Friday, December 03, 2010

Hastings Blasts Lame Duck Attempt to Push Through Massive Omnibus Package

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) released the following statement following reports of a potential omnibus lands, wildlife and waterways package being developed in the U.S. Senate: “Somewhere in the Senate, Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer are secretly constructing a Frankenstein omnibus of bills from three separate Committees. Democrat leaders are ignoring the overwhelming message sent by voters in November that they wanted an end to the backroom deals that produce giant bills loaded with new spending and job-killing policies. It isn’t known just how monstrous of a bill is being assembled – that’s the problem with backroom deals and omnibus packages. The House Natural Resources Committee Republican staff has conducted a specific bill-by-bill analysis, based on public reports and reliable private accounts, of the range of legislation that is possibly being packaged into this omnibus – it could total as high as 126 bills, which would equate to a 1,400-page behemoth of over $10 billion in authorized spending....more

Below is Hastings' letter

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:

I have serious concerns regarding current efforts in the Senate to pass a massive omnibus lands package in the final days of this Congress. According to news reports, such a package could consist of more than 126 different bills, many of which have not been considered by the House, and cost over $10 billion.

These concerns are well-founded given the manner in which a previous omnibus lands package, H.R. 146, was rushed into law last year. This legislation touched on a vast array of issues, spanned hundreds of pages and came at a $9 billion cost to the American taxpayer. H.R. 146 was cobbled together behind closed doors without any regards for transparency. Over half of the individual bills that compiled H.R. 146 never received a hearing in the House and were not properly vetted. In order to avoid any changes to this sprawling bill, and to also avoid having to take potentially politically harmful votes, H.R. 146 was brought to the House floor under a closed Rule that allowed for limited debate and no amendments.

This is not the way the American people expect Congress to legislate and is precisely the type of heavy handed tactics that helped fuel the public’s desire for change in the recent election.

I ask that any attempt to move an omnibus lands package be done through an open, transparent and fair legislative process. Given that a large number of these bills have never been seen before in the House, I request that any legislative package of this type be subject to full committee mark-ups in any of the committees that have jurisdiction over the titles included in the legislation. I also ask that this legislation be subject to an open rule on the House floor in order to allow for amendments, improvement and proper debate.

This omnibus lands bill will have significant impacts on American jobs, our economy and our nation’s energy, environmental and land-use policies. Such a significant bill should not be hastily pushed through Congress without thoughtful and careful consideration.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my request. I look forward to your timely response.


Doc Hastings
Ranking Member,
House Natural Resources Committee

NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical

NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components. "The definition of life has just expanded," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it." This finding of an alternative biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. The research is published in this week's edition of Science Express...more

Interior mulls policy on disclosure of gas 'fracking' fluids

The Interior Department may compel natural-gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they're using for a controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing. "Within the Department of the Interior ... we will be considering issuing a policy that will deal with the issue of disclosure requirements with respect to the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday at a forum on natural-gas development. The drilling method — dubbed "fracking" — employs high-pressure injections of chemicals, water and sand to break apart rock formations and enable trapped gas beneath the surface to flow. Interior regulates energy development on public lands. Fracking is enabling a boom in U.S. gas development but also raising fears of groundwater contamination...more

Oil spill panel chief says Interior’s reforms might need to go further

The presidential oil spill commission might conclude that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s steps to eliminate conflicting missions within the agency’s offshore oversight should go even further, the panel’s co-chairman said Thursday. alazar, in the wake of the BP spill, has moved offshore revenue collections completely outside the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service (it’s now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). He’s also separating offshore oil-and-gas leasing programs from safety and environmental enforcement. But William Reilly — co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling — said Thursday the reforms might not be enough...more

Environmentalists want to close thousands of miles of trails

Environmentalists are pushing to close thousands of miles of Utah’s off-road vehicle trails, and few places illustrate their beef with red-dirt riders better than Arch Canyon. The southeastern Utah landmark, west of Blanding, has a stream-crossing trail muddied by off-road vehicles and a well-known collection of ancient rock art and Puebloan ruins. Environmentalists want the trail and its 60 water crossings closed to vehicles to protect those resources from erosion and vandalism. Off-roaders want it to remain open so they can enjoy those sights. It’s also ripe for archaeological looters and vandals because of the easy access, SUWA says. The group previously asked the BLM to close the route, but the agency this fall rejected that petition. Now SUWA, which issued an unflattering report card Wednesday on the BLM’s management of off-roaders, is urging closures of about 15 percent of the 20,000 miles of routes that were designated in travel plans for 11 million acres in southern and eastern Utah. SUWA’s report card for the BLM’s management of off-roaders gives the agency a "D" in protecting the environment, an "F" in appreciating history and other cultures, but a "B" for improving on the freewheeling access the group says existed before the 2008 travel plans. SUWA already is suing the government over those plans, which designated about 20,000 miles of travel routes stretching from the Four Corners to Richfield to Flaming Gorge...more

The jaw-dropping image of an enormous 'supercell' cloud

It looks like something from the film Independence Day. But although it may seem like an alien mothership, this incredible picture is actually an impressive thunderstorm cloud known as a supercell. Windswept dust and rain dominate the storm's centre while rings of jagged clouds surround the edge. A flimsy tree in the foreground looks like a toy next to the magnificent natural phenomenon. The photograph is just one image from the portfolio of electrician Sean Heavey. The supercell cloud was photographed in July west of Glasgow, Montana, USA. Mr Heavey, 34, an amateur photographer, created the jaw-dropping panoramic image by stitching together three photos from the 400 frames he took of the violent scene he witnessed in July...more

George Soros And Food Safety

    A questionable food safety bill in search of a crisis passed the Senate, but may hit a snag in the House. This power grab of the nation's food supply may end up benefiting a certain Hungarian billionaire. Why would the Senate take up precious time in the lame duck session considering a food safety bill?
    Just as ObamaCare wasn't really about health care reform but about government power, S510 is not really about food safety but about government control of agriculture and the nation's food producers. The Food Safety Modernization Act would give the Food and Drug Administration unprecedented power to govern how farmers produce their crops. The FDA would be able to control soil, water, hygiene, and even temperature, on farms. Through the law, the agency could regulate animal activity in the fields.
    "This legislation means that parents who tell their kids to eat their spinach can be assured it won't make them sick," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who wrote the bill, referring to a recent e-coli outbreak traced to spinach.
    A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, even if you have to manufacture one. As the Heritage Foundation reports, the nation's food supply is the world's safest and getting safer all the time. Incidences of food-borne illnesses, despite headlines about massive egg recalls, have been declining for more than a decade.
    In 1996, there were 51.2 cases of confirmed food-borne bacterial contamination per 100,000 people.
By 2009, this fell by a third to 34.8 cases per 100,000 people. So it would seem it's getting safer for kids to eat their spinach. But then again, this bill isn't about spinach.
    S510 transfers authority over food regulation enforcement from the FDA to the Homeland Security Department, which brought us the TSA, naked body scanners and the groping of our junk. The bill requires the EPA to "participate" in regulating the food chain.
    The bill expands government authority and control over America's 2.2 million farms, 28,000 food manufacturing facilities, 149,000 food and beverage stores, and 505,000 residents and similar facilities. It increases inspections of all food "facilities."
    Because it taxes them for the privilege, the House must pass a new version of the bill to be sent back to the Senate. The Constitution requires all tax bills to originate in the House, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who opened the session with a five-minute soliloquy on football, should have known that.

This editorial was originally published at IBD.

Song Of The Day #448

Ranch Radio brings you Old Napoleon by Hank Thompson.

Thompson's stuff is widely available.

I'll be at the Cattle Growers Convention this weekend, hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Alejandro Garza and his Border War

 by Stephen L. Wilmeth

    The heroic fight that Alejandro Garza put up before he was killed by cartel gunman is the stuff of legend.  Mr. Garza, a 77 year old Mexican rancher, had been warned to vacate his northern Mexico ranch by cartel operatives.  Like thousands of other small ranchers in the northern reaches of Mexico, his life had become a simple commodity in the expansion of trafficking territory along the border with the United States.
     If the growing realization by government officials that the death count in Mexico since 2006 may be as much as twice what is being reported, Mr. Garza’s death was added to a list of casualties that is well on it way to equaling that which the United States suffered in Viet Nam.  For a matter of a simple police action, the body counts are starting to make this look like what should properly be called the First Mexican Revolution of the 21st Century.  It is a war.
     In the shootout that claimed Mr. Garza’s life, four cartel gunmen were killed and another two were wounded.  “Alejo” decided that enough was enough and stood his ground.  Nobody was going to take all he had without somebody paying the price for it.  He had sent his family away and waited for the arrival of the gunmen.  He had fought, but the results indicate that the cartels got their operational objective, and his death, along with the others, will simply be a mark on the growing tally sheet.  Only his legend will remain.    
     In the last year, American citizens objecting to the expansion of designated Wilderness on the Mexican border warned their leadership about the danger to the ranchers of northern Mexico as the drug war expanded.  The warning described how ranchers along the border depended on each other for safety and that when one was eliminated the neighbor across the border was put at risk.  Now, it is known that up to 5,000 ranch properties in the state of Tamaulipas have been abandoned as a result of the violence.  Their departures have been filled by drug cartels’ version of their own Forward Operating Bases (FOB) allowing the staging of drugs to be run north. 
     The loss of engaged citizenry from either side of the border elevates the risk of more attrition. When both sides are eliminated, the entry points of the Human and Drug Smuggling Corridors are secured and the danger expands exponentially.  The infamous Arizona Class Human and Drug Smuggling Corridors result if all the other known factors are present.
      The departure of those Mexican ranches is alarming in several respects.  In Tamaulipas alone, annual cattle exports to the United States number about 200,000 animals annually.  As 2010 draws to a conclusion, the cumulative export number is just under one third of that number.  More alarming is the departure of the ranching community that has always provided stability to the social structure of northern Mexico.
      It is not just the ranches, though, that are being devastated.  Social structure is also being torn apart by the disruption of all forms of major commerce.  The utter crisis that is taking place in the major cities of northern Mexico could change the landscape of Mexico for generations.  There are suggestions that in Juarez, the most dangerous city in the world, 40% of the businesses are now gone and as many as 130,000 houses are abandoned.
     This should make American leadership very concerned of the ability of the Mexican government to survive the growing onslaught.  The suggestion that America cannot afford to shut off the flow of illegal immigration in order to avoid a Mexican economic implosion is in the process of being tested.  If the Mexican government fails, America’s lackadaisical attitude about its border policies could be in for a rude awakening.  Someone will fill the void of a Mexican government collapse and it may not be the choice of the United States.
    The warning of concern for Mexican ranchers on the southern border has become reality.  The warning that an expanded drug war will create more opportunities for OTMs (illegals other than Mexicans) has been issued and now the warning must be amplified.  Will our leaders understand the implications?
     The citizens that expressed fear for Mexican ranchers in the expansion of the Drug War being fought over smuggling routes into the United States have been attempting to get New Mexico Senators Bingaman and Udall (D-NM) to listen to concerns regarding the makeup of OTM that are treading northward through those corridors.  The senators, convinced that the safety features of their S.1689, The Organ Mountain – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act are satisfactory, have not budged from their stance for yet more border wilderness expansion.
     The word is out that Environmentalism is trumping National Security on our southern border.  The smuggling corridors are wide open and continue to fan the flames of the Drug War.  A Viet Nam is raging on our door steps, and, yet, the Environmental Leadership is being pressed aggressively to get the wilderness plans slated for the Omnibus Bill passed before rational leadership returns.  Get it done while there is still time!
     Does reality or caution prevail anywhere in Washington?  For folks like Rob Krentz, and, now his counterpart, Alejo Garza, their fight has ended.  They no longer have to fear the actions of their governments.  It is the rest of us who must worry about that and what it means for our future. 

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “Isn’t it ironic that the party that bemoaned the atrocities of Viet Nam is virtually silent regarding the same atrocities taking place on our southern border?  Fact is erasing theorem . . . Environmentalism trumps National Security in the actions and the hearts of our elected border leadership.  History will demonstrate that their idealism contributed to the expansion of this war.”

After Tough Year, Salazar Brand May Be Tarnished

Rep. John Salazar's defeat earlier this month sends a rancher and a farmer back to a rural Colorado district -- and calls into question the future of a once-popular political brand. Salazar's defeat caps a difficult year for the politically powerful family. His younger brother, Ken Salazar -- a former Colorado senator and state attorney general -- has been the target of harsh criticism from all corners for his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as secretary of the Interior Department. This election cycle, outside groups spent a few million dollars trying to defeat John Salazar, who had won his two previous re-election campaigns with relative ease. During the race Salazar said he felt like those groups were trying to send a message through him to Washington -- in part, perhaps, because of his brother's position in the Obama administration. Recapping Colorado's electoral outcomes, The Denver Post declared "the Salazar Brand" an election night loser. "With Ken Salazar gone from the U.S. Senate and John Salazar ousted from Congress, their political dynasty is diminishing," the paper wrote. And while political watches on both sides of the aisle said that the Salazar brand has been diminished, they lay the blame less on the elder's loss than on the Interior secretary's absence from the state...more

Colleagues enlist Reid's help with last-ditch push for massive water, lands, wildlife package

Paul Quinlan, E&E reporter
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Senate colleagues this week he will move forward with an eleventh-hour effort to pass a massive package of waterways, public lands and wildlife bills during the lame-duck session, sources say, in what could be a rare environmental victory for a Congress marked by major defeats on climate change and oil spill legislation.
The Nevada Democrat offered his assurances Monday night after a group of about 10 Senate Democrats, including key committee leaders Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), met with him in a room off the Senate floor to ask him to intensify his efforts to push a bill through the heavily divided Senate, which already faces a packed agenda for the waning days of this Congress, the sources said.
"They went to the leader to say, 'We want you to pay attention to this more than you have,'" said an environmental lobbyist closely involved in the effort. Reid's office did not respond to a request for comment last night.
By all accounts, Reid was receptive and the meeting was a success. Afterward, Reid's staff reached out to the offices of senators involved to ask for a draft of the proposed legislation, which was expected to be delivered to the leader's office either last night or today.
The senators and environmentalists pushing for the package are especially hopeful because of the broad, bipartisan support for the waterways legislation that would be included. Taken together, the bills could amount to the most significant change in water legislation since the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act.
Waterways bills slated to be included in the package aim to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco Bay, the Columbia River, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and Long Island Sound, sources say. Most would authorize, but do not appropriate, money for U.S. EPA to establish new programs and program offices relating to each waterway, award grants and increase accountability. Another bill said to have a place in the package would reauthorize the National Estuary Program.
All passed the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee in June with the full support of committee Democrats and Republicans led by Boxer and ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who are polar opposites politically. Senate Democrats say they hope those bills will help them win the 60 votes needed to move the larger bill through the chamber.
"I think we have a good chance because they are bipartisan bills," Boxer said yesterday of the overall effort.
Senators invited to the meeting with Reid on Monday night included not only Environment and Public Works Committee members but also senators deemed to have a special interest in one or more of the waterways bills -- for example, those who face re-election in 2012 in states where waterway restoration and protection polls well.
Likely to be combined with the waterways bills are measures that Bingaman's Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed individually or in batches during this Congress that aim to protect more than 2 million acres in 13 states; create new national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and wildlife sanctuaries; protect migratory birds and rare cats; and combat invasive species.
"There's been a lot of hard work the last two years, and it would be disappointing, to say the least, if a lot of these targeted bills died because the Senate couldn't find the time to move them forward," Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee, said yesterday.
Although many Republicans support individual waterways bills, several remain noncommittal or outright opposed to the idea of rolling their favored bill up with other water, lands and wildlife bills into a single, sweeping package.
"I think the way to go about moving forward on these bills is to probably do them individually," Matt Dempsey, spokesman for the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Monday.
Environmentalists counter that there is no other way. Dozens of groups have lobbied Senate leadership aggressively on behalf of such a sweeping bill, writing letters, dispatching lobbyists to the Hill to buttonhole senators in hallways and even establishing an e-mail distribution list of about 200 that can share news on who's in, who's out, who's on the fence and why.
"Many of these bills have little or no opposition, strong local support and bipartisan sponsorship in Congress," said a Nov. 16 letter to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that was signed by the heads of 10 major environmental groups, including Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation.
Time runs very short and even strong supporters -- such as Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) -- admit the odds of success remain slim. Adding to the challenge, many of the bills have not received committee approval in the House.
The likely strategy, say lobbyists, will be to try to find a two-day window during the lame duck between debates over agenda-toppers like taxes and ways to continue funding the federal government. The House would then send over a privileged motion to the Senate, which could then take up the package, vote on it, and send it back to the House for a final, take-it-or-leave-it vote.
Proponents are touting the environmental and -- more important politically -- economic benefits of the proposed legislation. Jeff Skelding, director of the Great Lakes campaign for the National Wildlife Federation, cites a 2007 Brookings Institution report that concluded that investment in Great Lakes restoration would have an economic "multiplier" effect. "The spending of $1 by a fiscal authority typically results in additional spending in a region of between 1.5 and 2.5 times the original spending," the report said.
"The attacks on these bills don't recognize the need," Skelding said. "And it's not just environmental need -- it's an economic need."

Inhofe vows to block natural resources omnibus

Paul Quinlan, E&E reporter
Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe vowed to block a catch-all Senate package of waterways, public lands and wildlife bills that Democrats want to push through in the final days of this Congress.
"I stand in firm opposition to this package, the contents of which are still uncertain," said Inhofe, the Environment and Public Works Committee's ranking member. Inhofe cited concerns over costs and the potential expansion of U.S. EPA authority in the most controversial of the waterways bills, aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
Inhofe said he was willing to work with colleagues to advance individual resources bills, but he promised to place a "hold" on any package "to ensure the American people have more time to understand the policy, regulatory and fiscal impacts of these bills."
The committee's chairwoman, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), has pushed for the package and was among 10 or so Democrats who met with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday evening. The group convinced Reid to combine more than 100 bills that have emerged from Boxer's committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passage during the lame-duck session (E&E Daily, Dec. 1).
In that package are proposals aimed at protecting 2 million acres in 13 states and boosting restoration efforts for the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Tahoe, the San Francisco Bay, the Columbia River, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and Long Island Sound.
Inhofe spotlighted his concerns over the Chesapeake Bay bill sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) that would give EPA the legislative power it needs to shepherd President Obama's bay-restoration initiative. Inhofe negotiated significant changes to that bill before he and fellow Republicans voted to pass the legislation and other waterways bills out of the environment committee in June.
Farmers remain vehemently opposed to the bay legislation, which they say arms EPA with precedent-setting power to crack down on fertilizer and animal-waste runoff.
Inhofe said that bill "still needs significant changes, principally with respect to restricting the broad, and unprecedented, scope of authority it grants EPA over state permitting programs." He invited Cardin to work with him on a compromise that he warned would be out of reach "if this bill is thrown together with other bills."
Democrats were still expressing hope today that they might recruit Republican support to move the resource package through the Senate and over to the House before the lame duck ends later this month.
A House Democratic leadership aide expressed hope today that the Senate could pass the package. "We have sent the Senate over 100 land and water bills and are talking to them about these efforts to get the bills done," the aide said in an e-mail today.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee, which passed many of the lands bills, said he hoped the bill would pass.
"There's a lot of hard work that would go wasting if we can't put an omnibus lands package together," Udall said. "I'd really hate to see us adjourn without moving the legislation."

Food safety bill: Spinach gets new oversight, but not beef

The Senate Tuesday passed a bill designed to give the Food and Drug Administration new powers to protect consumers from unsafe food. The measure was approved 73-25, and an effort is under way to reconcile it quickly with a more stringent version approved by the House of Representatives before the lame-duck session of Congress ends. President Barack Obama has indicated he'd sign the bill. "This legislation means that parents who tell their kids to eat their spinach can be assured it won't make them sick," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who as the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee wrote the bill, referring to a more recent e-coli outbreak traced to spinach. However, the measure does nothing to sort out the overlapping jurisdictions among the FDA and other federal agencies that regulate food safety. The new bill doesn't cover meat, poultry and eggs because the Department of Agriculture regulates them. The Senate bill would give the FDA new powers to recall tainted food, increase inspections of food processors and impose tougher food-safety standards on producers. The action came after contaminated eggs, peanuts and produce sickened hundreds of people this year, and more than 550 million eggs suspected of salmonella contamination were recalled. But the measure requires the FDA to inspect what it defines as "high risk" producers only once every three years. The bill also exempts small farms from the new requirements...more

Farmers and Cattlemen Want Species Delisted

Farmers and ranchers demand that the Secretary of the Interior review the status of five threatened and endangered species, including the gray wolf, the northern spotted owl, the Oregon silverspot butterfly and two plants. The Washington Farm Bureau and its allies say the government's failure to conduct mandatory 5-year reviews "has caused the species to linger on the lists, without any assurances that those species really belong there." The Washington Cattlemen's Association and the Washington Farm Forestry Association joined as plaintiffs. They say the Interior Department and its creature, the Fish and Wildlife Service, failed to perform the nondiscretionary 5-year status reviews, under the Endangered Species Act. The two plant species at issue are the showy stickseed, and Wenatchee Mountains checkermallow. The groups object that because of defendants' failure to review the state of the species, "these species - some of which have been listed for decades without such reviews - remain listed as endangered or threatened. The Defendants' failure to complete the status reviews has caused the species to linger on the lists, without any assurances that those species really belong there." All five species occur in Washington state. The groups want the status of the gray wolf reviewed "in the lower 48 states, excluding all experimental populations, the Minnesota threatened population, and the Northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment."...more

Wyoming Farmers Earn Cash Diverting Irrigation Water To Oil Rigs

Ranching and farming in the far southeast of Wyoming is an unassuming affair, completely dependent on the sparse amount of rainfall in the region and whatever volume of water an electric pump can coax from the shallow aquifers below. Three “Groundwater Control Areas” have been in place here for many years, established by the state due to rapidly declining groundwater levels. Irrigators reflexively object when anyone proposes drilling a new water well in the region because most everyone agrees that freshwater aquifers here are over–appropriated. Yet instead of using the family’s adjudicated water right to irrigate his fields nine miles north of Burns next year, King plans to sell a good portion of the water to oil companies. “Last summer I didn’t irrigate. So I’m willing to quit irrigating again for this next year or two and sell as much water as I can,” said King. Electric utility rates are on the rise, narrowing the profit margin for crop irrigation. King figures he can make a heck of a lot more money by selling water for 35 cents per barrel – at least for a few years while the oil industry drills exploratory wells into the Niobrara oil formation, which many people expect to be the source of major new oil production in Wyoming. Thirty-five cents per barrel is 10-times what King might earn off his water when he uses it for irrigation. King said it would be nice to earn some extra money to pay off debt and buy a new truck. And King isn’t the only one hoping to cut back on crop irrigation to make money in the oil industry. Dozens of irrigators in southeast Wyoming are vying to sell their water to oil drillers. In recent months, the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office has approved 40 “temporary water use agreements,” which are required to divert irrigation water to another use. More than a dozen applications still await approval. “I heard one guy in Goshen County is making $1,600 a week selling his water,” King said...more

Court Orders Uprooting of Monsanto Biotech Sugar Beets

A federal judge today issued a preliminary injunction ordering the immediate destruction of 256 acres of genetically engineered sugar beet seedlings planted in Oregon and Arizona in September. Judge Jeffrey White determined that the seedlings had been planted in violation of federal law and regardless of his previous ruling that made planting of GE sugar beets illegal until the U.S. Department of Agriculture completes an Environmental Impact Statement, EIS. Judge White isssued the injunction in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety on behalf of a coalition of farmers and conservation groups. The lawsuit was filed on September 9, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed it had permitted the seedlings to be planted although a court ruling in August vacated the USDA's deregulation of biotech sugar beets, based on the agency's failure to prepare an EIS...more

NM water-rights settlements clear House 'with money attached'

After 44 years, the effort to settle water-rights claims of four pueblos and their neighbors in the Pojoaque River Basin is almost over. All that's needed now at the federal level is President Barack Obama's signature. The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a seminal piece of legislation that resolves American Indian trust account issues, black farmers' claims and Indian water-rights claims, including the Pojoaque Valley litigation known as the Aamodt case. The U.S. Senate approved the bill earlier in November. The House approved the measure Tuesday in a 256-152 vote. Also in the bill is settlement of Taos Pueblo water-rights claims in what's known as the Abeyta case and funding for a Navajo-Gallup pipeline that is part of a Navajo water-rights settlement in New Mexico. The bill provides $81.1 million for the Aamodt agreement, which includes construction of a new Rio Grande diversion and a pipeline to deliver imported water to the Pojoaque Basin. The bill also provides $66 million for the Taos Pueblo settlement. It authorizes a total of $92 million in future years for Aamodt and $58 million for Abeyta. Aamodt settles water-rights claims of Pojoaque, Tesuque, San Ildefonso and Nambé pueblos, which have the oldest water rights in the basin north of Santa Fe...more

Song Of The Day #446

Ranch Radio will keep things moving right along with Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys performing Sold Out Doc.

The tune is on his 14 track LP Album Rompin' Stompin' Singin' Swingin' by Bear Family Records.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Oil drilling ban to be maintained in key areas, sources say

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday afternoon that the Obama administration will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan, reversing two key policy changes President Obama announced in late March. "We are adjusting our strategy in areas where there are no active leases," Salazar told reporters in a phone call, adding that the administration has decided "not expand to new areas at this time" and instead "focus and expand our critical resources on areas that are currently active" when it comes to oil and gas drilling. In March--less than a month before the BP oil spill--Obama and Salazar said they would open up the eastern Gulf and parts of the Atlantic, including off the coast of Virginia, to offshore oil and gas exploration. Wednesday's announcement is sure to please environmentalists while angering oil and gas companies as well as some lawmakers from both parties who have pressed for continued offshore energy exploration in the wake of massive Gulf of Mexico spill...more

Another blogger looks at Bingaman's Wilderness bill

S.1689 or the Federal Government as an Incompetent, Criminal Faciliating Bully is the post at Cowboys and Tea Parties.

His take on the bill:
When the Federal government, or Senators such as New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall designate a section of land on the border as "Wilderness" they create a de facto no man lands which not only becomes a smuggling corridor but a land of misery when illegal immigrants are brutalized, women raped and drugs are imported into our Country to poison our youth and society. S.1689 The Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act will do for New Mexico what the Federal Governments previous Wilderness designations did for Arizona,.....void large tracts of land adjacent to the border out of our sovereign control, decrease or eliminate local, state and federal law enforcement activity, and increase illegal activity. There are only three non-governmental groups advocating the passage of S.1689,....the radical environmental community the Sinaloan Cartel and the Juarez Cartel.

Federal wolf protections in cross hairs

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar convened a closed meeting of Western governors Monday to try to settle on the best way to deal with a burgeoning population of gray wolves in the West. New data show that the gray-wolf population in five Western states tops 2,000, growing this year by at least 17 percent. Federal and state authorities seem to have reached agreement on the need to remove endangered-species protection from wolves so the population can be controlled through hunting, but they still must agree on a healthy target number for wolves. The original goal of the federal wolf-recovery program was to get the population to 300. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter "share our goal to de-list the species with a responsible approach guided by science," Salazar said. Those governors have been pressing the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service to turn over wolf management to those states, which would allow hunting to prevent wolves from attacking other wildlife and livestock. Tensions remain high. Federal special agents are investigating suspected illegal killings of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Montana's Schweitzer said state and federal officials agree that wolves are fully recovered, that endangered-species protections ought to be removed and that states should manage wolves based on the original federal recovery target number. "Secretary Salazar was optimistic that, with the support of the three governors, he could push Congress to pass legislation that would accomplish the three objectives," Schweitzer said. That original target "is the minimum, of course. ... We would keep a healthy buffer above that number," he said. The latest federal data indicate that at least 2,000 gray wolves roam Western forests, mostly in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Wolves gave birth to about 600 pups this year, continuing their rapid growth over the past 15 years. Wolves also live in Oregon and Washington, with occasional forays into Colorado...more

Lawmakers Push Repeal Amendment to Create More Checks and Balances

Lawmakers from around the country met Tuesday morning to support an amendment which would enable states to repeal federal legislation. The Repeal Amendment states the following: "Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed." Congressman and 10th Amendment Task Force Chairman, Rob Bishop (R-UT) announced he will drop a bill on the house floor Tuesday introducing the amendment to the lame-duck session. With a full agenda for the final weeks of this Congress, Bishop acknowledges it's unlikely for this Congress to vote on the amendment. "When January comes we will reintroduce this bill again, but it's good that we start the discussion now" he said. The concept was initially conceived by Randy Barnett, a Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University and a senior fellow of the CATO Institute. Barnett maintains that the founding fathers who wrote the constitution intended for individual states to have more freedom in government and more checks between Washington and local legislations. "But what has happened is congressional power has grown over the last 50 or 60 years," said Barnett. He believes his proposal offers, " an additional check on federal power and putting that check in the hands of the elected representatives of two-thirds of every state, thereby restoring the original balance between state and federal power contained in the original constitution." Barnett explains that right now, repealing legislation is just as difficult as passing new laws. "The framers of the constitution deliberately made it difficult to pass laws, he said. "...a repeal can be blocked by a filibuster in the Senate, it can be blocked by a presidential veto, even when its overwhelmingly popular." But the Repeal Amendment would essentially act as a veto for the states. Congressman Bishop hopes adopting this amendment will balance the amount of power between states and the federal government. "We don't want to go to a situation in which the states can dictate to the Federal Government everything they do. We tried that in the Articles of Confederation and it failed," he said Tuesday. But he also noted the opposite doesn't work either. "We don't want to go to a situation in which the federal government can dictate to the states, we have seen in modern times the problems that come in there."...more

I had read before about Professor Barnett's proposal, and am pleased to see that Rep. Bishop (who is fast becoming my hero) is moving forward with the idea.

This is the way to right the balance between the states and the feds.

I do, however, have a question for Bishop: Exactly how did the Articles of Confederation "fail"?

Boxer, Reid huddle over strategy for massive resources bill

SENATE: Boxer, Reid huddle over strategy for massive resources bill (11/30/2010)

Paul Quinlan, John McArdle and Patrick Reis, E and E reporters

The full-court press is on to assemble and pass a monumental package of waterways, public lands and wildlife bills in the final days of this Congress.

Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last night to discuss packaging a slew of waterways bills that won bipartisan endorsements from her committee with measures that emerged with similarly broad-based support from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee aimed at protecting more than 2 million acres and creating new national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and wildlife sanctuaries.

"It was great," Boxer said of her meeting with Reid. "What we're doing is we're talking to the Republicans now who voted for all the bills in my committee to see if they will go along with doing a package of bills."
Boxer added it was unlikely that such a bill could pass the Senate with unanimous support; thus, work is under way to obtain the necessary 60 votes.

"I think we have a good chance because they are bipartisan bills," Boxer said.
Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle declined to discuss the meeting's outcome but said a package was possible. "We do not discuss private meetings, but this is on a list of possible items for consideration this work period," she said in an e-mail.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's National Parks Subcommittee, said his committee's bills have "broad support" and that he was working down a list of Republican colleagues to ask if they would be supportive.

"There's a lot of conversation occurring right now," Udall said. "There's been a lot of hard work the last two years, and it would be disappointing, to say the least, if a lot of these targeted bills died because the Senate couldn't find the time to move them forward."

Others, like Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who sits on Boxer's committee and hopes to pass a Great Lakes bill he is co-sponsoring as part of the package, spoke more pessimistically about the odds of success in a badly divided Senate chamber with an already swamped agenda for the lame-duck session.

"I think it's a problem getting anything done at this stage in the game," Voinovich said. "Anything now is going to be tough."

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who wants to include a Chesapeake Bay bill that would backstop the Obama administration's ambitious, U.S. EPA-led effort to clamp down on farm and stormwater pollution, also warned of the long odds.

"Lame ducks are always uncertain," Cardin said. His bill, the most controversial of the waterways bills, eventually won bipartisan committee support after negotiations with the GOP. "Significant changes were made because of their concerns. I think we got it right."

Environmental groups continue to push for action on what they say would be a landmark package. The waterways bills up for consideration, which sailed through Boxer's committee in June, would protect and restore the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico and San Francisco Bay. Most would authorize, but do not appropriate, money for EPA to set up new program offices relating to the major waterways, award grants and increase accountability.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is running an ad in tomorrow's editions of Roll Call and Politico that will urge Republicans and Democrats to pass the bipartisan wilderness legislation, which the ad says would "give permanent protection to more than two million acres of breathtaking landscapes in thirteen states -- from Washington State's Alpine Lakes to Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds to Tennessee's Upper Bald River."
"Hunters, anglers, business leaders, conservationists and other local citizens who've worked together to get these measures this far are counting on Congress to take action before it adjourns," the ad says, against a backdrop of New Mexico's Organ Mountains, which include lands in line to receive protection.

I have a list (pdf) of bills from both committees that will be part of the omnibus package. Send me an email if you want the lists.

Medical Panel Urges a Low-Carbon Diet

A network of the world’s leading medical academies on Friday urged nations to adopt policies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants because it would have a salutary effect not just on the planet but on human health. The InterAcademy Medical Panel said in a report that while addressing climate change by moving to a low-carbon economy might be technically and economically difficult, it will pay substantial dividends in health improvements, particularly in poorer regions of the globe. It said that global climate change poses large risks to human health through increased spread of disease, large-scale displacement of people, malnutrition, fast-spreading infections, pulmonary disorders and increased heat stress. The effects are expected to be greatest in the areas of the world that have contributed the least to carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and are most vulnerable to sea-level rise, malnutrition and crop destruction. The panel said that while mitigating climate change would be costly, some of those expenses might be offset by lower spending on health care...more

Energy Secretary Doesn’t See Future for Ethanol, After Billions in Subsidies

"Ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel," Energy Secretary Stephen Chu told a gathering at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday. Chu said the Energy Department "is much more focused on developing new, commercially-viable transportation technologies -– biomass and sugar, for example -– to make gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Those won't require changing the transportation infrastructure, including pipelines." Ethanol, a gasoline additive, has received billions of dollars in federal subsidies, as Politico reported on Tuesday...more

End Ethanol Subsidies, Senators Say

Subsidies and tariffs to promote domestic ethanol production are “fiscally irresponsible and environmentally unwise” and should be ended, a bipartisan group of United States senators declared in a letter to the chamber’s leaders on Tuesday. “Eliminating or reducing ethanol subsidies and trade barriers are important steps we can take to reduce the budget deficit, improve the environment, and lessen our reliance on imported oil,” the senators wrote to the Democratic majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, and the Republican minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. The letter was circulated by Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and John Kyl, Republican of Arizona. The 15 co-signers included John McCain of Arizona and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, both Republicans; and Barbara Boxer of California and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, both Democrats. Earlier this week a coalition of advocacy groups from across the political spectrum issued their own call to end the ethanol subsidy for refiners. Their letter, to Congressional leaders in the House and Senate, was signed by Freedomworks, the Heartland Institute and other conservative groups as well as environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and the liberal activist group Food and livestock industry groups have made their own calls to end ethanol subsidies, arguing that the policies have led to a rise in the price of feed and basic food commodities...more

GAO: More research needed on oil shale, water

Scarce water resources could limit the growth of oil shale development in the West, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday. Oil shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming hold an estimated 1.5 trillion barrels of recoverable oil, but companies are still trying to find commercially viable ways to extract it. Oil shale development could have "significant" impacts on water quality and availability, but the exact effects are unclear, partly because what's known about current water conditions is limited and processes for extracting oil are still being researched, the GAO said. The GAO urged the Interior Department to figure out the baseline conditions for water resources in the Piceance and Uintah Basins in Colorado and Utah and to coordinate research by other agencies. It also recommended modeling regional groundwater movement to help understand how possible contaminants from oil shale development might travel. Past studies indicate one to 12 barrels of water, or up to about 500 gallons, may be needed to produce a barrel of oil, though the average for in-situ oil shale production is estimated at five barrels of water, the report said. Climate change, increasing demand for water from cities and industry, interstate water compacts, and needs of threatened and endangered species in the West all could limit how much water is available for oil shale development, the GAO said...more

‘Water Footprinting’ to Deal With Demand for Supplies

A water-use report issued in September by Coca-Cola with the Nature Conservancy found that 518 liters of freshwater are required to produce just one liter of its Minute Maid orange juice, and 35 liters are needed to produce a half liter of Coca-Cola. A growing awareness of just how much water it takes to produce everyday consumer goods is inspiring a rising interest in “water footprinting” — akin to carbon footprinting — as a tool to analyze and guide the development of new technologies, water infrastructure investment and policies aimed at coping with the world’s rising water demand. Conceptually, the water footprint is similar to that of carbon — an impact indicator based on the total volume of direct and indirect freshwater used in producing a good or service. There is a difference, however. Unlike carbon in the atmosphere, fresh water resources are localized, not global. The volume of water needed to produce a carton of orange juice or a bottle of Coca-Cola, for example, may be fixed; but the actual effect on a freshwater resource, and the local environment, can vary tremendously — including the amount of energy and raw materials used and the chemical and other waste contaminants created in the process...more

Federal Regulations and Small Towns

When unemployment is reaching heights we have not seen in years, and cities are on the brink of bankruptcy, what is the Obama administration focused on? Street signs. Not the broken ones that need to be replaced, but all of them, even if they are brand new. The reason? Most of them are written in all caps and according to the new 800 page book of Uniform Traffic Control Devices signs in ALL CAPS are not good enough anymore. In places like Dinwiddie County, VA there are not many people, if any, complaining about not being able to read the street signs, but they still must comply with the federal regulations. This is a great example of federal overreach into decisions that are best made by local governments...more

The author points out there are people outside the federal government who support this. Would that be safety experts or parents? No.
"3M, the company that will make the reflective material that is now required on all street signs in the United States by 2018 fought hard for these regulations.

Businesses, supposedly advocates of the free enterprise system, constantly lobby for regulations which create a mkt. for their product or limit competition from other producers. All the enemies of the free market aren't on the left.

Lone shepherd on a distant promontory

From where I sit, I see a lone shepherd on a distant promontory, two trusty dogs at his side, a storm posting with all speed from the cold north as a rogue wolf works the edges of the band. The guard dogs, Great Pyrenees and Akbash, are not quite enough to beat off those wolves, which come night after night in the high country; the shepherd, crook in his hand, his legs stout and hale from a life in the mountains, his eyes sharp at impossible distances, his whole being at one with the forces of the land, is alone, hardened, tough-minded and happy. I traveled with Peruvian sheepherders working for the Soulen Livestock Company in Idaho during the summers of 2005 and 2006. I went to live out my romantic vision of the shepherd's life, to see wolves, to get a story. The sheep make a seasonal passage from the Snake River Plain in winter up into the mountains north of McCall in the spring and summer. The lambs are born on that range, the ewes live and die out there, and the men too, with their dogs, live out there with eagles and trout and coyotes, year-round. Back home on the Peruvian Altiplano, Walter was a furniture maker and a musician. He played for me the music he recorded with his group, a battered cassette tape squeaking in his old radio. He sends his $750 per month back home to his family: a wife, some children, his aging parents. After six years with the sheep, he's lonely, he tells me, but he can't make a living back home...more

Song Of The Day #445

Ranch Radio will keep things up tempo and upbeat with Moon Mullican performing Tokyo Boogie.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Governors Seek 'road Map' For N. Rockies Wolves

After years of legal wrangling over wolf management, the Obama administration and three governors on Monday discussed crafting an end-game - including whether Congress should pull the plug on the debate by declaring the animals' numbers have fully recovered in the Northern Rockies. The federal government has been turned back twice in its efforts to get wolves off the endangered species list. Success would open the door to public hunting - something the governors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming say is badly needed to keep the predators' expanding population in check. All three states are anxious to reduce wolf numbers to protect other wildlife and reduce livestock attacks. The frustration from the governors and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "is that everybody recognizes that the (wolf) population is not only recovered, but it is robust," Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said after the meeting. "And why we can't get to de-listing, I think, is very frustrating for all of the people sitting around that table." The federal government originally said it wanted a wolf population of 300 wolves when it started its reintroduction program in the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. Biologists say there are now at least 1,700 wolves in parts of six states. Yet through a series of legal challenges over several years, environmental groups have stymied efforts to transfer wolf management from the federal government to the states...more

They sue to get them on and they sue to keep them on. The enviros have a national, coordinated administrative and legal strategy for endangered species, and we just stand around a say "damn, wish they wouldn't do that."

Until industry and land owners are willing to meet them punch for punch they'll continue to get whipped.

Step back and think about it. Three duly elected Governors and a Cabinet Secretary knowing the wolf has recovered but all they can do is meet and wring their hands. That's pitiful.

BLM posts response to climate change

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has posted new web pages that describe its efforts to respond to climate change and related environmental challenges. The BLM's Climate Change Home Page is found at "Public lands managed by the BLM are facing widespread environmental challenges that transcend traditional management boundaries," said BLM Director Bob Abbey. "These challenges include managing wildfire, controlling weeds and insect outbreaks, providing for energy development, and addressing impacts from climate change." These new web pages highlight two connected initiatives the BLM is undertaking to address these complex resource management issues. One initiative is the preparation of science assessments, called Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs), to improve the understanding of ecological conditions, how they might be affected by climate change and other environmental trends, and to inform future management actions. The second initiative is the development of a proposed landscape approach for managing public lands. A landscape approach looks across large geographic areas to identify important ecological values and patterns of environmental change that may not be evident when managing smaller, local land areas. A landscape approach uses this broader understanding of the environment to inform, focus, and coordinate management efforts on-the-ground. "The REAs and proposed landscape approach offer a way to integrate the BLM's conservation, restoration, and development programs in a cohesive manner," said Abbey. "An integrated approach is essential to sustain the diverse values and uses of public lands, and meet the Nation's energy needs, in an era of profound environmental change." Press Release

Let's see, there are "Rapid Ecoregional Assessments", a "landscape approach", "patterns of environmental change" and "diverse values" all to be implemented in a "cohesive manner."

What bullshit.

When did you ever see BLM do anything rapid?

All that the "landscape approach" means is no matter how well you manage your allotment, they can still get you for something going on in the landscape.

BLM plans to give fertility control drugs to wild horses

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to step up temporary roundups of wild horses to treat the animals with fertility control drugs before releasing them back to the range instead or permanently removing them from public lands. The agency plans 11 gathers of wild horses on federal land in Nevada, Idaho and Utah in the coming year for the primary purpose of applying the vaccine to about 890 mares. “If these fertility control treatments prove successful, we can lengthen the time between some gathers, saving taxpayer dollars,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said Wednesday. Horse protection advocates said the temporary roundups are a step in the right direction but complained that the strategy will be used in less than one-fifth of BLM gathers planned in the coming year...more

They might want vaccinate a bunch of politicians while they are at it, since they are surely doing more than anybody to screw up the "landscape". Put a "rapid" in front of that too - I'm sick of these guys.

Thank you, Janet Napolitano & BLM, for saving us from pot terrorists

Thank you, Janet Napolitano. I feel so much safer now that the Bureau Of Land Management's Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program is over. That recent realistic scenario of crazed pot terrorists taking over the Shasta Dam to demonstrate how efficiently federal agencies can respond to this very real possibility deserves every American's praise. Bravo! I want to congratulate everyone involved for recognizing that pot terrorists are an immediate threat to America's national security. As we all know, pot terrorists are the No. 1 threat to this nation, thus the reason for The War on Drugs. Forget about al-Qaida. We need to address real-world things like pot terrorists boarding planes with hidden doobies or glass pipes. It's common knowledge that people high on pot can be violent and dangerous. Homeland Security officials warn that even medical marijuana can cause problems. Patients freak out and run through the streets naked if they don't get their pot fix. Janet Napolitano rightly recognized the seriousness of the growing number of pot terrorists, mostly in California. The Feds have turned up the heat and are offering rewards to children. If they turn in their pot-smoking parents they'll get a set of DEA playing cards. I say it's about time the word gets out about these pot terrorists in our country. We've ignored them for too long. I can't tell you how much better I'll sleep, knowing the authorities are on the ball. It's comforting to see how much work went into the Crisis Response Exercise Program. Just think, for 18 months, at the cost of $500,000, these dedicated people prepared for the very real possibility that stoned pot farmers would try to take over the nation's dams...more

Can Nevada’s Black Rock playa survive Burning Man?

The Black Rock Playa is an exceptional place. Stretching across about 200 square miles, the sandy stretch of Black Rock Desert is as flat as a tabletop. Often flooded in winter, it's dusty dry come summer. Silent, empty and harsh, few places like it exist on the planet. "It's a really special place," said Ken Adams, a geologist with the Desert Research Institute in Reno. "What makes the Black Rock Desert playa unique is its size, its smoothness and its flatness." But if the ancient lake bed is unique in its nature, there's more to it. Much more. For the past 20 years, the playa has been home to the Burning Man 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...more

Will BLM do a "Rapid Ecoregional Assessment" or just a plain old EIS?

Everybody should be watching to see how the "landscape" approach handles this.

Better have the BLM Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Team there too. After consulting with the vast supply of intelligence sources available to The Westerner, I can almost guarantee at this function. No dams in sight, but you never know.

Cancun climate change summit: scientists call for rationing in developed world

In a series of papers published by the Royal Society, physicists and chemists from some of world’s most respected scientific institutions, including Oxford University and the Met Office, agreed that current plans to tackle global warming are not enough. Unless emissions are reduced dramatically in the next ten years the world is set to see temperatures rise by more than 4C (7.2F) by as early as the 2060s, causing floods, droughts and mass migration. As the world meets in Cancun, Mexico for the latest round of United Nations talks on climate change, the influential academics called for much tougher measures to cut carbon emissions. In one paper Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while allowing the poor nations to continue to grow, is to halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years. This would mean a drastic change in lifestyles for many people in countries like Britain as everyone will have to buy less ‘carbon intensive’ goods and services such as long haul flights and fuel hungry cars. Prof Anderson admitted it “would not be easy” to persuade people to reduce their consumption of goods. He said politicians should consider a rationing system similar to the one introduced during the last “time of crisis” in the 1930s and 40s. This could mean a limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has travelled from abroad may be limited and goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture. “The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face,” he said...more

Obamanomics applied to the world.

Vandals spray-paint prehistoric rock art in Red Rock Canyon

That "knucklehead," who marred the visit the Smiths had made from Lake Orion, Mich., to the scenic national conservation area west of Las Vegas, left other damage to the pristine rock shelter, including a name, "Pee Wee Rodo," and the words "Nevada Has Cronic." In all, three prehistoric rock art panels were vandalized with the same maroon spray-painted graffiti. Archaeologists think Southern Paiutes made cultural paintings, or pictographs, there centuries ago until as recently as the 1800s. One rock art panel that was vandalized contains a petroglyph, or stone etching, that depicts a figure similar to an arched window divided into six sections. On Monday, the BLM announced in a news release that the Friends of Red Rock Canyon and the Conservation Lands Foundation are offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the suspect or suspects. Bureau officials estimate the cost of restoring the site will be $10,000. The crime is a felony violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and carries a fine of up to $100,000 and five years in jail...more

Idaho proposal would bring almost 40,000 acres in Lochsa to public domain

A proposed land exchange just over the Idaho border could bring almost 40,000 acres of Lochsa River headwaters into public ownership. The U.S. Forest Service is working out a deal with Western Pacific Timber Co. that would exchange about 28,000 acres scattered across the Panhandle, Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests for the private timberland. Most of that private property is mixed in checkerboard fashion with public land. The timberland has healthy fisheries and wildlife habitat, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Laura Smith. It also covers portions of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail - the route that Chief Joseph's band of Nez Perce Indians followed in their attempt to resist being confined to a reservation. After some initial public comment, the Forest Service is considering four options, according to Nez Perce Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell. The preferred option would swap the lands over three years, starting with an exchange of 6,200 acres of federal land for Western Pacific Timber ground of equal value. Some of the private land could be bought outright if a $2 million Land and Water Conservation Fund award is confirmed in the fiscal 2011 federal budget. The money could underwrite exchanges in the remaining two years of the deal...more

Hill pressured to kill 'death tax'

Anti-tax and family advocacy groups are pressuring lawmakers not to breathe new life into the "death tax" — a levy on personal fortunes that was taken off the books this year, but is scheduled to return at a higher rate in 2011. The fate of the tax, officially known as the estate tax, is directly tied to the ongoing game of political chicken that has sprung up between Democrats and Republicans over whether tax cuts passed under President Bush in 2001 and 2003 should extended before they expire next month. Although the debate has been dominated by the scheduled hike in personal income tax rates, lawmakers also must consider what to do with the other parts of the Bush tax packages, including the refundable child tax credit, taxes on capital gains tax and the "death tax," which is levied on big inheritances. "Out of all those 2011 tax hikes, the one that is the most up in the air is the death tax," said Ryan Ellis, tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform. "No one can honestly tell you what is going to happen with it."...more

UCLA Animal Researcher Gets Threatening Package

An official says a primate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, has received a package containing razor blades and threatening messages. UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said Tuesday the package was sent earlier this month to David Jentsch, a psychologist and neuroscientist who does research on rodents and primates. The Animal Liberation Front on Tuesday released a statement saying it had sent razor blades covered in AIDS-infected blood to Jentsch and one of his researchers. It was not known if the blades Jentsch received were contaminated. No one was injured and the other researcher had not received any packages. UCLA researchers have been the target of several recent attacks. Last year, Jentsch's car was set ablaze. AP

Obama’s Pick for ATF Chief Is ‘Anti-Gun,’ Say Pro-Second Amendment Groups

Gun rights advocates are unhappy with President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Obama announced on Nov. 15 his intent to nominate Andrew Traver, presently the special agent in charge of the ATF's Chicago office, to be the director of the agency. Both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) criticized the president’s selection. According to the NRA, "Traver has been deeply aligned with gun control advocates and anti-gun activities. This makes him the wrong choice to lead an enforcement agency that has almost exclusive oversight and control over the firearms industry, its retailers and consumers.” Alan Gottlieb, chairman of CCRKBA, told that as ATF director, Traver would exercise vast control over all levels of the firearm industry. “First of all, the big concern that we have is that the agency that he would be overseeing controls all the firearm regulations against everybody in the United States starting with the manufacturers and the wholesalers and the distributors down to the gun dealers,” said Gottlieb. “They can deny dealers licenses, they can decide that a person doesn’t sell enough guns to be a dealer or sells too many guns and should be a dealer, all kinds of regulations on how the stores have to operate, what kind of security devices they have to have, all kinds of inspections,” said Gottlieb. “There are a whole lot of monkey wrenches that can be thrown into the firearm industry very quietly behind the scenes.”...more

Song Of The Day #444

Ranch Radio is thinking that after a long Thanksgiving weekend you may need another up tempo tune to help you float through the week. So here is Outlaw Social performing When He's Gone from their 11 track CD Dry Bones.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Livestock Industry Opposes Lame Duck Omnibus Public Lands Bill

November 29, 2010
The Honorable Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
361-A Russell Senate Office Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Omnibus Public Lands Bill and Land & Water Conservation Fund

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

    The undersigned livestock groups are concerned with statements from the administration supporting both an omnibus public lands measure and legislation to increase funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Both measures could threaten the livelihoods of livestock producers during a nationwide economic recession. During these final days of the 111th U.S. Congress, we ask that you approach these matters using congressional oversight to promote limited federal spending, continued use of our natural resources, and local input in the decision-making process.
    We cannot support an omnibus lands bill, which could restrict access to millions of acres of federal land across the west by creating new land designations such as wilderness areas and National Conservation Areas. Although reports vary as to the number of bills that would be included (we have heard between 60 and 120 separate bills), multiple-use on those lands could be threatened. Livestock grazing, oil and gas leasing, logging, mining, and other business activities important to rural economies would be jeopardized. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars would be spent administering the sweeping new special land designations, year after year.
    Similarly, increasing funding to the LWCF will not only add to the national debt, but could harm productivity on our federal lands as well. Between 1965 and 2002, the LWCF—even without full funding and with the requirement of authorization from Congress for every expenditure—put $8.7 billon toward federal acquisition and “conservation” of 4.5 million acres of land. It also gave around $3.5 billion to state and local projects to set aside another 2.3 million acres. We are wary of the proposal to increase funding to the LWCF by $5 billion through year 2016, while removing the requirement of congressional approval on expenditures. Such a proposal could well pave the way for federal land agencies to acquire productive private acres without local stakeholder involvement, and to make special designations on public lands without local grassroots involvement. We believe it is critical that the local stakeholders remain part of the process of land sales and potential land use designations. The federal government owns and struggles to manage nearly 650 million acres of land—almost 30% of our nation’s land area. Our country can ill afford the added costs of LWCF acquisitions, not to mention the removal of more natural resources from productive use in the rural west.
    While we may not know how many bills would be included in an omnibus measure, this we know with certainty: every public land bill is unique and deserves thoughtful congressional deliberation and local input. While some bills may have the support of local stakeholders, others could be damaging and restrictive to the people who live adjacent to and work on that land. Furthermore, although we cannot know which or how many acres the LWCF would set aside, the citizens who comprise our rural western economies and who count on the natural resources on federal lands should be given a voice in these special designation decisions. Increasing federal spending, heightening restrictions and regulations, and bundling together and forcing through Congress masses of federal lands bills are not legislative actions we deem appropriate or necessary.
    Wise, beneficial use of our public lands’ natural resources is a means of improving the lives of not only the families of the rural west, but of people across the nation and world. We appreciate your consideration of our desire to give voice to our hardworking rural citizens and ensure their continued ability to add value through responsible productivity on public lands.

American Sheep Industry Association
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Public Lands Council
Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Wool Growers Association
Colorado Cattlemen’s Association
Colorado Public Lands Council
Idaho Cattle Association
Montana Stockgrowers Association
Montana Public Lands Council
Montana Association of State Grazing Districts
Nevada Cattlemen’s Association
Oregon Cattlemen’s Association
South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association
Utah Cattlemen’s Association
Washington Cattlemen’s Association
Wyoming Stock Growers Association
Cc: Senator Bingaman, Senator Murkowski, Senator Wyden, Senator Barrasso

Wolves confront North Idaho woman in driveway

A North Idaho woman said she was confronted by at least four wolves as she walked alone up her rural driveway between Tensed and Plummer at dusk on Saturday. Karen Calisterio, 52, was trudging up the snow-plugged lane when she saw two dogs about 200 yards ahead near her house. At first she thought they were her two cow dogs coming to greet her. “Then I saw two more of them, and all four were walking toward me,” she said. “That’s when I said, ‘Oh shit, I’m alone and I’m in trouble.’” Read on to get her full account of the next 20 minutes of terror...

"I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and called my husband in a frantic and said, “Get back here fast, there are wolves in the driveway and they’re coming towards me.” He said to keep my phone in my hand, don’t panic and he was turning around to come back. This call was placed at 4:37 PM and lasted 27 seconds. For a second, I started to turn and run back down the driveway then thought, “I don’t think I’m supposed to run.” Then I started crying, saying to myself, “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do.” I turned back around so could keep watching the wolves and walked backwards as fast as I could. They kept coming toward me, but they didn’t appear to be running. It was getting dark fast"...more

Ruling: State Can Be Sued Over Fatal Bear Attack at Campground

A Utah woman whose child was killed by a bear while they were camping near American Fork Canyon in 2007 can sue the state for not warning her family about a bear attack that took place earlier that day. Eleven-year-old Sam Ives was pulled from his tent by a bear and mauled to death at the same campsite a bear had ravaged earlier that day, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article. Previously, the Utah 4th District Court found that the state was protected from liability based on the Government Immunity Act. The Utah Supreme Court overturned that ruling Tuesday. The campground on which the attack occurred is on U.S. Forest Service land, and the court found the Forest Service is responsible for issuing camping permits and closing the campground, the state supreme court found. However, it ruled that to use the Government Immunity Act as a defense, as the state of Utah did, the agency in question must have the authority to make the decision. The boy's family also is pursuing a $2 million negligence suit against the U.S. Forest Service in federal court...more

Salazar must reverse bad trend toward 'no more wilderness'

But nearly two years into his term, and in spite of his recent orders to federal land managers to make conservation their primary focus, the secretary appears to be twiddling his thumbs while the worst of policies from Bush and from Salazar's predecessor Gale Norton rolls merrily along: That's the "no more wilderness" agreement struck between then-Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and then-interior secretary Gale Norton back in 2003. It was to have affected only the Beehive State -- and that would've been bad enough, given eastern Utah's gorgeous-but-threatened vistas. But next thing environmentalists knew, this ya basta policy applied nationwide to Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction. That could be devastating to our part of the country, where wildernesses -- those officially designated and those dying to be -- are most often found. A century and a half after serious industrialization of the West began, there are still stretches that need saving; Otero Mesa, south of Carlsbad, that stretch of Chihuahuan Desert grassland where antelope and other animals often struggle to survive, is a prime candidate. It's also a prime target of the drill-and-despoil lobby. Ideally, Secretary Salazar would rescind the Utah agreement, which has all the high-handedness of the Ulysses Grant-administration giveaways of the American West. But if he can't see his way to doing that, he must clarify Interior Department policy to say, loud and clear, that whatever deal was cut with Utah is not -- repeat not -- department policy. Gov. Bill Richardson, standing up for the environment in the fading days of his term, has written to the secretary asking him to rescind his predecessor's deal and her policy. For good measure, he's asking Salazar to make use of his department's wilderness-study powers while there's still wilderness to save...more