Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teen cowboys from New Mexico remembered as remarkable

It was Michael Hillman's first professional rodeo win, and the first professional rodeo for his friend, Jesse Andrus.

Andrus and Hillman recently turned 18 and were following dreams of joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association when they came to Arizona last weekend.

They'd driven a white Dodge pickup truck with a camper shell from their home in Roswell, N.M., to Cave Creek to compete in Saturday's Fiesta Days Rodeo.

They never made it back.

After the competition, where Hillman took first place in saddle bronc, the young men told a rodeo official they planned to leave Arizona early Sunday morning, because they wanted to be home in time for classes on Monday. Both were seniors at Goddard High School.

Word spread quickly Monday that the young cowboys were missing. By 10:30 a.m., Roswell police contacted Scottsdale police to help find them.

Officers used a cellphone's GPS and found Andrus and Hillman dead in a north Scottsdale Safeway parking lot later that morning. Investigators suspect the men died of accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning. The generator on the rear of the vehicle may have been running, Scottsdale police said.

Adults who knew Hillman always joked "that when we grew up, we wanted to be like Mike," said Riley Henson, saddle bronc director for the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association.

There has been an outpouring of support from the rodeo community, Henson said. High-school rodeo officials considered canceling a rodeo in Belen, N.M., this weekend, but opted to keep it scheduled.

"The rodeo family needs to be together to continue to honor them and their family," he said. "They were remarkable young men. They were born leaders. There's plenty of 18-year-olds that you wouldn't send across to the street to get milk by themselves. They were the complete opposite. We didn't worry about them being off this far."

Henson described Hillman's meteoric rise through the rodeo ranks. "It was a gift," he said. "Same with Jesse. Both boys were both unbelievably talented in what they did," he said.

Tilt James came to know the young men through his work as the pastor with the high-school association. Andrus had passion for riding a bull, he said.

"He went after bull riding with a great intensity. I really liked that about that kid."

Hillman and Andrus always showed up for the prayer before the rodeo started and attended church services, James said.

"Rodeo-wise . . . they had a gift," he said. "But their greater gift was life. That surrounded them, everywhere they went. Our young athletes liked to be around them."

Riding off into the sunset

Family, friends and classmates of Jesse Andrus and Michael Hillman comfort each other Friday at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center during a memorial service held to remember the teens who were found dead in Arizona earlier in the week from carbon monoxide poisoning. The Goddard High School seniors were returning to Roswell from a weekend rodeo in Carefree, Arizona. (Mark Wilson Photo)

The voice of a young man lost in a tragic accident sang from the speakers which hung high above the some 2,000 mourners at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center on Friday. Despite such a large number of people present, the hall was silent except for the a cappella tune that filled the somber room. “I was sitting on the chutes talking to my mom. She teared up and I asked what was wrong. She said, ‘It’s about your friend and you’ll never see him again.’ I hit my knees and I began to cry, and asked the Lord, ‘Why, oh why, did he have to go, did he have to die?’ He didn’t get the chance to live his life,” went the lyrics...Roswell Daily Record (Subscription Required)

Friday, April 16, 2010

US Senate climate bill to be unveiled April 26

A long-awaited compromise bill to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming will be unveiled by a group of senators on April 26, sources said on Thursday. The legislative language to be sketched out in 11 days, according to government and environmental sources, is being drafted by Democratic Senator John Kerry, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman. Backers of the environmental bill hope the unveiling will pave the way for the full Senate to debate and pass a measure in June or July if the compromise attracts enough support from a group of moderate Republicans and Democrats. Republican Senator Judd Gregg told Reuters he was "committed to getting something that addresses our energy needs in a constructive and comprehensive way." He added he did not know yet whether he would support the bill being developed...more

As the R's dig their own grave...

The Greens' Ground Zero

To accurately gauge the level of desperation in the environmental community at any given moment, simply murmur the words "Richard Pombo." Then step back and watch the slurs roll. Ground zero in the nation's environmental fight has already been established in California's 19th district, where Mr. Pombo—a Republican who narrowly lost his House seat in 2006—is again running in the Central Valley. It's only April, but the green shock troops are again waging an all-out smear campaign to defeat him, this time with an assist from one of his Republican primary competitors. It's a vivid example of the stakes for the green agenda in this year's midterm elections. Regulatory wins aside, it's been a bleak 15 months for the environmental left. President Obama's election was supposed to bring a climate-control regime that would finally give greens the tools to dismantle our industrial society. Instead, scandal has left climate science in tatters. The recession has sent the majority scurrying away from a comprehensive cap-and-tax bill. Some Democrats are embracing legislation to curtail the EPA's planned carbon regulations. Their campaign in the balance, enviros shudder at Mr. Pombo back in Washington. For 14 years—four heading the House Resources committee—the rancher was the GOP's sturdiest voice on private property rights, energy exploration and environmental reform. Even as the Bush administration ducked the fight, Mr. Pombo pushed for drilling and for the modernization of failed laws like the Endangered Species Act. Greens decreed him Public Enemy No. 1...more

Montana rancher kills wolf mixing with horses

The yearling female gray wolf shot in the Darby area Tuesday was part of a pack that has a history of interacting with local livestock, horses and domesticated animals, wildlife officials said on Wednesday. One wolf killed a calf in 2009 while a second - the pack's alpha male - was killed while attacking a dog. One wolf was removed from the pack to address the conflicts. The 70-pound wolf killed Wednesday, likely born in 2008, was shot by the manager of the Two Feathers Ranch as it was observed mixing with a herd of horses. Over the past two years, wolves from the Trapper Peak Pack have been seen with cattle and horses, and one was shot last year, also on the Two Feathers...more

Enviro groups want Obama to reject Colo. Gov's roadless plan

National environmental groups are pushing President Barack Obama to turn down Colorado's plan for backcountry forests. Gov. Bill Ritter last week asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a special Colorado rule on roadless areas. Currently, the Obama administration is enforcing a rule developed under former President Bill Clinton that bans new roads on about 58 million acres nationwide - 4.4 million of them in Colorado. Ritter's proposal would make exceptions for ski areas, coal mines near Paonia and fire-prevention projects near towns. More than 500 scientists sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday urging him to deny Ritter's request. “What's at risk here is the loss of what makes Colorado so special to the rest of America," said Stuart Pimm, a Duke University professor who signed the letter. Also Wednesday, environmental groups took out ads in The Washington Post and Politico. The ads feature a bald eagle flying above spruce trees, and they urge Obama to not exempt Colorado from the national rule. Colorado officials defend the proposal as a smarter way to manage forests, protect towns from fire danger and preserve coal-mining jobs...more

Air Force concerns about radar interference stall huge Oregon wind energy farm

The Air Force is holding up construction of an Oregon wind farm that would be the largest in the country amid concerns that the farm's 300-plus new turbines will interfere with transmissions from a radar station in Fossil. Caithness Energy, developer of the Shepherds Flat wind energy project in north-central Oregon, has its construction contractor on site and hopes to break ground May 1. The project will provide 706 construction jobs and millions in royalty payments for farmers and ranchers in Gilliam and Morrow counties, Caithness says. But the Federal Aviation Administration, with backing from the Air Force, issued a "notice of presumed hazard" in March, barring construction of any towers above "0 feet." The company hasn't been able to resolve the issue, even with Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley trying to run interference. "We're just sitting here in no man's land," said Les Gelber, a Caithness Energy partner. Air Force officials could not be reached for comment late Wednesday, and it's unclear how many other potential wind farms are affected. Last month, the industry said more than a dozen projects are stalled...more

Green wineries experiment with age-old concept: sheep as mowers

Cody Wood wanted to be a sheep rancher but found the career hard to break into without money or land, two things the Junction City native didn't have. Then an idea came to him when he saw a California business called Wooly Weeders at a conference of lamb producers. For years, Wooly Weeders has charged Napa Valley winemakers to graze sheep on the cover crops and weeds found between vineyard rows. Wood figured he could replicate the venture in Oregon. Last year his Green Grazers mowed King Estate Winery south of Eugene. Wood hoped the idea would especially appeal to the state's vintners and appears to have called it right. While it may seem a return to old ways, the idea of using nature to keep nature in check is catching on. Oregonians in recent years have used goats to mow down invasive species of English ivy and Himalayan blackberries in areas as urban as Corvallis and Wilsonville. Now comes Wood's sheep business, which has grown in a year from one vineyard to five. Sheep fill a void, since goats prefer shrublike plants and sheep favor smaller broadleaf pests. The contemporary term for the practice is "targeted grazing," says Claudia Ingham, an Oregon State University ethics instructor who owns Ecological & Agricultural Consulting and studied targeted grazing for her doctorate...more

Biodynamic Farmers Connect To Earth's Rhythms

When vintner Randall Grahm chose the softly sloping hillside and time to plant his new pinot noir vines, he weighed all the things farmers usually consider: drainage, soil quality and weather. Then he considered less orthodox factors: the cosmic and seasonal rhythms at play and how they might be harnessed to help the clippings take root. Grahm, who owns Bonny Doon winery on the Northern California coast, is one of a growing number of farmers in the United States employing a holistic farming philosophy sometimes called "organic-plus." Biodynamic farming views land as a self-contained living organism, encouraging respect for the soil's integrity and eschewing not just chemicals but anything that comes from outside the farm. It developed in Austria in the 1920s in reaction to the growing use of synthetic fertilizers. Fertility in Grahm's vineyard comes from cover crops that return nutrients to the soil and manure from goats roaming the landscape. But biodynamic farming also includes elements that might make even die-hard organic devotees recoil — consulting a calendar on the phases of the moon and the alignment of planets, and using soil preparations made with manure that's been stored in cow horns, buried for a season, then mixed with water and sprayed on the land...more

Who knew my Uncle Archie Perkins was a biodynamic rancher? We never branded cattle or cut a horse unless the sign was below the knees, and we never weaned calves when the sign was in the heart. There was also something about the phase of the moon and diggin' post holes, but I've done a pretty good job of clouding my memory on that chore.

Iconic cowboy portrayers to be honored in Oklahoma

Two of Hollywood’s most handsome leading men will be honored Saturday for iconic movie-cowboy portrayals that embodied the traditional Western ideals of honesty, integrity and self-sufficiency. Television and film star Tom Selleck and the late Academy Award-winning actor Charlton Heston will be inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers during the 49th annual Western Heritage Awards banquet at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The weekend festivities begin at 5:30 tonight with Jingle-Jangle Mingle, a casual event honoring the award winners and hall of fame inductees. The public is invited to enjoy entertainment and hors d’oeuvres, to meet honorees and to join a book and compact disc autograph session. Tickets are required. At Saturday night’s black-tie banquet, the museum will present Wrangler Awards, bronze sculptures of a cowboy on horseback, to principal creators in 16 categories of Western music, literature, television and film. Celebrity presenters scheduled to attend include actors Ernest Borgnine, Buck Taylor and Barry Corbin, and singers Lynn Anderson and Red Steagall...more

Song Of The Day #286

Darlin' Sharon visited with the proprietor of Ranch Radio and allowed as how there hadn't been a single positive song about love and marriage.

So what?

I can serve up any kind of damn song I want on Ranch Radio. Is that because I'm a big ol' rough and tumble guy and the absolute master of my universe? No, it's because I put a picture of Tom Selleck on The Westerner tonight. When I do that I can get away with anything.

But, since I'm really just a big ol' cuddly-type sweetie, here's a tune we both like: Young Lovers' Waltz by Robert Earl Keen, Jr. You'll find it on his No Kinda Dancer CD.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let Border Patrol in wilderness areas, Bishop says

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced a bill Wednesday seeking to end the Interior Department's current practice of denying the U.S. Border Patrol access to wilderness and other protected federal lands along the Mexico-U.S. border. He said that would ensure that Interior's policies "no longer enable dangerous criminals to co-opt federal border lands as their drug trafficking highways." Bishop for months has been calling for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to change the policy on his own. Bishop, the ranking Republican on a subcommittee that oversees national parks and public lands, visited the border earlier this year and said he saw many problems caused by current policy. "After seeing firsthand so many signs of illegal activity on our border, including trails cut into federal border lands and the environmental degradation caused by trafficking trains, I requested that Secretary Salazar take immediate action," he said. But Bishop complained, "Salazar has repeatedly ignored requests for his attention on the matter and seems to have blown off concerns regarding national security and safety issues." So Bishop introduced a bill through which Congress could force the changes he seeks. Kendra Barkoff, Salazar's press secretary, said progress is being made on the border, and Salazar went there last month to tour the area and hold meetings with numerous federal agencies about challenges there. "Collaborative work between DOI staff and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has allowed for border security infrastructure to be strategically located, including on federal lands, to meet DHS security requirement and goals," she said...more

There's that collaboration word again...a dead giveaway nothing is being done.

In addition to Bishop, who is ranking on the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, the bill, H.R. 5016, was co-sponsored by Natural Resouces Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (R-WA), Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Peter King (R-NY) and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX).

We owe these four Rep's a special thank you for recognizing the problem and trying to do something about it. Bishop and Hastings especially have been on top of this issue for some time, and this legislation will bring more attention to the issue.

That being said, we all recognize this bill is probably going nowhere in this Congress. I'd be surprised if they can even get a hearing on the bill. Perhaps they can find a hoss on Appropriations who can get some "no monies shall be spent" language inserted as an interim measure.

I predict we'll see task forces created, meetings held, MOUs signed...more "collaboration." That's it.

Want to see some real change in favor of this proposal? That will come in November.

Fox News has an excellent article on the introduction of the bill and surrounding issues here.

Arizona ranchers urge crackdown on border violence

Ranchers fed up with border violence in southern Arizona are demanding action to close the border and restore order in what they called a lawless area ruled by criminals. A ranching group delivered a plan at an event at the Capitol for confronting drug and human smuggling, extortion and kidnapping and eliminating the murders that go with them. Their demands come in the wake of the slaying of Robert Krentz, 58, on his ranch near Douglas last month. But ranchers say the problem has been festering for years. "Southern Arizona is a war zone controlled by outside criminal forces," said Patrick Bray of the Arizona Cattlemen's Association. The organization's 18-point plan for attacking crime along the border asks local, state and federal agencies for assistance. Members said they don't care which side of the political aisle it comes from. Ideas include prosecuting as a felon anyone coming into the U.S. illegally, banning them from ever working or living in the country, authorizing the use of force to intercept vehicles and aircraft entering the country illegally, putting active military and National Guard units along the border, and adding more than 3,000 Border Patrol agents in Arizona by 2011...more

Wilderness On The Border? 6 Articles on Border Violence

Mexican drug cartels threaten U.S. Border Patrol Agents - place a bounty on their lives After a week marred with violence along the U.S./Mexico border sources admit the Mexican drug cartels have placed a $250 thousand bounty for the kidnapping or murder of Border Patrol Agents. U.S. agents are taking the threat very seriously and say officers in the field should use extreme caution when approaching the border fence area. The threat comes after an Arizona rancher was murdered on his own property last month by an alleged illegal alien. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a warning to law enforcement officers in west Texas due to retaliatory killings by a Mexican gang. The agency has suggested agents’ change up their routes and wears body armor while on duty. The elevated warning comes amidst a crackdown on the Barrio Azteca Mexican gang following the brutal murders of three Americans with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez on March 13. Law enforcement in the region has begun a broader crackdown, known as “Operation Knockdown.” The spike in violence along the border transcends state lines and Border Patrol Agents in Arizona and California must now look over their shoulder and be prepared for possible attacks near the U.S. border region. One agent said it this way; “We were warned about this recently at several musters and we were advised to take this threat seriously and to take precautions. This is the life we chose and it is certainly not our first threat. Over two years ago we received intelligence that a $2 million contract was put out for the assassination of a Border Patrol Agent. Last year, Agent Rosas was murdered. Coincidence? I doubt it. If they are willing to pay two million for a hit, then they have enough money to pay for a fall guy. The cartels don't need to prove to America that they can pull this off. They only need to prove it to other cartels, for credibility in the fight amongst themselves.”...

While Mexico Burns In a new bead in a string of attacks on the U.S. , our consulate in Nuevo Laredo was bombed last week. But in Washington, the thinking about Mexico is not of war, but of PR — as in amnesty and a first lady's visit. Despite a vast public communications apparatus — official Web sites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter — it takes some searching to find any White House or State Department acknowledgment that a real bomb, probably set by drug gangs, went off on the grounds of the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo on Friday. The blast forced closure of that diplomatic outpost plus a nearby consular agency, but it merited only a small notice on the local Nuevo Laredo consular site. Instead, releases from the White House and State Department were dominated by news of Michelle Obama's first tour of Mexico City this week. They gushed over how she'd unveil her "international agenda" promoting "youth leadership," speak out against childhood obesity and visit schools and museums. Nothing wrong with that, but with a war on, it's no substitute for a foreign policy with a neighbor whose mayhem is drawing us in. Instead of concrete ideas for confronting this growing problem, all that's visible from the Obama administration is domestic politics and public relations. No new ideas are being presented, no diplomatic heavyweights are being named as special envoys. Until Washington gets serious about Mexico as a national security issue, the chaos on both sides of the border will continue...

Crime rules Juarez as people, businesses flee By nightfall, vehicles disappear from the roads. "People are afraid to go out into the street, so the restaurants are doing badly," said Alejandra Marquez, an architect. "You don't go out to eat. You go to the mall, which has more security." Ciudad Juarez, the sprawling Mexican metropolis of 1.3 million people across the border from El Paso, Texas, is Murder City, probably the most dangerous city in the world outside a declared war zone. Already this year, 686 people have been murdered here. Residents hunker in trepidation. Most answer cell phone calls only from people they know to avoid random extortion attempts. Instead of going out on the town, they hold private parties — and only with close friends. Those residents who can afford to leave have left. "The exodus is dramatic," said Gustavo de la Rosa, the local ombudsman for the Chihuahua State human rights commission. "There are at least 20,000 abandoned houses, and maybe up to 30,000." Americans have reason to be concerned, too. The U.S. does about $1 billion a day of trade with Mexico, and nearly one-sixth of that goes through the Juarez-El Paso region. Crime in Juarez also threatens to bleed across the border. Criminal gangs working for drug cartels already operate on both sides of the border, and in a sign of the growing risks, on March 13 gunmen killed three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Juarez. The sky-high murder rate is driven by two rival groups — the Juarez cartel and the Sinaloa cartel — and their battle for control of drug smuggling into the U.S...

Border Conference Focuses on Spillover Violence
Experts say there's no question about it. The drug violence raging in Juarez has spilled across the U.S./Mexico border into El Paso. The question now becomes how to deal with the spillover. That was one of the main topics of a two day border conference in El Paso called "Border School." The event brings together law enforcement leaders from border communities around Texas to talk about the issues effecting their communities. "People are afraid of kidnappings, extortion and carjackings," said Sigi Gonzalez, Sheriff of Zapata County, located between Laredo and McAllen. Sheriff Gonzalez is a guest speaker at the "Border School" and says there is no doubt that drug violence has spilled into El Paso and other border cities. He cites an incident last summer when an El Paso man was kidnapped out his Horizon City home. His mutilated body was found a week later in Juarez...

Officials exploring joint task force on Southwest border The heads of two key agencies charged with policing the nation's Southwest border agreed Wednesday to move toward creating a task force that would bring multiple military and civilian agencies under one roof to combat drug trafficking, smuggling and violence. A U.S. House of Representatives homeland security subcommittee asked for an assessment of whether the military and civilian agencies that could be involved are willing to move forward. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton and newly appointed Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin agreed to report back in 90 days. The step came at the urging of Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the top Republican on the subcommittee, and Democrats, including subcommittee chairman David Price, D-N.C., supported his request. Rogers said that he hopes to see the joint task force created in the coming fiscal year. A joint task force could bring together multiple agencies from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense in a unified headquarters where they could share information and coordinate operations...So the deep thinkers in D.C. believe federal efforts should actually be coordinated. They've been throwing billions of dollars at an uncoordinated effort? Imagine that.

Mexican Drug Cartels Under Attack From Multiple Fronts, Says Border Protection Commissioner Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin defended the progress that the Department of Homeland Security has made in protecting the United States’ southwest border and stemming the illegal drug flow from Mexico Wednesday. “We recognize that the [drug war] is a journey that will not be accomplished over night, but the important point is that it is a journey in which the first steps have been taken,” said Bersin during a hearing before a House Appropriations Subcommittee. Bersin stressed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently have one of the best working relationships that they have ever had with the Mexican government...A Journey? Baby steps? Mr. Bersin, you better take three giant steps for mankind or get the hell out of Dodge. I'm sure we are all pleased about your working relationship with Mexico, but how is your relationship with the folks living and working on our side of the border? You know, the people suffering under your baby steps.

Song Of The Day #285

Ranch Radio is very aware all courtships have their ups and downs, and sometimes dangers. Dangers? Well just listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford explain in his recording of Shotgun Boogie.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Public weighs in on U.S. Forest Service land management rule

If the foundation of a human being is the soul, the institutional core of the U.S. Forest Service is its Rule. And the race is on to rewrite a planning rule that has governed - some say shackled - the Forest Service for nearly three decades. About 130 people packed 15 appropriately round tables for the Forest Service's "planning rule roundtable" meeting on Tuesday. They came with heads and briefcases full of ideas for how to manage 192 million acres of public land. The Forest Service operates by a national rule, which governs how regional forest management plans are written. Those in turn control local activities, from timber sales to trailhead repairs. The last two planning rules from 2005 and 2008 were both derailed in court. For this third attempt, Forest Service planner Jessica Call said a much larger public process has been added. Forums of scientists pitched their ideas of what environmental drivers will have greater or lesser effects on the forest, such as bugs or climate change. Community roundtables like the Missoula event were for collecting more human ideas, such as how amendments and appeals of Forest Service policies should be handled...more

If the foundation of a human being is the soul, the institutional core of the U.S. Forest Service is its Rule.

I like that analogy. Humans - souls. Feds - rules. That explains a lot of things.

Federal agencies cut deal to help Western landowners protect sage grouse

Farmers and ranchers in Oregon, Washington and nine other western states can help protect both their operations and sage grouse thanks to an agreement between two federal agencies. The agreement announced today by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar involves the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service. The agencies will work together to help landowners protect the sage grouse and its habitat. USDA will provide up to $16 million this fiscal year to improve habitat and reduce threats to the birds, including threats from disease and invasive species. In return, the landowners will be in better position to avoid potentially stifling regulations if the bird is judged endangered. Last month, the Obama administration said the Greater sage grouse deserves to be added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species — but won’t be because of a backlog of imperiled species...more

This is the way all endangered species should be handled. If its in the public interest to protect these plants and animals, then the public should should pay the cost of doing so, not the individual property owner.

CU-Boulder celebrates 10th anniversary of National Landscape Conservation System

n 2000, then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt sought to change that by creating the National Landscape Conservation System, which is charged with preserving some of the most striking lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In honor of the system's 10th anniversary, Babbitt will give a free talk Thursday morning at the University of Colorado. Beginning Wednesday morning, CU's Center of the American West is hosting a series of free panel discussions and lectures that will touch on the history and future of the National Landscape Conservation System, or NLCS, finishing with Babbitt's Thursday speech. There are five types of designated lands that fit into the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System: national monuments, wilderness areas, national conservation areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national scenic and historic trails. Many of these areas have scenic or cultural significance that rivals national parks, just without the crowds and the highly developed visitor services, Hall said. "The NLCS lands are a gigantic public asset that the public barely recognizes," said historian Patty Limerick, director of the Center of the American West. "So there is a two-part hope to awaken the public to their ownership of a great resource, but also to lay out some of the responsibilities that come with that ownership."...more

A New Sagebrush Rebellion?

The wolf discussion was actually a facade masking the contentious issue of the management of federal public lands in Idaho (63% of the state) and other Western states. Rex firmly believes that these vast national parks, national monuments, national forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holdings, etc., actually belong to their home states. This states rights argument is rooted in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and has been hashed-over for a century in the West. When discoursing about this, Rex uses the words "sovereign" and "sovereignty." He tells his sympathetic listeners that if elected, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture -- and other interested federal agencies -- won't have anything to say about the management of those lands, because they will belong to the people of Idaho. By coincidence, Utah governor Gary Herbert is lately considering legal action to attempt to supersede the Interior Department, and encourage private sector energy development on off-limits BLM tracts in Utah. This may be typical local federal-bashing in an election year, or it's another manifestation of our contemporary volatile national political conversation in a bad economy. Either way, it's a throwback to the old Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s...more

Montana Ruling Closes Trails, Says Mountain Biking Ruins Solitude for Others

Mountain bikers recently learned that they will see trail access cut from 170 miles to just 20 miles in Montana's Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn wilderness study area (WSA). The restrictions stem from a lawsuit that challenged the Forest Service's management of the WSA, setting the stage for similar challenges in Montana, and perhaps across the United States. The plaintiffs — The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society — contended that the Forest Service failed to preserve the wilderness character of the study area. The Gallatin National Forest office oversees the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn WSA. Gallatin officials have appealed the ruling, made by U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy. Since the appeals process can take 6 months to 2 years to be resolved, the Gallatin officials say they have no choice but to implement an interim strategy, starting May 1. The interim plan will decide access in the Gallatin until it is replaced by congressional action on the management of WSAs — which could take decades. The decision will close the coveted Gallatin Crest and other spectacular high-country trails to bicycling. "We knew a decision like this was coming," said Mike Van Abel, IMBA's executive director. "IMBA supported the Gallatin office in its attempts to improve the Forest Service's policies regarding WSAs. We joined the legal proceedings and provided written testimony asserting that mountain biking does not compromise a landscape's wilderness attributes, and that bicycling is not equivalent to motorized recreation. Unfortunately the judge did not follow our guidance, which puts mountain bike access in a very precarious place." Marna Daley, public affairs officer for the Gallatin National Forest, told the Billings Gazette that the new trail closures are not based on the environmental impacts caused by mountain biking. “Judge Molloy’s decision did not cite a resource concern with regard to wilderness character,” said Daley. "So the only thing we can address is the opportunity for solitude.”...more

The Myth of Green Beef

If I had to name one food that's been in the hot seat over the past 30 years, it would be beef. Linked to cardiovascular disease and maligned for its industry's dependence on federal corn subsidies, it now has a reputation as the Hummer of foods—an excessive contributor to environmental ills including climate change, nitrogen blooms, pollution, and depletion of Midwestern aquifers—not to mention E. coli contamination that has sickened and scared thousands. Although our consumption of beef peaked in the mid-1970s, Americans still eat about a half-pound of meat a day on average (that's 10 billion animals a year), far more than anyone else on the planet. In late 2005, when I proposed a company-wide initiative to reduce the amount of beef and cheese we serve in our 400 caf├ęs by 25 percent as part of our Low Carbon Diet Program, I was equipped with a half-dozen independent studies, mostly from Europe. Beef and other products from ruminant animals, including cheese, clearly had a higher GWP ("global warming potential") than other foods because the animals emit significant amounts of potent methane through their digestive processes—regardless of what they eat (grain or grass) or where they eat it (pasture or feedlot; both have been studied). The greenhouse gases emitted per pound of beef produced were much, much higher than for other foods...more

NM cowboys killed by carbon monoxide poisoning

PRCA permit holders Mike Hillman and Jesse Andrus, both 18, were found dead in the camper shell of their pickup truck April 12 in Scottsdale, Ariz., apparently the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The men were on their way to their homes in Roswell, N.M., after competing in the Fiesta Days Rodeo in Cave Creek, Ariz., where Hillman had won the saddle bronc riding competition – his first win in a PRCA rodeo. It was Andrus’ first PRCA rodeo.

When Hillman and Andrus did not get home on April 11 as expected, their families reported them missing. Scottsdale police were contacted April 12 and located the men’s vehicle in a Safeway parking lot by using a telephone GPS.

Investigators said that a generator on the rear of the vehicle may have been running while the men slept.

A crisis intervention team has been sent to Goddard High School, where both Hillman and Andrus were seniors, according to Michael Gottlieb, superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District.

“We set up groups to come in and work with students and staff (who are) grieving,” Gottlieb told the Roswell Daily Record. “We started them (Monday) afternoon, and we’ll be there as long as we need to be.”

Hillman held a substantial lead in the New Mexico High School saddle bronc riding standings, and Andrus was eighth in the bull riding standings, even though he had missed several high school rodeos while competing in junior Professional Bull Riding events.

Ross Kirkes, president of the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association, said he expected both of them to represent the state at the National High School Finals Rodeo this year in Gillette, Wyo.

“They were the cream of the crop,” Kirkes said. “Nothing against any of the other guys, but both Mike and Jesse were at the top of their game. Mike was good at both ends of the arena, a Linderman sort of guy. Besides saddle bronc riding, he was also a pretty good tie-down roper and he team roped, too.”

Hillman had committed to attend Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla., and compete on the rodeo team for former National Finals Rodeo qualifier Craig Latham in all three events. He was going to team rope with PRCA saddle bronc rider Cody Taton’s sister.

“We were tickled to have Mike coming here,” Latham said. “He was a great kid and heck of a cowboy with a boatload of potential. We really felt he was going to make his mark here and be a tremendous asset. This is a very sad day.”

Andrus was planning to attend New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and ride bulls for coach Jim Brown.

Both Hillman and Andrus bought their PRCA permits within about a month of their 18th birthdays and demonstrated at Cave Creek last week that they were up-and-comers with a great love of the sport.

Hillman’s 79-point ride on Honeycutt Rodeo’s Painted Sparrow won the competition by a point over Colin Stalley and Brandon Biebelle and earned him his first PRCA check, worth $859. Andrus earned day money of $215.

“To be able to knock heads with the guys on top of the heap and excel – the talent was obvious,” said John Kissel, a PRCA judge who worked the Fiesta Days Rodeo.

Hillman had made his PRCA debut in another Honeycutt Rodeo-produced event in Yuma, Ariz., in February. By the luck of the draw, he had his entry fees paid by the Honeycutt family and was given $100 cash, a Cowboy Bible and a Christian testimony letter.

“The Honeycutts do that for one cowboy at every one of their rodeos,” Kissel said. “Sometimes, that’s the end of it. They never hear another word from the cowboy. Well, Cave Creek was the first time Mike was around any of the Honeycutts since Yuma, and when he arrived, he sought out Jerry Honeycutt and handed him a full-page, handwritten letter thanking him for the kindness they had done.

“It just shows what kind of kids Mike and Jesse were, what kind of families they came from.

Helena Chemical Wins Defamation Suit Against New Mexico Activist

Helena Chemical Company has won its defamation suit against New Mexico social worker and community activist Arturo Uribe. In a decision Thursday that could chill the activities of nonprofits and community activists who speak out against corporations, a Dona Ana County jury awarded the company $75,000 in punitive damages. The company claimed that public presentations by Uribe utilized unsubstantiated imagery to represent Helena's operations, including images of disasters. Uribe says that he plans to appeal the ruling because he believes that what he said about the company is true. Helena Chemical, based in Tennessee, is a distributor of chemicals for agricultural, turf, forestry, landscaping and aquatics markets. The company maintains a warehouse in Mesquite, New Mexico about 30 yards from Uribe's home where chemicals are received, mixed and sold to farmers and ranchers. In early 2004, the New Mexico Environment Department first inspected Helena's warehouse, and later that year, the state issued a Notice of Violation against Helena for operating its plant without an air quality permit. In 2005, the state agency fined the company $233,777 for failure to comply with New Mexico's air quality laws and regulations...more

Meat, poultry industries await new antitrust rules

Federal regulators are set to release the most sweeping antitrust rules covering the meat industry in decades, potentially altering the balance of power between meat companies and the farmers who raise their animals. Activists, farmers and meat industry officials have been anxiously awaiting the new rules, which will be released this spring for public comment and are set to take effect this summer. The regulations are seen as a kind of litmus test for the Obama administration and how far it will go in regulating competition in the meat industry. At issue is how much power farmers have as they produce cattle, hogs and chickens for large companies such as JBS SA, Smithfield Farms and Tyson Foods. The new rules will govern how meatpackers buy their cattle on an open market and what demands poultry companies can make on the independent contractors who raise their chickens. The USDA wouldn't say when its proposed rules will be released, but the Farm Bill requires new regulations be in place by this summer. The bill lays out a broad outline of what the rules must address, but the all-important details won't be known until a proposal becomes public...more

The Humane Society and Ag slug it out over animal rights

Around lunchtime on February 5 in Vale, South Dakota, a 33-year-old cattle rancher finished a morning of blogging, then stepped outside with a bottle of wine and a video camera. "Hello, my name is Troy Hadrick. I'm a fifth-generation United States rancher in South Dakota," he ad-libbed. "I recently found out that Yellow Tail wines is going to be donating $100,000 to the wealthiest animal-rights organization in the world, the Humane Society of the United States — a group who is actively trying to put farmers and ranchers out of business in this country." Hadrick said he couldn't support such a company. "This is the only thing I know to do now with this last bottle of Yellow Tail wine that was in our house." In his cowboy hat and Carhartt jacket, Hadrick cocked the bottle, flicked his wrist and sent the contents pouring to the snow-covered earth like a stream of piss. Back online that night, he was shocked by the viewing stats for his first Internet video. First it was 500. Then several thousand. The tally kept climbing. Within two weeks, the Australia-based wine giant announced that it was rescinding the remainder of its $300,000 pledge to the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society. A week later, Tennessee-based Pilot Travel Centers announced that it would stop collecting Humane Society donations at its rest stops. Then Dallas-based Mary Kay cosmetics publicly clarified that a personal donation by an employee's wife to the Humane Society had been misconstrued by the group as a corporate sponsorship. Hadrick's social-media sensation represented a tipping point in a battle that has seen food producers playing defense for nearly a decade — farmers vs. activists, agriculture vs. animal rights...more

PETA Crushes Its Own Credibility

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), always on the lookout for a media stunt, delivered a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding the government refuse to renew the exhibitor license of the Ringling Bros. circus. Looks like the media whiz-kids at PETA screwed this one up, though. The same newspaper reports today in a follow up article that the USDA already renewed Ringling’s permit—last week. Oops. This attempted offensive strategy is just the latest from animal rights groups like PETA and the so-called “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS) against the circus. Like most groups pursuing an animals-first, people-last ideology, they want to shut the circus down entirely and “liberate” the elephants. But do their campaigns deserve to be taken seriously? Ringling notes that the USDA has already inspected its circus five times this year. So much for PETA’s accusation of animal “abuse.” And a cadre of animal rights groups including the Fund for Animals (now part of HSUS) pursued a federal lawsuit against the circus operator for almost a decade. How’d that turn out? A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in December, writing that the animal-rights plaintiffs had a collective pay-to-play arrangement with a key witness in the case. That witness’s testimony was so full of holes that the judge actually used the word “demolished” to describe his credibility. Now these circus-haters are facing a federal lawsuit for their scheme. And it was filed under the mobster-oriented Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law...more

Song Of The Day #285

Ranch Radio continues its sojourn into love and marriage.

Today Reese Shipley dispenses some sage advice in his tune Middle Age Spread.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bishop, Hastings, King to Host Press Conference on DOI Policies that Contribute to Security Gaps on Federal Lands Along the Border


WASHINGTON D.C. – Tomorrow, House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT), Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (R-WA), and Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Peter King (R-NY) will hold a press conference to discuss how the Department of Interior (DOI) and U.S. Forest Service are using environmental regulations to hinder the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol from securing our nation’s borders on federal lands – contributing to national security threats and environmental degradation.

Legislation will be introduced to address this problem and allow the Border Patrol to effectively do their job to secure the border.

Who: Rep. Rob Bishop, Nat. Parks, Forests & Public Lands Subcmte. Ranking Member
Rep. Doc Hastings, Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member
Rep. Peter King, Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member

What: Press Conference announcing legislation to address DOI policies that are contributing to national security gaps and environmental degradation on federal lands along the border.

Where: U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, HVC Studio A (HVC 114)

When: 1:00 PM EST
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

U.S. to take close look at royalty rates

The federal government on Monday launched a global review of how much energy companies pay to extract oil and natural gas from public lands in a step that could lead to higher royalties for drilling on U.S. property. The survey is designed to help government officials decide whether current leasing policies provide what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has repeatedly called “a fair return for the American taxpayer.” Currently, the federal government collects royalties of around 12.5 percent for onshore leases. That royalty rate is “the same ... fee that's been in place since 1920,” Salazar told a Senate committee in March. He noted that in some states, such is Texas, the rate is at least 20 percent. “There is room for economic analysis to make sure that we're getting it right here,” Salazar said. In announcing the worldwide royalty study, Bob Abbey, director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, said the survey “will provide some common-sense grounds for comparison as we evaluate our royalty rates and our oil and gas fiscal policies in the context of global markets.”...more

New Nature Conservancy atlas aims to show the state of the world's ecosystems

The result of Boucher's work -- a map showing the wetlands and rivers on which 828 freshwater bird species depend -- is part of the Atlas of Global Conservation, a new publication that shows how nature is faring across the globe. Environmental researchers evaluate the state of nature in a number of ways -- by listing the most imperiled species, focusing on particular habitats or detailing the pace of human activities that transform the planet. But mapmaking, which provides a visual account of how different ecological regions are faring, provides one of the most easily accessible ways of depicting of the global environment. The atlas is the work of eight scientists at the Nature Conservancy who three years ago set out to chart everything from the mangroves in Borneo where proboscis monkeys live to the extent of grasslands on Mongolia's steppes, in order to produce 80 detailed maps. "The atlas is telling us what's where, what state it's in, what people are doing to it now -- the big threats, and what we can do to turn it around," said senior marine scientist Mark Spalding of the Conservancy. The maps -- all done on the same scale -- depict a dizzying array of ecosystems, plants and animals across the globe in different stages of depletion. One shows how the human demand for water outstrips the natural supply in dry and crowded regions such as the American West and the Mediterranean basin; another shows how large areas of intact forests cover 10 percent of the earth's land surface, while they once spread over nearly half of it...more

Navajo water project promises to deliver in two years

More than 10,000 Navajo citizens are expected to get access to running water within two years following dedication Monday of the Eastern Navajo Waterline Project. The dedication ceremony, held in the Counselor Chapter, kicked off a $29 million project that will cross four counties and eight chapters. For some residents, the wait for running water has lasted more than four decades, Counselor Chapter President Samuel Sage said. "This has been talked about since the '60's and '70's," he said. "We grew up listening to the elderlies talking about it, and finally, finally, an agreement came." The four-phase project is part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in April 2009. The act authorizes the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to construct the $870 million Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, of which the Eastern Navajo Waterline Project is a segment...more

Low market value, high care costs lead to more abandoned horses

Chuck Maxwell has owned many horses over the past 33 years. But the Malta resident has a particularly fond place in his heart for the 10 wild mustangs he’s adopted through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse adoption program. A tough economic climate combined with legislation that forced U.S. horse processing plants to close their doors in 2007 has weakened the horse market. Many owners like Maxwell who can’t afford to keep their horses have put them up for sale under the poor market conditions. When buyers can’t be found, some owners have simply abandoned their animals. Minidoka County Fair Board Chairman Dan Kindig said a year ago the market was so bad the fair board took extra measures at the fairgrounds to prevent people from leaving horses there. Twin Falls Livestock Commission Manager Bruce Billington said his organization has seen horses abandoned in its livestock yard, along with sellers who’ve left fictitious names and phone numbers so they can’t be contacted if their horse doesn’t sell. Some of the horses, if they are big and fat, Billington says, will be bought for slaughter and transported to Canada or Mexico. “But for a smaller horse, the freight is almost equal to what the horse is worth, so there is just nowhere to go with them,” Billington said. “People can’t afford it so they just haul them off and dump them out somewhere,” he said. Billington said he’s received calls from people who have found horses dumped on their property, and has heard about people dropping horses in the desert. “That’s really cruel because they don’t know how to fend for themselves or find water,” Billington said. “And those wild horses are mean — they’ll kill a gelding.”...more

Girl dies after being trampled by horse in south Houston

Four-year-old Samantha Sillero loved riding horses with her parents, and she never had any problems with the animals until the fatal accident over the weekend at a rodeo event, family members said Monday. Samantha died after being trampled by a horse. The accident happened at a rodeo arena in the 13700 block of Karalis in south Houston around 10:35 p.m. Sunday, police said. Samantha and her mother, Mary Sillero, were riding their family's horse in the parking lot when the animal became ill and began acting out of control, said the girl's cousin, 22-year-old Maria Sillero. She said family members told her that the horse began banging its head against a car and threw both riders, then stepped on the girl's head. The girl's father, Sergio Sillero, who had gone to the stables to return a horse, arrived just as the accident happened, Maria Sillero said. The mother and daughter were rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where Samantha was pronounced dead about 11:15 p.m. Mary Sillero, who suffered bruises, was released Monday morning...more

An earlier ABC report said the horse was a 7 year old stud.

States woo Calif. dairymen with less regulation

The number of dairies in California has plummeted by more than 500 in the past decade, with many moving to other states enticing them with promises of lower costs and simpler regulations. Eight states, ranging from Idaho to Iowa, have been courting dairies from California, the nation's largest milk producer. The reason is clear: Cows mean cash for local economies. Mike Meissen, vice president for value added agriculture for the Iowa Area Development Group, estimated each dairy cow has an economic impact of $15,000 a year. "So if a thousand cows go into a county, that's $15 million," said Meissen, whose group is made up of rural electric cooperatives that work to bring new business to Iowa. Texas also has lured dairies with what it claims are less onerous regulations, an attractive climate and large feed supplies. Its dairy cow population has grown from about 17,000 in 2000 to more than 200,000 this year, said Ellen Jordan, a dairy specialist with the Texas A&M extension. Overall, Texas ranks No. 8 among dairy states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Producers who come here know what the regulations are," she said. "They can get a permit to operate and they know the area they are choosing is very ag friendly." Meanwhile, the number of California dairies dropped from more than 2,200 dairies in 1999 to 1,700 in 2009...more

'Growing concern' over marketing tainted beef

Beef containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds. A program set up to test beef for chemical residues "is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for … dangerous substances, which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce," says the audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General. The health effects on people who eat such meat are a "growing concern," the audit adds. Even when the inspection service does identify a lot of beef with high levels of pesticide or antibiotics, it often is powerless to stop the distribution of that meat because there is no legal limit for those contaminants...more

Why Brazil's Cotton Farmers Get Subsidies from the U.S.

Our perplexing $147.3 million–a-year handout to Brazilian agribusiness, part of a last-minute deal to head off an arcane trade dispute, barely even qualified as news. Cotton subsidies are a particularly egregious form of corporate welfare, funneling about $3 billion a year to fewer than 20,000 planters who tend to use inordinate amounts of water, energy and pesticides. But the World Trade Organization (WTO) doesn't prohibit dumb subsidies. It only prohibits subsidies that distort trade and hurt farmers in other countries. So last August, the WTO gave Brazil the right to impose punitive tariffs and lift patent protections on $829 million worth of U.S. goods - including nonfarm products like cars, drugs, textiles, chemicals, electronics, movies and music. The retaliation was supposed to start Wednesday, April 7, and it would have driven home how our relentless coddling of farmers hurts other American exporters, paralyzing our efforts to open overseas markets to the nonfarm goods and services that make up 99% of our economy. But at the 11th hour, negotiators from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Agriculture Department reached a temporary deal with their Brazilian counterparts, so the retaliation is on hold. The U.S. negotiators did agree to modify the complicated export-guarantee program to make it less of an export-subsidy program. They also agreed to ease restrictions on Brazilian beef that have been justified as an effort to protect Americans from foot-and-mouth disease - and criticized as an effort to protect U.S. cattlemen from competition. But the big-ticket item is the settlement's "technical assistance" fund of $147.3 million, prorated, for Brazilian cotton growers. That just happens to be the precise amount of the retaliation the WTO had approved for the improper cotton subsidies. According to the U.S. press release, the fund will be replenished every year "until passage of the next farm bill or a mutually agreed solution to the cotton dispute is reached."...more

Song Of The Day #284

This week Ranch Radio will delve into that wonderful emotion - love, and that great institution - marriage.

For some, though, it's neither wonderful or great. Take, for instance, Red River Dave as he sings the WWII classic I'd Rather Die For My Country (Than Live With My Wife).

‘There won’t be another guy like Robert Krentz’

More than 1,200 friends, relatives and dignitaries crowded into the Douglas High School gym Saturday morning to remember and celebrate the life of a “good man,” Robert Krentz. The Douglas-area rancher was found murdered March 27 on his ranch. The memorial Mass, celebrated by the Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, bishop of the Roman Catholic Church’s Tucson Diocese, as well as the Rev. Gilbert Malu, the Rev. James Baka and the Rev. Armando Espinoza, was moved to the high school after it was realized that no other facility in the community was big enough to hold the crowd. Even with more than 1,200 seats available, there was standing room only for those at the service to honor and say goodbye to their family member and friend. The service’s feeling was a mix of reverence and remembrance of a man who had touched innumerable lives with simple acts of Christian service, Kicanas said. Calling Krentz a “steward of the creation,” the bishop cited Krentz’s care for the land. After the service, those who knew Krentz shared their thoughts on a man many said was one of a kind. “There won’t be another guy like Robert Krentz,” said Cheyenne Wilkins. “He was one of the last of a dying breed of good people.” “They’re the kind of family that would do anything for anybody,” he said, and Krentz “was the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.”...more

Ariz. Ranchers Caught Up In Mexican Drug Violence

About 1,000 people showed up over the weekend at a memorial service for Robert Krentz, 58, an Arizona rancher who was shot and killed along with his dog — presumably by a drug smuggler. Neighbors worried a tragedy like this would happen. Friends and neighbors gathered for Krentz's funeral and lunch afterward at the historic Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, Ariz. These folks live in ranch houses five, 10, 20 miles apart. They depend on one another to manage livestock and to communicate vital information. It's always good to get together face to face — though the talk following the murder of one of their own was not about the weather. It was about personal safety. "We were always concerned," says rancher and veterinarian Gary Thrasher, who spoke on the sidewalk outside the Gadsden Hotel. "I travel out in that area totally by myself in my truck to these ranch calls, and yeah it makes me a lot more nervous." "Oh, I'm tired of it," says rancher John Ladd, who lives with his wife and dogs right on the U.S. side of the border west of Douglas. "It's just every day there's something." We can see the border fence out the kitchen window where we're sitting. That's the border fence built a couple of years ago to keep people out. Ladd says the Border Patrol doesn't keep a constant presence next to the fence, so people climb it with ladders, screwdrivers stuck into the fence mesh, even Mexican ponchos, serapes, thrown on top of the fence. Ladd says he's counted 47 groups crossing onto his land in just the last three weeks. More than 300 people. "From right here," Ladd says. "That's the numbers I'm telling you. I don't count the stuff on the ranch."...more

A Bordertown Drug-Murder Mystery

Arizona borderlands ranchers and their families, mostly dressed in cowboy hats, long-sleeved shirts, Wrangler jeans, and boots, poured into the Douglas High School gym Saturday to attend a memorial Mass honoring rancher Robert Krentz, who was shot on his ranch by an unknown assailant on March 27. The mysterious Krentz killing, widely blamed on a faceless drug trafficker, has become a highly politicized rallying cry for border-militarization advocates, and has become central to a nasty Republican Senate primary battle between former Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008. Still, the town and the ranching community itself was unsettled and tense, with new questions swirling around the Krentz death each day. Increasingly cynical ranchers and residents in both Douglas and its Mexican neighbor, Agua Prieta, wonder if the senseless murder means Mexico’s inchoate narco-violence, which has killed more than 19,000 people since 2006, has spilled into their borderlands ranches. The 1,000 or so people who attended the Krentz funeral sat in red folding chairs and in bleachers, listening to country music, Catholic liturgy, and heartfelt eulogies depicting Krentz as a man of kindness, honor, and courage. Although the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department has refused to comment on the murder weapon or details about the crime scene, theories are swirling around who killed Krentz. Ed Ashurst, 58, has for 13 years managed a ranch that borders the Krentz ranch. Ashurst said he was one of the people who had searched for Krentz on the day he disappeared and had assisted trackers who followed footsteps from the murder scene to the border. He believes the unknown Krentz killer was the same person who had earlier burglarized a different rancher’s home and stolen a 9mm gun, and then had stolen food from another ranch. The food wrappings from the stolen food were found at the murder scene, he said, and Krentz was killed by a 9mm weapon...more

Southern Arizona Rancher’s Demand Action

This weekend the ranching community gathered to celebrate the life of Robert Krentz, a husband, father and a friend to many. A senseless act took the life of a man, a humanitarian, who bore no ill will towards anyone. Rob loved his family instilling in them the importance of honesty, fair dealing and skill managing all aspects of a large 100-year-old ranching operation producing food to make our country strong and healthy. On April 13, 2010 Arizona ranching families will gather at the state Capitol to demand action to secure our border, called Restore Our Border. For 18 months southern Arizona ranchers have been meeting with local officials to improve the conditions on the border. Thanks to the hard work of many individuals the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association has developed a plan of action to secure our border. It’s clear that southern Arizona is a lawless area and the U.S./Mexico border is controlled by criminal forces. These unlawful cartels have no regards for the lives of American citizens and it is past time that our government takes action. Our fellow Arizonans and Americans should be able to sleep at night in the safety of their own homes. Arizona ranchers cannot stand for another tragedy like they have faced and will not rest until the border is secured...more

Rancher's death prompts challenge to cell phone companies

Southern Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wants cell phone companies to take immediate steps to improve their coverage. The call is specifically for the region along the border where rancher Robert Krentz was murdered. Giffords just sent letters to the Chief Executive Officers of Verizon and AT&T. The lack of reliable cell phone service in the area is a concern of family and friends of Krentz. This weekend they said they're final goodbyes...more

Two earlier video reports on border death

Monday, April 12, 2010

Report scorches crew's 'complacent' response to Mill Flat Fire

A crew monitoring a wildfire in Washington County last summer waited too long to summon help, according to a review of the Mill Flat Fire made public recently by the U.S. Forest Service. But that was just one problem in how the fire was handled. The wildfire, sparked by lightning in a wilderness area in July 2009, crested a ridge and raced down two canyons into the residential community of New Harmony on Aug. 29. That night the fire destroyed three houses, heavily damaged three others and burned seven other outbuildings and corrals, leaving residents frustrated and angry the fire was not suppressed earlier. Former town clerk Valene Scobel did not lose property, but was evacuated along with 150 residents that night. "They let it burn way too long and it got out of hand," said Scobel. "They mishandled it big time." But after letting the fire burn for weeks to clear out old growth, the fire crew had become "complacent." A more aggressive containment approach should have been launched much sooner, the report said. "Personnel new to the incident viewed the same situation with a much greater sense of urgency and recommended additional resources and more aggressive approach," the document says. "Fire managers thought they had more time before the fire reached New Harmony." The fire stated in wilderness area on July 25, and was allowed to burn because it met criteria in the Forest Service's land management plan for the area. The agency hoped the fire would eventually help re-establish aspen forests. A model projecting how much the fire could potentially spread in four weeks was completed in the early stages but was not updated after the fire grew significantly in August. "Other fire behavior prediction tools may have shown a greater potential for the fire reaching New Harmony, but were not used," says the review, adding that a fire behavior analyst was not assigned to the fire. Residents also expressed frustration. Some said they "were made to feel silly" by fire officials for being concerned and felt they were fed "propaganda" about the benefits of the fire...more

Schiff Calls for Review of U.S. Forest Service's Nighttime Flying Policy

Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that he has requested that the U.S. Forest Service re-consider its night and early morning flying policy. Rep. Schiff asked House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Chairman Jim Moran (D-VA) and Ranking Member Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) to include language requiring the review in the subcommittee´s 2011 funding bill currently moving through Congress. "Last summer, the Station fire raised questions about the Forest Service´s current night flying policy," said Schiff. "Since a tragic helicopter collision during the 1970's, the Forest Service has had neither the equipment nor the training to do night flights. As aviation technology improves we need to ensure that the Forest Service´s policies keep pace, so that we can guarantee Southern Californians the safest, most effective response whenever a fire breaks out." The Forest Service experimented with night flying in the 1970s, but after a pilot died in the tragic helicopter collision in 1977, the Forest Service discontinued the practice. Specifically, Rep. Schiff requested that the Forest Service examine whether its policy against night flying should be repealed and whether the Forest Service should once again acquire the equipment and provide the training necessary to accomplish night flights...more

Is a killer wolf still on the loose?

When a lone wolf strolled across the snow-covered ice of Chignik Lake on Tuesday, a ripple of fear went through the village of 100 people halfway down the remote Alaska Peninsula. At other times in other places, the sighting of a wolf near a village in the far reaches of the north would not cause much of a stir, but Chignik Lake has been living a horrible fairy tale. "They figure that's the one that got the girl,'' said Virginia Aleck of the traditional village council. The "girl'' was 32-year-old Candice Berner, who came north from her hometown in Slippery Rock, Penn., to teach in the Alaska Bush. She'd taken a job traveling between a cluster of villages 450 miles southwest of Anchorage to work with children with special needs. Virginia Aleck said Wednesday afternoon she hadn't heard from anyone in Fish and Game since they left with the carcasses of the two dead wolves. "They haven't told us anything,'' she said. On Wednesday, she was planning to try to get Butler on the phone to let him know there was another strange-acting wolf back in the area. Butler was the nearest Fish and Game presence. The wolf, meanwhile, was almost at the door. "He was here yesterday afternoon,'' Aleck said, "broad daylight.'' All night the night before, she added, the village dogs had been barking loudly. The wolf might have been close then, too, but his daylight appearance showed a lack of fear that left everyone in Chignik Lake more than a little edgy. "We saw him yesterday right on the ice,'' said village resident Christi Aleck. "He's still hanging around."...more

Landowners win lawsuit seeking Colorado's appraiser files

A group of landowners fighting to get records of alleged misdeeds by appraisers involved in conservation easements has won a lawsuit against the state after a judge ordered the Division of Real Estate to turn over its files. The landowners told the judge that the Colorado Department of Revenue unfairly challenged tax credits and deductions they took after donating conservation easements. Property owners said the easements were valued by appraisers who were disciplined by the state. They said appraisers who falsely inflated appraisals should have been held responsible. They also said some of the appraisals may have been justified, but there is no way to find out without the files. Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport said that the Board of Real Estate, which investigates complaints against appraisers, is not a law enforcement agency and that landowners suffered serious consequences as a result of their appraisals being challenged. She gave the state 30 days to hand over files of appraisers William Milenski and John Stroh, who were disciplined by the board over allegations they inflated land values. Milenski was allowed to surrender his license in 2008 and avoid punishment, and Stroh was given probation and a fine, according to state records. J.D. Wright, president of Land Owners United, which represents 80 landowners fighting the state, asked Gov. Bill Ritter to cease all audits and re-evaluate the state tax program after their tax credits were challenged by federal and state authorities because of faulty appraisals. "We'll at least get to see the charges brought against our appraisers," Wright said after the ruling was issued...more

Moose-wolf encounter pins tourists

Two visitors from Ohio interrupted a life-or-death struggle between a moose and a wolf on a Kenai Peninsula trail this week, but it wasn't until after the wolf gave up the struggle and fled that things took a dangerous turn for the men, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers. Events began Thursday afternoon, when 31-year-old Sean Evans of Toronto, Ohio, and his cousin, Josh Clark, 30, of Scio, Ohio, were snowshoeing out to a cabin at Crescent Lake to spend some time snowboarding. The men came around a bend in the trail and were dipping underneath a fallen tree when they saw a spectacle crashing through the brush toward them from a hill about 20 feet away, said Clark, reached by cell phone Friday. "The wolf had torn off some skin from the moose's neck and was hanging on its neck. The moose was making awful noises. We kind of looked at each other for three seconds and decided to start moving," Clark said. "The moose was trying to get rid of the wolf, and they started coming down the hill really fast at us. And so we split, we got out of the way, and they started fighting right where we had been standing."...more

El Pasoan Tells Survival Story, Speaks Of Dog That Saved His Life

The El Paso Council 4964 of the League of Latin American Citizens held on Friday its first “El Paso’s Hero” night. The night was dedicated to one El Paso hero and it wasn’t a human--rather, a K-9 named Zulu, who saved the life of El Pasoan Bob Sumrall. “When I found the road, I said there's got to be a house, there's got to be something along the road. Nothing, I mean, we walked hours on this road and absolutely nothing,” said Sumrall, who shared his survival story with KFOX for the first time since being lost in the Gila wilderness for seven days. Sumrall said he would find nothing to protect himself from the freezing elements other than a solar blanket that wouldn't last long. “I tried to anchor it down with some rocks, but the wind just shredded it, so Zulu and I just curled up together,” said Sumrall. And it was from there, day by day, Zulu and Sumrall protected each other as they continued to try to find their way out of what appeared to be an endless forest...more

There are two video reports at the link.

Los Lunas resident uses extra sense in ancient practice

In a future when the population explodes, and fresh, potable water becomes increasingly rare, the dowser will not be without friends. Gary Plapp has been a dowser for more than 30 years and it has taken him all over the world, from the sands of Egypt to the ruins of the Yucatan. Plapp said the practice goes back thousands of years, and hieroglyphics in Egypt seem to depict its practice. Dowsing is alluded to in the Bible. There are about 300 members of the Los Lunas chapter of the American Society of Dowsers. It is the only active chapter in the state, as far as Plapp knows. About 50 people will show up to monthly meetings, some from as far away as Ciudad Juarez. There are more than 5,000 members nationally. Plapp teaches the practice as it was taught to him more than 30 years ago by a dowser named Bill Cox. "He taught me basic dowsing, and I got hooked," he said. Dowsing is best known as a way to find water. Water is life, and finding it meant survival to ancient peoples. Plapp believes modern people still possess these abilities, but don't use them...more

It's All Trew: Aging and exaggerating

One noticeable effect of aging is most of us tend to exaggerate a bit as we recall the old days. Here are a few examples I have heard lately. "When I was a young lad walking to a country school every day we had to face a cold north wind both in the morning and evening and it was uphill both directions." Think about this a moment. "I didn't know my Christian name until I was twelve years old. All anyone had ever said to me was, go get firewood." In my case it was coal or kerosene. "Between trapping skunks, filling kerosene lamps every day and wearing a bag of garlic around my neck to ward off colds, I didn't have many close friends when I was young." "The way to tell the rich folks from the poor was to study their clothes lines on wash day. Rich folks didn't have many patches and their drawers had elastic instead of draw-strings. Look at the sun through the seats of poor people's britches and the light just shines right through." A 94-year-old man was asked what he thought of the modern world today? He replied, "We are being educated out of common sense into ignorance, doctored to death and preached into Hell. Other than that we are getting along pretty well."...more

Baxter Black - Trade ya my mustache

As medical progress marches on, the use of transplants and body parts has become commonplace. Worldwide, from India to Italy, from Iran to Indiana, the surgeries are routine. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. alone has 83,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney. Corneas, hearts, livers and lungs do a brisk trade on the organ market. I'm assuming that many athletes, models, yodelers, magicians and pickpockets insure their precious body parts against damage or loss; fingers, figures, vocal cords or knees. But what if the occasion arises that the body parts of someone whose skills you admire come available? How 'bout Ben Johnson, Ed Bruce or Johnny Cash's vocal cords? I remember when Willie Nelson sang, "All of me, Why not take all of me" maybe he was subliminally making an offer. At the risk of being morbid, my list might include Trevor Brazile's roping arm, Ronald Reagan's hair, Ray Hunt's seat in the saddle, Tony Rice's flat pickin' left hand, anybody's flat belly, Billy Etbauer's pointed toes, George Strait's teeth, Churchill's way with words and Doc Brimhall's eye for cattle. 'Course, I wouldn't have much to trade...more

Song Of The Day #283

Ranch Radio will get your heart started and your feet tappin' this Monday morning with that good old dance tune South.

I've danced many a mile to this tune, always as an instrumental and usually with a fiddle taking the lead. I later discovered there were words to the song, and just recently discovered the lyrics were written by the great Ray Charles. He wrote them in 1947, two years before his first recordings, and were reportedly some of the first lyrics written by him.

The original jazz instrumental was written by Bennie Moten and Thamon Hayes, and was recorded by Moten's band in 1924.

When I started this feature back in March of last of last year I wrote:

I like old-time country, bluegrass, string band, western, western swing and dixieland jazz. I also like modern artists who honor the traditional sound.

So here is the dixieland jazz version of the tune, with Ray Charles' lyrics, as recorded by Bob Scobey. It is available on Scobey's 12 track CD The Scobey Story (Vol.1)

Better clear a path, cuz I'm getting ready to jump up out of this wheelchair, grab a little unit and trod the boards!

Our Lawless Mexican Border - Wall Street Journal

A great sadness will descend over this border town today as mourners fill the local high school gym to pay their respects to Rob Krentz. Two weeks ago, the 58-year-old rancher was shot and killed by what appears to be a drug smuggler. His death has created a tidal wave of emotion—Krentz was a pillar of this community where his family has ranched land here for a century. "The sobbing and crying from people I never thought I'd see cry, it's unbelievable," local veterinarian Gary Thrasher told me. Americans who do not live along the Mexican border often assume the antipathy to illegal immigration arises from racial or cultural concerns. But talk to people on the ground, and what they fear most is the loss of personal security. They are angry that the federal government is unable to provide them with this most basic of human rights. The Krentz ranch sits along the Chiricahua Corridor, a well known smuggling route with dirt trails pounded smooth by decades of foot traffic. For years, Rob's wife, Sue, has written pleading letters to politicians, media and others, detailing how the smuggling of drugs and people has become so bad that family members feared for their lives. "It's worse than anybody knows," rancher Ed Ashurst told me. "There are outlaws roaming around with guns, and if you jack with them they'll kill you." Louie and Susan Pope, who live outside the town of Portal some 46 miles from Mexico, lock their valuables in a safe before taking morning horseback rides. They've had three break-ins. According to Susan, the one-room school in Apache where she is a teacher and bus driver has been broken into so often there's nothing left worth stealing. "Americans shouldn't have to live like this," she told me. She is Rob Krentz's sister...more