Saturday, December 19, 2009

BIA withdraws biological assessment for proposed Desert Rock power plant in NM

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has withdrawn its biological assessment for a proposed power plant in northwestern New Mexico, saying it has "significant concerns" about the impact of mercury and selenium on two endangered fish species in the San Juan River. BIA Director Jerry Gidner, in a letter Thursday to Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle, said the decision will allow more time for coordination between Tuggle's staff, the BIA and the Environmental Protection Agency. It was the second review of federal decisions for the $3 billion coal-fired Desert Rock Energy Project on the Navajo Nation. In September, the Environmental Appeals Board in part granted a request by regional EPA officials who wanted to review parts of an air permit issued last year...read more

Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen global climate deal falls short of expectations

The outline of a weak global climate agreement was last night concluded in Copenhagen, but it fell far short of what Britain and many poor countries were seeking and leaves months of tough negotiations to come. Following eight draft texts and all day talks between 115 world leaders, it was left to President Obama and Wen Jiabao of China to finally broker a political agreement. The deal - known as the Copenhagen accord - "recognises" the scientific case for keeping temperature rises to no more than 2C but did not contain commitments to emissions reductions by countries to hit that goal. US officials spun the deal as a "meaningful agreement" but even President Obama admitted, "This progress is not enough," he said, "we have come a long way but we have much further to go". As expected earlier in the week it aims to provide $30 billion in funding for poor countries to adapt to climate change between 2010 And 2012, and $100 billion a year after 2020...read more

Russian Institute claims UK Scientists manipulated data they submitted, plus video

Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data. The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations. The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century. The HadCRUT database includes specific stations providing incomplete data and highlighting the global-warming process, rather than stations facilitating uninterrupted observations. On the whole, climatologists use the incomplete findings of meteorological stations far more often than those providing complete observations. IEA analysts say climatologists use the data of stations located in large populated centers that are influenced by the urban-warming effect more frequently than the correct data of remote stations. The scale of global warming was exaggerated due to temperature distortions for Russia accounting for 12.5% of the world’s land mass. The IEA said it was necessary to recalculate all global-temperature data in order to assess the scale of such exaggeration...read more


The Fiction Of Climate Science

Many of you are too young to remember, but in 1975 our government pushed "the coming ice age." Random House dutifully printed "THE WEATHER CONSPIRACY … coming of the New Ice Age." This may be the only book ever written by 18 authors. All 18 lived just a short sled ride from Washington, D.C. Newsweek fell in line and did a cover issue warning us of global cooling on April 28, 1975. And The New York Times, Aug. 14, 1976, reported "many signs that Earth may be headed for another ice age." OK, you say, that's media. But what did our rational scientists say? In 1974, the National Science Board announced: "During the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade. Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end…leading into the next ice age." You can't blame these scientists for sucking up to the fed's mantra du jour. Scientists live off grants. Remember how Galileo recanted his preaching about the earth revolving around the sun? He, of course, was about to be barbecued by his leaders. Today's scientists merely lose their cash flow. Threats work...read more

Environmentalists Feel Sting of Cap and Trade

But perhaps the most fascinating irony of all is playing out inside the host Bella Center, where environmentalists and other nonprofit groups are getting a quick and brutal immersion in the “cap-and-trade” system that President Obama has proposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The problem here in Copenhagen is space: The Bella Center holds 20,000 people at capacity. The United Nations issued more than double that many credentials for the climate summit. So as more and more people arrived this week – delegates, environmentalists, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – summit organizers started limiting who could come inside. They started by issuing “secondary passes” to nonprofits and requiring those passes for admission. The groups, commonly referred to as non-governmental organizations or NGOs, are free to trade the passes amongst themselves. The number of passes has declined each day. By some groups’ estimates, the entire U.S. environmental movement – consisting of 90 groups and thousands of people – will be down to fewer than 10 total passes by Thursday. If that plan sounds familiar, it should. It’s a super-compressed version of how Obama wants to reduce the emissions that scientists blame for global warming: declining cap, tradeable permits, near phase-out in the long term...read more

As Forest Deal Nears, New Index Maps Profit Potential in Trees

One of the major developments likely to come out of the Copenhagen climate talks tomorrow is a global agreement to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests (REDD). A new index, launched yesterday in Copenhagen, now provides policymakers and investors with information on which of the world’s regions will give them the most bang for their buck when selecting forests for conservation. “The Forest Carbon Index (FCI) estimates the potential of every square kilometer of terrestrial land to generate carbon credits by either avoiding deforestation or by growing new forests,” said Erin Madeira, one of the architects of the project at Resources for the Future (RFF), a non-profit environmental organization in Washington, D.C. It maps out one-and-a-half-million grid squares, each 85.5 square kilometers in size. By compensating developing nations for not cutting down these trees, wealthy nations could cover many billions of tons of their required reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. The Index could help nations focus these efforts. It involves 20 geodatasets on national scales and six on subnational scales. These were mapped out each nation’s potential to attract foreign investment in its forests, based on possible profits and risks...read more

Progress is being made: the socialists are now interested in "profit potential". Of course it's governments that will profit, not some nasty capitalist.

Forest area bigger than Canada can be restored

Only one fifth of the world's forests remain but an area bigger than Canada could be restored without harming food production, a global alliance dedicated to restoring forests said on Thursday. A study by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR), which includes the WWF, Britain's Forestry Commission and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said a billion hectares of former forests, equivalent to six percent of the world's total land area, could be restored. Previous assessments estimated 850 million hectares had restoration potential. "This is a first go at identifying the total scale of this opportunity. The next stage is to work at a country level to identify what we would restore in the real world," Tim Rollinson, GPFLR chairman and director general of the British Forestry Commission told Reuters in an interview. Marginal agricultural land, where productivity was low, had the most potential for restoration, the study found...read more

GOP lawmakers work to stop EPA 'land grab'

As wrangling continues in Congress over expanding federal power over all U.S. waters, members of the Senate and House Western Caucuses have reiterated their opposition to the proposed Clean Water Restoration Act. Sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 11 senators and 17 congressmen -- all Republicans -- stated the Restoration Act poses serious threats to states' sovereignty and rural economies. At the heart of their opposition is the bill's intent to update the Clean Water Act by removing the word "navigable" from waters under federal regulation. "The CWRA seeks to expand the jurisdictional sweep of the Clean Water Act, introduced in 1972, by granting the federal government authority over all U.S. waterways," the letter stated. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said he is deeply concerned the legislation would restrict farmers' and ranchers' ability to make decisions about their own property. "The Clean Water Restoration Act is a big government land grab, pure and simple. And it is being forced on the agriculture community by people who don't know the first thing about crops or cows," he said. The Western legislators contend there is overwhelming opposition to the bill in their home states, citing concerns over job loss and regulatory overreach...read more

Clean water legislation biggest federal power grab ever

Do Americans want to allow federal regulation over all inland waters? How about granting virtually unlimited regulatory control or all "wet areas" within our state to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers? That is exactly what will happen if current federal legislation (S787)--masquerading as the Clean Water Restoration Act--is passed by Congress. This Act seeks to expand the jurisdictional sweep of the Clean Water Act, introduced in 1972 by granting the federal government authority over all U.S. waterways, which, in truth, makes it the largest federal water/power grab in U.S. history. Most notably, S787 removes the requirement that regulated waterways be navigable as originally stated in the Clean Water Act. The deletion of that word will allow all inland waters to be subject to federal legislation --i.e., wet areas, including mudflats, sand flats, isolated wetlands, meadows, sloughs, and even lands over which rainwater passes, plus manmade impoundments for water (stock ponds, ditches, water filtration ponds and more). Our federal government has been accused often of overreaching in its regulations, but nothing that has happened in our nation's history can surpass this effort to push the limits of federal powers...read more

Forest Service to bolster protections for fish, wildlife habitat

After striking out the last three times, the U.S. Forest Service is embarking on another rewrite of the basic planning rule that balances logging against fish and wildlife and clean water in national forests. Echoing his speech earlier this year laying out a greener future for the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced from Washington, D.C. that work is starting on an environmental impact statement to take the place of the most recent one produced by the Bush administration that was struck down by a federal judge. "Our national forests and grasslands are great natural treasures that we must conserve and restore for the benefit of future generations," Vilsack said in a statement. "Developing a new planning rule provides the opportunity to manage national forests and grasslands for the benefit of water resources, the climate and local communities." Besides the traditional issues of timber production, fish and wildlife habitat, and clean water, the process would also consider global warming, restoration of unhealthy forests, and the growth of wildfires on the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, he said...read more

Wanted by Alaska lawmakers: PR firm to fight species listings

The Alaska Legislature is paying for a conference and public relations campaign to persuade Congress to limit the Endangered Species Act. The Legislative Council is asking public relations firms to bid between now and Jan. 4 on the effort, which lawmakers appropriated $1.5 million to fund. The PR pros are to assemble a panel for an "Alaska Conference on Climate Change," after suggesting how the panel debate should be framed. They'll launch a public relations campaign "based on the conclusions reached by the conference panel," according to the Legislature's request for proposals. The goal of the project is figuring out how to reverse what the Legislature calls negative economic effects from listings based on climate change, like the designation of the polar bear as a threatened species. "The (PR firm's) main role will be taking information from the conference and other information gathering efforts and trying how to initiate a grass-roots movement, for lack of a better term. For going to Congress and asking for some reform changes," said Eddie Grasser, a legislative employee who is organizing the PR effort. He said Alaska will be working with other states seeking the same changes to the Endangered Species Act. "It's not challenging the idea that maybe we need to do something about climate change but challenging the idea that the (Endangered Species Act) is the tool to use in doing that," he said...read more

BLM to field offices: Mark fences for sage grouse

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is telling its field offices to mark certain fences and guy wires to make them more visible to sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse and lesser prairie chickens. Studies have shown that barbed-wire fences can be deadly when these bird species fly into the fences without seeing them, although the number of birds killed depends on a variety of factors. Mortality tends to be a problem in places where large numbers of birds congregate frequently near fences. Land managers and environmentalists are particularly concerned about the sage grouse, a hen-sized game bird that is being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expects to decide early next year whether to list the sage grouse as endangered. A directive from the BLM in Washington, D.C., earlier this month tells state BLM offices to evaluate fences for their risk to sage grouse and to place markers on the fences where appropriate. The directive also tells state offices to consider marking new fences as they're installed on BLM land. In addition, the directive says guy wires for wind turbines and meteorological towers on BLM land should be marked...read more

Tester forest bill heard on Capitol Hill

A plan to require 7,000 acres to be logged annually in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest for the next 10 years met some skepticism on Capitol Hill Thursday. Tester and supporters of his bill say the requirement would provide struggling lumber mills with logs and reduce the number of beetle-killed trees in the forest, which includes the Madison Mountain Range southwest of Bozeman. However, members of the Obama administration and environmentalists told a Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee that the provision could set a dangerous precedent for forest management and prove difficult to implement. But Tester and a coalition of loggers and conservationists who support the legislation defended the mandates. Tester said pine-beetles had turned the Beaverhead-Deerlodge forest into a “sea of red,” and said more forest needs to be opened up to logging if Montana’s lumber mills are expected to stay open. Along with the logging requirements, the bill would create 677,000 acres of wilderness, most of it in Southwest Montana, garnering the support of many major environmental groups...read more

Feds may OK helicopter landings in Frank Church Wilderness

The U.S. Forest Service could today approve a request from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to land helicopters in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to put radio collars on wolves. Approval of the landings in such a remote area would be certain to rile environmental groups, many of whom Regional Forester Harv Forsgren visited personally within the last week to inform of his intentions. It’s the second time since 2005 that Fish and Game has proposed the landings. Under federal law, it’s already allowed to fly over the area. The state is asking to touch down up to 20 times in the wilderness to put collars on up to 12 wolves. At least one official has argued the department has authority to land, even without federal permission. Forest Service regional spokeswoman Erin O’Connor said Thursday afternoon that Forsgren expects to issue his decision today. If he approves the state’s request, he would then authorize Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Bill Wood to issue the permit for the landings. Even brief touchdowns aren’t acceptable to a number of conservation groups watching the issue. John Robison of ICL and Jessica Ruehrwein of the Sierra Club said they’re concerned about what kind of precedent approval would set. Groups also worry what the state will do with the information it gathers, though they want to keep the discussion from being swallowed up by the wolf debate...read more

Group to sue over trout deaths linked to fire retardant

An environmental group announced plans to sue local and state fire agencies after studies linked the death of roughly 50 endangered steelhead trout to fire retardant dropped during the Jesusita fire. Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, a nonprofit group based in Oregon, filed yesterday a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, along with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Officials with the group said they hope the threat of a lawsuit will encourage agencies to establish regulations and practices to prevent endangered steelhead from being killed by fire retardant...read more

Forest Service isn't listening on travel rules

The off-roaders picketing the Shasta-Trinity National Forest headquarters last Friday complain that its "travel management plan" is nothing more than a bureaucratic exercise designed to close off public lands - no matter the opinion of the public. Does the U.S. Forest Service really have to work so hard to prove them right? It would be nice to be able to defend the agency, which started restricting all-terrain vehicle use in part due to legal pressure from environmentalists worried about abuse of sensitive lands, and which has the challenging task of managing the forests with the interests of all 300 million of their owners in mind. Unfortunately, recent road-closure decisions are so at odds with plain sense and have so little to do with the stated aims of the travel management plans that it's hard not to conclude that the ultimate goal is simply to make recreation such a pain in the neck for off-roaders - whether they're harming the landscape or not - that they give up and go away...read more

That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times. But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000...read more

Hype is More Dangerous than Chemicals in the Water

Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working hard to hype drinking water risks as they ask Congress to expand their authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). They have the assistance of sensationalist journalism at The New York Times, whose main source of information appears to be left-leaning activists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In a story on this topic today, The New York Times claims that data collected by EWG from EPA databases between 2004 to present shows that there is a growing body of evidence that individuals are increasingly exposed to dangerous chemicals in our water supply. Their arguments are wrong for myriad reasons. First, the idea of a national drinking water crisis is off the mark. Most of the U.S. water supply is quite safe—among the safest in the world. And consumers have a variety of options that include bottle water—whose record is even better than tap—when problems in their public water systems do emerge. More importantly, exposure to chemicals does not translate into significant risks. Humans are exposed to hundreds of thousands of trace chemicals every day—man-made and natural—without ill effect. Risks result not from low exposures but from relatively high ones to certain chemicals over decades...read more

Anti-Takings Abuse Bill Introduced in the House

As we approach the five year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s notoriously poorly-reasoned Kelo v. New London decision, the lack of meaningful legislative progress on curbing eminent domain abuse has been disheartening. While legislation was previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), it was nixed by an unfriendly committee referral, and proponents of property rights and economic liberty have little to show for their efforts on this front. The good news is that Congress is making another go at eminent domain reform. The Strengthening the Ownership of Private Property Act of 2009 (STOPP Act, H.R. 4288), introduced by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), would prevent any federal economic development funding–regardless of the federal agency or program–from being disbursed to state or local governments that seize private property in order to transfer it to another private party or for another private party’s benefit. While the legislation exempts takings for utilities, roads, pipelines, and right-of-way companies, it would–if passed–cut off significant funding to governments found to have engaged in Kelo-style eminent domain abuse...read more

BLM employee arrested, accused of soliciting sex with 14-year old online

Worley, 51, is a federal employee accused of using work computers to send obscene material and solicit sex with a 14-year old girl. He is a Vancouver, Washington resident, and according to the Department of Justice, works for Portland’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management as a human resources manager. The government has accused Worley of trying to lure a 14-year old girl he met online into having sex with him. He was charged with two Internet crimes. 1) Sending obscene images of himself to a minor; and (2) trying to persuade the girl to have sex with him. Oregonian reporter, Bryan Denson, reported Worley's plan was foiled by the girl's stepfather, who learned she had been contacted on the teen dating site www.tagged.com by “Magical Tongue”, according to government court papers. Denson further reported that Worley repeatedly sought topless photos of the girl and at one point sent her a short video of himself masturbating, the government alleges...read more

Bingaman: Bill to Designate National Conservation Area in Northern New Mexico Clears Hurdle

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today announced the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has cleared legislation he wrote to protect and enhance cultural, ecological, recreational, and scenic resources on public lands in Northern New Mexico. The bill is cosponsored by Senator Tom Udall. The "Río Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act" would protect approximately 236,000 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Taos and Río Arriba counties by designating a combination of "conservation" and "wilderness" areas. Click here for a map and a picture. The vast majority of the land – 214,600 acres – would be managed as a conservation area. Two other areas – the 13,400-acre Cerro del Yuta on the east-side and the 8,000-acre Río San Antonio in the west – will be managed as wilderness...read more

R-CALF: Cattle Producers Greatly Disappointed With Court’s Decision

R-CALF USA is deeply disappointed that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, regarding Wheeler v Pilgrim’s Pride, in an 8-7 vote, ruled that the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) should deal strictly with overall competition in the marketplace, rather than competitive damage to individual livestock and/or poultry producers. Plaintiffs included Cody Wheeler, Don Davis and Davey Williams, all contract poultry producers. They alleged that Pilgrim’s Pride had engaged in unfair dealing with contract growers when it offered different contract terms to different growers and that those practices were a violation of the PSA, which bars undue preferences, unfair and deceptive trade practices. R-CALF USA and 53 other producer-oriented organizations, on Sept. 28, 2009, filed an amicus brief to show support for the plaintiffs. “The effect of this decision is that the PSA has been rendered useless for protecting independent producers from unfair and deceptive practices of the highly concentrated packers. We hope Wheeler will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court...read more

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gov. Ritter mum on Pinon Canyon future

Gov. Bill Ritter touted his administration’s support of troops and veterans on a swing through Colorado Springs on Wednesday. But he also dodged questions about one of most vexing issues on the military front in Colorado: expanding the Army’s Piñon Canyon training area near Trinidad. “We pledge to you we’ll do all we can to support you in your efforts,” Ritter told Fort Carson’s commander, Maj. Gen. David Perkins. Ritter, though, wouldn’t talk about his support of a state ban on leasing land it owns to the Army to expand Fort Carson’s 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site...read more

Guv to DOE: Halt nuke shipment planned for Utah

A trainload of depleted uranium was already set to begin rolling toward Utah Tuesday when a letter from Gov. Gary Herbert arrived at the U.S. Energy Department asking the agency to hold off on the shipment. The DU, as depleted uranium is often called, is highly concentrated waste from the cleanup of atomic-weapons making at the government's Savannah River site in South Carolina. And Herbert told Energy Secretary Steven Chu that Utah regulators need more time to make sure the EnergySolutions site in Tooele County can safely contain it. "As governor, my duty is to ensure the public health and safety of all Utahns," Herbert said in the letter. "As such, I ask that you immediately halt this and any future DU shipments from the Savannah River site until Utah completes its rule-making process." But an Energy Department spokeswoman had little to say about the governor's request beyond assuring that a response will come as soon as possible...read more

Colorado county puts stop to train transport of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory

A southern Colorado county stopped the train transport of low-level radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory last week, claiming a lab subcontractor and the railway had failed to obtain needed permits. Officials and residents in the small town of Antonito, Colo. — population 1,000 — became angry when they found out last week that waste from the nuclear weapons laboratory was being transferred from trucks to train cars, a football field away from the San Antonio River. "We have stopped the shipments," said Conejos County Commissioner Joe Mestas. "We required they come in and comply with our permit process." On Dec. 7, two train cars were loaded with the low-level waste at the transfer site on private land just off U.S. 285 and taken by the San Luis & Rio Grande railway to a certified waste facility in Clive, Utah. The waste consisted of dirt, wood, metal and wires from old conventional explosives tests, some "very low levels of depleted uranium" and some polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from the lab's legacy disposal sites, according to lab officials...read more

Not So Private Property?: Endangered Species Pose Problems for Landowners

Fairy shrimp and wolves are among the 1,410 animals named on the endangered species list -- and if one turns up on private property, the government could dictate how property owners use their land. The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 with laudable goals, to protect plants and animals facing possible extinction, but over the years the list of species in trouble has grown significantly. According to the act, the government can dictate how private property is used if it's home to an endangered species -- and can even require landowners to help pay for programs that preserve certain endangered wildlife. Critics argue that the government also can devalue the land to the point of worthlessness. "There are some species that are legitimately endangered, but I would argue that what's more endangered is private property," Rob Gordon, a senior adviser at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington. "It's a very effective land-use control tool," Gordon said of the act. Critics like Gordon said that landowners can be greatly restricted by what they can or cannot do with the land -- including cutting down trees, clearing brush or affecting a water source that might be important to the species' survival. There are "things people need to do on a day-to-day basis for ranching or farming or even making an addition to their home," he said. But proponents of the act claim it doesn't go far enough. "From my perspective, I would like the Endangered Species Act to be more protective -- to actually stop more things," said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity...read more

Stimulus funds drill wells as Calif water vanishes

The government is spending $40 million in federal stimulus funds to pull water from underground aquifers in drought-stricken California, even as evidence is growing that the well-drilling boom could degrade the quality of water delivered to millions of residents. Farmers, conservationists and engineers are criticizing the Interior Department's plan to spend taxpayer money on digging more wells, saying the approach risks marring the environment. Canals buckle, aquifers collapse and drinking water turns saltier due to so much pumping, and studies show that the state's water supplies are dwindling. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the government is targeting its well-drilling effort to serve remote communities and prop up California's agricultural economy, a $36 billion industry that grows nearly half the country's fruits, nuts and vegetables. In the last six years alone, the amount of water that has been lost from the aquifers coursing beneath the parched Central Valley would be nearly enough to fill the nation's largest reservoir, Nevada's Lake Mead, NASA researchers said Monday...read more

Spend and drill, just get past 2010 and 2012 before there is a reckoning.

Wyoming wolf numbers rise outside Yellowstone

Wyoming’s wolf population is thriving and growing in most of the state, despite continuing declines among Yellowstone National Park wolves, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist says. Wyoming’s wolf population – animals in the Equality State whose home ranges are outside Yellowstone – grew from 178 animals, 30 packs and 16 breeding pairs last year to an estimated 200 in 30 packs with between 19 and 21 breeding pairs this year. The overall increase is 12 percent, although year-end numbers won’t be calculated for some time. USA Today recently reported that the decline in Yellowstone can partly be attributed to the loss of federal protections for the species in Idaho and Montana. Wyoming wolves remain under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. While Montana hunters did kill four wolves from the Cottonwood Pack, which inhabits a territory on both sides of the boundary between Montana and the park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wyoming wolf recovery coordinator, Mike Jimenez, said Yellowstone’s population decline has more to do with natural processes. “The wolf populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are all expanding and doing very well,” he said. “The population drop in Yellowstone has been anticipated from day one and is from natural causes.” Idaho had 846 wolves at the end of 2008 and 113 have been killed so far in its hunting season, according to state information. Montana had 500 wolves at the beginning of the year and 74 had been killed when hunting closed Nov. 17, the state wildlife agency said...read more

Judge asked to block wild horse roundup in Nevada

An animal protection group asked a federal judge Wednesday to block a plan to round up about 2,500 wild horses to remove them from a Nevada range. The mustang roundup planned for Dec. 28 would be one of the largest in Nevada in recent years. Federal officials plan to use helicopters to force the horses into holding pens before placing them for adoption or sending them to long-term holding corrals in the Midwest. Mustang advocates say use of the helicopters is inhumane because some of the animals are traumatized, injured or killed. The roundup is part of the Bureau of Land Management's overall strategy to remove thousands of mustangs from public lands across the West to protect wild horse herds and the rangelands that support them. The bureau estimates about half of the nearly 37,000 wild mustangs live in Nevada, with others concentrated in Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Another 32,000 horses and burros are cared for in corrals and pastures in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota...read more

Madeleine Pickens calling for more action to protect wild horses with the R.O.A.M. Act

Madeleine Pickens, an avid horse lover and philanthropist takes her responsibilities seriously and has been in negotiation to privately purchase one million acres in the West to be used as a wild horse sanctuary which would address and finally free the thousands of wild horses currently being held in holding pens. The area would also be available to tourists and be used as an educational facility. Today Madeleine Pickens is continuing her campaign to "correct the deficiencies " in the Wild Horse and Burro Program, ( R.O. A. M.) It would provide a practical approach to setting aside 21 million acres of land as originally designated in the " Herd Management Areas ". It would also address a more accurate inventory of wild horses, establish more sanctuaries and provide accountable standards to ensure an ecological balance for wild horses on public lands...read more

Dr. John, just for you.

50 Coloradans wrongly sent demand for back taxes over conservation easements

Colorado officials say they mistakenly told about 50 people with contested conservation easements to pay back taxes or the money would be taken from their wages. The Colorado Department of Revenue says it wrongly sent the notices to people have pending tax protests. Spokesman Mark Couch says it was quickly rectified. Jillane Hixson of Lamar says she spent $2,000 in attorney fees before the state corrected the mistake. The program gave tax breaks to farmers farmers and ranchers who put their land in conservation easements. It was designed to help the owners keep the land in agricultural production instead of selling it for development. The state put the brakes on the program after allegations of fraud. AP

USDA Analysis Confirms Cap-and-Trade Damages Agriculture

The USDA has provided a summary of its latest analysis of the cap-and-trade bill, and we now have a clearer picture of just how much damage the bill would do to agriculture. Several of my Senate colleagues and I requested the analysis in July, and it's taken USDA nearly six months to provide it. While the Senate has yet to be provided a copy of the actual analysis, the USDA testimony confirms we are right to be very worried. USDA's claim that the legislation will result in a net gain of $22 billion in income for farmers notes that the increase is only because many producers will be forced out of business by increased input costs and decreased production. This leaves whoever is left standing to benefit from higher prices as the overall food supply goes down significantly. The details of USDA's own testimony paints a far more troubling picture. USDA testified that the costs of fuel, oil and electricity will increase by about 22%. And here's a staggering estimate: the bill drives 59 million acres of cropland and pasture out of production by 2050. With millions of acres coming out of production and energy prices going through the roof, it’s not surprising that USDA also predicts significant declines in farm production. USDA’s testimony shows that corn production will decrease by 22%, soybean production will drop by 29%, beef production will decline by 10% and pork production will sink by 23%. This decline in production will threaten our nation’s food supply, and is estimated to drive up food prices by as much as 5%. Yet the administration supports this bill. How can USDA support a policy that so drastically and negatively impacts agriculture?...read more

No Single Villain Behind Honey-Bee Colony Collapse

Jeff Pettis continues to break the hearts of mystery lovers. Two years ago he and other entomologists went to work on what sounded like the scenario for rip-roaring fiction: widespread, unexplained disappearances of honey bee workers that left the youngsters and queen behind for no obvious reason. His progress report to the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America, however, isn’t pointing toward a fictional crescendo. Pettis argues that there may not be a Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the candlestick, but a web of subtly interacting factors. Pettis is an entomologist though, the research leader at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. For at least a year, he has been talking about the interaction hypothesis. He points out that a working honey bee leads a tough life in today’s landscape of imported parasites and long-distance road trips to agricultural fields that may have low nutritional value but considerable pesticide residues. He proposes that such stresses weaken the bees and interact with other menaces, such as viruses, which can massacre a colony...read more

Special deputies are helping out where they can

Ron Chavez figures he clocks about 1,500 hours a year doing police work for the county. And he doesn't see one thin dime out of it. But that's not why Chavez dons his Valencia County Sheriff's jacket and heads out onto the desolate areas of the county. "For a remote area, a lot goes on," Chavez said. Chavez has had guns pulled on him, backed up sheriff's deputies following a wild gunfight between county residents, been surrounded by an angry mob trying to protect a cattle rustler and located a man who shot a sheriff's deputy, just to name a few incidents he's experienced. He backs up other deputies who may find themselves alone otherwise on remote county roads. Chavez started out talking with the sheriff about what was happening in the county and eventually parlayed that good working relationship into a special commission. Chavez, and his 30-year-old son, Jarrod, have special commissions with the sheriff's department. That allows them to carry guns, badges and effect arrests if needed. His career as an out-of-pocket policeman arose out of a concern for the community. He said that ranchers in the area used to suffer large losses of cattle, sometimes as many as 300 head a year between Chavez and a few of his neighbors. "There was a big problem with people killing cattle," he said. The cattle would be shot, run over and sometimes mutilated for no particular reason. Some people would kill the animals and cut off a quarter, Chavez said...read more

Loss of Sonora facility leaves many memories

For many of us who grew up in the sheep and goat business, the Sonora Wool and Mohair Company is our Mecca. The Monday morning fire that destroyed the office and retail store took away pictures and history, but not the many memories made there. When the wool market dropped to half price during the Great Depression, sheep and goat raisers on the Edwards Plateau organized the Wool and Mohair Cooperative Marketing Association, later known as the Sonora Wool and Mohair Co. The cooperative sold 2,738,600 pounds of wool in its first year, and as time went on it helped stabilize commodity prices nationwide. In 1964, the firm sold 4 million pounds of wool and mohair at a return of $3 million. The late Fred T. Earwood was founding director and longtime manager and president of the warehouse from the 1930s until his death in 1968. In dual roles as warehouse manager and rancher, Earwood helped fellow sheep and goat producers cull their herds and select breeding stock that would improve the marketability of fleeces. Sonora, 65 miles south of San Angelo, has long been the center for wool and mohair marketing in Texas because of the lessons today’s industry leaders learned from Earwood...read more

Song Of The Day #203

This morning Ranch Radio brings you It's Christmas by Jimmy Wakely.

You will find this tune and many others on the 20 track CD Christmas on the Range: Cowboy Classics from Capitol Records.




Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Climate Talks Near Deal to Save Forests

Negotiators have all but completed a sweeping deal that would compensate countries for preserving forests, and in some cases, other natural landscapes like peat soils, swamps and fields that play a crucial role in curbing climate change. Environmental groups have long advocated such a compensation program because forests are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. Rain forest destruction, which releases the carbon dioxide stored in trees, is estimated to account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The agreement for the program, if signed as expected, may turn out to be the most significant achievement to come out of the Copenhagen climate talks, providing a system through which countries can be paid for conserving disappearing natural assets based on their contribution to reducing emissions. A final draft of the agreement for the compensation program, called Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD, is to be given on Wednesday to ministers of the nearly 200 countries represented here to hammer out a framework for a global climate treaty. Negotiators and other participants said that though some details remained to be worked out, all major points of disagreement — how to address the rights of indigenous people living on forest land and what is defined as forest, for example — had been resolved through compromise...read more

Hollywood Conservatives Say Gore Should Lose Oscar Over Climate-Gate

Just days ahead of an international climate change conference, global warming guru and former Vice President Al Gore has been hit by an inconvenient scandal -- one that's reverberated all the way back to Hollywood. Two conservative screenwriters say Gore should be stripped of his Oscar in light of the global warming questions raised by leaked e-mails out of a British research center. The former vice president earned the Oscar in 2007 for his climate change manifesto "An Inconvenient Truth." He later went on to earn a Nobel Peace Prize and become one of the world's leading authorities on global warming. But Roger Simon and Lionel Chetwynd, both members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, put out a statement Thursday calling for the Academy to take it all back in light of the controversy skeptics have dubbed Climate-Gate. "I personally call for the Academy to rescind this Oscar," Simon said. "In the history of the Academy ... not to my knowledge has an Oscar ever been rescinded. ... I think they should rescind this one."...read more

Time for a Smarter Approach to Global Warming

Take malaria. Most estimates suggest that if nothing is done, 3% more of the Earth's population will be at risk of infection by 2100. The most efficient global carbon cuts designed to keep average global temperatures from rising any higher than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (a plan proposed by the industrialized G-8 nations) would cost the world $40 trillion a year in lost economic growth by 2100—and have only a marginal impact on reducing the at-risk malaria population. By contrast, we could spend $3 billion a year on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for new therapies—and within 10 years cut the number of malaria infections by half. In other words, for the money it would take to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives. Many well-meaning people argue that we do not need to choose between tackling climate change and addressing these more immediate problems directly. We can, they say, do both. If only that were true. Just last week, activists from the international aid agency Oxfam reported evidence that European countries were planning to "cannibalize" existing development aid budgets and repackage them as climate-change assistance. According to Oxfam, if rich nations diverted $50 billion to climate change, at least 4.5 million children could die and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment. And what would we get for that $50 billion? Well, spending that much on Kyoto-style carbon-emissions cuts would reduce temperatures by all of one-thousandth of one degree Fahrenheit over the next hundred years...read more

U.S. Counting on Cows to Reduce Carbon Emissions

U.S. Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an agreement with the American dairy industry Tuesday to reduce the industry's greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, mostly by convincing farmers to capture the methane from cow manure that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere. "This historic agreement, the first of its kind, will help us achieve the ambitious goal of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions while benefiting farmers," Vilsack said at the U.N. climate talks. "(The) use of manure of technology is a win for everyone." Agriculture accounts for about 7 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The plan calls for persuading more American farmers to purchase an anaerobic digester, which essentially converts cow manure into electricity. The problem is that, so far, only 2 percent of U.S. dairy farmers are using the technology, mostly because it is too costly for family farmers. There are more than 60,000 dairy farms with about 9 million dairy cows in the United States, but 77 percent of the farms have fewer than 100 cows, according to Dairy Farming Today, an industry group. Farms that would be interested in this technology would likely have more than 100 cows. Thomas Gallagher, the chief executive officer of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and Dairy Management Inc., which signed the agreement with the government, said the commitment shows that U.S. farmers are concerned with making their operations increasingly sustainable...read more

Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution

s environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation's reserves without polluting air and drinking water. Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can't contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money -- $10,000 per well in some cases. Yet these environmental safeguards are used only intermittently in the 32 states [3] where natural gas is drilled. The energy industry is exempted from many federal environmental laws, so regulation of this growing industry is left almost entirely to the states, which often recommend, but seldom mandate the use of these techniques. In one Wyoming gas field, for instance, drillers have taken steps to curb emissions, while 100 miles away in the same state, they have not...read more

Group asks court to stop lion trapping

The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity filed briefs last week in federal court seeking to prevent the Arizona Game and Fish Department from trapping mountain lions in areas where jaguars have been known to reside. Michael J. Robinson, a conservation advocate for the center, explained the briefs are part of a lawsuit seeking to stop the Game and Fish from taking actions that it says are likely to injure or kill other jaguars in the future. “This legal action is necessary, because the Arizona Game and Fish Department continues to claim it has the right to capture jaguars and continues to take actions that risks capturing, injuring or killing a jaguar,” Robinson said. The brief was filed in response to a motion previously filed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to have the center's original lawsuit dismissed...read more

Wind Resistance

Wyoming may be the best place in the United States to generate electricity from wind. Thanks to a dip in the Continental Divide as it wends through the state, it has about half of all the top-quality (class 5, 6 and 7) wind in the country. That means that a turbine here can crank out as much as 30 percent more juice than one in, say, Texas or California. With a total population of just half a million, the state has plenty of uninhabited spaces for turbines, and it is famous for welcoming energy development. So companies have stampeded into the Cowboy State, reaching for every gust they can. They put up mobile anemometers alongside windy highways and in the sagebrush sea; their landmen scour ridges and ranches, toting proposals and contracts, hoping to grab their piece of state, federal or private land. Wyoming's governor compares the frenzy to a gold rush. That rush, however, is faltering. Today, Wyoming has just 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity, one-eighth of what Texas has. Facing regulatory and political uncertainty, at least one wind-farm proposal has been yanked off the table, and the future of others is in doubt. Legislators, wildlife officials and people in the governor's office have sent out increasingly mixed messages about the wind rush -- or onslaught...read more

Satellites Eye Dwindling Water in Central California

New data from satellites show the vast underground pools feeding faucets and irrigation hoses across California are running low, a worrisome trend federal scientists largely attribute to aggressive agricultural pumping. The measurements show the amount of water lost in the two main Central Valley river basins within the past six years could almost fill the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada. "All that water has been sucked from these river basins. It's gone. It's left the building," said Jay Famiglietti, an earth science professor at the University of California, Irvine, who led the research collaboration. "The data is telling us that this rate of pumping is not sustainable." Hundreds of farmers have been drilling wells to irrigate their crops, as three years of drought and environmental restrictions on water supplies have withered crops, jobs and profits throughout the San Joaquin Valley, where roughly half of the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown.
Developers and cities dependent on the tight supplies also have joined the well-drilling frenzy as the crisis has deepened...read more

DNA Study Sheds New Light on Horse Evolution

Ancient DNA retrieved from extinct horse species from around the world has challenged one of the textbook examples of evolution – the fossil record of the horse family Equidae over the past 55 million years. The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved an international team of researchers and the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) based at the University of Adelaide. Only the modern horse, zebras, wild asses and donkey survive today, but many other lineages have become extinct over the last 50,000 years. ACAD Director Professor Alan Cooper says despite an excellent fossil record of the Equidae, there are still many gaps in our evolutionary knowledge. “Our results change both the basic picture of recent equid evolution, and ideas about the number and nature of extinct species.”...read more

Song Of The Day #202

Ranch Radio stays in the holiday mode with Hank Snow and his recording of The Reindeer Boogie.

It's available on his 21 track CD Snow On Christmas.



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sen. Tester's Plan for Wilderness, Logging Roils Big Sky Country

Trying to satisfy everyone from wilderness advocates to timber companies, Sen. Jon Tester has proposed a new model for managing national forests. The Democrat's controversial proposal, which he has dubbed the "Forest Jobs and Recreation Act" to emphasize its economic aspects rather than its wilderness components, would guide how federal agencies manage large swaths of land in his home state of Montana. S. 1470 (pdf) would designate hundreds of thousands of acres as wilderness, while releasing other lands that have been protected as wilderness study areas. The measure would permanently open certain national forest areas to motorized recreation. And -- in the most contentious proposal -- it would require timber harvest on a minimum number of acres each year. The proposal, long a hot topic in Montana, will garner the Senate spotlight Thursday when the subcommittee that oversees forests takes it up. The panel will hear from federal officials as well as Montana mill owners, county commissioners and the environmental community that has split over the measure...read more

Idaho Senators Oppose Montana Wilderness Designation

There’s a move afoot from Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo to pressure their Montana counterparts, Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus, to remove the Montana side of Mount Jefferson and Hellroaring Creek from wilderness designation as proposed in the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA), a Montana wilderness bill co-sponsored by the two Montana Senators. The move, which would serve only a narrow special interest, is ill-advised. Mount Jefferson is a small but significant 4,500-acre area located in the Centennial Mountains along the Idaho/Montana border. The political pressure from Idaho hinges on the fact that Idaho snowmobilers want access to Montana’s Mount Jefferson...read more

Humans caused the Sheep Fire, investigators say

U.S. Forest Service Investigators say the 7,128-acre Sheep Fire that threatened Lytle Creek and Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains was human caused and likely arson. The blaze that took seven days to put out destroyed one home and four buildings in an eight-mile swath through the San Bernardino National Forest. The remote starting point of the fire, a flat area several hundred feet from Lytle Creek and Sheep Canyon roads, lead fire investigators to lean toward an arson versus an accidental cause, Forest Service spokesman John Miller said. "When you look at where it started, you ask, what would start a fire here?" Miller said. Fire investigators have spent the last two months analyzing evidence that ruled out the possibility of natural causes of power lines and lightning strikes...read more

Forest Service stands ground on grizzly issues

When the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a lawsuit last month to challenge three logging projects in Kootenai National Forest, the news probably didn’t surprise officials within the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s nothing new to see conservation groups challenge the actions of government agencies. In this case, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies believes road construction in connection with the logging projects will threaten grizzly bear habitat in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem. “In our view, we’ve designed good projects that ultimately we believe are not likely to adversely effect grizzly bears,” Paul Bradford, Kootenai National Forest supervisor, said last week. “The Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed with us through consultation activities.” The conservation organization doesn’t have those same views and insists that the projects will displace any bears living within the occupied habitat...read more

Not So Private Property?: Clean Water Restoration Act Raises Fears of Land Grab

Upwards of 40 percent of all land in the United States is already under some form of government control or ownership -- 800 million to 900 million acres out of America's total 2.2 billion acres. The government now appears poised to wield greater control over private property on a number of fronts. The Clean Water Restoration Act currently pending in the U.S. Senate could reach to control even a "seasonal puddle" on private property. Eleven senators and 17 representatives in the U.S. House have sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasting the measure as one of the boldest property grab attempts of all time. This bill is described by opponents as a sweeping overhaul of the Clean Water Act that could threaten both physical land and jobs by wiping out some farmers entirely. "Right now, the law says that the Environmental Protection Agency is in charge of all navigable water," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Western Caucus and an opponent of the bill. "Well, this bill removes the word 'navigable,' so for ranchers and farmers who have mud puddles, prairie potholes -- anything from snow melting on their land -- all of that water will now come under the regulation of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency," he said...read more

Inconvenient truth for Al Gore as his North Pole sums don't add up

There are many kinds of truth. Al Gore was poleaxed by an inconvenient one yesterday. The former US Vice-President, who became an unlikely figurehead for the green movement after narrating the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, became entangled in a new climate change “spin” row. Mr Gore, speaking at the Copenhagen climate change summit, stated the latest research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years. In his speech, Mr Gore told the conference: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.” However, the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. “It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.” Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore...read more

Several years ago makes these figures "fresh" according to Gore. One more lie.

Update Al Gore's citation of a scientist predicting an ice-free Arctic within a decade appears to have been accurate. It appears the scientist Gore cited, Dr. Wieslav Maslowski, did in fact make this prediction and it was published on December 2, 2009 by the Danish Climate Centre, lending support to Gore's claim that the “figures are fresh.”...read more

Climategate: Who are the 'deniers' now?

A couple of years ago, supporters of global warming theory began referring to skeptics as “deniers” — implying that anyone who doubted climate change should be lumped with Holocaust deniers. Now the shoe is on the other foot, thanks to the eye-popping e-mail dump that hit the Internet recently and quickly became known as “Climategate.” The response of much of the global-warming “community” has been … denial...read more

Federal study tallies carbon stored in plants, soil

The Oregonian recently reported on efforts to task federal forests with fighting climate change, and now the U.S. Geological Survey has issued a report attempting to tally just how much carbon the nation's plants and soil store. U.S. Interior Secretary made reference to the report in a speech at the global climate change talks in Copenhagen, in which he promoted the idea of using public lands to slow or mitigate man-made climate change. “By restoring ecosystems and protecting certain areas from development, the U.S. can store more carbon in ways that enhance our stewardship of land and natural resources while reducing our contribution to global warming," Salazar said. The report estimates that U.S. forests store about 17 billion metric tons of carbon, and that forest lands managed by the Department of Interior, which includes millions of acres in western Oregon, could store as much as 400 million tons of additional carbon if managed differently. Oregonian

Schwarzenegger Says States Key to Climate Fight

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says countries cannot solve the problems of climate change without the help of local governments. In a speech planned Tuesday before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, Schwarzenegger will encourage international agreements but say that won't be enough to combat global warming. Schwarzenegger says cities, states, provinces and regions are essential in the fight...read more

Fed salaries up during recession, but they still owe $3 billion in back taxes

Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months — and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted. The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available. When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000. Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector. The growth in six-figure salaries has pushed the average federal worker's pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector...read more

However, they don't seem to be paying their taxes

At a time when the White House is projecting the largest deficit in the nation's history, Uncle Sam is trying to recover billions of dollars in unpaid taxes from its own employees. Federal workers owe more than $3 billion in income taxes they failed to pay in 2008. According to Internal Revenue Service documents, 276,300 federal employees and retirees owe $3,042,200,000.

Vote Green In 2010

Song Of The Day #201

Ranch Radio know you can't have Christmas without Gene Autry. Here he is singing Here Come's Santa Claus.

It's available on his 16 track CD A Gene Autry Christmas.



Monday, December 14, 2009

Climategate: Gore falsifies the record

In a recent interview Al Gore says about the leaked emails, "the most recent one is more than 10 years old" and pooh poohs their significance.

Not so says Andrew Bolt:

...one Climategate email was from just two months ago. The most recent was sent on November 12 - just a month ago. The emails which have Tom Wigley seeming (to me) to choke on the deceit are all from this year. Phil Jones’ infamous email urging other Climategate scientists to delete emails is from last year. How closely did Gore read these emails? Did he actually read any at all? Was he lying or just terribly mistaken? What else has he got wrong?

Gore has gotten away with the Big Lie before. Time will tell if it works for him again.

Climategate: Which one blew the whistle?

It is almost certain that the leak of 4000 documents from the University of East Anglia was not the work of a hacker but of a whisteblower. The sheer effort of retrieving, itemising and sorting all those documents, and of weeding out any that were purely personal or irrelevant, required someone who had not just the computer skills and the access, but who knew what was important, and had the motivation to put in countless hours of work. If the leaker was an insider, here are the candidates - named and pictured. The list also shows the extraordinary reach of the University’s Climatic Research Unit into climate science circles when judged even just by formal ties...read more

Surprise, Surprise, Many Scientists Disagree On Global Warming

As the Climate-gate controversy continues to grow, amid charges of hiding and manipulating data, and suppressing research by academics who challenge global warming, there is one oft-repeated defense: other independent data-sets all reach the same conclusions. "I think everybody is clear on the science. I think scientists are clear on the science ... I think that this notion that there's some debate . . . on the science is kind of silly," said President Obama's Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, when asked about the president's response to the controversy on Monday. Despite the scandal, Britain's Met, the UK’s National Weather Service, claims: "we remain completely confident in the data. The three independent data sets show a strong correlation is highlighting an increase in global temperatures." But things are not so clear. It is not just the University of East Anglia data that is at question. There are about 450 academic peer-reviewed journal articles questioning the importance of man-made global warming. The sheer number of scientists rallying against a major intervention to stop carbon dioxide is remarkable. In a petition, more than 30,000 American scientists are urging the U.S. government to reject the Kyoto treaty. Thus, there is hardly the unanimity among scientists about global warming or mankind's role in producing it. But even for the sake of argument, assuming that there is significant man-made global warming, many academics argue that higher temperatures are actually good. Higher temperatures increase the amount of land to grow food, increase biological diversity, and improve people's health. Increased carbon dioxide also promotes plant growth. Let's take the issue of data. The three most relied-on data series used by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report came from the University of East Anglia, NASA, and the British Met Office. As noted in my previous piece for the Fox Forum, the problem of secretiveness is hardly limited to the University of East Anglia. NASA also refuses to give out its data. NASA further refuses to explain mysterious changes in whether the warmest years were in the 1930s or this past decade. The British Met office, too, has been unable to release its data and just announced its plans to begin a three-year investigation of its data since all of its land temperatures data were obtained from the University of East Anglia (ocean temperatures were collected separately), though there are signs that things might be speeded up. Neither the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia nor the British Met are able to provide their raw data to other research scientists because of the confidentiality agreements that Professor Phil Jones at CRU entered into. Unfortunately, Jones did not keep records of those agreements and, according to the British Met, can neither identify the countries with the confidentiality agreements nor provide the agreements...read more

Opportunity in Copenhagen: take on energy subsidies

Instead of waiting for the next big crisis to emerge, there is a way the US and other nations can enact policies to reduce energy consumption, moderate damage to the environment, save money, and even bring benefits to the poor by removing blanket energy subsidies. In fact, world leaders at the Copenhagen climate summit should recognize that most nations still subsidize consumption of fossil fuels. Removal of these subsidies can be one of the most effective tools for reducing energy consumption and thus the danger of climate change. According to International Energy Agency data, energy subsidies worldwide amount to $300 billion a year. Though they're designed to spur economic development, problems with them outweigh any economic benefit...read more

Naked Copenhagen

Imagine a "dream" agreement emerging from Copenhagen next week: The U.S. agrees to cut greenhouse emissions 80% by 2050, as President Barack Obama has been promising. The other developed countries promise to cut emissions by 60%. China promises to reduce its CO2 intensity by 70% in 2040. Emerging economies promise that in 2040, when their wealth per capita has grown to half that of the U.S., they will cut emissions by 80% over the following 40 years. And all parties make good on their pledges. Environmental success, right? Wrong. Even if the goals are all met, emissions will continue rising to nearly four times the current level. Total atmospheric CO2 will rise to near 700 parts per milion by 2080 (the current level is 385), and—if the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models are right—global temperature will rise about six degrees Fahrenheit at mid latitudes. The reason is that most future carbon emissions will not come from the currently industrialized world, but from the emerging economies, especially China. And China, which currently emits 30% more CO2 per year than the U.S., has not promised to cut actual emissions. It and other developing nations have promised only to cut their carbon "intensity," a technical term meaning emissions per unit of GDP...read more

Vilsack speaks at Copenhagen conference

Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke at "Agriculture and Rural Development Day," a day-long event at the University of Copenhagen with more than 300 policy makers, negotiators, rural development practitioners, producers, civil society and leaders from the agricultural and climate change scientific community. The purpose of the event was to assemble a plan for incorporating agriculture into the post-Copenhagen climate agenda. Vilsack also participated in a number of break-out sessions. The following are his remarks as prepared for delivery: ...According to FAO projections, food production will need to double by 2050 to keep up with demand. This increase will have to take place in a system already under duress from climate stress, where increasing temperatures are known to erode crop production. Moreover, this increased demand will have to be met under increasing water scarcity, heightened salinity, and more erratic weather and climate patterns. While climate change will affect us all, there are particular vulnerabilities and challenges for farmers, ranchers, and those who make a living off the land. Higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme events like droughts and flooding -- threatens to reduce yields and increase the occurrence of crop failure. Climatic stresses could have real consequences on food production, dramatically affecting the yields of staple food crops, resulting in scarcity and threatening people's livelihoods, particularly in developing nations...read more

Farmers speak out against cap-and-trade bill

A cap atop a farmer's head is a common sight at any farm. Farm Bureau officials nationwide hope to make them common sights in the mail of U.S. senators. The agency started a "Don't Cap Our Future" movement that encourages its members to autograph farm caps and send them to senators in objection to a proposed cap-and-trade, climate change bill in Congress. Lexington farmer Joe Dickerson, district director for the Alabama Farmers Federation, fears the legislation would increase taxes on fertilizers, fuel, electricity and other farming needs. ALFA President Jerry A. Newby, of Athens, said the law would harm agriculture, consumers and the economy. "The House has already passed climate-change legislation that is bad for agriculture, and now an even worse bill is nearing action in the Senate," Newby said. "Farmers and ranchers must speak out now to keep this legislation from becoming law." A Farm Bureau release states cap-and-trade laws will result in higher energy and food costs and a reduced U.S. agricultural sector...read more

Mexico's drug cartels siphon liquid gold

Drug traffickers employing high-tech drills, miles of rubber hose and a fleet of stolen tanker trucks have siphoned more than $1 billion worth of oil from Mexico's pipelines over the past two years, in a vast and audacious conspiracy that is bleeding the national treasury, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials and the state-run oil company. Using sophisticated smuggling networks, the traffickers have transported a portion of the pilfered petroleum across the border to sell to U.S. companies, some of which knew that it was stolen, according to court documents and interviews with American officials involved in an expanding investigation of oil services firms in Texas. The widespread theft of Mexico's most vital national resource by criminal organizations represents a costly new front in President Felipe Calderón's war against the drug cartels, and it shows how the traffickers are rapidly evolving from traditional narcotics smuggling to activities as diverse as oil theft, transport and sales...read more

Guzzlers gouge rift between Nevada state agencies

Wildlife guzzlers — contraptions that capture rainwater and melting snow in remote places for thirsty animals to drink — have triggered a turf war between two Nevada resource agencies. Members of the state Board of Agriculture argue that as their numbers increase, guzzlers are altering the landscape and taking precious resources, whether water or forage, from ranchers. They want to stop the Nevada Department of Wildlife from constructing any new guzzlers and are exploring possible legal challenges. Some ranchers say they are ready to sue over infringing wildlife. "The water is an issue because water is very valuable," said Tony Lesperance, director of the Agriculture Board. "Guzzlers change the distribution of elk," he said, and "also change the distribution where elk eat," taking available forage away from ranchers and their livestock. The wildlife agency insists state law favors the birds, elk and bighorn sheep who drink from the guzzlers in the driest state in the country. Nevada receives about 9 inches of annual precipitation. "Thirty years of discussion is on our side," said Chris Healy, spokesman for the Wildlife Department. "Wildlife is not a beggar at the table, but is entitled to its share of water."...read more

Lessons from Aldo Leopold's historic wolf hunt

This fall, hunters have killed more than 193 wolves in Montana and Idaho, and the slaughter is not finished. The Idaho season has been extended to March 31 to allow hunters to reach the quota of 220 wolves approved for killing in the state by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The limit exists because wolves in the area were only recently removed from the endangered species list. In Alaska, where wolves are more plentiful and there is no such quota, hunters in airplanes have killed more than 1,000 wolves in recent years. Some of those hunters, if they follow in the path of one great American outdoorsman, may come to regret killing wolves. One hundred years ago this fall, Aldo Leopold made the most famous wolf hunt in American history. Leopold, now regarded as one of the nation's most important early conservationists, went to Arizona's Apache National Forest as a 22-year-old officer in the U.S. Forest Service. He had just graduated from Yale's School of Forestry and taken his first job as an assistant supervisor. After lunch one fall day, Leopold and his crew of surveyors opened fire on an old mother wolf and her six adolescent pups at the foot of a mountain. "In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf," Leopold later said. "I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no more wolves would mean a hunters' paradise." But after seeing the "fierce green fire" in the wolf's eyes die out, he wrote, "I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view." For the next 20 years, Leopold continued to advocate killing wolves, and in doing so he was very much in step with long-standing American tradition...read more

Land trust sells private land to U.S. Forest Service

An Inland land trust is transferring 826 acres of privately owned land to the Cleveland National Forest, including a scenic canyon just west of Corona. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the forest, does not have immediate plans for the land, but it will most likely remain as open space and wildlife habitat, said Jake Rodriguez, a recreation and landsofficer for Cleveland National Forest. The forest service is buying the land from the trust -- $500,000 for the Yaeger Mesa and $2.5 million for Eagle Canyon -- using an appropriation from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The trust acquired the land in 2005 to protect it from development, Jorris said. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, had requested that money for the land purchase included this year's federal budget, Jorris said. The trust will use the $3 million to acquire more land to protect open space and wildlife habitat, Jorris said...read more

This highlights the problem many have with these lands trusts: they operate as a stalking horse for federal land acquisition. They purchase lands from private owners, then lobby the state's congressional delegation for appropriations and then take those federal dollars and go acquire more private property. It's a never ending process.

Navajo ranch lease process is overly complicated

I would like to bring the Navajo Nation's attention to a problem concerning the manner in which the Department of Agriculture is reallocating ranch leases on our Reservation. My family has been in the ranching business for five generations and continuing the legacy for my children and grandchildren is in jeopardy. I have operated and managed the family cattle business since the death of my father 14 years ago. In that time, I have taken my responsibilities as a steward of our land very seriously. I work diligently year around to produce the highest quality stock. In recent months, a lawsuit has been filed pertaining to a new ranch lease application process. I complied with the process, but it was not without difficulty. The ranch management plan that was required was horrendous to compile and write, so it is not a surprise that many older generation ranchers were unable to complete the process adequately. Unfortunately, many lost their family's ranching livelihood as a result of the new process, consequently the lawsuit. I was grateful to have my lease approved; although to my surprise it was temporary. My once-approved lease is now revoked and I have been notified that in March my legacy is up for auction to the highest bidder...read more

Doctoral Students Using Advanced Technology to Study Forests

Tyson Swetnam is using advanced technology to conduct an investigation that draws on 400 gigabytes of information gathered from an 80,000-acre stretch of the Santa Catalina Mountains to better understand the historical cycles of the range. Swetnam is among a number of researchers at the University of Arizona who the Coronado National Forest has enlisted to investigate mountain ranges in southern Arizona using Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, data. For a number of reasons, the investigation is highly complex. "LiDAR is so powerful. And this is the first time that we've been able to measure nearly every tree," said Swetnam, a doctoral degree candidate in the UA's School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He is working alongside Christopher "Kit" O'Connor, another doctoral student in the same school, who is studying the top 85,000 acres of the Pinaleño Mountains near Safford, Ariz..Where scientists have long conducted land surveys, collecting random samples and data to measure the height, density and biomass of forest trees, Swetnam and O'Connor are combining these traditional methods with LiDAR data. Collectively covering about 150,000 acres of land, their investigation could answer critical questions necessary to aid forest managers who need to know when and when not to set controlled burns while also leading to advancements in the ways forests are studied...read more

Why Zulu the hero dog causes commotion

The e-mails about Zulu keep pouring into the newspaper. Many people have theories, others a genuine interest in Zulu's welfare. As of Friday, Zulu, a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever mix, had been missing for a week. The dog became a hero of sorts for sticking by her master, Robert Sumrall, an El Paso hiker who spent seven days missing after hiking in Emory Pass on the eastern edge of the Gila Wilderness near Hillsboro in southwestern New Mexico -- a hiker's paradise with majestic, panoramic vistas. A couple of ranchers found Sumrall, the 67-year-old husband of former West Side city Rep. Jan Sumrall, lying in the sand. Rescuers said the dog helped keep Sumrall warm in the frigid forest and possibly saved his life. Sumrall is still recovering in an El Paso hospital, but the dog ran away, sparking a regional outburst of concern for the missing dog and a reward fund that has accumulated $3,500. A multitude of questions started flowing around office coffee pots across El Paso when Zulu disappeared and made headlines...read more

Move over Elvis: History hopping with jackalope sightings

If you spend much time roaming around the Rocky Mountains states - the part of America I've come to think of as Jackalopistan - you've probably developed a weird fondness and obsession, as I have, for this rare and secretive cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. Like the yeti and sexy teenage vampires, we root for them to exist; the world would be duller without them. John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, is the first American to claim a jackalope sighting. His announcement drew mostly bemused shrugs. Compared with his tall tales of spouting geysers and bubbling mud pots along the Yellowstone River, a horned rabbit wasn't exactly front-page news. The creature probably would have bunny-hopped off into the mists of mythology had it not been for Douglas Herrick, a young rancher in Douglas, Wyo., with a mail-order taxidermy degree. According to his obituary in the New York Times, the big moment came in 1932 (or 1934, or 1939, or 1940 - the stories vary), after Herrick and his brother Ralph had returned from a hunting trip. "We just throwed the dead jack rabbit in the shop when we come in, and it slid on the floor right up against a pair of deer horns we had in there," Ralph Herrick told the newspaper. "It looked like that rabbit had horns on it." According to the story, his brother's eyes grew wide with inspiration. "Let's mount that thing!" he said. Someone proposed calling it a "deerbunny," and if that name had stuck we probably wouldn't be talking about it today. Fortunately it was vetoed in favor of the more marketable "jackalope." (Somewhere along the line it also acquired a Latin name, Lepus-temperamentalus.) The Herrick family began mass-producing them - by one estimate Ralph's son Jim ships 1,200 a year to Wall Drug alone - and a tourism icon was born. Seeing a rare opportunity, Douglas, a pretty little town along the North Platte River, proclaimed itself the world's jackalope capital and installed an 8-foot-tall statue in the town square...read more

It's All Trew: A whale of a tale? No - try wolves

The annihilation of the buffalo brought about many sad consequences. For one, the Plains Indians lost their larder, forcing them to live on reservations or starve. Second, another species of the prairie, the Lobo wolf, was also annihilated. He, too, was dependent on the buffalo for existence. Every herd of buffalo had its own packs of following wolves. They kept the old and weak buffalo culled out, as well as any sick newborn calves. This natural-selection process assured only the strongest of the buffalo survived. Though not as well-known as buffalo hunting, killing and poisoning the wolves following the herds was also profitable. A good wolf hide often brought more money than a prime buffalo hide. Sales tickets from a hide-buying company almost always showed wolf hide purchases along with the buying of buffalo hides. By the time the buffalo were gone the Lobo wolf also disappeared. Another little-known story took place as trail herds of longhorns were driven from the south to the Kansas railheads. When a herd began its trek, flocks of cowbirds or blackbirds attached themselves to the livestock. The reason? Flies, mosquitoes, gnats, ticks and skin warbles covered the backs and hides of the longhorns making up the favorite daily menu of the crafty bird. It was an easy life just riding along on a steer's back, flying occasionally while eating whatever was at hand. The steer didn't care, maybe switching his tail once in a while. It was proved the southern birds rode and flew the entire trip to Kansas. How? One gentle bird flew too close to a cowboy who flicked his leather quirt at the bird. The tail feathers flew, leaving the bird bobtailed and easy to identify. Sure enough, at the end of the drive, the bobtailed bird was still with the herd...read more

Vinyl Records and Turntables Are Gaining Sales

At a glance, the far corner of the main floor of J&R Music looks familiar to anybody old enough to have scratched a record by accident. There are cardboard boxes filled with albums by the likes of Miles Davis and the Beach Boys that could be stacked in any musty attic in America. But this is no music morgue; it is more like a life-support unit for an entertainment medium that has managed to avoid extinction, despite numerous predictions to the contrary. The bins above the boxes hold new records — freshly pressed albums of classic rock as well as vinyl versions of the latest releases from hip-hop icons like 50 Cent and Diddy and new pop stars like Norah Jones and Lady Gaga. And with the curious resurgence of vinyl, a parallel revival has emerged: The turntable, once thought to have taken up obsolescence with reel-to-reel and eight-track tape players, has been reborn. J&R Music, at 23 Park Row southeast of City Hall Park, now carries 21 different turntables at prices ranging from $85 to $875. Some are traditional analog record players; others are designed to connect to computers for converting music to digital files...read more

Song Of The Day #200

I wasn't sure this feature would continue, but here we are at song no. 200. I'll keep it up as long as I keep hearing the positive comments. If you've got a song you really want to hear, send me an email.

Sharon tells me it's time to start the Christmas music. I always do what Sharon says, but I'll also provide a toe tappin' Monday with Buck Owen's rendition of Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy.

The tune is available on his 12 track CD Christmas With Buck Owens.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

What's so special about home?

Julie Carter

All of us are from somewhere; that place that we claim to be the origin of our roots, no matter how far back it goes.

When the word "home" is spoken, it conjures up a medley of memories. I realize now how, in my youth, I so nonchalantly took for granted the splendor of my home in Southern Colorado.

The Wet Mountain Valley and its outer regions offer breathtaking views of a range of 14,000-plus mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo that rise sharply from a picturesque valley floor.

It is the same valley that Zebulon Pike came through in 1806, followed by farming and ranching settlers in the 1860s.

With the Sangre de Cristos towering on the west and the Wet Mountains enclosing it on the east, the rich, fertile valley remains a bastion for historic ranches and miles of meadows growing reputation prime hay.

The majesty of those mountains and the peacefulness of the valley create a surreal sense of belonging to anyone that spends any time there.

When I daydream of my youth in that yesteryear, there is always something magical about those years of running free in the mountains like a wild child of the hills. Home had it all.

We, my three brothers and I, rode horses for work and for play. We played hide and seek in the chest-high grass of the hay meadows followed by endless hours of play on the long haystacks in the hay lot.

We fished, hunted, camped, swam, waded, explored and were completely oblivious to any hustle and bustle of an outside world.

Summer ran on endlessly and adventures were only an inspiration away.

Our lives were simple, uncomplicated and revolved around daily chores and the routines of school or work on the ranch.

My dad was the centerpiece hero in our lives and mostly, he just worked.
He was a real cowboy with a heavy load of responsibility at a very young age. He smiled the most when he was fine tuning on a young horse, casting with his fly rod and those evenings when he'd play the guitar and sing a little "T for Texas."

My mother cooked, canned, churned, sewed, gardened, laundered and kept track of her four young outlaws, myself included. She pretended she wasn't worried when we all left the house horseback, headed for the pine-covered hills to play cowboys and Indians.

She was both concerned and amused when we older two tried to lose the younger two.

Maybe she never knew how close she came to having only two children left in her brood. Tough little buggers, those little boys were.

Of course, home doesn't look quite the same today as it did then.
Civilization has been drawn to the valley for all the same reasons it was a high mountain heaven for my generation and those before me.

There is just something about it. Valley natives feel it. Newcomers feel it. I'm not sure anyone can name it.

Some days it calls to me with a powerful wooing in my soul. It is then that I find those sharp, visual memories. I pull them to the forefront of my mind and savor them like a child with a long lost favorite toy.

In those moments, home is still exactly the way it was, and so am I.