks like a mirror positioned directly at the sun. That dazzling glare might just be the greenest thing to happen to the top of a building since solar panels. The white coating deflects nearly 85% of the heat that hits it, reducing the surface temperature by as much as 50 degrees. That means less energy is needed to cool the hotel's interior, cutting air-conditioning costs and carbon emissions. This is no ordinary coat of paint. Designed by an 82-year-old former military scientist from the Inland Empire, the tinted topcoat is filled with tiny hollow glass balls that deflect heat, layered over a waterproof undercoat made of recycled rubber. The Hilton spent more than $150,000 on the project, which was completed in March. That's $300,000 less than the cost of a conventional repair to the old, leaky roof, said Jerome Annaloro, director of property operations at the hotel. If the reflective material cuts utility costs this summer the way management anticipates it will, Annaloro said, he will recommend white roofs for the entire Hilton chain...LATimes

Even hard-liners want to experiment in Arizona

"We squashed the timber industry and the Forest Service, and dictated the terms of surrender" in the Southwest, says Kieran Suckling, the director of the Center for Biological Diversity. He's talking about a war that began in the 1980s, when the Tucson-based group charged that the U.S. population of Mexican spotted owls had shrunk to just a few thousand because of logging in the old-growth ponderosa pines. The group ultimately won a 1996 court injunction that temporarily shut down logging on all national forests in Arizona and New Mexico. Within a few years, applying more legal pressure on behalf of all affected species, it forced the Forest Service to reduce logging by 70 percent and limit the harvest to trees less than 16 inches in diameter. That explains the historic occasion last April 22: The Center for Biological Diversity and the Grand Canyon Trust signed a deal with timber entrepreneur Pascal Berlioux. Berlioux's company, Arizona Forest Restoration Products, hopes to do restoration work on at least 600,000 acres over 20 years, cutting only trees that are smaller than 16 inches. In turn, the Center promises not to file lawsuits against his work, and to defend it in court if other groups sue...HighCountryNews

Disillusioned Environmentalists Turn on Obama as Compromiser

For environmental activists like Jessica Miller, 31, the passage of a major climate bill by the House last month should have been cause for euphoria. Instead she felt cheated. Ms. Miller, an activist with Greenpeace, had worked hard on her own time to elect Barack Obama because he directly and urgently addressed the issue nearest her heart: climate change. But over the last few months, as the ambitious climate legislation was watered down in the House without criticism from the president, Ms. Miller became disillusioned. She worried that the bill had been rendered meaningless — or had even undermined some goals Greenpeace had fought for. And she felt that the man she had thought of as her champion seemed oddly prone to compromise. “I voted for the president, I canvassed for him, but we just haven’t seen leadership from him,” said Ms. Miller, who rappelled down Mount Rushmore on Wednesday with colleagues to unfurl a banner protesting what they called President Obama’s acquiescence to the compromises. (They were arrested and charged with trespassing.) While most environmental groups formally supported the House bill, the road to passage proved unsettling for the movement. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Public Citizen opposed the bill; members of some other groups privately berated their leaders for going along with it. And some, like Ms. Miller, have shifted to open protest...NYTimes

Obama’s Anti-Science Czar

John Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; i.e the “science czar."

See Marc Scribner's post to learn of Holder's writings and views on population control, forced abortions and consumption of infertility drugs, sterilization, imposition of a "Planetary Regime" and a host of other issues.

Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi writes about Holdren and describes him as "a longtime prophet of environmental catastrophes. Never discouraged, but never right."

HT: Ivan Osorio

Big blobs of mystery goo floating off Alaska coast

Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow. Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department. Brower and other borough officials, joined by the U.S. Coast Guard, flew out to Wainwright to investigate. The agencies found "globs" of the stuff floating miles offshore Friday and collected samples for testing. Later, Brower said, the North Slope team in a borough helicopter spotted a long strand of the stuff and followed it for about 15 miles, shooting video from the air. Nobody knows for sure what the gunk is, but Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Hasenauer says the Coast Guard is sure what it is not. "It's certainly biological," Hasenauer said. "It's definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter...McClatchy

There's a video at the linked site.

Ghost town of Steins, New Mexico

The town of Steins, New Mexico sprouted in 1888, and its post office discontinued in 1944. The town was built along the Southern Pacific Railroad. Railroad workers mined rock for the roadbeds in the area. With no natural resources, water was brought in by train. Steins (pronounced “steens”) had a population that peaked at about 1300 people. Its survival into the 1940’s was due to its importance as a railroad station on the Southern Pacific line. The boom years lasted until trains switched from steam to diesel. In about 1945, Steins became a ghost town and slowly dissolved back into the desert wasteland. Steins was first called Doubtful Canyon since it was under a constant threat of Indian attacks. Captain Enoch Stein, a US Army officer, participated in the Apache Wars. He was killed in the area and Steins Pass was named for him. Later, gold and other minerals were discovered and the town of Doubtful Canyon was born. The current site of Steins is actually a few miles east of the original boom town of Doubtful Canyon...Examiner

Song Of The Day #084

The selection on today's Ranch Radio is the 1944 recording of There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder by Tex Ritter.

It's available on his 20 track Country Hits and Cowboy Classics and on the four disc box set Blood on the Saddle. Amazon says the latter collection "has been discontinued by the manufacturer", so you Ritter fans better get it while you can.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Church Rock, NM: The best-kept nuclear secret

Thirty years ago this week - on July 16 - the worst accidental release of radioactive waste happened at the Church Rock uranium mine and mill site. While the Three Mile Island accident (that same year) is well known, the enormous radioactive spill in New Mexico has been kept quiet. It is the U.S. nuclear accident that almost no one knows about. On July 16, 1979, just 14 weeks after the Three Mile Island reactor accident, and 34 years to the day after the Trinity atomic test, the small community of Church Rock, New Mexico became the scene of another nuclear tragedy. Ninety million gallons of liquid radioactive waste, and eleven hundred tons of solid mill wastes, burst through a broken dam wall at the Church Rock uranium mill facility, creating a flood of deadly effluents that permanently contaminated the Puerco River. No one knows exactly how much radioactivity was released into the air during the Three Mile Island accident. The site monitors were shut down after their measurements of radioactive releases went off the scale. But the American public knows even less about the Church Rock spill and, five weeks after it occurred, the mine and mill operator, United Nuclear Corporation, was back in business at Church Rock as if nothing had happened...Daily Kos

UNM Professors Help Write the Book on New Mexico History

“Telling New Mexico – A New History” is a chorus of voices, edited by UNM Regents Professor of Anthropology Marta Weigle, with New Mexico History Museum Director Frances Levine and Senior Curator and UNM alumni Louise Stiver. The book is designed as a general history of the state, prepared in anticipation of the state’s centennial in 2012, but unlike most history books, this one consists of dozens of essays, many of them from UNM faculty. Whether it is Professor of Anthropology Sylvia Rodriguez writing about how acequias, the ditches New Mexicans use to irrigate the fields, work or former UNM Press Director Roland Dickey writing about how to survive the howling windstorms in eastern New Mexico, the writers give a panorama of perspectives about the state. In his essay “The Memorable Visitation of Bishop Pedro TamarĂ³n, 1760” Department of History Professor Emeritus John Kessell writes about the visit of the Bishop of Durango to the pueblos of northern New Mexico. In another essay he examines tall tales about the Pecos Pueblo and its reputed connection to Montezuma and worship of a giant snake. Want to know about the first revolution ever to take place in North America? Read the essay by former Anthropology Professor Alfonso Ortiz as he explores the aggravation and frustration that led Native Americans in the pueblos to violently overthrow the Spanish colonists in 1680, chasing them all the way to El Paso nearly 100 years before the American Revolution...UNM Today

New Mexico company to develop hydrogen power plant

A New Mexico-based energy technology company says it plans to develop what it calls the world's first utility-scale, zero-emissions hydrogen power plant. Jetstream Wind Inc. officials said Wednesday that the plant would use electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would be burned in a turbine to generate enough electricity to power about 6,000 homes. The plant also would be able to capture and store oxygen and hydrogen in liquid and gaseous forms for secondary markets. The company broke ground on the $219 million project earlier this month in Truth or Consequences in southern New Mexico. AP

Court says New Mexico museum has no standing in Fisk case

Fisk University doesn’t have to give up 101 art works donated by painter Georgia O’Keeffe to a New Mexico museum in her name, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in a decision filed Tuesday. The ruling overturned a lower court’s decision that barred Fisk from selling paintings to an Arkansas museum. The case now goes back to Davidson County Chancery Court. The school has been trying to sell part or all of the 101-piece Alfred Stieglitz Collection for more than three years in order to rebuild financially after raiding its endowment and nearly shutting its doors. O’Keeffe donated the collection to the school in 1949...Tennessean

Sheriff's deputies investigate well vandalism

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is investigating several cases of vandalism at wells near Flora Vista owned by Conoco-Phillips. Undersheriff Mark McCloskey said the vandalism happened last weekend and was reported to authorities on Monday. The vandals smashed electrical panels and gauges, damaged wiring, drained fuel tanks and did other damage. Officials with Houston-based Conoco-Phillips estimate the cost of damage, repair, loss of production and environmental cleanup at each well site at about $8,000 to $10,000. Detectives collected evidence at each site and are working on identifying those who were responsible. McCloskey said felony charges for criminal damage to property are pending. AP

Ecosystems respond well to restoration

A new analysis in the June issue of the journal PLoS ONE finds that, if societies commit to cleanup and restoration, ecosystems can recover faster than previously thought. Surveying 240 studies, scientists at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies found that the speed of recovery depended upon the type of ecosystem and the growth rate of the organisms within it. Forests recovered within 42 years, but ocean floors in less than a decade. Polluted ecosystems – those plagued by oil spills, mining, trawling, or invasive species – could recover in just five years. Only 15 percent were deemed beyond recovery. The findings seem to contradict the popular notion that ecosystems take centuries or even millenniums to recover – boosting the rationale for proactive conservation...CSMonitor

Environmentalists and timber companies push big experiments in national forests

Environmentalists' lawsuits and the U.S. Forest Service have choked off timber sales in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which sprawls across 3.3 million acres surrounding the town. They had their reasons; previous logging had shredded some of the forest, for instance. But it's hurt Anderson's operation. Back in the 1980s, more than 90 percent of the timber he processed came from federal land; now, less than 5 percent does. His costs have increased "tremendously" because he has to pull logs from distant state, private and tribal forests, while bidding against other mills equally desperate for timber. Dozens of Montana mills have closed under the strain. "The economy is cyclical -- ups and downs. Always has been. Timber supply is what's taking 'em out now," Anderson says. "A lot of people depend on this company for their livelihood, so we'll keep on doing this as long as we can." All of that is somewhat predictable news to anyone who tracks forest issues. What's surprising is the logo on a cap that Anderson keeps on a shelf beside his desk: MONTANA WILDERNESS ASSOCIATION. It symbolizes Anderson's dramatic shift into collaboration. He's trying to lead Montana's timber industry into a ground-breaking deal with the statewide wilderness group and two national environmental groups. They call it the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, but it's not as warm and fuzzy as it sounds. They've hammered out some bold goals, determined to make both the Forest Service and more hard-line environmentalists agree to them. They want increased logging, contentious restoration projects and controversial wilderness designat that would break a 26-year-long gridlock in Montana's wilderness politics. Basically, while Anderson and his partners wouldn't state it so frankly, they want to run a national forest...HighCountryNews

Interior secretary: Mining reform a top priority

The Obama administration will make overhauling the nation's 137-year-old hardrock mining law a top priority despite a full plate of higher profile issues, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday. Salazar told a Senate committee considering such legislation that "it is time to ensure a fair return to the public for mining activities that occur on public lands and to address the cleanup of abandoned mines." Reform bills have been introduced in the House and Senate, but past attempts at reform have foundered in the face of opposition from industry and many Western lawmakers. However, a new crop of conservation-minded lawmakers from the West and a new administration sympathetic to reforming the law have generated renewed interest in an overhaul...AP

Oregon Gov.signs bill to pay for removal of dams

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has signed a bill financing most of the cost of removing four dams on the Klamath River to help salmon. Meanwhile, representatives from California, Oregon, PacifiCorp, the Obama administration and others continued to meet Tuesday in Klamath Falls, Ore., to make a September deadline for a binding agreement on the effort to restore 300 miles of salmon spawning habitat. The law calls for building a trust fund of $180 million over the next 10 years through a surcharge on PacifiCorp costumers in Oregon, which amounts to about $1.50 a month for a residential customer. California pays $20 million. If a federal feasibility study shows the dams can be safely torn down, work begins around 2020. AP

Crops, ponds, wildlife habitat destroyed in quest for food safety

In the verdant farmland surrounding Monterey Bay, a national marine sanctuary and one of the world's biological jewels, scorched-earth strategies are being imposed on hundreds of thousands of acres in the quest for an antiseptic field of greens. And the scheme is about to go national. Invisible to a public that sees only the headlines of the latest food-safety scare - spinach, peppers and now cookie dough - ponds are being poisoned and bulldozed. Vegetation harboring pollinators and filtering storm runoff is being cleared. Fences and poison baits line wildlife corridors. Birds, frogs, mice and deer - and anything that shelters them - are caught in a raging battle in the Salinas Valley against E. coli O157:H7, a lethal, food-borne bacteria. In pending legislation and in proposed federal regulations, the push for food safety butts up against the movement toward biologically diverse farming methods, while evidence suggests that industrial agriculture may be the bigger culprit...SFChronicle

Horse found with brand cut out of hide in Nevada

A domestic horse found loose in Nevada with the brand cut out of its hide is drawing outrage from equine advocates concerned about the growing number of horses abandoned in the wild. Humane Society officials believe the brand was removed so the 2.5-year-old mare couldn't be traced to its owner, representing one of the worst cases of abuse involving an abandoned domestic horse in the country. The animal was found last week near Round Mountain, a remote mining community about 235 miles southeast of Reno. Its brand -- which functions like a car's license plate -- was removed in a 6-by-8-inch patch from its left hip. The horse is expected to recover and was scheduled to be transported Saturday to a sanctuary in Lompoc, Calif., operated by the horse advocacy group Return to Freedom. Nevada agriculture officials have picked up more than 100 domestic horses from the range this year, including 90 in the past three months, Foster said. That's up from a previous high of 63 last year and 12 the year before. Wyoming Brand Commissioner Lee Romsa said his state has handled more than 100 such cases this year, up from 50 last year and an average of six to eight cases before that. Foster said some owners think their horses will be fine in the wild, but that's not the case. Domestic horses are rejected by wild herds and usually die after being unable to find water and forage. In Idaho, Hayhurst said he's dealt with about 70 abandoned horse cases over the past year, compared with the usual handful. He said another factor is the ban on horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. "Unfortunately, slaughterhouses are a necessary evil," Hayhurst said. "Without being able to ship a horse to a slaughterhouse, people turn them loose."...AP

When hell broke loose in Texas

Barbed wire came to Texas in the late 1870s. Though barbed wire was much cheaper than heart-of-pine planks, some cattlemen would have nothing to do with it. Gradually, though, it caught on and fences that were “horse-high, bull-proof and hog-tight” spread across the land. Barbed wire intensified conflicts between ranchers and farmers, cattlemen and sheepmen, free-range men and enclosed-pasture men, small stockmen and big ranchers. They began to cut each others’ fences. Prowlers in gunnysack hoods roamed at night snipping wire. Ranchhands rode the fence lines on guard for fence-cutters. The result was the Fence-Cutting War. Walter Prescott Webb called it a social upheaval. Like the machine-breaking uprising in England half a century before, it was partly a revolt against change. There were real injustices: Some fences closed what had been public right-of-ways, as with S.G. Miller’s fence that closed the Corpus Christi to Gussettville road, and some shut off access to communal watering holes, before the coming of windmills and artesian wells. The conflict became bloody. A headline in a Chicago paper said, “Hell breaks loose in Texas.” Texas Rangers were sent to quell the violence. Ranger Ira Aten, ordered to track down wire-cutters, said he upped his life insurance and oiled his six-shooter. Rangers hated the duty. They had to infiltrate gangs of known cutters, to get inside information, and then stake out lonely stretches of fences at night, concealed in the shadows, waiting for armed cutters to show up and start snipping...Caller-Times

Song Of The Day #083

This morning Little Jimmy Dickens will give us a lesson in the improper use of rural vernacular.

Give a listen to his 1950 recording of Walk, Chicken, Walk ('Cause You're Too Fat To Fly).

This jewel of etiquette is available on his four disc box set Country Boy.

Sierra Club & The Grijalva Letter On Border Mitigation

From: Michael Degnan, Sierra Club []
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 2:15 PM
Subject: Please Sign Borderlands Mitigation Letter to Secretary Napolitano

Dear Congressman _____,

I’m writing to urge you to join Rep. Grijalva in asking Secretary Napolitano to include monitoring, mitigation, and environmental training for border security personnel in her evaluation of border security initiatives.

The text of the sign-on letter to Sec. Napolitano is attached.

This request to the Department of Homeland Security would not interfere with any current or future plans to build walls along our southwest border. Rather, the simple point that the letter raises is that we should be aware of the impacts that border security infrastructure and activities have caused and, where possible, we should repair the damage done.

Border walls have separated families, caused damaging floods and erosion, and fractured habitat and migration corridors vital to wildlife that has been pushed to the brink of extinction. The Department of Homeland Security has recognized the need to mitigate these types of negative impacts, but in order to adequately address the problem, first it must fully cooperate with other applicable agencies to create and fund a robust border-wide environmental monitoring and mitigation program.

For more information or to sign-on to the letter, please contact Gloria Montano in Rep. Grijalva’s office at or 225-2435.

Thanks for your time and consideration,

Michael Degnan
Washington DC Representative
Sierra Club

July 2009
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

We write to you today with concern regarding mounting environmental and societal impacts related to border security infrastructure and operations. As you conduct your evaluation of border security initiatives, we encourage you to consider the mportance of monitoring, mitigation, and environmental training for border security personnel in order to quantify, compensate for and avoid the negative consequences of border security infrastructure and operations. We ask that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cooperate with other applicable agencies to create and fund a robust border-wide environmental monitoring program and to provide sufficient mitigation funding for damage caused by border security infrastructure and enforcement activities.

As you are aware, hundreds of miles of new border fences and patrol roads have been constructed by DHS along the US/Mexico border in the past several years. This massive federal project has had deleterious consequences upon natural and cultural public resources, and has caused hardship for private land owners, whose lands have been condemned and livelihoods have been disrupted. Considerable annual maintenance operations will be required for border fencing. The Congressional Budget Office estimates annual maintenance costs will amount to15% of initial construction costs, which are averaging $3 Million per mile. In addition, with DHS adding significantly more Border Patrol personnel, it is becoming increasingly important that impacts related to off-road vehicles, low-level flights and other interdiction activities be quantified and mitigated for, and that DHS provide training for its personnel in techniques to minimize damage to sensitive resources during enforcement activities.

We understand that in 2008 DHS allocated up to $50 Million to the Department of the Interior (DOI) for border fence mitigation. It is our understanding this money will be utilized primarily for off-site mitigation targeted to benefit threatened and endangered species that have been negatively impacted by new border security infrastructure projects. We believe this first round of mitigation for threatened and endangered species, along with the memorandum of agreement signed between DHS and DOI, demonstrate a positive commitment to mitigating negative impacts. However, there are numerous impacts across the border caused by both security infrastructure and operations that will require significantly more resources to properly monitor and mitigate.

For example, the National Park Service issued a report in August, 2008 confirming that border fencing astride the Lukeville Port of Entry has exacerbated seasonal flooding and has caused accelerated scouring and erosion on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – threatening to permanently alter the hydrology of the area if modifications are not made to rectify the inadequate design. A similar problem was identified at the DeConcini Port of Entry, where tunnel barrier and fence-exacerbated flooding caused extensive property and infrastructure damage in Nogales, Mexico. There are also serious concerns related to border infrastructure construction-induced siltation and resulting degradation of sensitive habitats of the Tijuana River Estuary and the San Pedro River located in southern California and Arizona, respectively. In south Texas, private land owners and agricultural interests have significant tracts of land that have been or will be isolated to the south of border fencing. Yet, DHS has only offered compensation for the exact footprint of the infrastructure – failing to recognize or compensate for fiscal losses of property value and accessibility caused by the construction of border fencing.

To date, there has been a lack of scientifically-based monitoring to quantify the
environmental impacts of border security infrastructure and operations. Information from monitoring will provide objective data on impacts, so that efforts to avoid impacts and mitigate for unavoidable impacts can be targeted appropriately. It is our understanding that such a pilot program has been proposed and is to be led by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). We understand the initiation of this program is pending a memorandum of agreement between DHS and DOI. We are concerned that this monitoring program, currently in a conceptual stage, is not being implemented fast enough; ongoing acute and cumulative impacts continue to go unmonitored. We urge you to ensure that DHS is an active partner in establishing this program and in utilizing the information derived from it to inform a robust, multi-year border mitigation fund.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.


CC: The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Department of the Interior
The Honorable Nancy Sutley
Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Western States To Lose Control Over Transmission Siting?

Newly added provisions to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, next slated to be voted on by the U.S. Senate, give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission final say over the siting of electric transmission lines in Western states—but not in any other part of the country, attendees of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region conference in Boise learned today. There is a “real threat” of the federal government taking over, said Paul Kjellander, administrator of Idaho’s office of energy resources, noting that seven transmission lines are currently slated to crisscross Idaho. One of the biggest issues is Gateway West, the siting of which is being fought by Parma and Kuna, which found out at recent public meetings that towers up to 180 feet tall along a corridor up to 250 wide were slated to cross the cities’ impact areas...NewWest

EPA to develop rule to ensure hardrock miners will pay for environmental cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency, complying with a court order, will develop a rule to guarantee companies that mine everything from copper to uranium will pay for needed environmental cleanup, not taxpayers. The announcement on Monday comes in the wake of a federal judge's order in February requiring the EPA to close loopholes that allow some companies to get out of paying for such costly cleanups when they file bankruptcy. The agency said it will develop similar financial responsibility requirements for other types of operations but started with hardrock mining because of the size of the operations, the amount of waste and the number of mining sites on its Superfund's national priorities list. The EPA did not release specifics on how it will establish financial assurance requirements but said it will propose the rule by spring 2011. The National Mining Association trade group said the industry already is regulated by other state and federal laws establishing financial responsibility for cleanup. "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored critical facts and used inappropriate data in singling out U.S. hardrock mining for financial assurance requirements under Superfund," association CEO Hal Quinn said in a statement...AP

New ag subcommittee rosters

The new roster of chairmen and members announced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., for its subcommittees today contains some old faces and some new. One of the more familiar ones is that of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who becomes chairman of the Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit after serving a term as chairman of the Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support. Two of the newest are Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Domestic and Foreign Marketing, Inspection and Plant and Animal Health. Gillibrand was appointed to former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New York seat, and former Agriculture Secretary Johanns successfully ran to replace retiring Chuck Hagel in 2008. The subcommittees and their new chairman, ranking members and members:

• Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit: Sen. Blanche Lincoln; Republican designee, ranking member; and Sen. Patrick Leahy D-Vt., Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Bob Casey, D-Pa., John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Jurisdiction: Legislation and oversight involving rural economic revitalization and quality of life; rural job and business growth; rural electrification, telecommunications and utilities; conservation, protection and stewardship of natural resources; state, local and private forests and general forestry; agricultural and rural credit....DeltaFarmPress

Obama Administration Seeks to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would seek to ban many routine uses of antibiotics in farm animals in hopes of reducing the spread of dangerous bacteria in humans. In written testimony to the House Rules Committee, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said feeding antibiotics to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle — done to encourage rapid growth — should cease. And Dr. Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian. Both practices lead to the development of bacteria that are immune to many treatments, he said. The hearing was held to discuss a measure proposed by Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the Rules Committee. It would ban seven classes of antibiotics important to human health from being used in animals, and would restrict other antibiotics to therapeutic and some preventive uses. The legislation is supported by the American Medical Association, among other groups, but opposed by farm organizations like the National Pork Producers Council. The farm lobby’s opposition makes its passage unlikely, but advocates are hoping to include the measure in the legislation to revamp the health care system...NYTimes

Note To Readers

You will start noticing a change in my format.

The Westerner was started so that when you fired up your computer in the morning, that day's news and issues were there for you.

Over time a format was developed: National news, regional news, industry news, historical items, and most recently, capped off with The Song Of The Day. This was also done keeping in mind those who receive The Westerner by email.

Now, due to some health issues, The Westerner will start to look a little more like a traditional blog. In other words, when I find something I'll post it right then.

I've also tried to keep my comments to a minimum, and when offered, short and succinct. Now I have no choice. The ms has moved into my left hand and arm to the extent that I'm losing my ability to type with the left hand. I also may have to give up typing the source in each post and instead put the link in the title, which I can do just using the mouse.

Bottom line: The Westerner will still be here, it will just look a little different. You also may want to check in more than once a day.

Range War In the West

There is a range war out West. And unless you live in Idaho or Nevada or any other Western state you probably have no idea what is happening or why should you care. But wherever you live in America you should care because sooner or later it will affect you. This range war isn't about water rights or ranchers against homesteaders or big ranchers versus small ranchers like the Johnson County War in Wyoming in 1892. It is between ranchers who have worked the land raising cattle and sheep for over a century and environmental outlaws whose stated goal is driving them off the very land they need to survive and prosper. And this time the weapon of choice is not a Colt .45 or a Winchester rifle, but something much more deadly and destructive -- the lawsuit. So what's the issue? There are more than a quarter of a billion acres of public lands in the West. For over century a system has been in place to allow cattle and sheep ranchers access to portions of this land so that their animals can graze during certain times of year. Chances are that steak you throw on the BBQ spent some of its life on the range before being sold and sent to feedlots across the country to be fattened up to make sure that steak has some nice marbling. Over the years there have been bitter disputes between ranchers and environmentalists over whether this practice should continue. For the ranchers this was not a philosophical discussion about the best use of the land or saving an endangered species. It was about their very survival and the survival of the cattle and sheep industries that contribute so much to the economies of many Western states...FoxNews

Authorities seek leads in Grant County livestock killing

New Mexico Cattle-Growers and the Grant County Cattle-Growers are working with the New Mexico Livestock Board in conjunction with Crime Stoppers in offering a reward of up to $3,500 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons involved in the killing of a bull calf and burro on an area ranch. This incident occurred on Separ Road, south of White Signal, on or about July 1. Crimes involving the killing of livestock are taken very seriously by ranchers, as the raising of livestock is their livelihood. Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers at (575) 538-5254. All callers may remain anonymous. SilverCitySunNews

Cattle tick quarantine in Starr, Hidalgo Counties

Andrew Prukop, a Cattle Rancher in McCook, Texas, has had his cattle operation set up for over 20 years with out a problem. Now the Texas Animal Health Commission has moved a growing Fever Tick Quarantine blanket over his ranch. "The quarantine zone is getting bigger,” said Prukop. “I just now moved in to the quarantine blanket area, well the blanket area moved in to me." This new quarantine is designed to help stop the spread of the cattle fever tick. The tick was declared eradicated in the U.S. since 1943, except for some border towns where it’s believed they get them from Mexico. To protect against ticks, Prukop, just like other ranchers in the area have to get their cattle inspected and dipped in Rio Grande City which is 45 miles away from his ranch. “It makes a big difference in how I can market cattle, move and transport them,” said Prukop. “To take them off of this place, usually all cattle have to go through a dipping station. And, my closest dipping station is in Rio Grande City. “ Prukop is in an unusual predicament. He owns property on both sides of the quarantine line. To move his cattle 6 miles from one property to the other, he has to go 90 miles out of his way to go through the dipping and inspection process...ValleyCentral

Baxter Black: Ingenuity a cinch for cowboy

Cowboys can be quite creative when hard times cut into the daily operating expenses. Take Roy's cousin BB. One of BB's heifers had come off his badlands and crossed onto Roy's pasture. On that fateful day, BB had driven his pickup and gooseneck trailer to Roy's place to pick him up. Roy wasn't quite ready. His cinch had worn down to two flimsy cords. "Did you happen to bring an extra cinch?" he asked. "No," said BB, "but I can make one out of a gunny sack." He dumped the tire chains out of a greasy tow sack. Roy thought he had been around, but this ingenious thinking was a new wrinkle to him. Roy watched his cousin slip-knot one end through the offside cinch ring, then fold the other end over the tongue and through the ring on the left side ring and stitch it. "This baling wire makes good thread," he explained. Half an hour later they were pushing the heifer back toward BB's piece of the Pine Ridge Rez. "Keep her to the bad land side," instructed Roy. "Don't let her get over on the prairie dog side or we'll lose her!" Of course, the heifer took off in the direction of the prairie dog town. "Rope her!" yelled Roy. BB missed but Roy was right behind and caught her. He was tied hard and fast...AmarilloGlobeNews

It's all Trew: Old magazine shows of changing times

Recently I added an October 1918 Popular Mechanics magazine to my old magazine collection. At this age I am no longer legally bound to give any reasons why I collect this stuff. I think it is because it shows our continually changing times. For example, in 1918, a year's subscription of 12 issues cost only $2. That's 4½ regular postage stamps today. Each issue included 165 pages chock-full of information, advice, illustrations and meaningful ads with no side effects promised. Hundreds of ads, designed to catch the eyes of returning World War I veterans, tout the advantages of learning a trade or acquiring more education in many fields. The locations of the schools and prices of this timely knowledge were plainly exhibited promising $250 per month and up to $10,000 per year income. Many articles pertained to the new-fangled gadget called the automobile. One page showed and told of a device to help you align your tires so they would not wear. My first thought was that it's hard to imagine a tire wearing down at 25 mph on a dirt road. Another ad showed a foot warmer you heated on your wood stove before entering the unheated car. Pure wood alcohol was used as radiator fluid. Simple improvements are drawn in detail, like how to make a glue pot out of tin cans and a candle, how to build a jack handle with more leverage and how to keep belts from slipping when driving a machine...AmarilloGlobeNews

Song Of The Day #082

I'm ready for some early Buck Owens.

I missed yesterday so today we'll have a double dose of Buck.

The two selections are the 1956 recording of Down On The Corner, plus There Goes My Love.

Both are available on the 21 track Young Buck: The Complete Pre-Capitol Recordings

Is Your Utility Pocket Knife a Homeland Security Threat? Senate Takes Action

A little-reported action by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) threatens to criminalize the purchase of utility knives now in common use across the United States.A little-reported action by the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) threatens to criminalize the purchase of utility knives now in common use across the United States. The pocket knives CBP is attempting to reclassify as switchblades under the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 include a spring to assist opening. They are not the stiletto switchblades of West Side Story that flick open with the press of a button. These pocket knives have thumb studs near the base of the blade that must be pushed open 30 degrees before a spring completes the opening action. The blades, however, are clearly designed for utility. Such knives are used by farmers, ranchers, tradesmen, sportsmen, hobbyists, and many others whose work make the ability to open a knife with one hand while the other hand is occupied a significant convenience, if not an outright necessity. In addition to the response by House lawmakers, a July 8 amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and 12 colleagues to the Switchblade Knife Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent and was approved as part of the DHS Appropriations bill the Senate passed on July 9. The amendment clarifies the definition of switchblade knives, effectively nullifying CBP’s attempted revocation of the Bush administration letters. The DHS appropriations bill now goes to conference committee. If the Switchblade Knife Act amendment survives there, the episode will be over...HumanEvents

For more info, see my June 15th post here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NM landowners battle state over hungry elk

The elk in New Mexico are big and beautiful - a hunter's dream, a landowner's nightmare. Property owners across the state long have complained about wildlife overrunning their private land and destroying crops. But the problem is boiling over in the Cuba area, where ranchers say they're being ignored and wildlife managers aren't doing enough to curb the damage or compensate them. Starting tomorrow, the state Game and Fish Department is holding a series of public meetings. The department will consider proposals that would change the area's hunting unit boundaries and how hunting tags are allocated to landowners who allow elk on their property. Currently, the formula doesn't take into account agricultural damage. Another proposal calls for giving more tags to private landowners as a form of compensation for elk damage. AP

Environment Department issues San Miguel fire advisory

The New Mexico Environment Department issued a health advisory for areas of north and central New Mexico affected by smoke from the San Miguel fire in the Bandelier Wilderness and Santa Fe National Forest. The department will place an air monitor downwind of the fire Tuesday to ensure the smoke poses no harm to residents. That’s in response to concerns raised by the public about the fire’s proximity to Los Alamos National Laboratory. NMED officials said they do not expect to find anything out of the ordinary in the smoke. The fire is in a remote area of the Bandelier Wilderness at Bandelier National Monument and the Dome Wilderness in the Santa Fe National Forest...NMBusinessWeekly

McDonald's Hits Africa

When Dad Rides the Rodeo Circuit, Many Families Saddle Up

Cowboys have a reputation as hard-living tough guys, men who have foresworn wives and children for a life riding bulls and wrestling steers. And although many rodeo competitors work hard to live up to the image, a number of them take their families on the road. Some travel with children only in the summer, when school is out and the rodeo season is at its peak. Others, like Ray and his wife, Robbin, spend much of the year on the circuit. As a result, the Ray girls are home schooled by their mother. Although there are no statistics on how many rodeo competitors travel with their families, children are a part of rodeo life, said Karl Stressman, the commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the sport’s governing body. “I think we’re probably the largest professional sport that does travel with families,” Stressman said. “Our sport is a young man’s sport, so there’s a lot of young families that do travel with them.” Children often occupy the dusty lots behind any major rodeo. Boys toss ropes at hay-bale dummies and tip back their cowboy hats when they talk to strangers. Girls borrow their fathers’ horses between events. Cowboys ride to the rodeo arena with babies tucked into the saddle in front of them...NYTimes

Enviros back Sotomayor for Supreme Court

More than 60 environmental and Native American groups—including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Greenpeace USA, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for Biological Diversity—have sent a letter [PDF] to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee offering unqualified support for her nomination. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding confirmation hearings on Sotomayor this week. Sotomayor’s most significant environmental ruling was in the case Riverkeeper, Inc. v. EPA, heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2007. As Kate Sheppard explains in an examination of Sotomayor’s green record, the case centered on whether the U.S. EPA should be allowed to consider the cost-effectiveness of measures to protect fish and other aquatic life in rivers and lakes near power plants. Sotomayor sided with the enviros, writing what Earthjustice calls “a careful 80-page opinion upholding critical Clean Water Act safeguards.” The Supreme Court later reversed that ruling. Environmental issues are not expected to figure prominently, if at all, in Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. But if she’s confirmed, she’ll play a major part in shaping environmental law. “As recent, closely divided decisions demonstrate, the Supreme Court is playing a crucial role in environmental protections,” says Glenn Sugameli, senior policy counsel at Earthjustice...Grist

GAO Reports & Testimony

Energy and Water: Preliminary Observations on the Links between Water and Biofuels and Electricity Production, by Anu Mittal, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, House Committee on Science and Technology. GAO-09-862T, July 9.

Clean Air Act: Preliminary Observations on the Effectiveness and Costs of Mercury Control Technologies at Coal-Fired Power Plants, by John B. Stephenson, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. GAO-09-860T, July 9

Climate Change Trade Measures: Considerations for U.S. Policy Makers. GAO-09-724R, July 8.

Climate Change Trade Measures: Estimating Industry Effects, by Loren Yager, director, international affairs and trade, before the Senate Committee on Finance. GAO-09-875T, July 8.

'Time to ditch climate policies'

An international group of academics is urging world leaders to abandon their current policies on climate change. The authors of How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course say the strategy based on overall emissions cuts has failed and will continue to fail. They want G8 nations and emerging economies to focus on an approach based on improving energy efficiency and decarbonising energy supply. The report is published by the London School of Economics' (LSE) Mackinder Programme and the University of Oxford's Institute for Science, Innovation & Society. The report has drawn an angry response from some environmentalists, who acknowledge the problems it highlights but fear that the solutions it proposes will not work...BBC

A Handbook for Deniers

Of course, the debate is not primarily between scientists even though such debates do exist. The literature in peer-reviewed journals in the relevant scientific disciplines have since long disproved the politicized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios. It has even been established that the global warming according to reliable data sources ended in 2001, despite the fact that CO2 emissions are greater than ever and continue to increase...One way of doing so is to be ready for and engage in the discussion – and do so wisely. This is the purpose, I believe, of Joanne Nova’s comic-book-style The Skeptic’s Handbook (PDF), in which she describes how to "[r]ise above the mud-slinging of the Global Warming debate." The book shows how to use the existing and scientific facts properly and how not to accept non-answers such as referring to authority or cheap ad hominems. It also supplies the facts and the only points that matter. It is a short manual for constructively pursuing debates with AGWers and in that sense it is truly a "skeptic’s handbook."

"The Anthropocene": Are We Living in a New Geological Era? Experts Say "Yes"

No one can realistically argue that humans haven’t dramatically transformed the face of the planet. But now scientists, who love naming things, propose that humankind has so altered the Earth that that we have brought about an end to one epoch and entered a new age, as different from our recent ancestors' time as the Jurassic was from the Cambrian. Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen calls it the Anthropocene, with "anthro" signifying humanity's biospheric impact. They suggest humans have so changed the Earth that it’s time the Holocene epoch was officially ended. Geologists from the University of Leicester, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams, and their colleagues on the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London say that humankind has entered a phase where we are so rapidly transforming the planet that a new era has started. Duke University soil scientist Daniel Richter agrees. He says the dirt under our feet is being so changed by humans that it is now appropriate to call this epoch the Anthropocene. “With more than half of all soils on Earth now being cultivated for food crops, grazed, or periodically logged for wood, how to sustain Earth’s soils is becoming a major scientific and policy issue,” Richter said...DailyGalaxy

Ranchers: Politics have become part of industry

There once were just cowboys, cattle and wide open space, rambling across an eastern Oregon landscape too hot for most humans, too dry to grow much other than sagebrush. Now, Oregon steaks are served in South Korea and ranchers fret over cattle damage to streams. To hear rancher Ken Holliday tell it, the romance of ranching has long been gone. But the constant roller coaster ride that sapped the thrill is on a downhill run with the recession, leaving ranchers feeling beaten. "It's never been easy to make a living," says Holliday, who runs a 10,000-acre ranch near John Day. "But now, you kind of wonder why you even do it." Summer is supposed to be beef's best-selling season. But for many ranchers, the recession heaps pressure on an Old World industry trying to find a place in a new age. Cyclical downturns are the norm in agriculture. But this one exacerbates a fundamental shift unfolding in the beef cattle industry, moving toward tightened regulations, choosier consumers and heightened environmental concerns. "There are many issues affecting the industry today," says Brent Searle, an Oregon Department of Agriculture economist. "Some are environmental and social, some are microbial. ... There are clear agendas and influences now on how food is produced and distributed."...AP

Ranchers split on use of microchips in cattle

For generations, ranchers have tracked their cattle by their brand. Every year, they corral and rope the calves, and burn the ranch's mark onto them. Now the federal government would like to add a step to the process. Agriculture officials want ranchers to start tracking their animals electronically, using microchips. The National Animal Identification System, which is currently a voluntary program, would follow a cow's every move. But for people like 64-year-old Culver rancher Marilyn Kasch, tracking cattle by their brand, the way she does it and the way her grandparents did it, works. The federal program, she said, would be a logistical nightmare. State Veterinarian Don Hansen said he's heard concerns from ranchers about the identification system, but his priority is finding the most efficient way to control disease. "We're talking about contagious disease, and that is one of the major points of the NAIS system," Hansen said. "It's a system designed to curtail the spread of a contagious disease. It's never been designed to be a food safety tool. It's how do we know where the animals are in case we have a horribly contagious disease that's flying around the country." Bill Moore, the president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, said he's hoping there will be a financial incentive to participating in the program. If cattle tracked by the system become more valuable and ranchers get paid to track them federally, then it makes more sense. "We maintain it should be voluntary and market driven, instead of something made mandatory by the federal government," he said. "The big difference is, with a voluntary system, the market can drive it. You get paid for adding value, for doing the animal ID or tracking ... In a mandatory system, the government isn't going to come up with money, so the entire cost is borne by the cow-calf producer with no help or compensation by the market."...RapidCityJournal

Animal-rights advocates hopeful Gov. OKs horse tripping bill

Horse tripping, a sport in which a galloping horse is roped to the ground, will be illegal in Arizona if Gov. Jan Brewer signs a bill that recently cleared the Legislature. Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams was an advocate for Senate Bill 1115, saying she considered the activity "barbaric." "Few horses survive and it usually results in broken legs, internal damage, and death," Williams said. "Arizona allowing horse tripping was of great concern to animal-rescue and care agencies." Two animal-welfare measures were packaged together under SB 1115. The other bill, introduced by Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, would give county officials authority to inspect privately owned dog kennels anytime once a written complaint is filed, Wright said...ArizonaRepublic

Activists tackle 'brutal' Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is being called a “brutal violent spectacle” of animal cruelty by the Humane Society of Canada, which has filed a complaint with Canada’s broadcasting regulator over the airing of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. The push to have broadcasters phase out the Stampede — which kicks off on Thursday — from their programming is sparking renewed debate over the controversial Canadian event, which in the past decade has been linked to more than two dozen animal deaths. “It’s a form of violent entertainment [in which] animals are abused and exploited,” said Sinikka Crosland, president of the Responsible Animal Care Society in B.C. and executive director of Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. “But because it’s an accepted thing, people don’t tend to look at rodeo with a critical eye.” Rodeo scholar Tamara Palmer Seiler acknowledges this disconnect, describing the Stampede as “a kind of carnival where the world is turned upside down.”

Chips in official IDs raise privacy fears

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car. It took him 20 minutes. Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner downloaded to his laptop the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet. Increasingly, government officials are promoting the chipping of identity documents as a 21st-century application of technology that will help speed border crossings, safeguard credentials against counterfeiters, and keep terrorists from sneaking into the country. But Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge...AP

Gun rights leaders join in opposition to Sotomayor confirmation

Several of the nation’s leading gun rights activists, including the heads of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Second Amendment Foundation, today joined to oppose the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. “It is extremely important that a Supreme Court justice understand and appreciate the origin and meaning of the Second Amendment, a constitutional guarantee permanently enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” said a letter from the group, which was hand-delivered to every member of the U.S. Senate. “Judge Sotomayor’s record on the Second Amendment causes us grave concern about her treatment of this enumerated Constitutional right.” Included among the signators were Sandra S. Froman, former president of the National Rifle Association; Alan M. Gottlieb, CCRKBA chairman; Joseph Tartaro, SAF president; Gene Hoffman, chairman of the CalGUNS Foundation; several current or former NRA directors; Robert Corbin, former Arizona attorney general and past NRA president; former Congressman Bob Barr...PressRelease

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Swappin' recipes

Julie Carter

Common cowboy cooking is widely acclaimed to be the very best, spiciest, most original and filling of all cuisines of the world. At least that's what the cowboys will tell you.

For the rest of us mere mortals, skepticism is a healthy recommendation.
However, in the spirit of fun, I want to share with you a couple of cowboy recipes provided by the already famous for his cooking, Dan the Team Roper and his roping partner Jess.

Speed in preparation is the first priority for Dan, a confirmed bachelor. Second on the list of importance would be a meal that can be shared with his trusty cow dog, who also helps him cook.

Dan and his dog had been on a steady diet of burritos made of Spam, Velveeta and mayo.

His preferred delicacy had always been pig-lip baloney, but he had not been able to find the delicacy anywhere this side of the Mississippi. He was heartbroke about that.

Learning by experience, Dan recommended using the genuine Velveeta because in his vast experience with cheeses, the cheap substitutes would not work.

After roping practice, he and Jess were comparing notes from the long-ago time when Jess had also been a bachelor.

Chili and eggs was Jess's masterpiece, but both agreed that only Wolf Brand Chili would qualify for the main ingredient.

The number of eggs to be added was dictated by the number currently in the icebox.

Optional ingredients would include ranch style beans, pork and beans, potatoes, if any were cooked, onions, the occasional stray sock or whatever else got in the way.

It was especially critical that the chili be put in an iron skillet, thoroughly cooked down to the burrito-fold stage before adding the eggs. This would result in a scrambled look. If added too soon, the eggs would vanish.

Several likely pointers of this nature were passed on.

The next evening Dan reported that both he and the dog gave this meal a five-star rating.

Encouraged that Dan appreciated his culinary achievements, Jess imparted his recipe for fried deer meat, instant mashed potatoes and gravy thick enough to make everything stick together.

It was understood that it, also, would all be wrapped in a flour tortilla.

As the roping practice progressed, the cooking lessons kept pace, and then the subject of milk came up.

Dan had tried powdered milk with no luck. The dog was pretty picky, and so was he.

Once again, he was adamant it was necessary to buy the good brand and possibly, even necessary, to mix it according to the directions. That depended on the available time.

On those days when it was a good idea to start out with actual food for breakfast instead of an adult beverage, milk was a essential.

Jess was a planner and a logical, organized man. Willingly, he shared his secret time-saving breakfast method with Dan.

It was necessary that perhaps some female had left behind a collection of small Tupperware dishes for this efficiency. Then one could put a measured portion of Grape-Nuts, powdered milk and sugar in each of the containers, seal them and stack.

Then the only additional ingredient would be water.

The major drawback to this gourmet meal was it was not one to eat while driving, and the dog didn't like Grape-Nuts.

However, it was noted by Jess's wife that he had somehow quickly overcome his bachelorhood eating habits and adapted quite nicely to her cooking.

Although on stressful days, he still preferred Wolf Brand chili and eggs.

Julie can be reached for comment at

She suggests sticking with canned peaches.

NFI - An Open Letter to Journalists

Some good examples on how special interest groups and the compliant media distort science. Also a good example on how one organization combats the distortions.

An Open Letter to Journalists from the Seafood Community on
Errors and Distortions in News Coverage

Over the last several years, the public has been hearing false messages about mercury levels in fish communicated through the mass media. These messages largely come from environmental groups pressing for stronger mercury emission standards and falsely claim women of childbearing age may have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood, putting their unborn babies and young children are at risk for neurological impairment. At the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), we agree discussions about eating fish should be central to our national discourse on nutrition. However, the way this subject is being covered raises troubling issues about the objectivity, accuracy, balance and sourcing of this specialized nutrition issue.

What's worse, it's not just journalism standards that have suffered - there is disturbing evidence that readers and viewers are acting on the distorted information in ways that are harmful to their health. Here are just a few examples of how the news media has played into the hands of agenda-driven environmental activists and presented distorted reporting as fact:

* In November 2007, USA Today's Larry Wheeler wrote: "As many as 600,000 babies may be born in the USA each year with irreversible brain damage because pregnant mothers ate mercury-contaminated fish, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says." What Wheeler failed to mention was that EPA never made that claim, but that it was simply an extrapolation made by an agency employee whose questionable methodology and conclusions have been challenged by other scientists. A correction soon followed. Further, Wheeler made the above assertion despite the fact that science shows mothers who eat the most fish have babies with the highest cognitive outcomes.

* In January 2008, New York Times reporter Marian Burros conducted her own analysis of mercury in sushi that included remarkably similar methodology and conclusions to a report from environmental activist group Oceana that was released on the very same day her story was printed. Burros' story contained multiple errors, distortions and omissions; most critically, misinterpretations of the EPA "reference dose" and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) "action level" for mercury, ignoring the fact that both standards contain a ten-fold cushion of safety. The paper's public editor was forced to admit that the story "required careful judgment ... and missed." He added: "I thought the package was less balanced than it should have been, given the state of existing research. James Gorman, an editor in the science department who reviewed the article before publication, said he had raised several specific questions but that in retrospect, ‘I should have raised more questions about the general presentation.'"

* In many cases, reporters will uncritically pass along charges from activists, yet at the same time apply great skepticism to experts, including independent scientists, who take a pro-seafood stance. In July 2008, the Winston-Salem Journal reported on a study that questioned the health benefits of tilapia. Reporter Richard Craver claimed NFI officials took issue with the research "because of its potential for affecting sales." However, no official with or employee of NFI ever made such a statement and the assertion itself is false. Craver went on to write that NFI issued a public letter criticizing the tilapia related research, when in fact the letter was from 16 independent, international scientists. In response, the paper was forced to issue a correction on both points.

* The wild stocks of Alaska pollock are generally acknowledged to be some of the best managed in the world. Despite this, in October 2008, Reuters reporter Jasmin Melvin passed along a report from Greenpeace that Alaska pollock was on the verge of collapse. The Greenpeace report was based on its own incomplete analysis of the National Marine Fisheries Service's stock survey. What Greenpeace didn't say in its press release was that due to lower water temperatures, much of the Pollock had been driven to a lower ocean depth. The complete analysis found the bulk of the stock closer to the bottom of the ocean, a phenomenon that has been common in recent years. When confronted with the error by NFI, Reuters initially refused to acknowledge the additional information, but eventually relented, moving an updated story on its wires.

* In January 2009, an Associated Press article on tuna and mercury included the erroneous claim that the EPA and FDA advise women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children to avoid eating tuna because of its "high levels of mercury that can cause brain damage in babies," - a demonstrable falsehood. In the very first paragraph of the federal seafood consumption advice it is clearly stated, "women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits." The advice then urges this sensitive subpopulation to avoid just four fish during pregnancy: shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel. Tuna is not included on the list of 4 species to avoid. The advice clearly states that it is safe and healthful for women and children to eat 12 ounces of light tuna per week or 6 ounces of white albacore per week. When confronted with the error, the AP was forced to issue a correction.

* At times, it can be hard to tell the difference between a press release from an environmental activist and what passes as mainstream reporting. One such example is the work of Michael Hawthorne, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune who has regularly conflated industrial emissions of mercury with traces of mercury in commercial seafood. Most recently, Hawthorne's reporting has mischaracterized the latest science used by FDA to illustrate the overwhelming benefits of eating more seafood for optimal brain and heart health as a last-minute attempt by the Bush Administration to foil the efforts of EPA and environmental activists, rather than what it was - the culmination of years of scientific study and research.

* Another example of a reporter repeating activist charges about tuna and mercury came in February 2009, when an AP report concerning international efforts to stem mercury emissions from industrial sources contained claims that tuna is regularly contaminated with industrial mercury. Peer-reviewed science shows the vast majority of the mercury that accumulates in commercial seafood is produced by underwater volcanic activity - a critical piece of science that was recently the centerpiece of a court case rejecting an appeal by the State of California that would have required tuna to carry warning labels under the state's Prop. 65 statute. The California courts ruled against the State Attorney General for the second time on the grounds that traces of "methylmercury in tuna is naturally occurring." In a subsequent communication with NFI, AP refused to issue a correction, even as they agreed that activists may be "targeting" canned tuna as part of their larger efforts.

* Most recently, America's top fashion magazine, Vogue, showed why it shouldn't stray too far from its primary area of expertise when it ran a feature on fish consumption and mercury. Entitled, "Mercury Rising," the story was written by sometime Hollywood screenwriter Bronwyn Garrity, who admits a "Google-fueled freakout" spurred fears that generated the story rather than discussions with her own doctor or other health experts. Besides relying almost exclusively on activist sources like Oceana and the Environmental Defense Fund, Garrity, while interviewing an official of the EPA, neglected to consult an official of the FDA, the government agency responsible for dispensing nutritional advice to Americans. She also failed to mention the new, landmark FDA draft report on fish consumption that reported cognitive benefits for 99.9% of babies and young children, as well as its role in preventing 50,000 deaths a year from heart disease and stroke. Also ignored: years of positive studies and reports on the benefits of increased fish consumption by The Lancet, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine.

Readers and viewers deserve the truth. When activists are cherry picking science or not using science at all to meet their rhetorical needs, they should be exposed, not showcased.

Contrary to some reports in the activist press, NFI wants an open dialogue with journalists. We believe such a dialogue will support the balanced and objective reporting that journalists seek generally and is particularly important when informing the public about their diet and health. Despite these past errors, allow us to offer some specifics and a few suggestions when approaching coverage about the seafood industry:

* Reporters should seek out opposing views when an issue is in dispute. Failing to contact independent scientists and/or subject experts from the seafood community to respond to unproven claims of the activist community should be seen as what it is, a basic violation of American journalism standards;

* Despite being advised on multiple occasions, reporters continue to make the same mistakes about fish consumption and mercury. Below, find a table that contains the most common mistakes journalists make when reporting about fish consumption and mercury:


Straight Fact

Representing the EPA's "reference dose" as a per piece of fish limit or a per meal maximum. And characterizing the FDA's "action level" as a number above which harm to consumers will occur.

The "reference dose" refers to mercury consumption determined to have no negative effects over the course of a lifetime. Exceeding these safety measures does not indicate harm; both safety measures offer protection at levels 10 times or 1000% higher than the federal limits.

Conflating industrial emissions of mercury with mercury that naturally occurs in the ocean.

The vast majority of mercury found in the ocean and ocean fish are the result of underwater volcanic activity and thermal vent releases.

Misrepresenting FDA guidance on seafood consumption as being applied to the general population.

The current advice is exclusively for pregnant or nursing women, women who want to become pregnant and young children only. Pregnant women are eating less than 2 ounces of seafood weekly versus the 12 ounces recommended for optimum fetal brain and eye development.

Suggesting that the type and amount of mercury found in commercial seafood introduces a neurotoxin that is casing harm.

The amount of mercury equated with overt brain damage has only been seen in industrial accidents and poisonings and not in normal fish consumption. The levels present in those instances are on a scale dramatically different than the levels seen in commercial seafood. Research shows missing out on the omega-3 and other nutrients in fish is a bigger risk to brain development than trace amounts of mercury.

Citing tuna as a fish to avoid during pregnancy.

The FDA guidance recommends pregnant women avoid only four species during pregnancy: shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.

Sourcing the EPA in stories about eating seafood almost exclusive of comment from the FDA.

FDA has the statutory responsibility for commercial fish and the expertise to give nutritional advice.

Consumers need to choose their fish carefully and avoid high mercury fish.

Pregnant and nursing women, women who want to become pregnant, and young children are the only group guidance exists. For them, there are only four species they are asked to avoid. No restrictions exist for anyone else. The ten most commonly eaten fish in the U.S. represent 90% of the fish Americans eat and all are naturally low in mercury.

Stores should post mercury warning signs.

Studies suggest signs have a negative impact on pregnant women and consumers broadly because consumers may react by reducing or eliminating fish from their diet. FDA believes that seafood advice should be discussed with the targeted population for whom it is intended via physicians.

* Reporters need to know that the independent scientific community has reached a consensus on the clear and significant net benefits of eating fish for prevention of stroke, sudden cardiac death (heart attack) and brain development during and after pregnancy. For years there has been tremendous independent data that refutes the basic claims made by environmental activists who attempt to hijack a public health issue for use in environmental health propaganda;

* Reporters need to be aware of the effect that reporting has on readers - negatively impacting public health - in this case by encouraging readers to limit fish consumption and deny them the proven health benefits of increasing the amount of seafood in their diet.

We encourage any and all responsible feedback on this issue, but we also want to let reporters know that we will be vigilant about confronting distortions and errors - and will do so publicly.

Mary Anne Hansan
Vice President
National Fisheries Institute