Friday, August 05, 2011

Bingaman's Boner (As In "Screw Up")

by Jim Scarantino

Senator Jeff Bingaman has a reputation, deserved or not, for being a careful legislator.  But he sure has pulled a boner on his wilderness bill for Dona Ana County.  Instead of seeking true consensus, he listened only to the enviro lobbyists and bought their dog and pony show.  They told them they had almost unanimous support for an aggressive proposal to create wilderness on the border with the war torn country of Mexico.  They showed him a "coalition" of hundreds of businesses and rammed through some resolutions by local governments when the other side was either absent or not yet organized.  What else do you need, Jeff? They beseeched him.  Oh, and did I mention that a staffer assigned to this issue was dating an organizer for the New Mexico Wilderness Coalition at the time?

Senator Jeff started getting his back up when what he had been told started to unravel. But instead of backing off, he bulled ahead. He avoided meeting with the leaders of the opposing coalition, which lined up hundreds more businesses in opposition.  Those opposing businesses happened to be real businesses, unlike many of the sham businesses used to inflate the numbers for the wilderness coalition.  Jeff didn't like it much when the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce opposed his bill.  Then came the realtors association.  Then came the organization representing retired border patrol agents, and local law enforcement, and local municipalities and, well, the wheels came off the rosy chairot he had been riding to a legacy of wilderness in Dona Ana County.

Senator Jeff did not act as he has over his many decades of service.  Instead of backing off when it was revealed to him how unpopular and unwise his wilderness bill was, he has tried to ram it through against growing local opposition.  He has shortchanged local leaders opposed to the bill in opportunities to testify in Washington on their views.  He has ducked local hearings.  Now he's not even showing up for hearings on his own bill, as our friend Frank DuBois reports.

Wilderness in Dona Ana County is a dead legislative initiative as long as the local opposition remains organized, Steve Pearce represents southern New Mexico in Congress, and John Boehner is Speaker of the House.  This debacle is a sad coda for Jeff Bingaman.  It compares terribly with the wilderness bills he worked on when Pete Domenici was senior senator.  We never saw train wrecks like this.  Bingaman is leaving office not with a wilderness legacy, but with a gift of distrust and loss of respect among his constituents in southern New Mexico.  Sad.

Here's a list of the coalition members in opposition to Bingaman's bill.  Not exactly a sign of consensus down south.

Jim Scarantino is the former Executive Director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

This column originally appeared at NM Liberty

'Vampire' stalks Siberian livestock

A blood-sucking creature is preying upon goats near Novosibirsk. As rational explanations run thin on the ground, the specter of the so-called chupacabra raises its demon head. Horrified farmers and smallholders are confronted by the drained corpses of their livestock in the morning, bloodless and bearing puncture marks to the neck but otherwise largely in tact. But local cops are reluctant to record apparent vampire attacks, as they await official recertification, leaving the locals up in arms. “All the people are scared, they fear that the creature will move onto children,” the head of the village said. “We have organized night patrols of six people. We walk through the village, on the look out for this wickedness. But so far we have had no results.”...more

Researcher finds green lining to climate change on the range

Out on the plains west of here Thursday, plant physiologist Jack Morgan inspected some grasses growing on a plot surrounded by a hollow hoop beneath an array of small heaters suspended from metal rods. “Can you hear the hissing sound?” he said. “That’s the sound of the CO2 being emitted. It does it at a controlled rate, and we measure it in the middle of that ring.” What Morgan, a rangeland scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Fort Collins, is really trying to measure is how rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as a result of climate change might alter how grasses and weeds grow in the Western Great Plains – critical information for ranchers and cattle growers who could see their businesses reshaped by climate change. In 2005, Morgan and teams of scientists from Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming set out to simulate climate change on tiny plots of grassland at the USDA High Plains Grassland Research Station near Cheyenne by testing how grasses and weeds in the area react to higher levels of carbon dioxide and greater heat. The results, so far, point to some good news for cattle growers in a changing climate, he said. Morgan’s team has found that increased carbon dioxide levels increase the efficiency of how plants use water, reducing the amount of water grasses and weeds allow to escape into the soil. The teams’ simulations of the warming and higher carbon dioxide levels expected later this century show no change in soil water and an increase in plant growth for warm-season grasses...more

So root for global warming and we will all witness the following scenario:  Ranchers all across the West will apply to the feds for increases in carrying capacity on their allotments, based on...increased plant growth caused by global warming.  The only way they can reject the increase is to deny the global warming is occurring.  At that point I predict the feds will join the ranks of the global warming deniers.  The Cattle Growers will be lobbying hard to show that global warming is real. And, just about that time I'll be shutting down The Westerner for good.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Holds White House Rural Forum to Discuss Jobs and Economic Opportunities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today held a White House Rural Forum at the Wisconsin State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The forum is part of a series of meetings that are being held across the country this summer with senior Administration officials. "The White House Rural Council is focused on creating good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and across America that help businesses grow and communities thrive," said Vilsack...Press Release

Somebody tell Vilsack the government doesn't create jobs. History shows us that gov't can create wars and economic ruin, but not jobs. The best thing the Rural Council could do is dismantle the U.S.D.A. Then they should install ear tags on Vilsack and all his buddies so they can be monitored and hopefully prevented from ever bringing their disease-ridden ideas back to D.C.  If something bad happens, though, we would have the trace-back mechanism to capture the vultures.

The U.S.D.A. press release also says:

The White House Rural Council is working collaboratively to build on the Administration's robust economic strategy for rural America

Robust economic strategy?  Look around you folks.  If you see anything in the private sector that looks "robust" don't tell Obama and his crowd.  They'll "fix it" till its dead.

Oh, I forgot.  Public land ranching will be "robust" as soon as we get enough global warming.

Ken Salazar ain't no dummy

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will visit Alaska on Monday, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. It will be Salazar’s third visit to Alaska and comes at the request of Murkowski, a Republican, as an opportunity to examine the state’s resources and discuss energy development and public lands issues. The three-day visit is described in a news release as an opportunity for the policymakers to take good look at Alaska and its stores of energy. It includes a tour of a North Slope drilling facility and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, meetings with North Slope community leaders and a visit to Barrow’s new Indian Health Service hospital. A trip to Denali National Park also is planned...more

Salazar is getting the hell out of the extremely hot weather and heading to cool Alaska...but on official business you understand.

Westerners should note who the Dem's have put in charge of Interior approps. - Jack Reed from Rhode Island. There's a lot of grazing, mining, timber and wolves in Rhode Island don't you know.

Crowd turns out to pan Las Vegas water plan

A pipeline that could tap water from an arid basin straddling Utah and Nevada could be years away from reality — if it ever gets to that — but opposition remains strong in this rural area of ranchers and farmers. "The alternative I would like to see is no action," said Frank Paxton from neighboring Kanosh. "This pumping and pipeline project would have a huge impact on the rangelands of this basin that at this point I am emotionally involved with." Paxton was among a handful of residents who voiced concerns Thursday night at Delta High School's gymnasium during a public meeting hosted by the Bureau of Land Management over a groundwater project. A draft environmental impact statement was released by the federal agency earlier this summer and is going through the public input process for comments. The deadline for comments is Oct. 11. In a departure from what is usual, the federal agency did not approve or reject the pipeline plan or any alternative, saying a conclusion is impossible without knowing how much groundwater ultimately will be tapped. That remains to be determined by the Nevada State Engineer, who will convene hearings on water right applications in late September. Still, the agency was criticized by some for going through a process described as premature given the pending water rights issue and for evaluating impacts when locals say they already know the water withdrawals cannot be sustained...more

La Nina may re-occur and drought to persist

Climatologists said Thursday that the La Nina conditions that have contributed to Texas' worst drought in decades may re-occur later this year _ troubling news for the state's beleaguered farmers and ranchers who also learned there was likely no relief in sight. The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Nina watch on Thursday, just two months after declaring the last La Nina had ended. The phenomenon, which is marked by a cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, typically results in less rain for southern states. It was only part of the bad news for Texas, which has been in a prolonged drought along with neighboring Oklahoma and New Mexico: The U.S. Drought Monitor predicted most of the state would remain in "exceptional" drought _ its highest classification _ through the end of October. "It's a double-whammy of sobering news for Texas," National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said. A La Nina watch means conditions are favorable for La Nina to return within the next six months. But it's more likely Texas will know early as October or November, said Mike Halpert, a deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, which is part of the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meteorologists were awaiting confirmation on Thursday that the current drought is the second worst in Texas history, trailing only a devastating drought in the 1950s that was also fueled partly by a series of La Ninas...more

Texas - Baled gold

Finding good hay in the middle of a drought is proving difficult for farmers and ranchers, leading to high hay prices, and the selling off of cattle around the state. “It’s been pretty high with the drought situation like it is,” said Kenneth Gladney, officer in charge of the Amarillo Market News Office for USDA. “Some of these people are getting half as much hay as they normally have, so it’s driven the price of hay higher.” The worst affected areas are the Panhandle, Central Texas and West Texas. North Texas and East Texas have been affected, but not as badly. Some areas of Texas haven’t gotten any significant rain in 2011. As a consequence, the drought is also pushing ranchers to sell off their cattle, either because they have no water left in stock tanks, or they anticipate not being able to feed the animals through the coming winter. Darrell Olsen, owner of Olsen Feed Store in Corsicana, was able to set aside 4,500 square bales of hay last year. This year that number is just 900. “I have been here for 30 years and this is by far the worst I have experienced,” Olsen said...more

Ca. Hay Prices to Soar

Local horse owners are facing a serious hay shortage, and unfortunately many of them are not aware of it yet—unless they are running their own ranches or buying their own hay. The news is buried in the financial section of the newspapers and probably won’t hit the front pages until it’s critical. Our long, cold, rainy winter made the hills green and filled our lakes and rivers to the brim, but the excess also dealt a devastating blow to the state’s hay production. For local horse people, this will mean a strain on family budgets. For horse rescue operations, it is a crisis. Hay costs are rising significantly for three main reasons: • California’s unusually wet, cold winter and spring • The brutal drought and heat through the rest of the country • A growing trend for farmers to shift from hay production to government-subsidized corn for ethanol use...more

Horse owners, horse rescuers and cattlemen can thank the green gang and the D.C. Deep Thinkers for making a bad situation worse.

Walden resident pens book of cowboy poetry

Fred McMurry has had dual careers over the years. After graduating from Texas Tech and doing a stint in the Navy he pursued a career as an industrial psychologist and at the same time was a rancher involved in raising cows. He has written a number of business-related papers, but it was his interest in ranching and cowboys that inspired him to write “You Gotta Love Cowboys,” with the subtitle “Their Poems and Their Lore.” The author said cowboy poetry began in the glory days of the Old West, just after the Civil War. It was found on trail drives and roundups. It became popular in bunkhouses and around camp fires. “Cowboys tend not to worry much about meter, simply content with some kind of rhyme scheme,” McMurry said. He explained it was earthy because the cowboys life and concerns were earthy and they tended to write about subjects such as cattle, sunsets, loneliness and trail drives. In rhyme he explains what cowboys don’t do including holding grudges, whine or pass the buck. Superchili is explained in rhyme and praise for bluebonnets in another. McMurry calls himself F. Jackrabbit McMurry and throughout the book drawings of jackrabbits are included with western-related sayings...more

Store pulls Obama Disappoint-MINTS

The news story is here.

Song Of The Day #631

Ranch Radio needs something "robust" this morning. So here's Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan & The Texas Playboys and their 1945 recording of Stay A Little Longer.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Bingaman a no-show at wilderness hearing - Subcommittee holds 52 second hearing on S. 1024

The Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands & Forests held a hearing Wednesday on Senator Bingaman's S. 1024 which would designate as Wilderness over 240,000 acres on or near our border with Mexico.

Bingaman wasn't there.  Subcommittee Chairman Wyden presided, Bob Abbey, Director of BLM testified...for 52 seconds.  No questions were asked and no further discussion was had on the bill.

If you have the stomach to watch democracy at work, you can see an archived video of the hearing here.  The testimony on S. 1024 starts at 40:15 and ends at 41:07.

It's also interesting to note that industry officials were invited by the Subcommittee to testify on other bills heard that day, but no such invitation was sent on S. 1024.  Keep in mind that Bingaman is an ex-officio member of the Subcommittee and chairs the full committee.

We held a hearing of our own, so to speak, which is here.  There you will find comments from local folks and excerpts from letters of opposition sent to the Subcommittee.  Please except my apology because it will take you longer than 52 seconds to view the material.

I've also uploaded four letters of opposition to S. 1024 which you can view by clicking on the organization.

National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers.

Dona Ana County Sheriff

Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce

Dona Ana Soil & Water Conservation District

Back to the regular The Westerner tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Today Senator Bingaman will present his Wilderness bill, S. 1024, to the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. This legislation would designate as Wilderness over 240,000 acres on or near our border with Mexico.

Since most folks don't have the opportunity to testify or to meet with the Senator, we put out a few emails and asked folks for their comments. The response was overwhelming.

There's no way I could post them all, so I've tried to eliminate duplicates (although Border Security is mentioned by almost everyone) and emphasize comments from Dona Ana County or its environs, or from those who have experience with border issues. Plus I've just run out of time.

What follows are sometimes edited comments, plus excerpts from letters opposing S. 1024 sent to the Subcommittee by the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, the Dona Ana County Sheriff, the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and the Dona Ana Soil & Water Conservation District. All that is followed by a on-the-point essay from Steve Wilmeth.

My family has been called the “First family of Wilderness” because they were the first family in the nation evicted from federal wilderness. I am told that their mistreatment is the reason that grazing language was inserted into the Wilderness Act. What am I supposed to believe? Is it Mr. Bingaman’s word that grazing will continue in his border bill, or is it what the government did to my family?...Mayci McKindree Lee, 14 year old, seventh generation New Mexican ranching descendent and great-great-great- great granddaughter of pioneer Gila wilderness rancher, Peter McKindree Shelley

My Dear Senator; Please listen to the voices of reason and common sense! Securing the NM Border is a top priority. The designation of additional Federal protected land will only make it harder for law enforcement to monitor the increased criminal activity on the NM Border. Concentrate on job creation not a legacy of creating vast stretches of land designated for Wilderness…William Mattiace, Former Mayor, City of Las Cruces, NM

I am opposed to S1024 because it ignores the BLM wilderness studies conducted pursuant to FLPMA. The Las Uvas WSA and the Robledos WSA were found not suitable for Wilderness designation. The Broad Canyon area between those two WSAs was found to have insufficient wilderness characteristics to warrant WSA designation and further study. These three areas included in S1024 for permanent Wilderness designation are major Rio Grande watersheds that contribute to frequent downstream flooding. They have been identified as probable non-point sources of e coli bacterial contamination of the river during storm event runoff. Experts associated with the Paso del Norte Watershed Council are studying the feasibility of designing and constructing series of small drainage retention devices throughout the watershed in lieu of traditional large earthen dams to mitigate both flooding and bacterial contamination. These innovative practices would not be allowed under Wilderness designation…Tom Mobley, Rancher

The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers is opposed to S. 1024. This legislation seeks to create 242,000 acres of wilderness designations on or near our border with Mexico and deny all but the most minimal use of motorized vehicles, even for routine patrol. Prohibition against the use of mechanical equipment will consequently prevent the deployment of mobile surveillance systems, remote cameras, electronic detection devices and other tools critical to maintaining operational control of the area in question. Approval will restrict unfettered access to Border Patrol Agents and their equipment to a strip of land only five miles wide from the border. By Federal statute the Border Patrol has the right to enter private property within twenty-five miles of the border and we find it astonishing that Congress would choose to limit this to five miles on Federal property…Letter to Subcommittee Chairman Wyden from Kent Lundgren, Chairman, National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers

I am against S.1024. If the Potrillos are made wilderness, the Lazy E will become the doormat from Mexico. My home will be signpost on the trail north. Reckon these senators will request armed guards when they want to have supper with me?”…Leonard Goad, Ranch Foreman, Butterfield Trail Ranch

While I agree we should ensure the lands defined in Senator Bingaman's Wilderness Bill should never be developed, I strongly feel the Wilderness designation is too restrictive jeopardizing Border Security, public safety and flood control of surrounding population centers, and meaningful public access. These lands can be protected in more reasonable and less restrictive ways....Tom Hutchinson, Restaurant Owner, former Chair, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce

I am opposed to Senate Bill 1024 because of my personal knowledge of and field experience with the rangeland of southern Dona Ana county, New Mexico. This area needs ecosystem inputs to mitigate woody plant encroachment occurring on these rangelands. Active management inputs are functionally not allowed under wilderness designation. S. 1024 relegates these lands to a future of continual grassland degradation, soil exposure and erosion, resulting in a deteriorated watershed and a downward spiral in rangeland health…Chris Allison, Dept. Head, Ext. Animal Sci. & Nat. Res., NMSU

The federal government has been derelict in its constitutional mandate to protect the borders of the United States. S1024 is reckless and irresponsible legislation which will further jeopardize our national security. There is already evidence of human and drug smuggling in the prescribed area (which does not meet the criteria of the Wilderness Act of 1964), and a wilderness designation will guarantee an increase in illegal activity which endangers public safety. This administration and Congress cannot be trusted to honor any MOUs or promises to law enforcement; therefore, I urge you to defeat S1024…Carol P. Richardson,Retired School Teacher

As the duly elected Sheriff of Dona Ana County, New Mexico, I write in opposition to S. 1024 which would designate over 240,000 acres as Wilderness in southern New Mexico. The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits the use of motorized vehicles, mechanical devices and structures in all Wilderness areas. Such prohibitions would stymie my department’s efforts to protect the public safety. Furthermore, given the recent problems of drug and human trafficking from Mexico, it would seem the height of folly to place such restrictions on law enforcement in this border area…Letter to Subcommittee Chairman Wyden from Todd Garrison, Dona Ana County Sheriff

I am opposed to S. 1024 because it will cause the loss of access to wilderness areas by all segments of the population, greatly hamper efforts by the Border Patrol and law enforcement to carry out their missions, impose severe limits on ranching and grazing operations, severely limit recreational opportunities, endanger sensible flood control projects, cause severe restrictions on firefighting and search and rescue operations, and greatly limit potential future growth opportunities on federal land. The areas that are proposed to be wilderness do not qualify as wilderness due to the historical use of, and access to, these allotments. The major proponents of this bill are those that oppose free enterprise, and seek to greatly reduce, if not nearly eliminate any private or public use of federal lands. That is clearly not a sensible, prudent approach to land management, in this time of severe economic crisis worldwide, and less and less U.S. access to resources in an increasingly hostile world. If we are to survive as a nation, we must protect our borders from foreign, illegal encroachment, and develop the natural resources we possess in this country…Phil Harvey, Jr., Mesilla Business Owner

I am strongly opposed to S.1024 for many reasons, including the fact that it would create Wilderness in two Wilderness Study Areas totaling about 30,000 acres which Interior Dept. determined are lacking in Wilderness characteristics and recommended they be returned to multiple use status (the Las Uvas and Robledo Mountains areas). In addition, S.1024 would create Wilderness in two areas which Interior Dept. studied and left in multiple use status, also totaling about 30,000 acres, again due to lack of Wilderness characteristics (the E. Potrillo Mountains and Broad Canyon areas). S.1024 would override these realistic conclusions of the Interior Dept. drawn after studying the areas for 15 years, from 1976 to 1991, and would ignore the strong opposition of the real stakeholders. With more than 100 million acres of Wilderness already created, why is Senator Bingaman so determined to ignore his Dona Ana County constituents and force S.1024 on us with staged committee hearings falsely claiming broad community support? We deserve better! Please stop S.1024 from moving forward…Tom Cooper, Rancher

Taking the word “wilderness” out of the title of S 1024, does not change the fact that this bill is a wilderness bill that is attempting to create and restore lands to wilderness characteristics. This bill is an insult to Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness areas are supposed to be already pristine and untouched by man. This bill completely ignores the very basic fact that most of the 242,000 acres in your bill were carefully and professionally studied by unbiased professionals and declared as unfit for the designation as wilderness. But, you know that and do not care. This bill and your one sided “hearing” is just catering to the green gangsters that do not care one bit about the security of our borders, our economy, and want to close all of our precious public lands to most Americans. Hopefully, this perversion of the Wilderness Act will be stopped in the House of Representatives. Please retire early…Fred Huff, Outdoor Recreation

The Greater Las Cruces, NM Chamber of Commerce, representing approximately 1,000 businesses, has strongly opposed Senator Bingaman’s efforts to designate our community’s lands as “Wilderness” in the former S. 1689 and now its current reincarnation of S. 1024…Until Senator Bingaman can answer our concerns regarding these important issues, we stand in strong in opposition to S. 1024…Letter to Subcommittee Chairman Wyden from John Hummer, Government Affairs, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce

I am opposed to the wilderness bill S.1024 because the bill as written does not allow for routine access by law enforcement personnel. The proposed wilderness areas on the border will become safe sanctuaries for human and drug smugglers. Law Enforcement Officers in Dona Ana County face many problems in carrying out their duties and to have another unnecessary law forced on them will be devastating…LeeAnn Evans, Spouse of former law enforcement employee

I am opposed to S.1024 because of the severe restrictions it places on law enforcement efforts and the negative impact it will have on border security for our community. I am also opposed to this legislation because of the severe restrictions on access to the areas involved, and because of the harmful restrictions placed on the ranchers that operate in these areas…Jodi Denning Horse Owner/Breeder

Senator Jeff Bingaman's bill S-1024 is a further government intrusion into the rights of all citizens by depriving them access to areas covered by this unacceptable bill. It is a "land grab" and would be very detrimental to our state and nation…Mary C. Fuller, businesswoman

I am opposed to S. 1029 because it's unnecessary as the land is already protected and further restricting it and depriving it's routine use to law enforcement is contrary to border security. Also, as one who uses some of this area for recreation and exploring, I'm concerned that if I should fall or encounter some other catastrophe no one can come to my aid except on foot or horseback. It is a bad and short sighted bill with no "up side." W.J Haynes, Sportsmen

The addition of more Wilderness land designations on or near the border between the United States and Mexico is one of the most ill conceived ideas that Congress will ever be asked to consider. What could possibly be the rational to effectively legislate away the lawful presence of the Border Patrol and all other law enforcement agencies to the extent that they are denied all but the most insignificant access to areas so critical to the defense of our national security and the health and safety of our citizens. Passage into law of this proposed legislation is not in the best interests of our national security and must be opposed by all legitimate means…Gene Wood, Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent (Ret.), Trustee of the National Border Patrol Museum, Dona Ana County Resident

Senator, close to 85% of Dona Ana County and this District is federal land under the management of the Bureau of Land Management. The Lower Rio Grande Watershed includes all lands that drain into the Rio Grande from Caballo Dam to the Texas state line near El Paso, TX, the majority of which are federal lands. Our concern is about access. Your Senate Bill 1024 will eliminate the District’s access to key areas of this watershed to perform any watershed restoration projects aimed at improving watershed health and/or providing for effective stormwater management to preserve our natural resources and provide for the safety and welfare of our public and property…Letter to Subcommittee Chairman Wyden from Joe Delk, Chairman, Dona Ana County Soil & Water Conservation District

I am opposed to S.1024 because it will become a super highway for illegal entry into the USA and deny access to the Border Patrol and other law enforcement. This area will become another Organ Pipes Cactus National Monument as in Arizona. Secondly, I am a sportsman and hunter. My access to prime quail area would be denied…Patrick Dunnahoo

The membership and Board of the Las Cruces T.E.A. Party (Doña Ana County) stand firmly in opposition to passage of S.1024. We believe the members of organizations, businesses, and individuals opposed to the legislation greatly outnumber those in favor of the legislation, many of whom are not even residents of Doña Ana County. Our members are greatly concerned about the impacts of S.1024 including loss of access, on border security, on our ranching community, on health of the land, and on recreational opportunities, flood control, and beneficial use of flood waters. S.1024 is seen by our members and by our citizens as potentially extremely detrimental to our community and our agricultural heritage. We ask that the legislation be withdrawn from any further consideration…Debra White, President, Las Cruces T.E.A. Party

I am opposed to S1024 because it is not widely supported by the citizens. The government controls too much land in Dona Ana county already. The bill will put too much pressure on our farmland for future growth and the land in question needs to be accessible for multiple uses. Martin Porter, business owner

I am vehemently opposed to S1024. This bill has been pushed by our two Senators in an attempt to confiscate public land and take it out of our reach. There are a number of reasons to not make this a Wilderness area: 1) The southern border needs to be protected from those who want to enter our country illegally. 2) The area needs to be made available to companies and private enterprise that can make use of the resources and bring revenue into the state treasury . 3) The federal government already has confiscated too much of our state. 4) The way of life of those living in the area needs to be protected over the animals and plants that live there.
5) The politicians need to listen to the citizens of this area who have repeatedly said they don't want this to be a wilderness and are happy with the present disposition of the land as a managed area. These are only a few of the reasons that this bill should be tabled. I, as a long time New Mexico resident, am greatly offended by Senator Bingaman 's " my way or the highway” attitude."…Scott LaFon, TorC

I am opposed to S.1024, as it will be putting our nations security at risk, If wilderness designation is implemented in southern Dona Ana County along the US New Mexico border, we then may be facing the same devastation as southern Arizona. More jeopardy & expense for our citizens…Brenda Allen, Rancher, Realtor

S.1024 is the same bill as the original Wilderness Bill with only minor changes. New Mexicans in the majority rejected S.1689 despite Bingaman and Udall's claims otherwise. It's a travesty that we in NM must fight again against a bill that will shut us out of land that for the most part doesn't even meet the criteria for Wilderness. The new bill does not address border security and therefore will create a brand new Drug Corridor for the Southwest…Betty Russell, Business Owner

I’m opposed to S.1024 simply because it ranks border and national security below the desire to preserve public lands too near the border. Areas where the Border Patrol cannot have free access do NOT belong ANYWHERE near our borders…Claude E. Guyant, retired US Border Patrol Agent, former Immigration Attache, Central & South America, Dona Ana County Resident.

I write in opposition to S.1024 which would limit law enforcement of the New Mexico/Mexico border, lock up natural resources, and shut down access to public land…Crystal Diamond, Sierra Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor

As the wife of a Potrillo corridor rancher, border wilderness scares me to death. Think of the implications of that . . . why does any American have to fear the actions of his or her government? I am against S.1024.”...Kathy Wilmeth, wife of Potrillo Mountain corridor rancher, Steve Wilmeth.

S.1024 is very much a concern to all of us who make a living on or near the border. The more we learn about Arizona, the more alarmed we become regarding prospects of violence on ALL expanses of federal lands that limit full and unencumbered access by Border Patrol. At this time, ALL plans for federal lands status changes in Hidalgo, Luna, and Dona Ana Counties, New Mexico must be put on hold. This is a matter of national security and we ask that you consider the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves.”...Walt Anderson, Rancher, Hidalgo Soil & Water Conservation District

And our friends in Arizona issue a warning.

My beloved southeast Arizona homeland has been devastated by federal government policy starting with the designation of federal Wilderness. Senator Bingaman's S.1024 will only hasten the expansion of the same smuggling corridors that we now have in Arizona. Wake up Congress!...Joe Dreyfuss, Tucson area businessman and talk show host

A wilderness area on the US - Mexico border is a cruel joke. There is no way the United States government can protect the supposed wilderness values of land along the border when the countryside is overrun with illegal aliens and drug smugglers. We have the Pajarita Wilderness Area just west of Nogales. The area is covered with illegal immigrant trails, empty water bottles, discarded backpacks, and littered with spent automatic weapon bullet shells. At the end of last May illegal aliens started what they claimed was a "distress fire" which burned most of the wilderness area to ashes. Wilderness Areas impede securing our border. No new roads can be constructed, the fence cannot be completed, and Border Patrol access is limited to horseback and foot travel. Wilderness areas are open doors into the US for illegal aliens and drug smugglers. Large areas of federal-managed lands are damaged as a result of putting protecting alleged wilderness areas ahead of protecting national security. Those who advocate wilderness areas at the border are really opposing protecting national security from the Mexican drug cartels…Hugh Holub, an attorney who blogs at the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

Wilderness is Causative

Border Wilderness and the National Security Threat
Wilderness is Causative
Bingaman’s Promise to “run (the facts) to ground”
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

     In a meeting two years ago, New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman gave the contingent of Dona Ana County residents who led the fight against his proposed “Organ Mountain – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act” one hour in his Albuquerque office to present their opposition to the bill.  He had assured them that evidence they had presented would be “run to ground”.  Most importantly, he had dismissed their plea that border wilderness had created serious national security threats to all Americans.  He declared that “wilderness is not causative” in matters of national security threats.
     The Open promise
     The group of constituents were shown the door and never heard directly from the senator or his staff again.  They came to realize that, regardless of the evidence presented, the senator was intent on pursuing the bill in the form blessed by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. 
     Adjustments were made in the language of the bill including the inclusion of a five mile buffer for the Border Patrol to adequately patrol from the Potrillo Mountain administrative boundary south to the border itself.  If wilderness was not causative in terms of danger to national defense, the first acknowledgement of border security concerns was demonstrated by the senator in that action.
     Reporting cracks appear
     From Border Patrol data, the impact of Bingaman’s five mile buffer came into focus.  Based on Arizona conditions, the Border Patrol admitted in public testimony in May, 2011, 80% of illegals apprehended are caught within five miles of the border.  The other 20% are generally caught within 25 miles.  The remainder, an estimated 75% of all illegals breaching the border, are not apprehended. 
     The Bingaman bill would create a situation whereby the Border Patrol would catch 80% of what it is now apprehending.  The designated federal wilderness stretching 20 miles north from the administrative boundary would conceal the others. 
    That “others” would represent 80% of all intruders in the Potrillos.  At a minimum, the bill would create a situation where eight of ten border intruders would be shielded from normal and customary surveillance.
     The Safe Haven influence
     There is a problem, though, with assuming the numbers would remain similar to those currently being experienced in the El Paso Sector.  Those numbers are hovering under 50 apprehensions per border mile year.  One hundred ten miles west in New Mexico’s Bootheel, the apprehensions are running ten times that number.  It is there the de facto wilderness management policies of the federal land agencies are in place and affect the Border Patrol’s full and unencumbered access to all areas of the border. 
     Those policies mimic the yet more restrictive designated federal Wilderness constraints further west in the Border Patrol’s infamous Tucson Sector.  In the core of that Sector, the apprehensions are over 900 per border mile year.  That is nearly 20 times the rate of the El Paso numbers the federal government presents to the public when border safety is discussed. 
    The Tucson Sector is where the real onslaught takes place.  It is there, on 13% of the southern border, that half of all human and drug smuggling activities occur on all American borders.  It is a dangerous, dangerous region that few Americans now venture and where federal land agencies limit their employees from entering without an armed escort.
     The Tiered Approach
    The designated Wilderness and de facto managed lands of southern Arizona have required the Border Patrol to install a tiered approach to border defense.  In many areas they simply cannot adequately patrol on the border and have had to drop back in an approach that can be best described as a series of nets.
     The tactic has been described by retired Border Patrol agents as defensive rather than proactive or offensive.  It has been likened to trench warfare waiting for the unseen adversary to arrive across no man’s land rather than confronting border intruders at the border and daring them to challenge sovereign American territory.
     The Bingaman bill in its original form, S.1689, failed in 2010.  It failed for a number of reasons not the least of which was the outrage of American politics demonstrated in the midterm elections.  Environmental backlash was a strong undercurrent in that revolt.
     The bill is now back and it will be again start the dreary process of making its way through the system.  There is an interesting development, though.  The undercurrent of environmental tedium is apparent in the repackaged work.  No longer is there any reference to “wilderness” in the title of S.1024, The Organ Mountain – Dona Ana County Conservation and Protection Act, but there is added emphasis of border security.  The issue of “causative” is brought vividly back into perspective.    
     Wilderness is Causative
     Bingaman’s verbal manifesto that wilderness is not causative has proven to be incorrect.  The data doesn’t support his stance.
     The characteristics of the Arizona smuggling corridors can be described in detail.  Wilderness has complimented those characteristics each and every time it has been designated on the border.
     The rate of apprehension and interdiction of human and drug smuggling is exponentially higher in the Tucson Sector.  The concentration of federally designated wilderness and de facto managed federal lands in that sector is ground zero in the concentration of such smuggling.  There is a bell curve of apprehension history and it peaks dead center in lands designated federal Wilderness.
     The spring GAO-11-38 report suggested that only four of 26 of all Border Patrol stations recognize that federal land laws affect their ability to protect the border.  Such a rate may not be a major problem to some leadership, but, when those stations happen to be in the smuggling corridors created and exacerbated by federal designated Wilderness where 92% of all human and drug apprehensions across the Yuma, Tucson, and El Paso Sectors occur, major problems do exist.
     The rate of deaths and sexual assaults suffered by illegals entering the United States is at an all time high.  The preponderance of those human indignities occurs in the Tucson Sector smuggling corridors created and exacerbated by federal designated Wilderness.
     As more is understood about the drug war in Mexico, there is growing realization that the smuggling corridors themselves are central to the expansion of the violence.  Only history will reveal how that war might have been different if those corridors had not been so easily created.  Designated Wilderness was the major catalyst in the creation, the expansion, and the barbaric defense of those corridors.
     Plea from No Man’s Land
     In a recent discussion, a New Mexico Bootheel rancher was asked what he thought of ‘his’ president’s stand on border security.  He responded that he wasn’t sure of such a position because he hadn’t read anything regarding ‘his’ president’s stance.
    Irritated by the response because of the abundance of recent reporting the rancher was challenged.  He finally had to divulge that since he lived in an area conceded to Mexico in matters of border protection, he simply hadn’t seen what President Calderon had to say recently about such matters!
      Sadly, that growing cynicism is shared by to too many folks who have duties, responsibilities, and investments on the lands along the Mexican border.  Environmentalism has trumped national security interests on the Mexican border.  There is simply no other way that Senator Bingaman’s actions can be interpreted in the face of appeals from his border constituents who face the danger outright.
     There are three Wilderness Study Areas along the New Mexico border with Mexico which face eventual wilderness designation consideration.  Of the three, that portion of the Potrillo Mountains in the repackaged S.1024 will have the most profound impact on national security.  The classic characteristics the Arizona class human and drug smuggling corridors are in place.  There are the east/ west accesses north and south of the area, the rugged north/ south physical characteristics of the terrain, the strategic high points of observation, the domination of isolated federally owned lands, the scarcity of resident Americans, and the presence of wilderness, safe haven expanses.
     What makes the area yet more dangerous are the ultramodern east/ west transcontinental railroad that forms the northern boundary where 70± trains a day sit awaiting track priority, and the interstate gas line that runs parallel to the same corridor.  Five and ten miles north of those infrastructure features are I10 and the airport at Las Cruces, New Mexico.  If there was ever a scenario that sets the stage for catastrophic national security implications . . .  Senator Bingaman’s S.1024 has all the features.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “Wilderness and wilderness management are not only causative in terms of degradation of resources and national security, the combination has totally displaced the “values” management promised in FLPMA.  How bad has it become on the border?  When the rooting sections for the passage of S.1024 consist of the environmental movement and the drug cartels, it is time to seek new leadership.”       

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Effectiveness of fuel treatments in the West depends on thinning intensity

In the largest ever study of fuel treatment effectiveness, U.S. Forest Service researchers have found that intense thinning treatments that leave between 50 and 100 trees per acre are the most effective in reducing the probability of crown fires in the dry forests of the western United States. The study, the results of which are published in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, provides a scientific basis for establishing quantitative guidelines for reducing stand densities and surface fuels. The total number of optimal trees per acre on any given forest will depend on species, terrain and other factors. This study proves once again that an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Thinning dense forests reduces the impacts of the catastrophic wildfires weve already seen this year and expect to see more and more of in the future. This work helps protect communities, provides jobs and promotes overall better forest health. Decades of excluding fire in the Western states have resulted in densely packed stands and a buildup of forest-floor fuels in many dry forests, which can lead to large, continuous crown fires when wildfires do occur. Crown fires are of particular concern to managers because they are challenging to suppress and are capable of causing widespread mortality in stands. This year, Arizona and New Mexico have already experienced the worst fires in the states histories...more

A New Study Takes The Wind Out Of Wind Energy

Facts are pesky things. And they're particularly pesky when it comes to the myths about the wind energy business. For years, it's been an article of faith among advocates of renewables that increased use of wind energy can provide a cost-effective method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The reality: wind energy's carbon dioxide-cutting benefits are vastly overstated. Furthermore, if wind energy does help reduce carbon emissions, those reductions are too expensive to be used on any kind of scale. Those are the findings of an exhaustive new study, released today, by Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm. Rather than rely on computer models that use theoretical emissions data, the authors of the study, Porter Bennett and Brannin McBee, analyzed actual emissions data from electric generation plants located in four regions: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Bonneville Power Administration, California Independent System Operator, and the Midwest Independent System Operator. Those four system operators serve about 110 million customers, or about one-third of the U.S. population...more

EPA’s air-quality overkill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to kill more jobs with another make-believe air-pollution scare. Although congressional Republicans and businesses oppose the coming rules tightening ground-level ozone standards, they once again have opted to fight the agency with both arms tied behind their backs. In January 2010, the Obama administration proposed to tighten the standards to between 60 and 70 ppb. Although the EPA is expected to miss its self-imposed deadline of July 29 for issuing the rule, the agency said it will be issued “soon.” The agency no doubt is counting on opponents to continue making their same losing arguments. All is not lost, however, if Republicans and industry would dare to challenge the EPA ozone standards on the basis of health. Because there is no evidence that typical ambient ozone levels have affected actual public health, the EPA resorts to dubious laboratory tests to provide a rationale for its claim that there is no safe threshold of exposure to ozone...more

Wind farm jeopardizes state's largest land exchange

For all his life, it was Fred Ruskin's dream to complete the largest land exchange in Arizona history and consolidate his family's huge northern Arizona ranch into a contiguous private parcel. Now that dream is in jeopardy because of a different dream of building a wind farm on the vast grasslands of the Yavapai Ranch. The wind farm gets a public hearing in front of the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday. The 100,000-acre ranch, located about 30 miles north of Prescott, is a massive checkerboard of the Ruskin land and the Prescott National Forest. Despite extensive controversy, especially over Forest Service land in the Verde Valley that would become private, Ruskin finally won congressional and presidential approval of the Yavapai Ranch Land Exchange in November 2005. "We've been talking about this exchange literally longer than I've been alive," Ruskin told The Daily Courier when then-President George W. Bush signed the exchange into law. His father started the process, and "I've been working on it really hard for 10 years." The federal government saw it as a major opportunity to open up public access to as many as 70,000 consolidated acres north of Prescott...more

Pooch Airlifted From Angeles National Forest After Pooping Out On Trail

An afternoon hike turned into an overnight ordeal when a couple, whose 80-pound dog joined them for the trek, couldn’t make it back down the trail. Officials said the dog, Baxter, a Labrador mix, suffered cuts to his paws from rocks on the trail at the Angeles National Forest, just north of San Dimas. The walk became too hard and he grew too tired, forcing his owners to call police for help. The couple couldn’t carry the dog themselves, so they waited overnight for help to arrive. On Sunday morning, a rescue helicopter arrived and had to completely shut down to calm the frightened dog enough to board. The couple and the dog were eventually airlifted to safety...more

Cattle Tested for Effects of Altitude on Heart

JEMEZ SPRINGS, N.M. — For tourists traveling into the mountains, altitude sickness can be an uncomfortable reality. The lightheadedness. The nausea. The vicious headaches. Cattle, ostensibly, endure a similar fate. Each year, ranchers who raise their herds on the lush grasslands of the Rockies find that up to 20 percent can suffer from a form of high-altitude sickness, commonly known as brisket disease. The illness, brought on by a lack of oxygen, which causes the restricting of blood flow in small arteries in the lungs, is particularly costly for ranchers. Experts who have studied the condition estimate that it kills more than 20,000 cattle across the West each year and renders many more unproductive. For the three years now, as part of a continuing effort to contain the illness, a team of researchers from New Mexico State and Colorado State Universities have been trying to determine which cattle are more likely to be genetically disposed to survive at high altitudes, where grazing can be plentiful. On Monday, the team spent hours at the sprawling Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico, performing pulmonary arterial pressure measurements on young cows and bulls...more

Officials to electro-shock fish

Anglers and others wading in South Lake Tahoe's Upper Truckee River could be in for a shock – if they fail to heed warning signs. Beginning this week and continuing through summer, U.S. Forest Service crews will be using electro-shock equipment to temporarily stun fish in the river to measure them. The project is an effort to record data that will help evaluate the effectiveness of river restoration, said Cheva Heck, public affairs officer for the Forest Service's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Crews will work from boats for a portion of the study, then hike in to survey sites and wade to complete the study. Fish captured during the survey will be released unharmed back to the river, with the possible exception of invasive warm-water species such as bass, Heck said...more

Dogs helivac'ed, the hearts of cattle tested, fish electro-shocked...looks like Obamacare has moved on to the animal world.

New Mexico most corrupt state?

Does New Mexico have the nation's most crooked politicians? For several years, I have made the case that New Mexico has only about an average number of crooks in office. But that argument is getting more difficult to make. The shift began a few years ago when two state treasurers went to prison for demanding payoffs. One of them was quoted as saying, "That's the way the game is played in New Mexico." Then the powerful leader of the New Mexico Senate went to prison along with a list of accomplices for demanding kickbacks from an Albuquerque courthouse construction project. Then came indictments of an affordable housing director, a father-son team of public utility commissioners and a former three-term secretary of state. More recently, we have had Albuquerque's chief criminal judge arrested on sex charges, a Las Cruces judge charged in a bribery scandal, an appeals court judge resign after being arrested for drunken driving and local judges in serious trouble. Law enforcement also has been hit. Albuquerque has had numerous police shootings of unarmed civilians and one officer is charged with killing his wife to cover up his involvement in a car theft ring. And a former Santa Fe sheriff has pleaded guilty to embezzlement. We thought it could only happen in New Jersey but in the tiny border town of Columbus, the mayor, police chief and a village trustee were accused of helping smuggle hundreds of guns into Mexico. If this doesn't sound like the Wild West, I don't know what does. It is the sort of thing that kept New Mexico from being invited into the union for 66 years...more

Drought Devastating New Mexico Ranchers

It’s been a very tough year for ranchers around the state with record cold temperatures and record drought conditions. Out in cattle country in Stanley, N.M., dusty plains seem almost lifeless. “This year, it’s horrible. We came off a record cold winter into a record dry spring,” Bill King Ranch Foreman Tom Spindle said. The cold put many ranchers in an early hole. The 36-below zero temperature during calving season killed 40 to 50 newborn calves, costing Spindle around $100,000. Then it just stopped raining. Pastures are typically a free food source that helps with the financial bottom line. This year, they’re brown and barren, and it’s so dry across the region that hay is very expensive. Spindle is one fortunate few though because he has a well and can irrigate. “We can grow our own hay. But instead of selling it like we would do on a normal year, this year we are feed it so it’s really hurting our bottom line,” Spindle said. During a normal year, a ton of hay sells for $175. This year it’s selling for close to $300, and the shortage of hay has a ripple effect on a rancher’s entire operation and most ranches in the region...more

Independent Movie Being Filmed At Historical Metlen Hotel

"Cooper" is a contemporary western movie being filmed throughout the state of Montana, but started its shooting today in the famous Melten Hotel in Dillon. There are about 20 people working on the independent film and all are from Montana. The movie is about the lifestyle and hardships that come along with ranching. The son of a rancher is one of the main characters and the plot thickens when it is revealed he picks up a dangerous sport. According to the crew the controversial sport along with research on the ranching lifestyle in Montana is what really developed the plot of the film. “Cattle wrestling which is a modern issue and we found that interesting. Then we fell into a theme that blood is thicker than water and trying to tell a story about family," actor and producer, Steven Hilton said...more

Historic Crutch Ranch wins top spot at 2011 Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo

Top cowboys from working ranches all over the Southwest gathered in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo. The winning ranch would punch their ticket to the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) finals in Amarillo, Texas, in November. These are working ranch cowboys competing as a team in events that, for the most part, are exactly what they do every day in their jobs. The equipment is functional and the saddles are what the cowboys sit in every day. There are strict rules to become a qualifying WRCA ranch rodeo and rules regarding who can be a member of the ranch team. The rules are there to insure that ranches are working ranches and team members actually work on the ranch. Having a bronc rider can be a sticking point for a ranch as many ranches no longer have bronc riders on staff. The WRCA has addressed this issue, as well as not having enough staff to field a team, by allowing two ranches to combine to form a team. The Ride for the Brand was limited to 12 teams representing 17 ranches from Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska. They competed in five events for championship points and one event as a ‘jackpot.'...more

Don't believe the caballo in the picture won The Western Horseman bronze for top horse. 

N.D. abbey puts ranching operation out to pasture

A Roman Catholic monastery in North Dakota is putting its ranching operation out to pasture because it lacks monks with cowboy skills. Abbot Brian Wangler tells The Dickinson Press that ranching has been a part of Assumption Abbey since 1893, when it was in Devil's Lake. He says raising cattle helped make the monastery self-sufficient. He says two monks now care for 260 cows at the Richardton abbey, but only one has the skills to do it by himself. Seventy-six-year-old Brother Placid Gross has tended the monastery's cattle for 51 years and says it once had one of the biggest ranching operations in the region. He says he won't miss the hard work but will miss the cows. Wangler says the abbey will rent its pastures to other ranchers. AP

Song Of The Day #630

Here's Jim Reeves singing Gypsy Heart.

Tomorrow Ranch Radio will get back to Junior Daugherty, Emmit Brooks and Goldust Studio.

Monday, August 01, 2011

NOAA's Climate Office: Precursor to Cap and Trade?

Cap and trade remains a key element in President Obama's vow of a "fundamental transformation of America," despite legislative branch setbacks. Now he may have found a way around the Constitution's checks and balances. Obama knows the consequences of cap and trade; he promised skyrocketing electricity costs when he was elected in 2008. To date, however, we have lucked out: Obama tried and tried and tried again to get his cap-and-trade bill through Congress, but so far, he has failed. Obama has failed in large measure because the credibility and thus the hysteria of his science have eroded. Obama has been stymied by a public made skeptical because of the shenanigans of the U.N.'s IPCC and the self-promoting climate experts in East Anglia and the United States. Can Obama recover? Not before the next election, but if he is reelected (bite your tongue), and if he can resuscitate the hysteria by co-opting NOAA, the cream of American governmental science, he has a good shot at it. Bear in mind that Obama has a predilection for using regulatory agencies (e.g., the EPA) as weapons. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the environmentalist rock star and former vice chairperson of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was appointed as the administrator of NOAA by President Obama. She has installed a team of eco-zealots, and they have a Climate Service Office ready and waiting to proceed -- with only congressional approval standing in their way...more

The town where EVERY car is tracked by police cameras

A sleepy Home Counties market town has become the first in Britain to have every car passing through it tracked by police cameras. Royston, in Hertfordshire, has had a set of police cameras installed on every road leading in and out of it, recording the numberplate of every vehicle that passes them. The automatic number-plate recognition system will check the plates against a variety of databases, studying them for links to crimes, and insurance and tax records, and alerting police accordingly. There were just seven incidents of vehicle crime in the town last month, and residents believe the unmarked cameras are an invasion of their privacy. The system, due to be switched on in the next few days, also allows police to compile 'hotlists' of vehicles that they are interested in and which will be flagged up when the ANPR system Details of the cars movements will stay on police records for two years, or five if the car is connected to a crime, the Guardian reported...more

ESA Rider Averted, but Some Species Remain in Cross Hairs

Despite voting this week to overturn a controversial moratorium on Endangered Species Act listings, the House's Interior Department and U.S. EPA funding bill -- and expected GOP amendments -- would roll back or prevent protections for a handful of individual species, including bighorn sheep, lizards, wolves and grouse. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), following the defeat Wednesday of the rider to preclude new Fish and Wildlife Service species listings or critical habitat designations, said he plans to introduce an amendment that would prevent an "endangered" listing for the dunes sagebrush lizard, which FWS has warned faces grave threats in New Mexico and western Texas from oil and gas activities. A separate amendment from Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) would block an ESA listing of the lesser prairie chicken, a grouse species that plays a critical role in grassland ecosystems but now occupies less than 15 percent of its historic range, according to Earthjustice. The bird has been a candidate species for protections for more than a decade. Pearce said he will also again offer an amendment that would strip funding for the recovery program of the endangered Mexican wolf in Southwestern states, where only 50 of the animals remain in the wild but they have come into conflict with ranchers. In addition to the amendments, which are yet to be debated, the House's fiscal 2012 funding bill, H.R. 2584, includes several provisions to protect ranching interests from bighorn sheep and lawsuits from groups that claim grazing harms native species. Democratic lawmakers earlier this week said they intend to offer an amendment to overturn a proposal on page 126 of the bill that would prohibit the federal government for the next five years from taking any action involving bighorn sheep that would reduce the amount of livestock on public lands. A separate rider aims to protect ranchers from environmental lawsuits by requiring that groups first exhaust all administrative appeal options, a lengthy process designed to stem legal assaults. Other pro-grazing language includes a five-year extension of a provision allowing the Bureau of Land Management to extend existing grazing permits while it completes environmental reviews of 10-year renewals; a provision allowing BLM to transfer permits under the same conditions without triggering a National Environmental Policy Act review; and language exempting the process of livestock trailing from NEPA reviews for the next five years. ..more

Pressure resumes for trapping ban in wolf area

Now that state game officials have cleared the way for trapping to resume in southwestern New Mexico, environmentalists are renewing their calling for the federal government to do more to protect the Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest. The U.S. Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service received letters this week from the group WildEarth Guardians and its supporters. They asked that officials reconsider a 2010 petition seeking to end trapping throughout the wolf's range in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Supporters contend trapping presents a threat to wolf recovery and that the agencies have a legal obligation under the Endangered Species Act to maintain fit wolves that can hunt for native prey. "As a direct result of trapping activities in the recovery area, two wolves have had entire limbs amputated. Some wolves lost digits and others sustained different injuries," the group said in its letters. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, another pro-wolf group, said any additional injuries or deaths are "of grave concern just given the numbers and the genetic plight of the Mexican wolf."...more

Improve public-lands management, end frivolous lawsuits

Mike Simpson
As every single rancher who lives west of the Mississippi River knows, our nation's leading environmental laws have evolved from species and resource protection acts at their inception to land and water control acts today. Regrettably, this evolution of well-intended legislation has resulted in a federal public land management regime that places the opinions of untrained judges above those of trained land managers. For too long, Congress has sat idly by watching as the courts transform federal laws away from what Congress intended and toward an ideology that abhors multiple-uses and openly states its desire to move both livestock and anything with wheels off of public lands. It is time Congress restores balance to the management of public lands, and that is exactly what I am trying to do in the Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for next year. As Chairman, I have tried to write a bill that restores some of that balance as early as this fall and creates an incentive for varied interests to negotiate new reforms to laws such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Equal Access to Justice Act. These laws are long overdue for update and reauthorization, yet those reforms are not viable because one side of the discussion, congressional Democrats and their allies, have no reason to come to the table. Simply put, the status quo works just fine for them because the status quo leads to increasingly restrictive management of public lands through the courts...more