Friday, April 15, 2011

International group agrees to set offshore drilling standards for oil and gas exploration

Drilling regulators from a dozen countries on Thursday agreed to take steps toward uniform standards for oil and gas exploration in oceans around the world. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested the idea at the end of a daylong summit on offshore drilling safety that focused on the lessons learned from last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster, including the need for better ways to rein in runaway underwater wells. Representatives from the European Union, the United States and 11 other countries, including the Russian Federation, Brazil and Australia, agreed to form a working group to develop global offshore drilling standards. The group will meet again in Oslo in 2012, on the second anniversary of the gulf spill...more

Salazar: Cuban offshore drilling 'issue of concern'

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday that the United States is closely monitoring plans by the Cuban government to green-light oil drilling in Gulf of Mexico waters. “For us it is an issue of concern. We’re watching it closely,” Salazar told reporters Thursday. “It’s an issue that we’re monitoring carefully.” Spanish oil company Repsol and other companies are hoping to secure approval from the Cuban government to drill off the country’s shores in the coming months. While the Obama administration has touted its efforts to work with Mexico to ensure a common safety standard for drilling in the Gulf, the extent to which administration officials are working with Cuba on the issue is unclear. Salazar, in remarks Tuesday, added that the Interior Department is working with the State Department to ensure that any drilling off Cuba’s coastline, which is just 60 miles from the tip of Florida, is safe...more

Even the Commies are more pro-drilling than Obama.

Federal judge denies stay, orders ranchers to remove cows from BLM grazing allotments by May 3

A federal judge dealt another setback to the J.R. Simplot Co. and other ranchers by reaffirming his late-February decision to halt grazing on 17 Bureau of Land Management allotments covering some 450,000 acres in southern Idaho. Wednesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered that cattle be removed from the allotments by May 3. Western Watersheds Project director Jon Marvel said Winmill's decision will protect thousands of acres of critical sage grouse habitat from livestock grazing. Marvel's group aims to shut down grazing on public land in the West. This decision is the latest development in Western Watersheds' 2005 lawsuit contending the BLM violated federal law by authorizing grazing in the midst of southern Idaho's sage grouse country that's been hard hit by wildfire in recent years. AP

Read the order here.

Canyon County leaders ask to make Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge county property

Frustrated by the slow federal planning process and convinced federal managers want to “shut the lake down,” Canyon County commissioners and mayors fired off a letter to Idaho’s congressional delegation advocating an “act of Congress” to put the Deer Flat area under county control. But Idaho’s delegation said the public process for writing a comprehensive conservation plan for the refuge should continue unimpeded. While boating and skiing are among the most popular uses at Lake Lowell, refuge managers’ first obligation under federal law is to protect wildlife, and the refuge system’s commitment to public use focuses on the “big six” of wildlife recreation: fishing, hunting, photography, observation, environmental education and wildlife interpretation. The city and county officials urged Congress to strip the national wildlife refuge designation from the area, saying the county could cooperate with Idaho Fish and Game to protect the birds and animals in and around Lake Lowell. The county already manages recreation and law enforcement there, they noted. “In the event this is impossible, we respectfully request that you carefully monitor the (planning) process to ensure that our historic uses of Lake Lowell are not censured by federal interlopers who care not for the preservation of our economy and cultural traditions,” the letter said...more

Sharing key to West's water future, report says

The report suggests that water sharing between agricultural producers, cities and environmental interests may be one of the keys to meeting future water supply requirements while also helping to maintain wildlife habitat in some areas, said MaryLou Smith of CSU's Colorado Water Institute, which wrote the report. The report, "Agricultural/ Urban/Environmental Water Sharing: Innovative Strategies for the Colorado River Basin and the West," will be presented to the Western States Water Council, part of the WGA, today in Santa Fe, N.M. The hope is that governors in all 11 western states will add to their Cabinets a water expert who will focus on ways each state's water interests can come together and solve water supply problems through sharing. Water sharing, Smith said, would allow farmers to share some of their water with conservationists or cities, keeping farms active while providing for water to be kept in streams for wildlife or sent to cities for drinking water. It's an alternative to agricultural water transfers, which would require farmers to fallow their land and possibly go out of business in order for their water to be used in growing cities or for wildlife conservation...more

Change of Colorado National Monument to national park concerns some

Fears that the National Park Service would manage a national park differently than it would a national monument aren’t borne out in federal law. Others outside the National Park Service, however, might view parks differently than monuments, though the differences often are a matter of perception, a Sentinel study of issues surrounding the monument proposal suggests. Parks and monuments are treated equally in the legislation that founded the National Park Service, five years after Colorado National Monument itself was established by President Taft in 1911. However, business organizations, a current congressman and a former congressman are urging caution about moving quickly in pursuit of national park status for the monument...more

Senate panel OKs rollback of some Colorado ag-land tax breaks

Legislation that would roll back some of Colorado's generous agricultural tax breaks for landowners who aren't farmers or ranchers cleared a Senate committee Thursday. If House Bill 1146 wins approval in the full Democratic-controlled Senate and is signed into law as expected, it would represent a modest reform to a system that tax assessors and others have long criticized as broken. The Senate agriculture committee vote was 5-2, with Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-CaƱon City, joining four Democrats who voted in favor. Under current law, property owners can qualify for an agricultural tax break by showing they tried to make a profit through agricultural use — a requirement so lax that people can qualify by letting cattle graze a couple of days a year. The legislation would allow assessors to tax at a higher residential rate up to 2 acres of land — including land underneath a residence — that aren't integral to an agricultural operation...more

Stockyards Icon Killed in Crash

Randy Rostetter, a Fort Worth Stockyards icon, died after he was struck in a suspected drunken-driving crash Sunday. He was 57. Rostetter was a fixture around the Stockyards for the last 20 years. He spent the last decade roaming East Exchange Street with his longhorn steer, Lone Star, taking pictures with tourists for tip money. "And the first thing they see is a guy standing in the middle of the street with a longhorn steer," Steve Murrin said. "And they think 'OK, this is Texas. This is what I was expecting to see.'" Murrin allowed Rostetter to house Lone Star at his River Ranch facility just east of the Stockyards. He also gave him other opportunities to work on his private ranch in town. Hub Baker, general manager of the Cowtown Coliseum, also helped Rostetter out over the years by letting him show off Lone Star on his property. "Streets are lot emptier with Randy not around," Baker said. "He always spoke to everybody, he was always in a great mood, and he did a great job for us while he was here." Baker described Rostetter as being a sincere man. But for all of his goodwill to those visiting the Stockyards, Rostetter lived a hard life. Both Baker and Murrin said Rostetter served as the president of one of the local beef or cattle associations 25 to 30 years ago. His life changed following a car crash in which he suffered a head injury. They said he went through numerous struggles on a personal and professional basis. Despite the ups and downs, he kept moving on, the said...more

Song Of The Day #556

Ranch Radio's dusty old 78s this morning are The Old Timers Waltz by Blackie Crawford & The Western Cherokees and a fiddlin' instrumental version of The Girl I Left Behind Me by Big Jim DeNoone & His Rhythm Rustlers.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Legislation Introduced to Bring Greater Security to U.S. Border and Federal Lands

National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) today introduced the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505).  This legislation remedies current security gaps that exist on federal lands along our nation’s borders by preventing the Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using environmental policies to restrict the U.S. Border patrol from obtaining routine access.  House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) are original co-sponsors of the bill. There are more than 20 million acres of federal land located along the southern U.S. border region. Due to the U.S. Border Patrol’s inability to maintain a routine presence on federal lands, criminal drug and human smuggling organizations have co-opted these areas as superhighways into the United States. Drug cartels and other criminal operations recognize that federal lands provide miles of virtually unfettered access into the U.S. This has not only contributed to the escalating border violence but has also caused severe environmental degradation. On Friday, April 15th the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and the Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations Subcommittee will hold a joint oversight hearing titled “The Border: Are Environmental Laws and Regulation Impeding Security and Harming the Environment?.”...more

Judge tells feds to pay $6.9M to timber company

The federal government has been ordered to pay an Oregon timber company nearly $6.9 million for violating several timber sales contracts. The judgment is intended to compensate Scott Timber, an affiliate of the Roseburg Forest Products Co. in Dillard, Ore., for lost profits related to timber sales that were suspended more than a decade ago. In 1999, the U.S. Forest Service awarded three contracts to Scott Timber which allowed the company to harvest trees from the Umpqua National Forest. According to a federal judge, the agency violated its "covenant of good faith and fair dealing and duty to cooperate" because it didn't inform Scott Timber that the contracts were likely to be targeted in court by environmentalists. Environmentalists had previously filed a legal complaint challenging the Forest Service's compliance with forest management law. During settlement negotiations, environmentalists told the agency they planned to expand their litigation to include several more timber sales, including those later awarded to Scott Timber, according to court documents...more

ESA – The fleecing of a nation

As taxpayers we complain incessantly about the amount of money the federal government spends. These days 42 cents of every dollar is borrowed, making the waste of taxpayer dollars even more of an outrage. But we have on the books laws that cost an inordinate amount of money, don’t really do anything and mainly benefit the legal community. We speak, of course, of the Endangered Species Act and a basketful of related environmental laws. Only a handful of species have recovered using the law. Some of those “recoveries” involved little more than moving the animals from one place to another...The ESA is also used to stop any number of activities, from construction projects to ranching to cutting weeds. A recent example of that last activity took place in California, home of the Los Padres National Forest. Managers there had planned to clear roadside brush and weeds along 750 miles of forest roads. An environmental group sued to stop the work, arguing that cutting the weeds threaten protected and sensitive species. Mind you, all of the work would take place within 10 feet of the road. To protect this “sensitive” environment, the judge in the case issued an injunction and ordered to the U.S. Forest Service to hire a full-time biologist. According to the website, a federal biologist makes about $56,000 a year, plus benefits. That’s about $26.92 an hour. Assuming the weed-cutting takes place on both sides of the roads — a total of 1,500 miles — is done at 1 mph, that’s 1,500 hours. Multiply that by the hourly pay rate, and that’s a little over $40,000. That’s $40,000 for nothing. And don’t forget the federal government will have to pay the legal fees of the environmental group’s lawyers and those who represented the Forest Service. It should also be noted that many environmental groups want to get rid of roads in national forests and allow the forests to revert to nature sanctuaries. Maybe, just maybe, the real issue in this and other cases was the roads and not the “sensitive” species...more

Environmentalists suffer on key budget provisions

The biggest losers in the federal budget deal may have been environmentalists, who suffered setbacks not only with cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget but also with the shellacking of two of the movement’s pet programs. The Continuing Resolution includes a provision that prohibits funding for the so-called “wild lands” policy, an Obama administration initiative that allows the Interior Department to confer special protections on federal lands without congressional approval. The resolution also removes the gray wolf of the Northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list and allows for state management, which would include managed hunts for the wolves, a species that once was decimated but now thrives. The additions came as unexpected defeats for the environmental movement, which has enjoyed a series of victories for the past two years under Democratic rule. The Wilderness Society issued a statement Tuesday saying that the resolution “attempts to roll back the clock and open up our wildest lands to drilling and destruction.”...more

Proposed Zane Grey wilderness is safe from congressional rider

A legislative rider in a budget proposal agreed upon by congressional leaders would block an administrative plan by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to make millions of acres in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection, but it isn't expected to impact the proposed 58,000-acre Zane Grey wilderness along the lower Rogue River. "The Zane Grey proposal would be a result of congressional action, not administrative policy," he said. "The rider in Congress won't affect it directly." Last spring, following months of negotiations with conservation activists, the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry coalition based in Portland, dropped its opposition to wilderness designation for the 58,000-acre Zane Grey tract immediately upstream from the Wild Rogue Wilderness in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The Zane Grey roadless area, located on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District, is the largest proposed BLM wilderness area in southwestern Oregon. Under the compromise, the proposal was reduced some 13,000 acres from the original, while cutting the Wild & Scenic Rivers protection from 143 miles of tributary streams to 93 miles and reducing stream buffers...more

Minnesota: Record Wolf Attacks, Population Control Funding Ends

Farmers who have livestock being attacked by wolves may soon have no way of removing the predators from their land. Federal budget cuts will eliminate the $208,000 wildlife services program that employs ten staff members to help remove wolves that have killed livestock. Over the past year, Sebeka cattle rancher Miles Kuschel said at least three of his cows have been killed by wolves. "Only thing we can do right now is, at night, we check every hour on the hour. We ride through our cows on horseback. We use flashlights, we have blinking lights. We can make noise, honk horns, but that's about all we can do. But the problem is, is the wolves are getting so used to it, they're not afraid of people," Kuschel said. "Two, three wolves a week is not that uncommon," he said. Because the wolf population is considered "threatened" on the endangered species list, farmers can not shoot or trap wolves, even if they're attacking livestock. "Sunday morning, we had a wolf trying to attack a baby calf. The cow was doing her best to protect it, but at that same time, the cow slipped in the mud, fell down and that wolf was right on top of her. If I hadn't ridden up over the ridge and seen that occurring, that wolf would've killed the calf and possibly the cow," he said...more

Environmental report on Rosemont due in Aug.

After two years of delays, the U.S. Forest Service plans to release a draft environmental report on the proposed Rosemont Mine near Tucson in August and make a decision on the hard-fought project in January. The service's announcement comes after four delays of the release of the environmental report, originally scheduled for spring 2009. It was first delayed to fall 2009, and then until April 2010. It was then pushed back to end of 2010 and then again until now. The environmental impact statement has long been seen as one of the most critical points in the lengthy review of the copper project. The service cannot make a decision on Rosemont without completing the environmental analysis. That means mine construction can't start until that hurdle is overcome and the courts finish with any legal challenges to the service's decision. In its announcement Wednesday, the service said its regional office in Albuquerque and its Washington, D.C., office are reviewing an internal working draft of the environmental statement. Once that's completed, the Forest Service will then give a group of local, state and federal agencies and Indian tribes the chance to review the draft before it is publicly released...more

Ninth Circuit holds that Forest Service "approval" of a notice of intent to conduct suction dredge gold mining does not trigger a duty to consult

On April 7, 2011, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a United States Forest Service (USFS) District Ranger's decision that proposed recreational suction dredge mining in the Klamath National Forest may proceed according to the miners' Notices of Intent (NOIs) without a Plan of Operations is not an "agency action," and therefore consultation is not required under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Karuk Tribe of California v. U.S. Forest Service, No. 05–16801, 2011 WL 1312564 (9th Cir. April 7, 2011) (PDF). Specifically, the majority held that the District Ranger's decision not to require a Plan of Operation for the dredging "is an agency decision not to regulate legal private conduct. In other words, the USFS's decision at issue results in agency inaction, not agency action." Id. at *11. The Karuk Tribe presented evidence that the cumulative impact of recreational suction dredge mining to threatened Coho salmon and their critical habitat in the Klamath River "may affect" listed species by killing salmon and other fish eggs, killing food sources, destabilizing spawning substrate, and otherwise disturbing the salmon and their reproductive activities. But the court's holding turned on the more fundamental question whether the District Ranger's determination that no Plan of Operations is required constitutes an "agency action." The Tribe argued that the Ranger's decision is a decision to authorize the operations described in an NOI, therefore, consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service is required under section 7. A majority of the three-judge panel disagreed, concluding instead that "the NOI process was designed to be 'a simple notification procedure' that would 'assist prospectors in determining whether their operations would or would not require the filing of an operating plan.'" Id. at *6-7. In other words, a decision not to require a Plan of Operations is not a "permit," as the Tribe contended. Instead, the NOIs were agency inaction, not "agency action" that could trigger a duty to consult under section 7. The majority found it especially significant that under Organic Administration Act of 1897 and the General Mining Law of 1872, miners have a right to enter public lands to prospect and remove mineral deposits. Under Forest Service regulations, a Plan of Operations for mining activities on national forest land is required only if the District Ranger determines that the mining is likely to cause significant disturbance of surface resources...more

Federal government to take a fresh look at oil shale development in the West

A new federal study on the environmental impact of oil shale and tar sands development in the West is being launched, the Bureau of Land Management announced today. The new environmental impact statement follows the Obama administrations freezing of oil shale activities that were approved by the Bush administration in its waning days. In January 2009, just weeks after taking office, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar targeted rules for commercial oil shale development for review. "Moving forward with commercial regulations for oil-shale development is premature," Salazar said at the time. "We are going to take a look at all the midnight actions of the Bush administration and see what needs to be changed and which are OK." In February 2009, Salazar halted a last-minute oil-shale lease offering set-up by the Bush administration, saying it "didn't meet the smell test" and he called for a top-to-bottom review of the oil-shale program...more

Trustee Explains Eastern Livestock Finances

A stuffed longhorn bull, sporting a faded blue Eastern Livestock Company baseball cap, overlooks a wood boardroom table in the troubled cattle brokerage's headquarters. One of three lawyers at the table jokingly asks bankruptcy trustee Jim Knauer if he'll get to take the bull home with him when the company is dissolved. Another lays claim to the hat. The men had just come from a court hearing in which Knauer explained that it's unlikely Eastern Livestock's unsecured creditors -- mostly ranchers, livestock markets and cattle trucking companies -- will see a dime when Knauer's job of unraveling the company finances is done. Unlike whoever takes the stuffed bull home, the cattlemen's only mementos for their dealings with Eastern will likely be bad checks, bruised wallets and new livestock marketing rules. Once a trusted name in the livestock brokerage business, Eastern Livestock Company may now be one of the most loathed. In late October 2010, Fifth Third Bank, Eastern Livestock's primary bank, froze the cattle brokerage's accounts. That caused $130 million of worthless checks to be sent to more than 700 ranchers and livestock markets in 30 states. Since then, the Packers and Stockyard Administration's bond process and the industry's payment and contract practices have all faced heavy scrutiny as cattlemen look for ways to protect their businesses from future failures...more

Wildfires near Hobbs, Silver City are contained

Crews have fully contained a 250-acre grass fire near Hobbs and contained a small wildfire that briefly threatened about 40 homes near Silver City. Some homes north of Silver City near the Little Walnut Campground were voluntarily evacuated Wednesday afternoon because of the so-called Gomez fire. The fire burned grass, pinon juniper and oak brush. U.S. Forest Service officials say a previous thinning project helped slow the blaze's progression and it was eventually contained at about 10 acres. The cause of the fire remains unclear. The Silver City Sun-News reported that residents were allowed back in their homes by 8 p.m. Meanwhile, authorities say the so-called Harr fire that was started near Hobbs by a welder's torch Wednesday afternoon was fully contained by nightfall. No structures were damaged. AP

Officials in scorched Texas county call for prayer

Local officials in a parched Texas county have resorted to asking their constituents to pray for rain, hoping divine intervention can alleviate the severe drought gripping much of the state and fueling wildfires that have scorched large swaths of ranchland. Commissioners in Tom Green County, where fires have seared nearly 13,000 acres this week, issued a proclamation Tuesday encouraging people to pray for rain. "We certainly need it," said County Judge Mike Brown. Conditions were only expected to get riper for wildfires across a larger expanse of the western half of Texas, according to a Texas Forest Service statement Wednesday...more

Series of Fires Has Investigators Fearing Someone Is Responsible

Nearly a dozen fires in three days, investigators in Willacy County don't believe all those fires started by accident. A cattle rancher called CHANNEL 5 NEWS concerned about his property and livestock. The burn patterns, the number of fires, where the fires started, just off main roads, investigators say all of it raises red flags. Cattle rancher Kent Weaver is keeping track. He has counted nearly a dozen fires in the last few weeks off FM 1761 and just across the nearby Coast Guard station. "We're about a quarter mile from our front gate. Right here so it's too close for comfort. Too close for comfort," says Weaver. "Due to the fact that they're so spread out and that they’re somewhat within the same timeframe raise an eyebrow. Is it is getting started by someone?" says Andrew Maldonado with the Raymondville Police Department...more

105-year-old cowboy, wife lose four homes in Stonewall County wildfires

Last week was a sad one for N.L. "Boss" Winter because three of his family homes, as well as a home on his wife's side of the family, were reduced to piles of ashes after the massive wildfire that burned more than 103,000 acres in Stonewall County. "It is the worst fire I've ever seen," said Boss, a rancher who has lived in Aspermont for more than a century. Boss Winter was born April 30, 1905, in a half-dugout, 10 miles north of Aspermont in Stonewall County. In 1910, his dad Floyd "Pa" Winter, built a two-room house just off Highway 83. His grandmother's half-dugout home, with a wood roof, was located about a half-mile away. Several miles down the road and around the corner, stood another house where Boss and his wife, Leta, raised their son, Wad, and daughters, Betty and Marie. All three places burned last week. "He's cried a few tears," said Betty Rash Whigham, his 81-year-old daughter from Abilene. Just a few weeks shy of his 106th birthday, Boss, the lifelong cowboy, remembered being only 5 years old when he moved to the house his dad built. He was emotional Tuesday using two canes to get close to the pile of rubble, while the ashes from the home where he was raised whipped around his cowboy boots. "It stood right where he put it until last week," Boss said, remembering the sturdiness of the old homeplace where he lived with his dad, Floyd, and mother, Effie, along with sisters "Peg" and "Shug," more than a century ago. Staring at the ruins, Boss' chin quivered a little...more

Song Of The Day #555

Ranch Radio's 78s today are Hank Penny singing Missouri and Leon Rusk performing I See Through You.

Send me your requests.

Catron County Commission Demands Wolf Incident Investigation

RESERVE, NM.  “The wolf issue is one of the biggest problems the county has faced,” said Catron County Commission Chairman Hugh B. McKeen to Tod Stevenson, Director of New Mexico Department of Game & Fish at a regularly scheduled public meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.  With Mr. Stevenson were RJ Kirkpatrick, Assistant Director NM Game & Fish; Jim McClintic, Chairman New Mexico State Game Commission; and Dick Salopek, New Mexico State Game Commission.  An audience of nearly 100 people attended the meeting.

In late January a formal complaint was filed by the county with NM Governor Martinez regarding a wolf depredation investigation that occurred on January 18, 2011.  Catron County contends that NM Game & Fish wolf biologists Ellen Heilhecke and Mischa Larisch allegedly sought to influence or change the official investigation findings of Sterling Simpson and Armando Orona of US Wildlife Services during an on-site investigation as to the cause of death of a cow. 

“Influencing or attempting to influence the findings of another agency’s official investigation brings up a lot of problems,” said Catron County’s Wolf Incident Investigator, Jess Carey.  “The credibility of the game department wolf biologist is now lost.”  Simpson and Orona did confirm that the cow was killed by wolves, with Carey concurring.

“Other findings of confirmed wolf kill have been changed to probable in the past,” Carey said.  “How can you change documented evidence?”

Stevenson confirmed that Larisch did call and relay a message from Heilhecke to the Wildlife Services personnel while the investigation was in progress, but denied that any impropriety occurred.

“My staff said they did not say that Wildlife Services should modify the finding from confirmed to probable,” Stevenson said.  “My folks called and said there were feral dogs in the area to take into consideration.”

“There were no feral dogs on this ranch,” Carey said.  “Last year, several miles away, a neighbor was letting his house dogs run loose, but that problem was resolved.  Mr. Simpson concurred:  There are no feral dogs out there”. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Catron County Attorney Ron Shortes stated that he agreed with the Commissioners’ and Carey’s call for an independent, third party investigation of the incident.

“I think you have a conflict of interest when you say you have an obligation to facilitate this Mexican wolf recovery program vs. your constitutional obligation to the people of NM to protect wildlife,” Shortes said.

“While an independent investigation is needed, my ultimate feeling is that you have a bunch of good people with the New Mexico Game Commission and NM Game & Fish trying to do their best, but I’m wondering if they’re trying to do too much,” Shortes said.  “They’re assisting the recovery program on one hand, trying to protect wildlife on the other – is there any possibility of trust while that’s going on?”

After a show of hands to see how people in the audience felt, the Catron County Commissioners voted unanimously to go ahead with their request of Governor Martinez for a full, independent investigation of the incident.  Director Stevenson volunteered to provide a synopsis of the progress of the investigation by April 15, 2011. 

“Catron County has taken a no-wolf stand,” McKeen said.  "I’m requesting that you take a no-wolf stance, too.  It’ll do us all good – we’re not only concerned about livestock but wildlife, too.”

Wolf Investigator Incident Report

Information Report
                                 Catron County Wolf Interaction Investigator                                                           01-18-11 Reference; Case Number AP-222

New Mexico Game and Fish wolf biologist’s Ellen Heilhecke and Mischa Larisch instructing Wildlife Services Sterling Simpson to change a confirmed wolf livestock depredation to probable.

On 01-15-11 Rancher George Geisler found a dead steer on his ranch, Wildlife Services investigated and confirmed the cause of death as a confirmed wolf depredation.

On 01-16-11, Rancher George Geisler founds a dead heifer dead and eaten up. On 01-18-11, I drove to meet Wildlife Services Sterling Simpson and Armando Orona to investigate the cause of death of the Heifer Case Number AP-222. The carcass was disarticulated with the right rear lower leg remaining plus the spinal column, ribs and a portion of skin. Large leg bones were bitten into.

The hair was clipped from the right lower leg. There were numerous bit sites exposed. Canine spreads were documented at; 40.85mm, 40.06mm, 43.47mm, 41.05mm, 42.72mm, and a diameter of 4.15mm, and 5.07mm. The bite sites had corresponding hemorrhage. After the investigation Mr. Simpson stated that the cause of death was a confirmed wolf depredation, Mr. Orona and I concurred.

At approximately 1255, New Mexico Game and Fish wolf biologist Mischa Larisch called WS Sterling Simpson on his cell phone. They talked a few minutes then the conversation ended. Mr. Simpson seemed upset. Mr. Orona asked Mr. Simpson what Mischa wanted. Mr. Simpson stated; Mischa was relaying a message from New Mexico Game and Fish wolf biologist Ellen Heilhecke that if he found the heifer a confirmed wolf depredation to change it to a probable wolf depredation because there were feral dogs in the area last year where the heifer was killed. Mr. Simpson also stated that those dogs running lose were not on this ranch where the heifer was killed and the problem was taken care of and there are no feral dogs out there.

I said Ellen is trying to protect the wolves at the rancher’s expense, what kind of science is this? There was agreement. I told Mr. Simpson that he should save the skin with the bite sites and corresponding hemorrhage, and the leg bone in case his findings are challenged by Ellen and Mischa. Mr. Simpson stated he would and he will also keep the dried hide because he may have to soak it to soften it up and look at it to. Mr. Simpson was adamant about his confirmation as was Mr. Orona.

At approximately 1435 I called rancher George Geisler and talked to him about feral dogs on his ranch. Mr. Geisler stated last year, march 2010 his neighbor who lived about five miles away had a neighbor that let his dogs run loose and the problem was eliminated. They were not feral dogs but neighbor’s dogs. Mr. Geisler also stated that he has never seen any sign of feral dogs of free running dogs on his ranch.

Wolf depredation compensation by USDA Farm Services Agency under ELAP pays compensation of 65% market value on a Confirmed wolf livestock depredation. There is no compensation paid for a Probable wolf livestock depredation.

Intervention by New Mexico Game and Fish wolf biologist’s Ellen Heilhecke and Mischa Larisch to influence and change investigative findings by Wildlife Services investigators from confirmed to probable is unacceptable and there is a need for accountability.
Jess Carey, Catron County Wolf Investigator

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Frank DuBois Bronc Riding & Calf Roping - April 15th

Editorial: Should Congress take the gray wolf off the endangered species list?

AMONG THE POLICY riders added to this year’s budget deal was a measure removing the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana from the endangered-species list , ending a years-long battle between environmentalists and ranchers in those states. The measure has bipartisan support, and neither party’s base is going to war over it. Still, there is reason to worry about this one, too. Defenders of Congress’s move to delist the gray wolf insist that lawmakers aren’t substituting political decisions for scientific ones. The Interior Department tried to do the same thing in 2009 after concluding that Idaho and Montana had adequate state-level management plans for their wolf populations, which had stabilized and were harassing herds of livestock. Environmentalists challenged that determination in court, arguing that Interior couldn’t delist part of the northern Rockies’ gray wolf population and not the rest, which resides in Wyoming and nearby states. A district court judge agreed. The parties tried to settle, but not all the plaintiffs signed on to a proposed settlement, and the judge continued to object. Congress’s rider short-circuits these judicial proceedings by simply reissuing Interior’s 2009 determination, mooting any legal questions about how the Endangered Species Act can be applied in this case. But that does nothing to clarify how the act should operate in other cases, and whether the law more broadly needs improvement. Instead, it sets a precedent of congressional micromanagement. In this instance, the science doesn’t seem to suggest a different practical outcome for the gray wolf. But will that be so the next time a member of Congress wants his or her own exception written into endangered species law? WPost

Actually it sets no precedent. The ESA is a law passed by politicians and can be amended by politicians at any time just like any other law. Exceptions or exemptions from existing law are made from time to time and I see no reason why environmental laws are any different.

If the enviros continue to use the courts to subvert rational management I predict you will see more of this in the future. In this article Mike Leahy with the Defenders of Wildlife is quoted as saying, ""Now we will redouble our efforts to work with the states and the ranchers and hunters on ways to maintain healthy, viable wolf populations in this region." That's what they should have done in the first place.

For a far different view see Budget deal kills gray wolves AND the endangered species act.

Hunters, Ranchers Claim Victory With Wolf Rider

Hunters and ranchers claim victory as a rider to the federal budget bill aims to delist wolves in a large portion of the Northern Rockies. The plan would put wolf management back in hands of the Montana and Idaho. Environmentalists say the time to fight has "come and gone." Now they'll focus on keeping the states in check. Hunters and ranchers say this is the moment they have been fighting for. A chance to take the fight out of the courts, and put it into the hands of lawmakers. Even though the wolf legislation is a victory, they say there's still work to do. "It's not what we want. It's not the end, the say all of the whole issue, but it is a step in the right direction," says wolf blogger Toby Bridges. Bridges may not be satisfied with the wolf rider, but he calls it a win. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, with the help of Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus, added an attachment to the federal budget that would take the gray wolf off the endangered species list by this summer. Bridges says it's a big blow to environmentalists. "Now we feel like we have them on the defense and we are on the offense," he says. Rep. Denny Rehberg introduced legislation in the House that would delist wolves across the U.S., but it is still in committee. Right now, Tester's office says the rider is unlikely to be changed. A vote on the budget is expected Thursday. ..more

Wyo. Gov said to consider larger state wolf zone

Wyoming politicians, sportsmen and ranchers are considering expanding the area where wolves would be tolerated should the state come to control the species, a hunting outfitter said Tuesday. Kelly outfitter B.J. Hill said he sat in on a closed-door meeting with Gov. Matt Mead in which participants mulled moving the tolerance boundary south. In recent weeks, Mead has held about a dozen such meetings in Cody and elsewhere with stockmen, politicians and members of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, according to the Cody Enterprise. Negotiations seek to establish a framework for compromise on a Wyoming wolf plan that conservationists and the federal government have seen as too restrictive to ensure wolves persist...more

MT Legislature addresses livestock loss due to wolves

The Montana Legislature is one step closer to helping ranchers pay for their losses to due to wolf populations. House Bill 622 would provide $200,000 per year to help pay ranchers for livestock losses. In 2009, the state paid out $145,000 to ranchers across Montana. However, the head of the Livestock Mitigation Board says this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the kind of losses Montana ranchers face due to the gray wolf. Republicans and Democrats both supported the measure in a 42 to 8 vote...more

Federal Budget Deal Strips Protection from Water, Wild Lands, Wolves

Conservationists are angered and disappointed by the deal struck between Congress and the Obama administration to authorize the federal budget for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. Protection for clean water, for wild lands, and for endangered wolves will be lost if the continuing budget resolution is enacted as it now stands. "The latest agreement between Congressional leaders and President Obama decimates water protections," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the nonprofit Food and Water Watch. The budget agreement for the six month fiscal year 2011 Continuing Resolution announced yesterday includes a $997 million cut to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds as compared to FY2010, and a $797 million cut as compared to the President's FY2011 request, Hauter explained. The continuing resolution also includes a provision that bars the Interior Department from spending any money on implementing the Obama administration's Wild Lands policy, announced in December. The resolution would prohibit funds from being spent to implement, administer, or enforce Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's order to designate new federal areas as wild lands. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska today said she backs the budget resolution's provision. "Congress has sole authority to create new wilderness areas. Any attempt to try an end run around Congress will get a predictable response," said Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. "Moving forward, I would encourage the Interior Department to work not around, but with Congress."...more

Ken Salazar: GOP has 'amnesia' about oil spill

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that Republicans have a “sense of amnesia” about last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill in pushing for legislation to spur more offshore oil and gas production. And he warned that if another disastrous spill struck and "we didn’t have the ability to contain it, it would probably mean death to oil and gas development in America’s oceans.” “I don’t have amnesia, and neither does the president,” Salazar told reporters at the Interior Department. “And much of the legislation that I have seen being bandied around, especially with the House Republicans, is almost as if the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well incident never happened.” Salazar said he was speaking specifically about legislation from House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and perhaps from other Republicans...more

If the tables were reversed and Hastings accused Salazar of suffering from amnesia, he'd be crucified by the press.

The truth is, if Salazar keeps thwarting production and gas prices keep rising, he better hope the voters have amnesia come next November.

Bishop: New budget deal puts big crimp in Salazar's 'Wild Lands' order

Here's what Bishop likes about the budget deal: “Implementation of the Secretarial Order would take hard-earned taxpayer dollars and put them toward a policy that would lock up millions of acres of public lands and destroy thousands of jobs," Bishop said. "The creation of new de-facto wilderness throughout the West would be severely detrimental to state and local economies and create a paralyzing uncertainty for western communities," he said. "Since the time it was announced, elected officials throughout the West recognized it was essential that this proposal be halted in its tracks. With the passage of this CR, we do just that,” said Bishop...more

Salazar held this policy back, so as to not jeopardize the passage of an Omnibus Wilderness bill, and only announcing it after Congress had left town last December.

That was cute but guess what - now he has neither.

University researcher tests new wild sheep vaccine

A Washington State University wildlife disease researcher produced an experimental vaccine that appears to have protected four bighorn sheep against deadly pneumonia. Subramaniam Srikumaran, the WSU professor in Pullman, says his findings are a promising but concedes years of work remain to help safeguard wild bighorn herds from periodic die-offs that have plagued the species in Idaho. His research comes at a time when domestic sheep that roam the same habitat as bighorns are blamed for spreading disease to their more vulnerable wild cousins. That's led federal managers to close sheep grazing allotments in Idaho's Payette National Forest to protect the wild sheep. That move has angered the region's ranchers, who see the federal government as protecting wildlife over their livelihoods. Srikumaran told the Lewiston Tribune this week that he developed the vaccine in his laboratory, then gave it to four bighorn sheep. They all survived after being exposed to a pathogen that causes pneumonia. Sheep not given the vaccine died within days of exposure. He acknowledged the sample size of inoculated bighorns was small, but "100 percent is something convincing to me."...more

Ranchers round up stray Wilder bison, auction may be held if they aren't paid

The Sioux County sheriff took possession of 37 Wilder Ranch bison Monday and says he'll sell them himself unless the rancher owner pays three local ranchers for feeding them all winter. Sheriff Frank Landeis said the bison have been loose since November on three ranches near Selfridge and he and the ranchers had had enough of the situation. A group of ranchers, the sheriff and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' game and fish department used four-wheelers and pickups and drove the bison to a corral on one of the ranches. Landeis notified ranch owner Maurice Wilder of Florida that he expects $45,000 by Friday or the bison will be sold at a livestock auction in North Dakota. He said money either from Wilder or the auction will pay the ranchers $39,000 for tons of consumed and spoiled hay and $6,000 to the county to cover fuel and manpower in Monday's roundup. "This has got to quit. These guys are supposed to feed their cows and these buffalo too? Huh uh," Landeis said, referring to the ranchers. "Enough's enough."...more

Ranchers lose cattle, look to rebuild

A Picture of Puckett's cattle
Out of about 1,900 cattle, Worth Puckett estimates he had to kill 50 because their injuries were too serious to move them. Puckett is the ranch manager for Calamity Creek Ranch, a Fort Davis ranch owned by Barry Beal of Midland. When the fire started tearing through the ranch, Puckett said he was on the front lines Saturday trying to put it out with a motor grader. But when he realized it wasn’t going to help, he moved on from the ranch and began to help people whose homes were on fire. His brother, Matt Puckett, said he came in from Houston on Sunday when he heard about the fires. “It’s a war zone,” Matt Puckett said. “It’s really sad.” Worth Puckett said the cattle he was rounding up were seriously burned and injured, and the only way they could be moved is by herding them to water, giving them some of the donated bales of hay and letting them rest for a few days. Not only were the cattle weak, he said, their hooves were melted, making it difficult for them to walk. Worth Puckett said part of his job now will entail rebuilding fences and fixing a water line that melted, but the cattle cannot live on the land without food. “We’re going to ship the cattle because we don’t have the grass to make it,” he said...more

New chili pepper crowned world’s hottest

Fighting fire with more fire -- and a WWF-worthy name -- there's a new champ holding the title of  world's hottest chili pepper. As you may recall, in December The Lookout reported on the Naga Viper and its initiation as the chili pepper with the most heat. But now there's a hotter ticket in town:  the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. Yes, the Butch T. outdistances the Naga Viper, barely, on the Scoville scale -- which rates spice power by tracking the presence of a chemical compound in chilis. The Australian Butch T. weighs in at 1.46 million heat units on the scale, while the British Naga Viper tops out at 1.38 million. For comparison, the average jalapeno pepper falls around 5,000. "They're just severe, absolutely severe," Marcel de Wit, co-owner of the chili farm that produced the pepper, told Australian Geographic. "No wonder they start making crowd-control grenades now with chillies. It's just wicked."...more

Song Of The Day #554

Ranch Radio will continue dustin' off the 78s this week.

First up is Grandpa Jones who's returning from the war and says Get Things Ready (For Me Ma). I remember my Dad saying when he got back he did two things, and the second was set down his sea bag.

That's followed by Jimmie Widener who doesn't seem to believe that cigar left in the cuspidor came from another woman in What A Line.

Drug gang blamed for mass killing of 116 near border

The Mexican government accused the Zetas drug gang on Tuesday of killing 116 people whose corpses have been found in a series of mass graves near the American border. Police have detained 17 suspects and believe gunmen from the notoriously violent cartel dragged the victims off buses passing through the San Fernando area of northeastern Tamaulipas state. "As of (Tuesday) we can confirm that a total of 116 people have been found dead as a result of criminal actions apparently caused by actions by the Zetas criminal group," Mexico's attorney general Marisela Morales told reporters. Los Zetas, founded by deserters from the Mexican special forces and thought to have many corrupt former officials and ex-police on its payroll, is at the heart of the narcotics trade and organized crime in Mexico. Engaged since February 2010 in a turf war for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States with the Gulf Cartel -- its former employers -- the cartel was blamed for the massacre of 72 migrants in August in Tamaulipas. The largest concentration of graves ever found in Mexico was unearthed on Thursday in the San Fernando area, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the Texan border, and the grisly toll has been rising steadily since...more

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

“Wild Lands” Initiative Defunded in Final CR

Washington, D.C. – Today, Western Caucus Chairman Stevan Pearce (R-NM) released the following statement regarding language included in H.R. 1473, the final budget bill for fiscal year 2011, which will prohibit the Department of the Interior from using taxpayer money to fund the controversial Wild Lands initiative:  

“The ‘Wild Lands’ proposal issued by Secretary Salazar last December was another attempt by the Obama Administration to circumvent congressional authority in the Administration’s ‘War on Western Jobs.’  It would have had tremendous negative impacts on job creation, energy production and recreation throughout the West and its defunding is a victory for all western states.

“On behalf of the Congressional Western Caucus, I would like to thank Speaker Boehner for ensuring this key provision was included in the final negotiated bill.  Speaker Boehner and Republican leadership understand that there is a ‘War on Western Jobs’ and we will continue to work with them to stop these types of job-killing initiatives while putting forward legislation to bring jobs back to the West.

“Additionally, Congressional Western Caucus members Chairmen Mike Simpson and Rob Bishop should be applauded for their leadership on the ‘Wild Lands’ issue.

“As Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Mike Simpson played a key role in defunding this dangerous initiative.  Congressman Simpson and the House Appropriations Committee deserve the gratitude of all westerner job creators for leading the effort to prevent taxpayer funding of this job killing initiative.

“Chairman Rob Bishop must also be recognized for his tireless work in exposing Secretary Salazar’s effort to circumvent congressional authority to create de facto wilderness areas.  As Chairman of the Public Lands Subcommittee, Rob Bishop was one of the earliest and most vocal critics of Secretarial Order 3310 and his vigorous oversight efforts should be applauded.”

The Wild Lands policy, established by Secretarial Order 3310, asserts that the Bureau of Land Management has the authority to “designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as ‘Wild Lands’ and to manage them to protect their wilderness value.”  The Wilderness Act of 1964 gives Congress the sole authority to designate public lands as Wilderness areas. 

The Wilderness designation is the most restrictive land use policy that can be taken as it places severe limitations on public access to public lands.  In addition to the impacts on jobs and the economy, many forms of popular recreation and access could be prohibited.

Section 1769 of the FY2011 CR states:
“none of the funds made available by this division or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce Secretarial Order No. 3310 issued by the Secretary of the Interior on December 22, 2010.”