Saturday, January 08, 2011

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords briefly regains consciousness

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head as she addressed her supporters in Tucson, Arizona, was briefly revived from anesthesia, a source close to the family told the Politico newspaper Saturday night. The congresswoman recognized her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, before slipping back into unconsciousness, the source said. Giffords, 40, was shot point-blank and hospitalized in a critical condition. She underwent brain surgery, and doctors said they were "cautiously optimistic" about her recovery. Arizona police said six people were killed and 13 others were wounded in the shooting spree. U.S. District Judge John Roll, Giffords' aide and a 9-year-old girl were among those killed...more

Suspicious package found at Giffords' office

Police have confirmed that a suspicious package has been found outside Gabrielle Giffords' office, and a bomb squad is being called in to investigate. People holding a vigil outside the office have been pushed well away from the area, while the investigation determines the nature of this package, and what threat it may cause...more

Slain federal judge John Roll was at the center of Arizona's immigration debate

John. M. Roll, the federal judge killed Saturday in the Tucson shooting that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), has been at the center of the state's complicated political battle over immigration. In February 2009, Roll received hundreds of threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. "They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they'd come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead," a law enforcement official told The Washington Post in May 2009. Threats against federal judges and prosecutors nationwide have been soaring in recent years. There is no indication he was the gunman's target, and witness accounts describe the shooter as firing at Giffords first. U.S. marshals put Roll, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, under 24-hour protection for about a month. They guarded his home in a secluded area just outside Tucson, screening his mail and escorting him to court, to the gym and even to Mass...more

Don't Rush to Politicize Arizona Shooting

A monstrous act was committed in Tucson this morning. This is what we know from news reports: Someone with a gun opened fire at a constituent event which Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was holding at a grocery store. Giffords was among those shot. This remains uncertain or entirely unknown: How many victims this tragedy will claim, whether the congresswoman will pull through, the identity of the shooter—reportedly taken into custody—and their motivation. This last is an especially important point right now. People are pointing out that Giffords’s 2010 opponent had an M-16 rifle shooting event to rally supporters against her over the summer; and that the congresswoman was on Sarah Palin’s famous congressional target list, illustrated with cross-hairs aimed at congressional districts on a map of the United States. Speculation has already begun that this murderer must be a right-winger, a gun nut, a Tea Partyer. And they very well may be. Or their twisted reasons for this act could be unrelated to politics or come from a different political view. But right now we just don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough. But leaping immediately to assign political blame to this tragedy distracts from and cheapens this morning’s events by making them yet another act in a political process that seems ready to spin out of control at the margins...more

MySpace page of alleged Giffords event shooter lists Mein Kampf, Communist Manifesto as among favorite books

Jared Lee Loughner, the man believed responsible for the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of at least five others Saturday, left his MySpace friends “goodbye” before his page was apparently taken down. His YouTube page, in which he lists both The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf among his favorite books, is still operational. Incidentally, Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish. All the info on the page is listed in the past tense...more

Doctor "Optimistic" about Giffords condition, 1 young girl dead

UMC Dr. Peter Rhee is "very optimistic" about Gabrielle Giffords' chances of recovery - she is out of surgery and is heading to the Intensive Care Unit. Rhee says 10 patients were delivered to UMC - of those, 1 young girl is dead, 5 people are critical condition and 5 people are in surgery. Rhee says the deceased girl was about 9 years old. Giffords was responding to and following commands after the surgery. Rhee says she was shot in the head. KVOA-TV

Sarah Palin Blamed by Bloggers for Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords

Some prominent liberal bloggers wasted little time before politicizing the horrific and tragic shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona on Saturday. Almost immediately after the nation learned of the shooting of Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and several others (including a federal judge), a few prominent liberal web writers sought to blame Sarah Palin and other conservatives for the action. Linking to a map of U.S. House districts that Sarah Palin's pac wanted to "target" during the 2010 mid-term elections -- which sadly included crosshairs over Rep. Giffords' district (among others) -- DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas Tweeted, "Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin." The liberal blog Firedog Lake also went there. Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias Tweeted out several other examples of "violent rhetoric," including Rep. Michele Bachman saying, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous" to block climate change legislation. A few personal observations... First, it is sad to see folks immediately politicize such a tragedy. If your first response to such an event is to think of Sarah Palin, something is wrong. Like it or not, the sort of rhetoric and imagery employed by Palin's PAC is not terribly unusual...more

‘Entire tea party’ was Giffords’ enemy, father says

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was alive but in surgery at a hospital on Saturday after a shooting that also injured at least nine other people, a hospital spokeswoman said, according to Reuters. Below, U.S. officials and others, including Ms. Giffords’ father released statements about the attack. The New York Post was able to contact Spencer Giffords as he headed to the hospital, asking him if Ms. Giffords had any enemies. From the Post: “Yeah,” he told The Post. “The whole tea party.” He added that politicians constantly faced danger. “They always get threat[ened],” Gifford cried. “We don’t really have any information. The Police department was supposed to call us but they didn’t.”...more

Sarah Palin issues statement on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting

After news broke that Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot at an event on Jan. 8, many people, many were issuing criticism to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin over her past call for supporters to "take aim" at Democrats. Rep. Giffords was one of the Democrats "targeted" by Palin's campaign. Perhaps in an effort to combat the criticism, Sarah Palin posted a statement on her Facebook page on the tragic shooting. The statement reads, "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."...more

Obama says Giffords "gravely wounded," others dead

President Barack Obama said on Saturday that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords had been "gravely wounded" and others had died in a shooting in Arizona. "And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded," Obama said in a statement. He called the incident an "unspeakable tragedy." Reuters

Rep. Giffords in Critical Condition After Being Shot in the Head at Public Event

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is in critical condition after being shot in the head at close range Saturday morning while holding a public event, Fox News has confirmed. Initial reports said that Giffords had died but a hospital spokesman and three House sources told Fox News that she remained alive in a nearby hospital where she was undergoing surgery. At least 19 people were shot at Gifford's "Your Corner" event held outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, including three members of the Democratic congresswoman's staff in Arizona. Five have died and nine are in critical condition at the University of Arizona Medical Center. A suspect is in custody. Authorities are looking for a possible second suspect. According to the law enforcement official, the suspect began shouting something before shooting wildly with an automatic weapon. Shots then rang out from the crowd -- a security agent or someone else fired at the suspect who survived...more

Friday, January 07, 2011

Green Giant Planned for Portland

Portland, Oregon prides itself on being an eco-friendly city claiming to have the second most green buildings in the nation behind only Chicago. And now officials are investing in what they say will be the tallest living building in the world. The Oregon Sustainability Center will generate its own electricity, use only rain for its water source and treat all its waste. How? A massive solar disk on the roof, a 200,000 gallon storage tank and a sewage separater on site that will turn solids into fertilizer and flush water back into the ground. And instead of a typical forced air heating system, the building will use geo thermal to regulate the inside temperature. If it sounds expensive, it is. Most of the cost of the building, $65-million, will come from taxpayers. The Oregon University System and the City of Portland are picking up the lions share. To recoup the high construction costs, the building will have to charge among the highest rents in the city. Some estimate rents will be 20% above market rates. That's already proving to be a concern. Only government and some environmental groups have stepped forward to say they'll pay the high rent...more

Sounds like it would be a lovely place to work:

Even with all the technology, developers say they'll need some social engineering to reach their energy saving goals. Tenants will be encouraged to walk up stairs more and use the elevators less. Temperatures will be cooler than most office buildings in the winter and warmer in the summer. And the building will be equipped with sensors throughout that will monitor electricity usage by the cubicle. So workers will be notified if they use too much power. Charge a cell phone at your desk, get a warning. Leave your computer on over night, be prepared for a stern email.
But if it is all government employees and enviros, so be it.

At least it will be more energy efficient, right?
Some even question whether green buildings save energy. Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center has looked at green schools. Washington State was the first in the nation to require all government buildings be built to silver L.E.E.D. standards. He compared two recently constructed schools, one built to green standards and one not. He found the green building used 30% more energy than the other one.
Gonna be worth it though, just to see all those birkenstocks going up and down those stairs and up and down those stairs.

And now that Gov. Bill Richardson is officially out of work, I nominate him to run the sewage separater.

I do wonder, though, how his Pay to Play politics will work. Guess it will be a Dollars to Defecate system.

Obama: Not So Wild About Wildlife

By the time he left office, President George W. Bush wasn't exactly known as a friend of endangered wildlife. Over eight years, his administration protected 62 species of domestic animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act. By contrast, Bill Clinton had declared 522 species endangered during his two terms. (See chart below.) On average, Bush added eight new species to the list annually, the slowest pace of any president since Richard Nixon signed the ESA into law in 1973. When Barack Obama took office in 2009, conservationists expected him to pick up the slack as well as end the outgoing administration's policy of blocking, delaying, and politicizing endangered-species listings. In April 2009, the president took a swipe at his predecessor, declaring that the ESA had been "undermined by past administrations," and all but promising to apply the law more aggressively: "We should be looking for ways to improve it—not weaken it." Yet two years later, little has changed, to the frustration of some wildlife advocates. Late last month, for example, the Interior Department upheld the Bush administration's decision not to list the polar bear as endangered despite the rapid loss of its arctic habitat. If the bear were designated as endangered, it could legally obligate the government to adopt a more aggressive climate policy. "The Obama administration delivered a lump of coal to the polar bear for Christmas," said the Center for Biological Diversity's Kassie Siegel, the lead author of a 2005 petition to protect the bear. "Once again President Obama's interior department has sacrificed sound science for political expediency, and the polar bear will suffer as a result." Obama is barely beating Bush at protecting new endangered species—and he's far behind his Democratic predecessors. So far, his administration has added 59 species to the endangered list. However, that includes 48 species from the Hawaiian island of Kauai that were originally cleared for approval by the Bush administration...more

It's interesting that on an annual basis Bush I had the highest average at 58, and Bush II had the lowest at 8.

Democrat takes aim at EPA

Firing the first salvo in what is expected to be a top energy issue in the new Congress, Sen. John Rockefeller said Wednesday that he’s raring to go in his controversial bid to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate regulations for two years. The West Virginia Democrat told POLITICO that he’ll soon introduce the same piece of legislation he tried unsuccessfully to get a vote on throughout 2010. Rockefeller said he’d wanted to drop the bill at the start of the 112th Congress but was stymied by plans to spend the day debating changes to the Senate rules. EPA’s climate rules started kicking in on Sunday and will continue to be phased in over the next two years for power plants, petroleum refiners and other major stationary sources. House Republicans are expected to hold hearings and force votes to stop the EPA regulations too, but prospects that any type of freeze will make it into law depends on the Democrat-led Senate and President Barack Obama’s willingness to sign off on a delay. Administration officials have previously said they’d recommend a veto. Rockefeller said prospects for some type of anti-EPA legislation making it into law have improved with the new Senate that includes a much more narrow Democratic majority. “It’ll be very interesting,” Rockefeller said...more

U.N. group warns of potential 'food price shock'

The Food and Agricultural Organization said Wednesday that the world faces a "food price shock" after the agency's benchmark index of farm commodities prices shot up last month, exceeding the levels of the 2007-08 food crisis. The warning from the U.N. body comes as inflation is becoming an increasing economic and political challenge in developing countries, including China and India, and is starting to emerge as a potential problem in developed nations. Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the FAO in Rome, said that the increase was "alarming" but that the situation was not yet a crisis similar to 2007-08, when food riots affected more than 30 poor countries, including Haiti, Bangladesh and Egypt. "The world faces a food price shock," he said, adding that a prolonged spike could lead to a food crisis. The FAO said that its food price index - a basket tracking the wholesale cost of commodities such as wheat, corn, rice, vegetable oils, dairy products, sugar and meat - jumped to 214.7 points, exceeding the peak of 213.5 set in June 2008. Abbassian said that agricultural commodities prices would probably rise further. "It will be foolish to assume this is the peak," he said...more

Trial reset for Navajo ranchers facing eviction

The trial for two longtime Navajo Nation ranchers facing eviction has been reset to Jan. 28. The case was to go to trial Tuesday, but the judge was unavailable. Loretta and Raymond Morris lost out in a new bidding process for a ranch lease last year, and the tribal government is seeking a court order to evict them. The tribe says the Morrises have refused to vacate the land just north of Crownpoint that they've leased for more than 40 years. The Morrises' attorney, James Zion, says the ranch program lacked clear standards for assessing bids. He also says ranchers were denied due process because they weren't allowed to inspect the bid documents or protest the awards. Other ranchers have threatened to sue over the loss of their leases. AP

Horse Processing Plants: Not Just a Horse Issue

As the lackluster economy continues to challenge the horse industry, ranchers, lawmakers, and horse owners gathered at the Summit of the Horse in Las Vegas, Nev., this week to discuss the economic state of the industry and the unwanted horse issue. One of the topics drawing much attention to the summit was ways to re-establish the horse processing industry in the United States. But the path to making processing plants profitable for investors is complicated, economic experts say. The U.S. horse processing industry began to decline in 2005 when Congress stripped the USDA of funding for food safety inspections at the plants. The USDA continued to offer inspections on a fee basis until 2007 when a federal judge ruled against the inspection for fee arrangement, effectively forcing the remaining U.S. plants to close. The decision eliminated the processing option just before the economic recession sent horse-keeping costs soaring. In response, some members of the horse industry sought to reinstate horse processing in the U.S., which they believe would help decrease the number of unwanted horses. Despite potent opposition from animal rights advocates, legislation promoting private sector processing plant development was introduced in a few states in 2009 with mixed results. Processing plant development legislation became law in Montana and Wyoming in 2009, and lawmakers in other states remain committed to passing similar legislation...more

Baxter Black: My Old Martin

I can’t remember how many songs Martin wrote, probably half of my notebook full of livin’ room hits! I guess nobody knew me as well as Martin. All those sad love songs, honky tonk songs, funny ones, bluegrass, country, cowboy, even the occasional gospel song, he heard first. I was better at the lyrics but he could come up with the oddest melodies. I spent hours trying to decipher or invent the chords that would fit his tune. While it is true we spent most of our time together alone, there were many occasions when I would take him with me. He was especially popular during the fall cow works on the big ranches. We’d be there four or five days. It takes a while to preg check 2000 cows! Martin would wait for me in the bunkhouse or in my vet truck but when work was over I would take him to the cookhouse. After we’d eaten we’d play music and tell stories! What fun it was. The cowboys liked it, too. These outfits were so far out, there was no television, and satellite tv hadn’t been invented. No VHS, maybe a weak radio signal, so entertainment was at a premium! We weren’t great but we were there! Sometimes one of the cowboys sat in and played or sang. I remember at one big outfit a prospector would show up and he played Irish songs on his mandolin. And by gosh, Martin spoke Irish! I didn’t even know it! I took him to the sheep camps, too! The herders couldn’t speak English but they could understand Martin!...more

Song Of The Day #478

Out West is the theme this week on Ranch Radio. Today we blow the dust off an old 78rpm to bring you Shug Fisher & His Ranchmen Trio performing Riding Down The Trail To Santa Fe.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Obama's Oil War

Oil prices are surging to levels that will soon crimp economic growth. And what's our government doing about it? Just making it worse. Since President Obama took office in January 2009, the price of oil has rocketed 117% to $90.41 a barrel and gasoline has jumped 67% to $3.07 a gallon. In the 34 industrialized nations, oil imports have surged 34% in the last year to $790 billion. The U.S. alone has seen a $72 billion jump. All this imperils a fragile recovery from the financial crisis. "Oil prices are entering a dangerous zone for the global economy," says Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency. Given the clear threat, it's economically irrational to sit on our hands and fail to develop our own energy resources. At least 130 billion barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas lie offshore, and hundreds of billions of barrels more are locked in shale deposits in the Northeast and West. Yet our policy remains leaving this wealth alone. More than mere incompetence is at work here. It's becoming more and more obvious that Obama's energy policy is meant to raise prices by making fossil fuels harder to produce and use. Indeed, the White House has followed a deliberate policy of attacking Americans' use of energy, turning it into something of a moral crusade...more

China Rare Earths Leave Toxic Trail to Toyota, Vestas

Rare earth metals are key to global efforts to switch to cleaner energy -- from batteries in hybrid cars to magnets in wind turbines. Mining and processing the metals causes environmental damage that China, the biggest producer, is no longer willing to bear. China’s rare earth industry each year produces more than five times the amount of waste gas, including deadly fluorine and sulfur dioxide, than the total flared annually by all miners and oil refiners in the U.S. Alongside that 13 billion cubic meters of gas is 25 million tons of wastewater laced with cancer-causing heavy metals such as cadmium...more

As Jim Scarantino says:
Groovy Greens in Santa Fe and Hollywood feel good about their enviro ethics. But the hard price for their self-satisfaction and sense of environmental superiority is paid by poor people in China and Mongolia.

Battle Lines Drawn Over New "Wild Lands" Rules

Although some in Congress say the department is overstepping its bounds by giving local BLM offices the power to limit such uses as off-road vehicle access and oil exploration, the conservation community is siding with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Brent Fenty, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, says multiple spots exist in Oregon where land needs to be protected while wilderness designation is being considered. "It takes often a decade, if not decades, to permanently protect a wilderness area, and only Congress can do that. Without these interim protections, the unfortunate thing is that you see these wilderness-quality lands just be chipped away at until nothing's left." The groups point out that Salazar is not changing the policy, but rather is returning to rules that had been in place until 2003. At that time, former Interior Secretary Gayle Norton made a deal with the state of Utah that kept the BLM there from including wilderness potential in its resource management plans...more

Utah Republican to attack Interior wilderness policy with ‘whatever mechanism’ possible

A staunch House critic of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hopes to undermine a recent Interior policy change that paves the way for conserving large areas in western states without a formal wilderness designation by Congress. “It is so bad we will use whatever mechanism is possible,” said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), when asked Wednesday about legislative efforts to block the policy. Bishop chairs the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, which is a panel of the Natural Resources Committee. Salazar unveiled a plan last month that will allow Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to inventory and designate public lands as “wild lands” and protect their wilderness characteristics, which could stymie energy development and other uses. Bishop and other critics allege it’s an end-run around congressional power to designate which public lands have wilderness protections. “This is not the way to build trust with Congress, and this is not good policy,” Bishop told reporters in the Capitol. He plans hearings on the matter and alleges the policy will harm education by blocking activities that bring in local revenues in western regions...more

Lawmakers want to protect natural gas from new drilling regulations

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers pressed the Obama administration on the first day of the new Congress not to impose regulations curtailing drilling technique that taps hard-to-get natural gas reserves but has generated criticism about potential water pollution. Thirty-two members of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus called on the Interior Department on Wednesday not to hinder producers who use hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from underground rock formations. The fracking process has boosted U.S. natural gas supplies, but environmentalists fear chemicals used in the process are polluting underground drinking water sources. The group of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, told Salazar that scientific evidence shows fracking is safe. The caucus, led by co-chairs, Republican Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and Democrat Dan Boren of Oklahoma, said "hastily proposed regulatory burdens on natural gas will increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector and hinder our nation's ability to become more energy independent."...more

Let them eat bullets

Area legislators and El Paso County commissioners spent some time at a joint meeting Wednesday morning blasting anyone who doesn't embrace the military and all of its apparent economic development benefits. At issue are the Air Force’s proposed low-altitude tactical navigation flights over southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. The service would use C-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules turboprop aircraft from Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, N.M., in roughly three training flights per day, with most happening at night and during the week. The Trinidad Times has reported that some ranchers report their cattle already have been spooked and injured as they stampeded through barbed-wire fences due to low-flying military aircraft. The newspaper also reported that the Colorado Division of Wildlife has raised concerns about low-flying training flights, saying some species will be directly impacted. Then Commissioner Dennis Hisey brought up a scathing letter the Pueblo Board of County Commissioners sent last month to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The letter sought the federal council's intervention and opposition to further Army training at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, the Pueblo Chieftain reported. The maneuvers, the Chieftain quoted the letter as saying, endanger historic artifacts on the 238,000-acre range northeast of Trinidad, and the Army's use of PiƱon Canyon has "demonstrated a pattern and practice of repeated violations of the National Historic Preservation Act."...more

Coalition sues Forest Service plan

Beaverhead County has joined a coalition of motorized access and other groups to sue the U.S. Forest Service over its revised management plan for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest that calls for more wilderness areas. The county joined nearly 20 groups that include multiple use, motorized access and ranching interests in alleging that the Forest Service tailored its revised plan based on the "partnership" of logging companies and environmental groups that submitted its proposal at the 11th hour. The groups filed the lawsuit recently in Butte federal court. County Commissioner Mike McGinley said the Forest Service's plan included wilderness areas that were never before considered and don't meet the criteria for the highest level of land protection under federal law. And he said the plan, which guides management of the 3.3-million acre forest, was crafted after closed-door meetings between then Beaverhead Forest Supervisor Bruce Ramsey and the partnership members. The plan, which took years to draft, was implemented in January 2010. Since then several trails that were open to motorized vehicles have been closed in areas designated in the plan as recommended wilderness. The groups allege the Forest Service's actions were in violation of several federal laws that require public participation, including the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act...more

Group: Wyoming split-estate law needs improvements

Wyoming ought to toughen up its law aimed at preventing conflicts when petroleum companies seek to drill for oil or gas on private property with or without the landowner's permission, a landowner group says. The split-estate law, enacted in 2005, requires oil and gas companies to at least attempt good-faith negotiations with landowners. Also the law allows landowners to sue in court to obtain compensation for damages. Wyoming should improve the law with a number of changes, the resource council said in a report released Tuesday. One suggested change is increasing the $2,000-per-well bond a company must post before drilling. That sum is "unrealistically low" to compensate landowners for damage, the group said in its "State of the Split Estate" report. The group also said the law could be improved by: -- Allowing landowners to recover litigation costs if they went to court and prevailed; -- Placing the burden of proof of good-faith negotiations with the petroleum company, not the landowner; -- Not allowing companies onto private land until the landowner has received notification by certified mail that the company has posted bond; -- Removing oversight of disputes from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission...more

BLM chief defends wild horse roundups

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management chief blasted critics of the federal government's periodic wild horse roundups on Tuesday, calling the practice rare and necessary as he spoke at a horse slaughter summit. The roundups, which are aimed at controlling the population of horses on federal rangelands in the West, have been deemed ineffective by advocates on both sides of the debate. Animal rights groups contend they are an inhumane solution, and pro-slaughter proponents declare them a waste of public money. "These horses are part of our heritage," BLM chief Robert Abbey said to a room of more than 100 breeders, trainers and lawmakers. "Make no mistake, they deserve to be treated the best way that we can treat them." Abbey expressed firm opposition to horse euthanasia but still faced criticism from animal rights groups for agreeing to face the pro-slaughter advocates in Nevada -- a state that is home to more than half of the nation's wild horses and burros. The bureau oversees more than 38,000 wild horses and burros in 10 Western states. Abbey said the roundups, which often involve helicopters chasing horses on federal land, are the "safest and most efficient way" to gather large numbers of the animals. "Some scrutiny of this program has crossed the line of fair criticism," Abbey said...more

The same AP article also says:

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming legislator and vice president of United Horsemen, said horse processing is the humane and ethical solution to controlling horse populations. "What's happening is we've taken a valuable asset and turned it into a very expensive liability," she said. "The United States will become like Europe, where only the very wealthy will be able to afford horses." Wallis said the federal government's policy of rounding up excess horses and storing them amounts to public welfare for horses. The Bureau of Land Management spent $66.1 million in 2010 to feed and care for horses rounded up and confined in corrals.

Montana looks to relocate bison

Montana wildlife officials are seeking approval to create a bison management plan and scope out sites that would be suitable to relocate dozens of bison from the genetically pure Yellowstone National Park herd. The goal is to find areas that could support a population of at least 50 bison now involved in a quarantine program testing for the spread of the disease brucellosis, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials. The animals would be temporarily relocated to an interim site for the five years they must remain under quarantine, then be permanently settled at either that site or in another part of Montana after a management plan is created that would include a hunt for the animals. “This is one species in the state we have really, in a management effort, ignored,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said Tuesday. The bison in the Yellowstone herd are genetically pure, as opposed to others where the genes of cattle have been introduced, making them highly valued targets for conservation...more

Ranchers, breeders at Las Vegas summit rally for return of horse slaughterhouses in US

Horses should be slaughtered and processed in the United States and then sold as food to other countries that regularly consume the lean, tender meat, speakers said Wednesday at a conference aimed at reviving the country's unpopular horse processing industry. Not eating the animals, in fact, disregards the food chain's natural cycle that sustains all creatures, said Sue Wallis, vice president of the United Horseman group of Wyoming, which organized the conference. Proponents hope the summit — attended by hundreds of ranchers, breeders and lawmakers — will draw attention to an untapped economic resource. Reopening horse slaughterhouses would create jobs and increase the market value of an animal whose sale price has plummeted in recent years, they say. Horses are now shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered there, a cost-prohibitive expense for many horse owners, slaughter advocates said. Temple Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University, said shuttering the United States' heavily regulated horse slaughterhouses has allowed inhumane processing factories to flourish in other nations...more

Oliver Lee embroiled in 1896 NM murders

Every time I go to Alamogordo and see the sign for the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, I tell myself I am going to find out who Oliver Lee is. I hadn't yet gotten around to it when I received an e-mail from Janie Bell Furman of Alamogordo a couple of weeks ago. Janie informed me that Oliver Milton Lee was a New Mexico rancher, "famous or infamous in New Mexico, depending on who you talk to, who was tried and found not guilty of the murder of Col. Fountain." "Fountain was killed at age 58 along with his 8-year-old son, Henry, as they crossed New Mexico's Tularosa Basin on what is now White Sands Missile Range. "For years before his death, Fountain was the attorney for the Southeastern New Mexico Stock Association. Only a month before his death, he sought and secured indictments on charges of cattle rustling against 23 men. "Rancher Oliver Lee and his cowhand Jim Gilliland were ultimately tried for Henry's murder, but neither was convicted. They were defended at trial by Fountain's political nemesis and Lee's best friend, Albert Fall. No one was ever tried for Fountain's murder. His body was never found. As for Oliver Milton Lee, David Sheppard of the Times wrote in an August 1990 article, "The Otero County pioneer once owned a million-acre cattle and horse empire that stretched from Tularosa south to El Paso. "Born in Buffalo Gap, Texas, Lee moved to New Mexico when he was 19 and built the Dog Canyon ranch in 1893. He lived there until he moved his headquarters to the Circle Cross ranch near Timberon, N.M., in 1907...more

Comments on "Ten Essential Westerns"

 Here are the comments on 10 essentials Westerns for fans turned on by new 'True Grit' so far, followed by mine:

SWilmeth said...
I agree that Stage Coach should be at or near the top of the list. Red River must be added to that same general position, and in my opinion, is the perhaps one of the two or three most technically correct movies of the West ever. I also think All the Pretty Horses was superb in strict tehnicality. When the two characters stood outside of the Balle looking in and discussing whether they should wear their hats inside was so Western correct. Although Quigley Down Under can't be Western, the most beautiful scene of true unity was filmed in that movie when Tom Selleck was going for help and there was a scene at dusk through dust with that horse collected that was just gorgeous. I am also a big fan of the Snowy River stuff where riders can still ride and not pound the horses' backs like sacks of potatoes. Other than the Selleck, Duvall, Elliot, Tommy Lee Jones stuff of the last 20 years the riding makes me sick. I could go on, but the greatest movie of the modern age as for strict horsemanship was probably Giant. Remember the scene out in front of the house when Rock put his little grandson on the horse with him? The cowboys in the backdrop riding around were from the Means family of the Valentine area . . .go back and watch that. Those guys were truly cowboys and were having a heck of a time . . . Anyway . .
KWilmeth said...
SWilmeth called me on the phone to add another two cents to this like I have the time to do that! Anyway, he had two more cents (like that is the gospel!) and they are there are two more movies where horsemanship and horses need to be elevated in memory. The first was the Gary Cooper movie we think was . . . Dallas (does that sound right?) where he rode a total of five or six horses. The horses were typical California style finished horses all pretty small, but in S's view "great little horses" that Mr. Cooper or his double rode really well. I liked the clothes Gary wore. Stuff that fit and didn't hang to the ground. You know what I mean? The second movie was Big Country and the stars of the movie were the double for Jean Simmons when she rode across the flat to confront Gregory Peck when he was picking around the old house on the Big Muddy. The other stars were the double for Charlston Hestin and the little paint horse he rode. That in my mind was the cutest horse in movie history! S wonders if it was a Visalia Stock Saddle with those long tapaderos hanging down both sides. Could'a been in that era and it was filmed in the Simi Valley California country. Anyway, I gotta' go. You make up your own mind if S. has a leg to stand on!
Christopher said...
Lonesome Dove,Tombstone, Jesse James, She wore a yellow ribbon ( a cavalry movie , but a good one with John Wayne and Ben Johnson),Jerimiah Johnson( a pre-cowboy western) are some I would put on the list. My favorite movie is of course"The Rounders" with Glenn Ford,Henry Fonda and Chill Wills.

I’m sure Mr. Butler’s list takes into consideration direction, production, acting, cinematography, etc.

My friend Steve Wilmeth seems to focus on certain scenes in a movie, especially those involving horses. For sure, a funny looking hat or the inability to ride ruins a movie for me. Speaking of horse scenes, the Movie Tom Horn starring Steve McQueen has one of the best. It’s when he rides into the stock pens with his rifle across his left arm, lays down the law to those present saying “and that’s my final word on the matter”, and then backs that horse out of the corral and down the alley without ever losing sight of his opponents.  My favorite horse scene though, has to be the bucking horse scene in Monte Walsh. I don’t know how they filmed that scene but it is terrific. It also has a definite meaning in the story. I have also been lucky enough to meet and visit with Archie West, who the author used as his model for the character Monte Walsh.

Chris has an interesting list too.  One not mentioned so far is Will Penny starring Charlton Heston.  Realistic in attire, equipment, horses and cattle and has the line “See you in the fall if I see you at all” which then was said at one time or the other by every cowboy at NMSU in 1968. Also starring are Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Bruce Dern and Lee Majors. Heston has been quoted as saying this was his favorite film. It just so happens the movie is based on an episode of Sam Peckinpah’s 1960 televison series The Westerner.  Imagine that.  

Peckinpah was a drinking buddy of Max Evans, and Chris mentions The Rounders is his favorite western film.  Evans, the author of The Rounders, saw his manuscript rejected 11 times before he found a publisher who would go with it. It was the beginning of the modern western, made Max Evans, and is still in print 50 years later. I liked it enough I named an award after it. I gave “The Rounders Award” to those outside the industry who “lived, promoted or articulated the western way of life.”  The first recipient was Max Evans, and I also presented it to such luminaries as Elmer Kelton, Michael Martin Murphey and Baxter Black.  For a modern western film based on Evans’ work I would highly recommend the autobiographical Hi-Lo Country, a 1998 film starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.

I’m running out of time, so one final note.  Shane is on Butler’s list and Monte Walsh is on mine. Both were based on books of the same title by Jack Schaefer who was a resident of Silver City, NM.

More on Stagecoach and Red River later, especially if more folks comment about their favorite western movies. I know we are missing some, so help us out.

Song Of The Day #477

Ranch Radio is Out West this week and presents Andy Parker & The Plainsmen with their sad tune The Wheel Of The Wagon Is Broken.

The song is on their 2 CD collection The Call Of The Rollin' Plains.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Mexico governor removes EIB members

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday took aim at the controversial Environmental Improvement Board, announcing that she was removing all members over concerns about the board's approval in recent months of what she considers "antibusiness" policies. The board — made up of members appointed by former Gov. Bill Richardson — was at the center of a heated debate last year over whether New Mexico should regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The board ultimately decided to approve two proposals — one from an environmental group that aimed to limit the emissions of the state's largest polluters and another from the state Environment Department that called for a regional cap-and-trade program. Martinez said in a statement that New Mexico has been hurt by policies that discourage economic development and result in businesses fleeing the state. "Unfortunately, the majority of EIB members have made it clear that they are more interested in advancing political ideology than implementing commonsense policies that balance economic growth with responsible stewardship in New Mexico," Martinez said. Martinez's letter to the board members said their removal was effective immediately...more

The EPA bedbug controversy continues; my proposed solution

The feds are considering allowing use of an insecticide against bedbugs in some senior-citizen residential centers, but Gov. Ted Strickland said that's not enough. Strickland recently urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow the use of Propoxur in all houses, apartments, hotels and motels to kill bedbugs. In a Dec. 27 letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Perez Jackson, Strickland said that he understood that the agency has proposed limited, one-time treatments in some senior-citizen complexes. Strickland said the EPA's proposal would "inadequately treat one small extension of the problem rather than the root." He also said he is upset that the EPA did not tell anyone in April about the proposal to use Propoxur in senior residence centers...more

Gov. Strickland doesn't seem to understand enviro politics. All he needs to do is claim that Cimex lectularius emits greenhouse gases or otherwise contributes to global warming, and EPA will authorize an entire nuclear arsenal to contol the critters.

Even with a nuclear arsenal this will be a tough battle. You see bedbugs are blood suckers who attack when you are asleep or when you are least likely to expect it. In other words, bedbugs are the politicians of the bug world and are damn hard to eliminate.

Klamath River cleanup wins federal approval

The federal government has approved a state plan that calls for significant reductions in pollution from agricultural runoff and dam operations on the Klamath River, setting the stage for a long-awaited cleanup of one of California's major salmon rivers. The new water quality standards are intended to help restore a river once home to bountiful salmon runs but more recently known as a polluted, water-starved battleground for farmers, tribes and salmon fishermen. But it will take years, if not decades, to meet the standards. The pollution problems are spread across southern Oregon and Northern California and arise mainly from hydropower dams and runoff from farms, ranches and logging operations. The dams are slated for removal under a separate long-term agreement. But farmers, ranchers and the U.S. Forest Service will have to change some of their practices in order to reduce erosion and runoff that have loaded the river with sediment and such nutrients as phosphorus and nitrogen, which promote the growth of oxygen-depleting aquatic life. Administrators of the Klamath National Forest are working on decommissioning old logging roads, and ranchers are beginning to erect fences to keep cattle off river banks, officials said. Keeping contaminated irrigation runoff out of the river will take more effort...more

Oil Refineries Sue EPA over Ethanol Plan

A ruling by the Obama administration allowing the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol is running into legal hurdles from trade groups opposing the plan. The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday over the decision to allow the sale of gasoline containing higher blends of corn-based ethanol, the second major group to protest the ruling. The Obama administration said in October that gas stations could start selling the ethanol blend for vehicles built since the 2007 model year, increasing it from the current blend of 10 percent ethanol. The decision has been criticized by boosters of ethanol who say it doesn't go far enough and by engine manufacturers who contend it could damage engines in vehicles, boats, snowmobiles and outdoor power equipment such as lawnmowers and chainsaws. The refiners group asked a federal appeals court to overturn the decision, arguing that the EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to approve a plan for fuels used in some engines but not others. The trade association also said EPA based its decision on new data submitted shortly before the ruling, failing to give the public a chance to review it. Charles T. Drevna, the NPRA's president, said Monday the EPA had "acted unlawfully in its rush to allow a 50 percent increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline without adequate testing and without following proper procedures." His group was joined in the lawsuit by the International Liquid Terminals Association and the Western States Petroleum Association...more

Concerns arise as group eyes special designation

The evolving proposal to designate a Special Management Area in the Aldrich Mountains is sparking controversy among some residents. The critics spoke out after an article about the proposal was printed in the Dec. 22 Blue Mountain Eagle. In that story, Aldrich Mountains Working Group spokesman Mark Bagett outlined the group’s progress toward a proposal over the past year. Concerned residents also contacted the Grant County Court, assuming that it had already taken a stand on the SMA. It hasn’t done so, County Judge Mark Webb stressed last week. The working group says the primary intent in seeking the special designation is to maintain fish and wildlife values for perpetuity, but also to continue traditional uses – such as grazing and forest management – of the land. They seek the land – now under the control of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – to be united by one managing agency and plan. The process was set in motion by Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization that seeks to restore and preserve cold-water fish habitat. Trout Unlimited hired Bagett, a local outdoorsman, to organize the Aldrich work. The organization’s involvement was a red flag for ranchers Ken Holliday of John Day and Loren Stout of Dayville. They say environmental groups already have stopped salvage logging of fire-burnt timber in the area, and have blocked other economic activity in the region. The SMA “could be a whole new avenue of locking up public land,” said Holliday. The ranchers are concerned that a special designation would interfere with traditional uses such as hunting, cattle grazing and road access. Holliday said he’s met with Bagett five times and has yet to hear a good reason for the designation, which would require Congressional approval. The plan as it stands, would take up an estimated one-fifth of land currently managed by Malheur National Forest, he said.

A ‘Planetary Simulator’

Technological advances over the next decade could pave the way for the realization of one of the most staggeringly complex computer projects ever conceived: a “planetary simulator” with the ability to simultaneously model everything from the spread of infectious diseases to the behavior of financial markets, a European scientific group developing the idea suggests. The project, dubbed the Living Earth Simulator, would act as a “knowledge accelerator” — the social science equivalent of particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, said Dirk Helbing, professor of sociology at the ETH Zurich Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and chairman of the FuturICT project, which is seeking funds to build the simulator.
In the case of the planetary simulator, thousands of streams of real-world data would be brought together to reveal previously unknown patterns and trends in human society. “It is time to explore social life on Earth, and everything it relates to, in the same ambitious way we have spent the last century exploring our physical world,” Dr. Helbing writes at the group’s Web site.The simulator would have practical real-world applications for addressing societal and environmental problems, Dr. Helbing told the BBC last week...more 

And here I was worrying about those little ol' drones spying on us.

Top ten environmental stories of 2010

According to the NY Times.

Wind power could put birds at risk

One of the nation's largest bird conservation groups says rapid construction of wind energy projects will endanger several avian species. That includes the whooping crane, a famous migratory bird and annual visitor to central Nebraska. Officials with American Bird Conservancy on Wednesday cited data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that estimates 400,000 birds of various species are killed by turbine blades annually. The conservation group's concerns come as state and national officials push to expand wind energy development in the coming years. “Golden eagles, whooping cranes and greater sage-grouse are likely to be among the birds most affected by poorly planned and sited wind projects,” said Kelly Fuller, a spokeswoman for the conservancy...more

Massive fish kill blankets Arkansas River - video

Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame, a state spokesman said Sunday. Dead drum fish floated in the water and lined the banks of a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark, about 125 miles northwest of Little Rock, said Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A tugboat operator discovered the fish kill Thursday night, and fisheries officials collected some of the dying animals to conduct tests. Stephens said fish kills occur every year, but the size of the latest one is unusual, and suggested some sort of disease was to blame. "The fish kill only affected one species of fish," he said. "If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish." Ozark is about 125 miles west of the town of Beebe, where game wardens are trying to find out why up to 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve...more

Here's the CNN video report

500 More Blackbirds Die, Deepening Mystery

An estimated 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings were found dead in Louisiana, a local newspaper reported – just a few days and a short distance away from where thousands more plummeted to their death in Arkansas. The blackbirds in Louisiana littered a quarter-mile stretch of a state highway in Point Coupee Parish, near the city of Labarre, the Advocate reported Monday. Biologists are sending some of the birds found at Labarre to laboratories in Georgia and Wisconsin for testing. It was not immediately clear what caused their deaths. The mysterious mass bird deaths was just 360 miles to the south of Beebe, Ark., where up to 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky over the holiday weekend. Investigators believe that celebratory fireworks caused the caused the birds to rain down onto homes and cars in Beebe before ultimately falling to their deaths...more

What's going on in Arkansas?

Dead birds and dead fish.

One conspiracy theorist even speculates it is caused by secret government testing.

Electromagnetic scalar weapons that can artificially manipulate the environment could be responsible for the mass die offs. We know for a fact that over a decade ago the U.S. Military Industrial Complex was aware of and involved in the testing of such technology. In 1997, Defense Secretary William Cohen stated, “Others [terrorists] are engaging even in an eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves… So there are plenty of ingenious minds out there that are at work finding ways in which they can wreak terror upon other nations…It’s real, and that’s the reason why we have to intensify our [counter terrorism] efforts.” The fact that illness or poisoning has been ruled out points to some form of secret testing being behind the mass die-offs.

Feds luring veterinarians to underserved rural areas with subsidies

While many of his former veterinary school classmates enjoy jobs in the comfortable confines of house-pet clinics, Stubblefield spends his days — and some of his nights — in barns, corrals and windy, snow-covered pastures. That makes the 35-year-old animal doctor a rare breed. Rare enough that the federal government is handing out $6 million a year in subsidies to attract newcomers to the shrinking field of large-animal veterinary medicine. The Department of Agriculture's new program awards up to $25,000 annually for four years in tuition-loan reimbursements for veterinarians who commit to work in underserved rural areas. It's modeled after a similar program to induce medical doctors to serve in outlying regions. Agricultural experts say the need for the incentive is clear. Stubblefield is one of two Colorado veterinarians selected in 2010 for the USDA financial award. The other, Dr. Shane Porter, practices in Elbert and Lincoln counties. Nationwide, another 60 vets were chosen to receive the grants, based on studies that determined the most underserved regions for large-animal medicine...more

Rethinking Horse Slaughterhouses

Less than four years after the last equine slaughterhouses in the U.S. closed down, an unlikely coalition of ranchers, horse owners and animal-welfare groups is trying to bring them back. The group, gathering in Las Vegas this week for a conference called Summit of the Horse, aims to map out a strategy for reviving an industry that slaughtered as many as 100,000 horses a year in the U.S. before it was effectively shut down by congressional action in 2007. Advocates say the slaughterhouses could bring an economic boost to rural areas and give owners who no longer have the means or inclination to care for the horses an economical and humane way to dispose of them. "We believe that humane processing is absolutely a moral and an ethical choice," said Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker who organized the event. Though horse lovers cheered when the last slaughterhouses were shuttered, some now say they may not have thought through the consequences. The slaughterhouses disposed of the thousands of horses abandoned or relinquished each year by owners who find them too old or temperamental to be useful or who simply can no longer afford to care for them. Now, many of those horses are sold for $10 or $20 at low-end auctions and packed on crowded transports to be slaughtered in Mexico. Animal-welfare experts say the horses often suffer greatly on the journey. In 2006, just 11,080 U.S. horses were shipped to Mexico for slaughter. In 2008, after the American industry shut down, that number jumped to 57,017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture...more

Summit proposes regulated horse meat processing in U.S.

Industry insiders say the goal is to discuss key issues facing this animal population while also making a push to bring regulated horse meat processing back to the United States. The event has sparked loads of controversy, especially among animal rights activists. Sue Wallis, Vice President of United Horsemen, says over-breeding has become a major problem. She insists the horse population should be kept under control. "If you get too many deer, elk they take measures to limit these animals. Horses are no different." Activists, however, argue that slaughtering horses using any other method aside from euthanasia is simply cruel. "On the one hand you have 1,000 pounds of toxic waste or you can have 1,000 pounds of what can be very valuable and nutritious protein that people are willing and able to pay for," Wallis continues...more

Wife shoots cow, saves husband

A woman rammed her truck into a cow that attacked her husband as he repaired a fence New Year's Day in St. Lucie County. Authorities said Tuesday that 70-year-old Oscar Wilcox apparently shot the cow but dropped his weapon during the attack. His wife heard his screams, drove to the area and hit the cow several times with the truck. Then, she picked up the pistol loaded with "ratshot" and shot the cow a couple of times in the face. The woman, who was not identified in the police report, told authorities the cow had always been nasty and had attacked her about a week earlier. Wilcox was treated at a local hospital. The cow was contained in the pasture. AP

Right there is why I never liked to build fence. The post hole diggers take up both hands, or you have both hands on the wire stretcher, and how can you defend yourself? I tried explaining this to my dad and my uncle many times, all to no avail.

Song Of The Day #476

Ranch Radio is staying Out West with Jack Guthrie and his 1945 recording of I'm Branding My Darling With My Heart.

The tune is available on his 29 track CD Oklahoma Hills put out by Bear Family Records.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Too much news

There's so damn much of it I can't get it all posted, much less comment on it.

I'll comment on the 10 Best Western Movies tomorrow.

Wilderness Policy Sparks Western Ire

An Obama administration directive designed to preserve more public lands as wilderness is stirring anger in the West, where ranchers, sportsmen and energy companies say they could lose access to acreage they count on for their recreation and livelihood. The regulatory change, initiated this month, directs the Bureau of Land Management to survey its vast holdings stretching between Alaska, Arizona, California and Colorado, in search of unspoiled back country. The agency can then designate these tracts—potentially millions of acres—as "wild lands." Protections will vary from site to site, but in general such lands will be shielded from activities that disrupt habitat or destroy the solitude of the wild, according to the Interior Department. That might mean banning oil drilling, uranium mining or cattle grazing in some areas. It also could mean restrictions on recreational activities, such as snowmobiling or biking. But the move, which did not require legislative approval, has drawn a hostile response from many in the West. "This harms economic growth," said Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who takes over next month as chair of the House subcommittee on public lands. "The West is being abused." None of that reassures Jim Hagenbarth, a Montana rancher who leases BLM land to graze cattle. He fears he might lose some of his leases to wild lands designations, or be barred from such practices as burning off sagebrush to clear room for the grasses that cattle prefer. He also frets that more protected wilderness will mean more habitat for wolves, grizzlies and other predators who occasionally raid his herds. "We're extremely worried," Mr. Hagenbarth says. .The initiative also has drawn opposition from the energy industry. Kathleen Sgamma, a director of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents 400 oil and natural-gas companies, said the new policy could block promising lands from drilling. The Obama administration has opened several million acres to leases by energy companies but has revoked or restricted other plans to drill on public lands. Ms. Sgamma said that had forced the industry to cancel nearly $4 billion in investment this year alone...more

Wilderness reinventory a cruel joke

"Wilderness" is defined by Congress to mean 5,000 acres of roadless land and … well, the rest doesn't matter. Although wilderness designation originally was intended for unique, pristine areas offering outstanding opportunities for solitude, it now merely means any 5,000-acre chunk of public land where roads can be ignored or red-lined. The quality of the land or the experience is irrelevant. It is strictly a numbers thing. The continuous theme of Western public lands is excess. The only thing that changes is the trophy-of-the-day (e.g., land, bison, grazing, timber, and, now, wilderness for the Green Barons). In the West, enough is never enough. Robert Abbey, who led a results-oriented 1996 wilderness reinventory for the Clinton administration, now leads the Obama reinventory. Make no mistake. The point isn't to analyze — that already has been done. The point is to bag trophies. Discussion and compromise provide the rational path forward. Wilderness protection and economic activity both can be accommodated — as Congress has done in Clark County, Nev., and Washington County, Utah. But discussion and compromise take time, and healthy democratic process isn't nearly as sexy as a swashbuckling coup that instantly gives a victory to one side of a multi-party issue...more

Steve Urquhart is a State Senator in Utah. Looks like they grow them pretty fuerte there.

Editorial - Watch for new rules in 2011

A lot of Utahns may have been surprised recently when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a new rule that the Bureau of Land Management can set aside vast tracts of Utah as "wild lands." They may have thought only Congress had the power to do such a thing. But once a law is in place setting up a program or establishing a certain legal designation, the federal agency charged with administering those functions has the power to establish rules or write definitions. The line between these administrative edicts and the role of Congress to establish laws is thin, indeed. As 2011 progresses, that line is liable to make a lot of news. Salazar's "wild lands" is only one example, albeit one that hits close to home in the Beehive State. Environmentalists have been urging Congress to pass a law designating more than 9 million acres of Utah as protected wilderness, locking up valuable minerals, oil and gases that lie beneath. But because that law has little chance of passing, the Interior secretary's edict is the next best thing...more

The editorial concludes by saying:
It would be silly to expect Congress to write all the little rules an agency needs in order to carry out its mandates. Laws establishing new programs typically empower agencies with such rule-making authority. But there is little doubt that the executive branch of government uses this authority for political purposes, and the worst part of this is that such things may escape public notice because they don't carry the public profile of a bill being debated in Congress. This year, then, will be one for public vigilance. As the public proved in November's election, its collective voice still can make a difference.
The Westerner will be watching. Will you?

Drilling Is Stalled Even After Ban Is Lifted

More than two months after the Obama administration lifted its ban on drilling in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, oil companies are still waiting for approval to drill the first new oil well there. Experts now expect the wait to continue until the second half of 2011, and perhaps into 2012. The administration says it is simply trying to enforce new safety rules adopted in the wake of the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Environmental groups say the administration is right to take its time because the Gulf disaster exposed the risks of offshore drilling. But the delay is hurting big oil companies such as Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which have billions of dollars in investments tied up in Gulf projects that are on hold and are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a day for rigs that aren't allowed to drill. Smaller operators such as ATP Oil & Gas Corp., which have less flexibility to focus on projects in other regions, have been even harder hit. The impact of the delays goes beyond the oil industry. The Gulf coast economy has been hit hard by the slowdown in drilling activity, especially because the oil spill also hurt the region's fishing and tourism industries. The Obama administration in September estimated that 8,000 to 12,000 workers could lose their jobs temporarily as a result of the moratorium; some independent estimates have been much higher...more

New Scrutiny Slams Near-Shore Exploration

Heightened regulatory scrutiny brought on by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is taking a toll on companies that drill much closer to shore than the deep-sea depths where BP PLC's Macondo well blew out. Heightened regulatory scrutiny brought on by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is taking a toll on companies that drill much closer to shore than the deep-sea depths where BP PLC's Macondo well blew out. Shallow-water drillers, which operate in less than 500 feet of water and drill mostly for natural gas, have lurched back to activity after work briefly halted in the aftermath of April's BP well disaster. But they rely on short-term, 30- to 60-day contracts with energy companies, making their revenue stream more vulnerable to disruption than deep-water rig owners that sign multiyear contracts. These companies say they shouldn't have to pay the price for a mistake made by their deep-water brethren. But industry critics contend that the Gulf oil spill has brought about needed scrutiny to all offshore drilling...more

Environmental Reviews Might Be Waived on Halted U.S. Deep Wells

Drilling regulators may not require new environmental reviews for 13 companies that were forced by the U.S. to suspend work on deep-water oil wells after BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico spill. The policy change will cover work on 16 wells in the Gulf, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, previously called the Minerals Management Service, said today in an e-mailed statement. The companies must still meet other safeguards put in place in response to the BP spill. The 13 companies won’t be required to revise their exploration plans if an updated estimate of the most oil that would be released in an uncontrolled spill is less than the amount included in spill-response plans on file with the bureau. If the worst-case discharge estimate is higher, “further reviews will be conducted,” according to the statement...more

Wolves are much ado about money

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in April, will move to have the Western Great Lakes wolf population removed from the endangered species list. When this happens, the management of the wolf will be in the hands of the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The Western Great Lakes wolf population has far exceeded recovery goals and is no longer endangered. The Western Great Lakes wolf population has been delisted before, only to have environmental-animal rights groups file lawsuits based on technical issues, not biology issues, resulting in the delisting being reversed. Likewise, the wolf population in the Rocky Mountain states of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana has also far exceeded the recovery goals. It has been delisted several times and then relisted due to technical issues and lawsuits filed by environmental-animal rights groups. With the non-native, never endangered and much larger (up to 175 pounds) wolf subspecies Canis lupus occidentalis replacing the extinct native Rocky Mountain wolf (Canis lupus irremotus) that averaged 90 pounds, elk herds in the Yellowstone ecosystem are being decimated by a subspecies of wolf that evolved to kill much larger moose. If the goals of wolf recovery in these areas have been exceeded for years and with wolf populations growing at double-digit rates, why do the environmental-animal rights groups continue to file lawsuits? Two reasons. First, our federal government pays them to sue under the Equal Access to Justice Act. Also, the emotional propaganda of wolves in danger, even when not true, is a phenomenal fundraising scheme, and now they are threatening to sue for a wolf recovery plan for the lower 48 states...more

Critics say fire retardant's impact on animals, plants too great

The red liquid pumped into air tankers every summer at a base here and at another in Stockton is coming under increasing scrutiny and might in the future be banned from use if fire-retardant critics have their way. After more than seven years of legal battling, a federal judge in Montana in July ordered the U.S. Forest Service to do a full environmental impact study on how to prevent the harm that retardant does to species such as steelhead and salmon when the chemical gets dumped into waterways. No one disputes that the main chemical in retardant - a form of chemical fertilizer - kills fish and rare plants if it gets into streams. But federal fire officials say spills into creeks are rare and that retardant is a valuable tool that saves human lives, forests and property. "It decreases the fire's intensity and slows the advance of the fire," said Jennifer Jones, a Forest Service employee and public affairs specialist for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. In steep, difficult-to-access terrain, air drops of retardant can buy time while ground crews try to reach an area to cut fire lines, Jones said...more

Enviros Throw Another Wrench Into Solar Energy from Desert

Solar energy may die in the dark if environmentalists keep suing to stop it. After several Indian tribes asked federal courts to stop solar energy farms in the California desert, alleging harm to cultural resources, a different group sued the Department of the Interior again, claiming the 1,950-acre, 250-megawatt Genesis Solar Energy Project near Blythe should be stopped because it will use too much water. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) sued the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management, claiming the Genesis project will pump too much groundwater from the Chuckwalla Basin. Because the aquifer is "hydrologically connected to the Colorado River," the groundwater pumping must be viewed as withdrawal from the Colorado River, and subject to all the restrictions of the multistate Colorado River Compact, or "Law of the River," according to the complaint in Los Angeles Federal Court. The plaintiffs - CURE and two people - claim the federal government's "hasty approval" of the Genesis Project violation the National Environmental Policy Act, because the feds "did not adequately analyze and mitigate the Genesis Project's impact on the adjudicated and fully appropriated Colorado River, and violated FLPMA [the Federal Land Management and Policy Act] and the Administrative Procedure Act ('APA') by not acting in accordance with the Law of the River." Its procedural aspects could delay the project, but probably not stop it. The substantive claim about the Law of the River, however, while also procedural, could stop the project for decades, as all seven states with a claim to Colorado River water would presumably have to be consulted and weigh in on it...more

It's time for a new direction in our federal forests

There was recently a meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Washington, D.C., regarding federal forestlands in western Oregon. I participated in the meeting, as did nearly the entire Oregon congressional delegation. The meeting was the second with Salazar arising from our concern about lack of timber-related jobs and the economy in the wake of the withdrawal of the federal Bureau of Land Management's Western Oregon Plan Revisions, which would have created thousands of jobs had it been implemented. The meeting centered primarily around three proposed pilot projects that would attempt to improve forest conditions and create limited timber harvest. While I'm hopeful for success, my expectations are low. Even the two professors in charge of the projects, Norm Johnson of Oregon State and Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington, attempted to lower expectations by cautioning that "the uncertainty created by the draft Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan affects what might potentially be accomplished as a part of any pilot projects given the abundance of owls in the Roseburg and Medford District." The uncertainty comes from a labyrinth of overlapping federal rules that make any attempt to manage these federal lands nearly impossible. Hal Salwasser, dean of the OSU College of Forestry, recently referred to federal forest management as "dysfunctional."...more

Have scientists discovered how to create downpours in the desert?

For centuries people living in the Middle East have dreamed of turning the sandy desert into land fit for growing crops with fresh water on tap. Now that holy grail is a step closer after scientists employed by the ruler of Abu Dhabi claim to have generated a series of downpours. Fifty rainstorms were created last year in the state's eastern Al Ain region using technology designed to control the weather. Most of the storms were at the height of the summer in July and August when there is no rain at all. People living in Abu Dhabi were baffled by the rainfall which sometimes turned into hail and included gales and lightening. The scientists have been working secretly for United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They have been using giant ionisers, shaped like stripped down lampshades on steel poles, to generate fields of negatively charged particles. These promote cloud formation and researchers hoped they could then produce rain. In a confidential company video, the founder of the Swiss company in charge of the project, Metro Systems International, boasted of success. Helmut Fluhrer said: 'We have achieved a number of rainfalls.' It is believed to be the first time the system has produced rain from clear skies, according to the Sunday Times. Last June Metro Systems built five ionising sites each with 20 emitters which can send trillions of cloud-forming ions into the atmosphere. Over four summer months the emitters were switched on when the required atmospheric level of humidity reached 30 per cent or more. While the country's weather experts predicted no clouds or rain in the Al Ain region, rain fell on FIFTY-TWO occasions. The project was monitored by the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, one of the world's major centres for atmospheric physics...more

Rep. Bishop Targets Restrictions on Use of Federal Lands

Rep. Rob Bishop (R., Utah), who was just announced as the incoming chairman of a subcommittee that oversees federal lands, issued a call-to-arms on behalf of farmers, ranchers and miners that have tussled with the federal government in recent years over the use of public land. n a press release announcing his chairmanship of the Natural Resources Committee’s panel on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Mr. Bishop said the federal government has placed “inequitable burdens” on “communities that rely on access to our nation’s natural resources and lands.” Out West, many farmers, ranchers and miners rely on the use of federal lands, and newly empowered Republicans like Mr. Bishop are eager to reassert themselves on behalf of these users in this often-overlooked arena. The Utah Republican complained that the Obama administration has made “unilateral decisions that circumvent congressional process and local input.”...more