Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama administration plans to pull back National Guard from much of the border

The Obama Administration plans to withdraw National Guard troops from the Texas, New Mexico and California borders by the end February under a new Southwest security plan, even as turmoil in Mexican border cities grows, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner. A letter sent to various members of the Texas Congressional delegation from Texas' Gov. Rick Perry's office says, "In February, 2011, the Texas, New Mexico, and California National Guard forces that were deployed to the border in September, 2010, under President's Obama's Southwest Border Augmentation Plan, will have 30 days to complete a total draw down of forces." The roughly 550 troops will have the month of February to redeploy back to their units, Texas Congressman Ted Poe told The Examiner. Troops would not be pulled off the Arizona border under the plan, and about 100 of the troops would re-deploy there from other states, officials said. "It's apparently a plan the Obama administration believes will save money. We don't need fewer National Guard we need more. We need to pass the Border National Guard Border enforcement act that would put 10,000 National Guard on the border," Poe said. The 286 Texas National Guard covered by the plan have only been fully operational since September and October of this year. They will have spent less than six months conducting operations along the border, an official with the Texas Governor's office said. Obama's original Southwest border plan would have ended in July, 2011. According to officials familiar with the new initiative the "Administration budgeted only $135 million for the entire deployment."...more

Just long enough to get them through the election cycle.

HT: Rachel Pulaski

Clock ticks on Valles Caldera

After jumping through 24 months of bureaucratic hoops, the management at Valles Caldera National Preserve is poised to become part of the National Park System.
Management of the 89,000-acre dormant volcano field by a troubled private sector trust has had activists campaigning for its inclusion this year, to stave off possible indefinite postponement by a new Congress January 1. Conservationists, led by a group called “Caldera Action” have pressed New Mexico’s congressional delegation to introduce legislation to abolish the VCNP Trust and transfer the Caldera to the NPS as a reserve where hunting and fishing would continue but national park standards would apply. The bill Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has advanced through the Senate to make the transfer lies embedded in the Omnibus Public Lands Bill of 2010. This is a bundle of individual public land bills from all over the United States. Caldera Action said it is urgent that the Omnibus bill gets time on the Senate floor for passage by Dec. 31...more

New reality show called Texas Rancher Wives wants you, you overpriveledged ranch lady

A new reality show is coming to Texas with the working title of Texas Rancher Wives. The producers are currently looking for "very privileged country" women who they can portray on the show -- and that includes women in the North Texas area. Why rich ranchers? "They want a feel of The Real Housewives but with a country, down-to-earth twist," said Zena Van Ackeren, a casting director at Shed Media in L.A., via email. "We want women that are connected with the land and agriculture in some way." Best-case scenario is if said women are 21-40 years old and married to "ranchers, cattlemen, cowboys, or Texas types." If the cast comes from the DFW area, Van Ackeren said they'll do some filming locally. We won't know until they pick their rich bitches. They also aren't releasing what network it will air on but call it a "major cable network." The casting company helped produce The Real Housewives of New York and Supernanny, among others...more

USDA investigating cattle brokerage for bad checks

One of the nation's largest cattle brokerages is under investigation after federal regulators said the Indiana company left ranchers nationwide hanging for as much as $130 million, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Thursday. Eastern Livestock Co. wrote checks totaling about $81 million to buy cattle this month that have been returned for insufficient funds, according to the USDA. But the company may owe more than 700 ranchers across the Midwest, South and West a total of $130 million, agency spokesman Jim Brownlee said. Investigators from USDA's Grain, Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration worked for several days at the company's headquarters in New Albany, about 115 miles south of Indianapolis, Brownlee said. The U.S. Department of Justice also is involved. It wasn't immediately clear how ranchers already hurting from rising costs and bad weather might get their money back. The company's accounts were frozen last week by a judge in Ohio, according to published reports, and USDA records show the company is bonded for only $875,000...more

Song Of The Day #441

To make up for yesterday Ranch Radio brings you a double dose of Hank: Hank Thompson performing Whoa Sailor and Move It On Over by Hank Williams.

100 cows stolen from ranch

Thieves made off with dozens of cows from a Florida ranch in broad daylight. The crooks took advantage of the ranch owner's illness to commit the crime. Bob Edwards has been a rancher all his life, but recently had to take time off to undergo chemotherapy. While he was away someone took advantage of his absence. The crooks drove onto his property, loaded up close to 100 cows and disappeared. "They took out two loads that day," Edwards said. "Before then, I thought I was missing some but I had no proof because I can't ride a horse, I can't do much." Okeechobee County Sheriff's Deputies have little to go on at this point. People in the area saw trucks coming in and out, and heard men moving the cattle, but no one thought it was unusual. The Deputies think the crooks may have working knowledge of this ranch and its owner...more

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Report Predicts Severe Climate Impacts on Lake Tahoe Area

Iconic Lake Tahoe could see its regional snowpack decline by as much as 60 percent over the next century, with increased floods more likely around 2050 and prolonged droughts closer to 2100, according to a new report from scientists who have studied the lake for decades. The study, written for the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station, said the lake and its surrounding region could be headed for something of a winter tourism and water supply disaster over the next century as snowpack melts even under the rosiest scenarios. The average snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains that ring the lake on the California-Nevada border will decline by 40 to 60 percent by 2100 "under the most optimistic projections," says the report from three researchers at the University of California, Davis...more

Concerns as Solar Installations Join a Desert Ecosystem

ON the construction site of the $2 billion Ivanpah solar power plant here, burly laborers slowly walk around their trucks, dropping to their knees to peer underneath before turning the ignition. Hanging on each rearview mirror is a placard warning workers to “Look under your car for desert tortoise before you drive away!” Road graders and backhoes crawl along at 10 miles per hour, led by biologists wearing green hard hats who scan for tortoises in a landscape studded with creosote bushes. “Nobody is allowed on the site without a biologist to escort them,” said Mercy Vaughn, the lead biologist for BrightSource Energy, the Oakland, Calif., company that is building the 370-megawatt power plant, the first large-scale solar thermal project to break ground in the United States in two decades. The imperiled desert tortoise sets the pace here in the desert Southwest, and how developers deal with a host of protected plants and animals has become crucial to getting vast renewable energy projects built. That means hiring scores of biologists, managing the relocation of species and acquiring thousands of acres of replacement habitat. With seven large solar power plants already approved that would cover 42 square miles of the California desert with huge mirror arrays, solar dishes and towers, environmentalists and regulators have increasingly become concerned about the impact that industrialization of the desert will have on fragile landscapes...more

Two Wolves Shot in Northwest Montana; Reward Offered

On Nov. 6, 2010, two wild gray wolves were found dead in separate locations on the Flathead National Forest in northwestern Montana. One wolf was found dead along Coal Creek Road, while the body of the other dead wolf was recovered in the Miller Creek area. Both animals appeared to have died as a result of gunshot wounds. Killing a wolf is a violation of the Endangered Species Act...more

Plight of the bumblebee

In a bid to curb the rapid decline in 10% of wild North American bumblebee species, international researchers have agreed on the key scientific priorities that will drive the next steps — including the establishment of a body to push forward research. The United States and Canada are home to about 50 species of native bumblebees (genus Bombus), which are important wild pollinators of fruit and vegetable crops. Several species have been domesticated and used for commercial pollination in tomato greenhouses. Honeybees tend to perform poorly in tomato pollination. But in the last three years, researchers have identified five North American species that have undergone a relatively swift population reduction since the 1990s, says Sydney Cameron, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. For example, the Bombus franklini worker bee was widespread in northern California and southern Oregon in 1998, but scientists conducting surveys in 2007 found only one, she says...more

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sen. Manchin: Reid promised me that cap-and-trade legislation is dead

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has personally promised him that Senate Democrats would not pursue a cap-and-trade bill during the next Congress. On a conference call with West Virginia reporters, Manchin said, "I got his commitment that cap-and-trade will definitely not be on the agenda and won't be on the agenda during the next Congress," according to the Associated Press. Manchin was sworn in Monday, but with an eye toward 2012, he already worked to reassure West Virginia voters that he won't be in lockstep with the Senate Democratic leadership...more

A combustible mix for White House: Gulf oil spill and politics

President Obama's vow that science would guide energy policy in the wake of the Gulf oil spill has come under scrutiny amid reports that unnamed people within the White House, in a late-night editing session of a drilling safety paper, made it sound as if a scientific group backed a controversial six-month deepwater-drilling moratorium – when, in fact, the group didn't. The Interior Department's acting inspector general, Mary Kendall, released her findings on the discrepancy Wednesday, saying that the May 27 paper, released by the Interior Department, "could have been more clearly worded." But, she added, the Interior Department "has not definitely" violated the Information Quality Act (IQA). That law forbids federal agencies from releasing information they know is false. "The department also appears to have adequately remedied the IQA concerns by communicating directly with the experts, offering a formal apology and publicly clarifying the nature of the peer review," Ms. Kendall said. But the matter is unlikely to go away entirely, given that a presidential oil-spill commission has been critical both of Mr. Obama's slow response early on to the crisis and of White House findings that played down the impact of the oil spill. In this context, Kendall's findings fall straight into the hands of congressional Republicans, who have already hinted they'll use their new House majority to investigate whether the White House's energy policy was driven by politics...more

EPA Tells States to Consider Rising Ocean Acidity

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says some states with coastal waters that are becoming more acidic because of carbon dioxide should list them as impaired. The federal agency's memo to states Monday recognizes carbon dioxide is not only an air pollutant but a water pollutant. As oceans absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, waters are becoming more acidic, which can affect sea life. The EPA says in 2012, states should begin to list waters that suffer from ocean acidification as impaired under the Clean Water Act. But it also acknowledges there's currently not enough information in many states to support listings for that reason. The memo stems from a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity. The group sued the EPA last year for not requiring Washington state to list its coastal waters as impaired by rising acidity. AP

Cash-strapped Colo. state parks may open up to more oil, gas drilling

Colorado's state parks may be more heavily tapped for oil and gas extraction to feed a shrinking budget. The State Parks Board is studying selling oil and gas mineral leases as part of a five-year plan to cut costs and keep the parks running. State Parks has already dumped 12 full-time jobs, trimmed salaries and raised fees for camping, reservations and boat registration. The agency also is looking at removing four parks from the 42-park system and expanding cost-sharing arrangements with other agencies and private groups. "Selective" mineral development is another revenue-generating idea the agency is eyeing, said Colorado State Parks spokeswoman Deb Frazier. "We're just like any other entity," she said. "We are looking at other ways to help with our income."...more

Oh no, oil and gas drilling! Ain't it amazing what the envirocrats will do to protect their budget.

Halliburton Announces Ecofriendly Fracking Fluid, More Disclosure

Halliburton Co., which is fighting U.S. EPA about disclosure of its hydraulic fracturing fluid, today announced that it will publicly disclose detailed information on its website about the chemicals used in its fracturing fluids. The Houston-based oilfield services company announced the creation of a new fracturing fluid that uses chemicals "sourced entirely from the food industry." The disclosure website shows that many of the chemicals used in fracturing are as benign as food additives. "Guar gum," for example, is a thickener used in ice cream and fruit jelly. It also lists concentrations. But it also lists more dangerous ingredients, such as the petroleum distillate called naptha, which is used in cleaners, car wax and paint thinner. There are also several chemicals, sometimes considered hazardous, used in household cleansers and others used in agriculture as microbiocide agents...more

Burning Man seeks 5 year permit

For the past 20 years, the playa has been home to the annual counterculture art festival. Desert silence is replaced with costumed desert craziness, culminating with the burning of the towering effigy of "The Man." Last year's event, climaxing over Labor Day weekend, attracted more than 51,000 people to the remote playa about 120 miles northeast of Reno. The festival's organizer, Black Rock City LLC, is asking the federal Bureau of Land Management to issue a five-year permit to continue Burning Man on about 4,400 acres of public land from 2011 to 2015. It would increase the number of people potentially attending the event to 60,000. Can the playa handle five more years of Burning Man? Is there a tipping point beyond which it can no longer withstand the impacts of what, at least for a week, becomes one of Nevada's largest cities? Black Rock City representatives, who pride themselves on the motto of "leave no trace," say yes. Some critics say no, and they worry the long-term ecological impacts of the festival might be irreversible. BLM officials say that while there are impacts to the land, the playa generally appears to heal itself...more

Hot Dog Vendor Jailed for Operating Without a License

After months of unemployment, 57-year-old Steve Pruner decided to create his own job selling hot dogs in downtown Durham. Problem is, state laws and regulations called “onerous” by a Durham County health official have sidelined Pruner’s hot dog cart. Pruner, a former executive recruiter for a company conducting clinical research trials, had to find another line of work when the economy went bad. Self-employed, with a mentally handicapped 26-year-old daughter and a 48-year-old brother on kidney dialysis depending on him for support, running a hot dog cart seemed to be the ticket. It wouldn’t require much capital, he could be his own boss, and he could even build a cart himself, he thought. But Pruner never anticipated how much red tape would stand between him and the “American dream.” Unable to build a box-on-wheels that satisfied city planners, Pruner ended up purchasing a “professional” pushcart for $2,500. Next, he set out to get a vending permit from the city, but found out he also would need to get a health permit from the county. Total cost: $150. Before he could get a health permit, however, he’d need an inspection. To get an inspection, he would have to enter into a “commissary agreement,” requiring him to prepare his food, wash his cart, and store his supplies in a permitted restaurant or commissary...more

When Kahlotus was home to 200 dancehall girls

You wouldn't call Kahlotus any metropolis, nestled as it is with its half-a-hundred inhabitants among the foothills of northeast Franklin County. But the vest pocket farm hamlet is a lot more civilized today than it was 67 years ago when George Harter hove onto the scene. From a sidetracked boxcar in the late 1880's, Harter saw Kahlotus grow to a bustling construction town in the early 1900's when the SP & S Railway was building a train tunnel nearby. After the tunnel was built, Harter stayed around to see his town become a crossroads trade center for cattle ranchers and wheat farmers, a status it still enjoys. He calls 1908 the peak year of population, but adds it was far from civilized even then. “That is,” he said, “Unless you'd call a gang of hard drinking Swede tunnel workers civilized.” Wide-open saloons and 200 freewheeling dancehall girls quartered locally didn't add to the refinement much either, to hear Harter tell it. 7Things were prosperous though with that railroad payroll coming in regular. Harter said they had every kind of gambling game on God's green earth going the clock around. He and Mrs. Harter had occasion four years ago to recall one incident that happened at the First and Last Chance Saloon in 1908. Ten Swedes and their foreman rode into town from Windust on a handcar one night for a weekend spree. And, as Harter remembers, they started to celebrate at the First and Last Chance. Harter's barn now sits where the saloon was once situated. Fearing his hands would spend all their wages; the frugal tunnel boss took most of their cash and cached it under a sagebrush behind the saloon. “Wouldn't you know it,” said Harter, “The boss ended up getting the drunkest of all and forgot which sagebrush he'd hid it under...more

Ranch Hand Breakfast sparks interest in local history

In 1835 the 9-year-old indentured servant of a Manhattan jeweler stowed away on a ship headed to Mobile, Ala. The boy was discovered onboard, adopted by the crew and became a steamboat pilot by age 16. He operated steamboats in three wars, serving under Gen. Zachary Taylor during one of them, and eventually found his way to South Texas. Legend says that on an 1852 horseback trip from Brownsville to Corpus Christi he took one glance at the shady mesquite trees of the cooling Santa Gertrudis Creek and crafted an immediate vision for a large cattle ranch. Within a few years he amassed 1.2 million acres and became one of the most famous, successful ranchers of all time. You may own a purse, billfold or truck with his ranch’s brand embossed on it. The gentleman, as you’ve already figured out, is Richard King, and his King Ranch is larger than Rhode Island. Reminiscent of a Faulkner or Twain storyline, this is one of those it-could-only-happen-in-Texas tales that makes our state so great. And it all went down 38 miles from my front door. Large-scale ranching and farming still reign supreme at King Ranch. Once a year the cattle gates are flung wide for an open house as big as Texas. Anyone who moseys on over to the King Ranch Annual Ranch Hand Breakfast on Saturday is promised a genuine taste of the cowboy life...more

Song Of The Day #440

Continuing with Hank Week, Ranch Radio brings you My Inlaws Made An Outlaw Out Of Me by Hank Penny.

You'll find the tune on his 26 track CD Hollywood Western Swing 1944-1947.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Secretary Salazar Establishes New Directorate For National Landscape Conservation System

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today issued a Secretarial Order elevating the Office of the National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnerships in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the level of a directorate within BLM. This National Landscape Conservation System was established as an integral part of the Bureau of Land Management by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a bipartisan initiative that responded to the critical need, as the population of the West increases, to conserve open spaces that are a unique part of America’s heritage. As an integral part of the BLM’s multiple-use mission, conservation is a long-term investment that provides quality of life and economic benefits for current and future generations. The system contains many of our Nation’s most treasured landscapes, including scientific, historic and cultural resources, wilderness and wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, national monuments, national conservation areas, and scenic and historic trails, among others. These lands are managed as an integral part of the larger landscape, in collaboration with the neighboring landowners and surrounding communities. The management objectives are to maintain biodiversity and promote ecological connectivity and resilience in the face of climate change. When consistent with the values for which they were designated, lands in the system may allow appropriate multiple uses, such as grazing, energy development and tourism...more

The Secretarial Order is available HERE.
The Secretary’s remarks are available HERE.

A lot of flowery words but not much else here that I can see at first blush. There are some troubling terms here, such as "ecological connectivity" and "climate change" but no laws are changed. Wilderness and National Conservation Areas will be managed by the laws that designated them, Wilderness Study Areas by Section 603(c) of FLPMA and so on.

The only thing new is the following:

Sec. 5 Organizational Changes. The BLM shall establish a new directorate, called the National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnerships, to replace the Office of the National Landscape Conservation System and Community Partnerships. The BLM shall initiate the process to establish this directorate within 120 days of the date of this Order.

FLPMA calls for a Director, Associate Director and however many Assistant Directors the Secretary deems "may be necessary."

So their will be a new Assistant Director, the title of the office will change and the envirocrat appointed to fill it will now get paid more money to mismanage the land.

Obama politicizes science

Gulf Coast residents have plenty of reasons to be furious at the Obama administration's ham-handed, job-killing responses to last spring's BP oil spill. A new report by the Interior Department's inspector general further roils the waters. Interior IG Mary L. Kendall reported last week that the staff of White House energy czar Carol M. Browner improperly edited a report on how to improve safety in deep-sea drilling. The effect was to indicate falsely that there was scientific support for President Obama's decision to impose a six-month moratorium on such energy production. The truth was that seven scientists and industry experts peer-reviewed a number of new safety measures but didn't sign off on the moratorium. Five of the seven favored targeted inspections rather than an outright ban. The difference was important. The Obama administration persistently peddles the myth that its decisions are driven by science rather than politics. White House editing of the report fed this myth and provided a veneer of purportedly scientific cover for the politically controversial moratorium. The inspector general neither challenged nor fully accepted White House claims that the editing error was inadvertent rather than deliberately deceptive. Yet it wasn't the only time this year that Ms. Browner was responsible for meaningful deception. The presidential commission on the oil spill criticized her for having claimed during the summer that most of the oil was "gone" when a government analysis said most of it could still be there, and it criticized her again for implying that her assertions had been peer-reviewed. All of this is endemic to this administration's radical environmentalism. Federal District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman threw out the first moratorium because of the likelihood it would be proved "arbitrary and capricious." In October, he voided 10 safety regulations imposed on the whole industry because the administration didn't provide adequate notice and opportunity for public comment. According to Louisiana State University professor Joseph Mason, the administration underestimated the number of jobs - as many as 155,000 - that would be lost because of the moratorium. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained that the president was nonchalant about those lost jobs. "He said, Governor, if people lose their jobs because of the moratorium, they can file a BP claim." Asked what if BP wouldn't pay, Mr. Obama reportedly said, "Don't worry, Governor, they can file an unemployment claim."...more

March sale of Gulf of Mexico drilling tract leases will likely be delayed

In light of this year's oil spill, a planned March lease-sale of federally owned offshore oil and natural gas drilling tracts in the central Gulf of Mexico will likely be delayed as the Interior Department conducts an environmental review of possible impacts of dilling in the region, according to analysts and other industry observers. The study is expected to take six months, meaning that it might not be finished by the time the auction is slated to be held, Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters Monday in a conference call. Milito questioned the necessity of the analysis, saying that the agency has conducted thorough assessments in the past, while cautioning that any delay could "decrease future energy production if we don't develop new prospects at a regular pace."...more

Murkowski wants to keep top GOP slot on Natural Resources

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Monday defiantly said she would retain the top Republican spot on the panel in the next Congress if reelected in her write-in campaign. “I don’t lose anything; I didn’t switch my party affiliation; I’m still a Republican, still a member of that caucus, still have that seniority that I have accrued,” Murkowski told reporters in the Capitol Building Monday. “And I am the most senior member so I will be the ranking member.” Senate Republican leaders, however, do not appear to have decided to back Murkowski’s seniority status and may end up supporting Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) bid to head the panel instead. Burr was in line in September to become acting ranking Republican when Murkowski lost her Republican primary to Joe Miller. But while Senate Republicans on the panel agreed to make that change, the full GOP caucus did not act on that recommendation despite lobbying by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). DeMint argued that Republicans should be helping out their own and not Murkowski, who waged a write-in campaign as a Republican against Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams...more

Murkowski receives warm welcome from fellow senators as lame-duck begins

Sen. Lisa Murkowski received a warm welcome from fellow Senators on the Senate floor Monday and congratulations from National Republican Senate Campaign Chairman John Cornyn. Ballots are still being counted in Murkowski's write-in battle against Republican nominee Joe Miller, but the senator's camp appears confident she will come out on top. Elections officials continued the write-in ballot count Monday and Murkowski is still winning close to 90 percent of those votes unchallenged. That puts her on a path to eclipse Miller's total by a few thousand votes once the counting concludes. Miller was backed by the Tea Party and defeated Murkowski in the August GOP primary. She ran as a write-in candidate in the general election. Cornyn and the NRSC backed Miller in the general election and have aided his ballot count efforts, but some Miller supporters, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have questioned whether the national party is fully committed to Miller...more

Medusa head taking over rangelands, threatening grazing

New research suggests that an invasive plant called Medusa head will keep taking over rangelands in the West, vastly reducing the grazing potential for livestock as well as wildlife. The study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Arid Environments confirmed the hypothesis that one reason Medusa head is taking over is because most years it grows faster and for a longer period than native grasses and even other invasive plants, such as cheatgrass. Seema Mangla, a research scholar at Oregon State University who was lead author on the study, said Medusa head already infests 2 million acres, mostly in the West, and is spreading at a rate of 12 percent a year. Once it invades an area, the grazing potential goes down by 80 percent. "This species has a high growth rate and can stay for a longer period in the soil," she said. "This is the main cause of the problem." The study looked at the growth of Medusa head in a sagebrush ecosystem in southeastern Oregon in 2008, a dry year, and 2009, a wet year. It found that Medusa head lagged behind the native bluebunch wheatgrass in the dry year, but was far ahead of it in the wet year. The study noted the dry year was far below normal and not repeated often. In both years, Medusa head grew faster and for a longer time than cheatgrass. Livestock, deer and elk won't eat it because the seeds have spines, known as awns, that hurt animals' mouths, and the plant is high in the mineral silica...more

Interior approves gaming developments

The Interior Department said the Navajo Nation and Cherokee Nation are eligible to host gaming activities on newly acquired trust lands. Both tribes plan to create casinos in an effort to improve their economies. In a statement released Nov. 10, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced the approval of the acquisition of 405 acres of land in trust for the Navajo Nation in Coconino County, Arizona. The lands are contiguous to the boundaries of the Navajo Nation’s existing reservation, which is the largest in the country. Department officials noted that Interior was required to acquire the parcels in trust under two laws enacted by Congress, the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 and the Hopi Indian Relocation Amendments Act of 1980. At the same time, Echo Hawk announced the approval of the acquisition of 17 acres of land into trust for the Cherokee Nation in Cherokee County, Oklahoma. The land is located within the Cherokee Nation’s former reservation in Oklahoma. Both nations intend to conduct Class III gaming on the newly-acquired lands, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act...more

N.M. community braces for changes to coal-fired plant

Plans to shutter part of one of the nation’s largest coal-fired power plants have been hailed by the conservation community and New Mexico regulators as a victory that will lead to cleaner air for northwestern New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and three neighboring states. The problem is that environmental victory comes with economic costs, community leaders say. “The impact on our community is tremendous, all the way from the gross-receipts taxes that we won’t be collecting to the lost jobs,” said Farmington City Councilor Jason Sandel. Arizona’s largest utility company announced plans last week to close part of the Four Corners Power Plant and seek majority ownership of the plant’s remaining two generating units from Southern California Edison. The decision is being driven by new federal proposals aimed at cracking down on emissions and California laws prohibiting utilities from investing in most coal-fired power plants. It’s a scenario that’s playing out across the country as environmentalists take aim against polluting plants with lawsuits and the federal government and states look to pass more forceful regulations for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants being pumped out by coal-fired power plants...more

New animal welfare rating system to roll out at Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market harbors the same hopes for its chickens that many parents do for their kids: That they'll get plenty of fresh air, live at home until they reach maturity and avoid gaining weight so fast that they can't walk. These are a few of the animal welfare practices the retailer hopes to encourage with a new humane meat-rating system being piloted in the South and scheduled for national expansion early next year. If the six-step, color-coded labeling system works as planned, it could allow American consumers at many supermarket chains unprecedented levels of specificity when it comes to choosing meat to match their principles. Developed by the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit group made up of farmers, scientists, retailers, sustainability experts and animal welfare advocates, the rating system aims to address growing consumer concerns over the way animals are raised for food. It could also, not coincidentally, boost sales for certified farmers and participating stores, likely to include another unidentified major national retailer and restaurant group in the coming year, according to the nonprofit...more

Song Of The Day #439

It's time for another Hank Week at Ranch Radio. We'll start with Hank Snow and his 1951 recording of Music Makin' Mama From Memphis.

The tune is available on many of his collections, such as the 20 track CD The Essential Hank Snow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Regional system key to settling Aamodt water-rights case

A multimillion-dollar regional water system is key to a proposed settlement of Indian and non-Indian water rights in the Pojoaque River Basin north of Santa Fe. But Santa Fe County, which would cover the nonpueblo portion of the $200 million-plus proposed water system that will divert water from the Rio Grande, hasn't figured out how to pay for it if the plan gets through Congress. "It is not clear at this time," County Commissioner Harry Montoya, who represents the region, said in an e-mail. "It is expected that the county will bond for the county portion of construction costs." Nonpueblo residents who hook into the water system would eventually help pay for its operation and maintenance through monthly water bills. No one knows how much that would be because the system hasn't been finalized. Still, many Pojoaque Valley well users oppose the new water system, claiming they'll never hook up if it is ever built. The water system is the centerpiece of legislation pending before the U.S. Senate regarding the Aamodt settlement in New Mexico's longest-running water-rights case. Congress must approve both the settlement and funding for it. The system's fate rests for the moment with Congress. Montoya said U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., met with him recently and said if the legislation doesn't get passed before newly elected Republicans take their seats in January, its chances of approval next year are slim...more

Green, labor groups offer lame-duck wish list

Green and labor groups Monday offered up a seven-item wish list for Congress to pass in the lame-duck session beginning this week. The list includes familiar items aimed at renewable energy and efficiency standards as well as energy industry worker health and safety. Bingaman and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week talked about the possibility of bringing up the RES — which would require 15 percent of electricity to be produced from renewable energy sources by 2021, with a quarter of that mandate able to be met with energy-efficiency measures. But there has been no public commitment made by Reid to bring it up for a debate this year. Aside from the RES, the other six provisions from the BlueGreen Alliance are:

#a $6 billion set of Home Star rebates for homeowners and home builders to install energy-efficient materials;
# a Building Star program that aims to boost commercial energy efficiency improvements;
# extension of an advanced manufacturing tax credit and federal grants providing payments for specified energy property in lieu of tax credits;
# miner-safety and health legislation named after the late-Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) that also would address standards for refinery and other energy industry workers;
# extension of direct loans for retooling manufacturing facilities that can produce advanced vehicles; and
# federal loans for the construction of wastewater, drinking water and water efficiency and other clean-water projects.

Bingaman to attempt Omnibus Public Lands bill

Lame Duck Land Grab "Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is hoping to pass a package of public lands and wilderness bills during the lame-duck session of Congress. Bingaman's panel has sent more than 60 bills to the floor this session that would create new national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and wildlife sanctuaries. Now he's hoping to bundle them into an omnibus measure for Senate passage before the 111th Congress adjourns, spokesman Bill Wicker confirmed today."Can't get cap-n-trade? Doesn't matter. Just a symptom. Not the disease. The ongoing *direct* land grab (mostly, but not exclusively) out West continues apace while other regulations seal off the land less directly by effectively taking its most productive use...

Lame-Duck Congress Has Plateful of National Park-Related Legislation To Consider
There are bills calling for the study of prospective units to the park system and measures that would expand existing units. While The Wilderness Society is calling on Congress to act on these and other wilderness-related measures before the 111th session comes to a close, it will be interesting to see whether the politicians can muster the will to do so. “Up to this point in the Congress, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved over 75 land, water, and wildlife bills. The Environment and Public Works Committee and Commerce Committee have approved over 45 land, water, and wildlife bills, and these bills are all still pending before the Senate, and these are among the bills that we’re urging final action on before the Congress adjourns this year," said Paul Spitler, the Society's National Wilderness Campaigns associate director during a conference call last week. “These include bills to protect new wilderness areas, national parks, national monuments, to protect free-flowing rivers and enhance and conserve clean water, and to safeguard America's heritage area, battlefields and historic sites," he added. "They provide important benefits to communities across the country by facilitating economic development and creating jobs, protecting key American natural and historic resources and providing opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature."...more

Air Force the new Pinon Canyon foe

For five years, ranchers around the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site have battled and blocked the Army from expanding the 238,000-acre training ground northeast of Trinidad, winning legislative fights in Congress as well as the General Assembly. But in the past six months, the Pentagon has started a new training initiative with the Air Force, unveiling plans to create a huge, low-altitude training range covering most of Southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Many city and county governments in the affected area have sent up emergency flares of opposition, passing resolutions to oppose the low-altitude training flights by four-engine C-130 transports and V-22 Osprey movable rotor aircraft. For the Pinon Canyon ranchers, the Air Force plan has an ominous resemblance to an Army map from 2004, showing Pinon Canyon growing by increments until it includes 7 million acres and encompasses the southeastern corner of the state. Army officials have always dismissed that map, saying it was never approved by the Pentagon or senior Army planners. Ranchers fighting the expansion note the map's schedule of phased growth closely resembles the initial property request the Army actually made in 2009. "It feels like a steam-roller," said Mack Louden, a newly elected Las Animas County commissioner, who has fought the Army's expansion effort since 2005. "It seems like if the Pentagon can't get what it wants one way, they just come at you from a different angle. But they just keep coming." That airspace is now in the Air Force's plan for low-level training flights — up to three a day and flying as low as 200 feet. Air Force planners argue the night flights out of Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., would not be disruptive and would steer clear of major cities and towns. That's not the ranchers' concern. "Our problem is the funding ban has only applied to the Army," said Lon Robertson, president of the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition. Robertson was referring to the year-to-year ban in the federal budget that prohibits the Army from spending any money on the maneuver site expansion, starting in 2007...more

A million acres in Flint Hills will be new wildlife refuge

About 1.1 million acres of some of the nation’s last tallgrass prairie in Kansas’ Flint Hills will be set aside for a new national wildlife refuge, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Friday. The new Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area partners private landowners with conservationists to preserve the ecologically and culturally significant tallgrass prairie. “This is a template for the way conservation should occur in the 21st century,” Salazar said Friday in Wichita. “... As we look around the country on how we protect very special places, we’ll look to Kansas and this area as an example for all of us to follow.” The Flint Hills project uses voluntary, perpetual conservation easements that pay ranchers not to subdivide or commercially develop the land while allowing them to continue grazing their cattle and haying on the lush prairie that underlies the state’s agricultural heritage. The perpetual conservation easements, which are voluntary, cover the next 20 years and will be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department. Ranchers and other landowners will maintain ownership and control of their property but will be paid 30 to 40 percent of market value not to develop the land for housing or otherwise disturb the prairie. Officials are “strategically targeting” — based on the value to wildlife — about 1.1 million acres for conservation easements out of some 3 million acres within the boundaries of the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area. Easements on about 60,000 acres are already under some type of conservation easement...more

Go here to view the Land Protection Plan for this area.

Gulf Oil Spill Doesn’t Spread To Voting Booths

Call it the election-day dog that didn’t bark - or maybe the oiled bird that didn’t fly – the BP oil spill had virtually no impact at the polls on November 2nd.   The fact that the biggest ecological scare of the summer was nearly forgotten by fall says a lot about where the American people stand on energy and environmental issues. Less than five months after President Obama gave a primetime address hyping the Deepwater Horizon spill as “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced,” there is scant evidence that even a single Congressional race was affected by it.  This was not for lack of trying.  In the first few months after the April 20th spill, many Congressional Democrats joined environmental activists and some in the media in blaming pro-drilling Republicans for their complicity in the so-called Gulf disaster. For a while, it was fashionable to ridicule those who had chanted “drill baby drill” during the 2008 race.   Opponents of domestic drilling thought they had a defining issue heading into the midterms. But rather than having to eat their words and go home in defeat, the “drill baby drill” crowd is back – and they’ll be returning to Washington with quite a few new allies...more

How EPA could destroy 7.3 million jobs

Environmental Protection Agency officials Wednesday provided power companies and states with new guidance on EPA’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases. A D.C. lobbyist for two major power companies told Bloomberg News that “the energy and manufacturing sectors will essentially be in a construction moratorium” as a consequence. Here we are, with 15 million Americans unemployed and millions more underemployed, and the EPA is moving blindly ahead with new regulations that will increase dramatically the energy costs of U.S. industries, reducing their competitiveness and profitability, and making it less likely they will hire. The new EPA rules call for a reduction in the national ambient air-quality standard for ground-level ozone, a precursor of smog, from 75 parts per billion to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, a cut of up to 20 percent. While this might seem innocuous enough, setting a more-stringent ozone standard will in fact cause economic havoc. Hundreds of U.S. cities and counties already don’t meet the current standard. If the EPA tightens the rules, these counties will fall permanently into noncompliance, even with costly investments in new pollution controls. Under the Clean Air Act’s nondegradation provision, state and local governments are not permitted to take actions that would worsen air quality, even if the area is in compliance with EPA standards. If a county or city is not in compliance, its economy won’t be able to grow — so the EPA’s proposal would spell economic stagnation for many communities. A study by the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a 75-year old organization that provides economic research and training for business executives, warns that the new standard would destroy an estimated 7.3 million jobs nationwide and add $1 trillion annually in new regulatory costs beginning in 2020...more

Big Green imposes its agenda — with or without Congress

We learned earlier this week in The Washington Examiner about Natural Resources Defense Council Chairman Frances Beinecke instructing House Republicans not to listen to folks who voted them in on a “cresting wave of economic ire,” but to only impose the enviro agenda. She ended with the steely warning, “We are going to get there with Congress or without Congress.” How does Big Green deliver on big talk like that? Shortly before Republicans won the bloodiest midterm election victory in living memory, 12-term Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio worried that his bid for a 13th term might fall to Republican opponent Art Robinson and cresting economic ire. His timber-rich 4th District once held vibrant communities of loggers earning high wages. But when the spotted owl was protected by the Endangered Species Act in 1989, you couldn’t cut trees, and 15,000 loggers and mill workers found themselves jobless. That demonstrated that Big Green had its Bigger Hammer; thereafter, greens flocked to court to stop everything with the Endangered Species Act. So how could DeFazio convince voters today that he was pro-jobs?...more

Fazio invited Interior Secretary Salazar to his district, one week before the election. Salazar promised to free up trees for logging by promoting an "innovative pilot project."

Then a funny thing happened within 24 hours of the Salazar/Fazio meeting. Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit to stop a BLM timber sale. And who is Susan Jane Brown?
"Brown, lead attorney, was staff counsel for DeFazio from 2007 to 2009. While a professor at Lewis  and Clark Law School, her professional bio bragged, “Susan Jane has been litigating timber sales since 2000. Due in large part to her efforts, the logging levels on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest have declined 96 percent since 1997.” The 1.3 million-acre Gifford Pinchot National Forest covers four counties of Washington state. Brown sent the average unemployment rate in those counties soaring from about 8.5 percent to 14.7 percent. DeFazio knew about Brown’s litigating timber sales when he hired her in Washington. He also hired extremist David Dreher as legislative aide in 2000, now with the Pew-funded Campaign for America’s Wilderness. DeFazio’s office is practically an incubator for radicals."
So Fazio's former staff counsel filed suit to stop a timber sale, just after Fazio held a big political meeting about increasing logging. Not to worry, Fazio still won re-election.

USDA Puts Fox in Charge of Guarding the Hen House

Via former Congressman Bob Barr and sitting Congressman Collin Peterson, I’ve learned about some troubling new regulations on the livestock industry proposed by the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). GIPSA may not be as sexy a regulator as PCAOB or NHTSA, but this is one more example of obscure regulatory agencies run amok. What makes this particular proposal especially problematic is that the GIPSA Administrator, a former trial lawyer named J. Dudley Butler who made his bones suing poultry producers, seems to have intentionally introduced a level of vagueness into the rule that, in his own words, makes it a “plaintiff lawyer’s dream.” Under the terms of the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress instructed GIPSA to promulgate new rules governing the contractual arrangements between cattle and poultry producers on the one hand and stockyards and slaughterhouses on the other, in order to “help ensure fair trade and competition in the livestock and poultry industries.”  However, according to a letter from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, which was signed by 114 other members of Congress (for a total of 68 Republicans and 47 Democrats), the proposal strays “far beyond Congress’ intent in the Farm Bill” and “would precipitate major changes in livestock and poultry marketing”.  In addition,  the “analysis contained in the proposed rule fails to demonstrate the need for the rule”...more

At age 12, he's world's youngest toreador

At the tender age of 12, Michel Lagravere is a sensation in bullfighting circles, the youngest toreador in the world. He displays little fear before snorting, charging bulls, some of which weigh around 900 pounds. By his own reckoning, he has already slain hundreds of them. This year, he has pulled his sword and waved his cape in nearly 50 bullrings around Mexico, among them the famed Plaza Mexico in the capital. He has challenged bulls in Colombia, Peru and France and has his hopes set on Spain. Known simply as "Michelito," the seventh-grader is the latest of a breed of ever-younger extreme athletes. This year, records have been broken for the youngest person to scale Mount Everest -- 13-year-old Jordan Romero, an American -- and the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted and alone, 16-year-old Jessica Watson, an Australian. As adolescents gain global attention for athletic achievements at younger ages, the focus now falls on a precocious bullfighter who stands all of 4 feet 10. "Since he was little, instead of playing with toy cars, he would pretend the dog was a bull and wave a cape in front of it," said Michelito's mother, Diana Peniche. "Instead of watching cartoons, he'd watch videos of bullfights. He wanted to know the names of all the famous bullfighters."...more

A woman cattle thief

A woman accused of being involved in two cattle theft cases earlier this year was arrested on Friday. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association says Ashley Nelson, 24, of Marquez, was arrested for allegedly stealing six head of cattle along with 53-year-old Rosario Carrizales and 26-year-old Jose Guadalupe Carrizales in March. Nelson is Jose Carrizales' wife, and Rosario Carrizales is his mother. The cattle were reportedly located at the East Texas Livestock Auction by a buyer who recognized the brand as a Leon County rancher's...more

You've come a long way, baby.

Idaho man creates the holy grail of knives at his ranch in Midvale

He almost blushes as he pulls out the knife he keeps in his jeans pocket — a folding knife purchased through a mail-order catalog for $20. “I can’t keep a knife,” Dwight Towell says with a sheepish grin. “Every time I make a knife for myself, somebody wants to buy it.” That’s about as close as he comes to boasting. He’d never say so, but Towell is one of the top knifemakers in the world. Collectors pay thousands for the handmade knives that come from the austere little shop on his Midvale ranch. The current wait for a Dwight Towell custom knife: five to six years. A recipient of this year’s Governor’s Awards in the Arts, Towell is no stranger to prizes. They include the American Knifemakers Guild’s top award and the Beretta Award for outstanding achievement in cutlery. A Towell dagger engraved with gold on blued steel graced the cover of a brochure for the Art Knife Invitational in San Diego, to which only the world’s top knifemakers are invited. It sold for $12,800. “Dwight, quite simply, is one of the half dozen finest knifemakers in the world, and since there can be no fine art without craft, an incredibly talented artist by any measure,” said Cort Conley of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. “That he could manage this while being an admirable husband, father and rancher humbles most everyone who knows him.” The Towells have ranched in the Midvale area since his great grandfather, Alexander Towell, homesteaded there in 1881. As a boy, Dwight Towell “always had a knife. I was always whittling or carving my initials in something.”...more

Trew: Early Texans relied on corn for cakes, livestock

To the early Texas settlers, raising corn was a matter of life or death. Survival often depended on how much corn you raised for food or sale. They selected only the best grain for seed, guarded it like treasure and prayed for it to mature at harvest. A second use was almost as important as corn was a good feed for livestock, especially the work horses and mules pulling the plows. After planting three grains of corn to a hill, they watched carefully as the plants grew. They taught children to check each hill, pull out the suckers or weaker plants leaving only the most vigorous stalks to grow. Everyone looked forward to fresh roasting ears as the crop neared maturity. Some waited for the tassel at the top to dry then cut the stalk off just above the highest ear and fed these tops to their cattle or horses. When the ear matured past the tender roasting ear stage, it was allowed to mature to be picked, shucked, shelled and stored to be eventually ground into corn meal. Corn shucks were used in crude mattresses and corn cobs used to caulk between logs in buildings and burn for heat. Corn meal could be mixed with water and salt and cooked in many ways. If working out on the prairie, small balls of cornmeal dough could be dropped into the ashes of a campfire and cooked. When done, the ashes were brushed off and eaten as "ash cake." If working out in the fields, the small balls of dough could be baked on a garden hoe and eaten as "hoe cake."...more

Song Of The Day #438

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio, and here is Dan Roberts performing Full Moon Turnaround.

You'll find the tune on his 12 track CD Viva La Cowboy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The cowboy went to war

They all dressed alike once they got there. Field and combat olive-drab uniforms, laced-up military-issue combat boots and a rifle just for starters.

In a sea of soldier faces, you can't tell the cowboys from the accountants. Not in any of the previous wars and not now. But there have always been plenty of men of all ages that left the ranch and headed to war.

Sadly, it took me until I was well into adulthood before I realized the dangers these "boys" and most were just boys, put themselves in when they proudly went to defend their country.

There's something built into the male that moves him to do just about anything to become a soldier and fight for what he has known as home, family and freedom.
New Mexico's Claude Hobbs, the oldest of 10 children, was drafted in 1942 in the Army Automatic Weapon Battalion and away from his $1-a-day job driving mules to build dirt tanks with a fresno and breaking horses for $5 a head.

His first stop was the beaches of Normandy. Before he was able to come home, he saw five major conflicts and earned bronze and silver stars as well as two good conduct medals.

My dad, George Baker, and his two brothers, all Colorado cowboys, did their stints with the army. Dad, one brother and a cousin were all in Korea during and just
after that war that no one really won and where conflicts remain still today.

My brother left the "glamour" of ranching, haying and working for Dad to join the Army and make a career of it. His expertise ultimately landed him at the end of his career serving for three years as a drill instructor and training waves of troops during the Desert Storm conflict.

Today we are sending our cowboys to the Middle East to fight a war like no other. And even then, you can take the cowboy off the ranch, but you can't keep him afoot. If there is a horse around, which is actually a tactical warfare method in Afghanistan, he'll find it even if it's not "Army issue."

Northern New Mexico cowboy Frank van Buskirk spent four years fighting government red tape to be allowed into the service. His burning desire to fight for his country set him on a journey that ultimately landed him with the Rangers in southern Afghanistan on a fire base.

There in the remoteness of the country was an Afghan horse that was about to meet a New Mexico cowboy. Frank soon became friends with Achmed (his name for his new steed) who learned there was more to life than being petted and standing around.

Frank found an old saddle in a shed that was covered in decades of dust and had extremely dry leather --crumbling and brittle with age.

Making do with what was at hand, he soaked it in motor oil to soften the leather so he could make repairs. He found a snaffle bit and made a head stall for it out of the parachute cord that came tied around the Army supply packages.

Frank's dedication and sacrifice were highlighted, along with the horrors of war, with good moments with Achmed. The other notable to his story is the fact that he turned 60 years old shortly after returning home to New Mexico.

As Claude Hobbs put it in recalling his war years 65-plus years ago, "You see a lot of things you forget, and a lot of things you don't forget."

And for that reason, thanking a veteran isn't just a "holiday" action. It's something that should be done every day for every one of them that have ever served, whether they wear a cowboy hat or not.

Julie can be reached for comment

Throw Carol Browner Under the Bus

Energy czar Carol Browner needs to go the way of disgraced green jobs czar Van Jones: under the bus and stripped of her unbridled power to destroy jobs and lives in the name of saving the planet. ASAP. One of the Beltway’s most influential, entrenched and unaccountable left-wing radicals, Browner has now been called out twice by President Obama’s own federal BP oil spill commission and Interior Department inspector general. How many strikes should a woman who circumvented the Senate confirmation process and boasts a sordid history of abusing public office get? Pushing the question—and shining a bright, hot spotlight on Browner’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering—should be a top priority of the new House GOP majority. Not least of all because Washington insiders are still buzzing about possible White House plans to increase her policy role and elevate her status with Team Obama...more

Obama Debt Commission Calls for $1 Trillion in Net Tax Hikes

So says ATR, including an automatic tax increase any year the budget is not balanced.
Looks like the tax farmers are still cultivating the ground in D.C.
Let's hope they experience a big ol' drought.

Song Of The Day #437

The Gospel tune on Ranch Radio this Sunday morning is Who God's Children Really Are performed by Elton Britt.

The song is on his 12 track LP album Somethin' For Everyone.

On the border: One-sided agency cooperation

Agency Cooperation Where?
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

      “After a slow start and much trial and error, cooperation among federal departments and agencies charged with protection of the border and wilderness areas has been improving in the past few years," concludes the report produced by consultant Kirk Emerson of the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy and requested and funded by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.
       Was this the same New Mexico Wilderness Alliance whose Associate Director, Nathan Newcomer, stated that concerns arising over border security activities hindered by federal land management priorities and interagency cooperation have stymied the passage of Senator Bingaman’s S.1689 with its 241,400 acres of designated Wilderness of which 180,050 acres are located in a direct line of sight of the border.
      This is an interesting development in the S.1689 debate.  Eyebrows are being raised in the opposition coalition of more than 800 Dona Ana County, New Mexico businesses and organizations and the more than 2250 additional petitioners who stand firmly in opposition to the bill.  The word to that opposition from the Bingaman camp has been, “Wilderness is not causative” in terms of illegal traffic and impediments to border security. 
      If that is the case, why on earth should there now surface a suggestion that such concerns have stymied S.1689 from passage?  Senators Bingaman and Udall of New Mexico certainly have not demonstrated to their constituency that they have had that concern.
     The Revelation of Conflict
     The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers has stood in unity against the passage of the bill.  They believe the situation in Arizona will be duplicated in New Mexico if designated Wilderness is created on the border of southern New Mexico.
     A NAFBPO contemporary representing the environmental side of the debate and a paid border consultant, Ron Colburn, elevates the suggestion of the tranquility and cooperation in his reminder to Americans that the activity in the Yuma Sector of the Arizona border has had a 90% drop in illegal activity over the last five years. 
     Actually, Mr. Colburn needs to check his computation because he could have represented correctly that the drop was 95%.  What he failed to state is that there are no designated Wilderness access limitations in the Yuma Sector nor is there in the El Paso Sector where S.1689 is currently being considered.
     If Colburn had wanted to paint an honest assessment of the border, he would have reminded Americans that all apprehensions have dropped over 50% in the last five years and that the growth of entry, as a percentage of the whole, has only occurred in the San Diego Sector, and . . . the Tucson Sector.  He could have described how activity has plunged in the Yuma and El Paso Sectors, the neighboring sectors to the Tucson Sector.  He could have told the American people that the interdiction of illegals in the El Paso Sector now stands at 54 per border mile per year, in the Yuma Sector at 55 per border mile per year, but that the Tucson Sector is running 17 times those results at nearly 920 per border mile per year!  He could have reminded the American people that in the face of declining total apprehensions, drug smuggling is expected to be up as much as 57%, and that current year illegal alien deaths will establish a new record.  He could have said that the Border Patrol’s answer to General David Petraeus, Victor Manjarrez, has been quietly assigned to that sector in an attempt to make some headway in the war that rages there on our American border.  He could have told the American people that it is in the Tucson Sector where the “gold standard” for securing Arizona Class Human and Drug Smuggling Corridors exists at its zenith.  It is there that over a million acres of Wilderness has been designated on the American border with Mexico with all its obstacles to Border Patrol access and resulting rampant illegal entry. 
     The Concern of Cooperation
     Cooperation, of course, is an issue that exists between the federal land agencies and the Border Patrol.  There has also been the need to elevate the presence of historical stakeholders into the discussion.  After all, it is the Border Patrol and the historical stakeholder groups who have found themselves in the crosshairs of conflicting land agency agendas.
     There are many who have started arraying the federal land agencies on a cooperative index scale.  The agency that seems to have the least idea of what to do has been the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that is not isolated to the Arizona border.  In many ways, the border hugging Tohono O’odom Indian Reservation is more dangerous than the designated Wilderness areas.  It has become a black hole where many people move back and forth without any allegiance to legitimate authority on either side of the border.    
      The BLM has been the most forthright in its internal policies and actions warning both its employees and the American public of the dangers that exist on the border. In no cases known to date, has the BLM used the conditions on the border to expand its mission agenda.  Its leadership remains the best among the federal agencies in attempting to maintain relations with its stakeholders.
     The Forest Service has systematically been an expander of its mission agenda.  Its relationships with its historical stakeholders have been less than stellar.  In fairness, its mandate to uphold the land laws, particularly ESA and NEPA, has put it in a situation that makes relationship maintenance difficult, but even GAO reports indicate that it’s effects creates more obstacles for the Border Patrol than progress in building bridges in policy or coordination efforts.
     The US Fish and Wildlife Service is the next step up the scale.  When its Regional Director fails to return any calls to the Sector Chief of the Border Patrol, red flags must be raised and that is exactly where the USFW finds itself.  Three issues stand out for discussion:
  1. Using more stimulus money at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge to build enhanced fencing on its perimeter away from the border than on the border in order to limit Border Patrol activity is not acceptable.  Installing a system on that border refuge whereby the Border Patrol can only enter the refuge mechanically for the purposes of emergency (conditions of human life and death matters) is fully unacceptable to the national defense of the United States.  USFWS does not have authority to unilaterally manage its lands in a de facto wilderness manner.
  2. The conditions at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge have so deteriorated that areas along the 5.5 miles of shared border with Mexico have been closed to the public since 2006.  In recent reports, management of Buenos Aires admits that the original premise of establishing the refuge, the intention of returning it to a perceived state of desert grasslands, is not going to happen.  The restrictions subsequently imposed on the Border Patrol, though, have now resulted in 1,315 miles of trails or about 50 miles of illegal human and drug smuggling trails per square mile of refuge.  Locals will no longer even go there.  The infrastructure that was in place when the USFWS got their hands on the land is now largely gone. It has become gangland in every sense of the word. 
  3. Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge now has 8000 miles of illegal roads and trails created by illegal entry and human and drug smugglers since the refuge was designated Wilderness!  Although there are many incidents to report, one watershed incident needs to be divulged.  The management of the refuge has disallowed Border Patrol helicopter access if and when endangered species are present.  The suggestion by the management is that a real time system needs to be installed so the Border Patrol can determine where those endangered species are so that flight operations can go elsewhere . . . ! 
     The Park Service takes the top spot in the uncooperative index in its militant stance against historical stakeholders and the Border Patrol.  It was at Organ Pipe in 1978 that the first border Wilderness was designated.  It was there that the Border Patrol encountered not only an unfriendly federal land agency, but an underlying environmental agenda that opened the wilderness pathways into the soft underbelly of America. 
     It was at Organ Pipe that Park Service officials stood in the open cockpit (over the moribund body of an illegal) of a Border Patrol helicopter demanding names and personal information of the pilot in order to prosecute that unapproved landing in designated Wilderness to pick up that near dead human being.
     It was at Organ Pipe that the Park Service elevated the Border Patrol into the hierarchy of the most dangerous antagonist to that monument’s wilderness kingdom.  The Border Patrol was declared more dangerous to the natural landscape than illegal entry and drug cartels!  And, it was there that the Park Service, as early as 2002, knew the extent of the damage emanating from border wilderness sanctuaries for illegal entry into the Unites States.  They had found in their own study, in a representative one square kilometer (about 160 acres) of Wilderness in the Valley of the Ajos, the following illegal activity:
-          one set of bicycle tracks
-          one set of horse tracks
-          three illegal fire scars
-          40 sites of trash (excluding water bottles)
-          seven rest sites
-          15 sets of vehicle tracks
-          48 discarded water bottles
-          254 illegal foot trails!
    The Park Service did not share that information until it was demanded by Congressional leaders in 2009That federal agency not only elected to declare itself absent from any discussions of cooperation, it openly displayed its disdain for the Border Patrol.
   The Cooperation Mechanism
    If there has been any movement to bridge the cooperation gap among the agencies with the Border Patrol, especially the USFWS and the Park Service, it has come in the form of sanctioned extortion.  The disclosure that $52,474,593 was extracted from the Department of Homeland Security for Border Patrol access on these federal lands provides some insight into the realm of the real cooperation.  Represented as mitigation payments, only $1.2 million of that total is going to actual mitigation.  The rest is being spread across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California in various studies, acquisitions, and projects aimed at various wildlife species that the vast majority of the American people could not identify.
     The Cooperation Reality
     Consider this factAmerican Congressional leadership has allowed the development of conditions that have created the most dangerous border in the entire world along our southern border.  Central to that has been the designation of Wilderness and central to that has been an environmental agenda that is much more pervasive than ever imagined.
     The expansion of the Arizona Class Drug and Human Smuggling Corridors, the deterioration of the natural resources of the Arizona border itself, the heightened danger of the border to American citizens and officials, and the escalation of the drug war in Mexico all can be traced in part and or in total to this environmental and social agenda that has been ingloriously loaded on the backs of American taxpayers.  This is a battle that has been raging on this side of the border for many years.  It is a battle that set the stage for the greater battle now raging on the south side of the border.  It is real and our leaders need to comprehend its complexities and its dangers to U.S. citizens and law enforcement agencies.
     “Agency cooperation” has become words used merely for expediency.  It is Washington speak that has become tiresome to Americans who pay the bill for agency fiefdoms and kingdoms.  There has been too little cooperation by land agencies extended to the Border Patrol, and that has been by design.  There is a time to fix it, though, and that time is . . . now.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  The ranching community that spans the border communicates through their cowboys. News is exchanged and discussed.  The decrease in apprehension numbers in the El Paso Sector border lands are closely tied to two things.  The first is the economy of the United States.  The second is twofold. The first component is the horrors of the carnage that is taking place in Juarez, the most dangerous city in the world.  Illegals simply want to avoid the risks associated with running the gauntlet that exists on the approaches to that border area.  The second component is why run that risk when the higher likelihood of success of entering the United States is through the Arizona Class Human and Drug Smuggling Corridors of Arizona’s Tucson Sector?   Illegals know.  It is not rocket science.