Saturday, March 05, 2011

OVER 700 PACK CONVENTION CENTER TO URGE FOREST SERVICE TO KEEP ROADS OPEN

Office of Congressman Steve Pearce
Serving New Mexico’s Second Congressional District

Contact: Eric Layer, Press Secretary                                                  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tel. 575-517-7382
Email: eric.layer@mail.house.gov

OVER 700 PACK CONVENTION CENTER TO URGE FOREST SERVICE TO KEEP ROADS OPEN
Congressman Steve Pearce Promises to Speak Out Alongside New Mexicans

Silver City, NM (March 5, 2011) Today, an estimated 750 New Mexicans rallied at the Grant County Business and Convention Center in Silver City, New Mexico to oppose the Forest Service’s proposal to close roads in the Gila National Forest.

The rally was organized by the Reverend Mike Skidmore of Truth or Consequences, who has established an organization called “Keep Our Forest Open” to oppose the closures.  Skidmore said he has taken his children, grandchildren, and members of his congregation into the Gila for years, and is upset that the Forest Service plan could jeopardize his ability to do so in the future.

Congressman Steve Pearce has heard an outcry from New Mexicans in opposition to the proposed closings, and said he wanted to lend his support to the effort to make sure that his constituents’ voices are being heard.

"I'm here today for all of those who have spoken out before, but haven't been listened to. I'm here for all the elderly, the disabled, the families...all those who would lose access to their favorite places to spend time with loved ones. I'm here today for all the forgotten men and women who go to work, and pay their taxes, and quietly go about their lives.  And the reverberations from all the hundreds of you here today will be heard all the way to Washington."

Pearce emphasized the importance of conservation and of preserving the state’s treasures.  He also argued that enjoyment of those treasures is a freedom that must be preserved for everyone.

The Forest Service’s public comment period for the issue ends Monday.  New Mexicans are strongly encouraged to voice their concerns before the deadline.

Supporters of road closures rallied Friday


Supporters of a plan to close some roads in the Gila National Forest say it's a good compromise. About 100 backers of the forest's travel management plan gathered Friday in downtown Silver City. Many are avid hunters, backpackers and hikers. The plan would limit vehicles to designated roads and trails and restrict vehicle camping to areas along the sides of roads or near them. New Mexico congressman Steve Pearce was behind the "Keep Our Forests Open" rally Saturday protesting the forest's proposal that will close some roads but still leave more than 3,000 miles of roads open. The Silver City Sun-News reports that the comment period on the plan ends Monday at midnight. Forest Service officials say they hope to reach a decision by May or June. AP

Friday, March 04, 2011

Southern New Mexicans to Rally to Keep Gila Roads Open

Congressman Steve Pearce Expected to Attend, Along With Hundreds of New Mexicans>

Hundreds of New Mexicans are expected to rally in Silver City on Saturday, March 5th against the U.S. Forest Service’s plans to close access roads inside the Gila Forest. The rally will begin at 12:00 noon at the Silver City Convention Center, which is located at the intersection of East Highway 180 and 32nd street.

“This is the time to come together and say, ‘enough is enough’”, Congressman Steve Pearce told about 100 residents of Truth or Consequences Thursday night. “It is time for the Forest Service to keep those roads open to the public. This is about an attempt to take away another of our freedoms as Americans.”

The meeting in Truth or Consequences Thursday night was organized by the new group, “Keep Our Forest Open.”  It was created by individuals that have voiced frustration over the Forest Service’s proposed Travel Management Plan, which calls for thousands of miles of roads inside the Gila to be closed.

“Can we count on you to be at the rally March 5th in Silver City?” Reverend Mike Skidmore asked at the meeting.  Nearly every hand was raised. “We’re just regular people leading everyday lives, but it’s time for folks like us to rise up and let our voice be heard,” said Skidmore.  “We are against the Forest Service taking away our access, and we need to let them know it.”

Congressman Pearce is expected to be one of several speakers at the rally in Silver City. The “Keep Our Forest Open” organization said it is working with other organizations that use the forest, including ATV users, hunting and gun clubs, Tea Party activists, and other concerned citizens. All are planning to rally March 5th in Silver City, just two days before the deadline set by the Forest Service for public comments to be made on the issue.

“I see everyday people getting energized and motivated to get involved when their freedoms are being threatened such as with the proposed road closures,” Pearce said. “It is amazing what can happen when citizens want freedom.  These organizations in New Mexico are gathering momentum, and I anticipate the Forest Service will hear the voices of freedom at the March 5th rally.”

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Environmental activist convicted for making false bids on energy leases

A federal jury in Salt Lake City on Thursday convicted a 29-year-old environmental activist of two felonies for bidding for public lands being auctioned off to energy companies by the George W. Bush administration. Tim DeChristopher won bids in December 2008 totaling $1.79 million for more than 22,000 acres near Arches and Canyonlands national parks that the administration was offering to lease for oil and gas exploration. DeChristopher did not have the money, and he has said he bid in an attempt to delay or block the energy leases — or at least to drive the prices up. Prosecutors charged him with making false statements and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act. He could face up to 10 years in prison. "I'm as prepared as I can be" for prison, DeChristopher said after the verdict. He said he was not surprised that the Obama administration pursued the case against him. "I can't point to many examples where they've sided with future generations over corporate interests," he said...more

Michael Blake And Wild Horse Advocates Petition To Impeach BLM Director

Wild horse advocates call for the impeachment of federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) director Bob Abbey, based on a little-known—and rarely used—provision in the Rules of the House of Representatives (Jefferson's Manual, Section LIII, 603) which states that citizens may initiate impeachment charges against "Officers of the United States" through a petition referred to as a "memorial." Vivian Grant, president of the Int'l Fund for Horses (IFH), joins with Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Blake (Dances With Wolves), alleging the BLM under Abbey's watch has violated the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, resulting in fraudulent use of public funds. "I believe crimes are being committed against our wild horses and burros," states Grant, "Crimes that must be prosecuted and responsible federal officials removed." "After the first Thanksgiving, Indians began to be destroyed," explains Michael Blake. "In addition to many others, the American Government allowed millions of Wolves and Buffalo to be executed. For more than a hundred years millions of Wild Horses have been devastated forever...all for money. Stopping the incessant removal of life on this small planet could provide humanity with a chance to maintain existence. Stop the killing now!"...more

Environmental groups ask judge to bar vehicle routes

Five environmental groups are asking a federal judge to bar 500 miles of expanded motor vehicle routes in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. Groups are the Quiet Use Coalition of Salida, the national Wilderness Society, the Wildlands CPR of Montana, the Center for Native Ecosystems of Denver and the Great Old Broads for Wilderness of Durango. They jointly sued the U.S. Forest Service Jan. 31 in U.S. District Court in Denver. They allege Jerri Marr, supervisor of the two forests, violated several federal laws by approving, from 2007 through last year, expanded motor vehicle routes in the forests. The lawsuit asserts expansion authorizes "motor vehicle travel on approximately 500 miles of routes that have never been designated" as part of the transportation system of the forests. "As a result, the impacts of motorized vehicle use along these routes has never been considered in a National Environmental Policy Act analysis or Endangered Species Act consultation," which the lawsuit claims is required by those laws. The lawsuit asks for a court order known as an injunction to bar the forest service from initiating expansion on routes that have never had an analysis under the Environmental Policy Act or a consultation under the species act. The five groups claim expanded routes for motorized vehicles damage forests, wildlife, plants, water quality and recreation in numerous ways...more

Judge shuts down some Jarbidge grazing allotments

Six local cattle producers must now organize rapid roundups to move their herds off public land. On Monday, following a five-year reprieve, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill reasserted his 2005 ruling prohibiting grazing on some of the land in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Jarbidge Field Office. Monday’s ruling suspends grazing on 17 of 28 contested allotments, including three near China Mountain. In 2005, Winmill agreed with the Western Watersheds Project that the BLM violated federal law in reissuing the 28 permits. He elected to prohibit grazing because “irreparable harm warranted an injunction.” Rather than kicking ranchers off the land, Winmill allowed the parties to negotiate. Agreements were reached on 11 allotments to allow grazing. After three months, the parties reached a temporary settlement, which Winmill approved, allowing continued grazing on the remaining 17 allotments until a new Jarbidge management plan could be published in 2009. The BLM has since operated using an interim plan that was extended to 2010 since the management plan was not completed on time. Vander Voet said the permanent management plan won’t be done until 2012; he’s just begun to review 1,200 pages of comments on the draft. Once the plan is finalized, permit approvals can take up to three years, pushing the date to 2015, far later than allowed in the settlement. The BLM requested that the settlement be extended, but Winmill refused. “Because there is no agreement on the (grazing plans) beyond 2010, the (plans) cease to exist, and the Court’s remedy — the injunction — takes over,” Winmill wrote...more

Some are misusing the Wilderness Act

I've read and reread the Wilderness Act, and for the life of me, I can't see where it prevents two wilderness shelters from being replaced in Olympic National Park or a fire lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness from being restored. Yet the shelters are rotting away and the Green Mountain Lookout may be torn down if a group of environmental nuts from Wilderness Watch prevail in their suit against the Forest Service. The shelters at Low Divide and Home Sweet Home, built long before the Wilderness Act, are old news. Destroyed by snows and age, they were rebuilt outside the wilderness area of the park according to historic plans by Olympic National Park workers and were scheduled to be flown, piece-by-piece, to their original locations. But a lawsuit claimed the helicopters that would tote the shelter parts would violate the Wilderness Act. Now the new shelters are rotting away somewhere and the matter is forgotten. Not so with the Green Mountain Lookout, which was restored partly with original pieces from the historic lookout, using hundreds of hours of volunteer work. The lookout on the west side of Glacier Peak Wilderness was built in the 1930s by Civilian Conservation Corps workers and was on the National Register of Historic Places. The severe winter of 2002 and flooding the following year ended restoration efforts until last year, when a state recreation grant helped the Forest Service and volunteers rebuild the lookout. That caught the attention of the Wilderness Watch, a Montana-based group that claims to be one of the great defenders of our wild places as defined by the Wilderness Act. What a crock. It's groups like Wilderness Watch that give environmentalists a bad name...more

Better get used to it. Local wilderness groups sell their legislative proposals by saying "but you can do this and you can do that" in Wilderness areas. After the law is enacted Wilderness Watch comes along and says"oh no you can't."

NM Gov. Martinez is elected Vice-Chair of Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus

Members of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus gathered with industry leaders at a reception on Saturday in the nation’s capitol and announced Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer as Co-Chairs and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez as Vice-Chairs. The bipartisan Governors Sportsmen's Caucus (GSC), a group of sitting governors committed to protecting and promoting the interests and agenda of sportsmen and women now has 17 participating Governors. The caucus is charged with educating GSC member offices on public policy issues of importance to sportsmen; providing a conduit for hunting and fishing organizations to work with GSC member offices in support of pro-sportsmen’s policies and regulations; and developing a coordinated resource base for sportsmen’s policy issues addressed by the states...Press Release

Raccoons Chasing People From DC Metro Station

WASHINGTON - It's not unruly teens or broken escalators at one D.C. Metro stop that’s keeping people away. According to one rider, it’s raccoons! Lisa Campbell says there's a family of raccoons chasing passengers as they enter and exit the Fort Totten Station on Galloway Street in northeast D.C. Lisa says she has even spotted a raccoon inside the station near the ticket machine and that Metro has posted a sign asking people not to feed the raccoons reports Fox News.

Maybe they're not as high on wildlife in DC as they claim. Now if it was a family of wolves...

Forest chief takes heat on timber sales

The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service defended its plan today (March 3) to reduce the number of ten-year timber sales in Southeast Alaska. Tom Tidwell appeared before the Senate Energy Committee to explain the President’s budget requests for next year. He admitted to Senator Lisa Murkowski that if the goal is to sustain communities in Southeast, things must change. Murkowski is upset because in 2008 the Forest Service promised to have four decade-long timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, of up to 200 million board feet each. But now instead it wants to convert two of those sales to what are called “stewardship” contracts, and only offer half the board-feet in small parcels. Murkowski asked Tidwell what happened to the commitment made by his agency. The director says the goal is to make sure timber harvests go forward. But Murkowski says the second largest remaining mill in Southeast just closed and now only has six employees, and the only large mill left is, in her words, desperately worried about its timber supply. “You say that the trend is improving, going from 600 employees to six is not a trend I want to see. Recognizing that we’ve got one remaining large mill, the second largest timber-related construction company is gone. So to me these are not trends I want to continue. I want to take it back the other way,” Murkowski says...more

USDA Economic Action Program

Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) issued its weekly spending cut alert aimed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Action Program (EAP). Its elimination would save taxpayers $5 million in 2011 and $25 million over five years.Originally established under the Forest Service’s dubious mission of helping rural communities take advantage of natural resources, the EAP has become an annual source of pork. Its funding, which is controlled entirely by Congress, has been heavily earmarked (often anonymously) and wasted on tasks clearly outside the Forest Service’s mission. It provided $10,000 to Washington’s Pacific County Water Music Festival in 1997, and has funded wastewater treatment studies, community centers, and manufacturing facilities, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.A March 1, 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that federal economic development programs are duplicative and wasteful. The GAO identified $6.5 billion in funding for 80 separate economic development programs at the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Administration, 46 of which may be addressing overlapping issues or populations. According to the GAO, USDA manages 31 economic development programs and lacks “quality data on program outcomes.” The GAO has repeatedly advocated consolidation of development programs, but USDA has “taken only limited steps to fully address GAO’s concerns.”...more

But the R's could only find $61 billion in cuts and they're getting ready to negotiate part of that away. 

U.S., Mexico Agree to Settle Truck Feud

The U.S. and Mexico unveiled a deal Thursday to resolve a longstanding dispute over cross-border trucking, an agreement that could help ease tense relations between the two neighbors. The deal seeks to end a nearly 20-year ban on Mexican trucks crossing the U.S. border, a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement that subjected $2.4 billion of U.S. goods annually to punitive tariffs by Mexico. Half of the tariffs will be suspended when the deal is signed by both nations, expected in about 60 days. The remainder will be lifted when the first Mexican hauler complies with a series of U.S. certification requirements, including English-language, drug and safety tests. The new requirements for Mexican trucks are tougher than those established in Nafta and somewhat tougher than those currently in force for American truckers. Specifically, Mexican trucks will have to carry electronic recorders to ensure they do only cross-border, not domestic, runs and to track compliance with U.S. hours-of-service laws. Nonetheless, the agreement appears to be a setback for U.S. labor unions, which have backed the ban in its various incarnations...more

Bill intended to crack down on rustlers, trespassers wins Oklahoma House approval

Hunters and neighboring ranchers and farmers may have to get the owner’s permission to go on private land and retrieve hunting dogs, wounded prey or livestock if a proposal becomes law. The House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday that would delete language from existing law that allows people to go on private property to fetch livestock or other animals. Rep. Wade Rousselot, author of House Bill 1249, said the measure is intended to crack down on cattle rustling. “This legislation will make it a whole lot better for the DA to prosecute,” Rousselot said. “We’re addressing people that are using the law to come onto your property to steal things or to tear things up.” The measure passed 80-11 in the House. It now goes to the Senate. With a 500-pound steer bringing about $700, rustlers are finding it worth the risk to steal a trailer or truckload of cattle, said Rousselot, D-Wagoner. A common ruse is for a rustler to bring a cow onto land where cattle are kept and start rounding up the cattle into a truck or trailer, Rousselot said. If a law officer stops by to inquire, the rustler can say he’s trying to retrieve the cow. Rousselot said most neighboring farmers and ranchers have standing agreements to go on each other’s land to round up stray cattle...more

Food Prices Reach Record High

World food prices rose 2.2% in February from the previous month to a record peak, the United Nations' food body said Thursday, as it warned that volatility in oil markets could push prices even higher. The Food and Agriculture Organization price index rose by 2.2%—the eighth consecutive rise since June—to an average of 236 points last month, the highest record in real and nominal terms since the agency started monitoring prices in 1990. Global cereal supplies are also expected to tighten sharply this year due low stock levels, the FAO said. The body raised its estimate for world cereal production in 2010 by eight million metric tons from its December estimate to 2.2 billion tons but said it expects that to be outpaced by an 18 million-ton increase in world consumption. But while the world isn't yet facing a food crisis, the secretary of the FAO's Intergovernmental Group on Grains, Abdolreza Abbassian, said the recent rise in Brent oil prices to above $120 a barrel could create the same potent mix of factors that pushed grain prices to record highs three years ago...more

Court says fence law complaint should be heard

A lawsuit by a Blanchard horse rancher who challenged North Dakota's century-old fence law has been revived by an appeals court. A federal judge threw out the complaint by La Verne Koenig, who was convicted by a jury of allowing livestock to run at large because authorities say he failed to maintain a legal fence. He was ordered to pay $5,400 for injuries allegedly inflicted on a neighbor's horse by one of Koenig's horses. Koenig raised several issues, including a claim that a creek and ditch on his property qualified as a legal fence. The 8th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that several of Koenig's claims should be heard in federal court. AP

Scratchin' my head wondering how a lawsuit over a state fence law wound up in federal court.

Ranchers, guides ask lawmakers for immunity from legal action

An Assembly committee was told today that ranchers, guides and rodeo operators should be granted immunity from a lawsuit if an individual is injured while riding on a horse through no fault of the employee. Assemblyman Peter Goicoechea, a rancher from Eureka, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee there should be protection from frivolous suits, but the rancher or guide should be held liable if he or she was negligent. Bill Bradley, a Reno lawyer, said Assembly Bill 140 creates immunity and that an individual couldn't sue. He said a judge and a jury should decide if the act was negligent. Goicoechea, a Republican, and Bradley both said they couldn't think of any such suits in which an inexperienced rider was bucked off a horse. There were also arguments over whether spectators who were injured by a horse during a parade would be barred from filing suit. Bradley said the bill would grant immunity for owners to be personally responsible in such hypothetical cases. Ranchers, farmers and guides said their insurance rates have gone up without such protection, which is afforded in 46 other states...more

Cattlemen claim a better weigh

A pair of father-and-son ranchers say they have a better method of weighing cattle that avoids the stress of forcing animals onto a scale. Joey Spicola Sr. and his son, Joey Jr., are the inventors of ClicRweight, a device that looks like a tablet computer with an accompanying stylus that allows users to determine a cow’s weight simply by pointing and clicking. The patent-pending technology was presented recently to the Gulf Coast Venture Forum. Based in an office on North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, ClickRweight is designed and made by technical professionals who seek to simplify the cattle-weighing process by using algorithms and 3-D modeling. The device, accurate within a few pounds of a conventional scale, reduces the time it takes to weigh a herd from days to minutes, the elder Spicola says. So far, the device is getting the attention of various cattlemen across the country, including country music stars David and Howard Bellamy, who own a ranch in Pasco County. link

Song Of The Day #521

Ranch Radio will conclude this weeks visit to the 60s with a foursome: Hank Williams Jr. from a 1968 album - It's All Over But The Crying, Jimmy Dean from a 1961 album - I Won't Go Hunting With You Jake, Charlie Walker from a 1965 album - Close All The Honky Tonks, and Mel Tillis from a 1966 album - Walk On Boy.






Thursday, March 03, 2011

Video - Does BLM have statutory authority to prioritize "Wild Lands" over other multiple uses?

This is from Monday's hearing before the House Natural Resources committee. BLM Director Bob Abbey testifying, Committee Chairman Doc Hastings asking the questions.

'Wild Lands' Policy Would Allow Limited Development, BLM Chief Says

The Bureau of Land Management will consider allowing limited development in areas designated for wilderness protections, the agency director said in an interview yesterday. "Wild lands" could accommodate rangeland improvements, wildlife-habitat enhancements or mountain biking as long as those activities don't impair wilderness characteristics, BLM Director Bob Abbey said. "As long as it's not impacting the wilderness characteristics out there and wild lands, then that can continue," Abbey told Greenwire after a nearly five-hour hearing on the wilderness policy before the House Natural Resources Committee. While widespread concerns persist in the West that the Obama administration will use the policy to lock up public lands, BLM issued a final guidance Friday that suggests the agency intends to be flexible in its wild lands management. "A wider range of actions and activities may be allowed in Wild Lands than can occur in Wilderness," a BLM manual says. For example, rangeland improvements could include construction of limited fencing or water catchment facilities for ranchers and include limited vehicle use typically banned in designated wilderness areas, Abbey said. Mountain biking is also typically off limits in formal wilderness areas but could be allowed on wild lands, he said...more

Government to decide soon on offshore permits

The Obama administration will comply with a federal judge's order and decide later this month whether to approve a batch of deep-water drilling permits that have been stalled for months, even though the government may appeal the ruling, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday. At issue is U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman's Feb. 17 decision giving the government 30 days to decide whether to grant permits for five proposed drilling projects, in response to a challenge by Ensco, a drilling contractor whose rigs would be used for the work. On Tuesday, Feldman said the mid-February ruling also applied to two drilling applications submitted by Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas Corp. "The judge in this particular case, in my view, is wrong, and we will argue the case," Salazar told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "I don't believe the court has the jurisdiction to basically tell the Department of Interior what my administrative responsibilities are." Salazar later told reporters he was "examining our options in terms of an appeal." If they challenge Feldman's order, Obama administration officials would be fighting a potentially precedent-setting ruling that they say chips away at the Interior Department's authority. But no matter what happens in court, the government will comply with the court order "and make a decision, up or down," on the permit applications within the time limit, said Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes...more

Steve Forbes Blasts Obama's 'Anti-Energy Policies'

With gas prices spiraling ever higher, former GOP presidential candidate and Forbes Magazine Publisher Steve Forbes slammed the Obama administration’s reluctance to drill for oil on Wednesday, accusing the administration of having “anti-energy policies.” Forbes said Congress should rake administration officials “over the coals” on the oil-exploration issue. Republicans have been increasingly critical in recent weeks that the need to drill safely in pristine Gulf of Mexico waters must be balanced with America’s economic and energy needs — an issue that grows more salient with each hike in gasoline prices at the pump. “The Interior secretary is blocking these things, not allowing the permits to go forward,” Forbes said Wednesday morning on Fox News. “So even though the [drilling] moratorium since that terrible spill last summer has been removed, the fact of the matter is permits have been frozen. “So in effect the moratorium is continuing. That’s an administration decision. And when [Interior] Secretary [Ken] Salazar goes before Congress in testimony, I hope the Congress rakes him over the coals on it, and asks him, ‘What in the world do you think you’re doing?’” Also today, Forbes said in an Op-Ed piece for Politico that, "By freezing U.S. energy assets in the Gulf and keeping 97 percent of our offshore oil and gas off limits, our government, willing or not, is fueling an energy crisis that could bring this nation to its knees. Continued inaction in the Gulf threatens to force us to import an extra 88 million barrels of oil per year by 2016, at a cost of $8 billion."...more

Interior chief to Congress: Want faster drilling permits? Show us the money

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that accelerating the pace of offshore oil drilling permit approvals will be heavily dependent on receiving more funding. The department is asking Congress for a major cash infusion for offshore oil-and-gas oversight, in part to substantially increase the staff for reviewing permits at a time when Interior is requiring drillers to meet toughened safety standards. Asked by a reporter when the pace of permitting might return to levels seen before the blowout of BP’s Macondo well last year, Salazar replied: “So much of it depends on this budget. If we can’t get the horsepower to be able to process permits under what now is a greater degree of scrutiny, we may never return to the pre-Macondo rate of permitting.”...more

Salazar is positioning himself to lift the moratorium, but issue no permits and blame it on the R's for lack of funding.

Funding bill would delay Forest Service route designations

The U.S. Forest Service would not be able to designate routes off-limits to motor vehicles for the rest of this year if the House-passed FY 2011 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) passes. The House sent the rest-of-the-year measure to the Senate, which is currently working on a two-week extension of temporary funding of the federal government through March 18. The 2005 Travel Management Rule, which the resolution would suspend through the end of the fiscal year in September, requires each national forest or ranger district to determine which roads are open to which type of motor vehicles at different times of the year...more

America's Third War: Texas Farmers Under Attack at the Border

In Texas, nearly 8,200 farms and ranches back up to the Mexican border. The men and women who live and work on those properties say they’re under attack from the same drug cartels blamed for thousands of murders in Mexico. “It’s a war, make no mistake about it,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “And it’s happening on American soil.” Texas farmers and ranchers produce more cotton and more cattle than any other state, so Staples is concerned this war could eventually impact our food supply, and calls it a threat to our national security. “Farmers and ranchers are being run off their own property by armed terrorists showing up and telling them they have to leave their land,” Staples said. To raise awareness, Commissioner Staples launched the website ProtectYourTexasBorder.com. It’s a place where frustrated and scared farmers can share their stories. Another farmer, Joe Aguilar, said enough is enough. After walking up on armed gunmen sneaking undocumented immigrants into the United States through his land, Aguilar decided to sell his farm.“It’s really sad to say, you either have to beat ‘em or join ‘em and I decided not to do either,” Aguilar said. Aguilar's family farmed 6,000 acres of land along the Texas-Mexico border for nearly 100 years...more

Tire dump on NM trust land?

The massive and growing pile of tires outside the village of Wagon Mound is on New Mexico State Trust land, but the man responsible for it won't call it a dump. He said the project helps the land despite the possibility that taxpayers may one day have to pay to clean up all that rubber. "With the blessing of the environmental department, we started that project down there," said Harold Daniels, a Wagon Mound-area rancher and businessman who has leased the state land in question for at least the last decade. "It's not a tire dump. It's an erosion-control project." Officials at the New Mexico Environment Department admit they originally authorized tires to be used as erosion control in a 15-foot-deep arroyo that runs through the property. Pictures from 2006 seem to support that project as a form of erosion control...more

Here's the KRQE-TV report:


Saddle mystery solved

Sixth-generation Petaluma rancher Doug Dolcini was sure he'd never again see the custom-built saddle his father won at a 1964 Reno Rodeo competition and that he'd cherished as a young cowhand. Then, more than six years after it was taken during a burglary on his family's ranch along Highway 37, Dolcini got a call from Jay Palm of Jay Palm's Saddle Shop in Penngrove. “Come on down, I think there's something you'd like to see,'” Palm told him. A Sonoma man had brought in the saddle to get it repaired and appraised for consignment sale. Palm recognized the saddle and told the man he'd need a few weeks to work on it. The man left. Palm phoned the sheriff's office and then Dolcini. “I walked in and said, ‘Holy smokes,'” Dolcini said. “I didn't expect to see it again.” The dark brown leather was worn in the seat, but otherwise the trophy saddle was in fine condition, its ornate hand-carved flowers and Reno Rodeo logo unscuffed...more

Song Of The Day #520

Today Ranch Radio brings you Jerry Lee Lewis and his 1968 recording of What's Made Milwaukee Famous.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

How Green Is Your Lost Job?

A study of renewable energy in Scotland shows that for every job created in the alternative energy sector, almost four jobs are lost in the rest of the economy. We've seen this movie before. Not only has the sun set on the British Empire, but the promise of wind apparently is deserting it as well. A new study called "Worth The Candle?" by the consulting firm Verso Economics confirms the experience of Spain and other countries: The creation of "green" jobs destroys other jobs through the diversion of resources and the denial of abundant sources of fossil fuel energy. The economic candle in the U.K. is being blown out by wind power. The Verso study finds that after the annual diversion of some 330 million British pounds from the rest of the U.K. economy, the result has been the destruction of 3.7 jobs for every "green" job created. The study concludes that the "policy to promote renewable energy in the U.K. has an opportunity cost of 10,000 direct jobs in 2009-10 and 1,200 jobs in Scotland." So British taxpayers, as is the case here in the U.S., are being forced to subsidize a net loss of jobs in a struggling economy...more

House Republicans: Salazar’s ‘Wild Lands’ order is a ‘War on the West’

House Republicans today began a week of what will no doubt be heated hearings aimed at blocking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s Wild Lands order that directed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect millions of acres of federal land for its wilderness value. Western lawmakers, mostly Republicans, are up in arms about what they perceive as the federal government locking up public lands, blocking energy extraction and mining interests and killing jobs in areas already hard-hit by the global recession. “Millions of acres of multi-use land in the West are at risk of being locked up if the administration carries out this [wild lands] policy,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. Hastings chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, which held a hearing today on Salazar’s order. Next up is a hearing on the Department of Interior’s budget on Thursday, followed by a BLM budget hearing on Monday. Also today, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., and Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, held a press conference with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to both blast Salazar’s Wild Lands order and announce pending legislation that would require congressional approval of new “Wild Lands” and national monument designations in Montana. The bill will be titled the Montana Land Sovereignty Act...more

Western governors fume over Obama plan for wilderness areas

Republican governors from across the country made clear this week how much they think Obama administration initiatives interfere with their states' rights. In the West, Republican governors are especially riled up about the possibility that more federal land could be designated as wilderness, and they fear it might slow energy development in their states, said Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. "I see it as a job-killer," said Otter, who along with fellow Republican Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, testified Tuesday before a House of Representatives committee about their concerns with a new Obama administration policy. It could extend federal protection without congressional approval to millions of acres of wild lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced late last year that the government will begin inventorying BLM holdings across the country in an effort to identify and protect wilderness-quality land. Many Republican lawmakers and Western governors say they worry that the inventory - on pause during the Bush administration - could make it more difficult to develop oil and gas or other energy and mineral resources on BLM land. States were "totally ignored," when the inventory was announced, said Otter, who was among the GOP governors in Washington for their annual winter gathering. He said he's particularly concerned about what would happen to geothermal energy projects and potential wind power complexes proposed on BLM land in Idaho, as well as plans for transmission lines across some BLM land. The agency manages nearly a quarter of the land in Idaho, or about 12 million acres. The Interior Department has been actively fighting the way the BLM inventory is being characterized by Republicans, particularly those on the House Natural Resources Committee. The Interior Department had to fight to persuade the committee to allow BLM director Robert Abbey to participate in the hearing. The agency also put out a fact sheet countering some of the characterizations of their inventory process, including claims that it could hurt the ability to develop wind and other energy resources on BLM land...more

Governor warns wild lands policy could cost Utah billions

Gov. Gary Herbert warned Congress on Tuesday that a new Interior Department policy creating protected "wild lands" could cost Utah billions and weaken his state’s economy. Herbert, testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee, criticized the recent directive that allows land managers to seek out and protect public lands with wilderness characteristics, calling it a "grave error" with lasting consequences. "This body and your colleagues ought to be just as offended as the people of Utah are by this order," Herbert said. "By bureaucratic fiat, one branch of the government has overstepped and overreached and has devalued the rights of the states and [their] citizens." Herbert said it would be "safe to say" the long-term effect of the policy could cost billions to Utah’s Permanent School Fund, which receives money from mineral development on trust lands set aside for that purpose...more

Idaho lawmakers works to prevent ATV road closures

State lawmakers are working to prevent the U.S. Forest Service from closing some roads to all-terrain vehicles amid safety concerns over underage drivers. The Senate Transportation Committee approved legislation Tuesday to require underage drivers who use these forest roads to complete a state-approved safety course. Forest Service officials are considering altering or closing some roads in Idaho for safety reasons, following a 2009 decision by state lawmakers that opened the roads to drivers younger than 16 who operate off-highway vehicles without a state-issued driver's license. The Forest Service has identified more than 2,500 miles of roads that are "of concern"...more

Another state being coerced by the feds.

Future of Southwest’s Mexican Gray Wolf Uncertain

Like many outfitters and ranchers in Catron County, New Mexico — one of the counties of the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 70s and 80s — Tom Klumker wants Mexican gray wolves out of the Gila National Forest, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been releasing the endangered wolves into the wild since 1998. “They’ve been successful at wiping out a bunch of livestock and hurting a bunch of ranchers,” Klumker said. “As a result, they’ve made a big difference on the livestock industry in Catron County. I don’t think we need them. The early settlers worked very hard to get rid of both the wolf and the grizzly for a very good reason.” Klumker, based in Glenwood, N.M., is a board member of the vehemently anti-wolf Americans for the Preservation of Western Environment, or APWE, and the Southwest Director of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, a group now part of a new Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Planning Team. The team will create a new recovery plan that may eventually lead the way to a healthy and sustainable population of Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, said the lagging Mexican wolf numbers show the program isn’t working, especially as ranchers continue to deal with wolves killing cattle. Officially, there were 185 confirmed cattle depredations from wolves from 1998 through 2009 in New Mexico and Arizona, said Arizona Department of Game and Fish wolf biologist Jeff Dolphin. But the real number of depredations, Cowan said, is difficult to nail down because many ranchers fear the level of proof needed to confirm that a wolf killed a cow is so high that they don’t bother to report a suspected killing...more

In Montana, Paying For Sheep with Wolves’ Clothing

In the midst of controversy over endangered gray wolves and wolf management in the Northern Rockies, one bill in the Montana legislature would offer a creative solution to livestock loss. Last month, the Montana House passed House Bill 287, which would allow revenue from wolf hides to go toward livestock loss funds. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Christy Clark, now awaits approval from the Senate. Wolves are listed as an endangered species, but wildlife officials are authorized to shoot wolves that are found preying on livestock. The Montana Wool Growers Association requested the bill. If approved, the hides from wolves shot by officials would be auctioned or sold to raise money for Montana’s Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board. Montana Wool Growers public relations director Jim Brown said since government agents sometimes need to kill wolves, the state might as well make good use of the carcass. Brown estimates that, at $500 per hide and given past averages of wolf kills, hides could bring in $7,000 to $8,000 per year for the board. The potential hide money isn’t much, Brown said, but it would still help the underfunded Livestock Loss and Mitigation board. The board’s two-part mission is to reimburse ranchers for killed livestock and prevent livestock loss. Ranchers can use methods to prevent livestock loss by hiring extra herders, sending out extra guard dogs and using noisemakers to scare off wolves...more

Missourians Fight ‘Ozarks National Heritage Area’ Plan

Commissioners in Dent County, Mo., made it clear they’re not interested in having the federal government sticking it’s “nose” into the business of area land owners. In a Feb. 24 letter to Matt Meacham at West Plains (Mo.) Council for the Arts — the local front group for the National Park Service effort to designate private land in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri as the “Ozarks Highlands National Heritage Area” — they offered the following: The Dent County Commission, by unanimous vote strongly opposes the National Heritage Area proposal for the Ozark region, encompassing Dent and twelve additional counties, and therefore respectfully asks that Dent County be removed from any further discussions, studies, etc. involving the establishment of a National Heritage Area...more

Tribes Lose Bid to Freeze Ski Lodge's Snowmaking

A federal judge refused to halt a plan that would create snow using purified wastewater for Arizona's San Francisco Peaks, which many southwestern American Indians tribes consider sacred.  A coalition of environmentalists and American Indians that challenged the project had failed to show that further action will cause irreparable harm, U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia ruled on Feb. 18. She pointed out that it will be at least a year until the Arizona Snowbowl Resort, which manages a ski lodge on the peaks that has suffered through more than a decade of fickle snow fall in the drought-ravaged region, begins the snowmaking process. The appeal is currently pending in the 9th Circuit. The Save the Peaks Coalition and various private citizens - including several Navajo medicine men - sued the U.S. Forest Service and Snowbowl Resort in 2009 after years of failed administrative challenges to the controversial plan. The plaintiffs argue that the snowmaking scheme will harm the environmentally sensitive peaks, which some 13 Southwestern tribes consider sacred. They also argue that the Forest Service failed to properly study whether snow made from reclaimed water is dangerous to humans, especially children who use the peaks' popular snow-play area. For ritual purposes, Navajo medicine men often bathe in snow gathered from the peaks, according to the group's original complaint. Late last year the District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that the Forest Service had properly studied the potential health effects of snow made from wastewater...more

Ranchers win case over Navajo eviction

A district court judge on Monday dismissed a case against Loretta Morris, who faced eviction from the ranch land she and her husband, Raymond Morris, leased from the Navajo Nation for the last 40 years. Tohajiilee District Court Judge William Platero, in a lengthy oral ruling, dismissed the case after finding that the method used by the Nation to award leases to the highest bidders was invalid. "I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased," Albuquerque attorney James W. Zion said of the ruling. Zion represented Morris in the case. "The question was, where do we go from here?'" The Navajo Nation has five days to decide whether it will appeal the ruling, Zion said. "They have until midnight Monday to file," he said. "In the meantime, I think our next step needs to be following up with a letter to the president pushing reform on the ranch program." Morris complained last year when the Nation introduced a new, closed-bid lease process and effectively auctioned off nearly 350,000 acres of ranch land to the highest bidders. Many long-time ranchers who were forced from their lands — and their livelihoods — left quietly. According to an audit of the ranch program, the tribe has 25 ranches in Arizona and New Mexico, divided into 78 ranch units and totaling about 1.6 million acres of tribal land. Ranchers of 21 of those units lost their rights to the land in the closed-bid process in January 2010...more

Burro bodyguard protects Yolo County sheep

There are a lot of ways to stop a Yolo County coyote. A rancher might start with a sturdy fence. He could electrify it. Or he could add "propane guns," loud, gas-powered noisemakers designed to scare off wildlife. Jim Yeager's tried everything from leaving late-night talk radio blasting in the pasture to counting sheep all night. After five decades of ranching, he's learned that given enough time, a coyote will learn to get around all these things. So he's found some of the best help grass can buy -- Jennifer the donkey and Socks the llama -- to guard his sheep on the outskirts of West Davis. "All I know is we don't lose sheep to coyotes and dogs anymore," Yeager said. When it comes to furry, four-legged guardians of sheep, dogs still hold the top spot in pop culture. But Yeager said four hooves can be as good as four paws when it comes to saving sheep...more

Jimmy Bason swears by his burros - that's what he uses to protect his famous BOB cattle - that's Bason Organic Beef for those who don't know.

Bason's neighbors say he now has a whole herd of burros - Bason Burro Bodyguards - and he's taken to riding them instead of horses. They say he looks kinda funny with his long legs hanging off the side, but the only complaint they've heard from Bason is he keeps wearing out the heels on his boots.

Someday I need to get up there to his place so I can see his cute little donkey saddle made out of certified organic leather. They say it was hand made by Bill Richardson's former Secretary of the Environment.

Beware the Wrath of the EPA

“Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.” I have ripped this line from the pages of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath to demonstrate the severity, and ridiculousness, of a modern-day dust storm farmers and ranchers are facing today—the Wrath of the EPA. And like Ma and Pa Joad who did everything they could to save their farm from slipping away into the Dust Bowl, but ultimately lost to a force far greater than the any effort they could muster, this latest smite from Washington might just put our agricultural businesses under. The Environmental Protection Agency has apparently run out of things to regulate and tax, so it has come up with new guidelines for regulating “particulate matter emissions"—more commonly known to you and me as “dust.” Now, I know what you are thinking, this just can't be true. What kind of cockamamy scheme is this? The EPA “Dust Police” would specifically regulate farm dust. Farmers could be required to have dust collectors on their harvesters, planters, and haying equipment. But my personal favorite is the crackdown on dust created from driving your pickup truck down a dirt or gravel road. I could not make this stuff up. The federal government wants to regulate farm dust caused by driving. Farmers and ranchers are going to have to somehow limit the dust created by livestock on their property too...more

I hear Bason is really upset the feds are gonna regulate donkey dust. I can understand the feds position though, cuz Bason's neighbors say everywhere he rides his boot heels are kickin' up all kinds of dust.

Song Of The Day #519

Ranch Radio is meandering around the 60s this week. Our selection today is Johnny Cash's 1961 recording of Tennessee Flat Top Box.

You will find the tune on his 18 track CD The Essential Johnny Cash.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Is Obama With Eye On 2012 Mulling An EPA Rollback?

It looks as though President Obama may have decided that getting re-elected in 2012 is more important than saving the planet from the much-dreaded global warming. But then how does he break it to the people who helped elect him and whose support he will need in 2012? Political prognostication is always a chancy business, but a few new developments have occurred that seem to point to the president moving to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency's nascent regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions. First, the left-wing British press reported Monday about how a government shutdown may force the EPA to delay its greenhouse-gas regulation by two years. It was a novel thought because the recently passed House bill to fund the government would strip the EPA of its emissions authority altogether, while any talk of a two-year delay in EPA authority has been limited strictly to a not-so-popular coal-state/Democrat bill sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. No one had previously linked EPA funding issues to a two-year delay. Later that afternoon, news broke that Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote the president, worrying about the EPA regulations killing jobs: "Without careful consideration, the unintended consequences of imprudent regulation could ultimately undermine our shared objectives of reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions and spurring economic growth. Brown, however, isn't the only one up for re-election in 2012. So is the president, and his political survival instincts may be asserting themselves once again over his job-killing, central-planning inclinations...more

Nevada's future rides on sage grouse

They are large, ground-dwelling birds known for their elaborate mating games, played out in the sagebrush outback of rural Nevada and other Western states. Sage grouse once thrived across the West. Now their numbers are limited and their habitat has dwindled, thanks to human progress, the rise of cheatgrass and the large rangeland fires it fuels. Making the list means the bird's habitat would be federally protected. Green energy development of rural Nevada -- seen by state leaders as integral to Nevada's future -- could grind to a standstill with added layers of bureaucracy. Mining would be affected, and so would ranching. The Nevada Legislature is considering two bills to help the state maintain and boost the number of birds, keeping them off the list. "A sage grouse listing in the West would mean billions and billions of lost revenue," said San Stiver, sage grouse coordinator for the Western Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies of Prescott, Ariz. The bird is just one step away from making the list now, on the threatened-but-precluded list. It means that the bird qualifies for inclusion on the endangered species list, but there are too many others ahead of them, in more perilous conditions. That status is a big part of the reason that legislators are introducing bills to help protect the bird's habitat to help keep it off the list. If the bird is put on the endangered species list, trying to get federal government permission to build a wind farm, solar farm, get a grazing allotment or even build a fence in many parts of rural Nevada would be a nightmare, Mayer said...more

A long but interesting article.

Also an example of how the mere threat of a listing under the ESA can bribe an entire state.

Deep drilling permit issued for Gulf

The federal government on Monday told Noble Energy it can resume a deep-water drilling project — the first work of its kind approved since the Obama administration lifted a moratorium prompted by last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Until Monday, federal regulators had not allowed any offshore drilling that had been off limits under the five-month ban against some deep-water exploration, even though the ban ended in October. But offshore drilling advocates were doubtful the move would unleash a flood of permits because the project approved Monday was one of 16 under way when the ban was imposed - and therefore faced a clearer path to approval than proposals filed since last year's oil spill. "While one deep-water permit is a start, it is by no means reason to celebrate," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La. The American Petroleum Institute noted that the government had approved just "one permit for one company." "While every permit is welcome news, tightening the screws on domestic oil and natural gas production during a time of increased demand and global uncertainty is a formula for disaster," said API President Jack Gerard...more

Obama administration 'hostile to oil states,' Alaska Gov. Parnell says

With the unrest in the Middle East as his springboard, Gov. Sean Parnell lashed out at the Obama administration's stance on domestic oil production, saying the White House approach was having a tangible effect on the country's foreign policy. In a speech at the National Press Club, the Republican governor called the federal government "openly hostile" to oil-producing states, particularly for the delays in allowing Shell to drill exploratory wells on leases off Alaska's northern coast that the company purchased in 2008. "If it looks like a moratorium and walks like a moratorium ... maybe it is," said Parnell, who is in Washington this weekend for the National Governor's Association winter meeting. Parnell said there's a direct link between the economic recovery and the failure to use Alaska's oil reserves as a national security buffer against the uncertainty in Libya and other oil-producing countries in the Middle East. Higher gasoline prices could harm any economic recovery, Parnell said...more

GAO: BLM needs to better manage onshore well liability

The US Bureau of Land Management needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to better manage potential onshore oil and gas well liability on acreage it leases to producers, the Government Accountability Office said in a Feb. 25 report. It said that the US Department of the Interior agency should review its minimum bond requirements, which have not been updated in more than 50 years, and improve its data system so that it does a better job evaluating potential liability and monitoring the agency’s performance. BLM has two key policies for managing potential oil and gas well liability on land that it manages, the report explained. The agency’s bond adequacy policy is intend to ensure that BLM field office periodically review bonds and increase them as necessary to reflect higher levels of risk, it said. The agency also has a policy to manage wells which have been idle for at least 7 years, or so-called orphan wells that generally have no responsible or liable parties to make certain the wells are either plugged or returned to production. Under this second policy, BLM field offices are required to develop an inventory of such wells and prioritize them for reclamation, based on potential environmental harm and other factors, GAO said. “BLM has not consistently implemented its policies for managing potential liabilities,” the report continued. It said that specifically, for fiscal 2005-09, GAO found that 13 of the 33 field office survey respondents reported that they either did not conduct any reviews or did not know the number of reviews conducted. Most field office officials told the congressional government watchdog service that a lack of resources and higher priorities were the primary reasons for not conducting the reviews, it indicated...more

AMA Urgers Off-Road Riders to Contact Congress About "Wild Lands" Policy

If passed, the "Wild Lands" land-use policy would close millions of acres of federal land to off-road riders. The AMA is urging motorcyclists and ATV riders to get in contact with their federal lawmakers, and to ask them to not support the "Wild Lands" policy. A key US House Comittee will be holding a hearing on March 1st of the "Wild Lands" issue. The AMA says that the "Wild Lands" policy "usurps congressional authority over public land-use designations." "With the new Wild Lands policy, anti-access advocates and the administration are now seeking an end-run around Congress," said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations. "Salazar's order has far-reaching implications because the BLM manages about 245 million acres of public land nationwide, primarily in western states."...more

Of Government and Famine

Famines in Western Europe disappeared with the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte and the rise of better transportation systems. European wars closed borders and choked trade. Peace opened them up again. Then, canals and trains made it possible to move grain from one area to the next. The last major famine in Western Europe was in the 18th century. Since then, famines in Europe have been the result of politics. The great famine in Ireland, for example, was triggered by a blight on potato crops. But had their land not been taken from them, and had they been allowed to buy and sell freely, rather than only with Britain on terms it set, the Irish would have fared much better. Thanks to the curious set of political circumstances in the mid-19th century, Ireland remained a food exporter, even while a million Irish peasants died of hunger. Likewise, in WWII, the Netherlands suffered 30,000 deaths in the “Hongerwinter” because of punishing restrictions imposed by the occupying German troops. Since the beginning of the 20th century, many people have gone to bed hungry. Tens of millions have died of starvation. But almost all the deaths can be traced to the murderous intentions or incompetent administration of governments. In this regard, as in many others, the Soviet Union and China were world leaders. Goofy theories and bad policies reduced the amount of food available. Then, communist governments used food shortages as a weapon against their internal enemies...more

Wildlife Agency Rejects Plains Bison Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not review the status of the wild plains bison under the Endangered Species Act because a petition to list the species as threatened does not contain enough information indicating protection may be warranted. The agency estimates that there may be 500,000 bison in commercial herds and over 20,000 individuals in conservation herds, which are isolated to preserve their genetic stock, though only the herd at Yellowstone National Park is believed to be free of domestic cattle genes. The agency does not consider the abundance of animals or plants considered for listing that are raised for commercial purposes because they do not contribute to the conservation of the species. With regard to the conservation herds, the agency found that their populations are growing as fast as the habitat they depend on will allow and that the petition failed to present evidence that there are too few wild plains bison to preserve genetic diversity or that their numbers are curtailed by the current habitat conditions. The National Park Service has been embroiled in legal challenges over its plan to slaughter bison that follow historic migration routes down from the snow-covered highlands and cross into Montana where it is feared domestic cattle will be infected by brucellosis, a disease carried by bison that can cause domestic cows to spontaneously abort calves.

Kline bill would delist wolves

Wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan would be removed from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, under a bill introduced Monday in the U.S. House by three Minnesota representatives. "Wolf attacks have become an increasing concern for farmers and livestock producers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where the overpopulation of gray wolves is directly linked to the decline of livestock and other animals," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chief author. Reps. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, and Chip Cravaack, a Republican, are co-sponsors. The bill would return management of the wolves to the states. Federal officials previously said they expect to "delist" the wolf by the end of 2011. [link]

Nesting Falcons Lead To Temporary Climbing Closures At Zion National Park

Nesting peregrine falcons will lead to some temporary climbing closures in Zion National Park for the next four months or so, according to park officials. Park officials established the dates for the closures based on nesting information collected from 2001-2010. Park biologists will continue to monitor the nesting activity of peregrine falcons in the park throughout the 2011 breeding season. Cliffs that were previously used for nesting by peregrines, but are not being used this year, will be re-opened in May. Those cliffs being used by nesting peregrines this year will be monitored until the chicks fledge, usually in late July, and then will be reopened to climbing, according to a park release...more

Beach closures begin for shorebird

Surf Beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base will have limited access beginning today due to the annual restrictions put in place for a small shorebird’s nesting season. Only one-half mile of the publicly accessible beach — the closest to Lompoc — will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily because of nesting season for the Western snowy plover. Additionally, only one-quarter mile of Wall Beach and one-half mile of Minuteman Beach are open. Both of those are usable only to people with base access and will be open sunrise to sunset on a trial basis. All other base beaches are closed for the nesting season, which stretches from March 1 through Sept. 30...more

Climate Change Takes Toll on the Lodgepole Pine

Rising temperatures, drought and the spread of destructive insect pests will shrink the North American range of the lodgepole pine nearly 10 percent by 2020, a new study finds. The scientists behind the report said the projected decline of the evergreen species, whose range covers much of the Pacific Northwest and extends as far south as Colorado, was backed by observed ecosystem changes dating back to 1980. The study was conducted by forestry researchers at Oregon State University and the Department of Forest Resource Management at the University of British Columbia. It will appear in the latest edition of the scientific journal Climatic Change. “For skeptics of climate change, it’s worth noting that the increase in vulnerability of lodgepole pine we’ve seen in recent decades is made from comparisons with real climatic data and is backed up with satellite observations showing major changes on the ground,” Richard Waring, an emeritus professor of forest science at Oregon State University, said in a statement...more

Pesticide industries increase lobbying against new EPA regulations

Environmentalists are agitated by chemical industry trade group CropLife America’s increased spending to thwart EPA efforts to create stricter regulations on pesticide use. According to The New York Times, CropLife America spent $751,000 on lobbying in the last three months of 2010 — a 58 percent increase from the previous year’s expenditures — in response to signs that the EPA aims to increase regulations. Among the more burdensome regulatory efforts being challenged are a contemplated initiative to regulate pesticides under the Endangered Species Act, which would require industry to prove their products do not harm wildlife, and the establishment of a permit program under the Clean Water Act for pesticides sprayed over water sources. The lobbyists argue that such measures, “if left unattended will have serious negative impacts on our economy and on food and fiber production in the United States.” They also argue that these added regulations lack scientific foundation...more

FEMA settles lawsuit challenging Flood Insurance Program in NM

On February 11, 2011, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico approved a stipulated settlement agreement (pdf) between theFederal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") and WildEarth Guardians, obligating FEMA to, among other things, request that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ("Service") initiate formal consultation on the impacts of the National Flood Insurance Program (the "NFIP") in New Mexico.  The NFIP, which is administered by FEMA, enables property owners in participating communities to purchase flood insurance at a subsidized rate. In 2001, the Sierra Club, Southwest Environmental Center, and WildEarth Guardians, formerly known as Forest Guardians, filed a lawsuit (pdf) in federal court alleging that FEMA was violating section 7 of the federal Endangered Species Act ("ESA") by failing to consult on the impacts of the NFIP on ESA-listed species. In 2002, the parties executed a stipulated settlement agreement (pdf) obligating FEMA to, among other things, prepare and submit a biological assessment to the Service on the effects of the NFIP and initiate consultation with the Service "as expeditiously as possible." In 2009, WildEarth Guardians filed a second lawsuit (pdf) seeking to enforce the terms of the 2002 settlement agreement, and FEMA's compliance with section 7 of the ESA. Section 7 requires a federal agency to, among other things, consult to ensure that any action "authorized, funded, or carried out" by the agency is "not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [designated critical habitat]." Under the terms of the 2011 settlement agreement, FEMA has 365 days to send the Service a written request to initiate formal consultation...more

50 years of stolen artifacts collected

It took an amateur archeologist 50 years to plunder it, but now dozens of ancient artifacts are in the government’s hands, with plans to put them back where they belong. Pots, ladles, arrowheads and shells were just some of the collection James Hamm had built up. Hamm was caught in the Gila in 2008, where he didn't belong, digging on ancient Indian land. Hamm was even brazen enough to steal the signs warning the lands were sacred. Detectives said he kept maps and notes of his digs, which spread across Arizona and New Mexico, including places like Tularosa, Flagstaff and Cibola Forrest. Detectives said Hamm's notes claimed some of the pieces came from gravesites. The total value of the loot adds up to more than 37 thousand dollars. While officials said they couldn't prove Hamm sold artifacts, Phillips said there is an enormous black market for these types of artifacts...more

Professor pleads guilty in NM artifacts case

A Chicago archaeology professor has pleaded guilty to taking "Folsom and Clovis points" from federal land in New Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. David Amick, 66, chairperson of the anthropology department at the Lake Shore campus of Loyola University of Chicago, entered a guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, says a news release from U.S. Attorney for the New Mexico District, Kenneth Gonzales. It says Amick was ordered to serve one year of probation. The Friday news release says that on June 3, 2007, during a field trip with two others, Amick removed 12 archaeological artifacts from unidentified federal land in New Mexico. The next day, they removed five more, it says. "Amick admitted knowing that it was illegal to remove the artifacts," says the news release that estimated the market value of the artifacts at more than $500...more

Song Of The Day #518

Ranch Radio will be hanging around the 60s this week. Let's kick things off with Buck Owens' 1961 recording of I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today.

My version is from the 5 CD Box Set Act Naturally: The Buck Owens Recordings 1953-1964.


Op-Ed: New Mexicans Speak Out on Gila Road Closings

By Steve Pearce

    Many of us in New Mexico have fond memories of the Gila as a weekend paradise.  We have spent Friday nights after work driving to our favorite spot, unloading the kids, camping out, telling stories, and making memories before piling back into the minivan, pickup, or station wagon on Sunday.  Our schedules don’t allow us to spend days or weeks hiking in, but open access has always made this a treasure to be enjoyed by all.
    Now, the Forest Service wants to take away that freedom.
    Numerous New Mexicans have been contacting me—by email, phone, Facebook, meetings, and when I visit their hometowns—to tell their stories.  They tell me of a friend or family member who will lose access to their favorite corner of the world.  They tell me of their memories of the Gila, and their hopes for future trips.  They tell me that to preserve these, the proposed closures must be stopped.
    Some, like Reverend Mike Skidmore from Truth or Consequences, simply love escaping with their loved ones into the Gila.  For Rev. Skidmore, the Gila is a place to enjoy nature and “get away”—an experience he has shared with his children, grandchildren, and even members of his congregation.  He fears that road closures will force everyone to the same crowded campsites, ending the days of quiet refuge and fellowship he always found there.
    Others have expressed concern for the elderly and disabled.  The joys of the forest should be available to everyone, not just those with the physical ability to hike miles with a heavy pack.  Charlie and Paula Stevens have camped in the Taylor Creek Canyon together for the past 35 years.  The couple explained that as they grow older, they will become unable to access their spot without roads.  Restricted access could bring their lifelong tradition to an end.  This sort of discrimination against the elderly and disabled is unacceptable. 
    Some worry about their families.  Butch Morgan, a local small-business owner, shared his disappointment that his eleven grandchildren could be unable to experience the forest the way he did when he was their age.  Restricting access could mean that fewer families have the time or ability to make memories in this splendid forest.
    Those who live in the Gila, including ranchers and farmers, are deeply concerned.  Roads throughout the Gila connect them to their livelihoods, their homes, and their backyards. 
    Still others worry about safety.  I share their concerns: any time roads are closed, it is important to ensure that emergency personnel will not be impeded.  When addressing public safety, minutes count.  I will continue to ask questions and hold the Forest Service accountable to ensure that no time is lost.
    I share the concerns of my fellow New Mexicans, and will fight for their access to our national treasures.  But I can’t do this alone.  Attend local meetings.  Call your friends and newspapers.  Express your concerns to the rest of our congressional delegation, and to the Forest Service.  Together, we can defend the freedom to enjoy the Gila for generations to come.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Obama Nixes Safe Drilling

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Houston this weekend talking with oil executives who are eager to start drilling again in the Gulf of Mexico. That may sound like progress, but after the meeting Salazar said that nothing had changed. He was not ready to approve any new drilling. Despite everything that energy companies have done to devise advanced containment systems, Salazar is unwilling to issue a single new permit. Systems constructed by the nonprofit Marine Well Containment Company and other entities are now able to handle a flow equal or greater than that experienced during the Deepwater Horizon accident last summer. But that's not enough for Salazar, who stated that even the most advanced systems have "limitations on water depth and barrel-per-day containment capacity." Well, yes. Any system that could be devised would have limitations on depth and per-barrel capacity. But that's not the point, as Mr. Salazar must know. The question is whether the new systems are able to handle the sorts of accident that might actually take place. Not the worst scenario that someone from the Interior Department could dream up. Combined with safely protocols now in place, the new containment equipment can do just that. So why no permits for new drilling? It appears that the Obama administration is more interested in kowtowing to environmental donors in advance of the 2012 election than it is in controlling energy prices. Even with a federal court order to decide on new drilling in the Gulf by March 20, the Obama administration remains obdurate...more

Obama's Magic Solar Beans

Debate rages over wolves

No species likely raises passions in residents of the West more than wolves. They are ravenous predators, a threat to the ranching way of life, victims of overhunting, a political football, or a biological success story, all depending on the viewer’s perspective. What they aren’t, in living rooms, courtrooms and hearing rooms across the region, is ignored. Wolves make headlines and cause arguments. And no one is quite sure what their future will be. As lawmakers and scientists negotiate that future, Idahoans’ concerns remain. Ranchers watch for threats to their livestock and livelihoods; hunters fear the predators’ impact on big game herds; and despite the statistics, people are scared that pets, children and backcountry recreationists will fall victim to wolves...more

Outdoors Column: States keeping the heat on in wolf wars

Earlier this month, federal officials signaled preliminary support for state plans to kill up to 60 wolves from packs occupying a 2,355-square-mile Lolo zone in Idaho. Wolves have been removed from the Endangered Species Act protections on a number of occasions, only to be listed again by federal courts after anti-hunting groups filed lawsuits. This week, a coalition of the nation's largest hunting and conservation groups thanked members of Congress for taking several steps in the right direction for wolf conservation. Two Montana Senators introduced a bill to remove protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. Two other measures before Congress would remove those protections nationwide. The coalition — Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, the Boone and Crockett Club, National Rifle Association and Safari Club International — reminded Congress that all wolves in the Rockies and Great Lakes area are recovered and should now be managed by state biologists. "The wolf is recovered biologically but population management is hung up in legal questions that judges call 'ambiguous,'" said Bob Model, chairman of government affairs for the Boone and Crockett Club and vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. "Lawyers and judges disagree on the law. But no one disagrees with the numbers. The strength of the large and growing wolf population is obvious, and the numbers meet and far surpass the established threshold for recovery." Wolf populations in the Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes are at least five times larger than the federal recovery goals...more

Water, Gas Drilling and Louis Meeks

One well was contaminated a new well exploded
There are few things a family needs to survive more than fresh drinking water. And Louis Meeks, a burly, jowled Vietnam War hero who had long ago planted his roots on these sparse eastern Wyoming grasslands, was drilling a new well in search of it. The drill bit spun, whining against the alluvial mud and rock that folds beneath the Wind River Range foothills. It ploughed to 160 feet, but the water that spurted to the surface smelled foul, like a parking lot puddle drenched in motor oil. It was no better — yet — than the water Meeks needed to replace. Meeks used to have abundant water on his small alfalfa ranch, a 40-acre plot speckled with apple and plum trees northeast of the Wind River Mountains and about five miles outside the town of Pavillion. For 35 years he drew it clear and sweet from a well just steps from the front door of the plain, eight-room ranch house that he owns with his wife, Donna. Neighbors would stop off the rural dirt road on their way to or from work in the gas fields to fill plastic jugs; the water was better than at their own homes. But in the spring of 2005, Meeks’ water had turned fetid. His tap ran cloudy, and the water shimmered with rainbow swirls across a filmy top. The scent was sharp, like gasoline. And after 20 minutes — scarcely longer than you’d need to fill a bathtub — the pipes shuttered and popped and ran dry. Meeks suspected that environmental factors were to blame. He focused on the fact that Pavillion, home of a single four-way stop sign and 174 people, lies smack in the middle of Wyoming’s gas patch. Since the mid 1990’s, more than 1,000 gas wells had been drilled in the region — some 200 of them right around Pavillion — thousands of feet through layers of drinking water and into rock that yields tiny rivulets of trapped gas...more

How good is Obama on Western environmental issues?

In the late fall of 2008, the staff of the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) gathered at the Airlie Retreat Center in Virginia's horse country to plot strategies for a new day dawning: Barack Obama had just been elected president, promising fresh progress on issues that had frustrated environmentalists throughout the eight years of George W. Bush. Jeffrey Ruch, PEER's executive director, didn't want to waste any time. "The focus of all of our discussions was how to take advantage of the new green Obama administration," he says. "We were going over all the ground that Clinton had gained, all that had been lost under Bush, and focusing on what could be revived."...more

Blame environmental groups for spread of pine beetles

In recent months, there have been many fine articles about the mountain pine beetle, but hardly a word about the elephant in the forest. How has this situation been allowed to multiply? Every time the Forest Service proposed thinning the timber to prevent the spread of the beetle, environmentalists came out of the woodwork with letters, petitions, appeals and all sorts of legal maneuvers intended to slow or stop any action by the Forest Service. This is the elephant to which I am referring. We hear nothing about the letters of protest, appeals, and e-mails from the Sierra Club and its approximately 800,000 members, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Friends of Norbeck and others intending to stop any attempt to prevent spread of the pine beetle. Years of valuable time were lost because of the delay tactics of the enviros, which resulted in the loss of far more timber than would have been lost had the Forest Service been able to proceed in a timely manner. Do you recall that the Mount Rushmore Fourth of July fireworks display had to be canceled the last two years because of the number of beetle infested trees in and adjacent to Mount Rushmore? We know that thinning is effective. Let's give the USFS funds to do the job and streamline their analyses, appeals and review process. This elephant must be stopped or there will be neither habitat nor wildlife...more

Is federal land ownership hurting county?

When the boundaries for Utah and its counties were carved out at the time of statehood, much of the land in the state was already owned by the United States — a situation that persists to the present. Today the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service own 70 percent of Utah. And no county in Utah has a greater percentage of its land owned by the federal government than Tooele County, the second largest county in the state. The federal government owns 82 percent of the county, some 3.6 million acres. The largest landowner is the Bureau of Land Management, which holds title to 43 percent of the county. The military comes in as the second largest landholder with 1.5 million acres, or 35 percent of the county. Subtracting all federal, state, and American Indian land holdings leaves only 11 percent of the county in the hands of private land owners with a small amount owned by local governments. That creates problems, according to Chris Sloan, a local real estate broker and chairman of the Tooele County Republican Party. “Not only does it create a tax burden for the county and schools, with the majority of the land tied up in public ownership and off the tax rolls,” Sloan said, “but it doesn’t leave much room for growth in the county. Especially when you realize that much of that privately owned land is lake bed or the side of mountains — it is unusable.” With the federal government owning so much land, the ability of local governments to determine the future of the state and county is limited, according to Sloan....more