Friday, July 24, 2009

Wolves vs. Humans: Which Do the Feds Value More?

For Immediate Release
Thursday, July 23, 2009
For further Information, contact:
Paul Gessing 505-264-6090 or Jim Scarantino 505-256-2523

(Albuquerque)— The federal government’s wolf reintroduction plan is the very definition of big government in some rural areas in New Mexico. While the Rio Grande Foundation has not taken a position one way or the other on whether wolves should be reintroduced, its Investigative Journalist Jim Scarantino, has uncovered what appears to be a rather shocking example of misplaced priorities.

In his new report, “Does the Federal Government Value Wolves More Than Humans? The Money Says It All,” Scarantino takes a closer look at the wolf reintroduction program. Since the Mexican wolf reintroduction program was launched more than a decade ago, millions of dollars have been spent by the United States, Arizona and New Mexico governments. The goal was to reestablish a target population of 100 wolves in the mountainous areas of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona

• According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the New Mexico and Arizona game departments, by the end of 2009, these agencies estimate that their total expenditures will be approximately $20.5 million;

• According to the USFWS’ 2008 year-end survey, only 52 wolves were roaming the Arizona-New Mexico reintroduction area. This means that each living wolf cost taxpayers nearly $400,000;

• In response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congress passed the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Act. This law set the intrinsic value of a human life at $250,000. Higher sums were paid to compensate families for the lost incomes of a love one killed in the attacks. But the value of a human life itself, without regard to that person’s ability to earn money, was set at $250,000.

“At $400,000 a wolf and rising,” Scarantino asks, “government is valuing the intrinsic value of each wolf more than its values the intrinsic value of human life. Residents in the affected areas have frequently complained that the government seems to care more about “El Lobo” than the human residents who must live with these powerful predators. With these figures, they can now point to government’s excessive and endless spending on wolves to prove their point.”

The full report is available here:

A good example of what the Politically Superior Ones think of us.

Democrats raise concerns about Barbara Boxer

A big chunk of the House climate change bill is in the hands of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer — and some of its supporters are worried that she’s not up to the task. In private conversations, Senate staffers say that Boxer’s abrasive personal style helped tank the climate bill that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) sponsored last year. And several recent embarrassing episodes involving the California Democrat have them worried about a repeat performance. During a committee hearing in June, Boxer upbraided a brigadier general for calling her “Ma’am” rather than “Senator.” During another hearing this month, Boxer found herself in a testy exchange with the CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, who accused her of “condescending” to him. For some Democratic staffers, the incidents underscored the danger of having an outspoken partisan liberal in charge of making the kinds of compromises needed to get cap and trade through the Senate...Politico

Another New Study Challenges Climate Change ‘Orthodoxy’

Virtually all changes in global atmospheric temperatures in the late 20th century were the result of nature rather than human activity, according to a new peer-reviewed study, one of whose authors predicted Friday was “sure to cause a stir.” “It goes against the orthodoxy,” said climate scientist Chris de Freitas of New Zealand’s Auckland University. The new findings called into question the politically-correct, politically-motivated assumptions driving the climate change debate, he said. De Freitas and Australian scientists John McLean and Bob Carter reported that at least 80 percent of climate variability tracked over the past half a century could be attributed to internal climate-system factors including the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Pacific warming phenomenon and its cooling twin, La Nina. This left little room for human-caused factors like emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases. Intermittent volcanic activity, producing significant cooling, was found to have been a factor. The paper was published Thursday, following a six-month peer review process, in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research...CNSNews

Obama Administration proposes new cap on snowmobiles in Yellowstone

The number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone National Park would be cut by more than half under an Obama administration proposal announced Thursday that marked yet another policy swing for an issue that's been unresolved for more than a decade. The proposal would allow 318 snowmobiles and 78 multi-passenger snowcoaches daily for the next two winters, Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said. That's down from 720 snowmobiles per day allowed last winter. That cap was never reached: an average of 205 snowmobiles daily entered the park in 2008-09 and the busiest day of the season saw only 426 of the machines. The question of how many snowmobiles are appropriate for the nation's first national park has sparked political and legal skirmishing since the Clinton administration, when an outright ban was proposed...AP

Local food no green panacea: professor

There are lots of reasons somebody might want to buy local food — freshness, distinct flavour, or even a desire to keep their dollars in their own community. "But if you're doing it to save the planet," University of Toronto professor Pierre Desrochers says, "you're being misguided." The concept of "food miles" — the distance food has travelled from production to consumption — has been adopted as the best way of gauging a food's environmental impact. "People who've never been involved in agricultural production tend to minimize the requirements," he says. Only about 10 per cent of the energy consumed in food production is related to transportation. "So to argue that the closer you are to your food, the better, is a real over-simplification." He uses the example of strawberries. Highly efficient farms in California produce roughly 17 times as many strawberries as a typical Ontario producer using the same amount of land and resources. "When you're that efficient you can invest in better handling and storage," he says. "The environmental impact of transportation isn't very significant." Moving that food to consumers via highly efficient rail, ocean freight or even comparatively costly air is a better move, environmentally, than trying to re-create the ideal growing conditions for the fruit in Canada, he says. His paper is full of similar examples. European studies found that British farmers emit 2,394 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every tonne of tomatoes they produce. But Spanish farmers produce only 630 kilograms of carbon dioxide for the same amount. The real enemies of environmentally conscious food consumers, he says, are food subsidies that encourage agricultural production in certain areas for the wrong reasons. An Environmental Assessment Institute report put the total value of environmental subsidies at $376 billion worldwide in 2006. Barriers like that, Desrochers's paper says, "end up being harmful to both the environment and the economy."...CBCNews

Five Months After Stimulus, Interior Department Has Paid Out 0.4% of Stimulus Funds

Tomorrow, Friday, July 24th, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will provide a progress report to the House Budget Committee on how stimulus funds are being spent by the Department of the Interior. Hopefully, the Secretary will explain why out of the $3 billion allocated to the Department, only $310 million (10%) has been obligated to specific projects and only $12 million (0.4%) has actually been paid out. If the Department has a “huge backlog of shovel-ready construction projects,” why - over five-months later - has it only dispersed less than 0.4% of their available stimulus dollars?...PressRelease

Have we actually found an Obama appointee who can't spend money?

The Republicans are criticizing him, but I say put Salazar in charge of all the bailout/jobs/wasteful programs.

Song Of The Day #090

Hank Penny gives us some female advice on his tune Get Yourself A Redhead.

The song is availabe on his 26 track Hollywood Western Swing 1944-1947.

The Radio Ranch is gonna dedicate this song to my sister Fara, who just happens to be...a redhead.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

California’s Budget Plan Includes New Offshore Oil

The deal to close California's $26 billion budget deficit included a plan to drill for offshore oil, drawing allegations that the fiscal crisis was used for a backroom deal following rejection of the idea by state regulators earlier this year. Democrats agreed to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request to expand drilling from an existing platform off Santa Barbara to generate a one-time $100 million advance royalty payment this fiscal year and an estimated $1.8 billion in royalties over 14 years. It would be the first new offshore oil drilling on state lands in four decades since a blowout on a platform off Santa Barbara coated miles of ocean and shoreline and galvanized opposition...AP

Arnie, who lobbied nationally against offshore drilling, is now a proponent and the Dems are going along?

Funny what politicians will do when their lifeblood (tax revenue) is on the wane.

Energy independence wouldn't do it, sky-high gas prices wouldn't do it, but threatening their ability to control and spend will do it.

These Politically Superior Ones would not take positive action to protect the average citizen, but they certainly will to protect their powerbase - the government.

Hell, they are even starting to allow beer tastings.

Court rebuffs enviros, allows motorized rafts at Grand Canyon

An appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge by environmentalists to federal rules allowing the use of motorized rafts at the Grand Canyon. Several environmental groups sued the National Park Service in 2006 over its Colorado River Management Plan, which permits the use of motorized rafts in the canyon. The groups argued that the park service ignored its own rules and policies that say canyon uses shouldn't impair the wilderness character of the area. In rejecting that argument, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower court's decision that said the plaintiffs failed to show the park service acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it adopted its river management plan...AP

CU study warns of scarce water

A new study projects that all reservoirs along the Colorado River — which provide water for 27 million people in seven states — could dry up by 2057 because of climate change and overuse. If warming led to a 10 percent reduction in the river's flow, it would create a 25 percent chance of depletion, according to the University of Colorado research released this week. Warming resulting in a 20 percent reduction would raise the chance of depletion to 50 percent, the study found. "In the short term, the risk is relatively low," said Balaji Rajagopalan, associate professor of civil environmental and architectural engineering at CU and lead author on the study, which was accepted for publication by the American Geophysical Union. "But after that, the risk escalates enormously. If you do nothing, and you have no policies in place, even drastic measures such as cutting people off will not help from staving off catastrophe." Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bureau of Reclamation participated in the study. Rajagopalan said the study was done in response to a 2008 University of California study that found a one-in-two chance that overuse and warming could deplete reservoirs much sooner — by 2021...DenverPost

Wanted for Wetlands Pollution, EPA Fugitive Caught in Mexico

Robert Wainwright, 65, a fugitive wanted in Indiana for allegedly polluting wetlands, was arrested July 14 in Mexico by U.S. marshals and agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, working with Mexican police. Wainwright, who had a prior federal firearms conviction, was extradited back to the United States and arrived in Indianapolis on Saturday, July 18. Before he fled to Mexico, officials say Wainwright was manager of Sterling Material Services in Lake County, Indiana. The company, which separated metal from slag and brick waste from steel mills, allegedly disposed of waste in an adjacent wetland without a permit...ENS

Alaska wildfires have burned 1 million acres

Firefighters on Monday were conducting burnout operations on a large wildfire of more than 200,000 acres near Nenana in hopes of removing fuels and keeping the blaze from moving closer to cabins along the Teklanika River. Water-scooping aircraft also were being used on the Railbelt Complex fire. The Railbelt fire was begun by lightning nearly a month ago and has grown to nearly 219,000 acres. It is one of several large wildfires burning in Alaska, where so far this year more than 400 fires have burned more than 1 million acres in the state. State officials say the Railbelt Complex fire is affecting air quality, especially north of Denali National Park where the smoke-filled air has been deemed unhealthy and even hazardous at times...AnchorageDailyNews

State employees say green urinals stink

The Department of Environmental Conservation's effort to maintain eco-friendly bathrooms at its downtown headquarters has made quite a splash but not in the way the state intended. DEC has been getting complaints by state workers that waterless urinals at their building have created a fetid mess complete with "splash back," "puddles (of urine) on the floor," and "unpleasant odor." Those using the restrooms at DEC's 625 Broadway headquarters grew so disgusted that in April they filed a union grievance alleging a health hazard and a violation of work rules protecting employees from "elements, such as filth or pathogens," according to records obtained by the Times Union...AlbanyTimesUnion

Chemicals That Eased One Environmental Woe Worsen Another

Scientists say the chemicals that helped solve the last global environmental crisis -- the hole in the ozone layer -- are making the current one worse. The chemicals, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were introduced widely in the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foam. They worked: The earth's protective shield seems to be recovering. But researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change. In the atmosphere, these replacement chemicals act like "super" greenhouse gases, with a heat-trapping power that can be 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide. Now, scientists say, the world must find replacements for the replacements -- or these super-emissions could cancel out other efforts to stop global warming...WPost

E. coli Happens

I just love that headline.

Read all about it at OpenMarket.

Climate Change Will Be Senate’s Next Battle Royal

Climate change is the ticking political time bomb on the Senate’s agenda this fall, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has the timer set to go off in late September. With the debate on health care sucking up so much oxygen in the Senate these days, few are paying attention to the cavernous gulf among Democrats over how to tackle global warming and the lack — so far — of a way to bring Members together while also appealing to Republicans. “It will blow up,” one senior Democrat said. With Democrats from the South, Midwest, Plains and Mountain West deeply skeptical of creating a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, Senate Democrats could be even more split than they are on health care reform once the chamber actually begins to seriously focus on the issue. “There’s a lot of opposition to climate change in the Senate,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “You’re going to have to turn a lot of Democrats to get a bill.” Still, Senate Democratic leaders are trying to give climate change legislation a real chance this year by holding weekly meetings with the chairmen of the six committees of jurisdiction as well as sessions with industry and activist groups on a weekly basis...RollCall

China Knows Climate Deals Are Ruinous

With more Americans out of work than we've seen in decades, and with families losing their homes, is now the time — if ever — to increase energy costs across the board? The Sierra Club thinks so. Its six-year assault on new, affordable electricity generation has successfully destroyed 100 planned or proposed coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and the thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars worth of economic development they would have created. In total, the club has stopped 61 gigawatts of new, affordable electric capacity from reaching American consumers. This obstruction persists even as our electricity demand has outstripped our growth in generating capacity by 3-to-1, according to a North American Electricity Reliability Council report from last October. To keep electricity supply meeting increasing demand and continue to boost its economy and improve the quality of life of its citizens, China has been building coal-fired power plants aggressively. It's completing almost three new plants per month. By 2020, China will generate roughly the same amount of electricity from coal as the U.S. does from all sources — coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro. At the same time, according to the International Energy Agency, China has "become the major world market for advanced coal-fired power plants with high-specification emission control systems."...IBD

Dem congressman calls cap-and-trade 'worst' bill he's ever seen

The cap-and-trade climate bill before Congress is the "worst piece of legislation" in recent years, one centrist Democratic lawmaker said Monday. "The cap and trade bill is really the worst piece of legislation I've seen since I've been there," Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) told the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce. "It raises energy prices on businesses, raises electric bills on families, and it even raises gasoline prices in the middle of a recession. And, it makes America less competitive in the global economy." Boren was one of 44 House Democrats to vote against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, crafted by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), in a razor-thin vote last month...TheHill

Obama Regulatory Czar's Confirmation Held Up Over Animal Rights

President Obama's nominee for "regulatory czar" has hit a new snag in his Senate confirmation process -- a "hold" by Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who's says he's not convinced that Harvard professor Cass Sunstein won't push a radical animal rights agenda, including new restrictions on agriculture and even hunting. Senators are permitted "holds" to prevent a vote on a nominee from coming to the floor. They are often secretive and for very specific reasons. "Sen. Cornyn finds numerous aspects of Mr. Sunstein's record troubling, specifically the fact that he wants to establish legal 'rights' for livestock, wildlife and pets, which would enable animals to file lawsuits in American courts," the Republican's spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin, said in a statement to Cornyn's hold on Sunstein comes just as Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., last week lifted his own hold on the nominee, whom Obama tapped in April to become the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Budget and Management. Chambliss said he was dropping his hold because Sunstein had convinced him that he "would not take any steps to promote litigation on behalf of animals," and that he believes the "Second Amendment creates an individual right to possess guns for purposes of both hunting and self defense."...FoxNews

Aspen - 87 Bear Break-Ins In Last Month

A surprise guest caused a stink at GrassRoots Community Television in Aspen on Monday night. When employees arrived to work the next morning, they discovered that a black bear had pooped and peed in the front office, scarfed down some Doritos, had its way with the refrigerator and tossed a file cabinet. Just another day in what is turning out to be a busy bear season in Aspen. From July 1 through July 21, the Aspen Police Department had fielded 87 bear calls — up from the eight calls during the same period last year...AspenTimes

Rabid Raccoons In... New York City

Several rabid raccoons have been found in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx in recent weeks. That is prompting the New York City Health Department to issue a warning. Pet owners should make sure their animals are vaccinated agaisnt rabies. The health department says people should avoid contact will any raccoons, skunks, bats, stray dogs and cats and other wild animals that can carry rabies. Six rabid animals - all raccoons - have been identified in New York City this year. Four were found in the Bronx, one in Manhattan (near Inwood Hill Park), and one in Queens (Long Island City). Raccoons are the most commonly reported rabid animals in New York City. Rabid raccoons are a relatively common occurrence in Staten Island and the Bronx, but rare in Queens and Manhattan. Bats with rabies have also been found in all five boroughs...FoxNY

Humane Society, farmers prepare for war

Ohio farmers are fighting back against a proposal by the Humane Society of the United States to change how chickens, pigs and calves are confined. The two sides already are scrapping over what is expected to become a heated, emotional and costly statewide ballot issue in November and perhaps again in 2010. What's happening is ''tremendously scary to Ohio farmers . . . and what's happening will impact everyone in Ohio,'' Stark County farmer Frank Burkett III said. The outcome could cost farm jobs in Ohio and affect prices, opponents contend. In 2008, the Humane Society played a key role in a California vote that changed the way farmers there must care for and shelter farm animals. Ohio became its next target, largely because of the state's 30 million egg-laying hens. Battle lines formed this February with the Humane Society pitted against the powerful Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Cattlemen's Association, Ohio Pork Producers Council and Ohio Poultry Association. The message from the Humane Society was clear: Change your animal-husbandry practices or have them changed for you at the ballot

Animal Rights Activists Vandalize Home of Researcher

Underground animal rights activists issued a statement Wednesday claiming credit for having vandalized the home of researcher at the University of California at Irvine, by spray-painting "KILLER" across his garage door and pouring red paint on three of his cars. The statement said the researcher was being punished for working with animals and that the action was taken so "all his neighbors could see what a cruel, sick person they live near." A spokeswoman for Irvine confirmed the attack, which she said took place Friday, although she said only two cars were covered with red paint. The spokeswoman said that the research maintains a lab at Irvine but teaches elsewhere. She said he does work with animals: rodents. InsideHigherEd

Federal judge weighs legal challenge to Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

A federal judge in San Jose on Monday sent mixed signals over the fate of a new law designed to target violent animal-rights protests, indicating he will rule later in the nation's first direct legal challenge to Congress' attempt to protect animal researchers and scientists from serious safety threats. During an hourlong hearing, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte suggested that the 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act may be legally vulnerable, but he also left doubts about whether the current lawsuit is the right path to take on the law in its entirety. Federal prosecutors invoked the law for the first time earlier this year, indicting four activists accused of threats and vandalism against University of California medical researchers in Santa Cruz and Berkeley. Lawyers for the defendants, backed by civil liberties groups, argue that the animal terrorism law is unconstitutional. They say it's too broad, vague and tramples on the free speech rights of animal rights advocates who protest and boycott for their cause. In moving to dismiss the indictment, they maintain the law targets animal rights groups so broadly that it would criminalize a boycott or protest outside a fur store...MercuryNews

The Rich Home on the Range

Mark Lowham was raised on a ranch in Casper, Wyoming. He got away from roping steers and repairing fences to study at Stanford Business School. Lowham thought he might return to ranching one day, but he never dreamed that instead of roping steers, he’d be marketing ways to rope adults into a herd of conservation-minded land-owners. Lowham is senior vice president of WEST*GROUP, where he works with Gerald T. Halpin, a former rocket scientist renowned for having the perfect nose for real estate deals. In 1989, WEST*GROUP formed a partnership called Meridian, whose mission was to develop a 1400 acre ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just minutes from the most perfect snow midway between the town of Jackson Hole and the Jackson Hole ski area. The spread was initially zoned and approved for 1160 home sites but Halpin decided to turn what he called Indian Springs Ranch into a hybrid of private land ownership and common space sharing. Owners would hold title to a specific portion of the overall ranch – their homestead – and have access to the rest, much like a country club. Those 1400 acres would only house 46 home sites of approximately seven acres each, enough really to be anyone’s Ponderosa. But you’d still get all the perks of ranch ownership: acres of protected ranch land, grazing cattle, horses to ride, barns, pool, tennis courts and a gathering lodge for community...newgeography

Damn, the cat is out of the bag. Now everyone will know that one of the perks of ranching is having a swimming pool and tennis courts.

High School Rodeo an international affair

It may be called the National High School Finals Rodeo, but the nation's borders are wide open this week to rodeo contestants. Canadians, Australians and Americans all gather under the New Mexico sun this week. "The people of Farmington have been nothing but nice to us," said Sandy Drier of Manitoba, Canada. "A lot of people were scared to come down because of the VS (vesicular stomatosis) outbreak, but now they wish they had." The Driers arrived in Farmington on Friday night after driving 1,400 miles in two days. Their party was cut in half because of outbreak fears. They travel with tents and trailers proudly adorned with the Canadian flag. Their camp sits in the heart of RV lot 4. The NHSFR is not short on pride. State and national flags fly high above trailers and golf carts. Hats and T-shirts litter the arenas. Locals and travelers alike do agree that their team is the one to beat...FarmingtonDailyTimes

This old cowboy earned the name

Maurice is a 78-year-old Champion. Literally, because that's his name, Maurice Champion. Literally, because he's also a cowboy Hall of Famer. Literally, because this veteran kid has rodeoed since the 1940s. If that doesn't sound fun enough for you, try on this for a smile: He's here this weekend to watch his grandsons, one of them named ... ready? ... National Champion. That's right. Nat will be competing to become his own namesake, a national champion, this week in team roping, with his first rides coming Wednesday morning and night. But if you don't get the opportunity to talk with National, maybe you'll catch a moment with Maurice's granddaughter: Ima Champion...FarmingtonDailyTimes

Song Of The Day #089

Today we'll hear from one of my favorite female singers, Jean Shepard.

You can't beat her 5 disc box set from Bear Family Records, The Melody Ranch Girl.

Hear she is performing Sad Singin' and Slow Ridin'.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

McCain blocks Interior picks

Former presidential candidate Senator John McCain is blocking two of President Barack Obama's nominees for positions in the US Interior Department until the administration weighs in on a controversial land swap to allow a new copper mine in Arizona. McCain said he would put "holds" on Robert Abbey, Obama’s pick to head the Bureau of Land Management, and Wilma Lewis, Obama's choice for assistant secretary of lands and minerals management. Both positions would have power over oil and gas development on federal lands. In the US Senate, any member can stall a vote on a nominee. The “hold,” as it is called, can be overturned with by a vote of 60 senators, but such moves are rare because they engender bad blood between Senators and parties. "We at the Department of the Interior are working diligently to address all of Senator McCain's concerns and to work with him on these nominations," Kendra Barkoff, an Interior Department spokeswoman, told the Arizona Daily Republic...Upstream

Largest Green-Power Program Stumbles

The nation’s largest green-power program has seen enrollment fall far short of expectations as its wind power prices have soared. Austin Energy, which offers homeowners and businesses the chance to power their homes with renewable energy (mainly wind) through its GreenChoice program, has signed up only 1 percent of its hoped-for customers for its latest wind power offering, according to The Austin American Statesman. Buying wind power now costs substantially more than conventional power (which has recently fallen in price as natural gas prices have plunged), and Austin Energy may be forced to spread the cost among all of its customers, according to the paper...NYTimes

Report shows endangered species program flaws

Federal biologists are falling far short of requirements to track the fate of endangered species, according to a recent report from the General Accounting Office. The investigative arm of Congress studied how several federal agencies report and tally actions related to animals and plants on the endangered species list. The report showed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (responsible for managing endangered species) does not have a way to track the reports it requires of other federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service. Out of 497 species listed in the western states, federal investigators said the Fish and Wildlife Service only has a formal database for three of them — the spotted owl, the marbled murrelet and bull trout. Seven other species are tracked by informal means, leaving 487 species without meaningful tracking data. Investigators found that federal biologists couldn't come up with an accurate reckoning of the required data in 63 percent of the cases studied...SummitDaily

Fish are shrinking in response to global warming: study

Fish have lost half their average body mass and smaller species are making up a larger proportion of European fish stocks as a result of global warming, a study published Monday has found. Smaller fish tend to produce fewer eggs. They also provide less sustenance for predators - including humans - which could have significant implications for the food chain and ecosystem. A similar shrinking effect was recently documented in Scottish sheep and Daufresne said it is possible that global warming could have "a significant impact on organisms in general." Earlier research has already established that fish have shifted their geographic ranges and their migratory and breeding patters in response to rising water temperatures. It has also been established that warmer regions tend to be inhabited by smaller fish. Daufresne and his colleagues examined long-term surveys of fish populations in rivers, streams and the Baltic and North Seas and also performed experiments on bacteria and plankton. They found the individual species lost an average of 50 percent of their body mass over the past 20 to 30 years while the average size of the overall fishing stock had shrunk by 60 percent...AFP

Ecologists decry efforts to douse recent Calif. wildfire

Two environmentalists who study fire ecology say community leaders shouldn't be applauding U.S. Forest Service firefighters' quick work to contain a recent wildfire, no matter how much smoke was kept out of the air. "Smoke is an unpleasant, but unavoidable, fact of natural life," said Timothy Ingalsbee, the executive director of the Eugene, Ore.-based Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology. "There's no smokeless fire. This is California fire country. There's no way around it." Chad Hanson, director of the Cedar Ridge, Calif.-based John Muir Project, agreed, saying that there's no scientific evidence showing wildfire smoke causes long-term damage to residents' respiratory systems. Such claims run counter to findings of a collaborative investigation by the Record Searchlight and the nonprofit Center for California Health Care Journalism. Reporters this spring found 10 doctor-verified cases in Trinity County where residents -- many of whom had never been seriously ill before -- grew sick during last year's fires and remained chronically ill long after the blazes were extinguished...ScrippsNews

A fire burns today where one once raged

The Boise National Forest got its wake up call on fires 20 years ago this month. Sebastian Junger captured in his book "Fire" the drama of that July 26, 1989, lightning storm that touched off the Lowman Fire that blackened 47,000 acres and burned up much of the tiny forest hamlet including the well-known Haven Lodge. "The fire created its own convection winds, making the fire burn hotter and hotter until the fire behavior spiraled completely out of control," Junger wrote. "Temperatures at the heart of the blaze reached 2,000 degrees. A column of smoke and ash rose right miles up into the atmosphere. Trees were snapped in half by the force of the convection winds." The scene Junger described has become all to familiar for those of us living in the West. I had seen it the year before in Yellowstone, the signal fire of the coming age of global warming. But the Lowman fire was different than Yellowstone. The trees were thick-barked ponderosa pines, which had evolved to survive all but an inferno like the 1989 blaze. Yellowstone's lodgepole pines lived at a higher elevation and only became vulnerable when the summers were dry, hot and windy. But Lowman's trees expected fires every seven to 30 years. What Junger didn't report was that from 1960 to 1989 the Forest Service had put out 70 fires in the Lowman area with its crack teams of smoke jumpers, hotshots, and helitack crews, its retardant bombers and network of roads...IdahoStatesman

Trend worsening for pollutant in 16 national parks

A pollutant that can slowly trigger changes in the lives of plants and animals is increasingly being found in 16 National Park Service sites, mostly in the western United States. Air quality data obtained by The Associated Press shows significant worsening trends for ammonium in several flagship parks, including Yellowstone, Mount Rainier and Utah's Canyonlands. At Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, researchers have already seen subtle shifts in the alpine tundra, where some of the park's trademark wildflowers are being replaced by grass. Scientists worry that increases in nitrogen-rich ammonium could gradually transform other national parks' sensitive ecosystems, affecting everything from microscopic algae and plants to fish, frogs and other wildlife. Ammonia is a mix of hydrogen and nitrogen. When it mixes with water, it becomes ammonium and acts as an extra dose of fertilizer when it reaches the ground. It's commonly associated with fertilizers, large animal feeding operations, vehicle exhaust and factory emissions. It also occurs naturally...AP

Obama creates Pacific Northwest Trail

When the national scenic trails system was created four decades ago, the goal was to build a walking path across the United States. That goal has come closer to reality with President Obama's signing of a bill creating the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail and two others. They are the first such trails designated in 26 years. "The dream of a transcontinental pathway across America is 1,200 miles closer to reaching fruition," said Ron Strickland, a former Washington resident who first proposed the Pacific Northwest trial in 1970. The trail will eventually run from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava in Washington. Portions of the trail have existed for centuries, and for the past three decades the nonprofit Pacific Northwest Trail Association has been gradually improving the route and erecting a few signs. The federal designation means money will be provided to connect all portions of the trail, build bridges and other improvements, and to erect signs and access points along its length, said Jon Knechtel of the association...AP

Biobutanol Creeps Toward the Market

A type of fuel once used in Japanese aircraft during World War II is slowly making its way again toward the market, and its backers say that it will work better in automobiles than ethanol. DuPont and BP hope to produce the fuel, called biobutanol, on a commercial scale starting in 2013. They are currently testing it in Britain, where a demonstration-scale plant should start operations at the end of next year, according to Nick Fanandakis of DuPont’s applied biosciences division. The fuel — butyl alcohol derived from plant materials rather than fossil fuels — is being pursued by other companies as well. Last November, a private equity company, Patriarch Partners, purchased a shuttered pulp mill in Maine, with the purpose of refitting it to produce biobutanol derived from maple, birch and beech tree chips...NYTimes

Forest Service Underlines Importance of Backcountry Aviation

Following years of work and discussions, Abigail Kimbell, Chief of the U. S. Forest Service, has signed a directive acknowledging the long and proud history of aviation use and airstrips on forest service lands, and asked USFS managers at all levels to inventory and maintain existing facilities, and to support aviation as an important recreational activity. This action resulted from meetings between representatives of the Recreational Aviation Foundation and a team of senior Forest Service executives in Washington. Similar to policy statements regarding many other classes of the public and user groups such as hikers, fishermen, and boaters, the memorandum says: “Aviation has been part of our country's heritage, both as a mode of transportation and as a means of access to remote and scenic areas for a wide variety of purposes. Backcountry airstrips are an appropriate use of National Forest System (NFS) lands as they provide enhanced access for a variety of legitimate recreational activities ... Recreational aircraft and backcountry airstrips can be an integral part of a balanced and efficient transportation system.” From the earliest days of aviation a system of backcountry airstrips has served the forest service and its users, providing support for forest managers, fire crews, and medical evacuation aircraft. And countless backpackers, campers, boaters, and fishermen have used them to gain access to remote parts of the forest...AeroNews

BLM selects 12 specialists to evaluate deferred Utah leases

The US Bureau of Land Management named a 12-member multi-disciplinary team from three federal agencies on July 17 to evaluate 77 deferred oil and gas lease parcels in southeastern Utah. The group does not include anyone involved in any previous decisions concerning the tracts, BLM said. It includes James Haerter, BLM’s program lead for oil, gas, and energy, and eight other employees of the US Department of the Interior agency, along with two specialists from the National Park Service and one from the US Forest Service. The team’s findings are expected by late September, according to BLM. Its Utah office originally auctioned the 77 parcels at a Dec. 19, 2008, lease sale. A federal district court enjoined their sale on Jan. 17 and US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered that they not be issued on Feb. 6...PennEnergy

Volunteers fined for leaving water for border crossers

Thirteen members of humanitarian organizations received fines for littering earlier this month after putting gallon water jugs along the Arizona border with Mexico, intended for undocumented immigrants entering the country. The people were issued citations in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches 30 miles north of the border in southern Arizona, near the town of Arivaca. The refuge has been identified as an active corridor for migrants. Members of three humanitarian groups - No Más Muertes (No More Deaths), Samaritanos de Tucson (Tucson Samaritans) and Fronteras Humanas (Humane Borders) - tried to place gallons of drinking water in four specific points of the corridor at a time when forecasts had temperatures reaching 110. No Más Muertes developed a program in which gallon jugs were left in large numbers at specific points with the date and GPS coordinates written on the side. The volunteers said they checked the locations weekly to replace the used gallons and to collect any discarded bottles and other garbage...YumaSun

Florida wildlife officials to issue python hunting permits

By next week, the first of a select squad of python hunters will be ready to roll. Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday approved plans to begin capturing and killing Burmese pythons that have invaded the Everglades. The governor called the program, similar to one used for ''nuisance'' alligators on state lands, important for protecting wildlife and the public. Scientists believe the snakes, likely offspring of pets released by owners or freed from cages or shops by Hurricane Andrew, primarily pose a threat to native species. Trappers, whom the FWC said would be confined to volunteer experts, will euthanize the snakes. They also will provide scientific data from weight to gut contents. Trappers would be able to sell the meat and skin, which has commercial value for shoes and other items...MiamiHerald

Man Fights Off Mountain Lion With Chainsaw

Wielding his chain saw as a weapon, a Colorado man says he fought off a starving mountain lion that attacked him while he was camping with his wife and two toddlers in northwestern Wyoming. Dustin Britton, a 32-year-old mechanic and ex-Marine from Windsor, Colo., said he was alone cutting firewood about 100 feet from his campsite in the Shoshone National Forest when he saw the lion staring at him from some bushes. Britton revved his 18-inch chain saw and tried to back away. But the 100-pound lion followed. "When it came, you know, I didn't bring the saw up until I knew what it was going to do," Britton told CBS station KCNC-TV in Denver. As the animal pounced, the 6-foot-tall, 170-pound Britton raised his saw and met it head-on - a collision he said felt like a grown man running right into him. "It batted me three or four times with its front paws and as quick as I hit it with that saw it just turned away," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press...CBS

Farm Groups Say Food Safety Bill Would Make it Tougher for Farmers to Produce Safe Food

Major farm groups are concerned that a bill in Congress intended to shore-up food-safety guidelines could actually make it harder for some livestock and poultry producers to guarantee safe food. A panel of national agricultural experts testified before the House Committee on Agriculture last week about the potential dangers of food-safety legislation currently under discussion in the House. The current version of the Food Safety Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of livestock farms across the country, thus requiring all ranchers and farmers to meet new regulations, as dictated by the FDA. Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state authorities oversee the raising of livestock. The Food and Drug Administration only regulates meat once it has been processed from its animal source. The farm groups complained that the bill would give the FDA authority to oversee farms and set standards for livestock producers, as well as require producers to pay for inspections...CNSNews

USDA: 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.2M

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pushed back Monday against reports his agency spent $1.2 million in economic stimulus funds on a two-pound ham. Vilsack said the department actually bought 760,000 pounds of ham with funds from the $787 billion stimulus, which the GOP has attacked as wasteful spending. Vilsack put out the statement after the Drudge Report posted several contracts from the government’s stimulus website. The contracts suggest the administration spent $1.19 million on two pounds of ham, $1.56 million for mozzarella cheese and $16.8 million on canned pork, among other items. Republicans sent blast e-mails of screenshots from the Drudge Report, highlighting the contracts as wasteful spending. “The White House was wrong when they said there was no pork in the stimulus — and at a higher price than at the average grocery store,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio). None of the contracts indicated how much food was purchased with the stimulus funds. Vilsack’s statement said his agency bought 837,936 pounds of mozzarella, for example. Vilsack said the food was purchased for distribution to local groups, including food banks and soup kitchens that support the needy. He said the purchases would help reduce hunger among those hardest hit by the recession...TheHill

Still wondering how this creates jobs.

Rustling Rise Hurts Ranchers

The rate of cattle theft has more than doubled in the past year to about 45 head a month, according to officials at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. Many blame the weak economy. "We talk about the tough economic times and you talk about the factories closing in the city, but you forget about the rural communities. They're hurting, too," said Tom Troxel, an agriculture professor at the University of Arkansas. "Cattle rustling always seems to go up when the economy goes down." States such as Texas, Missouri and Montana also report steep increases in cattle rustling, Troxel said. Cattle rustling might seem like a crime straight out of the Wild West, but modern livestock thieves prey on ranchers by using trucks, trailers, ATVs and a network of nearly 100 stockyards and cattle auctions across Oklahoma, said Col. Mike Grimes, director of investigative services for state Agriculture Department. Recent beef prices put a cow's value somewhere near $1,000. The price can be even higher for specialty breeds. And unlike stealing a car or tractor, most cattle can be sold for 100 percent of market value...cattlenetwork

Horse Poaching

Law enforcement authorities in Florida are investigating the death of another horse apparently butchered for its meat. Miami-Dade County Police discovered the horse's carcass July 19 after an anonymous tipster reported it lying near a roadway. The flesh from the horse's sides had been removed and its neck was mutilated. The incident is the latest among a dozen similar horse killings in and around Miami-Dade County. In June, a rancher discovered two slaughtered horses partially buried in a dirt mound on his Miami-Dade property. In May, authorities found the butchered remains of two Paso Fino horses near the Miami-Dade County border. Police speculate the incidents are tied to an illegal horsemeat market in Florida...TheHorse

A buzzard by any other name may not have killed animals, commenters say

Bird experts deluged the Times-Review Web site this week with critical comments after a story about the sightings of birds of prey in southeastern Johnson County that, according to the story, appeared to be crested caracara, also known as Mexican buzzards. According to the Web site, crested caracara is the formal name. The same site said the crested caracara is also known as king buzzard, Mexican eagle and Audubon’s caracara and Mexican buzzard. The Times-Review story quoted a woman residing between Rio Vista and Parker as saying the birds in question had scavenged a newborn calf and a cat. She said she believed the animals to have been killed by the birds. The story also quoted a local goat rancher as saying he had heard of attacks on baby goats by Mexican buzzards. The rancher suggested using guard animals to monitor herds. Not correct, Sheri Williamson wrote on the Times-Review Web site. “The northern (a.k.a. crested) caracara is strikingly marked in black and white and has a fully feathered head except for a patch of bare orange skin at the base of its bill. They are predators as well as scavengers but seldom kill animals larger than a cottontail rabbit or large snake,” she reported...CleburneTimesReview

Right rope links cowboys to past

Just as a golfer can't golf without his clubs, a rodeo cowboy can't wrangle without his rope. And while bull riders tend to get most of the glory at rodeos, including this week's California Rodeo Salinas, it's the men lassoing wayward cattle who most resemble the traditional rodeo cowboy. "Ropes, naturally, are a big deal in rodeo," said Denny Watkins, a two-time team roping national champion. As suggested by the events' names, ropes are an essential part of tie-down roping and team roping. And they allow the "pickup" men to steer bulls and broncos back to the pen after a ride. These events, along with saddle bronc riding, simulate the skills of cowboys in the Old West and those working present-day ranches. The roping events are less about expressing one's machismo and more about finesse. Roping a calf or steer running at full speed requires as much precision as a baseball pitcher hitting spots in the strike zone, but the cowboy must do it from a galloping horse rather than a stationary pitcher's mound. Ropers are very particular about their ropes, much like golfers are about their clubs or surfers about their boards. They scrutinize such traits as stiffness, weight and durability, all of which contribute to a rope's effectiveness. Some ropes last 10 runs, while other last up to 30. "But if the rope that lasts 10 runs feels right to you, that's the one you're going to use," said Watkins, who is competing in his 37th Salinas rodeo...MontereyCountyHerald

Song Of The Day #088

Today's selection is dedicated to all those who, like me, have recently experienced computer problems, and to all those who've had run-ins with modern ranching technology. I also nominate this tune as the theme song for those fighting the NAIS.

Here is Dan Roberts doing from his 2000 CD

If you haven't heard it, get ready for some fun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

House votes to save wild horses, burros

The nation's wild horses would be protected from slaughter and given millions more acres to roam under legislation moving toward passage Friday in the House. Supporters of the bill mobilized after the Interior Department announced last year that it may have to kill thousands of healthy wild horses and burros to deal with the growing population on the range and in holding facilities. Republicans complained the bill underscores Democrats' misplaced priorities by focusing on animals instead of people, at a time when the nation's unemployment rate is approaching double digits. They also said the measure would place the protection of wild horses and burros above other animals that rely on the rangeland. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that enacting the Restore our American Mustangs Act would cost about $200 million over the next five years. Currently, the wild herds roam over about 33 million acres of Western land. To comply with the bill, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management would need to find an additional 20 million acres, primarily after 2013, at a cost of up to $500 million, according the CBO...AP

According to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wa), this bill would create a "$700 million welfare program for wild horses and burros" by doing the following:

- a wild horse census would be conducted every two years

- it provides “enhanced contraception” and birth control for these horses

- it would acquire or move 19 million acres of public and private land for the specific purpose of giving these horses more places to roam around. 19 million acres is roughly the size of the distinguished Chairman’s state of West Virginia.

- five million dollars a year will then be spent to repair the damage that horses cause to these lands

- and there are new mandates that government bureaucrats perform home inspections before Americans can adopt a wild horse.

Hastings, Bishop Criticize Obama Administration Decision to Lock Up 40 Percent of America’s Uranium Supply

Today, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (UT-01) criticized the Department of the Interior’s announcement that the Administration will block new uranium mining for two years on one million acres of land in Arizona. “Once again, the Obama Administration is saying no to American energy and no to American jobs,” said Ranking Member Hastings. “In just six short months, the Administration has blocked new offshore drilling, blocked oil and natural gas leases in Utah, and is now blocking uranium mining in Arizona. Today’s announcement will cost American jobs at a time when unemployment is at a 26-year high and make us more dependent on foreign countries for energy. If the President is serious about reducing carbon emissions, he would support increased American uranium development, which is used to produce clean, carbon-free nuclear energy.”...PressRelease

Tester releases Montana wilderness bill

Flanked by representatives from the state's timber industry, wilderness groups, backcountry enthusiasts and motorized off-road-vehicle groups, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., on Friday unveiled a broad piece of legislation aimed at saving timber jobs and increasing wilderness acreage in the state. The measure, dubbed the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2009, designates more than 660,000 acres of new wilderness in Montana, while mandating the logging of 100,000 acres on public forests over a 10-year period. Proponents of the 84-page bill hailed the measure as the product of years of collaboration between often disparate groups of stakeholders. They say the bill will save jobs in timber communities while permanently protecting wilderness and increasing recreational opportunities. However, not all conservationists are enthusiastic about the plan. Some wilderness advocates say the bill gives up too much public land for timber harvesting, road building and off-road vehicle use in exchange for too little wilderness designation. The measure also is being attacked from the other side. The Montana Multiple Use Association blasted it as the product of closed-door negotiations by special-interest groups, adding it ignores mining and other interests. However, Tester said the measure is critical to saving Montana's wood-products industry while reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire...GreatFallsTribune

Obama Defends Bush Rule; Judge Slaps Forest Service

Environmental activists are unsure of what it will take to convince the Forest Service that it can't simply brush away the over-riding requirements of the federal laws that outline forest management. Conservation advocates who had hoped that the Obama administration might turn the agency around have been disappointed so far. Under Obama, the Forest Service pursued the very same arguments in the planning rule case as it did under Bush. That's worrisome to Andy Stahl, who heads up Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. The group is comprised of former and current agency employees who watchdog the agency and protect whistle-blowers. “There's two options,” said Stahl. “One, There's nobody in charge,” he said, referring to the lack of an appointment to a key position in the Agriculture Department. Under that scenario, the agency might simply be following the momentum set by previous officials. The other alternative is more ominous, according to Stahl. “Two, whoever is in charge is no different than the previous administration,” he said. One hint might be the appointment of Doug Crandall, a senior-level Bush administration official, to the position of Forest Service legislative affairs director, or chief lobbyist for the agency. Stahl said Crandall is a former timber lobbyist. Rocky Smith, who analyzes Forest Service policy for the conservation group Colorado Wild, said Crandall is known for his support of “industrial recreation” on national forest lands. “I don't think the National Forests are all that important to Obama. I think his administration sees them as places to spend federal stimulus dollars and for energy production,” Stahl said...

Many felt the same way when the Bush Justice Dept. defended Clinton rules.

The thing to note is this: the government is out to defend the government, and little things like national elections don't change their number one priority.

Green-Industrial Complex

Environmentalism may still have a somewhat edgy, down-at-heel public image, but going green has become big business, and there are buckets of cash to be made from “saving the planet.” In fact, we are witnessing the emergence of a Green-Industrial Complex—an alliance between national governments, enormous corporations, and powerful individuals that uses the politics of fear to procure public money. This new axis discourages healthy debate (accusing those who question it of being “climate-change deniers”); thwarts individual initiative (treating saving the planet as something that can only be done by central bankrollers); and helps to keep the Third World in poverty (encouraging it to remain “carbon-lite” in order to offset the “carbon heaviness” of the West). It’s time to toss an intellectual hand grenade into this network. For a snapshot of the federal and business interests intertwined in the rise of green capitalism, consider the best-known environmentalist, Al Gore, director of the film that has informed so many people’s views on the future of our planet, “An Inconvenient Truth.” To many, especially those still convinced that he was robbed of the 2000 presidential election, Gore is simply a super-committed individual determined to make the planet a better place. But there is far more to him. Gore is getting rich from environmentalism, not just by being paid a whopping $175,000 per speech but by using political pressure to force government policy in a direction that benefits his business interests...AmericanConservative

Greater Yellowstone Elk-wolf Study Shows Elk Having Fewer Calves

Wolves have caused elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to change their behavior and foraging habits so much so that herds are having fewer calves, mainly due to changes in their nutrition, according to a new study published by Montana State University researchers. During winter, nearly all elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are losing weight, said Scott Creel, ecology professor at MSU, and lead author on the study which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Essentially, they are slowly starving," Creel said. "Despite grazing and browsing during the winter, elk suffer a net loss of weight. If winter continued, they would all die, because dormant plants provide limited protein and energy, and snow makes it more difficult to graze efficiently." With the presence of wolves, elk browse more - eating woody shrubs or low tree branches in forested areas where they are safer - as opposed to grazing on grass in open meadows where they are more visible, and therefore more vulnerable to wolves. Browsing provides food of good quality, but the change in foraging habits results in elk taking in 27 percent less food than their counterparts that live without wolves, the study estimates...ScienceDaily

Peacocks and Passions on Display in Senate Climate Debate

With the U.S. House of Representatives having narrowly approved a climate change bill late last month, attention has now moved to the Senate, which is busy debating just how to craft a version of its own. Setting aside leaders like James M. Inhofe, the Republican senator from Oklahoma who has referred to global warming as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” the chief concern surrounding any potential climate legislation in the United States is this: How will it affect the ability of American industry to compete around the globe? It is a fair question, particularly as rapidly industrializing nations — chiefly China — continue to resist the idea of implementing their own emission caps. “The logic is not difficult to understand,” Mr. Inhofe said in a speech on the Senate floor as his colleagues in the House were preparing to vote on their bill. “Carbon caps, according to reams of independent analyses, will severely damage America’s global economic competitiveness, principally by raising the cost of doing business here relative to other countries like China, where they have no mandatory carbon caps.” Jobs and businesses, Mr. Inhofe said, “will move overseas.” Whether or not that logic is as airtight as Mr. Inhofe suggests is widely debated — not least by a parade of witnesses now being called before various Senate committees and subcommittees to testify on the needs, merits and implications of climate policy generally and a cap-and-trade system specifically...NYTimes

Lobbyists lining up for shot at climate bill

The search for consensus on climate change legislation continues next week in the Senate, but it seems every day brings fresh reminders of how difficult that effort could be. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has sought to entice wavering senators by stressing the legislation is as much about the economy as the environment. On Tuesday, her panel will examine how the clean-energy technologies' supporters say the legislation will improve local and state economies that have been withered by the recession. Previously, Boxer and the EPW Committee, which will write the climate bill, have looked at ways farmers and ranchers will benefit and ways the economy at large could remain competitive with other countries without carbon restraints if the United States moves forward on its own. "When we unleash the American innovative spirit, we will drive economic growth and create jobs and whole new industries here at home," Boxer said at a hearing on Thursday on clean energy and jobs. But even supporters acknowledge there may not be 59 other senators who share Boxer's optimistic economic outlook, and a number of industries remain wary of climate legislation. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents major oil producers, noted a study by the conservative Heritage Foundation that found the House bill could push gas prices back up to $4 a gallon. Even those industries more in tune with Boxer's vision are looking to mold the House climate bill more to their liking in the Senate, which could be difficult considering the Jenga-like structure of the measure...TheHill

Prof: Grazing a mixed bag

There's a lasting and fiery debate between some conservation-minded people and beef ranchers and eaters: Do cows harm the land? The parties in this argument have become polarized, to the point of dueling research stating vegetation absolutely can or absolutely cannot thrive without cattle, said Tom Sisk, a professor and conservation biologist at Northern Arizona University. So Sisk and colleagues set out a little more than a decade ago to shed some light on the question, and what they found was a little surprising to them. Starting in 1997, Sisk and researchers Matthew Loeser and Timothy Crews began sectioning off small parts of the 90,000-acre Flying M Ranch on Anderson Mesa east of Flagstaff. Some parts got intensely heavy grazing, chewing down most of whatever was there. Some got none. And most of the land received moderate grazing, with about 850 head of cattle currently. All of them were removed temporarily when the ranch ran out of water in 2002. The experimental areas heavily grazed produced more biomass (some plants began growing more quickly), but they were also much more vulnerable to an invasive plant, cheatgrass, that can take over a landscape and burn wildly. The non-grazed areas didn't grow more plant material faster. Most surprising of all: The areas grazed at a moderate level produced food well and had the most diverse plant life of any area, the most biodiversity. "It's really not about the cows," Sisk said. "It's about how long the cows are out there, how intensively the cows are out there, and more than anything, it's climate."...AzDailySun

Nominee to lead National Park Service has deep roots in West

As superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park outside Seattle, Jon Jarvis twice climbed the 14,411-foot peak. As director of the National Park Service's Pacific West Region, he ordered that his 56 parks be carbon neutral by 2016, when the agency celebrates its centennial. He has tangled with a California senator over oyster farming in a national seashore and, according to colleagues, jeopardized his career by opposing a Bush administration management plan to commercialize the parks and emphasize recreation over conservation. During his 30 years in the National Park Service, starting as a ranger, he championed the effort to transform the "scenery management" approach of "old buffalo" superintendents into one where protecting natural and cultural resources is as important as attracting tourists. In nominating Jarvis for director of the National Park Service, President Barack Obama selected someone who appears to have few critics. "We couldn't have a better person," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nomination. If confirmed by the Senate, Jarvis will head an agency that faces troubling operational budget shortfalls, a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog, low employee morale and fundamental questions about its future...McClatchy

Wilderness or farming?

Visitors to the Point Reyes National Seashore might drive right by the Drake's Bay Oyster Co. if it weren't for a small sign at the end of a long gravel road along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Hidden from the road behind rolling rangeland on the pristine seashore, the family-run oyster farm was once known only to locals and seafood buyers who relished the oysters farmed in Drake's Bay next to a kayak launching point. But now the oyster farm is embroiled in a bitter public dispute that has pitted environmentalist against environmentalist, scientist against scientist, and a U.S. senator against the National Park Service. The fight has spawned petition drives and "Save Drake's Bay Oyster Farm" T-shirts. At issue is whether the more than 70-year-old farm should be allowed to continue operating after its federal lease expires in 2012. Officials with the National Park Service and several environmental groups say the farm harms the local ecosystem and its area of operation should return to wilderness status. The 1,100-acre farm and nearby cattle and dairy ranches were allowed to continue operating when the Point Reyes National Seashore was established in 1960. But when Congress passed the Point Reyes Wilderness Act in 1976, Drake's Bay – also known as Drake's Estero – was designated "potential wilderness." The farm was granted a special federal lease to continue operation until 2012. The lease is renewable...SacramentoBee

County sends message to Salazar on dam removal

The Siskiyou County board of supervisors agreed to send another strongly worded letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar regarding compensation to the county in the event he determines that dam removal should proceed on the Klamath River. The letter states that the board has authorized its negotiator “to participate in discussions regarding a Final Agreement for the study of the cost and benefits of the removal of PacifiCorp’s dams on the Klamath River.” It was prepared by county counsel Tom Guarino and signed by all five supervisors who state that the county has engaged in discussions about dam removal in good faith and “with the promise that the concerns of Siskiyou County would be addressed.” “We are concerned at this point that our concerns are not going to be addressed and in fact are being marginalized in a reckless, headlong pursuit of a predetermined outcome,” the letter states.
According to the letter, Secretary Salazar has made public statements that “this effort must not fail.” The letter asserts that “this effort” is in fact that PacifiCorp’s dams be removed. “Perhaps you can understand our concern that, when you go to make your determination of whether the costs and benefits of removal of these facilities warrants their removal, you may be predisposed toward an outcome and not entirely objective,” the letter continues. The letter flatly states that, “at this point in time, it is a fact that there are insufficient studies to warrant removal of these facilities.” In order to be legitimate, these studies “must be conducted in a transparent and open manner,” the letter states, “consistent with President Obama’s memorandum of March 9, 2009, regarding scientific integrity.” The supervisors point out in the letter that the studies should analyze the impacts of the proposed removal, as well as a consideration of all impacts of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA), “which clearly is a part of the intended consequence of the removal of the facilities.” The board is concerned that the cumulative effects of federal policies are not being considered. “For example, the Northwest Forest Plan has had a severe negative effect on Siskiyou’s economy, for which no mitigations have been provided,” the letter states, “The cumulative impact of all such federal activity is interrelated to the decaying economic conditions in this County and therefore must be considered in any cost/benefit analysis.”...MountShastaNews

Farmers, ranchers oppose water bill

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he came to San Angelo looking for ammunition to fight pending legislation that he says would damage private property rights. He should be leaving with a truckload of it. Cornyn met with several dozen farmers, ranchers, local leaders and heads of more than 10 state organizations Friday in a roundtable discussion about the pending Clean Water Restoration Act. The bill would broaden the power of the U.S. government in regulating surface water. The Clean Water Act is limited to “navigable” waters. The legislation would replace “navigable” with the words “all waters of the United States,” Cornyn said. That includes “prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes and natural ponds,” according to the bill. “This legislation could regulate everything from stock tanks to ditches,” he said. “We need to remind them when they get overambitious it’s time to back off. I want to get ammunition to take back to Washington to slow this down and take a look at this and have a debate.” More than 50 people attended the Friday roundtable, and everyone who spoke opposed the pending legislation...SanAngeloStandardTimes

Survey finds issue of unwanted horses growing

Problems related to unwanted horses are perceived to be growing, with more than 90% of respondents to a recent survey indicating that the number of abused, neglected and unwanted horses is increasing, according to the Unwanted Horse Coalition, which commissioned the survey. The coalition said 87% of respondents said the issue is now "a big problem," compared with 22% who believed that three years ago. The coalition said respondents consider the economic recession to be a major contributor to the unwanted horse problem. The closing of U.S. horse slaughter facilities, changes in breed demand, indiscriminate breeding and high costs of euthanasia and carcass disposal were also cited as important reasons, the coalition said. Regarding placement options for unwanted horses, the coalition said 63% of equine rescue/retirement facilities polled reported that they are at or near capacity and turn away 38% of horses brought to them. Capacity is clearly the issue, the coalition said, in that as many horses stay for life at the facilities as are adopted out...Feedstuffs

Groups push to slaughter horses for meat

Ranchers, Native Americans and others are pushing for the renewed slaughter of horses in the U.S. -- possibly starting in Oregon -- and processing them into meat. Groups are lobbying Congress to introduce a bill this summer to allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to resume inspecting horse meat for human consumption. That would reopen the door to foreign exports. In addition, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are considering building a slaughter and processing facility -- possibly for pet food -- on their reservation north of Madras, as recommended last spring by a coalition of Northwest tribes. Yet the efforts, in addition to riling animal-rights advocates, underscore a rural-urban divide and the desperate state of America's horse industry. Supporters say they need a way to deal with tens of thousands of unwanted horses. The glut was caused by factors such as uncontrolled breeding, closure of the last U.S. horse-processing plants two years ago and an economy that has left many owners unable to pay for feed and care. The situation has led to a steep decline in horse prices, overgrazing on Native American reservations, and incidents of horse abandonment and neglect, among other problems. "We think it is very fair and accurate to say there are probably 100,000 horses that would go to processing today" if a plant were available, said Wyoming state Rep. Sue Wallis, a rancher emerging as a national leader in pushing to reinstate horse slaughtering...Oregonian

North Coast dairy cows sold to slaughter as milk prices fall

Joseph “Joey” Mendoza walks slowly through an empty milking barn at his 150-year-old dairy down the road from the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Mendoza, 65, a third-generation dairyman, sold his 489 dairy cows three weeks ago as part of a national program that seeks to ease what many are calling the worst milk crisis in 70 years. More than 100,000 cows were sent to slaughter under a program developed by the National Milk Producers Federation. Milk prices remain depressed, and program officials recently announced another “herd retirement” that seeks to remove roughly 100,000 more animals from milk production by paying up to $1,500 per cow. For Mendoza, whose grandfather came to the Point Reyes area to milk cows at the turn of the last century, the decision to sell his Holsteins was especially painful. He called it necessary to pay off creditors and to stop the months of financial losses caused by high feed costs and low milk prices. As a result, a typical California dairy with 1,000 cows is losing about $100,000 a month, said Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of the Modesto-based Western United Dairymen. The economic troubles contributed to the suicides of two Central Valley dairy farmers this spring...SantaRosaPressDemocrat

Riders from Mexico arrive in Black Hills

About 50 people riding horseback from Mexico to Canada as part of the “Best of America by Horseback” television show arrived in South Dakota on Sunday. The Mexico to Canada trail ride arrived in Hot Springs Sunday and will be in the state, riding through the Black Hills on the Mickelson Trail and then to Belle Fourche, until it crosses into North Dakota in mid August. Custer has been designated as the “Best of America by Horseback” trailriding area of the year. While there, the entourage will camp at Plenty Star Ranch, located nine miles south of Custer on Highway 384 near the Mickelson Trail. Owners Isa and John Kirk, who ran a horse campground for 15 years before closing it this year, will host a pig roast campfire dinner for the riders. The Kirks raise registered Spanish mustangs that will be filmed by the show. Seay expects to turn the five-month trip into a series of at least 13 television shows that feature scenic horse-riding areas and communities that “are the heart and soul of America.”...RapidCityJournal

Where rodeo reigns, mutton bustin' is the first notch in a little cowboy's belt

SANTA FE, N.M. - It's 30 seconds before his big rodeo ride, and Julian Apodaca looks as if he wants to disappear under the wide brim of his white cowboy hat. He's staring down at his boots, rubbing at his teary eyes. Julian's father, a former junior bull-riding champion, has a hand on each of his 5-year-old son's shoulders. "It's OK, hijo," Vince Apodaca says as somebody plucks the hat off the boy's head and replaces it with a helmet. "Cowboy up, OK? I don't want no crying when you get on there." This is the world of a little-known but beloved rodeo event where kids a few years out of diapers ride sheep just as the big boys ride bulls. Suburban parents put their kids in Little League. In the country, where rodeo is king, parents sign up their kids for Mutton Bustin'. In a flash, a rodeo hand lifts Julian from his father's arms and swings him onto the back of an unhappy sheep, which is jerking around in a small pen. "I love you!" Julian's dad calls out as the gate comes up. The sheep shoots into the arena, and there's Julian, clinging tightly to its neck. Suddenly the animal cuts right and Julian slips left, tumbling into the dirt. As if that wasn't bad enough, the sheep kicks him with a hind hoof as it stumbles away. There are gasps all around. Then Julian stands up, wobbles a bit, and grins...ChicagoTribune

Chamber names Cox family for cowboy honor

The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce is celebrating Western Bank’s National Day of the American Cowboy Saturday, July 25, by recognizing the pioneer W.W. Cox ranch family of the Organ Mountains. The chamber held its first American Cowboy event last year, honoring Frank DuBois, former New Mexico Department of Agriculture director, state secretary of agriculture and founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship at New Mexico State University. The narration on the Cox family has been compiled by agriculture committee member Steve Wilmeth, who interviewed members of the Cox family and researched historical documents. W.W. Cox arrived at San Augustine in the Organ Mountains in 1888 looking for rangeland for his sheep. W.W. Cox was originally from Dewitt, Texas, inland from the Gulf of Mexico. Disputes caused by cattle- rustling and lingering Civil War animosity developed into a feud. One of the victims was James W. Cox, W.W. Cox’s father, who was killed in an ambush. W.W. Cox vowed he would get even, but had to leave Texas “in a hurry,” according to the narrative. W.W. Cox eventually went into the beef business and increased his grazing holdings to 150,000 acres. He and his wife, the former Margaret Rhode, had 10 children, including Hal, Jim and A.B., who became ranchers. W.W. Cox died in 1923. The ranch operated as an estate until 1926, when the brothers and Eckert Stablein brought the ranch from the other heirs. They ran it until 1936, when Hal took the northern portion, Jim bought out Stablein and A.B. used his money to buy an Otero Mesa ranch, according to the narration. Sara Cox Hopkins, a granddaughter of W.W. Cox and daughter of A.B. Cox, said she believes people who are tied to the land are part of what has made this a great country...LasCrucesBulletin

Its all Trew: Preserving garden seed important

Most old-timers who survived the Great Depression and Dust Bowl will tell you, "Our garden produce and home-canned foods pulled us through." Cellars and pantries with shelves of home-canned fruits, meats and vegetables kept hunger at bay though few had money to spend. Take a trip today through the small towns and communities, and you will see countless gardens growing food for the families. Evidently garden seed is in great demand as we hear gardeners complaining of lack of supplies to choose from and the high prices. A small envelope containing a dozen or more seeds can cost many dollars. This is a long way from the old days when all gardeners selected seeds from prize varieties to dry and store until the next spring planting. My grandparents kept seed in coffee cans, small glass jars or used envelopes. A day or two before planting time, the seeds were soaked in water with Garrett's Snuff added hopefully to keep the worms and birds from eating the seed after being planted. The early settlers, lacking today's handy containers, raised gourds of various size, harvested, dried and cleaned them to make seed containers. Somehow the gourds kept the seed dry, insulated and prevented mold. By hanging them from the rafters of a cellar or barn, the rodents were kept at bay. Some plants, like dill, were hung by the stalks until needed. I imagine the elders of that time slept a lot better each winter knowing the next year's garden seed was safe and sound and ready for planting...AmarilloGlobeNews

Song Of The Day #087

Julie Carter's most recent Cowgirl Sass & Savvy has a humorous take on how some cowboys responded to a grassfire.

That story reminded me of a classic by Rex Allen, so today's Ranch Radio will feature Rex singing The Fireman Cowboy.

You will find it on his 16 track CD Voice of the West.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

While you slept ...

Julie Carter

There is absolutely not anything funny about a grass or forest fire but often in the midst of the firefight, humor arrives.

One night on the remote plains of the far side of the county, a lightning strike started a fire in a ranch pasture.

Not anything much out there except miles of ranchland and what remained of a teensy town that had retained only a few deserted buildings and a name.

It was also at least two hours by highway from any real fire-fighting agency.

The nearest rancher to this ghost-stop on the highway served as mayor and fire chief by title and reputation. High desert ranching requires a great sense of humor and the occasional ego boost that an elevated title can sometimes provide.

One of the items remaining in the long-deserted town of Ramon was an ancient fire truck. The battery required constant charging, which didn't happen, and the water tank leaked so it was never full. Other than that, it was in fine shape.

The night of this specific grass fire, the phone calls went out to a few ranchers.

Waking up the chief of the Ramon Fire Department took some doing, but he finally answered the phone.

Pulling on his britches and his hat, the usual rancher's lid that needed an oil change months ago, he hollered at his nearly adult son and out the door they went.

The process of charging the battery and finding a hose to fill the water truck began.

Meanwhile, over the hill back to the west, another cowboy who had always been a addicted to farm sales, knew he had a cattle sprayer parked somewhere "over yonder on the hill."

The most recent endorsement of this piece of equipment had been at a cattle-spraying event.

A cowboy commented that he could pee further than the sprayer could spray, leaving its validity as fire fighting equipment certainly at least questionable.

However, it did hold water, so after the tires were aired up, the cowboy hooked onto it with the pickup and off he went over the hill to fight the fire.

By this time, the fire had gotten so big, that in the dark, it alone summoned folks from near and far.

Back at the Ramon Fire Department, aka the chief's house, the fire truck was revved up and headed out to the fire. It was very dark and hard to see where exactly to drive as the truck made its way through the pasture toward the flames.

The chief was at the wheel of the truck, barreling through the night to the rescue like a caped crusader, while his eldest son was riding fireman-style on the truck fender hollering "EEEE, HAAWWW," at the top of his lungs.

About that time, the chief drove the truck off in a wash and it came to a sudden, solid halt, nose down. The son on the fender was tossed through the air, landing somewhere in the near vicinity. But he came up dusting himself off. No harm done.

Nothing broke, except the fire truck.

Nearly everyone in close proximity of the fire left what they were doing to go check out the fire truck wreck.

Meanwhile the cowboy with the sprayer, coming to save the day, blew out a tire. So when the chore of dragging the chief and his fire truck out of the wash was finished, the crew all went to see what the problem was with the cowboy.

In the meantime, the rancher with the fire on his property had put his road grader into operation and made a fire-line circle around the fire. The flames eventually died out on their own.

It was still the wee hours of the morning, everyone was wide-awake and nobody wanted to go back home. So they circled their rigs, drug out the food they'd brought (another standard thing for country folk) and had a version of a block party.

The rancher thanked everyone for their help, and exhausted, headed off to tend to his livestock and ranch chores.

All this while you slept.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Which reminds me, Rex Allen's The Fireman Cowboy would make a great Song Of The Day. Tune in Monday.

Song Of The Day #086

Today's gospel selection is Home In The Rock by the bluegrass duo Charlie Moore & Bill Napier.

The song is from their King LP Country Hymnal (King 917).

Judge: Airlines can't question FBI in 9/11 suits

A federal judge ruled Thursday that airlines and other companies in the industry that are being sued by families of terrorism victims can't question FBI agents about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The defendants wanted to depose the agents and sought access to other evidence related to the investigation of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in order to show at trial that the government's failure to catch the terrorists and prevent the attacks mitigates and excuses any alleged fault on the aviation companies' part. The government objected. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York said the defendants have also argued that the terrorists likely would have succeeded even if the defendants had exercised due care. "The issues to be tried relate to the acts and omissions of the aviation defendants, not the government," Hellerstein wrote in his ruling. "The government's failures to detect and abort the terrorists' plots would not affect the aviation defendants' potential liability."...AP

Real ID Act faces repeal after outcry from Napolitano, states

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is asking Congress to repeal a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law that was meant to enhance the security of driver's licenses but has elicited the wrath of governors nationwide who say it is too costly. The Real ID Act, which was passed in 2005 but doesn't begin to go into effect until the end of the year, was the brainchild of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Menomonee Falls who then served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Appearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Napolitano warned that millions of travelers could face increased security screening at airports next year unless Congress acts soon because few states are on track to comply with the law. She wants lawmakers to pass a new measure known as Pass ID that would increase driver's license security but give states more leeway on how to implement the changes. Sensenbrenner, who authored the Real ID Act in an attempt to enhance the security of driver's licenses after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, called Napolitano's proposal a "watered-down" version of his original act...JournalSentinel

Judge Napolitano - Liberty and Safety

For a professor of law at one of the country's best law schools who was once the go-to guy in the Justice Department whenever the Bush White House needed legal cover for its truly lawless ventures outside the Constitution, John Yoo has revealed a breathtaking ignorance of American values, history, and jurisprudence. In his startling mea culpa, published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Professor Yoo confessed to advising President Bush that he possessed powers from some source other than the Constitution, that in the name of public safety he could cut down all laws written for the express purpose of restraining the President, and that Americans would expect no less than this so long as they were actually kept safe as a result of it. He advanced the argument that since the President's first job is to keep us safe, he could disregard the 1978 FISA law as "obsolete" since it was written in an era when modern day non-state terrorism was not contemplated. By this unprecedented and perverse logic, one wonders if the President was told if he could disregard as obsolete any law that was inconvenient to his purposes; even the Supreme Law of the Land itself, which the Constitution declares itself to be...LWR

Mexican troops fan out across state hit by drug war

Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers set up roadblocks on major highways on Saturday in President Felipe Calderon's home state, where drug gangs have stepped up attacks on Mexican security forces. Troops toting automatic weapons and wearing ski masks to shield their identity searched vehicles in the western marijuana-growing state of Michoacan for signs of drug smuggling after the government ordered 5,500 soldiers and police to deploy to the area by land, sea and air. The surge, one of the biggest in the three-year drug war, came after drug gangs targeted federal police in recent days in retaliation for the capture of a high-ranking member of the local La Familia (The Family) cartel. In a brazen move last week, the cartel dumped the tortured and blood-smeared bodies of 12 federal police in a heap by a remote highway -- the latest victims of tit-for-tat violence that has killed some 12,800 people since Calderon took office in 2006. A video allegedly showing the policemen being stripped, beaten and executed was briefly posted on YouTube, reported El Universal newspaper...Reuters