Saturday, July 28, 2012

PETA takes 'bets' on when senator will die after objection to USDA vegetarian push

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has started taking "bets" on its website over when Sen. Charles Grassley will die, after the Iowa Republican scolded the Department of Agriculture for advocating a vegetarian diet. The USDA drew the ire of rural state lawmakers over a newsletter urging department employees to embrace "Meatless Mondays." The USDA later retracted the newsletter and said it wasn't properly vetted, but Grassley vented on Twitter that he plans to "eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation." PETA, on its website, accused Grassley of fighting for Americans' right to be "sick and fat." "We're taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease," the post said. "From his reaction, it seems like a pretty safe bet that he's already got high blood pressure," PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said on the site. "Were he a physician instead of a politician who truly puts his rancher money where his mouth is, he'd be guilty of malpractice."...more

“Veggie” diet blamed for poor performance of China’s women volleyball team

The Chinese team lost four of five matches at a world tournament that ended Sunday in Ningbo, China, falling to the United States, Brazil, Turkey and Thailand. While Brazil and the US are powerhouses in women's volleyball, Turkey and Thailand didn't even qualify for the 2008 Olympics, where China won bronze. “They have showed significant decline in their strength and fitness” coach Yu Juemin said of his squad after Sunday's defeat to the US. “We are wary of meat tainted by lean-meat powder, and we didn't eat any during the game period,” Yu told the Shanghai Daily newspaper. As a result, the Chinese volleyball team only eats meat at its training camp, where the food can be tested for contamination. When players go elsewhere in the country, they have to forego pork, beef and lamb — as they did in the lead-up to the volleyball World Grand Prix finals tournament...more

Veggies & Volleyball - nope.

Steaks & Steer Wresting - damn right.

The Westerner's Radio Theater #041

Ranch Radio is cravin' some old stuff this morning, so we bring you two broadcasts from 1939.  First up is a Grand Ole Opry from December 1939 and sponsored by Prince Albert tobacco - it burns 86% cooler than the other brands.  Give a special listenin' to a really swingin' version of The Old Grey Bonnet at 10:50 into the program.  The boys really tear it up.  That's followed by a 1/4/1939 The Lone Ranger titled Lafe Custer's Cattle.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fourmile Fire report: Fuel treatments in burn area were ineffective

The forested land within the nearly 6,200 acres burned by the Fourmile Fire in 2010 that had been treated to reduce wildfire risk did not appear to alter the fire's behavior, and, in some cases, burned more intensely than adjacent, untreated land, according to a final report on the Fourmile Fire released Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service.

That's the language that the AP is distributing, based upon a more complete article in the Daily Camera. Here are some excerpts from the complete article:
In all, about 600 acres of land within the burn area had been treated -- through measures including thinning and removing lower branches of trees -- to mitigate wildfire risk in the seven years leading up to ignition of the Fourmile Fire on Labor Day 2010.

The majority of the fuel treatments were administered by the Colorado State Forest Service, and much of the work took place on private land. About 66 percent of the land burned by the Fourmile Fire is owned by private property owners. The Bureau of Land Management owns 23 percent, Boulder County owns 6 percent and the Forest Service owns 5 percent.

Most of the treatments in the Fourmile burn area were small and narrow -- only two were larger than 20 acres in size -- and that may have contributed to the fact that the fire, which was spotting up to a half-mile in front of the main blaze, appeared to easily breach the treated areas, according to the report.

The added intensity of the burn in some of the treated areas might also have been because, in some cases, the forestry waste from the thinning operations was still piled on the ground. And, in many instances, prescribed burns -- which would clear out the fuels that lay on the surface of the forest floor, including pine needles and small branches -- were not used.

The findings point to the importance of finishing fuel treatments, including disposing the extra waste, and the importance of performing treatments on a large scale.

That tells us a little bit different story.  The piddly, half-assed, namby-bamby "thinning" projects in the "wildland interface" we hear so much about don't work.  Or, as a professional would say:

"Fires under these conditions are a landscape phenomenon and a landscape problem," said Mark Finney, a research forester at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana, who worked on the report. "Fires will spread many miles from where they start and they will cover thousands or tens of thousands of acres. If you're going to design fuel treatment programs to try to mitigate that threat, you need to think on that scale."

There is an effective and efficient "fuel treatment program" - Its called logging.

Is Government Using Best Methods to Fight Forest Fires?

Here's a segment from John Stossel's show on Fox:

NY Times: How Can We Prevent Another Dust Bowl?

The New York Times is running a series in its Debate Room on this topic:
The worst drought in 50 years is scorching crops across the heartland and, as a result, the government has declared one-third of the nation’s counties federal disaster areas.
Are we at risk for another Dust Bowl? If so, what can we do to prevent it?
You can check it out here.

Groups battle over request from ranchers to ease ethanol rule

Interest groups on both sides of the corn ethanol debate are stepping up their messaging on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that lawmakers have targeted in recent weeks. The groups are battling over the renewable fuel standard (RFS), which requires 15 billion gallons of domestic corn ethanol production by 2022. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), a main corn ethanol lobby, sent a letter Friday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praising the Obama administration for sticking by the rule. A collection of livestock interest groups responded by issuing an advisory for a Monday media call to discuss the need for changes to the fuel standards...more

Song Of The Day #891

Ranch Radio has finally got OpenDrive to play the request we received yesterday.  So, we'll close out this week of songs about food with Pinto Beans by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys.  Best saved for a Friday anyway, cuz its a damn good dance tune too.

Little Bear Fire victims won't get help from FEMA

Owners of property damaged or destroyed by last month's Little Bear Fire will not find any help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That message was sounded again Thursday, this time by Ruidoso Special Projects Manager Justin King, who is part of a team that has responded to the flood threat following the fire. "It's come to our attention that there's some homeowners still talking and asking about FEMA assistance," King, the special projects manager for the village of Ruidoso, told the Lincoln County Watershed Restoration and Protection Group. "FEMA is not going to do an Individual Assistance program for Lincoln County, the village of Ruidoso, city of Alamogordo. We do not meet the threshold." The key factor in missing the threshold for Individual Assistance was the low number of uninsured, primary residences. "They've gone through. They've done their assessment on it. We're only about 165 homes short of meeting that threshold." There were nine primary residences destroyed in the Little Bear Fire that were uninsured. And second homes do not qualify for FEMA's Individual Assistance program. Even if the program had applied in the fire area, FEMA's assistance is minimal. "So if you hear individuals, or homeowners, or property owners talking about FEMA still coming in on a white horse to save the day, it isn't going to happen." King said there are other programs available to help those who lost property...more

Are environmentalists’ anti-gun policies to blame for wildfires in the West?

The headlines have echoed across the country: “Guns blamed for starting wildfires in parched West” According to the Associated Press, officials believe target shooting or other firearms use sparked at least 21 wildfires in Utah and nearly a dozen in Idaho. Shooting is also believed to have caused fires in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. In Utah, the AP says Republican Gov. Gary Herbert “took the unusual step” of authorizing the top state forest official to impose gun restrictions on public lands after a gunfire-sparked fire. A gunfire-sparked, you say? How could target shooting start fires? I mean, we’re almost certainly not dealing with flintlock guns here. The devil is in the details, and an accurate Associated Press headline would read as mine does above: “Are environmentalists’ anti-gun policies to blame for wildfires in the West?” From the AP article: “Utah officials believe steel-jacketed bullets are the most likely culprits, given one shot that hits a rock and throws off sparks can ignite surrounding vegetation and quickly spread…The bullets were recently banned on state and federal lands in Utah. Officials are telling sportsmen to use lead bullets that don’t give off sparks when they hit rocks.” What the article doesn’t mention, of course, is that environmental extremists have been attempting to ban the use of lead bullets - the very ones Utah officials now say are preferred - in favor of bullets made of materials such as steel, which is blamed for causing sparks when they impact rocks...more

Green Policies Increase Risk of Colorado Forest Fires, experts say

Environmentalist policies against logging may have helped this summer’s Rocky Mountain fires to expand, experts told the Washington Free Beacon. Robert Zubrin, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and President of the aerospace engineering research and development firm Pioneer Astronautics, blamed environmentalists for the spread of these fires. “They facilitated the spread of fire by keeping people from logging, adding firebreaks, and using pesticides,” he said. Zubrin wrote a book on this subject, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, which he will present today at the American Enterprise Institute. Zubrin recently wrote that climate change does not explain these fires. “The culprits here … have not been humans, but Western Pine Beetles,” he wrote, which turned “over 60 million acres of formerly evergreen pine forests into dead red tinder, dry ammunition” for fires. Zubrin told the Free Beacon that logging would solve the problem. “Logging as part of a program of rational forest management” could decrease the risk of fire by “thinning out mature trees that are the pine beetles’ major targets,” and creating “gaps between forests, to act as firebreaks and beetle-breaks,” he said...more

Vilsack: High Corn Prices Bad for Livestock, but Don’t Curb Ethanol

You might have to sit down for this one.
It’s mindboggling sometimes the lack of basic logic that eludes some (most?) members of this Administration. With his comments this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is one of those members. He recently discussed the hardships that livestock producers are facing, including heat, drought and high corn prices as reasons they’re liquidating their herds.
So far he’s making sense.
To further illustrate how high corn prices are affecting livestock, and how volatile such prices can be, Secretary Vilsack said: “now producers have to decide if they want to take the risk of continuing to feed expensive corn to animals, when they can’t be sure what prices they’ll receive months down the road.”
Okay, got it. High corn prices equal high feed costs. We’re following you, Mr. Secretary.
But then Secretary Vilsack loses reality:
“This is not the time to take advantage of the drought to change the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
We agree with the Secretary the drought is contributing to corn prices that are absurdly high (nearly $8 a bushel, which are record levels), but it is not ALL because of the drought. It is also because Americans are using corn for fuel. Unfortunately, this bit of information does not phase the Secretary:
“The RFS is working. It helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provides jobs.”
Does it? Because it takes 1.3 gallons of oil to create just one gallon of ethanol. So if it takes more oil to produce ethanol then we’re not saving oil, we’re wasting it. That doesn’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It does create jobs, we’ll give him that, but at the expense of other jobs because we’re paying people to waste oil, essentially wasting money, so you tell me if that’s a worthwhile job.

Democratic senators offer gun control amendment for cybersecurity bill

Democratic senators have offered an amendment to the cybersecurity bill that would limit the purchase of high capacity gun magazines for some consumers. Shortly after the Cybersecurity Act gained Senate approval to proceed to filing proposed amendments and a vote next week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a sponsor of the gun control amendment, came to the floor to defend the idea of implementing some “reasonable” gun control measures. The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Schumer and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.). S.A. 2575 would make it illegal to transfer or possess large capacity feeding devices such as gun magazines, belts, feed stripes and drums of more than 10 rounds of ammunition with the exception of .22 caliber rim fire ammunition. The amendment is identical to a separate bill sponsored by Lautenberg. Feinstein was the sponsor of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004...more

USDA meets with Mexico, ‘slow-walking’ Congress on food stamp outreach to immigrants

While it is already known that personnel from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) met with Mexican embassy officials this year to discuss nutrition assistance outreach efforts to immigrants, the agency is “slow-walking” a U.S. Senate effort to obtain information about the USDA’s partnership with Mexico to get more people enrolled in nutrition assistance programs. Neither the Mexican embassy nor the USDA have revealed the content of these meetings. Last week, TheDC revealed that since 2004 the USDA and Mexico have been involved in a partnership to promote American food assistance programs, including food stamps, among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities. “USDA and the government of Mexico have entered into a partnership to help educate eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States about available nutrition assistance,” the USDA summarizes on their “Reaching Low-Income Hispanics With Nutrition Assistance” web page. “Mexico will help disseminate this information through its embassy and network of approximately 50 consular offices.”...more

Tribes want federal regulation of internet gaming

With some states readying to start online gambling, Native American tribal leaders are calling on the federal government to step in as it did with brick-and-mortar gambling and establish regulations that ensure tribes get a piece of the action without having their revenue taxed and their sovereignty compromised. A new set of regulations is unlikely before this year's election, but recent events have given momentum to efforts to launch online gambling in some states. Since a December 2011 Department of Justice opinion that not all Internet gambling is banned by federal law, Delaware has legalized online gambling and Nevada is closing in on making online poker possible. New Jersey too is working to make it a reality. Some tribes worry that if left to states, they will end up with a patchwork of regulations that aren't considerate of the relationship Native Americans have with the federal government...more

Rush Limbaugh on the USDA "Meatless Monday" fiasco

RUSH: What a bunch... What a crock! Okay, from now on, folks, on Monday it's all beef, all the time. That's all you eat on Monday. What the hell is this, Meatless Mondays? From the government? From the USDA, the US Department of Agriculture which is supposed to be supportive of agriculture? They single out the beef industry and tell people to avoid it on Monday? Here we go picking winners and losers again! RUSH:You know, the thing about this is it's just another illustration that radicals have taken care of these departments of government, these bureaucracies, and politicized them. This is the Department of Agriculture. You know, the claim that eating meat leads to global warming is absurd. It's patently ridiculous. It's an insult to common intelligence. But even if it were true -- and I don't even like making that acknowledgement. Even if these wacko claims are true (and they are not), this is not good for this country's agricultural environment...more

Greenland ice sheet melted at unprecedented rate during July

The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw. The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change. In a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake. The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%. Scientists attributed the sudden melt to a heat dome, or a burst of unusually warm air, which hovered over Greenland from 8 July until 16 July. Greenland had returned to more typical summer conditions by 21 or 22 July, Mote told the Guardian...more

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Study Confirms Death Tax Kills Jobs, Hurts Growth

A study released this week by the Joint Economic Committee found that the death tax fails to produce any recognizable benefits and significantly hinders economic growth in the U.S. The study shows that the death tax fails to achieve any of the goals that it was intended to achieve. Specifically, the death tax has: (1) reduced the amount of capital stock in the U.S.; (2) significantly hindered entrepreneurial activity; (3) prevented economic mobility; and (4) raised an insignificant amount of revenue. The death tax has reduced the amount of capital stock in the U.S. Over the 96 years in which the death tax has been enacted, it has "reduced the amount of capital stock in the U.S. economy" by almost $1.1 trillion. This $1.1 trillion reduction in capital stock almost totals the entire amount of revenue raised by the death tax since its implementation in 1916. The death tax has significantly hindered entrepreneurial activity. The JEC's study found that the death tax is the "overwhelming cause of dissolution of family businesses" because such businesses are likely unable to comply with estate tax liabilities. A study recently released by the Tax Foundation found that the estimated cost of complying with the death tax totals over $88 million, in addition to 2.3 million hours of average compliance effort. As such, the death tax remains a large hindrance to entrepreneurial activity. The death tax has prevented economic mobility. The death tax discourages savings and instead encourages consumption. To exemplify this, the JEC study found that for persons faced with a potential 55 percent marginal tax rate, "it costs $2.22 for a decedent to give $1 of pre-tax assets as a result of estate and gift taxes." Thus the JEC reasons that people will spend assets as opposed to saving. The death tax has failed to raise a significant amount of revenue. According to the most recent CBO estimates, the revenue from the death tax and gift tax combined for 2011 equaled out to "less than one-half percent" of all federal revenue, and a mere 0.05 percent of GDP. Relative to spending by the federal government, the revenue from the death tax "would cover less than one day of federal spending." The JEC's report further points out that abolishing the death tax would raise revenue in two ways: (1) "the estate tax robs additional federal tax revenues from the collection of other taxes like the income tax; and (2) a larger total capital stock could increase income tax revenue." Absent congressional action, the estate tax rates will soon revert back to pre-EGTRRA levels and the estate tax exemption will reach $1 million in 2013. ATR

House leaders: Drought bill may come up next week

A House Republican leader said Thursday that the House may take up legislation next week to help farmers and ranchers hit by the drought that has parched much of the nation. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said that in the final week before Congress leaves for a five-week summer recess the House may consider legislation related to "programs and disaster assistance under the expiring farm bill." Earlier, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters, "I do believe that the House will address the livestock disaster program." The two leaders offered few details of the legislation, but it is expected to focus on the livestock industry. Many corn and soybean farmers are partially shielded from drought damage by crop insurance but fewer livestock producers have insurance and the main federal disaster program for them expired last year. The drought is driving up the costs of feed, forcing some livestock farmers to reduce their stocks earlier than planned...more

Report shows US drought rapidly intensifying

The widest drought to grip the United States in decades is getting worse with no signs of abating, a new report warned Thursday, as state officials urged conservation and more ranchers considered selling cattle. The drought covering two-thirds of the continental U.S. had been considered relatively shallow, the product of months without rain, rather than years. But Thursday's report showed its intensity is rapidly increasing, with 20 percent of the nation now in the two worst stages of drought - up 7 percent from last week. The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought in various stages, from moderate to severe, extreme and, ultimately, exceptional. Five states - Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska - are blanketed by a drought that is severe or worse. States like Arkansas and Oklahoma are nearly as bad, with most areas covered in a severe drought and large portions in extreme or exceptional drought. Other states are seeing conditions rapidly worsen. Illinois - a key producer of corn and soybeans - saw its percentage of land in extreme or exceptional drought balloon from just 8 percent last week to roughly 71 percent as of Thursday, the Drought Monitor reported. And conditions are not expected to get better, with little rain and more intense heat forecast for the rest of the summer...more

Dead cattle, devastation in wake of Western fires

Across the West, major wildfires are wreaking havoc this summer on the region's economically fragile livestock industry. In areas such as remote Powder River County, Mont., ranchers said they could be grappling with the devastation for years to come. Hay is in short supply. Hundreds of miles of fence and numerous corrals and water tanks must be rebuilt. Thousands of head of displaced livestock are being shipped to temporary pastures. Similar scenes are playing out in Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. Including Montana, the value of the six states' cattle industries approaches $9 billion annually. Hundreds of thousands of acres of grazing land have burned so far — with months to go in the annual fire season. The number of fires and total acreage burned in the West this summer is roughly within range of the past decade's average. What's different is where those fires are burning, as major blazes erupt on grasslands and brush where livestock can be more prevalent, said Jennifer Smith with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. And that's all set against a backdrop of a crushing drought that has set in for much of the region. If the dry conditions persist, the recovery of burned areas could stall, forcing cattle owners to sell their animals or seek more lasting alternatives to the private pastures and public lands they've run livestock on for generations...more

Wildfire takes 400 cattle from Montana rancher

A Montana wildfire destroyed almost 249,000 acres in less than two weeks has killed almost half of a cattle producer’s 800-plus herd and seriously burned more. Ranchers are assessing the damage to their operations following the wildfire in southeastern Montana but the total damage won’t be known for a few months. KPAX  in Missoula, Mont., reports Cecil Kolka lost an estimated 400 cows and calves that were unable to escape the blaze. Kolka anticipates further losses as he continues to find dead animals in his pastures and some livestock aren’t expected to survive severe burns. The Associated Press reports some of Kolka’s cattle were burned so badly their hides were peeling. Some surviving cattle have been shot in mercy killings, others are limping on burnt hooves...more

University of New Mexico Denies Accusations Of Duck Murder At Its Duck Pond

The University of New Mexico at Albuquerque is calling a fowl foul after a woman claims she saw a school employee monitoring the campus pond smash duck eggs and fatally injure an adult duck on university orders. In a letter to the editor published in the Daily Lobo, the university’s student newspaper, Cheryl Gorder – which may be a pseudonym and is not the name of any UNM student – wrote: By now I was on my feet, heading over to her as horror flooded over me. I realized that the 'white things' were duck eggs that she was killing and that the duck had been defending its nest and babies. Yes, I confronted her and asked her why she had done it. I was told that it was University policy because 'they were messy.' University Director of Communication Dianne Anderson told The Huffington Post that the school denies these allegations. She said that in the 40 years the duck pond has been cared for by university officials, there have been no complaints of this nature. While the University does relocate ducks and dispose of their eggs to control the pond’s population, school officials have said their employees do so humanely...more 

Well, it looks like there are still some important happenings in New Mexico.  And by the way, how do you "humanely" dispose of duck eggs?  Readers of The Westerner demand to know.  KOAT reports:
At the ABQ BioPark, duck expert Clay Williams said it's a problem he knows all too well. The BioPark also takes care of ducks at Tingley Beach. Instead of destroying the eggs, the zoo replaces them with dummy eggs. "They go through their regular cycle, and (it) doesn't interrupt their natural instinct to go ahead and nest. And once they're done with the dummy eggs that don't hatch they generally won't lay eggs again," Williams said. "Domestic ducks are incapable of flight. So they will not leave. They are pretty much grounded where ever you drop them off."
Pretty much a higher education approach - fool 'em and fix 'em where they can't get away.  Maybe we should send Ben Woods up there to show them an Aggie Fix.  I'm sure he'd involve the NM Space Authority too - Possibly a Deming-type Duck Race at the Spaceport...using space ships of course.  I'm pretty sure that would fix the ducks for good.

We also need to solicit UNM's advice on how to dispose of some Mexican Grey Wolves "humanely".

Here is the KRQE video report on the mallard mess at UNM:

Accused Colo. Killer Received A $26,000 Federal Grant

James Holmes, the alleged gunman in the recent theater shooting that left 12 dead in Aurora, Colo., was previously awarded a $26,000 federal grant. WNEW News reports that Holmes was awarded a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It gave the graduate student a $26,000 stipend and paid his tuition for the highly competitive neuroscience program at the University of Colorado in Denver. Holmes was one of six neuroscience students at the school to get the grant money...more

Song Of The Day #890

Ranch Radio had a request from Roswell for Pinto Beans by Bob Wills. Unfortunately I couldn't get OpenDrive to play the damn thing.  That's ok, if you can't have pinto beans Texas Bill Strength brings us some Cherry Pie.

USDA Apologizes for Meatless Mondays Gaffe

From AgWired

After an internal USDA newsletter promoting “Meatless Mondays” was made public Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack personally apologized to the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and said the document was not only pulled from the website, it was edited and re-sent to USDA employees without suggestions that meat production was bad for the environment and human health. “We appreciate USDA’s swift action in pulling this disparaging statement off its website,” said NCBA president J.D. Alexander. “We appreciate USDA making this right. The agency is important to all cattlemen and women, especially as we face unprecedented challenges, including drought and animal rights extremist groups spreading fiction to consumers who need to know the importance of beef in a healthy diet.”

The NCBA statement says

USDA publicly stated it does not support the extremist “Meatless Monday” campaign and stated that the statement was posted on its website without the “proper clearance.”
Where did they "publicly" state this?  It's not posted in their official press office.  I guess this AP story is it:

USDA spokeswoman Cortney Rowe says the department does not endorse the "Meatless Monday" initiative, which is part of a global public health campaign.
I still think we should know who is responsible for this.  Who wrote this section of the newsletter, who is the editor of same and what "proper clearance" procedures did they violate?  

Read more here:

Millions of Americans now fall within government's digital dragnet

Will government surveillance finally become a political issue for middle-class Americans? Until recently, average Americans could convince themselves they were safe from government snooping. Yes, the government engaged in warrantless wiretaps, but those were directed at terrorists. Yes, movies and TV shows featured impressive technology, with someone’s location highlighted in real time on a computer screen, but such capabilities were used only to track drug dealers and kidnappers. Figures released earlier this month should dispel that complacency. It’s now clear that government surveillance is so widespread that the chances of the average, innocent person being swept up in an electronic dragnet are much higher than previously appreciated. The revelation should lead to long overdue legal reforms. The new figures, resulting from a Congressional inquiry, indicate that cell phone companies responded last year to at least 1.3 million government requests for customer data—ranging from subscriber identifying information to call detail records (who is calling whom), geolocation tracking, text messages, and full-blown wiretaps. Almost certainly, the 1.3 million figure understates the scope of government surveillance. One carrier provided no data. And the inquiry only concerned cell phone companies. Not included were ISPs and e-mail service providers such as Google, which we know have also seen a growing tide of government requests for user data. The data released this month was also limited to law enforcement investigations—it does not encompass the government demands made in the name of national security, which are probably as numerous, if not more. And what was counted as a single request could have covered multiple customers. For example, an increasingly favorite technique of government agents is to request information identifying all persons whose cell phones were near a particular cell tower during a specific time period—this sweeps in data on hundreds of people, most or all of them entirely innocent. How did we get to a point where communications service providers are processing millions of government demands for customer data every year? The answer is two-fold...more

Is Microsoft eavesdropping through Skype for the feds?

Are your Skype calls safe from the eyes and ears of snooping feds? Microsoft has filed a patent to allow eavesdropping over Skype and other VOIP platforms, but the Silicon Valley giants won’t say whether or not they are already implementing it. Microsoft acquired the popular voice-over-IP program Skype in May 2011 for an astounding $8.5 billion, but the news between the world’s most popular VOIP service and the legendary Silicon Valley entity doesn’t end just there. Barely a year later, Microsoft was awarded a patent last month that allows them to roll-out undetectable eavesdropping tools to target the communications of its customers without them ever knowing. According to the paperwork Microsoft has filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the ability to silently record communications between Skype users is necessary in instances where law enforcement agencies and national governments may demand to listen in on or even watch conversations in real time that are otherwise believed to be between just two parties. Their patent for “legal intercept” technology was approved last month, essentially awarding Microsoft the ability to “silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session” without asking for user authorization. Does that mean that Bill Gates’ brainchild and the feds are already using it to work hand in hand, though? Microsoft has been asked repeatedly to acknowledge whether or not that’s the case, but so far they have yet to offer either an explanation or answer...more

DEA raids smoke shops in Las Cruces, Sunland Park, Alamogordo

Federal and local law enforcement officers raided several smoke shops Wednesday in Las Cruces, as well as one business in Sunland Park, as part of a nationwide investigation into the alleged production and distribution of synthetic drugs. Masked agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, assisted by LCPD officers, were seen removing several large boxes of evidence from at least three retail locations near the intersection of South Solano Drive and East Idaho Avenue. Federal agents also raided the Station Recreation smoke shop on 1621 Appaloosa in Sunland Park. DEA officials did not say Wednesday if any raids in southern New Mexico resulted in arrests. An affidavit filed in support of the search warrants in the U.S. District Court for New Mexico indicates that 14 businesses in Las Cruces, Sunland Park and Alamogordo were targeted for allegedly selling illegal synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as Spice, and synthetic cathinones, more popularly known as "bath salts." The search warrant for the businesses in southern New Mexico, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen E. Garza, authorized agents to seize written and electronic documents, financial records, suspected synthetic drugs and paraphernalia, as well as security camera recordings. Witnesses at Somewhere Else Comics Games, one of 10 businesses in Las Cruces targeted by the DEA, said Wednesday that police officers entered the business with guns drawn, announcing they were raiding the establishment. "They pat-frisked me and my son. It was very scary for us," said one woman who declined to give her name. She and her 13-year-old son sat inside a vehicle outside the store at 1230 S. Solano Drive. Authorities also raided Phat Glass, located next door to Somewhere Else Comics and Games, and Smokin Supply, less than a quarter-mile away at 1315 S. Solano Drive. "They came in, guns drawn, told me to put my hands up and handcuffed me," said Maurice Portillo, co-owner of Smokin Supply, who was not arrested and subsequently released. Portillo said the DEA agents "tore" through his shop, turning around security cameras and taking cell phones, business records, as well as glass containers and herbal incense products that are often described as synthetic marijuana because of their chemical composition. Portillo, a 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran and student at New Mexico State University, said he believed the products he sold were legal, noting that he bought them from a distributor who also provided literature vouching for their legality with DEA drug scheduling provisions. "I don't do any illegal business out here. There's no history of anything illegal here," said Portillo, who opened his business about six weeks ago. Portillo said the DEA agents did not tell him what they were looking for, and made several references to the operation being "Obama (expletive)." "I was like, 'This is just (expletive) politics ...,'" Portillo said. On July 9, President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, which instituted tougher criminal penalties for selling some first-generation synthetic drugs — such as K2 and Spice — as well as some newer ones...more

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NM officials amend leash laws for Blue the dog

Officials in New Mexico's lakeside town of Elephant Butte on Wednesday changed their leash law to let community icon-turned-national media star Blue the dog continue roaming free, within the confines of a wireless fence. The vote ended a closely watched, monthslong dispute over whether the blue-eyed Australian heeler, who became a fixture in the town after being abandoned more than a decade ago, should be subject to the town's ordinance. Blue's attorney and caretakers at the Butte General Store and Marine initially sought an exemption for Blue, citing his popularity in the community and friendly demeanor. After city officials refused, they reached a compromise to include wireless fences as an acceptable restraint under the law. Blue has been hanging around the store for years. He has refused numerous attempts at adoption, so community members have built him an air-conditioned and heated dog house. Store visitors regularly donate cash for his care. Blue's fight over city demands that he be leashed or confined made national headlines and earned him more than 3,700 Facebook friends...more

USDA pushes food stamps with Spanish radio novelas and Hunger Champion awards

The Department of Agriculture also has been doing its part for the welfare state: It has been producing Spanish-language radio novelas dramatizing the desirability of signing up for food stamps, or whatWashington calls the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “Will Claudia convince Ramon to apply for SNAP? Don’t miss our next episode of Hope Park!” concluded a typical spot. (Once word of the campaign spread, the department deep-sixed it.) A similar USDA program has been trying to combat ostensibly nefarious value systems – such as pride, personal responsibility and self-reliance. The Daily Caller reports that last year the department handed out Hunger Champion awards to North Carolina officials who developed strategies for “counteracting what they described as ‘mountain pride’ [by appealing] to those who wished not to rely on others.” A USDA fact sheet stressed the importance of countering “myths about SNAP among those who . . . have beliefs that discourage them from enrolling.” In short, the USDA is not merely making sure that people who want food stamps know how to access them. It is trying to sign up people who don’t want them in the first place...more

Navy Pushes Biofuel Fleet Despite Concerns About Damage to Equipment

The U.S. military is touting biofuels as a way to sever itself from diesel and other fossil fuels. While the high cost of biofuel purchases is a major roadblock to the Navy’s “Green Fleet” plans, as Scribe documented on Monday, some observers have noted a more fundamental — and troubling — problem. Biofuels may actually damage military equipment. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus plans to use a 50-50 blend of conventional fuels and biofuels for his “Great Green Fleet,” a Carrier Strike Group composed of a destroyer, tanker and an aircraft carrier that are fueled by alternative energy sources. Mabus plans to have half the Navy fleet on alternative fuels by 2020. While congressional leaders, including Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), have balked at the high costs of biofuels at almost $27 per gallon for 450,000 gallons, other observers note the other problem: potential damage that biofuels could do to the machinery it powers. Rice University professor Pedro Alvarez examined the unintended consequences that might result from large-scale production and use of bioenergy in the United States, particularly ethanol, in a January 2010 study that he co-authored. The study concluded that there needs to be greater knowledge about the long-term effects of bioenergy before large-scale implementation. “The overall effect of using biofuels to power maritime vessels,” Alvarez told Scribe, “is high potential for corrosion on their tanks” due to high levels of bacteria in those fuels. Jason S. Lee, an engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, also warned of the potential for corrosion. “Susceptibility of biodiesel to … biodegradation and its propensity to stimulate biocorrosion suggest caution when integrating this alternate fuel with the existing infrastructure,” he found in a 2010 study conducted by the University of Oklahoma and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on the impact of biodiesel on metal. “The blending of biodiesel with traditional diesel resulted in the first known demonstration of localized corrosion of aluminum in the fuel layer itself,” he later told Corr Defense...more

USDA promotes "Meatless Monday" in its cafeteria

This is from USDA's Greening Headquarters Update dated July 23, 2012:

One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the "Meatless Monday" initiative This
international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays. Meatless Monday is an initiative of The Monday Campaign Inc. in association with the John Hopkins School of Public Health.
How will going meatless one day of the week help the environment? The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact. According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources. It takes 7,000 kg of grain to make 1,000 kg of beef. In addition, beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat. While a vegetarian diet could have a beneficial impact on a person's health and the environment, many people are not ready to make that commitment. Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results. Did you notice that our cafeterias have tasty meatless options? So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!

Notice they also link to the private website Meatless Monday where you have Meatless Monday Featured Recipes, a book review The Plant-Powered Diet Makes Meatless Monday Easy and promotion of meatless restaurants, schools and even a global movement for Meatless Mondays.

Are you surprised? USDA using taxpayer money to encourage their employees and visitors to their cafeteria to avoid beef products? Using a government newsletter to promote a global movement against your product?

I propose a Taxless Monday, where no money is collected for USDA purposes, resulting in a 20% cut in their budget.  How do you like them beans!

N.M. Drought: Worst 2 Years in Decades

Cattle ranchers are selling off their herds, and New Mexico’s supply of irrigation water for summer crops is running low as the state suffers its worst two-year drought since the 1950s. Ranchers have little or no range grass, and feed costs are soaring as drought drives up demand and pushes down supply, leaving ranchers little choice but to sell. “Everyone that I know has reduced their herd,” said Charlie Rogers, who runs the weekly Clovis Livestock Auction on the state’s eastern plains. The first six months of 2012 were the 10th-driest in New Mexico history, and the same stretch in 2011 was the driest in the state’s history, according to Ed Polasko at the National Weather Service’s Albuquerque office. The state’s reservoirs are dropping, with Elephant Butte in southern New Mexico at less than 10 percent of capacity and northern New Mexico reservoirs quickly being drained of the water used for crops from Cochiti to Socorro. “It’s going down fast,” said David Gensler, who manages water for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District...more

N.M. Cattle Herds Shrivel in Face of Drought

A widespread drought that’s forcing ranchers in New Mexico and across the country to sell off animals has helped shrink the nation’s cattle herd to its smallest number in at least four decades. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that the number of cattle and calves in the United States totaled 97.8 million head as of July 1. That’s 2 percent less than a year ago. Beef cattle numbers were down 3 percent at 30.5 million head counted, while dairy cow numbers remained unchanged at 9.2 million. Overall, it’s the smallest cattle inventory since the agency began a July count in 1973. NASS now estimates the size of the nation’s herd each January and July. New Mexico numbers through June aren’t yet available, because NASS only provides state-by-state numbers once a year. But as of January, the beef cattle count was down by 10 percent from the previous year, said New Mexico Cattle Growers Association Executive Director Caren Cowan. “Most states ranged from 6 percent higher numbers in January to 2 or 3 percent below the previous year, but New Mexico was 10 percent below, Texas 11 percent and Oklahoma 12 percent,” Cowan said. “The Southwest, including New Mexico, has taken the hardest hits, and those trends have continued since January.”...more

Obama Bans Buckyballs

The Consumer Product Safety Commission Wednesday said it has a lawsuit against the maker of the popular magnetic desk toy Buckyballs, as part of its four-year response to product safety issues. Some major retailers, including Amazon, Brookstone and Urban Outfitters, have agreed to stop selling these and similar products because of the risks posed to children who swallow the tiny balls, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday.  On Wednesday, Maxfield and Oberton, maker of Buckyballs issued a response to the CPSC lawsuit headlined "Thank you for trying to drive a $50 million New York-based consumer product company out of business." The release cited the product as the "No. 1 selling brand name in high-powered magnets, quoting favorable reviews from The Washington Post and New York magazine. The company release also alleged that the CPSC alerted retailers to the agency's lawsuit before "giving the company a chance to defend itself and its products."...more

What the hell are these things?  If the feds don't like 'em then I've got to have some. 

Does Bucky at the Blue Front Bar know about this?

Firefighters rescue 900-pound pig in Fla.

Firefighters came to the rescue of a 900-pound pig that got stuck in a pond in southwest Florida. Strawberry was successfully pulled out of a pond behind a home in Southwest Ranches, 15 miles southwest of Fort Lauderdale, by members of the Pembroke Pines Fire Department and Southwest Ranches Volunteer Fire Department, CBS Miami reported. The owner of the enormous two-and-a-half-year-old Yorkshire swine said he was getting ready to take her to Wakulla, in the Florida panhandle, when she slipped into the five-foot-deep water. Neighbors saw the pig fall and helped keep Strawberry's head up above water while the owner dialed 911...more

I'll bet Strawberry had swallowed some Buckyballs

Why gun sales spike after mass shootings: It's not what you might think

As sure as summer follows spring, gun sales rise after a mass shooting. It happened after the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. It happened after the Tucson, Ariz., shootings last year that killed six. Now, after the killing of 12 people last week at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., gun sales are spiking again - not just in Colorado but around the country. “We were overwhelmed Saturday,” says Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C., one of the biggest gun stores in the country. “We had to have 25 people on the counter to help customers. That’s very unusual for this time of year.” Self-protection is part of the reason. But a bigger factor, say gun dealers, is fear of something else: politicians -- specifically, their ability to enact restrictions on gun ownership and acquisition of ammunition. When a high-profile shooting takes place, invariably the airwaves are full of talk about gun control. “Once people start hearing about that, they say, ‘Wow I was planning on doing this. I better do it now,’” says Mr. Hyatt. A gun-store owner in Virginia reports the same phenomenon. "Normally what happens - and I've been doing this for 30 years - is whenever they start talking about gun control on the news and they start pushing that, people have a tendency to think they're going to take away their right to buy the gun, and that usually spurs sale,” says Paul Decker, owner of Hunters Heaven in Hayes, Va...more

Armed pastors in Albuquerque protect parishioners - video

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. That’s the unofficial motto at some Albuquerque-area churches, where fear of a possible violent incident has prompted pastors to arm themselves while preaching from the pulpit. “Most churches, the pastors – and I was that way one time – we depended on the Lord,” said Pastor Larry Allen, who leads the New Life Baptist Church on the city’s westside. “The Lord has given us the wisdom and said, ‘Hey, I make guns.’ You never go to a gun fight with a knife. You answer power with power.” Allen said his church has been disrupted by gang members, fights and even a bomb threat in the past. He said he and his armed security team are more than ready to deal with any threat that comes their way. A decade ago, armed pastors might have been a rarity. But today, it’s a different world. A man stabbed another man at The Church Christian Academy in Albuquerque two years ago, according to Albuquerque police. And a year and a half ago, St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church was locked down after a man threatened parishioners with a gun, police have said. But the most visible church violence occurred in December 2007 in Colorado Springs when a man opened fire, killing four and wounding five. A security guard shot and killed the shooter. That shooting made officials at Legacy Church in northwest Albuquerque to take a closer look at their security set-up. Today, the church retains about 50 mostly armed, retired police officers on its security team...more

Here's the KRQE video report:

Federal wildfire hypocrisy & exploding trees

When Wilderness Isn’t Wilderness: When the US Forest Service wants to act fast to protect natural resources, it can. But, when it needs to act fast to prevent catastrophic timber loss to pests or fire, it predictably fails to act. June’s double standard example is within the still-burning 297,000 acre Whitewater-Baldy Fire in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness, Gila National Forest. As the fire burned, biologists used electro-shockers to capture rare Gila trout from streams, then the trout were netted and lifted-out of the Wilderness via helicopter. No Environmental Impact Statement; no appeal period; and no public input for mechanized machinery or fish-snatching in a designated Wilderness. Go figure.
Exploding trees — Forest Service Believe It or Not: US Forest Service workers in Montana’s Helena National Forest are using high explosives to fall beetle-killed pine trees that pose danger to scenic highways and recreation sites. An engineering program leader at the USFS Missoula Technology Development Center said the danger of cutting down rotted trees in tough locations is a reason to use explosives. “We just don’t have a whole lot of really good sawyers. The days of going out and doing that activity are long gone in the Forest Service.” Sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction...more

HT:  Tyrell Wolfe Mares

Song Of The Day #889

 Ranch Radio wants to know: can picking peas lead to marriage? The Carlisles say yes in Pickin' Peas (Down The Long Pea Row).

Santa Teresa cattle crossing major beef corridor

Beef on the hoof is the name of the game at the Santa Teresa International Export/Import Livestock Crossing. Daniel Manzanares, director, said that $220 million worth of cattle passes through the crossing — which literally straddles the international border — each year. "We cross about (one) third to (one) half of all animals between Mexico and the United States," Manzanares said. "We're an American agriculture cooperative with foreign ownership: (the) Mexican cattle growers from Chihuahua." Manzanares spoke to a tour group made up of the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee on Tuesday. He said that the crossing has dealt with 282,000 head of cattle this year. "For us, a good year is 300,000, so we're way ahead with the curve," he said. "This year, the issue with animals coming across is the drought in Mexico. The drought causes a lot of ranchers to bring them across and sell them and the prices were very good. "With the falling of prices on the American side and the extended rains that've started to come in Chihuahua, ranchers (will) hold back cattle to allow them to gain a few more pounds," Manzanares said. The crossing has put in nearly $1.1 million in infrastructure improvements the past 4 1/2 years, including a United States Department of Agriculture grant of about $50,000 to install new cameras...more

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interior Names Solar ‘Hot Spots’ Out West

After more than two years of study and public comment, the Department of Interior on Tuesday identified 17 sites on 285,000 acres of public lands across six Southwestern states as prime spots for development of solar energy. Agency officials said the government would fast-track applications for large-scale solar energy installations at those sites in the hope of speeding construction of thousands of megawatts of renewable, non-polluting electricity generation. The agency identified an additional 19 million acres of public lands in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico as potential venues for solar energy projects that could win rapid federal approval. But officials said they were fencing off more than 78 million acres of public land from solar development because the areas have less solar energy potential, do not have immediate access to transmission lines or pose a threat to important archaeological or cultural sites, endangered species, scarce water resources or other environmental values if developed. On the solar energy front, the Interior Department on Tuesday issued a document known as a final programmatic environmental impact statement covering more than 3,000 pages that spells out the considerations in narrowing the sites for solar development and describes the process for permitting new projects...more

Judge Milan Smith right to criticize Ninth Circuit’s overreach

Every year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals leads the nation in having its decisions overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2010 speech to the Harvard Federalist Society, Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain reported that during the prior decade the Supreme Court had reversed 141 of the 182 Ninth Circuit rulings that it had reviewed. “A strikingly poor record,” said the always demure and thoughtful judge. Last month one of Judge O’Scannlain’s colleagues, Judge Milan Smith, was considerably less circumspect in describing the Ninth Circuit’s wayward ways. Dissenting from an en banc ruling in an endangered species case (Karuk Tribe of California v. United States Forest Service), Judge Smith wrote, “This is not the first time our court has broken from decades of precedent and created burdensome, entangling environmental regulations out of the vapors.” The vapors Judge Smith refers to emanate from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which requires federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA Fisheries Service before taking any action that might harm a listed species. In the decision from which Judge Smith dissents, the Ninth Circuit holds that a Forest Service district ranger’s determination that agency authorization of particular private activities under the General Mining Law of 1872 is not required constitutes agency action requiring interagency consultation under the ESA. “Until today,” wrote Judge Smith, “it was well-established that a regulatory agency’s inaction is not action that triggers the Endangered Species Act’s arduous interagency consultation process.” Many environmental advocates will, of course, disagree. Professor Holly Doremus, writing on The Legal Planet Blog, says the majority opinion is “unquestionably correct,” and goes on to employ anti-tea party rhetoric in describing Smith’s opinion as “extraordinary rhetoric” using “tea-party tactics” “to undermine the proper functioning of the judicial branch, not to mention its credibility.” But among most people in the natural resource industries who struggle to do business in the face of the Ninth Circuit’s expansive interpretations of federal environmental statutes and regulations, the court’s credibility has long been in tatters. Judge Smith explains why by referencing other Ninth Circuit environmental decisions liberally construing statutory and regulatory requirements. The result, argues Smith, is that the timber industry and other resource-dependent industries across the Ninth Circuit are being forced out of business by the high costs of regulatory compliance and the uncertainties wrought by changing interpretations of the rules...more

All Witnesses Agree: Litigation, Red Tape Fuel Megafires that Damage Forests, Communities, and Species

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on, “The Impact of Catastrophic Forest Fires and Litigation on People and Endangered Species: Time for Rational Management of our Nation's Forests.” The hearing focused on the devastating impacts of catastrophic wildfires on people and species and how Endangered Species Act litigation blocks activities that help prevent and fight fires. 
“Information provided by the Justice Department to this Committee reveals that at least 59 environmental lawsuits against the Forest Service and BLM have been filed or are open during just the past four years. These suits have stopped most human or economic activity connected with forests, including eliminating thousands of jobs. They have also obstructed projects to improve species habitat on thousands of acres decimated by fires, by removing dead or diseased trees, maintaining access roads to fire areas, and removing ash and sediment. Ironically, some of these lawsuits aimed at ‘saving’ forests have resulted in their actual destruction, where once old-growth, critical habitat forests now resemble the moon’s surface after fires,” said Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04). “Our communities and endangered species deserve practical solutions now to address and reduce the risks of megafires. We owe it to them to improve federal forest health and species habitat and ensure that the Endangered Species Act works to protect species and people before and after these devastating fires occur.”
José Varela López, President-Elect of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, testified regarding obstacles Endangered Species Act related litigation creates that prevents proper forest management and significantly increases the time and resources necessary to suppress megafires. “[T]he expense incurred to mitigate the immediate damage caused by the wildfires that decimate our fuel laden forests is many times more expensive than prudent, diligent forest management ever could be,” said López. “Additionally, proper and proactive forest management also provides jobs to rural communities, produces timber for homes and business, biomass for renewable energy, protects homes and other infrastructure, improves habitat for endangered species and other wildlife, increases forage production for livestock, and most importantly maintains or improves intact watersheds to deliver much needed water to our irrigated fields, municipalities and waterways.”
Environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act have been used as a tool by third parties to effectively block proper forest management and fire suppression activities. Rick Dice, President of the National Wildfire Suppression Association, representing 250 private fire contractors nationwide, and CEO of PatRick Environmental, a company that provides fire resources to multiple federal and state agencies for wildland fire suppression and other emergency efforts, discussed the obstacles firefighting crews face when trying to either prevent or suppress catastrophic wildfire. “The Endangered Species Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act individually provide important environmental safeguards. Collectively they overlap in contradictory ways that make it nearly impossible for the federal land managers, local elected officials, partnership groups, and private companies to navigate through the paperwork related to the laws.” Throughout his forty years in the firefighting business, Mr. Dice has observed a fundamental shift in federal land management. Rather than relying on proactive measures to prevent wildfire and promote forest health, land managers are forced to react to wildfires already in progress. “We once worked in the woods to proactively prevent and or reduce damage from wildfires, now we only react to these larger catastrophic wildland fires after the ignition occurs,” stated Dice.
Wyoming State Forester and Chair-elect of the Council of Western State Foresters Bill Crapser spoke of the barriers faced by states to achieve active forest management due to “complex process requirements of federal laws, rules and policies” including the Endangered Species Act, which discourages private landowners as well as states. “Arguably, laws such as the ESA have placed too much focus on single species versus a comprehensive approach to resource management that looks at the full suite of ecological, economic and social issues and opportunities,” he said. “The use of the regulatory hammer causes confrontation with private forest landowners and...positive, voluntary incentives for landowners to manage their lands to provide habitat for threatened and endangered species would be more productive.” According to Crapser, “The nation’s forests will continually be subject to an increasing threat of wildland fire until barriers to active management are removed.”
When questioned by Chairman Hastings, Alison Berry, an Energy & Economics expert at The Sonoran Institute, acknowledged the need for federal reform of forest fire policy in order to reduce the risks of megafires. She also asserted that active forest management is necessary to prevent catastrophic wildfire. In fact, in a 2009 report on forest management, Ms. Berry wrote, “The sources of the problems facing the Lolo and the Forest Service nationwide are many: never ending appeals and litigation drawing resources away from on-the-ground management, inherent flaws in large bureaucratic organizations relying on top-down planning, political interference, regulatory congestion, unstable funding streams, and so-on.” In the report, Ms. Berry went on to recommend that the Forest Service, “Overhaul the public land laws that are dragging down federal land management. Reform should be directed at making national forests less vulnerable to seemingly endless litigation.”
Printable PDF of this document

Contact: Jill Strait, Spencer Pederson or Crystal Feldman 202-226-9019

Black Hills fire likely sparked by Forest Service road grader

A fire in the Black Hills that has scorched nearly 16 square miles was likely sparked by a U.S. Forest Service road grader, officials said Tuesday. A Forest Service special agent determined the most probable cause of the Myrtle fire in western South Dakota was when a grader's metal blade fractured a rock on the road surface and ignited grass on the roadside. The Myrtle fire started Thursday and was about 75 percent contained Tuesday. It is expected to be fully contained by Wednesday, said Marian Swinney, a fire spokeswoman. "It's still at 10,080 (acres), but we don't expect it to grow," Swinney said Tuesday morning. "We're doing really well." About 670 firefighters have been battling the blaze, Swinney said, and crews will be reassigned to other wildfires in the region once the Myrtle fire is under control...more

Rancher presses authorities in white buffalo calf death - video

A rare white buffalo was killed in Hunt County last spring and the Lakota tribe wants to keep the story alive in hopes of catching the person responsible. Lightning Medicine Cloud, a white buffalo, was born on Arby Little Soldier’s Lakota Ranch with great ceremony. At just under one-year-old, the sacred and rare calf was killed in May. Authorities believe the animal and his mother were intentionally killed. "He was the hope of all nations,” Little Soldier said back in May.

Here's the KHOU video report:

Feds Open Up Conservation Land To Drought-Stricken Ranchers

Farmers and ranchers will be allowed to graze cattle and grow hay on land typically reserved for conservation under an initiative announced by the US Department of Agriculture on Monday. US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told reporters that the move aims to increase the food supply for cattle in parts of the country gripped by this year’s drought. Under the initiative, land that is part of the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program [CRP] in counties designated as drought-stricken or abnormally dry can be used to produce cattle feed. That’s an expansion of an emergency drought plan announced last week that opened up CRP land in areas stricken by severe drought. “All counties in the country which are currently on the drought monitor as being somewhere between abnormally dry to extremely dry will now be included in the emergency haying and grazing effort,” Vilsack told reporters...more

Navajo-Hopi water deal collapses

The collapse of a long-sought Navajo-Hopi water settlement this month represents a lost opportunity for the tribes to secure reliable water supplies and for Sen. Jon Kyl to close one last tribal deal before he leaves office in January. Navajo lawmakers voted July 5 to reject the agreement and Kyl's enabling legislation, which would have authorized funding for water-delivery projects. The Hopi Tribal Council on June 21 narrowly approved the settlement but voted down Kyl's bill, a necessary component of the deal. The settlement required the approval of both tribes to move forward. Support for the agreement eroded after Kyl introduced the bill in February. Opponents framed the deal as unfair to the tribes, claiming its central component awarded groundwater that already belonged to the reservation communities. They also seized on a provision that offered the Navajos extra water if tribal leaders agreed to extend the land lease for a power plant near Page. The tribes could still try to salvage pieces of the settlement, but time has nearly run out to reintroduce it in Congress, where attention is focused almost exclusively on the election...more

Horse slaughter plant plans stall

The primary backer of a proposed horse slaughtering operation in western Missouri said she isn't giving up, even though plans have stalled because of legal problems surrounding the plant that was to be used for the business. In June, Wyoming legislator Sue Wallis announced that a former beef processing plant in Rockville was being retrofitted to be a horse slaughtering plant, raising hopes of bringing much-needed jobs to the town 100 miles south of Kansas City. But Wallis' company, Unified Equine, has not acquired the plant and no work has been done at the site, The Kansas City Star reported Monday. Wallis' critics said that is typical of how she has operated since she began pushing to reopen horse slaughtering plants in the U.S. after Congress voted in 2011 to restore funding for horse plant inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wallis insisted she plans to continue working to acquire the Rockville plant, noting that organizations such as the Missouri Equine Council support her effort...more

California parks director resigns amid scandal-Closes 70 parks while hiding a $54 million surplus

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned this morning and her second in command has been fired after officials learned the department has been sitting on nearly $54 million in surplus money for as long as 12 years. John Laird, secretary of the state Natural Resources Agency, which oversees State Parks, told The Bee that investigations have been launched by both the Attorney General's office and the Department of Finance to figure out how -- and why -- the Department of Parks and Recreation squirreled away so much money for so long. The surplus money consists of $20.3 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off Highway Vehicle Fund, which are the two primary operating funds at the agency. This money was not reported to the state Finance Department, in contrast to normal budgeting procedures. The department sat on the money for unknown reasons even as it carried out, over the past year, the unprecedented closure of 70 parks to satisfy state budget cuts...more

They sat on it for "unknown reasons"? I don't think so.

The moves come in the wake of a scandal, revealed by The Bee on Sunday, in which a deputy director at State Parks carried out a secret vacation buyout program for employees at department headquarters last year. That buyout cost the state more than $271,000.

They'll spend the money...if it benefits them. Spending to benefit the general public is another story.

HT: The Outdoor Pressroom

Bison could wander freely outside Yellowstone, despite brucellosis concerns

Bison could roam year-round in large areas adjacent to Yellowstone National Park under a proposal released Monday by Montana officials who want to further ease restrictions on the iconic, burly animals. For decades migrating bison have been slaughtered or hazed back into the park to prevent them from passing the disease brucellosis to cattle. The plan announced Monday would allow the animals to remain year-round in the Hebgen Basin and surrounding areas of the Gallatin National Forest. To the north, some bison would be allowed year-round in the Gardiner Basin. Current rules allow some bison to migrate to grazing areas in Montana each winter. But they must return to the park each spring -- a perennial source of friction between conservationists who want more room for bison and ranchers who say they are a disease threat. The proposed changes are certain to stoke the argument. Some in the livestock industry already are lining up in opposition. "They try to talk it down and say we've downgraded the disease," said John Youngberg with the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. "There's still brucellosis in those bison up there. It hasn't gone away." Under the administration of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the state has steadily ratcheted back its restrictions against the animals. That's allowed the animals to enter new areas and stretched out the date by which they are returned to the park. Now the state wants to take that a step further, eliminating the May 15 deadline for bison to be returned to Yellowstone's west side and, for bulls, the May 1 date for the north side...more