Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Westerner's Radio Theater #019

This Saturday we bring you 10-2-4 Ranch Time from March 10, 1944. Don't forget to buy those War Bonds and to have your Dr. Pepper at 10, 2 and 4

Albuquerque firefighter, southern NM pecan growers caught up in federal drug trafficking busts

Federal authorities said Friday they’ve taken down two major drug trafficking and money laundering operations in different parts of New Mexico, one involving an Albuquerque firefighter and the other southern New Mexico pecan growers. Agents have seized caches of drugs, cars, cash, guns and even a tractor from a pecan growing operation near the New Mexico-Texas border. In one case, 15 men living in the Albuquerque area were named in a 29-count federal indictment that was announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales. Prosecutors said those arrested included Steve Chavez, 32, a seven-year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department. In the other case, authorities arrested nine people, including the owners of a southern New Mexico pecan farm, in connection with a trafficking and money laundering ring that involved cocaine and heroin. Prosecutors said the owners and operators of Pettit Farms and Nursery in Anthony, N.M., and their two sons were among those arrested Thursday. They were identified as Oscar Portillo Sr., his wife Sandra Portillo and sons Matthew Portillo and Oscar Portillo Jr. According to a 24-count indictment, the farm was used as a place to store and sell drugs. A team of federal, state and local law enforcement officers arrested the defendants Thursday and executed four search warrants, including one at the farm and three others at residences in El Paso, Texas. Federal prosecutors said the Portillos allegedly sold drugs to an undercover agent on five separate occasions. The indictment claims the couple asked the undercover agent to pay for the drugs with money orders which they subsequently cashed and deposited into bank accounts in the name of the farm. The agent was provided with invoices asserting that the agent had purchased pecan trees...more

Friday, January 27, 2012

President Obama leaves event promoting clean energy in a motorcade of 22 fossil-fueled vehicles

On January 26, 2012, President Obama visited a Las Vegas UPS plant. Stimulus subsidy for said UPS plant to purchase natural-gas-powered trucks: 5.6 million dollars. Stimulus subsidy for North Las Vegas green energy plant that laid off 200 workers yesterday: 5.9 million dollars. Using taxpayer dollars to leave an event promoting clean-energy vehicles in a motorcade of twenty-two fossil-fueled vehicles: Priceless...more

Here's a video of the departing motorcade:

Wolves to be considered for culling elk herds

An examination of wolf reintroduction to the San Luis Valley didn't come at the prompting of federal wildlife officials. But they'll still have to take a look at it, thanks to public comment last year urging the idea be considered as a means of controlling elk herds on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, where elk have taken a heavy toll on the cottonwoods and willows lining stream banks. "Right now, it's a question. You have a lot of elk, a lot of people would say you need a large predator," said Laurie Shannon, a planning team leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We may not move forward with it, but right now it's on the table." The mention of wolves takes up only one sentence in a 13-page document laying out the potential management strategies for the Alamosa, Baca and Monte Vista national wildlife refuges. Steve Russell said the move would be bad for livestock producers. "I would like it kicked out regardless of how we merge alternatives," he said. Paul Robertson oversees the Nature Conservancy's Medano-Zapata Ranch, which neighbors the Baca. ‘‘I don't think ‘C’ is a politically wise decision,’’ he said of the alternative that included the mention of wolves...more

This will certainly add fuel to the fire that the USFWS will declare all of NM and southern Colo. as habitat for the wolf.

Bear Canyon skirmishes unresolved

Governmental skirmishes in Bear Canyon over an obliterated road and an ensuing new trail has been ongoing for about five years and the issue still remains unresolved. Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director Mary Sexton sent the county a Jan. 4 letter seeking a solution to the issue. In 2006, the Forest Service “obliterated” the road and replaced it with a trail, the county has said. The trail runs through state land before entering federal ground and took the place of what the county says was its road. The state Department of Environmental Quality had called for the removal of a portion of the road, which the agency identified as a main cause of sediments entering Bear Creek. County officials have argued the feds had no legal right to remove the road, Chief Deputy County Attorney Chris Gray has said. The county has fielded numerous complaints that the new trail is too steep and too narrow for cross-country skiing, motorized use and moving cattle to summer pasture. The feds, the state and the county entered an agreement in May 2010 that called for meeting seven points that included the state granting an easement to U.S. Forest Service who would maintain the trail. The Forest Service would in turn grant an easement to the county for the entire trail to the Park County line as long as the county abandoned any “legal statues of any prior county road in Bear Canyon.” The feds and the state gave the county a Jan. 20 deadline to reply. In a Jan. 20 letter, the county basically said, thanks for calling, but no thanks...more

Arizona: Forest Service grazing plan deemed illegal

As so many times before, a federal court has overturned a U.S. Forest Service grazing permit because federal land managers violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The court ruling at least temporarily blocks cattle grazing on 42,000 acres in the Fossil Creek watershed on the Coconino National Forest in central Arizona. The drainage is a stronghold for threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs. Download a copy of the ruling here. The Forest Service has made great efforts to help with the recovery of the frogs elsewhere in Arizona.  The permit holder, J.P. Morgan-Chase & Co., which maintains interests in the historic Ward Ranch of Rimrock, Ariz., reintroduced about 290 cows in September 2009. The court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately consider the potential effects of cattle grazing on the threatened species when it issued a “biological opinion” authorizing the grazing plan. The court also ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately quantify the amount of incidental “take,” or harm, to the leopard frog, and failed to analyze the effect of the approved plan on the frog’s chances of recovery — all violations of the Endangered Species Act. “The court’s ruling is significant because it will help protect the last known population of Chiricahua leopard frogs on the Red Rock Ranger District,” said Todd Tucci, a senior attorney at Advocates for the West who argued the case on behalf of the Center. The court also ruled that the Forest Service violated NEPA by using inaccurate information to assess grazing impacts. Even though the Forest Service documented unsatisfactory, impaired or inherently unstable soil conditions across 96 percent of the allotment, rangers authorized the grazing...more

Couple challenges federal assault charges

A Roundup couple say they have been wrongfully charged with assaulting a federal officer during a family hunting trip. Bill and Tammie McCutcheon were arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings and pleaded not guilty to two counts each of assault on a federal officer for an incident Nov. 26 in the Little Belt Mountains. In a criminal indictment, federal prosecutors allege that Bill McCutcheon assaulted the officer with a weapon and that both McCutcheons "forcefully assaulted, resisted, opposed, impeded, intimidated and interfered" with the officer. The charges against Bill McCutcheon carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, Tammie McCutcheon could face up to eight years in prison and a $100,000 fine. A trial date will be set later. The criminal indictment filed against the McCutcheons contains no details of the incident that resulted in the charges, but a complaint filed by U.S. Forest Service Officer Shawn Tripp after the incident provides his official account of the run-in with the McCutcheons. In an interview with The Billings Gazette before their court appearance, the couple said they encountered an overly aggressive officer who they allege sexually assaulted Tammie McCutcheon and nearly started a gunfight. The couple said that despite the criminal charges, they are considering a lawsuit alleging that the officer violated their civil rights. "I want the government to be held responsible for putting people in positions of responsibility who abuse it," Tammie McCutcheon said. "I'm charged for assaulting a federal officer, and he's the one who was laying on top of me."...more

Oil and water still don't mix

"You can't believe the flood of money that's pouring into San Antonio!" That's Steve talking, a close friend and an accountant with his finger on the financial pulse of the nation's seventh largest city. At a time when many other communities are struggling to make ends meet, the Alamo City is flush. The source of this new pelf lies a couple of hours to its south, down I-35 and US 281, deep in the brush country of south Texas. To be more precise, its origins lie 8,000 feet below the rolling coastal plain, in the gas-and-oil deposits locked in the Eagle Ford Shale formation; this seam runs beneath more 20 counties that stretch from the Rio Grande Valley north and east into central Texas. To tap those resources, major energy companies (and smaller ones, too), are offering upwards of seven-figures for an annual lease, eye-popping dollars for hardscrabble ranchers who in the past have had to take a second or third job just to hold on to their lands, let alone maintain their livestock operations. To that kind of payday, Steve observed, "not many are saying no."...more

Conservation groups challenge watershed plan for third time

Conservation groups on Tuesday challenged a proposed thinning and prescribed-burn project in forests south of Bozeman that aims to protect the city’s drinking water. It’s the group’s third time challenging the proposal. “Simply stated, the agency’s proposal breaks a number of laws and this time around is no different,” said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. The Gallatin National Forest’s plan, called the Bozeman Municipal Watershed project, calls for burning, harvesting and thinning 4,800 acres in the Hyalite and Bozeman Creek drainages. Those drainages supply more than 80 percent of the Bozeman community’s water, and thinning efforts there are intended to reduce the extent of any potential wildfires. A severe wildfire could put so much sediment and ash in the creeks that the treatment plant couldn’t handle it and would have to shut down, according to Marna Daley, forest spokeswoman...more

Forest policy affects acequias

Northern New Mexico's Acequia del Llano de San Juan Nepomuceno is the kind of place where sweeping federal policy changes get up close and personal. It's the kind of place Paula Garcia, executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association and president of the Mora Land Grant, will be thinking about as she reads the new federal forest management rules unveiled Thursday by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The rules are intended to govern the management of 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, establishing a new blueprint to guide everything from logging to recreation and renewable energy development. Garcia wants to know if the rules will help or hinder traditional communities with ties to the national forests dating back centuries. "More environmental regulations can mean more red tape for traditional communities," she said. "That's what creates a lot of tension. Even though the rules are well intentioned, that's what creates hardship on the ground." The Acequia del Llano de San Juan, which is older than the U.S. Forest Service, brings water to about 100 families. But when ditch commissioners from Llano de San Juan and four other ditches in the area needed to make repairs in 2009, they ended up in a tiff with Carson National Forest officials. Portions of the ditches and their diversion structures are on Carson National Forest land. Garcia claims the Forest Service wanted the commissioners to get a special use permit, something never previously requested. The process was time-consuming, stalled much-needed repairs and, Garcia believes, was unwarranted...more

Hunting animals to save them?

You don't have to go to Africa to hunt exotic animals. In fact, Texas may have more of some endangered exotics than live in the wild. That's because breeding them is a billion dollar business in Texas, where over 100 species roam large ranches and can be hunted for sport. The hunters and the ranchers they pay to hunt the trophy animals say the money generated by hunting these animals is helping to save them. They claim only 10 percent of any species can be killed annually. But to animal rights people fighting to shut them down, they're nothing more than slaughter houses. Lara Logan reports on this little known practice on "60 Minutes" Sunday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. It all began decades ago, when ranchers took in surplus animals, some endangered in the wild, from zoos. Now there are more than 250,000 exotics living on ranches, mostly in Texas, in a business that supports 14,000 jobs. "That's why these animals thrive...because of that value they have to the hunting community," says Charly Seale, a rancher and executive director of the Exotic Wildlife Association in Texas. Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, an international animal rights organization, believes such rationale is "ludicrous. I think it's immoral," she tells Logan. "They are saying it's an act of conservation and that's lunacy," says Feral, who would rather them not exist in Texas than thrive on a ranch there purely as prey for sportsmen. "I don't think you create a life to shoot it."...more

Great Lakes farmers eager to be allowed to shoot attacking wolves

John Koski is itching to pick up his rifle after losing dozens of cows to hungry wolves on his farm in Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- and it appears he'll soon get his chance. A legal shield that has protected gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region for nearly four decades will disappear today when the animal leaves the federal endangered species list. With that milestone, a primal struggle that was waged in this rugged backcountry for more than a century will resume, although in a more restrained fashion. "It's about time," said Koski, 67, one of many ranchers eager to begin shooting wolves that prey on livestock. Likewise, hunters are pushing for the chance to stalk a foe legendary for its cunning that has long been off-limits. "There has to be a hunt. We're just saturated with wolves here," said Al Clemens, who already pursues coyotes in the Upper Peninsula backwoods. But opponents of killing wolves for sport promise a stiff fight before state agencies...more

Deer runs into student in Pa. Junior High School

Students and parents watched at dismissal time Wednesday as a doe ran through the main doors of Red Lion Area Junior High School and collided with an eighth-grade student, knocking them both to the ground. The eighth-grader got up and hurried outside while Principal Kevin Peters and teacher Nate Resh trapped the deer in the foyer and got other students out of harms way. The student, who collided with the deer, was taken to a hospital as a precaution, Peters said. He had reported that his foot was sore, Supt. Scott Deisley said.
"We’re incredibly lucky it was not more serious with so many students being there," Peters said. Dismissal had been well underway by the time the deer had arrived around 2:45 p.m. The school buses had already left the campus, and about 150 students who walk home or are picked up by parents remained. The father of the victim saw the deer hit a fence near third base on the softball field, Peters said. It then ran across the parking lot and entered the main doors, running into the son who was walking out...more

Cattle Herd Drop to 1958 Low Boosting Cost for McDonald’s, Tyson

The cattle herd in the U.S. may be the smallest since 1958, when McDonald’s Corp. had just 79 hamburger restaurants, signaling tighter beef supplies and higher costs for companies including Tyson Foods Inc. Ranchers held 91.24 million head of cattle as of Jan. 1, down 1.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. That would be the smallest since Dwight Eisenhower was president. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to release its herd report at 3 p.m. in Washington. A record drought in Texas last year and rising feed costs prompted ranchers to cull herds, even as beef exports surged from the U.S., the world’s largest producer. Cattle futures are up 15 percent since the end of June, reaching a record seven times this month, and the Livestock Marketing Information Center says retail-beef prices that reached an all-time high on an annual basis in 2011 will keep rising through next year...more

Song Of The Day #759

 Ranch Radio closes out this week of Rockabilly with the Carl Perkins classic Honey Don't.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Expo, Downs ordered to clean manure

Expo New Mexico and the downs at Albuquerque are being ordered to clean up massive mounds of manure. The Environmental Protection Agency claims animal waste on the grounds is getting into the Rio Grande. "It’s like having a horse in your backyard,” Julia C De Baca said. "That you never clean that crap up." Neighbors are complaining about the smell coming from the state fairgrounds, the extremely high piles of manure and swarms of flies. The complaints prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to get involved. They ordered an inspection this past November. The inspection found that during heavy rains some of that manure was making its way into storm drains, which lead right to the Rio Grande. The report says between 2007 and 2011, it happened 18 times. That animal waste can contain everything from nitrogen and phosphorus to dangerous bacteria like coliform...more

Obama-backed electric car battery-maker files for bankruptcy

An Indiana-based energy-storage company, whose subsidiary received a $118.5 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department, filed for bankruptcy Thursday. Ener1 is asking a federal bankruptcy court in New York to approve a plan to restructure the company’s debt and infuse $81 million in equity funding. The Energy Department in 2009 approved a $118.5 million stimulus grant for EnerDel, a subsidiary of the company that develops lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. The grant was part of a broader program aimed at promoting the development of electric-vehicle battery technology. EnerDel had received support from Republicans, including more than $4 million in Defense Department research grants under the George W. Bush administration. Ener1’s decision to file for bankruptcy will likely draw the attention of House Republicans, who are investigating the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the solar panel maker that received a $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee in 2009...more

Robert J. Samuelson: Rejecting the Keystone pipeline is an act of insanity

President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances. Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won’t get much. Stopping the pipeline won’t halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global-warming emissions. Indeed, Obama’s decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills. Now consider how Obama’s decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil. Finally, Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs...more

Samuelson then tells us there are three things to remember on this issue:

First, we’re going to use lots of oil for a long time. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. oil consumption will increase 4 percent between 2009 and 2035. The increase occurs despite highly optimistic assumptions about vehicle fuel efficiency and bio-fuels. But a larger population (390 million in 2035 versus 308 million in 2009) and more driving per vehicle offset savings. The more oil we produce domestically and import from neighbors, the more we’re insulated from dramatic interruptions of global supplies. After the United States, Canada is the most dependable source of oil — or was, until Obama’s decision. Second, barring major technological breakthroughs, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, will rise for similar reasons. The EIA projects that America’s CO2 emissions will increase by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035. (The EIA is updating its projections, but the main trends aren’t likely to change dramatically.) Stopping Canadian tar-sands development, were that possible, wouldn’t affect these emissions. Finally, even if — as Keystone critics argue — some Canadian oil were refined in the United States and then exported, this would be a good thing. The exports would probably go mostly to Latin America. They would keep well-paid industrial jobs (yes, refining) in the United States and reduce our trade deficit in oil, which exceeded $300 billion in 2011.


US to unveil new forest rules

The Obama administration says new rules to manage nearly 200 million acres of national forests will protect watersheds and wildlife while promoting uses ranging from recreation to logging. The new rules, to replace guidelines thrown out by a federal court in 2009, are set to be released Thursday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. A summary was obtained by The Associated Press. Vilsack said in an interview that the rules reflect more than 300,000 comments received since a draft plan was released last year. The new rules strengthen a requirement that decisions be based on the best available science and recognize that forests are used for a variety of purposes, Vilsack said. "I think it's a solid rule and done in a collaborative, open and transparent way," he said. The guidelines, known as a forest planning rule, will encourage forest restoration and watershed protection while creating opportunities for the timber industry and those who use the forest for recreation, he said. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the guidelines would allow land management plans for individual forests to be completed more quickly and at a lower cost than under current rules, which date to the Reagan administration. Several attempts to revise the 1982 planning rule have been thrown out by federal courts in the past decade. Most recently a Bush administration plan was struck down in 2009. Environmentalists had fought the rule, saying it rolled back key forest protections...more

Timber industry files lawsuit against murrelet designation

The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) brought suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) claiming the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it designated millions of acres of forest land in Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat for the marbled murrelet. “There is nothing straight forward in how the FWS requires federal forest managers to deal with this bird,” said Tom Partin, President of AFRC. “Because humans almost never see the bird, the FWS seems to think it can throw a net over millions of acres of federal timber land that not only aren’t being used by the bird, but don’t even have the characteristics it is looking for when it flies inland to lay its eggs. Someone has to speak up about this violation of the limits of the ESA.” The ESA requires that critical habitat be limited to areas occupied by the species at the time of listing. Under an exception, land not occupied at the time of listing may be designated as critical habitat only if they are essential to the survival of the species. Much of the land FWS has classified as critical habitat doesn’t have the large trees the murrelet is believed to use. When the FWS designated all Late Successional Reserves (LSRs) on federal land as murrelet critical habitat, it did so assuming those areas would develop into nesting habitat over the next 400 years. “There is nothing in the law that allows the FWS to tie up currently unsuitable land hoping it turns into habitat that will support an endangered species,” said Partin. “That’s like the government denying you a building permit because it hopes someday your neighborhood will become a city park.”...more

Local activists head to D.C. to push for Fort Ord National Monument.

With more than 60 public agencies and a dozen-plus citizens’ groups claiming a stake in the former Fort Ord, consensus on how to manage it is as rare as the black legless lizard. So the solidarity in a push to designate up to 14,650 acres as a national monument is something of a shocker; stakeholders from Fort Ord Reuse Authority to the Sierra Club are asking the feds to protect the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Ford Ord acreage in perpetuity.
 Next week, local activists Henrietta Stern of FORT Friends and Gordon Smith of Keep Fort Ord Wild are hoping to find as much agreement among the many federal agencies with a hand in the designation. At the invitation of the Conservation Lands Foundation, Stern and Smith are headed to Washington, D.C., from Jan. 30-Feb. 2. “The issue is making sure people understand why the public land needs to be protected,” foundation spokeswoman Meghan Kissell says.

Not much of a story, but does allow for another picture of the BLM'er in her pink hat.  Hurry, hurry to have  this area managed by a federal Pink Panther.

Keystone Kops energy policy

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama had barely cleared his throat when he outlined his vision for an American “future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.” Just days before, he had delivered a crippling blow to his own plan. Mr. Obama’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, is one more example of his administration’s ongoing war on fossil fuels - and the most recent example of how the president promises the exact opposite of what he is delivering. What better way to sever our dependence on those “unstable parts of the world” than to switch a major portion of our oil imports from dictatorships to a stable democratic neighbor, starting now? Instead, the administration continues to squander taxpayer funds on “green energy” debacles such as Solyndra and the entire renewables/electric-car agenda - which, even in Mr. Obama’s plan, will only yield significant benefits in the far future...more

EDITORIAL: Drawing a pipeline in the sand

Washington watchers weren’t so much surprised by the White House’s decision on the pipeline as they were by the suddenness of the Jan. 18 announcement. Just one day earlier, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness had called for an “all-in approach” to energy production, including increased oil- and gas-drilling and construction of distribution pipelines. Mr. Obama’s subsequent rejection of Keystone XL apparently was intended to put to rest any notion that a large-scale conventional-energy project would be built while he occupies the White House. There is little Republicans can do to change Mr. Obama’s no to a yes. Still, ample opportunities exist to expose his order for what it is: a payoff to left-wing supporters who style themselves as environmentalists. They’re banking on the White House to shield their expensive and pointless windmill and solar-energy projects from the competition of affordable fossil fuels like oil. As author Peter Schweizer detailed in his recent best-seller, “Throw Them All Out,” 80 percent of $20.5 billion in Energy Department loans went to Mr. Obama’s top donors...more

LISTEN: Justice Alito Fired Up in Case Pitting Property Owners Against EPA

Justice Samuel Alito seemed none too pleased last week with the government’s argument in a case pitting property owners against the Environmental Protection Agency. Listen to this heated exchange with the government lawyer:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Listen to the entire oral argument by going here.

Genetically-engineered salmon caught in tangled regulatory net

A Senate hearing placed a spotlight on the regulatory tangle surrounding the approval process for genetically-engineered salmon. Potentially the country’s first GE animal for human consumption, the salmon have raised a host of worries among critics including the impact on the environment should they escape fish farms. However, what came to the fore during the mid-December hearing was the complicated morass of government approval, oversight, and trade when dealing with the GE fish. Other GE animals are surely being developed and the current approval process outlined during the hearing seems ill-equipped to deal with the new technology. Questions to the expert panel from the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard mostly came from the chairman, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Both have large salmon industries in their states and Begich has introduced S.1717, which would ban interstate commerce of genetically engineered salmon...more

With winter underway, battle over bison management rages on

Each winter when snow drives bison out of Yellowstone National Park, conservationists, ranchers and others disagree over how the wild animals should be managed. This year will likely be just as tense as several controversial issues surrounding bison unfold. Efforts to allow bison on land outside the park — throughout the Gardiner Basin and on two reservations in northern Montana — face litigation from local groups that fear the spread of an animal disease and threats to private property. If bison are allowed on those state and tribal lands, it would symbolize growing tolerance for the animals. A mild winter so far has enabled bison to mostly stay inside the park, but once they leave, it remains unclear how they’ll be managed. They could be left to roam, hazed, fenced, shot or sent to slaughter. The bison create controversy when they move onto Montana lands because some may carry the disease brucellosis, which causes pregnant animals to miscarry. Ranchers fear the sickness could spread to cattle. There are also concerns about bison damaging property or creating public safety issues...more

Agriculture mission continues for former Miss America

Though her reign as Miss America may have ended, Teresa Scanlan is continuing her mission to advocate for agriculture. KTIC Radio reports that Scanlan broke the mold when she was crowned Miss America in 2011. A native of Nebraska, she embraced her agriculture background and established partnerships with several agriculture organizations during her reign, including The Hand That Feeds U.S., U.S. Cattlemen's Association and Real Farmers, Real Food. While traveling across the country, Scanlan noticed a massive disconnect geographically.  By taking the role of non-traditional spokesperson for agriculture, Scanlan set out to bridge the gap between urban and rural America. Scanlan’s agriculture mission also impacts the pageant that first propelled her into the national spotlight.  As a result of Scanlan’s agriculture advocacy, more state title holders have stepped forward to support their state’s farmers and ranchers. In an article written for FoxNews, Scanlan pointed out the importance of agriculture producers...more

Fewer Cows’ Hides May Bear the Mark of Home

In the half-light of a winter evening in Morgan Hill, a tawny calf skittered across the pasture after its mother, a Lazy T brand visible on its right hip. To rancher Janet Burback, the brand is a matter of pride and tradition. It is also a matter of necessity. When a cow strays or falls into the hands of rustlers - still a significant threat - it is the brand she counts on to bring the animal home. Like other ranchers in California and other Western states, Burback looks with suspicion on a federal plan to institute an identification system for cattle that emphasizes numbered ear tags rather than brands as the official markers of a cow's identity. Ranchers worry that the regulation, in the final phase of revision, represents a first step toward ending branding, a method they regard as the most visible, permanent and reliable way of identifying who owns which cow. Aware that it is treading on delicate territory, the Department of Agriculture has included an exception in the rule, allowing brands to be used as unofficial identification in trade between states that agree to accept the method. Fourteen states have brand inspection laws, most of them in the West and Southwest. Yet many ranchers remain deeply skeptical. The department received close to 1,600 comments on the proposed regulation, many of them negative. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has given qualified support to the proposal but said it would also like some parts clarified, and the inclusion of branding as an official identification method. Opposition is especially strong among ranchers in California and other Western states. Although the Agriculture Department has said it will initially provide metal ear tags at no cost — the electronic versions cost $2 to $4 apiece — many ranchers believe the program will prove more costly than federal officials have predicted. And they are leery of federal intrusion into their business practices. “It all comes down to a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., behind a desk making the rules and deciding what’s best for you as a rancher and you as a ranching family, and that’s what people distrust,” said Kevin Kester, president of the California Cattlemen’s Association. The association, Mr. Kester said, opposes the rule in its current form and has written to the Agriculture Department asking for revisions, including greater recognition of branding and raising the age at which cattle must be tagged...more

Song Of The Day #758

Ranch Radio will continue with Rockabilly Week.  Elvis the Pelvis, along with Carl Perkins, got this genre started.  Here's Mr. Presley and That's Alright.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Now Playing: The Sustainability Con

Although the issue of "sustainability" has been around a while, recently it has grown in popularity and influence. The way it's happening follows an all too familiar pattern. There are several common ingredients in how the left enlarges its control over our lives. The first is the selection of some aspect of reality -- global warming, carbon footprints, population growth, inequality, diversity, for example. The second element involves designating the selected aspect of reality as a crisis. The third step is to explain that the only way to avoid Armageddon is by reducing everyone's freedom and by giving more centralized power and control to those who understand the magnitude of the crisis. The rest of us are told that our freedoms are a luxury we simply can no longer afford. Another common element of the process is defining the crisis as ambiguously as possible. Ordinarily, a desirable characteristic of a definition is that it draws a bright line between what is included and what isn't. Clarity, however, is contrary to the objectives of the crusaders -- in regard to defining the problem, the slipperier the better. For example, climate change (or climate disruption) beats global warming. Global warming is too quantifiable in comparison to climate change. No one is quite sure what "climate change" is or isn't or how it can be measured. Sustainability is even more ambiguous than climate change and thus has more sustainability as a ruse...more

Not to worry.  The Academic Palaces are educating your children about "sustainability".  The article continues:

At Arizona State University you can get a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. in sustainability. ASU has an entire "School of Sustainability." The school's website offers several answers to the question, "What is sustainability?" Here are four of the answers they offer:

"Sustainability is a concept with as much transformative potential as justice, liberty, and equality."
Michael Crow
Arizona State University

"Sustainability is larger than one person, one company, or one country. Its scope, scale and importance demand unprecedented and swift solutions to environmental protection and other complex problems."
Julie Ann Wrigley
Julie Ann Wrigley Foundation

"Sustainability is living in harmony with our social and natural environment, based on a sense of justice and equity.
"Sander van der Leeuw
School of Sustainability

"Sustainability is a process that engages every discipline to provide dynamic solutions to complex problems."
Brian McCollow
School of Sustainability

Now you know what sustainability is and how your taxes are being spent.  Feel better?

NM Hispanic ranchers send letter to Obama

A group of northern New Mexico ranchers is reaching out to the White House over the alleged mistreatment of Hispanics by the U.S. Forest Service. The president of the Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association, Carlos Salazar, fired off a letter to the White House on Tuesday. Salazar says ranchers and farmers in the area have been loyal Democrats in the past but are "bailing out" on the Obama administration due to the negative economic impacts its policies are having on those who depend on New Mexico's forests for their livelihoods. The letter comes a day after ranchers and Rio Arriba County announced they were suing the Forest Service over a reduction in grazing opportunities on two allotments in the Carson National Forest. They claim an institutional bias against Hispanics exists within the agency. AP

Committee hears bills to open public lands to shooting

Federal officials are eyeing shooting restrictions on more than a million acres of public land, half of which are in Arizona, said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, who wants to block the restrictions. Flake’s measure was one of two Arizona shooting bills – along with Rep. Trent Frank’s proposal to transfer 315 acres of federal land in Mohave County to the state for use as a shooting range – taken up Tuesday by a House Natural Resources subcommittee. The National Rifle Association testified in support of both bills, saying their passage is important to protecting the Second Amendment. “You have to be able to exercise your rights,” said Susan Recce, NRA director of conservation, wildlife and natural resources. “If you don’t have places where you can practice your right, then it is a limited right.” Recce said the Bureau of Land Management’s actions show a bias against recreational shooting, a claim that BLM officials at the hearing denied. Flake’s bill, HR 3440, would limit BLM’s ability to close national monuments to recreational shooting to six months. The bill has 30 cosponsors, including Franks, R-Glendale, and Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, and David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale...more

Report: Removing Klamath dams would help fish, provide jobs, cost millions

The ambitious proposal to remove four Klamath River dams would add jobs and aid fish, a new federal report asserts, but the idea still leaves California lawmakers badly divided. As they approach a make-or-break decision on whether to recommend the dam removal, U.S. Interior Department officials on Tuesday touted anticipated benefits that include improved salmon habitat and 1,400 construction jobs during the year it would take to remove the hydroelectric dams. Long-term Klamath Basin restoration efforts would add an estimated 4,600 jobs, the report says. But the dam removals would also cost somewhere between $238 million and $493 million, potentially increase flooding risks and cut electricity production, the new Interior Department compilation shows. The new report pegs the most probable dam-removal cost at $291.6 million. "The science and analyses presented in these reports are vital to making an informed and sound decision on the Klamath River dam removal," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. Salazar must decide by March 31 whether to recommend the long-debated removal of the four dams near the Oregon border. Three of the dams are in California's northernmost Siskiyou County...more

Pinon Canyon - Group slams Army

Southern Colorado ranchers and critics of the proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site said Monday that the Army is now trying to take over Southeastern Colorado through the "back door." The Army released a draft environmental assessment Jan. 18 that states there would be no significant impact on the maneuver site from adding a new 113-helicopter Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson and conducting training missions at Pinon Canyon northeast of town. But members of Not 1 More Acre! are disputing the Army's plan. Fort Carson has long been preparing for the new aviation brigade and was required to do an environmental impact study on the potential damage to the 238,000-acre maneuver site. "We all agree that this is a terrible abuse of public disclosure law. They are actually saying this configuration will have no significant impact at Pinon Canyon?" said Jean Aguerre, president of Not 1 More Acre! prior to the meeting. Aguerre called the assessment half-baked and said that more traffic at Pinon Canyon would cause detrimental, mind-blowing damage to the grasslands. During the meeting, Las Animas County Commissioner Gary Hill read a letter to Army officials asking them to conduct a full environmental impact study, which would be more in-depth. "An EA (environmental assessment) is just a shortcut and doesn't address everything, in our opinion," Hill said. Lon Robertson, of the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, agreed that the study is not complete. "Once again it's the nose of the cantaloupe. The military is not doing anything to win support or show that they can be trusted," Robertson said. Robertson said, some of the facts in the new study simply were not true...more

Woman Claims Neighbor’s Energy Efficient Windows Are Melting Her Toyota Prius

A SoCal woman says the energy efficient window installed in a neighbor’s condominium is melting the plastic components on cars parked in her carport. Heather Patron of Studio City was dealing with a mystery regarding her Toyota Prius. “The side view mirrors were melting,” says Patron. “Anything that was plastic on the car was melting.” Toyota told Patron nothing was wrong with the car. After having the mirrors replaced, she noticed the mirrors on the car parked next to hers were also melting. Patron then observed a powerful beam of light that was reflecting off the window of a next door condominium, casting a concentrated beam over her carport. CBS2’s Randy Paige placed a thermometer in the pathway of the beam on a partially cloudy day. The temperature registered over 120 degrees in less than five minutes...more

This is too good to be true...but it apparently is.  There is a video news report at the link provided.

Federal dollars funding conservation easements in Montana

For the first time ever, a well-established federal program is helping to fund new conservation easements in the Bitterroot Valley. The Federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program invested $6.5 million in conservation easements across Montana last year. Three of those were in the Bitterroot Valley. The Severson and Sunset Bench ranches in the Burnt Fork area east of Stevensville and the Downey family property up Willow Creek each qualified for funding under the federal program. "We're excited to see this program as a viable source for voluntary agricultural land conservation in the Bitterroot," said Gavin Ricklefs, executive director of the Bitter Root Land Trust. "It fits really well in the Bitterroot. It's nice to see those dollars coming here." The program focuses on conserving high-quality agricultural lands through conservation easements. The federal money is used to match other funding sources to pay for the easements. The program was established in the 2002 federal Farm Bill...more

What they don't own they still want to control.  There are land trusts who operate without federal or state money so this is one area Congress should look to cut.

Court Overturns 42,000-acre Grazing Plan Threatening Arizona's Fossil Creek, Endangered Species

Citing violations of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, a federal district court judge on Monday overturned a U.S. Forest Service decision allowing cattle grazing across a 42,000-acre area of the Fossil Creek watershed on the Coconino National Forest in central Arizona. “Fossil Creek is one of the Southwest’s most important river reaches,” said Taylor McKinnon, with the Center for Biological Diversity in Flagstaff. “The court’s ruling is a victory for this beautiful creek, its diverse array of native species and the public investments that have been made to recover them.” The ruling holds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately consider the potential effects of cattle grazing on the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog when it issued a “biological opinion” authorizing the grazing plan. The court also ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately quantify the amount of incidental “take,” or harm, to the leopard frog, and failed to analyze the effect of the approved plan on the frog’s chances of recovery — all violations of the Endangered Species Act. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, the court ruled that the Forest Service had relied on inaccurate information in its environmental assessment concerning the impacts of grazing on soils in the Fossil Creek watershed. Specifically, the agency made an incorrect assumption that a two-thirds ground-cover objective would be effective across the entire allotment, when in fact it would not. The permit holder, J.P. Morgan-Chase & Co., which maintains interests in the historic Ward Ranch of Rimrock, Ariz., reintroduced about 290 cows in September 2009...Press Release

Can the Cowman and the Panther Coexist?

Ranchers in south Florida have long been accustomed to losing calves to coyotes, buzzards, even alligators. They may have to steel themselves for another predator: the Florida panther. Until very recently, the endangered cats were no threat to Florida cattle. The panther nearly went extinct in the 1970s, when as few as 20 cats remained in the wild. But since a project in the 1990s introduced eight female panthers from Texas that successfully mated with local cats, there are now as many as 160 adult cats in south Florida, said Dave Onorato, a researcher with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The program also introduced much-needed genetic variation into the inbred population. The first reports of panther depredation (the technical term for cattle loss to panthers) emerged in 2010. Among the first to notice something amiss was Liesa Priddy, a rancher who noticed that more calves than usual were missing at JB Ranch, which she owns and operates in Immokalee, a town in southwest Florida. Before long, ranch workers found a few dead calves with bite marks resembling those of a panther. Similar reports followed at other ranches, but there was little proof to back up these claims. Researchers from the University of Florida began a study in late 2011 to find out what was going on, placing nearly 400 ear tags on calves at two ranches near Immokalee. The tags send out a special radio signal after several hours without movement — a sign that something may be wrong. Caitlin Jacobs, a graduate student, checks on the calves four times a week, seeking out those that radio transmissions suggest are not moving and then recording any fatalities...more

Utah officials grant use of water for nuclear plant

Critics of a proposed nuclear power plant near Emery County's Green River say the state dodged its only real chance to say no to the deal and instead waffled by granting water rights necessary for its operation. "It is devastating news," said Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah's policy director, reacting to Utah State Engineer Kent Jones' Friday decision to grant water rights for the Blue Castle project. "This was the only opportunity for a Utah official to weigh in on the wisdom of building nuclear reactors on the Green River, and unfortunately he made the wrong decision." Under state law, applications for water rights must be approved if it can be demonstrated to the state engineer that a number of factors have been met, including if the water is available from the source, existing rights won't be impaired and if the project is financially feasible. Those requirements were met, Jones said, and criticism was weighed during an evaluation process that took more than two years. The water — 53,600 acre-feet per year — is owned by Kane County and San Juan County water conservancy districts, which have proposed leasing the water to Blue Castle Holdings for use at the two-unit nuclear power plant...more

BLM approves Dubois wildcat spot

The US Bureau of Land Management’s Lander, Wyo., field office said that a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and decision record have been signed for a proposed oil and gas exploratory well and associated facilities 10 miles north of Dubois, Wyo. Hudson Group LLC proposed to drill the Scott-2 well, in 28-43n-107w, Fremont County, on an existing lease on surface land administered by the US Forest Service’s Shoshone National Forest and mineral estate administered by BLM, the US Department of the Interior agency said on Jan. 24. The USFS has approved Hudson’s surface use operating plan, and the producer’s mitigation measures have been incorporated into Hudson’s application for a drilling permit, BLM noted. The well is in the Wind River basin. link

Everything about this is great, except Wyoming spells DuBois wrong.

Sacramentos suffer from bark beetles

Bark beetles have "drastically affected" pine trees on approximately 65,000 forested acres around the Sacramento Mountains. Property owners and others around the region were told of the bark beetle outbreak that ramped up last year and were provided with ways to deal with the infestation during an informational meeting Tuesday afternoon. "What's happening is natural but out of proportion," Andrew Graves, a entomologist with the USDA Forest Service's regional Forest Health section, told the audience of nearly 100 people. "We're seeing dead trees. Mostly where we're seeing the dead trees is on the tops of the hillsides and on the south-facing slopes, the really drought prone areas. It makes me think it's really linked into the drought." Entomologists annually fly the state looking for tree mortality. The current conditions around the Sacramento Mountains are without boundaries, involving federal, state, tribal and private areas. Stressed trees have become a favorite for bark beetles. Graves said there are a dozen or so different bark beetles in the area that have attacked Ponderosa pines...more

Domestic terror attack on cattle feeding operation chilling

The January terrorist attack on 14 trucks and trailers at Harris Feeding Co. near Coalinga, Calif., drew quick and unequivocal condemnation from many fronts. Bill Donald, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, condemned the alleged attack, saying, “This extremist behavior goes above mere activism and the freedom of speech. These criminals are threatening lives and causing substantial economic harm.” Animal Liberation Front (ALF) did not admit directly to torching the trucks, but said “containers of an accelerant were placed beneath a row of 14 trucks with four digital timers used to light four of the containers and kerosene-soaked rope carrying the fire to the other 10 … We were extremely pleased to see that all 14 trucks ‘were a total loss.’” ALF is listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a domestic terrorist organization. Several of the FBI’s most wanted domestic terrorists are believed to be affiliated with ALF. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and ATF are investigating the Harris terror attack. Harris Ranch’s feedlot holds about 100,000 head of cattle on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Harris also operates a large farming operation along with a world famous Thoroughbred horse operation. John Harris, one of the most respected agriculturists in the nation, responded to the attack by saying he was “gratified by the support and concern we have received from the public and the outrage this attack has created.  We must live in a society that is safe for all, and no one can tolerate violence such as this. ALF and similar terrorist groups pose a real threat, and I am confident that the many law enforcement agencies working on this case will bring them to justice soon.” However, it is interesting to note not one so-called “environmental/consumer watchdog” group condemned the attack. Not a peep out of the likes of the Organic Trade Association or the Center for Food Safety. They are free with propaganda news releases, but say nothing about a radical environmental peer group that commits a violent felony to publicize its anti-society values...more

Terrorist activity has no place in US agriculture

One reward of ranch life in rural Montana is that after a hard-days' work, I get to fall asleep listening to the bawl of mama cows near the house. I imagine farmers and ranchers across the nation can relate to that calming sound. While there are many sounds that come from farms and ranches, one thing we don't expect to hear is the sound of our farm equipment exploding outside our windows. Unfortunately, for the men and women who make their home at or near the Harris Ranch feedyard in Fresno County, Calif., that is no longer a foreign sound. Early in the morning of Jan. 8, 2012, they were awakened to the sound of 14 cattle trucks exploding and burning near the feed yard. I thank God that no person and no animals were injured in this senseless act. But make no mistake - this was a horrific act of terrorism against a fellow agricultural producer. Whoever is responsible - be it an individual or a group of people - they must be brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Opening Christmas presents or celebrating birthdays is often put on hold until after our animals are fed, watered and cared for - that's a fact for my family and for many others as well. That is why I was extremely alarmed to learn that animal rights extremists are taking credit for the Harris Ranch attack. How can anyone who claims to care about the health and safety of animals commit such an act that could very easily have harmed or killed many animals?...more

To keep ‘em coming, dude ranches add mainstream amenities to Old West-style fun

Cowboys. Horses. Guns. Booze. And tennis? When it comes to dude ranches, hosts are adopting John Wayne’s, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,” and are offering options unheard of just a few years ago in order to attract guests. Dude ranches still have horses and wranglers, and an aura of the Old West. But today, many also offer extras like conference centers, spas, zip lines, paintball, ATV rides, naturalists, kids’ clubs and rock walls. “Fifteen years ago you probably wouldn’t have found a swimming pool at a dude ranch, or very seldom. Now they all have swimming pools,” said Colleen Hodson, executive director of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, based in Cody, Wyo. “At least half — probably more like three-quarters — are adding new activities and amenities every year.” Dude ranches date back to the late 1800s, according to the association, which was established in 1926 at a meeting that included ranchers, railroad officials and National Park representatives. Today, the association represents about 100 ranches west of the Mississippi in the United States and Canada. There are also unaffiliated ranches, as well as some in the East. Originally, dude ranch stays were intended to immerse guests in a ranch experience, and would require at least a weeklong stay...more

Song Of The Day #757

Secretary Salazar has withdrawn right at a million acres from uranium mining. So we'll have a little rockabilly this morning on Ranch Radio. Warren Smith wouldn't be happy with the Secretary as he hunts for that Uranium Rock.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lawmakers aim to wrest control of Colorado's public lands from federal goverment

A Northern Colorado lawmaker has a message for the federal government: Get your hands off our Fourteeners. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said Monday he plans to sponsor a bill that will require the state to wrest control of most of Colorado’s Fourteeners and more than 23 million acres of federal public land across the state, including most of Roosevelt National Forest west of Fort Collins and most of Colorado’s BLM and U.S. Forest Service land. The state would either sell the land off to private individuals or manage it itself. He said he envisions the bill excluding all national parks and monuments, including those on BLM land. “When is enough enough for the amount of land that the state owns or the federal government owns?” he said, adding that the federal government hasn’t been taking care of the land. “Quite frankly, they allow noxious weeds, they don’t manage the land the way they need to be managing it,” he said, citing restrictions on timber harvesting in national forests. Sonnenberg, who said he is working on the bill with Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, and Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, is following the lead of Republican Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, who is proposing legislation in that state to use a provision in Utah’s enabling act to attempt to force the federal government to cede control of millions acres of federal land there, excluding national parks. Utah’s enabling act designates the federal government as a “trustee” of federal land in Utah. Ivory proposes for the state to reclaim public land from its Washington, D.C., caretakers, giving the government a December 31, 2014 deadline to hand over public land to the state, the Logan, Utah, Herald Journal reported Jan. 14...more

Alaska lawmakers, protesting federal encroachment, propose takeover of Central Park

Some Alaska lawmakers, hoping to make a point about federal encroachment on state rights, are urging the federal government take over Central Park and designate it as a wilderness area. Rep. Kyle Johansen, the lead sponsor of HJR31, says such a takeover would never happen. But he wanted an extreme example to make a point about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its being off limits to development. State leaders, including a Democratic member of Alaska's congressional delegation, have pushed for opening ANWR's coastal plain to oil and gas development. Legislation is currently pending in Congress to open ANWR to drilling as a way to spur domestic energy production. According to the resolution, the plain takes up about 8 percent of ANWR and Central Park about 6 percent of Manhattan. AP

Federal lawsuit targeting Forest Service alleges bias against Hispanic ranchers

A group of ranchers and one county said Monday that they are suing the U.S. Forest Service over its decision to limit grazing on historic land grant areas in northern New Mexico. The group of Hispanic ranchers and Rio Arriba County officials contend the agency is trying to push them from land that has been ranched by their families for centuries. They say at stake is a piece of Hispanic culture and the economic viability of several northern New Mexico communities that depend on access to surrounding lands for everything from grazing to fire wood. "Without the ability to access and utilize natural resources, our communities are drying up. We're not economically sustainable. We're losing our customs and our culture," said David Sanchez of the Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association. The lawsuit centers on a 2010 decision by El Rito District Ranger Diana Trujillo to cut grazing by nearly one-fifth on the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments, which are part of an area recognized by the federal government for special treatment aimed at benefiting land grant heirs...more

EPA hunting bullfrogs with shotgun in Sackett case

The EPA has 17,000 full time employees and approximately an $8.4 billion budget. It also has a fondness for hunting bullfrogs with a shotgun. Case in point: Mike and Chantell Sackett began building on "waterfront" property at Priest Lake, Idaho, in 2007. Their lot was less than a single acre (.63), bordered by other residential properties, and 500 feet from the water. As they were laying gravel and grading the property, EPA officials arrived, claimed they were acting on an anonymous tip, and declared the location a “wetland without a federal permit.” Essentially, EPA issued a compliance order directing the Sacketts to restore the site to its previous condition. The order demanded they “remove all fill, replace any lost vegetation, and monitor the fenced-off site for three years,” or else face “great cost” and a “threat of civil fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day, as well as possible criminal penalties.” The fines in the Sackett case ranged up to $37,500 per day. For average Americans, EPA compliance orders carry the weight of law because options are, well, extremely limited. The lucky recipients of a compliance order basically have two choices: (1) They can obey the EPA and comply. In the Sackett case, the cost of cleanup and restoration would have exceeded the $23,000 they had originally paid for the property. (2) The other choice is to force the EPA’s hand and wait for a suit. This option comes with a kicker for the property owner — the daily EPA fine meter ticks on until the court date comes. If the landowners choose door No. 2, the EPA can bleed them dry: little bit of paperwork, little dab of lawyering, little incident of lost files, little spot of miscommunication — and bang, presto, the court date finally arrives after a mountain of fines have stacked up. Lovely. (The Sacketts currently owe the EPA close to $40 million.)...more

Oil rig arrives off Havana; drilling 70 miles from Keys

An offshore oil drilling operation has begun less than 90 miles from the coast of Key West. The Scarabeo 9 giant, semi-submersible rig finished its months-long trek from China and is now visible from the shores of Havana, Cuba, according to Jorge Piñon, visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. It arrived in the Florida Straits late last week. Safety inspectors with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Interior gave the $750 million platform a passing grade earlier this month in Trinidad and Tobago. It set sail for Cuba for the final leg of its journey on Jan. 11. Drilling is expected to get under way immediately by Spanish energy company Repsol. The exploration operation will occur about 70 miles from the Keys, Piñon said. Repsol is paying Eni S.p.A., the Italian company that owns the rig, $511,000 every day its workers are aboard the vessel. Repsol is the first of several international companies that will use the Scarabeo 9 to look for oil in the Florida Straits, where the U.S. Geological Survey estimates about five billion barrels of oil sit under the ocean floor. The Cuban government thinks the amount is much higher — around 20 billion barrels...more

What Will Evolve From America's Summit on National Parks?

A two-day conference designed to explore the future of national parks in America draws a wide range of speakers. There's the obvious -- National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis -- and the not-quite-so-obvious -- Alan Latourelle, the chief executive officer of Parks Canada. By the time America's Summit on National Parks winds down Thursday afternoon, the roughly 350 attendees will also have heard from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; former NPS Directors Fran Mainella, Mary Bomar, and Robert Stanton; Carlos Alcazar, the president and CEO of the Hispanic Communications Network; Angelou Ezello, executive director of the Greening Youth Foundation; Sally Jewell, the president and CEO of REI; John Podesta, the chair and counselor of the Center for American Progress; and Milton Chen, senior fellow and executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Many others will lend their voices to the mix in a variety of ways, from experts on branding the parks in the eyes of prospective toursists, and interactive gaming experts, to even high school students. Not only educational, the speakers could be provocative in some eyes as well. Should gaming experts be seen as consultants to the National Park Service? What can Parks Canada's CEO, who is grappling with issues similar to those in the U.S. -- stagnant if not declining visitation, budget woes -- offer his cross-border colleagues? Why is someone from The Walt Disney Co. on the agenda? But, with the National Park Service turning 100 just four years from now, a little provocative conversation could be a very good thing...more

Supreme Court rules warrant needed for GPS tracking

In a major decision on privacy in the digital age, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that police need a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a person's car. The ruling, which marked the justices' first-ever review of GPS tracking, was unanimous. The justices divided, however, on how the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to such high-tech tracking. The case, which during November oral arguments prompted justices' references to George Orwell's futuristic novel 1984, ensures that police cannot use the Global Positioning System to continuously track a suspect before presenting sufficient grounds and obtaining a warrant from a judge. Monday's decision specifically applies when police install a GPS tracking device on a person's car, but five justices suggested in concurring statements that a warrant might similarly be needed for prolonged surveillance through smartphones or other devices with GPS capabilities...more

BLM seeks help mediating OHV flap at Johns Peak

After decades of wrangling with controversy over off-highway-vehicle use on Timber Mountain/Johns Peak, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has brought in outside help. Since 1995, the agency's Medford District has been developing a management plan for the area but has been stymied by the seemingly opposing concerns of OHV enthusiasts, horse riders, hikers, environmentalists and private property owners. The BLM recently retained the Institute for Conflict Management Inc. through Portland State University's Oregon Consensus Program to smooth the way for conflict resolution. John Gerritsma, BLM field manager for the Ashland Resource Area and the one who initiated the conflict-resolution effort, believes there is enough common ground to plant the seeds of collaboration...more

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration...

Group sues over herbicide use on federal land

An environmental group claims the federal government should have reduced grazing instead of relying solely on herbicides to battle invasive weeds in an Oregon national forest. The group has asked a federal judge to block a herbicide spraying project on more than 20,000 acres of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, which was finalized by the U.S. Forest Service in 2010. The League of Wilderness Defenders-Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project challenged the project in federal court, claiming it unlawfully failed to analyze the impact of increased herbicide use on fish. The Forest Service counters that the group is overly restrictive in its understanding of regulations aimed at protecting aquatic species. Under the environmental group's interpretation of the rules, the agency would be unable to take on any restoration project with even the slightest effect on fish, said Jason Hill, an attorney for the agency. "Plaintiffs are trying to argue that you should have absolutely zero impact," he said. "It would basically bar the agency from doing anything. You could never get to the point of zero impact." During oral arguments on Jan. 23, the environmentalists requested that U.S. District Judge Michael Simon halt the herbicide project and order the agency to reconsider the plan. The agency should have evaluated ways to deter the spread of invasive weeds, such as excluding livestock from parts of the national forest, said Tom Buchele, an attorney for the group...more

Song Of The Day #756

Ranch Radio brings you Benny Martin's recording of Me And My Fiddle.

The tune is on his Benny Martin's Greatest Sounds.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Home, Home … on Less Range

Estimates of how much California rangeland (yellow) could be lost to climate change by 2100. Among the other landscapes illustrated are conifer forests (green), desert shrub (light brown), woody shrub growth (pink), oak woodlands (purple) and hardwood forests (blue).

To see how thoroughly the concept of ecosystem services — the economic analysis of the natural world’s intersection with human endeavors — is embedded in climate change research, check out this forecast from a group led by researchers at Duke University and the Environmental Defense Fund. It examines the future of cattle ranching, an industry that is bound up with America’s self-image, thanks to Hollywood, pulp novels and Cormac McCarthy, through the lens of a climate-changed California landscape. It concludes that, whether the state’s climate becomes warmer and wetter or warmer and drier, it will be more expensive to raise cattle because there will be less forage to sustain the animals. Significant amounts of forage — nature’s free “service” to the cattlemen — will either be dessicated (under the warmer and drier projection) as the arid conditions in southeastern California inch northward or will be replaced by less-digestible scrub and brush (under the warmer and wetter projection), the study projects. The loss will cost California ranchers tens of millions of dollars annually if it is warmer and wetter over the next 60 years or so, and $123 million to $209 million a year if it is warmer and drier, the article suggests. In coming decades, “there will be fewer places to graze cattle and cattle grazing lands will be less productive,” said Linwood Pendleton, one of the study’s lead authors, an ecosystems services specialist at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “And because we’ve built up cities and highways around them, there’s nowhere to move to.”...more

Biodiversity Crisis Is Worse Than Climate Change, Experts Say

Biodiversity is declining rapidly throughout the world. The challenges of conserving the world's species are perhaps even larger than mitigating the negative effects of global climate change. Dealing with the biodiversity crisis requires political will and needs to be based on a solid scientific knowledge if we are to ensure a safe future for the planet. This is the main conclusion from scientists from University of Copenhagen, after 100 researchers and policy experts from EU countries were gathered this week at the University of Copenhagen to discuss how to organise the future UN Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES -- an equivalent to the UN panel on climate change (IPCC). Species extinction and the degradation of ecosystems are proceeding rapidly and the pace is accelerating. The world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate. Mass extinctions of species have occurred five times previously in the history of the world -- last time was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs and many other species disappeared. Previous periods of mass extinction and ecosystem change were driven by global changes in climate and in atmospheric chemistry, impacts by asteroids and volcanism. Now we are in the 6th mass extinction event, which is a result of a competition for resources between one species on the planet -- humans -- and all others. The process towards extinction is mainly caused by habitat degradation, whose effect on biodiversity is worsened by the ongoing human-induced climate change. "The biodiversity crisis -- i.e. the rapid loss of species and the rapid degradation of ecosystems -- is probably a greater threat than global climate change to the stability and prosperous future of humankind on Earth. There is a need for scientists, politicians and government authorities to closely collaborate if we are to solve this crisis. This makes the need to establish IPBES very urgent, which may happen at a UN meeting in Panama City in April," says professor Carsten Rahbek, Director for the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen...more

Global warming alone wasn't getting the job done, so...

Obama to drop nomination for wildlife-and-parks post

President Obama will abandon the nomination of Rebecca Wodder as assistant secretary for the Interior Department's park and wildlife programs, ending a tumultuous six-month battle with Senate lawmakers. Wodder, who was nominated last June to replace Tom Strickland as the assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, was asked to remain with Interior as a senior adviser to Secretary Ken Salazar to oversee conservation issues and the president's Great Outdoors initiative. Rachel Jacobson will continue to serve as acting assistant secretary until the president picks a new nominee, Interior said. Confirmation will be more difficult in an election year. "As a result of the prolonged nomination process, Rebecca Wodder has asked the president that she not be re-nominated," Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher said. The decision comes weeks after the Senate returned the Wodder nomination to the White House (E&E Daily, Dec. 19, 2011). Wodder, who served as CEO of the conservation group American Rivers, was strongly opposed by several Republicans and at least one Democrat over her past statements on hydraulic fracturing, mountaintop-removal coal mining, Clean Water Act regulations and the removal of dams in the Pacific Northwest. Her nomination passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on a party-line vote last month, but it was unable to gain unanimous Democratic support in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which shares jurisdiction over her post...more

All Sides Suspicious of OSM/BLM Consolidation Plan

The U.S. Department of the Interior has proposed consolidating the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Many have expressed surprise and suspicion about the plan. The BLM is much larger, concentrated in the West and leases public land for mining, grazing and drilling. The smaller OSM regulates surface coal mines and has more offices in the East. Aimee Erickson is the executive director of the national coalfield community group, Citizens Coal Council. She says she is afraid the already weak and smaller agency could see its mission watered down to nothing. "If the OSM's ability to enforce and do oversight is diminished, we can't afford that in the coal fields." One argument for consolidation is that OSM is much better at reclaiming abandoned mine lands, using funds from a per-ton fee on coal. Jason Bostic, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, says his constituents do not want to see the reclamation fund used to clean up BLM's backlog of abandoned non-coal mines...more

Picking ranchers' brains, from Colorado to Mongolia

As a college student in the mid-1980s, Maria Fernandez-Gimenez worked as a seasonal interpreter for the National Park Service. That’s when she was first exposed to the great Western debate over public-lands ranching. She soon became familiar with environmentalists’ gripes about grazing impacts, but realized she knew nothing about the ranchers’ point of view. So she went to work on a distant cousin’s ranch in northwestern Colorado, where she spent the summer sleeping in a hayloft. She went on to study the traditional ecological knowledge of Western ranchers –– the information and experiences that guide how individual livestock growers and communities work the land and manage local resources. Most of the researchers in her field focus on indigenous cultures; Fernandez-Gimenez was one of the first to concentrate on ranchers in the West, whose ecological knowledge and practices risk being lost as rangelands are transformed by development and environmental change. In addition to working in rural towns and Native American communities around the West, she’s studied nomadic pastoralists in Mongolia and, most recently, Spanish sheepherders in the Aragonese Pyrenees. Now a Colorado State University professor, Fernandez-Gimenez recently shared her unique perspective on ranchers’ global habits with High Country News...more