Friday, July 15, 2011

Schumer calls for horse "no ride" list in wake of terror plot

Sen. Charles Schumer called today for the creation of a "No Ride List" for American horses to prevent suspected terrorists from targeting the US equine system. The move follows reports from intelligence gathered at Osama bin Laden's compound that showed the Arabian Horse Association was considering attacks on US horses. In a press conference at his New York City office, Schumer said he will begin pushing congressional appropriators to increase funding for rectal inspections of commuter and passenger horse systems, as well as heightened monitoring and support for security at local horse stables throughout the country. The Democratic senator said he also asked the Department of Homeland Security to expand its Secure Flight program to stables, which would essentially create a "No Ride List" to prevent suspected terrorists from mounting horses. Intelligence analysts who examined the documents seized from bin Laden's compound in Pakistan concluded that al Qaeda was considering attacks on high-profile dates, including the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the conclusion of the State of the Union address and high traffic holidays such as Christmas and New Year's Day, Schumer said. "We must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves from future terror attacks, and when intelligence emerges that provides insight into potential vulnerabilities, we must act with speed," Schumer said. Under the current program for airlines, travelers' names and other identifying information are cross-checked with the terror watch list to select passengers for enhanced screening and prevent possible terrorists from boarding planes. Schumer wants that program to be applied to stables when passengers purchase their passage before mounting the horse. Schumer noted that the nation's horse system transported 90,000 passengers in 2010 and carries 90,000 passengers every day on 90,000 different horses. Not all horseback riders were enamored of the plan. "Sounds like a big load of horseshit to me," said noted equestrian 'Cap'n' Ignatius R. Transit. "Like something you'd read in the Post."

Great satire from Cap'n Transit

Al Gore’s Reality Show

Al Gore, the former vice president, Nobel Prize winner and climate campaigner-in-chief, is opening a new global climate change activism program called the Climate Reality Project. The group’s first program will be a live-streamed event called 24 Hours of Reality and held on Sept. 14-15. According to a press release from the organization, “people all around the globe living with the impacts of climate change will connect the dots between recent extreme weather events — including floods, droughts and storms — and the man-made pollution that is changing our climate.” The video feed will feature scientists, celebrities, executives and citizens from places like Tonga, Mexico City and Alaska, along with Mr. Gore. It will be broadcast over 24 hours in 24 time zones and in multiple languages, the group said. The idea is to educate the public about the impacts of global warming and to counter what Mr. Gore considers the well-financed disinformation and denial campaign run by the fossil fuel industries...more

The Green Economy Withers

Even after fudging numbers and ignoring the huge subsidies, a liberal think tank reports that growth in the alternative-energy sector lags the rest of the economy. Green jobs were supposed to be our salvation, both for the earth and for the economy, according to the Obama administration. White House policy based on this flawed premise led to offshore and onshore drilling bans and the locking-up of energy-rich lands while huge alternative energy subsidies (aka "investments") found their way into the stimulus and other legislation. As happens when government tries to pick winners and losers, the government lost — no, we all lost. As has happened in countries such as Spain, this misallocation of resources has succeeded only in stalling our economy as unemployment and debt grow. In Spain's case, it was found that for every "green" job created, 2.2 jobs were lost in the rest of the economy. Along comes the Brookings Institution with a report touting the fact that nearly 2.7 million people brought home paychecks in 2010 working in the "clean economy." That's a 3.4% increase in "green jobs" since 2003, and it sounds terrific until you realize the economy as a whole grew at a 4.2% rate over the same period. As the folks at duly note, Brookings got to its conclusions by including, for example, all mass transit workers regardless of the actual energy source. They also lump in people such as organic farmers and nuclear energy workers, though the greenies have never touted nuclear energy as "clean" or nuclear jobs as "green." Discounted is the role of government mandates and subsidies, without which the alternative energy sector would wither and die. A good many of these "green jobs" exist in the public sector of federal, state and local governments. And they come at huge expense. A 2008 report by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported that in 2007, while the average subsidy per megawatt hour for all energy sources was $1.65, the subsidy for wind and solar was about $24 per megawatt hour. On the nonelectricity generating side, ethanol received a subsidy of $5.72 per million British thermal unit...more

Republicans cite jobs in attacking federal environmental regulations

Republicans in the House of Representatives are waging an all-out war to block federal regulations that protect the environment. They loaded up a pending 2012 spending bill with terms that would eliminate a broad array of environmental protections, everything from stopping new plants and animals from being placed on the endangered species list to ending federal limits on water pollution in Florida. The terms also include a rollback of pollution regulations for mountaintop mining and a red light on federal plans to prevent new uranium mining claims near the Grand Canyon. Another Republican-sponsored bill that's before Congress would weaken the nation's 1972 Clean Water Act, taking away the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to step in when it finds state water-pollution rules too loose. The sweeping anti-environmental regulation agenda has support among Senate Republicans and the GOP's presidential hopefuls. Its backers say it's necessary for the sake of jobs and economic growth. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has said the EPA is "riding roughshod" over business. He told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that it's time to rein in her agency...more

House votes to block EPA on water pollution

The House on Wednesday approved legislation to smack down the Obama administration’s water pollution policies, despite a looming veto threat from the White House. The chamber voted 239-184 to adopt a bipartisan bill that seeks to limit EPA’s authority over state water quality decisions after recent agency actions have irked lawmakers, particularly in coal states and in Florida. Backers of the bill sent a loud message that they’re not pleased with recent EPA water policies, including a January veto of a West Virginia mining permit and new nutrient pollution standards in Florida. “The action that we’ve seen from EPA has unleashed an unprecedented backlash,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) “Everyone has called this a huge power grab by EPA and EPA has indeed created a regulatory nightmare that affects almost every state in the union.” The bill is one of several recent House efforts to limit the Obama administration’s water pollution policies, including a series of riders attached to the fiscal 2012 Interior-EPA spending bill. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking member on the transportation panel and co-author of the bill, accused EPA of “strong-arming the states” on water permits and of creating an “atmosphere of worry, of distrust and of bitterness.”...more

Copper mine plan for Superior advances in U.S. House

A bill to clear the way for development of North America's largest copper mine, near Superior, was approved Wednesday by a deeply divided House Natural Resources Committee. The party-line vote by the committee was 26-19, with Republicans supporting the federal land swap needed to facilitate the Resolution Copper Mining project and Democrats opposing it. The next step is a vote by the full House, possibly before the August legislative recess begins Aug. 6. The Republican-led chamber is expected to pass the bill, which supporters say could bring nearly 4,000 jobs to Arizona. Its fate in the Senate is far less certain...more

Time to stop talking, rancher says of forests

Andy Groseta said ranchers and others have spent years talking and negotiating with environmental groups about how best to manage the forests and grasslands. But Groseta, a Cottonwood rancher and the incoming president of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, said he believes the time for all that is done. "They have had the past 10 years to collaborate," he said. "It's time for the cows and the chainsaws." Groseta was a key witness earlier this month at a hearing on forest health at the state Capitol. But in a separate interview he explained that his hard-line stance is a direct result of the devastating wildfires. "We're in a situation today because some of the actions of these organizations over the years have gotten us to this point," he said. "Are we going to sit and watch one of our most valued features of the state continue to explode, or are we going to do something about it?" Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said it's wrong to conclude that talks and negotiations lead nowhere...more

Feds to refine plan on solar development zones

Federal officials are refining their plan for speeding up solar energy development in zones of public lands in six Western states, after receiving about 80,000 comments on the plan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday. In December, the Interior Department released a draft identifying 24 solar development zones in California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona with the highest potential for large-scale solar development and the fewest environmental conflicts. The Bureau of Land Management’s deputy director of operations, Mike Pool, said Thursday that he anticipates eliminating and reducing some zones but that he couldn’t give specifics yet. The thousands of comments and concerns on the proposal demonstrate high interest in what the Interior and Energy departments are doing on renewable energy, Salazar said. A supplement to the December draft, to be released this fall, would improve information on biological and cultural resources within the zones so sensitive areas can be avoided. It also will include a more robust analysis of transmission and address criteria for identifying future solar energy zones, incentives for placing projects within the zones, and handling projects proposed outside the zones, Pool said...more

A Gun Activist Takes Aim at U.S. Regulatory Power

With a homemade .22-caliber rifle he calls the Montana Buckaroo, Gary Marbut dreams of taking down the federal regulatory state. He's not planning to fire his gun. Instead, he wants to sell it, free from federal laws requiring him to record transactions, pay license fees and open his business to government inspectors. Eight states have adopted his Firearms Freedom Act, which Mr. Marbut conceived as a vehicle to undermine federal authority over commerce. Ten state attorneys general, dozens of elected officials and an array of conservative groups are backing the legal challenge he engineered to get his constitutional theory before the Supreme Court. A federal appeals court in San Francisco is now considering his case. Mr. Marbut isn't basing his pro-gun effort on the Second Amendment, the one that talks about a right to bear arms, but on the 10th, which discusses the limits of federal power. "This is really about states' rights and federal power rather than gun control," Mr. Marbut says. There is "an emerging awareness by the people of America that the federal government has gone too far," he maintains, "and it's dependent on a really weird interpretation."...more

Texas Drought Causing Cattle Deaths... From Too Much Water?

It seems like everyone is feeling the heat this summer. Human, canine, feline, or even bovine, we're all at the mercy of high temperatures. In Texas, several cattle are dying due to the drought-like conditions. The hitch is, they're not dying of thirst. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Cattle are dying from too much water. The drought conditions have caused cattle producers to move their herds from pastures where water tanks have dried to new pastures with healthier water supplies. The cattle then gorge themselves on too much water and die within minutes of water intoxication, according to The Associated Press. "They over drink because they're thirsty," said Dr. Robert Sprowls of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Amarillo. "Once they fill up on water it happens pretty quickly." While over-hydrating can be a problem for cattle, they're also suffering from dehydration. Typically, an average cow consumes as much was 8.4 gallons of water per day through grazing but this year daily water consumption is down to about 0.6 gallons, according to The Associated Press...more

Bob Norris of Colorado's T-Cross Ranch is no ordinary cowboy

All over the state of Colorado, on ranches large and small, it is branding season. And that is certainly true on one of the largest and most well known ranches in Colorado, the T-Cross Ranch. To be more correct, that should be ‘Ranches,' as Bob Norris and his son Steve have numerous properties in the Colorado Springs area and near Limon. Bob Norris came to Colorado Springs over 50 years ago, started buying ranch land, and has the oldest registered brand in Colorado. Currently, the T-Cross ranches are a little over 120,000 acres, and the largest land owner in El Paso County. The T-Cross brand is well known as producing some of the best working ranch horses in the country and has been nominated for the prestigious AQHA Best Remuda Award. Bob Norris has served on the board of directors of many of the most well known rodeo and equine organizations in the country. He has a charitable foundation and contributed generously to CSU in the form of a $500,000 donation to help build the Pickett arena...more

Song Of The Day #619

Ranch Radio didn't get much done this week but we'll close out with one of my favorite Bobby Bare tunes: New Cut Road.

"It's that damned old fiddle and that bowler hat."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

THE WESTERNER has been suffering from the NIA syndrome: no internet access.
Problem seems fixed, hope to get back to "normal" tomorrow.

Supreme Court deals major blow to environmentalists

Environmental activists, supported by a cadre of impassioned academic lawyers, have been looking to the common law of nuisance as a way to appeal directly to the courts and circumvent the administrative and legislative processes of government. On June 20th, a unanimous United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to their theory. In American Electric Power v. Connecticut, the Court ruled that the Clean Air Act preempts a claim that carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants constitute a nuisance under federal common law. Although the law professors who came up with the idea that traditional nuisance law can be applied to climate change are doing their best to find silver linings in the Court’s opinion, the decision is a blow to environmentalist efforts to turn courts into environmental regulators. In a nutshell, the plaintiffs’ theory is that carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants are analogous to the smells and sounds emanating from a pig farm in an urban area. There is little doubt that a pig farm in the city is a common law nuisance. The costs to society in the form of unpleasant sights, sounds and smells far outweigh the costs of moving the pig farm to a rural location. But in the case of fossil fuel-fired power plants, relocating does nothing to reduce a plant’s contribution to global atmospheric carbon accumulation. In other words, the only solution to the “nuisance” of carbon emissions is to curtail emissions. Of course that is the point of the climate-change-as-nuisance lawsuits. If a court is willing to conclude that carbon emissions are a nuisance, the only remedy will be for the court to order a reduction or elimination of emissions...more

Low-flying military craft headed for NM & Colorado?

The U.S. Air Force has delayed release of an environmental impact study of its proposal to conduct intensive low-altitude training flights across a wide swath of southern Colorado -- flights as low as 200 feet that had raised concerns among local ranchers and residents seeking the quiet life. Cannon Air Force Base officials say their current training routes over flat terrain were mainly designed for F-16s. The proposed corridors, which stretch from New Mexico to Las Animas and neighboring counties in southern Colorado, present more diverse conditions and wider training opportunities for cargo aircraft such as the C-130 and the helicopter-like CV-22 Osprey, seen in the photo above. But locals have balked at the prospect of up to three flyovers a day without narrowly defined routes. Not 1 More Acre!, among the grassroots groups battling the Army's expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, has described the Low Altitude Training Navigation proposal as"part of a plan to establish the largest Joint Forces Future Combat Systems training site in the world by expanding Air Force Special Operations air space across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado for unmanned aircraft development, low altitude flights and testing of high-tech weaponry."...more

Environmental provisions in Interior money bill

CattleNetwork reports the following on the Interior Appropriations bill:

...Van Liew said Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) included in the legislation a five-year extension of language to allow the renewal of grazing permits under existing terms and conditions as well as language to prohibit the management of bighorn sheep that would have harmful impacts on federal lands grazing of livestock. Also included in the legislation was a provision to limit new listings under ESA and block judicial review or challenge of a decision to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List in Wyoming and the Great Lakes once those states produce authorized management plans. Another measure was included to exempt the trailing of livestock from NEPA requirements. Van Liew hailed the passage of Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ (R-Wyo.) amendment to continue the funding block on DOI’s Secretarial Order 3310 regarding wild lands designations...She said U.S. Representatives Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) offered amendments that would prevent EPA from using any fiscal 2012 funding to advance dust and ammonia regulations under the Clean Air Act. The bill also included language that stops the attempted expanded regulation of waters under the EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act guidance during fiscal year 2012...

Los Alamos considered for historic park

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is recommending that Congress establish a national historical park to commemorate the top-secret World War II Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. Salazar says the development of the atomic bomb in multiple locations across the United States is an important story and one of the most transformative events in the nation's history. The National Park Service conducted a special resource study on several Manhattan Project sites for possible inclusion in the National Park System. The study was released to Congress this week...more

Congress better hurry. Thanks to Salazar, his predecessors and their ilk it may burn to the ground any day now.

Judges Seem Skeptical About Coal Train

A 9th Circuit panel seemed skeptical that the Surface Transportation Board had properly studied the environmental impacts of a railroad project in Montana's Tongue River Valley. The 9th Circuit heard arguments in Portland on Monday on the Surface Transportation Board's denial of a request to stop construction of 130-mile project. The Tongue River III project would help transport coal from Montana to Midwestern power plants. In July 2010, the conservation group Northern Plains Resource Center and rancher Mark Fix petitioned the STB, a federal agency, to stop construction, claiming there had not been sufficient studies on the environmental impacts of coal trains. In his testimony, Fix said the railroad "would turn the Tongue River Valley into an industrial zone." The STB denied the request, saying the Northern Plains Resource Center (NPRC) and Fix did not prove that further environmental studies were necessary. Environmental law professor Jack Tuholske also argued for the petitioners. He said the railroad threatened ranches and farms with condemnation, and that the environmental analysis by the STB was deficient...more

Feds seek damages from ranchers after range fires

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation from two Oregon ranchers it has already charged with criminal arson. The civil complaint claims Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, both of Diamond, Ore., set several blazes on public land that cost the government about $1.3 million in fire suppression and resource damages. The fires burned through more than 60,000 acres in Eastern Oregon during the summers of 2005 and 2006, primarily on property owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the complaint alleges. The BLM claims the Hammonds were negligent in failing to prevent, control or suppress the fires and had trespassed on government land, according to the complaint. The complaint seeks up to three times the cost of fire suppression and other damages caused by the fires, plus interest and penalties. The government also claims the Hammonds violated their 10-year grazing permit with the BLM and has asked a federal judge to permanently bar them from entering or using any public lands. In the criminal indictment against the Hammonds, filed in June, 2010, the Hammonds are accused of setting fires on BLM land stretching back to the early 1980s. In that case, the government contends the Hammonds were frustrated by the length of time it took BLM to complete environmental studies before conducting controlled rangeland burning. According to the indictment, the Hammonds began setting the fires during dry lightning storms to avoid detection...more

Rancher wins legal battle with state

A rancher northeast of Dayton says it will take him awhile to feel like his ranch is his again after winning a lawsuit with the Washington state Department of Ecology. "I'd like to pursue what I started in 1990, to have a nice herd of cattle and enjoy my retirement," said Joe Lemire, 68, while noting he has more issues to raise if Ecology appeals. "I hope they leave us alone," he said. "We're not doing anything wrong, never have." Columbia County Superior Court Judge William D. Acey heard arguments July 7 and found insufficient evidence for Ecology to have issued an order in 2009 claiming Lemire's cattle had "substantial potential to pollute" Pataha Creek and ordering that he fence it off, said Toni Meacham, Lemire's attorney. Ecology officials alleged the creek was polluted above and below Lemire's ranch and that they've found manure next to the creek, uncontrolled cattle access, overgrazing and erosion near the creek, all putting Lemire in violation of state law. Lemire disputed Ecology's allegations, saying he follows best management practices, recognized by state and federal agencies, including keeping water troughs, feeding areas and salt licks away from the creek. He said he's careful not to allow overgrazing and has used some fencing to direct cattle away from steeper creek banks. The judge declared Ecology's order null and void, saying it was based on just five site visits in four years which was insufficient to reach the conclusions it reached, Meacham said...more

Rancher may have made $700K off dump

A rancher who dumped tens of thousands of tires on taxpayer-owned land and called it an “erosion control project” may also have made a ton of money on the deal. That’s according to a state Environment Department report issued earlier this year in which Wagon Mound rancher Harold Daniels admitted to receiving $2 a tire to dispose of the rubber in the Northeast New Mexico Regional Landfill, which he owns. An Environment Department investigator estimated that the arroyo on state trust land contains 350,000 old tires, the report states...more

Here's the KRQE video report:

Industry, environmental groups agree on new dairy regulations

The New Mexico Environment Department announced an agreement between representatives from the dairy industry and environmental groups on new dairy regulations. Environment Secretary David Martin said the deal ends an impasse created by dairy discharge rules approved by the Water Quality Control Commission in December 2010. Supporters of the accord include the Dairy Industry Group for a Clean Environment and representatives from Amigos Bravos, Caballo Concerned Citizens and the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. The Dairy Industry Group appealed the original rules in January as overly burdensome and unnecessarily rigid in protecting ground water. The new agreement requires all dairies to install monitoring wells, but limits the requirement for installation of synthetic liners to new dairy facilities and to dairies that have had leaking impoundments...more

Sighting in Lake Jackson: Chupacabra Strikes Again?

A rancher and his wife have spotted the infamous chupacabra. Or did they spot something a little less frightening? Jack and Linda Crabtree caught the chupacabra, or whatever it was, on video walking around on their Texas ranch land in Lake Jackson. Chupacabra footage has caused some believers of the legend to go into a slight frenzy. Watching the sad creature hobble around sniffing for food indicates that it is most likely a sick and hairless coyote. But, as with all mythical creature lovers, some are hoping for the animal to truly be the vampire-like chupacabra that has been spotted several times since the beginning of the legend in 1995 in Puerto Rico. For some reason, the creature has decided to hang out in Texas now. The man who actually saw the creature, Jack Crabtree, who also happens to be a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, should know best and feels strongly that it is not the legendary chupacabra...more

Pioneer Jews' had a role in how the West was won

Yiddish and Cherokee is an unusual combination of languages, but my grandparents, Abe and Goldie Winnerman spoke both. It was the result of living in Cherokee Indian Territory beginning in 1900 where they opened the New York General Store in what would become Oklahoma. After statehood in 1907, they remained in business in Stilwell until 1917. My impression had always been that they were quite unique. Then in 2005 in Santa Fe, I happened upon an exhibit called "Jewish Pioneers in New Mexico 1812-1917." It was fascinating to see a photo of a covered wagon with the back modified to serve as a traveling bimah, to read diaries of Jewish frontier life and to learn that Jews were miners, cattle ranchers and explorers. Until 1984 the question of what part Jews had played in settling the West was usually met with another question: Where there any? Then Harriet and Fred Rochlin of Los Angeles published "Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West." They had begun work on the volume in the 1960s as they investigated their family's genealogy. In 1886, the acclaimed American Western artist Charles M. Russell was managing a herd of thousands of cattle for Louis Kaufman. During a disastrous spell of winter weather Kaufman inquired about the livestock. The grim answer arrived in the form of a Russell painting titled "Waiting for a Chinook," meaning a warm wind that would melt the snow. The scene, which depicts a thin, starving steer being circled by coyotes, helped establish Russell's career and remains one of his most noted works...more

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

NRA Will Sue Obama Administration Over New Gun-Control Measure

The National Rifle Association plans to sue the Obama administration over its new gun-reporting requirement in four states bordering Mexico. On Monday, the Justice Department said it would require firearms dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to report multiple sales of certain semi-automatic rifles to the same person within a five-day period. The goal is to stop the illegal flow of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The NRA said the Justice Department's "scheme" will "unjustly burden law-abiding retailers in border states." Cox said the move will not affect drug cartels -- which are not deterred by paperwork violations -- and it won't prevent violence along the border. "ATF and the Administration lack the statutory authority to do this, and the NRA will file suit as soon as ATF sends the first demand letters," Cox said in a statement posted on the NRA's Web site...more

Study: Forest Service Paid $6.1M in Groups' Legal Fees Over 6 Years

The Forest Service paid $6.1 million in legal fees to groups that sued it over a six-year period, according to an academic study that casts new light on a politically charged issue. At issue is the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), which requires the federal government to pay attorneys fees when it loses cases under statutes that do not specifically call for such fees to be paid by the government. Some Republican lawmakers argue that environmental groups have taken advantage of a lack of oversight on such payments and file numerous lawsuits they know they can win on procedural grounds. Recently introduced legislation (pdf), the "Government Litigation Savings Act," would amend the statute. The measure's lead sponsors are two Wyoming Republicans, Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (E&ENews PM, May 25). The new report (pdf) -- published in the latest issue of the Society of American Foresters' Journal of Forestry -- includes data from the Forest Service and Justice Department obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The payments cover the period 1999 to 2005...more

EPA, Interior face budget cuts as proposals move out of committee

The Environmental Protection Agency stands to lose significant funding for fiscal 2012 under the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill released by the House Appropriations Committee late last week. In addition to EPA, the legislation covers funding for the Interior Department, the U.S. Forest Service, and various independent and related agencies. Overall, EPA's budget could be slashed by 18 percent and Interior's by nearly 8 percent. Under the proposed legislation, EPA would get $7.1 billion, which is 18 percent below last year’s funding level and 20 percent — or $1.5 billion — below President Barack Obama’s request. The bill also caps EPA’s personnel at last year’s level, which is the lowest since 1992. Interior would be funded at $9.9 billion, which is $720 million below last year’s level and $1.2 billion below the president’s request. “The EPA has been funded at unparalleled high levels over the past several years, leading to wasteful and unnecessary spending within the agency, as well as contributing to the agency’s regulatory over-reach, which has a detrimental effect on American businesses and the recovering economy,” wrote committee members in a statement...more

Singer's donation to wild-horse group criticized

Sheryl Crow, hailed as a champion of wild horses that roam the range in the West, has been criticized by a national animal rights group that is calling her a hypocrite for performing at a Wyoming rodeo. The "All I Wanna Do" singer planned to donate a portion of the proceeds from her July 22 concert at the Cheyenne Frontier Days to a wild-horse protection group that's suing the government to try to halt a big mustang roundup in Nevada. Crow is the opening act for Kid Rock on a summer tour that includes the Wyoming gig. But Showing Animals Respect and Kindness claimed that wild horses are abused at that event in a special race just for them. "How can an organization dedicated to helping wild horses take blood money that was based, in part, on abusing wild horses? We believe what Ms. Crow is doing is nothing but PR spin," said Stuart Chaifetz, a spokesman for the Illinois-based group. The group, also known as SHARK, called on the Cloud Foundation to reject the donation...more

Congress steps into uranium mine fracas

Companies looking to stake mining claims in more than 1 million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon may have a second chance. Congressman Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, announced a rider to the 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday that would prevent the Department of the Interior from withdrawing the land from all new mining claims for the next 20 years without approval from Congress. The rider would also nullify U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's order to extend a current ban on new mining claims in the area for another six months. The Department of the Interior started studying the possibility of removing the land, which includes a significant portion of Mohave County north of the Grand Canyon, from new mining claims in 2009. At that time, Salazar ordered a two-year moratorium on all new mining claims. He extended the moratorium during a press conference held at the Grand Canyon two weeks ago. He also announced that the department's preferred option is to remove the land from all mining activity for the next 20 years...more

A victory in Western water wars? Study shows progress in water use

Water conservation efforts in the western US over the past 20 years appear to be paying off. Major communities that rely partly or completely on the Colorado River for their water have reduced per-capita demand on the river an average of 1 percent or more each year between 1990 and 2008, according to a new study. In all, that's some 2 million acre-feet of water saved – enough to supply Los Angeles for about three years. But as populations grow, per-capita efficiency isn't enough. Communities are still siphoning ever-larger amounts of water from the river. During the study period, the volume of water drawn from the Colorado River – by 100 municipal and regional water authorities – grew by 5 percent, even as the amount they drew from all sources rose by 10 percent, according to the report, which was issued Thursday by the Pacific Institute, a water-resource policy group based in Oakland, Calif. The increased demand was fueled by a population that blossomed from around 25 million in 1990 to 35 million by the end of the study period...more

'South California' for 51st state?

Accusing Sacramento of pillaging local governments to feed its runaway spending and left-wing policies, a Riverside County politician is proposing a solution: He wants 13 mostly inland, conservative counties to break away to form a separate state of "South California.'' Supervisor Jeff Stone, a Republican pharmacist from Temecula, called California an "ungovernable'' financial catastrophe from which businesses are fleeing and where taxpayers are being crushed by the burden of caring for welfare recipients and illegal immigrants. On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors will consider Stone's proposal to host a statewide summit for city and county leaders to sketch out a framework for secession. The politician said he was undaunted by scores of failed similar attempts since the 1800s, saying Californians haven't face such dismal economic times since the Great Depression. "This has struck a chord with a lot of people in the state who have suffered economically,'' said Stone, adding that he has received thousands of emails supporting his proposal. "We know it's going to be a challenge to form a second state, but it's not a impossible. We're sending a message.''...more

Bicyclist hit by 300 lb. black bear

Like he has been doing three times a week for the past four years, John Hearn got on his bicycle Thursday at 6:10 a.m. to ride12 miles to work at Tyndall Air Force Base. But as he rode along U.S. 98 at 23 miles per hour, his routine was interrupted at 6:40 by something very unexpected. “I saw something big and black out of the corner of my eye,” Hearn said. “Then it hit me and I felt bear all over my leg.” Hearn was broadsided by a black bear that was about 250 to 300 pounds. The collision knocked him, his bike and the bear over. Drivers stopped at the red light on the highway near Tyndall watched in utter shock. “At first I didn’t know what happened,” witness Debbie McLeod said. “The bear was flying across the road from the left side to the right. I thought he was going to miss the rider, but then I saw the florescent colored vest fly up in the air, and knew the bear hit him.” The black bear appeared to be shaken, but got up and scurried off into the woods...more

Bear-safety lecture in Yellowstone interrupted by bear

Just two days after a rare fatal mauling by a mother grizzly in Yellowstone National Park, a black bear interrupted the taping of a television news segment on bear safety. The odd close encounter on Friday featured a group of kayakers assisting a hiker in her effort to avoid the bear, and was captured on video by a visiting cable news crew. Park officials said on Monday that the bear seen in the footage appeared to be minding its own business and posed no immediate threat to the hiker...more

SLIDESHOW: Bear Invasion! Recent Bear Sightings In Carolinas

See the slide show here.

Black bear sightings expand to heavily populated areas

A black bear has been sighted several times roaming throughout town in Mt. Vernon. Even police officers have seen it. Now everyone wants it found. Ever since people in Rockcastle County began reporting black bear sightings, some folks have been getting nervous. "If we see a bear, and he's in our backyard, we're probably going to shoot it," Matthew Carte said. Carte lives right next to the city park in Mount Vernon close to where some reported seeing a bear wandering through the grass. "It's pretty dangerous especially with kids next door," Carte said, "I'm not going to just sit back and watch him go over to the park and maul a kid." Fish & Wildlife officials say they expect to see a spike in bear sightings between late June and early July during breeding season, and they say when bears reach populated areas, it's usually because they're roaming extensively looking for breeding opportunities...more

Based on all the news stories about black bears invading urban areas one can only conclude they must be horny suckers. Street walkin' bears, who'd a thunk it.

Song Of The Day #618

OpenDrive has been down for maintenance but is back up and running this morning. We missed Swingin' Monday so here's Chubby Wise fiddlin' Gotta  See Your Mama Every Night.

The War Next Door

Urban gun battles drive schoolchildren to the floors of their classrooms and entire villages into flight; noncombatants die in the crossfire; others, unfortunate enough to cross paths with pitiless irregulars, are hacked to death or beheaded. The national economy falters because of the rising chaos and uncertainty. Tensions rise along the border of a neighboring nation as some seek to escape the violence any way they can. This is not a description of a social meltdown occurring in faraway North Africa. This is the meltdown occurring in North America, at your doorstep. Mexico, a major economic and political partner of the United States, is entering the fifth year of a deadly struggle between the U.S.-subsidized forces of law and order and the ruthless armies of drug cartels and crime syndicates. The violence has claimed the lives of almost 40,000 people, and each week it seems to cross a new threshold of depravity. Not too long ago the discovery of a mass slaying in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas, south of the border near El Paso, Tex., caused shock on both sides of the border. Such reports have become all too regular. This year has witnessed the advent of a new kind of carnage as gangs—apparently in cahoots with regional immigration and security figures—set up roadblocks to intercept and hold for ransom migrants from southern Mexico and Central America heading north to the United States. The migrants are hoping to find work and a better life. Instead they face kidnapping and death on the highway or forced recruitment as cannon fodder for the drug cartels...more

U.S. goes after agents working for drug cartels

The story splattered across Mexican newspapers looked painfully familiar -- a government official was found guilty of betraying the trust of the public and moonlighting for the drug cartels that have torn this country apart. But the official who was on Wednesday sentenced to 17 years in prison had not worked for the Mexican government like so many other policemen, pen-pushers or politicians who have taken narco money. Luis Enrique Ramirez was an agent for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol or CBP. A judge in Brownsville, Texas, handed Ramirez the sentence after he pleaded guilty to waving dozens of cars laden with cocaine over the bridge from Mexico into the United States over three years. In total, Ramirez is alleged to have collected $500,000 in narco bribes for his handiwork. The conviction is part of a U.S. government drive to clean up the CBP amid allegations that hundreds of agents could have been tempted by the glitter of gangster gold. The revelations have caused strains on both sides of the border amid a drug cartel war that has claimed 40,000 lives here since 2006...more

ATF to require gun buyer information in 4 Southwest border states

Under the new policy, federal firearms licensees in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico must report purchases of two or more of some types of rifles by the same person in a five-day span. The requirement applies to purchases of semi-automatic rifles that have detachable magazines and a caliber of greater than .22. ATF estimates it will generate 18,000 reports a year. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new reporting measure will improve the ATF's ability to disrupt illegal weapons trafficking networks that funnel firearms to criminal organizations. One of the critics of Operation Fast and Furious called the new policy "the height of hypocrisy." The Obama administration is restricting the gun rights of border state citizens, "when the administration knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. "Limiting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to solve the problem," Smith said. Mexico's federal security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, praised Obama's action...more

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ag secretary questions Corps on Missouri flooding

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has taken the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to task for its handling of the Missouri River in a letter questioning its decision not to release more water from dams earlier in the spring to prevent prolonged flooding this summer. The river is near historic flood levels along the more than 800 miles it stretches from the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota to its confluence with the Mississippi River. More than 560,000 acres in seven states have flooded, including nearly 447,000 acres of farmland, Vilsack spokesman Justin DeJong said. The flooding followed unexpected spring rains and the melting of a deep snowpack in the Rocky Mountains. Vilsack outlined his concerns in a three-page letter sent to Major Gen. Meredith W.B. Temple, the acting commander of the Corps, and obtained by The Associated Press. Although Vilsack said he wasn't in a position to judge how the Corps handled its dams, he asked pointed questions about the agency's decision not to release more water earlier and criticized it for not providing farmers and ranchers with more up-to-date information. His comments add to a growing chorus of officials questioning the Corps' handling of the situation. U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., announced Friday that a bipartisan group of 14 senators from Missouri River states has requested a Senate hearing on the Corps' management of the river, and the AP obtained a letter earlier this week in which Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad expressed frustration with the Corps even before the latest flooding and urged the governors of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska to join him in discussing the formation of a new group of downstream states...more

Remember what a Corps biologist said, as related in Joe Herring's The Purposeful Flooding of America's Heartland :

Greg Pavelka, a wildlife biologist with the Corps of Engineers in Yankton, SD, told the Seattle Times that this event will leave the river in a "much more natural state than it has seen in decades," describing the epic flooding as a "prolonged headache for small towns and farmers along its path, but a boon for endangered species." He went on to say, "The former function of the river is being restored in this one-year event. In the short term, it could be detrimental, but in the long term it could be very beneficial."

I hope Mr. Pavelka has the opportunity to testify at the Senate hearing.

Governor Says Montana Was Misled on Oil Spill

Gov. Brian Schweitzer criticized Exxon Mobil on Friday for its handling of the Yellowstone River oil spill, saying that the company had withheld documents and misled state officials and local residents about the pipeline rupture. He also accused the company of failing to honor open-government laws by denying the state access to Exxon Mobil documents. And as a result, he said, the state is pulling its people from an incident command task force set up to assess and clean up the spill, which occurred July 1. At a public meeting of about 100 people along the river, the governor passed out sample jars for residents to fill with contaminated soil and water for testing. The evidence, he said, could be used in claims against Exxon Mobil. The list of the governor’s grievances was long. At first, he said, the company reported that the pipe had been turned off within six minutes. Federal records show it was nearly an hour. Company executives also initially said that oil had affected just 10 miles of the river, but “now oil has completely inundated the low-lying areas of a state park 40 miles downriver.”...more

An Advocate for Hunters Discusses Wolves’ Return

Now, with the number of wolves in the northern Rockies having far exceeded goals set by the Endangered Species Act, Idaho and Montana are planning wolf hunts in the fall. M. David Allen, president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a group based in Montana and dedicated to wildlife conservation and advocating for hunters, discusses. Q. What’s the problem with wolves? A. The prediction was they could reduce the elk population in the northern Yellowstone herd by 15 percent. The winter count, which is when most wildlife is counted, in 1995, was 19,000 plus. This winter, the count was 4,400. That was the showcase herd of Rocky Mountain elk. That’s where our concern and our alarm comes from. This is way beyond what was predicted. Even the pro-wolf folks didn’t expect this. You have to manage all wildlife. You can’t have an amnesty program for some wildlife. The real issue is common-sense wildlife management. If we start trying to kid ourselves that we can return the land to the “natural way,” that’s a fantasy because there’s some 300 million of us. If we want to return it to the “natural way,” we’ve all got to get on a spaceship. It’s an ideological battle, not a scientific debate. There’s no debate that wolves have recovered. What’s being done now by environmental and animal rights groups is creating more damage because they are overreaching. [Some of these groups believe wolves should not have been removed from the protected list.] We’re big boys. We can live with wolves. But they’ve got to be managed...more

Answer for Invasive Species: Put It on a Plate and Eat It

With its dark red and black stripes, spotted fins and long venomous black spikes, the lionfish seems better suited for horror films than consumption. But lionfish fritters and filets may be on American tables soon. An invasive species, the lionfish is devastating reef fish populations along the Florida coast and into the Caribbean. Now, an increasing number of environmentalists, consumer groups and scientists are seriously testing a novel solution to control it and other aquatic invasive species — one that would also takes pressure off depleted ocean fish stocks: they want Americans to step up to their plates and start eating invasive critters in large numbers. “Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?” Invasive species have become a vexing problem in the United States, with population explosions of Asian carp clogging the Mississippi River and European green crabs mobbing the coasts. With few natural predators in North America, such fast-breeding species have thrived in American waters, eating native creatures and out-competing them for food and habitats...more 

So when will they wise up and adopt a similar approach for endangered species?  

Still-useful fire lookout tower once cutting-edge

High in one of Colorado's last functioning fire-lookout towers, Bill Ellis scans the horizon through binoculars every 15 minutes, searching for what he calls "smokes." Last month, from his vantage point on the Devil's Head tower near Sedalia, he saw three wispy plumes that became the Noddle West fire, the Nighthawk fire and the Brush 39 fire. None of those fires made headlines. Ellis alerted firefighters before the flames grew into something worse. And he has seen worse. Ellis, 79, reported the 1996 Buffalo Creek fire that traveled 10 miles in one afternoon. He heard Terry Lynn Barton's initial call reporting the blaze — the fire she had started — that became the devastating Hayman fire and burned 138,000 acres. For 27 seasons, Ellis, who looks like an extremely fit Santa Claus , has scoured the contours of Pike National Forest. He intends to work the post "as long as I can walk the trail and carry a pack, and my eyes hold out." He and his wife, who live from May to October in a modest cabin at the foot of the tower stairs, must carry in nearly everything they eat and drink.
That means hiking down to the trailhead once a week, driving to Sedalia or Castle Rock for supplies, then filling their backpacks and heading back up the hill. Forest Service mules used to help with the resupply, but that stopped a few years ago. A cistern provides water. A wood stove offers heat. There's another wood stove in the tower. Every day, Ellis carries a couple of logs up to stockpile for the September days when the weather turns cold. Ellis is one of a handful of seasonal fire lookouts hired by the U.S. Forest Service to do a job that, 100 years ago, was the cutting edge of firefighting. More than 8,000 lookouts once worked throughout the U.S. Most of their towers were built by towns and states — at the time, no federally funded firefighting existed...more

Salazar Establishes Commission to Evaluate Indian Trust Administration and Reform

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the establishment of a new Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform that will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of Interior’s trust management and provide recommendations on how to improve performance. The announcement kicks off a 30-day period during which Secretary Salazar is seeking nominations and input from the public on individuals to serve on the new commission, as well as comments on the commission’s proposed charter. Today’s announcement fulfills one of the actions Salazar outlined in a 2009 Secretarial Order regarding steps to be taken upon approval by the U.S. District Court of the Cobell settlement. On June 20, 2011, the district court approved the $3.4 billion settlement, paving the way for payments to as many as half-a-million American Indians to resolve their class-action litigation regarding the federal government’s management of individual trust accounts and assets...more

Locals To Humane Society of the United States: Keep the money

The Humane Society of the United States offered a $5,000 grant to the local humane society in Columbus, and the local society turned it down for fear of offending … just about everyone. Critics have condemned the HSUS for pushing a variety of programs and legislation aimed at regulating some elements of animal agriculture, most especially involving the containment and other treatment of animals. Gov. Dave Heineman vehemently attacked the HSUS last December during a talk before the Nebraska Cattlemen convention. “They try to start with [regulating] pork and poultry production, and then they’re gonna be after you guys,” Heineman said. ““It’s an organization you cannot trust and I do not trust,”. The Platte Valley Humane Society board, which voted 10-0 to reject the unsolicited money, was nice about turning it down. Noting its location in an agricultural community, the board said, "some of your policies regarding farm animals would be in conflict with the ideals of many of our local supporters." The local society noted it is supported by the local ag industry and animal advocates...more

“Apricot Season”

It was a rugged wagon journey through the desert and around Mt. San Jacinto to Banning in 1908. “Papa” had previously gone to the San Jacinto Valley to look it over. He saw orchards of peaches, olives, walnuts, oranges, and apricots and liked it so well that he purchased 15 acres of land on Acacia Avenue between Yale and Columbia, about two miles east of the little town of Hemet. A row of stately old olive trees bordered the property along Columbia. Mr. William Kingham, a real estate man and undertaker, met us in Banning in his four horse buggy. Mamma, Lily, Mildred and I rode with him, and my brothers Holly and Clarence rode with Papa in our large wagon. We were so proud to ride in Mr. Kingham’s fine buggy, but the road became nothing more than a wagon trail with many steep curves over the hills, and we were scared. We learned later they called the road the Jack Rabbit Trail. I will always remember the view as we came out of the hills. Our eyes popped out as we looked at the cattle lazily gazing under the cottonwood trees in the beautiful green fields. The mountain that dominated the rugged eastern side did not seem to be the same mountain on the western side. Papa finally stopped the wagon at our tent house, very similar to the one he built in Coachella. “This is our new home,” he said, and his blue eyes twinkled as he stretched out his arms. “I know the cement business. We will start a business and call it ‘A. E. Goodrich and Sons,’ makers of cement irrigation pipes and blocks, which new ranchers will need.”

Blind rancher rescues injured friend after horse accident

He could hear the screams, somewhere out in the field he couldn't see. Somewhere out there among the cattle, where she could be seriously hurt. Somewhere. Keith Day has been blind all his life, only able to see some colors or large shapes if the lighting was just right. But he could hear his friend, Morgan Martinez, and he had to find her. A little more than a year ago, Morgan of Ault became the eyes for Day. She helped with home chores, drove him around in the car, helped on his small cattle ranch. An experienced horsewoman, Morgan will be a senior at Highland High School in Ault this year, but the accident in the pasture a week ago came close to changing all of that. “I don't remember very much,” Morgan said. She was thrown from her horse and landed on her head and neck and couldn't get up. Day was near the ranchhouse, about 300 to 400 yards away, when he heard Morgan scream. “She was out there on a horse, rounding up the cattle so we could sort out the heifers,” Day said. “Then a wind came up and I heard a distorted scream and the horse ran away. I knew something happened, but I couldn't tell which way because of the wind noise.” Calling her name and hearing her scream, Day found his way across the fields and to the place where Morgan was thrown...more

Classic Texas traditions stand test of time at Bowen Ranch

Even as his open range shrinks, Jimmy Bowen - El Paso's most recognizable working cowboy - still believes there is a place for cowboys in this city. As the owner of Bowen Ranch, an 88,000-acre stretch of land in Northeast El Paso spanning three counties and two states, he knows the city is quickly approaching his property. He understands the inevitable, as new developments are already popping up next door to his ranch, and the city is trying to develop an industrial park within a half-mile of his Edge of Texas restaurant. "The city is going to grow and the ranch is going to decrease," Bowen said. "And that's OK." The ranch was once more than 150,000 acres, nearly half of it leased from the Public Service Board. It used to cross over the Franklin Mountains into the West Side of town. Today, Bowen Ranch is down to 88,000 acres. Bowen isn't worried though because the 78-year-old proprietor believes there will always be a place for the ways of the Old West. The Bowen family made a name for itself in 1863, when it brought the first heard of Herefords to the United States from Great Britain The Animal Channel is currently working on a show about it, and the movie "The Rare Breed," staring James Stewart, was based off the relocation of the cattle. The Bowen family moved to the El Paso area 70 years ago, when Jimmy Bowen was only 7. The ranch is located on the Old Salt Trail, which was used to transport livestock through the Franklin Mountains to the Salt Flats near Carlsbad, N.M., using the Anthony Gap. "Think there is a lot of history here and we are glad to be a part of it," Bowen said. As time went on, he kept adding on to his land. "I just bought small portions and built it from there," Bowen said...more

Murder or mishap? The death of J. Placido Romero

Almost immediately after my book on Peralta and Los Pinos went to the publisher, I was given a different version of one of the most controversial incidents in the book — the disappearance of J. Placido Romero, a wealthy rancher of Peralta, on May 12, 1893. The disappearance of Romero into the Rio Grande between Los Lunas and Peralta is one of those strange events that remains a mystery, one that haunts people even today, although it happened more than 100 years ago. The Romero family's stories that have now come to my attention make this mystery even more complex and puzzling. A week before the death of J. Placido Romero, his son had been acquitted of the murder of a young woman who had previously rejected the son's proposal of marriage. Also, in the weeks prior, two other women in the Peralta and Los Lunas areas had been murdered. One night, the accused men were taken from the jail by unknown vigilantes and hanged. All or none of these events may be related to Romero's disappearance, but these events had caused a general feeling of uneasiness in much of Valencia County that sets the backdrop for the mystery surrounding Romero's death. A week after the vigilante hangings, J. Placido Romero disappeared into the river between Peralta and Los Lunas. Although an Albuquerque newspaper covered the incident in detail at the time, the Romeros over the years have passed down a significantly different version of what happened that fateful night...more

How the death of a B.C. merchant spurred Billy the Kid's killing spree

Billy the Kid rides through America’s nation-building mythology like an enigmatic outlaw angel of retribution. Yet this unstable, anarchic Wild West of American folklore also turns out to be intimately connected to British Columbia and to our own frontier in the years when this province was taking shape amid the tumult and greed of a gold rush. The B.C. connection is John Henry Tunstall, the New Mexico rancher who hired William H. Bonney as a ranch hand in November 1877 — and in so doing launched Billy the Kid on his epic trajectory into the firmament of myth. Tunstall had been working as a clerk in his father’s bustling Victoria dry goods store a scant two years before the fateful events that would enter history as the Lincoln County Range War. Young, ambitious, out to prove himself to a wealthy father by making his own fortune, Tunstall left Victoria to buy a cattle spread in New Mexico in 1876. He found himself entangled in a conflict between ranchers and a Mafia-like business monopoly. J.J. Dolan & Co. gouged ranchers with high retail prices while simultaneously forcing down prices ranchers could charge for their cows by dealing in rustled livestock. Cattle stolen from ranchers were bought at steep discounts, then sold at inflated prices to the U.S. army and to Indian agents under the company’s exclusive supply contracts. Tunstall allied himself with the ranchers. Drawing on his merchandising experience from Victoria, he opened his own store, J.H. Tunstall & Co., in Lincoln, N.M., financing his attempt to break the monopoly with family money...more

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Satan was a mule, or so he said
 by Julie Carter

If you ask around a little amongst the rural set of folks in America, a good percentage of them will have a mule story to share. It seems that particular beast of burden has influenced lives throughout the ages.

Solomon Cordova was a classic cowboy, now deceased but his legend lives on in his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons. And so do his stories.

Many decades ago, Sol and some other cowboys were riding home after dark from a branding. Somewhere along the way, the crew had managed to lubricate their day’s adventures with a little whiskey.

In those days, superstition was more the norm than not. The night sky was lit with a full moon, so finding their way home in the dark was doable, but it also gave license to seeing things that may or may not actually be there. Also par with the era, they were all packing pistols.

The cowboys were riding along telling tall tales embellished by the accents of alcohol, when out of the black of night came a woeful wail that stopped them in their tracks.

Ol’ Sol looked toward what he thought to be the devil himself, horns and glowing eyes included, as it came out of the shadows headed directly toward the cowboys.

Back-lit by the soft glow of the moon, the form drew threateningly closer as Sol pulled his pistol and fired a shot. The bullet hit the devil right between his fiery eyes and he was silenced and still.

The cowboys, not knowing for sure what really happened but not in a state of mind to process it, rode on until they hit home.

About a week later, they learned that a local fellow had reported that the new mule he’d bought and just turned out to pasture was found dead, shot in the head. Somehow, a full moon and bellyful of rotgut hooch turned a braying mule into Satan.

Mule or burro racing, while not actually the sport of kings, has been a popular competition for as long as anyone can recall.

One year, a farmer along the Rio Grande decided to enter the annual mule race that ran 25 miles along the river route. To get his mule in shape, every day for a month he’d have his wife haul him to the starting point and he’d ride the mule home. Home was seven miles short of the fairgrounds which was the official destination for the race.

Come race day, the farmer and his mule were delivering a serious butt kicking to the competition. That is, until they got to the gate leading into the home place. The mule turned in and had no intention going one step further. They never made it to the finish line at the fairgrounds.

Many years ago, a rancher/dairyman south of Marfa, Texas used a sweet little burro to carry glass bottles of milk seven miles across the mountain to Shafter, Texas, where he delivered it to residents there.

One day the man fell ill and was unable to make the trip himself, so he simply sent the burro by herself. She went all the way, stopped at every house, and returned home. This true story, shared by the family, included the fact that not one bottle of milk was broken and the little burro even brought home the empties.

I’m always a little cautious about asking for burro, donkey or as most people will say, “jackass” stories. I always try to clarify that I’m speaking of the four-legged variety.

However, without fail, someone will have their mind set on a particular annoying version of a “jackass,” but to qualify for the narrative, will add, “Well, then, think of it as him and Earl holding hands. There you go. Four legs.”

Julie can be reached for comment at

Promises Made...Promises Ignored

The Corruption of Values
Promises Made . . . Values Differentiated . . . Promises Ignored
National Security . . . the Cardinal Value
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

     During a wilderness hearing years ago, a lone rancher approached the podium at the Fine Arts Center on the campus of Western New Mexico University.  It was apparent he was not a public speaker.  He spoke of the pitfalls of the designation.  As he spoke, the fledgling environmental crowd jeered and ridiculed his manner of speech and his message.  One of the professors of that institution’s biology department ran out the front door calling the crowd to come in and “listen to this fool!”
      As a student in that department, I listened along with the others who were now hooting and hollering.  After a few moments, I turned and walked out.  I left that speaker in the grasp of that disrespectful mob while he attempted to offer some logic of the fallacy of such a restrictive land management designation.    
     Two historic events took place after that meeting.  The Aldo Leopold Wilderness was designated and the environmental movement blossomed.  The voice of reason was symbolized by that lone rancher.  The voices of idealism were symbolized by that progressive mob.  Today, some 40 years later, there remain isolated, but no longer lone voices in the midst of even greater mobs.
     The Movement
     The passion pitch for restrictive land designations was always predicated on idealistic fervor of an undefined goal.  If there was a corollary, it was the image we had of ourselves as students finishing college at Western New Mexico University without a comprehensive educational skill to do anything except continue going to school.  We were engrained with an elevated sense of self importance that had no basis for immediate real world application.
    The Nazi Germans actually had a word for our predicament.  “Selbstgleichschaltung” or “self-coordination” was the approach prewar German leadership used to bring academia, government ministries, the youth, and cultural institutions in line with their nationalistic beliefs.  German leaders were amazed how effective such “coordination” was.  It has been equally effective in the environmental movement.
     The Uptick
     The Wilderness Act of 1964 was the organic progenitor of the great passion laws.  It was the defining legislation that gave rise to the “Gleichschaltung” – coordination – of the environmental laws and the methodology of getting them passed. 
     There were two exceptions conceded for those hallowed lands “untrammeled by man” as envisioned in the Wilderness Act.  One was for the President to have certain authorities in the event of war.  The second was to allow grazing to continue where it existed at the time of the signing.
     The grazing issue was a compromise.  The conservation advocates of the bill never wanted cattle grazing.  Grazing was allowed only through compromise emanating from lingering anger over an event that occurred in the Gila National Forest. 
     It was in there that the ‘First Family of Wilderness’, was evicted from their historic range.  That land had caught the fancy of several influential administrators including Aldo Leopold.  It became the nation’s first wilderness.  The designation was without Congressional approval.  Rather, it was an administrative action taken by a Regional Office in 1924.  It set the stage for things to come.
     In 1944, the Shelley family was evicted without recourse from what is now a large part of the Gila Wilderness.  They had been forced to destock that portion of their ranch because of several catastrophic events not the least of which was the Great Depression.  When the suggestion of restocking was imminent during World War II, the Forest Service notified the family that “the (Wilderness) has been eliminated from the Mogollon Creek Allotment.”  The Forest Service was not going to alter what the Depression had accomplished regardless of needs of the nation.
     The Shelley travesty was known among certain participants in the hearings prior to 1964, and it was an issue.  In order to assure passage, a compromise was struck.  Grazing would be allowed where it was in place “at the time of the signing”, but, as for the egregious, undefended Gila taking . . .  leave that sleeping dog alone!
     The Arbitrage
    By the time the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) came along in 1976, the environmental influences were expansive.  Conflicting missions, interagency jealousies, the confusion of laws, and the escalating environmental influences were all part of the driving forces behind FLPMA.  The pacifying words were the purported “values” for which the federal lands would be managed.  Those promised quality values were scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resources, and archeological.  Everybody agreed and the bill was signed by the President October 21, 1976 and became Public Law 94-579, 90 Stat. 2743.
     The Corruption of Values
     In the years since 1976, any objective observer is hard pressed to identify any substantive values management except ecological and environmental in federal actions.  Those values have been elevated above all others in the management of existing federal lands and the acquisition of new holdings.  The federal lands along the Arizona border are the best examples. 
     Between 1978 and the early ‘90s, over a million acres of designated federal Wilderness was established on the Mexican border in Arizona.  In the management of those areas, it is obvious there was a differentiated attitude about FLPMA values.  The literature is full of references to sensitivity of habitat, plans for expansion of restrictive land designations and even mitigation of Border Patrol activities.
     Acquisitions of the Slaughter and Buenos Aires ranches immediately adjacent to the border added to the federal presence.  Both ranches were acquired for endemic wildlife habitat preservation and restoration.  They became part of the dominion of federal lands that included the Coronado National Forest, the Coronado National Monument, Tohono O’odon Reservation, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Preserve, and expansive BLM administered lands that include National Conservation Area designations.       
     It is nearly impossible to find examples of support for other values promised in FLPMA, and, particularly, the historical value.  A most bizarre example was when Organ Pipe’s resource staff indicated in a study they had prevailed against cattle grazing in the monument and they would also prevail against the Border Patrol! 
     Indeed, the Park Service had succeeded in removing the ranching Gray family who had been on the border for years, established domiciles on what is now monument land, and created water infrastructure that supported not only their cattle herd but wildlife populations. 
     The Park Service worked diligently in their stated intention to overcome the Border Patrol.  If there is a metric to gauge their success, their managed lands are now ground zero within the most dangerous drug smuggling corridors where half of all illegal traffic enters the United States.
     Values Intervention and the Future
     The values “bundle” that was set forth in FLPMA remains intact.  Federal agency disregard for the sanctity of the historic value and the elevation of the environmental and ecological values is unacceptable.  It is also dangerous and it has put the entire nation at risk.
     Data suggests that if the federal agencies had administered the promised values without bias and prejudice, the United States would be a much safer place.  For example, where the ranching industry has been removed from the border, illegal trespass has not increased in a linear fashion . . . the increase is exponential.
     The illegal trespass impact on the border must be seen to be believed.  If the federal agencies charged with management of the natural resources in those areas were private companies, their services would not only be terminated . . . they would be sued for breach of contract and dereliction of duty.  Their performance in differentiating management for only the environmental value is a national disgrace.
     Congress must start making amends to the eleven Western states that agreed to allow the management of their lands to be altered from a matter of disposal to a matter of retention on the basis of upholding the eight guiding values.  The citizens of those states have been deceived, mislead, and under-represented. 
    Congress must also add to the values bundle the single defining value that has been missing from the onset.  The cardinal value . . . national security is missing.  It must be added to a refined FLPMA or the American people must accelerate their search for leaders who represent the American society for whom all values were intended . . . and promised. 

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “In the last 20 years, 550 federal lands ranchers in New Mexico have been lost.  That represents 550 individual family tragedies.  Complicit in that reduction is the overt disregard for the historic value.  The silent annihilation of this historic segment of our society is no longer an acceptable goal of the environmental movement.  It must be stopped.”   

Hearings On H.R. 1505 - A Commentary

    On Friday, July 8th the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, as introduced by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT).  H.R. 1505 says “The Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture shall not impede, prohibit, or restrict activities of the Secretary of Homeland Security on land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to achieve operational control…over the international land and maritime borders of the United States.”  To accomplish operational control the legislation would waive 36 environmental statutes for 100 miles from our borders.
    Testifying for the Obama Administration were Jim Pena of the Forest Service and Kim Thorsen of USDI.  Testifying for the environmental community was law professor John Leshy. Testifying for the general public were Gene Guyant, National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, and southern Arizona rancher Gary Thrasher testifying on behalf of various livestock organizations.
    Both Pena and Thorsen based most of their testimonies on the March 2006 MOU between their agencies and DHS.  They both spewed the same old political pablum we’ve all been hearing about this ineffectual MOU.  Read their testimony about the MOU and you will find references to “collaboration”, “coordinate”, “facilitating”, “efficient means of communication” and other such bureaucratic bunk.
    So let’s take a look at one law, the 1964 Wilderness Act, and see how the MOU is working.
    First I’ll quote the most relevant section of the Wilderness Act, Section 4(c) PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES, which states:

there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.

    The language is very clear: no roads, no motor vehicles, no motorized equipment and no structures or installations.  The only exception is for emergencies.
    Keeping in mind an MOU, which is an administrative action, cannot amend or overturn a statute, let’s see how they apply the MOU to Wilderness areas.
   The MOU does not prevent the Border Patrol from using motorized vehicles in Wilderness areas so long as there is an “emergency” and “a reasonable expectation” the suspects will get caught.   In other words the Border Patrol must be in “hot pursuit” to use motorized vehicles.
    So what if the Border Patrol is not in “hot pursuit” of a suspect?  The MOU states:

 CBP-BP agents on foot or on horseback may patrol, or pursue, or apprehend suspected CBVs offroad at any time on any federal lands.

    So there you have it.  In Wilderness areas the Border Patrol cannot patrol on a routine or regular basis except by foot or horseback.  They also may not use or place “mechanized equipment” such as mobile surveillance systems or electronic detection devices.
    Are you starting to see the need for a waiver here?
   Although probably unintentional, there is one part of Thorsen’s testimony about the MOU which is correct:

This MOU has not in any way impeded or impacted DHS’s ability to protect the border, including in exigent circumstances.

    She is correct…it has not had any impact.  The Borderl Patrol cannot obtain operational control of the border where Wilderness exists and the MOU has provided nothing to remedy that.  The problem is the Wilderness Act itself.  It’s as Gene Guyant testified:

    The inherent dangers of wilderness designations on our borders have been well documented, and are undisputed.
And let’s not forget, Senator Bingaman’s S. 1024 would create a quarter of a million acres of “inherent dangers” on our border with Mexico.

TSA: Terrorists might try to surgically implant bombs in their bodies

The Transportation Security Administration warns airlines and foreign security agencies that terrorists might try to surgically implant bombs in their bodies as a way to evade security. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the intelligence that led to the warning "does not relate to an imminent or specific threat." But the TSA urges foreign security agencies to ramp up security in response. "As a precaution, passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place," TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said. "Measures may include interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies." Passengers flying from different locations may notice different reactions from security personnel because the agency intentionally tries to be "unpredictable," Kimball says. The warning comes as terrorist groups try to adapt to increasing security as they attempt to attack a favorite target: the U.S. aviation system...more

TSA Agent Caught With Passenger's iPad in His Pants; Allegedly Took $50,000 in Other Goods, Cops Say

While most Transportation Security Administration employees are busy groping people or taking naked pictures of them, the cops say one of those employees was putting fliers' electronics down his pants. The Broward Sheriff's Office says 30-year-old Nelson Santiago stole around $50,000 worth of electronics over the past six months from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport's Terminal 1. Santiago -- a TSA officer since 2009 -- was caught earlier this week by a Continental Airlines employee taking an iPad out of someone's luggage and stuffing it into his pants, the cops say. After being arrested Monday on two counts of grand theft, police say Santiago admitted to stealing computers, GPS devices, video cameras, and other electronic merchandise from luggage he was supposed to be screening. The cops say Santiago would immediately take pictures of his new goods and upload the photos online to sell the stuff. Santiago would typically sell the stolen goods to people before his shift was even over, police say...more