Friday, October 15, 2010

Resigned to Living With Wolves, More Ranchers Are Giving Deterrence Projects a Try

But this is no ordinary fence. All along its length, long slips of magenta plastic flagging wave in the wind, like streamers on a parade float. No one knows exactly why, but wolves typically stay clear of these decorated fences. Dobson put up the "fladry" and electrified the fence about three years ago after losing nine sheep to wolves in one year. So far, the combination of visual repellent and electric shock seems to be working. "From the time we started doing that in 2007 up to now, we've had zero wolf depredations," Dobson said, sitting at the kitchen table of his family's spacious log home on a private inholding surrounded by the Apache National Forest. "I think the fence has a lot to do with it." A few miles away, rancher Sydney Maddock and Eddie Lee, her ranch manager, have hired a range rider -- a cowboy or cowgirl who monitors the herd -- to make sure her cattle stay safe. They have also started allowing calves to grow bigger before turning them out onto their federal grazing allotment so that they are less vulnerable to depredation. Wolves tend to prey on young, old or weak livestock, although they do sometimes kill healthy adults. "I don't know if it's going to work out or not," Lee said, standing around a late afternoon campfire at his camp near a cattle and horse corral. "But it's been two years, and it seems to be working." Meanwhile, on the New Mexico side of the Mexican wolf reintroduction area, about 70 miles to the east, rancher Alan Tackman is putting up a fence to keep his cattle from wandering up the mountain toward a known wolf den. "They're not smart enough to remember, 'A wolf ate my baby here,'" said Pat Morrison, district ranger for the Glenwood District of the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, where Tackman's fence is being erected. An elk calving area lies between the den and the fence line, and the hope is that the wolves will eat the elk calves -- typically their preferred prey -- and leave the cattle alone, Morrison said...more

Ghosts of ‘Black Sunday’ hover over BLM’s cautious oil shale move

Wednesday’s move by the BLM to proceed with more oil shale leases for Exxon Mobil and two other companies conjured up memories for some of the “Black Sunday” bust of May 2, 1982, when Exxon laid off 2,200 oil shale workers on Colorado’s Western Slope. Businesses failed, banks foreclosed, whole towns virtually cleared out, and it reportedly was not uncommon afterward to see a car with an “Exxon Suck Rocks” bumper sticker, referring to the technology that heats shale rock and sand to extract organic kerogen and convert it into synthetic fuel. Never quite perfected, the process that led to Exxon’s Colony boom of the early 1980s was mothballed in a bust of epic proportions. This time will be different, an Exxon spokesman told the Colorado Independent Thursday. Back in the late 1970s and 80s, in the wake of the OPEC embargo that sent shudders through the global energy market, Exxon predicted that by the year 2000 it would be extracting up to 8 million gallons of oil a day from arid landscape of western Colorado. By some estimates, there is more oil trapped in the rocks of the Green River Formation of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming (1.5 trillion barrels) than can be found in all of Saudi Arabia. t getting to it is problematic. Even after nearly 30 years the process is not commercially viable, and conservationists say even the research and development proposed by Exxon and other companies is a waste of time, money, coal-fired electricity, and – most importantly – water...more

One Brother Lies Low as Another Faces Tight Race in Colorado

The Salazar family name has been a leading political brand in Colorado for years. It has also been shorthand for a big-thought Democratic Party strategy of carrying the West that the Salazar brothers, John and Ken, helped invent and articulate as shoulder-to-shoulder voices of deep-country Colorado, where they grew up and where John still runs the family potato farm. The Salazar formula: rural and urban coalitions around centrist, libertarian-tinged politics, mixing support for gun rights with an ability to look natural in a cowboy hat. But this year the chemistry is different. John Salazar, seeking a fourth term in Congress in Colorado’s Third District, is facing a Republican challenger, Scott Tipton, who lost by a large margin to Mr. Salazar in 2006 but is now running neck and neck heading toward November. Ken Salazar, meanwhile, resigned from the Senate last year to become secretary of the interior in the Obama administration, which is not held in high regard with many voters in John’s huge, conservative district. The result: brothers in arms now at arm’s length...more

The Guy Idaho Ranchers Love to Hate

There are two topics you don’t want to bring up with most Idaho ranchers: wolves and Jon Marvel, the white-haired, 63-year-old founder and executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. Exactly what is it about this guy who looks more like a college professor than an environmental activist worthy of nstant, visceral, angry reactions from ranchers, that include “he’s an asshole” to “I hate that bastard” to “he’s an abusive guy” and other not-suitable-for-work quotations? As it turns out, Marvel, a history graduate from the University of Chicago who founded WWP in 1993, is not at all mild-mannered unless it serves his purpose. In reality, he’s is an intense, combative man who does not believe in compromise. “You don’t influence change without directly taking on the people who oppose that change,” he says in a recent interview. “Collaboration simply gets you marginalized.” He’s also a man who harbors a long-standing grudge with roots in an incident many, many years ago at his family cabin in Stanley, Idaho. “One day I found this rancher cutting across my land without permission, taking salt blocks to his stock. I told him to go around, go back the same way he came in and you know what he said? ‘Where did you come from?’ It was like he felt he was somehow entitled to use my private property as he saw fit.” That initial contact led Marvel to take a closer look at what his ranching neighbors thought they were entitled to do on surrounding public land where they grazed their stock in the summer...more

Feds probe wolf killing as ranchers struggle

It's been an eventful several weeks in the continuing story of the resident gray wolf on the northeast Oregon landscape. USDA Wildlife Services is investigating the illegal killing of a male gray wolf discovered Sept. 30 in the Umatilla National Forest east of Troy. The two-year old wolf had been captured and collared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in early August. Wildlife Services is offering a reward of $2,500 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for killing the wolf. Because the gray wolf is a federally protected species, the offense carries a federal penalty of up to a $100,000 fine and a year in jail. Killing a wolf is also a violation of state game law with penalties set by the court. Wildlife Service officials confirmed the eleventh loss of livestock in Wallowa County to wolf attack after rancher Denny Johnson reported the loss of a calf on Oct. 1 in the Divide area about 15 miles east of Enterprise. While events were transpiring in the field, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Oct. 1 authorized revisions to the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan during the scheduled five-year plan update. The commission declined to add to the plan many of the suggestions made by the Oregon Cattlemen's Association. Cattlemen were turned down on their request for a plan that gives them the tools they feel are necessary to protect themselves including authorization to kill wolves caught attacking, biting, chasing or harassing humans, livestock, pets and sporting and working dogs. The commission also failed to include in the plan the cattlemen's suggestion that rural residents be authorized to use lethal means, without a permit, on wolves that come within 500 feet of houses...more

Feds trampled by costs of caring for wild horses

What has been largely overlooked, however, is that BLM has for years been breaking the very federal act that mandates the roundups in the first place. And that violation—however understandable it may be—has caused the agency’s costs of managing the herds to skyrocket. The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 requires the BLM to manage the numbers of wild horses on lands where they’ve historically lived. Part of that management is to keep the herds at a population level that doesn’t threaten their habitat. The agency estimates there are currently 38,000 animals running wild in 10 Western states, about 12,000 more than their ecosystems can sustain. Groups such as the ASPCA, Texas’s Hearts and Horses and Colorado’s The Cloud Foundation call the roundups—known as “gathers” by the BLM—cruel and inhumane. That’s because of the agency’s use of low-flying helicopters to exhaust the horses so that they can be easily corralled and captured. The technique is said to stress and panic the animals, which may be injured in the process of capture. Excess animals are captured and offered to the public through adoptions. According to the 1971 law, the agency is required to euthanize or sell without limitation unadoptable animals. But the prospect of killing perfectly healthy horses, or selling them to owners who might resell them to foreign slaughterhouses, is such an unpopular concept that BLM has refused to consider the options; indeed, at various times, Congress has even forbade the agency from using appropriated funds for such measures...more

BLM is violating the law, as they freely admit and as documented in a GAO report:

The requirements to euthanize excess animals or sell them without limitation “still exist in law,” said BLM spokesman Tom Gorey, “but we’ve made it clear that those options are not on the table.” That puts BLM in violation of the law, Gorey said. “Or a more gentle description is ‘noncompliance.’” The GAO report, published in 2008, offers a frank reason for why: “Various BLM officials at different levels of responsibility also told us that the agency has not complied with these provisions because doing so would cause an immediate threat to the careers of any officials involved, due to the anticipated negative reaction of the public and Congress.”...

Another example of the Ruling Class violating the law while holding private citizens accountable for every move they make.

TSCRA: EPA's Ethanol Waiver Harmful To Texas Ranchers

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) expressed strong disappointment today after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced their intent to grant partial waivers to increase the allowable amount of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent, also known as E15. This increase represents a 50 percent increase from the current level of 10 percent ethanol, a jump that will have a negative impact on ranchers and would dramatically increase the cost of livestock production. "The high level of corn-based ethanol is one of the key factors driving price increases in corn products, including feed for cattle," said Dave Scott, rancher and TSCRA president. "Over the past few years it has become very clear that putting our food and fuel in competition with one another is bad for cattle producers and consumers." ording to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), in 2008, feed costs for livestock, poultry and dairy reached a record high of $45.2 billion-an increase of more than $7 billion over 2007 costs. In 2008, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report that stated that the dramatic increase in livestock production costs were attributed to feed...more

TV crew filming ag show in Portales

A crew from a Louisiana agricultural television show has been filming in Roosevelt County all week. Every year, the Louisiana Farm Bureau-produced “This Week in Louisiana Agriculture” weekly show holds a contest in which viewers write to tell staff why they should come to the viewer’s town, said host Michael Danna. This year, Roosevelt County rancher Matt Rush, who watches the show online, won. “We were impressed with all things he included in his application,” Danna said. “We probably have less than 175 dairies in Louisiana, and the average herd size in those dairies is probably 100 head.” Danna said the local 2,000-cow dairies seem massive by comparison. He was also impressed that New Mexico farmers operate under a lot of regulations, while Louisiana farmers have few. Since Sunday, Danna and his four other crew members have profiled Rush, filmed spur-maker Stewart Williamson, interviewed Pat Boone about his wind farm near Floyd and more...more

What’s Going On With The Death Tax?

I’ve just finished reading a press release from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and cosigned by 49 other organizations representing small businesses. This ad hoc group sent a letter to the House and Senate regarding ‘the failure of Congress to take action on the estate tax, commonly known as the death tax, prior to adjourning for the November elections.’ The 50 organizations signing the letter represent the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition. This powerful coalition believes family businesses, including farms and ranches, need immediate resolution because on the first day of the New Year, the estate tax rate will revert back to the pre-2001 level of 55% and the exempted amount will fall to $1 million. Toss in additional inheritance taxes imposed by some states and the word ‘confiscatory’ comes to mind. It doesn’t take much for a farm or ranch to be valued at over a million dollars. A modest house, a barn, a few hundred acres near a city or town of any size and, all of a sudden, you’re a cash-poor millionaire. The death tax, or whatever other euphemism you want to use, is a tax imposed on the transfer of the "taxable estate" of a deceased person. It’s part of the Unified Gift and Estate Tax system in the United States. The other part of the system, the gift tax, imposes a tax on transfers of property during a person's life; the gift tax prevents avoidance of the death tax should a person want to give away his/her estate while he/she is still around to accept the profound thanks of his/her offspring. Standing just behind the IRS with outstretched hands and looking for their pound of flesh are many states that also impose a death tax, with the state version called either an estate tax or an inheritance tax. Forgive me the analogy but a mental image of hyenas picking a carcass clean after the lions have left comes to mind...more

Rattlesnakes changing their tune, strike with no warning

Some snake experts say rattlesnakes are not rattling like they used to, often striking with no warning. The distinctive sound means back away. "You usually hear them rattling before you even see them," said Bob Griffin, a rancher. "That's normal behavior." But, the normal behavior by rattlesnakes is not being heard. Snake experts and ranchers like Bob Griffin say rattlesnakes are not rattling like they used to. "I think it's in their evolution," said Griffin. Mike Clanton is a reptile keeper at Caldwell Zoo. He says it is normal for rattlesnakes to be silent before attacking their prey. "If they are sneaking up on the prey item, they would lose a meal," said Clanton. But, when encountering a human or animal larger than itself, the reptiles normally sound off. "If they don't feel like they will get away from it or stay still, that is when they will rattle," Clanton explained. Why are some ranchers and wildlife experts hearing less of the rattle? Daryl Sprout, a herpetologist and owner of Snake Encounters in Dallas had some answers. "It is very true that in nature that natural selection is already beginning to prefer snakes that do not bring attention to themselves and therefore draw incoming fire from humans," said Sprout...more

The snakes are mimicking the feds.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So why did sex evolve anyway?

Despite the obvious benefits of sex, it's an activity that's biologically disadvantageous under most conditions. Now, a new study published online today (13 October) in Nature helps explain why sex may have evolved, despite its downside. Specifically, the paper tracked a eukaryote for nearly 100 generations and found that the species was more likely to switch from asexual to sexual reproduction if it encountered varying physical settings, suggesting sex may help species adapt to diverse environments. "The paper is an outstanding breakthrough," evolutionary biologist Sally Otto of the University of British Columbia told The Scientist. "It's the first study to track -- in real time -- the evolution of sex in a multicellular eukaryote, finding that higher rates of sex evolve in a spatially complex environment," said Otto, who was not involved in the research. The evolution of sex has long puzzled biologists, as its disadvantages seem to outweigh its benefits in most situations. When an organism reproduces asexually, for example, it passes on 100 percent of its genetic information to the next generation. A sexually reproducing organism, on the other hand, only passes on half its genes -- a huge evolutionary cost...more

37 years ago and to wide acclaim, Rancho DuBois was officially designated a "spatially complex environment."

More than 37 years ago and also to wide acclaim, Rancho DuBois assisted many in adapting to diverse environments as they wandered along the evolutionary path.

I had hoped to share those earlier research findings with you, but Sweet Sharon just advised that should I choose to do so, I might as well revert to being an asexual organism.

After much careful thought I have decided those particular research results will remain unpublished.

Gallup: 59% say feds have too much power, 46% say feds pose "an immediate threat" to rights and freedoms

The percentage of Americans who think the federal government poses “an immediate threat” to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens has increased significantly over the last seven years, rising from 30 percent to 46 percent, according to a Gallup poll conducted Sept. 13-16 and and released today. Similarly, the percentage of Americans who think the federal government has too much power has also significantly increased, from 39 percent in 2002 to 59 percent today...more

Final Tally: Obama and the 111th Congress Enacted $352 Billion in Net Tax Hikes

I wasn't surprised to see that most tax hikes were permanent and most tax cuts were temporary, with hikes out numbering cuts 7 to 1.

Figures were compiled by Americans for Tax Reform and you can see their table displaying each tax item by going here.

EPA Funnels Taxpayer Money to Dozens of Environmental Groups

The Environmental Protection Agency recently listed 76 community groups and government agencies that will share almost 2 million taxpayer dollars in the form of "environmental justice grants." But beyond the EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment, the grant money will boost the coffers, and perhaps the influence, of some far-left groups...more

Some of the projects listed were:

-- The West Harlem Environmental Action group will use its environmental justice grant to "identify and address the problems posed by climate change in Northern Manhattan" and to "develop a community-based climate change readiness plan."
-- The Women’s Health & Environmental Network in Philadelphia plans to educate senior citizens on climate change and how to lessen their carbon footprint. "Many seniors do not understand climate change and how they affect it or how to protect the environment," the project summary says.
-- A Denver group, the Front Range Earth Force, will use its grant to "identify and mitigate air pollution and solid waste disposal issues" at a middle school that has a "disparate economic and racial/ethnic composition." According to the project summary, "Skinner Middle and elementary school students will investigate the environmental impact of practices such as idling automobiles and buses at school entrances and raise awareness about chemical and particulate pollutants and their link to respiratory diseases and eye/nose irritation. They'll also "reach across cultural and economic barriers" to develop and test ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
-- A group called DEPAVE in Portland, Oregon, will address the "social and environmental impacts of heavily paved public spaces." It aims to "re-green" two North Portland schools, by replacing paved areas with "playfields and native plantings."

And EPA wasn't done yet:

On Oct. 6, one day after the EPA announced the $1.9 million in environmental justice grants, it announced another $1.5 million in grant money to fund “environmental education efforts. These grants will go to 14 organizations in 11 states and the District of Columbia to “inform the public of environmental issues and help them make educated choices on actions they can take to reduce negative environmental impacts.”...

Los Payasos don't clown around when it comes to spending your money.

Obama administration reverses Bush policy on bull trout habitat

The Obama administration on Tuesday greatly expanded protections for waterways critical to the restoration of threatened bull trout, making it tougher for agencies to approve logging, mining and livestock grazing across a large swath of federal land in the West. The final rule issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service represented a major expansion of the streams, lakes and reservoirs protected as critical habitat for the fish, primarily on federal lands in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, and a reversal of Bush administration policy on endangered species. The new ruling protects 19,000 miles of streams, which is five times more than the 2005 rule, and 490,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, which is more than three times greater than previously ordered. But the 754 miles of marine shoreline in Washington state was a reduction to make room for U.S. Navy testing grounds. The bull trout is not a trout, but a char. Its numbers have declined about 60 percent, and it has disappeared from about half its historical range due to logging, mining, dam construction, and livestock grazing that have warmed and muddied the water it lives in and cut off migration routes. Nonnative fish species introduced for anglers compete for scarce habitat. It survives mostly in backcountry areas far from people...more

Wolves: How Many Are There?

At a Kalispell meeting focused on wolves last week, outdoorsmen and ranchers made it clear they want three things: the return of state management, revised wolf population numbers and, in the absence of local control, federal rule changes that better protect livestock in Northwest Montana. For the first, they stated their case to U.S. House Rep. Dennis Rehberg, who hosted the session at Flathead Valley Community College and has drafted one of several bills aimed at delisting gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. For the second, they offered their own statistics, in quantities of lost livestock and diminished game sightings during hunting season. Ranchers argue that many livestock kills aren't confirmed or documented. Hunters say they don’t harvest or see nearly the number of elk and deer as in years past. Larry Campbell told the 12-person panel that he had killed a bull elk for 14 straight years before his streak ended two years ago. “I’ve seen more wolves than I’ve seen elk,” he said. “That’s not a good sign.”...more

Western Watersheds Project v. IBLA


No. 09-35708.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted September 1, 2010—Seattle, Washington.
Filed October 12, 2010.


HAWKINS, Senior Circuit Judge.

In this appeal, which involves the interplay between the issuance or renewal of Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") grazing permits and the fee-shifting provisions of the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), Western Watersheds Project ("Western Watersheds") appeals the summary judgment determination that EAJA fees were not available to Western Watersheds because its environmental claims were brought in a grazing permit renewal proceeding. We agree with the district court's reasoning and affirm.

Read the entire Opinion here.

Arizona Rethinking Open Range Laws? One Word for the New York Times: Bull

Arizona's not really "Rethinking Open Range Laws," despite a New York Times article published on Monday with that headline. The article by Marc Lacey offers only one source to back up that headline, Democratic State Representative Daniel Patterson of Tucson, who Lacey says has introduced a bill "pushing for an end to Arizona's open range law..." Patterson's proposed change of law died in the last Legislative session without so much as a hearing. In fact, Patterson -- who, like other State Representatives, is fighting to get re-elected in November -- refused to stand by the statements attributed to him in the article when we called him today. We don't think the NY Times writer misquoted Patterson -- rather, it seems Patterson doesn't want to draw any more attention to his statements, even though he proudly posted the article on his own blog site. The catchy headline drew us into the online article today. But we had to chuckle at the Lacey's outsider take, even before we talked to Patterson. Patterson would not agree or admit he's "pushing for an end to Arizona's open range law." When we asked if the quote about "getting rid" of the open range law was correct, we got a 20-second pause. "Hello?" we asked, thinking the call had been dropped. Patterson was still there. But he refused to answer the question. "We want to change the law," he repeated a couple of times, implying that he no longer wanted to "get rid of" the law -- if he ever did...more

The Nature Conservancy Hires Architect to Design Facilities for Canyonlands Research Center

The Nature Conservancy announced the hire of Salt Lake City-based architecture firm CRSA to begin designing facilities for the Canyonlands Research Center in southeast Utah. The facilities will be located at the Conservancy’s Dugout Ranch, south of Moab, and will provide year-round housing and laboratories for visiting scientists. The design and construction of the facilities, as well as ongoing operations, will seek minimal impacts to the environment and feature carbon neutral concepts. Facility design is the most recent step in the launch of the Canyonlands Research Center, a unique collaborative that brings together scientists, public land managers and local land users to protect the natural resources of the Colorado Plateau or “Four Corners” region. Through research on issues such as wildlife and water management, grazing and recreation use issues, the Canyonlands Research Center will develop science-based strategies to help public land managers and private landowners improve protection for natural release

Texas Department of Agriculture Launches Program to Eradicate Wild Hogs

The Texas Department of Agriculture is launching a new campaign called “Get the Hog Outta Texas” in an effort to remove wild hogs and curb the damage done to private property by them in the state of Texas. The challenge, which runs through the end of October, will reward the county that removes the most hogs with a grant. The challenge has recruited nearly 60 counties so far. A growing number of feral hogs, also called wild hogs, has posed a challenge for the state of Texas for decades; more recently, however, the problem has extended into urban and suburban areas. There are nearly two million wild hogs in Texas, the highest population in the United States. This number continues to grow every year due to high reproduction rates of wild hogs and a lack of natural predators. While these animals may appear harmless, they can cause millions of dollars in damage to urban yards, parks, golf courses, crops and private property. Wild hogs can also carry diseases and contribute to E. coli in Texas water, such as streams, ponds and watersheds...more

Here is the Texas Farm Bureau video:

When they are finished in Texas they should move their program to DC.

EPA Perpetuates Ethanol Scam in New Regulations

Perhaps the ethanol subsidies would constitute wiser policy if the claims of ethanol advocates (including the farmers who benefit from the government payout) were anywhere near the truth. Aside from the dubious benefit of catering domestic policy to a climate panic that more thorough scientific inquiry has discredited, ethanol production itself actually swells carbon emissions. Although it burns cleaner than straight gasoline, ethanol is produced using energy from electric plants that still burn fossil fuels (along with the modes of transportation and harvest), more than offsetting its environmental benefits. Additionally, the whole biofuel project is an expensive experiment that distracts from more viable clean power alternatives: hydro, solar, and that greatly maligned boogeyman, nuclear energy. That the ethanol lobby has succeeded in pushing its agenda at taxpayer cost is shameful. That the EPA is aiding and abetting in this process while ignoring superior solutions is par for the course. Until the appointees who make these decisions are replaced, the American public should put their hope for serious energy and environmental reform in the candidates they elect this November...more

Search for ape man continues against the odds

That ever elusive figure known as Bigfoot, or Yeren (wild man) to the Chinese, is bouncing back to life as a group of Chinese scientists and explorers scout around for international help to mount a new search for it - even though the debate over its existence has lingered for decades. Bigfoot, also known elsewhere as the abominable snowman, in this case refers to a half-man, half-ape creature in the Shennongjia Nature Reserve, in a remote, mountainous part of Hubei province, in Central China. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, authorities organized three high-profile expeditions to search for signs of Bigfoot, but came up empty handed. In view of the large amount of expenditure required for these expeditions, the government decided to put a stop to them. Nonetheless, curiosity about the mysterious man-like creature still lingered among experts and ordinary folk alike. Then, last November, the Wild Man Research Association was founded in Hubei, pulling in more than 100 members interested in the search for Yeren, including a number of scientists and experts. These included the 75-year-old Wang Shancai, of the Hubei Relics and Archaeology Institute, who is vice-president of the association, and happens to be a strong believer in Bigfoot. In spite of the fact that while those expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s yielded little other than some hair, a footprint, and some excrement suspected of belonging to Yeren, there was no conclusive proof, but Wang is undeterred. He said there were more than 400 people who claimed to have seen Bigfoot in the Shennongjia area over the last century. And he's gotten support from a local "witness", Zhang Jiahong, a sheep rancher in the town of Muyu in the nature reserve, who says he saw two wild men as recently as September 2005. What did they look like? Zhang told China Daily on Monday that they had "hairy faces, eyes like black holes, prominent noses, faces that resembled both a man and a monkey, disheveled hair, and stood more than 2 meters tall"...more

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gas drilling has blighted my life

My wife, Donna, and I have lived for 32 years on our ranch in Pavillion, Wyo., a lush agricultural area surrounded by the Wind River and Owl Creek mountains. In this dry region, we’re lucky to have an irrigation district that delivers clean water from the Wind River to the several hundred farmers and ranchers in the area. We’ve worked hard to develop this place, raise our two kids and tend to our cattle and horses. I’m a Vietnam vet and Donna works in our local school district. At this stage in life, I thought I’d have time to enjoy our 4-year-old granddaughter as she learns how to ride a horse like her granddad does. Instead, I’m watching everything we’ve worked for poisoned by the oil and gas industry. I’m even reluctant to have my grandchild visit because of the chemical contamination in our water, soil and air. In 2004, Encana drilled a well about 500 feet from my house and even closer to my drinking water well. In the past, we always had clean, fresh water, but soon our water began to taste and smell like gas and the well began producing less water. Encana agreed to test the water and chlorinate it, and during testing the company hauled water into a cistern for us. About seven months later, I decided to drill a new well since I was pretty sure the old one was contaminated. While drilling the new well, we hit gas, our new water well blew out and we were forced to evacuate our home. We had a hydrogeologist and drilling experts come out. They told us hydraulic fracturing had caused methane to migrate and collect underground. That meant that the fracturing chemicals were also moving around...more

The New Oil

Sitka, Alaska, is home to one of the world’s most spectacular lakes. Nestled into a U-shaped valley of dense forests and majestic peaks, and fed by snowpack and glaciers, the reservoir, named Blue Lake for its deep blue hues, holds trillions of gallons of water so pure it requires no treatment. The city’s tiny population—fewer than 10,000 people spread across 5,000 square miles—makes this an embarrassment of riches. Every year, as countries around the world struggle to meet the water needs of their citizens, 6.2 billion gallons of Sitka’s reserves go unused. That could soon change. In a few months, if all goes according to plan, 80 million gallons of Blue Lake water will be siphoned into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil—and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai. From there it will be dispersed among several drought-plagued cities throughout the Middle East. The project is the brainchild of two American companies. One, True Alaska Bottling, has purchased the rights to transfer 3 billion gallons of water a year from Sitka’s bountiful reserves. The other, S2C Global, is building the water-processing facility in India. If the companies succeed, they will have brought what Sitka hopes will be a $90 million industry to their city, not to mention a solution to one of the world’s most pressing climate conundrums. They will also have turned life’s most essential molecule into a global commodity. The transfer of water is nothing new. New York City is supplied by a web of tunnels and pipes that stretch 125 miles north into the Catskills Mountains; Southern California gets its water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Colorado River Basin, which are hundreds of miles to the north and west, respectively. The distance between Alaska and India is much farther, to be sure. But it’s not the distance that worries critics. It’s the transfer of so much water from public hands to private ones. “Water has been a public resource under public domain for more than 2,000 years,” says James Olson, an attorney who specializes in water rights. “Ceding it to private entities feels both morally wrong and dangerous.” Everyone agrees that we are in the midst of a global freshwater crisis. Around the world, rivers, lakes, and aquifers are dwindling faster than Mother Nature can possibly replenish them; industrial and household chemicals are rapidly polluting what’s left...more

For a different view on water markets, visit the website of the Property and Environment Research Center.

Drilling ban lifted; uncertainties still face Gulf

Deep water oil drills quieted by a six-month moratorium will again hum off the Gulf Coast, helping an industry that, despite its dangers, puts needed money in the pockets of thousands along the Gulf Coast. What's less certain is just how soon the jobs on hold because of the six-month ban will come back to a region trying to recover. Thirty-three deep water operations were halted by the moratorium imposed as the BP oil disaster unfolded. Meeting new federal safety requirements imposed since then will take time for oil companies. "Those big rigs that left the Gulf, it's going to take them a while to come back," said Ronnie Kennier, an Empire, La., fisherman working in BP's vessel of opportunity oil clean-up program. The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from the oil industry and Gulf states and with elections nearing, on Tuesday lifted the moratorium that it imposed in April. The ban had been scheduled to expire Nov. 30, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar moved up the deadline, saying new rules have strengthened safety and reduced the risk of another catastrophic blowout that caused more than 200 million gallons of crude to spew from BP's well a mile beneath the Gulf. A federal report said the prohibition likely caused a temporary loss of 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the Gulf region and drilling is unlikely to resume for at least a few weeks. Todd Hornbeck, CEO of Covington, La.-based Hornbeck Offshore Services, said lifting the ban would still leave the industry in a "de facto moratorium stage" until the government fully explains how new drilling permits will be issued. "We're still in the dark," said Hornbeck, who heads one of the companies that sued to block Interior's initial moratorium. His company provides vessels and other services for the offshore industry. ight now, I'm skeptical that it will be anytime soon that permits will be issued even if the moratorium is lifted," he said...more

China stakes claim to S. Texas oil, gas

State-owned Chinese energy giant CNOOC is buying a multibillion-dollar stake in 600,000 acres of South Texas oil and gas fields, potentially testing the political waters for further expansion into U.S. energy reserves. With the announcement Monday that it would pay up to $2.2 billion for a one-third stake in Chesapeake Energy assets, CNOOC lays claim to a share of properties that eventually could produce up to half a million barrels a day of oil equivalent. It also might pick up some American know-how about tapping the hard-to-get deposits trapped in dense shale rock formations, analysts said. As part of the deal, the largest purchase of an interest in U.S. energy assets by a Chinese company, CNOOC has agreed to pay about $1.1 billion for a chunk of Chesapeake’s assets in the Eagle Ford, a broad oil and gas formation that runs largely from southwest of San Antonio to the Mexican border. CNOOC also will provide up to $1.1 billion more to cover drilling costs. The deal represents China’s second try at making a big move into the U.S. oil and gas market, following a failed bid five years ago to buy California-based Unocal Corp...more

Experts tell congressional panel Station Fire could have been contained early on

A wildfire that grew into the biggest blaze in Los Angeles County history could have been contained early on if fire officials had tapped state and local agency resources, experts told a congressional panel Tuesday. Additionally, the panel sought answers about delays in the dispatch of aircraft and other resources to fight the fire at a critical juncture on the blaze's second day. Instead of relaying an order for aircraft to a joint command center of local and state firefighting agencies, a Forest Service dispatcher held it. "Between 7 and 9 a.m. was the window of opportunity to make a difference," said Will Spyrison, the Forest Service incident commander who ordered the aircraft. By the time Forest Service aircraft made runs over the fire nine hours later, it was too late. The sun had risen, heating up brush and fueling the blaze, which exploded. Two firefighters were killed and 89 homes destroyed by the fire, which burned more than 250 square miles. Forest Service officials offered little in the way of an explanation, saying they didn't know who held the aircraft order or why. "All I know is our dispatcher was told to leave the order open," said former Angeles National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron. A recent federal review of the Station Fire's handling found Forest Service officials were reluctant to request resources from local agencies in favor of their own, Schiff said. The Forest Service pays local agencies for personnel and equipment used in fighting wildfires on federal land. As a cost-cutting measure, forest managers were urged to use their own resources in an internal memo sent out by high-ranking forest officials weeks prior to the Station Fire. Forest Service officials denied Tuesday the memo factored into their decisions. Schiff rebuffed those claims, asserting there was either a "broad policy" that prevented the orders for aircraft from going through or someone believed the fire wasn't as serious as the incident commander observed...more

Cody entrepreneurs await permits

Over the past decade, many Park County entrepreneurs have sought permits from the Shoshone National Forest to help guide residents and tourists with activities like ice climbing, mountain biking and kayaking. But no new permits for such “nontraditional” outdoor recreation activities have been issued. Kenny Gasch, with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, has applied numerous times without success for a commercial permit to guide ice climbers, a technical and dangerous sport. Enthusiasts spend thousands of dollars each year on gear, lodging and guides in other places around the world, Gasch has said, and the Shoshone Forest southwest of Cody is among the best places in the United States to climb. On Tuesday, Root told Park County commissioners that the Shoshone Forest would be working throughout 2011 to complete a needs assessment, and might issue new permits based on the outcome of that process. Despite the delays, Gasch said Tuesday he was optimistic that commercial permits would eventually be issued for ice climbing and other nontraditional recreation activities...more

First application for a permit was in 2001. Ten years later they decide to do a "needs assessment."

The problem they all face is the word "commercial". Never a high priority for the Forest Service...not even when unemployment is hovering around 10 percent and everyone else is worried about creating jobs.

Community organizers might have some success. Maybe.

California to Sell 24 Government Buildings for $2.3 Billion

The state announced Monday it is selling 24 government office buildings — including the Ronald Reagan State Building in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Civic Center — to a group of private investors for $2.3 billion. Ron Diedrich, acting director of the California Department of General Services, announced it selected the offer from California First LLC, a partnership led by a Texas real estate firm and an Orange County private equity firm. About $1 billion of the sale will be used to pay off bonds on the buildings, leaving more than $1.2 billion to go into the state's general fund. "This sale will allow us to bring in desperately needed revenues and free the state from the ongoing costs and risks of owning real estate." Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers included the sale as part of the state budget last week...more

Excellent. Land should be next.

More Ethanol to Be Allowed in Cars

The Obama administration plans to allow higher levels of ethanol for gasoline used by newer cars, a step that would benefit corn growers but which has been strongly opposed by auto makers, livestock ranchers, oil refiners and some public-health advocates. As early as Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to announce it will allow ethanol levels in gasoline blends to be as high as 15% for vehicles made since 2007, up from 10% currently, according to two people familiar with the matter. For cars made between 2001 and 2006, the agency will say it is awaiting the outcome of additional research and not ready to announce a decision. The agency's move is likely to be strongly challenged by livestock ranchers, auto makers and oil refiners. While the groups have varying motives for opposing greater corn ethanol production, they—along with many environmentalists—generally say the government hasn't conducted sufficient testing to warrant higher concentrations of ethanol in motor fuels...more

Ethanol is just another agricultural subsidy

Since the 1970s, the U.S. Congress has showered the corn ethanol industry with ever-increasing mandates and subsidies. Congress has justified those subsidies by citing the industry's oft-repeated claim that increased domestic production of ethanol will cut U.S. oil imports and therefore increase America's energy security. That claim has no basis in fact. Between 1999 and 2009, while U.S. ethanol production increased seven-fold to more than 700,000 barrels per day, U.S. oil imports actually increased by more than 800,000 barrels per day. Furthermore, and perhaps most surprising, during that same time period, U.S. oil exports - yes, exports - more than doubled to some 2 million barrels per day. Data from the Energy Information Administration show that oil imports closely track U.S oil consumption. Over the last decade, as domestic oil demand grew, imports increased. When consumption fell, imports dropped. Ramped-up ethanol production levels simply had no apparent effect on oil imports or consumption. Thus, despite more than three decades of subsidies that have cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, the ethanol industry has not, and cannot, show any decline in oil imports--even during the time period when it experienced its most rapid growth...more

Rising corn prices also affect ethanol, cattle

Corn prices are up 19 percent in just the last four trading days, boosting the crop’s value by billions of dollars. However, what’s good for farmers could disrupt ethanol production and push up meat prices. Corn futures for December delivery closed Tuesday at $5.79 a bushel, up 23.25 cents from Monday and 90.5 cents from last Wednesday. As recently as mid-June, corn traded around $3.60 a bushel. Prices have risen as farmers report decreased yields because of moisture damage to corn plants. The exact gain to farmers is unclear, depending on how much of their crop has been presold for forward or futures contracts and at what prices. But hog and cattle producers now are faced with higher feed costs just as they emerge from a three-year period of losses caused by the first wave of corn price increases that began in 2007...more

Estate tax may become another nail-biter debate when lawmakers return

Interest groups on both sides of the estate tax debate are unsure how the issue will play out when lawmakers return to Washington for the post-election lame-duck session. Lawmakers face a blistering tax agenda in the lame-duck session that, left undone, will cost taxpayers trillions of dollars beginning next year. One issue is how to stop the estate tax from returning to pre-2001 levels, which means estates worth more than $1 million are hit with a tax that could be as high as 55 percent. The levy is currently repealed but, barring congressional action, it will return next year to the aforementioned level. Republicans and more than a few Democrats oppose returning to pre-2001 law, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus for how the tax should be modified. Sources close to the matter said the fix resuscitated 2009 law, which placed a 45 percent tax on estates exceeding $3.5 million. The levy would be indexed for inflation so fewer people would become ensnared by it. But Democratic leaders opted to delay action on the Bush-era tax cuts until after the election, thereby punting a resolution on the estate tax into the lame-duck session. Several compromises on the estate tax have been floated, which include doing a retroactive fix. Another would exempt farmers from the tax, which Jennings believes could be subjected to abuse. “There’s definitely not universal support for it, because exempting farms in the way [the bill] is written could create some pretty big loopholes,” he said, adding that indecisions surrounding the tax only increase the odds that a fix will not be in place by year's end...more

NM pushes changes to outstanding waters proposal

The New Mexico Environment Department and conservation groups presented a compromise Tuesday to state regulators who are considering a proposal that would protect hundreds of miles of headwater streams, more than two dozen lakes and numerous wetlands in federal wilderness areas around New Mexico. The department first petitioned the Water Quality Control Commission to designate headwaters in a dozen federal wilderness areas around the state as outstanding water sources, which would protect streams, lakes and wetlands by prohibiting any activities that would degrade water quality. Under the compromise, temporary degradation of water quality would be allowed only in limited circumstances, such as during restoration or maintenance projects. Supporters said the compromise better defines protections for outstanding waters and keeps in place the state's strict anti-degradation policy. But it immediately drew criticism from a ranchers' group that has been fighting the department's effort to designate the waterways as "outstanding national resources waters."...more

NM County Opposes Flyover Plan Official Criticizes 'NIMBY' Attitude

The Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday approved a resolution opposing a plan to make northern New Mexico part of a new training area for low-flying military aircraft. The resolution, co-sponsored by commissioners Harry Montoya and Liz Stefanics, passed by a 3-1 vote. Commissioner Mike Anaya provided the dissenting vote. "It's hard for me to oppose the United States Air Force low-altitude navigation training when we depend on them to protect our country. We're saying, 'Yeah, we need you to protect our country, but not in my backyard,'" Anaya said. The Las Vegas City Council and Taos County Commission have passed similar resolutions since the Air Force announced its proposal to establish a "low altitude tactical navigation" training area in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The plan calls for approximately 700 flights per year — or roughly three per day — originating from Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis. Some would go as low as 200 feet above the ground. The flights "would avoid airfields, towns, noise sensitive areas and wilderness areas by prescribed vertical and/or horizontal distances," according to information provided on the Cannon AFB website. Santa Fe County's resolution cites concerns about the flights' impact on public safety, noise levels, air quality, physical and biological sciences, and cultural and historic resources...more

Farmers & Ranchers Authorize New Alliance

More than 60 representatives from more than 20 national food and agricultural organizations today agreed to incorporate a U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) to focus on working together to enhance U.S. consumer trust in modern food production that ensures the abundance of affordable, safe food. “Today represents a start toward a unified voice for U.S. agriculture,” said Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association and chair of the USFRA Steering Committee. “While the results of today’s organizational meeting represent the culmination of six months of planning, it is only the beginning of a process designed to create a coordinated effort by and on behalf of U.S. farmers and ranchers. Several participants have stepped forward to officially join the Alliance. Others need to return to their boards to determine whether they will join.” USFRA plans to incorporate this week. Organizations have been asked to respond about affiliation no later than November 1. After that date, a board of directors will be established and will elect an executive committee. Members of the USFRA Board, its executive committee and its affiliated organizations will be announced formally in mid-November. press release

Mexican investigator in Falcon Lake case beheaded, officials say

The lead Mexican investigator in the Falcon Lake case, Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, has been killed, his severed head delivered Tuesday in a suitcase to the Mexican military, officials told CNN. "His head was delivered to the army garrison this morning in a suitcase after he failed to report back home last night," Zapata County, Texas, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. said. A spokesman for the attorney general of Tamaulipas state in Mexico, Ruben Dario-Rios, confirmed the killing Tuesday afternoon in a telephone interview. The report came a day after authorities in the Tamaulipas state attorney general's office gave conflicting information on whether authorities were pursuing a pair of suspects in the case of David Michael Hartley's disappearance...more

Monterrey, Mexico Now Off Limits to Children of U.S.-Government Employees

The U.S. Department of State has declared that Monterrey, Mexico is now off limits to the minor children of U.S. government workers because of a recent shooting near an American school in that city and the “high incidence of kidnapping” there. Monterrey is Mexico’s second largest city and is located about 150 miles south of the Texas-Mexico border in the state of Nuevo Leon. This is the first time the State Department has ever prohibited U.S. government workers from having their dependent children with them when they serve in an official capacity in a Mexican city, Brian Quigley, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico, told

School district will pay $610,000 to settle lawsuits over tracking of students' laptop computers

The Lower Merion School District will pay $610,000 to settle lawsuits over its tracking of student laptop computers, ending an eight-month saga that thrust the elite district into a global spotlight and stirred questions about technology and privacy in schools. The announcement brought an abrupt end to a case that divided Lower Merion parents, fueled an acrimonious court battle, and was on pace to cost the district several million dollars. It also followed weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Haltzman and district lawyer Henry E. Hockeimer, including two days of mediation ordered by the federal judges overseeing the cases and pressing for a resolution. Beginning in 2008, the district rolled out a plan to give the nearly 2,300 students at its two high schools their own laptop computers to use in class and take home each day. Administrators never told students that missing computers could be remotely tracked using software that let technicians turn on webcams and see what was on a user's screen. That capability burst into public view when Robbins and his parents filed their lawsuit in February. In it, they claimed that the district secretly snapped hundreds of images from the teen's laptop, including one when he was sleeping. Robbins learned of the technology, they said, when an assistant principal at his school confronted him with a webcam photo. Robbins had never reported his laptop missing, and school officials gave conflicting reasons for tracking his computer...more

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Scientist Vote

`"Vote Democrat," says a meteorologist and noted global warming proponent. But Democrats won't be getting the vote of the esteemed physicist who just resigned from a scientific body for silencing debate. Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, took to the pages of the Washington Post Friday to say that while "as a scientist, I shouldn't have a stake in the upcoming midterm elections," he regretted to announce that "unfortunately, it seems that I — and indeed all my fellow climate scientists — do." Mann warns that Republicans would launch "a hostile investigation of climate science." But investigation is, in fact, warranted. Harold Lewis, physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been a member of the American Physical Society, the second-largest association of physicists in the world, for 67 years — most of the organization's existence. A couple of days before Mann's piece appeared, Lewis tendered his resignation. Meteorologist Anthony Watts called it "an important moment in science history ... on the scale of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door."...more

'Global Warming Scam'

Below is the text of the Oct. 6 letter that Harold Lewis, emeritus professor of of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, sent to Princeton's Curtis G. Callan Jr., tendering his resignation from the American Physical Society, of which Callan is president....As recently as 35 years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside, there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be? How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d'être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society. It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist...more

Cost concerns weakened Forest Service's assault on Station fire, study says

A desire to control costs slowed the arrival of "critical resources" in the attack on last year's disastrous Station fire as the U.S. Forest Service delayed ordering reinforcements from other agencies that had crews and equipment at the ready, according to an internal federal review. The finding contradicts statements made for more than a year by Forest Service officials, who have insisted repeatedly that cost concerns never impeded the Station battle. It is likely to sharpen questions about the firefighting decisionmaking as a local congressional panel prepares to examine the Forest Service's actions. The review by the Agriculture Department, which runs the Forest Service, echoes a Times report last fall that a Forest Service directive to reduce spending might have dissuaded fire managers from using more state and local strike teams and aircraft on the fateful second day of the blaze. The new study also determined that the Forest Service, in opting to concentrate on protecting hillside neighborhoods and the communications towers and observatory on Mt. Wilson, did not stage a sustained direct assault on the back-country front of the fire as it spread into Angeles National Forest. The fire would become the largest in Los Angeles County history, blackening 250 square miles and destroying more than 200 homes, commercial buildings and other structures. Two county firefighters were killed when the blaze roared nearly unchecked into the forest and overran their mountaintop camp...more

Park rangers’ last flight may have been illegal

The two park rangers who died in a weekend airplane crash may have been violating Utah wildlife law. There was no comment from federal officials Sunday about what caused Laurie Axelsen’s small plane to crash, killing her and fellow National Park Service Ranger Brent McGinn. Both were rangers at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and lived in Page, Ariz. The National Park Service has said in a news release that Axelsen and McGinn were “on a scouting trip for an upcoming elk hunt.” Utah’s bull elk hunt began Saturday. State laws and regulations prohibit using an aircraft to “locate, or attempt to observe or locate any protected wildlife” from 48 hours prior to a big game hunt to 48 hours after a big game hunt concludes, according to state regulations. The guide also warns flying low and circling or repeatedly flying over an area where protected wildlife is likely to be found can be evidence of violating the ban...more

Chinese to boost South Texas boom to new high

Parts of South Texas already in the midst of a historic drilling boom soon will get a boost from an unlikely source: China. China's national oil company, CNOOC, will spend $2.2 billion to drill in partnership with Chesapeake Energy Corp. in the Eagle Ford shale, a rich oil and gas formation that lies under 11 counties. Exploration in the Eagle Ford already has brought newfound prosperity to South Texas' hardscrabble farming and cattle country, and Chesapeake said the ramped-up drilling could bring 20,000 jobs to the region. If the Eagle Ford shale's production levels reach forecasted levels, "it could definitely be a fairly strong contributor to the economy and to the investor, particularly in South Texas," said Bob Fryklund, research director at I.H.S. Herold, an energy research firm. I.H.S. has forecast that production from the Eagle Ford shale could reach 1 billion cubic feet a day in 2011, which is pretty robust, Fryklund said. That's the same level as what's currently the largest offshore natural gas gathering spot, the Gulf of Mexico's Independence Hub...more

BLM plan draws fire

Ranchers, a company drilling for carbon dioxide, recreational users and private landowners are up in arms over the resource-management plan adopted in June for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. What they're seeing is not what they understood they would get when the resource-protection plan was being crafted, disappointed stakeholders say. Cattlemen are receiving fewer grazing permits and less time on federal land; a large mineral-extraction company is seeing its ability to operate curtailed and, as a direct result, county governments may receive less tax revenue. Heather Musclow, acting manager of the monument, thinks their dissatisfaction is normal reaction to change. Protests to BLM headquarters in Washington after the preferred plan was selected were rejected, she said. "There's nothing new since the decision so there shouldn't be any surprises," Musclow said. "We're doing business in a new way, so now they would have to take us to court." Canyons of the Ancients, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, encompasses 171,000 acres in Montezuma and Dolores counties. The monument, located 10 miles west of Cortez, has 12,000 acres of private inholdings and 400 acres managed by the National Park Service within its boundaries...more

Utah counties asking for gov's help in protecting grazing from pipeline

Officials in several Utah counties are asking Gov. Gary Herbert for his help in protecting the grazing of livestock on public lands. Leaders in those counties - including Cache, Box Elder, Rich, Uintah and Tooele - are concerned about agreements that El Paso Corporation, parent company of the Ruby Pipeline, entered into with two environmental groups earlier this year. Those contracts call for the establishment of two "conservation funds," with one major goal being the retirement of federal grazing permits. "Whether it is to remove this part from the agreement or the agreement completely dissolved, we ask for your support in helping us to see that this does not become the catalyst that would end the cattle industry in the West through the elimination of grazing right permits," reads the letter to Herbert signed by officials in the five counties. The Utah counties are members of a multi-county coalition with representatives from the four western states that Ruby Pipeline will pass through, including Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and Oregon. Work on the 42-inch natural gas pipeline is currently progressing in those states. Angie Welling, spokeswoman for Gov. Herbert, told The Herald Journal on Monday that the governor is sensitive to the counties' concerns...more

DNA Tests Indicate Yellowstone National Park Elk, Not Bison, Most Likely To Spread Brucellosis

While bison in Yellowstone National Park draw the most attention for the potential to spread brucellosis to livestock in the surrounding states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, genetic studies indicate that elk are most likely behind the disease's spread in the region. A small story in the fall issue of Yellowstone Science discusses that conclusion. A DNA genotyping study conducted in 2009, and which was just recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, examined samples from 10 bison, 25 elk, and 23 cattle collected in the greater Yellowstone area between 1992 and 2003 and found that DNA markers for Brucella abortus were nearly identical in elk and cattle but "highly divergent" from those in bison. "The data, which suggest that elk rather than bison are most likely the origin of recent outbreaks of brucellosis in Greater Yellowstone cattle, are consistent with the fact that elk comingle with cattle more often than do the wild bison, which have been managed to prevent dispersal outside established conservation areas," notes the Yellowstone Science article...more

Sheep link to bighorn illness adds to grazing controversy

Pneumonia is like the bird flu of the bighorn sheep world, and domestic sheep are prominent disease carriers. A recent study published by a Washington State University team confirmed what many already believed: domestic sheep, which aren’t as susceptible to M. haemolytica bacteria, transfer the bacteria when they come in contact with bighorn sheep, which then often die from it. The team modified bacteria to make them florescent, planted them in domestic sheep and then found the florescent bacteria in bighorns after they were allowed contact with domestic sheep. Wildlife managers knew bighorns tended to die from pneumonia after contacting domestic sheep, but some ranchers denied sheep were the cause. The study’s results provide more fuel for critics who argue that domestic sheep should not be allowed to graze on public lands where they could come into contact with bighorns. Pneumonia has surged recently. Bighorn sheep in neighboring states — Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Washington — experienced severe losses last winter due to pneumonia. Francis Cassiser, a wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said Idaho didn’t see the same sort of die-offs but didn’t know why...more

Uneasy Neighbors on the Open Range - NY Times

They have startled the residents of Ahwatukee, a bedroom community in southern Phoenix. They have tramped on lawns and damaged vehicles in Rio Rancho, a neighborhood of tract homes outside Albuquerque. A Border Patrol agent lost his life crashing into one of them near the Mexican border in Texas. Free-range cattle roam widely across the West, protected by centuries-old laws that give them the right of way while grazing and force landowners to fence them out. But as urban sprawl has extended into what used to be seemingly endless pasture land, cow-friendly open range laws are under fresh scrutiny, criticized as anachronistic throwbacks to the Wild West days before Interstate highways and tract homes. “People have been killed in collisions with large cows,” said Daniel Patterson, an Arizona state representative from Tucson who is pushing to scale back the rights given cows and their owners in his state. “We need to get rid of this antiquated law from the 19th century. It’s important for ranchers and other livestock owners to keep their cattle where they belong.” Laws throughout the West are already less cow-friendly than they were generations ago. Some states, like California, have open-range policies in only some rural areas. In Arizona, cows are restricted in incorporated areas, which reduces conflicts in cities but not necessarily in outer suburbs that bump up with ranch land...more

Bankrupt Yellowstone Club founder faces criminal probe

Two years after the bankruptcy of Montana's Yellowstone Club laid bare a massive real estate scheme fueled by greed, fraud and hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-advised loans, criminal investigators are probing the activities of one of the founders of the ultra-exclusive resort. Authorities would not comment on the case. But sworn depositions and interviews with key parties indicate former club owner Edra Blixseth centers in the federal investigation. Blixseth's former bookkeeper has been questioned by the FBI, and her former office manager has hired a prominent Montana criminal defense attorney. Criminal charges in the case would be another stain on the swank Yellowstone Club, a millionaires-only private ski and golf resort near Yellowstone National Park. The club counts Bill Gates and Dan Quayle among its 300 members, yet spiraled into bankruptcy when the collapse of the real estate market exposed its massive debts. It has since emerged from bankruptcy under new ownership...more

Colorado amendments would affect bingo, cattle-grazing and governing in a disaster

They're probably not exciting to most voters, but three measures on the November ballot will ask Coloradans about bingo, cattle-grazing and how to govern the state in a disaster. These are the lettered ballot measures — Amendments P, Q and R — that lawmakers referred to the ballot. Typically, referred measures make small, noncontroversial changes to the constitution, and this year's batch is not much different. Amendment R would eliminate property taxes for people or businesses that use government-owned land for a private benefit worth $6,000 or less. Essentially, this amendment would eliminate taxes paid by many ranchers who graze cattle on government land. Why give them a tax break? Counties say the amount of tax owed is often so small that the cost of collecting it is greater than the amount owed. The amendment would cost the state an estimated $46,000 a year in lost funding for schools. It would also eliminate an estimated $160,000 per year in property-tax revenue for local governments, of which $46,000 would come from local school funding...more

Ian Tyson Launches New Autobiography

Iconic Canadian songwriter Ian Tyson has written his autobiography - a frank look at his early years as half of the duo Ian & Sylvia, his success as a songwriter, his move to western Canada and his life as a rancher. Now 77, he runs a spread south of Calgary, trains quarter horses, and still plays at least 50 concerts and festivals a year in Canada and the U.S. The Long Trail: My Life in the West is published by Random House Canada, and a launch for the book is set for a free event at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel on Tuesday October 19, presented by TINARS (This is Not a Reading Series). Ian Tyson's career now spans five decades; emerging in the early '60s, his impressive catalogue includes more than 20 albums, including the platinum-selling Cowboyography. His last 13 albums have been released internationally by Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records. Tyson's songs - including "Four Strong Winds", "Someday Soon," "Summer Wages" and "Navajo Rug"- have been recorded by Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Johnny Cash, Suzy Bogguss and dozens of other artists...more

Trew: 'The times, they are a'changing'

My grandfather Charley Trew used to shake his head and say, "the changes, they just keep a'coming." As we modernized our farming equipment and methods after the Great Depression and Dust Bowl ended, it seems we were making big changes almost every week. The same holds true today. The ideas and advertisements in farm and ranch magazines make my head swim trying to figure out how they work and how to pay for them. A visit recently with a long-time used farm equipment dealer told of a change I had not heard. Seems the high price of scrap metal for the last few years has finally about cleaned out the old horse-drawn and early tractor machinery. He said those type of auctions held on old farms are a thing of the past. Sure makes me proud of my collection of 60-plus horse-drawn implements and other old farm tools. At least I can show them to my descendants and explain how they work. Although wind power seems to be all the rage today, solar power is slowly becoming the biggest change in ranching. The long-time faithful windmill, dependable if the wind blows, has become so expensive to purchase and maintain, solar-powered water pumps are becoming more numerous. For a while the new pumps had troubles; but the latest models seem to have that solved, and our solar pumps are working in great fashion, providing water whether the wind blows or not. If Ace Reed were still alive and drawing cartoons, he would have old Jake the cowboy up on a rickety ladder by a solar panel, rag and soap bottle in hand, cleaning the hoot owl poop off the screen and wishing for days past when he was checking the oil in a windmill...more

Flying dune buggy approved for production

One of the more unusual approaches to the flying car combines a dune buggy with a propeller and a big parachute. It’s odd, but that hasn’t kept the FAA in the US from approving it for production by issuing a Special Light Sport Aircraft airworthiness certificate. The flying buggy is called Maverick and Itec, the Florida company building it, calls it transportation for “frontier areas of the world”. It’s said to be a capable off-roader that is Department of Transportation-approved for road use and classified as a powered parachute for flight. With a few hours of training, anyone can learn to fly Maverick in the relatively simple powered parachute configuration using the steering wheel and gas pedal during flight. Floats can be attached to the car for river crossings. In addition to the missionary use it was designed for, several government agencies including law enforcement have expressed interest in the Maverick, Itec claims. Other potential users include ranchers, pipeline patrols and forest fire spotters...more

You just know that someday this will end up in cow country.

Want to see it in action? Watch this video:

Forget Radar, Now The Government Is X-Raying You As You Drive

If you have been feeling uneasy about having to be X-rayed by a Transportation Security Administration goon who can look under your clothes every time you fly, consider this: at least you can say no, and agree to be subjected to an old-fashioned full-body search. No opt-out for the latest in anti-terror technology though, with reports published in Forbes magazine and the Christian Science Monitor that the Homeland Security Department has purchased 500 mobil X-ray vans called ZBVs that can scan cars, trucks and homes without the drivers or residents even knowing that they’re being zapped. These vans, made by a Massachusetts company called American Science & Engineering, are fitted out with what are called Z Backscatter X-ray devices, which aim a powerful X-ray beam that reportedly has the capability of penetrating 14 inches of steel.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Energy, environment rules may roll back with new governor

Neither of New Mexico's gubernatorial candidates — Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez — are likely to put environmental issues quite as high on their agenda as Gov. Bill Richardson. They've already indicated they might overturn or weaken some environmental rules Richardson's administration has put in place, such as the pit rule for wastes from oil and gas production and the greenhouse gas emissions cap. A governor can do a lot to upend or change environmental rules and orders approved under a predecessor. She can appoint her own people to commissions, direct those commissions to revisit rules and direct staff to ignore existing rules. "There could be rollbacks of environmental regulations after the elections happen," said Jim Norton, director of the environmental protection division at the New Mexico Environment Department. On some environmental issues, such as a proposed cap on greenhouse gas emissions, Martinez and Denish appear to have a similar stance at first glance. But while both oppose a state greenhouse gas cap and trade rule — they do so for different reasons. Denish believes climate change is occurring, but that any effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be global and national, not state-by-state. Martinez adheres to the climate change naysayer line, saying an emissions cap is anti-business, would increase taxes and isn't based on sound science...more

Feds delay Ariz. release of wolves

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is delaying the release of Mexican gray wolves in the Apache National Forest of Arizona until sometime next year. The federal agency and the Arizona Game and Fish Department had expected to release eight wolves in the next few weeks under a program that began reintroducing the animals into the wild along the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998. But when it became clear there wasn't unanimous agreement on the release site, "we stepped back to re-evaluate where we were, what we knew, what had been accomplished, what hadn't been accomplished," Tom Buckley, a spokesman for the agency in Albuquerque, said Friday. "It just wasn't the right time for a successful release." Fish and Wildlife Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle decided this week to postpone the release, Buckley said. The agency has not set a new date except to say it will be in 2011...more

Wolves, Greater Yellowstone 'tribes' and property rights

From the Civil War until Earth Day, the states surrounding Yellowstone had a coherent culture, politics and economy. The glue holding this together was the use of natural resources. Water was to be dammed for mines and irrigation, trees cut for lumber and grass grazed by livestock. Big game exists to be enjoyed and hunted. Many hunters and the outfitting industry organize their lives around fall hunting, mainly for big game. Roughly half of this land is in federal and state ownership. The public lands not in parks were traditionally available for livestock grazing and big game hunting. For every person holding grazing permits on these public lands there were thousands holding a big game license. Together the ranching and hunting interests make a powerful and vocal constituency. The U.S. Biological Survey killed the last wolf in Yellowstone Park in 1927. A few years after Earth Day in 1970, a few individuals began studying, and others advocating, reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone Park. In 1994, the environmental impact statement (EIS) on wolf reintroduction generated over 150,000 comments. The Wyoming Farm Bureau protested with a lawsuit and the Idaho state government opposed wolves' return. Demonstrating a shift in control, in 1995, 66 Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone Park. While wolves account for only a low percent of total livestock losses, it is culturally huge, a bright marker of the transfer of control from the cowboy "tribe" to the Greens. In terms of population, wolf reintroduction has been a great success. It represents a shift of control from one "tribe" to another...more

This "shift in control" also affects hunters. Dr. Baden writes:

In Yellowstone Park, elk comprise up to nine-tenths of the winter diet of wolves, some 22 ungulates per wolf annually, twice that predicted by the EIS. During the 2004 hunting season, the elk permits issued by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the hunting districts contiguous to Yellowstone Park dropped by 50 percent. The next year it went down to 100, less than one-twentieth the number issued in 1995. Wolves have expanded their range far beyond the park boundaries. Our place is 78 miles north of West Yellowstone, a park entrance, and wolves kill elk in the Cottonwood herd that winters on our and nearby ranches. Some big game outfitters claim that their business, often marginal at best, has been devastated by wolves.