Saturday, January 09, 2010

Feds reopen case of Forest Service whistleblower

Federal prosecutors who look into the treatment of whistleblowers are reopening the case of an Alaska wildlife biologist who successfully sued the U.S. Forest Service and died of a heart attack days after his job was eliminated. Glen Ith sued the Forest Service in 2006 over road repairs and bridge building in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska — work that was being done before timber sales were approved and environmental impact work conducted. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent government agency tasked with enforcing the Whistleblower Protection Act, said Friday in a letter that it is taking a second look at Ith's case and whether he was a victim of retaliation. The case was closed in 2008 when the 48-year-old Petersburg man died four days after finding out that he no longer had a job. The Forest Service's Alaska region office declined comment Friday. "This is an active investigation of Forest Service employees and we cannot comment on the investigation," spokesman Ray Massey said...read more

Friday, January 08, 2010

Companies balk at EPA's smog-limit recommendations

Utility companies, refineries and factories may have to spend up to $90 billion to meet new smog standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, a cost they say is too high in the current economy. The EPA said those costs will be offset by up to $100 billion in savings in health care as people breathe cleaner air, resulting in fewer cases of asthma, bronchitis and other smog-related symptoms. The EPA proposal would lower the permitted concentration of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, to a level of between 60 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. The exact level will be decided by the Obama administration later this year after hearings. The previous standard, adopted in 2008 by President George W. Bush's administration, put the limit at 75 parts per billion...read more

Agency's push for tougher ozone rules would go beyond big cities

Smog, long the symbol of polluted cities, is about to become a small-town issue. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards for ground-level ozone Thursday that would trigger violations in as many as nine Arizona counties, including some of the state's most rural corners. The rules would force the state, counties and private businesses to spend potentially millions of dollars to reduce ozone emissions and could lead to new controls on power plants and more widespread vehicle smog checks. Efforts to nudge more drivers into less-polluting, more fuel-efficient cars would come as rising gas prices make older models less attractive, but the need to steer people toward mass transit could hit a snag as officials in Maricopa county weigh cutbacks in bus and train service. The new standard could also draw new attention to the problem of regional air quality, Grumbles said. Emissions from power plants, freeways and factories in neighboring counties or states can be carried through the air and turn into ozone far from its source. "We're estimating that six of the counties in Arizona are recipients of ozone from other states and Mexico," he said. "We're looking at an environmental problem that is in need of a regional solution."..read more

Salazar won't run for Colo. governor

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday he won't run for Colorado governor in 2010 and instead threw his support behind Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper for the job. Mr. Salazar, considered the strongest of Colorado's potential Democratic candidates, said he wanted to continue to implement his agenda at Interior, notably his work on public lands and the clean-energy economy. The jostling over the gubernatorial race came a day after Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. stunned the state's political establishment by announcing he would not seek a second term. Mr. Ritter had no strong primary challengers and had been expected to win the nomination easily...read more

Path From Climate Summit Unclear for Many

When presidents and prime ministers departed the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen last month, they left behind a vast legal tangle that experts have barely begun to unravel. A half-dozen edicts that world leaders handed down -- dealing with everything from verifying carbon emission cuts to mobilizing billions of dollars for poor nations -- require formal enactment rulings from the parties to the U.N. climate conference. But by the time the global summit came to a close on Dec. 18, nations had made none of the necessary follow-up rulings. Left unsettled and largely unexplained: how and when the leaders' directives laid out in the Copenhagen Accord will become reality. "Nobody knows the answer," said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute think tank. He called the logistical unknowns "crucial questions" and said that as of Christmas Eve, even U.S. State Department officials were unsure of the next steps...read more

Enviro Group Plans Senate Call-In on Climate Bill

An environmental group today announced plans to flood Senate offices with calls urging action on climate legislation. 1Sky asked supporters to sign up for the Jan. 12 effort. "Our path forward in 2010 is very clear -- we must show the U.S. Senate that public support exists to pass climate legislation for green jobs, the climate, and our future," 1Sky said on its Web site page regarding the call-in. "Senate action is critical to ensuring that the global community can move forward. We will send a real message to the U.S. Senate on the eve of the 2010 campaign season." 1Sky describes itself as a collaboration of "environmental groups, state and local organizations, business, religious, health, social justice and military leaders, scientists, economists, elected officials, donors, celebrities and citizens nationwide." With the battle over health care legislation mostly over, it is time to turn to climate, said Alex Posorske, 1Sky field and communications manager. "We don't really think the climate can wait," Posorske said...read more

California garbage trucks fueled by ... garbage

Hundreds of trash trucks across California are rumbling down city streets using clean fuel made from a dirty source: garbage. The fuel is derived from rotting refuse that San Francisco and Oakland residents and businesses have been discarding in the Altamont landfill since 1980. Since November, the methane gas created from decaying detritus at the 240-acre landfill has been sucked into tubes and sent into an innovative facility that purifies and transforms it into liquefied natural gas. Almost 500 Waste Management Inc. garbage and recycling trucks run on this new source of environmentally friendly fuel instead of dirty diesel. In a state that has passed the most stringent greenhouse gas reduction goals in the United States, the climate change benefits of this plant are twofold — methane from the trash heap is captured before entering the environment and use of the fuel produces less carbon dioxide than conventional gasoline...read more

Only in the next to last paragraph to you find out:

But to many who may want to use the technology, the cost of purifying the methane into usable liquefied natural gas can be a daunting barrier. The $15.5 million it took to build Altamont's LNG facility is far more than it costs to build a small electrical plant.

Four state agencies contributed grants to build the facility.

May be less carbon dioxide, but it's garbage in - wasteful spending out.

Otherwise known as political pollution.

Vast protected area proposed for leatherbacks

The battle to save Pacific leatherback turtles from extinction prompted federal biologists Tuesday to propose designating 70,000 square miles of ocean along the West Coast as critical habitat for the giant reptiles. The designation by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration would mark the first time critical habitat has ever been established in the open ocean for the endangered leatherbacks, which swim 6,000 miles every year to eat jellyfish outside the Golden Gate. If approved, the regulations would restrict projects that harm the turtles or their food. The government would be required to review and, if necessary, regulate agricultural waste, pollution, oil spills, power plants, oil drilling, storm water runoff and liquid natural gas projects along the California coast between Long Beach and Mendocino County and off the Oregon and Washington coasts. Environmentally friendly aquaculture, tidal, wave turbine and desalination projects also would come under scrutiny...read more

California's groundwater shrinking because of agricultural use

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. 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. The NASA mission represents the first attempt to use space-based technology to measure how much groundwater has been lost in recent years in California and elsewhere in the world...read more

Satellites will control your wells, your cattle will be herded by satellite, and 73 new taxes went into effect Jan. 1st. Happy New Year ag producers!

Oregon Supreme Court deliberates on Dorothy English land use case

The court spent nearly 90 minutes Wednesday listening to oral arguments about the state's longest-running land-use flap. The case began six years ago when Multnomah County would not allow English to divide and develop her property, blossomed into the dueling ballot Measures 37 and 49, and deeply divided the state over the sweeping question of property rights. By the time it reached the Supreme Court, however, English had been dead for more than 18 months and the case hinged on narrower legal questions. When it rules on the case in the weeks to come, some observers say the court is likely to craft a decision that applies singularly to English and does not necessarily set broader precedent. At issue is whether Multnomah County has to pay $1.15 million compensation to English's estate that a court ordered in 2006 and which was upheld on appeal last year. The county maintains -- because of the passage of Measure 49 -- it has the option of waiving property development restrictions instead of paying the judgment. English's attorney says a final judgment is exactly that, and must be paid. Based on the questions they asked and comments they offered during Wednesday's oral argument, it was a tossup which way the justices are leaning...read more

Coyote hunt near Fallon draws controversy

A coyote-hunting tournament has been scheduled this weekend near Fallon to help protect ranch livestock, but critics said such hunts don't control coyote populations. "I understand that there are some people that are upset about it," said Misty McFarlane of Fallon, who registers hunters for the event. "But they haven't ever faced a bill that must be paid because of these predators. "We are ranchers, and many a time, we have come upon a mother giving birth to their calf, and coyotes have torn out their rectums and eyes and left them to die. The ranchers in Northern Nevada are completely overwhelmed with the coyotes." Camilla Fox, a founding director of the national nonprofit Project Coyote based in Northern California and a consultant with the Animal Welfare Institute, urged opponents to contact the Greater Fallon Area Chamber of Commerce...read more

Ag Industry Under Attack—Is Food Manufacturing Next?

While stories critical of the ag industry are nothing new, there has been a recent flurry of coverage related to agricultural production. This time, critics are attacking the technologies that allow farmers to produce food more efficiently. Recently, the movie Food, Inc., Time magazine’s cover story “The Real Cost of Cheap Food,” and the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma have all aimed to cast doubt on the integrity of America’s agri-food system. In November, Good Morning America launched a series, “What’s In Your Food?” The agricultural community is clearly under attack as critics seek to restrict the technologies that allow farmers to produce food more efficiently. The logical question for those of you reading this is: could food processors and manufacturers be next? While some within the food manufacturing community may feel removed from the attacks on agriculture, it seems likely that those opposing technology’s role in agricultural production will continue to advance their efforts to restrict its use in other areas of the food chain, including food processing and manufacturing. Consumers deserve objective, verifiable truths when it comes to information regarding the foods they purchase and consume. It is especially distressing to see popular media claim to reveal “shocking truths” about the nation’s food system and then present factual errors. One is that corporate farms have displaced America’s small farmers. In reality, corporate farms account for only about 3% of U.S. farms, and more than 97% of U.S. cattle farms/ranches are family-owned. Similarly, opponents of technology claim that conventional (modern) farming is destructive to the environment. However, cattle growers today use two-thirds less land to produce a pound of beef as it takes to produce a pound from “all-natural,” grass-fed cattle; and today’s dairy farmers produce 58% more milk with 64% fewer cows than dairy farmers could produce in 1944...read more

The saddle-making, bronc-breaking grandpa

He's a cowboy grandpa, if ever there was one. In fact, he's one of Alberta's best. By looking at him and hearing him speak, you'd never guess that he came here from the far side of East Germany. For the last 18 years, his home's been a cabin in the Porcupine Hills - surrounded by sheep, of all things. But if you want to meet a guy who knows just about everything that's known about horses, then Heinz Patberg's your man. 55 years ago, he entered Canada as a teenager from a place near the River Warte, in the far west of what's now Poland. It didn't take long before he became known in southern Alberta as "the tough cowboy from the Warte." And did he ever move around! His Canadian life started off with haying for Lundbreck ranchers. After that, he "did no end of stuff" out on the range with cattle and horses. Shoeing the latter was something he'd do for many decades. Lundbreck's Stock Association hired him to ride all the way up the Oldman River to "The Gap," Racehorse Creek and Dutch Creek. Then opportunities to work on the Waldron Ranch opened up, putting him in charge of 3,000 head of cattle. He attended the Calgary Stampede for the first time in 1955 and later "did outriding for chuck-wagon outfits" there...read more

Special Song Of The Day: We The People by Ray Stevens

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Interior proposals aim to tighten reins on oil, gas leases

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday unveiled a set of reforms to the federal-lands oil-and-gas leasing program that require "a higher level" of government review of proposed leases and more public input. It also shifts the decision on which parcels should be offered for sale from industry to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. "The change here is that public lands are no longer the candy store for the oil-and-gas industry to come in and take whatever they want," Salazar said at a news briefing. The set of proposals drew praise from environmental groups. "What they are doing is taking a closer look before leasing to determine what should be leased and what are the trade-offs," said Ann Morgan, the Wilderness Society's vice president for public lands. Requiring additional environmental reviews and public input and reducing the role of industry in nominating parcels are concerns to industry groups. The changes create "a bureaucratic command-and-control system," said Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States. Among the proposed changes: • Master leasing and development planning, which would comprehensively analyze proposed areas for drilling, assessing issues such as wildlife, watershed and land-use issues. • A required on-the-ground assessment by bureau staff of all parcels offered for sale. • Environmental reviews of all parcels with public review...read more

Tortoise habitat slows plans for solar energy farm in Mojave Desert

On a strip of California's Mojave Desert, two dozen rare tortoises could stand in the way of a sprawling solar-energy complex in a case that highlights mounting tensions between wilderness conservation and the nation's quest for cleaner power. Oakland-based BrightSource Energy has been pushing for more than two years for permission to erect 400,000 mirrors on the site to gather the sun's energy. It could become the first project of its kind on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, leaving a footprint for others to follow on vast stretches of public land across the West. The construction would come with a cost: Government scientists have concluded that more than 6 square miles of habitat for the federally threatened desert tortoise would be permanently lost. The Sierra Club and other environmentalists want the complex relocated to preserve what they call a near-pristine home for rare plants and wildlife, including the protected tortoise, the Western burrowing owl and bighorn sheep...read more

BLM plan may keep grouse off endangered list

The Bureau of Land Management's decision Monday to revise its Wyoming sage grouse management plan to more closely align with the state's "core areas" conservation approach will limit some new industrial activities. But it will also give Wyoming the best chance it has to keep the sage grouse from being federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, which could potentially shut down energy development in much of Wyoming and have a huge economic impact on the state, including much-reduced tax revenues to operate state government. Primarily for that reason, it was the right action for the agency to take. We hope energy developers will realize that while they will have to deal with some new restrictions, those are relatively minor compared to what would happen if the sage grouse is fully federally protected. The bird is not on the brink of extinction in this state, even though it is under federal review for protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is expected to announce its decision later this year. But the sage grouse's habitat overlaps some of the state's best places for development of natural gas and wind energy...read more

Spying on Icebergs Instead of Terrorists? Obama Program Diverts Intelligence Assets to Climate Research

As terrorists continue to infiltrate America, the Obama Administration is tasking some of our nation's most elite intelligence-gathering agencies to divert their resources to environmental scientists researching global warming. A January 5 article in the New York Times reported that the White House restarted a program in which scientists are obtaining classified intelligence data from the Central Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office. Information from these secret government surveillance programs is being used to track climate change. A similar program was discontinued by the Bush Administration in 2001. Former vice president and current climate change entrepreneur Al Gore began lobbying for its renewal in 2008. It now reportedly has the strong support of CIA Director Leon Panetta. "Given the very real threat posed by terrorists, it is ridiculous and downright dangerous to divert any intelligence resources to monitoring polar ice," added Project 21's Deneen Borelli. "Its said this won't hinder regular intelligence-gathering, but it's also clear that agencies can't yet share data and track a terrorism suspect who was identified by his own father. It's unwise to further distract our intelligence network by forcing it to consult with scientists about icebergs, polar bears and sea lions. The Obama Administration appears to be putting a left-wing political agenda before the safety and security of our nation."...read more

The CO2 Lie

A new study shows that Earth's ability to absorb carbon dioxide from all sources, including man, has remained unchanged for 160 years. As it turns out, there may be no carbon to offset. A major tenet of the global warming religion, straight from the Book of Gore, has been that the ability of the earth to handle increasing CO2 emissions is finite and that once the "tipping point" is reached, the earth will warm uncontrollably. Well, another climate domino has fallen — the myth that man-made CO2 is leading to climate catastrophe. This "settled science" has been upended by an unsettling (for warm-mongers) new study out of the University of Bristol in England. Unlike the Climate-gate charlatans at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Wolfgang Knorr of Bristol's Earth Sciences Department followed the data where it led instead of trying to manipulate it to "hide the decline" in global temperatures the earth has experienced in the last decade. The new study, published in the online journal Geophysical Research Letters, does not deny that increasing amounts of CO2 have been generated as the world has industrialized, eradicated disease, produced agricultural abundance and improved man's standard of living. It does show that only 45% of man's emissions, not 100% as warmers claim, stays in the atmosphere, and that includes the carbon emissions of the private jets that flew to Copenhagen last month and the limos that drove the occupants around. The rest is absorbed by nature, and that percentage hasn't changed since 1850...read more

Study: US biofuels policies flawed

The United States needs to fundamentally rethink its policy of promoting ethanol to diversify its energy sources and increase energy security, according to a new policy paper by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The paper, "Fundamentals of a Sustainable U.S. Biofuels Policy," questions the economic, environmental and logistical basis for the billions of dollars in federal subsidies and protectionist tariffs that go to domestic ethanol producers every year. As an example of the unintended economic consequences of U.S. biofuels policy, the report notes that in 2008 "the U.S. government spent $4 billion in biofuels subsidies to replace roughly 2 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply. The average cost to the taxpayer of those 'substituted' barrels of gasoline was roughly $82 a barrel, or $1.95 per gallon on top of the retail gasoline price (i.e., what consumers pay at the pump)." The report questions whether mandated volumes for biofuels can be met and whether biofuels are improving the environment or energy security. The report, which includes analysis by environmental scientists, highlights the environmental threats posed by current biofuels policy. "Increases in corn-based ethanol production in the Midwest could cause an increase in detrimental regional environmental impacts," the study states, "including exacerbating damage to ecosystems and fisheries along the Mississippi River and in the Gulf of Mexico and creating water shortages in some areas experiencing significant increases in fuel crop irrigation." Moreover, the report challenges claims that ethanol use lowers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and argues, "There is no scientific consensus on the climate-friendly nature of U.S.-produced corn-based ethanol, and it should not be credited with reducing GHGs when compared to the burning of traditional gasoline."...read more

Idaho Watersheds Project wins auction for 16,000 acre grazing lease

On Tuesday August 22, 2000 Idaho Watersheds Project was the high bidder for the Lacey Meadows Allotment grazing lease in the Jim Ford Creek watershed in Clearwater County, Idaho 3 miles South-east of Weippe, Idaho. This lease which includes over 16,000 acres of Idaho endowment land (belonging to several endowments including the public school endowment) is acknowledged by the State to have many miles of functioning-at-risk and non-functioning creeks including several of the main tributaries of Jim Ford Creek which is itself listed (on the state 303d list) as being out of compliance with State of Idaho water quality standards. Livestock grazing is acknowledged to be a significant contributor to the current degraded conditions. IWP provided a proposed 10 year management plan before the auction which proposes no livestock use for the ten year term of the lease. The Lacey Meadows Grazing Association opened the bidding with a bid of $1,500. which IWP followed with a bid of $3,000. The association bid $3,500. and IWP followed with $5,000. after which the bidding proceeded by $500. increments to an $8,000. bid by IWP which proved to be the winning bid. IWP had previously paid the first year's rent of $5,000 (for approximately 1000 AUMs) at the time of application for this expiring lease in April, 2000. In addition to the premium bid of $8,000. IWP also paid under protest, pending resolution of an appeal, the amount of $29,324. which the state has credited to the Lacey meadows Grazing Association for a share of fencing costs incurred on the lease in the last 25 years...read more

Guv ready to make water deal

Utah and Nevada officials say they're ready to sign a deal splitting border groundwater in the Snake Valley despite opposition from members of a new Utah advisory board set up to study the plan. The Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council met Wednesday at the Utah Capitol to review public comments about the deal, which effectively grants Nevada the water that a Las Vegas utility wants for a proposed pipeline supplying the city. After discussing those comments, board members themselves voiced their misgivings but learned that a final agreement is imminent. That dismayed Kathy Hill, a Snake Valley teacher whose husband, Ken, is an advisory council member. She told the council the states' rush to enter an agreement shakes her faith in government. Rural residents are being sold out as Nevada seeks its Vegas pipeline and Utah seeks Nevada's blessing for one from Lake Powell to St. George, she alleged. "I feel like we're a pingpong ball," she said. After the meeting, Hill said the hurry is preventing thorough review of the consequences. "I just don't know how bad this agreement is," she said. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert believes the deal is needed to protect the rights of current water users in the desert valley west of Delta, said John Harja, board chairman and the governor's director of public lands policy coordination...read more

Groups sue to end Idaho wilderness copter landings

Environmental groups hope to prevent state helicopters from landing to collar wolves in central Idaho's Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, arguing in a federal lawsuit it violates a 1964 law that created backcountry preserves. State biologists aim to land the helicopters up to 20 times this winter during their annual big game count, and maintain the flights will be unobtrusive, with aircraft touching down for a few seconds while crews mount radio collars on up to 12 tranquilized wolves. The Wolf Recovery Foundation in Pocatello and Western Watersheds Project in Hailey contend the U.S. Forest Service's decision last month to let the Department of Fish and Game land the choppers in the 2.24 million acre wilderness was also done without the required environmental analysis. They've asked a judge to prevent the flights that are set to start in mid-January. "Such use of helicopters to hover above the ground and land in wilderness threatens to cause irreparable harm to plaintiffs and other members of the public, including by destroying their wilderness experiences and subjecting wild wolves to further persecution," according to the group's lawsuit. The use of motorized or mechanized travel is not normally allowed in congressionally mandated wilderness areas like the Frank Church...read more

2009 was a mild wildfire season for California

The economy struggled, unemployment was sky-high and swine flu raged across the landscape. But California actually got lucky in 2009 in one big area: fires. Despite enduring a third year of drought and some major blazes in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, California experienced a surprisingly mild wildfire year last year, according to final tallies this week by the state's leading fire fighting agencies. Altogether, 402,181 acres burned last year statewide on lands overseen by Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service, the two agencies that fight the vast majority of wildfires every year in California. That was less than a third of the record 1.3 million that burned in 2008. The reason: the weather. There was less dry lightning, fewer bursts of Santa Ana winds, and generally cooler summer temperatures than normal...read more

Gore ice sculpture back in Fairbanks

Two Fairbanks businessmen are still so annoyed by former Vice President Al Gore's stand on global warming that they have commissioned another "Frozen Gore" ice sculpture for display in front of a liquor store. This year's version features Gore blowing smoke -- but only when a truck exhaust is connected. Businessmen Craig Compeau and Rudy Gavora say they'll commission the sculpture annually until Gore comes to Fairbanks to debate climate change. "Before we start carbon taxing ... let's try and educate ourselves," Compeau said...read more

Land policy doc unveiled, criticized

A draft policy that, in part, defends logging interests and easy federal land access is making its way through the hierarchy of Tuolumne County government. It will likely be several weeks before the 80-plus page document — the Tuolumne County Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Federal and State Lands and Regulated Resources — makes its way to the Board of Supervisors, but the policy already has its critics. Environmentalists say it’s nothing more than a way for some to move their pro-development agenda forward and weaken environmental regulations. Supervisor Teri Murrison, who is spearheading the effort to get the policy on the books, didn’t dispute that critique. “It’s not intended to represent environmental interests,” Murrison said of the document. “Environmental interests are already represented by a host of legal statutes and activists.” In Murrison’s view, local interests need to be defended from federal and state regulators, whose actions, she says, hurt the local economy. She sees local interests being convenient access to federal lands for sportsmen — like horseback and ATV riders — and a ready-supply of trees and grazing land to keep the local timber industry, ranching community and tax base thriving...read more

Former NM rancher runs for land commissioner

James Jackson, a lawyer and former Catron County rancher, is running for the Republican nomination for state land commissioner. Jackson has worked at the State Land Office since 2005, and has taken a leave of absence without pay to campaign. Jackson owned a ranch near Quemado for 20 years, and then graduated from law school and worked as a prosecutor for six years. Other Republicans in the race are retired law enforcement official Errol Chavez and former Bernalillo County GOP executive director Bob Cornelius. Four Democrats are running: former Land Commissioner Ray Powell, Public Regulation Commission chairman Sandy Jones and Santa Fe County commissioners Mike Anaya and Harry Montoya. The land commissioner is responsible for managing 9 million acres of surface land and 13 million acres of mineral rights. AP

Jackson's press release is here.

Navajo settlement brings welcome end for many to bitter dispute

For Utah Navajos, the proposed settlement of a long-running lawsuit alleging state mismanagement of their trust fund is like a prayer half answered. Tuesday's $33 million agreement represents a moral victory that also would boost trust fund efforts to underwrite education, environmental cleanups and much needed infrastructure such as paved roads, water, and electricity. "There was a lot of anger and frustration," Susie Johnson-Philemon said of more than 17 years spent in litigation, "and we stood our ground." Any disbursement of settlement funds also will have to wait until the Utah Navajo Trust Fund gets a new trustee. The state renounced its role managing oil royalties in the trust fund two years ago, sparking a battle for control that has halted spending. Sen. Bob Bennett has introduced legislation in Congress that would make a Utah Navajo organization, the Utah Dineh Corp., trustee. But the administration of Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley continues to lobby Congress to be named trustee. A third group of Navajos from Utah's Aneth Chapter also is vying to become trustee...read more

High Praise for New Film About Montana Shepherds

t’s not every day that a made-in-Montana documentary gets exalted by the New York Times, or that filmmakers spend eight years finishing a movie about aging cowboys driving sheep to an alpine summer pasture. But Sweetgrass, debuting today in New York, manages to win in both categories, portraying the hardships and beauty involved in moving 3,000 sheep into the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains—one last time. Times reviewer Manohla Dargis calls Sweetgrass “the first essential movie of this young year” and describes it as “wonderful,” “astonishingly beautiful,” and “a graceful and often moving meditation on a disappearing way of life.”...read more

The Ted Turner Of Rural TV

Give Patrick Gottsch credit for candor in building his 24-hour cable television network for rural America. "I've never had an original idea in my life. We've stolen all of our concepts from urban media," he laughs, standing on the deck of a sailboat off the coast of Maui in January. It's taken Gottsch 10 years to hit cruising speed. He launched his channel, RFD-TV, in 2000 using old re-runs from the Nashville Network and a new concept: bridging the rural divide between farmers and ranchers. To do this, he blended four program genres: agriculture, horses, rural living and country music. Any one of those niches might have failed, but as a mix they aggregate a Nielsen-rated audience of 13 million weekly viewers from small towns and farm communities across the U.S. "No matter where you go, agriculture is important. Everybody's gotta eat," says Gottsch. He has a point, but how hungry is the audience? "There are 27 million television homes outside urban areas in the U.S., most with no access to media coverage of agriculture issues or rural lifestyles," he says...read more

Song Of The Day #217


Ranch Radio is sticking with Gene & Roy. Here is Autry performing Take Me Back To My Boots & Saddles and Rogers singing Cowboy's Night Herd Song.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

North Dakota Sen. Dorgan Won't Seek Re-election

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan stunned fellow Democrats when he decided not to seek re-election this fall and swung open a race that Republicans are convinced will help the GOP dent the Democrats' fragile majority in the Senate. Dorgan's announcement Tuesday means Democrats will have to defend open Senate seats in at least four states in what could be a challenging election year. Anti-incumbent sentiment is brewing among voters, and the party in power typically gets blamed for the county's troubles. North Dakota Republican Gov. John Hoeven -- who has won his last two elections with more than 70 percent of the vote -- appeared ready to jump into the 2010 race. The three-term governor had shrugged off questions about challenging Dorgan, but said Tuesday he was considering a run "very seriously." "I expect we'll announce our intentions here within a couple of weeks," Hoeven, 52, told The Associated Press...read more

Wonder what his polling results were. Apparently not good.

Rehberg hears lots of opposition to Tester’s bill

Denny Rehberg didn’t write a bill that would designate more than 600,000 acres of wilderness while allowing more logging in western Montana, but he heard plenty of opposition Tuesday to the proposal. Rehberg held a public meeting in Dillon to listen to Beaverhead County residents about U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. The wilderness-for-logging measure has been controversial, especially in Beaverhead County. The measure would designate more than 500,000 acres of wilderness in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, with the majority of it in Beaverhead County. And most of the roughly 150 people who showed up at the University of Montana Western said they didn’t want to see any more wilderness, let alone such a large amount. “I don’t think the government does a very good job of taking care of anything,” said Van Davis, a rancher. His comments drew applause from the audience, as did most of the speakers who said southwest Montana has enough wilderness...read more

Lethal wolf-cattle conflicts limited

The state’s looser rules for managing wolves may have helped keep lethal conflicts with cattle to a minimum. Park County commissioners on Tuesday heard a report from Tod Stutzman, president of the Park County Predator Management Advisory Board. The group works with the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to manage conflicts between livestock and coyotes, wolves and other predators. The agency also handles calls from rural residents about nuisance animals like skunks and raccoons, said specialist Jim Pehringer. Pehringer said that Wildlife Services agents killed nine wolves in Park County in 2009, a much lower number than in recent years. Park County ranchers lost only three calves and two cows to wolves last year. Those much lower kill counts for wolves and cattle were due in part to good cooperation with state and federal wildlife agencies, but also because of the looser restrictions on dealing with problem wolves while operating under Wyoming’s management plan, he said...read more

Forest Service will reconsider grazing policy amid concerns about bighorn sheep and an endangered butterfly

The U.S. Forest Service has agreed re-evaluate cattle grazing in parts of the San Jacinto Mountains after three environmental groups raised concerns that the animals could be damaging habitat needed by bighorn sheep and an endangered butterfly. The decision affects about 50,000 acres of public land near the intersection of Highways 74 and 371, where ranchers have had permits to graze cattle. In October, San Bernardino National Forest officials decided to let grazing continue in the area. The Western Watersheds Project, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity filed an administrative appeal. The groups contend an environmental assessment used to support the grazing decision did not address effects on habitat used by peninsular bighorn sheep and the Quino checkerspot butterfly, said Michael Connor, California director of the watershed group. Shortly after Christmas, the Forest Service agreed to analyze how grazing affects the two species and to look for ways to reduce harm, said John Miller, a San Bernardino National Forest spokesman. The service will do wildlife surveys...read more

Coming Soon to the U.S.: Clean Energy from Mexico

The alternative energy moneymen dreaming of clean energy from Mexico see several factors that make the country perfect for power production aimed at the Southwest U.S. Baja California and other parts of Mexico have gusty winds similar to those found in the world's best wind farm areas. Much of Mexico also boasts the same excellent solar footprint as California, Nevada and Arizona with bright, clear weather the vast majority of the time. In terms of total energy potential, the hills and fields of Mexico could easily supply thousands of megawatts to the U.S. without breaking a sweat. So could alternative energy projects in California, Nevada and Arizona. But concerns about giant churning windmills marring vistas are less pronounced in Mexico, where many families still struggle to put enough food on the table. And giant solar power projects sprawling for many acres will likely get a kinder reception in Baja, where the state government has already indicated it's eager to have U.S. power development companies build wind and solar farms, and provide the tax revenues and local jobs that will come along with such projects. Then there are the land and access prices. In areas where the wind is swift in the U.S., developers have already bid up prices, with landowners getting roughly $5,000 per year and up per wind tower in parts of the West. Ranchers in Mexico are settling for far less than that. This could change over time, but initially it reduces the upfront costs somewhat...read more

Cattle herding from space

In 2001 and 2002 I had a brief opportunity to collaborate with the Dean Anderson at the USDA ARS Jornada Research Station near Las Cruces, New Mexico, on a project the tracked cattle with solar-powered satellite collars which could send low voltage “buzzes” to cattle and direct where they grazed. This research allowed the Jornada Station (over 28,000 acres) to remove most of the internal fences and control cow movement, bunching at breeding and avoidance of poisonous plants by checking and sending signals to the cattle via a satellite. At that time the system could check on the exact location of each collared cow on five minute intervals. As the development cost on the collars shrunk from over $1,100 down to about $18 per cow the project became more feasible. Ranchers working with the project on adjacent lands found they could control which bull-cow matches were together, where grazing was done and generally control the movement of the animals. I had Dean make a presentation to the Colorado Section of the Society for Range Management in 2002 while I served as its President. A rancher that came up with Dean to the meeting indicated he could cut “days off of his gathering time by electronically hazing cows towards the corrals in advance.” But recently the project has evolved in response to both cowboy tradition and pressure not to use even non-injurious shocks from the collars as stimuli...read more

Soon to be a Forest Service requirement, I'm sure.

Parksley cowboys found fortune, fame

By 1872 the lure of the American West reached as far east as Accomack County. The call was answered in January of that year by three young men from Lee Mont who headed west to seek their fortune. "Crate" Justis was 24, his friend Oliver P. T. Ewell was 23, Oliver's brother Augustus D. F. Ewell, a doctor by trade, was 34. The Ewell brothers were from a family with a penchant for longer-than-usual names. Among the more distinguished relatives of O. P. T. Ewell and A. D. F. Ewell were ministers and doctors named O. B. B. Ewell, G. R. S. Ewell, and the popular Rev. J. E. T. Ewell. Even more distinguished was Crate's full name: Major Socrates Justis. The fact that he was known as "Crate" suggests that he might have been called So-crates, not Soc-ra-tes, as the ancient Greek philosopher's name is usually pronounced. The three undoubtedly left the Shore by boat, for the railroad had not yet come to the peninsula, and it took them four days to reach St. Louis. There they crossed the Mississippi River on a ferry, then headed 400 miles farther west and by the summer of that year had staked a claim seven miles north of Caldwell, Kan...read more

Movie Review: Sweetgrass

The tagline for the wonderful documentary “Sweetgrass,” the first essential movie of this young year, is “the last ride of the American cowboy.” I suppose the word shepherd, with its pastoral evocations of maidens in pantaloons and lads with flutes, doesn’t have the necessary grit or mythic punch. But the quiet and cantankerous men in this movie, mostly in cowboy hats — one of which is charmingly ornamented with a sheep pin on the crown — are keeping and sometimes losing sheep as surely as Little Bo Peep did. Made by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, the movie largely involves the enormous effort, along with the unintentional humor and grim realities, involved in driving some 3,000 sensationally noisy sheep (how do they sleep?) up a mountain for summer pasture. Although the filmmakers shot for a number of years (taking eight in total to finish it), most of the material in the final movie was shot in 2001, when a Montanan rancher named Lawrence Allested became the last person to take his sheep into the Absaroka-Beartooth mountains on a federal grazing permit. Shot in classic observational documentary style, without any on- or off-camera narration to guide you, “Sweetgrass” opens as winter is giving way to spring and the sheep are still at the ranch, being shorn for their wool and giving birth to the year’s lambs. It can be brutal if also caring work...read more

Song Of The Day #216

We'll continue with our Gene Autry-Roy Rogers segment. Since the Roy Rogers radio show was mainly story with a limited amount of music, and since we don't want to get Tom in trouble with Ann, here are two songs by Roy Rogers.

The first is Hadie Brown, a Jimmie Rodgers song he used in his audition for Republic Pictures. The second is the beautiful Blue Shadows On The Trail.

Rogers music is widely available, which you can view here (Some on the list are by the blues singer with the same name).

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sen. Tester's forest bill stirs dissent from ranchers

Rick Sandru fears voices like his aren't being heard in Montana's latest debate about wilderness and logging. Sandru is the president of the Ruby Valley Stock Association, a group of ranchers in western Madison County that runs thousands of cattle in the upper Ruby Valley. As proposed in Sen. Jon Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, about half the 70,000 acres of National Forest the eight ranches lease for grazing would be designated wilderness -- just a small piece of the 600,000 new acres of wilderness proposed statewide. The bill tries to accommodate ranchers like Sandru by specifying that existing ranch operations in the Snowcrests won't be affected by the bill, but Sandru said he remains deeply skeptical about the plan. "We don't feel that that provision is strong enough," Sandru said. "These things end up in court, and they are thrown out in court." "We're not unreasonable, and we don't hate wilderness," he said. "We just feel this is a bad deal for our livelihoods."...read more

Feds' stewardship abysmal

Ancient pot, meet ancient kettle. A new internal audit says the Department of Interior largely does not know what is in its collection or whether the items were obtained legally. Moreover, the Interior Department does not properly care for many of the items in its custody, according to an inspector general's report released this past week. This would be the same Department of Interior that railed on 24 men and women, mostly Utahns, charged in federal court last summer in the theft and sale of more than 250 American Indian artifacts from public lands in the Four Corners region. At the time, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cautioned, "Let this case serve notice to anyone considering breaking these laws and trampling our nation's cultural heritage that the BLM, the Department of Justice and the federal government will track you down and bring you to justice." Indeed, unearthing ancient artifacts, and taking them home for personal enjoyment or sale, is wrong. It's illegal and it eliminates the opportunity for experts to carefully excavate these items and learn more how ancient Pueblo people lived. Worse, it demonstrates profound disrespect for items that represented the heritage and sacred beliefs of ancient peoples. To a large degree, however, many of the same conclusions could be drawn regarding the Department of Interior's care of many priceless items in its possession, according to the report...read more

Audit Faults Interior Office's Oversight of Appraisals

The Interior Department office created to oversee billions of dollars of land appraisals is weak and undermined by other bureaus, leaving it unable to function efficiently, the Interior inspector general has found. The Appraisal Services Directorate, or ASD, "is not the strong and independent appraisal organization" envisioned when it was created in 2003 to remedy longstanding appraisal problems, the IG evaluation said. The Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation "remain unconvinced of the need for a consolidated organization and have repeatedly acted to regain control of the appraisal function, thus undermining ASD," the report says. Over the past four years, Interior's appraisers have been responsible for the valuation of nearly 8 million acres of land worth almost $10 billion, the report says...read more

Support builds in Congress, Nevada for mining reform

After years of negotiations between environmentalists and mining interests, the controversial effort to reform the more than century-old law that regulates mining in the United States may finally come to fruition in Congress in 2010. Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say the Nevada Democrat remains committed to ensuring any changes in the 1872 Mining Law is balanced and protects mining jobs in rural communities. Observers say Reid has indicated he could end up offering his own version of a reform proposal. Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman is spearheading the broadest plan through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee he chairs. Cathy Carlson of the group Earthworks says Bingaman told conservationists who met with him in recent weeks that he hopes to move the bill out of committee in April. AP

US Confirms Plans to ‘Fast-Track’ Solar on Federal Lands in 3 Western States

With the new year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reaffirmed its commitment to 'fast-track' the nation's first utility-scale solar energy projects on public lands. The BLM pledged to complete environmental impact studies for 31 of America's "most promising" renewable energy projects by December 2010. Fourteen of these are proposed solar plants — 10 to be built in California and the rest in Nevada and Arizona. The other projects include seven wind farms, three geothermal plants and seven transmission projects. Together, these fast-track proposals have the potential to power 900,000 homes. The hope is to make them eligible for stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which expires in less than a year. BLM Director Bob Abbey said the move will help the nation reach its "green energy future."...read more

Wolf death tally passes 500

Gray wolf hunting and killings in response to livestock attacks have pushed the number of dead wolves to a record of more than 500 this year in the Northern Rockies -- just months after their removal from the endangered species list. Officials said it's too early to know if the overall population will suffer. It will be months before they can gauge if wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho are curbing the predators' hunger for livestock. As biologists prepare their 2009 population tally, the results will be closely watched -- both by environmentalists seeking to restore wolves to the endangered species list and ranchers who resent the predators chewing into their livelihood. The regional wolf count was 1,650 at the beginning of the year. Since September, hunters in Montana and Idaho have claimed at least 203 of the animals, with Idaho's hunting season slated to continue through March. Almost 300 more have been killed by government wildlife agents, ranchers defending their livestock, poachers and natural causes...read more

BLM’s grouse plan draws acclaim

Conservationists are hailing a federal plan that would limit oil and natural-gas development in prime sage grouse habitat in Wyoming. On Monday, the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming announced that it would modify its sage grouse management plan to more closely align with the state’s “core areas” approach, which severely limits new industrial activities across large areas of the state. For example, the plan would restrict oil and natural-gas development to one well pad per square mile in sage grouse habitat. Further, the state’s core areas plan requires that potential developers demonstrate how any proposed activities would not diminish grouse habitat or bird populations before the activity is permitted. Previously, the BLM has attempted to make changes in sage grouse management retroactively. Conservationists say it’s a long-awaited move by the BLM and a critical step in possibly avoiding a listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act...read more

Program Aims to Protect Utah Prairie Dog Habitat

A new program to pay farmers and ranchers to protect Utah prairie dogs on their land may help finally push the threatened animals off the endangered species list, according to organizers. About $400,000 in federal funds will pay for a pilot program to buy conservation easements on private land with at least 20 prairie dogs on 40 acres. The landowner could still farm and ranch but not develop the land. Developers elsewhere could then purchase credits to offset their effects on prime prairie dog habitat. The prairie dogs in southern Utah have been federally protected since 1973. They have struggled to recover, partly because about 75 percent live on private land with few guaranteed protections, so they don't count toward the government's population goals...read more

Off-road routes may be closed to protect tortoises

Two popular off-road vehicle routes in the Mojave Desert may be closed to protect the desert tortoise habitat. The Center for Biological Diversity protested a 2008 decision by the Bureau of Land Management to open the off-road vehicle routes in Kern County. Last week, a judge for the Department of Interior's Interior Board of Land Appeals upheld the group's appeal. Ileene Anderson, a spokeswoman for the center, said she hopes it means the roads will be closed soon to protect the imperiled desert tortoise. Desert tortoise populations have declined in recent years and are now protected under federal and state endangered species law. The group filed its appeal after the agency decided to open the roads in connection with a plan on managing the desert that had been struck down in federal court last year...read more

Two mustangs die in Calico roundup north of Reno

Two horses died and a third leaped over a fence and escaped through barbed wire in the first week of a roundup of wild horses in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno. The federal Bureau of Land Management, which plans to gather 2,500 mustangs over the next few weeks in areas near the Calico Mountains, verified Monday that two animals died during the roundup. As of Sunday night, 158 wild horses had been captured in the effort the BLM says is necessary to insure the health of the rangeland and horse herds. One elderly mare was shot after BLM officials determined the animal was in failing health, and a 6-month-old foal who died during the roundup was determined by veterinarians to have a congenital heart defect, said Heather Emmons, BLM spokeswoman. "The foal kept falling down and when they went to check on it again it was dead," she said. "The older mare was in terrible shape and wouldn't have made it through the winter. She had to be put down." Emmons said the mortality rate for wild horse gathers is about one-half of one percent...read more

UI professor cleared of scientific misconduct

The University of Idaho said Monday it found no evidence that a sheep researcher committed scientific misconduct when she told a federal court and the Idaho Legislature there was no proof wild bighorns die after catching lung diseases from domestic sheep. Marie Bulgin can resume teaching, research and other duties at the UI's Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center in Caldwell, the Moscow-based school said as it concluded its seven-month investigation. Bulgin, a former president of the Idaho Wool Growers Association, must abide by a plan to address possible conflicts of interest over her advocacy for the sheep industry. Details of that plan weren't released. In June, she was removed from some duties after environmentalists produced documents showing other Caine Center scientists in 1994 concluded two bighorns they examined had contracted deadly lung diseases from domestic sheep while on the range...read more

Citizens of the West: Tom and Rebecca Kourlis

One of this year's two Citizens of the West is Tom Kourlis, the son of a Greek immigrant whose perseverance established one of Colorado's most respected sheep ranches. The other is his wife, Rebecca Love Kourlis, daughter of three-term Colorado Gov. John Love and his wife, Ann — a couple also awarded the Citizen of the West honor — and familiar to Colorado baby boomers who grew up watching her. The Kourlises will be honored as Citizens of the West 2010 by the National Western Stock Show on Jan. 13 during a dinner at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center. The award is given annually to individuals who a group of community leaders deem "embody the spirit and determination of the Western pioneer, and who are committed to perpetuating the West's agricultural heritage and ideals," according to the National Western...read more

On the edge of common sense: Texas tour brings back memories

I made a trip to Texas last fall and was able to revisit a couple of monumental memories, just to see if they were real. When I was going to veterinary school in Colorado, I worked summers in the feedlots managed by Diamond A Cattle Co. The second year I was hired on at the 50,000-head yard in Thermal, Calif. Yes. Thermal ... a summer job. I was eating greasy tacos, batchin' and renting a room with no air conditioning. Occasionally one of the men on the doctor crew would take me home with him for lunch. I'm sure his wife thought of me as a stray dog ... "Can't you feed him out on the porch, Simon?" But he and I sat at his little kitchen table with bowls of chili colorado, using homemade tortillas she handed hot from the stove, which we used as spoons. It is still one of my finest dining experiences. He moved to Rockport. I went by to see him for the first time in 30 years. It was important to me to let him know that, to this day, I have never forgotten his kindness. I also swung by the little town of Schroeder. Several years after working for Simon, I had fallen on hard times. Red Steagall, western singer and Texas treasure, invited me to go with him to play a dance at Schroeder Hall. It was humbling for me. I was kinda star struck. We loaded in his new Cadillac. During the five-hour drive from Fort Worth, I soaked up his wisdom and companionship. When we arrived at Schroeder Hall, we could have been in Kenya, for all I knew. I'd not paid any attention to the road or the scenery. Red said, "Bax, do me a favor."...read more

Song Of The Day #215

Yesterday I posted an item on how Gene Autry and Roy Rogers are receiving new recognition.

Today we will offer up an edition of Gene Autry's Melody Ranch Radio Show.

My Mom was savvy enough to wash dishes during the show. The only radio was in the kitchen and that is how she would entice me to help her with the dishes. Listening to some of the shows this morning, I all of a sudden wanted to grab a towel and dry the dishes. Mom turned 90 in December and is still plenty savvy.

The program is 30 minutes and may take awhile to download.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Interior head ends 1st year with vows of reforms

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started on the job a year ago pledging to clean up an agency hit by scandals and assailed by critics as under the sway of the oil and gas industry. Starting his second year as head of the nation's biggest landowner, Salazar said he will announce reforms in how energy leases are issued on federal lands and changes in how endangered species are protected. The Colorado rancher and former U.S. senator's actions on energy and endangered species won him praise and denunciation. The oil and gas industry has accused him of discouraging development on public lands, while conservationists see his second look at leases approved under President George W. Bush as a swing toward balance. Environmentalists are suing to overturn Salazar's decision to remove wolves in the northern Rockies from the endangered species list, a decision proponents believe was warranted as the population grew to an estimated 1,600. "It's been a tough year," Salazar said in a New Year's Eve interview with The Associated Press...read more

No Rise of Airborne Fraction of Carbon Dioxide in Past 150 Years, New Research Finds

Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere. To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data. In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades. The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters...read more

Fight Against Asian Carp Threatens Fragile Great Lakes Unity

Asian carp, the voracious, nonnative fish whose arrival near Lake Michigan is threatening to cause havoc in the Great Lakes, are now setting off strife on land as well. In an urgent effort to close down Chicago-area passages that could allow the unwanted fish to reach Lake Michigan, the State of Michigan is suing the State of Illinois and other entities that govern the waterways here. Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin have filed documents in recent days supporting Michigan’s move, and Indiana says it will soon do the same. The new rift between these Midwestern states, which would reopen a nearly century-old legal case in the United States Supreme Court over Great Lakes waters, comes at a particularly sensitive moment — just as the numerous entities with interests in the Great Lakes had united in what lakes advocates consider some of their most significant progress in decades. In 2008, the eight states that touch the Great Lakes helped push through a federal-state compact that bars diversion of water from the lakes unless all of the states (and the Canadian provinces involved) agree. That Great Lakes Compact, which was years in the making, at last calmed fears that other water-starved regions might tap into the lakes, which make up 20 percent of the world’s freshwater. And this fall, the federal government approved what many saw as the first step in a major restoration for the lakes, long sought in these states. Some $475 million was designated to clean up pollution, protect habitat and fight invasive species in the Great Lakes...read more

Rancher: Property rights are threatened

Private property rights are threatened along streams newly designated by the Bureau of Land Management as eligible for protection as “wild and scenic,” the county commissioners were told on Monday, Dec. 21. The recently released draft eligibility report by the BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office nominates river and stream segments that pass through private land in Delta County for further study as candidates for possible wild and scenic designation. The BLM’s eligibility designation places the water and a half-mile wide corridor on either side under federal protections, rancher Dick Miller told the county commissioners. “That is the same thing as declaring a private stream and private land as a wilderness study area,” Miller said. When the BLM designates a stretch of stream and a quarter-mile on either side as “eligible” for study and possible designation as wild and scenic, Miller explained, it is the same thing as designating land as a wilderness study area. That land can then be managed as wilderness until Congress decides what to do with it, a process that can take years...read more

With wolves entrenched, debate has shifted

For Ed Bangs, 2009’s first wolf hunting season in Montana and Idaho proved that the federal Endangered Species Act works. As one of those instrumental in their reintroduction in the Northern Rockies in 1995, Bangs said the season was evidence that the wolves have advanced from a species threatened with extinction due to poisoning and trapping in the early 1900s to a predator whose numbers are so abundant that they need culling through hunting. That abundance comes with a high price tag for ranchers like Kathy Konen near Dillon, who lost dozens of ewes and lambs over the past decade to wolves, including more than 120 mature, prized Rambouilette rams in one attack last summer. Yet to others, such as Louisa Willcox and Matt Skoglund with the National Resource Defense Council, the claims of wolf recovery remain premature. They believe the reintroduction of wolves in the Rocky Mountain region is a success story in that wolf numbers are back from the brink and people are now talking about how to live with wolves, not whether to live with them as was angrily debated a decade ago...read more

Disquiet on the Western Front

Wage Hage was the man to see if you really wanted to know what motivated the Wise Use Movement’s battle against environmentalists and the federal government. Hage was reluctant to meet on this blistering day in early June. He said he’d been hammered by the press too often, especially by the liberal press with an ax to grind against the Wise Users. The Wise Use Movement consists of more than a thousand local organizations across the country, representing roughly three million people—people who fear the infringement of their property rights, mostly by what they see as oppressive federal government regulations. These are Palin people-- rural, gun-packing Christians. Some of these groups are simply out for money: they want the federal government to pay them considerable sums in exchange for changing traditional uses of their property that have run afoul of federal laws or even in exchange for cutbacks in the commercial use of public lands or resources. Custom and culture, they call it. Other Wise Use groups have congealed as a political force to demand unrestricted access to federal lands, whether it be to log, run cattle, or for less than environmentally friendly recreational pursuits, such as off-road motorcycling or snowmobiling...read more

There are several errors in this piece. It's Wayne Hage, not Wage Hage and I believe Pollot worked for Reagan at the Justice Dept., not Interior.

First in a series attacking the Wise Use movement. Stay tuned.

As hunt for Zulu continues, searchers parties run afoul of some ranchers

After nearly eight hours of hiking and searching for Zulu on Friday, no sign of the dog was found. "We did all the things we could," said Wendy Hoggard, Robert Sumrall's stepdaughter. "We did not find her." After seven days in the frigid mountains of west-central New Mexico, two ranchers found Sumrall on Dec. 4 with 3-year-old Zulu on the east side of the Mimbres Valley near San Lorenzo. Sumrall, an El Paso resident, was lying down semi-conscious with Zulu on top of him, but as the two people approached them, Zulu ran away and is still missing in the mountains. Sumrall continues to recuperate in El Paso. A group of six - three Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue volunteers and their search dog, plus Hoggard, and two more search and rescue volunteers on ATVs - spent from early morning until about 6:30 p.m. Friday night combing the area where Zulu, a black Labrador mix, and Sumrall were lost over a month ago. They searched the area where Zulu was picked up on a trail camera a little over two weeks ago. The story of Zulu and all the media attention it has attracted has fueled interest from people as far away as Iraq, the Netherlands, and Taiwan - and offers of help from Albuquerque to El Paso. But all that attention has been nothing but a headache for area ranchers who have had to deal with trespassers on their land, spinning out on their ATVs, cutting locks off their gates and breaking into their homes and cabins...read more

Rustlers take advantage of vast empty Great Basin country to plague cattle ranchers

Arriving at the corrals at Three Mile Creek, Davies opens the tailgate on the gooseneck trailer hitched to his pickup, leads his horse into the cold hard sunshine, and swings up into the saddle to cut out cattle destined for shipment to market. Two springs ago, Davies pulled up to these same corrals to find that dozens of weaned calves were gone, rustled, with truck tracks half-stomped by the remaining cattle the only clue to what had happened. Out of pride and a reluctance to point a finger at neighbors, ranchers in the vast Great Basin outback where Oregon, Idaho and Nevada come together have been slow to admit that someone in their midst, perhaps even someone they know from barbecues and brandings, has been stealing cattle. Just who is doing it, and how they have gotten away with it for at least three years, remains a mystery. "There's a lot of men who have worked these various ranches, moved from ranch to ranch and know this country well, who would be capable of such activity," said Davies, manager of Roaring Springs Ranch, which covers 1.1 million acres of private and federal range. "They know when we are at ballgames, they know when we're at church. They know where the animals are at."...read more

More clues in the case of the horse with no name

The mystery of a decades-old horse skeleton found complete with a saddle and tack in a North Bay state park is drawing attention within equestrian circles because it is so unusual. “Of all the horses we have dealt with since 1997, I can't think of any that have had saddles on unless they were lost or threw the rider, all of the others were bareback,” said Debi Metcalfe of Stolen Horse International, Inc., a registry for stolen horses. It's also intriguing for Penngrove saddle-maker Jay Palm, who thinks his father, the late Jim Palm, may have worked on the saddle that was found. “It's interesting, it's like a treasure hunt,” Palm said. The almost complete skeleton of a horse with saddle, bit and other tack was found a month ago on a steep hillside at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, which is popular for hikers and riders. Who the horse belonged to and how it got there is a puzzle, however, which state parks senior archaeologist Breck Parkman is trying to unravel...read more

Roy Rogers, Gene Autry Riding High Again

The singing cowboy may be a thing of the past, but two of the most influential — Roy Rogers and Gene Autry — are being recognized once again by the U.S. government. The Library of Congress is adding Under Western Stars, the movie that gave Roy his first starring role, to the National Film Registry, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Released in 1938, the picture had Roy portraying a Dust Bowl rancher who runs for Congress to bring water to his constituents. Naturally, Roy sang a few songs, too. Among the titles he’s credited with at IMDb.com is “Listen To The Rhythm Of The Range,” which Gene and his associate Johnny Marvin authored. Both Gene and Roy were signed to Republic Pictures, which distributed Under Western Stars. That’s just one of many times Gene and Roy have been linked — as they were in the chorus of Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.” They’re also connected at perforated corners in a stamp series that the U.S. Postal Service will roll out April 17. Under the banner “Cowboys Of The Silver Screen,” the four-stamp bloc pays homage to the two actors — both of whom are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame — as well as to Tom Mix and William S. Hart...read more

Texas general store has centurylong tradition

This sturdy, 100-year-old red brick landmark just off U.S. 79 in Robertson County is testament to a family's entrepreneurism and the evolution of the consumer society. In 1906, the Schultz family expanded its mercantile and grocery business by building a 10,000-square-foot rectangular building from bricks kilned across the street. Considering New Baden at that time had a population of about 150, this was a bold attempt to create a regional hub for an agrarian community. Employing the slogan, "We buy and sell everything," four generations ran the family business from the dawn of the 20th century until 1984. They used the building for a post office, funeral home, feed store, shipping point and automobile dealership. The Schultzes sold Studebakers, Star and Maxwell automobiles. (Maxwell was one of the big three automobile manufacturers of the early 1900s, behind only Buick and Ford.) When ranchers were still fencing large sections of Robertson County, the Schultzes bought barbed wire by the railroad car, marked it up and sold it to area ranchers. During the Great Depression, the Schultzes bought local farmers products with store credit. They paid a couple of cents more per pound for chickens, or tomatoes or cotton than their competition. In return they built their customer base and saw increased sales. The Schultz family shipped 2.25 million pounds of black-eyed peas in 1938, so says the Houston Chronicle in a 1940 feature story...read more

Temple Grandin Biopic To Debut On HBO On Feb. 6

The U.S. beef industry will be front and center of America on Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. (EST). That marks the premiere on HBO of a biopic entitled “Temple Grandin.” The work chronicles the developmental and early professional years of Temple Grandin, the noted animal behaviorist and designer of livestock-handling facilities. Probably no person has had a greater effect over the past few decades on livestock handling in the U.S. or worldwide than Grandin, a Colorado State University professor of animal science. Grandin-designed facilities are in use throughout the world; in North America, almost half of all cattle are handled in a center-track restrainer system she designed for meat plants. Her writings on the flight zone and other principles of grazing animal behavior have helped many people to reduce stress on their animals during handling. But Grandin’s accomplishments are particularly noteworthy because she’s one of the world’s highest functioning autistics. “I think the beef industry comes across very well in this movie. I had a lot of input into making my cattle stuff accurate and they showed a feedyard as a door to opportunity, so the beef industry was presented very well,” Grandin says...read more

My Comprehensive Review Of 2009 For The West

It Sucked.

Song Of The Day #214

Ranch Radio's foot tappin' Monday tune is Somebody Else Will by Ray Price and The Cherokee Cowboys.

The song is available on his 10 disc box set The Honky Tonk Years 1950-1966.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

2010 Completion - behind and ahead

Julie Carter

We are here again - the dawning of a new year with new numbers, new opportunities.

It is traditionally a time when many re-evaluate their lives, make resolutions and look with great hope to the months ahead.

Experience says we humans don't usually keep those promises that we make to ourselves.

Personally, I've learned to circumvent that disappointment in myself by not making any resolutions that aren't already part of my character.

You know, those things like breathing, sleeping, eating. I promise to do all those things in 2010.

I will admit to taking a bit of time to think about what I should do for my health, wealth, happiness and the greater good of mankind.
It can be an exhausting process due to the length of the mental journey required using limited resources.

Firewood splinters, fireplace ash dust everywhere on everything and a perpetual lingering smell of cedar smoke mark the season.

With cold, snow and gloomy skies dominating the weather surrounding many of us, we handle it by eagerly anticipating
the wonders of the spring season that is surely just around the corner. Across the country, there is much discussion given to the new numbers we will write in every date - 2010.

Biblically, the number 10 means "completion," giving the year a numerical stamp of prophecy. Those things that have begun will be brought to completion.
Looking for God's promise in the coming year gives hope and raises spirits. Hope renewed - never a shortage of those needing that. I'm at the front of that line.

In our humanness, we have all, at one time or another, wandered in the proverbial wilderness. Perhaps simply deciding on a direction is the completion we can hope for in 2010.
My promise to myself is the same as it was in prior years. I resolve to be happy, laugh more and try to infect every person I meet with the same. Let that be a warning.

2010 -- which decade?

The great controversy for this calendar change is whether 2010 is the end of the first decade or the beginning of the second in this 21st century.

It is the end of a decade, as is the 10th year of the preceding 10 years, and it is the beginning of the decade of the "10s," allowing us to move on from saying "oh-eight" or 'oh-nine."

The mathematics for determining if it is end of the first decade or the beginning of the second involve understanding there was no year zero and that the calendar went directly from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.

Had that happened in today's world, Homeland Security, the INS, IRS, Congress, the Senate and the White House would have been called to emergency sessions with hearings, audits, background checks and high alert warnings.

Based on the premise that we start counting with the number one, then 2010 is the end of the first decade.

Twitter users have sent the argument far and wide and one comment seemed particularly appropriate.
"Decades are largely irrelevant to the calendar: the ‘60s began in November 1963 and continued until the Beatles broke up."

In any event, what will you start saying in this New Year, "Two thousand ten or Twenty-ten?"

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net

Nevada Environmental Chief’s Unwitting Remarks About Ag Pumping Draws Attention To Controversial Las Vegas Water Imports From Eastern Counties

Ramona Morrison, Vice Chairman, Nevada Board of Agriculture

Drawing what may have been an unintended comparison of water use priorities, Allen Biaggi, Director of Nevada’s Department of Natural Resources, whose agency recently authorized the controversial mining and export of up to 60,000 acre feet of water from Spring Valley to Las Vegas, recently told AP News that agriculture negatively impacts water for wildlife. He was quoted saying, “[W]here agriculture is present, springs and streams have dried up (water) that would otherwise be available for wildlife,” in an AP story about the Nevada Board of Agriculture’s investigation into the legality of unpermitted wildlife guzzlers.

The State environmental chief’s sweeping characterization of the comparatively minimal drawdown of water tables by irrigation pumping, which his department authorized, draws stark contrast to the drawdown that is sure to occur once Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) turns on the pumps for its massive 300-mile pipeline constructed to transport up to 200,000 acre feet of water annually from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas. Biaggi’s remarks confirm environmentalist and rancher’s concerns about the SNWA project.

Meanwhile Biaggi ignored the documented parallel between the development of water sources for cattle and sheep as well as irrigation agriculture and the corresponding dramatic increases in wildlife in the once barren Great Basin. Nevada’s ranchers and farmers are almost singlehandedly responsible for the State’s thriving wildlife populations. Contrast today’s abundance of deer, elk, big horn sheep, and sage hen for example to the written accounts of the early explorers to this state who were lucky to find a rabbit to eat, and some of whom survived their visit to Nevada by butchering their dogs and horses. Were it not for ranchers and farmers developing springs and wells, grubbing water-depleting willows from stream banks, building ditches, and irrigating meadows, wildlife still would not have the habitat or water necessary to thrive in the arid Great Basin.

A more likely cause for the disappearing streams and springs that Mr. Biaggi alludes to is the overgrowth and encroachment of pinion and juniper pine trees throughout the Great Basin into places never before documented. Heavy utilization of this renewable resource for energy and building materials by the early settlers significantly reduced competition for water in the aquifer, causing countless springs to “spring up” in the remote reaches of the Great Basin. Common sense tells us that if one mature pinion or juniper consumes an average of 15 gallons of water a day, thinning 1,000 trash pines for example potentially sends 1,500 gallons a day directly back to the aquifer, causing dry springs to run once again, even during a drought. Yet the environmental policies of Mr. Biaggi’s Department discourage this simple solution to developing additional water sources, and by extension forage.

While Nevada struggles economically, racking up some of the highest foreclosure and unemployment rates nationally, Biaggi’s unfounded allegations against one of the state’s few stable industries are incredibly irresponsible and damaging. Ranchers and farmers consistently generate well over one billion dollars annually to Nevada’s coffers.

Mr. Biaggi, the highly trained career bureaucrat charged with allocating Nevada’s scarce water resources and protecting the environment cannot be ignorant of the differences between developing and spreading water within a basin, and mining and exporting the same water to golf courses in Las Vegas. Instead, his agency’s permitting of inter-basin transfers may convert parts of the Great Basin into a “great Saharan desert” of sand dunes and dust storms. Then we will have a true measure of how well wildlife thrives when the rancher and farmer are eliminated from the water equation.

# # #

Ramona Morrison serves as Vice Chairman of the Nevada Board of Agriculture. Her family has been involved in ranching and farming in Nevada since the 1860’s.

Song Of The Day #213

Ranch Radio's Gospel tune this am is Loves Me Like A Rock performed by Alison Krauss & The Cox Family.

It's available on their 12 track CD I Know Who Holds Tomorrow on Rounder Records.


Calls for Full-Body Screening Devices Grow After Terror Attempt

A suspected terrorist’s attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner may override privacy concerns and intensify a push for full-body scanning equipment at airports. Metal detectors currently used to screen passengers wouldn’t have found the explosive allegedly carried aboard by the suspect, said former Federal Aviation Administration security chief Billie Vincent. Only more sophisticated devices such as low-level X-rays and millimeter-wave technology would work, Vincent said. Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, called for more widespread use of the full-body scanners after the aborted attack. “We were very lucky this time but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened,” Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement yesterday. The committee said it would hold a hearing next month on airline security and how the alleged terrorist got onto the plane...read more

New Hi-Tech Scanners Would Not Have Detected the Underpants Bomber

Many are advocating the new "millimetre-wave" body scanners as the ultimate preventive measure to stop attacks such as the one attempted by the underpants bomber. These scanners use waves to create a three-dimensional virtual naked image of passengers. They have been opposed by some due to privacy concerns. A British expert who helped develop the scanners for airport use claims they wouldn't have detected this type of device anyway. Think about it for a minute. If the devices don't see clothing, they don't see low density objects such as powders and chemicals. They are designed for higher density objects such as metal knives, guns and dense plastic such as C4 explosive. This leaves us with a couple options. We can show up at the airport wearing hospital gowns and prepared for a body cavity search or we can start profiling passengers like the Israelis do. The Israelis haven't had a successful airline attack in decades, but they do profile and conduct extensive interviews of some passengers...read more

Homeland Security Touts 2009 Accomplishments, Including ‘Secure Flight’ Program

Just days before a Nigerian man tried to blow up a U.S. airliner as it descended into Detroit, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released its “2009 Accomplishments & Reforms” fact sheet, touting its “Secure Flight” passenger vetting program. The Obama administration has confirmed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was on the U.S. government terrorist watch list, but the 23-year-old man was still able to board a Northwest plane in Amsterdam bound for Michigan. On the DHS fact sheet, issued on Dec. 15, the “Secure Flight” program is second on the list and is described as a program that “prescreens name, date of birth and gender against government watch lists for domestic and international flights.”...read more

Man chosen to review government watch list system helped to design it

President Barack Obama promised a “thorough review” of the government’s terrorist watch list system after a Nigerian man reported to U.S. government officials by his father to have radicalized and gone missing last month was allowed to board a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit that he later allegedly tried to blow up without any additional security screening. Yet the individual Obama has chosen to lead the review, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, served for 35 years in the CIA, helped design the current watch list system and served as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center, whose role is under review. In the three years before joining the Obama administration, Brennan was president and CEO of The Analysis Corp., an intelligence contracting firm that worked closely with the National Counterterrorism Center and other U.S. government intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security agencies on developing terrorism watch lists...read more

Secret mobile phone code cracked

Computer hackers this week said they had cracked and published the secret code that protects 80 per cent of the world’s mobile phones. The move will leave more than 3bn people vulnerable to having their calls intercepted, and could force mobile phone operators into a costly upgrade of their networks. Karsten Nohl, a German encryption expert, said he had organised the hack to demonstrate the weaknesses of the security measures protecting the global system for mobile communication (GSM) and to push mobile operators to improve their systems. “This shows that existing GSM security is inadequate,” Mr Nohl told an audience of about 600 people at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, a four-day conference of computer hackers. “We have given up hope that network operators will move to improve security on their own, but we are hoping that with this added attention, there will be increased demand from customers for them to do this,” he told the Financial Times. “This vulnerability should have been fixed 15 years ago. People should now try it out at home and see how vulnerable their calls are.”...read more

Cell Phone Application Points Illegal Border Crossers to Water

A group of California artists wants Mexicans and Central Americans to have more than just a few cans of tuna and a jug of water for their illegal trek through the harsh desert into the U.S. Faculty at University of California, San Diego are developing a GPS-enabled cell phone that tells dehydrated migrants where to find water. It also pipes in poetry from phone speakers, regaling them on their journey much like Emma Lazarus' words did a century ago to the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" on Ellis Island. The Transborder Immigrant Tool is part technology endeavor, part art project. It introduces a high-tech twist to an old debate about how far activists can go to prevent migrants from dying on the border without breaking the law...read more

Taser ruling sets standards for police, claims

Police need reasons to believe a suspect is dangerous before firing a Taser and can't use their stun gun simply because the person is disobeying orders or acting erratically, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Monday. The decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sets judicial standards for police and for people who claim they were victims of excessive force after police hit them with a Taser dart. "The objective facts must indicate that the suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public," Judge Kim Wardlaw said in the 3-0 ruling. Though stun guns may offer a valuable, nonlethal alternative to deadly force in defusing dangerous situations, Wardlaw said, they inflict a "painful and frightening blow" and must be used only when substantial force is necessary and other options are unavailable...read more

Reid Will Force Confirmation Of TSA Administrator

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will force the confirmation of a Transportation Security Administration chief back into motion as soon as the Senate reconvenes on January 19th. Talking Points Memo reports: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will schedule a formal Senate roll call vote on the nomination of Errol Southers," the Obama appointee who Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has blocked for the past four months over worries about TSA employees being able to unionize. Reid will file a cloture motion to overcome DeMint's block. Sen. Reid's promise to act comes in the wake of widespread Democratic outrage over DeMint's continued politicization of the confirmation, even after the recent terror attempt on a trans-national airliner headed to Detroit...read more