Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Westerner's Radio Theater #021

 This morning Ranch Radio brings you the Sons Of The Pioneers as they guested on the Armed Forces radio program Melody Roundup.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Santorum supports sale of federal lands in the West, citing profits, better management

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum told a Boise audience Tuesday night that he would work with Congress to transfer federal lands to states and sell lands to the private sector. Santorum said the federal government "doesn't care" about its western lands and could make money and improve management by shedding ownership, an idea reminiscent of the "Sagebrush Rebellion" of the 1970s and 1980s. About one quarter of the U.S. land mass is owned by the U.S. government. An audience member asked Santorum about his view of "turning land over to the states." He replied that the one national forest in Pennsylvania, a state he represented for 12 years in the U.S. Senate, was poorly run. He said national parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon belong in federal hands, but that vast tracts of other lands would be appropriate for transfer or sale...more

Here are Santorum's remarks:

"We've been very blessed in Pennsylvania. We don't have a lot of federal lands in Pennsylvania. We have one federal national forest and it's about as badly managed as you can possibly imagine. I had more fights over this little plot of land up here, the Allegheny National Forest, and so I can only imagine, as I did because I experienced it, what the problems (were) with BLM, the problems with the Forest Service and a whole host of other agencies that the states that are heavily populated with federal lands have to deal with.

"My feeling is there are obviously very important critical areas of our country that should be under the purview of the federal government. No one's trying to turn Yellowstone over to the private sector or the states, or the Grand Canyon or anything else.

"But there's a lot of land out there that is land that can and should be managed by stewards who care about that land. I believe the land is there to serve man, not man there to serve the land. If we turn that, obviously, BLM, they just don't — look, we're not going to have the resources to manage this land correctly. The federal government doesn't care about it, they don't care about his land. They don't live here, they don't care about it, we don't care about it in Washington. It's just flyover country for most of the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

"We need to get it back into the hands of the states and even to the private sector. And we can make money doing it, we can make money doing it by selling it. So I believe that this is critically important.

"We do not need this huge amount amount of federal land under federal purview and I would be happy to work with your senators and congressmen out here in the West to put a plan together that's going to have a much more responsible management of land in the West than we've had in the last many years, OK?"

Santorum’s land plan echoes past proposals

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s call to sell or transfer federally owned public lands Tuesday night in Boise earned him several rounds of applause. But Idaho Gov. Butch Otter found in 2005 that while Idahoans don’t like how federal lands are managed, they don’t want to lose access to the places they hunt, fish and camp. President Herbert Hoover and former Interior Secretary James Watt learned similar lessons in their times. But Santorum’s detailed proposal on an issue close to the heart of Westerners may help set him apart from Republican Mitt Romney in the March 6 Republican caucus, which is expected to attract the most devoted party members. Santorum isn’t the only Republican in the race urging the federal government to transfer public land. Rep. Ron Paul has called for eliminating the Department of Interior, which manages more than 500 million acres of public land and a big chunk of Idaho, almost two-thirds of which is owned by the federal government. “I’d rather see the land owned and controlled by the states,” Paul told a crowd in Elko, Nev., earlier this month. Romney’s campaign did not respond to an Idaho Statesman request for details about the candidate’s federal lands policy Wednesday. Earlier this month, Romney told the Reno-Gazette Journal that he didn’t know why the federal government owned all the land and that he hadn’t studied the transfer issue. “But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable,” Romney said...more

I headed up Sec. Watt's land disposal program mentioned in the article.  What I learned was not what the author intimates.  I learned that some agencies in the Dept. of Interior didn't even know how much land they owned.  I learned the Park Service owned the land underneath the stadium where the Washington Redskins played.  I learned...well, maybe someday I'll write about this.

Editorial: Will Green-Energy Scandal Hurt Obama Chances In 2012?

   With the election still more than eight months away, is it too soon to ask if the president can be re-elected with the green baggage piling up around him? Right now, that pile is deep — and getting deeper.
    Obama's green energy scandal is more than Solyndra, the failed solar panel maker that squandered $535 million of Obama stimulus cash and hosted the president for a propaganda visit. It's a series of green-energy companies failing despite the administration's ceaseless promotion of the industry and the unseemly White House ties that run throughout.
    While the legacy media often shills for Democrats, sometimes an outlet surprises us, as the Washington Post did with this week's story outlining the shady Obama links to the clean-energy industry and implying the administration has engaged in first-class corruption.
    Post reporters, for instance, "found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers."
Named in the story is Sanjay Wagle, "venture capitalist" and "Obama fundraiser" who joined the Energy Department, which "provided $2.4 billion in public funding to clean-energy companies in which Wagle's former firm, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested."
    And there's Steven Spinner, a "bundler of Obama campaign contributions who," we noted last fall, became an adviser at the Energy Department where he "pushed hard" for the Solyndra loan. Spinner is also married to a partner in the law firm that represented Solyndra.
    Going deeper, we find Steve Westly, identified by the Post as "an Obama fundraising bundler" who "served part time" on an Energy Department advisory board and "communicated with senior White House officials."
The Post reported that Westly's firm "fared well in the agency's distribution of loans and grants. Its portfolio companies received $600 million in funding."
    Also appearing in emails examined by the Post was David Prend, another venture capital investor with "White House access." Prend's company, Rockport Capital Partners, has been an investor in "several firms" that raked $550 million in federal money. Prend is linked, as well, to Ener1, the bankrupt electric-car battery company given a $118 million government grant.
    The pattern is clear. Bundle campaign cash for Obama, and get taxpayer dollars to be frittered away on trendy green projects that have no economic reason for being.
    It's a closed circle that goes nowhere, but Obama thinks he can ride it back to the White House.


Animal rights group says drone shot down

A remote-controlled aircraft owned by an animal rights group was reportedly shot down near Broxton Bridge Plantation Sunday. Steve Hindi, president of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), said his group was preparing to launch its Mikrokopter drone to video what he called a live pigeon shoot on Sunday when law enforcement officers and an attorney claiming to represent the privately-owned plantation near Ehrhardt tried to stop the aircraft from flying. "It didn't work; what SHARK was doing was perfectly legal," Hindi said in a news release. "Once they knew nothing was going to stop us, the shooting stopped and the cars lined up to leave." He said the animal rights group decided to send the drone up anyway. "Seconds after it hit the air, numerous shots rang out," Hindi said in the release. "As an act of revenge for us shutting down the pigeon slaughter, they had shot down our copter." He claimed the shooters were "in tree cover" and "fled the scene on small motorized vehicles."...more

I'm sure this was all a misunderstanding.  The shooter must have thought he was aiming at a super sized, Boone & Crocket-type pigeon.  Yeah, that must have been the case.

Madeleine Pickens' Battle to Save Nevada's Wild Horses - video

Thirty thousand wild horses are stacked in government-supported holding facilities -- more horses than are found on the open range. The program costs more than $70 million per year, but an ambitious plan to cut costs and improve conditions for the horses has been bottled up within the Bureau of Land Management for more than three years, in part because cattle ranchers don't like it. Businesswoman and philanthropist Madeleine Pickens has spent years trying to coax the BLM into trying something different, because it is clear what they've been doing isn't working. She's also spent more than $13 million of her own dollars building an eco-sanctuary that would be good for the horses, good for taxpayers, and a boost for tourism in rural Nevada. But the BLM is still dragging its feet, which has given cattle ranchers plenty of time to muddy the waters. Pickens says she's going forward whether they like it or not. The scenes are straight out of Zane Grey. There are bands of rambunctious wild horses, kicking up dust and sage on the same range where the first horses on earth once galloped and evolved...more

Here's the video, where you'll learn Madeleine Pickens is a heroine and those evil ranchers run the State of Nevada and the BLM.

U.S. probes golden eagles' deaths at Ca. wind farm

Two more golden eagles have been found dead at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains, for a total of eight carcasses of the federally protected raptors found at the site. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to determine the cause of death of the two golden eagles found Sunday at the Pine Tree wind farm, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 15 miles northeast of Mojave, said Lois Grunwald, a spokeswoman for the agency. The agency has determined that the six golden eagles found dead earlier at the 2-year-old wind farm in Kern County were struck by blades from some of the 90 turbines spread across 8,000 acres at the site. Those deaths give Pine Tree one of the highest avian mortality rates in California's wind farm industry. The death rate per turbine at the $425-million facility is three times higher than at California's Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, where about 67 golden eagles die each year. However, the Altamont Pass facility has 5,000 wind turbines — 55 times as many as Pine Tree...more

Congress passes bill to protect endangered birds.

Congress passes bills to provide subsidies to wind farms.

Wind farms slice and dice eagles.

There you have a three-step illustration of our natural resource and energy policy.  Someday they'll learn to leave the market and mother nature alone.

House passes drilling-friendly energy package

The Republican-controlled House endorsed a plan Thursday to vastly expand oil and gas drilling off the nation's coasts to help pay for a $260 billion transportation bill. The legislation has no chance of passing the Senate and faces a White House veto. But for Republicans, the 237-187 vote showed they're willing to go further to boost U.S. energy production than President Barack Obama. Obama lately has embraced increased oil and gas production on the campaign trail, and has touted how the U.S. in recent years has produced record amounts of oil and natural gas. "The bill we are considering ... is an action plan that clearly contrasts President Obama's anti-energy policies with the pro-energy, pro-American jobs policies of Republicans," said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The legislation, which 21 Republicans voted against and 21 Democrats voted for, would open the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida and areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling, lift a ban on drilling in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and order leases to be offered for Western oil shale. Obama has said he would not pursue drilling off the Pacific and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has pushed back offering leases in the Atlantic until at least 2017. The measure also would force the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline within a month, which Obama recently rejected, saying there wasn't enough time for an adequate environmental review...more

They're learning fast

High arsenic levels found in organic foods, baby formula

Next time you pick up an organic cereal bar or buy infant formula, you might want to read the label closely. High levels of arsenic, a chemical linked to cancer, chronic diseases and developmental effects, have been found in foods that list organic brown rice syrup as a primary ingredient, according to a new study from Dartmouth University. Organic brown rice syrup is often used as a substitute for high fructose corn syrup in prepared organic foods. One of the infant formulas tested contained twice the inorganic arsenic allowed in drinking water, according to Environmental Protection Agency standards. One cereal bar contained 12 times the legal limit for drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb). High-energy foods tested had 8 to 17 times the limit...more

Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering Kicks Off Tonight

The cowboy lifestyle is being celebrated in Ellensburg this weekend. Vendors spent the afternoon setting up booths at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds for the "Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering." The four day event kicks off tonight, and will feature music, poetry, as well as roping and cooking contests. Organizers say the "Spirit of the West" event pays tribute to the old fashioned values of the cowboy. It also reminds people how cowboys and ranchers contribute to the local economy. "It amazes me when people say if we didn't have the cowboys and the ranchers, where would your hamburger and steaks come from, and people just say Safeway or Albertsons or Super One, but guess what, someone's gotta raise that beef," says Entertainment Comm. Chair Diana Tasker...more

Song Of The Day #775

Out West week continues with Roy Rogers singing Colorado Sunset.
The tune was recorded in Los Angeles on Sept.1, 1938 and was released as Vocalion 04453.

State Web Site Chronicles Drug Violence on Border Farms

One South Texas farmer appears on screen the way crime victims and witnesses often do, his face blurred and his voice distorted. Some ranchers talk about seeing drug smugglers in military-style uniforms on their property, describing the threats to their livelihood and lives as a border war. "We see a lot of things, but we keep our mouths shut about it," the farmer whose identity was concealed says in one video clip. "We just don't want to be in anybody's hit list." The Web site behind these videos -- -- is run by neither a Minuteman-style border patrol group nor a tech-savvy rancher. It is a product of Texas state government, created and operated by the Department of Agriculture, as a way to publicize the assertions by farmers and others that violence from Mexico's drug war has spilled over the border. But it has a more political mission as well: to publicly challenge the Obama administration, which has called the belief that the border is overrun by violence from Mexican drug cartels "a widespread misperception." Begun in March, steers a Texas agency typically concerned with detecting plant diseases and regulating grain-storage warehouses into the more controversial realm of domestic security. It paints a frightening portrait of life along the 1,254-mile border that Texas shares with Mexico. One man talks about quitting the farming business out of fear for his family's safety. There are police reports and news accounts of a ranch foreman getting injured by shattered glass after drug-smuggling suspects shot at his truck, vehicles being pursued by law enforcement crashing through farm fences and workers clearing trees being told to stop what they were doing or else. "I would have 80-year-old ranchers meet with me, tears in their eyes, and say, 'My family settled this land, I've been here my entire life and I'm scared to go on my own property,' " said the state's agriculture commissioner, Todd Staples, who came up with the idea for the Web site. "That's how I got involved, because landowners came to me."...more

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Obama's Budget

Read the budget stories below:  Higher taxes (including death taxes), higher fees, more land grabs and shuffling funds to social/environmental programs and away from economic/development programs.

If you've ever wondered what another 4 years would look like, this should paint you a pretty picture.

Budget Watch: President’s Budget Increases Spending for Government Land Acquisition

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 15, 2012 - President Obama’s FY2013 budget proposal released Monday includes $450 million to buy more federal land through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Despite the Federal government’s ballooning $15 trillion debt, the President is proposing a $160 million spending increase (58 percent) for government land acquisition compared to funding levels when he first took office. The Federal government already owns nearly 30 percent of our nation’s land and has maintenance backlog that registers in the billions. “I must again question the need to increase funding for the federal government to purchase more federal land,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings at today’s Full Committee hearing on the President’s budget proposal. “While the request for land acquisition was cut in half from last year, it still represents a $160 million spending increase compared to when President Obama took office. The Interior Department continues to have a maintenance backlog on federal lands that measures into the billions. The bottom line is that we should not be increasing spending for land acquisition when the government cannot maintain the land it already owns.” link

Obama budget again seeks hardrock mining royalty, new abandoned mine fees

In his proposed $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2013 released Monday, President Barak Obama has once again called for creation of a hard abandoned mined land fund, as well as a hardrock mining royalty of not less than five percent of gross proceeds. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who hails from the mining state of Colorado, estimated creation of the Hardrock Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund--applicable to private and federal, state, and tribal lands--would generate $500 million in savings over the next 10 years. The Bureau of Land Management would distribute the funds through a competitive grant program to reclaim the highest priority hardrock abandoned sites on federal, state, tribal and private lands. Salazar also intends to reform Coal Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation by terminating the unrestricted payments to states and tribes that have been certified for completing their coal reclamation work. Currently the money has been dispersed to states based on how much coal they produce. However, a proposed new Abandoned Mine Lands Advisory Council to be created under the Office of Surface Mining would review and rank abandoned coal mine lands sites, so OSM could distribute grants to reclaim the highest priority coal sites each year. It is estimated the reforms would save taxpayers $1.1 billion over the next 10 years...more

Oil and Gas Companies React Cooly to Interior Budget Proposal

President Obama’s proposed budget for the Department of Interior would include a new fee levied on idle oil and gas leases on federal lands. The Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, says it’s an attempt to incentivize the industry to develop their existing leases. The former Colorado Senator made that statement during a conference call touching on highlights in the Interior’s $11.5 billion budget request. That request also calls for a repeal of a provision in the controversial 2005 Energy Policy Act that barred the government from collecting certain processing fees from oil and gas companies that want to drill on public land. "The oil and gas industry is doing just fine today economically," Salazar said. "And essentially asking them to pay their own way to me is a policy call that just makes tremendous sense." But industry groups accused the Administration of trying to have it both ways. Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government affairs with the Colorado-based Western Energy Alliance, said the proposed fees will only encourage companies to drill on private land, which means less revenue for federal coffers...more

President's FY13 $2.6 Billion Budget Request For National Park Service Carries $1 Million Cut

On its face, President Obama's $2.6 billion FY13 budget proposed for the National Park Service appears to keep funding for the agency basically flat from last year, with just a $1 million decline. But the budget continues some disturbing trends for the agency as it struggles to manage a growing park system with hefty needs. Beneath the cover of that $2.6 billion budget proposal are cuts and shuffling of funds that will enrich some programs at the expense of others. Overall, according to the Park Service, there needs to be "$67.2 million in strategic reductions in park and program operations, construction, and heritage partnership programs." Exactly where those cuts might fall won't be known until at least later this week when the Interior Department releases its more detailed "green book" on the budget proposal. Still, some cuts might take months to identify by the Park Service. The budget also proposes to cut more than 200 full-time positions from the Park Service, lowering its national staff to 21,689...more

President’s Budget Calls for New Rivers Initiative

American Rivers applauded President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for launching a new Rivers Initiative, led by the Department of the Interior, to protect and restore rivers across the country. The President’s 2013 budget prioritizes within the new Rivers Initiative river restoration and recreation projects in all 50 states; the development of a National Blueways System to recognize communities which rediscover, restore, and reconnect with rivers; and a National Rivers Atlas and other online river restoration and recreation tools. The budget incorporates many of the projects American Rivers and river advocates around the country helped generate through the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. American Rivers is a leader in blueways, dam removal, urban river protection and other projects at the center of the new initiative at Interior...more

Farm Groups React to Obama Budget Plan

Farm groups spent Tuesday looking over the President’s proposed federal budget and, for the most part, they do not like what they see. The $700 million dollar cut in the USDA budget is not the issue; it is the priorities within the department that worry farm groups. Food and nutrition programs which make up over 70% of the USDA budget were virtually untouched, while farm programs saw some serious cuts. One area that has raised some red flags is a reduction in crop insurance funding. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Dale Moore says, with the elimination of direct payments, crop insurance becomes the primary safety net for growers, “We want to make sure that whatever crop insurance plan there is down at USDA for funding the crop insurance is robust and keeps focused on those risk management tools as a critical part of farmers’ risk management safety net.” The NCBA blasted the President’s proposal to lower the estate tax exemption and raise the estate tax rate. NCBA President J.D. Alexander said the President’s take on the estate tax threatens job creation and punishes the producers of food and fiber. “President Obama has much to learn about the realities of small businesses and production agriculture. Most of these farm and ranch families are not wealthy. Instead, their value is tied up in the land they work and the equipment they use to provide a safe and affordable food supply for a growing population,” said Alexander. “The President’s war against the rich will negatively impact farmers and ranchers who are simply trying to feed their neighbors. Increasing land values and the rising costs of equipment drive up the value of farm and ranch estates. If allowed to continue, the estate tax will continue to break up farms and ranches across America and will make it much more difficult to meet the increasing demand for food around the world.” The President’s budget proposes an estate tax at a $3.5 million exemption level with a maximum tax rate of 45 percent. As a result of a last-minute fix passed through Congress in December 2010, the current estate tax exemption level is $5 million per individual and $10 million per couple with a maximum tax rate of 35 percent...more

Interior caught in the act?

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) wrote a letter [PDF] last week to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, calling on the federal agency to revamp its data publication practices and publish "accurate, complete, and useful" data for the American people. IER director of communications Benjamin Cole explains. "Every year, the Energy Information Administration releases what's called the 'Annual Energy Review,'" he explains. "The numbers last year indicated that production of oil and gas on federal land was down. It turned out that actually there's been a slight uptick -- leading us to wonder How could they have gotten it so wrong?" IER also says the Interior has been unwilling to provide accurate data regarding leasing activity in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill. "The Department of Interior was claiming on their new lease category revised leases -- which is leases that were stopped when the Deepwater Horizon accident happened, and then were revised when they opened up production again in the Gulf," he says...more

Wyoming prepares to end federal wolf protections

Wyoming lawmakers appear ready to change the state's wolf management law to accommodate an agreement that Gov. Matt Mead and U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar reached last year on ending federal protections for the animals in the state. Under the agreement, wolves could be shot on sight in much of the state. The Republican governor has made wolf management a priority, saying the animals threaten agricultural interests and other wildlife. Officials say there are about 300 wolves in the state, and Mead has said the population grows by 10 percent every year. Under the deal, Wyoming would commit to maintaining 15 breeding pairs and at least 150 animals in the state, including within Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The state would be responsible for keeping at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside the park and the reservation. The agreement calls for wolves to be treated as protected game animals in a flexible zone around Yellowstone but classified as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in the rest of the state...more

Salazar hints at fracking disclosure

A lack of transparency over the chemical makeup of hydraulic fracturing fluid might strike a blow to the shale gas industry, the U.S. interior secretary said. The United States has some of the richest deposits of shale natural gas. Critics say that chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fluid could contaminate waters supplies. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department was preparing rules that would require companies to disclose the composition of fracking fluids and call for tighter regulations to protect the environment. "To me, those rules are common sense," Salazar was quoted by the Platts news service as saying during a speech in Ohio. "And if we do not move forward with that kind of program from the Department of Interior, my own view is that the failure of disclosure and the failure of giving the American people confidence that hydraulic fracturing will in fact work will end up being the Achilles heel of the energy promise of America."...more

House GOP Submit Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Rider To Transportation Bill

The House of Representatives is considering a behemoth surface transportation bill this week, designed to fund the roads, highways, and bridges that connect our country.  It has nothing to do with the public lands that belong to all of us, but that didn’t stop three Republicans from Arizona from filing an amendment to the bill that would override Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s January decision to protect 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining requests.
Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) penned the amendment:
Public Land Order 7787 (77 Fed. Reg. 2563) and the withdrawal of lands by that Public Land Order shall have no force or effect, and the provisions of the land use plans applicable to such lands immediately before the issuance of such Public Land Order shall remain in effect.
If this sounds familiar, it is because this trio of lawmakers has tried three times in the last two years to undo new protections for one of our nation’s great places...more



M. SMITH, Circuit Judge.
Plaintiff-Appellant Laura Leigh, a photojournalist, contends that viewing restrictions at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) horse roundup violated her First Amendment right to observe government activities. Leigh moved for a preliminary injunction to require the BLM to provide her with unrestricted access to horse roundups. The district court denied Leigh's motion, concluding that most of the relief sought was moot because the roundup ended in October 2010. Alternatively, the district court concluded that Leigh was unlikely to succeed on the merits because the restrictions did not violate the First Amendment.
We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), and we reverse. Because the preliminary injunction motion seeks unrestricted access to future horse roundups, and not just the one that took place in 2010, this case is not moot. As to the merits of Leigh's First Amendment claim, the district court erred by failing to apply the well-established qualified right of access balancing test set forth in Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court ("Press-Enterprise II"), 478 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1986). Courts have an unyielding duty to thoroughly analyze whether the government has violated this fundamental constitutional right, which "serves to ensure that the individual citizen can effectively participate in and contribute to our republican system of selfgovernment," Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 604 (1982). Accordingly, we remand this case for the district court to consider in the first instance whether the public has a First Amendment right of access to horse gathers, and, if so, whether the viewing restrictions are narrowly tailored to serve the government's overriding interests...more

Wild dogs mutilating, killing cattle in Valencia County - video

Wild dogs are plaguing New Mexico ranchers, forcing them to take drastic action. One rancher in Valencia County near Meadow Lake and El Cerro Mission said he and his ranch hands have been forced to kill more than 300 dogs in the past 18 months in an effort to save their cattle. "We’ve had such a problem with the dogs that we lost 26 head of cattle to the dogs," said ranch hand Ed Chavez. Feral dogs target calves or weak or aging cattle. Chavez said unlike coyotes that kill for food, these feral dogs are hunting for sport. He said the dogs take down a cow and chew on its ears, nose, and hoofs. Once the cow dies, the dogs leave it alone. The cows that survive are worth less in market with chewed up body parts. A cow is worth $800 to $1,000 in market according to Chavez. Ranchers said they are tired of losing profits to the feral dogs. State law gives ranchers the legal right to shoot dogs that endanger their livestock. "To this day, anytime I have to dispatch a dog, I don't enjoy it,” Chavez said. “I know this is someone's pet, however, I'm not upset at the animal…I'm upset at the owner."...more

Song Of The Day #774

Ranch Radio stays Out West this week with Gene Autry performing At The Old Barn Dance.

The tune was recorded in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 1937 and was released as Vocalion 03448.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interior proposes 75% increase in grazing fees

I received this email today:

Subject: BLM proposed budget and grazing fees

Hi everyone,

I am working my way through the Interior budget request, and came across this item that needs to be removed at once.

Hidden in the BLM budget request is the following

A $15.8 million program decrease is proposed in the Rangeland Management program for grazing adminis¬tration. However, the impact of this funding decrease will be mitigated by a new grazing administration fee of $1 per animal unit month that the BLM proposes to implement on a pilot basis, which is estimated to generate Bureau of Land Management $6.5 million in 2013 to assist BLM in processing grazing permits.

BLM and the Forest Service just recently set the grazing fee for 2012 at $1.35. For 2013, this additional “grazing administration fee” would effectively raise the grazing fees for BLM ranchers by 75%!!

Keep in mind that the grazing fee formula is contained in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA) of 1978, and in Executive Order signed by President Reagan that has never been rescinded. Secretary Salazar is seeking to effectively raise grazing fees by 75% with no authority to do so.

On the one hand he is seeking to reduce Rangeland Management funding, and on the other hand he is seeking to make up for this on the backs of public land grazers. Essentially doubling costs for BLM livestock permittees is not acceptable, and needs to be removed.

Secretary Salazar will be testifying on the Interior budget request tomorrow (Feb. 15) before the full House Committee on Natural Resources, and on Thursday (Feb. 16) before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

I would appreciate your advising your members who serve on these committees of this unconscionable provision and to ask Secretary Salazar : (1) what authority he has to impose such a “grazing administration fee” that raises grazing fees by 75% on BLM lands, (2) why he is seeking to significantly raise costs of operation for hard working ranchers who essentially cannot absorb such a hefty increase.

This appears to be an intentional assault on ranching that needs to be taken care of at once. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Personally, I think this is just a ploy to get their budget back.  Instead of taking their budget cut like a man, BLM intends to get Western Congressman riled up and working to replenish their budget and killing the "grazing administration" fee.  It will probably work...although proposing an increase in grazing fees during an election year is not a bright idea.

HT:  Joel Alderete

Forest Service sues state, Otero Co.

In 2001 New Mexico passed Senate Bill 1 to allow counties to manage national forest lands under certain circumstances that U.S. Forest Service personnel couldn't handle. Now that Otero County passed a resolution in 2011 to do just that, the Forest Service has filed a lawsuit to stop the action. Peg Crim, of the Lincoln National Forest, has confirmed the action by the Department of Justice. But, she said, she is not at liberty to talk about the suit. "It's not going to change anything we have now," she said. "We are going to continue working with the county and state." According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, on Feb. 7, the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of New Mexico, on behalf of the USDA Forest Service, filed a complaint asking for a declaration from the court on whether Senate Bill 1 and an Otero County resolution are pre-empted by federal law and, therefore, unconstitutional. The statement says the legal action follows efforts by the Forest Service and U.S. Attorney's office to find a way to legally satisfy the concerns of Otero County commissioners and collaborate with federal agencies to mitigate fire risk due to extreme drought conditions in the forest. "However," the statement says, "the United States Constitution forbids New Mexico and Otero County from supplanting the federal government's land and fire management regime with its own state- and county-specific policies that disrupt the numerous interests the federal government must balance when developing and implementing fire management plans." The bill allows the county to take measures to protect people when fire danger is extreme, an emergency has been declared and the Forest Service has not moved to alleviate the danger. "We followed all the rules and regulations," Rardin said. "We told them what we were doing and they didn't like it."...more

To see Senate Bill 1 go here.

NM Hispanic ranchers, once ignored, showing clout

Once shunned and largely ignored, Hispanic ranchers and other descendants of people who received Spanish land grants are flexing their political muscles in New Mexico. In recent years, the activists have persuaded state lawmakers to approve the creation of new towns based on the boundaries of the 200-year-old grants. They have held forums around the state and raised money for a major lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service over long-standing land-use disputes. In addition, the new political groups regularly challenge federal officials with letters, petitions and protests on issues ranging from grazing to timber. "I think people used to see them as a bunch of freeloaders and whiners who wanted something for nothing," said Mike Scarborough, a retired Santa Fe lawyer and author of "Trespassers on Our Own Land," a recently published book on the land grant movement. "Not anymore. And their issues are coming back to the forefront." David Sanchez, a 52-year-old rancher in Chama Valley, said ranchers and land grant descendants know their rights and have become better organized to battle what they view as continuing discrimination since the signing of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the U.S.-Mexico War. "These are guys who are educated," Sanchez said. "We're beyond knee-jerk reactions." In January, Morales and a group of northern New Mexico ranchers sued the U.S. Forest Service over its decision to limit grazing on historic land grant areas. The lawsuit, which ranchers say took two years to plan, 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 that are part of an area recognized by the federal government for special treatment aimed at benefiting land grant heirs...more

Live Bait, Ultralight Wolf Hunt Bill Fuels Controversy

The wolf hunt in Idaho could soon be taken to a whole new elevation -- hundreds of feet in the air, to be exact. Sen. Jeff Siddoway (R-Terreton) proposed a bill last week that would allow Idahoans to hunt wolves from ultra-light aircraft and use live bait in traps. As a rancher himself, Siddoway said he's lost several sheep to wolves he hasn't been able to catch. The bill, he said, would make catching those wolves easier. "It's to give us some tools to go after the wolves that we haven't had before," Siddoway said. But not everyone agrees. Ralph Maughan is the president of the Wolf Recovery Foundation and thinks the live bait aspect of the bill is archaic. "It really is a bad bill from our point of view. It takes us back to the 1890s," Maughan said...more

Wolf 'caught-in-the-act' permits ineffective, ranchers say

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued 31 permits for ranchers to kill wolves caught attacking livestock over the past two years. Not once have the permits resulted in a kill. "Not one rancher has had an opportunity to kill a wolf, being that they are nocturnal and (the attacks have) happened at night," said Rod Childers, Oregon Cattlemen Association's wolf committee chairman. According to Oregon's Wolf Compensation and Management Plan, ranchers must try extensive nonlethal control measures and meet other criteria before they are eligible for a permit. Finally, a permitted rancher must catch a wolf in the act of attacking livestock. "It is a tool, and we want to provide this tool to ranchers," said Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for ODFW. "But the opportunity to use the permit is rare because wolves avoid people and attack at night." Speaking to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Feb. 9, Childers said ranchers have done all they can do to minimize losses to wolves, including installing fladry, which are flags on ropes meant to scare wolves, cleaning bone piles and supporting a range rider. But, he said, losses continue to mount from wolf depredation. One pack alone, the Imnaha pack in Eastern Oregon, is responsible for 22 losses, according to state wildlife officials. Wallowa County ranchers also report more than 50 head of livestock missing over the past year, Childers said. Capital Press

Hay bill would ease NM feed crisis - video

Before today's legislative action the only bill that cleared both the House and Senate and made its way to the Governor's desk was a bill loosening the rules on hay trucks on New Mexico highways. It's the subject of a lot of joking at the Capitol these days, but it's really a serious bill that affects agriculture statewide. It's all about drought, farmers, ranchers, and the great hay shortage afflicting New Mexico and the southwest. The bill would allow super-size tractor-trailer loads of hay to roll on New Mexico highways. In the drought, our farmers can't grow enough hay to keep beef and dairy cattle alive, so they're importing it, chiefly from Canada. "They're gettting this hay from Canada and bringing it down to New Mexico," said Sen. Stuart Ingle, a Portales Republican who is a farmer and a rancher. "We had to make it some way easier. The price is unbelievably high, but dairies can't stop and start. They continue to roll all the time. You gotta have hay or you don't make any milk."...more

Cattle truck overturns on Trans Mountain, 11 cows dead

Eleven cows died after a trailer carrying 112 cattle overturned on Trans Mountain Road in Northeast El Paso early Tuesday morning. A rancher heading to West Texas apparently encountered a strong dust storm on Trans Mountain just after midnight when his truck overturned, officials with the Sheriff's Office said. The driver was not injured. Most of the cattle were recovered, but a few are still roaming the area and are believed to be at a nearby ravine. A rancher from Canutillo assisted in rounding up the cattle, taking in some of the animals, officials said. The roads were closed for a few hours early Tuesday morning but are now reopened. link

Song Of The Day #773

Ranch Radio heads Out West this week with Elton Britt performing Some Time Sue.

The tune is on his 23 track CD Ridin' With Elton.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Agencies to blame for lack of solution for wolf problems

A 900-pound, four-legged mother stands in a green pasture with her calf at her side, and there couldn't be a better sight to cowmen or cowgirls atop their horses. To a wolf -- an 80-pound, top-of-the-food-chain predator -- it is a slow-moving, tantalizing T-bone on hooves. Can you really blame the wolf for wanting to enjoy a savory bite of delicious beef? It's instinct. However, wildlife managers believe they have figured out how to keep wolves away from slow-moving prey. While Southwest ranchers learn to live and work among these predators, everyone is quick to point a finger at people who have done nothing to the wolf beside live within the guidelines provided by government and wildlife experts. Ranchers from Arizona and New Mexico continue to work with federal agencies and other organizations on instituting a wolf program. It has been several years since a wolf was lethally removed from the Blue Range Recovery Area because of livestock depredation. To say that hardworking ranch families, who have spent as much time with federal agencies and organizations on the wolf as they have on their ranch, are the Achilles' heel of the program ignores the facts. The agency entrusted by the American people to recover the Mexican wolf -- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- is the true Achilles' heel of the program that has failed to communicate with stakeholders -- the public. And, above all, it has failed to construct a working program for success. Instead, these individuals have chosen to do nothing about the wolves on the ground and sit quiet in Albuquerque while their state partners in New Mexico step away from the program. They keep other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, from assisting in the program while leaving Arizona partners in the dark wondering what will be next...more

Wyoming town fears fracking poisoned their water

On the mountainous Wind River Indian Reservation in western Wyoming, cattle grazing in a valley share space with more than a hundred gas wells. Pumps puff and click, like alarm clocks for long-time farmers and ranchers who wait for their Thursday deliveries from the Big Horn water truck. The driver stacks up pyramids of five-gallon bottles at 19 stops. Encana Corporation, an energy company, provides the water. It's the only way disabled veteran Louis Meeks can stay on the land he bought back in the 1970's, when his water wells pumped sweet life into the place. No more. It gives off a pungent, petroleum smell. The EPA told Meeks and other families not to drink it, and to ventilate bathrooms while showering. Meeks says Wyoming's governor recoiled when he got a whiff a few days before News 8's visit. Meeks thinks the water killed some of his chickens. He's afraid to let his granddaughter near it, or even wash her clothes in it. His neighbor, Jeff Locker, says doctors as far away as Denver have been unable diagnose his wife's strange illness. The EPA found high levels of toxic contaminants in a monitoring well just yards from Locker's own water well. He pulls out a blackened filter from his waterline. "This has been in about a week," he said. The EPA says chemicals in the monitoring wells are consistent with fracking fluids. But the study has yet to undergo peer review, and the drilling company strongly refutes the EPA's conclusions and methodology...more

Colorado residents ask Feds to withdraw lease parcels to go up for oil, gas auction

Scores of residents in Colorado’s North Fork Valley aren’t nearly as keen about oil and gas drilling as the wide-eyed Democrats and Republicans who talk about tapping America’s energy reserves. Representatives from nearly 50 ranches, farm restaurants, farm markets, and food producers sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that he direct the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw all 22 of the proposed lease parcels scheduled to go up for an oil and gas auction in August. “The proposal would lease these lands under a flawed land use plan from the 1980s that fails to protect the land, water and people of Colorado’s North Fork,” the letter reads. “The parcels proposed for oil and gas leasing — which include water sources, major irrigation canals, grazing permits and ranching operations — are scattered among and surrounding our farms, our wineries, our farm markets and restaurants, our schools, towns, and communities. No consideration was given in the decades-old land use plan — and therefore no oil and gas stipulations or management prescriptions exist — to maintain the area’s agricultural operations, its businesses, or any of the other unique community features.” The parcels in question cover about 30,000 acres, mostly on BLM lands near Crawford, Hotchkiss, Paonia, Somerset and the Paonia Reservoir State Park. Only about 900 acres are privately owned. The North Fork Valley — named after a Gunnison River tributary — is home to one of the highest concentrations of organic farms in Colorado and one of just two designated wine regions in the state. The mere prospect of oil and gas development in the valley is already scaring off home buyers. Real estate brokers report that they are losing sales contracts and having to put others on hold as potential home buyers wait to see whether the BLM approves any or all of the 22 proposed leases...more

Judge B. Lynn Winmill drives sage grouse plans

A federal judge ordered the Bureau of Land Management this month to place the needs of sage grouse above the needs of cattle ranchers. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise ruled the federal land agency did not do that when it renewed five grazing permits in Owyhee County — even though the BLM said the area was important sage grouse habitat. Winmill’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit by the Western Watersheds Project, filed by lawyers with Advocates for the West. What makes Winmill’s latest decision so interesting is it comes as the BLM says it is trying to do the same thing for sage grouse. Its new interim policy is designed to place the interests of sage grouse above other uses in the bird’s most important habitat areas. The BLM is trying to do this over the next couple of years in an effort to prevent a listing of the sage grouse as a threatened species — an action that would limit the BLM’s flexibility. Winmill and Western Watersheds have forced the federal government to protect sage grouse and the millions of acres of sagebrush steppe where they live. In 2007, Winmill ordered the agency to review its 2004 decision not to list because the Bush administration played with the science. That led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 to determine that listing of the 2-foot-tall bird as a threatened species was warranted, but not as high a priority as protecting other species. The Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing that decision, giving the BLM, western states, ranchers and energy developers time to put in place “regulatory mechanisms” that will keep sage grouse off the list. They have until 2015, a date the agency set and Winmill has not challenged. The BLM put in place in December its interim policy aimed at protecting the sage grouse until then. But as Winmill’s Feb. 7 decision shows, some ranchers may have to cut cattle numbers before then. And everyone may have to make more changes than the interim policy requires. Idaho’s BLM has rated livestock grazing as one of the Top four threats to the grouse behind fire, infrastructure and grasslands conversion. Winmill’s latest decision will require the agency to go back and put new restrictions on grazing permits that are currently pending in Owyhee County and perhaps hundreds of other permits across the West that have been pending for years...more

In Praise of 'Enviropreneurs'

Entrepreneurs are my heroes because of their optimism. Instead of seeing problems, they see opportunities. And "enviropreneurs" can give us cause to celebrate the future of our planet by finding ways to ameliorate or solve environmental problems. But we'll have to beware of environmental Luddites who can thwart even the best of positive steps. Like their 19th-century counterparts who opposed industrialization by destroying machines, they see solutions as problems. Consider the recent story on CBS's "60 Minutes" showing the proliferation of exotic and, in some cases, endangered African wildlife on Texas ranches. These ranches have switched from raising cattle to raising wildlife. As a result, Texas now has more than a quarter million exotic animals, mostly from Africa and Asia, of which three—the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax, and the Dama gazelle—have been brought back from the brink of extinction. Some ranchers made the switch because they liked having exotic wildlife on their property, but if wildlife ranching was to be sustainable, ranchers had to find a way to make it pay. And it is paying because hunters are willing to fork over as much as $50,000 for a hunt. Moreover, these forays are not at all like "shooting fish in a barrel." The bush is thick and the ranches large enough so that not every hunter goes home with a trophy. A similar business model is at work in Africa where landowners in South Africa and Namibia, who could barely eke out a living with livestock grazing, are sustaining wild game populations on their land for a profit. They market the wildlife to hunters, photo safaris and other ranchers wanting wild stock for their land. As South African economist Michael 't-Sas Rolfes points out, "Strong property rights and market incentives have provided a successful model for rhino conservation, despite the negative impact of command-and-control approaches that rely on regulations and bans that restrict wildlife use." Who could be opposed to environmental entrepreneurship that has successfully propagated endangered species, even if a few animals are hunted so that the populations will be sustained? Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, is one. She condemns having African animals on U.S. soil...more

Wild horse allies: BLM panel stacked against them

Wild horse protection advocates are accusing the federal Bureau of Land Management of stacking a public advisory board with friends of cattle ranchers at the expense mustangs. And they say they are worried the panel is becoming increasingly sympathetic to the idea of slaughtering excess animals in overpopulated herds on U.S. lands in the West. BLM spokesman Tom Gorey denies the charges. He told The Associated Press the horse defenders are resorting to dishonest scare tactics to help push their "anti-management agenda by any means possible." Leaders of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign say their fears are valid based on recent BLM appointments to a nine-member advisory board. Twice in nine months the agency has replaced opponents of selling captured horses for slaughter with proponents of the idea. AP

Man became rancher by default

Sol and Abe Mayer
The West Texas country was open range when young Abraham "Abe" Mayer got his start in the ranching business. Acreage with water holes was much sought after for lease from the state, he told a Standard-Times reporter in December 1945. It was through such leases that livestockmen undertook to gain control of the open range. Born Sept. 28, 1877, in San Antonio, Mayer moved with his parents to a small community called Scabtown, located across from Fort McKavett, when he was 2 years old. His father, Ferdinand Mayer, became the fort sutler at Fort McKavett in 1879. He served both military and civilian settlers along the San Saba River at the southwestern edge of Menard County. When Fort McKavett was closed in 1881, Ferdinand Mayer and James Callan bought the old fort proper and opened a mercantile store there. "Money was scarce during those times, so to pay for goods purchased at the Mayer store, people would pay their debts with livestock and land," said great-great grandson Stephen Mayer of San Angelo. "Grandfather Ferdinand found himself in the ranching business almost by default." Ferdinand Mayer was born in Baden, Germany, on Aug. 6, 1832. He came to America through the port of New York from Le Havre in 1857. In 1890 Ferdinand purchased the C.F. Adams Ranch to place the livestock that he had acquired. It was located at Middle Valley between Fort McKavett and Sonora. It became a stage stop with a post office and later was known as Mayer. He formed a partnership with his oldest son, Max, operating as F. Mayer and Son. A few years later, Sol joined the ranch partnership and it became known as F. Mayer and Sons. They registered the "T-Half Circle" cattle brand on Aug. 23, 1889, in Menard County. Sol introduced sheep to the ranch in 1891...more

Hawaii, Alaska, D.C. Lead in Gov't Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nearly 3 out of every 10 workers in Hawaii (29.7%), Alaska (29.6%), and the District of Columbia (29.1%) work for federal, state, or local government, at a time when government employment is declining nationally at all levels. Pennsylvania has the lowest percentage of government workers, at 11.8%.

NM ranks 6th with 23.3 % of the workforce in gov't jobs.  Go here to see the charts.

'Big Valley' star Peter Breck dead at age 82

The actor who played a son of ranch owner Barbara Stanwyck on the 1960s Western "The Big Valley," has died. Peter Breck was 82. Breck died Monday in Vancouver, British Columbia, after a long illness, his wife, Diane, announced on the website The Big Valley Writing Desk. A native of Haverhill, Mass., Breck was also a regular on the TV Westerns "Maverick" and "Black Saddle." He had guest roles on series from the 1950s through the early 2000s including "Perry Mason," ''The Virginian" and "Fantasy Island." His film appearances include "Thunder Road," ''I Want to Live!" and "Benji." Breck was best known for his role as hot-tempered rancher Nick Barkley on "The Big Valley," which aired from 1965 to 1969. He and his wife were longtime Vancouver residents. AP

Song Of The Day #772

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio and here is Bob Wills with That Hot Lick Fiddlin' Man. The tune was recorded in Hollywood on July 14, 1942.  Band members: Wills, fiddle & vocals; Leon Huff, vocals; Leon McAuliffe, steel; Doyle Salathiel, guitar; James Holley, fiddle; Darrell Jones, base; Robert Fitzgerald, drums; Morris Billington, piano.  The song was released as Columbia 20513.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Hearts and kisses

by Julie Carter

Saddle up boys, here it comes again. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s the day the entire world is painted with red and pink hearts and accented with roses and chocolate.

Whether this ever-looming V-day is a ploy to stimulate the economy at an otherwise sluggish time of year or an actual holiday to honor the long forgotten patron saint of love, it most definitely puts the pressure on the couples of the world.

I asked one old cowboy what he thought about Valentine’s Day. His reply was well-thought-out honesty. “Not much. I don’t think about it at all. You don’t want to get that started-- birthdays, Valentine’s and all those holidays. If you never start paying attention to them, then she never expects it.”

Saint Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for young men that were military potentials.

Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers.  When he was caught, Claudius ordered him put to death.

The legend says that Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison awaiting his execution, he fell in love with a young girl who visited him every day. Before his death, he wrote a letter that he signed “From your Valentine.”

There will be some “romantic” gestures made by those residing at the end of dirt roads where the moon kisses the stars while the howl of a lone coyote breaks the silence of night.

Not likely to be wine and roses, however, a cowboy on a Valentine’s Day date will offer a romantic late night walk through the frosty pastures for a “just once more” check of the cows. After all, it is calving season.

I got a Valentine card one time that was written in Spanish because that was what was left at the store in town. It said something about my coraz√≥n and forever. My cowboy ate the chocolates on the way back to the ranch and, with no apology, told me he knew I was on a diet and he sure didn’t want be responsible for any failure.

A veteran ranch wife who is still waiting for her cowboy to grow up, phoned me and the topic of Valentine’s Day came up. I ventured to ask if she had received a gift from her love of 35 years.

“Well, he did ask if I wanted something,” she said. “But after my Christmas gift, I was afraid to let him think it was time for another gift.”

I asked the obvious, “What did you get for Christmas?” 

“He brought me a cat from the pound.”

“Did you ask for a cat or even want a cat?”

“No to both. This gift just fit his budget. It was free.”

It’s those tender moments of adoring love that make a gal think seriously about returning the sentimental thought with something equally as endearing as a well-timed “Well, kiss my coraz√≥n …. dear!” 

Julie can be reached for comment at

Western Humor

Tales of friends and Little Brownie’s Sister
Western Humor
Spontaneity or Bust
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I had a call yesterday morning. I had dreaded facing it because there had been sparks that prompted it. I had tried to tell the wolf story so somebody would understand it. CJ had drilled me.
“My Gawd,” she had started. “Can you make it more tedious?”
We were friends when it was over. We were reminded that the world we face everyday can’t be eaten without dessert once in a while. She had been to Elko and the poetry had revived her. I had seen my grandson wearing his new hat.
            Beyond the moment
            There is nothing more unconvincing than attempting to make western humor. It is a contradiction.
            The failure of at least one western magazine resulted in trying to duplicate its first interesting offerings to the public. Beyond the initial material, the attempts to hold the intrigue lost its spontaneity.
            When humor is analyzed there are probably those who could come up with some logic, but it shouldn’t be dissected. It just happens, and, when it happens, it describes what makes the West special.
            It can come from any circumstance. It can even be blurred boundaries between life and death, but when it happens there is somebody who nails the gist of the event with glaring honesty. Those are precious moments.    
            Jim Henry
            Jim Henry was a creator of humor his entire life. He reached into my heart through time by stories told by family years after the actual events occurred. There was the fight with the bear that was told to me when I was just a little guy.
The boys were working cattle in the Rice’s Cross H pasture. It was a typical New Mexico spring day. The wind was blowing, it was cold, and it hadn’t rained in eight months.
The cowboys jumped a bear that was described as just coming out of hibernation. Skinny and poor, the bear was spotted by Jim and here he came loping through the crew shaking a loop.
            “Let’s git ‘eem!”
            Whooping and hollerin’, they all built loops at a run. Jim was now on the bear’s heels trying to get a shot when the bear ducked into a cut and continued running full out. As Jim maneuvered closer, the bank gave way and down on the bear went Jim, horse and all. The story goes in three directions from that point.
The first story was from Grampa’ Rice. He said when the bank gave way, in less than a heartbeat, Jim, horse, and bear were scattering with Jim giving the horse a heck of a race for first place anywhere but where the bear was going!  
The cowboys’ version tells about the damndest wreck in years as horse and bear and rider all disappeared into a cloud of dust under the cut with Jim, his eyes rolling around in his head, trying to get his senses when the cowboys arrived.
Jim declared those accounts were all exaggerated. The real truth was that he stood and fought the bear for minutes with nothing but his hands until the cowboys arrived and scared it off!
Nobody even saw where the bear went. The cowboys were in stitches laughing. Those same responses continued the rest of the day when somebody broke into laughter.
Jim’s adventures continued variously the rest of his life.
There was the hot day over in the ‘Frisco Box and, boy, that water sure looked inviting. He got down and took his boots and clothes off and carefully tied them to his saddle so they would be safe. As he was easing into the water the horse he was riding jerked loose and went home. There sat Jim … with his hat only!
Years later, people still remarked how his fluorescent white skin looked like a rosebud when he hobbled into the headquarters miles from where he had taken his dip.
The final story just won’t fit here, but in its stead there was a wild Jim Henry cow that the Moon’s had gathered off the forest. They had cut the old gal out and turned her out into a big pen. She had run to the middle of the pen blowing snot, bellowing, and pawing the ground in a circle just daring anybody to come in there with her and her calf.
They called Jim and by and by here he came in his little half ton Chevy with the cattle racks. He stopped there alongside the corral and stepped out on the running board to study the cow. Yea, it was his cow alright.
“Yes, sir, I am sure proud you fellers gathered that ol’ cow,” he had said. “Violet has been milkin’ ol’ Sister there at the house and she must of got away.”
Just because it was such a typical Jim Henry response, the whole crew was worthless for minutes. The just couldn’t put it back together!
Edwin Shelley
The Shelley’s were working cows in Mogollon Creek on another spring day and the boys were sure getting tired of beans. Edwin had run into a flock of turkeys and he dispatched one with his pistol. He retrieved it, remounted, and headed to camp.
Around a corner he loped holding the turkey by its head and there, miles from anywhere, was game warden, Jewell Butler, riding up the trail!
Edwin, never missing a beat, loped right on by Jewell without stopping.
“Mornin’ Jewell,” He had cheerfully said as he passed. “How’re you doin’ this mornin’?”
Fayette Rice
The eldest Rice brother was Fayette. Fayette was not taken to cows like his heritage. He was the miner of the bunch.
He was known for several things and one of them was his propensity to have some friends come by for a game of poker. The problem was these games didn’t always know when to stop.
In one marathon session, Fayette’s then current wife had had enough. They lived in a ‘shotgun’ house that was made up of three rooms all in a row. In order to get into the far room, the bedroom, you had to enter the first room, go through the kitchen, and then enter the bedroom.
Being a miner, Fayette always had dynamite. From that and the fact Mrs. Rice was at her wits end, a plan was concocted. She went to the barn and found a corn cob that would double as a stick of dynamite. She then carefully unwrapped a real stick and rewrapped the paper around the corn cob. She then cut a short fuse and stuck it in. She was ready.
She climbed through the window into the end room, came through the door into the kitchen where the boys were playing poker, dropped the now lit stick of dynamite  in the middle of the table, and exited into the first room. She locked that door and went on outside.
For a few moments there was not a sound. Then there was an explosion of activity as the boys came out of the house from all points … none of which was a door!
The game was over … and soon the marriage was as well.
Albert Wilmeth
Grampa’ Wilmeth was a stern fellow. Few people fiddled with him, and, although humor was always part of him, it was seldom aimed at him.
There is a story about the day south of Silver City when he returned to camp only to find some of the cowboys there drinking coffee in the middle of the morning. Knowing my grandfather I can only imagine how his temper flared.
He was riding Little Brownie’s Sister. Grampa’ was always cutting the weight of his rig down and he probably had cut his reins a bit narrow because, when he jerked Little Sister’s head up, he broke both reins. There he sat with his split reins connected to … nothing!
Off the hill they came and in two or three strides Little Sister discovered her pilot was on auto! She shifted gears and she decided to give Mr. Albert a ride. They were flying!
Hearing the commotion, the cowboys stepped out from the fire to see what was happening. They got a quick glimpse and in no time they were offering encouragement.
“Oh, come on, Albert, give the little mare her head,” was one objective comment.
As the little bay mare and Grandpa’ reached the bottom and thundered right on through camp and up the other side of the canyon, someone suggested, “Mr. Wilmeth, if you’re going to go on to town would you mind pickin’ up the mail?”
I will surmise that when Little Brownie’s Sister decided she had run far enough … Grandpa’ was ready to call it even.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “These guys were real. Chances are, among the whole bunch, there may not have been a single full vacation. They lived starting each morning at sunup.”

Our Languishing Public Lands

 The Economic and Environmental Benefits of Decentralization

by Robert Nelson

    Aside from the original 13 states on the Eastern seaboard, most of the land in the United States at one time belonged to the federal government—a result of the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican-American War, and other important events in American history. Federal policies for these lands such as the Homestead Act, the railroad land grants, and the land allocations to American Indians were among the most significant American government actions of the 19th century. The overriding policy goal was to transfer the lands out of federal ownership to private owners and to the states, both of whom received hundreds of millions of acres in total. Transferring the lands to new ownership was seen as a first step in putting them to productive use as part of the essential task of building a new nation.
    After this 19th-century “era of disposal,” the federal government shifted to a policy of retention of the lands in federal ownership around the beginning of the 20th century. It was a reflection of basic new political and economic ideas emerging in the United States during the progressive era. The progressive “gospel of efficiency” preached that scientific management could better serve the nation’s needs than the chaotic, trial-and-error processes of the free market. In much of the American economy, large American business corporations were in fact substituting internal private planning and administration for the old decentralized market processes. The progressives, however, were unwilling to transfer the federal lands to such large and concentrated private ownerships. Instead, they sought the scientific management of the lands through the creation of new public agencies with their own comprehensive internal planning and administration. The result was the establishment of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1902, the first federal wildlife refuge in 1903, the U.S. Forest Service in 1905, and the National Park Service in 1916. Democratic socialists advocated similar policies in Europe at the same time, if with less deference given to the need for ultimate democratic control.
The progressives were unwilling to transfer the federal lands to large and concentrated private ownerships.
    Vast areas of federal lands are still present today in the West as the legacy of these progressive-era developments (the Bureau of Land Management, the other federal agency with major land management responsibilities, was not created until 1946, although still as a deferred application of the same progressive principles). Total federal ownership today covers about 50 percent of the land area of the American West. The state of California, remarkably enough, is 45 percent federal land. The lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are commonly known as “the public lands.”
    Like a number of other applications of progressive ideas (regulation of interstate commerce, for example, by the Interstate Commerce Commission), the public lands have failed the test of time. Management of the lands has been neither scientific nor efficient. The old progressive mission of scientific management has been strongly challenged—and indeed sometimes altogether displaced—by new ideas advanced by the environmental movement. Yet, the original progressive institutional forms dating back 100 years remain with us little altered. The result is an antiquated and costly system of public land management that is unsure of either its goals or methods. There is now approaching a consensus among informed observers that public land management wastes large amounts of money while mainly serving the private interests and other narrow groups that benefit from the lands.
    After an initial century of disposal of the lands, and then a second century of federal land retention and direct management, it is time for a new era that will redefine the history of these lands for the 21st century. This will require challenges to longstanding institutions and basic assumptions; such changes are always difficult in government. Long periods may go by in which little of real significance happens. It is difficult if not impossible to predict when the workings of glacial forces may suddenly break loose. It is at least a possibility, however, that the current fiscal crisis will prove to be a precipitating event in finally driving a basic rethinking and reorganization of the public lands in the West. Indeed, the public lands will be a good test case of national fiscal resolve. The public lands offer a leading candidate for government cost cutting.
Public Land Waste
    Just by themselves, the national forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the U.S. Agriculture Department, are 40 percent of the land in Idaho. In Nevada, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Interior Department manages an even larger portion of the State: 68 percent of the total land area. Truth be told, most of rural Nevada is still as much a federal territory as an independent unit under state governance.
    On these public lands, the most important decisions typically concern matters such as the number of cows that will be allowed to graze, building of local roads, levels of timber harvests, leasing of land for oil and gas drilling, building and maintaining hiking trails, prevention and fighting of forest fires, determining areas that will be available to off-road recreational vehicles, and other such routine land management details. Outside the West, such matters are either private or are state and local responsibilities paid for by state and local governments. In the rural West, the federal government often pays—and also decides.
    Although the progressives elevated expert planning and management and the attainment of maximum efficiency to their highest goals, 100 years of public land history have shown that the public lands have seldom been managed either expertly or efficiently. Rather, they have been managed mainly in response to strong political pressures. Under political management—and despite the possession of hundreds of millions of acres of land, and large oil and gas, coal, and other valuable mineral assets—the lands proved to be a money-loser for the federal government. The environmental results have not been much better.
    In 2005, for example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a detailed study of the 2004 revenues and costs of livestock grazing on public lands, the most common use of these lands. The BLM authorizes grazing on 138 million acres of public land “allotments” to specific ranchers, covering about six percent of the total land area of the United States. It is testimony to the arid character of most public lands—in many areas, virtual desert—that such a low-revenue activity as livestock grazing historically has been their most economically valuable use. In 2004, according to the GAO, the BLM spent $58 million nationwide on the management of livestock grazing, while collecting a mere $12 million in grazing fees from the rancher users.
    The GAO estimate of costs, moreover, probably is grossly understated. In many areas of the rural West managed by the BLM, the principal federal concern is to resolve issues generated by conflicts between livestock grazing and other uses. Absent the cattle and sheep on the BLM lands, a major part of the total BLM budget of $1.1 billion might well be unnecessary. Indeed, if all the complications of the livestock presence did not exist, the states would be well positioned to replace the BLM in managing hunting, hiking, fishing and other recreational uses of the lands. Other than minerals and energy management (which are a small part of the total BLM budget, and might themselves also be turned over to the states), there would be little remaining need for the BLM.

To see how Dr. Nelson would reorganize grazing and timber harvest on federal lands 

The Snow Plowers’ Petition

   by Steven Horwitz

    The following might have happened in a small college town in upstate New York…
    In a cold and snowy land there lived the people of the North Country.  Some of them made a living by plowing and disposing of the snow that seemed to fall endlessly from the skies between November and March.  Though the work was hard, and often took place in the dark hours of the early morning, they frequently prospered, since the snowfalls came each year and the people of the North Country needed their driveways and parking lots free of the beautiful white flakes.  The Snow Plowers were happy.
    But in the winter of 2011-12 the snows seemed to stop.  Oh there was a little ice and some snow, but not really enough to plow: Warmer temperatures quickly melted the little that fell.  The Snow Plowers were not happy.  They gathered the people of the town and complained that the lack of snowfall was devastating the economy of the North Country.  Without the income they earned from plowing, they told their fellow citizens, they would have no money to spend at the local grocery store or bars or restaurants.  And their fellow citizens who owned those fine establishments (and worked there too) would see their income fall, leading quickly to an economic disaster.
Saving the Economy
    At first the people of the town nodded along in agreement.  “Yes,” they said, “we must save our economy. But how?”  The Snow Plowers suggested a petition to the Clouds, begging them to bring the snow that would save their business and, through the Magic Multiplier, save their town’s economy.  And so a petition was created.
    But then a wise old man stepped forward and declared this was foolishness.  When asked by the townspeople to explain, here is what he said:
It is true that the lack of snow hurts our friends the Snow Plowers, and that is truly unfortunate.  However, just because they have lost income and therefore cannot spend it in the town and beyond, that does not mean the town as a whole is suffering.  Consider your own situation.  Most winters you spend perhaps $300 to pay the Snow Plowers to clear your driveways.  This winter you have spent but $50.  What has happened to that other $250?  You have presumably spent it (or perhaps put it in the bank to be lent to others who have spent it).  And where did you spend it?  On the exact same things the Snow Plowers would have spent it on.  You have been able to eat out a few more times, buy some extra beers, or a nicer steak at the grocery store, or even some candles.  The economy hasn’t been harmed; the flow of spending has just been altered.  You must, in the words of a wise man, “see the unseen.”  And what is unseen is what you have done instead of pay the Snow Plowers.
The Difference It Makes
    One young man raised his hand and asked, “If this is true, then what you are saying is that it doesn’t make a difference whether it snows or not to our local economy.  So why should we not ask for more snow and help out our friends the Snow Plowers?”
    The wise man responded:
Ah, but it does make a difference.  The rest of us are better off when it doesn’t snow.  Think of it this way: Each time it snows we must spend $25 to get the thing back we value: a usable driveway.  So in snowy winters we give up $300 and have a clean driveway — and that is all.
This winter, by contrast, we have both the clean driveway and the $300.  And we are free to spend that $300 on other things we might want, such as a new flat-screen TV.  This winter we are able to have both a new TV and a clean driveway, while in past years we’ve  had only the clean driveway.  Are we not all better off as a result?   It is unfortunate that our Snow Plower friends are worse off, but would we really prefer a world where we spend $300 to get us right back where we were before the snow?
    The people pondered his wisdom, and they understood.  Some of them suggested that if their Snow Plower friends were truly suffering, the rest might use some of the money they saved by not plowing to help them through winter, perhaps by asking them to do some other sort of much-needed work around their homes or around the town.  After all, painting a room or installing new thermal windows would make them better off in a way that unnecessary snow plowing would not.
    So the Snow Plowers’ petition to the Clouds was ripped up, and the people of the town rejoiced in the windfall created by the absence of snowfall.

This piece originally appeared in The Freeman on Feb. 9th.