Friday, October 22, 2010

Killer Bees Responsible for Georgia Death

The Georgia Department of Agriculture confirmed on Thursday that Africanized honey bees -- more commonly known as "killer bees" -- were responsible for the death of an elderly man in southwest Georgia last week. The Dougherty County man disturbed a colony of the bees with his bulldozer, and received more than 100 bee stings. Africanized bees are a hybrid of African and European honey bees. The Africanized bee and the more familiar European honey bee, which is Georgia's official state insect, look the same. They both are only able to sting once, and there is no difference between the venom produced by each variety. The difference is that Africanized honey bees are extremely defensive and are likely to defend a much wider area around their nest. They are also very aggressive, and will sting individuals in large numbers. Africanized bees first appeared in the United States in Texas in 1990. They have since been found in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and now in Georgia. Experts have been expecting the arrival of the killer bees in Georgia for several years. A breeding population of the bees have been in Florida since 2005...more

NM - Virgin spaceship to pass new milestone

The world's first private passenger spaceship will pass another milestone toward its commercial lift-off Friday, at a remote spaceport in the New Mexico desert. Flamboyant British multi-millionaire Richard Branson will commemorate the completion of the main runway at Spaceport America, near the town of Las Cruces where the Virgin Galactic project is based. SpaceShipTwo, which could carry paying customers into suborbital space by early 2012, had its maiden flight in the California desert in March. On Friday, the aircraft -- re-Christened the VSS Enterprise -- will stage a flypass high above the new two-mile (3.2-kilometer) long, 200-foot (60-meter) wide runway in tandem with its mothership, known as WhiteKightTwo or Eve. "The completion of the runway at Spaceport America (is) a major milestone in the construction of the world?s first purpose-built commercial spaceport," it said in a statement. Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world's first company to promote space tourism, has already collected 45 million dollars in deposits from more than 340 people who have reserved seats aboard the six-person craft...more

Corporations, conservation, and the green movement

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, corporate consolidation—a trend since the 1990s—is also making it easier for green groups to go after companies. As Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at WWF, noted in his July TED talk in Oxford, convincing leading companies to change the way they source commodities can have a substantial impact on global supply chains. "100 companies control 25 percent of the trade of all 15 of the most significant commodities on the planet," he said. "We can get our arms around 100 companies." For example, during the summer of 2009 Greenpeace released a report linking deforestation in the Amazon to major consumer products including fast-food hamburgers, Gucci handbags, and Nike shoes. The fallout was immediate—Brazil's cattle industry, which is the largest in the world and a dominant force in Brazilian politics—was brought to a standstill virtually overnight. Brazilian cattle giants saw their offices raided and loans suspended or revoked. They also faced stepped-up threats from the government—led by the public prosecutor of the state of Pará—and a sharp public rebuke from some of their biggest buyers including Walmart, Nike, and Timberland, who demanded greater accountability for their supply chains. Under pressure from their customers and the government, Brazilian cattle processors and traders fell into line, declaring new sourcing policies and moratoriums on deforestation. The hottest commodity in the Brazilian Amazon became credible supply-chain management, spawning a rush to develop certification systems and land registries for “responsible” ranches. "The industry—from Nike and Adidas to the slaughter plants—is under pressure to have a clean supply chain," said John Carter, a rancher who runs Alianca da Terra, a Brazilian NGO that is developing a land registry to support a certification system for the cattle industry. "Greenpeace essentially created a federal mandate that everyone had to come into compliance via a land registry." The push for reform is being led by big buyers. Walmart Brazil, the largest beef buyer in the country, and Grupo Pão de Açúcar, a big supermarket chain, have set up the first traceability system for beef, allowing customers with a cell phone or an Internet connection to track packaged meat back to its ranch of origin...more

Pay attention. It's all there - premises registration, traceability, certification - mandated by the buyers and run by the private sector.

So pick your poison: private or public, buyers or bureaucrats.

Judge may put Bush polar bear ruling on ice

A federal judge ordered the Obama administration on Wednesday to review whether polar bears, at risk because of global warming, are endangered under U.S. law. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan wants the Interior Department to clarify a decision by the administration of former President George W. Bush that polar bears were merely threatened rather than in imminent danger of extinction. Sullivan's request, made at a hearing Wednesday in federal court, keeps in place the 2008 declaration by the Bush administration. Former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said in May 2008 that the bears were on the way to extinction because of the rapid disappearance of the Arctic Sea ice upon which they depend. But he stopped short of declaring them endangered, which had it been declared would have increased protections for the bear and make oil and gas exploration more difficult. Scientists predict sea ice will continue to melt because of global warming. Along with the listing, Kempthorne created a "special rule'' stating that the Endangered Species Act would not be used to set climate policy or limit greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming and melting ice in the Arctic Ocean. The Obama administration upheld the Bush-era policy, declaring that the endangered species law cannot be used to regulate greenhouse gases emitted by sources outside of the polar bears' habitat. If the bears are found to be endangered, however, that could open the door to using the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Sullivan said he would issue a written order shortly, but said Wednesday that the government is likely to have about 30 days to explain how it arrived at its decision. A lawyer for an environmental group called Sullivan's action "good news for the bear,'' adding that the popular animal's fate was now in the hands of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar...more

Say "thank you" to pansy-assed Bush and his cowards at Interior.

New Mexico: Wolves, wilderness, drilling and Latinos

"Nothing is more attractive to a wolf than the sound of a crying baby," said then-Rep. Steve Pearce, R, during a 2007 debate over one of his bills, which sought to kill funding for the federal Mexican wolf reintroduction program in southern New Mexico, Pearce's district. More recently, Pearce expressed his views of land protection and immigration by opposing a wilderness bill along the Mexico border because it would "provide new corridors of access for drug trafficking and human smuggling." Stances like these got Pearce a lifetime score of 3, out of a possible perfect 100, from the League of Conservation Voters -- which is about 3 points higher than his scores from other progressive groups. Pearce's anti-wolf bill lost. And in 2008, Pearce lost, too, in a face-off with Democrat Tom Udall over a Senate seat. Now Pearce wants his old House seat back from the Democrat who won it in 2008, Harry Teague. Given Pearce's stances on wolves, wilderness and drilling -- his top campaign contributors are oil and gas folks -- environmentalists are jumping into the fray. Defenders of Wildlife has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads painting Pearce as corrupt...more

Yeah, but Pearce's internal polls show him up 9 percent and the DCCC has pulled their dinero for Teague TV ads. Poor wolves.

Utah: A Sagebrush Rebel headed for D.C.

Utah's most important election this year was held in the springtime, when angry right-wingers overthrew three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in the Republican primary. Mike Lee, a lawyer who pushes high-profile Sagebrush Rebel cases, is now the Republican candidate for Senate. And given Utah's history, Lee will almost certainly crush Democrat Sam Granato to win the seat in November. Soon-to-be-Sen. Lee not only wants the federal government to stop regulating federal land, he believes the state Legislature should seize federal land and kill Utah wilderness bills negotiated by county governments. That's a big change from Sen. Bennett, who'd become the best hope for new Utah wilderness: Bennett helped Washington County locals negotiate a 2009 deal with environmentalists that designated 256,000 acres of wilderness while allowing the sale of up to 9,000 acres of federal land, and he's working with other conservative counties to cut similar deals in their pieces of canyon country...more

Wolf recovery brings backlash in Congress

Bills introduced in Congress in recent weeks would either remove the act's protection of wolves in the Northwest or, as proposed by Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, forbid any listing at all of the once nearly extinct predator. Biologists say that outcome could jeopardize recovery efforts in the Southwest and Midwest and in fledgling new populations in Washington and Oregon. The 1973 act, the nation's landmark species-protection law, rarely has been amended, and conservationists say the bills mark a significant shift in the enduring contest among mining, timber and ranching interests and the plants and animals often squeezed out by human expansion. "Heretofore, there's been fairly strong bipartisan support of the sort of Noah's Ark notion that if we're serious about our moral commitment to share the planet with our fellow inhabitants, we don't start throwing identified species off the ark," said Douglas Honnold of the public-interest legal organization Earthjustice, which has been fighting to expand wolf protections in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. "I think to a large degree it would really be unprecedented," said Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If passed, any of these bills will rip the heart out of the Endangered Species Act and set a terrible precedent for wildlife management generally." Government officials in Montana and Idaho say that, after 15 years of trying to follow the letter of the law in restoring wolves in and around Yellowstone National Park, they have been rewarded with a large and growing wolf population that threatens livestock and game animals such as elk, as well as hunters and hikers in the backcountry...more

Ski-pass tracking: Is it Big Brother on the slopes?

Going skiing? You may be tracked. Resort operators have implanted tiny radio-frequency computer chips with antennas in lift tickets and season passes. They're installing more scanners on mountain slopes. The scanners automatically track skiers and snowboarders, recording their whereabouts in company databases. Some skiers and privacy advocates object. "Any kind of technology that creates an automatic tracking system by default violates people's general expectation — not just of privacy but of the world," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the pro-privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation. "You are not expecting to be tracked." A Colorado ski instructor started producing aluminum "ski-pass defender" sheaths that block radio signals and is selling them at the rate of eight sheaths a day. All 89 lifts at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail, and at Heavenly in California, will be outfitted with scanner portals able to read the chips as skiers and snowboarders pass through, Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga said. Vail passes carry 900-megahertz tracking devices, which industry publications indicate can enable longer-distance reading, rather than the 13.56-MHz tags considered standard for ski passes...more

So now if a cattleman goes skiing...

Lawsuit Puts Federal Livestock Grazing in Doubt

Western agricultural groups say a June lawsuit filed by five environmental groups in U.S. District Court is threatening the livelihoods of more than 20,000 ranchers who use federal lands for livestock grazing. But environmentalists counter that grazing is destructive to public lands and is burdensome to taxpayers. Their complaint seeks amendments to grazing fee regulations and requests that the National Environmental Policy Act be used in determining fees. When announcing the lawsuit in June, Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns manager for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the “federal grazing program is as fiscally irresponsible as it is ecologically harmful.” “In responding to our petition,” McKinnon said, “the government must now choose between correcting and continuing the subsidized destruction of America’s public land.” The agricultural groups are represented by the Mountain States Legal Foundation. In an op-ed column, William Perry Pendley of the Mountain States Legal Foundation wrote that, while there have been numerous challenges to federal grazing regulations, the current lawsuit is “the biggest challenge yet” from environmental groups...more

The Government’s License to Steal

In the late 1990s, after a public backlash against the use of civil asset forfeiture to take money and property from innocent people, seven states passed laws assigning all proceeds from such forfeitures to public schools or the general fund instead of police departments and prosecutors’ offices. The idea was to reduce the incentive to seize assets from innocent owners and to target people based on the value of their property instead of the seriousness of their crimes. In Indiana, the state’s original constitution called for criminal forfeitures to be earmarked for a school fund, and recent attorneys general have applied that provision to civil forfeiture as well. But thanks to various evasive maneuvers, very little forfeiture money actually ends up in the fund. One way around the rule is “adoption,” a process in which police departments call the feds when they’re about to close a case that promises a big forfeiture payoff. The investigation then becomes a federal case, governed by federal law. The feds collect the proceeds and send as much as 80 percent back to the local cops. The school fund gets nothing, and the perverse incentives remain in place. Another trick is to negotiate a settlement with the property owner, perhaps by letting him keep some of his allegedly ill-gotten gains. Settlements aren’t considered forfeitures and therefore aren’t governed by the funding earmark. Given all of these ways around the law, how much forfeiture money actually flows into Indiana’s school fund? Almost none...more

'The Wake of Forgiveness' by Bruce Machart

As in Greek tragedy, Machart has an eye for the moments in which fate turns, lives change, regret is not yet a glimmer in a character's eye. "The Wake of Forgiveness" begins on such a moment. Vaclav Skala, a Czech immigrant and farmer in Lavaca County, wakes on a February morning in 1895 covered in his wife's blood. The baby, Karel, their fourth son, is born, but his wife, Klara, dies in childbirth. Vaclav reverts to the violent rage, his former state of equilibrium, that will shape the lives of his sons and for all we know generations of Skalas to come. The boys are raised, "bereft of the feminine tenderness that, to young boys, is nothing shy of sustenance." We see the world through Karel's eyes for the 30 years of the novel. The most important thing in Lavaca County is land and, after that, horses. Vaclav, full of bitterness, cares more for his horses than his sons, who grow up literally yoked to the plough, working their father's vast acreage. It is never enough. Vaclav bets a few hundred acres on a horse race with his Scots-Irish neighbor, Patrick Dalton...more

Texas National Guardsman slain in Mexico

Authorities say a 21-year-old Texas National Guard soldier was one of two men killed on a street in the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Spokesman Arturo Sandoval of the Chihuahua state attorney general's office says family members identified the soldier as 21-year-old Jose Gil Hernandez of El Paso. The identity of the other man was not available, and details on the incident and the dead were few. A message left with FBI El Paso spokesman Michael Martinez by The Associated Press on Wednesday night was not immediately returned. However, he told the El Paso Times that Hernandez was shot about 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Colonia Revolucion Mexicana in Ciudad Juarez. Martinez told the newspaper that the FBI and the Army's Criminal Investigation Division were trying to verify the details of the shooting...more

Gunbattles Erupt in Mexican Cities Across Texas Border, Stirring Panic

Mexican soldiers battled gunmen in two cities across the border from Texas on Wednesday, prompting panicked parents to pull children from school and factories to warn workers to stay inside. Assailants in a third city threw a grenade at an army barracks. The U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo warned American citizens to stay indoors. The statement said there were reports of drug gangs blocking at least one intersection near the consulate in the city across from Laredo, Texas. The local city government and witnesses reported several more blockades — a new tactic that has emerged in northeastern Mexico, where violence has soared this year amid a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs. Cartel gunmen frequently use stolen cars and buses to form roadblocks during battles with soldiers. Witnesses in Nuevo Laredo said gunmen forced people from their cars to use the vehicles in the blockades...more

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Evidence Gulf Oil Spill Killed Fish, Says NOAA

There is no evidence the Deep Water Horizon oil spill killed any fish, according to federal and state officials overseeing the oil cleanup, while captured commercial fish passed testing by multiple government agencies. But even with plenty of fish in the sea, the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico is still suffering from a big perception problem. “In federal waters, I can tell you, there haven’t been any fish kills reported that are linked to the oil spill,” Christine Patrick, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told CNSNews.com. “I know there have been fish kills reported in state waters, but I think they have determined they weren’t a result of the oil spill.” Fish have died for seasonal related reasons, said Bo Boehringer, spokesman Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “We’ve investigated fish kills, but none have yet been tied to oil impacts,” Boehringer told CNSNews.com...more

Lake Mead sinks to a new historic low

Lake Mead sank to its lowest level in nearly 75 years on Sunday, a stark reminder of how drought and growing water demands have sapped the Colorado River and its huge reservoirs. Not since it was first filling in 1937 has Lake Mead held so little water. The reservoir's level fell to the historic low shortly before noon on Sunday, eclipsing a previous record from the drought-stricken 1950s. The lake is now just 8 feet above the level that would trigger the first drought restrictions, which would reduce water supplies for Arizona and Nevada. That gap could close by next year - the reservoir fell 10 feet from October 2009 to 2010 - but there are measures in place that would likely delay rationing for one or two years or even longer if a wet winter increased runoff into the river. Most homes and businesses in Arizona likely would not feel the direct effects of the restrictions, which would divert water first from farmers...more

Failure of Kyoto Protocol

The original 15 EU member states who signed Kyoto have dropped their emissions by 6%, giving them “a head start to reach and even over-achieve” their target under the treaty of an 8% reduction. Emissions from the current 27 member countries have fallen by more than 17% since 1990, putting them “well on track” to meet the target to meet the EU’s own pledge of a 20% reduction by the same date, added the report. However a report due to be published soon by the Policy Exchange think tank has measured the emissions generated by goods and services consumed by those countries and found that it has increased by more than 40%. As a result, “demonstrating success in reducing carbon levels is questionable,” said Simon Less, the think tank’s head of environment and energy. Although the Kyoto agreement only measures production, the stark difference in the figures highlights a key controversy in negotiations about a new treaty – which will continue at a big UN meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in December: some developing countries, such as China, argue they should not be held responsible for emissions generated by consumption in rich nations...more

EPA rules may close 1 in 5 coal-burning plants

Tougher federal air pollution rules coming next year could prompt electricity companies to close as many as 1 in every 5 coal-burning power plants in America, primarily facilities more than 40 years old that lack emissions controls, according to a recent Wall Street analysis. The regulations now being crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expected to go into force next April and November in accordance with the Clean Air Act, are part of a long ratcheting back of mercury, acid-rain, and smog-forming emissions from utility smokestacks. What's surprising is the extent to which those EPA rules – combined with a recent drop in the price of natural gas – could over the next four to five years cause the utility industry to accelerate retirement of old coal-fired power plants rather than spend to upgrade the plants' emissions controls, says the study by Credit Suisse, a Wall Street investment banking firm...more

California's Prop 23: The Anti-Job Killer

If approved by the California electorate in two weeks, Proposition 23 would suspend the implementation of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 ("AB32") until the state unemployment rate declines to 5.5% or less for four consecutive quarters. AB32 mandates a reduction in California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, or about 25% to 30%. That goal can be achieved only by reducing aggregate energy consumption in the state, and to a small extent by substituting "green" power in place of fossil fuels. All government regulation creates economic effects, whether the regulations are beneficial on net or not. One central impact of AB32 will be on employment. If that impact is small, then the argument in favor of Proposition 23 would be weakened. If the employment effect is large, then the opposite would be true. A new statistical analysis published by the Pacific Research Institute casts considerable light on this question. In brief: Implementation of AB32 would reduce annual employment growth by 1 percentage point between 2010 and 2020, and the employment loss in 2020 would equal about 5% of the working-age population. By suspending the implementation of AB32, Proposition 23 would yield increases in aggregate California employment of a bit less than 150,000 in 2011, rising to over a half million in 2012, and about 1.3 million in 2020...more

Loop Scoops - Taxes to fund enviro propaganda in schools

Many people are familiar with Annie Leonard, creator of “The Story of Stuff,” a factually inaccurate viral video being shown in classrooms throughout America. In the video, Leonard argues that we are running out of resources, using too much stuff, destroying the planet and anti-capitalist values are the solution to the problem. It is bad enough that “Green Journalists” push Leonard’s falsehoods, and some teachers think her work has educational value, but now I just learned that your tax dollars are funding Annie’s latest project. Loop Scoops is a new kids program on PBS where Annie is the content director. The cartoon is geared to children 6 to 9 years of age where they are taught that juice boxes are destroying the planet, consuming less is inherently good for society and we are using too many resources. Sadly, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Environmental Protection Agency provided the funding, which means your tax dollars are paying for it. The video below highlights one of the videos within Loop Scoops...more

Black bear burglarizes home, makes off with family's pork roast

The beastly burglar, Rooney said, is part of a gang of delinquent bears relocated to Rooney's remote neighborhood by wildlife agents after they became nuisances elsewhere around Central Florida. "Not only are they human-aware, but they have no fear," the 48-year-old grandmother said. The 400-pounder, dubbed "Big Daddy bear" by Rooney, broke through a screened window of her Paisley home to raid the household freezer. "I didn't realize he was there until he grunted at me. I was terrified," she said. "He was sitting in front of the freezer within two feet of me." Rooney said the bear ignored the cat food and went straight for the frozen meat and ice pops. "He then picked up a pork roast wrapped in aluminum foil and left just like that," she said."He knew what a freezer was, he knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew there was food inside."...more

Feds shoot, kill three wolves that killed Dillon-area sheep

Federal trappers shot and killed three wolves last week that had repeatedly killed sheep in the Blacktail Valley south of Dillon. The wolves had killed four adult ewes over two days when they were spotted in the private pasture in the Rock Creek drainage, said Carolyn Sime, wolf program coordinator for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Trappers from the air spotted four wolves and shot three black wolves before the fourth one, a gray wolf, escaped. Sime said the wolves were responsible for an attack on sheep in June, when they killed five ewes and four lambs in the area. She said the sheep rancher had taken steps to keep wolves away but the predators were persistent. “This producer had stepped up efforts with dogs and herders,” she said. “Despite all the non-lethal tools, the wolves figured this out and it wasn’t going to stop.” Three ewes were killed and one was injured on the ranch on Oct. 7. Another attack occurred on Oct. 14, when one ewe was killed, and FWP authorized that any wolves seen in the pasture be killed. The livestock attacks occurred on the property of Jon and Kathy Konen, who last year lost more than 120 sheep to wolves in a single attack...more

U.S. settles Native American farmers' lawsuit for $760M

The Obama administration announced Tuesday a $760 million settlement to resolve longstanding discrimination claims by Native American farmers. The agreement marks the resolution of a 1999 lawsuit brought by Native American farmers and ranchers who say the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) discriminated against them in federal loan programs dating back to 1981. Under the settlement, $680 million will be paid out in damages, and an $80 million fund to forgive farm debts will be established. The settlement will set up two payment tracks for Native Americans who say they were denied USDA loans and services due to their race. One will require claimants to be a Native American farmer and provide substantial evidence of discrimination, earning a uniform award of $50,000. The other will have claimants be Native American farmers and provide more evidence of discrimination showing steep economic losses from discrimination, with awards capped at a maximum of $250,000. The news comes as Capitol Hill has yet to pass a measure to approve funding for a $1.15 billion settlement that would resolve complaints by black farmers, known as Pigford II...more

Beef industry woes may mean poorer meat

In this Great Plains ranching town, cowboys still lasso steers as part of their daily routine and cattle producers like Bob Sears still take pride in the long tradition of raising American beef. But Sears and many other ranchers say the market for domestic meat has withered to the point where they often receive only a single reasonable bid for their animals — a trend that could eventually mean lesser-quality meat on dinner tables across the United States. The struggle to get a competitive price, they say, is helping to push thousands of producers out of business and might put pressure on others to sell sicker, weaker cows with less tender, less flavorful meat and smaller rib-eyes, for example. "When the marketplace is not profitable, the only recourse a producer has is to cut the cost and try to produce more pounds with less money," said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer at R-CALF USA, a Montana-based trade group that represents cattle producers. The cash market for domestic beef has been declining slowly for years. But The Associated Press interviewed cattle producers in the nation's big ranching states who reported having no choice but to sell the vast majority of their cattle to one buyer. Producers almost never criticize the industry's leading meatpackers because the companies are valued customers. An AP analysis of shipping logs and sales receipts confirmed their accounts. "There's actually no market. You either give them to these guys, or you have no market," said Sears, who ran one of Nebraska's biggest feedlots until declaring bankruptcy in March. The complaints have also drawn the interest of federal regulators, who are investigating possible antitrust violations in the meatpacking industry...more

A reinvention of agriculture is needed to meet global challenges

World renowned scientists speaking at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue have called for a radical transformation in the agriculture sector to cope with climate change, food security and to transition towards sustainability. Dr Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre and Professor MS Swaminathan, 1987 World Food Prize Laureate and founder of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, have teamed up to promote what they call a 'fresh out of the box solution' which is already dramatically improving crop yields while storing significant carbon. "Doubling food production by mid-century when so many of the world's soils are depleted and we are faced with a changing climate cannot be achieved with business-as-usual conventional agriculture," Garrity said. "We need to reinvent agriculture in a sustainable and affordable way so that it can adapt to climate change and reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases." Swaminathan added that "novel solutions and technological advances must be married with ecological thinking to drive a truly sustainable agricultural revolution". The concept of Evergreen Agriculture, where fertilizer trees are integrated into annual food crop and livestock systems, sustains a green cover on the land throughout the year. It bolsters nutrient supply through nitrogen fixation and nutrient cycling, increases direct production of food, fodder, fuel, and fibre, and provides additional income to farmers from tree products...more

An Author Still Writing His Way Through Big Sky Country

Thomas McGuane, whose new novel, “Driving on the Rim,” comes out on Thursday, is the only member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters who is also in the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame. Yet he claims not to be a real rancher. “All the ranchers I know have had back surgery, operations on their rotator cuffs,” he said recently. “They all have new knees. I’d like to think I belong to that breed, but I don’t.” But neither is Mr. McGuane a hobbyist or a dude rancher. Together with his wife, Laurie, he raises black Angus cattle here on a 2000-acre spread in the foothills of the Absaroka mountains in south-central Montana, country where the sky really is big: a vast blue dome under which a sea of grass surges back and forth. Mr. McGuane also breeds and raises cutting horses and, at 70, still competes in cutting competitions. Trained to cut, or separate, a cow from its herd, cutting horses are as quick at changing directions as basketball point guards, and at least one of Mr. McGuane’s horses, a retired champion named King, is more intelligent than most newspaper reporters...more

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tortoises may halt Obama solar project, or an essay on turtle trailin'

The number of desert tortoises living in the path of the nation's first large-scale solar energy project on public land is proving to be more than expected. Since the BrightSource Energy Co. broke ground Oct. 8 in northeast San Bernardino County, wildlife biologists walking ahead of heavy construction equipment on a small portion of the project site have found 17 tortoises, according to a company consultant. Federal biologists say they are surprised by the early numbers, because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 32 tortoises live in the entire 5.6-square-mile site. This estimate was used to support the conclusion that the development would not cause significant harm to the reptiles, a threatened species. Further environmental analysis may be required if tortoise numbers are far higher than expected -- possibly leading to delays or changes in the project...more

Can't you just see the money flying out of your pocket and into the hands of those wildlife biologists as they walk the tortoise trail? And just think of all the schoolin' they went through just so they could tromp around in the desert and look out for turtles.

It certainly doesn't require a wildlife biologist to ID turtles. Just hire some of the unemployed and give them a picture. "Hey buddy, take this picture and go walk about 20 yards in front of that D-9 Prius, and if you see one of these critters go to waving the picture in the air."

I hear that in a couple of weeks a lot of Democrats may be looking for work. They ought to be good at turtle trailin'.

One thing though: Don't hire any of those Census workers. They'll screw up the count for sure.

Wolves confirmed in calf killings near Pipestone

Wildlife agents have confirmed that a wolf or wolves killed two calves in the Pipestone area, southeast of Butte. An agent with U.S. Wildlife Services investigated on Oct. 7 a calf found dead in a private pasture and verified that a wolf was responsible for the killing, said Nathan Lance, Butte-area wolf biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Two days later, agents investigated a second calf found dead on Bureau of Land Management land and determined that it, too, had been killed by a wolf. Lance said there are no known packs in the area, but it's well within the range of the Table Mountain pack that roams the Highland Mountains, south of Butte. But he said it could have easily been a wandering wolf...more

Distemper outbreak kills wild horses at Herriman center

Federal wild-horse managers are suspending adoptions from their Herriman center and placing a quarantine on about 500 animals because of an equine-distemper outbreak. Eleven horses have died — some on their own and some from euthanasia after being badly stricken — and two- or three-dozen more show signs of the upper-respiratory infection, said Gus Warr, head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Utah wild-horse and burro program. An outbreak happens just about every year, Warr said Tuesday, but this one is unusual in the number of animals it is affecting at one time. The BLM is separating the sick horses and working to disinfect their areas, he said. The agency plans to monitor all the horses for 30 to 45 days to see if the outbreak has run its course before resuming adoptions...more

Sure hope BLM doesn't have a roll in managing Obamacare.

Public speaks out against BLM road closure plan

Several dozen off-road enthusiasts packed the county’s board of supervisor auditorium to protest a federal plan to close some roads to off-road vehicles in areas near Lake Havasu City. The county supervisors heard from a number of people who oppose the Bureau of Land Management’s travel management program that would close off some of the desert roads to off-road, four-wheel-drive vehicles such a motorcycles, quads and Jeeps. Joe Caldwell, of the Havasu 4 Wheelers, said closing down the roads will cause an economic impact to the county with four-wheelers buying gas, food, vehicle parts and other expenses that bring much needed revenue to the county. Closing some of the roads would kill local businesses. One speaker said that the economic impact to Mohave County from off-roaders was about $182 million in 2003 and estimates today would put it close to a $1 billion. Bruce Speirs, the president of Havasu 4 Wheelers, said gold prospectors who use four-wheel-drive vehicles in the desert also will be impacted. Others spoke of the incomplete and insufficient maps used by BLM to mark the roads and that BLM’s website is not user friendly. Many roads are not clearly marked nor have posted signs...more

Not to worry, the Mexican Drug Cartels will open them back up.

BLM gets C+ from Wilderness Society on NLCS mgt.

An overall grade of "C-plus" for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), according to a new report card released today by The Wilderness Society. The report tracks how the BLM is doing in keeping National Landscape Conservation System holdings healthy and accessible to the public. Those lands include the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in southwest Idaho. Mack adds National Conservation Lands are also growing in popularity, drawing up to a third of total visitors to all BLM lands. He also notes these lands are volunteer magnets, accounting for 40 percent of volunteerism even though they only make up 10 percent of BLM holdings. For the "needs improvement" categories: protection for wild and primitive areas, complete inventories of cultural resources, and funding for projects and staff...more

Yeah, but before they were designated as NLCS they got 60 percent of volunteers.

Just kidding.

Weatherization Went Awry, Audit Shows

Money provided in the stimulus bill for making buildings more energy-efficient is finally starting to flow, the Department of Energy’s inspector general says. But in a report released Tuesday, his office says that in some cases it has been badly spent. An audit by the inspector general focused on some work done by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, one of 35 agencies in Illinois that are expected to share $91 million over three years. The audit looked at 15 homes and found that 12 failed final inspection “because of substandard workmanship.” In some cases, technicians who tuned up gas-fired heating systems did so improperly, so that they emitted carbon monoxide “at higher than acceptable levels.” In eight cases, initial assessments of the houses and apartments called for “inappropriate weatherization measures.” In one case an inspector called for more attic insulation but ignored leaks in the roof, which would have ruined the insulation, the audit said. And for 10 homes, “contractors billed for labor charges that had not been incurred and for materials that had not been installed.’’ The stimulus bill, approved early last year, devoted $5 billion to weatherization...more

County counsel alleges federal involvement in Klamath group

The county has a new set of allegations against federal agencies in the Klamath agreement process, according to a letter sent Oct. 15 from the office of the Thomas Guarino, Siskiyou County Counsel. The letter addresses the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council (KBCC), a group formed under the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) to monitor and report on progress and obstacles in implementing the measures under the agreement. Guarino states in the letter that the county is under the impression that a number of federal agencies – including the United States Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, among other departments – have been involved in the meetings. “It has recently come to the attention of the County that several federal agencies may in fact be participating in and voting as part of the [KBCC]. It is the County’s further understanding that apparently the Department of the Interior is providing funding for the Coordinating Council activities in the form of providing payment for the services of Mr. Sheets and possibly funding other activities,” Guarino alleges. Consultant Ed Sheets currently provides a website that contains the KBRA and Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA), along with the KBCC agendas. Guarino states that the county requests an end to the alleged activities of the federal entities, “unless justification can be provided for the legal participation of these departments and agencies.”...more

Woodpecker could alter Calif. logging laws

California's logging policy may hang on the fate of the black-backed woodpecker if environmental advocates have their way, a petition says. The Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project of the Earth Island Institute recently filed a petition to protect the woodpecker under the state Endangered Species Act, the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee reported. They say salvage logging, the practice of harvesting burned trees, threatens the bird's survival because it depends on a habitat of burned forests. The woodpecker prefers to nest in burned trees, and feeds on insects that attack trees after a fire. It also is part of a whole ecosystem that is essential to the life cycle of California forests. Bob Mion of the California Forestry Association responded that protecting burned trees would be a hardship on property owners who need salvage logging to recover some of the value lost in a forest fire and that leaving dead trees also may increase future fire risk...more

SIERRA CLUB v. KIMBELL

No. 09-1639.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Submitted: February 9, 2010.
Filed: October 18, 2010.

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
In July 2004, the United States Forest Service issued a Land and Resource Management Plan for the Superior National Forest (the "forest plan"). Sierra Club, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness (collectively, "Sierra Club") sought judicial review of the forest plan in the district court. As relevant to this appeal, Sierra Club argued that the Forest Service's assessment of the forest plan's environmental impacts violated the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370h. In particular, Sierra Club claimed that the Forest Service had failed to consider the plan's effects on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness ("BWCAW"). The district court2 determined that the Forest Service had considered adequately the impacts on the nearby wilderness area in accordance with NEPA, and therefore granted the agency's motion for summary judgment. Sierra Club v. Kimbell,595 F.Supp.2d 1021 (D. Minn. 2009). Sierra Club appeals, and we affirm.

Read the opinion here.

U.S. Government Does Not Have ‘Effective Control’ of 1,081 Miles of the U.S.-Mexico Border, DHS Says

The U.S. government does not have “effective control” of 1,081 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for securing the border. As defined by DHS, a mile of the border is under the “effective control” of the U.S. government “when the appropriate mix of personnel, equipment, technology and tactical infrastructure has been deployed to reasonably ensure that when an attempted illegal entry is detected, the Border Patrol has the ability to identify, classify and respond to bring the attempted illegal entry to a satisfactory law enforcement resolution.” As of Sept. 30 (the end of fiscal year 2010), the Border Patrol had established “effective control” over 1,107 miles of the 8,607 miles it is responsible for securing, a CPB spokesperson told CNSNews.com on Monday. Of these 1,107 miles that are now under “effective control,” 69 miles are on the U.S.-Canada border, 165 miles are in the coastal sectors covered by the Border Patrol, and 873 are on the U.S.-Mexico border. That means the U.S. government does not have “effective control” over 1,081 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border...more

Threat grows as Mexican cartels move to beef up U.S. presence

When a major Mexican drug cartel opened a branch office here on the California side of the border, U.S. authorities tapped into their cellphones - then listened, watched and waited. Their surveillance effort captured more than 50,000 calls over six months, conversations that reached deep into Mexico and helped build a sprawling case against 43 suspects - including Mexican police and top officials - allegedly linked to a savage trafficking ring known as the Fernando Sanchez Organization. According to the wiretaps and confidential informants, the suspects plotted kidnappings and killings and hired American teenage girls, with nicknames like Dopey, to smuggle quarter-pound loads of methamphetamine across the border for $100 a trip. To send a message to a rival, they dumped a disemboweled dog in his mother's front yard. But U.S. law enforcement officials say the most worrisome thing about the Fernando Sanchez Organization was how aggressively it moved to set up operations in the United States, working out of a San Diego apartment it called "The Office." At a time of heightened concern in Washington that drug violence along the border may spill into the United States, the case dubbed "Luz Verde," or Green Light, shows how Mexican cartels are trying to build up their U.S. presence...more

Rep. Ted Poe: Mexican law enforcement 'corrupt or incompetent,' unlikely to solve jet ski shooting

The Mexican and American governments have been intimidated into backing off the investigation into the Sept. 30 shooting of American jet skier David Hartley on Falcon Lake, Texas Rep. Ted Poe said Monday. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, the Humble Republican said the subsequent murder and beheading of the top Mexican investigator on the case by the Zeta drug cartel has effectively halted the probe. "That was a message to the Mexican government and the American government that the Zetas have control of Falcon Lake," along the Texas-Mexico border, he said. "So far it has been successful." Poe spoke of widespread corruption in Mexican law enforcement. "Mexico has a horrible record of solving these (drug cartel) murders," Poe said. "They're just doing a lot of talking at this point... I don't suspect that it [the search] will resume at all." Poe said the chance of recovering Hartley's body "looks very bleak at this point." "The Zetas will only allow a body to found if they want it to be," the former Texas judge said...more

Obama Push to Bolster Law on Wiretapping

Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, citing lapses in compliance with surveillance orders, are pushing to overhaul a federal law that requires phone and broadband carriers to ensure that their networks can be wiretapped, federal officials say. The officials say tougher legislation is needed because some telecommunications companies in recent years have begun new services and made system upgrades that caused technical problems for surveillance. They want to increase legal incentives and penalties aimed at pushing carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast to ensure that any network changes will not disrupt their ability to conduct wiretaps. An Obama administration task force that includes officials from the Justice and Commerce Departments, the F.B.I. and other agencies recently began working on draft legislation to strengthen and expand the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law that says telephone and broadband companies must design their services so that they can begin conducting surveillance of a target immediately after being presented with a court order...more

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rehberg Denies Comment On “Shoot, Shovel And Shut Up”


Congressman Denny Rehberg is taking some shots over a comment made at a Hamilton town hall session. Rehberg was quoted at the meeting providing the punch line to a joke about ranchers killing wolves, saying something about "shoot, shovel and shut up." Reports of the comments have been used to speculate that Rehberg supports killing wolves. A spokesman from Rehberg's congressional office tells NBC Montana that the comments were misquoted. Furthermore, the spokesman says Rehberg would never advocate that ranchers shoot, shovel and shut up...more

Well, I guess it would be a little much to ask a sitting Congressman to advocate breaking federal law, but still...nullification anyone? Where is Sam Steiger when you need him?

Actually, Rehberg didn't tell the joke, but only referred to the punch line to show the ESA isn't working:

The spokesman supplied an audio recording of the meeting, where Rehberg can be heard saying, "You wouldn't have the ‘joke shoot, shovel and shut up’ if something was working, and that's our point about the endangered species act, is that we know that there are certain aspects about the endangered species act which are good. Nobody out there, whether you’re a rancher or a sportsmen or environmentalist, wants to destroy a species. That's not the point"
To me, the worst part of this silly episode is the comment from Rehberg's opponent:
Rehberg's opponent McDonald says the congressman shouldn't be mentioning the joke at all.
So wolves have now entered the politically correct lexicon?

Congressman Rehberg I have some advice for you: Between now and the election do not, absolutely do not, say anything about Little Red Riding Hood.


Let coyotes, not hunters, control Valley Forge deer, animal-rights advocates say

For months they've run on the periphery of the debate over the plan to shoot deer at Valley Forge national park: Coyotes. A small number have taken residence inside the park, among the "urban coyotes" that dwell in places from New York to Chicago to Beverly Hills, Calif. Now, animal-rights advocates are arguing that the number of coyotes in Valley Forge should be encouraged to grow, as a way to provide a predatory check on the deer and eliminate any cause for gunfire. "It would serve as a natural form of population control," said Matthew McLaughlin, director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Friends of Animals. Park officials say it wouldn't work - certainly not fast enough to help a forest that's being devoured by deer. Next month, park managers intend to proceed with a plan to eliminate 86 percent of the deer during the next four years. To some people, the idea of using coyotes to reduce the herd seems far-fetched, if not risky, given how many people jog and hike in the park...more

For me, this is a tough call.

I'm not sure which I dislike most: coyotes or joggers.

Obama Administration Uses Taxpayer Funding to Encourage ‘Sustainable Communities’

The U.S. government is stepping in with millions of taxpayer dollars to create affordable places for Americans to work and live. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week announced nearly $100 million in new grants "to support more livable and sustainable communities across the country." Forty-five regions will receive various amounts of the funding through the new initiative, which aims to connect housing with jobs, schools and transportation. The Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program -- funded for the first time this year -- is part of the Obama administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an interagency collaboration that brings HUD, the Transportation Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency together to help communities across the country “create more housing choices, make transportation more efficient and reliable, reinforce existing investments, and support the kinds of neighborhoods that attract businesses.”...more

What's not sustainable is this type of wasteful federal spending.

The list of recipients is here.

EPA's "environmental justice" tour comes to California

Environmental justice, a movement to focus attention on pollution in low-income communities, is a burning cause for Lisa Jackson, the first African American to head the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. Over the last several months, Jackson has toured poor white, black and Latino communities with a message: Eco-issues aren't just for rich folks. On Saturday, the EPA chief took a bus tour of low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay area, stopping at a Superfund site where the federal government is coordinating toxic chemical cleanup, and an urban food cooperative. At a town hall meeting in Oakland, attended by scores of community leaders, elected officials and students, she announced $100,000 in grants for programs to educate low-income communities in Richmond and Oakland about climate change, to restore wildlife habitat in Richmond and to engage Latinos in San Rafael's Canal district on environmental issues...more

Another nice little tour to hand out federal dinero right before the election.

To mimic former Senator Ernest Hollings, "There's too much engagin' goin' on out dere."

Leave our kids alone.

Feds and energy firms fight, rigs are idle and hundreds of jobs are lost

Offshore drilling regulators and energy companies are at loggerheads over a requirement that the firms plan for nightmare scenarios about possible oil spills, with the standoff slowing permits for new shallow-water wells. Now that the Obama administration has lifted its moratorium on deep-water drilling, the dispute threatens to hold up some of those projects, too. At issue is the government's mandate that companies seeking to drill offshore must describe the "worst case discharge" of oil and gas from their proposed wells. That single calculation dictates a cascade of other requirements - including how much insurance companies must carry and the amount of response equipment they must reserve to clean up such a spill. But offshore operators and government regulators have been at odds over how to arrive at the numbers - which are, at best, subjective predictions based on a broad assortment of factors, from how much of a geological formation might be exposed to the number of oil and gas zones at a proposed well...more

Shielding law on global warming top priority for environmental activists

California has become the primary battleground for environmental activists this election cycle thanks to a ballot initiative that would stymie a first-in-the-nation cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. The Proposition 23 measure would suspend California’s global warming law — which calls for a reduction in emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 — unless the state’s unemployment rate drops below 5.5 percent. Currently, the state’s unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, the third highest in the nation. Protecting California’s global warming law has become a top priority for environmental activists who are still smarting over the defeat of comprehensive energy legislation in Congress this year. If the law survives the ballot challenge, it could become a model for other states to emulate. “We are watching this on a national level,” said Chris Youngmark, deputy director of a local California United Steelworkers, which opposes Prop 23. “It seems like everything starts in California and moves eastward.”...more

So the Steelworkers Union opposes Prop 23.

That's funny given this 2008 Reuters story:

The biggest challenge for the global steel industry is combating climate change and reducing its footprint as the biggest industrial contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, a senior industry figure said on Monday.

"Fight global warming - use less steel" is now apparently the steelworkers motto.

New Post poll finds negativity toward federal workers

More than half of Americans say they think that federal workers are overpaid for the work they do, and more than a third think they are less qualified than those working in the private sector, according to a Washington Post poll. Half also say the men and women who keep the government running do not work as hard as employees at private companies. The critical views of federal workers - just one in seven of whom works in the D.C. area - echo the anti-Washington sentiment roiling the midterm elections, as some Americans lose confidence in their government to solve the country's problems. The strong sentiments give ammunition to both defenders and critics of the country's 1.9 million-member federal workforce in what has become a bitter debate on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail over the size and value of the federal bureaucracy. Three-quarters of those surveyed say they think federal workers are paid more and get better benefits than their counterparts outside government, an increase of seven percentage points from a Post-ABC poll conducted in 1982, when the country also struggled in a recession...more

Interior faces lawsuit over San Juan river pollution

A group of conservation and citizen organizations served a 60-day intent to sue yesterday to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining for failing to conduct Endangered Species Act consultations prior to authorizing the renewal of an operating permit for the Navajo Coal Mine in northwest New Mexico.Their suit references a draft biological assessment prepared about the San Juan river, in preparation for a proposed coal fired power plant in the region. The groups say the agency was required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid impacts to threatened and endangered species from the mining of coal at Navajo Mine, its combustion at Four Corners Power Plant and coal-combustion waste dumping. Interestingly, the group will use a draft Fish and Wildlife “biological opinion” for the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant to substantiate their lawsuit. The biological assessment concludes that mercury and selenium pollution from regional coal combustion, including from Four Corners Power Plant, would be “likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Colorado pike minnow and razorback sucker” — two highly endangered fish species in the San Juan River, a tributary to the Colorado...more

Is a Misdemeanor Sufficient Reason to Deny Second Amendment Rights?

The Second Amendment Foundation and its legal paladin Alan Gura continue their wave of post-McDonald lawsuits challenging laws that might violate Second Amendment weapon possession right. Acting on behalf of a Georgia resident and honorably discharged Vietnam War veteran, the Second Amendment Foundation today filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over enforcement of a federal statute that can deny gun rights to someone with a simple misdemeanor conviction on his record. The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia. SAF and co-plaintiff Jefferson Wayne Schrader of Cleveland, GA are represented by attorney Alan Gura, who successfully argued both the Heller and McDonald cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In July 1968, Schrader, then 21, was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery relating to a fight involving a man who had previously assaulted him in Annapolis, MD. The altercation was observed by a police officer, who arrested Schrader, then an enlisted man in the Navy, stationed in Annapolis. The man he fought with was in a street gang that had attacked him for entering their “territory,” according to the complaint. Schrader was ordered to pay a $100 fine and $9 court cost. He subsequently served a tour of duty in Vietnam and was eventually honorably discharged. However, in 2008 and again in 2009, Mr. Schrader was denied the opportunity to receive a shotgun as a gift, or to purchase a handgun for personal protection. He was advised by the FBI to dispose of or surrender any firearms he might have or face criminal prosecution...more

Monday, October 18, 2010

U.N. environment chief: 'We are destroying life on Earth'

The world cannot afford to allow nature's riches to disappear, the United Nations said Monday at the start of a major meeting to combat losses in animal and plant species that underpin livelihoods and economies. The United Nations says the world is facing the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago, a crisis that needs to be addressed by governments, businesses and communities. The two-week meeting aims to prompt nations and businesses to take sweeping steps to protect and restore ecosystems such as forests, rivers, coral reefs and the oceans that are vital for an ever-growing human population. "This meeting is part of the world's efforts to address a very simple fact — we are destroying life on Earth," Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, said at the opening of the meeting in Nagoya, central Japan. They estimate that the Earth is losing species at 100 to 1,000 times the historical average and warn that's pushing the Earth toward its sixth big extinction phase, the greatest since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago...more

Rancher kills wolf as it attacked sheep near Missoula

A rancher shot and killed one of two wolves as they attacked and killed a sheep just outside Missoula. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wolf specialist Liz Bradley said the incident happened Monday morning in Upper Miller Creek, approximately three miles from Missoula city limits. Bradley said she did not consider the attack to be a threat to nearby humans, adding that wolves follow wild game and there are many deer in that area. A federal wildlife worker confirmed the kill as wolf-related so the landowner is eligible to receive compensation for losing a sheep. Bradley said it was a justified wolf killing since the rancher caught the wolf in the act of attacking livestock. She believes the wolf pair tried to establish itself in a new area where the attack occurred...more

NM Wolf allies howl in protest

Several dozen protesters made their voices heard on the issue of wolf reintroduction during a demonstration Friday afternoon outside WNMU's Global Resource Center Auditorium. The protest was scheduled to coincide with the speaking engagement of Benjamin Tuggle, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Southwest Region, who was invited to speak on the issue of climate change at the Third Annual Gila Symposium being held this week at the university. Protesters marched peacefully up and down the sidewalk outside the Global Resource Center, holding signs that said, "We want wolves in the Gila N F" and "Donde Estan Los Lobos" and "USFWS Free our Wolves." The mostly quiet demonstration was marked by the occasional wolf howl. "People are here because they want to speak to Dr. Tuggle to say 'We want wolves in the Gila,'" said Rinda Metz, who organized the demonstration. "They hear a lot from the other side." Metz said ranchers and others who don't support wolf reintroduction are vocal in their opposition, and the demonstration was an opportunity for those who support wolves being reintroduced into the Gila to let their voices be heard by the head of the Wildlife Services Southwest Region...more

Ex-BLMer's new job queried

Steve Henke, then a director of one of the largest field offices for the federal Bureau of Land Management, was applying for a job last year heading an oil and gas trade group when he sent a writing sample to his prospective employer from his government computer. Mr. Henke wrote that the oil and gas association "must be aware of and involved in planning efforts at the federal, state and local levels to positively influence decisions that potentially affect our members' access to resources." The contents of that e-mail, recently obtained by a watchdog group through the Freedom of Information Act, are raising concerns about the decision by government ethics officials to allow Mr. Henke to leave his job as an oil and gas regulator to become director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Citing Mr. Henke's "stroll through the revolving door," the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said the government's decision not to mandate any post-employment ethics restrictions also raised broader concerns about ethics enforcement in the government agency. In a brief telephone interview, Mr. Henke said he sought advice from ethics officials when taking the job and he said there was nothing amiss in the agency's rulings on how his transition from government service was handled. "The agency has already ruled on this," he said, adding that he had not seen POGO's letter and was unaware that the group had obtained his e-mail through an open-records request. "They keep trying to make a case out of this and connect the dots where there aren't dots to be connected."...more

BLM Declares Their Land “Non-Public Forums”

In a response filed in a Nevada court on October 14th the Bureau Of Land Management (BLM) revealed that “herd management areas” and perhaps other areas of public lands at their unilateral choosing can, be considered by the government “non-public forums.” This is interesting news to the rest of us who have considered these lands public, open and freely accessible. It would seem, according to Ken Salazar, Bob Abbey and those they lead at the Department of Interior and BLM, the we, the press, and by extension, you the public have no have no right to know how the government manages your public resources. The government is controlling the content of the information that reaches you, the public, by prohibiting journalists who may portray them in an unflattering light...more

Flashback to 1870 as Cotton Hits Peak

Cotton prices touched their highest level since Reconstruction on Friday, as a string of bad harvests and demand from China spark worries of a global shortfall. The sudden surge in prices—cotton has risen as much as 56% in three months—has alarmed manufacturers and retailers, who worry they may be forced to pass on higher costs to recession-weary consumers. The December cotton contract hit $1.1980 a pound minutes after the opening of trading on the IntercontinentalExchange on Friday. It is officially the highest price since records began back in 1870 with the creation of the New York Cotton Exchange. The Mississippi Historical Society has its own records that show cotton was changing hands at $1.89 a pound during the middle of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. In the early stages of the war, the South halted exports in a failed attempt to draw Europe to its defense. Then later, the North imposed a blockade, crippling the South's ability to ship cotton to Europe. The U.S. was then the largest cotton producer at the time and the halt led to what was dubbed the "cotton famine." "I've seen a lot of big moves, and this exceeds everything," said Sharon Johnson, senior cotton analyst at First Capitol Group, a financial adviser. "It's not something you're going to see again in your lifetime.". The cotton surge is part of a broad-based commodities rally since the beginning of the year, underpinned by fears over a weakening dollar, healthy demand from emerging markets and various weather-related supply disruptions. Along with cotton, prices of so-called soft commodities such as sugar, orange juice and coffee all have soared, adding to concerns that consumers might soon be paying higher prices for daily necessities. For the apparel industry, rising prices have upended roughly two decades of cheap cotton. Consumers have become used to relatively low prices, making it hard for garment producers to pass on the rising costs, especially as the economy struggles to recover...more

USDA to distribute more than $5B in farmer funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Paul Hlubik recently announced that during this month, USDA will distribute approximately $1.6 billion in annual Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments and $3.8 billion in final 2010 direct payments to America's farmers and ranchers. "October is an important production month because CRP rental payments, direct and counter-cyclical payments (DCP), and now Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) payments are paid during this first month of the Federal fiscal year," said Hlubik. "These funds support the agricultural economy and responsible stewardship of America's production acreage."...more

October. Let' see, isn't that the month right before the elections?

USDA to open third cattle inspection site

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects to open a temporary cattle inspection facility in Eagle Pass at the end of the month, the agency announced last week. It will be the third temporary inspection site the USDA has opened on the U.S. border since suspending cattle station operations in Mexico earlier this year. The two other sites inside the U.S. opened in May in South Texas at Pharr-Hidalgo and Laredo. “The cattle trade provides an important source of revenue for American producers and buyers and we are committed to maintaining the important trade relationship between the U.S. and Mexico,” Agriculture Undersecretary Edward Avalos said in a statement. The USDA is charged with ensuring that imported animals are properly inspected to safeguard U.S. agriculture. The new inspection location is part the USDA’s effort to “aggressively pursue opportunities to keep trade lines open despite the recent security challenges,” Avalos said. In March, drug cartel violence prompted the USDA to suspend examining of U.S.-bound cattle at three inspection stations in northern Mexico...more

$8.6 million an hour? How are the benefits?

Anyone who knows a teenager knows that federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour, up to a dollar or so more in a few states. Well, apparently there's a maximum wage, too. $8.6 million. Well, $8.57 million to be exact. Yes, an hour. That's how much one Kody Lostroh earned last year. Now I know what you're thinking -- must be a schoolteacher, right? Firefighter? They're a pretty lavishly equipped bunch. But no, Mr. Lostroh is Professional Bull Rider, and as the leading money winner on the Tour last season, he collected a cool $1.6 million in prize money. That's because riding an aggravated and muscular beast with spears on its head is a little more dangerous than running 500 copies, and this isn't Ancient Rome, so they only make you do it for 8 seconds at a time. With a total on-bull clock-in of 11:24 for the year, Lostroh made a lifetime's salary in the same amount of time it takes most of us to get out of bed in the morning, though this is of course discounting all the other hours that go into being a Professional Bull Rider...more

Single Action Shooting Society Reaches 90,000 Members

The Single Action Shooting Society (www.sassnet.com), which hosts competitions for this popular shooting sport nationwide, has reached 90,000 members. The game requires the use of a pair of six-guns, a lever-action rifle (in pistol caliber), and an old-time shotgun. A competitor’s score is determined by how long it takes to finish the scenario with five seconds added for each missed shot. The targets are typically large and close. “Today there are over 600 clubs across the country and around the world holding annual and monthly shooting competitions,” says Coyote Calhoun, SASS #201, SASS Marketing Director. “Our competitions are meant to be fun … they’re competitions, of course, we keep score, but we want our competitors coming off the shooting line with a smile on their face—we’re actually in the entertainment business!" Started in in Southern California in 1982, this shooting sport debuted at the first END of TRAIL, the World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting™, and SASS membership has been steadily grown ever since...more

Cowboy hats by the hundreds adorn the walls

It was sometime back in the late 1980s that Stewart Martin, owner of Ben's Western Wear on Front Street, hung the first beat-up old cowboy hat in a place of honor, high up on the wall among the pale trophy buck mounts. No one now recalls which hat was first, but it proved to be a good idea. Customers would remark on the cowboy who had worn that hat, the horses he had ridden and the work he had done. And other hats soon followed. "Stewart was real proud of the hats. His theory was that everyone's hat was important to them. His goal was to write a story every month about a person whose hat was hanging on the wall, but he passed away in November of 2006," said his widow Jill, who runs the store. And now there are more than 400 hats on the walls, mostly battered Stetsons and Resistols, each with a name tag, and another 100 hats are waiting in storage for lack of space. If all their stories were told, it would make a nice history of this part of South Texas. A lengthy poem on that theme, written by Dan Cadden hangs on display. Hats bearing the names of George Strait, Rick Perry and Nolan Ryan are on the wall above the Jockey underwear display. And Dolph Briscoe's cracked old straw lid is right above the Carhartt work jackets. And while a few other names are recognizable to anyone who spent a few years roaming South Texas, most of the hats belonged to ordinary working men known only to their families, friends and fellow cowpokes...more

Trew: Flats make one worn and tired

I can remember the early 1940s pretty well and don't remember many flats. But it was during the war and no one drove unless absolutely necessary. Also, much of the farm equipment back then still had steel wheels. Driving slower with lighter loads might have prevented flat troubles. The 1950s brought on more pickups and tandem wheel horse trailers. This doubled the number of tires on the ground. I've always believed pickups running ahead of trailers, disturbed the nails in the road making them mad, and they retaliate by jumping up into the tires of the trailers as they pass. I also believe the Lord put thorns on Mesquite trees to try the souls of ranchers. Countless years of wagon travel dropped nails, staples and pieces of wire onto dirt roads which now puncture new rubber tires. Most counties purchased huge magnets to pull along the roads to suck up such metal. It was amazing how quickly a barrel of potential flats could be harvested in a single trip down an old country road. I once hired a cowboy to tend my stock here at the ranch while I tended other business. Almost every day brought flat tires on the trailer and pickup causing him a trip to town and wait in the coffee shop while the flats were repaired. When I bought tire tools, patches and glue and provided an air-compressor for him to fix his own flats the problem seemed to evaporate, shall I say into "compressed air."...more

Mexican assassins headed to Arizona

Drug smuggling gangs in Mexico have sent well-armed assassins, or "sicarios," into Arizona to locate and kill bandits who are ambushing and stealing loads of cocaine, marijuana and heroin headed to buyers in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has warned Arizona law enforcement authorities. In a memo sent in May and widely circulated since, the department said: "We just received information from a proven credible confidential source who reported that a meeting was held in Puerto Penasco in which every smuggling organization who utilizes the Vekol Valley was told to attend. This included rival groups within the Guzman cartel." The Vekol Valley is a widely-traveled drug smuggling corridor running across Interstate 8 between the Arizona towns of Casa Grande and Gila Bend, continuing north towards Phoenix. It gives drug smugglers the option of shipping their goods to California or to major cities both north and east. The Homeland Security memo said a group of "15, very well equipped and armed sicarios complete with bullet proof vests" had been sent into the valley. It said the assassins would be disguised as "groups of 'simulated backpackers' carrying empty boxes covered with burlap into the Vekol Valley to draw out the bandits." Once identified, the memo said, "the sicarios will take out the bandits."...more

DHS Issued Memo Admitting Mexican Narco Assassins Operate in Arizona

On Friday, Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Paul Babeu released part of the memo he received from the Department of Homeland Security. The memo warns about assassins crossing the border from the narco state of Mexico and killing anybody in the United States who interferes with the trafficking of drugs by the cartels. “The competing cartels are actually working in concert together to protect drug loads in America,” Babeu told KSAZ Fox 10. The rival drug cartels held a meeting at Rocky Point, also known as Puerto Penasco, in Pinal County earlier this year, according to the Department of Homeland Security memo. Sheriff Babeu said Rocky Point is a dangerous place to visit. Babeu confirmed that the memo came from Janet Napolitano’s office. Babeu said “this information came from Janet Napolitano’s office. She knows exactly what the citizens of Arizona are faced with, yet she continues to publicly state how much safer we all are.”...more

Homeland Security: Turf War Memo was 'False Alarm'

A confidential memo originating from the Department of Homeland Security described a drug cartel meeting in Rocky Point where members discussed a plan to send assassins into Pinal County -- but it turns out that plan was never carried out. The May 2010 confidential memo was supposed to be a warning for law enforcement in the state, alleging that Arizona was being targeted by members of drug cartels. The Homeland of Security memo also mentions the April shooting involving Pinal County Deputy Louie Puroll, and suggests it was drug thieves who opened fire on him. But late Friday, the Department of Homeland Security said their warning turned out to be a "false alarm." They sent out the statement: "DHS regularly shares information with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in an effort to provide situational awareness about intelligence and to keep our partners aware of any and all potential threats. This particular information proved to be inaccurate." But Sheriff Babeu believes there was already a hit carried out by these cartel assassins, when deputies found two men shot to death in the desert earlier this year...more

Gunmen kill local official, son in Ciudad Juarez

Gunmen in the drug violence-ridden border city of Ciudad Juarez have killed a local official and his son, Mexican officials said Sunday. Rito Grado Serrano was regional president of the community of El Porvenir outside Ciudad Juarez but lived with his family in Ciudad Juarez — one of the cities hardest hit by Mexico's drug war. Authorities say Grado and his son Rigoberto were slain by unidentified gunmen Saturday night at their house in the city across the border from El Paso, Texas. The motive was unknown, but drug gangs have increasingly targeted government officials who do not cooperate with them. As regional president, Grado served as go-between for El Porvenir and the municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero south of Ciudad Juarez. The mayor's office in Praxedis G. Guerrero confirmed the two deaths Sunday...more

Mexico Drug Violence Leaves 16 More Dead

Drug-related violence in Mexico in recent hours has left 16 dead, 12 in the northern state of Chihuahua and four others in the western state of Jalisco, officials said. The prosecutor’s office for the northern zone of Chihuahua said Friday that four people were shot dead and three others wounded in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital. Local police said the victims of the gun violence were having a party in the patio of a home in the city’s downtown when a group of suspected cartel hit men entered and opened fire. Authorities have not yet identified the victims and the motive for the killings remains unclear. A hardscrabble city that lies across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez is the scene of a war for control of smuggling routes into the United States between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels, a turf battle that has led to some 2,300 drug-related homicides thus far this year. Separately, four people were shot and killed Friday morning on a road linking the towns of Guadalupe and Praxedis, near Ciudad Juarez. According to authorities, the assailants forced the victims to step out of an SUV and then gunned them down on the road...more

Mexico Halts Search for Missing American’s Body

Police in Tamaulipas state have suspended the search for the body of an American missing since late September and presumed killed by drug traffickers in Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, state officials said. The search for David Hartley’s body “was suspended on Thursday (Oct. 14) because new strategies are going to be developed to try to find the body,” Tamaulipas state Attorney General’s Office spokesman Ruben Dario said Saturday. Hartley and his wife, Tiffany, who lived in McAllen, Texas, were riding jet skis on Sept. 30 at the reservoir when they were attacked and chased by men aboard a boat, the victim’s wife told police. Hartley was shot in the head, Tiffany Hartley, who managed to escape to Texas, said. Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said during a visit to the United States on Friday that the search had been halted because of the lack of results. Searchers have found no traces of Hartley’s body or his jet ski, officials said...more