Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Westerner's Radio Theater #009

This Veteran's Day weekend we bring you the Armed Forces Radio Service broadcast hosted by Hopalong Cassidy & "California", with special guest Bob Wills.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Interior rejects Bingaman's southern NM wilderness bill as a "crown jewel"

On December 22, 2010 Interior Secretary Salazar issued Secretarial Order 3310, his so-called "Wild Lands" policy, instructing BLM to re-inventory BLM lands with "wilderness characteristics".

After a stream of protests from Congress and Governors, Salazar backed down and in June reversed himself.  He issued a new policy saying Interior "will be soliciting input from members of Congress, state and local officials, tribes, and Federal land managers to identify BLM lands that may be appropriate candidates for Congressional protection under the Wilderness Act."  BLM Director Bob Abbey then issued a memo stating:

State Directors will identify “crown jewel” BLM-managed areas that have broad support for Congressional designation under the Wilderness Act. Only those areas that are manageable as wilderness and have strong BLM Field Office and State Office support for wilderness designation should be identified.

Since then BLM has been about the process of identifying those "crown jewels" and yesterday Secretary Salazar released the list and an accompanying report.  In his letter to Congress presenting the report Salazar said:

We have compiled this list of special lands based on input and encouragement from members of Congress, state and county officials, our own land managers, and other interested parties. In all cases, the highlighted areas have significant local support.

Nowhere in that report will you find the 242,000 acres proposed by Bingaman in S. 1024, and for good reason.  The Bingaman bill is opposed by the two most prominent business organizations in Las Cruces, the local and national law enforcement community, and ranchers and other users of these lands.

Here are some examples of local opposition to the Bingaman legislation:

° In written Congressional testimony NM border sheriffs from Las Cruces to Lordburg have opposed the legislation.  Dona Ana Sheriff Todd Garrison called the bill "the height of folly" for the restrictions in would place on law enforcement and saying it would "stymie my department's efforts" to provide for public safety.  Raymond Cobos, Sheriff of Luna County, testified the bill would "hamstring effective law enforcement" and requested the legislation by "set aside."  Hidalgo County Sheriff Saturnino Madero testified the Wilderness Act "prevents the use of motor vehicles, mechanized equipment and other tools which are vital to local law enforcement."  Noting the 98,960 acres of Wilderness Study Areas in Hidalgo County "which are being promoted as candidates for future legislation", and given the current situation on the border, Sheriff Madero said he found it "highly inadvisable" to pass such federal land designations.

° The National Association of Former Border Control Officers has presented testimony to both the House and the Senate in opposition to Wilderness on the border, and specifically testified in opposition to Bingaman's bill.

° The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce submitted testimony saying the organization "has strongly opposed Senator Bingaman’s efforts to designate our community’s lands as 'Wilderness'” and expressing concern on the legislation's impact on "national security" and on the community's efforts on "flood control". The Building Industry Association (Home Builders) submitted testimony expressing similar concerns and stating the BIA is "opposed to the passage of S. 1024 in its current form."

Other local entities who have testified in opposition to S. 1024:

--The Mayor of Hatch, NM
--The Luna County Commission
--The Mesilla Valley Sportsmen's Alliance
--The Dona Ana Soil & Water Conservation District
--The Las Cruces Tea Party
--People for Preserving Our Western Heritage
--The Rio Grande Soaring Association

Yes, even the hang gliders are opposed to this bill.

The big question now is:  Even though Secretary Salazar declined to include these lands in his "Crown Jewel" recommendations to Congress, will Senator Bingaman continue to try to shove this legislation down our throats?  The Secretary did include Bingaman's proposal for Wilderness/NCAs in northern NM in his recommendations. Will damaging and discriminating against the Hispanic ranchers and hunters up north satisfy Bingaman's quest for a "legacy" or will he keep coming after us?

Stay tuned.

New Mexicans support repeal of costly state GHG cap-and-trade rules

Representatives of New Mexico’s electric cooperatives on Nov. 8 delivered petitions with the signatures of 16,875 citizens urging the repeal of state greenhouse gas rules. Resolutions from cooperatives, local governments and school districts also support the repeal. Supporters delivered the petitions to the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) on the first day of public hearings regarding the repeal of the rules. In late 2010, the EIB approved state rules requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico. However, a required economic analysis of the rules’ effects on New Mexico’s economy, job growth and electricity rates was not completed prior to the approval. An economic analysis of the cap-and-trade rule completed since the rules’ passing found its costs far outweigh the insignificant reductions in greenhouse gases. Specifically, the analysis found the rule would: * Reduce New Mexico’s economic output by $828 million to $1.6 billion through 2030 * Reduce New Mexico job creation by 649 to 1,736 workers by 2020 * Reduce global greenhouse gas emissions annually by two to six thousandths of one percent (0.002 – 0.006%)...more

Park Service bottle ban ended after talks with Coke

Santa gives $13 million to Park Service
Officials at the Grand Canyon abruptly abandoned plans to ban the sale of plastic water bottles at the Arizona national park after conversations with Coca-Cola officials, The New York Times reported Thursday. Stephen P. Martin, who crafted the plan, told the newspaper that the effort was scrapped after Coca-Cola officials raised concerns about the plan through the National Park Foundation. He was told the effort was being tabled about two weeks before its scheduled Jan. 1 start. Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand, has donated more than $13 million to the parks. David Barna, a National Park Service spokesman, said National Parks Service Director Jon Jarvis made the "decision to put it on hold until we can get more information...more

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Debate over carbon emissions, clean energy spur demonstrations in New Mexico

The debate over whether New Mexico should be doing more in pursuit of clean Energy and pollution regulation went beyond the usual flurry of petitions and lawsuits Wednesday when environmentalists showed up at Gov. Susana Martinez's office dressed in solar panel costumes. Singing to the tune of "You are My Sunshine," the activists urged the governor to tap into the state's potential for developing more renewable Energy. The demonstration, the second in as many days, comes as state regulators are taking testimony on whether New Mexico should repeal regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and other large polluters. Critics of the regulations said the debate comes down to a policy question of how much economic pain New Mexico should endure to achieve what they describe as insignificant environmental benefits. Proponents argue the environmental and public health implications of doing nothing could end up costing New Mexico more in the future...more

High costs cited against NM's emissions rules

A top official with the New Mexico Environment Department on Tuesday pointed to concerns about higher utility costs as one reason the agency is no longer supporting state regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Deputy Secretary Butch Tongate was the first witness to take the stand at the start of the latest round of hearings before the Environmental Improvement Board. At issue is whether New Mexico should uphold rules adopted last year in the waning weeks of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's tenure to regulate heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. New Mexico's largest electric utilities, the oil and natural gas industry and the city of Farmington have petitioned the board to repeal the state's cap-and-trade rule as well as regulations that spell out reporting requirements for large polluters. Tongate testified that global warming can't be solved by a single state. He said it should be addressed on a national and international level to avoid putting New Mexico at an economic disadvantage. "The cap-and-trade program does not come free. It requires significant investment from industry as well as the state and it will have an impact on every citizen of the state," he said...more

N.M. wind-farm turbines spin for Tucson Electric Power

Element Power US has completed construction of its Macho Springs wind energy project with a capacity of about 50MW in the US state of New Mexico. Construction of the project, located in Luna County on about 2,000 acres of ranchland, started in January 2011 and the wind farm includes 28 units of Vestas V100-1.8MW turbine. Element Power is the owner and developer of the facility and US-based Mortenson Construction is the project's general contractor. The Macho Springs wind farm is expected to generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 14,000 homes. Electricity generated by the facility will be purchased by Tucson Electric Power under a long-term agreement...EBR

New Mexico remains among top energy states

New Mexico's share of revenues from energy development on federal lands within the state tops more than $434 million this year. The U.S. Interior Department released figures for this year's dispersals Monday. In all, nearly $2 billion went to 37 states as their share of revenues collected from oil, natural gas and mineral production on federal lands within their borders. New Mexico trailed Wyoming, the top state with more than $971 million in revenues. New Mexico's share of the revenues has gone up and down with the price of oil and gas over the last decade. Last year, the state's share was $380 million. That was down from a high of nearly $615 million in 2008. The revenues help fund public education and other government programs in New Mexico. AP

Utah worries about protections for Mexican wolves

Utah’s governor and wildlife chief are sounding the alarm about wolves on a second front, fearing the federal government is about to classify Mexican gray wolves for protection in the southern part of the state. Gov. Gary Herbert and Division of Wildlife Resources Director Jim Karpowitz wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe, respectively, in late September, protesting what they say is the federal wildlife agency’s apparent plan to expand protections from Arizona and New Mexico into southern Utah and Colorado. Herbert’s letter, obtained through an open-records request, asserts that Fish and Wildlife officials are telling the state they will reclassify the Mexican wolf as a subspecies — granting it full protections wherever it roams — and include Utah in its recovery zone. The governor disputes that the lobo’s range, mostly in northern Mexico, ever reached here. “The only explanation they give,” Herbert wrote, “is that Utah and Colorado have unoccupied wolf habitat, and therefore must contribute to the recovery of the Mexican wolf.” Utah officials and lawmakers have made clear that they want wolves kept out or minimized in an effort to protect livestock and big game. The Fish and Wildlife Service, insisting it hasn’t yet chosen how to advance a recovery program, is sending its Southwest regional director to Salt Lake City for a meeting with Karpowitz on Thursday. State officials’ nightmare scenario, Karpowitz said, is that Mexican wolves moving in from the south would trigger statewide protections even if the recovered Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the north have no Endangered Species Act safeguards. A state wanting control over Rocky Mountain wolves could be thwarted by a look-alike protection clause in the law. Although generally smaller, Mexican wolves would be hard to distinguish from their northern cousins...more

Federal intelligence agencies may help target pot growers

Lawmakers soon may enlist the nation's spymaster to help fight Mexican drug traffickers and others who use federal land in California and elsewhere to grow marijuana. A provision of the 2012 intelligence authorization bill calls on the director of national intelligence to assess and report on how federal intelligence agencies can help park rangers, fish and wildlife wardens, and other U.S. land managers weed out pot gardens and other activities operated by foreign drug traffickers. The bill, now before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also directs the top spy to consult with federal public land managers to identify intelligence and information-sharing gaps related to drug trafficking. The House passed its version of the bill, HR 1892, in September. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who wrote the provision, said the nation’s intelligence apparatus needs to address marijuana grown on public land because of the presence of foreign drug traffickers and the accompanying threat of violence...more

Smokey and federal spooks will be after the only profitable crop grown in our national forests. Remember: No permit required, no EIS, no ESA clearance, no limitation on size or seasons of use. No wonder its profitable.

BLM testing camouflage to hide new energy structures

In an effort to reduce our reliance on non-renewable and foreign energy sources, the government wants the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to boost the amount of renewable energy development it permits on public lands. That means we’ll be seeing more wind turbines and solar panels as we ply the nation’s wide swaths of public lands, especially in the mountain west. There’s not much that can be done to lessen the visual impact these energy generators will make on the landscape. But the BLM is trying to lessen the visual punch that the many maintenance buildings and other ancillary structures, used to support these power stations, will pack, reports High Country News. Near Rifle, Colorado, the BLM recently completed a series of tests to gauge the effectiveness of different paint applications to camouflage these outbuildings. To help create the designs, the agency turned to landscape architects, an engineering and design firm and camouflage-design experts who usually help the Department of Defense conceal its soldiers and buildings...more

That's right BLM.  Camouflage  energy bldgs, but this is OK over a river

Leaked Emails Fuel Perception of Cronyism in Solyndra Loan

In a move that is sure to intensify the already testy exchanges between the White House and congressional investigators, the House Energy and Commerce Committee today released a series of emails showing that Obama donor and Solyndra investor George Kaiser explicitly mentioned the now-bankrupt solar company in talks with administration staffers. The emails suggest that Kaiser, who bundled $50,000 for the president’s 2008 campaign, was more involved in Solyndra’s loan guarantee process than either he or the administration would care to admit. The White House had previously insisted that Kaiser had never broached the subject in his 17 visits. But in one of three email threads released by the committee, Kaiser notes that “Solyndra came up” during his meeting with White House staffers. Other Kaiser employees also mention discussions with administration staffers about the company. According to a report from ABC News, the White House insisted that “Kaiser never broached the subject of the Solyndra loan.” The newly released emails show that is not the case...more

Klamath bill is landmark, but will it pass?

Farmers, ranchers, tribes and environmentalists are burying a history of physical threats, harsh words and competing demands to unite behind landmark legislation that would settle a century-long battle over the most precious commodity in the Klamath Basin – water. Legislation that Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., will introduce Thursday would clear the way to remove four dams, restore habitat for salmon and other wildlife, and provide a more predictable future for farmers who rely on the river to irrigate crops. But... for the deal to take effect Congress must agree. That will be difficult, if not impossible.  The legislation promises to touch off new battles on at least two fronts. The biggest is money. Merkley's bill calls on the federal government to spend $536 million over 15 years to restore habitat and fisheries as well as finance the administration and oversight of the complex agreement. In a time when Congress is struggling to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion and voters are demanding restraint, any request for new spending comes under intense attack...more

Federal settlements give tribes a share of water rights

Water has filled a massive new reservoir to the brim — the federal government's first major project in 15 years that could help slake the arid West's thirsts. But the $513 million Nighthorse reservoir in south west Colorado will not supply any of the dozens of sprawling Western cities seeking water. Instead, the 123,541 acre-feet of water stored here — more than Denver's Cheesman and Gross reservoirs combined — belongs mostly to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes. The project reflects a quiet but substantial shift of control over a crucial resource as the federal government tries to turn a new page with tribes. Six recent water settlements have forced the government to commit $2.04 billion for dam, pipeline and reservoir projects — giving sovereign tribes from Montana to New Mexico control over 1.5 million acre-feet of new water each year. Tribes have used lawsuits and hard bargaining to assert water rights. Now, with many Western rivers already over-subscribed, tribes are in a position to play a greater role in development...more

Albuquerque residents say giant owl is eating pets - video

Albuquerque residents have claimed that at least one giant owl has started eating their small pets. It is currently unknown as to whether there is more than one giant owl, which has been spotted in the foothills of the city. Local resident Cindy Hummel said: "We've seen him three or four times. He's huge. One day when we were walking, he swooped down over my husband's head. He's a huge owl." Another dog owner revealed that they had found claw marks on the back of their pet, while another said that the owl had killed her puppy...more

Here's the KRQE video report


I wonder if they will now start understanding what folks in wolf country are going through?

Fair commission puts off vote on lease

All bets are off on the new deal for the casino at the state fairgrounds. The state fair commission surprised everyone Wednesday by putting off a decision on what was believed to be a done deal for the Downs at Albuquerque. Some of the commissioners felt the scheduled vote, like the rest of the process was rushed by Expo New Mexico officials. “We’ve just been given a lease that we’re supposed to look at over the weekend and approve today? I’m sorry Mr. Chairman I just can’t do that,” said Commissioner Benny Roybal. Lack of time and lack of discussion, some state fair commissioners said that’s what led to their decision to postpone the vote on a new lease and casino at the state fair grounds. “25 years is a very long time the impact this will have on our communities is forever in something like this you don’t want to rush through,” Commissioner Charlotte Rode said. The proposal before the commission is from the Downs at Albuquerque, the company that currently runs the racino at the State Fair Grounds. It includes a 25 year lease and a promise to build a brand new multi-million dollar casino and bring more jobs...more

Sen. Moran criticizes HSUS involvement in APHIS meeting - video

In a video posted on YouTube, Sen. Jerry Moran from Kansas soundly criticizes the USDA Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) for its plans to involve the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in planning an animal welfare scientific forum to the exclusion of agricultural organizations. In his Nov. 2 speech on the Senate floor, Moran said: “The ironic thing about this forum is that there’s little science involved. It is nothing more than, in my view, the Department of Agriculture spending taxpayer dollars on a forum to provide the Human Society of the United States a public forum to espouse its anti-agricultural views. “…it becomes clear that the Department of Agriculture is catering to an outside organization instead of relying upon the advice of animal scientists at our land grant universities or even within the Department of Agriculture,” Moran continued. “If the Department of Agriculture was interested in science, why would it allow an animal rights organization to steer its agenda?”...more

Read a transcript of the speech here and a video of his floor speech is below:

Tired bull freed of unwanted head gear

After 24 uncomfortable hours, Skywalker the bull was freed from his tractor tire around sundown Tuesday, rancher Paige De Ponte said. Her son, Scott, and a ranch hand used a crowbar to lever the huge tire off the exhausted animal's head and horns. Skywalker headed straight for the water trough. Baxter Black, the cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian, consulted by telephone at his home in Arizona, suggested a dose of animal anesthetic, followed by cutting the tire with a chain saw. "You'll ruin your chain saw." But De Ponte said Skywalker, a rough, tough rodeo bull that's never been ridden, was so tired he submitted to some levering and pushing as a half dozen men maneuvered the tire off his horns. He has been polled, but he has short horns...more

Song Of The Day #709

Today Ranch Radio brings you the York Brothers and their recording of That's All I Want From You.

Mexican Blogger Decapitated - 4th killed in 3 months - Warning: Graphic Photo

Nicknamed “Rascatripas” or “Scraper” (literally “Fiddler”) on the network Nuevo Laredo en Vivo, the 35-year-old appears to have been handcuffed, tortured, decapitated and dumped beside a statue of Christopher Columbus one mile from the Texas border. Below the man’s body was a partially obscured and blood-stained blanket. Written on the blanket in black ink: “Hi I’m ‘Rascatripas’ and this happened to me because I didn’t understand I shouldn’t post things on social networks.” The discovery of the body Wednesday morning brings the total number of bloggers and social media networkers apparently killed in the past three months by organized crime in Mexico — and in the border city of Nuevo Laredo — to four. It’s another sign of that a war in Mexico against media (or rather, an ongoing media war) has turned even more dangerous...more

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Lizard loses a vote

The region's most controversial reptile lost a vote Monday at Capitol, but the decision by New Mexico legislators may not carry any weight. Ten members of the natural resources committee voted to publicly oppose listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species. They will send a letter expressing their sentiment to Daniel Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Four Democrats on the committee dissented. They included two from southern New Mexico, Rep. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces and Sen. Mary Jane Garcia of Dona Ana. Their objection will be added to the end of the letter. Ashe is to decide by Dec. 14 whether the dunes sagebrush lizard should be designated as an endangered species. State Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, led the opposition to federal protection for the reptile. He said such a move could hurt businesses, especially ranchers and oil and gas producers. The dunes sagebrush lizard is found in a total of eight counties in the oil-producing Permian Basin. Four are in southeastern New Mexico and the others are in West Texas. Rep. Andy Nunez, an independent from Hatch, voted against protection for the lizard. One reason was his distrust for a particular conservation group, the Center for Biological Diversity. "Whatever they say, I don't believe," Nunez said. Two Democrats, Sen. George Munoz of Gallup and Rep. Thomas Garcia of Ocate, stood with Republicans and Nunez in opposing the reptile. Bandy's letter, endorsed by a mix of Republicans, Democrats and an independent, asks that the decision on the lizard be delayed for a year...more

Advocates take Idaho, Mont. wolf hunts to court; hunters have shot almost 170 since August

Wildlife advocates appeared in federal court Tuesday seeking to stop gray wolf hunts that are already well under way in the Northern Rockies, arguing that Congress overstepped its authority in stripping federal protections from the canines. Federal biologists say the wolf population is healthy enough to support the hunts in Idaho and Montana. The two states want to drive down the predators' numbers to curb their attacks on livestock and big game herds. But wildlife advocates say too many wolves are being shot too quickly, threatening to unravel the species' decades-long recovery and killing animals closely followed by wolf watchers. Almost 170 wolves have been shot since hunting began in late August. Tuesday's hearing was before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Calif. The 9th Circuit agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis. But several groups involved in the lawsuit requested an injunction to stop the killing of wolves while the case is pending. It is not clear when a decision will be issued, though two previous requests for injunctions were denied...more

Hunters, cattlemen, RMEF back wolf kill order

Oregon ranchers and elk advocates have joined the fray over a state decision to kill two wolves in Wallowa County's Imnaha pack. The Oregon Cattlemen's Association filed an objection last Thursday, Nov. 3, to any further delay in allowing the state to shoot the wolves. The objection is part of a growing file in the Oregon Court of Appeals, which issued a temporary stay Oct. 5 that prevents the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from killing the wolves. The stay was sought by three conservation groups, who say the killing of problem wolves runs counter to endangered species laws. The Oregon attorney general on Nov. 2 asked for a 28-day delay to a court deadline to submit records for review in the case. Any delay in moving the case forward will deprive ranchers "of their ability to control chronically depredating wolves and the problem wolves will be allowed to continue to maim and kill livestock," argued the Cattlemen's attorneys Elizabeth Howard and Mary Anne Nash of Portland. Aside from the objection over delay, the cattlemen's association and nine Eastern Oregon counties, including Grant County, filed briefs late last month in support of the state's case for using kill orders as last-resort management tools. The Oregon Hunters Association also filed a brief supporting the state's authority to manage wolves. "The Oregon Hunters Association has never welcomed the immigration of imported Canadian gray wolves to Oregon, and we have insisted that OHA be at the table in wolf management discussions since the first wolf crossed our borders," said Duane Dungannon, OHA state coordinator. More recently, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation filed a motion seeking permission to file a "friend of the court" brief defending the Oregon wildlife officials authority to manage and control wolves under a state-approved plan. The Elk Foundation has been active in legal battles over wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the Great Lakes states. "Our organization has over 15,000 members in Oregon, including hunters, ranchers and other conservationists. Together we endorse the efforts of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to manage and control wolves alongside other wild species as part of an approved plan," said David Allen, foundation president and CEO. "We support the agency's work to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of citizens."...more

How Is a Grizzly Bear Like a Wolf?

In 2007, Fish and Wildlife Service biologists concluded that the grizzly bear and its habitat in the Great Yellowstone area had recovered sufficiently for the animal to be taken off the endangered species list. As part of the de-listing process, the species was placed under state management, with a detailed plan that was approved and shaped by federal bear biologists. The bears were de-listed for two years. But as with the wolf, a coalition of environmentalists sued, saying that the state plan was inadequate. The group argued that the plan did not consider the rapid decline of the white bark pine, a food source for the bear, or have an adequate action plan should the bear population go into a nosedive. (The original listing under the Endangered Species Act, in 1975, occurred after Yellowstone Park closed its garbage dump and the bears went into precipitous decline.) As with the wolves, Judge Donald Molloy of United States District Court in Missoula, Mont., heard the case and found for the conservationists. The Fish and Wildlife Service has appealed, and a decision is expected any day now from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. To Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the parallels with the wolf are eerie and maddening. It’s as the if conservationists have learned nothing, he suggests. “It is exactly the same people, the same lawyers, the same judge — it’s like Groundhog Day,” he said, referring to the Bill Murray movie in which the lead character has to relive the same day over and over again...more

Cattle rancher living the dream

Jennifer Ellis and Scott Jones

Scott Jones has found his dream job – even if it often means before-dawn to after-dark workdays. Jones is the manager at the Colorado River Ranch, a bit more than 10 miles north of Dotsero. Several years ago, the people who ran Cordillera resort envisioned homes and a golf course on the property. Today, a couple of owners operate the ranch, which has been certified to raise and sell organic beef, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s one of fewer than 15 such ranches in the state. It’s easy to find “natural” beef for sale because there aren’t really any rules to hang that label on a product. “Organic” is much different. There’s a big book of rules issued by the feds, and all those rules have to be followed to the letter to earn and keep an organic certification. Going through the paperwork – and hard, physical work – required for the certification is starting to pay off. The ranch just sent its first few animals for processing, and the next batch will be headed off soon. Ranch owners hope the end market for the beef will be local restaurants, caterers and others who enjoy, and are willing to pay for, something that’s both healthy and delicious...more

Looks like Jennifer is having a little problem with her pony.  That's how those organic horses are don't you know.

Good Luck With That - Zulus Urged to Switch to Fake Fur

A leopard can't change its spots, but can South Africa's Zulus trade their traditional leopard-pelt adornments for a cheap knockoff? For the sake of protecting the country's dwindling population of the big cats, conservation biologist Tristan Dickerson hopes they can. Dickerson has created a fake version he says is as good as the real thing—only cheaper and machine-washable. He is close to finalizing a deal with the 5.6 million-strong Nazareth Baptist Church, which blends Christian and Zulu traditions, the Independent reports. "I have used digital photography and imaging to produce an exact synthetic replica of a leopard-skin stole with all the dots in the right place," says Dickerson, who leads the world's biggest study of leopards. But he faces an uphill battle, he says, as leaders including President Jacob Zuma encourage the tradition by wearing real furs...more

Drought costs Mexico 450,000 head of cattle...or does it?

About 450,000 head of cattle have been lost in the drought affecting several states in Mexico, the National Peasants Confederation, which represents 5 million farmers and ranchers, said. The Agriculture Secretariat, however, said only 15,664 head of cattle had been reported lost to the drought by farmers and ranchers, resulting in the payment of 27.4 million pesos (about $2 million) in compensation. The losses occurred during the first 10 months of this year, the secretariat's general coordinator for ranching affairs, Everardo Gonzalez Padilla, said, adding that 512,000 producers were registered in the government support program. Members have reported that cattle are dying "because of the drought that has affected the states in the northern part of the country this year," the CNC, Mexico's main peasant organization and an ally of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said in a statement...more

Nebraska official says ranchers should prepare for animal ID system

A new animal identification system that will be required for virtually all ‘adult’ cattle or bison (18 months and over) that are moved across state lines will likely begin at the end of 2012 or early in 2013, according to an official with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. And at some point following implementation of the first phase of the Animal Disease Traceability System (ADTS), all cattle and bison moving across state lines, regardless of age, will be included in the program, Ross Baker, coordinator of the Nebraska ADTS, told a small group of area residents on Nov. 2. The system affects only animals that are moved across state lines; animals moving within the state are not included, Baker said. “This program is limited to the interstate movement of livestock.” The ID requirement initially applies to dairy cattle of any age, all cattle and bison used for rodeos and shows, as well as “all sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or over.” There are some exceptions to the ID rule, including for animals moved directly to slaughter, animals moved as a ‘commuter herd,” and animals moved between states that have agreed to accept some other form of identification.
Animals can also be moved without an ID in place, provided they go to an approved tagging site and are officially identified before commingling with animals from other places. Owners will not have to have a “premise identification” as part of the ADTS, according to Baker. The “backbone” of the system will be an ear tag with a specific, 15 digit number for each animal, said Baker. Similar identification systems are already in use for specific animal diseases, he noted. Nebraska will issue the ID tags to veterinarians at no cost, said Baker. The vets will then provide the tags in batches to producers, noting the beginning and ending numbers and the person to whom they go...more

Wyoming Rancher Named Poet Laureate

A Black Hills rancher has been named poet laureate for Wyoming. Gov. Matt Mead made that appointment on Monday, signing a proclamation naming Patricia Frolander, a rancher from the Black Hills area, as Wyoming's fifth poet laureate. Mead said Monday that Frolander's book of poetry titled "Married into It," resonates with him because it speaks about Wyoming and its people. The poet laureate position is an honorary title and Frolander won't be compensated. She may choose to submit writings on some occasions. Mike Shay of the Wyoming Arts Council says Frolander will serve until May 31, 2013. Shay says Frolander follows Buffalo poet David Romtbedt in the poet laureate position. KOTA

Mescalero Apaches work to save ancient tongue

One word at a time, one student at a time, a group of Mescalero Apaches and their partner, a New Mexico State University anthropological linguist, are trying to stave off the demise of the tribe's ancient tongue, the wellspring of its culture. "Like one of the elders said, every step is sacred," said Oliver Enjady, an artist and former Tribal Council member who is director of Nde Bizaa, the tribe's Language program. "This (Language) was given to us by the Creator for use by the Apaches. ... It's who you are, and you can't change that. If this is lost, then what is your identity?" The Language program team has embarked on a three-year effort to produce a comprehensive English-to-Apache, Apache-to-English dictionary along with an introductory grammar. The dictionary, with about 20,000 entries, will be available in print or compact disc and paired with digital recordings of words for the Apache learner. The project also aims to expand the tribe's historical archives with hundreds of hours of audio and high definition video recordings of people speaking Apache, mostly elders reciting traditional stories and personal or community histories. The project team, led by Enjady and NSMU linguist Scott Rushforth, will produce educational materials to be used in Mescalero schools. The project is being funded with a $321,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under the agency's Documenting Endangered Languages Program, an effort aimed at preserving imperiled Native American Languages...more

Statehood celebrations have begun

Most New Mexicans likely are aware that New Mexico celebrates its 100th birthday on January 6. Few New Mexicans, at this point, seem aware that the centennial celebration already has started. That's the way it usually happens. To avoid a one-day celebration, start early and keep it going for a year or more. New Mexico is no exception. Gov. Susana Martinez kicked off the festivities in Las Cruces back on the 28th of August. That was followed by an executive order on September 1 directing all state agencies to promote the centennial. Union Pacific is adding to the celebration by sending one of its vintage locomotives steaming through New Mexico Nov. 4 through Nov. 9 from Tucumcari to Lordsburg. We know that special ceremonies were planned in those communities and we've seen that Alamogordo also had a celebration last Sunday when the steam engine came through. But the biggest New Mexico celebration ever took place in the summer of 1883, soon after railroads had spread through New Mexico. The railroad companies wanted easterners to learn about our unique cultures and scenic beauty. They slashed their rates, marketed to large clubs and gave free rides to travel writers. There was no event to celebrate so the railroads created one. It was the Tertio-Millennial celebration of the first European exploration of the West. No one bothered arguing with the dates or the title. The event was supposed to last three weeks. It went on all summer. There were trips to the pueblos, Indian dances every afternoon. And the oval we call Federal Place was created as a horse track. It was a public-private partnership that worked quite well. Word is slowly filtering up from the South about events down there. A longhorn cattle drive from Hobbs to Carlsbad will be staged May 9-11, 2012. The Roswell Museum and Art Center will feature a year-long exhibit of accomplishments in the community. And Sierra County will feature tours of the Elephant Butte Dam Site all year long...more

Song Of The Day #708

Johnnie Lee Wills has the tune on Ranch Radio today with Let Me Be.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Water and Weather Realities Face New Mexico Farmers

For Immediate Release 11/8/2011
Contact:  Elephant Butte Irrigation District (575) 526-6671

Water and Weather Realities Face New Mexico Farmers

      The realities of short and long range scientific weather prognostications don’t stop farm families from praying for rain while planning for drought.  During a series of meetings with food, feed and fiber growers in the Mesilla and Hatch Valleys water resources engineer, Phillip King, told growers  that 2011 “was a most unusual year” in the annals of recorded climatology.  In addition to having a dramatic impact on irrigation in the state, the “extraordinary” drought hit every area of New Mexico including the substantial pasture lands used for feeding livestock and wildlife.
     Last winter close-to-normal snows came to the Wolf Creek Pass area of southern Colorado, usually a great harbinger for farmers downstream who count on that melted snowpack for vital irrigation water for a wide variety of crops. That area is known to produce “the most snow in Colorado” and last year was a pretty good year for snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Watershed according to records. The melted snow flowed east down the Continental Divide and into the San Luis Valley of Colorado.  The nation’s fourth longest river next drops into New Mexico bringing life-giving moisture to the high desert.  Then at the beginning of 2011 something happened to that water on the way to the Otowi gauge.  That’s the water measuring station near the Rio Grande’s confluence with the Rio Chama in New Mexico.  An unwanted trifecta of warm weather, constant winds and the sudden end of snowfall sucked the very life out of a big chunk of this important water supply.  Somewhere along the way to Elephant Butte Reservoir something like 200,000 acre feet of water just disappeared in drought-escalated losses.
      King told farmers that compared to 2011 climatological patterns “could look the same” for 2012.   In addition, the expected summer “monsoon” season did not develop in New Mexico in any significant way.  During a series of meetings with agricultural producers in Hatch, Las Cruces and Anthony the message was straightforward.  “It is prudent at this point to plan for a short water season,” King said of 2012.  But he also emphasized that weather patterns can be predictably unpredictable. 
      EBID Treasurer-Manager, Gary Esslinger, said the district’s board of directors is actively working to cut back on expenses and to find creative solutions to deal with the effects of the on-going drought.  He told farmers in Las Cruces that in the 33 years he’s worked for EBID he has never seen such a water dilemma.  “Our business is surface water delivery” and the drought changes the way the district does its job.  “It’s been real difficult to turn our operation into basically a ground water monitoring operation”, Esslinger said.  This year he noted there was only one month of irrigation based on water the district had in storage at Elephant Butte Reservoir.  He said the organization has to do “more with less” and that the EBID board, recognizing the hardship on farmers, has reduced the assessment to irrigators by $5 per acre.  The farmer assessments pay for the operation of the 600 miles of canals and drainage systems.  He said the district has reduced operating costs in the last several years by $1 million.  Those reductions include a wage freeze, reduction of staff through attrition, cross training and water saving technologies.  He said communication between growers, their neighbors, ditch riders and the district irrigation office can also help to move water more efficiently during the next growing season.   He also urged growers to consider joining the Family Farm Alliance an organization that advocates for farmers and irrigation districts in the U.S. Congress and beyond.
      EBID attorney Samantha Barncastle also opened a proverbial briefcase full of legal cases that currently threaten the district including a recent lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King against the Bureau of Reclamation.  Barncastle said the suit threatens the legal “operating agreement” between the EBID, El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 (EP1) and the Bureau of Reclamation.  The agreement divides the water for the Rio Grande Project between EBID and EP1. She said King’s lawsuit is a cynical attempt “to save you from yourself.”  She also noted that N.M. Attorney General’s lawsuit has stalled the current stream adjudication now underway along the Rio Grande in southern New Mexico.  At a recent ceremony at the Elephant Butte Dam the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Michael Connor, also said King’s lawsuit “is without merit.”
      Esslinger also told farm families that the EBID board of directors is also very concerned about an attempt by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare “critical habitat” for a small bird called the Southwest Willow Flycatcher from Caballo Lake to Leasburg State Park.  He said EBID is working with the Audubon Society of New Mexico and federal agencies to head off such a declaration which could have major impacts on the irrigation system throughout the Hatch and Rincon Valleys.  Barncastle noted that the EBID is seeking a creative, mutual solution in collaboration with Audubon New Mexico that would preserve wildlife habitat voluntarily “rather than under the hammer” of the federal government.


Crazy news today

Scroll down through The Westerner and you will see the Forest Service is against Jesus and target shooting, but for bicycles and fungus.  The BLM likes art, even if the artist's name is Christo and is sending crews out to save little birdies from pipes.  Finally, a Udall has passed a reasonable federal lands bill, the problem is he's the one from Colorado. 

The only one making sense today is asking Do we need the US Forest Service?

Keystone XL Pipeline Decision to Be Investigated

The State Department’s inspector general will conduct a special investigation of the handling of the pending decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in response to reports of improper pressure on policy makers and possible conflicts of interest, according to documents released on Monday. The internal investigation could delay the Obama administration’s decision on whether to approve the $7 billion project, which would carry oil extracted from Canadian tar sands to refineries in Oklahoma and along the Gulf Coast. The State Department had set a deadline of year’s end to determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest, but officials suggested last week that the schedule could slip. Objections by states along the pipeline right of way — particularly Nebraska, which is asking for a review of the proposed route — could also delay the decision for months. More than a dozen members of Congress had asked for an independent inquiry into the department’s review of the 1,700-mile pipeline, citing reports in The New York Times and elsewhere that the State Department allowed the pipeline developer, TransCanada, to choose the company that prepared an assessment of the project’s environmental impact. That company, Cardno Entrix, listed TransCanada as a “major client” on other projects and has a financial relationship with the pipeline developer...more

Nebraska: Pipeline bill gets public hearing

Dozens of people testified -- some emotionally -- at a packed daylong hearing Monday at the Capitol as a proposal to give Nebraska authority to say where TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline could go through the state got a public airing. The Legislature's Natural Resources Committee listened to testimony on the the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act (LB1), which was introduced by Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton. Dubas' bill would give siting authority to the state Public Service Commission. Currently, the state has no power to say where a pipeline might go. "Through the application process, I seek to ensure the welfare of Nebraskans by protecting our property rights, as well as our natural resources and economic interests," Dubas said. "I clearly understand our authority only goes to siting and can no way infringe on the federal government's control of safety, operation and maintenance of such pipelines...more

Anybody know how this is done in NM?

BLM OKs Christo's 6 mile work of art for Colorado's Arkansas River

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management today officially approved "Over The River", a 5.9-mile temporary work of art proposed by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude for the Arkansas River in Colorado. “After careful consideration of the potential impact to the Arkansas River and the wildlife and plants that inhabit this beautiful area, we believe that steps have been taken to mitigate the environmental effects of this one-of-a-kind project,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a statement. “Drawing visitors to Colorado to see this work will support jobs in the tourism industry and bring attention to the tremendous outdoor recreation opportunities in this area." For "Over The River", Christo plans to suspend 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous fabric panels high above the Arkansas River along a 42-mile stretch of the river between Salida and CaƱon City in south-central Colorado. He hopes to exhibit "Over The River" for two consecutive weeks in August 2014, at the earliest...more

Over The River and Through The Woods to Grandmother's Houseboat we go...

I guess the panels will protect the aquatic life in the river from global warming. 

And I'm sure it has nothing to do with Artist Christo to announce gift to National Gallery of Art, discuss plans for work in Colorado or Sculpting The President of The United States

Obama signs ski area summer activities bill into law

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is overjoyed now that President Obama has signed into law a bill authorizing summer and year-round activities at ski areas on national forest land. The bill cleans up language written in the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 in order for resorts operating on federal land to receive permits for activities other than alpine and Nordic skiing. The bill is designed to enhance mountain economies by spurring the expansion of bike trails, Frisbee golf courses, zip lines, rope courses, alpine slides and more. Those activities already take place on public and private land at many ski resorts but the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, as it is called, is widely expected to make the process less cumbersome. Officials say the bill will impact as many as 13 states...more

And what legislation has NM's Udall introduced to spur economic development on federal lands?  I'm waiting...

State and Federal Lawmakers Negotiate Over Wilderness and School Trust Land

State lawmakers continue to negotiate with the federal government to end a dispute over more than 87,000 acres of state forest land inside the 1.1 million acre Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness. The land is locked by The U.S. Forest Service Department of Agriculture land, which does not allow motorized equipment inside its wilderness area. Much of that land is held in a school trust account to benefit local students and their education but because the land is locked, state lawmakers say there is no way to use the land to gain revenue through leasing, logging or mining. Because much of the land was burned to ashes in the Pagami Creek Fire, lawmakers continue to push to find a way to trade that land for land outside the BWCA but within the Superior National Forest. To make it easier to use the land for mining and other business, lawmakers have asked to receive National Forest Land that the state already has the mineral rights to...more

Wilderness advocates propose the designation "for our children" and for "future generations" but no way will they help "the children" if wilderness is to their detriment.

Smokey to kick Jesus off federal land - Congressman proposes land swap

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg proposed a land swap Monday to save a Jesus statue that is facing eviction from U.S. Forest Service land. The Forest Service recently rescinded its initial decision to remove the five-decades-old statue from a Whitefish ski hill amid an uproar over the decision. The agency announced Monday that a new public comment period was open as it analyzes the matter again. Rehberg wants to take steps to ensure the statue can stay put. He is proposing legislation that would hand over the landmark's home _ a 25-by-25-foot patch of land _ to the Big Mountain ski resort. The resort, in turn, would swap the same amount of land elsewhere to the Forest Service. The resort, where the statue has been a curiosity and sight to skiers for years, has said it does not want the statue to be taken down...more

Forest Service closes target shooting area to make way for a bike trail

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is closing the target shooting area today at Hansen Creek gravel pit to build a new trailhead off the I-90 corridor in the Snoqualmie Ranger District. The Hansen Creek Trailhead will access a new bike trail system expected to be finished next spring. Forest Service regulations prohibit discharging a firearm within 150 feet of a residence, campsite, or developed recreation site. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned up to six months in jail...more

Forest Service part of team sequencing 1,000 fungal genomes for "encyclopedia of all fungi"

A 79-year-old collection of fungal cultures and the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station are part of a team that will sequence 1,000 fungal genomes in the next 5 years. Dan Lindner, a research plant pathologist with the Northern Research Station's Center for Forest Mycology Research (CFMR), is one of 13 scientists participating in the '1000 Fungal Genomes' project, which in collaboration with the Department of Energy's (DOE) Joint Genome Institute will sequence two species from every known fungal family. The project is a first step in creating an encyclopedia of all fungi, which will one day help researchers understand not only what they do, but how fungi operate...more

Do we need the US Forest Service?

by Jonathan DuHamel

We have two major federal agencies that manage federal land, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) under the Agriculture Department and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Interior Department. Why do we need both agencies? As far as I can tell the BLM does everything USFS does and more. It seems that one of these agencies is redundant.

The USFS manages 193 million acres of federal land using over 30,000 employees and a budget (FY 2011) of $5.38 billion. That works out to $27.87 per acre managed, $179,333 per employee, and 6,433 acres per employee.

The BLM manages 245 million surface acres, as well as 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate, with about 10,000 employees, and a budget (FY 2011) of $1.1 billion. That works out to $4,49 per acre or counting mineral estate, $1.16 per acre managed, $110,000 per employee, and 24,500 acres per employee or counting mineral estate 94,500 acres per employee.

Maybe looking at just these numbers is not a fair comparison, but it is suggestive that we are getting more for our tax dollars with the BLM.

Both agencies manage theoretically for multiple use, including mining, logging, grazing and recreation. Both agencies manage forests and sell timber. USFS timber production has dramatically decreased since a peak in the 1980s due in part to the environmental quagmire of law suits and regulations. (See table and graph here.) I can’t find similar figures for the BLM.

The BLM manages the subsurface mineral rights under National Forests. Mining claims located on a National Forest must be registered with the BLM not the USFS. Exploration and mining are subject to 36 CFR 228(A) for USFS land or to 43 CFR 3809 for BLM land. Why two separate sets of regulations for the same activity?

The Department of the Interior includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It would seem to be the logical agency to manage the National Forests.

I propose that the USFS be eliminated and its duties merged into the BLM in the Interior Department. That may result in more efficient management of our National Forests and elimination of a redundant bureaucracy.

Reorganization is justifiable solely on grounds of efficiency and economics, but there are other considerations. While the BLM has its faults (due mainly to the current Secretary of the Interior), it is generally easier to work with and approaches things on a more pragmatic and scientific basis. USFS seems to be guided by eco-extremist doctrine and anti-public attitude.

Even better would be for the feds to turn all national forests over to the states and let them manage the forests according to the local needs and philosophy.

Copyrighted by Jonathan DuHamel. Reprint is permitted provided that credit of authorship is provided and linked back to the source.

This column was posted at the Tucson Citizen.

Bodies of dead birds being found in plastic tubes used across Nevada to mark mining claims

Plastic pipes used to mark mining claims across Nevada have become a death trap for the state's wild Birds, which get stuck in the uncovered tubes and then slowly starve to death, according to state officials. The widespread deaths have prompted environmental activists to launch a campaign urging the public to remove the tubes upon sight. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Southern Nevada is also targeting the animal death traps, with plans to send crews to remove plastic tubes from claim-rich areas near Sandy Valley, Goodsprings, Searchlight, Pahrump and Mesquite. Birds that like to nest in burrows and trees are attracted to the open tubes, but they can't climb or fly out of the tubes because of the slick interior...more