Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Mexico firefighters thwarted by rough terrain, wildfires rage

New Mexico's Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire had raged across 82,252 acres (33,286 hectares) as of Friday, although officials said the area could be much larger than that. No new acreage numbers were available Saturday because planes did not conduct an infrared flight Friday night, said Fire Information Officer Dan Ware. "We know that there was significant growth yesterday but we don't have a hard and fast number," Ware said. Some 586 firefighters and support crew were fighting the blaze. "This is the biggest show in the country right now in terms of fire size. So a lot of resources are available to us. We're just not sure we'll be able to do a lot of flying," Ware said. Access to the fire was the chief difficulty. It was burning in very steep, rugged terrain where firefighters are not able to cut fire lines through the brush and timber. "Fire activity was so extreme yesterday we had to pull crews out. We're expecting another day like that today. With such high wind levels and low humidity there's going to be big potential for some major growth," he said...more

The Westerner's Radio Theater #032

Today Ranch Radio brings you The Gene Autry Melody Ranch Show titled Champion Saves Gene's Life.


Fire evacuation set in historic town - Whitewater-Baldy fire now at 82,000 acres

An evacuation of the historic mining community of Mogollon has been ordered as the Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire continues to grow out of control. The order from the Catron County Sheriff's Department is effective at noon Saturday. About a dozen people live in the community tucked into a narrow, wooded canyon on State Road 159. The fire is about two miles from Mogollon, and winds forecast to gust to 50 mph Saturday afternoon are expected to push flames that way, Dan Ware of New Mexico State Forestry told KRQE News 13. Evacuating residents can find shelter in the Glenwood Community Center and can bring their small pets. A temporary collection center for larger animals is being set up at the residence of County Commissioner Hube [sic] McKeen. Late Friday the fire-management team reported "extreme fire behavior" starting around 4 p.m. significantly increased the size of the fire and forced crews to retreat from the fire lines for their own safety.  At last report the size of the fire was estimated at more than 82,000 acres...more

Friday, May 25, 2012

U.S. creates first 'National Blueway'

It may not be quite as busy as the Interstate Highway System on Memorial Day weekend, but this week America christened another kind of interstate transportation network — even though it has existed for thousands of years.The National Blueways System, formally created Thursday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, aims to protect and popularize the country's rivers by taking a holistic approach to conservation. Unlike the current patchwork of federal protections, which typically only cover certain segments of a river, a national blueway will include the entire river "from source to sea," as well as its surrounding watershed.Salazar kicked off the program in Hartford, Conn., giving him an apt backdrop for another announcement: The 410-mile Connecticut River will become America's first national blueway, along with its 7.2 million-acre watershed (see map below) that stretches into Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont...more
I started to say "what will they think of next"...but I'm afraid to think about it.

27 bison trucked into Yellowstone

More than two dozen bison near West Yellowstone were rounded up, loaded onto trucks and hauled back into Yellowstone National Park on Thursday, according to bison advocates and the state wildlife department. In a written statement, the Buffalo Field Campaign said 27 bison — 12 newborn calves, 12 mothers and three 2-year-old animals — were captured at the Montana Department of Livestock’s Duck Creek trap, which is located on private land on the western edge of the park. The animals were released at Fountain Flats inside Yellowstone in the early afternoon, according to the bison watchdog group’s statement...more

So why were they trucked instead of hazed? Because of the enviros lawsuit.

On May 14, U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell issued a 14-day restraining order barring the use of helicopters in hazing operations near the park. Wildlife advocates had argued that the helicopters could harm grizzly bears in the area. Helicopter hazing would have been the best option, said John Youngberg, vice president of government affairs for the Montana Farm Bureau. It’s the fastest and easiest hazing method and puts less stress on the bison than loading them into trucks and hauling them long distances, he said. “This is an option I don’t think they envisioned would happen, but this is one of the few options they have left,” Youngberg said. “I don’t think this is probably the best for the bison, I’ll tell you that up front.”

Do-gooders do damage again.

Conservation Easement: The Nature Conservancy, Inc. v. Sims Opinion Summary: In 2001, the Conservancy sold a 100.10 acre farm in Garrard County, Kentucky to the Sims for $60,084, in addition to a $244,939 charitable pledge from the Sims to the Conservancy. The property appraised at $260,400 without the easement at issue, which requires that the land "be retained forever substantially undisturbed in its natural condition and to prevent any use . . . that will significantly impair or interfere with the Conservation Values of the Protected Property." The Conservancy received an annual right to enter and inspect the property. In January 2005, the Conservancy inspected and documented several violations that concerned excavating and filling a sinkhole. The Sims corrected several other violations. The district court granted summary judgment to the Conservancy, concluding that, although the easement allowed some changes to the topography in conjunction with authorized activities, like plowing for commercial agriculture, the easement specifically prohibited the substantial alteration of filling in a sinkhole with an estimated 6,269 cubic yards of fill. The court awarded the Conservancy $99,796.41 in attorneys’ fees and expenses. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.
A pdf of the opinion is here.

Group seeks to buy Wyoming Range drilling leases

A group opposed to natural gas drilling in the Wyoming Range says it wants to buy leases planned for development by Plains Exploration and Production Co., a move that would halt the company’s controversial project in its tracks. Yet negotiations are at a standstill as the company, also known as PXP, waits for an offer and the group waits for a price. The group, Citizens for the Wyoming Range, opposes the Houston-based company’s plan to drill 136 wells in the Noble Basin near Bondurant. The group has encouraged its members to email PXP officials and encourage the company to sell its drilling leases to a conservation-oriented buyer, said spokesman Dan Smitherman. The purpose of the email campaign and newly planned advertising efforts is to “let PXP know that Wyoming citizens and others who use this area want a buyout solution that benefits everyone,” Smitherman said in a May 18 email to the group’s members...more

Sen. Bingaman, Udall announce Columbus stockyard will reopen

After several months of working with the Obama administration, U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall Thursday announced that a cattle gate in Columbus is being reopened. The gate was closed since March due to U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to restrict its veterinarians from crossing the border because of safety concerns. In letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CBP Commissioner Aguilar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and in subsequent phone calls, the senators asked for the two federal agencies to find a resolution to the problem that satisfies safety concerns as well as the needs of New Mexico ranchers. "I am glad the Obama administration found a solution that makes sense for USDA veterinarians and our state's ranchers," Bingaman said. "This is good news for Luna County."...more

Neither this story nor the Senator's press release tell us what the "solution" is. I'll be checking with the USDA press office to seek an answer.

It's Senator Rand Paul vs. armed bureaucrats

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., dropped a potential bomb into the ongoing battle between local food producers and federal bureaucrats who want to regulate all food transactions. Paul introduced an amendment that would disarm Food and Drug Administration bureaucrats and accomplish several other goals. “I’m troubled by images of armed agents raiding Amish farms and preventing them selling milk directly from the cow,” he said in a Senate floor statement posted online. “I think we have bigger problems in our country than sending armed FDA agents into peaceful farmers’ land and telling them they can’t sell milk directly from the cow.”...more

Below is a video of the Senator's floor statement, followed by background info provided on his website. The amendment was defeated, with both Senator Bingaman and Senator Udall voting against it.

Paul Amendment #2143 to S. 3187, the Prescription Drug User Fee Act

Part I: Health Freedom Act -
  • The amendment forces the FDA to at last comply with the commands of Congress, the First Amendment, numerous federal courts, and the American people by codifying the First Amendment prohibition on prior restraint.
  • Stops the FDA from censoring truthful claims about the curative, mitigative, or preventative effects of dietary supplements.
  • Stops the FDA from prohibiting the distribution of scientific articles and publications regarding the role of nutrients in protecting against disease.
  • Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to deem a food to be misbranded only when its label includes a claim adjudicated to be false and/or misleading.
Part II: Prohibitions on FDA Officials Carrying Firearms and Making Arrests Without Warrants
This section disarms FDA agents (and any and all employees of HHS).
  • The plain language of our Constitution specifies a very limited number of federal crimes. These include treason,[1] counterfeiting,[2] piracy or felonies on the high seas,[3] and offenses against the laws of nations.[4]
  • Yet today, we have over 4,450 criminal offenses in our federal statutes alone. This number does not include the thousands of criminal offenses scattered throughout federal regulations.
  • In order to enforce all these crimes, we've armed our federal agencies, and there are now over 30 federal agencies that have employees authorized to carry firearms and use them.
  • This cycle of criminalizing everything at the federal level and then arming all of our federal agencies needs to stop.
  • Recent FDA armed raids of Amish dairy farmers selling "raw" milk directly from the cow present high-profile examples of why we need to have fewer armed federal agents (and fewer federal crimes).
Part III: Mens Rea Component/Reform -
This section amends the "Prohibited acts" section of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 USC § 331) to strengthen the mens rea ("guilty mind") component of each of the prohibited acts. It adds the words "knowing and willful" to each of the prohibitions.
  • In 2010, the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conducted a study and issued a report regarding the problem of not only the massive proliferation of federal criminal law in general, but particularly the erosion of any meaningful mens rea ("guilty mind") component to these federal laws.
  • This report-Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law-found that over 57% of the offenses considered by the 109th Congress alone contained inadequate mens rea requirements, putting the innocent at risk of criminal punishment. The study also discovered consistently poor legislative drafting and broad delegation of Congress's authority to make criminal laws to unelected officials in administrative agencies-"criminalization by regulation."
  • If Congress is going to criminalize conduct at the federal level as it does in the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, then the least it can do is include an adequate mens rea component.

Song Of The Day #842

Here's another of Ranch Radio's favorites:  Outlaw's Dream by Chuck Pyle.  As I sit here listening in this wheelchair, it hits home on many a beautiful tune.

Sierra Club's Cool Cities Campaign - Alamogordo, Capitan, Las Cruces, Ruidoso

The Sierra Club’s Cool Cities Campaign works with cities that have joined the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to accelerate their implementation of effective programs. To date, more than 1000 mayors nationwide have signed the agreement. In New Mexico, seven cities are participating in the program: Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Capitan, Las Cruces, Ruidoso, Santa Fe (City and County), and Taos. Under the agreement, participating cities commit to take the following three actions:

---Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns.

---Urge their state governments and the federal government to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse-gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol – 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012.

---Urge the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan greenhouse-gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system. Sierra Club

So what have these mayors, especially the ones in southern NM, done to accomplish the three goals they have agreed to?

USDA reserve to accept 3.9 million acres

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it would accept 3.9 million acres into its popular federal program that pays farmers and ranchers for taking environmentally sensitive land out of production. The USDA said the acres would bring total enrollment in its Conservation Reserve Program to about 29 million acres as of Oct. 1, the beginning of the government’s 2013 fiscal year. An estimated 29.6 million acres nationally are currently enrolled in the reserve, with contracts for 6.5 million acres set to expire on Sept. 30. The figure would still remain below the 32 million acre cap allowed by Congress. The USDA received nearly 48,000 offers on more than 4.5 million acres of land during the five-week sign-up period from farmers and ranchers across the country. Offers are examined for benefits in reduced soil erosion and improved air quality, water purity, wildlife habitat and long-term advantages. Rental payments would average $51.24 an acre. The 3.9 million acres of land could produce 178 million bushels of wheat, or 647 million bushels of corn, or 171 million bushels of soybeans, based on recent USDA projections for the 2012-13 crop year...more

Notice the implication: If these lands remained in production there would be more soil erosion and less air quality, water purity and wildlife habitat.

The primary purpose of this program, though, is political, as it is designed to bring enviros and farmers together to support the biggest boondoggle of all - The Farm Bill.   Enviros for wildlife habitat, etc. and farmers for supply control and a direct payment.

The article states, "But livestock producers have pushed for the land reserve to be cut, in order to increase crop production and potentially reduce the cost of feed."  Just a cut?  How about elimination. Anyway, a classic example of how government intervention to assist one sector damages another.

'Stinky' wildfire smoke invades Albuquerque

Critical fire conditions continued Friday across the dry and windy Southwest -- including New Mexico where a massive wildfire destroyed a dozen homes and left a smoky haze over Albuquerque that one weatherman described as "stinky." Haze from the fire covered much of the state and the smell moved overnight into Albuquerque, which is 170 miles from the fire, NBC affiliate KOB-TV reported. "It's a little bit stinky," KOB weatherman Steve Stucker said on Friday morning's news show. Crews have not been able to cut a containment line ahead of the fire, which threatens more homes after destroying 12 in the Willow Creek community. The wildfire, which has burned 110 square miles, is the biggest of a dozen burning in parts of five Southwestern states. Blazes in rugged, mountainous areas of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have forced the evacuation of a few small towns and torched at least 170 square miles of forest, brush and grass since mid-month...more

I'll bet the folks in the Gila are so sorry the Albq. weatherman is inconvenienced. What he should be commenting on is the "stinky" management of our forests by the feds. The smell would overwhelm him.

NM Slaughterhouse owner defends plan to butcher horses - video

(CBS News) Wild horses that roam America's prairies are the very heartbeat of the old west. While some see majesty in their freedom, others see profit. Not in what horses bring to wranglers and ranchers, but to slaughterhouses for their meat. Rick de los Santos of Roswell, New Mexico has spent tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit his slaughterhouse hoping to become the first meat plant since 2007 to butcher horses and export their meat. The tough economy took its toll on de los Santos. He and his wife Sarah run this family business together. They've lost more than $200,000 over the past two years. But they saw a new opportunity. Upon the recommendation of its accountability office, Congress reversed a five-year-old ban on American horse slaughter, agreeing it had made conditions worse for the animals. Many of them were trucked over the border to Mexico for slaughter under horrible conditions as documented by the Humane Society. "So, these horses are going into Mexico to be slaughtered there," de los Santos said. "And all we want is to take care of 'em here." De los Santos applied for a license and began to retrofit his plant to meet the new USDA requirements. He was delighted to learn his would be the first American slaughterhouse cleared to sell horsemeat to Mexico, Belgium and a host of other countries where it is considered a delicacy. Now relief has turned to frustration. "It's cost us about $75,000, that's what it's cost us, just to get ready to slaughter horses," de los Santos said. "It's sitting idle." Believing he's fulfilled the USDA requirements, he's been anxious to get his final government inspection and license. But it's been nearly four expensive months of waiting for the USDA to pay a visit. "It's very frustrating for when, when you send your paperwork to the USDA and get it back, and we get, "It's incomplete.'" De Los Santos thinks the delay is deliberate since he's become a focal point in the anti-horse slaughter movement. A bill has been introduced on Capitol Hill to ban horse slaughter for good. And even the governor of New Mexico released a statement about his business, saying "...creating a slaughterhouse in New Mexico is wrong."...more

Here's the CBS report, an objective report on the issue...until the three in-studio anchors add their comments.

U.N. Summit Will Push for a More Powerful Global Environmental Agency

Ahead of a mammoth United Nations sustainability conference in Rio de Janeiro next month, the Brazilian government has signaled a new push to get the U.N.’s top environmental body upgraded – a push long opposed by the United States. Brazil wants to breathe new life into an initiative -- vigorously promoted since the 1990s by European leaders -- to replace the 40 year-old U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) with a full-fledged “specialized agency,” dubbed the U.N. Environment Organization (UNEO). Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told a press briefing last Friday that the issue was a priority for her government, but she acknowledged that “there is no consensus in international organizations on the proposal to create an environment agency” during the summit, known as Rio+20. “We are working hard looking for the best way to achieve this,” she said.  In what the U.N.’s Division for Sustainable Development says will be the biggest conference ever organized by the U.N., around 50,000 people, including some 135 heads of state and government (or deputies) will take part in the June 20-22 event. During an earlier briefing, Brazilian Rio+20 organizer Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said his government believed that “UNEP should be strengthened as an environmental pillar, because in its present condition it is incapable of adequately carrying out its task.” “One option is the possible transformation of UNEP into a specialized agency of the United Nations. A strengthened UNEP could enhance coherence between relevant multilateral environmental agreements, and better integrate its work with the activities of development institutions, especially the United Nations Development Program,” it said. A “program” is a lesser entity than an “agency” in the U.N. hierarchy, with the latter enjoying more power, more autonomy – and more funding...more

"...more power, more autonomy - and more funding..."  More funding, more mischief.

Obama's Land of the LOST

What's green and blue and grabby all over? President Obama's new pressure campaign for Congress to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). The fight over LOST goes back three decades, when it was first rejected by President Ronald Reagan. He warned that "no national interest of the United States could justify handing sovereign control of two-thirds of the Earth's surface over to the Third World." According to top Reagan officials William Clark and Ed Meese, their boss believed the "central, and abiding, defect" was "its effort to promote global government at the expense of sovereign nation states -- and most especially the United States." The persistent transnationalists who drafted LOST favor creation of a massive United Nations bureaucracy that would draw ocean boundaries, impose environmental regulations and restrict business on the high seas. They've tinkered with the document obsessively since the late '60s, enlisted Presidents Clinton and Bush, and recruited soon-to-depart GOP Sen. Dick Lugar to their crusade. Ignore the mushy save-the-planet rhetoric. Here's the bottom line: Crucial national security decisions about our naval and drilling operations would be subject to the vote of 162 other signatories, including Cuba, China and Russia. While our sovereignty would be redistributed around the world, most of the funding for the massive LOST regulatory body would come from -- you guessed it! -- the United States. Forbes columnist Larry Bell reports that "as much as 7 percent of U.S. government revenue that is collected from oil and gas companies operating off our coast" would be meted out to "poorer, landlocked countries." This confiscatory act of environmental justice would siphon billions, if not trillions, away from Americans. International royalties would be imposed; an international tribunal would be set up to mediate disputes. There would be no opportunity for court appeals in the U.S...more

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Forest Service responds to ski area water lawsuit

The U.S. Forest Service has responded to the ski industry's lawsuit over water rights, claiming it has every legal right to attach certain requirements to ski area permits ensuring that the water originating in streams on public lands remain dedicated continued ski area obligations.  In the response, the Forest Service said: "The 2012 ski area water rights clause speaks for itself and is the best evidence of its contents. Defendants deny any allegations contrary to the plain language and meaning of the 2012 ski area water rights clause. Defendants deny any violation of the Constitution, federal law or regulation." The latest skirmish in the long-running water war started late last year when the agency inserted a new water rights clause into standard ski area permits. The clause replaced language developed in 2004 that gave ski areas more absolute control over the water. According to the Forest Service, the 2004 language could have enabled resorts to sell off some of their water rights. More background here.  The ski industry sees it differently. Testifying on behalf of the National Ski Areas Association, Boulder attorney Glenn Porzak last November told a congressional committee that the new clause is a takings, essentially forcing ski resorts to relinquish control of water rights worth tens of millions of dollars.  The NSAA subsequently challenged the agency in court, claiming that the Forest Service failed to provide an opportunity for public comment on the changes, and also that it didn't analyze the economic impacts of the permit change.  The Forest Service response, filed last month, acknowledges that the agency adopted the rule without taking comment, but says that existing laws enable the agency to make certain administrative changes without public process. Similarly, the agency claimed it's not required to do an economic analysis for certain administrative changes. The ski industry also recognizes that the value of their resorts is linked with those water rights. In fact, the lawsuit specifies that the resorts use those rights as assets on their balance sheets, and that any uncertainty regarding those rights could affect their credit...more

Tombstone Ain’t Dead Yet

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service got the drop on Tombstone when the City’s request for an emergency injunction was denied by Senior Judge Frank Zapata of the United States District Court. But Tombstone’s legal posse has a more than a few rounds left in the chamber. The Goldwater Institute has already appealed the decision as a violation of the Tenth Amendment and, on May 21st, we filed an emergency motion for an injunction with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the City of Tombstone. The motion urges the Court to allow Tombstone to repair its Huachuca Mountain water system because the loss of water to the City is especially dangerous now that wildfire season has arrived. It is entirely possible that the motion will be granted in just a few days. But even if it is denied, the City won’t be firing blanks just yet. The next move is an emergency request before Justice Anthony Kennedy, who “rides” the Ninth Circuit. Meanwhile the cavalry is on the horizon. County and rancher organizations from around the Western States are gearing up to file “Friend of the Court” briefs in support of Tombstone’s appeal. And three days after the denial of Tombstone’s request for emergency relief from Judge Zapata, U.S. Representative Jeff Flake introduced a bill entitled the “Emergency Water Supply Restoration Act.” The bill would allow state and local governments to freely and fully restore water supplies in Wilderness Areas without interference from federal agencies during a declared State of Emergency. No doubt the bill will catch the U.S. Forest Service’s attention...more

Editorial: Give people say on public lands

Wilderness areas are important. We should have as many as the country can afford without shutting down so much production that our country’s ability to extract reasonable quantities of trees and minerals from federal land is not unreasonably impeded by conservation efforts. It is an important balancing act.

What is considered reasonable involves interpretation. The balance in a dilemma of this nature should fall to our representative form of government.

Elected representatives from all reaches of the country should decide how much of our federal land can be used for extraction of commodities or recreational activities, and how much should simply sit dormant for the conservation of habitat and wildlife.

But in 2001, the U.S. Forest Service adopted by fiat the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. It severely restricted — essentially forbade — road construction on a whopping 58.5 million acres of federal forest and grasslands.

President George W. Bush tried to modify the rule, empowering state governments to determine which areas would be open for road construction and which would remain roadless wilderness areas.

In 2006, a U.S. District Court judge ruled against the Bush administration in an opinion that said the policy “established a new regime in which management of roadless areas within the national forests would, for the first time, vary not just forest by forest but state by state. This new approach raises a substantial question about the rules’s potential effect on the environment.”

The same judge, Elizabeth Laporte, issued an order in November 2006 to ban road construction on land where 327 special oil and gas leases had been issued by the Bush administration — most in Colorado, Utah and North Dakota.

These impediments to mining and logging were upheld by the federal court of appeals in Denver last fall. As it stands, the people have no say in the matter through their elected representatives. Instead, extraction of resources on federal land lies at the discretion of unelected federal bureaucrats — people who work for the public and are supposed to answer to our elected officials. It’s the metaphorical tail wagging the dog at a time when our country needs economic progress in the form of resource production.

As such, the state of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the matter. The mining association contends that the Forest Service has established wilderness areas administratively with its roadless rule. Authority to establish wilderness areas resides only with Congress.

We hope the Supreme Court will hear the case and consider the importance of leaving major decisions regarding public lands to the public’s representation in Washington, D.C.

When public lands are controlled by unelected employees — people who do not answer directly to the people — they have been commandeered from the public for the benefit of special interests. That’s not how our system was designed to work.

Originally posted at JDNews.

Glen Canyon Dam releases aim to improve Colo. River

The Interior Department said it will test high-volume water releases from the Glen Canyon Dam in an effort to simulate natural flooding and improve sediment flow through the Grand Canyon. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also announced Wednesday that the department will remove and relocate, rather than destroy, non-native fish species in the Colorado River as part of a long-term study on the river. “We’re protecting one of world’s most treasured landscapes,” said Salazar, who called the Colorado the “lifeblood” of the region for the water and power it provides. Under the plan unveiled Wednesday, the department could begin releasing high amounts of water from the Glen Canyon Dam as early as this October to enhance sediment levels and help restore beaches on the Colorado River. If it works, similar releases from the dam on the Arizona-Utah border could continue when conditions are favorable for high sediment deposits, usually during early spring or fall, through 2020. Nikolai Lash, a program director at the Grand Canyon Trust, called the high-flow experiments a “home run” in preserving the canyon and river...more

BREAKING: 12 homes and 7 outbuildings destroyed in Willow Creek, fire in the Gila at 70,000 acres

Twelve summer homes and seven outbuildings have burned in the Willow Creek subdivision as the Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire has now grown to 70,000 acres and continues to burn uncontained in the Gila. The fire is still zero percent contained at this time due to wind and aggressive fire behavior, which is expected to continue throughout today and Friday, according to Sharma Hutchinson with the Gila National Forest. A pre-evacuation is in place for the town of Mogollon, as the fire has dropped down into a canyon near there, she said. If the fire continues to back into the wind there, the town of Mogollon could be compromised as well...more

Henry Lamb R.I.P.

It is with very deep regret that I am informing everyone that Henry Lamb passed away today.

There aren't proper words to describe Henry and what his passing will mean to us all. It was because of Henry that we learned about the encroachments on our property rights, the Biodiversity Treaty and Agenda 21.

Irene Lamb will let me know what arrangements are made at a later time. Henry wanted to be cremated and his wishes will be carried out. We may have a memorial at a later date.

I personally want to say that I have lost a great friend and comrade.

You may view the works of Henry at and

Please pass this on so that everyone in the Liberty Community will learn of this terrible loss and I am sorry if I missed sending it to anyone.

Norman Davis

Cattlemen want federal plan to transfer community pastures to Prairies delayed

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is calling on Ottawa to delay its plan to transfer control of 900,000 hectares of community pasture to the Prairie provinces. The federal government wants to shift responsibility for these pastures to the provinces over six years starting in 2013. Cattlemen's president Martin Unrau says the association wants a one-year delay to give producers who graze their cattle on these pastures more time to plan for the transition. Ranchers are also worried about the environmental consequences of the switch. "They have built their whole operations around being able to take cattle to these places so people's livelihoods are at stake," Unrau said Wednesday from his farm near MacGregor, Man. The association supports the transfer but wants assurances the pastures, which could be sold off by the provinces, are maintained as designated agricultural land for cattle grazing...more

If only we could get our feds to do this...

Mystery deer threaten environment in Hawaii

Deer can swim, but not very far. So when they showed up for the first time on the Big Island of Hawaii, mystified residents wondered how they got there. The island is some 30 miles southeast of Maui, where deer are plentiful. Hawaii wildlife authorities think someone dropped a few deer from a helicopter on the island’s northern tip. And tracks along the southern coast indicate deer were pushed into the ocean from a boat and forced to paddle ashore. Whether they arrived by air or sea, wildlife managers want to eradicate them to avoid a repeat of the destruction seen on other islands where deer ate through vineyards, avocado farms and forests where endangered species live. Officials estimate there are 100 deer on the northern and southern ends of the Big Island. A government-funded group is leading efforts to get rid of them before they breed. Axis deer, called chital in their native India, are similar in size to whitetail deer found in the continental U.S. Tigers and leopards keep axis deer numbers reasonable in India, but the deer population is growing 20 percent to 30 percent annually in Hawaii because there aren’t any natural predators — except for humans. The deer first came to Hawaii in the 1860s as a gift from Hong Kong to the monarch who ruled at the time, King Kamehameha V. They were first taken to Molokai Island...more

Reward offered in shooting of 14 cattle in ND

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association is offering a $1,000 reward for information that helps authorities track down the person or people who shot and killed 14 cattle in a pasture in the southeastern part of the state. The state's largest rancher group can't recall a similar case involving the killing of so many cattle at once, Stockmen's Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson told The Forum newspaper. "Livestock producers devote their lives, their livelihoods to the cattle; they work hard to care for the animals," she said. "It's heartbreaking anytime you lose even one. It's hard to imagine how they must feel when something of this magnitude happens." The 13 cows and a calf belonging to David Kluge, of Hankinson, were killed late last week, according to authorities. The animals were valued at about $30,000, and Kluge said the loss goes beyond money. "We've got more than 120 years of breeding here," he said. "You can't buy that, and we've lost them."...more

Wolf likely killed calf at Methow ranch

A Methow Valley rancher may get the distinction of receiving Washington's first compensation for livestock killed by wolves. State and federal wildlife managers have determined that wolves likely caused injuries that resulted in a death of a calf on a Methow Valley ranch May 18 and that the landowner would qualify for compensation. The landowner would be the first in the state to qualify for compensation under criteria established by the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan adopted late last year. Steve Pozzanghera, a regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it was not possible to say for certain that wolves caused the injuries that resulted in the death of the calf, although evidence at the scene supports that conclusion. “The calf was mostly consumed by the time the department was called in,” Pozzanghera said. “But photos of the carcass taken earlier by the rancher as well as tracks located in the area were definitely consistent with wolves.” Pozzanghera also noted that the 3,000-acre ranch near Carlton is in an area traditionally used by the Lookout wolf pack, and that remote, motion-triggered cameras had photographed two wolves on nearby National Forest land in recent weeks. The Lookout pack is one of five wolf packs confirmed by WDFW in the state. The department is currently working to confirm other wolf packs...more

Mixed feelings over restoring wild bison in Montana

Restoring bison to the Montana plains drew a diverse mix of 50 ranchers, conservation groups and tribal officials to a meeting in Great Falls on Wednesday. "Bison management is an experiment that could easily go as wrong as the wolves," said Steve Hedstrom, a Raynesford rancher who is chairman of the governor's Rangeland Resource Committee. But Ervin Carlson, a Blackfeet rancher who also runs the tribe's buffalo herd, countered that bison and cattle can coexist. "Buffalo are wildlife and they should be managed on a same level as other wildlife," Carlson said. In 2010, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks began evaluating establishing a wild plains bison population in the state and the meeting in Great Falls was the seventh of eight to gather comments...more

Song Of The Day #841

Ranch Radio brings you another one of our favorite songs concerning modern day events in the West: Claude Dallas by Ian Tyson.

The tune is on his 11 track CD Cowboyography.

Will Truckers Ditch Diesel?

Rising diesel costs last year forced Waste Management Inc. to charge customers an extra $169 million, just to keep its garbage trucks fueled. This year, the nation's biggest trash hauler has a new defensive strategy: it is buying trucks that will run on cheaper natural gas. In fact, the company says 80% of the trucks it purchases during the next five years will be fueled by natural gas. Though the vehicles cost about $30,000 more than conventional diesel models, each will save $27,000-a-year or more in fuel, says Eric Woods, head of fleet logistics for Waste Management. By 2017, the company expects to burn more natural gas than diesel. "The economics favoring natural gas are overwhelming," says Scott Perry, a vice president at Ryder Systems Inc., one of the nation's largest truck-leasing companies and a transporter for the grocery, automotive, electronics and retail industries. The shale gas revolution, which cut the price of natural gas by about 45% over the past year, already has triggered a shift by the utility industry to natural gas from coal. Vast amounts of natural gas in shale rock formations have been unlocked by improved drilling techniques, making the fuel cheap and plentiful across the U.S...more

Smoke From Wildfires Affecting Southwestern N.M.

The two lightening-sparked fires burning in the Gila have merged and are now at more than 22,000 acres and a precautionary evacuation has been issued for the summer community of Willow Creek. Alex Torres, a public information officer with the Gila National Forest, said the Whitewater Fire, which has been burning since May 16 about 10 miles northeast of Glenwood and five miles southwest of Willow Creek, grew by 9,000 acres Tuesday night due to high winds. Both air support and fire crews are standing by, he said, waiting for the winds to die down so they can begin to attack the growing blaze. Seven people were evacuated from Willow Creek, a summer community of 57 homes, at 5 p.m. Tuesday, he said. Residents were allowed back in Wednesday morning to retrieve their belongings and then evacuated again. He said fire crews are putting sprinklers, hoses and water tanks in the subdivision to protect it in the event the fire heads that direction. The fire remains at zero percent containment because firefighters are unable to directly suppress it due to extreme fire behavior. Red Flag Warnings, noting high winds, were in effect Tuesday and Wednesday and are expected to continue into today. Air support has been grounded because of the wind but one air tanker and two helicopters are standing by at the Silver City Fire Cache waiting for winds to decrease, and another is standing by at incident command post at the Negrito Fire Base. More than 400 personnel are on the fire and had been working on contingency lines to keep the fire from spreading into Willow Creek. Torres said they have not been able to put any fire crews in the canyon because of the rugged terrain and the extreme fire behavior and unpredictable winds. Crews were pulled back to staging areas on Wednesday for their safety. They will continue to monitor the fire and start to suppress it as soon as they can safely do so. The Baldy Fire was also sparked by lightening, on May 8, about a mile south of the Mogollon Baldy lookout tower in the Gila Wilderness. That fire was previously being managed and not actively suppressed but now that the two have merged, fire managers are assessing what they need for resources on the fire. On Tuesday, the fire made a run up the south side of Willow Mountain and southwest toward Lipsey Canyon and made a substantial run eastward toward Turkey Feather Mountain. This extreme fire behavior created a large column of smoke which was visible in many communities in New Mexico as well as some in Arizona. Ash was reported falling 35 to 40 miles away due to the strong winds. The fire is burning at times through heavily timbered areas causing smoke to become more concentrated and smoke is clearly visible from the Silver City area and is affecting much of the southern third of New Mexico...more


"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it."  -- H. L. Mencken

Drone Program Aims To 'Accelerate' Use Of Unmanned Aircraft By Police

The Department of Homeland Security has launched a program to "facilitate and accelerate the adoption" of small, unmanned drones by police and other public safety agencies, an effort that an agency official admitted faces "a very big hurdle having to do with privacy."  The $4 million Air-based Technologies Program, which will test and evaluate small, unmanned aircraft systems, is designed to be a "middleman" between drone manufacturers and first-responder agencies "before they jump into the pool," said John Appleby, a manager in the DHS Science and Technology Directorate's division of borders and maritime security. Appleby provided program details to a friendly audience at the Counter Terror Expo here last week. Just days before, the Federal Aviation Administration had issued new rules to streamline licensing for government agencies seeking to operate lightweight drones. The DHS program "is meant to aid the user community in making informed decisions" about buying drones, said a DHS spokeswoman. She said the department can help law enforcement agencies "better understand what this technology can contribute in areas such as real-time law enforcement operational support; special event response; crime scene situational awareness; border security; fire/wildfire detection; and disaster evaluation and initial response." It may be a few years before these automated eyes fill the sky, but privacy advocates, lawmakers and civil liberties groups are already worried about potential abusesIndeed, an ACLU report released this past December said, "Our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values." It warned of a coming "'surveillance society' in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities." A preview of that came in 2007 when Houston police not so secretly tested an unmanned aircraft that the department hoped to use, among other functions, in issuing speeding tickets. More recently, a police SWAT team in Grand Forks, N.D., deployed a borrowed DHS Predator drone to assist in making the first arrest of an American using pilot-less airborne surveillance.  The FAA has already authorized police in a handful of cities -- including Seattle; Arlington, Texas; North Little Rock, Ark.; Gadsden, Ala.; and Ogden, Utah -- to fly drones. But with those numbers set to soar, at least two pundits have suggested an individual who shot down a surveillance drone would become a "hero" to some. Once "the bottleneck has passed and every police department does indeed have eyes everywhere, our notions of privacy under the Fourth Amendment and reasonable searches … will need to be reevaluated," wrote University of North Dakota aviation law professor Joseph Vacek in a 2010 law review article, "Big Brother Will Soon Be Watching--Or Will He?" "It seems the state will have the power, both constitutionally and technologically, to continually monitor its citizens from above."...more

Spy-Butterfly: Israel developing insect drone for indoor surveillance

The future is here and this is not a butterfly on your wall, as Israeli drones are getting tiny. Their latest project – a butterfly-shaped drone weighing just 20 grams - the smallest in its range so far – can gather intelligence inside buildings.­The new miniscule surveillance device can take color pictures and is capable of a vertical take-off and hover flight, just like a helicopter, reports the daily Israel Hayom. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) says this may come in handy in ground clashes, when a soldier would merely take it out of a pocket and send behind the enemy’s line. The insect-drone, with its 0.15-gram camera and memory card, is managed remotely with a special helmet. Putting on the helmet, you find yourself in the “butterfly’s cockpit” and virtually see what the butterfly sees – in real time. “The butterfly’s advantage is its ability to fly in an enclosed environment. There is no other aerial vehicle that can do that today,” Dubi Binyamini, head of IAI’s mini-robotics department, told Israel Hayom...more

Smugglers bringing diseased horses across Mexican border

Ten horses authorities believe were smuggled into Texas across the Mexican border are infected with Equine Piroplasmosis (EP), a condition routinely found in Mexico and numerous other countries around the world, and a condition that can prove fatal to horses and could create major constraints to interstate and international movements if left undetected. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents seized the horses near the Rio Grande River in Hudspeth County, just south of El Paso. USDA’s Animal Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) took control of the animals which are being quarantined in Presidio (Texas) pending an investigation. CBP officials say they believe the horses may have been led across a shallow river crossing near Indian Springs. All ten of the horses were confirmed with the disease. APHIS officials say illegal movement of animals across the border is an ongoing problem in that region. "In some places the Rio Grande poses no barrier at all to foot traffic for man or animal," reports Dr. Grant Wease with USDA-APHIS in El Paso. "In 2011, approximately 280 head of cattle and 160 head of equine—mostly horses—were intercepted by USDA officials along the Rio Grande." Last week, Kevin Good, assistant Texas State Parks director, warned of escalating problems with feral burros crossing the Rio Grande and taking up residence in the Big Bend Ranch State Park, where they pose a threat to native wildlife because they compete for forage and water resources. Officials think that these ten diseased horses may be part of an organized smuggling operation. CBP agents say the horses may have been stolen from Mexican ranches and brought across the border to sell. Because of the rugged landscape and miles of remote river crossing, detection of such smuggling operations are difficult. Dr. Wease says drug violence in Mexico poses another problem for inspectors in the remote regions of the border. He says illegal activities and the presence of all types of smuggling operations in the region even makes monitoring and inspections of legal animal imports a major risk along the border...more

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Government Scientist Believed Impacts from Arizona Uranium Mining "Grossly Overestimated" in Obama Administration Document

Internal emails obtained by the House Natural Resources Committee raise significant questions into the science used by the Obama Administration to justify a 20-year ban on uranium development on one million acres of federal land in Arizona. In the emails, scientists within the National Park Service discuss how the potential environmental impacts were “grossly overestimated” in the Administration’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and that the potential impacts are “very minor to negligible.”
A National Park Service hydrologist wrote in an internal email, “The DEIS goes to great lengths in an attempt to establish impacts to water resources from uranium mining. It fails to do so, but instead creates enough confusion and obfuscation of hydrologic principles to create the illusion that there could be adverse impacts if uranium mining occurred.” He notes that “previous studies have been unable to detect significant contamination downstream of current or past mining operations” and that “adverse impacts to water resources” is not a reason to be concerned about potential uranium mining operations.
Another employee with the National Park Service wrote that this is a case “where the hard science doesn’t strongly support a policy position.”
“These emails raise serious concerns about whether the Obama Administration’s decision to block uranium production in Arizona was based on politics rather than sound science,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings. “Developing uranium in the United States will create high-paying jobs, boost the economy, lower our dependence on foreign countries, and support clean American energy. The Administration’s unilateral action to block uranium development on this land threatens America’s energy security and ignores numerous studies showing that it can be done safely in an environmentally conscious manner.”
In response to the emails, Chairman Hastings (WA-04) and Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) sent a letter today to the Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking for documents, including emails, notes, briefing papers and memoranda, concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and the Record of Decision in support of the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal. Chairman Hastings also requested that the Department of the Interior provide complete and unredacted copies of 399 pages previously concealed by the Obama Administration in response to a document request in 2009...Press Release

Obama's Interior chief blasts ‘crazy’ Senate holds on nominees

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is ramping up political pressure on Senate Republicans to drop the common practice of using legislative “holds” to block confirmation of top officials. “I think it is a crazy situation when the work of the people of the United States can’t get done because the Senate won’t confirm highly qualified people who are nominated and have great support,” Salazar said Tuesday. A number of President Obama’s choices for top Interior Department and Energy Department roles have languished in the Senate, though Salazar emphasized that Interior’s work is chugging along uninterrupted. E&E Daily reported this month that Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) intends to hold up the confirmation of Marcilynn Burke, who Obama tapped early this year to be Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Republicans have taken aim at past work by Burke, a former law professor, with the litigation committee of the group Defenders of Wildlife. She currently holds the assistant secretary position in an acting capacity. In January, the White House ended its battle to win confirmation of Rebecca Wodder, who was Obama’s choice to be Interior’s assistant secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks. Wodder, who led the group America Rivers from 1994 - 2011, drew GOP criticism over past statements critical of hydraulic fracturing, mountaintop removal coal mining and other energy matters...more

Farmers, energy companies battle over drilling waste regulations

The New Mexico Oil and Conservation Commission listened to a week of testimony from ranchers, farmers and oil and gas companies about whether to amend what's call the pit rule. It's a set of standards on how to handle drilling waste. On the one side, ranchers and farmers said the restrictions are necessary to ensure the water doesn't become contaminated. "It's a no-brainer," pecan orchardist Peter Niles said. "I want to have clean water for my orchard and for me to drink. Clean water, well, it's kind of like the most important thing you can have." But on the other side, oil and gas companies argue those standards come at a high cost. New Mexico State University Professor Jim Peach said the cost can be around $200,000 for each well...more

Eastern Oregon cattle ranchers plead not guilty to illegally setting rangeland fires

Two members of a prominent Eastern Oregon cattle ranching family pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges they conspired to illegally set fires on federally managed grazing lands dating back years. Dwight L. Hammond Jr., 70, and his son, 43-year-old Steven D. Hammond, are accused of targeting rangelands in a Piper Super Cub airplane, then setting fires that burned through acreage managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Hammonds, who own and operate Hammond Ranches Inc. near the community of Diamond, face a criminal trial set for June 12 in Pendleton. Government court papers suggest the Hammonds were displeased that "BLM 'takes too long' to complete the required environmental studies before doing controlled rangeland burning."...more

Song Of The Day #841

We had a modern day cowboy song yesterday and Ranch Radio will just stay with that genre this week.

I spoke at the Erik Ness funeral last week, and Michael Martin Murphey was there and gave a beautiful performance. Here's a Murphey tune titled Storm Over The Rangeland (The Ballad of Kit Laney). That was an issue both Erik and I were involved with, and Murphey does a great job of bringing it to musical life.

The tune is on his 11 track CD Heartland Cowboy.

River restoration projects to begin in every state and DC

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today identified river projects in 10 western and Pacific Northwest states to serve as models of the America’s Great Outdoors River Initiative to conserve rivers across the nation. The 10 river projects are part of a list of 51 ongoing projects that the Secretary is highlighting nationwide, one in each state and the District of Columbia. As part of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers, Interior Department agencies - including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - will work with states and communities to advance river restoration and recreation by providing technical and other assistance through existing programs and staff, and by leveraging non-federal investments. Salazar unveiled America’s Great Outdoors Rivers in January as part of President Obama’s overall America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The goals of America’s Great Outdoors Rivers include protecting and restoring America’s rivers for people and wildlife and enhancing river recreation that supports jobs in tourism and outdoor recreation...

Oversight panel gets tough, moves to slam brakes on Obama’s runaway EPA

In a scorching showdown letter dated May 10, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan demanded that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson surrender documents she doesn’t want made public. The seething but civil congressmen requested all the documentation that went into the EPA’s unprecedented and legally questionable attempt to preemptively block the permit of Alaska’s multi-billion dollar Pebble copper mine even before the permitting process begins. This novel, front-end attack on jobs and economic development hinges on the convoluted Clean Water Act (CWA) and clever gimmicks lurking in its litigation-prone Section 404(c). Water is the regulator’s perfect power grab target; nearly every development needs water. The proposed mine itself, with its massive copper deposit and smaller amount of gold, is just a convenient symbol to trigger anti-mine public emotion. Issa and Jordan evidently realized that the EPA was using the Pebble project as a test bed to inflate the agency’s total regulatory authority far beyond the clear intent of Congress. EPA’s weapon is what matters; it’s a supposedly scientific “watershed assessment” of the Bristol Bay locale surrounding the proposed mine, conducted before the scientists had any idea of what the mine would look like, with no input from the mine developers, and manipulated to show potentially horrible damage to a prized salmon run, something scary enough to justify withholding the permit. That’s the EPA’s clever new power grab gimmick: a preemptive veto. No permit, no mine. Now, hypothetically apply that power to every new development in America’s future: No permit, no anything. You can see where this is going...more

Amid Economic Concerns, Carbon Capture Faces a Hazy Future

For a world dependent on fossil fuels, carbon capture and storage (CCS) could be a key to controlling greenhouse gas emissions. But the technology meant to scrub carbon dioxide pollution from the air is experiencing stiff headwinds that have stalled many projects at the bottom line. Many companies have determined that expensive CCS operations simply aren't worth the investment without government mandates or revenue from carbon prices set far higher than those currently found at the main operational market, the European Trading System, or other fledgling markets. According to a recent Worldwatch Institute report, only eight large-scale, fully integrated CCS projects are actually operational, and that number has not increased in three years. "In fact, from 2010 to 2011, the number of large-scale CCS plants operating, under construction, or being planned declined," said Matt Lucky, the report's author. Numerous projects in Europe and North America are being scrapped altogether, Lucky added. Last month, TransAlta, the Canadian electricity giant, abandoned plans for a CCS facility at an Alberta coal-burning plant because financial incentives were too weak to justify costly investment in CCS...more

It's not profitable "without government mandates or revenue from carbon prices set far higher"; i.e without government control of the energy sector. Our problem is those damned old energy companies keep producing too much. Now if we could just limit their access to offshore and onshore sources of energy...

Notice too how gov't would "set" prices, a practice which would be illegal price-fixing if done by the private sector.

America's Most Innovative Neighborhood: 15 Square Miles In New Mexico, Population: 0

This summer, Pegasus Global Holdings will begin building a city from scratch in the desert just outside of Hobbs, New Mexico, that will look not unlike Hobbs itself. The Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation will be modeled on a mid-sized, mid-American town of about 35,000 people. Hobbs, located just outside the Texas border in the Southeastern corner of the state, is just a bit larger than that. The new city--CITE, as the locals and out-of-town developers call it--will similarly have a kind of downtown, a retail district, residential neighborhoods, and collar communities. It will have functioning roads, self-sustaining utilities, and its own communications infrastructure. It will not, however, have a single permanent resident. After years of pursuing high-tech companies, Hobbs will be getting what might be one of the most impressive high-tech novelties around: a 15-square mile, fully functioning but empty town next door, unlike any other R&D facility in the world, that will be used to test everything about the future of smart cities, from autonomous cars to new wireless networks. This empty city would address one of the great obstacles to the commercialization of new technology: that “valley of death” between early-stage R&D and the deep pockets that are willing to invest in products once they have hard data behind them. Pegasus itself develops early-stage intellectual property at that moment just after basic R&D but before prototyping. It has routinely struggled, however, to find testing beds to evaluate prototypes before they can be commercialized. As it turns out, there are not a lot of places in the world to test real-life conditions without real, live people around...more

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Expanding fire prompts Gila evacuations

Firefighters facing high winds and hostile terrain are recommending campers and seasonal residents clear out of Willow Creek in the Gila National Forest.In addition to the precautionary evacuation of Willow Creek , firefighters themselves have pulled back for their own safety. The fire first detected on May 16 was estimated at 1,000 acres Tuesday morning, but that was before Red Flag conditions set in. Red Flag warnings are issued when a combination of high temperatures, low humidity and dangerous winds create critical fire conditions. "The fire is currently growing and continues to burn in steep, rugged terrain of mixed conifer forest," a statement from fire bosses late Tuesday afternoon said. "The fire remains at zero percent containment as firefighters are unable to directly suppress the fire due to extreme fire behavior...more

Feds consider adding poisonous rattlesnake to endangered species list

Environmental groups have convinced the federal government to propose listing the poisonous eastern diamondback rattlesnake as an endangered species in order to protect the reptile from “human persecution.” “Survival of these snakes in large part depends on whether people continue to persecute them or instead choose to allow these amazing creatures to share the land with us,” Bill Matturro, spokesman for Protect All Living Species, said in welcoming the government’s decision, announced earlier this month. “In the Southeast, we are blessed with a rich natural heritage of animals and plants. All of these species—even the rattlesnakes—should be allowed to exist.” The Fish and Wildlife Service says they are taking comments on listing the snake because environmental groups presented “substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the eastern diamondback rattlesnake may be warranted.” The diamondback is the largest rattlesnake in North America, and the range of the eastern species encompasses the coastal plain of the southeastern U.S. from North Carolina to south Florida, and west to Mississippi and Louisiana. In addition to humans, environmentalists say the snake is at risk of extinction because its habitat, longleaf pine forests, are also disappearing. Federal officials estimate that 55 percent of this species can be found on private property. On public property where the remaining 45 percent are believed to be located, federal officials would have the authority to place restrictions on the use of that land if the reptile were listed as an endangered species...more

To my friends in the South: Welcome to the Endangered Species Act.  How does it feel to have the government's fangs aimed right at you?

The columnist also states:

 "Federal officials estimate that 55 percent of this species can be found on private property. On public property where the remaining 45 percent are believed to be located, federal officials would have the authority to place restrictions on the use of that land if the reptile were listed as an endangered species."

Don't forget, restrictions can and will be imposed on private property too.

And what about those snake handlers down south?  The columnist says:

"What remains unclear is the effect such a listing would have on those southern religious organizations that celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ by taking up serpents, a practice also known as “snake handling.” "

Native Americans can smoke peyote and the Amish are exempt from all kinds of government foolery.  Will be interesting to see how the feds handle the snake handlers.

What's the big deal anyway.  The article says that only 95 percent of all snake bite deaths are due to the diamondback.

Still, they're taking comments for a year, pushing it back beyond the elections.

On the issue of listing the critter, one commenter said, "On one side we have these venomous fork-tongued scaly creatures.  On the other side are the rattlesnakes." 

Feds authorize killing of Bighorns in path of wind project

In a precedent that has horrified wildlife experts, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has authorized the “take” (meaning harassment, displacement or even death) of 10 endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep – five ewes and five lambs. The decision comes after federal wildlife officials were provided photographic evidence that the endangered animals were seen in recent weeks on the site of the just-approved Ocotillo Express wind energy facility—a presence federal officials and the project developer have long denied. Mark Jorgensen is the retired Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which shares a five mile border with the Ocotillo Express wind project now under construction on adjacent public property owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). He is horrified at the decision to allow the killing of the sheep on land that until recently was designated as critical bighorn habitat...more

Can't let 10 little goats get in the way of Obama's reelection, now can we.

Bob Abbey retiring as U.S. BLM chief

The former Reno-area resident who has served as chief of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for nearly three years announced on Thursday he is leaving the post late this month. Bob Abbey, appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama to head the BLM in 2009, said he will retire to spend his time with family in Mississippi. “Serving as the BLM director and having the opportunity to work with the most dedicated public servants in all of government has been the highlight of my career,” Abbey said in a statement of a 34-year span working in state and federal government. Abbey served eight years as Nevada’s BLM director, retiring in 2005 at age 54 before returning to the bureau four years later...more

Retiring to Mississippi, a private lands state?  Maybe Bob has more savvy than I thought.

After Passage of “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act,” BLM Backs Down on Shooting Ban

On May 11, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it was abandoning the effort to ban recreational shooting on the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona. BLM released a new proposed management plan that protects “monument objects and values” through best management practices, but does not close the monument to shooters. This announcement is a major victory for gun owners, as it reversed BLM’s intent to close the half million-acre SDNM to recreational shooting. The original SDNM plan mirrored BLM’s decision last year to drive shooters out of the Ironwood Forest National Monument, also in Arizona. BLM’s announcement came as a formal statement to the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, a federal advisory council that reports to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on matters relating to hunting and recreational shooting. The abrupt reversal by the BLM came shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. R. 4089, “The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act.” One of the major provisions of that legislation requires congressional approval for any recreational shooting restrictions proposed on BLM-managed national monuments. The bill further directs the BLM to manage national monument land in a manner that supports, promotes, and enhances recreational shooting opportunities...more

Expect all the BLM plans to allow sports least those between now and election day.

Fish rescue takes to the air

Fish flew last weekend along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, as part of an ongoing effort to add more spawning areas for one endangered species. Tiny humpback chub were scooped out of the Little Colorado River flowing out of the Navajo Nation last year and grown through the winter in New Mexico. Some 300 of them were loaded into coolers this past weekend and flown by helicopter into Havasu Creek -- a waterway flowing north into the Grand Canyon from the oft-photographed blue-green waterfalls on Havasupai tribal land. How best to operate the dam to protect river ecosystem while still guaranteeing all states their allotted water supplies and generating power for some 1.3 million customers in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico Utah and Wyoming? Among the scenarios: ramp up power production, lay aside some electricity generation during the hotter summer months, add warm water to the Colorado River below the dam, or purposefully drop river levels quickly in an attempt to kill some of the trout that eat chub by stranding them on dry shores. Restoring the chub has also been a big project for the Park Service, costing upward of $100,000 per year...more

Utah judge says streams are public assets, but access still a question

A Utah judge agreed Monday with anglers arguing that all rivers and streams are public waters, but he has yet to decide whether a law restricting access to them went too far. Fourth District Judge Derek Pullan ruled that the Utah Constitution makes clear the waters that HB141 two years ago restricted from public access are owned by the state and must be managed in the public trust. He did not rule whether that public trust requires public access on streams crossing private lands, such as wading that anglers once enjoyed. Instead, he asked attorneys for the Utah Stream Access Coalition, the landowners and the state to brief him for a final ruling this summer. Whichever way the judge goes, the contentious issue is sure to be appealed to the Utah Supreme Court. Both sides saw hope in Pullan’s 43-page ruling...more

20,000 young people to be hired for summer work on public lands

More than 20,000 young people ages 15 to 25 have a chance for summer work in national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands, it was announced Friday. In California, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, attended an event in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to kick off the summer work season...more

Colorado court rules against Wyoming gas pipeline

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that a Wyoming pipeline company has no right to condemn property in Colorado for a high-pressure petroleum pipeline to a Commerce City refinery that homeowners complained would be too dangerous. In a ruling handed down Monday, the court said the Colorado Legislature did not intend to include oil and gasoline pipelines in laws that allowed railroads and utilities to take the property they needed for their services. The ruling does not affect natural gas pipelines, which are regulated by the federal government...more

Song Of The Day #840

The Proprietor of Ranch Radio took a little spill yesterday, and based on the comments I've received (both public and private), some are getting quite a kick out of it. Some things I've received are damn funny, including this image:

One good thing, it gives me the opportunity to share one of my favorites by Moe Bandy:  The Horse That You Can't Ride.  The tune is on his 1984 album Motel Matches, and is also available on this CD.


Udder nonsense: Raw-milk confiscations begin

The founder of the Organic Pastures business in California is reporting that government health officials have begun tracking down the names and addresses of natural-foods customers and showing up at their homes, demanding to confiscate any raw milk they might have. The dispute over raw milk has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, with a judge ruling that owners of cows have no right to the milk their herds produce, and protests being staged by mad moms whose access to such foods is being threatened. The latest report is documented at, which interviewed McAfee. The report said Los Angeles County health department officials have “unleashed door-to-door raw milk confiscation teams to threaten and intimidate raw dairy customers into surrendering raw milk products they legally purchased and own. “According to Mark McAfee, both LA County and San Diego county have attempted to acquire customer names and addresses from Organic Pastures for the sole purpose of sending ‘food confiscation teams’ to customers’ homes to remove the raw milk from customers’ refrigerators.”...more

Environmentalist pleads guilty to illegal tree marking

Black Hills environmentalist Brian Brademeyer has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of illegally marking trees to be cut in a U.S. Forest Service timber sale. Brademeyer agreed prior to a proceeding scheduled for Thursday in federal court to pay a $475 fine, plus a $25 processing fee. The maximum penalty for the charge, a federal petty offense, was $5,000 and six months in jail. Contacted by email Friday, Brademeyer confirmed that he was paying the $500 but did not provide further comment. Travis Lunders, a regional special agent for the U.S. Forest Service who investigated the case, said Friday that Brademeyer’s plea and the imposed fine were “a satisfactory conclusion to the case.” A spokesman for the logging industry in the Black Hills didn’t necessarily agree. Tom Troxel, director of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association in Rapid City, said a logging company would almost certainly face harsher penalties if it were caught illegally marking trees in a timber sale. “Tampering with marked trees in a Forest Service timber sale is a major, major issue,” Troxel said. “It looks like a double standard to me.” The federal charge alleged that Brademeyer illegally marked 23 trees in the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve near his home so they would be cut in a timber project there. Critics said Brademeyer’s actions in marking the trees for cutting near his home were hypocritical, since he had challenged previous Forest Service timber projects elsewhere...more

Chinese Solar Cells And The Solyndra Syndrome

It seems the Obama administration will do anything to save a handful of U.S. jobs in the manufacture of solar cells — even to the point of risking a job-killing trade war. Thursday's announcement by the Commerce Department of new duties on imported solar cells from China was good news for almost nobody. China was miffed, naturally. Much of the U.S. solar energy business was less than joyful as well. Even in solar manufacturing, reaction was mixed. Makers of solar cells are pleased; makers of raw materials and production equipment exported to China were not. And for anyone in the business of selling and installing solar systems — where most of the jobs are — the tariffs are bad news. They raise prices for a product that already has to be heavily subsidized to find a market. Companies that make solar cells in the U.S., led by the German firm SolarWorld (which makes the cells at a plant in Oregon), had complained to the administration that China was selling cells abroad at an unfairly low price. The Commerce Department gave them what they wanted on Thursday when it said it would slap a 31% tariff on solar cells from 61 named Chinese manufacturers, along with a 250% levy on cells from all others in China. This was on top of import duties of up to 4.73% imposed in March...more

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Westerner takes a fall

Yes, I bit the dust this am transferring from the bed to the wheelchair. With a little help from my son, his co-worker, and a manual lift I'm back in the saddle so to speak. No big damage, just a chipping away at my ego. Also sore, my body was in positions it's not used to. Taking some Flexeril for back spasms.  Those make me a little loopy, so The Westerner may be less than expected today.