Saturday, June 18, 2011

CNFR: Five NMSU students make the championship round

At the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming there are three full go rounds and the top 12 in each event are brought back for the championship round Saturday night.

Johnny Salvo roped his first calf in 10.3 seconds, won the second go with a 7.8 second run, was 9.9 in the third go and enters the championship round sitting in the number one spot.

Also qualifying for the championship round:

Dixie Richards - Goat Tying, 10th.
Olivia Train - Breakaway, 11th.
Shiann Irwin - Barrels, 11th.
Cooper DeWitt - Saddle Bronc, 11th.

Ging into the final round the girl's team is in 2nd place, 40 points behind Montana State and the men's team is in 11th place.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Administration acts on oil leases

The Obama administration acted on two fronts Thursday to prove it is committed to domestic oil and natural gas development, announcing plans to extend leases affected by last year's ban on deep-water exploration and to sell drilling rights in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska this year. The government is formally allowing oil and gas companies to seek one-year extensions for any nonproducing leases in at least 500 feet of water that expire before Dec. 31, 2015. Roughly 1,535 leases would qualify for the extra time. The move, which was announced earlier, responds to complaints from Gulf Coast officials and some lawmakers on Capitol Hill who say the five-month moratorium on most deep-water exploration unfairly punished oil and gas companies with no connection to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Also Thursday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expanded on President Barack Obama's May 14 pledge to conduct annual sales for tracts inside the 23-million-acre reserve on Alaska's North Slope...more

Conflict Over Northern Rockies Delisting for Wolves Extends to Pacific Northwest

While the battle over Northern Rockies gray wolf management has been most visible in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, wolf issues are also heating up in the Pacific Northwest as Washington and Oregon strive to manage small but growing packs. Environmentalists are blasting Oregon wildlife managers for killing two wolves last month, dropping the state's wolf population to 17. The state also has issued 30 permits authorizing land owners to kill wolves caught attacking livestock or dogs. Meanwhile, Washington is struggling to develop a recovery and management plan that satisfies both wolf advocates and opponents as wolves move back into the state, which is now home to three confirmed packs. Gray wolves in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon were removed by Congress from the federal Endangered Species List in May along with wolves in Montana, Idaho and parts of Utah. But as Rocky Mountain wolves slowly recovered after the late 1970s, some of the animals began to trickle into the Pacific Northwest, giving rise to conflicts between ranchers, property owners and wildlife advocacy groups "When wolves came into Oregon, they came into a different political, social and ecological landscape," said Rob Klavins, wildlands advocate for Oregon Wild. "We had a hope Oregon could do better than places like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and up until last year we had this feeling of 'all right, we can avoid the wolf wars.'" But last week, Oregon Wild joined a coalition of 11 groups in writing to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife accusing the agency of violating its management plan and state law by baiting wolves back to the site of reported depredations and failing to adequately document and publicly share information about non-lethal measures taken to prevent depredations before issuing kill permits. The agency also has approved the killing of a third wolf and distributed at least 30 take permits to livestock owners...more

Is Obama Reneging on Vow to Use Solar Power at White House?

It’s almost summer and green groups want to know: Where are the solar panels on the roof of the White House promised by the Obama administration? On Oct. 5, 2010, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, announced a plan to place solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the White House “by the end of spring” in 2011. "I am pleased to announce that by the end of this spring, there will be solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House," Chu said at the 2010 GreenGov Symposium held at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home," Chu said. But spring ends -- and summer officially begins -- on Tuesday, June 21, at 1:16 p.m. EDT. Where are the panels? None have yet been installed, according to environmentalists, who want to know why – and have launched an online campaign to get the Obama administration to live up to its commitment. In fact, one group, calling itself has apparently attracted 20,000 names on petitions to the White House...more

Electric cars may not be so green after all

ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found. An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes. The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars...more

Local Governments to Receive $375 Million to Compensate for Tax-Exempt Federal Lands

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that more than 1,850 local governments around the nation will receive payments totaling $375.2 million under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program this year to compensate them for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions. The Interior Department collects about $13 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. A portion of these revenues are shared with states and counties in the form of revenue-sharing payments. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT funding to counties. This year’s PILT program is funded at full entitlement levels under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which enacted a five-year authorization for full funding of the PILT program...more

Song Of The Day #600

Jim Reeve's 1955 recording Yonder Comes A Sucker is Ranch Radio's tune today.

Drug-Related Violence Leaves 33 Dead In Mexican City

At least thirty-three people have been killed in drug-related violence in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey in the past 24 hours, local officials said late Thursday. Monterrey is considered to be Mexico's industrial capital. Local authorities in the state of Nuevo Leon, where Monterrey is located, said almost all the killings were related to turf battles between rival drug gangs. Police said most of those killed since Wednesday night in Monterrey had links to the country's drug cartels, but for two bodyguards of the state governor and three guards from Cadereyta prison. A warning message was found next to the bodies of Governor Rodrigo Medina's body guards. Later, local media quoted Governor Medina as saying that such threats would not deter his determination to fight organized crime in Nuevo Leon...more

Ex-policeman is accused of heading the Juarez Cartel

Federal authorities have detained a former police officer accused of leading the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel in northern Mexico. Marco Antonio Guzman was captured Wednesday in the border state of Chihuahua along with two alleged accomplices. Guzman is known by several aliases, including "El Brad Pitt." He was brought to the Mexican capital Thursday and paraded before the news media. Police say Guzman was involved in the car bombing of a Ciudad Juarez federal police station in July. They also accuse him of being involved in drug trafficking across Chihuahua. The state is one of the worst-affected areas of the drug war, with an estimated 3,000 people killed in 2010 alone...more

Police Commander, Wife Gunned Down in Northern Mexico

A Ciudad Juarez municipal police department operations coordinator and his wife were gunned down while driving through the Mexican border city, a police spokesman said. Jose Portillo Hernandez and his wife, whose name has not been released, were killed on Tuesday, municipal police department spokesman Adrian Sanchez said. Portillo had emerged unscathed from an attempt on his life earlier this week in Ciudad Juarez, a gritty border metropolis located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, where more than 900 people have died in drug-related violence this year. Portillo’s body was in the driver’s seat of his vehicle, while his wife’s body was found in the avenue, indicating that she tried to run away and was shot dead, investigators said. Nearly 20 bullet casings from an assault rifle and a handgun were found at the crime scene, the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said...more

U.S. Citizen Among Victims Found in Mexican Mass Graves

Mexican authorities have identified a U.S. citizen among the bodies recovered in recent months in mass graves in the northeastern town of San Fernando, the U.S. consulate in Matamoros said Wednesday. “We wish to express our deepest condolences to the victim’s family and condemn this crime in the strongest possible terms,” the consulate said in a statement. The family has decided not to reveal the victim’s name due to privacy considerations, according to the consulate, whose personnel are in contact with the victim’s relatives and currently offering them consular assistance. The consulate added that it is in regular contact with Mexican authorities working on the case and is ready to assist them to “bring those responsible for this crime to justice.” It also said another U.S. citizen went missing in that area of northeastern Mexico while traveling by bus in Tamaulipas state on an unspecified date...more

ATF Agents Told to Stand Down In 'Fast and Furious' Gun Operation

Federal firearms agents investigating gun traffickers were sidelined by their superiors in the "Fast and Furious" operation tracking guns to Mexican drug cartels, the agents testified in a Congressional hearing. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents told the House Oversight and Government Reform committee they were expressly told by supervisors not to "intervene and interdict" the loads of guns, reports FOX News. Phoenix ATF agents Peter Forcelli and John Dodson told the committee they were repeatedly shut down, when they questioned their superiors. "We weren't giving guns to people who were hunting bears. We were giving guns to people who were killing people," Forcelli told the committee, according to the Los Angeles Times...more

Gov't's Gun Scheme: ‘Loads of Weapons … for Criminals Was The Plan’

John Dodson, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday that he was shocked when he discovered his agency was carrying out a plan specifically designed to deliver “loads of weapons” into the hands of criminals, including operatives purchasing guns for Mexican drug cartels. “This is not a matter of some weapons that had gotten away from us or allowing a few to walk so that we could follow them to a much larger, more significant target,” Dodson told the committee. “Allowing loads of weapons that we knew to be destined for criminals was the plan, this was the mandate.” Later under questioning from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R.-Utah), Dodson reiterated that ATF agents were under orders to allow criminal they had under surveillance to purchase guns and to get away with them—something Dodson said the government knew would lead to their use in multiple crimes. "Yes. We were mandated, ‘Let these guns go,’" Dodson told the committee. In 2009, the Obama Administration began an operation—dubbed “Fast and Furious”--under the auspices of the ATF that allowed people known to be “straw purchasers” to buy guns at licensed firearms dealers in the United States. These purchasers were not stopped and the guns were never seized from them--unless and until they were actually caught in a crime. The reported purpose of the project was to track the guns back to leaders in the Mexican drug cartels. “This effort failed,” House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa (R.-Calif.) said at Wednesday’s hearing. “Over strong objection of the ATF field agents, the program continued, and approximately 2,000 AK-47s and derivatives and some 50- caliber sniper rifles and others and 10,000 or more rounds of live ammunition went into the arsenals of the Mexican drug lord,” Issa said...more

ATF Agent to Bosses on Gun-Running Scheme: ‘Prepared to Attend Funeral of a Slain Agent’?

ohn Dodson, a special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, pointedly asked his superiors if they were “prepared to attend the funeral of a slain agent” as a consequence of an operation the Obama Administration was running in which suspected intermediaries of Mexican drug cartels were allowed to freely purchase guns from licensed firearms dealers in the United States—all the while under surveillance by the ATF. Dodson’s words turned out to be horribly prophetic when Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was slain in Arizona on Dec. 15 by alleged cartel operatives. Two guns found at the scene of Terry’s murder had been part of the Obama administration program that purposefully allowed so-called “straw buyers” for Mexican cartels to buy guns in the United States for shipment back to cartel operatives in Mexico...more

'Crime tunnels' beneath U.S. and Mexican border smuggle people, drugs

According to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement official James Dinkens, illicit "tunnel activity has been on the rise since the first documented tunnel was discovered in 1990. Since then, 154 tunnel attempts have been discovered, all but one of which were located along the southwest border" with Mexico. "Over the past several years, law enforcement has seen a marked increase in the number and sophistication of tunnels," Dinkens told a senate hearing. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein says she would introduce a bill to tighten an already existing illegal tunnel law passed in 2007. According to Feinstein, the thrust of the new legislation is to make illegal tunnel-making a more serious offense: conspiracy. Some of the tunnels are quite primitive and others are very sophisticated with internal rail systems and ventilation, officials said. "It is a real serious penetration into the U.S.," Feinstein, who leads the senate's anti-drug trafficking committee, said. "They could mobilize large groups." Feinstein noted that only one person has been prosecuted for "crime tunnel" building...more

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jasper Koontz 1915-2011

Jasper F. Koontz, lifelong rancher and cowboy, age 96, died at his home in Corrales on Thursday, June 9, 2011.  He was born in Inez, Texas, on March 25, 1915.  He was orphaned at the age of 7 and was reared by several aunts and uncles in south Texas.  He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1938 and served for several years in the US Army.

After leaving the Army, he worked for his uncle, James E. Baylor, in west Texas and Durango, Mexico as a rancher.  In 1946, he began a lifelong adventure with his wife, Ella Dee, ranching in Alpine, TX.  In 1948, Jasper and his cousin, James Baylor, Jr. purchased a portion of the Alameda Land Grant on the west mesa of Albuquerque, which is now Rio Rancho,  where they ranched until the mid sixties. The ranch headquarters were located at their historic home in Corrales. In 1964, Jasper and Ella Dee purchased a ranch in Ft. Sumner, NM and lived there until 1973 when they returned to their home in Corrales.  He was a devoted husband and was a father, mentor and partner with all three of his children during their various endeavors.  He spent his later years in life team roping and pursuing his lifelong avocation of being a true cowboy.  He was named New Mexico Cattleman of the year in 1977 by the NM Cattle Grower’s Association and was a gold card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and a lifetime member of the United States Team Roping Championships.

He was preceded in death by his daughter, Francis Clare Koontz.  He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ella Dee Koontz of Corrales; his son Jim and his wife, Marilee, of Ft. Sumner, NM; his son, Court and his wife, Anne, of Corrales; his grandson, Clay Koontz and his wife, Lisa, of Albuquerque; his grandson, Justin Koontz and his wife, Taylor, of Lubbock, TX; his grandson, Jasper Koontz, of Chandler, AZ; his grandson, Courtenay W. Koontz of Corrales, and three great grandchildren.

A memorial service and celebration of Jasper’s life will be held at the Koontz home in Corrales on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 11:00 AM.  In lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution can be made to The Friends of the Corrales Library Endowment Fund ( or PO Box 1868, Corrales, NM 87048) or the NM Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation (  Jasper’s care has been entrusted with Daniel’s Family Funeral Services, Rio Rancho, NM.

Environmental SmackDown: Green Politics in the 2012 Presidential Campaign

Last week, the former Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton Administration twice threw down on President Obama, angered that the current administration has not stood up to House Republicans, who've been busily gutting sacrosanct environmental regulations and the budgets needed to enforce them. Each time, Babbitt used the same term to denounce the White House: he called them munchkins. However mild (ok, laughable) the dismissive, Babbitt's message apparently got through. The current Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, promised last Thursday that the administration is going to redouble its efforts to pass a package of wilderness legislation this congressional session; his announcement effectively makes the status of the public lands an issue in the run up to the 2012 campaign. The setting of his announcement was not by happenstance. Salazar proclaimed the administration's new intentions at the Wilderness Society's annual awards dinner in Washington at which Babbitt was honored with the Ansel Adams Prize for his staunch defense of the public lands during his tenure at Interior (and what a tenure--he may be its second-most successful administrator after the legendary Harold Ickes, who served from 1933-1946). Wise to the ways of Washington, Babbitt copped a wait-and-see attitude: "Ken, I want you to know that when I used the word munchkins, I wasn't referring to anybody in the Interior Department," the former Arizona governor said after he picked up his prize. "But I can't say the same thing about the crowd at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."...more

Salazar names 6 new national natural landmarks

Hanging Lake in western Colorado is among six of the newest national natural landmarks designated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The others designated Wednesday include Barfoot Park in southern Arizona, Kahlotus Ridgetop in Washington state, Round Top Butte near Medford, Ore., and the Island in Oregon. The Golden Fossil Areas near Golden, Colo., also was designated as an extension to the Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark, which will now be known as the Morrison-Golden Fossil Areas National Natural Landmark. Each site was identified through a process that included a scientific evaluation and public comment period to acknowledge each site's unique biological or geological features. No new land-use restrictions will be imposed. There are now 591 national natural landmarks. AP

U.S. interior secretary launches new plan to designate Wilderness

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he wants to work with Congress to create a list of public lands by Oct. 15 that should be immediately designated as Wilderness. And he cites an omnibus public lands bill that was ramrodded through Congress to inappropriately designate 2 million acres of public land as Wilderness as an example of what can be done if the Obama administration and members of Congress work together. A Wilderness designation is one of the strictest forms of public land management. Once Congress designates an area as Wilderness, nearly all forms of non-pedestrian recreation are illegal, including off-highway vehicle (OHV) and bicycle riding. In a June 10 letter to members of Congress, Salazar says he will work with Congress to identify public land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that should be designated as Wilderness. “Noting the bipartisan success of Congress and the Obama administration to designate approximately 2 million acres of Wilderness in 2009, Secretary Salazar said that he will deliver to Congress, by Oct. 15, 2011, a list of areas overseen by the Bureau of Land Management that he believes are ready for immediate Wilderness designation by Congress,” the Interior Department says in a printed statement...more

San Juan County Land Use proposal for BLM may have new life

The U.S. Department of the Interior has abandoned its proposed Wild Lands Initiative and is apparently ready to embrace a locally-driven process to develop wilderness proposals. The new direction, outlined by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, sounds much like the process that has been underway in San Juan County to develop land use proposals. San Juan County began a process in the past two years, under the watchful care of Utah Senator Robert Bennett, to develop a land use proposal for the millions of acres of local land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The process was to invite all interested parties to the negotiating table and develop a locally-initiated wilderness proposal. The Wilderness Society, a national wilderness advocacy group, has represented pro-wilderness sentiments in the process. Salazar recently asked Members of Congress for their ideas of “crown jewel” areas of public lands that have strong local support for permanent protection as wilderness under the Wilderness Act. Salazar said he will deliver to Congress, by October 15, 2011, a list of areas overseen by the BLM that he believes are ready for immediate wilderness designation by Congress. Local officials seem hopeful that the new direction by the federal government will help the San Juan County Land Use proposal, but expressed skepticism that the bipartisan effort will result in a resolution of the BLM wilderness issue that has raged for three decades...more

Editorial: Salazar's efforts to get local input on federal lands commendable

Ken Salazar says he wants to get more people involved in designating which of the millions of acres of public land across the country, but mostly in the West, should be protected as wilderness. When the secretary of the Department of the Interior announced last month that he would back off his earlier decision to let the federal Bureau of Land Management resume its legal authority over designating protection-worthy federal land, he encouraged local governments and state leaders to come up with their own plans. Now he has requested input from members of Congress. He wants them to make lists of the “crown jewels” in their states, areas worthy of federal protection. Salazar’s efforts are commendable. He seems genuinely interested in hearing from the people who live and make their livings surrounded by national forests, national parks and huge tracts of land managed by the BLM. But the fact is, federal land does not belong to those people or to their local elected officials or even members of their congressional delegations. Federal land belongs to all Americans...more

When you see a paper like the Salt Lake Tribune going out of it's way to remind everyone these lands are nationally owned and that should determine decisions, it can only mean one thing: there is not much local support to designate these areas as Wilderness. Enviros don't like decisions to be made on the local level and neither apparently does the Salt Lake Tribune.

Barrasso blocks vote on nominee over wolves

For the past two weeks, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has blocked the nomination of the new director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the agency stalled on replying to state negotiators over a Wyoming wolf management plan. And Barrasso will continue to delay a Senate confirmation vote of Daniel Ashe as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, even though the agency has again started communicating with state officials about a wolf deal, according to a congressional source. For years, Fish and Wildlife has refused to accept Wyoming’s state wolf management plan and remove the state’s roughly 300 wolves from the federal endangered species list. The state’s plan allows unregulated killing of the animals in all but the northwest corner of the state. Fish and Wildlife, on the other hand, wants wolves to be classified as “trophy game” throughout the state, meaning they could only be hunted with a license. During a meeting in Cheyenne with Gov. Matt Mead in late March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggested a deadline of a month to reach an agreement on a management plan, said Mead spokesman Renny MacKay. Following the meeting, Wyoming’s wolf negotiators sent off a formal letter to Fish and Wildlife detailing the state’s position, MacKay said. But for the next 40 days or so, they got no reply. “They just weren’t talking to us,” MacKay said...more

Wolf trapped, killed on Montana ranch where horse found dead

A female gray wolf was caught in a trap and euthanized Tuesday morning on a Darby area ranch where a horse was found dead two weeks ago. The owners of the Two Feathers Ranch were granted a kill permit to take up to five wolves after the horse's death. Ranch manager Jeff Rennaker said the wolf was captured about 300 yards from his home and within 100 yards from where the horse died. A government trapper set traps for the wolves shortly after the horse's death. Rennaker said the wolves have come very close to being captured over the past two weeks. One stepped on the jaws of the trap, but managed not to hit the pan that springs the trap. Sunday night, one laid down on the jaws of the trap, but the trap didn't snap shut. Rennaker said a trail camera captured images of the wolves next to the traps Sunday night. Officials suspect the Trapper Creek pack is responsible for preying on the horse's carcass. Rennaker said no one is sure just how many wolves are left in that pack. "We know there is one less," he said...more

Bachmann: Hit EPA regulations with ‘mother of all repeal bills’

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the newly minted White House contender, used Monday night’s GOP debate to call for clipping the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) wings. Bachmann called for limiting government’s scope by passing the “mother of all repeal bills” to target “job-killing regulations.” “And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America,” she said, according to a CNN transcript of the debate. House Republicans — led by those at the top of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee — are pushing plans to nix or soften several EPA rules that they call overreaching, as well as to cut funding. But the plans don’t include elimination of the agency outright...more

The Problem with Ethanol is the Mandate

After a decade of experimenting with mandates, tax credits and tariffs, a national consensus has been reached that ethanol is just not worth it. Late to arrive at this conclusion are farmers, their Congressional representatives, and presidential candidates eager to win over primary voters—a coalition that has made it nearly impossible to begin unwinding the various policies designed to prop-up ethanol. The driving force behind U.S. ethanol consumption is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), otherwise known as the ethanol mandate, which was established with the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.The RFS mandated that a minimum of 4 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used in 2006 and that Americans consume at least 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. Two years later, in the midst of the 2008 campaign cycle, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 greatly expanding the RFS mandate. Americans now must consume 36 billion gallons of “renewable fuels” annually by 2022—15 billion gallons of which will be corn ethanol. This is bad for American consumers. Implicit in the ethanol mandate is the reality that without such a policy, Americans would not use nearly as much ethanol—and for good reason. During most of the past 30 years, ethanol has been more expensive than regular gasoline. Furthermore, ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline. This means that if you put one gallon of gasoline in your car and one gallon of ethanol in your friend’s identical model, you’ll go 15 percent farther than your friend. Responding to an increase in the RFS mandate, some automakers are even installing larger gas tanks in vehicles...more

Did illegal immigrants start our county's fires?

As of Tuesday, the five-week-old Horseshoe Two fire has burned 171,333 acres; 23 structures have been destroyed and the fire is burning within the Chiricahua National Monument, where structure protection is also taking place. So far, the cost of the fire has reached $38,433,369. The new Coronado Memorial Fire in the Huachucas, has quickly burned more than 3,000 acres since Sunday, and caused evacuation of several areas including Coronado Memorial Road and Ash Canyon south of Highway 92. Did a band of illegal immigrants start the Horseshoe Two fire in the Chiricahua Mountains and the Coronado Memorial Fire in the Huachucas? Ranchers in the Portal area believe it so, including Toni Arena, who operates a ranch with her husband. In an Bisbee Daily Review interview Monday, Arena said that on May 7, the day before the fire that has now claimed nearly 150,000 acres of public and private land was started by illegal immigrants who had been chased into the canyon by Border Patrol agents. "I find it highly likely that the illegals started this fire, just as they started the one in the same location last year," said Arena. "Someone needs to say it instead of this beating around the bush. And the new fire in the Coronado Monument in the Huachucas, with the public banned from the parks, who else but the illegals would be building camp fires?"...more

U.S. agents slam gun sting effort on Mexico border

U.S. firearms agents told lawmakers on Wednesday they were instructed to only watch as hundreds of guns were bought, illegally resold and sent to Mexico where drug-related violence has raged for years. Agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona told the House of Representatives Oversight Committee they were told not to arrest the so-called straw buyers and instead see where the guns went. Republicans and Democrats on the panel expressed outrage about the ATF program -- "Operation Fast and Furious" -- and demanded answers from the Obama administration about why arrests were secondary to tracking the firearms. "We monitored as they purchased handguns, AK-47 variants and .50 caliber rifles, almost daily at times," John Dodson, an ATF special agent in Phoenix, told the committee. "Rather than conduct any enforcement actions, we took notes, we recorded observations, we tracked movements of these individuals, we wrote reports but nothing more." Dodson said agents were never given reasonable answers why their activities were limited. An ATF supervisor in Phoenix, Peter Forcelli, said some tried to raise concerns with supervisors but were rebuffed. "My concerns were dismissed," he told the committee. "I believe that these firearms will continue to turn up at crime scenes, on both sides of the border, for years to come."...more

UN: Putting nature back into agriculture

FAO today announced the launch of a major new initiative intended to produce more food for a growing world population in an environmentally sustainable way. FAO's call for sustainable crop production intensification, more than half a century after the Green Revolution of the 1960s, is contained in a new book, Save and Grow published by FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division.  The new approach calls for targeting mainly smallholder farmers in developing countries. Helping low-income farm families in developing countries – some 2.5 billion people – economize on cost of production and build healthy agro-ecosystems will enable them to maximize yields and invest the savings in their health and education. Green Revolution technology saved an estimated one billion people from famine and produced more than enough food for a world population that doubled from three to six billion between 1960 and 2000. However, the present paradigm of intensive crop production cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium. In order to grow, agriculture must learn to save...more

From White House to heartland, a call to give up subsidies

Dramatically cutting or eliminating direct crop subsidies, which totaled about $5 billion last year, has emerged as one of the few areas of agreement in the budget talks underway between the White House and congressional leaders of both parties. In their recent budget proposals, House Republicans and House Democrats targeted farm subsidies, a program long protected by members of both parties. The GOP plan includes a $30 billion cut to direct payments over 10 years, which would slash them by more than half. Those terms are being considered in the debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions. “There’s no sacred cows anymore,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), a farmer who represents one of the nation’s biggest farming states, said in April in a conference call with Iowa reporters. “The bottom line is, ag should be cut like everything else, but no more than anything else. I think direct payments will be done away with.” President Obama has also taken aim at farm subsidies, with a plan to scale back payments to farmers with incomes of more than $250,000 a year. These talks come as Congress separately begins crafting a new farm bill, which is passed about every five years and sets the terms of the government’s agricultural programs...more

Song Of The Day #599

Our tune today on Ranch Radio is Merle Haggard's 1966 recording of Shade Tree Fix-It Man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Better hide that pickup truck

Starting this month, the city of Coral Gables will issue warning notices to owners of pickup trucks who do not park their trucks inside their garages at night. Since the 1960s, the city has banned people from parking their pickup trucks in their driveways or on city streets from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. After Aug. 8, Coral Gables will start issuing tickets to people who violate the parking ban...more

A city spokewoman says:

"Historically, Coral Gables has gone through great lengths to preserve its character through the enforcement of its zoning code, a reason why in a downward economy, property values in Coral Gables have fared better than in other neighboring communities."

And just what "character" is that and how do pickup trucks detract from it?

I'm also curious why pickup trucks destroy character during the night but not during the day.

It must be because the Coral Gables' ladies of the night and their pimps find them offensive.

One must wonder why these picky prostitutes have such support among the City fathers.

I guess their governing philosophy is you can Pay To Play In A Prius but Pickups In A Pickup Are Prohibited.

Republicans, Lujan, Heinrich and T. Boone Pickens

So far, 84 Republicans have joined with Obama, Pelosi & Al Gore in supporting H.R. 1380 a.k.a the T. Boone Pickens Natural Gas Bill. This Washington Times editorial nicely summarizes the core of the bill:
The Pickens plan is no longer just about windmills. It aims to create an artificial market for natural gas through billions of dollars worth of subsidies and tax credits for the conversion of an as-yet unknown number of vehicles and filling stations to natural gas. The plan will provide a $100,000 tax credit for every filling station that converts to natural gas, $64,000 in subsidies for trucks and up to an $11,500 subsidy for every natural gas car.

"Artificial markets" and "subsidies" are hardly a free market approach to energy policy. Worse, these R's seem to have reverted to their old tricks:

...the bill is a perfect example of crony capitalism, and the GOP takes a great risk with tea party members if they go through with it. T. Boone Pickens has spent millions courting lawmakers for this legislation. He also just happens to be the largest shareholder in Clean Energy Fuels, which owns 200 natural gas stations across the country. Clean Energy Fuels owns BAF Technologies, which is one of the largest companies that converts vehicles to run on natural gas, and Mr. Pickens also owns the mineral rights to almost 200,000 acres believed to have significant natural gas reserves. He’s lined it all up for personal profit, and now just needs the bill to pass and be signed into law. In supporting the Pickens bill, Republicans are playing the same Washington game they ran against in 2010. This bill, if enacted, would make Mr. Pickens a fortune, give the president a victory, insert government further into the marketplace and hand the taxpayers a huge bill.

NM Dem. Reps Heinrich & Lujan are cosponsors of the bill, and it seems to be right down their big gov't alley, although one must question what ties they have to Pickens and why they would support a bill which so blatantly enriches the West Texan.

NM Rep. Pearce is not listed as a cosponsor.

How Long Will Salazar Stay at Interior?

Salazar has given up the fight on this issue, and who can blame him? Five months ago, he could talk about protecting wilderness. Now any policy that even hints at hindering oil or gas drilling, as the wild lands policy did, gets shouted down as un-American. Yesterday, The Denver Post ran a story suggesting that Salazar was tired of taking a beating at Interior. The paper asked him if he’d continue on for a second Obama term, and he replied that he wasn’t “going to look that far into the future.” The paper spun that as “he’s not sure of a second term,” which wasn’t exactly what he said. But a stronger statement would have shown a little more enthusiasm for keeping his current job...more

Salazar ‘still standing tall:’ Interior chief says he’s proud of his record

Buffeted by fallout from the BP oil spill and outcry from fellow Westerners over drilling reforms, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he feels he’s “still standing tall here” in his job and is moving forward with the administration’s agenda on energy and conservation. Salazar said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that he intends to stay in office until the end of President Barack Obama’s term. If Obama is re-elected next year and wants him to stay, Salazar said he will decide then about continuing. “Almost everything that we do at Interior touches all of America,” the former Democratic senator from Colorado said. “These are tough issues and it’s tough to serve.” After nearly three years on the job, Salazar said he is proud of the administration’s work promoting renewable energy and conservation and reforming oil and gas drilling. Wearing his signature cowboy hat and bolo tie, Salazar declared in a news conference early in his tenure that there was “a new sheriff in town” and that he was determined to clean up an agency plagued by scandals and assailed by critics as under the sway of the oil and gas industry...more

Utah's GOP delegation fires back over public land access

Utah's GOP congressional delegation hopes to protect the state from future national monument designations by presidential executive order, asserting the Beehive State has been "honored enough" with such declarations. The Utah Lands Sovereignty Act prohibits the creation of any new national monuments within Utah except as authorized by Congress, essentially exempting Utah — like Wyoming — from The Antiquities Act.  "While I am not necessarily opposed to national monuments, I do not support efforts to create new designations, locking up thousands of acres of land, without the support of our local communities, residents and stakeholders," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the act's sponsor and the current chairman of the House Natural Resources National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee. It was the Antiquities Act that gave President Bill Clinton the ability to create of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, which set aside nearly 2 million acres in southern Utah as protected wilderness. That surprise declaration still stings and is a fulcrum of resentment for many state elected leaders and county commissioners in Utah, who say they were given no voice in a "sweeping" declaration that stripped away livelihoods and local land use decisions. "I am sure they (the GOP delegation) are just not trusting enough in light of what Clinton did on the Grand Staircase and the shenanigans" of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar with Secretarial Order No. 3310, said San Juan County Commission Chairman Bruce Adams...more

Time to hold EPA accountable

Over the past two and a half years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has grown increasingly intrusive when it comes to regulating agriculture and businesses. Making EPA's regulations all the more frustrating is its recent barnstorming charm offensive throughout the Midwest. EPA officials have been touring rural America, maybe even stopping in a town near you, in an effort to convince farmers and ranchers that the agency's aggressive regulations won't negatively impact producers. They are telling you the Obama Administration is not "doing anything new" when it comes to new rules, especially agricultural regulations. It's baffling and disingenuous that they'd tell this to farmers and ranchers while simultaneously telling Congress they won't blink an eye if their regulations put farmers or other job creators out of business. The double talk at EPA goes all the way to the top. Administrator Lisa Jackson recently stated that EPA plans to meet farmers and ranchers and take their thoughts into account before enacting new proposals. Yet in a letter to 33 concerned U.S. Senators, Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote that when EPA drafts proposals regarding air quality standards, it is "not focused on any specific category of sources or any activity, including activities relating to agriculture or rural roads." She left no room for confusion by adding, "the agency is prohibited from considering costs." In other words, the costs to American agriculture and businesses have no bearing on EPA's pursuit of its regulatory regime, and despite their best public relations campaign, agriculture will not be exempted...more

NM Has Wasted Money On Wolves Long Enough

For 13 years now, the state of New Mexico has been an active and willing participant with the federal government in the effort to reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf to the region. At best, the program has been a distraction from sound land management. At worst, it has been a financial boondoggle, a safety issue and a travesty as a portion of hunters’ fees have gone to fund a program intended to further reduce game opportunities by nurturing populations of this predator. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife New Mexico joined with concerned cattle growers, outfitters and parents to encourage the state Game Commission to finally withdraw from the wolf reintroduction program. We were particularly gratified that the commission’s vote was a unanimous 6-0. But we wish we had not been alone among outdoor enthusiast organizations in vocalizing opposition to further state participation in this federal folly. When a hunter or fisherman buys a license and pays for a permit from Game and Fish, his or her hard-earned dollars are supposed to be going to wise habitat management and restoration. There is, after all, great potential for more game permits to New Mexicans each year if we took a more comprehensive and game-oriented approach to spending those dollars. Instead, we have seen in recent years hundreds of thousands of our dollars going to the state’s optional participation in this ill-conceived and badly managed wolf reintroduction program. It is also the hope of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife New Mexico that this decision will send a message to the federal government that it is time to put an end to this program and to start spending taxpayer dollars on better land and habitat management instead of its fairy tale dance with wolf advocates...more

Feds ditch rule that foiled Indian tribes’ plans for off-reservation casino

The Obama administration announced Tuesday it has rescinded a rule that blocked Indian tribes from building casinos far from their reservations, reviving hopes among local officials for casino gambling in the Catskills. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced the policy change to tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians in Milwaukee. The change overturns the so-called commutability rule, created in 2008 by then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. According to the rule, a casino beyond reasonable commuting distance from a tribe’s reservation was damaging to life on the reservation because its residents would move to follow the new jobs. “The 2008 guidance memorandum was unnecessary and was issued without the benefit of tribal consultation,” Echo Hawk said. “We will proceed to process off-reservation gaming applications in a transparent manner, consistent with existing law.” Under existing federal regulations, tribes must satisfy several requirements to operate an off-reservation gambling facility, including having land acquired in trust by the Department of the Interior for the benefit of the tribe; having agreement from the state’s governor; allowing public comment; and entering a tribal-state gaming compact...more

Bypass proposal sparks grazing issue

Mendocino County landowners have learned through meetings with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has eliminated grazing on most of the land managed for wetland mitigation as part of a Highway 101 bypass project around the town of Willits. This comes as a surprise to Mendocino County ranchers John and Charline Ford of Willits, who say the sale of their land to Caltrans included the assurance that they would be able to lease back the land for grazing. "This project was presented to us by Caltrans as including grazing. What upsets me about this is that it is not the same as what they presented to us last year," Ford said. Ford indicated that they probably would not have sold their property if they knew there would be no grazing. While the California Water Board and the California Department of Fish and Game were in favor of grazing the land last spring, Dave Kelley, Willits Bypass project manager for Caltrans, said by November he learned that the Army Corps would not issue Caltrans a (Clean Water Act) Section 404 permit for the construction of the bypass until the mitigation plan eliminated grazing on the majority of the mitigation property...more

This is the kind of thing that never shows up in an ESA cost study. $16 million and still counting, but it's from the state budget, not the federal.

Here you have a state agency who doesn't comply with a federal rule and who pays the cost? The private citizen.

This also demonstrates what the CWA can do to grazing.

Ranchers sue Wilder Ranch over loose bison

Three Sioux County ranchers are suing the multimillionaire owner of a bison ranch that straddles North Dakota and South Dakota for damages incurred over years of bison getting out and trespassing on their lands. Bachmeier Farms, Nick Vollmuth and Gary Sandland filed separate lawsuits against Maurice Wilder and Wilder Corp. on Thursday. Mandan attorney Ben Pulkrabek is representing the three ranchers. Wilder is a Florida multimillionaire who owns Wilder Ranch, which stretches across 22,000 acres between Selfridge and McLaughlin, S.D. Problems with the ranch's bison running on land belonging to the Bachmeiers, Vollmuth, Sandland and others have been ongoing for several years. Thousands of bison were rounded up in February in South Dakota after authorities received reports of starving animals on the ranch. A smaller number of animals were reportedly running loose on the North Dakota side of the ranch around the same time. Hundreds of animals were sold at auction in Mobridge, S.D., in March. Wilder paid $57,000 to South Dakota for feed, equipment rental and sheriff's expenses after the impoundment ended. In April, Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis authorized a group of ranchers to roundup some of the Wilder Ranch bison that had been running loose on Selfridge-area ranches since November. The animals were taken to corrals at Bachmeier Farms, which is owned by Gerald and Leo Bachmeier. Sioux County State's Attorney John Gosbee said the bison remain at Bachmeier Farms, where they are being fed and cared for. Landeis demanded $45,900 for damages the bison caused to the property of Bachmeier, Vollmuth and Sandland and costs incurred during roundup...more

Drug tests shine light on tainted meat in Mexico

Positive drug tests for five standout members of Mexico's national soccer team have forced Mexican officials to acknowledge a problem that goes far beyond sports: Much of Mexico's beef is so tainted with the steroid clenbuterol that it sickens hundreds of people each year. Use of the steroid is illegal. But it has found a niche among ranchers, who marvel at the way it helps cattle build muscle mass before they are sent to the slaughterhouse. The beef is pink and largely free of layers of fat, winning over unwitting consumers. Ranchers call the powdery substance "miracle salts." A few call it "cattle cocaine." Whatever name is used, the substance has unpleasant side effects for human beings. Last year, 297 people felt sick enough after eating tainted meat to visit hospital emergency rooms. Many more just endured the symptoms. Those sickened by tainted meat are usually those who buy organ meat, mainly liver, at markets and cook it at home, said Joel Manrique Moreno, the director of sanitary risk protection for Guanajuato state. The use of clenbuterol and the subject of steroid-tainted meat surged into headlines in Mexico last week when Mexico's Soccer Federation announced the positive tests for the five players. Team leaders asserted the result was due to eating tainted meat, and many agreed, including Mexican President Felipe Calderón, who acknowledged that contamination is a problem in the meat industry...more

New federal rule: Get a CDL to drive your tractor

The Department of Transportation is asking farmers and ranchers to respond to three proposals that could have a serious impact on their ability to run their farms and ranches. The issues deal with whether agriculture is inter- or intrastate commerce and whether drivers of farm equipment should be required to have commercial driver’s licenses. JONES: Currently during planting and harvesting times you can run your vehicles long enough for you to get your crops in or out of the field. If they made the determination that a farmer or rancher needed a commercial driver’s license for a tractor or other implement. They have to go through training. There is kind of an apprentice period almost with issuing commercial driver’s licenses and there is the added fees that go along with that. So all across the nation you’re looking at restrictions in terms of when you can get things in and out of the field and you’re looking at more expenses in terms of being able to operate your farm vehicles. American Farm Bureau Transportation Specialist Elizabeth Jones says as the Department of Transportation tries to learn more about how new rules would affect U.S. agriculture, farmers and ranchers need to explain how they would affect farm labor. JONES: Farmers would have to lay out the money for the commercial driver’s license and if you have employees for whom English may not be their first language, that could be problematic. Also because other industries need CDLs you could have a situation where farmers and ranchers pay to help their employees get those licenses but then at the end of the day the employee takes it elsewhere. You have that added problem of young people not being able to participate in their family farm because they won’t be able to drive a tractor because they don’t have a commercial driver’s license because they aren’t 18 yet. JONES: Farmers would have to lay out the money for the commercial driver’s license and if you have employees for whom English may not be their first language, that could be problematic. Also because other industries need CDLs you could have a situation where farmers and ranchers pay to help their employees get those licenses but then at the end of the day the employee takes it elsewhere. You have that added problem of young people not being able to participate in their family farm because they won’t be able to drive a tractor because they don’t have a commercial driver’s license because they aren’t 18 yet.

Song Of The Day #598

Ranch Radio's tune today is Straight A's In Love by Johnny Cash. The tune was recorded on December 13, 1956 in Memphis. He's backed up by the Tennessee Two, Perkins and Grant on the guitar and bass, and that's Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jobs & The Economy - Lizard Vote Today

For immediate release. June 14, 2011
Commentary by Marita Noon
Executive Director, Energy Makes America Great Inc.
PO Box 52103, Albuquerque, NM 87181
Contact: 505.239.8998,

Put jobs and the economy first

Marita Noon

    Last week’s New York Times announcement: “Sen. Cornyn’s Amendment Would Pre-empt Listing of Southwestern Lizard,” has received little attention as the media has been more focused on Congressman Weiner—but this is big news, too. For those in Southeast New Mexico and West Texas who’ve been working to draw attention to a little lizard with the potential to kill jobs and hurt the region’s economy, Senator Cornyn’s (TX) actions represent a giant step toward rational thinking.
    For the past few months, since around Christmas time last year the Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposed listing of the sand dune lizard as an endangered species, Permian Basin residents have been up in arms about the potential economic damage the listing could have on the area’s two major sources of jobs and revenue: ranching and oil and gas development. The feared impact would be especially hard hitting in the current fiscal crisis and could increase the price of gas as the Permian Basin accounts for about 20 percent of our domestic production.
    In late April, citizen rallies were held in conjunction with Fish and Wildlife Service hearings in Roswell, New Mexico and Midland, Texas. Spearheaded by Congressmen Pearce (NM) and Conaway (TX), hundreds of people showed up in each city to express opposition to the lizard being listed as an endangered species. Fox News and ABC did several stories spotlighting the rallies and hearings. Texas Governor Rick Perry talked about the lizard listing on Sean Hannity’s radio program.
    The unprecedented attention the little lizard is receiving is representative of both the economic uncertainty and historic fact. Previously, critters such as the spotted owl or the delta smelt have been listed as an endangered species with no fanfare. Pushed by environmental groups, studies were done and decisions were made declaring them as “endangered,” which creates regulations limiting activity that might hurt the habitat. As a result of the spotted owl’s endangered status, the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest is all but gone. Central California’s delta smelt gained recognition in 2010 when it was used as a bargaining chip in the healthcare debate. Meanwhile, water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley—who produce 50 percent of America’s fruits and vegetables—was severely restricted. Fertile farmlands became dustbowls and thousands of jobs were lost as a result of the delta smelt’s endangered status. The handwriting is on the wall for those whose jobs depend on economic health in the Permian Basin.
    The grassroots response has created a political environment that made Senator Cornyn’s actions possible.
    The New York Times states, “Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn has filed an amendment to stop the Fish and Wildlife Service from offering Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection to a 3-inch lizard, saying the agency’s action would cripple the oil and gas industry in West Texas.” The amendment to the Economic Development Administration Authorization Bill (S782) specifically exempts the sand dune lizard from the Endangered Species Act. While Senator Cornyn’s comments about the potential impact of the lizard listing only address Texas, the same could be said for New Mexico. It is doubtful that Cornyn would have taken such a stand two years ago, but now the public has become aware of the danger these ESA listings pose to jobs and the economy. They have fought hard and have garnered the attention of the senator.
    Environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians, are behind many of the ESA listings. According to research conducted by the Budd-Falen law firm of Cheyenne, WY , from 2000 to 2009, just nine environmental groups, including WildEarth Guardians, filed 3,313 cases against the federal government for “enforcement” of environmental statutes.  
    About the lizard, Center for Biological Diversity ecologist Jay Lininger says: “Oil and gas activity and their associated roads and infrastructure—as well as ranching activities—that convert habitat to grasslands, destroy places where the animal can live, and it really has nowhere else to go.” Yet, he also claims that the lizard listing will not “affect the oil and gas economy whatsoever.” John Horning, from WildEarth Guardians states: “The lizards don’t have a problem with pumpjacks.” So, oil and gas—plus ranching—is the problem, yet, it isn’t?
    Senator Cornyn’s amendment brings the job-killing economic impact of endangered species listings to the forefront. The Senate is expected to vote on the amendment this week. An attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity thinks: “It is highly unlikely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow a vote on the amendment.” Public pressure prompted Cornyn’s amendment in the first place. We the people can encourage our senators to support the Cornyn Amendment (397) “to prohibit inclusion of the sand dune lizard on the list of threatened species or the endangered species published under the endangered species act of 1973.” It is time to put the needs of America’s citizens—jobs and the economy—first.

Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

Wildfire closes U.S. Hwy 62/180 near Carlsbad Caverns, grows to 15,000 acres

The wildfire that started Monday in Carlsbad Caverns National Park has continued to spread and remains totally uncontained, fire officials say. The fire area is now near 15,000 acres, and the smoke plume extendes across half the horizon from southwest to northeast. The spreading fire caused the N.M. Department of Transportation to close U.S. Highway 62/180 from White's City to Dark Canyon. Later this morning, the closure was extended from Dark Canyon to the Texas state line, according to information from the Park Service. link

Crews work to contain fires on opposite ends of state

Flames raced across rugged terrain on opposite ends of New Mexico on Tuesday as firefighters tried to protect clusters of homes along the Colorado border and the headquarters of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Crews were also working in western New Mexico to stop the spread of a wildfire that had marched across the state line days ago from the White Mountains of Arizona. Nearly every corner of the state is suffering from severe to extreme drought conditions and the lack of rain and persistent winds have resulted in conditions that are ripe for fast moving fires, fire officials and weather forecasters said. The wildfire raging near Raton charred more than 24,000 acres by early Tuesday and continued to keep hundreds of residents from their homes in the hills on the outskirts of town. Interstate 25 between Raton and Trinidad, Colo., remained closed, resulting in traffic backups as travelers were rerouted hours out of their way. Officials said flames on both sides of the highway near Raton Pass were too hot to allow traffic to pass through...more

Federal legislation pits environment vs. security

Federal authorities can't secure sections of the U.S. border because of environmental laws that block access to public lands and slow efforts to stop drug smugglers and illegal immigrants, say backers of legislation that would waive those laws along the border. But conservation groups say the congressional bills, two in the U.S. House and one in the Senate, create solutions for non-existent problems and are largely driven by opportunistic, anti-environmental lawmakers who want to weaken laws they always have opposed. The proposals thrust together two of the West's most volatile issues, border security and environmental regulation, and pit activists on both sides in a fight that likely will spill over into the 2012 elections. The dispute is centered on thousands of acres of public lands along the border, most of them under the jurisdiction of federal agencies that enforce an array of restrictive environmental regulations. Supporters of the bills say the rules impede quick action on the border and give land-management agencies more authority over national-security decisions than the security agencies. "The different trails that drug smugglers and human smugglers use change depending on where Border Patrol agents are stationed," said Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz., author of one of the three bills. "Our agents need to have the ability to move quickly. But sometimes it's taking as much as four months to get them through all the hoops." Quayle's bill would give the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ready access to federal lands for security activities, including motorized patrols and the deployment of temporary tactical infrastructure, such as surveillance equipment. The agencies would be directed to protect natural and cultural resources as much as possible, but they would not be forced to comply with land-management rules. The unrestricted access would extend 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexican border, a distance that would stretch north of Phoenix. Republican Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl included a similar provision in a broader border-security bill, waiving environmental laws within the same 150-mile band along the southwestern border...more

McCain and Kyl are looking at 150 miles, while Bingaman is going all out to protect our border by granting a band of...5 miles. The rest of the quarter of a million acres of wilderness in his bill is off limits to law enforcement.

Gunmen Kill 5 Members of Family in Northern Mexico

Five members of a family, including a teenager and two small children, were gunned down in a town in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, state prosecutors said. The victims – two women, a 15-year-old boy, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, were shot dead inside their house in El Terrero, a community outside the city of Guadalupe y Calvo, the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said. Guadalupe y Calvo is located south of Chihuahua city, the state capital. The gunmen were looking for a specific person and opened fire on the women and children when they failed to find the target, the AG’s office said. The gunmen picked up all of their shell casings to make it more difficult for investigators to gather evidence, the AG’s office said. Chihuahua is Mexico’s most violent state and home to Ciudad Juarez, a gritty border metropolis located across the border from El Paso, Texas, where more than 900 people have died in drug-related violence this year...more

A look at illegal entry and drug smuggling on the border

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Barack Obama would like us to believe the border is more secure than ever. Except not only do border area ranchers and residents know this is not true, interestingly hunters have been photo-documenting what is going on in our borderlands. As you can see we have both migrants and drug smugglers running around the borderlands south and west of Tucson. And people carrying assualt rifles...

Hugh Holub has the photos here.

Cartel Threats, Attacks on US Law Enforcement and the Question of ‘Spill Over’ Violence

The attack on ICE agents Zapata and Avila - in which Zapata was killed - on February 16, and the apparent attempted attack on a DEA agent in Cuidad Juarez a week later, provoked an unprecedented influx of federal agents into Mexico to assist their Mexican counterparts to investigate these assaults. As more robust and effective US counter-drug and counter-cartel operations by Border Patrol, CBP, ICE, DEA, federal-led task forces, the National Guard and state and local police have increased, there’s been a parallel escalation of assaults and murders of US officials – and Americans - in Mexico. The high-profile assault on Zapata and Avila is widely believed by both US and Mexican authorities to have been the work of the notorious Los Zetas Cartel. It was an attack some authorities believe signaled a possible watershed change in anti-US aggression south of the border. Possibly. The attackers’ modus operandi (MO) in the attack on the two ICE agents was repeated a week later in an apparently failed attack on a DEA agent. But more alarming than that, the same MO was employed north of the border in an attack on the streets of Peoria, Ariz. on the afternoon of April 8 against a state undercover police officer...more