Saturday, July 23, 2011

Zetas may be smuggling weapons using State Dept. program - Chaparral, Columbus & southern NM roads

The brutally violent Zetas drug organization may be smuggling military-grade weapons through El Paso and Columbus, N.M., to feed its ongoing battles against other cartels and to possibly disrupt the 2012 elections in Mexico. Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center and a former CIA operative, said the Zetas have shipped large amounts of weapons through the El Paso area. "They are purchasing weapons in the Dallas area and are flying them to El Paso, and then they are taking them across the border into Juárez," said Jordan, a law enforcement consultant and former DEA official who still has contacts in the law enforcement community. Jordan said the Zetas were flying weapons caches out of the Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, and after they arrive in the El Paso vicinity, the Zetas smuggled them into Juárez. "What's ironic is that the DEA also uses the Alliance Airport for some of its operations," Jordan said. "The Zetas were working out of a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in the Dallas area to smuggle the weapons to the border." The DEA has its Aviation Operations Center at Alliance. Robert "Tosh" Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot, supported Jordan's allegations and said the Zetas allegedly also purchased property in the Columbus-Palomas border region to stash weapons and other contraband. He said purchasing property and setting up a weapons-smuggling network suggests that the Zetas were establishing a staging area for their operations. Earlier this month, Plumlee had a debriefing with the Border Patrol in Las Cruces about the intelligence he gathered when he accompanied the U.S. military's Task Force 7 along the border. The military, which assists civilian law enforcement in counter-drug operations, was looking into allegations of gun smuggling along the border. "The military task force became concerned that its information about arms smuggling was being compromised," Plumlee said. "From the intel, it appears that a company was set up in Mexico to purchase weapons through the U.S. Direct Commercial Sales program, and that the company may have had a direct link to the Zetas." Under the Direct Commercial Sales program, the U.S. State Department regulates and licenses businesses to sell weapons and defense services and training for export. Last year, according to U.S. statistics, the program was used to provide Mexico $416.5 million worth of weapons and equipment, including military-grade weaponry. Plumlee said military-grade weapons were found in a Juárez warehouse two years ago, and some of them were moved later to a ranch elsewhere in Juárez. Arms stash houses have also been reported in places across the border from Columbus and Antelope Wells, N.M. "They've found anti-aircraft weapons and hand grenades from the Vietnam War era," Plumlee said. Other weapons found include grenade launchers, assault rifles, handguns and military gear including night-vision goggles and body armor. "The information about the arms trafficking was provided to our U.S. authorities long before the 'Columbus 11' investigation began," said Plumlee, referring to recent indictments accusing several Columbus city officials of arms trafficking in conjunction with alleged accomplices in El Paso and Chaparral, N.M. Plumlee, who has testified before U.S. congressional committees about arms and drug trafficking, said the roads in Southern New Mexico provide smugglers easy access to Mexico's highway networks...more

We can all be assured that Bingaman's attempt to designate a quarter of a million acres in southern NM as Wilderness won't complicate things a bit. Can't we?

Worse Than Gunwalker? State Dept. Allegedly Sold Guns to Zetas provides a map of the air-smuggling route originating in Dallas at Alliance Airport and ending in Columbus, New Mexico — a small town that has also been rocked by the arrests and guilty pleas of the town mayor and other elected officials who were running guns to a cartel safehouse, and then apparently into Mexico. There is no direct link made as of yet between the Columbus, NM, officials case and the allegations of the Dallas-to-Columbus air smuggling route, but the possible connection should raise eyebrows. If these allegations can be verified: what on Earth was the State Department thinking supplying the direct sale of military weapons to a cartel front company? Weapons that were then smuggled out of the very airport used by the Drug Enforcement Agency charged with bringing down the cartels? Anthony Martin at the Examiner brings up one of the most damning and compelling questions that the State Department and Obama administration must answer if this story is true:

The program is set up so that the sale of U.S. guns to foreign entities involve direct negotiations with the governments of those countries purchasing the weapons. The description of the program specifically states that it regulates the sale of U.S. firearms to other countries or international organizations.
How, then, did a drug cartel purchase weapons through this program when it is neither an international organization nor a government?

6 more people plead guilty in smuggling ring involving mayor of NM border town

Six more people have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a gun smuggling ring that federal prosecutors say sent hundreds of guns into Mexico. The U.S. Attorney's Office announced the latest pleas Friday. The charges range from conspiracy to making false statements and firearm smuggling. Those who pleaded guilty this week include Vicente Carreon of Columbus, Ian Garland of Chaparral, Manuel Ortega of Palomas, Mexico, Miguel Carrillo of Columbus and Brenda and David Christy of Deming. The six are among a dozen people, including former Columbus Mayor Eddie Espinoza, charged in the federal sting. Columbus police Chief Angelo Vega and former trustee Blas Gutierrez also have been charged. Prosecutors say no sentencing dates for those who have entered pleas have been scheduled. AP

ATF Was Evasive About Weapons Found at Murder Scene of Border Agent Brian Terry

ATF earlier this year tried to play down the fact that guns from its highly problematic Operation Fast and Furious program surfaced at the scene of the slaying of Arizona Border Patrol agent Brian Terry last December, the Los Angeles Times reported. The paper reported that the top ATF supervisors in Phoenix conceded in an email two days after the slaying that the weapons found at the scene were linked to the operation that encouraged gun dealers to sell to middlemen or straw purchasers, with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. But the Times reported that nearly two months later Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) inquired whether the weapons purchased during the Fast and Furious operation, were used in the killing, only to get an evasive answer from ATF officials in Washington. The Justice Department said “these allegations are not true”, according to the Times and failed to acknowledge that the guns were there...more

Friday, July 22, 2011

U.S. federal court employee killed in Mexican border city

A U.S. federal court employee was killed earlier this month by kidnappers in Ciudad Juarez, a gritty border metropolis located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, the Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office said. Jorge Dieppa worked as an interpreter for more than seven years, U.S. federal court spokesmen in El Paso told Efe. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the court employee's kidnapping and murder, the Chihuahua AG's office said Wednesday. The 57-year-old victim's body was found by investigators on July 6 in an abandoned house in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital, the AG's office said. The court interpreter had been kidnapped a day earlier when he went to the border city to visit his girlfriend of five years, Mexican officials said. The U.S. federal court employee's body was mutilated and his face covered with duct tape, prosecutors said...more

Hezbollah On the Border

Here's the Fox News video report:

Mexico's Rule of Lawlessness

According to the US Departments of State and Homeland Security, referring to the organized crime gangs in Mexico as drug-trafficking organizations, or DTOs, is passé. The acronym du jour is TCOs, or transnational criminal organizations; to better reflect the cartels' sheer range of activity from people-smuggling and pipeline-raiding to illegal logging. The latter is no joke. In the rural municipality of Cheran, Michoacan, in western Mexico, local residents have formed a militia and surrounded their town with barricades after outlaw loggers came accompanied by heavily-armed gunmen; hired muscle purportedly working for one of Michoacan's feuding drug gangs – likely the Zetas or The Knights Templar (formerly La Familia). Clandestine logging has been a fact of life in this part of Michoacan for a decade, during which an estimated 80 per cent of Cheran's woodland has been illegally appropriated. But after loggers began packing automatic weapons – and cops, military, and local and state authorities turned their backs – residents of Cheran took matters into their own hands. They expelled local officials and established a communal city council, which voted to organize a citizens' militia to patrol and defend the town. In their first confrontation with the armed gang, residents of Cheran – armed with only sticks, machetes, and farming tools – seized ten trucks belonging to a logging crew and detained five of the drivers. One local resident was killed in the altercation; eleven have been killed or disappeared since the start of the year. The community turned over the five detained men to state police, only to see them later released without charge. Schools in the town have been closed since Easter and the local economy – largely built around cattle and timber – has been hamstrung since the blockade began on April 15...more

Dangerous Rock Attacks on Border Patrol Agents Are Up; Chopper Brought Down by Rock in ‘79

Assaults by illegals, coyotes and narco-smugglers using large chunks of rock on US Border Patrol agents enforcing the US/Mexico border continues to escalate. These attacks can be life-threatening. In some instances, Border Patrol agents have been critically injured when struck in the face or head. Known as "rockings" among the agents, some of these attacks have left agents no choice but to fire their weapons in self-defense. Unfortunately, in some instances, Border Patrol agents acting in self defense have killed their assailants. Critics, meanwhile, insist Border Patrol agents are too quick to use lethal force during rockings, implying that the rocks that are being thrown are small and do not pose a life threatening attack. But evidence shows that rocks that were thrown at agents who fired their weapons in response were of a size that did indeed pose a potentially life threatening assault. And attacks on Border Patrol agents with large life-endangering rocks are on the rise. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the threat that “rockings” pose to Border Patrol agents occurred more than two decades ago, in 1979, when two now retired Border Patrol agents narrowly averted being killed when their helicopter was brought down by a single large rock that was thrown at their chopper by an illegal who was among a group of illegals who were trying to cross the border. The two agents in the chopper were helping agents on the ground track the illegals...more

DEA nabs nearly 2,000 in cartel crackdown

The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested nearly 2,000 people in the United States as part of a 20-month strike against Mexico's La Familia Michoacana cartel, law enforcement officials said. In a statement Thursday, DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said the strike, called Project Deliriium, netted 1,985 arrests and $62 million in a blow to the notorious cartel. Dozens of arrests occurred in several states, including Texas, California, Georgia, Colorado, Alabama, Minnesota and New Mexico. “Project Delirium is the second successful, strategic and surgical strike to disrupt and destroy one of the most violent Mexican cartels, La Familia,” Leonhart said. Authorities also seized a sizable stash of drugs, including 2,773 pounds of methamphetamine, 2,722 kilograms of cocaine, 1,005 pounds of heroin, 14,818 pounds of marijuana and $3.8 million in other assets, the statement said...more

'The Knights Templar': Mexico's newest drug cartel

Pictures of the latest objects seized by the police in the Mexican state of Michoacan, revealed that the mysterious 'Knights Templar" drug cartel is more bizarre than most people imagine. There were four hooded tunics, with a red cross, a metal helmet, and a pamphlet or Templar rule book. This drug cartel claims to draw inspiration from the medieval Christian warriors who fought to protect Jerusalem and the Holy Grail. No one knows if its founder, Servando Gomez, a school teacher, was a history entuthiast or simply read the Da Vinci Code. The rules in the modern day 'templar bible' call for observance of 'gentleman' like behaviour and respect for women – but also state that any disclosure of knights templar activities will result in the death of the person and his whole family, and confiscation by the cartel of the snitch’s property. The cartel is like a secret society. The Mexican Templars have an initiation ritual, which apparently includes dressing up like knights from the Middle Ages, and performing blood pacts. The cartel recruits drug users and enrolls them in the organisation's rehabilitation centers; the process is closely monitored and has a strong religious component. The double standard is striking: the Templars can not take drugs, and yet they run one of the biggest methamphetamines traffic corridors to the United States...more

Green Mountain grazing decision doesn't satisfy ranchers, critics

The Green Mountain Grazing Allotment spreads across 522,000 acres of Wyoming — one of the largest unfenced livestock grazing allotments in the region. The allotment runs to the northern end of the Red Desert, and the varied topography serves 16 permittees who share 19 permits. The Bureau of Land Management has overseen the grazing area since the 1930s, said Rubel Vigil Jr., assistant field manager in the Lander BLM office. The BLM announced its newest refinement of management of the allotment when it issued a final decision about future management of the land on May 20. The new plan breaks the allotment into several areas and follows a grazing schedule, allowing ranchers to move cattle and some sheep into prime riparian grazing areas, but only during certain times of the year. The plan reduces the number of potential livestock allowed to graze in the area by 45 percent, and also reduces the amount of time each year cattle can graze on the allotment by about 10 percent. The plan also calls for more than 40 miles of new fencing, for which the cost will be split between ranchers and the BLM, to better control where livestock wanders. The BLM considered additional fencing but found the public, especially those who walk the historic trails running through the land, prefer open landscapes. Fences can affect wild horses and large, migrating game, Vigil said. The BLM adopted the plan after finding the allotment wasn’t meeting standards set by the BLM and the state regarding soils, riparian and wetland vegetation, diversity of plants, habitats supporting threatened and endangered species, water quality and air quality, Vigil said...more

Utah lawmakers opposing Nevada water pipeline

Utah lawmakers are backing an effort to lengthen the comment period for a proposed Las Vegas water pipeline that critics say will have drastic environmental and economic impacts for almost a half-dozen rural valleys in Utah and Nevada. More than 75 Utah legislators signed a letter Wednesday urging the Bureau of Land Management to accept public comments on the environmental impact statement for the project through Dec. 1. That would add 90 days to the original Sept. 9 deadline. Four arguments in favor of the extension are identified in the letter, including the difficulty for the impacted farmers and ranchers to review the EIS during their busy summer months. Legislators also expressed concern about the technical nature of the document, which is hundreds of pages and took six years to compile before being released in June. "A more deliberative process will produce better comments which will better inform BLM's decision-making," lawmakers said in the letter. The request from state officials is being sent on the same day that the Great Basin Water Network, a coalition opposed to what they describe as a "water grab" by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, released a summary of the negative impacts found in the BLM document. Among the "irreversible" changes highlighted by the group from the EIS are increased dust pollution as groundwater levels reduce, changes to wildlife and fish habitats and the decimation of ranches and farms that are the economic base of the impacted areas...more

Will Perry Carry the Day?

In the Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room, Fred McClure was watching the crowd. It was March 1978, and the American Agriculture Movement — a pressure group for government support of farm prices — was meeting with Texan congressmen. A legislative aide to Sen. John Tower (R.), McClure was leaning on a door when a rancher from Paint Creek, Texas, named Rick Perry walked past. Newly retired from the Air Force, Perry held a degree in animal science from Texas A&M. His class ring gave him away. Spotting the ring, McClure, a fellow Texas A&M grad, introduced himself, and the two hit it off. Thirteen years later McClure, a notary public, would swear Perry into office as Texas’s agriculture commissioner, his first statewide office. Today, McClure thinks Perry’s agricultural roots could help him win the presidency. “He has the ability to communicate with all parts of the agricultural chain — whether it’s production or retail,” McClure tells National Review Online. David Yepsen, former chief political correspondent for the Des Moines Register, believes that ability could prove fruitful in Iowa. “It’s important for candidates to show that they understand people and their problems,” he says. “And having an agricultural background will be helpful to any candidate.”...more

Park County at odds with Forest Service over 1972 committee law

Shoshone National Forest officials believe that two consultants appointed by Park County and the Cody Conservation District don’t meet the requirements of a federal law on advising the agency on its new management plan. Earlier this year, Park County commissioners appointed Gregory Kennett, a consultant with Ecosystems Research Group, to advise the county during planning talks with the Shoshone National Forest. The Cody Conservation District also appointed as a consultant Jill Shockley-Siggins, a former Park County commissioner who also is employed by ERG. Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander, citing federal law, said the appointments don’t meet the criteria of the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. In order to comply with the law and advise on the plan, Alexander said, Shockley-Siggins and Kennett must be employees of a state, local or tribal government. To meet the law’s requirements, he said, they’ll need to provide a letter from the county attorney explaining how they meet the definition of a county employee...more

BLM works on wilderness agenda

As part of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s push to build a bipartisan wilderness agenda that can be enacted in the 112th Congress, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state offices will solicit suggestions and recommendations from state and local elected officials, Tribes, and other federal land managers on areas that deserve wilderness protection and that have broad support for congressional designation. “The focus of this effort is to identify lands that have strong backing for protection as wilderness and that might be appropriate for congressional action,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said. “The best ideas for conservation come from the ground up, and we hope this effort will help lay a foundation for a bipartisan wilderness agenda in this Congress. We’ve heard from the public and many people have expressed how much they value wilderness areas.” This effort is an extension of Secretary Salazar’s June 10, 2011, letter to Members of Congress requesting their ideas on “crown jewel” areas of public lands that have strong local support for permanent protection as Wilderness under the Wilderness Act. This fall, the Department of the Interior will submit to Congress a list of “crown jewels” it believes are ready for Wilderness designation by Congress based on the combined input from Congressional, state, local and tribal partners...more

The BLM’s Instruction Memoranda is available here.

BlueRibbon Coalition Calls for Legislation to Amend Recreation Permitting Process

The BlueRibbon Coalition, a national trail based recreation advocacy group, issues a call for legislation to amend the recreation permitting process on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service managed lands. The Coalition cites numerous examples of an overly bureaucratic process and arbitrary application of fees and other requirements that unfairly harm non-profit recreational clubs. The Coalition’s Executive Director, Greg Mumm, said, “the current implementation of the recreation permit regulations no longer serves the public interest or support the goals and objectives of land use planning. The recreation permit process must be revised. We believe that legislation is necessary to fix the problem.” Brian Hawthorne, the Coalition’s Public Lands Policy Director, is concerned that the permit process is endangering the existence of not-for-profit recreation clubs. He says the clubs often partner with land managers, providing assistance in management, maintenance and enforcement. “Federal land managers need healthy and growing clubs that can help manage recreation, especially in light of declining budgets. Sadly, some land managers require expensive permits for a simple club ride of only a few persons.” Don Amador noted that historic and popular competitive events that have been occurring without problems have been recently subjected to arbitrary fees. He also observed that in some areas, the application process to obtain an SRP is being used to prohibit and/or severely restrict otherwise allowable activities...more

Report: Horse welfare worse after slaughter ban

A recent report from Congress' investigative arm indicates that horse welfare across the U.S. has declined following the closure of domestic horse slaughter plants. Horse slaughter has effectively been banned in the United States for the last four years. Federal lawmakers since 2006 have prohibited the use of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds for inspecting horses slaughtered for human consumption. The ban on domestic slaughtering, combined with the impacts of a national recession, has led to a depressed market for horses and a decline of the animals welfare, according to a report released June 22 by the Government Accountability Office. It confirms what many have feared would result from the ban, and recommends that federal lawmakers reconsider use of USDA funds for inspection. The report notes that between 2006 and 2010, U.S. horse exports to Canada for slaughter increased by 148 percent, and by 660 percent to Mexico. In fact, nearly the same number of U.S. horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010 (about 138,000) as were slaughtered domestically in 2006. Further, data supplied by state and local governments and animal welfare organizations indicate an increase in investigations for horse neglect during the same time frame. For example, Colorado data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent - from 975 to 1,588 - between 2005 and 2009, according to the report. Lifelong Gunnison-area rancher Lee Spann views slaughtering as the most humane method for handling a horse that's past its prime - much more so than "putting it out to pasture." "Old horses die hard",� he said. "Their teeth are gone, and they fight the cold. They get thin. Pretty soon they can't walk and they die. You're not doing them any favor by keeping them until they can not function."...more�

Saving America’s Mustangs a driving passion for Del Mar philanthropist

As a child growing up in Iraq, Madeleine Pickens watched American Western movies and dreamed of immigrating to the United States. Among the images of the Wild West spirit that etched into her memory was that of mustangs roaming on the prairie. Later, as an adult, Pickens learned of the plight of wild horses in the modern American West — rounded up and confined to government corrals, or even sent to the slaughterhouse. “The idea of them running free and being gathered up by helicopters in such a traumatic style, being disposed of or warehoused by the government was such a sad thing for me,” said Pickens, a businesswoman and philanthropist, and wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. “So I got involved.” Pickens, who owns the Del Mar Country Club, founded Saving America’s Mustangs, a nonprofit foundation. So far, she has purchased two ranches in northeast Nevada totaling more than 18,000 acres, and she wants to use that land, along with some 600,000 acres of federal land surrounding her property, to create a preserve for wild horses. As part of her efforts to bring attention to her cause, the foundation has created a video appeal to Oprah Winfrey, and she shows off a group of mustangs she rescued at public events, from the Rose Parade to college football games. Her mustangs marched at the Del Mar Racetrack on Wednesday, July 20, as part of opening day festivities for this year’s race meet...more

Costly, job stifling overregulation still top concern in rural America

The U.S. debt ceiling continues to dominate debate in Washington, D.C., this week. A great deal of the discussion hinges on job creation and fiscal responsibility. However, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall said more attention should be given to curbing the administration’s onslaught of “burdensome, costly and scientifically unfounded” regulations as a way to cut spending and prevent further job loss in rural America. “There are so many factors being overlooked inside the Beltway that could stimulate the economy, create jobs and assist in reducing wasteful, unnecessary spending. The administration would minimize, if not eliminate, the risk of pushing farmers, ranchers and small businesses out of business if needless, costly regulations were never proposed. This is a real threat and one that needs to be addressed during spending debates,” said Woodall. Several members of Congress, including Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), agree that overregulation is a costly concern for farm and ranch families. “When I ask South Dakota producers what is the number one thing we can do in Washington, D.C., to help create jobs and grow our agricultural economy, the answer is simple: Give us more regulatory certainty,” said Rep. Noem. “Not knowing what threatening regulation might be coming down the line from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dampens any small business owner’s appetite for expanding their operation or hiring another employee. I believe it is essential that we stop the job-destroying overreach of the EPA, so we can give our producers the certainty they need to create jobs and grow our economy.”...more

Beef Prices Seen Rising to Record as U.S. Cattle Herd Shrinks

The U.S. cattle herd as of July 1 probably shrunk to the smallest on record, signaling tightening beef supplies and higher costs for shoppers and companies from Tyson Foods Inc. to Wendy's Co. Ranchers held 99.39 million head of cattle as of July 1, down 1.4 percent from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. That would be the smallest July herd since at least 1973, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture data begins. The government plans to release its semiannual report on the herd at 3 p.m. today in Washington. "If you've got fewer cattle, ultimately you're going to have less beef," Ron Plain, a livestock economist at the University of Missouri in Columbia, said yesterday in a telephone interview. "We're going to have new record cattle and beef prices in 2012." Cattle futures, which climbed to a record $1.21625 a pound on April 4, may climb to $1.23 as early as October and $1.25 as soon as March, said Plain, who has studied the industry for three decades. The size of the current herd is probably the lowest since the 1950s, he said...more

A look at history: Molly Goodnight was darling of the Plains

This month marks 141 years since the marriage of Mary Ann "Molly" Dyer - known as the "Mother of the Panhandle" - to one of Texas' most famous ranchers, Charles Goodnight. Married on July 26, 1870, the couple spent a seven-year stint ranching in Pueblo, Colo., before a number of unfavorable conditions resulted in their relocation to the Palo Duro Canyon. According to historical accounts, Molly, as she would be regarded by cowhands throughout the years, considered Texas to be much more civilized than Colorado and was particularly disturbed when two men were found hanged on a telegraph pole nearby. This lack of civility, coupled with the ensuing drought and the Panic of 1873, resulted in the Goodnights relocating to Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. Charles found a financial backer in John George Adair, a wealthy Irish landowner, and the two men and their wives started the JA Ranch in the Palo Duro Canyon. The Goodnights convinced the Adairs to select this location because of the plentiful grass for grazing, a steady water supply and protection for the cattle during the winter by the canyon walls. The group moved a herd of 100 Durham bulls and four wagons stocked with provisions to the site in May 1877 and built a two-room cabin. Soon the Adairs left management of the ranch to Charles and Molly, signing a five-year contract that guaranteed Charles one-third of the ranch's interest and a $2,500 annual salary. Charles began what would become an 11-year career with the JA Ranch, growing the herd and expanding the ranch, which at its peak spanned 1,325,000 acres...more

Thursday, July 21, 2011

EPA criticizes federal plan for roadless forest land in Colorado

The government's latest plan for managing 4.2 million acres of remaining roadless national-forest land in Colorado offers the strictest protection for only about 13 percent of it and makes exceptions for mining, logging and ski-area expansion. Now, in a broad critique of that plan, the Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a much stronger approach. EPA officials have submitted a letter asking the Forest Service to ensure top-tier protection for 2.6 million acres, more than quadruple the current 562,200 acres. The EPA also is recommending measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from coal mining and to prevent harm to wetlands from development around ski areas. "We cannot force them to make these changes," EPA environmental scientist Elaine Suriano said at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "These are things we think are important. Generally, agencies pay attention to what other agencies have to say." Forest Service officials said they'll consider EPA concerns along with those of 55,000 others who submitted comments on the plan. Comments have been collected at federal offices in California...more

Greens go for the gold, leave us in the red

In the sweltering summer of 1988, a NASA scientist named James Hansen appeared before Congress to warn about the dangers of global warming, thus single-handedly kicking off the modern global-warming hysteria. If the past didn’t back up Mr. Hansen’s 1988 testimony, sadly neither would the future. Never mind such realities; Mr. Hansen has made quite a name for himself - and a pretty penny besides - pushing global warming orthodoxy. Paul Chesser of the Heartland Institute summarizes the busy life of Mr. Hansen: “[Mr.] Hansen engages in high-profile public advocacy with regard to global warming and energy policy, directly trading on his platform as a NASA astronomer to gain interest and attention. This outside employment and other activities related to his work have included: consulting; highly compensated speeches; policy advocacy; a commercial book; advising Al Gore on his movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’; and most recently, advising litigants on suing states and the federal government.” Now the American Tradition Institute (ATI) wants to know if those activities conform to federal ethics and financial disclosure laws. ATI’s Environmental Law Center has filed a lawsuit in federal district court to force NASA to release records pertaining to Mr. Hansen’s outside advocacy...more

EPA offers “golf swing seminar” on EPA work hours and in an EPA facility

From the “why can’t we have fun on the taxpayer’s dime while we are destroying the economy” department. Here’s the content of an email making the rounds internally at the EPA today...more

Ash from Wallow Fire killing fish in Gila River

Consultant Frank Hayes presented general background information on the Wallow Fire. The Wallow fire, Arizona's largest, left behind large amounts of ash deposits and other debris. In some places, there could be as much as one foot of ash on the ground, which can wash into streams, rivers and creeks during storms, Hayes said. Hayes, a retired ranger from Clifton, said, “It is two to three years that you're going to have ash moving, but again, it will depend on the amount of rainfall that you have. It could depend on the number of hailstorms you have; you know, if you have a major hailstorm or two, it will move debris downslope.” Ash is flowing into the Gila watershed. On July 5, ash was first detected in the San Franciso River near Clifton. The San Francisco River flows into the Gila River, and ash flowed into the Gila Box on July 13. The ash in the rivers has begun to kill many of the fish in the area. Deborah Mendelssohn, who recently tested the San Francisco River and the Blue River, said, “We're in a very preliminary stage at this point, but we are seeing in the San Francisco the E. coli numbers are going off the charts, so we actually don't know how much E. coli there is in the water because it exceeds our maximum measurement.”...more

Bush-Era Commutable-Distance Gaming Rule Nixed

A controversial Bush-era guidance memorandum that invented a new rule for off-reservation Indian gaming has finally been shredded. Department of the Interior (DOI) Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), told tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference on June 14 that he has rescinded a January 3, 2008, memo which said, among other things, that tribes could develop casinos on land off their reservations only if it was within “commutable distance.” The memo didn’t define “commutable distance,” but former Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Carl Artman, who issued the guidance memo, indicated in testimony to Congress that 40 miles was the farthest a tribe could go from its reservation, a BIA news release reported. The day after it was issued Artman rejected almost two dozen land-into-trust applications. Echo Hawk said he had rescinded the 2008 memorandum after extensive tribal consultations. “The 2008 guidance memorandum was unnecessary and was issued without the benefit of tribal consultation,” Echo Hawk said in a BIA news release. “We will proceed to process off-reservation gaming applications in a transparent manner, consistent with existing law.”...more

Battle brewing between Valley farmers and ranchers

An Old West battle is brewing in the far west Valley between farmers and ranchers. “They were back again this morning,” said farmer Brandon Shelton. He’s upset that dozens of cattle come to his property about everyday, eat the crops and cost him thousands of dollars. “With open range rules you have to fence the animals out not the other way around,” says Shelton who is referencing the ways of the Old West where ranchers were allowed to let their cattle graze without boundaries. Several dead cows can be seen on his property. Shelton says they have either overeaten on alfalfa -- that can cause a buildup of gas -- or been hit by cars. But since the City of Goodyear annexed the land in 2007 open range rules were supposed to go away and restrict animals from going onto to others property. The problem is, the current city ordinances don’t include cows. “It only goes for dogs and potbellied pigs,” said Goodyear City Planner Joe Schmitz. He says the city is concerned about the 10 car-hitting-cow accidents in the past 10 months...more

Editorial: State should prepare for reduced farm subsidies

As Congress moves to address federal deficits and debt, it's apparent programs government-wide will take hits. Early indications are that farm subsidies will be reduced by as much as $35 billion over the next 10 years, or about 15 percent from direct payments, crop insurance and conservation programs. That kind of reduction will be felt in North Dakota. North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and other state leaders, as well as statewide farm organizations, need to be putting their heads together to prepare the state's farmers and ranchers for a transition to reduced or eliminated farm subsidies. We are not talking about the state picking up the difference in dollars between what was and what will be, but about the state helping agriculture producers create market-based solutions to this new economic model. With Congress and the president now talking about making cuts in excess of $1 trillion, whether the debt ceiling is raised or not, farm subsidies have become exceedingly vulnerable. The situation gets even more complicated because Congress has just begun work on the next farm bill. "It's a mess is what it is," was how Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., a member of the House Agriculture Committee, put it in a story in the Sunday Tribune. North Dakotans can either put their faith in Congress, a rather iffy proposition, or pursue state government, associations, co-operative and private options for production and value-added agriculture...more

Rancher talks about losing hundreds of heads of cattle

Up to 1,500 head of cattle have died across South Dakota from the prolonged excessive heat. Reports are still coming in and the state veterinarian says those numbers could rise. We went Estelline Tuesday where one farmer lost hundreds of cattle to the heat. This ranch has been in Roland Rust's family his whole life. He says the destruction this heat's causing is unprecedented. Roland says, "we've had cattle like this for decades and never had much trouble." Monday Morning Roland says his animals seemed fine, but things turned fast. He says, "there was several dead right by the water tank." Soon those several turned to several hundred, that's when Roland asked the Estelline Fire Department to come spray water on the cattle, a tough choice. He says, "the real hot ones, you'd just kill them and we probably did kill some, but we probably saved a bunch," But the hundreds who've died were about ready for market, meaning a loss of thousands and thousands of dollars for the Rusts. Roland says, "well, i'm 62, we won't make this back." For the Rust family, it's about more than the loss of money, he says the animals are like family and they've formed a strong emotional attachment. Roland says, "my neighbors were crying as they came by this morning to see it and to tell you the truth, I had to cry a few times too."...more

Here's the KSFY video report:

Heat and Drought Pummel South and Southwestern US

The U.S. is in the grip of a searing heat wave, with temperature warnings and advisories in effect for a large stretch of the central part of the country. States in the south and southwest have been experiencing extreme weather for many months, resulting in a severe drought across a belt of 14 states from Florida to Arizona. Crops and livestock are suffering, as farmers and ranchers struggle to keep them alive. But with no rain in sight and a shaky economy, some are questioning whether this could be a 21st century Dust Bowl. Pete Bonds, a cattle rancher from Saginow, Texas, is in Omaha on his way to Iowa in search of new grass to feed his cattle. He says in 55 years of living on a cattle farm, this is the worst drought he's ever seen. Dr. Donald Wilhite, founding director of The National Drought Mitigation Center and now director of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, concurs with Bonds. He thinks this drought, caused by La Nina, is likely the worst since the 1950s. [link]

Here's the 7 minute radio interview with Wilhite and Bonds:

Fukushima cattle farmers despair over beef ban

USING a special permit, beef rancher Masami Yoshizawa makes a weekly trip inside Japan's nuclear no-go zone around a crippled atomic plant to feed 300 of his cows that still live in the area. Post-quake life under a nuclear shadow was already tough for Fukushima cattle farmers, but they say a ban on shipments of cows from the prefecture amid Japan's latest food radiation scare could destroy their livelihoods. 'Many cows starved to death in Fukushima after the nuclear accident' as farmers did not return to feed them, said Mr Yoshizawa, responsible for some 1,000 cattle in the region as foreman of M Ranch farming. 'Now it's our turn. Cattle farmers will starve to death,' a frustrated Mr Yoshizawa told AFP. The government on Tuesday banned all cattle shipments from Fukushima prefecture due to escalating fears over radiation-tainted beef in the country's meat distribution chain, four months after the nuclear accident. Around 650 cattle are thought to have been contaminated with radioactive caesium from hay they were fed before being sent for slaughter - including some from areas well beyond the 20km evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. AFP

32 tons of toilet paper rolls remain in river after truck accident

A five-mile stretch of Idaho's Wild and Scenic Lochsa River remained cluttered by megarolls of toilet paper Tuesday, four days after a truck driver from Texas lost control on a tight turn and dumped the load. The Freightliner truck he was driving took out roughly 100 feet of guardrail before overturning and sliding into the river, dumping the load of eight rolls of unprocessed toilet paper, each weighing 8,000 pounds. The road was closed while the truck and trailer were removed from the river. Two of the rolls were fished out with a cable and tow truck before they became too saturated, said Don Whitney, a fisheries biologist for Idaho Fish and Game. "They estimated that once these rolls are waterlogged they weigh about 30,000 pounds apiece," Whitney said. The two rolls fell apart as they were removed...more

Crackdown on cartel suspects nets dozens of arrests

Dozens of dangerous San Diego-area criminal suspects with alleged ties to Mexican drug cartels were jailed Tuesday as part of a multi-agency sweep. The crackdown, dubbed "Operation Second Sole," targeted a total of 43 "high value" suspects allegedly involved in drug and weapons trafficking, robberies and "incredible acts of violence in our communities," according to San Diego police Lt. Kevin Ammon. "Many of the suspects arrested today have significant criminal histories and were considered to be armed and dangerous," Ammon said. "The success of today's operation rid the county of a serious threat to the safety and security of our citizens." Federal, state and local law enforcement personnel served arrest and search warrants throughout the San Diego region this morning to capture the suspects and "disrupt their criminal enterprises," the lieutenant said. SDPD officials and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched the operation "to interrupt and prevent dangerous individuals from committing acts of violence in furtherance of narcotics trafficking," said John Torres, special agent in charge of the ATF's Southern California division...more

Song Of The Day #623

Ranch Radio's tune this morning is Carl Smith's 1951 recording of Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yosemite waterfall deaths: 3 hikers swept over falls, presumed dead

Three hikers who fell over a popular Yosemite waterfall are presumed dead, park officials said late Wednesday morning. Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock and Ramina Badal, 21, of Modesto were on a day trip to Yosemite National Park with friends and family Tuesday afternoon when they climbed over a metal guardrail at the top of Vernal Falls near Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, park officials said. Witnesses told rangers that several people urged the group to get out of the cold, fast-moving water, but the three were swept over the 317-foot falls. A search-and-rescue effort lasted until Wednesday morning. Park officials said teams would continue to scour the Merced River for the victims. The trail leading up to the falls, the Mist Trail, has been reopened after it was closed during the initial search. There have been six water-related deaths in Yosemite this year, including the latest incident, park officials said...more

Montana land board looks at as much as doubling cattle grazing fees

The Montana Land Board decided Monday to consider increasing grazing fees charged ranchers who run cattle on state land by perhaps twice as much. A study commissioned by the board found the state is charging far less for grazing fees than private landowners. The board, run by the five statewide elected officials from the governor on down, is charged with managing state land and raising money for the school trust. The land board gave the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation the go-ahead to begin a multi-month review of the issue, which the agency said has not been done in about 10 years. The agency will come back with a formal proposal late in the year after holding public hearings. The rates would affect about 4 million acres of state land — and nearly 5,000 ranchers who lease the land from the state. Agency director Mary Sexton said that every $1 increase in the average $6.50 price per animal unit currently charged would raise an extra $1 million a year for state coffers. A proposal from the study said the state could double its current rate and still only be charging about 70 percent of the market rate...more

Meat grower’s guide to hogwash and B.S.

Consciously limiting your carbon footprint has become quite trendy among many young, urban Americans. It’s a practice I whole-heartedly support – it’s just that their ideas to achieve their goal are often way off the mark. This week produced another round of anti-meat chatter with the release of the “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health” by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington-based non-profit “organization that advocates on Capitol Hill for health-protective and subsidy-shifting policies.” The research by EWG examined every stage of food production, processing, consumption and waste disposal, and determined that if everyone in the U.S. eliminated meat and cheese from their diet just one day a week for a year, “the effect on greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.”  The report found that traditionally raised lamb has the worst carbon footprint, followed by beef, cheese, pork and fish. EWG also made recommendations for people who choose not to give up eating meat. For beef eaters the suggestion is to eat grass-fed beef because it is “lean and healthiest.” It was also recommended that you choose “certified humane.”...more

Found on a K-Mart hand dryer

Fairfield rancher fined for killing grizzly bear that killed his sheep

A Fairfield-area rancher who shot two grizzlies that were killing his sheep in May was found to have violated the federal Endangered Species Act and was fined $2,000 for the misdemeanor violation. Rick Christy, 52, shot at the grizzlies and fatally wounded one. An investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that Christy violated federal law because he killed the grizzly in defense of livestock. Under state law, it is legal for a livestock operator to protect property, including livestock, if it is under attack by predators. It is only legal to kill an endangered animal under federal law if it is in self-defense. In an interview after the May incident, Christy said he saw the bears killing his sheep about 150 feet away from his house in a fenced off sheep pen and that the predators were about 10 feet away from him at one point. Christy managed to kill one of the bears with one shot from his .308-caliber rifle. The other bear ran away after the shots were fired. The bears killed or fatally wounded nine of Christy's sheep, valued between $1,800 and $2,000...more
The ms is doing some funny things to my sleep cycle. So until this is resolved The Westerner may look more like a traditional blog, i.e., I'll throw them up as I find them.

Swiss trial opens for 3 accused eco-terrorists

Three accused eco-terrorists went on trial under heavy security in Switzerland's highest criminal court Tuesday for an alleged plot to blow up an IBM nanotech research center near Zurich. The trial in the Federal Criminal Court for an Italian couple and Swiss man living in Italy opened after a one-hour delay because of the extraordinary security taken by Swiss police, who cordoned off the area with metal barriers. The three defendants — 35-year-old Costantino Alfonso Ragusa, his 29-year-old wife Silvia Ragusa Guerini and their 26-year-old Swiss friend Luca "Billy" Cristos Bernasconi — had been detained after being arrested last year with explosives...more

Song Of The Day #622

Patsy Cline sings A Poor Man's Roses.

U.S. warns of possible attacks in Ciudad Juarez

The U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent drug war city, warned on Friday that cartels may be seeking U.S. targets in a possible escalation of violence. The recent capture of cartel members in the area by Mexican authorities may prompt retaliation and a potential increase in violence in the Chihuahua-state city, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, the consulate said in a statement. "Information has come to light that suggests a cartel may be targeting the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez or U.S. Ports of Entry," it said. Cartels have in the past used car bombs in attacks and U.S. citizens should be vigilant, the statement said...more

Mexico's border with California resembles a demilitarized zone

David Bejarano was a police officer in San Diego back in the 1980s, when he said the U.S. border with Mexico was truly out of control. "You could drive a trailer across (from Mexico) with people, dope, whatever you wanted," he said. "We used to have hundreds of people literally rushing across Interstate 5." Now, Mexico's border with California — the birthplace of the 649-mile-long border fence being built by the USA— resembles a demilitarized zone. In highly populated areas south of San Diego, U.S. Border Patrol vehicles patrol dirt roads between 18-foot-high fences. Cameras monitor hard-to-reach valleys, and drivers must idle through Border Patrol checkpoints that sit 4,000 feet above sea level along Interstate 8 in the Jacumba Mountains. The San Diego County Sheriff's Office is even enlisting beach lifeguards to help identify smugglers bearing drugs and illegal immigrants by boat from Mexico...more

Email Confirms ‘Gunwalker’ Known Throughout Justice Department

The October 27, 2009 email from ATF Phoenix Field Division Special Agent in Charge (SAC) William Newell regarded a Southwest Border Strategy Group meeting that focused on Fast and Furious. It contained a laundry list of high ranking Justice Department officials that attended the meeting, including:

* Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Lanny Breuer,
* Kenneth Melson, Acting Director, ATF
* William Hoover, Acting Deputy Director, ATF
* Michele Leonhart, Administrator, DEA
* Robert Mueller, Director FBI

Four other Justice Department directors or their representatives came from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), Bureau of Prisons (BOP), U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA). The chair of the Attorney Generals Advisory Committee (AGAC) also attended the session. Their names were redacted in the released document. U.S. attorneys for all four southwest border states also attended...It strains credibility to claim that the assistant attorney general, the AGAC, the directors of the five major DOJ agencies in charge of law enforcement, and all the U.S. attorneys in the Southwest region were privy to Gunwalker, but that the attorney general himself was unaware of the operation. It suggests that either Holder is being untruthful about what he knew about the operation, and when he knew about it, or that he is so out of touch with a major operation conducted by his key law enforcement agencies that he is too incompetent to fulfill his official duties...more

Deputy Attorney General James Cole Involved in 'Fast & Furious' Whistleblower Cover-up?

Operation Fast and Furious (F&F) – a program run by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that allowed thousands of lethal weapons to cross the Mexican border – was apparently no secret among high-level political authorities at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Among those in the know? Newly-confirmed Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Information is now seeping out about the political whiplash that secured a confirmation vote for Cole in exchange for the DOJ’s release of documents to Congress. In a supremely ironic twist, the documents ransomed by Cole’s confirmation strongly suggest that Cole himself was involved in the cover-up of F&F...more

Note also that Congress is apparently having to trade confirmation of Obama officials to obtain certain documents.


As if "Project Gunrunner" and "Operation Fast and Furious" weren't bad enough, we now learn of "Operation Castaway," run out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Tampa field division. It's another operation that allowed guns to "walk" south of the border, this time to Honduras, using similar techniques and tactics. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., sent two letters a week ago to Attorney General Eric Holder and ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melsom inquiring about the program. He shouldn't expect much. As commentator Brit Hume noted on "Fox News Sunday": "The stench of cover-up on this gun-running operation is very strong indeed." "Two weapons found at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry were traced back to the ATF's 'Operation Fast and Furious,' and reports now indicate that ATF's Tampa field division trafficked as many as 1,000 firearms to the dangerous MS-13 gang in Honduras through a similar program known as 'Operation Castaway,' " Bilirakis states on his website. Project Gunrunner, of which Operation Fast and Furious was a part, and now Operation Castaway, are without noble purpose. The cover story is that they were part of a plan to trick and track gunrunners. In fact, these schemes made it easy for criminals, drug cartels and gangs to acquire weapons. The real purpose, we have stated and still suspect, was to advance the administration's push for gun control and the stripping of law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights through "common sense" restrictions on private gun ownership by creating chaos and fomenting violence with the guns provided. Indeed, it did not take long for ATF to announce a new gun-control mandate — the requirement that gun store owners in the border states of Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico make a special ATF report for multiple long-gun sales, the same type of weapons the ATF was freely providing to the worst of the worst...more

ATF Chief Admits Mistakes in 'Fast and Furious,' Accuses Holder Aides of Stonewalling Congress

The head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has admitted that his agency, in at least one instance, allowed sales of high-powered weapons without intercepting them -- and he accuses his superiors at the Justice Department of stonewalling Congress to protect political appointees in the scandal over those decisions. Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson made the disclosures about the so-called Operation Fast and Furious in an interview with congressional investigators looking into the controversial anti-gunrunning initiative. Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the two Republicans leading the charge in Congress against Fast and Furious, released a statement Monday noting Melson's testimony, along with a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining their complaints. The two lawmakers accuse Holder's department of "unsatisfactory responses and lack of cooperation" with the congressional probe, and Melson seemed to agree. "It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the Department (of Justice) is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the department," Melson said in one quote highlighted by Issa and Grassley. Melson is quoted as saying, "there were some mistakes made" in Fast and Furious by the ATF's Phoenix Field Division, but Melson said aides to Holder didn't want to admit those mistakes to Congress...more

Gun-smuggling cartel figures possibly were paid FBI informants

Congressional investigators probing the controversial "Fast and Furious" anti-gun-trafficking operation on the border with Mexico believe at least six Mexican drug cartel figures involved in gun smuggling also were paid FBI informants, officials said Saturday. The investigators have asked the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration for details about the alleged informants, as well as why agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the Fast and Furious operation, were not told about them. The development raises further doubts about the now-shuttered program, which was created in November 2009 in an effort to track guns across the border and unravel the cartels' gun smuggling networks. The gun tracing largely failed, however, and hundreds of weapons purchased in U.S. shops later were found at crime scenes in Mexico. The scandal has angered Mexican officials and some members of Congress. Investigators say nearly 2,500 guns were allowed to flow illegally into Mexico under the ATF program, fueling the drug violence ravaging that country and leading to the shooting death of a U.S. border agent...more

Gunwalkers cartoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

Drought: A Creeping Disaster

Climatologists call drought a “creeping disaster” because its effects are not felt at once. Others compare drought to a python, which slowly and inexorably squeezes its prey to death. The great aridification of 2011 began last fall; now temperatures in many states have spiked to more than 100 degrees for days at a stretch. A high pressure system has stalled over the middle of the country, blocking cool air from the north. Texas and New Mexico are drier than in any year on record. The deadly heat led to 138 deaths last year, more than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods, and it turns brush to tinder that is vulnerable to lightning strikes and human carelessness. Already this year, some 40,000 wildfires have torched over 5.8 million acres nationwide — and the deep heat of August is likely to make conditions worse before they get better. Climatologists disagree about what caused this remarkable dry-out. But there is little disagreement about the severity of the drought — or its long-term implications. When I asked Richard Seagar, who analyzed historical records and climate model projections for the Southwest for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, if a perpetual drought was possible there, he replied: “You can’t really call it a drought because that implies a temporary change. The models show a progressive aridification. You don’t say, ‘The Sahara is in drought.’ It’s a desert. If the models are right, then the Southwest will face a permanent drying out.”...more

Foresters eye fallout from S. Ariz. wildfire

The U.S. Forest Service is trying to protect an amphibian on the endangered species list from being buried alive by monsoon floods and sediment left behind after last month's Murphy Complex Fire. The Chiricahua Leopard Frog, a threatened species, is getting some help from the Burned Area Emergency Response team, or BAER, after an assessment deemed the area around the frogs' habitat a "value-at-risk." The BAER team's goal is to reduce the potential damage that sediment and erosion could cause Peña Blanca Lake and nearby Ronquillo Pond once monsoon season is in full effect. The BAER team decides how the soil will react to post-fire weather, such as monsoon storms, and how the water will roll off the soils' surface. Their main concern is watershed overflow from nearby Alamo Canyon Wash and Pena Blanca Canyon Wash. "After the fire burns through, you literally have little to no vegetation left on the surface to collect and slow the water down," said John Hays, Santa Cruz County floodplain coordinator. "Without that vegetation there, you see more water hitting the ground and moving faster." Faster moving water is erosive and can pick up a large volume of sediment in a short amount of time, Hays said...more

Energy Company Abandons 24-Page Coloring Book on Fracking Featuring 'Friendly Fracosaurus'

The "friendly Fracosaurus" featured in a 24-page coloring book by Talisman Energy that explained the controversial process of extracting gas from rock formations will no longer be distributed by the company, a spokeswoman told Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Talisman Energy USA Inc., said the coloring book, "Talisman Terry's Energy Adventure," was created in 2009 by staff at Talisman's headquarters in Calgary, Canada, as a giveaway for county fairs and other community events along the Pennsylvania-New York border. It's unclear exactly how many were produced and distributed, she said. Despite no complaints from the public -- only from "the media," Cox said -- the company decided to stop using the publication within the past month. The coloring book, which is no longer available for download from the company's website, explains the drilling process and depicts relatively unchanged landscapes "before drilling" and "after drilling."...more

Rocky Mountain wolf recovery leader was not your average bureaucrat

Ed Bangs has long been a lightning rod for the controversy around the return of wolves to the U.S. Northern Rockies. Based in Helena, Mont., he led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf-recovery effort from 1988, when the region had only a few naturally occurring wolves, through the reintroduction of Canadian wolves in 1995 and '96, until his retirement in June 2011. During those years, the number of wolves in the region increased to more than 1,700. A plethora of lawsuits, alarmist headlines and political maneuvers culminated with Congress removing most of the region's wolves from the Endangered Species List (an action also being challenged by lawsuits) just as Bangs retired. Throughout the wolf battles, people on all sides of the issue respected Bangs for his unusual frankness and good humor. HCN's senior editor, Ray Ring, talked with the 60-year-old biologist on July 1 about his lifelong interest in wildlife and his reflections on wolves and human society in general. Here are some excerpts...more

Feds, tribes meet on land consolidation

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar kicks off a series of meetings Friday between federal officials and Indian tribes over a $3.4 billion court settlement for the government's historic mismanagement of Indian trust accounts. Friday's event in Billings is the first of six consultations with tribes planned over the next several months. The goal is to determine how to spend $1.9 billion from the settlement that is slated for tribal land consolidation. The government intends to buy up fractionated Indian lands from willing owners and then turn those lands over to tribes. Often, hundreds of people, even thousands, share ownership of individual parcels of land on reservations...more

Commissioner Staples applauds waiver to ease hay transportation

Texas ranchers desperate for hay to feed their livestock during this drought are receiving some relief. As Texas ranchers struggle to feed their herds in the wake of some of the worst drought and wildfire conditions in state history, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples sent a request to Gov. Rick Perry to direct the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) to waive certain restrictions and permitting requirements to expedite the transport of hay. The waiver expires at midnight, August 4, with the possibility of a forthcoming extension if he renews the state's disaster proclamation on the day of the deadline. The TxDot waiver, which has been enacted numerous times in the past, temporarily suspends permitting requirements; legal height restrictions on round hay bales and associated permit fees for hay carriers. Public safety remains a priority and therefore dictates that all other legal requirements, including licensing, registration, insurance and safety precautions continue to be in place and monitored closely for compliance. The waiver also considers alternate routing wherever possible...more

Who Gets the Beef in 2011?

The USDA released the latest "meat prices spreads" this Friday afternoon, so we thought this was a good time to remember who gets the beef when it comes to the cattle market. The chart above shows the difference in price between the retail value of choice beef (in red) and the net farm value (in blue). The figures show the average cents per pound paid for choice beef at the retail level, and the net value retained by the farmer and rancher. Basically, you can see that there is a fairly large spread between what farmers and ranchers receive for a pound of beef and what retailers take in. Farmers received 46.3 percent of the retail value of a pound of beef. That's about what they got in 2005...more

50 Years Of Movie Magic In Marfa, Texas

The tiny West Texas town has been the backdrop for movies like No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood and Giant. Hollywood -- and plenty of other people -- can't seem to get enough of Marfa's wide-open spaces. Marfa is a tiny town in West Texas with just 2,000 residents, about 60 miles from the Mexican border and nearly three hours by car from El Paso. But it's been the backdrop for some of Hollywood's most notable movies. It was the site of the 1956 epic Giant, which starred James Dean as a rancher turned oil tycoon, and recently, two Oscar winners, No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Why is Hollywood so attracted to Texas? The drive-in movie critic, Joe Bob Briggs, says it's "because evil thrives in Texas." People seem especially drawn to West Texas, a land of limitless desolation — and possibilities — onto which they can project greed, lust and violence. Which makes it perfect to visit as part of our series On Location, which looks at the places where great American movies were filmed...more

Town rounds up a crowd for cowboy’s 80th birthday/Tom Hall's Last Roundup

Tom Hall’s 80th birthday celebration Sunday was inaccurately billed as an open house. It was actually much bigger — an open town. The crowd at Bruneau’s American Legion Hall filled 18 tables for eight. More people lined the walls, hovered around a mountain of food and told tales in the bar. By most estimates, the crowd exceeded 200. Bruneau’s population is about half of that. Tom Hall — rancher, farmer, historian, public servant, storyteller, Idaho character. A cowboy’s cowboy. Many of those who came to wish him well Sunday were cowboys themselves. Real cowboys — third- and fourth-generation Idaho ranchers. There were more boots, scarves and saucer-size belt buckles than at a cowboy poetry reading. And everyone had a Tom Hall story. Jordan Valley rancher Mike Hanley gave thanks for the broken covered-wagon wheel that kept Hall’s family in Bruneau rather than continuing on the Oregon Trail to the Willamette Valley. But it was Grand View cowboy Dennis Jayo who told the quintessential Tom Hall tale. “We were having a drink in a bar when a woman asked Tom how long he’d been riding a horse, “ Jayo said. “Tom said his folks came out here from Missouri when his mother was still pregnant with him. Their mare was expecting a colt, and Tom and the colt were born the same night. His father was in a hurry, so he went on ahead and left Tom and his mother there. It took Tom three days to break that colt, and he’s been riding ever since.”...more (From 2003)

Tom Hall's Last Round-Up

Tom Hall, a well-known Bruneau-area rancher passed away recently. I was saddened when I heard the news but grateful that I was able to spend an afternoon with this bona fide cowboy last summer. The tall man in jeans and cowboy hat stood on the tree-shaded, well-groomed lawn in front of his tidy home near Bruneau. “Welcome to the Hall Ranch," Hall said, eyes taking in the small group from the Owyhee County Historical Society who were gathered around. “I’m Tom Hall. This is the Hall Ranch. We’re kinda proud of it. We really are. The ranch has been in the family since 1917. We’re proud of that, my wife and I." After a pause, he added, "Nobody will have the love for this place that we do. I get a tear in my eye every time I look at it because I think how beautiful it is.” That was my introduction to a man who lived in the same house he was born in 88 years ago...

Song Of The Day #621

It's Swingin' Monday and we have another great fiddle tune for you. Here's the Nashville Bluegrass Band having fun with the old fiddle tune Soppin' The Gravy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Cowboy’ is a process
 by Julie Carter

“Riding for the brand” and “making a hand” are two expressions that are short on words but big on meaning, which seems appropriate for the Western genre they represent. Much like the word “cowboy,” there is a lifetime of components built into it.

Every cowboy kid grows up hearing these phrases - knowing it is part of what and who he is destined to be. How he gets there is just part of everyday living.

Ranch kids are given big responsibilities at a young age. It might start with simple chores like daily taking out the ashes from the wood stove, filling the wood box, bringing in the milk cow every evening, and gathering the eggs from the chicken house which includes eluding the rooster that is always waiting to attack.

Right around that same age, the youngster will unassumingly be given some responsibilities in the pasture beyond the usual seemingly permanent position of riding drag behind the herd.

As his dad rides off one direction, he’ll tell the young button to ride down a long draw as he points to it, bring along any cattle he finds and meet the cowboys at the gate at the end of the canyon.

With some pride filling his heart, the button will sit a little taller in the saddle as he rides off.

As his horse picks his way through the quakies, a few head of cattle lift their heads from their grazing and start moving down the draw ahead of him.

The lad pulls off a small branch from a sapling as he rides by it and pops it on his leather chaps in a rhythm that matches the gait of the trotting cattle. He doesn’t know it yet, but those moments will be remembered by him as some of his happiest.

He keeps an eye on the ridge above him, hoping he’s not ahead of the rider coming that way or not too far behind the ones he is to meet. A few times a little worry eases its way into his gut. What if he wasn’t in the right canyon or not going the right way?

When he rode out of the end of the draw and no one was at the gate, he again gave thought to the possibility he wasn’t where he was supposed to be or maybe they’d forgotten about him.

The few head of cattle he’d pushed out hit the fence line. He trotted ahead of them, got them stopped and then sat quietly while they settled down.

He knew he should just wait. At least he had some cattle to show for his efforts.

He slouched in the saddle and began, one by one, stripping the leaves off the branch he’d brought along. He chewed on one and tossed the rest at a make-believe target a few feet away. Then he began peeling off the bark, keeping one eye on the cattle, and keeping his hands busy and mind occupied. Killing time he wasn’t sure he had to kill.

He stood in his saddle and looked in every direction for signs of anyone, anything.

He listened for the sounds of cracking branches and horse shoes striking rocks, or the sounds of cattle moving through the trees. Still nothing. Knowing he needed to trust his raising and for sure better be where his dad told him to be, he waited it out.

Finally, in a far distance he could hear an occasional “whoop” and “h’yah” as the cowboys moved a big herd down the fence line from the backside of the pasture. The button grinned, again sitting tall in the saddle, looking every bit the cowboy he wanted to be.

His dad rode by him and gave him a nod. It said all he needed to “hear.” In that gesture was “Good job son. You made a hand.”

Those times are the confidence builders that build a foundation for a life and it plants seeds for loyalty and pride in a job well done.

 "It was probably a step in the making of a cowhand when he learned that what would pass for heroics in a softer world was only chores around here."  Wallace Stegner, Wolf Willow: A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier

Julie can be reached for comment at


The Dance of Life

Notes from the Ranch
Two Jitterbugs, Five Two Steps, Two Waltzes, and Chutzpah
The Dance of Life
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

     She came down from Boston to be closer to her mother . . . she was her mother’s only daughter . . . and they tried to teach her to walk and talk and fold her napkin right.  Who knew she would be the kind of flower that calloused hands would never hold?
     Was it a lyric or was it a glimpse of life?  I would submit it depended on the time of day when it was heard.  It would change much like a chameleon, and, if it was raining, Mozart could have been the choice.   
     Two Jitterbugs
     What did a saddled mule standing in the flat, a paint horse that could run, Skeeter Byrd, and a Ford 9N tractor have to do with growing up?  In my case, it was escape from the turmoil and realities of life.  They were excursions into worlds that offered privacy, freedom and unfettered observation to an impressionable kid.
     That bay mule wasn’t around long, but while she was there Boppy would saddle her and leave her ground tied.  She stood out in the flat by the kitchen drain.  I climbed all over her.  She wouldn’t move.  She was the perfect platform to fight Indians, shoot bad guys, and smell horse . . . well, mule, flesh.  It leaves a lasting impression.
     Panda came later.  A tall black and white paint horse, Boppy had brought her home and turned her out.  Nobody could catch her, but I did.  I’d get her saddled and take her up on the mesa above the house.  The first time I ran her I was electrified.  She’d run and then she’d shift gears!  Never had I felt that kind of sensation.  She’d make your eyes water.
     Skeeter Byrd was the most unpretentious, good natured kid I was ever around.  When I was with him it was down at the mouth of the Mangus at Uncle Hap and Aunt Mary’s place.  Most kids worked hard at playing.  Skeeter just worked.  He was always looking for home.  Maybe he and I had more in common than we realized.  We lost Skeeter this summer in an accident.  He had become a great, old time cowboy.   He had been from the beginning.
    The 9N story will not be told.  It was my first near death experience.  I always took Nana’s advice after that, though.      
     Five Two Steps
     Most of life is an endurance race.  It is the combination things that take the greater portion of time.  Education, diligence, career, drought, debt, most friends, long days, sleepless night, rope burns, meetings, stock portfolios, short numbers, an occasional cold beer, ambition, the return to New Mexico, and, too seldom, success all become part of the scheme of things. 
     Education was always important until I met Bill Sturgeon.  It was Bill who demonstrated the difference between learning and understanding.  He was ‘Old Blue’ and successful in most things.  Bill could have been a snob, but he was far from it. He was a gentleman.  He opened the door.  Others contributed, but they also expected performance.
     Mike Dallas and I were discussing Perry Paggi one day.  We had a disagreement as to whether he was Portuguese or Italian.  I think my position was that he was Italian.  Mike was contemplative and he deducted he had to be Portuguese.  Perry had a very successful electrical business in Tulare.  He had wired an almond huller we had built at Earlimart, from that point on when we had a problem Hwe called Perry. 
     Mike’s contention was that Perry was more diligent than he was smart so he must be Portuguese!  We laughed when we thought about it and we shared the deduction with Perry.  He was Italian!   The point was that being smart was not the only thing needed to be successful.  Being persistent and working hard was equally if not more important.
     If you’re engaged, life is intense.  That is just the way it is.  It is the chase that older folks talk about. 
    It takes most of your time.  Often it takes your life.  It may not be the easiest to accomplish, but those who master it make it look graceful.  Simple two, four time may appear dreary and mundane, but when the occasional master shows up  . . . what a marvelous thing to observe.
     Two Waltzes
     Passion, hope, inspiration, and love are the things that cannot be created.  They come in their own time and place.  They are the treasures we seek.         
     Kathy and I were at the Gun Club in Kingsburg dancing one night and a waltz was played.  When it was over a fellow came up to us and asked where we were from.  When we told him he said he had deducted it had to be either Texas or New Mexico.
     “I miss . . .  Texas in the fall . . . and the feel a sweet New Mexico rain,” he said quite emotionally as he continued holding each of us with his hands. 
     We agreed.  Waltzes are like that.
     The first glimpse of your first child, the sensation of observing your kids excelling, standing on a grape harvester at night with fruit coming up the elevators in much higher rates than you anticipated, pairing a forlorn calf, and observing and feeling unconditional love in any setting all make that waltz special. 
     It happens infrequently and it cannot be scripted.  It is never planned.  When it occurs, it is a beautiful thing.  It is the nearest thing to heaven on this earth.
     I have an Israeli farmer friend.  The view of the world through his eyes is profoundly different from most Americans.  One day he told me of his take on the difference between modern Americans and those of 1947.   The difference was an analogy.  The analogy was the historical difference in ‘vacation’ and ‘chutzpah’ (pronounced hūdz΄pa).
     In 1947 the word, vacation, was not in general use in America.  If a Midwesterner from 1947 or a modern Israeli were asked what the word meant, he or she would have to explain it in words or phrases.
     Ask a modern American what chutzpah means and he could not give a one word definition.  The definition, if it was known, would have to be given in phrases or sentences.  There is no single word in English for chutzpah.
     Chutzpah as defined by an American means . . .oh, let’s see . . . uh, brazen gall, brazen nerve, sheer guts, but that is not all . . . there is also some arrogance with it so it must be . . .  sheer guts with an attitude, but  . . . the attitude is controlled.  That is what it must be . . . sheer guts with an intent attitude!
     There is still no single word in Hebrew for vacation.  The point becomes obvious.  Americans of 1947 created the most magnificent and productive economy the world has ever known.  The Israelis of today have the same absence of emphasis of leisure time as Americans did in 1947.  Who is better off and what trait in our history made us the envy of the world?   
     View from the Ranch
     Life is a dance.  If it can be played out on the basis of two jitterbugs, five two steps, and two waltzes what else could be asked? 
     What about the choice of either vacation or chutzpah?  Would the future of our kids be better served with the series of dances and a big vacation, or the series of dances with chutzpah?
     America is not better off today than she was in 1947.  In the rush to get to where we are going, something grand and important has been lost.  It is no longer a matter of why not . . . it is a matter of why.   It has to often become a matter of ‘it is too hard’, ‘vacation’, and the outright evil of suppression of sovereign individuality. 
       It is also the fear that the Founders had when they anticipated leaders who would become believers in their own infallibility and self importance.  To protect against that, God was asked to be part of the process.  Without him, leadership invariably adopts the assumption this is actually the spotlight dance  . . . but, with him the spotlight dance still looms out there . . . in the greatest of all ballrooms.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “Few decisions in themselves make or break anything, but, collectively, they do.  Financially independent, part time leaders may have shared the dilemma of human frailty, but they would not have been so compelled to put somebody at risk to create personal legacies.  That is where we find ourselves today.”


Depending on who you are or where you're from, Steve's column can call up many memories.

There's the horses.  I remember the day it dawned on me my Dad told time by horses.  "Let's see, I was riding Apache then, so that must have been in '28 or '29."  Horses were important to my generation, but just think of the role they played for those who came before.

There's the dancing.   My mom taught me how to dance in the kitchen.  My first "public" dancing was in the Corona High School gym. First was the duty dances and nothing else.  Then I discovered I enjoyed it, was good at it and that the girls liked it.  Many joyful miles of trodding the boards followed.

And then comes a politician and his legacy.   Read Steve's comments under the column.  We all know he's talking about Jeff Bingaman, and that I believe is the point of this piece.  Will Bingaman's quest for an environmental legacy bring this all to an end?  Will those childhood memories, those life lessons and family ties be denied to future generations?  Just thrust aside and trampled on and left dying in federal dirt?

We here at THE WESTERNER are doing our best to not let that happen. And maybe someday, at the right time and place, I'll get that little nod of approval that Julie Carter wrote about today.