Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

To all.

Santa Claus: America’s Most Wanted Fugitive

WASHINGTON, DC—A joint federal-state task force intends to apprehend Santa Claus, whom it regards as a dangerous fugitive, Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Chet Waldron told reporters yesterday.

Among the factors making Claus a “person of interest,” according to Waldron:

* Claus’s entry of private property makes him guilty of civil, and probably criminal, trespass.
* Claus’s immigration status is in question. He has repeatedly entered the United States without a passport.
* Claus appears to have purposefully avoided the inspection of the goods he has imported into the United States by customs authorities and the payment of relevant tariffs.
* The fact that Claus has failed to provide information about the contents of the packages he carries has raised questions about whether any of his actions violate US drug or money-transfer laws.
* Claus enters and traverses US airspace using a custom-built vehicle that lacks approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. Further, FAA officials note that he does not file flight plans, lacks a pilot’s license, and flies through darkened skies guided only by a tiny bioluminescent red light, in a clear violation of traffic safety regulations.
* Justice Department attorneys have raised questions about Claus’s willingness to distribute his products for free, asking whether doing so violates anti-dumping rules.
* There is no record that Claus, who clearly “conducts business” in the United States, has eever obtained a business license.
* Some items delivered by Claus are believed to have been produced in violation of US patent and copyright laws and international treaties.

Clause defenders had hoped that the arrival of the Obama administration would lead to reduced emphasis on the planned Claus prosecution. But the presence of vocal Claus critics—including the Secretary of State, said to regard Claus as a “persistent threat to national security,” and Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole, who has been quoted as urging the North American Air Defense Command to “shoot the old guy out of the sky”—in the upper echelons of the Obama administration suggests that Claus will continue to be a federal target...more

If The Nativity Happened Today - The Digital Story of Christmas (video)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Comments on timing of announcements by Obama adm.

Wednesday night I almost posted that we were entering a dangerous time: The elections are over, Congress is leaving town and we are starting a slow news cycle leading up to Christmas.

I would have been right. The Obama adm. chose this time to announce its new policy on Wilderness and its findings on the polar bear. The first is a sop to the enviros and the second is a slap in their face. The wilderness policy is also a snub to Congress which is why they waited until they had adjourned. Interior didn't want their budget threatened or to do anything that would prevent the passage of the Omnibus Public Lands Bill. Some will say this was politically savvy. I say it was a cowardly act by Salazar and his minions.

White House: Polar bears not 'endangered'

The Obama administration is sticking with a George W. Bush-era decision to deny polar bears endangered species status. In a court filing Wednesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service defended the previous administration’s decision to give the polar bear the less-protective “threatened” species designation, a move that will frustrate environmentalists who hoped for stronger protections under the Endangered Species Act. FWS Director Rowan Gould said the 2008 "threatened" listing was made "following careful analysis of the best scientific information, as required by the ESA." At the time, the service determined the bears weren't danger of extinction, so did not warrant the “endangered” status. The bears were listed as "threatened" because they face serious threats from projected decline in its sea ice habitat due to global warming would result in them likely being in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. Listing the polar bear as “endangered” as a result of global warming could open the door to using the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gases, an outcome the Obama administration has opposed...more

USDA Blames Wolves - Questions as Livestock Losses Skyrocket

At the request of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, the USDA Wildlife Services bureau recently released statistics that show a huge increase in the number of livestock killed by all of Montana’s major predators, from coyotes to black bears to wolves. But the report has drawn skeptics, including a former Wildlife Services supervisor who says the numbers are misleading and come at a pivotal time in wolf politics, with several bills circulating in Congress to remove the animal’s federal protections. John Steuber, Montana’s Wildlife Services director, blames wolves for the across-the-board depredation increases. His bureau investigates, documents and tries to prevent livestock attacks in Montana. He said wolves have hamstrung his agency by requiring too many resources and limiting what kinds of deterrents – such as a certain pesticide – can be used due to federal protections. The result, Steuber said, is that predators other than wolves now have more opportunities at livestock, which he said is reflected in the report. The report compares livestock depredations in 2006 to 2010, divided into categories of coyotes, wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, red foxes, ravens and eagles. Livestock animals are listed by type and quantity killed and injured. The findings are dramatic...more

Time runs out on wilderness bill

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid abandoning hopes of passing an omnibus public lands bill during the lame duck session, it appears that securing the permanent wilderness designation for hundreds of thousands of acres in Doña Ana County is going to have to wait. Some think wilderness supporters have missed what may be their best chance for a long time of winning the federal government’s highest level of protection for the land. Reid confirmed Tuesday that plans for an omnibus public lands bill in the lame duck session of Congress are dead. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., had hoped to pass such a bill and was being pushed to include his Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act in it. Not any more...more

A story very similar to yesterday's, but it gave me a chance to break out the old tombstone generator.

E.P.A. Says It Will Press on With Greenhouse Gas Regulation

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a timetable on Thursday for issuing rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil refineries, signaling a resolve to press ahead on such regulation even as it faces stiffening opposition in Congress. The agency said it would propose performance standards for new and refurbished power plants next July, with final rules to be issued in May 2012. Proposed emissions standards for new oil refineries will be published next December, it said, with the final rules due in November 2012; rules for existing plants would come later. But the E.P.A. was vague on how stringent the rules would be and how deep a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would result...more

Border 2010…a year in review

Hugh Holub at the Tucson Citizen has a list of links to his column.

Maryland wind project sued over endangered bats

Conservationists filed suit Wednesday to block the start of Maryland's first industrial wind project, contending the turbines built atop the state's highest mountain in Garrett County threaten to harm federally protected rare bats. Making good on a threat issued months ago, two groups — Save Western Maryland and the Maryland Conservation Council — and two individuals brought suit against Constellation Energy in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, contending that its wind turbines will "almost certainly" injure or kill Indiana bats, which are so few in number that they are legally protected under the federal Endangered Species Act...more

Electric Cars: Powering Down the Nation

The Marshall Policy Institute has released a new study weighing the costs and benefits of the U.S. government’s subsidization of the electric car.  Their damning analysis exposes the initiative as one which harms American producers, consumers, and taxpayers, all the while failing to substantially address the environmental issues at which it is aimed. In 2010, one fourth of GM and Ford’s hybrids were purchased by the federal government.  Nissan got a $1.4 billion dollar loan from the feds to develop their electric car, the Leaf.  Several thousands of dollars in tax credits per car have to be shelled out to make these models saleable.  These and other measures, the Marshall paper notes, are spurred largely by the altruistic wish to save the environment, regardless of whether the cars have any real effect...more

Stats Look at Fatal Horse Racing Injuries Over Two Years

An analysis of statistics compiled by the Equine Injury Database (EID) for a two-year period shows a slight decline in the number of catastrophic injuries to Thoroughbred racehorses from the first year of the period, officials said Dec. 15. Based on an analysis of 754,932 starts collected from Nov. 1, 2008, through Oct. 31, 2010, the prevalence of fatal injury declined to 2.00 per 1,000 starts compared with the 2.04 rate reported in March for the one-year period from Nov. 1, 2008-Oct. 31, 2009. Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ECVPH, MRCVS, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow who has been involved with the EID for more than a year, performed the analysis for The Jockey Club. Parkin said the change in the fatality rate stemmed from data that revealed a statistically significant difference in the prevalence of fatality on both turf and synthetic surfaces versus dirt; the difference in the prevalence of fatality between synthetic and turf surfaces was not statistically significant. According to the analysis for the two-year period, the catastrophic injury rate per 1,000 starts on dirt was 2.14; on turf, 1.74; and on synthetic surfaces, 1.55. For the first one-year period, the fatality rate per 1,000 starts was 2.14 for dirt, 1.78 for turf, and 1.78 for synthetic surfaces...more

Horsey Hollywood: Meet the Equine Stars of "True Grit"

On Dec. 22 Paramount Pictures released the remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic, "True Grit." Among the film's cast are Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and a slew of equine actors that bring the Western movie to life. The "director" of the equine stars for "True Grit" was Rusty Hendrickson, who has worked with horses on movie sets for more than three decades and has been the head horse wrangler for numerous blockbusters including "Seabiscuit," "Dreamer," "Flicka," and this autumn's release, "Secretariat." Casting the right horse for a part is just as vital as casting the right leading man (or lady, as the case may be). Like their human co-stars, equines must train and practice to stay at the top of their game. As movie viewers know, the right chemistry between man and beast can make or break a movie. "Patience is the greatest virtue of a movie horse," Henrickson's learned. "If they don't have some 'stand still' in them, it just won't work." Directors Joel and Ethan Coen worked closely with Hendrickson to select the horses to best fit the script and showcase the actors. Jeff Bridges, who plays Rooster Cogburn, needed a substantial mount to complement his size. Hendrickson narrowed the choices down to two horses, and a 5-year-old named Apollo walked away with the job. "He's a big, solid horse," said Hendrickson. "He stands about 15.2 (hands) and weighs maybe 1,350 pounds. He just fit Jeff."...more

Song Of The Day #466

Ranch Radio brings you Gene Autry and his tune You Can See Old Santa Claus (When You Find Him In Your Heart).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Obama administration restores wilderness rules undone under Bush

The agency will replace the 2003 policy adopted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton. That policy — derided by some as the "No More Wilderness" policy — stated that new areas could not be recommended for wilderness protection by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and it opened millions of acres to potential commercial development. That policy "frankly never should have happened and was wrong in the first place," Salazar said Thursday. Salazar said the agency will review some 220 million acres of BLM land that's not currently under wilderness protection to see which should be given a new "Wild Lands" designation — a new first step for land awaiting a wilderness decision. Congress would decide whether those lands should be permanently protected, Salazar said. BLM Director Bob Abbey said it hasn't been decided how many acres are expected to be designated as "Wild Lands" and whether those acres will be off-limits to motorized recreation or commercial development while under congressional review. It's also unclear whether there will be a time limit on how long acres can be managed as "Wild Lands" before a decision is made on their future. The BLM has six months to submit a plan for those new wilderness evaluations. These "Wild Lands" would be separate from Wilderness Study Areas that must be authorized by Congress. Wild Lands can be designated by the BLM after a public planning process and would be managed with protective measures detailed in a land use plan. Congressional Republicans pounced on the "Wild Lands" announcement as an attempt by the Obama administration to close land to development without congressional approval. "This backdoor approach is intended to circumvent both the people who will be directly affected and Congress," said Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican tapped to lead the House Natural Resources Committee when the GOP takes control of the House in January...more

Secretarial Order 3310 - Protecting Wilderness Characteristics

You can download the order here and the Q&A here.

BLM to Overturn Bush's 'No More Wilderness' Policy

The Bureau of Land Management this afternoon is expected to overturn a George W. Bush administration policy barring the agency from temporarily protecting lands with wilderness qualities. The scheduled 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey in Denver could upend part or all of a 2003 settlement by then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the state of Utah and allow BLM to once again preserve roadless landscapes until Congress decides whether to pass permanent protections. Conservation groups for years have lobbied Interior to overturn the Norton settlement -- known as the "no more wilderness" policy -- arguing that it blocked the agency from its statutory duty to protect pristine landscapes in its resource management plans. The Interior announcement is "going to address the deficiencies in BLM's policies with respect to unprotected, but wilderness-quality, lands," said Dave Alberswerth, the Wilderness Society's senior policy adviser on energy issues. "It's going to be a repudiation of Norton's policy" and a recognition of BLM's duty under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to protect its remaining roadless areas...more

So how does the Wilderness Society know what's in the policy prior to it being released to the public?

Bill to delist wolves fails in Senate

The first of three U.S. Senate bills attempting to remove wolves from endangered species protection failed Tuesday. With time ticking down in the lame-duck Congress, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, along with Idaho cosponsors Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, also both Republicans, bypassed the committee process by requesting a unanimous consent agreement on Senate Bill 3919, which would have taken it to the floor and limited debate. The gamble was that a single “no” vote could block the bill, and one was provided by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md. Senate Bill 3919 basically said that no federal protections for wolves would be enforced. Hatch introduced the bill at the end of September and it was referred to the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Speaking from the floor, both Risch and Crapo said the number of wolves in Idaho has exceeded the number established for recovery. “Unfortunately, and despite their recovery, we have not been able to return management of wolves to the states, due to litigation and the inflexibility of the Endangered Species Act,” Crapo said. “In the meantime, large increases in wolf populations are resulting in substantial harm to our big-game herds and domestic livestock.”...more

Rockefeller, Murkowski eyeing chances to block EPA climate rules next year

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) believes the new Congress will be “much more likely” to approve his legislation that would halt looming Environmental Protection Agency climate change rules. Rockefeller wants to delay rules — which will begin phasing in next month — to curb emissions from power plants, refineries and other industrial plants, but never got a vote on his measure this year. “The House will be that way, and the Senate will be more inclined to be that way,” Rockefeller told The Hill in the Capitol on Saturday, a reference to gains by GOP lawmakers hostile to climate rules. Rockefeller plans to immediately reintroduce the bill when the new Congress starts, he said. “We will just keep going right at it,” he said. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is also mulling new efforts to block EPA rules next year...more

PNM: EPA rule would cost $1 billion

A proposed rule announced Tuesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would require San Juan Generating Station to install costly pollution-control equipment. Environmentalists hailed the development, saying it would lead to cleaner air in the Four Corners, but the power plant's largest owner said the rule could cost $1 billion or more. The rule would require, among other things, a dramatic 83-percent reduction in the coal-burning power plant's emissions of nitrogen oxides, substances linked to smog and haze. Reaching that benchmark would require the installation of selective catalytic reduction equipment. PNM, a large electricity provider based in Albuquerque, said the equipment's cost would be passed on to residential and business customers. "Above everything else, we are concerned about the impact this could have on customer bills," Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM president and CEO, said in a written statement. "We believe we already have the technology in place to meet the haze reduction requirements of the federal Clean Air Act and do so at a far lower cost." The proposed rule was prompted in part by concerns about haze at Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado, designated a "Class 1" area that receives special protection according to the Clean Air Act. "The driver here is these Class 1 areas are losing their viewsheds," said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for San Juan Citizens Alliance, an environmental group...more

NM just experienced what Wilderness does with the Clean Water Act (Outstanding Natural Waters), and now they will experience what federal protected areas do with the Clean Air Act.

Is this what we voted for in November?

Are the Republicans serious about cutting spending, including farm subsidies? Look at who they elected Chairman of the House Ag Committee and the shenanigans he's already up to.

One of the GOP old guard already is trying to protect the farm bill from the budget axe. Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, who will become chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, has decided to wait until the current bill expires in 2012 to begin work on the successor legislation, hoping the fiscal environment is more spender-friendly by then. His predecessor, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, had been planning to start work on the next farm bill in 2011. Postponing debate until 2012 is a "serious negative," says Kind, because it's difficult to pass a farm bill during a presidential election year. That means debate probably won't begin in earnest until 2013. In the meantime, big industrial farmers will have gotten added billions in wasteful subsidies in the form of "continuing budget resolutions" after the five-year, 2008 bill expires. This would include $147.3 million in annual payments to Brazilian cotton farmers, who in 2009 successfully challenged the propriety of U.S. cotton subsidies under World Trade Organization rules...more

Record Cotton Prices

Cotton rallied to a new post-Civil War closing high Monday as voracious demand in China and concerns over this season's tight supplies sent prices soaring. Cotton prices have more than doubled since the start of 2010, and the gains are expected to be passed on to consumers as early as next year as some major apparel companies mull price increases. "We expect that we will have select price increases across our portfolio of brands next year," VF Corp. (VFC) spokeswoman Cindy Knoebel said in an email. She said the company, which produces The North Face, Lee and Wrangler, has not yet decided which brands will be affected. Cotton for March delivery, the most actively traded contract, closed 4 cents higher, the exchange-permitted daily limit, on the IntercontinentalExchange on Monday, at $1.5412 a pound, up 2.7%. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its estimate for the U.S.'s end-harvest cotton stockpile to 1.9 million bales, which many in the industry say is a paltry amount to see the country through until the following harvest in the Fall. Further limits on cotton from India, the world's No. 2 producer and second-largest cotton exporter after the U.S., also supported a bullish run...more

How to build better border food security in NM - Liberal foundations project in Southern NM

Sprouting up in the Rio Grande Valley, a new organization seeks to reshape the production, distribution and consumption of food. Called La Semilla Food Center, the New Mexico-based project intends not only to grow and sell organic food, but also expose youth to new careers, inspire value-added industries, get locally-grown produce into large institutions, spin-off small businesses, and encourage nutritional awareness. "Whether its schools, hospitals or nursing homes interested in buying foods," said Aaron Sharratt, executive director of La Semilla Food Center. Based in Dona Ana County in New Mexico’s southern border region with Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico, La Semilla Food Center was launched this year with a three-year, $432,000 Kellogg Foundation grant. For La Semilla, the regional food shed stretches from the northern end of Dona Ana County to the rural area south of El Paso, Texas. If neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is taken into account, the population potentially served by a Paso del Norte food shed surpasses more than two million people. Off the farm and away from the store shelf, La Semilla hopes to influence the local food system by assisting in the formation of a food policy council that brings together community organizations and government agencies. Across the US and Canada, food policy councils address issues like the nutritional value of food served in public schools. A new food policy council could even consider enacting "junk-food free zones"' around schools, said Rebecca Wiggins, La Semilla's farm fresh director. "You can't sell cigarettes or alcohol, so why should you be able to sell junk food?"” Wiggins asked...more

A new spin on crop insurance

Techies in California have launched an insurance service for farmers seeking insulation against the largest source of crop loss — bad weather. It’s called WeatherBill, and the company’s deep-pocketed investors are betting that they’ve caught lightning in a bottle. The San Francisco company, which already sells insurance against nasty weather to clients such as the U.S. Open tennis tournament, is in the midst of shifting 80 percent of its focus to agriculture. “Clearly we think there’s a big market for this,” said Greg Smirin, vice president of marketing and product for WeatherBill. On its face, the sales pitch to farmers is simple: Insure against bad weather during key times of year such as the planting season — a protection that goes beyond what is available through federally subsidized crop insurance. WeatherBill essentially insures against lost yields (and profit) during harvest that could be the result of, for example, difficult planting conditions. The mechanics of WeatherBill’s product, however, are decidedly more complicated. The company, founded in 2006 by ex-Google development team members, weaves together sophisticated weather models and market factors, then spits out scenarios on its website showing estimates of how much a farmer could lose due to bad weather — excess rain, heat, drought or freeze. The website then offers up plans that would, for example, pay if rainfall goes over a certain level more than six times during a prime planting month...more

The Whiskey Speech

The fools have adjourned and a friend sent this great speech given at the adjournment of another august body. Play it just like you do the Song Of The Day, and see if it doesn't remind you of some current politicians.

The original Whiskey Speech was delivered in 1952 by Soggy Sweat.

Judge Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr. was a judge, law professor, and state representative in the state of Mississippi who was notable for his 1952 speech on the floor of the Mississippi state legislature concerning whiskey, which is considered a classic example of political doublespeak. Reportedly the speech took Sweat 2½ months to write.

For years Rep. Ed Perry from Oxford , Mississippi always delivered the Whiskey Speech on the last day of the regular legislative session. It was his way of knowing they were in fact going to Sine Die the session. After Ed retired no one took up the cause because no one could do any better than Ed, maybe not even ol' Soggy Sweat himself. On the 100th anniversary of the opening of the New Capitol a few years ago Ed Perry was a part of the program to deliver the Whiskey Speech live and over public radio.

Song Of The Day #465

The top hand at Ranch Radio would like to dedicate this song to his beautiful wife Sharon.

She loves Christmas, she loves to waltz, and I love her. So what could be better than Red Foley performing Our Christmas Waltz.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wilderness bill out of time

A proposal to designate thousands of acres in Doña Ana County as federal wilderness is all but dead - at least for now - with time quickly expiring on the congressional session. U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Tuesday he doesn't expect the bill to be heard in the short time remaining before the impending end of the 111th Congress. Supporters pledged they'll continue backing the measure next year - in spite of what are likely to be less-favorable conditions, with Republican Steve Pearce taking over the House district from Harry Teague. Jeff Steinborn, local director for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, which has heavily promoted the legislation, said Tuesday the bill's likely fate was "a disappointing setback for our community." Critics of the bill were pleased Tuesday, said Frank DuBois, a former state agriculture secretary and member of the pro-ranching group People for Preserving Our Western Heritage. He cited a recent letter authored by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Association of Southern New Mexico and the Las Cruces Association of Realtors that urged Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to remove S.B. 1689 from consideration in the last days of the Congress. The groups have contended the wilderness legislation would negatively affect border security in the Potrillo Mountains area and flood control efforts, but have said they're not opposed to protecting lands from development in another way. "Given the huge amount of opposition and the controversy created, the bill deserved to die," DuBois said...more

That spokesman for PFPOWH sure is articulate.

Rumor has it he is also blessed with dashing good looks.

However, critics say he becomes far too exuberant after winning a fight.

Personally, I expect him to be magnanimous in victory.

I contacted the spokesman and he said he didn't kimo sabe exuberant or magnanimous, but true to the code of the west he was dedicating his Song Of The Day to the enviros. You can check out his soft and caring side by playing the song here.

Lawsuit Threatened to Spur Wolf Recovery Plan

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity today filed notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior for failing to write a recovery plan for wolves in the lower 48 states. In July the Center submitted a scientific petition to Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service asking that a national recovery plan be developed, but never received a response. "Wolves are an integral part of this county's natural history and need a national recovery plan now," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. Greenwald says a national plan would provide a roadmap for recovering existing wolf populations and returning wolves to some of their historic range around the country. Suitable wolf habitat exists in the Pacific Northwest, California, Great Basin, southern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and New England. Such a plan is required by the Endangered Species Act, says Greenwald, and according to today's notice of intent to sue should have been developed 30 years ago...more

Alaska plans to sue over polar bear decision

Gov. Sean Parnell says the state will file a lawsuit against the federal government over the designation of a California-sized swath of Alaska's far north coast as critical polar bear habitat. The state notified Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday of its intent to sue. The case would be filed in 60 days unless the federal government addresses Alaska's concerns. The critical habitat designation is at the center of a legal and political brouhaha over offshore oil development in the Arctic. Shell Offshore Inc. is seeking federal permission to sink an exploratory well in the Beaufort Sea this summer and oil companies have long wanted to work offshore in both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, in the middle of polar bear territory. Environmental organizations have sued under the Endangered Species Act and forced the federal government to declare the polar bear -- and a couple other species -- endangered, resulting in the critical habitat designation. That means it will be harder, although not impossible, for Shell to get a drilling permit and will require more consultation between federal agencies. The state has consistently been on the side of oil development and has filed suit in the past to force the federal government to allow offshore drilling to move forward...more

House Dems to Interior: More science needed before Shell can drill off Alaska

More than three-dozen House Democrats are urging the Interior Department not to approve Royal Dutch Shell’s request to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast next year until more scientific information is available. The lawmakers, in a letter Friday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, say the agency should wait for an ongoing scientific review by its U.S. Geological Survey, which is reviewing literature about the effects of drilling on marine mammals and others issues, and identifying knowledge gaps. “This report, expected in April 2011, is an important first step to understanding the complex and fragile ecosystem of the Arctic Ocean. We believe that at a minimum, this report should be complete and incorporated into any environmental assessment regarding future drilling plans in the Arctic,” states the letter spearheaded by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and James Moran (D-Va.).The letter praises Interior’s announcement early this month that it is conducting new environmental analysis of the region in light of Shell’s request to drill in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern coast. But the lawmakers also express doubt that drilling can be conducted safely and cite the BP spill the Gulf of Mexico...more

Obama Announces Support for UN Resolution Stating 'Indigenous Peoples Have the Right to the Lands ... They Have Traditionally Owned, Occupied or Otherwise Used or Acquired'

President Barack Obama, addressing a tribal nations conference at the White House last week, announded that the U.S. government is now supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which includes a sweeping declaration that "indigenous peoples" have a right to lands and resources they traditionally occupied or "otherwise used." "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired," says the U.N. resolution. The Bush administration had declined to support the resolution. Brent Schaefer, an analyst with the Heritage Foundation, told that although the U.N. declaration now supported by the Obama administration is non-binding, it represents a “significant policy shift” from the Bush administration. Schaefer also said that before crafting legally binding international treaties, the U.N. usually starts the process with a non-binding resolution -- a fact that will put the U.S. in a more difficult position if it objects to similar language in a formal treaty...more

Sewage backup causes United Nations evacuation

A sewage backup caused a big stink at the United Nations on Tuesday, forcing diplomats and their staff to evacuate the Security Council and General Assembly. Spokesman Farhan Haq said the evacuation was a precautionary measure after a strange smell was noticed in parts of the U.N. secretariat building. He said the odor was due to sewage backup possibly caused by high tides in the nearby East River. "There were gases released from the sewage but they're not harmful," Haq said. Firefighters and hazardous materials experts had been called to the scene. U.N. management officials were working to deal with the sewage problem, he said...more

You'd think they would be use to the smell...given all the crap that comes out of there on a daily basis. I guess they can't handle it when they are receiving rather than giving.

Concerns About Golden Eagles Thwart Growth of Wind Energy in U.S. West

Fears that wind turbines could threaten protected golden eagles in the western U.S. threaten to undermine several major wind energy projects. Earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management indefinitely suspended issuing wind permits on federal land, according to an Associated Press report. That decision has halted efforts to expedite construction of four major wind farms — including three in California — and makes it unlikely that the projects will qualify for federal stimulus funds worth hundreds of millions of dollars before the Dec. 31 deadline. Biologists say populations of the eagle have declined in recent years, in part because birds are being killed by turbines...more

Feds Want Reporting for High-Powered Rifle Sales

The federal agency that monitors gun sales wants weapons dealers near the Mexican border to start reporting multiple sales of high-powered rifles, according to a notice published in the Federal Register. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has asked the White House budget office to approve an emergency request requiring border-area gun dealers to report the sales of two or more rifles to the same customer within a five-day period. The emergency request, published Friday in the Federal Register, is likely to face stiff opposition from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association. ATF wants the Office of Budget Management to approve the request by Jan. 5. NRA officials did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Monday. Last week the group's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told the Washington Post that the "NRA supports legitimate efforts to stop criminal activity, but we will not stand idle while our Second Amendment is sacrificed for politics." The Post first reported the proposal. High-powered rifles have become the weapon of choice for Mexico's warring drug cartel...more

PETA honors Bill Clinton

Sarah Palin may have riled People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) this year with her televised animal slaughter, but at least one politico has earned the organization’s praise. President Bill Clinton has been named PETA’s 2010 Person of the Year, the animal rights organization announced Monday. Though he was famously a fan of Big Macs while in office, Clinton turned to a vegan diet this year for health reasons in advance of his daughter Chelsea’s wedding in July and has continued to forgo meat and dairy ever since, PETA’s Campaigns Assistant Media Manager, Amanda Schinke, told POLITICO via e-mail. The former POTUS has publicly expounded the virtues of veganism and has said he’s lost 24 pounds on his plant-based diet. "Bill Clinton won not only because he's the most prominent person to go vegan this year but also because he used his platform to articulate the reasons why a plant-based diet is the most healthy diet," said PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews. "And of course, it doesn't hurt that he has Chelsea's lead to follow. She went vegan at 10, though her motivation was simply not wanting to support cruelty to animals."...more

I wonder if he lights up a good cigar after partaking of his vegan victuals.

AHC Seeks Input about Equestrian Access to Federal Land

The American Horse Council (AHC) is continuing its effort to collect information on access issues equestrians are experiencing on federal lands. The centerpiece of this effort is an online form equestrians can use to report their personal experiences regarding trails that have been closed to them or other access issues on federal land. This online form is located on the AHC website. Based in part on these responses, the AHC will soon be publishing a 2010 report regarding equestrian access on federal land. The AHC began its effort to collect information regarding equestrian access issues on federal lands in July 2009. This effort was prompted by recreational riders around the country who were concerned that they were seeing a reduction in the number of trails and trailheads open to equestrians on federal land...more

Song Of The Day #464 (An Enviro Special)

Due to the demise of Bingaman's wilderness bill, things are mighty happy at Ranch Radio this morning.

As a humble and friendly gesture to our opponents, I dedicate this song to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Microsoft founder who all spent so much money and lobbied so hard for the bill.

Homer & Jethro are about to tell them they're Getting Nuttin' For Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Public lands bill stripped of major Montana provisions in U.S. Senate

Only the most uncontroversial and cost-free ideas appear to have a chance of passage during the final days of congressional land policy legislation, and that doesn't include most Montana measures. An omnibus public lands bill with 110 combined projects died on the vine Monday evening in the U.S. Senate, but was expected to be replaced by a considerably smaller bill late Tuesday. Conservation policy watchers in Washington, D.C., were doubtful measures like the North Flathead Protection Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be among them. "I think there's very little hope of passage," Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership government relations director Tom Franklin said Tuesday afternoon. "Earlier in the day, I heard it had been pared down to the point nothing substantial was left. If something passes, it will be pretty innocuous stuff." A coalition of 173 conservation groups throughout the country lobbied for passage of the America's Great Outdoors Act of 2010. The Wilderness Society's Paul Spitler said the bill would have designated more than 300,000 acres of wilderness and create another 400,000 acres of National Conservation Areas. It would also have extended the authority of the Land and Water Conservation Fund through 2015...more

Obama Finds Lame Duck Ally In Murkowski

One of Pres. Obama's biggest supporters in the Senate in the past week is not even a member of his own party: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Murkowski supported the president's position on the Senate's four biggest votes since last Wednesday. She and fellow Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) voted in favor of the tax cut compromise and to invoke cloture on New START treaty, the Dream Act and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Both senators also voted in favor of the final repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Saturday. No Senate Republican voted for all four bills other than Murkowski. And the senior senator from Alaska, who became a national figure this year when she defeated attorney Joe Miller (R) with her write-in campaign, has actually been a more reliable vote for the president than 18 members of the Senate Democratic caucus since Dec. 15...more

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, she may become its Chairman during the next session of Congress. Will she be siding with Obama on wilderness, endangered species and other such issues?

UPDATE: Oops, not the next session, she will still be the Ranking Republican. My Concerns remain the same.

Ted Nugent: Time for a Starting Over Commission

Politics isn't the art of compromise. Politics as usual is an artful ruse to get us to believe politicians are doing one thing while they do another. Our politicians do this by obfuscating, confusing, denying, blaming and lying. The truth be damned...more

Nugent says, "...America really needs is a Starting Over Commission with the purpose of dismantling and restructuring our federal government so that it mirrors what our Founding Fathers envisioned and what our Constitution says."

Reid abandons plans to pass omnibus lands bill this year

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has abandoned plans to pass omnibus lands legislation consisting of more than 110 land and water bills. But Reid is working to pass certain pieces of the bill before the end of the session. Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle blamed the decision on Republicans, who opposed parts of the legislation, the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010. She said Reid was working with lawmakers to pass parts of the legislation this year. “Critical bipartisan bills for all regions of the country are included in the America's Great Outdoors Act of 2010. Unfortunately, certain senators have made it clear that they prefer delay over bipartisan action on non-controversial bills. Sen. Reid is working with the chairmen of the relevant committees to see if smaller sections of the bill might be able to pass on their own,” Lachapelle said in a statement. Reid called for passage of the omnibus lands bill Friday evening, even though he had raised doubts that it could gain the necessary votes the day before. The legislation consists of various land and water bills that have been considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Commerce Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee. By packaging the bills together, Reid had hoped to overcome a Republican filibuster. While most of the provisions in the legislation aren’t controversial, Republicans oppose a handful of the bills included in the package. But Republicans have signaled that they will support narrow lands legislation that focuses on the non-controversial provisions. Matt Dempsey, spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), ranking Republican on the environment panel, told The Hill late last week, “There were a number of bills that we could support, but unfortunately they packaged it with a bunch of bills that we can’t support.”
The Hill

GOP leaders blast Reid's public lands, water omnibus

Paul Quinlan and Phil Taylor, E&E reporters
Link to Article
Republican leaders over the weekend urged defeat of the omnibus package of 110 public lands, water and wildlife bills that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced Friday and hopes to pass in the final days of this Congress.
House Natural Resources Chairman-elect Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) called the package of 110 bills (S. 303) "bloated" and said it authorizes more than $18 billion in spending over 10 years.
"Instead of haphazardly approving billions in new spending, we have an obligation to ask if spending money on these programs is so critical that we should further indebt ourselves to foreign countries and put our economic security at risk," Hastings said in a statement. "This monster bill must be defeated."
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee -- whose Democratic chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, urged Reid to push the natural resources package -- also slammed the bill. Inhofe said through a spokesman that the package, unlike certain individual measures included, had no chance of passing and showed that Democrats would rather "play politics than ensure passage of environmental legislation."
"What is truly unfortunate is that within this massive package there are a number of bills that have broad bipartisan support," Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said in an e-mail. "These bills, if considered separately from this massive omnibus package, may very well be able to pass the Senate."
Inhofe and fellow Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn have both pledged to block the 1,003-page bill.
Senate Democrats counter that Republican obstructionism has forced them to resort to catch-all omnibus measures like the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 and the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which passed with bipartisan support.
"I want to get this package done before Congress adjourns," Reid said in a statement Friday announcing he filed the bill. Just the day before, Reid had sounded less enthused. "I'm not sure we can get that done now," Reid said. "I sure would like to get it done, but I'm not sure we can."
Reid struck a decidedly different tone Friday. "These are bipartisan bills," he said. "There is nothing divisive about protecting historic battlefields, improving our most critical water sources or making sure that our best wildlife habitat remains wild and healthy."
Inhofe has specifically criticized one measure in the bill intended to help bolster new EPA efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. He said that provision could serve as a model for water pollution regulation that would ultimately hurt the agriculture industry in other parts of the nation.
Hastings leveled broader criticism at the omnibus, saying wilderness measures would lock up public land from motorized access and energy production and could complicate the U.S. Border Patrol's ability to prevent illegal immigration and smuggling.
While Hastings did not identify particular bills, wilderness critics have targeted Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) "Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act," which would protect 270,000 acres of wilderness and 110,000 acres as a national conservation area along the New Mexican border with Mexico.
The bill, which Bingaman's panel passed unanimously this summer, includes a 5-mile buffer area to allow Border Patrol to conduct routine patrols and construct communication and surveillance infrastructure.
In a June letter, Border Patrol Commissioner Alan Bersin said the proposal "would significantly enhance the flexibility" of the agency to do its job, adding that Bingaman's "collaborative process should be a model for future consideration of wilderness designation along the border."
Other wilderness proposals in the omnibus would ban logging and road development in the Devil's Staircase in Oregon, expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington and extend the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and Pratt River wild and scenic rivers.
Taken together, the bills' 320,000 acres of wilderness are only a fraction of the 2.1 million acres of new wilderness areas in nine states created under the 2009 public lands omnibus.
The omnibus also includes bills that would create or expand national parks and monuments, including a committee-passed proposal to designate the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico as a unit of the National Park System and a separate proposal to create the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas.
A bill pushed by Montana Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus would ban future mineral leasing and hardrock mining claims in a critical watershed bordering Montana's Glacier National Park.
A notable absence in the omnibus is a controversial proposal backed by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl to promote a massive Arizona copper mine on land that is currently part of the Tonto National Forest.
The bill, which was included in an earlier public lands omnibus draft, would allow the Forest Service to swap about 4,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest to build the mine in exchange for more than 5,500 acres of Resolution Copper's private holdings. That is opposed by American Indian tribes and Arizona's Democratic lawmakers.

The Danger of Congress and the Omnibus Bill

Call from the Borderland
The Danger of Congress and the Omnibus Bill
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

     As Americans watch the Lame Duck Session of Congress, there is little evidence that the Democrats recognize the mandate shot across the bow of party leadership on November 2nd.  That leadership trudges ahead with the agenda that does nothing for what ails us.  Heart Landers have little faith that “right decisions” will be made and less faith that they would be enforced if they were made.
     Americans who live on the border and face that real world challenge look to their front and realize that there will be no real federal intervention unless more American blood is spilled.  Those same folks look over their shoulders and view the antics of Congress with hardened skepticism and distrust.  Empty suits and collegial expression are what we have come to expect.
     From Brownsville to the Pacific Ocean, the southern border is on fire.  Every American city that faces the border has ongoing reminders that a war is being waged across from them.  In Matamoros across from Brownsville there were over 100 people killed recently in a two day stretch.  Across from El Paso in Juarez, the most dangerous city in the world, weekend death counts no longer make the news unless they reach double digits.  In the San Diego Sector of the Border Patrol, human and drug smuggling activities are increasing relative to the entire border on a rate of increase that is only matched by the Tucson Sector where the most dangerous border in the world now exists.
   In the face of rising Mexican chaos, ensconced leadership has the gall to tell Americans that the border is safer than it has been in over 30 years.  With a death count in the First Mexican Revolution of the 21st Century that is well on its way of matching the loss of Americans in Viet Nam, perhaps those that spread that nonsense need to go back and figure out a better way to “package” that bit of propaganda.  This is a war, it has no appearances of subsiding, and those who live on the border can make up their own minds about how safe that region has become.
     Since the majority of the press and the Obama administration display little realization of the consequences of a war that the government of Mexico is losing, Americans need to become attuned to some simple indicators.  That process must start with Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon.
     In the much publicized Wikileaks controversy, some interesting American-Mexican communication has been made public.  Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked about how Mexican President Felipe Calderon is holding up.  The Mexican Ambassador’s response was that the President has been “down” in meetings.  From the success of his efforts, he has reason to be down.  His government has brought to trial and prosecuted only two percent of all cartel operatives detained.  Similarly, in Juarez where infamous characters like “the Butcher” (El Carnicero) operate, only two percent of all persons arrested have even been charged with a crime.  Although there have been some high profile kingpins captured, prosecutions are seldom and woefully unsuccessful.        
     Such results must be interpreted as corruption of the entire legal system in Mexico, or worse yet, the complicity of Mexican leadership. The age old corruption concern of that government once again bubbles to the surface, but now it is in the midst of a war that threatens America’s own security. 
     The time has come to start worrying about the survivability of the Mexican government.  The first marker of major concern is the flow of revenues from the Mexican oil monopoly, PEMEX, to the government.  Because of the importance of those revenues, any substantial reductions would impact the Mexican government’s ability to operate.  Current estimates of reductions of revenues from the northern states of Mexico alone are ranging from $350 to $750K per day.  The losses are coming from the government’s inability to operate in drug cartel strongholds. 
     The second factor is the loss of revenues flowing into the northern states from fundamental sources of income including government pensions and moneys remitted from Mexican citizens normally working in the United States.  This shortfall is causing major disruption of services and basic living standards.
    The third factor is the horrendous social disruption occurring in the war torn municipalities along the border where the cartels are battling for turf and human and drug smuggling corridor access into the United States.  In Juarez, huge displacement of residents has already occurred.  Those who have dual citizenships have gone north into the United States (has anybody noticed the increased traffic in El Paso in recent months?).  Those who do not have the means or options of going north are attempting to leave the border areas and are moving back into the interior of Mexico where it is safer.  Regardless of outcome, the disruption of social structure along the border may take a generation to return to some form of equilibrium.
"Every American should be watching the border conflict where environmentalists and the Mexican Drug Cartels find themselves bedfellows.  They both want permanent protection of large federal holdings with limited access.  Here is a classic case of idealism and barbarism meeting head on.
     The final and looming prospect is the rebound of the United States’ economy.  Mexico is already starved for revenues and hope.  The promise of jobs across the border will set off a frenzy of illegal migration like never before.
     As citizens, Americans must be concerned with any void that would occur with a Mexican government failure.  Unlike past Mexican Revolutions when yet another rich and powerful leader ascended the golden threshold of the Mexican presidency, the world is a much smaller place.  Many forces of the world would now be very interested in Mexico’s location on the soft underbelly of America.  Those same forces seek conditions of political chaos.  The Mexican world of drug cartel violence and unrest would serve them very well.
     Recently, Congressman Devan Nunes (R-CA) discussed on national radio the weekly arrival of a plane from the Middle East that drops off passengers in northern South America.  From that point, Congressman Nunes described how they make their way through Central America and on into Mexico.  The assumption that they proceed northward toward the American border is not a question.  It is the most likely outcome. 
     A review of Illegals “other than Mexicans” from the Office of Immigration Statistics shows a very clear and increasing trend that the onslaught that America faces is not simply from Mexico.  Those weekly arrivals are part of that growing trend . . . and danger.
     With increasing chaos on the American border with Mexico, a pathetic record of prosecution success by the Mexican government, growing evidence of dangerous arrivals from countries harboring and abetting terrorists, and a Mexican population that is increasingly disrupted, misplaced, and frantic are not the factors that should make American leadership bullish about a positive outcome to this war.  The simple truth is Mexico is dangerous, it is on the edge of a catastrophic implosion, and there are too many characters in this world that would love to gain a greater stake in a negative outcome.
     Where is American leadership?  It is in Washington fiddling with agenda driven legislation and the most heinous of the lot is the Omnibus Lands Bill.  In the 100 plus bill monstrosity is S.1689, The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act.  It is part of the multibillion dollar boondoggle that is being pounded down the throats of Americans.  It is not only contrary to the dictates of November 2, 2010, it sets the stage for yet more Mexican conflict for the smuggling rights to the newest Arizona Class Drug and Human Smuggling Corridor. This time it will be in New Mexico and the border classified as “uncontrolled” will be expanded from the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector to the El Paso Sector.
      Americans living on the border with duties, responsibilities, and or investments view this one sided agenda with growing hopelessness.  If there is a single Christmas wish that Washington might acknowledge, it would be to terminate this attempt to satisfy an agenda that has a downside that transcends all measures of good intentions.  Go home . . . don’t do any more harm to us . . .  and those that escaped the November 2 mandate can reconvene in 2011 to figure out how to defend your futures and the southern border from the conflagration that it has become! 

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “There is a divide in our neck of the woods that continues to grow.  Every American should be watching the border conflict where environmentalists and the Mexican Drug Cartels find themselves bedfellows.  They both want permanent protection of large federal holdings with limited access.  Here is a classic case of idealism and barbarism meeting head on.  It is time that American leaders start protecting our sovereign interests with authority and foresight.  The American voters will determine the future of leaders . . . not the environmental community.”  

Environmental community shifts focus away from Washington with 'think local' strategies

As 2010 comes to a close, U.S. environmentalists are engaged in their most profound bout of soul-searching in more than a decade. Their top policy priority - imposing a nationwide cap on carbon emissions - has foundered in the face of competing concerns about jobs. Many of their political allies on both the state and federal level have been ousted. And the Obama administration has just signaled it could retreat on a couple of key air-quality rules. "Certainly I think we have figured out we need to find a way to really listen harder and connect with people all over America, especially in rural America," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "I don't think we've done a particularly good job of that." The change casts a sudden pall over environmentalists' top-down approach. Now, instead of spending millions of dollars seeking to win over wavering lawmakers on the Hill, green groups are ramping up their operations outside D.C., focusing on public utilities commissions that sign off on new power plants and state ballot initiatives that could potentially funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservation efforts. The Nature Conservancy, for example, successfully championed a ballot initiative in Iowa this fall that will devote a portion of any future sales tax increase to land and water conservation initiatives. The Sierra Club, meanwhile, is bolstering its long-standing campaign to block the construction of power plants across the country, assembling a team of 100 full-time employees to focus on the issue in 45 states. "This is where the environmental movement will make the most progress in the next five years," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune...more

"Certainly I think we have figured out we need to find a way to really listen harder and connect with people all over America, especially in rural America," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. "I don't think we've done a particularly good job of that."

Hey Fred, just ask a farmer or rancher what they think of your movement. Think endangered species. Think wolves. Think rural. Get the picture?

Move made to strip NM Environmental Improvement Board of its ruling-making authority

Democrats and Republicans on the Government Restructuring Task Force joined together Monday (Dec. 20) to pass a motion that could see the legislature strip the state’s Environmental Improvement Board of its power to dictate policy, turning the EIB into strictly an advisory board. The motion was introduced by Rep. Paul Bandy (R-Aztec) and passed with only Sen. Tim Eichenberg (D-Bernalillo County) opposing. The EIB recently passed a controversial measure requiring the state to take part in a regional cap and trade plan and then passed a state-wide cap limiting emissions. Environmentalists praised the measures but industry interests say the plans will do nothing substantial to reduce green house gases and will put New Mexico’s energy companies at a competitive disadvantage. Under the motion passed Monday, the EIB would lose its rule-making authority and would function as a technical, advisory board to the Secretary of the Environment Department. Only the environmental secretary — acting through the governor’s office — would have power to carry out rules and regulations...more