Friday, March 19, 2010

Global Warming on Trial

Texas has filed two petitions in federal court. The first is a request for review of the endangerment finding, which is intended to examine the science behind global warming. The second is a petition for reconsideration of the finding. These court cases were brought about in the wake of the Climategate scandal. Climategate has revealed that significant portions of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) were based on fraudulent science. The crux of the matter is that the EPA based the endangerment finding on the now-discredited IPCC report. To date, the IPCC have admitted to two significant erroneous claims. First, they admitted to the fact that the Himalayan glaciers are not melting away, and secondly, they have stated that the claim of the trends of natural disasters attributed to global warming is overstated. Subsequently, the IPCC have been prompted to publicly state that they are reviewing their own quality assurance procedures in light of these admissions. But now all of this is going to be examined in a court of law. It should be noted that the laws of governments and the laws of science differ very significantly. For example, governments can repeal laws, like in the case of prohibition. By contrast, science cannot repeal the law of gravity. It is this kind of cold, hard fact that lawyers typically are not used to dealing with. If the case of Texas versus the EPA is decided on the scientific facts, as it should be, then the EPA will more

Climate change cited as Mont. leases suspended

A federal judge has approved a first-of-its-kind settlement requiring the government to suspend 38,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Montana so it can gauge how oil field activities contribute to climate change. At issue are the greenhouse gases emitted by drilling machinery and industry practices such as venting natural gas directly into the atmosphere. Environmentalists - who sued when the Montana leases were sold in 2008 - argued the industry has allowed too much waste and uses inefficient technologies that could easily be updated. Under the deal approved Thursday by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, the Bureau of Land Management will suspend the 61 leases in Montana within 90 days. They will have to go through a new round of environmental reviews before the suspensions can be lifted. A parallel lawsuit challenging 70,000 acres of federal lands leased in New Mexico remains pending. A BLM spokesman, Greg Albright, said reviewing lease sales for climate change would be a first for the agency. How it will be done was still being worked out, and it was unclear if the BLM would adopt such reviews as a standard more

COMMENT: If you have a permit from the feds, for anything, it's in jeopardy. Thank George Bush and the polar bear.

Prescribed Burns May Help Reduce US Carbon Footprint

The use of prescribed burns to manage Western forests may help the United States reduce its carbon footprint. A new study finds that such burns, often used by forest managers to reduce underbrush and protect bigger trees, release substantially less carbon dioxide emissions than wildfires of the same size. "It appears that prescribed burns can be an important piece of a climate change strategy," says Christine Wiedinmyer, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and lead author of the new study. "If we reintroduce fires into our ecosystems, we may be able to protect larger trees and significantly reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by major wildfires." Drawing on satellite observations and computer models of emissions, the researchers concluded that widespread prescribed burns can reduce fire emissions of carbon dioxide in the West by an average of 18 to 25 percent, and by as much as 60 percent in certain forest systems. Wildfires often destroy large trees that store significant amounts of carbon. Prescribed fires are designed to burn underbrush and small trees, which store less carbon. By clearing out the underbrush, these controlled burns reduce the chances of subsequent high-severity wildfires, thereby protecting large trees and keeping more carbon locked up in the more

Important: Senator Johanns on NAIS - Video

Frog gets third bid for critical habitat (1.6 million acres)

The federal government Tuesday made its third attempt to designate critical habitat for the California red-legged frog. The 1.6 million acres proposed represent the result of a decade of legal battles and scientific study. Previous proposals had been for as much as 4.1 million acres (in 2001) and for as little as 450,000 acres (in 2006). The latest designation includes 4,449 acres in Calaveras County that had been omitted from the 2006 proposal. Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said his organization is pleased with the latest designation. "Compared to the 450,000 or so acres that were designated in 2006 under the Bush administration, this is a dramatic improvement," Greenwald said. The 2006 plan would have excluded the Calaveras County area from designation because a property owner there said he would manage his property to benefit the frog and recruit other landowners to do the same. According to discussion in the federal habitat designation rule, no other property owners have come forward since 2006. Also, federal officials said the danger that grazing in the area will damage frog habitat justifies including the Calaveras area in the designation. "We won't know until we see what the agency does to landowners," Blodgett said of the new rule for the red-legged frog. "They have already been issuing threats to landowners on other species." more

The “Next West:” Up in the Air

If the current ‘New West’ is inexorably giving way to the ‘Next West,’ as so many ‘New Wests’ have done before, and if the region is in search of a new mission statement as a consequence, then clues to what’s coming might be found among the bright green grass of a small ranch in Marin County. At the very least, it is certainly something new under the sun. It’s called the Marin Carbon Project and its goal is nothing less than reversing global warming. That’s a tall order, of course, especially for one family, a few hundred acres, a small herd of cattle, and a handful of scientists. The idea behind the project is simple: it aims to sequester excess amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in the ranch’s soil. This is important because we know that to reverse climate change we need to do two things: (1) reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, by a lot; and (2) increase sequestration so that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere drops from its current level of 389 parts-per-million down to 350 ppm (or lower). While the vast majority of current climate change legislation, regulation, activism, and proposed solutions focus on reducing emissions, the truth is these actions won’t avert a climate calamity by themselves (assuming they actually get implemented). That’s because we’re already over the 350 ppm threshold for CO2. The science is clear: we need to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere as well as reduce emissions. That’s where the Marin Carbon Project comes more

Turkey troubles plague Tucumcari ranchers

When hunting them failed to curb population growth, two area ranchers took their turkey troubles to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “This has been going on for quite a few years,” said Daniel Garcia, a Tucumcari rancher. “Three years ago there was a flock of 300 turkeys running loose around here.” Garcia said game and fish experts removed 75 wild turkeys from his and a neighbor’s property earlier this month March. On several occasions, he said, the turkeys were eating the winter wheat seed almost as fast he could plant what’s usually a money crop. Garcia tried to cull the flock by participating in the NMDGF’s Open Gate program. The program leases private property for public hunting and fishing, according to a state Department of Game and Fish release. Participants receive an annual payment per acre based on available hunting and or fishing opportunities, with additional incentives offered for wildlife habitat enhancements, according to the release. “The program helps a little,” said Garcia, laughing, “but the hunter can only shoot one turkey. They need to let them shoot a few more.” more

Stimulus Gatekeepers: Here Come the Cows

Chris Helt is a man of action. The father of three runs a sandblasting operation, Helt Blasting Service, and grows 20 acres of soybeans in his backyard. He hunts, tinkers with his fleet of nine trucks and oversees maintenance on his father-in-law's convenience stores. He was too busy to notice when the whole nation was debating the Recovery Act. The bill's impact on his life, however, couldn't be more concrete. Every morning, it stares him in the face, in the form of the herd of shaggy Angus cows he bought with his stimulus loan. Last year the Department of Agriculture advanced Helt $30,000 to buy his first 24 head of cattle. Now the department hopes the novice cattleman will thrive and spread the wealth through the economy of Cherryvale, Kan.-population 2,200-the former railroad hub he calls home. Helt couldn't get a cheap loan from the banks, and it's easy to see why: He's got a degree in construction engineering, but he'd never owned a cow in his more

Another smart program from our Congress Critters.

The UN & EPA are Pursuing Culture Change – Not Climate Change, Says a Texas Cattlewoman

A Texas Cattlewoman’s review of the FAO’s, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, reveals the socialistic intent of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' indictment of the Livestock Industry...Livestock do not contribute more greenhouse gas emissions than transport, says Jimmie West, who runs a small cattle ranch in Southeast Texas where she raises rare British White Cattle, the ancient polled Park cattle of the British Isles. Her cattle graze on a mix of improved and native pastures, which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) considers substandard feed, and an “unproductive use of dietary energy” for the belching cow. The FAO is relentlessly advocating adding grain to a cow’s diet to alter the emissions they belch and to alter the emissions of their manure as well, and preferably on as small a spot of land as physically possible. Ms. West says this is a bogus “mitigating” policy of the FAO’s that is not even supportable by their own data on methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the belch and from the manure of more

'Davy Crockett' star Fess Parker dies

Fess Parker, the thesp who became famous for playing frontier legends Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and went on to become a successful real estate developer, died Thursday at his home near Los Olivos, Calif. He was 85. Parker played the rugged folk hero in Disney's "Davy Crockett" series, which aired in the mid-1950s as part of the "Disneyland" anthology series on ABC. Parker's portrayal of the coonskin cap-wearing Western hero became an overnight sensation after the first installment, "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter," aired in December 1954. Disney cashed in on robust sales of Crockett-themed merchandise, while Parker had a pop hit with his recording of the program's theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett." Crockett's image and memorabilia remain a prominent feature of the Frontierland area of the Disneyland theme park. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Parker was discovered while at the U. of Texas where he studied drama and played football. His first film was an uncredited role in 1950's "Harvey." He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s to study drama at USC. He made his stage debut in an local production of "Mister Roberts" in 1951. Walt Disney picked Parker to play Davy Crockett after seeing him in sci-fi pic "Them!" more

Here's the theme song from the show. If you are in my age bracket you will easily remember the words.

The sad story behind 'Nebraska Stories'

A former St. Louis-area professor who recently published a book about a cast of characters from the Nebraska Sandhills now finds himself accused of plagiarism. A dispute over who really wrote three of the 23 chapters in "Nebraska Stories" prompted legal threats from Stuart Jenkins, the Nebraska native who inspired the book. And it led Craig Savoye, a former staff writer with the Christian Science Monitor, to pay a monetary settlement and agree to remove the disputed chapters from future editions of his self-published book. The showdown over a collection of whimsical character sketches represents the latest personal conflict between Savoye and Jenkins, who now works as an executive with a national footwear company in more

Pioneer Woman's 'Black Heels to Tractor Wheels' will be a movie

Ree Drummond, best known as the Pioneer Woman, confirmed via Twitter that her story has been optioned. The entertainment blog Deadline reported that Columbia Pictures is in talks with Reese Witherspoon to play the Pioneer Woman. On Thursday, Drummond tweeted to her fans: “Think Green Acres meets Harlequin Romance meets Forest Gump.” Ree Drummond’s story of growing up on a country club golf course in Bartlesville, moving to the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles and then meeting the unexpected love of her life, the Marlboro Man, has Hollywood written all over it. Drummond wrote that it’s her book “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” that’s been optioned, not the blog itself. Drummond’s story of her courtship with the Marlboro Man, cattle rancher Ladd Drummond, has captured the thousands of fans on her site The Pioneer more

Extreme Cowboy Racing coming to Canada at 2010 Stampede

A spectacle in the saddle? Oh, yeah … to the extreme. The Calgary Stampede Cowboy Up Challenge, featuring the all-new sport of Extreme Cowboy Racing, will be making its debut at the 2010 Stampede as one of the showcase events in the Pengrowth Saddledome from July 10 to 12. Craig Cameron, famed horseman and Texas-based creator of the wildly popular Extreme Cowboy Race, has some advice for spectators: Hold on tight! “One of the most exciting things about Extreme Cowboy Racing is that it’s such a great spectator sport,” says Cameron. “You don’t even have to like horses to watch it. It’s fast. It’s exciting. There’s thrills and spills. It’s just as much fun for the people watching as for the guys participating.” Extreme Cowboy Racing, a timed and judged event, demands both horsemanship and speed, and challenges both horse and rider as they travel through an obstacle course. Its wild popularity across the United States in 2009, during the sport’s first full season of competition, convinced Calgary Stampede officials to stage Canada’s first Extreme Cowboy Race this summer, with the establishment of the Cowboy Up Challenge. The rigours of Extreme Cowboy Racing are designed to push horse-and-rider teams out of their traditional comfort zone, and put communication to the test. Judges award points for each obstacle, on a scale of one to 10, based on criteria such as horsemanship, cadence, control, and overall execution. Horse-and-rider teams are required to complete each obstacle within a predetermined time period to collect more

Campbell was last of a kind in Eagle Valley

Randy Campbell was a born sheep rancher. He grew up in a sheep ranching family, working beside his father, Ervin, and grandfather, Avery, on the Campbell Brothers ranch near Norwood, Colo. When middle school age, Randy was responsible for trailing hundreds of sheep down the highway from Redvale to Ophir. He was a hard worker who made a life-long career of the business he loved, managing sheep herds for several Colorado ranches before eventually starting his own ranch. Since the 1980s, Campbell was probably the most visible sheepman in the Eagle Valley, running herds of hundreds of woolly animals that summered on Red and White Mountain and wintered near the Utah-Colorado state line. “He was just a natural for it. In this age, he was a throw-back to the old days when there were really capable people around,” says Chris Jouflas, 83, a retired valley sheep rancher. Campbell subscribed to the “Code of the West,” unwritten rules of respect for land, fair play, loyalty, and hospitality. He was generous in sharing his way of life with friends who showed an interest and were willing to try hard. “Just don't weaken,” was Campbell's frequent advice. “It didn't matter whether we were creeping up a rutted dirt road with chains on all four tires, pulling a sheep camp up Red & White Mountain, or on horseback chasing an ewe out in the desert. He just didn't give up,” says Shaeffer. “He was the last of a breed that is gone out of the valley now. Randy was the exclamation point to the end of an era,” says more

Song Of The Day #265

Ranch Radio will wind up this West week with a double dose of Patsy Montana. First up is her classic 1935 recording I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart followed by I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart #2 from 1937. The 1935 tune was the first million seller by a female artist.

Both cuts are from her 20 track CD The Golden Age Of Patsy Montana on Cattle Records. Some of her stuff is still available as you can see here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Salazar touts beefed-up border security; Bishop calls it a 'photo op'

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar spent two days last week touring federal lands along the U.S.-Mexico border that are becoming a crossing point for undocumented immigrants seeking jobs and drug smugglers carting cocaine. Salazar praised efforts by Interior and Homeland Security departments to crack down on those crossing the border and then making their way through the preserved desert lands, but he also noted that further work is needed to control an increasing number of people tromping through and trashing off-limit areas. "Deterring unlawful activity along the border," Salazar said, "is the best option for preventing damage to cultural and natural resources and minimizing risks to visitors and employees." The secretary spent time in Texas and Arizona riding along with border-patrol agents. At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a border-area park so dangerous more than half of it is closed to the public, Salazar noted that the monument will have five miles of pedestrian fence, 26 miles of vehicle barriers and 10 surveillance towers as part of a virtual fence. But Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican and ranking member of a House subcommittee over public lands, said Salazar's visit amounted to nothing more than a "photo op" and that the secretary needs to do more to ensure land managers aren't hampering border patrols. "It's unacceptable for Secretary Salazar to make a trip to the border," Bishop said Tuesday "...and fail to offer any real changes or solutions." Bishop demanded "immediate action" by Salazar to stop blocking border patrol's access to Interior lands, to allow tower construction where Homeland Security wants it and end the practice of requiring DHS to pay "mitigation" funds to more

COMMENT: Salazar may like the virtual fence, but Homeland Security doesn't as Napolitano has just pulled the funding for the project and allocated it elsewhere (see next series of posts).

While I appreciate Bishop's many efforts and leadership on this issue, I'm not sure it's a problem that Salazar can handle administratively. The problem is the language in the Wilderness Act which prevents the use of motorized vehicles or mechanical equipment by the Border Patrol or any other law enforcement agency. No MOU or inter-agency agreements can amend the statute, and the plain language of the law is creating the biggest part of the problems.

Wilderness On The Border? 8 Articles On Border Violence

Fear grips Mexican border families amid violenceParents in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, are afraid to venture into the streets amid a turf war between two powerful drug cartels that has left more than 4,500 people dead during the past two years. Their fears spiked last weekend when hit men attacked two white SUVs leaving a birthday party, killing parents from two U.S. Consulate families in front of their screaming children. The violence has risen to such levels in Ciudad Juarez that everyone feels at risk in the city of 1.3 million, where innocent people have been increasingly caught in the crossfire. Hit men have gone to wrong addresses or shot indiscriminately into homes, mowing down not only the targeted people but anyone nearby. Mothers have driven into daytime shootouts, bending over their children to protect them. Toddlers have been fatally pierced by bullets while playing on the swings at city playgrounds. Waitresses have been slain for having the misfortune of serving marked men. At night, some couples drive in separate cars so one spouse can call the other on a cell phone upon seeing something suspicious. Many restrict their children to socializing at the homes of neighbors and relatives instead of meeting up at cafes and discos. But even those measures are sometimes not more

COMMENT: Apparently Senators Bingaman and Udall have no fear. They've introduced legislation to create a 400 square mile playground for the drug cartels and human traffickers along our southern border with Mexico.

U.S. puts brakes on "virtual" border fence The U.S. government is pulling $50 million in funding from a problematic "virtual fence" meant to secure stretches of the Mexico border and is freezing additional funding for the project pending review, authorities said on Tuesday. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said an allocation of $50 million in funds made under the Recovery Act would be taken away from the ill-starred SBInet program, which seeks to mesh video cameras, radar, sensors and other technologies into a high-tech system to detect smugglers. Napolitano said the project, which started in 2006 and was being developed by Boeing Co, has been beset by technical problems, missed deadlines and cost overruns. "Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will redeploy $50 million of Recovery Act funding originally allocated for the SBInet ... to other tested, commercially available security technology along the Southwest border," she said. The SBInet program is focused on securing the areas between the ports-of-entry on the Mexico border. Its goal is to integrate new and existing technologies to enable federal border police to detect and respond to incursions at the border...

Crime and terror The victims of the drug barons have traditionally been rival drug traffickers and police. That was already changing with some recent shootings of innocent bystanders, before the latest murders, the first of American officials and their families, put President Obama under pressure to rethink America’s strategy. So far this has consisted of funnelling more than $1 billion into Mr Calderón’s fight against the cartels. As investments go, this one has not paid blistering returns. For all Mr Calderón’s good intentions, and for all America’s cash, drug-related violence in Mexico has soared. Despite the presence of 8,000 troops and federal police in Ciudad Juárez, 4,600 people have been killed there in two years. It’s the world’s deadliest city outside a war zone — more dangerous as a place to live as the Iraqi city of Fallujah in its darkest days of 2005, before US-led troops moved in to take the city back from insurgent forces. Washington’s anxiety about developments in its southern neighbour was already simmering before Saturday’s shootings brought it to a boil. It is not just that most of America’s foreign-grown marijuana comes from Mexico, or that it is US-generated profits that keep the Mexican drug cartels in machineguns and money. It is also that its borders are porous...

Mexican drug war killings hit closer to U.S. Over the past two years, more than 4,000 people have been killed in a bloody drug war here - slaughtered almost daily in their homes and in the street, at drug clinics and youth parties, at funeral homes and outside neighborhood schools. But the killings Saturday of Lesley Enriquez, who worked at the U.S. Consulate and was four months pregnant; her husband, Arthur Redelfs, a corrections officer in El Paso, Texas; and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, whose wife worked at the consulate, brought the murderous mayhem even closer to home in United States than perhaps it has ever been. Two of the victims were U.S. citizens; one of them a U.S. government employee. The apparently coordinated attacks took place in broad daylight as the three were leaving a consulate children's party. Three children were with them when the two separate assaults took place...

Texas senators invite president to visit border Texas' U.S. senators pressed the White House Wednesday to take more seriously the threat that Mexican drug cartels' murder and mayhem could spill across the border and claim the lives of Texans. The threat is “real and it is escalating,” Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas, and John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, told President Barack Obama in a letter. “Our border patrol agents and local law enforcement are more regularly engaged with gunmen associated with drug cartels, but our resources and personnel are limited.” The senators urged Obama to accompany them on a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, craft a plan to address the violence and provide senators a classified intelligence briefing on whether the wave of cartel killings poses a threat to safety and overall national security...

Perry orders beefed-up presence on border in wake of killings Gov. Rick Perry moved Tuesday to step up Texas' law enforcement presence along the Mexico border to handle the threat of spillover violence from escalating drug cartel warfare in cities like Juarez and Matamoros. The governor also continued his call for additional federal assistance, saying he was activating the state violence contingency plan in the meantime because “with the safety of Texans on the line, we can't afford to wait.” His remarks come in the wake of the Ciudad Juarez killings of a U.S. consulate worker, her husband and the husband of another consulate worker as they left a children's party on Saturday. More than 4,000 people have been killed there in the past two years. U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said officials would review Perry's request for Predator-style surveillance over the Texas border, but he cautioned that the Obama administration is not seeing evidence of spillover violence warranting a stepped-up U.S. response. Drug cartels are “engaged in an armed, violent struggle to control shrinking drug routes and territories,” Chandler said. “They are targeting and killing rival cartel members, innocent Mexican civilians, police, and senior government officials, among others. We are not, however, seeing any indications of similar violence here in the U.S.”...

Mexico border city relives nightmare of violence Residents of this scruffy border town thought they had seen the worst of the violence five years ago, when rival drug gangs staged wild gunfights in the streets and a new police chief was slain just hours after being sworn in. Now, like a recurring nightmare, dread again hangs over Nuevo Laredo amid a new bloody feud that has ignited widespread fear of a return to the earlier carnage. Adding to the potential for skyrocketing violence, the Gulf cartel has reportedly reached out for help against the Zetas by enlisting the heavily armed trafficking group headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa. U.S. officials say they have yet to confirm the alliance, but take the reports seriously. Such an alignment would reshuffle Mexico's drug underworld and could produce prolonged and bitter warfare here...

Killings Cast Pall on Mexico Drug Plan The gangland-style murders of three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in this border city have confirmed for many people what residents here already knew: President Felipe Calderón's strategy of sending in the troops to corral drug gangs has failed. The gritty working-class city of 1.5 million has become a litmus test for Mr. Calderón's antidrug strategy and, by extension, his presidency. The conservative leader took power vowing to bring cartels to heel, and chose Mexico's army rather than local police to do the job, sending 45,000 troops to various hot spots, including 7,000 to Juárez. But violence has skyrocketed in Juárez, an assembly center for export goods that never escaped its roots as a border playground for Americans. Juárez, considered the world's murder capital, is caught in a turf war between two Mexican drug gangs fighting to control smuggling rights to the giant U.S. market. The violence scares away investment needed to reduce poverty and undercut drug gangs. The local manufacturers' trade group estimates nearly $1 billion in potential investment has been lost over the past two years due to the insecurity. Amid a wave of extortions, many city businesses have shut their doors. Many families with the means have fled across the border to El Paso, Texas...

Song Of The Day #264

The western tune on Ranch Radio today is Ole Faithful sung by Gene Autry. Gene's songs are widely available, as you can see here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Your Next Facebook 'Friend' Could be a Federal Agent

Here's yet another reason to be careful of what you share on Facebook -- the Feds could be checking you out. An internal Justice Department document obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveals that U.S. law enforcement agents have been logging onto social networking sites in the name of crime fighting. According to the 33-page presentation (PDF), which was obtained by the EFF through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, federal agents can use social networking sites to gather valuable information from and about suspects. The following information is listed as being useful evidence that can be gathered from social networking sites:

* Reveal personal communications
* Establish motives and personal relationships
* Provide location information
* Prove and disprove alibis
* Establish crime or criminal enterprise

The document gives a brief overview of four popular social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and how information can be obtained from them. Facebook, for example, is "often cooperative with emergency requests," while Twitter "will not preserve data without legal process," while LinkedIn can be used to "identify experts" even though its "use for criminal communication appears limited." more

Undercover Feds on Social Networking Sites Raise Questions

The next time someone tries to “friend” you on Facebook, it may turn out to be an undercover fed looking to examine your private messages and photos, or surveil your friends and family. The document also describes techniques for verifying alibis — such as checking messages posted by a suspect on Twitter disclosing his whereabouts at the time a crime was committed — and uncovering information that might point to illegal activity, such as photos depicting a suspect with expensive jewelry, a new car or even a weapon. The investigative techniques were part of a slide presentation titled “Obtaining and Using Evidence from Social Networking Sites” (.pdf) given last year by John Lynch, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property division to describe how valuable social networking sites can be to give law enforcement access to non-public information. The cops can also map social relationships and networks, among other things. The document does not include guidance or cautionary notes on how to conduct an investigation responsibly using these services, though it acknowledges the problematic nature of using an assumed identity to open an account with a social networking site. “Can failure to follow [terms of service] render access unauthorized?” the document asks. “If agents violate terms of service, is that ‘otherwise illegal activity’?” Agents who create fake accounts to communicate with suspects under an assumed identity could create a conundrum for the Justice Department, which prosecuted Lori Drew in 2008 for essentially doing the same thing. In the offline world, agents involved in an investigation can’t impersonate a suspect’s spouse, child, parent or best friend, the Associated Press notes. But online they can. “This new situation presents a need for careful oversight so that law enforcement does not use social networking to intrude on some of our most personal relationships,” said Marc Zwillinger, a former federal prosecutor told the news more

Big Brother Smokey: Forest Service admits putting surveillance cameras on public lands

Last month, Herman Jacob took his daughter and her friend camping in the Francis Marion National Forest. While poking around for some firewood, Jacob noticed a wire. He pulled on it and followed it to a video camera and antenna. The camera didn't have any markings identifying its owner, so Jacob took it home and called law enforcement agencies to find out if it was theirs, all the while wondering why someone would station a video camera in an isolated clearing in the woods. He eventually received a call from Mark Heitzman of the U.S. Forest Service. In a stiff voice, Heitzman ordered Jacob to turn it back over to his agency, explaining that it had been set up to monitor "illicit activities." Jacob returned the camera but felt uneasy. Why, he wondered, would the Forest Service have secret cameras in a relatively remote camping area? What do they do with photos of bystanders? How many hidden cameras are they using, and for what purposes? Is this surveillance in the forest an effective law enforcement tool? And what are our expectations of privacy when we camp on public land? Officials with the Forest Service were hardly forthcoming with answers to these and other questions about their surveillance cameras. When contacted about the incident, Heitzman said "no comment," and referred other questions to Forest Service's public affairs, who he said, "won't know anything about it." Heather Frebe, public affairs officer with the Forest Service in Atlanta, said the camera was part of a law enforcement investigation, but she declined to provide details. Asked how cameras are used in general, how many are routinely deployed throughout the Forest and about the agency's policies, Frebe also declined to discuss more

COMMENT: We already knew the Forest Service had drones in the sky. Now we know they have cameras on the ground. Are they monitoring social networking sites too? All this just illustrates why Congress should force them to use that section of FLPMA which authorizes the Forest Service and the BLM to contract with local law enforcement and quit building a huge federal law enforcement bureaucracy which tramples on our liberty and alienates the regular Forest Service from it's constituents.

In U.S., Concern For Environmental Issues at 20-Year Low

Americans are less worried about each of eight specific environmental problems than they were a year ago, and on all but global warming and maintenance of the nation's fresh water supply, concern is the lowest Gallup has measured. Americans worry most about drinking-water pollution and least about global warming.

Over time, Americans' concerns about environmental problems have generally declined. After this year's drop, for six of the eight items, the percentage who worry "a great deal" is at the lowest point Gallup has measured, which in some cases dates to more

What's killing the great forests of the American west?

For many years, Diana Six, an entomologist at the University of Montana, planned her field season for the same two to three weeks in July. That's when her quarry — tiny, black, mountain pine beetles — hatched from the tree they had just killed and swarmed to a new one to start their life cycle again. Now, says Six, the field rules have changed. Instead of just two weeks, the beetles fly continually from May until October, attacking trees, burrowing in, and laying their eggs for half the year. And that's not all. The beetles rarely attacked immature trees; now they do so all the time. What's more, colder temperatures once kept the beetles away from high altitudes, yet now they swarm and kill trees on mountaintops. And in some high places where the beetles had a two-year life cycle because of cold temperatures, it's decreased to one year. Such shifts make it an exciting — and unsettling — time to be an entomologist. The growing swath of dead lodgepole and ponderosa pine forest is a grim omen, leaving Six — and many other scientists and residents in the West — concerned that as the climate continues to warm, these destructive changes will intensify. Across western North America, from Mexico to Alaska, forest die-off is occurring on an extraordinary scale, unprecedented in at least the last century-and-a-half — and perhaps much longer. All told, the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the United States have seen nearly 70,000 square miles of forest — an area the size of Washington state — die since 2000. For the most part, this massive die-off is being caused by outbreaks of tree-killing insects, from the ips beetle in the Southwest that has killed pinyon pine, to the spruce beetle, fir beetle, and the major pest — the mountain pine beetle — that has hammered forests in the more

Forest travel plan appeals nixed by feds

The U.S. Forest Service has shot down all appeals to its off-road-vehicle management plan for the Stanislaus National Forest, to the chagrin of several local critics. The plan is designed to govern motorized travel patterns in the forest for years to come. It could be implemented this spring, according to the Forest Service. The plan — needed to implement a 2005 federal travel rule — has been in the works for several years. Among other things, it prohibits travel on hundreds of miles of unauthorized off-road routes within the forest. But it also enters 137 miles of such routes into the official Forest Service route system. This has resulted in critics from all sides attacking the plan. The appeals came from a variety of groups from across the state for various reasons. Some said the plan’s restrictions are too stringent, while others said the plan goes too easy on off-road-vehicle users. Locally, the plan was appealed by several entities, including Tuolumne County, Tuolumne County Sportsmen, the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center and the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment. Supervisor Teri Murrison said Friday she was disappointed the county’s appeal was rejected. But, she added, the county has other options. “I think we’ve exhausted our administrative remedies,” she said. “But I think there’s probably some opportunity to take this further.” more

Ski area's setback sends chills

As much as from the two-hour climb, Mueller's weariness lingers from the fight to grow his resort. He has spent four years and nearly $2 million working to expand the ski area he bought with his family in 2003. Then four months ago, the U.S. Forest Service decided it opposed lift-served skiing on Snodgrass Mountain. That decision ended a long journey toward formal review and reversed two decades of apparent Forest Service support for lift- served skiing on Snodgrass. Now, the Mueller clan finds itself at the heart of an acrimonious battle between the Forest Service and Colorado resorts that are alarmed the decision — after years of Forest Service support — spells trouble for other expansion plans. While the Forest Service denies any change in policy, industry leaders fear the roots of the Snodgrass denial lie in a fundamental shift that has the agency worried about declines in vacationers and favoring expansion closer to population centers. "What we want the Forest Service to understand is that we are concerned that they have changed the rules in midstream and if this partnership is going to continue to thrive, we think they need to revisit the process," said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, which represents 332 American ski hills, 135 of which use federal land. "If you are a ski-area operator and you go through this public process and do all this master planning and spend all this money and then one person in a backroom says, 'I've changed my mind,' well, if that's the way the agency is going to make decisions going forward, we are all in trouble," said Melanie Mills, president of the 22-resort trade group Colorado Ski Country. The Forest Service decision at Crested Butte is not the only federal action causing industry consternation. In Arizona, the agency has refused to allow upgrades it had already approved at Snowbowl, despite Court of Appeals support and $5 million in planning over eight more

A great state of carbon caches

When it comes to storing carbon, no national forest in the United States does more than the Eugene-based Willamette, according to a survey released by an environmental group. In an analysis of data collected by the U.S. Forest Service, The Wilderness Society found that among the federally owned national forests, the top 10 for carbon storage are all in the Pacific Northwest, six of them in Oregon. The Pacific Northwest climate offers plentiful rain and moderate temperatures that encourage tree growth, and the Willamette National Forest, at nearly 1.7 million acres, is a colossal forest. Only two of the other forests on the list are bigger. A study published last summer in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that Oregon’s forests are among the best in the world at storing carbon, second only to forests in more

Lumberjacks swing into Fort Collins

Axes will be flying, chain saws humming and cameras rolling. No, Fort Collins isn't the setting for the latest B-grade horror flick. CSU's logging sports team is hosting the 71st annual conclave for schools in the Association of Western Forest Clubs this week at its new competition facility on Vine Drive, just west of Overland Trail. The annual conclave includes the Stihl Timbersports Western Collegiate Challenge, which is being filmed by ESPNU, a sports television network devoted to college sports, to be broadcast later this year. And they all have different events they prefer. CSU's specialty, Hall said, tends to be the chopping events, but team members will compete this week in all 17 disciplines, ranging from burling (trying to roll an opponent off a floating log by spinning it rapidly with your feet), to ax throwing, to pole climbing, to obstacle courses, to tree identification, to traverse (a form of orienteering), to a number of different chopping and sawing events involving axes, buck saws, tandem saws and identically tuned chain saws. Four of the events -- single buck, stock saw, standing block chop and underhand chop -- make up the Stihl Collegiate Challenge, and the competitor with the top score after those events will receive a $1,000 scholarship and move on to represent the region in the Stihl Timbersports Collegiate Championship in August at the Oregon State Fair in Salem, more

Hormonal on the range

Adult female bison don’t take kindly to traditional pregnancy tests. The test, known as “rectal palpation,” involves a veterinarian inserting a gloved arm to feel for thickening in the uterus wall. In hormonal beasts weighing nearly 1,200 pounds, the test can quickly become a recipe for injuries. “Buffalo are tremendously fast and strong,” said Dr. Kenneth Throlson, a retired vet who owns a North Dakota bison ranch. “They go from docile to crazy in about two snaps of the finger.” About seven years ago – after two hip replacements, back injuries and shoulder troubles – Throlson switched from manual pregnancy testing to blood tests for the ranch’s 300 bison cows. Blood samples are sent to BioTracking LLC in Moscow, Idaho, for processing. Within 27 hours, ranch hands know which bison are pregnant. Sasser and colleagues at the University of Idaho originally developed the test for cattle in the 1980s. While domestic livestock accounts for the bulk of the company’s sales, pregnancy tests for wildlife and farm-raised game are on the rise. Last year, BioTracking processed about 3,200 pregnancy tests for bison, elk, moose, deer, big horn sheep and exotic deer – animals known as “ruminants” because of their multi-chambered stomachs. The tests cost about $20 per more

COMMENT: The article is ok, but it's the headline I like. It could apply to all sorts of things.

Song Of The Day #263

Stickin' to the West Ranch Radio brings you Rosalie Allen singing Wide Rollin' Plains.

The tune can be found on her 26 track CD The Hillbilly Yodel Star of the 1940s by Cattle Records.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Doctor Of Lies

Instead of having his Nobel Prize rescinded for espousing climate fraud, the prophet of doom is set to receive an honorary doctorate of laws and humane letters from the University of Tennessee for his work. 'Vice President Gore's career has been marked by visionary leadership, and his work has quite literally changed our planet for the better," UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said in a prepared statement. We are not making this up, though we will not dispute Gore's having had visions. Confronted with the inconvenient truths such as CRU director Phil Jones admitting there has been no warming trend for at least the last 15 years, Gore monotones: "What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged." He doesn't need no stinking facts. According to the Guardian, a British newspaper, Gore has investments in one company that has received more than half a billion dollars in subsidies from the Department of Energy. Financial disclosure documents released before the 2000 election put the Gore family's net worth at $1 million to $2 million. A mere nine years later, estimates are that he is now worth about $100 million. He could become the world's first carbon more

Candidate rides into the Pinon Canyon controversy

So many St. Patrick's Day parades, so little time. Gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper, decked out in a shamrock-green blazer, had to zoom from Denver's shamrock celebration to the Pueblo Democratic Party's St. Patrick Day's fundraiser. And there, he weighed in on one of Scott McInnis's pet projects: the proposed expansion of the Army's 235,000 acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site -- right onto private ranchland in southeastern Colorado. While McInnis supports the land grab, Hickenlooper does not. "Unless there is a deal embraced by the residents of Southeastern Colorado that they feel is better for their community, it's hard for me to support it," the Denver mayor told the Pueblo Chieftain. "I don't think the military is so foolish that they want one part of the community to thrive at the expense of another." more

Enviros fight sage-grouse ruling

An environmental organization is pursuing legal action against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for its recent decision to name the greater sage-grouse as a candidate for the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but to preclude it at this time from the list. Members of the Western Watersheds Project (WWP) say they are worried about the bird’s future. “Because the sage-grouse has been warranted for protection, we think it should receive that protection,” said Jon Marvel, director of WWP. “The problem is there has not been a balance and that’s why sage-grouse population are declining,” Lucas said. “The (oil and gas companies) are making billions of dollars off of it and they’re paying almost nothing to protect the public lands.” Lucas said ranching practices also have negative effects on the species’ habitat. He believes there should be a voluntary retirement program for grazing allotments, where ranchers can choose to sell their permits. “A lot of these ranchers aren’t making any money at all,” he said, explaining voluntary buyouts would help them as well. He said the land could then be preserved for wildlife. “It may have some economic impacts, but it allows a lifeline for people who may not have a way out and need a way out,” Lucas more

USDA Announces $16 million to Improve Sage-Grouse Conservation

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new initiative to protect sage grouse population and habitat in 11 western states using two popular U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs—Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). USDA will use up to $16 million through EQIP and WHIP in the 11 states this fiscal year to provide financial assistance to producers to reduce threats to the birds such as disease and invasive species and improve sage-grouse habitat. Producers can sign up through April 23 to participate in the first round of rankings for this more

Wyoming Ranchers Prevail In State CBM Water Case

The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council has sided with a ranching couple who contested a discharge permit for coal-bed methane water that was issued by the state. A landowner group says the ruling could have important implications for Wyoming's large coal-bed methane industry, though state officials expressed doubt that Thursday's vote would have a wide-ranging effect. The council sided 4-2 with Marge and Bill West, who contested a permit held by Stephens Energy Company. The Wests have lost 100 acres of haymeadow and 200 cottonwood trees because of salt buildup from coal-bed methane water flowing across their Powder River Basin property, said the couple's attorney, Kate Fox, of Cheyenne. The Wests argued that the state Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit last year using rules since criticized as unscientific by the Environmental Protection Agency and by consultants for the state. About 170 of the 1,000 or so active water discharge permits in the Powder River Basin have been granted under the rules. Thursday's ruling in theory could open the way for more permits to be more

Debate rages over rafting through private property

A bill that has divided rafters and private property owners was the subject of hours of testimony Monday in a Senate committee Monday. At odds in HB1188 are landowners with rivers passing through their property and the rafters who travel those waterways and consider it their entitlement under a 1970s Colorado Supreme Court ruling that allows them to do so, provided they don't touch the banks or the beds of rivers. The impetus for the bill is a Western Slope dispute between a developer along the Taylor River who is threatening to close passage through his property. Proponents of the bill in the rafting community contend that if it isn't passed, developers can commence snatching up stretches of the river and shutting them down to passage. The bill's opponents — ranchers and farmers among them — said it presents a license to trespass and harms the value of their more


Five photographers share their views of the "Picket Wire" in an exhibit highlighting the area's fragile beauty and tough, resilient character. "Contested Lands: Photographs Around the Picket Wire," on display at El Pueblo History Museum, brings together the work of James Peterson, Scott Engel, Thomas Neff, Kevin O'Connell and Charles Walters. Peterson's and Engel's are color photos and the others are black and white. "It's a unique look at the contested lands, the dispute and what they're fighting about," says Kathleen Eriksen, exhibit curator for El Pueblo. "Each photographer has a different view, taken from a different angle, with different lighting, in selected parts of the Picket Wire." Colorado Historical Society organized the exhibit, not to embroil viewers in the controversy over the Army's proposed expansion in Pinon Canyon — which flared and now has temporarily died down — but to show them the land in question so they can decide for themselves whether or not it's important, Eriksen more

Canadian cow tests positive for BSE

A Canadian agency has reported that another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy has been found, this time in a 72-month-old cow. It is the 18th such case in Canada, according to the United Stockgrowers of America’s Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund. An official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told Shae Dodson, R-CALF USA communications coordinator, that another case of the disease, commonly known as mad cow disease, was confirmed Feb. 25. The U.S. Department of Agriculture later verified the Canadian report, according to a news release from R-CALF USA. The group said Canadian officials had not notified the World Organization for Animal Health about the case as of last Wednesday. “The CFIA said the BSE-positive case was confirmed Feb. 25, 2010, which means the CFIA and all other governments who knew about this latest BSE case kept it a secret from the public for almost two weeks,” said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA chief executive officer. “If we had not discovered this information, the public may never have known.” The 6-year-old infected animal would have been born in 2003 or 2004, making it the 18th Canadian-born case and the 11th animal diagnosed with the disease eligible to be exported to the United more

States to help design animal tracing system

States, not the federal government, would determine more of the specifics of an animal disease tracing system now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has jettisoned the long proposed national animal identification system, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday in Rapid City. Vilsack dropped plans in February for a mandatory system to track livestock from the ranch to the packing plant, citing strong opposition from ranchers at a series of listening sessions last year, including one in Rapid City. Speaking to the National Farmers Union annual convention in Rapid City, Vilsack said the listening sessions revealed a “multitude of concerns” about cost, paperwork and privacy of information. “We tried to listen carefully and respond to the concerns while at the same time creating a system that we believe will be more successful at traceability,” Vilsack told the group. He said USDA will work with state agriculture secretaries to develop a system to track cattle back to the state where they originated in case an animal disease breaks out. He said it should be up to individual states to determine the most appropriate method for further procedures. States can decide how far to take them, including to the farm where the animal was born, Vilsack more

Slaughter of horses in U.S. could resume, in Missouri

Earlier this year, state Rep. Jim Viebrock, R-Republic, introduced a bill designed to circumvent federal rules that prevent horse slaughter for human consumption and would enable horse processing facilities to open in Missouri. Viebrock says the legislation would jump-start the ailing equine industry, which pro-slaughter advocates say has been hurt by the recent closure of the country's three horse slaughterhouses. Viebrock's bill, which has sparked outrage in anti-slaughter circles, has the support of the state's director of agriculture, Jon Hagler, and just about every person at the Springfield auction on this recent Friday night. Viebrock hopes his bill will restart the industry on American soil, specifically in Missouri, where horse slaughtering has not taken place in decades. The aim is to provide a funding mechanism that would reimburse the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the required inspections. But, federal authorities say, it remains unclear whether the law would work, because the federal rule mandates that no money be spent on the federal inspections, whether reimbursed or more

Song Of The Day #262

Ranch Radio will head out west for the rest of the week. Today's tune is The Devil's Great Grandson recorded in 1937 by the Sons Of The Pioneers. Check out the great yodel breaks by Roy Rogers.

The tune is available on the 4 CD, 100 track box set My Saddle Pals and I.

Monday, March 15, 2010

CBD's Critical Habitat For Jaguar

See their action alert with sample letter here.

Wilderness is just battle #1 for this area. Critical habitat is #2. And #3 will be??

Interior Sec., Ariz. congressman visit border

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (gree-HAHL'-vuh) of Arizona assessed the progress of homeland security projects at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the Mexican border Saturday. Both men met with employees of the Interior and Homeland Security Departments and inspected border fencing and surveillance towers at the national park. When border security projects are completed, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument will host about five miles of pedestrian fence, 26 miles of vehicle barriers and 10 surveillance towers with cameras and relay systems that make up the virtual fence project. Salazar told reporters that deterring unlawful activity along the border is the best option for preventing damage to cultural and natural resources and minimizing risks to park visitors and employees. AP

That doesn't tell us much, however this article says:
Salazar said the issues are complex. "We have issues of drug cartels and lawlessness that need to be addressed. We have issues of security along the border and we need to make sure we're protecting our lands for people in the United States." Salazar said many improvements have been made since Eggle's death. Vehicle barricades, for instance, have drastically reduces(sic)immigrant traffic, he said. But he and Grijalva said they believe more needs to be done to improve security for those who work in the park.

So issues pertaining to drug cartels, lawlessness and border security "need to be addressed." I can only interpret that to mean those activities are still occurring and haven't been addressed. He didn't, after all, say these illegal activities "have been addressed." This confirms what the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and rancher/author Steve Wilmeth have been trying to tell Senator Bingaman. Keep in mind 95% of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has been wilderness since the 70's.

Salazar says vehicle barriers have "drastically" reduced "immigrant traffic" but that "more needs to be done" to protect monument employees. To that I have several questions: If the vehicle barriers have "drastically" reduced the traffickers why must more be done? Perhaps it wasn't so drastic after all. And why no mention of the federal agency that provides for out border security, the Border Patrol? Is it because they are not allowed to operate in the monument because of it's wilderness designation? Mr. Secretary, is'nt it wilderness that makes this issue so "complex"?

Big Bend binational park plan stirs again

A proposal first touted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create an international park along the U.S.-Mexico border may be closer to reality than ever before. Secretary of the Interior Ken Sa lazar said Friday that his department is steadily working toward a viable plan to turn the sprawling Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande in West Texas into a unified park across the border. "The vision President Roosevelt had back in 1935 É is still true today," Salazar said during a visit to the 801,000-acre desert park. "We have our eyes on Big Bend National Park." But the goal -- a binational park that preserves both biologically sensitive lands and wildlife migration paths and allows easy tourist access from one park to the other -- has some big obstacles in its path, including issues of immigration and border security, the secretary more

: It will be interesting to see how they work out the border security issues. A Park, unlike a Monument, takes an act of Congress so the Texas delegation will get to weigh in on this.

Court favors sage grouse in Mont. grazing lawsuit

The U.S. Forest Service must re-examine how livestock grazing affects sage grouse habitat in southwestern Montana after an appeals court ruled its original assessment was not reliable. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Forest Service Tuesday to prepare a new environmental assessment for its livestock allotments in the 48,000-acre Antelope Basin. Tens of thousands of acres have been identified as sage grouse habitat, but few of the chicken-sized birds can be found there. Michael Garrity, of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, says the ruling means the Forest Service must ensure that grazing will not harm the sage grouse's recovery. The Forest Service did not immediately return a call for comment. AP

Florida on guard against giant snails

They're not as menacing as Burmese pythons proliferating in the Everglades, but giant African snails are targets of the government too. The invasive mollusks are considered a major plant pest and a potential public health threat because they can spread diseases, including meningitis. Now federal and state authorities are seeking to prevent the large, slimy, shell-toting snails from reestablishing themselves in Florida. Once established, agricultural officials said, the mollusks "can create a giant swath of destruction." Known as Achatina fulica, the species is one of the world's largest land snails. They can grow to 8 inches long and 4.5 inches in diameter. It is illegal to import the snails into the United States without a permit. The snail has not been an issue in Florida for several decades. In 1966, a child smuggled three snails into the Miami area as pets. His grandmother later released them into a garden, and by 1973, the population had grown to more than 18,000, officials said. Over the next decade, officials spent more than $1 million to eradicate them. That effort is considered the only successful giant African snail eradication on more

UN climate change claims on rainforests were wrong, study suggests

A new study, funded by Nasa, has found that the most serious drought in the Amazon for more than a century had little impact on the rainforest's vegetation. The findings appear to disprove claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could react drastically to even a small reduction in rainfall and could see the trees replaced by tropical grassland. The IPCC has already faced intense criticism for using a report by environmental lobby group WWF as the basis for its claim, which in turn had failed to cite the original source of the research. Scientists have now spoken out against the 40% figure contained in the IPCC report and say that recent research is suggesting that the rainforest may be more resilient to climate change than had been previously thought. Dr Jose Marengo, a climate scientist with the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research and a member of the IPCC, said the latest study on the Amazon's response to drought highlighted the errors in the previous claims. He said: "The way the WWF report calculated this 40% was totally wrong, while (the new) calculations are by far more reliable and correct." The new study, conducted by researchers at Boston University and published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, used satellite data of the Amazon rainforest to study the effects of a major drought in 2005 when rainfall fell to the lowest level in living more

Government rebuked over global warming nursery rhyme adverts

Two nursery rhyme adverts commissioned by the Government to raise awareness of climate change have been banned for overstating the risks. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the adverts – which were based on the children's poems Jack and Jill and Rub-A-Dub-Dub – made exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from global warming. In definitely asserting that climate change would cause flooding and drought the adverts went beyond mainstream scientific consensus, the watchdog said. The two posters created on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change juxtaposed adapted extracts from the nursery rhymes with prose warnings about the dangers of global warning. One began: “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.” Beneath was written: “Extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense.” The second advert read: "Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub — a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change.” It was captioned: “Climate change is happening. Temperature and sea levels are rising. Extreme weather events such as storms, floods and heat waves will become more frequent and intense. If we carry on at this rate, life in 25 years could be very different.” more

Green Jobs Mirage

The Department of Energy has spent just 7 percent of the $37 billion it received from the stimulus for clean-energy subsidies, and already the Obama administration is pushing for another billion-dollar bailout for "green" industries. Last week in Georgia, the president unveiled a $6 billion "cash for caulkers" program, which would defray the cost of energy-efficiency retrofits in homes and businesses. He said the program is a good idea because these "green jobs" can't be outsourced. To illustrate his point, Mr. Obama claimed, "It's very hard to ship windows from China." It's not as hard as the president thinks. With a simple Google search, I quickly found the Guang Zhou Hans Building Materials Technology Co. Ltd., Zhongshan Good Life Sun Sheet Co. Ltd. and Zehao Windows Manufactory Ltd., all of which export energy-efficient windows for the international market. This wouldn't be the first time the Obama administration used taxpayer money to send green jobs overseas. According to a recent report from the American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop, 1,219 of the 1,807 wind turbines funded by the stimulus were manufactured in foreign countries. The report prompted four Democratic senators to send a letter last week to the Obama administration demanding a cessation of the wind-energy grants. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing Thursday to investigate the slow pace of stimulus spending on green energy. Patricia Denton, testifying on behalf the Government Accountability Office, told the senators that the backlog in DOE's environmental outlays was caused by - wait for it - environmental more

The Wind-Energy Cover-Up

Barack Obama promised many things on his way into office. Key among these was transparency and a vow to banish lobbyists from insider roles in the policy process. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Competitive Enterprise Institute has confirmed that both promises are being aggressively violated. In 2008 and 2009, Mr. Obama told Americans on no fewer than eight occasions to "think about what's happening in countries like Spain [and] Germany" to see his model for successful "green jobs" policies, and what we should expect here. Some Spanish academics and experts on that country's wind- and solar-energy policies and outcomes took Mr. Obama up on his invitation, revealing Spain's policies to be economic and employment disasters. The political embarrassment to the administration was obvious, with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs asked about the Spanish study at a press conference, and the president hurriedly substituted Denmark for Spain in his stump speech. Team Obama was not amused, and they decided to do something about it. The crew that campaigned on change pulled out the oldest plan in the book - attack the messenger. The U.S. government's response to foreign academics, assessing the impact in their own country of that foreign government's policies, was to come after them in a move that internal e-mails say was unprecedented. They also show it was coordinated with the lobbyists for "Big Wind" and the left-wing Center for American Progress (CAP). What emerged was an ideological hodgepodge of curious and unsupported claims published under the name of two young non-economist wind advocates. These taxpayer-funded employees offered green dogma in oddly strident terms and, along the way, a senior Obama political appointee may well have misled more

Oregon high court says Klamath Basin farmers may be entitled to payment over water

The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday kept alive claims by Klamath Basin farmers that the federal government should pay them for shutting off water to crops in 2001 to help protected fish survive a drought. A federal appeals court had asked the state Supreme Court for guidance on a 1905 state law that gave water to the Klamath Reclamation Project, a federal irrigation project. The state Supreme Court decided that while the law does not give farmers a property interest in the federally owned water, it does not preclude it either. To resolve the issue, federal courts need to look to water contracts between farmers and the Klamath Reclamation Project, the Oregon justices said. In 2001, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation shut off water to most of the 200,000 acres of the project straddling the Oregon-California border to maintain water in its main reservoir for endangered suckers and in the Klamath River for threatened salmon. Farmers face the prospect of another shut-off this year, with snowpacks and reservoir levels far below normal. Bill Ganong, a lawyer for the farmers, said they were happy that the Oregon justices agreed that the water could not be separated from ownership of the land, and that they laid out a roadmap for federal courts to consider the contracts in deciding the property interest issue. The Court of Federal Claims had rejected the farmers' case, saying they had no property interest in the water. Farmers appealed. The case goes back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal District. To be decided are whether the farmers have a property right to the water, and if so, how much money it's more

Water shortages may hit northern Rockies

Much of the nation may be snow-weary, but farmers and ranchers who rely on winter snowpack in the northern Rockies for irrigation during the dry months of the growing season could face water shortages this summer unless more snow arrives soon. Wet spring and summer conditions in 2008 and 2009 helped pull the region out of a decade-long drought, but now hydrologists are once again reporting below-average mountain snowpack throughout much of the northern Rockies. As of early March, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, snowpack was at or near record low levels in many locations from northeastern Utah northward along and near the Idaho border with Montana and Wyoming. In Spokane, Wash., the winter of 2009-10 has been the least snowy on record, with a mere 13.7 inches of snowfall recorded so far, according to the National Weather Service. The city usually averages more than 46 inches of snow each winter. Experts are concerned that it could be a long summer for irrigators unless the region experiences the kinds of snowfalls that have buried other parts of the country in recent more

Song Of The Day #261

Ranch Radio will get your heart started and your foot tappin' this Monday am with a song about how I could have been a rich man. It's by the bluegrass group Steep Canyon Rangers, is on this CD, and explains everything.

Yes, if Sweet Sharon had just pitched me a little slack I'd be a very wealthy man today.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Maybe it's the boots and hat

by Julie Carter

Like a lot of cowboys, Blayke sometimes found himself supporting his cowboy habit with a real job.

This time it was working construction by day and riding colts at night. He had leased a place with a lighted arena near Colorado Springs, Colo. It allowed him to make some extra money riding the horses and it gave him a place to get away from the city chaos he endured all day in his job.

In the course of his work, he met a guy who invited him to dinner with some "high class doctors" at the famous five-star Broadmoor Resort. Blayke knew this was where "all the rich people hung out." He was advised to dress up for the evening.

True to his cowboy nature, he broke out the old Resistol Black Gold hat, starched up a white shirt, a new pair of Wranglers and even wore his best boots.

Even with the effort, he recognized at dinner that he was underdressed for the occasion.

The doctors, surgeons and more, were wearing "fancy suits and all had gals with them that were 15 years younger wearing furs and dinner dresses."

Blayke survived dinner, although it threatened to confound him with five forks, cloth napkins and fine china. After dinner, the men retired to a "smoking room" for cigars and brandy. Conversations centered on money and investments.

With a financial portfolio that totaled a modest checking account and some cash in his pocket, it didn't take Blayke long to head to a place he could feel at home. Sidling up to the bar, he ordered a shot of Crown. When he found out it was free, he had another.

Noting that the doctors had deserted "all those dressed-up gals," Blayke soon had plenty of lovely company sitting next to him drinking shots. Within the hour, they had kicked off their high heels, let their hair down, and had come "unstarched."

It was then Blayke's cowboy brain kicked in and he suggested they all go down to the Broadmoor Lake and go skinny dipping. The bartender, quite entertained by the cowboy and ladies, handed them a bottle as they headed to the water.

The party was going swimmingly, so to speak, until the security guard spotted them. When he headed their direction, they grabbed their clothes and outran him to the parking lot. They jumped in Blayke's pickup and raced away, finding a place down the street to pull over and get dressed.

Not ready to give up the party, they located a honky tonk and Blayke proudly escorted the gals inside, now dressed to the hilt in furs and wet hair.

One of them was even barefooted as she had forgotten to grab her shoes.

Blayke felt certain that would be last time the docs would desert their women to drink brandy and smoke cigars. Either way, it had worked well for him.

City gals

Jerry was the kind of cowboy that women and men alike would notice and recognize as the genuine article.

He always wore good boots, good hats and George Strait starched jeans. There was no mistaking him for anything but the real deal.

Women of all types were attracted to him. One time, responding to some friendly overtures from a citified lady lawyer, he told her up front that he was happy as a loner, but if she wanted to go along for the ride, she would go in his world.

No secrets from the onset, but after a while the lady began to miss the bright-light activities of her world. She suggested they go to some clubs, fancy restaurants or some shows.

All of this met with no action from Jerry.

Riding along in his truck one evening, sharing the current dating dilemma with his buddy, he made the comment that sometimes things just didn't work out between cowboys and city girls.

"You just can't please some women," he said. "I already took this gal to two bull-nut fries and a steer roping. What more could she want?"

And that is why women never fantasize about being swept off their feet by a CPA.

Julie, unstarched, can be reached for comment at

It's The Pitts: Grandpa's Saddle

by Lee Pitts

A cowboy's life has always been defined by what he did with his most valued possession... his saddle. The greatest humiliation in life for a cowboy was to be broke and forced to sell his saddle. When an old cowboy retired it was a tradition that he would hang his saddle with a rope from a barn rafter and when he made it to the final buzzer in life his friends would plant him in the ground and sack his saddle.

I've always felt that the greatest compliment you could hand out in life was to give a person your saddle when you could no longer climb aboard. That's why my grandpa's centerfire rig is now enshrined in my home. Not that it is real pretty to look at or anything. There are no silver conchas on it or words that indicate he was the world champion of anything. To visitors my grandpa's saddle probably looks like any old piece of leather that had been drug underneath a horse or covered in calf scours. But it was the saddle my grandpa sat astride when he rode herd over our local rodeo and the one he tied to when he won the team roping at the county fair. I have a much treasured picture of me sitting in that saddle when I was just three years old. That saddle has always been much more to me than just something you threw over a horse's back and I don't care how broke I ever get you'll not see me selling it.

I'm ashamed to say I can't tell you who made my grandfather's saddle because the stamp of the craftsman was long ago worn shiny smooth, just like the seat and skirts. The flowers tooled in leather long ago lost their bloom. It could have been made by any number of countless saddle makers that made some towns famous, like Visalia, Leddy Brothers of Fort Worth or Capriola of Elko. Most western saddles carry the return address of a real cow town like Pueblo, Cheyenne, Miles City, El Paso or Ellensburg. For all I know my grandpa's saddle could just be a no-name brand that the maker wasn’t proud enough to put his name on, but it's still priceless to me.

Up until a few years ago I used my grandpa's saddle every week and although the wool lining is yellow from sweat, and patchy in places, I can honestly say that its cottonwood tree was always kind to both horse and rider. Cowboy's saddles were not always that way, you know? The first Western saddles were made in Mexico, out of rawhide that felt more like iron. It was said that a Mexican saddle could eat a hole into a horse's spine and a pair of leather breeches at the same time. A sore backed horse was said to be "branded with a map of Mexico."

I must admit my eyes get a little misty when I attend the funeral of an old cowpoke friend and his saddle has been placed front and center in the church. Fitting, I think, because that’s where most of them attended services. Under a big blue sky, riding a good pony sitting in their leather covered rocking chair.

The trade has progressed to the point that today's western saddle may even be more comfortable than a rocking chair, and certainly more expensive. A good saddle can still cost more than a month's wages and I don't know if that means cowboys are paid too little, or saddles cost too much? Knowing how much work goes into a good saddle I’d have to say it’s the former, and not the latter.

Whoever made my grandpa's saddle built it to last. The only new leather on it was put there by the local saddle maker. A stirrup leather broke during calving season and I took it in for repairs. The saddle maker, obviously from the old school, took one look at my well-worn saddle and said he'd have it ready the very next day. And he did. It seems he had an unwritten rule that cowboy's saddles always took precedence over those that belonged to dudes and recreational riders. The saddle maker also said he could tell from the cut-off saddle strings, wrapped horn, and spur tracks in the seat that the owner had been a cowboy with a lot of courage and character.