Friday, November 05, 2010

Greens desperate to avoid blame for Dem losses

Environmentalists are trying to stomp out the suggestion that they had anything to do with the tidal wave that washed away House Democrats in Tuesday's midterm elections. A day after Republicans netted a 60-vote swing to recapture the House, greens brandished polls and statistics showing voters overwhelmingly endorsed both Democratic and GOP lawmakers who voted in June 2009 to pass a cap-and-trade bill. This isn't just about pride. Environmental groups struggled to be heard in Washington after the Republicans' 1994 House takeover, which came in part because of a vote the previous year to raise energy taxes based on the Btu content of fossil fuels. And U.S. opponents of unilateral action on climate change still remind them of the unanimous 1997 Senate vote to reject core pieces of the Kyoto protocol. "It's very dangerous branding for them," said Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute and a skeptic on global warming science. "There will never be another vote on a Btu tax in my lifetime for the reason of 1993. I suggest if cap and trade is similarly thought of, there will also never be a vote on cap and trade." Indeed, directly after the cap-and-trade vote — which itself was delayed for an hour while Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) held the floor to decry the bill — House Republicans taunted Democrats with chants of "Btu, Btu."...more

Republicans On House Natural Resources Committee Planning Big Changes For Public Lands

This week, of course, the focus is tightly on the Congress, which has undergone a sea change of political persuasion, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives. It could be argued that this swing to the right is a rebound of a swing too far left, one in which the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress felt so emboldened that compromise and even statesmanship were unnecessary. So now the pendulum has rebounded far to the right. Its swing has set off fears that, when it comes to the environment, the next two years might not bring good tidings. Fresh off their Election Day tidal wave, and energized by it, U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, and Rob Bishop, R-Utah, envision big changes for public lands in the West, changes that could greatly impact national parks. While the Democratic Party's slim majority in the Senate could stand in the way of those plans, expect plenty of effort in the coming two years to be spent by some members of the House to rewrite the rules when it comes to public lands. Two congressmen who might be found at the front of the line when it comes to redrafting environmental regs and policy could be Mr. Hastings and Mr. Bishop, two Republicans whose legislative records and public comments show a disdain for federal ownership of Western lands. Less than 24 hours after their party's sweeping victory gave the GOP control over the House of Representatives, Rep. Hastings announced his priorities for the Natural Resources Committee...more

Skinning The Carbon Cat With EPA

Standing amid the smoking ruins of Tuesday's defeat, President Obama indicates he's backing away from a cap-and-trade law. But as great as that news is, someone still needs to watch the backdoor. It's been said that a socialist thrown out the window will come back through the front door as an environmentalist. This reminds us of something we noticed in the president's day-after concession speech. Though acknowledging the cap-and-trade law is no longer a legislative priority, Obama also said he's not giving up on the idea of restricting Americans' output of carbon dioxide. "Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat," he said at Tuesday's news conference. "It was a means, not an end. I'm going to be looking for other means to address this problem." In moonwalking away from cap-and-trade, the president was simply admitting that, with a Republican-controlled House, the bill is going nowhere in the next two years. Unfortunately, Obama is still a believer, if not in man-made global warming, then in what he believes to be his right to meddle in private lives. If he can't supervise the clingers, enemies and the rest of bitter America through cap-and-trade, he'll settle for some other way to put limits on the masses. He suggested the EPA could beef up its police powers to rein in CO2 emissions. ama also implied that he could skin the cat through schemes that redistribute wealth into renewable energy programs. Though not as burdensome as a cap-and-trade law, government green energy initiatives tend to be black holes for taxpayers' money...more

Obama faces tricky decision on polar bear, climate change

Just as President Obama faces a Congress that promises to be more skeptical of climate-related environmental regulation, a federal court has tossed a controversial case back in his lap: the polar bear. The bear was the first species to be listed as threatened due to climate change, setting off a furor among the Alaska delegation -- Lisa Murkowski, among the critics, appears to be a winner in her write-in campaign. The protection, granted in 2008 after much delay by the Bush administration, was not the most stringent under the Endangered Species Act. The bear is "threatened," not "endangered," which can make a big difference in regulation that follows listing under the act. An "endangered" designation, for instance, would have made it impossible for then-Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne to have passed a special rule that limited the scope of the listing, saying it could not be used to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming and melting ice in the Arctic Ocean. Environmentalists sued almost immediately to boost the bear into the "endangered" camp, and a federal judge agreed Wednesday that the Department of Interior should review the bear's protected status, which will remain the same in the meantime. That review could put Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar -- a bete noir to conservatives after his ban on deep-water drilling following the BP spill -- back into the hot seat. If the Obama administration puts the bear into the endangered category, it potentially opens the door to litigation against new power plants and other industrial facilities that belch greenhouse gases far away from the bear's territory -- an untested interpretation of the Endangered Species Act...more

Idaho Gov. Otter - Wolf saga is tale of broken promises

It was 30 years ago that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan was signed. The goal was to have 30 breeding pairs for three successive years in three designated areas of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming before delisting wolves and turning management over to the states. Three decades later, instead of 30 breeding pairs of wolves in the three-state region, we now have hundreds upon hundreds of wolves in Idaho alone. The goal, intended to trigger the process of taking wolves off the endangered species list, was met in 2003. What happened? Government happened. Environmental absolutists and their willing allies in the federal courts happened. The wolves are still here and still protected by federal law. That's more than you can say for our elk, deer and livestock or the Idaho families supported by hunting-related businesses or ranching. They remain just voices in the wilderness to policy-makers in Washington, D.C. But not to me...more

The wave overcomes Oberstar

Eighteen-term House Democrat James Oberstar of Minnesota has lost to Republican Chip Cravaack. Oberstar, chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was edged out of office by just more than 4,000 votes after surviving two GOP waves in his 25-year tenure, the first in the Reagan era and the second in 1994...

You will recall Oberstar was the primary sponsor of the legislation to remove the term "navigable" from the CWA.

‘No’ to Pickens: Commissioners oppose horse sanctuary

After two-and-a-half hours of public comment and a presentation by Madeleine Pickens, Elko County Commissioners voted 3-1 Wednesday to oppose her wild horse sanctuary project. The county commission meeting room was packed with about 70 people in attendance and standing room only. “Give me a chance to open a sanctuary here,” Pickens pleaded during the meeting. She said she’s already spent several million dollars developing a business plan when she could have left that money to her daughter. Pickens, founder of the Saving America’s Mustangs foundation, encouraged commissioners to see if the project works. She bought the 14,000-acre Spruce Ranch near U.S. Highway 93 last month and one adjoining ranch, and is proposing to convert them into a wild horse sanctuary called “Mustang Monument.”...more

New Dioxin Rules From EPA Might Force More Cleanups

The government has spent many millions of dollars in recent decades cleaning up sites contaminated with dioxin and, in extreme cases, relocating residents of entire neighborhoods tainted by the toxin. But tough new pollution standards proposed by the Obama administration could require additional dioxin cleanups at scores of abandoned factories, military bases, landfills and other locations declared safe years ago, officials say. If the guidelines receive final approval, federal and state officials will examine sites with known dioxin contamination to identify those needing work and what the work will cost. The Environmental Protection Agency plan has escalated a decades-long debate over the danger of dioxin, a family of chemical byproducts from industries such as pesticide and herbicide production, waste incineration and smelting. One form of dioxin was in Agent Orange, the defoliant used by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. The EPA is expected to make a final decision this fall on the new standards. But congressional critics and chemical companies say the agency is acting hastily and should wait until it completes a reassessment of dioxin's health effects in the coming months. "They're proposing these sweeping changes to regulations without giving us an idea of how many sites will be affected, how many homes will be affected, what the economic impact would be," said Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican whose Michigan district includes a 50-mile-long watershed polluted with dioxin from a Dow Chemical Co. plant...more

Jimmy Bason pleased, Spaceport runway named after Gov. Richardson

Virgin Galactic’s CEO Sir Richard Branson has announced the opening of runway of world's first commercial purpose-built spaceport in Upham, New Mexico. The 42-inch thick and 2-mile long runway, Governor BIll Richardson Spaceway, is able to support all types of currently available reusable spacecraft...more

Bason may be pleased, but the Las Cruces Sun-News is not.

Song Of The Day #430

Ranch Radio hopes you enjoy Put A Little Sweetenin' In Your Love by Eddie Dean.

Dean (1907-1999) from West Texas, was a songwriter, movie actor and recording artist who was inducted into the Western Music Association HOF and the Cowboy HOF, and was one of the founders of the Academy of Country Music.

This recording is from his 24 track CD The Golden Age of Eddie Dean on the Cattle label.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Nancy Pelosi's House

Idaho’s biggest winner: Mike Simpson

The Republican takeover of the U.S. House makes Rep. Mike Simpson chairman of Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies and the second-ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency will have to go through Simpson’s committee for their budgets...more

With the Dems still controlling the Senate and the White House, any victories in the short run will be through the appropriations process, which does put Simpson in a key position. By using budget cuts and insertions of language significant changes to current policy and programs can be made.

Will Simpson be a enthusiastic budget cutter or will he seek to protect the federal agencies as best he can?

Simpson said the first priority will be to find $100 billion in budget cuts, which he said won’t be easy but is necessary. As an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, known in the House as a “cardinal,” he will be in the center of the budget-cutting effort. “We’re going to have to decide what’s essential and what’s just nice to do,” he said.

And his second priority?

Even though the man who likely will be his seat-mate, Raul Labrador, opposes it, Simpson also may again be able to push passage of his legislation to protect 300,000 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds as wilderness. He was blocked when Democrats took control of the House and has been held up in the Senate until now.

To be fair, there is no quote there. Is this just the reporter speculating or was it suggested by Simpson or his staff?

It will be interesting to see if the Republican majority in the House will bring us more wilderness and possibly omnibus public lands bills just like the Dems.

We should also be watching to see if they have the gonads and the skill to bring about change using the appropriations process.

Burning Man seeks new permit for festival

Burning Man organizers are asking federal land managers for a new five-year permit for the annual festival held on northern Nevada's Black Rock Desert. U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say they'll accept public comments on the request through Dec. 13. Burning Man occupies about 4,400 acres of public land for a seven-week period before and after the gathering, which is held the week leading up to Labor Day. The last festival drew a record crowd of more than 50,000 people from around the world...more

I wonder what the response would be if I started a Burning Cow festival and sought a permit to put 50,000 cows on that acreage for a seven week period?

U.S. miners await outcome of congressional musical chairmanships

The good news for U.S. hardrock miners is that the son of a hardrock miner, Harry Reid, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, was re-elected by his fellow Nevadans. The bad news for U.S. coal miners is that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was re-elected to the U.S. Senate and should retain his post as majority leader of the U.S. Senate, as well as his disdain for coal-fired power plants. More bad news for U.S. mining, however, as President Barack Obama still controls the executive branch, including all federal agencies which regulate domestic mining. Mountaintop mining will remain a hot button issue for the administration, as will the EPA's insistence on regulatory supremacy in permitting of Clean Water Act permits pertaining to mining. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in re-election bid remains a hot race that may take weeks to decide. However, if pro-hardrock mining Murkowski retains her Senate seat, she may also remain the ranking minority member on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. To the delight of gold miners and the consternation of coal miners, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, is no longer the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The presumptive chairman of Resources is Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington State...more

Idaho sends a message: It's fine to shoot wolves

If the federal courts won't let Idaho citizens hunt gray wolves legally, the state certainly won't expend any money or effort to keep people from hunting them illegally. That was basically what Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter told the feds and the electorate in mid-October. History will show that this program (of wolf management under the federal Endangered Species Act) was a tragic example of oppressive, ham-handed 'conservation' at its worst," Otter wrote. "Idahoans have suffered this intolerable situation for too long, but starting today at least the state no longer will be complicit." The feds have formally taken over, but they clearly don't want to do it. They have, after all, been trying to delist wolves in the northern Rockies so that they don't have to. They have responded to pressure from the states, within which some ranchers and hunters would like to see more wolves in their gun sights and a lot of people would like to see less regulation by the feds. Some observers also assume Fish and Wildlife officials have acted partly from a desire to have a success story: If the wolves have recovered, the system works...more

Hellacious Acres: Time To Freeze Uncle Sam's Real-Estate Portfolio

The next Congress should enact a moratorium on land nationalization. The feds should stop fleecing exhausted taxpayers for fresh billions to purchase new acreage for Uncle Sam to mismanage. Washington, D.C. already lords over some 650 million acres, or 26.7 percent of America. These 1,015,625 square miles are roughly equal to all of Alaska, Texas, and California combined. The federal government owns 45.3 percent of California, 48 percent of Arizona, 57.45 percent of Utah, 69 percent of Alaska, and 84.5 percent of Nevada. No continental state from the Rockies west is less than 30 percent federal, as are Montana and Washington. Uncle Sam is like a hyperactive brat who trips over his abandoned train set and stumbles over his spilled Legos while running out to slap a shiny, new dirt bike on Daddy’s credit card. Washington constantly expands the federal estate, even while mishandling its existing properties. In March 2009, President Obama designated 2 million federal acres as “wilderness,” thus limiting public access and uses thereon. Unsated, Obama last April announced America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a national listening tour to concoct new ways for Washington to interfere in natural-resource matters. A report due November 15 will include ideas for “creating corridors and connectivity” across exterior spaces, most likely through land procurement...more

St. Louis County Board orders study on private-to-public land sales

The St. Louis County Board has ordered a study of possible policies to keep additional private land from falling into public ownership. The board gave final approval Tuesday, without much debate, to a resolution requiring Administrator Kevin Gray to create a task force to study the pros and cons of a “no net loss of private land policy’’ and report back to the board by July 1. The study was proposed by Commissioner Dennis Fink of Duluth, who has for years battled against conversion of private land on the tax rolls to public ownership — such as in state parks, forests, public hunting areas and tribal reservation land. The County Board has had an informal policy against additional public lands for years. Because the county already is 63 percent publicly owned, Fink and others say the conversion of any more private land to public, tax-exempt status puts too much property tax burden on remaining landowners. “That percentage keeps going up. We’re going the wrong way. It’s to the point where we are having difficulty finding good available land for economic development in this county,” Fink said...more

Cattle drive heading for Edmonton city centre

Busting out of the chute for the first time in six years, River City Roundup is back in the saddle, kicking off Rodeo Week in support of the Canadian Finals Rodeo. "Whether it's the leather on our feet or the food that we ate, it's all related to the agriculture industry," said Bob Steadward, co-chair and original creator of the event. "We want to help the people who are only born and raised and live in the city to understand more about what agriculture is." The 10-day festival will kick off 11 a.m. Saturday with a wild 'n wooly cattle drive, starting from 108 Street east along 102 Avenue toward Winston Churchill Square. Saturday will also showcase farm and military machinery, a barbeque and around 30 Albertan cowboys. "I think it's time that the rural and urban get together to see just what it takes to put food on the table. We value our animals and we are proud of them," said Ed Wedman, rancher and head wrangler. "We are here to show we take good care of our livestock." And Roundup doesn't stop there — various venues and events will last until the final day of CFR on Nov. 14. CFR begins Nov. 10...more

Song Of The Day #429

This morning Ranch Radio brings you Louisiana Swing by Johnny Bond.

How is the new music player working out for you?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Battle under way to define cap-and-trade's role in Dems’ beating

Environmentalists and GOP strategists disagree over whether climate change was a major factor in the House Democrats' defeat. Environmentalists, GOP strategists and others are offering sharply
different views about whether votes for cap-and-trade legislation played a big role in the demise of the Democrats’ House majority.
 A slew of the 211 Democrats who voted for the sweeping 2009 House
climate bill lost their seats Tuesday, such as Reps. Rick Boucher (Va.), Zack Space (Ohio), Tom Perriello (Va.) and John Boccieri
 “If you push a cap-and-trade bill that will destroy jobs and hurt the economy at a time when America is at a high unemployment rate, you are 
going to suffer consequences,” Ron Bonjean, a Republican 
strategist and former House and Senate GOP leadership aide, said Tuesday
night. But in Kentucky, a coal state like Virginia, Rep. John Yarmuth (D) won his race and Rep. Ben Chandler (D) appeared headed for victory in one of the tightest races of the election. Both voted for the bill...more

Supreme Court wants more information on PPL case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it wants the federal government to weigh in before deciding whether to accept PPL Montana’s appeal of a decision allowing the state to charge the company rent using state riverbeds to generate power. The nation’s high court, in a brief order without explanation, invited the U.S. solicitor general to file legal briefs “expressing the views of the United States” on the issues involved in the appeal of the $41 million judgment against PPL. A spokesman for PPL Montana said while Monday’s order doesn’t decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case, the company sees it as potentially positive sign. “I think (the U.S. Supreme Court) recognizes there are some significant federal issues here and wants to see what the U.S. government has to say about it,” said David Hoffman. “We feel very pleased by it.” PPL is asking the high court to accept its appeal of a 5-2 decision in January by the Montana Supreme Court, which said the state owns the riverbeds where PPL has hydroelectric dams and therefore can charge rent for the use of the riverbed. The $41 million in damages are for PPL’s use of the riverbeds from 2000-2007. If the state wins the case, PPL also would be liable for rent since 2007 and 10 per-cent annual interest on the damages award...more

Prop. 23 campaign concedes defeat

Backers of Proposition 23, the ballot initiative to suspend California's ambitious global warming law, conceded defeat, calling the outcome "a victory for Wall Street over Main Street" and vowing to continue their efforts to "save jobs" and curb energy costs. “While the global warming law may attract venture capital dollars to the state, they will not translate into the jobs or economic activity promised by Proposition 23’s opponents,” said Jack Stewart, president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Assn. Opponents of the initiative raised more than $30 million to defeat it--three times as much as proponents. Stewart took aim at Silicon Valley venture capitalists such as John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, who opposed the initiative along with other major clean-tech investors who see the climate law, known as AB 32, as paving the way to an economy powered with alternative energy...more

Legislation eyed to challenge military flyovers

Proposed military training flyovers in southern Colorado could face a legislative challenge this January should the Air Force move forward with its plans, says a southern Colorado lawmaker. The Air Force wants to conduct low-altitude training flights over wide-ranging parts of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico that would be designated as a Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) area. The military is studying the possibility and has invited input from the communities in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico where the low-altitude maneuvers would occur. A public informational and input meeting was held in Raton last month. Several lawmakers who gathered on the steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse in September to address the flyover issue said they had concerns about the flyovers impact on communities, wildlife and other social and environmental issues. Among the legislators at the courthouse was Rep. Wes McKinley of Walsh, whose district includes Las Animas County. He now says he plans on taking legislative action, if needed, when the Colorado General Assembly convenes in January, to prohibit the flyovers if the military decides to move forward. McKinley says it is a quality-of-life issue. He said he’s looking into current law that addresses “trespass in the air” for privately owned land, and he said preliminary research he and others have done indicates such a concept is not as far-fetched as it may sound...more

Program aims to restore Nevada's rangeland

Millions of acres are charred by wildfire. Millions more covered by invading grass. Elsewhere, pinyon-juniper trees are creeping downhill, overrunning a landscape that should be dominated by sagebrush. Nevada's rangeland, simply put, is in trouble. "We've got some pretty big problems on the range," said Lee Turner, a habitat specialist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Turner is heading up a new state program to restore Nevada's range, crucial to ranchers and as habitat for wildlife. Born as part of the "war on cheatgrass" declared in 2007 by Gov. Jim Gibbons and the governors of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, the Nevada Partners for Conservation and Development program is designed to build on plans already developed by federal land managers and to achieve large-scale restoration of both public and privately owned range. One of the biggest threats to rangeland is posed by cheatgrass, a non-native annual grass introduced to America through contaminated seed in the 1890s. Cheatgrass, first found in Nevada in 1906, now dominates at least a third of the 48 million acres of Nevada managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Cheatgrass often takes over land charred by wildfire, and in a troubling cycle, the highly flammable grass is prone to fuel future fires once established. Studies show it is 500 times as likely to burn as areas covered with native perennial grasses and sagebrush...more

Ted Turner Bison Herd Infected with Brucellosis

Ted Turner's 4,600 head of Bison on his Flying D Ranch has a Brucellosis problem, according to the Montana State Veterinarian. The bacteria disease has been absent from domestic herds in Montana for the past two years, but has been confirmed in a 7-year old Bison cow and is suspected in two other animals in the Turner herd. Brucellosis occurs in Bison, cattle, and elk. It can cause pregnant animals to abort their fetuses. The infected cow was killed and the two other animals quarantined from the rest of the herd pending test results, according to Marty Zaluski, the state vet. The other two Bison will be put down if the test results come back positive. It is not likely that the menu at Ted's Montana Grill, a 55-restaurant chain covering 19 states with a Bison options, will be impacted by the problem with one herd in Big Sky Country. Turner has 15 ranches with Bison herds that reportedly add up to about 50,000 head. Plus, Brucellosis poises no human health danger. Bison headed for slaughter from the Flying D will nevertheless be tested for the bacteria disease before they enter the food chain...more

Agencies list 'terrifying' N.M. water facts

Tongue firmly in cheek but serious about the facts, a nonprofit environmental group and the state Environment Department said Thursday that issues facing New Mexico water are "terrifying" and won't disappear after Halloween. Environment New Mexico and the Surface Water Quality Bureau of the state Environment Department presented a list of the state's "Top Ten Frightening Facts." "Agricultural runoff, sloppy development, and industrial pollution are all haunting the health of our rivers and streams, as well as us and our children," said Sanders Moore, advocate for Environment New Mexico. Here's the list: 1. Eerie ephemerals: Currently, 88 percent of streams in New Mexico are seasonal and at risk of losing their Clean Water Act protections due to U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The justices in 2006 decided the decades-old law applied only to navigable waters, ones boats can travel. That definition doesn't protect seasonal streams and ponds. Congress is considering legislation to restore protection of all waters under the Clean Water Act. 2. Shrinking water sources: More than 200,000 New Mexicans get their drinking water from sources fed by streams that may no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act. These are New Mexicans living within 15 miles of non-navigable streams from which they get their drinking water...more

Song Of The Day #428

Hank Thompson will perform Ranch Radio's selection today which is his 1956 recording of Swing Wide Your Gate of Love.

And look at this. When I copy the embed code for the link to this song, it now automatically provides this music player. Seems to work fine for me.

Bureau of Land Management Covers Its Tracks

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), usually a quiet and somewhat backwater federal agency, has now taken its position as a placeholder for an Obama administration desperate to keep appearances up that the southwest border is secure. In a small but politically divisive move, the BLM last night did an operation in the Casa Grande area of the Sonora National Monument about a mile south of the major east-west corridor Interstate 8. The operation? Not to conduct law enforcement operations, but to replace signage that went from a public warning of illegal alien smuggling and drug trafficking and illegal use of weapons and transportation, to this:

The prior signage was criticized for being a "welcome mat" to illegal aliens and drug cartels by former Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie Myers Wood. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer even used the signs in a campaign ad that now appears on YouTube, calling them "an outrage" and curtly telling President Obama to "Do your job. Secure our borders." Yet despite the combination of mockery and anger over the signs throughout America – ironically, it was my guide's pictures of the then-brand-new signs that we took the day I was filming "Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 3: Guns, Drugs and 850 Illegal Aliens" in early June that caused the national stir – all that has been done by the Department of Interior (which owns nearly half the southwest border lands) is to send a man out to replace a sign. No warning about the dangers here in the Casa Grande sector, the most dangerous of the drug corridors to date...more

In case you missed it, here's the previous sign:

Arizona beheading raises fears of drug violence

The gruesome case of a man who was stabbed and beheaded in a suburban Phoenix apartment has police investigating whether the killing is potentially the most extreme example of Mexican drug cartel violence spilling over the border. Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy's body was found Oct. 10 in a Chandler apartment — his severed head a couple feet away. One man suspected in the killing has been arrested, and a manhunt is under way for three others. Detectives are focused on whether the men belong to a Mexican drug cartel, and they suspect that Cota-Monroy's killing was punishment for stealing drugs. The brutal nature of the killing could be designed to send a message to others within the cartel. "If it does turn out to be a drug cartel out of Mexico, typically that's a message being sent," said Chandler police Detective David Ramer. "This person was chosen to be executed. It sends a message to other people: If you cross us, this is what happens." Decapitations are a regular part of the drug war in Mexico as cartels fight over territory. Headless bodies have been hanged from bridges by their feet, severed heads have been sent to victims' family members and government officials, and bags of up to 12 heads have been dropped off in high-profile locations...more

Four Americans Killed in Separate Attacks in Border City

Four U.S. citizens were shot to death in separate attacks in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexican authorities said Monday. Chihuahua state prosecutors' spokesman Arturo Sandoval said Edgar Lopez, 35, of El Paso, Texas, was killed Sunday along with two Mexican men when gunmen opened fire on a group standing outside a house. On Saturday, a 26-year-old U.S. woman and an American boy were slain shortly after crossing an international bridge from El Paso. Giovanna Herrera and Luis Araiza, 15, were shot to death along with a Mexican man traveling with them just after 11 a.m., Sandoval said. Sandoval said authorities also identified a 24-year-old woman killed Friday inside a tortilla shop as Lorena Izaguirre, a U.S. citizen and El Paso resident. A Mexican man was also found dead in the store. Sandoval did not provide any information about possible motive in any of the slayings...more

Americans under fire in Mexico: Numbers mount in border towns

One body after another, the number of deaths at the hands of drug gangs is increasing quickly in Mexico. Among the dead are Americans found murdered -- including children. The death and violence is ripping apart families on both sides of the border. In a tiny home on a quiet street, Carmela Armendariz is haunted by regret. "I think, 'Why did I send my daughters with daddy?' But it's too late," she said. She had sent the twin girls, Eveyln and Eileen, to visit their father in Juarez. Hours later, that home would become a crime scene. The girls' father had tried to save them. When he heard gunfire, he quickly put Eveyln under the bed. But before he could hide Eileen, gunmen burst into the house. "We try to talk to her, to help her. She remembers everything," Armendariz said. From under the bed, Eveyln heard the hail of bullets that wounded her father and killed her six-year-old sister, her constant companion and identical twin. Children are among the growing number of U.S. citzens dying in Mexico as drug violence escalates. The border state Chihuahua is the most deadly, with more than 100 U.S. citizens murdered since October of last year. The majority were gunned down in Juarez. Some were caught in the crossfire, while others were clearly targeted. This past weekend, hitmen ambushed a car just minutes from the border. A married couple and teenager from El Paso died in the attack...more

2010 US-citizen killings in Juárez outpace 2009

The killing of a Bowie High School student Saturday in Juárez adds to the dramatic increase in the number of Americans killed there this year. More than 35 Americans died in Juárez between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 of this year, while 39 Americans died there in 2008 and 2009 combined, according to U.S. State Department records. Among those killed in October in Juárez were Bowie High School student (Luis) Jose Carlos Araiza, 15, and Joanna Herrera, 27, of Oregon. The two were shot and killed while traveling in a 2001 black BMW sport utility vehicle near the Zaragoza international bridge Saturday about 11:30 a.m., said an official at the U.S. Consulate in Juárez. The official said October was one of the deadliest months for Americans in Juárez since the cartels began to battle for key drug-smuggling corridors in 2008. Twenty Americans were killed in October, the official said...more

Channel 2 Uncovers Proof Terrorists Crossed Mexican Border

The U.S. Border Patrol has captured thousands of people they say are classified as OTM which stands for "other than Mexican." Documents show many of them are from terrorists nations like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. Federal authorities call those groups SIAs, which stands for "special interest aliens". Federal officials have offered few details about the number of actual terrorists caught along the border. Government officials have denied that terrorists have crossed our open border. Still, Channel 2 Action News has proof they have. Channel 2 Anchor Justin Farmer found documents filed in federal court in San Antonio, Texas, in May. They show an indictment against Ahmed Muhammad Dhakane for allegedly smuggling hundreds of people from Brazil to Mexico, then into the U.S. The federal indictment states it includes some Somalis from the terrorist group Al Shabob. Terrorism experts say the group is responsible for terrorist attacks and suicide bombings worldwide. "To this day we do not know where those 300 Somalis are," said Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. "We do know they are in the United States." A 2009 Government Accounting Office report confirmed agents have picked up three known terrorists who crossed the southwestern border of the United States. No other information was released. "There are many people not only being apprehended, but slipping through the cracks on our southern flank that are very dangerous," said McCaul...more

Here is the WBS-TV video report:

Suspect Held in Murder of U.S. Consulate Employee in Mexico

A suspect has been arrested in the killing of two American citizens – a U.S. consulate employee and her husband – in this violence-plagued border city, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, or PGR, said in a statement. Miguel Angel Nevarez Escajeda, alias “El Lentes” (Glasses), was detained last weekend on the basis of an anonymous complaint, authorities said. On Sept. 6, the PGR’s Siedo organized crime unit had issued a warrant for his arrest, alleging his direct involvement in the March 13 murders of Leslie A. Enriquez, an employee at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, a guard at the El Paso County Jail, the statement read. Also on March 13, a Mexican state police officer who was the husband of another employee of that same consulate was also killed in Ciudad Juarez, which lies across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas...more

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Debate Continues Over Impact of Supreme Court's Whale Ruling on Enviros' Bids to Halt Projects

Almost two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Navy could continue maneuvers off the coast of California despite concerns that the use of sonar could harm whales. Most of the commentary in the immediate aftermath of the 7-2 decision in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council focused on national security trumping environmental concerns. End of story. But the opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, also had broader implications on the ability of environmentalists to persuade judges to grant preliminary injunctions, which have the effect of putting a stop to potential environmental damage before, from activists' perspective, it is too late. The impact would be felt especially in the nine Western states within the jurisdiction of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which was the court that had ruled in favor of NRDC in the whale case and hears a large number of environmental cases. The whale case came to the Supreme Court because the NRDC had persuaded a federal judge in the Central District of California to impose restrictions on Navy activity because of the potential harm to whales and other marine mammals. On appeal, the 9th Circuit agreed to keep the preliminary injunction in place, a decision the Supreme Court reversed. At the time of the November 2008 ruling, experts said the case would make it harder for environmental groups to get preliminary injunctions because the Supreme Court stated that there needs to be "the likelihood of irreparable harm." Previously, in the 9th Circuit, litigants only had to show the "possibility" of irreparable harm...more

GOP Firebrands in House Ready Assault on Interior

Committee Republicans, hoping to hold the gavel next session, are planning to bring Salazar and other top department officials to their turf for a host of oversight hearings. In the past two years, Republicans have accused Interior of instituting a de facto moratorium on shallow and deepwater offshore drilling, conspiring to unilaterally block development on millions of acres of public lands by creating "secret monuments" and weakening national security by subjecting U.S. Border Patrol agents to overly onerous restrictions on Southwestern wilderness. If Republicans control the committee, they hope to turn those accusations into hearings, and lots of them. Leading the GOP charge is ranking Republican Doc Hastings of Washington. In an interview with E&E Daily, Hastings pledged that his party -- whether Republicans win the House or not -- would continue to advocate an "all of the above" energy plan, including a push for oil and gas drilling, coal and uranium mining, biofuels, hydroelectric power and new exploration off Alaska's coastline. Hastings is backed by a gang of subcommittee ranking members, each of whom has a bone to pick with the Obama team. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) -- ranking member of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee -- has been fuming since Salazar canceled planned oil and gas lease sales in Utah in 2009. Bishop, whose district is ranked by the Cook Political Report as the 13th most Republican in the country, has also accused Interior of planning to designate more than 10 million acres of federal land as new national monuments and bypassing Congress to do it. The administration has repeatedly promised to confer with Congress and local stakeholders before moving on any monuments, but Bishop has done his best to keep the issue in the news since his office uncovered an internal Interior document discussing possible new monuments in February...more

Republican election impact on climate change

Republicans are poised to make big gains in Tuesday's congressional elections, putting them in position to reverse Democrats' drive for comprehensive climate change legislation. President Barack Obama's Democrats, who largely support legislation requiring the first mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas pollution, currently hold majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. A Republican takeover of either chamber, or even large gains by the party known for opposing climate change legislation, will make it harder, or impossible, for Obama to win legislation imposing mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes. That's especially true if next year's Senate is populated by more skeptics of human-caused global warming. Democrats in coal-producing states like West Virginia are struggling to win on Nov. 2, partly due to Obama's climate change proposals. Even with tough opposition though, Obama still has the power to shape climate change policy. And Republican bills that stray too far from Obama's energy and environment goals will surely be vetoed. Here are some possible moves to look out for if Republicans do well in the elections...more

Salazar Lauds Private-Public Collaboration on the New Energy Frontier

As part of the Obama Administration’s initiative to encourage the rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on U.S. public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today celebrated the groundbreaking of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, an innovative “power tower” project in San Bernardino County, California. Along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and representatives from BrightSource Energy, the developer, and the Department of Energy, Secretary Salazar lauded the cooperation that launched the thermal solar technology project that will generate 1,000 construction jobs and provide 370 megawatts of clean, renewable energy for up to 277,500 homes. “Ivanpah is an outstanding example of the progress we are making in building a renewable energy economy,” Salazar said at the groundbreaking. “With private sector initiative and government coordination and encouragement, we are helping to meet the President’s goals for stimulating local economies, creating new jobs for American workers, reducing carbon emissions, promoting energy independence and strengthening our national security.”...more

“With private sector initiative and government coordination and encouragement, we are helping to meet the President’s goals...”

There you have a concise statement of Obamanomics. The President selects the goals for our economy, and then "encourages" the private sector to meet those goals, all of which is "coordinated" by government officials.

Didn't they already try that in Germany and Italy in the 1930s and 40s? How did that work out?

Forest Service Study: Trees Deter Crime

Along with energy conservation and storm-water reduction, scientists may soon be adding crime-fighting to the list of benefits that urban trees provide, according to a study outlined Monday. Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest and Southern Research Stations have published a new study that suggests that certain types of city trees may help lower property and violent crime rates. Their study — posted online in advance of its appearance in a forthcoming printed issue of the journal Environment and Behavior — is the first to examine the effects of trees and other factors on crime occurrence in Portland. “We wanted to find out whether trees, which provide a range of other benefits, could improve quality of life in Portland by reducing crime, and it was exciting to see that they did,” said Geoffrey Donovan, research forester with the PNW Research Station, who led the study. “Although a burglar alarm may deter criminals, it won’t provide shade on a hot summer day, and it certainly isn’t as nice to look at as a tree,” Donovan said...more

“Although a burglar alarm may deter criminals, it won’t provide shade on a hot summer day, and it certainly isn’t as nice to look at as a tree,”

My, what an insightful comment. Who knew that burglar alarms didn't provide shade? I guess you could, though, sit in the shade of the tree while you tried to describe to the cops what the fellers looked like who just robbed you in your home.

Burglar alarm lovers should be up in arms about these denigrating comments on the alarms' looks. Not as pretty as a tree? As I glance over at mine, leaning in the corner, I just love the looks of the barrels, and the stock, and the trigger...prettier than any damn tree.

It does make you wonder though: At a time when the Forest Service claims they don't have enough dinero for law enforcement, to complete the environment analysis of many projects, etc., why are they spending money studying urban trees? Oh, I see, those urban folks cast a lot of votes, don't they.

Smokey's done gone political. The urban brand is on the land.

Forest officials handled bridge removal poorly

Gallatin National Forest officials may have had good reason to remove a bridge over Swan Creek that is important to snowmobilers. But, at the very least, they handled the situation poorly. The bridge is an important part of the Big Sky Snowmobile Trail, a 55-mile, Bozeman-to-Big Sky route that snowmobilers have used for decades. Forest workers removed the bridge earlier this year, citing safety concerns about the aging structure. And they also said there are no plans - and no money - to replace the bridge before the upcoming snowmobiling season. The bridge removal riled snowmobilers who charged the move was a de facto attempt by the Forest Service to close the trail to snow machines. But a Gallatin Forest spokeswoman denied the charge, contending that safety was the only consideration in the bridge removal. Last week, members the Gallatin Valley Snowmobile Association and Citizens for Balance Use, a group that advocates on behalf of motorized forest recreation, constructed a temporary bridge at the site to provide access to the trail during the upcoming winter. And they did it in a single day, calling into question forest officials' argument that there weren't sufficient resources to construct a replacement bridge...more

The solution is simple. Quit studying urban trees and instead chop them down and build bridges with the timber. Kind of a "bridge" between East and West don't you see.

Will Closing the ‘Snowmobile Loophole’ Lead to Shutting Down All Motorized Rec on Public Lands?

The battle over backcountry access is back on. This time, the Winter Wildlands Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to human-powered snow sports, has taken the lead, filing a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service related to the way snowmobiles are regulated on National Forest lands. Their argument? That over-snow vehicles (aka snowmobiles) should fall under the same oversight rules that govern off-road use in the summer. In other words, they feel it is time to close the so-called “snowmobile loophole.” “This is really about saying, ‘Listen, snowmobiles are off-road vehicles.’ Let’s get rid of this clause that deals with them differently and just manage them like all other off-road vehicles,” says Mark Menlove, executive director of the Winter Wildlands Alliance. “We’re going to be proactive and design areas where snowmobile use is appropriate, but there will be areas of the winter forest that are closed to motorized use just as they are in the summer.” Some 90 other recreation and conservation groups have signed onto the petition, which seeks to amend the Forest Service’s 2005 Travel Management Rule. That rule, according to Menlove, was instituted in an effort to better manage ATV and motorcycle use in the National Forests, but left out specific guidelines for winter management. Not surprisingly, talk like that has snowmobilers worried and has generated some stiff opposition to the petition, especially in the West where snowmobiling is a popular and profitable activity. “The Winter Wildlands group and all the other people that are involved with this petition are just anti-snowmobile,” says Robbie Holman, president of the Montana Snowmobile Association. “The only reason they’re doing this is so that, if it prevails, they can start in on limiting numbers, perhaps like they did in Yellowstone. Eventually the goal is to have no motorized recreation on national lands.”...more

The Colorado River’s Future

Last month, Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior, committed $1.5 million to establish a study group focusing on the Colorado River basin. Modest as the dollar amount sounds, this is a very good investment. The study will be the first of three river basin studies — called the WaterSMART program — aimed at measuring the nation’s water demands and resources, including the potential impacts of climate change. Starting with the Colorado River makes sense. Since 1922, its water has been allocated among seven Western states under a legal compact. The amount each state can draw from the river is based on water levels measured in 1922, after several wet years. There is a big gap between the amount of water flowing then — about 16.4 million acre-feet per year — and the actual flow in normal years, which averages about 13.5 million acre-feet. Historical tree-ring samples, whose growth patterns indicate rainfall, suggest that the recent drought is not an anomaly and that drought has been the normal condition in much of the river basin for centuries. And droughts are likely to continue as the climate warms. So far the states have been making do, thanks to water stored in reservoirs along the river. But they are managing a depleted resource with a forbidding future. Lake Mead, near Las Vegas and the largest reservoir on the river, is at its lowest level since it was first filled 75 years ago. The river’s flow is approaching the low-level mark that would allow states in the upper basin to withhold water from states in the lower basin — a change that would hit Nevada hardest...more

Sale of Las Vegas public land to fund Tahoe, Reno restoration projects

About $90 million to fund restoration projects at Lake Tahoe and across Nevada will be funded with money raised from the sale of public land near Las Vegas, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced last week. Revenue raised through the latest round of sales through the South Nevada Public Land Management Act also will provide $1 million for construction of a trailhead and trail system at Ballardini Ranch in southwest Reno, officials said. Round 11 of the land act raised $89.8 million, with $34.6 million going toward projects to restore a troubled environment in the Lake Tahoe Basin, officials said. More than $10 million will finance forest treatment to reduce wildfire danger at Tahoe and the Spring Mountains in Southern Nevada. The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act became law in October 1998. It allows the Bureau of Land Management to sell public land in Las Vegas to fund restoration projects and education, among other things...more

Baltimore Hands Out First Trans Fat Citation

The Baltimore City Health Department issued its first environmental citation for repeat violations of the city's trans fat ban. The Health Department issued Healthy Choice, a food facility in the 400 block of Lexington Street, a $100 fine on Thursday. "It was the second time they were found with a high trans fat level in their ingredients," said Health Department agent Juan Gutierrez. The Health Department said more than 100 Baltimore restaurants have received warnings since the ban went into effect. Agents said that if restaurants don't make changes after a citation is issue, the establishment could be shut down...more

All consumers are incompetent, therefore the government must protect them by offering "encouragement" to the producer. Wonderful system.

Navajo Lawmakers Turn to Prayer Amid Corruption Investigation

At least 77 current delegates to the 88-member Navajo Nation Tribal Council are charged with offenses including theft and fraud in the use of tribal funds. So when the lawmakers convened the last day of their fall session with customary prayer, the ritual quickly deepened into a quest for protection and purification. Delegate Willie Tracey dipped an eagle feather in water and sprinkled it on the other lawmakers, who patted the drops on themselves in a gesture of absolution. One by one, they lined up and sipped more ceremonial water from a small wooden cup in the council chambers where colorful murals depict the tribe's history. The lawmakers have faced heavy scrutiny since it was revealed last week that the majority of them have been charged in tribal court with any of five offenses -- conspiracy, theft, abuse of office, forgery and fraud -- in an investigation of how they spent discretionary funds intended for Navajos in need. The allegations say the money was used by some lawmakers on the nation's largest and deeply-impoverished Indian reservation to benefit themselves and their families...more

Traditional New Mexico Tribe Bans Trick-or-Treating

Kids who have been eagerly awaiting a fun-filled night of trick-or-treating in this small Native American community will need to find a new way to spend Halloween. Leaders of Jemez Pueblo have banned trick-or-treating on Halloween, saying it's a safety concern for children walking near unlit roads at night and a holiday that's not part of pueblo culture. Pueblo leaders say anyone trick-or-treating on tribal land will be sent home, and suggest parents who want their children to participate take them elsewhere. The community of about 2,500 lies in an area of mesas and red rocks an hour's drive northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city. The tribe still deeply embraces its traditions, including preserving the Towa language that's unique to Jemez and is spoken by more than 90 percent of its members, Madalena said...more

Song Of The Day #427

This morning Ranch Radio brings you Johnny Horton's 1956 recording of One Woman Man.

Johnny Horton - I'm A One Woman Man.mp3

Monday, November 01, 2010

Holiday hex hits Sharon again

You will recall last Christmas Sharon fell from a ladder while getting down Christmas decorations. Today she fell from a ladder while putting up Halloween decorations.

Another trip to the hospital and more X-rats and a CT scan. No broken bones, but a swollen elbow, sore shoulder and a nasty knot on the back of her head. She is one hurtin' lady right now.

That means my schedule and my ability to get to this computer are gonna change. So The Westerner may look a little different for awhile.

Also, if you know anybody who needs some ladders, cheap, let me know. I'm givin' 'em away.

Solar farm sparks heated debate in California's Panoche Valley

A kind of family feud has erupted in San Benito County's rich slice of Central California farmland over plans to build a massive solar power facility in a valley shared by 20 ranchers and organic farmers and some of the rarest creatures in the United States. Both sides of the dispute insist they are fighting for the same things — protecting the environment and growing the local economy. County officials — some of them farmers themselves — believe Solargen Energy Inc.'s proposed 400-megawatt solar farm on 5,000 acres just south of San Francisco Bay will be a key part of a new future based, in part, on green technology. But the small-scale ranchers, farmers and horse trainers who live and work in the misty pastures and furrowed slopes of Panoche Valley believe the old connotation of "green" is worth more. In an effort to hasten construction of the plant, the county recently approved a final environmental impact report that opponents say was faulty. In addition, despite opposition from the California Farm Bureau, county leaders and the San Benito County Farm Bureau approved the withdrawal of about 6,500 acres in the Panoche Valley from pacts intended to keep that land in agriculture for 10 years, in return for tax breaks under the state's Williamson Act...more

Struggle looms for control of Beef Council

Nebraska is the only state where all nine members of the beef checkoff board, collectors of about $9.5 million per year in mandatory fees, are elected. As the state's beef producers get ready to cast mail-in ballots in November, the number of candidates vying for open seats in four of the nine districts is the highest in recent memory. And at least one of those 10 candidates is suggesting the outcome could send a message about disenchantment with the management of money nationally that's raised at the rate of $1 per head and added up to about $77 million a year in the most recent fiscal year. "I think a lot of states are watching us," said Pam Pothoff of Trenton. And that's just fine with her. "I figure, when somebody pays in a dollar, they ought to get a dollar's worth of good out of it," Pothoff said. "And we're certainly not getting that."...more

Cedar City’s Main Street becomes a river of wool

In 1870, sheep ranchers in Cedar City first took their grazing animals off the neighboring mountain and herded them through town into the valley for winter. On Saturday, the tradition was kept alive as more than 1,000 of the wooly beasts paraded down Main Street to the delight of several hundred spectators lining the curbs. The parade was part of the Cedar Livestock and Heritage Festival, held to celebrate the livestock heritage of Cedar City and Iron County. The trail down Main Street is one of the few recognized livestock trails in the country that bisects a city for one day. Chad Reid, chairman of the festival committee, said the event is in its fifth year and was fashioned after a similar parade held every year in Ketchum, Idaho. An official with the Ketchum Parade encouraged Cedar City to preserve the tradition. “She said, ‘You have a story to tell,’ ” said Reid, who helped get the city to herd the sheep down Main Street as ranchers did 140 years ago...more

Gadsden Hotel in Douglas has ghostly guests

Robin Brekhus used to amuse herself by joking with the ghosts of the Gadsden Hotel when she worked in the basement. She was down there a lot after moving to the border town to run the old hotel. She would jokingly call out to the ghosts, asking if there was any buried gold, but she didn't believe the legends of apparitions and unexplained noises in the old hotel. That changed on Friday, March 13, 1992, a little after 4 p.m. The hotel lost its power, and the lights went out, the clocks stopped, the elevator froze. The staff needed candles, so Brekhus picked up a flashlight and headed for the basement to retrieve some. She started getting creepy vibes almost as soon as she got down there. "I got the feeling that someone was watching me," she said recently, standing in one of the hotel's basement corridors. "The hair on my arms stood up. The hair on my neck stood up." Brekhus recalled how she pointed her light down the hall. Nothing there. She grabbed candles from one of the rooms and walked back into the hall. She shined the light toward the other end of the hall, the end with no entry or exit. Someone was standing there, calmly watching her, she said. Brekhus ran for the stairs. "He looked like a cowboy," Brekhus said. "It looked like he had a long duster coat and a cowboy hat. I know I saw somebody. It's like he was waiting for me to acknowledge that I saw him. Then he just kind of turned and moved down the hall. It made a believer out of me."...more

English horseback riders complete journey through American West

It sure was one long ride. A pack of English horseback riders who trained in Frisco have concluded a six-month journey through the American West. Their trek: The group left in April from Fort Belknap, a couple of hours west of Dallas-Fort Worth, and headed through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The riders ended their journey a few weeks ago in Montana, near the Battle of Little Bighorn. "The scenery in Montana was stunning and worth waiting for," James Locke, the expedition leader, said in an e-mail. Challenging journey: Along the way, a few riders suffered heatstroke. In New Mexico, hail and sheets of rain pounded the riders and horses, but a rancher rescued them. In northern Colorado, swarms of grasshoppers surrounded the riders, hopping into their food and drinks. And then there was an encounter with a mother bear and her two cubs. The bears walked toward the riders but eventually moved into the bushes. Honoring two pioneers: Locke and company – they called their trek the Long Ride – followed in the footsteps of two Western pioneers, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving...more

Texas City area settled by black cowboys on historic list

An area in Texas City that 143 years ago was settled by former slaves now is on the list as one of the recognized historical places in the nation. The 1867 Settlement, located in what is now West Texas City, earned the listing on the National Register of Historic Places in May, but descendants of the first settlers are preparing to celebrate next summer when the city marks its 100th birthday. The settlement was founded in large part by black cowboys, who were part of the Chisom Trail cattle drives, on 320 acres that was divided into three-acre tracts for recently freed slaves who could supply “testimonies of good standing and industrious habit,” according to the settlement’s history documents prepared by the Galveston County Historical Commission. For more than a 100 years, it thrived as a self-sufficient African-American community and included general stores and churches, as well as small farms and houses of the settlers. Descendants of four of the black cowboys who worked for the Butler Ranch in what is now the League City area and were founders of the settlement — Calvin Bell, Thomas Britton, Thomas Caldwell and David Hobgood — still are very much a part of the community. Bell, who has been a tallyman for the Butler Ranch cattle roundups, bartered some of his pay for some cattle. When he settled in the area in 1874, he became the first African-American in the county to have a registered cattle brand...more

Annual reunion drew Civil War vets, cowboys

During Plainview's infancy, before the vast Plains ranches had been broken up into farms, the community brought Civil War veterans and cowboys together each summer for a huge four-day reunion and celebration. The 1898 reunion is outlined in a flyer found among materials once belonging to rancher George M. Slaughter that are now on file in the Llano Estacado Museum archives. Headlined "RE-UNION! CONFEDERATES and COWBOYS" the flyer advertised "A grand celebration of the Confederate veterans and cowboys will be held on the fair grounds at Plainview, Aug. 2d 3d 4th and 5th, 1898." Everyone was invited, particularly "The Veterans of the Gray and Blue and all Cowboys." The event was free to all. "Free grounds, free grass, free water, and free air. Our water facilities are much better than last year and copious rains have made grass fine and abundant." The first two days of the event were set aside for "the exercises of the Confederate veterans" with the last two days focusing on the cowboys. "The Confederate Veterans and Cowboys will have programs of each days' exercises distributed on the grounds. Roping contests, tournament riding and bronco busting will be some of the features of the Cowboys exercises. Grown cattle only will be used in the roping contest." A good time had by all was the same sentiment expressed by Susan McWhorter Maggard, who died in 1981. She wrote, "We used to go to Plainview in the late 1890s for the Cowboy Reunion. It would be held in August each year and last four days. There was a place east of town and they would fix streets for the covered wagons. Lots of people had tents, too. There would be calf roping and bronc riding and the rest of the time we just visited. People came for quite a distance and set up camp. We'd cook over campfires."...more

Family locates site of children's Jal grave site

Hidden among the prairie grass and mesquite bushes a few miles east of Jal, an old barbed-wire fence and wooden cross were the only evidence four nameless children lost their lives at that spot more than a century ago. On Oct. 25, 103 years after the children were laid to rest, the names and faces almost lost to history have been returned to Violet, William, Newton and Earl Sparks. For their nephews, Jack and Frank Sparks, the story began on March 16, 1957. According to the Sparks family's oral histories and research by local historian David Minton, that was the day the four children's mother, Effie Sparks, broke down crying and told a niece she had four children buried somewhere in New Mexico or Texas but had no idea where. The revelation set Effie's grandchildren, Frank and Jack, on a quest that would take them more than 50 years. As the story goes, and as Minton writes it, it was 1907 and all six of the Sparks children — Cecil, Violet, William, Newton, Earl and infant Eva Mae — became ill with either diphtheria or scarlet fever. The family loaded them into a wagon and started for Midland, Texas, the closest and best medical help at the time. A rider was sent ahead to get medicine and meet the family on the trail, but along the way four of the children died. They were buried, and the wagon, bedding and items taken for the trip were burned to prevent the spread of the disease. James and Effie Sparks returned to Nadine with their surviving children, Cecil and Eva Mae, where they lived until about 1915, when the family returned to Coke County, Texas, along with two new children, Relia and Vera, who had been born in Nadine. Minton, with the help of Jal area ranchers who still remembered the story passed down from their fathers, found the family grave...more

Trew: Homesteaders Act greatest act ever passed

Not only is the act thought to be the most important act ever passed by the government, it gave birth to the "breadbasket of the world." Between 1870 and 1900, more than 2 million settlers took advantage of this "almost free land" opportunity. The cheap land was not a bargain in personal sacrifice. Enduring drought, blizzards, locusts, hailstorms, poor communication and national financial panics, about 60 percent of the 2 million plus claims were abandoned at least once. On the success side, about 783,000 claims were sustained, eventually comprising 270 million acres in titles issued. Montana had the most claims with North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota following. Almost all states boasted claims, including Alaska. Arriving in wagons, and in most cases without the presence of trees for lumber, most claimants had to dig holes in the ground or build houses of sod in order to be protected from the elements. As financial conditions improved, small frame houses were built, many on top of or beside the dugouts and soddies to provide for growing families. Many early settlers earned money by picking up bleached buffalo bones left by the hide hunters. Some had to harvest the bones before they could plow their crop land...more

Song Of The Day #426

It's Swinging Monday on Ranch Radio and here is the group Salty Dog performing Mobile Line.

Salty Dog - Mobile Line.mp3

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The cowboy and the skinwalker

by Julie Carter

It happened on a high desert ranch in Navajo country.

The mesa lands surrounded the canyons and the cedar-covered hillsides and all were painted in layers of bold colors.

The day wore a hushed stillness broken by the occasional flapping sound of a crow on the wing.

A lone cowboy was checking cattle, riding along at a slow trot when a movement caught his eye.

Across the canyon, very deep and wide, he could see a man walking. He pulled his horse to a stop, squinting to make sure of what he was seeing.

In the distance, he could see what he knew to be an Indian dressed in the traditional animal-hide apparel of a century ago.

The fact that the Indian was afoot so far from civilization raised a curiosity in the cowboy.

He navigated his way across the canyon in one of the few places that it could be crossed. There he found some old cliff dwellings and "picture rocks," bringing him to the thought that perhaps the Indian had been praying there in an ancient place of worship.

The cowboy looked around but the man seemed to have disappeared. He rode to the spot where he saw him from across the canyon and found not the man, but where he had been sitting, along with another curious sight.

Hanging on a large cedar, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, were little figurines made of grass and bound with string. One of them, swaying only slightly in a non-existent breeze, was quite clearly a man on a horse.

A cold shiver went down his spine. He shook it off and began to look around for signs of the man he'd seen.

He found the Indian's tracks and followed them for a short distance. They all but disappeared in the rocks so he circled the area looking for more tracks.

All he could find were the tracks of several coyotes.

"I figured he was hiding in the huge cracks in the rocks so as not to be bothered," the cowboy related in telling the tale "So I rode away respectfully, crossed back over the canyon and went on to finish my day's work."

The next night, the cowboy was joined in camp by a Navajo friend of his named Bobby. They sat by the fire and over coffee, the cowboy told Bobby about what he had seen the day before.

Even in the dim firelight, the cowboy could see Bobby's deep brown skin turn very pale.

He was visibly spooked when he asked the cowboy if he believed in witches and demons or devils.

The cowboy, without hesitation, replied a simple, "No."

Bobby, his voice shaking, began to tell the cowboy about skinwalkers. Although they are most frequently seen as a coyote, wolf, owl, fox, or crow, the yee naaldlooshii is said to have the power to assume the form of any animal they choose, depending on what kind of abilities they need.

Some Navajo also believe that skinwalkers have the ability to steal the "skin" or body of a person.

The Navajo believe that if you lock eyes with a skinwalker they can absorb themselves into your body.

Bobby told the cowboy that his lack of belief in bad spirits made his soul too strong for the skinwalker.

"The little doll on the horse that was hanging in the tree was the tool he made to call you over to his side of the canyon," Bobby told him. "When you lost his tracks, then found several sets of coyote tracks, it was him and his clan leaving when he couldn't enter your body.

"Only one of them will change shape and be seen," said Bobby. "That's why you only saw one man. They didn't want you to feel outnumbered. Stay away from them, and they'll move on."

The legend of skinwalkers comes with many stories and warnings, all common with their elements of evil and elusiveness that are magnified by the dark of night.

But there is one cowboy that knows what he saw in broad daylight.

Never again did he ride the desert canyon lands without feeling there were many eyes upon him.

Julie can be reached for comment at or at her website at

It's The Pitts: I Don't Get It

by Lee Pitts

I really enjoy listening to Charles Barkley make commentary about basketball games. I loved watching him play because he was a ferocious competitor, he is highly entertaining, obviously intelligent and from what people say, he’s a great guy. But awhile back The Chuckster uttered something lame and un-Chuckster-like. He said, “There are really only five serious and important jobs in the world: teachers, firemen, police, doctors and those serving in the armed forces.”

Oh really, Charles? I think you are forgetting someone.

People nodded in agreement and accepted Barkley’s proclamation as wisdom because the “Round Mound of Rebound” said it. And because it was a very politically correct statement. It sounded like something you’d read in Bartlett’s Book of Quotations. Except that it’s absolutely false. Has everyone forgotten in this country that the most important thing they have to do every day is eat? Without farmers, ranchers and fishermen there’d be no kids to teach, fires to put out, colonoscopies to dread, wars to fight, crooks to arrest or basketball games to comment on.

Not that the five jobs Charles listed aren’t noble callings. Of course they are. These servants all deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. I fully support our military, come from a long line of firemen and I wouldn’t be alive today if not for a good doctor. Without good teachers you wouldn’t be reading this. But theoretically, at least, societies could exist without these five occupations. Not very well mind you, but society could survive on some level. But without farmers, ranchers and fishermen we’d all starve to death. Perhaps we could hunt for our food but all the game in this country, including several endangered species, would be wiped out in one day if we all had to hunt for our dinner like the Indians of old.

I don’t know when there started to be such disdain for folks who produce things in this country. Well meaning people give money to green groups who mostly use these contributions to pay lawyers to throw up roadblocks in the way of people who produce the necessities of life. While the farmers and ranchers have done more to save endangered species than all the green groups put together. Yet society worships the greenies and looks down on the farmers and ranchers. I don’t get it.

Letting our forests burn and rot is seen as preferable to harvesting the timber and putting it to good use. Those of us in the west who produce things are supposed to have the same Constitutional rights as those urbanites who live in the east, who see the west as their playground, and yet the federal government owns 2-10% of eastern states while they own 30-90% of western states. I don’t get it.

We allow teenage daughters to tattoo their entire bodies but howl like coyotes when ranchers brand their cattle. We feed, house and even clothe our pets in designer togs while there are children in this world starving to death and people living outside in cardboard boxes. We celebrate low-life athletes and Hollywood celebrities, elect corrupt politicians, and can’t miss watching TV shows about mothers who have eight kids at a time or who have given birth to 19 children. And then we criticize the farmers and ranchers who are just trying to feed all of us. We only allow our fishermen and others who produce stuff to catch a bumper crop of bureaucracy. And I don’t get it.

When will it dawn on folks that you can’t continue to regulate people out of work, destroy entire industries, and then expect to get a job or have unemployment go down? We can’t all work for the government and still pretend to be a democracy.

Charles Barkley is a smart man and I’m sure if he reconsidered he might change his mind. As a fan of his I’d like to think that Charles was merely guilty, like all Americans are, of taking this nation’s farmers, ranchers and fishermen for granted.

Red Tape Rising

Next January the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to issue new regulations on emissions from boilers used in facilities like oil refineries, paper mills and shopping malls. The EPA claims their new regulations will only cost the economy $9.5 billion by 2013. But the American Chemistry Council says the cost will surpass $20 billion and kill 800,000 jobs. Who is right? We don't know. But what we do know is that if you total up all of the new regulations already passed by the Obama administration last year, using their own cost estimates, fiscal 2010 saw the largest increase in regulatory burdens placed on the U.S. economy in the nation's recorded regulatory history, says Conn Carroll, assistant director for the Heritage Foundation's Strategic Communications.

* According to a report released last month by the Small Business Administration, existing total regulatory costs already amount to about $1.75 trillion annually -- nearly twice as large as the sum of all individual income taxes collected last year.
* Adding to this burden, federal agencies promulgated 43 new rules during the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010.
* The total cost of these rules, each one individually calculated by the Obama administration itself, was $28 billion.
* On net, the Obama administration inflicted $26.5 billion in new regulatory costs on the economy last year.

As high as this $26.5 billion total is, the actual cost of all these new regulations is almost certainly much higher, says Carroll.

* First, the cost of noneconomically significant rules -- rules deemed not likely to have an annual impact of $100 million or more -- is not calculated.
* Second, no costs were given for 12 of the rules that were deemed economically significant.

Most importantly, the costs that were given are likely minimized because the regulators are allowed to make up the cost of their own regulations. Indeed, a 2005 Office of Management and Budget Report to Congress found that regulators underestimated the costs of their rules 34 percent of the time.

Source: Conn Carroll, "Red Tape Rising," Heritage Foundation, October 27th, 2010.


Why Can't We Innovate Our Way to a Carbon-Free Energy Future?

Despite pledges such as the 2008 promise by the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to work to cut global carbon emissions in half by 2050 under the Kyoto Protocol, no meaningful international climate agreement has ever been reached, says Bjorn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

The Kyoto approach proposes a "solution" that is more expensive than the problem it's meant to solve.

* To cut carbon emissions enough to keep average global temperatures from rising any higher than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels -- a goal endorsed by the G8 -- we would have to slap a huge tax on carbon-emitting fuels.
* Huge means something on the order of $4,000 per ton of carbon dioxide -- or $35 per gallon of gasoline -- by the end of the century.
* The impact of a tax of this magnitude would be devastating -- it could reduce world gross domestic product (GDP) by a staggering 12.9 percent in 2100 (the equivalent of $40 trillion a year).

The best estimate is that if we don't do anything about global warming, by 2100 it will be doing roughly $3 trillion a year in damage to the world. In other words, under the Kyoto approach, we'd be spending $40 trillion a year to prevent $3 trillion a year in environmental damage, says Lomborg.

Fortunately, there is a smarter way than carbon cuts to deal with global warming. What if, instead of crippling economic growth by trying to make carbon-emitting fuels too expensive to use, we devoted ourselves to making green energy cheaper?

Research has found that devoting just 0.2 percent of global GDP -- roughly $100 billion a year -- to green energy research and development would produce the kind of game-changing breakthroughs needed to fuel a carbon-free future.

Not only would this be a much less expensive fix than trying to cut carbon emissions, it would also reduce global warming far more quickly.

Source: Bjorn Lomborg, Why Can't We Innovate Our Way to a Carbon-Free Energy Future?" Investor's Business Daily, October 22, 2010.


Song Of The Day #425

The Gospel tune this Sunday morning on Ranch Radio is the classic Rank Stranger by the Stanley Brothers. Many other bluegrass groups went on to record this beautiful song.

Ranch Radio also found out that when the Yahoo Media player specs said it would link to each mp3 file on your page, they meant the page of your website, not the page on OpenDrive like I thought. I show two pages, or two days of my blog posts, so it would play both songs. Today I am showing only one page, so it will play only the one song. Let me know if you don't like me showing the posts from only one day.

Stanley Brothers - Rank Stranger.mp3