Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oil Rigs Bring Camps of Men to the Prairie

TIOGA, N.D. — As much as the drilling rigs that tower over this once placid corner of the prairie, the two communities springing up just outside of town testify to the galloping pace of growth here in oil country. They are called man camps — temporary housing compounds supporting the overwhelmingly male work force flooding the region in search of refuge from a stormy economy. These two, Capital Lodge and Tioga Lodge, built on opposite sides of a highway, will have up to 3,700 residents, according to current plans. Confronted with the unusual problem of too many unfilled jobs and not enough empty beds to accommodate the new arrivals, North Dakota embraced the camps — typically made of low-slung, modular dormitory-style buildings — as the imperfect solution to keeping workers rested and oil flowing. In recent weeks, Williams County, where thousands of previously approved camp beds have yet to be built, and Mountrail County, where one-third of the population is living in temporary housing, imposed moratoriums on man camp development. McKenzie County, where the growth had been particularly untamed thanks to the absence of any zoning rules, is even considering breaking with a century of tradition and requiring building permits. Leaders in these communities say they will use the reprieve to draft new fees for the camps to support fire and ambulance services; write tighter rules, like background checks, for residents in these facilities; and require performance bonds to ensure that the modular buildings aren’t simply abandoned whenever the boom turns bust...more

Wolves, national wildlife refuges on the line - Pearce Attack

This year, however, is shaping up as a terrible one for wildlife in New Mexico and elsewhere in the West. Besides the obvious consequences of drought, the shriveled thinking of the political class has become especially noxious. Wildlife is under official attack. The administration of Governor Susana Martinez enthusiastically endorses animal trapping that can torture, maim, and kill animals — including wolves. Her political appointees have withdrawn state efforts to cooperate with the U.S. Fish and Game Service on the wolf reintroduction project. Meanwhile, on the federal level, Rep. Steve Pearce (Republican, New Mexico 2nd Congressional District) is a national leader in the effort to de-fund a wide range of programs that benefit wildlife. Among his targets: the Endangered Species Act, National Wildlife Refuges, and (of course) the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of canis lupus...more

Oregon's proposed ranch purchase on hold after ranchers, counties object

The state has delayed a decision on buying a ranch in Eastern Oregon, a purchase supported by anglers and hunters but opposed by local ranchers and county leaders. The spread of 1,075 acres in Malheur County would be added to the 3,798-acre Riverside Wildlife Area near Juntura in a sparsely populated region between Burns and Ontario. The purchase price hasn't been disclosed. The seller is 51-year-old rancher Sam McDaniel, who said he wants to focus on a smaller place near John Day. The money would come from millions paid by Houston-based El Paso Corp. to offset wildlife habitat lost when it ran a natural gas pipeline from Wyoming to a Southern Oregon hub. The 680-mile Ruby Pipeline was reported in service as of July. "People don't think that the government should be buying more acres in rural Oregon," said Steve Grasty, Harney county judge, the title being the equivalent of chairman of the county commissioners in most of Oregon. His Malheur counterpart, Dan Joyce, said most of the county is already state or federal land, and adding more to public holdings takes away from the economic opportunities of private ownership...more

Fort Sill Apache granted reservation near Las Cruces

An Oklahoma tribe learned this week it will be granted a reservation just off the interstate between Las Cruces and Deming. Fort Sill Apache Tribe leaders are optimistic about the news, which they received Tuesday afternoon, said tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous. The status isn't a prerequisite for establishing gaming at its 30-acre parcel in Akela, but it is meaningful, he said. "This is more symbolic than anything, but we're hopeful this is a step in the direction of our eventual repatriation," he said. "It's the first time we've had a reservation since 1877." The tribe, based in Lawton, Okla., are descendants of bands that once roamed southern New Mexico, southwestern Arizona and northern Mexico. The approval is from the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe has said its sights are set on returning to New Mexico, a plan that includes opening a gaming casino on the 30 acres. The land, acquired by the tribe in 1998, already is held in trust for the tribe by the federal government. The tribe now runs a smoke shop and cafe in a building that it initially tried to open as a casino in early 2008...more

Restoring Domestic Horse Slaughter

Language that ended domestic horse slaughter and processing in the United States was stripped from the Ag Appropriations bill approved by Congress as part of a larger spending package. Dave Duquette, President of the United Horsemen's group, says there were no riders prohibiting the inspection of horse meat, which he says is a huge victory. Duquette says he had been told by many people that horse slaughter would never return to this country, but he says they are going to have to take another look. According to Duquette many calls, texts and emails have come through thanking his not-for-profit group for getting through to Congress. "We've all done it for the love of the horse, not for the money," Duquette said. "The other side would tell you it's all about money, it's not about money for us." The United Horsemen and others blame the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups for getting Congress to approve those riders in 2007 effectively ending horse slaughter. They say that led to less humane treatment of horses through increased abandonment and neglect. Now that the legislation has been signed lifting the federal ban on horse slaughter, the focus among horse groups is finding suitable plants for processing. Sue Wallis, co-leader of United Horsemen and the International Equine Business Association, says they have a great network across the country looking for facilities in places where meat processing is common practice. In particular they are looking at existing facilities that are already processing large mammals that could be retrofitted to handle horses relatively quickly...more

Also see KFBB-TV's two part report:

Part 1: The Pros and Cons of Horse Slaughter

Part 2: The Pros and Cons of Horse Slaughter

Windmill tops off the 10-year restoration of the historic Glass House

The historic Glass farm house in San Ramon now has a windmill towering above it. Visible from Interstate 680, the windmill marks the completion of the restoration of the landmark home. Crews last week installed the restored 1930s era windmill, showing off a wind-powered tool that ranchers and farmers used to pump water for cattle and crops. "It's going to be a very neat landmark for everyone to see as they drive by on Interstate 680," said Kim Giuliano, San Ramon's program manager for historic properties. The 9,000-pound, steel Aermotor windmill was donated by the Henry family from their old ranch property in San Ramon. The city, the San Ramon Historic Foundation, members of the David Glass family and others partnered in a $60,000 restoration of the windmill and a wooden water tank. The Glass house was built in 1877 as the home for David Glass, a rancher and farmer who planted his first apple orchard in the San Ramon Valley in 1855...more

The Westerner's Radio Theater #011

Here's an edition of Country Hoedown , brought to you by the U.S. Navy and hosted by Faron Young with special guest Bobby Helms.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Montana outdoors group is actually a stealth Democratic attack dog

Montana Hunters and Anglers appears to be defending against an overreaching federal "land grab" bill now before Congress. It's the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. H.R. 1505. What MHA is really about is unseating Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, Montana's at-large representative. They've spent $240,000 thus far on shamefully deceptive ads designed to sound like archconservatives scolding Rehberg for straying into the big government camp by supporting H.R. 1505. Standoffs between the Border Patrol and wilderness protection agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, have stopped the pursuit of Mexican drug smugglers into wilderness areas along our southern border, making wilderness a haven for criminals...more

EDITORIAL: Burning food

When the Pilgrims gathered for the first Thanksgiving, corn took a prominent place alongside the many meat and fish dishes served. Nearly 400 years later, the holiday menu has changed, but corn is still found on most tables. That’s because corn has been and remains a major food source throughout much of the world. Yet for some reason in the United States, politicians each year would rather gather 40 percent of this valuable crop and burn it on a $6 billion pile of in taxpayer cash. Powerful agribusiness interests collect a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit to convert this food crop into ethanol, an unnecessary and sometimes harmful additive to gasoline. Another 54-cent-per-gallon tariff is imposed to keep Brazil’s sugar-cane-based ethanol from entering our shores. Nor does the folly end there. The Food and Energy Security Act of 2007 mandates a massive increase in the production of ethanol by 2022 even though there is no demand. All of this carries a significant economic cost...more

The editorial concludes:

The subsidy is set to expire at year’s end. This Congress has earned a reputation for doing nothing. This is one area where that might be an advantage. All Congress has to do to end this mess is do nothing and let the subsidy expire.

Legislative hearing held for Air Force low level flights in NM & Colo.

Opponents of an Air Force plan for low level night flying missions over northern New Mexico said they were wrongfully left out of a legislative hearing at the State Capitol Wednesday. The Military and Veterans Affairs Committee did not hear any public testimony, listening only to officers from Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, home base for the proposed training missions. The Air Force has already held 17 public meetings across the state to listen to civilian concerns about the plan. The idea is to fly V-22 Ospreys and C-130 airplanes at altitudes as low as 300 feet over rugged mountain and desert country that looks a lot like Afghanistan. The Air Force said the training flights would not have a significant impact on the environment or the people living down on the ground. Outside the capitol, opponents of the plan rallied in protest of the training flights and the rules for today's hearing. "A one hour, no questions asked public relations opportunity to this proposal makes me sit here and wonder exactly how civilians have their control over the military, or have we lost that as a country," said Carol Miller of the Peaceful Skies Coalition...more

Police Don Turkey Suit For Vegas Crosswalk Sting

Las Vegas police are pulling out a turkey costume for a pre-Thanksgiving crosswalk sting operation. A costumed officer is set to be trolling crosswalks Tuesday morning at Maryland Parkway and Reno Avenue, south of Tropicana Avenue. Police will ticket motorists who don’t stop for the poultry-suited pedestrian. Fines for failing to yield to pedestrians in Clark County start at $195 plus court fees...more

Song Of The Day #720

Here's another song from 1966: Faron Young - Unmitigated Gall

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Armed illegals stalked Border Patrol

Five illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles were hunting for U.S. Border Patrol agents near a desert watering hole known as Mesquite Seep just north of the Arizona-Mexico border when a firefight erupted and one U.S. agent was killed, records show. A now-sealed federal grand jury indictment in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry says the Mexican nationals were “patrolling” the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon at about 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 14 with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” Border Patrol agents. At least two of the Mexicans carried their assault rifles “at the ready position,” one of several details about the attack showing that Mexican smugglers are becoming more aggressive on the U.S. side of the border. According to the indictment, the Mexicans were “patrolling the area in single-file formation” a dozen miles northwest of the border town of Nogales and — in the darkness of the Arizona night — opened fire on four Border Patrol agents after the agents identified themselves in Spanish as police officers. Two AK-47 assault rifles found at the scene came from the failed Fast and Furious operation. Using thermal binoculars, one of the agents determined that at least two of the Mexicans were carrying rifles, but according to an affidavit in the case by FBI agent Scott Hunter, when the Mexicans did not drop their weapons as ordered, two agents used their shotguns to fire “less than lethal” beanbags at them. At least one of the Mexicans opened fire and, according to the affidavit, Terry, a 40-year-old former U.S. Marine, was shot in the back. A Border Patrol shooting-incident report said that Terry called out, “I’m hit,” and then fell to the ground, a bullet having pierced his aorta. “I can’t feel my legs,” Terry told one of the agents who cradled him. “I think I’m paralyzed.” Bleeding profusely, he died at the scene...A number of rank-and-file Border Patrol agents have questioned why the case has not gone to trial, nearly a year after Terry’s killing. Several also have concerns about the lack of transparency in the investigation, compounded now by the fact that the court case has been sealed. Shawn P. Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 17,000 nonsupervisory agents, said it is rare for illegal immigrants or drug smugglers to engage agents in the desert, saying they usually “drop their loads and take off south.” “The Brian Terry murder was a real wake-up call,” Mr. Moran said. “It emphasizes the failed state of security on the U.S. border, which poses more of a threat to us than either Iraq or Afghanistan. We have terrorism going on right on the other side of the fence, and we’re arming the drug cartels...Mr. Moran, himself a veteran Border Patrol agent, said he also was “surprised” that the suspected Mexican gunmen were carrying their weapons at the ready position, meaning that the butts of the weapons were placed firmly in the pocket of the shoulder with the barrels pointed down at a 45-degree angle. He said this probably meant they had some level of military training. More than 250 incursions by Mexican military personnel into the United States have been documented over the past several years. The Border Patrol has warned agents in Arizona that many of the intruders were “trained to escape, evade and counter-ambush” if detected. The agency cautioned agents to keep “a low profile,” to use “cover and concealment” in approaching the Mexican units, to employ “shadows and camouflage” to conceal themselves and to “stay as quiet as possible.”...more

I am Ag-Thankful

by Ryan Goodman

Why am I thankful to be a part of Agriculture?

Lifestyle – A life in Agriculture has provided so many great things for my family and I. As a kid, ranching provided an opportunity for my family to work together on a daily basis. I grew to love what my parents had a passion for doing and it is now a passion of my own. My family has always had a freezer full of beef, the boots on our feet, and a roof over our heads thanks to our work in the cattle business. Not to mention the work ethic, values, and connection with my environment that I have gained through my work in Agriculture.

Community – There is no other community as connected as those in Agriculture. No matter where I travel, how long I stay, or what I am doing there has always been a connection to others through my work in Agriculture. In college, that community offered me steady job opportunities, friendship, encouragement and support, and as always an open door to a much needed good meal. From the mountains of Wyoming to the Metro of OKC, I have made connections and know that there will be someone there to help when/if I need it. Some of the best people I know, I met through Agriculture.

Read the rest here.


Court restores federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears - Global Warming

Conservationists touted a major victory Tuesday in their battle to protect Yellowstone grizzly bears when a federal appeals court ruled that wildlife managers erred when they removed Endangered Species Act protection from "one of the American West's most iconic wild animals."   The ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2007 decision to remove the bears from the endangered species list. The court cited climate change as having accelerated a beetle infestation that destroys the bears' vital white-bark pine food source, making the grizzly only the second wildlife species, after the polar bear, to earn protection in recognition of harm caused by global warming. The three-judge panel took note of conservationists' warnings that the loss of trees in the upper elevations in and around Yellowstone National Park would probably drive the grizzlies to forage in more populous areas, increasing confrontations between the omnivorous bears and the people and livestock in the lowlands.The appellate panel said the wildlife agency "failed to adequately consider the impacts of global warming and mountain pine beetle infestation on the vitality of the region's white-bark pine trees." The jurists noted that warmer temperatures in recent years had allowed the beetles to survive a seasonal die-off, leaving them to destroy 16% of the trees and damage more than 25%...more

Family Planning on the Range: The Battle Over Bison Contraceptives

At feeding time, residents of the Brogan Bison Facility cluster around a hay bale, blinking at flecks of alfalfa dust that swirl in the air and settle in their shaggy coats. The herd, chewing and lowing, mills in a holding pasture near Corwin Springs, Montana, surrounded by sweeping mountain views and a seven-strand wire fence. Blue-painted squeeze chutes are settled in the dirt nearby, bordered by a swath of prairie grass that stretches for a few miles until it meets the northern border of Yellowstone National Park. This, under a graying sky beginning to spit the first snowflakes of another long winter, is the unlikely center of a contentious debate over birth control. The bison, gathered after drifting out of Yellowstone earlier this year, are potential subjects of a USDA study of GonaCon, a contraceptive vaccine for wildlife. Originally developed by the USDA as a non-lethal form of pest control, GonaCon works by lowering the concentration of sex hormones in the bloodstream to weaken fertility and the urge to mate. The contraceptive was recently approved in Maryland and New Jersey for curbing the population of wild deer. Now researchers are hoping to use GonaCon to stop the spread of brucellosis, an infectious bacterial disease that causes pregnant ungulates to abort their calves. The Greater Yellowstone Area is the last known reservoir of Brucella abortus bacteria, believed to have been introduced to the park's bison by domestic cattle at the beginning of the 20th century. Roughly half the bison population in Yellowstone tests positive for exposure to the disease, which is primarily transmitted by contaminated birthing materials deposited on grazing grounds. Brucellosis also poses a threat to neighboring cattle herds when infected animals wander over the park's invisible boundaries. Researchers from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are interested in whether temporary sterilization with GonaCon can prevent the shedding of bacteria-riddled afterbirth and help block disease transmission. The USDA has spent close to two billion dollars over nearly eight decades trying to stamp out the disease, which carries hulking environmental and financial consequences...more

$2,000,000,000?? Two billion dollars.

I guess them Parkies never heard of castration.  Two billion dollars will get you a lot of buffalo balls.

Hell, have a Testicle Festival and let the boys shoot them off.  That'll make their libido go lame.

Santa's Reindeer For Rent

A handful of entrepreneurial ranchers cater to people who want to spice up their holiday events with live animals. Yes, that is a live reindeer, sharp antlers and all. Step right up to the sleigh to take your Christmas photos. A woman in an elf costume keeps a tight grip on the reindeer's collar. Holiday shopping is in full swing here at Swanson's Nursery in Seattle. The reindeer handler is Sonya Benhardt. She and her husband Ed own Reindeer Express. That's one of a handful of ranches in the Northwest that rent out live reindeer for holiday promotions and pageants. Ed Benhardt says he got the idea from reindeer ranchers back East. "You know, a business wants to draw people in and there's nothing better during the holidays to draw people in than live reindeer," he says. The business started with two domesticated reindeer in 1998. Now there's a herd of about 40 on the ranch near the small eastern Washington town of Reardan...more

NM rancher's feathers not ruffled raising turkeys for Thanksgiving demand

At Talus Wind Ranch in Galisteo, the turkeys are a work of art. Their feathers give off a lustrous sheen that appears almost metallic — a mix of white and chocolate with swaths of orange that, depending on the light, glint yellow and green. It's not so surprising, then, to learn that Talus Wind's owner is an art dealer-turned-rancher who sees similarities between his two seemingly disparate careers.Besides being pretty, the turkeys are friendly. The feathers on Willms' slew of heritage Standard Bronzes and Rio Grande Wilds were barely ruffled when visitors entered their enclosure on a recent Saturday.Eventually, the turkeys will make their way to Willms' slaughterhouse in Mountainair. This Thanksgiving, Willms expects to sell about 175 birds. Willms, the type of rancher who calls his turkeys "sweet pea" and "honey," is philosophical about the deaths. He said a friend told him to look at it this way: "They have a great life, but then they have one really bad day." The saying is also featured on the ranch's website. Lamb, Talus Wind's other primary animal product, is a much bigger seller and can be found in Santa Fe restaurants and at Whole Foods. Willms also recently started a venture involving lamb-based dog food and toys. And then there's the Mountainair slaughterhouse, which serves other small ranchers in the area...more

Song Of The Day #719

Ranch Radio brings you Connie Smith's 1966 recording of Ain't Had No Lovin'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sheep station scrutinized

Federal and state agencies, sportsmen groups and environmentalists are calling for an end to sheep grazing on a federal research ranch in the Centennial Mountains, saying the decades-long practice is coming at the expense of grizzly bears and other wildlife. The land, on the Montana-Idaho border south of Dillon, is part of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, which was established in 1926 to conduct research on sheep breeds, grazing and rangeland health. Today, federal shepherds tend 3,000 sheep on more than 47,000 acres ranging from lowlands near Dubois, Idaho, to over 10,000 feet elevation on the property, which is run by the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. But several government agencies, as well as environmental groups, say keeping sheep in prime grizzly bear, wolf and bighorn sheep habitat so close to Yellowstone National Park has become a major impediment for those and other species to expand their range. But Jim Brown, a Dillon lawyer and spokesman for the Montana Wool Growers Association, said the criticism of the station is misguided. He disputed that the station is a problem for grizzlies, noting that only one has been killed in recent years on the station. Sheep producers say the station provides valuable data that helps the industry nationwide. And they say the station has been there for years and wildlife has thrived in the area, showing that its management has worked for everyone. But environmentalists and wildlife groups counter that while deer and elk can coincide with the station, it’s been a huge wall for predators and bighorn sheep. And they said with Congress considering deep spending cuts to bring runaway federal deficits under control, the sheep station is a waste of taxpayer money that benefits a small and shrinking industry...more

Let's see: Sheep and wildlife successfully living together for 85 years with research to back it up - no wonder the enviros want to shut it down

Federal bills compete over national forest roads

Nearly 60 million acres of national forests were put off-limits to motor vehicles, road building and logging during the Clinton administration. Last week, a bill was introduced that would turn that rule into law. According to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a sponsor of the bill along with U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee D-Wash., the Roadless Area Conservation Act would protect “hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.” Various forms of this bill have been introduced by Inslee and Cantwell since 2002. “There is an urgent need to safeguard the remaining undeveloped forest lands as a home for wildlife, a haven for recreation and a heritage for future generations,” Cantwell said. But not everyone is convinced. And one California congressman wants to make sure that bill never sees the light of day. Instead, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., introduced a bill – the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act – in April that would release about 43 million of those acres to be used for oil and gas development, motorized recreation and logging. “Millions of acres of land across the United States are being held under lock and key unnecessarily,” McCarthy said. “My bill acts on recommendations made by government agencies managing these lands so they are opened up for increased public use.” The recommendations upon which McCarthy’s bill relies are from a 1979 U.S. Forest Service report [PDF] that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had called “inadequate because of its use of unsupported and undocumented statements, its lack of related data on demands for resources, and its unbalanced economic approach.” The report recommends keeping 15 million acres protected, allocating 36 million for non-wilderness and holding an additional 11 million aside for further planning...more

Ranchers Warn Forest Policies Threaten Livestock Grazing

On behalf of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the Public Lands Council (PLC), Margaret Soulen Hinson told lawmakers during a hearing of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands that if the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service's (USFS) proposed forest planning rule goes into effect, thousands of ranching families could be forced off the land. While Soulen Hinson, an Idaho cattle and sheep producer and president of ASI, discussed multiple concerns ASI and PLC have with the proposed planning rule, which could be finalized this winter, she spent the bulk of her testimony detailing the negative affect a provision calling for management for "species viability" would have on federal lands ranching. "By 2013, my family and I will be forced to remove 60 percent of our sheep from our allotments on the Payette National Forest, which may well mark the end of our family's 80-year-old sheep operation altogether," Soulen Hinson said. "This has come to pass because of a very specific wildlife provision of the current planning rule, which calls for management for 'species viability.' The term 'viability' is a vague, ill-defined term that appears nowhere in statute and has been the source of endless litigation and economic destruction over the years. We recommend the USFS remove entirely the term 'viability' and leave wildlife management to the states, as required by statute." According to Soulen Hinson, while the USFS claims the viability provision in the proposed rule is an improvement because it only applies to populations of "species of conservation concern," there is no science-based definition for "species of conservation concern," which could result in a limitless list of species to manage. Notably, she said the viability provision goes beyond the current vertebrate standard and applies to all types of species, even moss and fungus. She said the most important fact for lawmakers to realize is that under the National Forest Management Act and the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act, the Forest Service does not have statutory authority to manage for species viability....more

Feds Seriously Weighed Sage Grouse Concerns

The Bureau of Land Management does not have to further justify its plan to cut and burn young juniper trees in an Oregon wilderness area, a federal judge ruled. In 2008 the Oregon Natural Desert Association filed suit against the agency to prevent it from carrying out a plan to eradicate juniper trees from sage-grouse habitat in the Steen Mountain BLM Cooperative Management and Protection Area in southeastern Oregon. The environmental group says that the BLM's plan will actually harm rather than help the sage-grouse, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) named as a candidate for endangered species listing. In a finding last year , the FWS said listing the sage grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act was "warranted but precluded" by higher-priority listing actions. U.S. District Court Judge Garr King disagreed that the listing decision relied on or provided new information that the BLM needed to consider before starting the juniper-eradication project because he said the agency had considered the sage grouse a "sensitive status" species while developing the plan. Quoting 9th Circuit precedent in Swanson v. U.S. Forest Service, King said the "FWS's listing determination changes only the 'legal status of the [species], but it did not change the biological status,'" which the BLM considered in its original Environmental Impact Statement...more

Land board increases grazing fees for state leases

The Montana Land Board on Monday agreed to increase the amount it charges ranchers for grazing on state land, but only after it reduced the proposed increase amid criticism from ranchers. Ranchers argued that the increase of more than 50 percent, which will be phased in over five years, is still too high. The land board, made up of five statewide elected officials including the governor, voted Monday. It made several changes to the proposed increase, which came after a study commissioned by the board found the state was charging far less than market value. The board argued that the sizable increase was needed because the amount had not been adjusted for inflation in years. The rates would affect about 4 million acres of state land — and nearly 5,000 ranchers who lease the land from the state. Agency director Mary Sexton said that every $1 increase in the average $6.50 price per animal unit currently charged would raise an extra $1 million a year. The land board agreed to increase that amount to $10.19 over five years, which will raise roughly an additional $3 million when fully implemented...more

NAPI warns of hay shortage, sellers running out of feed

Navajo Agricultural Products Industry is running out of alfalfa hay, a spokeswoman said Monday. "We are actually possibly going to run out of hay by Saturday," said marketing assistant Rae DeGroat. "It could go on till next week, but we wanted the public to be aware of this information." NAPI is a major supplier of hay in San Juan County. The crucial livestock feed has been in short supply this year because of drought that has hurt production. Prices for alfalfa hay have climbed throughout the Southwest. Hay is tough to come by — and increasingly expensive — throughout the region. Demand from ranchers in Texas and Southern New Mexico, where drought is devastating agriculture, is rippling throughout the feed market. The hay shortage has drawn national media attention. "Supplies are very short due to the drought down south," said Tom Campbell, agronomy manager at Basin Co-Op in Durango, Colo. Prices for premium hay in the Durango area are approaching $300 per ton, while cow hay is going for about $200 per ton. The climbing prices and tight supplies are worrying ranchers. Many rural residents keep cattle, horses and sheep, all of which need feed to get through the winter. Bradshaw said the hay shortage is not unprecedented, but it's the worst in several years. Adding to the problem is a growing population of older horses since domestic horse slaughter was essentially banned several years ago, he said. "The old horses have increased in number." NAPI is selling "good" hay for $220 per ton and lesser quality cow hay for $190 per ton. The Navajo agriculture group raises 84,000 tons of hay a year...more

NM Fair Commission approves The Downs lease

The state fair commission voted narrowly to approve the lease for The Downs at Albuquerque Racino. “It was an extremely sad situation for the people of New Mexico, the process that was pursued in this whole RFP was extremely flawed, was not transparent,” said David Vogel a neighbor who opposes the lease. On Monday they say their claims were reinforced. The state fair commission was supposed to be meeting to discuss the proposed 25 year lease that includes the building of a brand new $20-million casino a little closer to Louisiana and Central. Then in a surprising move, Commissioner Kennedy introduced a motion to vote on the lease. Not all commissioners were on board with that. “So we can take the vote now and disregard the public and disregard a stack of actions taken against the downs from the state gaming board? We can ignore the advice of the LFC?” asked Commissioner Rode. In the end the three commissioners opposed to voting on the lease Monday were out voted and in a narrow 4-3 vote on the lease the motion carried. Commissioner’s Sanchez, Kennedy, Goff and Bitsui voted in favor of the lease. Commissioner’s Rode, Roybal and Smith voted against the lease...more

Here is the KRQE video report:

Commission approves The Downs lease:

Song Of The Day #718

 Ranch Radio will stay in the 60s for this short week.  Here's a song that made the top 40 in 1966:  Marty Robbins - The Shoe Goes On The Other Foot Tonight.

Report Links Wildfires to Illegal Immigrants

A study by Congress' investigative arm shows investigators have linked 30 fires that erupted in a five-year period in Arizona's border region to people who crossed into the United States illegally — a finding Sen. John McCain says backs up earlier statements he made about illegal immigrants and wildfires. The GAO found that 30 of the probed wildfires were linked to illegal border crossers primarily in southeastern Arizona based on what was written in investigative reports. Fifteen were thought to be a signal for help, provide warmth or cook food. An investigative report on the 2009 Bear fire backed up that suspicion by noting the discovery of discarded bottles and food wrappers with Spanish language labels near a campfire. It also noted that the area is frequented by illegal border crossers and is adjacent to a heavily used smuggling trail, the GAO report said. Reports on the other 15 wildfires don't give a reason for the start of the fire, but the GAO said a couple of them mention that the areas of ignition are known for drug smuggling. The GAO also looked at how fire suppression has been impacted by the presence of illegal border crossers. The Forest Service issued a report in 2006 saying the border region could be dangerous for firefighters because of potential encounters with drug smugglers, high-speed pursuits, biological hazards, and illegal border crossers seeking food, water or rescue. The GAO said federal officials it interviewed did not identify any specific threats or assaults. But the federal officials said firefighting efforts sometimes are hampered over concerns about border crossers in the area...more

Mexican Drug Cartels Are a Growing Force in New Mexico

Echoing complaints made by authorities in other border towns, law enforcement authorities say that Mexico drug cartels are a growing force in northern New Mexico. The Farmington Daily Times reports that Region II Narcotics Task Force Director Neil Haws says the Juárez cartel has been operating for two years in San Juan County, for example, but that the Sinaloa and Michoacán cartels also have gained ground. Haws recently told Bloomfield city councilors that members of cartels live in the area with their families and recruit local gang members to sell their drugs to avoid detection. Haws said cartel members find it easy to import the drugs, mainly meth, via wide-open New Mexico roads and reservation lands...more

Couple arrested for allegedly trying to bribe Border Patrol agent

A Texas couple has been jailed on charges they tried to bribe a Border Patrol agent into letting them smuggle a family member and 10 kilograms of cocaine into the country, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. FBI agents arrested Debbie Ayala, 25, of San Elizario, Texas, and David Rogelio Leyva, 27, of Socorro, Texas, on Friday in Horizon City, Texas. They were booked into the Do a Ana County Detention Center shortly after. If convicted of conspiracy and bribery, the defendants could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines for conspiracy and bribery, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. On Jan. 12, 2010, Ayala and Leyva allegedly tried to offer $700 to $800 to the agent so they could smuggle Ayala's cousin from Mexico - possibly through Deming, according to the indictment. Ayala also allegedly offered to pay $1,000 to $2,000 if she could be allowed to smuggle in a quantity of cocaine, but the agent refused the offer, according to the unsealed indictment. On Jan. 26, 2010, Ayala and Leyva allegedly met with a second officer at a business in El Paso, offering to pay $500 per kilogram of smuggled cocaine, according to the indictment...more

Monday, November 21, 2011

Game and Fish confirms report of jaguar in southern Arizona

The Arizona Game and Fish Department over the weekend was able to confirm a hunter’s report of a jaguar southeast of Tucson and collect hair samples from the area for possible DNA testing. Game and Fish categorizes the report as a Class I-10, meaning the report is considered verifiable or highly probable, and visual or physical evidence is provided and confirmed. The report was initially received on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. from an experienced hunter using dogs to hunt mountain lions. The dogs pursued an animal the hunter ultimately deemed was a jaguar. The animal was treed approximately 15 feet up in a mesquite tree, and the hunter was able to obtain photographs and video. After photographing the jaguar, the hunter quickly left the area with his dogs and observed from a distant point. The jaguar remained treed for approximately 15 minutes and then headed south. Based on the images, biologists believe the jaguar is an adult male that appeared in good, healthy condition and weighed approximately 200 pounds. Biologists will compare the photos and video to images of other jaguars photographed throughout Arizona in the past. They will try to use comparisons between a jaguar’s unique spots, or “rosettes,” to determine if the animal has been identified previously...more

Christmas Tree Tax Gets The Axe

Some grinch at USDA proposed the Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order, soon called the "Christmas Tree Tax", which would have imposed a 15 cent assessment on fresh-cut Christmas trees.  This would have been a checkoff program like they have for beef, eggs, dairy, etc.  But one has to ask which DC Deep Thinker at USDA proposed this just before the Christmas Season?

The USDA may have defecated in their own nest when they proposed this.  Check out the issues discussed in this editorial from the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

    Let's get one thing straight at the outset: Yes, the Obama administration did propose a tax on Christmas trees, and no amount of obfuscation by its knee-jerk defenders can change that fact. The Department of Agriculture planned to impose a 15-cent duty on every Christmas tree sold by tree-sellers who unload more than 500 trees a season. That is an excise tax — a tax on a specific product, levied per unit of sale, just like federal taxes on tobacco and gasoline.
    The proposal provoked an uproar, and the White House will now "revisit this action." That's politician-speak for "run from the issue like a scalded dog."
    Was the tax sought by Christmas-tree growers? Indeed it was. They wanted the federal government to run a Christmas-tree promotion campaign, much like those it runs for eggs and other agricultural products. But that's no excuse. As Ilya Schapiro of the Cato Institute notes, this little tale epitomizes everything wrong with government today.
    Washington has no more business hawking Christmas trees than it has hawking eggs, milk or beef. Persuading consumers to purchase live rather than artificial holiday trees is not government's job. And even if promoting pine trees did fall within the scope of the federal government's constitutionally enumerated powers, taxes are supposed to be levied by Congress — not agencies of the executive branch. Finally, there's an interesting First Amendment question about whether a special tax on Christmas trees singles out Christianity for a burden not imposed on other faiths.
    The Christmas-tree tax has been axed, for now. But the underlying problem remains. The public would be wise to keep an eye on the Grinches who sought the tax — and the other Grinches who were all too willing to grant their wish.

Wilderness Society cuts staff, citing weak economy

The weak economy has taken a big bite out of the Wilderness Society, which last week laid off 17% of its staff. Headquartered in Washington, the organization is one of the nation's most venerable land preservation groups and has been a major force behind the creation and expansion of the federal wilderness system. After increasing its staff and spending in recent years, the group is retrenching. "The Wilderness Society, like so many other organizations, has been feeling the effects of a down economy, creating budget pressures," said Kitty Thomas, senior director of advocacy communications. "We had an obligation to meet these financial challenges." Thomas declined to provide details of the layoffs but said the staff had been trimmed to 155, about the size it was five years ago. Thirty-two people lost their jobs across the organization, which has nine regional offices. The cuts included a number of positions in the Denver office and in Washington, as well as one in California, according to staff members. The layoffs were announced a month after William Meadows, the organization's president, announced that he would step down next year from the post he has held since 1996 and move into an advisory position. The group has launched a search for his replacement. According to the group's audited financial statement, expenses outstripped revenue of $23 million by about $2.3 million in fiscal year 2010. Thomas said she could not provide the most recent revenue figures because they had not been audited...more

Can you hear me cryin

Sierra Club leader departs amid discontent over group's direction

The chairman of the Sierra Club, one of the nation's most influential environmental groups, has stepped down amid discontent that the group founded by 19th century wilderness evangelist John Muir has strayed from its core principles. The departure of Carl Pope, 66, a member of the club for more than 40 years, comes as the nonprofit group faces declining membership, internal dissent, well-organized opponents, a weak economy and forces in Congress trying to take the teeth out of environmental regulations. Pope became chairman of the club in 2010, after serving for more than 17 years as executive director. He was replaced by Michael Brune, 40, a veteran of smaller activist groups, who has pledged to concentrate on grass-roots organizing, recruit new members and focus on such issues as coal-fired power plants. "We have different approaches," Brune said of his relationship with his predecessor. Pope said he will leave his position as chairman to devote most of his time to "revitalizing the manufacturing sector" by working with organized labor and corporations. That emphasis caused schisms in the club, most notably when he hammered out a million-dollar deal with household chemical manufacturer Clorox to use the club's emblem on a line of "green" products and, more recently, with its support of utility-scale solar arrays in the Mojave Desert, the type of place the club made its reputation protecting...more

You can read Pope's resignation email here.

Acting ‘Green’ Is Now More Important Than Helping Environment

As environmentalism has become more trendy, the value of appearing green is now more important than helping the environment, argues Todd Myers in a new book called “Eco-Fads.” He spoke at Heritage this week and joined us for Scribecast.  Myers cited the Obama administration’s $535 million Solyndra scandal as a high-profile example of how environmentalism is actually harming the environment. Myers noted that solar panels are among the worst performing as far as reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  Myers’ book includes many examples of eco-fads. One of the most egregious is the explosion of green buildings, particularly in his home state of Washington. Politicians there even mandated that construction of new schools be built to “green” standards such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). But after conducting research using the government’s own data, Myers found that the new “green” schools consumed more energy. Those schools cost more to build and have not delivered on the benefits politicians promised...more

GAO Examines Possibility of Centralized Climate Service

Federal strategic planning efforts to streamline climate change preparedness are challenged by a lack of coordinated data sharing, which may require the creation of a new federal climate service, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit report presented Wednesday to the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. The report, Climate Change Adaptation, Federal Efforts to Provide Information Could Help Government Decision Making, highlighted two central challenges: translating climate data such as projected temperature and precipitation changes into information that officials need to make decisions, and justifying the current costs of adaptation with limited information about future benefits.  GAO discussed several potential federal actions that federal, state and local officials identified as useful to inform adaptation decision making. These included state and local climate change impact and vulnerability assessments and “the development of processes and tools to access, interpret and apply climate information.” One possible solution to these challenges, the report noted, was the creation of “a federal service to consolidate and deliver climate information to decision makers to inform adaptation efforts.”...more

Report updates county payments losses

Oregon counties face the loss of about 4,000 jobs, $400 million in business sales and $250 million in income when federal funding for the Secure Rural Schools Act runs out June 30, 2012, according to a new report. In this latest report, the economists note that Oregon counties face a steep drop in revenue that will sooner or later require employee layoffs, a reduction of services, less funding for schools, and long-term economic consequences that may push the overall impact even higher unless they receive significant new funding or Congress reauthorizes the federal act. Bruce Weber, an economist who directs the Rural Studies Program at OSU, says the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools act will result in a 94 percent drop in projected federal forest payments in 2013 from the amount counties received in 2008. After timber harvests began declining in the early 1990s, shared revenues declined sharply and Congress passed a series of laws that supplemented shared timber revenues, culminating in the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000...more

Growing a new crop of farmers

The rising age of farmers is alarming, but the Quivira Coalition took that challenge and made it the centerpiece of their tenth annual conference, shining the spotlight on a series of enthusiastic and innovative young agrarians who are blazing trails toward farming’s future. The Quivira Coalition itself is a unique collaboration of ranchers and environmentalists originally formed in 2002 to defend public lands ranching, but it has evolved over the years to cover the niche where ranching and resource management interests overlap and to promote responsible land stewardship, including riparian restoration and carbon sequestration. Founder Courtney White plans to take a leave of absence in 2012 to write a book about how food production and land management can be used to build up soil and counteract climate change. The coalition has also been actively cultivating a new generation of sustainable farmers. In 2008, the group launched an apprenticeship program that pairs aspiring young professionals with farmer-mentors willing to host them for an intense educational experience. So far seven individuals have completed the program. Roughly half of the 400-plus convention participants were from New Mexico and southern Colorado, but dozens of speakers traveled from as far away as California and New England to tell their stories of gaining a toehold in farming and why it was worth the struggle. One name familiar to many in the region belongs to Jeff Gossage, son of major league baseball player, Goose Gossage. The younger Gossage has been managing the Medano-Zapata Ranch for the past six years after apprenticing for three and a half years under manager Duke Phillips on the Chico Basin Ranch near Colorado Springs...more

Wyo. ranchers, law team up to foil livestock rustlers

An apparent increase in livestock rustling brought together landowners in eastern Carbon County, Albany County and Natrona County with federal, state and county law enforcement agencies. "The thievery has dramatically escalated over the last three years," said Matt Spennath, whose ranch runs along County Road 2 in Albany and Carbon counties. "Sometime between mid-August and Oct. 1, 22 head of yearling steers were just gone. We are pretty confident with our head counts, and I'm sure they were stolen." Spennath said he lost 35 ewes to rustlers between mid-May and October, and another rancher near him loses 35-40 head of cattle annually. "They feel just as confident that their livestock is being stolen," Spennath said. Carbon County Sheriff Jerry Colson said his deputies have the authority to stop livestock trailers without cause and ask for the brand papers. Colson was advised to make sure deputies always look in trailers to make sure the animals match the paperwork. Roger Newkirk — a brand inspector whose area includes Carbon County — advised law enforcement officers that ranchers and their employees must have permits to transport livestock across county lines and state lines. He said officers can call the brand inspector 24 hours a day to verify a brand to the name of the rancher. Livestock thefts mostly happen during the day in July and August, Siler said, because most rustlers don't want to navigate dirt roads in the dark or get out in Wyoming's wintry weather...more

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore

Hear the clickety-clack, clickety-clack, steel against steel, and the deafening roar and rumble, beyond life-size, as 600 or more railroad cars thundered down the valley, Aspen to Glenwood. “Silver, my ass, we're hauling spuds, boy, tons and tons of spuds.” In an ironic twist of fate, the 1893 demise of silver mining became a boon for the valley's farmers and ranchers and railroads, creating a symbiotic relationship that endured well into the 1950s. Ranchers, their market once limited to Aspen's miners, now had the means to transport produce and livestock to other areas. Silver mining had seen its best days, but in the fading light a new age was coming, a dynamic extraction from the earth of a different kind. Potatoes, oats, hay, horses and cattle nourished by the grass and loamy soil of our unique, high-altitude aerie thrived and quickly found a national market, generally bringing higher prices than similar commodities from other areas. It's a big deal, if you read about those idyllic days, how farm or ranch life was a “family enterprise,” as though that was something unique in America. What isn't so readily apparent, though, is the fact that the biggest contribution to this area of ranching and farming was the changing of the demographic from a population of mostly single, transient males into a serious, cohesive community of families, largely agrarian based...more

Magnetic Cows Finding Disputed by Researchers

In 2008, the world's media was captivated by a study apparently showing that cows like to align themselves with magnetic fields. But attempts to replicate this finding have left two groups of researchers at loggerheads, highlighting the problems faced by scientists working to replicate unusual findings based on new methods of data analysis. Magneto-reception has been detected in animals from turtles to birds. Three years ago, Hynek Burda, a zoologist at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and his colleagues added cattle to the magnetic family with a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team used data from Google Earth to show that domestic cattle seem to prefer to align their bodies along Earth's magnetic field lines nd showed a similar phenomenon in field observations of deer. Earlier this year, a group of Czech researchers reported their failed attempt to replicate the finding using different Google Earth images. The Czech team wrote in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A: "Two independent groups participated in our study and came to the same conclusion that in contradiction to the recent findings of other researchers, no alignment of the animals and of their herds along geomagnetic field lines could be found."...more

Ranch owner: Fight over disputed trail could derail plans

A dispute with a neighbor threatens to throw a wrench in the plan. Waldeck and Cerise require use of about 300 yards of a trail and rough road through the neighboring Happy Day Ranch to get Cerise's cows and calves up to a summer grazing allotment on The Crown, public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Ginny Parker, whose family owns the Happy Day Ranch, dedicated the trail to the Pitkin County Trails and Open Space program with the provision that no motorized uses be allowed. The trail, dedicated to the memory of Parker's daughter, is open to the public for hiking and horseback riding. In May 2010, Parker had her attorney send Waldeck a letter demanding he stop using motorized vehicles to take his cattle up to The Crown and to care for the herd during the summer. Parker also told Waldeck he couldn't unilaterally close the trail while he was moving cattle. “Failure to agree to the conditions stated herein will result in the revocation of the permissive use of the trail and vigorous enforcement of trespass laws,” the letter said. Waldeck believes the Cerise family, and its predecessors, established the legal right over several decades to use the trail without Parker's permission. When discussions between the neighbors failed, Waldeck felt he had to respond to the Parker letter with litigation to maintain use of the trail. “The issue is very simple: The trail has been used by one family — that we can document — since 1917,” Waldeck said. Cerise, 53, said he has been personally moving cattle up the disputed route for about 45 years. ..more

Oh no! White House plans celebration of "country music"

Country music gets its due at the Obama White House next week. The Obamas will play host to a string of country stars — legendary and contemporary — Monday at their seventh “In Performance at the White House” program. Among those performing Monday night: Lauren Alaina, The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Mickey, Darius Rucker and James Taylor. Some of the performers also will take part in an afternoon workshop at the White House for 120 local students about the history of country music and its cultural significance...more

Song Of The Day #717

 Its Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio.  I had a different song in mind for today, but Julie Carter in her Cowgirl Sass & Savvy column posted yesterday, quoted from a Buck Owen's tune titled Sam's Place.  I've been humming the damn thing every since.  So for Julie and all her buddies or whomever she was hanging out with in 1967, here's the song straight from his 1967 album Tender Loving Care.

NM connected to Fast & Furious probe

New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce said on Saturday he wants to know who else needs to be held responsible for a failed operation that has left more than 1,500 guns unaccounted for. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it launched Operation Fast and Furious to discover how Mexican cartels were getting American guns. Officials said that Arizona ATF agents watched gun smugglers buy more than 1,500 automatic weapons and walk across the border with the guns. And then, they said, they lost track of them. Many guns resurfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border, and the Columbus, N.M. mayor, police chief and village trustee has since been arrested, officials said. "(The operation) has actually been a dismal failure," Pearce said. The congressional report showed a major link between Fast and Furious and the arms trafficking ring in Columbus. According to the congressional report, New Mexico border patrol agents pulled over Blas Gutierrez, a village trustee and the mastermind behind the Columbus gun-running ring in January of last year. Inside the car, agents said they found a stash of weapons, including AK-47s and pistols known as "cop killers." According to the report, a number of the guns had been purchased by the main suspects in Operation Fast and Furious just days before. But instead of running the serial numbers while the guns were in their hands, border patrol agents said they handed the weapons back and let Gutierrez go. The guns were then smuggled across the border, and police said one wound up at a murder scene in Mexico. "I agree 100 percent that (the ATF or border patrol has blood on their hands). They should be held personably accountable in these matters," Pearce said. "I think we want to know where the 1,600 guns are at this point. We want to know the link to New Mexico, and how many firearms were released here. How many firearms were provided to individuals, and who are those individuals?" Gov. Susana Martinez said...more

Border bandits

When Linda Vickers leaves home to feed the horses on her Texas ranch each morning, she takes three things: her dog, her cell phone, and her pistol. For Vickers, these aren't just the trappings of a typical rural rancher: They're a way to guard against the potential danger of illegal aliens and to call U.S. Border Patrol agents if trouble erupts. Though she hasn't used the gun, the dogs have warned her more than once: A few months ago, Vickers says the dogs "went ballistic" when she walked into the tack room. She discovered two illegal aliens sleeping on the floor. On another morning, a large man with a pencil-thin mustache followed Vickers from the barn to her home. She called Border Patrol agents, and they apprehended the Brazilian who had split from a group of 40 other illegal aliens. From her back porch, Vickers has watched groups of 10 or more illegal immigrants tromp through her land, and she admits: "It does feel like an invasion." Vickers' experience isn't unusual among Texas ranchers, but it is notable for at least one reason: She lives nearly 70 miles north of the U.S-Mexico border. The ranch she shares with her husband, Mike Vickers, sits just outside the rural town of Falfurrias in south Texas...more

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Keepin’ it thankful

 By Julie Carter

Pumpkins have lost their toothy grins in recent weeks and are now joined by turkeys, pilgrims holding platters of food and cornucopias spilling over with vegetable bounty.

If there is any doubt which season is headed your way, the commercialism of it will quickly bring it to your recollection. 

No sooner did the garden supplies take the back row at the Big Box stores, the red and green sparkles of Christmas were front and center. It was August.

Christmas music in October elicited from me a growl and a sarcastic “hold off Fat Boy, the turkey has his day first” blurted to a Santa cutout at the mall.

Cowboys are all about strays. They round them up, rope, brand and doctor them, and in some mirrored reflection of the universe, you could say they become one and the same.

The dictionary defines a stray as a domestic animal wandering at large, homeless and without an owner. That pretty much sums up the cowboy with the only question mark landing on the “domestic.” 

The Thanksgiving holiday in my world is often a gathering of strays. The once solidly grounded-in-family-tradition celebration has migrated to a collection of eclectic folk all hoping to spend the day with friends and hope it involves food, conversation, and of course, football.

Let’s face it folks. The world has spun fast enough to scatter families to the wind and put hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles between their table and yours.

Easy travel, corporate employment and the lure of metropolitan paychecks have whisked away the kinfolk from their rural roots to suburbia. There they thrive with two and a half kids, a poofed and pedigreed dog, a boat at the back of the driveway and a feng shui backyard.

Buck Owens had a hit song in the late ’60s with the lyrics “There’s always a party at Sam’s Place, that’s where the gang all hangs around.” Thanksgiving in this modern world often resembles Sam’s Place.

Quite possibly some version of Hootchy-Kootchy Hattie from Cincinnati or Shimmy-Shakin’ Tina who hails from Pasadena will be there.  Also in attendance at the turkey carving will be the crazy uncle, the class clown, the smart kids, a rodeo drifter or two and a couple of team roping partners who haven’t yet found anyone else to rope with them or to invite them to dinner.

At a cowboy Thanksgiving dinner, it is expected that you’ll bring along your horse and spend some time roping to finish out the day. In the late afternoon sun, everyone will waddle down to the arena, moaning deliriously over the mental and physical memory of a magnificent meal.

When I begin to recall the things for which I’m thankful, first on the list is life and the chance to experience joy and laughter. I have been blessed with an abundance of both. The gathering of strays reminds me that it is often the most unique people that influence our lives and make life interesting.

Whether you spend Thanksgiving with Mom, Pop and the cousins or quietly with the remote control, a bag of Fritos and bean dip, my wish for you is that it is a joyful day full of grateful reflections.

Happy Thanksgiving from all the strays at “Sam’s Place” and from my home to yours.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Bootheel Country: The Continuing Saga

Bootheel Country
Parallel Universes
The Continuing Saga
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

     The monsoons finally came to the Bootheel of southwestern New Mexico in 2011.  The drought that strangled the parched land until July had offered no meaningful precipitation since October, 2010.  Worry and frustration were constant and unrelenting.  The drought made it worse, but it was only part of the problem.
     In pursuit of the killer
     The Bootheel was introduced to many Americans for the first time in the spring of 2010 when rancher Rob Krentz was killed on his southeastern Arizona ranch near the New Mexico line.  Rob’s murderer was tracked by neighboring rancher Warner Glenn and agents of the Border Patrol (BP) south across the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge to the Mexican border.
     The hours that it took to trail the murderer revealed to the pursuers more than just tracks on the ground.  They got to know him in ways like nobody else.  They knew how long his stride was.  They knew his shoe size.  They knew the tread on those shoes.  They got to know his thought processes in an instinctive way. 
     Warner Glenn is arguably one of the most elite trackers alive.  He is a cowman who supports his ranch by outfitting.  He is known for his mules, his hounds and the diminishing art of mountain lion hunting.  When Warner lost the track of Rob’s murderer within a stone’s throw from the border, he was frustrated. 
     “The trail was corrupted by so much other sign.  I think he took his shoes off and walked on across,” he had said shaking his head.  “We just weren’t allowed to get on the trail in time!”
     The conflict
     The ranching community of the Bootheel finds itself in a location that is both blessed and cursed ecologically.  It is blessed in that it is squarely in the path of one of the most consistent and prominent monsoonal flows in the world.  It is cursed in that it is contiguous to one of the most geographically appealing smuggling corridors in the world. 
     Much has been learned and revealed to the American people over the last year about the Arizona smuggling corridors.  Their characteristics are specific.  They have rugged north/south mountain and drainage orientation which provides channels of movement.  They have east/west highway access both north and south of the corridor.  They have high, strategically located points of observation for cartel observers and coordinators.  The have minimum numbers of American inhabitants.  They are heavily dominated by federal land agency management, and they all have designated Wilderness or de facto managed wilderness safe havens. 
     The expanding disclosure of conflicting federal agency missions has also been revealed.  Concurrent with Rob’s death, three letters surfaced from the USFWS regional director, Benjamin Tuggle, to the BP’s chief patrol agent, Robert Gilbert, describing strict protocol for BP’s entry into San Bernardino.
     Tuggle made it clear that BP was only allowed mechanical access into San Bernardino on the basis of threat to human life.  Furthermore, he instituted a protocol for auditing BP actions.  If the results demonstrated that mechanical entry was not predicated on the basis of threat to human life, all access would be denied and BP would have to request access on the basis of a special use permit.
      The antagonism of the Forest Service, the Park Service, and USFWS to BP is not limited to San Bernardino.  It is pervasive across the border, and particularly in the BP’s Tucson Sector where half of all the human smuggling apprehensions, half of all the drug interdiction, and the vast majority of the loss of human life occurs on all borders.  This is ground zero in the conflict that has made the Mexican border the most dangerous border in the world.
     In search of a sanctuary
     By the early ‘90s, the ranching community of the Bootheel was fearful that if something wasn’t done, their days of historic land stewardship were numbered.  At that time, the war at their front was not a simmering cartel drug war.   It was the expanding environmental war on their existence.  They sought help and shelter within the movement itself thinking that they could control their destiny by being part of the process. 
     In 1994, a deal was struck that united the ranchers with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) in a venture named Malpai Border Group (MBG).  The original 20 members were photographed in what is now a famous picture inside a hay barn at the Malpai Ranch (from which the name of group was taken).  The union was built around ecological preservation of the landscape through the concept of a grass bank system that would buffer the drought-monsoonal patterns.  The center piece of the union was the Gray Ranch.
     The Gray has been owned by a number of wealthy men including William Randolph Hearst.  Its 500 sections are dominated by the skyline and the rain shadow of Big Animas Mountain. 
     When it was put on the market by the wealthy Mexican national, a number of hopeful buyers lined up including agencies of the federal government.  The problem of acquisition for the feds, though, was the availability of funding and increasing warnings by Department of Interior legal counsel against the rising scrutiny of such acquisitions orchestrated through environmental organizations and particularly TNC.  The problem was solved by an acquisition by TNC and the reconveyance of title back to one of the heirs of the Budweiser fortune.
     MBG was formed by recruiting ranches through conservation easements.  Those easements are contracts placed on the member ranches that limit future land use by the ranchers while allowing them to retain title.  They can ranch, but they are limited by binding covenants to pursue other enterprises.  Compensation for the easements came either in the form of cash payments or guaranteed grazing on the Gray.
     de facto Wilderness?
     BP demonstrated in the neighboring El Paso Sector they could control illegal alien entry by putting enough boots on the ground, improving technology, adding infrastructure, and allowing full and unencumbered access anywhere and at any time within 25 miles of the border.  Without those four components, control was not achieved.
     BP does not have all of the components in the Tucson Sector nor do they have them in the Bootheel.  Regardless of capital expended, without full and unencumbered access within 25 miles of the border, the numbers can not be controlled. 
     How bad is it?  The comparison is from 54 apprehensions per border mile per year south of Deming, New Mexico where the lesson was learned to 500 per border mile per year in the Bootheel to the out and out war in the Tucson Sector where the rate is over 900 per border mile per year.
    How is the Bootheel different from the rest of the El Paso Sector?  The answer is access . . . the absence of full and unencumbered access.
     Unlike the rest of the border west from El Paso, the MBG is not dominated by federal lands.  A full 57 percent is private, 20 percent is state lease land, 11 percent is Forest Service, and seven percent is BLM.  For reasons that are various, BP has not enforced its statutory authority to enter private lands within 25 miles of the border on MBG lands.  They have not challenged locked gates that are ostensibly in place to maintain the ecological covenants of the conservation easements on those lands. 
     The stated intent to manage the lands of MGB as “working wilderness” appears to be in place.  The data supports the expansion of Arizona smuggling corridors complete with their safe havens of designated Wilderness or de facto managed wilderness.
     The dilemma
     The ranchers of MGB sought refuge from the environmental and ecological assault against them.  It was started by the environmental movement, but it was joined by the federal land management agencies. 
     There is growing evidence the BP has also been the focus and the target of similar federal actions.  In an infamous discussion along I10 between a rancher and the Sector Chief from El Paso, it was learned that BP agents involved with the Bootheel operations have been required to attend environmental sensitivity training.  Their actions and their speech are indicative of such training and focus.
     Why are federal agents charged with border security being forced to attend environmental sensitivity training?  Isn’t it their priority to defend the border and the American people?  And, if BP is required to undergo environmental and ecological sensitivity training what about equal measures of sensitivity training for the other values set forth in the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)?
     All Westerners must be aware the law that altered the management of lands west of the 100th Meridian from a matter of disposal to a matter of retention set forth eight managed values . . . not two.  The promised values were scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resources, and archeological.  There is no authorization to elevate the management of environmental and ecological values, but it is abundantly clear that the land agencies manage for those two values at the expense of all others.
     The path   
     History will show the MGB ranchers have faced multiple foes.  They face the intent of the environmental community to force their extinction, and they face the attempt by the same forces to emasculate the actions of the BP to protect the border.  They also face their government’s lack of resolve to enforce the promises of FLPMA and the Constitutional mandate to protect the border.
    The case of the death of their friend and colleague, Rob Krentz, remains unsolved.  The apprehension of his murderer may never occur.
     Action to prevent similar tragedies is stalled.  Promised by New Mexico Senators Bingaman and Udall, a Forward Operating Base (FOB) that would put BP on the border is hovering between the regulatory processes and dispute among the parties.  Several hundred local citizens signed a petition pleading to locate the FOB on a BLM parcel of land clearly within sight of the border, and yet the agency and environmental preference is tucked away in a canyon bottom 20 miles from the border. 
     That location flies in the face of BP metrics and the concept of a visible and a physical deterrent to entry.  The BP has revealed that if illegals are not apprehended within five miles of the border, 80% will gain entry. 
     So, why would BP not place the FOB right on the border to dare any illegal to enter?  The conclusion seems to be the conservation easements that don’t allow the overt presence of man!          
      Those ranchers have been in the Bootheel for 150 years.  If the FLPMA values are evaluated, it becomes abundantly clear  . . . they are the history of the area!
     Rather than being protected by their government, they resorted to the only course of action that gave them any hope for their future.  Will the conservation easements they signed be their salvation or their demise?  They will face that eventuality, but  . . . what a shame they were forced into such a predicament in the first place.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “The environmental movement still controls too much of the Mexican border.  Listening to the environmentalists and the locals talk is like two parallel universes united only with a common language.  What needs to be done is to elevate national security into FLPMA as one of the managed values . . . and manage for nine values rather than two.”

A version of this article appears in the Winter 2011-2012 edition of Range magazine.  

J.C. Mattingly - Daylight savings

When my son turned four, he became a random question generator. “Dad, why is a shadow longer or shorter than what makes it?” Or, “Dad, what holds that heavy apple to the limb?” When my son heard us talking about “gaining an hour” when we went off daylight savings time in the fall, he had to ask, “Hey Dad, how much daylight do we save?” I recalled when Nixon instituted Daylight Savings Time in January of 1974 — as an emergency addition to the Energy Conservation Act of 1973 — a cartoon appeared in our local paper. The first frame of the cartoon showed Nixon dangling a piece of rope in front of an audience, declaring it to be 24-inches long. In the next frame, Nixon took a pair of scissors and ceremoniously snipped an inch off the bottom of the rope. The final frame showed Nixon adding the removed 1-inch section to the top of the rope, declaring, “The rope is now 25-inches long.” Recognizing this cartoon would probably be more confusing than helpful in answering my son's question, I explained to him that, in the Old Days before electricity and railroads, timekeeping was basically “sun up to sun down,” because people didn't need timetables for the simple commerce and travel practices of the day...more

Pizza, potatoes, salt, whole grains? Congress has the answer

American soldiers dying overseas in questionable wars. Domestically we have huge deficits, credit down-grades, recession, unemployment and "occupiers".  Meanwhile our Congress is focused on...the school lunch program.  If you've ever wondered about the extent to which the feds are involved with our kids, education and agribusiness, check out Pizza is a vegetable? Congress says yes by the Associated Press.

This whole thing reminds me of an incident when I was a brand new legislative assistant to Senator Domenici.  The Senate Committee on Ag had a subcommittee on nutrition,  chaired by George McGovern with Bob Dole as ranking.  I was told to attend a hush hush meeting.  When I got there I found out the meeting was guessed it: the school lunch program.  I thought "what the hell am I doing here", especially when I found out they were plotting a Congressional reversal of Sec. of Ag Earl Butz's decision that ketchup was a vegetable (because of the tomatoes).  Now here we are almost 40 years later and fighting over pizza (tomato paste).

One other thing.  About this time Nixon was on a diet and eating a lot of cottage cheese.  He really didn't like the cottage cheese and said the only way he could eat it was with a nice helping of ketchup.  The dairy industry got mad because he was bad mouthing one of their products and the ketchup industry told him to try it on his corn flakes.

The DC Deep Thinkers can't balance the budget, but they can sure tell your kids what to eat at school.

We need a separation of school and state, the sooner the better.