Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mexico scrambles to cope with egg shortage

The Mexican government is battling an egg shortage and hoarding that have caused prices to spike in a country with the highest per-capita egg consumption on Earth. A summer epidemic of bird flu in the heart of Mexico's egg industry has doubled the cost of a kilo (2.2 pounds), or about 13 eggs, to more than 40 pesos ($3), a major blow to working- and middle-class consumers in a country that consumes more than 350 eggs per person each year. That's 100 more eggs per person than in the United States. Egg prices have dominated the headlines here for a week, spurring Mexico City's mayor to ship tons of cheap eggs to poor neighborhoods and the federal government to announce emergency programs to get fresh chickens to farms hit by bird flu and to restock supermarket shelves with eggs imported from the U.S. and Central America...more

The Westerner's Radio Theater #044

Lot's going on here at Ranch Radio, so a little late with our Radio Theater.

First up is the 9/22/1951 broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry with Red Foley & Hank Williams, followed by the 4/23/1950 broadcast of Hopalong Cassidy titled The Coyote's Creed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mexican Navy: Federal police fire on US gov’t vehicle in which 2 employees were wounded

The Mexican Navy said Friday that federal police opened fire on a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying two U.S. government employees, after the vehicle entered an area where the Mexican officers were conducting anti-crime operations. The two U.S. Embassy employees were hospitalized, one with a wound to the leg and the other hit in the stomach and hand, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. Embassy said it could not release details of the shooting or the names of the victims. The Navy said at least four vehicles opened fire on the Americans’ sport utility vehicle on a road south of Mexico City, but did not make clear if any of the four carried federal police officers. The shootings appeared to have been the result of a confused running gunbattle that broke out on a rural road in a mountainous area that has been used by common criminals, drug gangs and leftist rebels in the past. The Navy said the embassy personnel were heading down a dirt road to a military installation when a carload of gunmen opened fire on them and chased them, along with a Navy officer accompanying them. The Americans’ vehicle tried to escape, but three other cars joined the original vehicle in pursuing them down the road. Occupants of all four vehicles opened fire, and the Navy captain called more help. Federal police officers and Mexican army troops then showed up on the road. The statement does not make clear whose bullets injured the U.S. workers...more

Romney: Giving Reins to the States Over Drilling

By proposing to end a century of federal control over oil and gas drilling and coal mining on government lands, Mitt Romney is making a bid for anti-Washington voters in key Western states while dangling the promise of a big reward to major campaign supporters from the energy industry. The federal government owns vast portions of states like New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Alaska. Under President Obama, officials in Washington have played a bigger role in drilling and mining decisions on federal lands in the states, and such involvement rankles many residents and energy executives, who prefer the usually lighter touch of local officials. With gasoline prices again approaching $4 a gallon, Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, is also trying to merge energy and economic policy in a way that will make voters see increased energy production as a pocketbook issue. He said that his overall energy plan, which includes speedy approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and new drilling off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas, would help the country achieve energy independence and create three million drilling and manufacturing jobs. “I’m going to change the regulatory and permitting process,” Mr. Romney said Thursday at a rally in Hobbs, N.M., in the giant Permian Basin oil fields, where companies are eager to begin drilling on millions of acres of federal lands. “Sometimes I have the impression that the whole regulatory attitude of the administration is trying to stop oil and gas and coal — that they don’t want those sources, that instead they want to get those things so expensive and so rare that wind and solar become highly cost-effective and efficient.” Mr. Romney said that states like North Dakota and Colorado grant drilling permits on state-owned lands in days or weeks, compared with the nearly a year that it takes the federal government to grant approval. “They found a way to do a job in a more efficient way,” he said. “On federal lands, the permitting process to actually drill and get oil or gas is extraordinarily slow.” ...more

Forest Service: No new grazing allotments despite wildfires

The head of the U.S. Forest Service's rangeland management program says the government won't likely reopen abandoned grazing allotments on federal lands to replace those that have been lost to the West's many wildfires. Charlie Richmond, the agency's director of rangeland management, told the Capital Press that this year's fires "have really overcome our ability to respond to provide additional grazing lands for folks." Adding to the shortage of land is that some vacant allotments have been provided to ranchers around the country who have been affected by drought, he said. Other allotments can't be reopened without an analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), he said. "There are a lot of vacant allotments that are vacant for a reason," Richmond said. "They don't have improvements on them anymore, they don't have water, they haven't been through a NEPA analysis or have an updated plan. A lot of vacant allotments were old sheep allotments. The sheep industry has declined, and they're not available for cattle. "There's just a lot of variables," he said. "It's hard to give you a one-size-fits-all kind of answer, other than to say we're trying to help out. When we have available forage we use that, but we just don't have nearly enough." Richmond's comments follow calls from California Cattlemen's Association officials for the federal government to provide some relief for ranchers who've lost thousands of acres of grazing land because of fires...more

According to the article USDA, Executive Branch working to provide drought relief:

USDA is working with the Department of the Interior to provide flexibility in grazing Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. Programs include refunds to lessees unable to use their allotments for grazing because of drought or fires, greater flexibility in grazing schedules and management and expanded access to additional federal lands.

Doesn't appear the Forest Service is up to providing "greater flexibility" nor "expanded access".  After all, these vacant allotments don't have "an updated plan"! 

I'm not surprised, for years the FS  has resisted opening these allotments to grazing.

The NEPA problem can be fixed with "sufficiency" language inserted in any bill by Congress.  Not sure the FS can be fixed. 

Organizers meet to create $100b climate fund

A new global fund on climate change that aims to channel $100 billion a year in aid to poor countries selected officials from South Africa and Australia as its leaders at its first meeting Thursday. The U.N.'s Green Climate Fund - created as part of a deal struck in December 2011 at the 194-nation climate talks in Durban, South Africa - will be led by Zaheer Fakir, head of international relations for South Africa's environment agency, and Ewen McDonald, deputy head of Australia's international development agency, the fund said in a statement. In what is hoped will serve as a new model of climate financing, the fund would receive and distribute $100 billion that rich nations have pledged annually by 2020 to help poorer countries adapt to changing climate conditions and to move toward low-carbon economic growth. The commitment to provide those billions in climate aid through the new "green" fund came as part of a hard-fought agreement in Durban that was meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades...more

New Carson National Forest supervisor named

The Forest Service has named “native Norteño” Buck Sánchez as Carson National Forest’s new supervisor. According to information from Carson National Forest, he graduated from Ratón High School before earning a bachelor’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University and a master’s of science degree from New Mexico State University. The search for a forest supervisor began after Kendall Clark announced her retirement. The search was conducted internally and yielded 33 applicants. Sánchez is expected to start work in mid-September. He currently serves as deputy forest supervisor of the White River National Forest in Glenwood Springs, Colo., according to a Forest Service announcement. “I grew up moving around Northern New Mexico following my father’s career,” Sánchez is quoted as saying in the release. According to the announcement, Sánchez’ grandfather was the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch’s horse foreman for 46 years, and his great-grandfather, for whom he is named, farmed and ranched in Northern New Mexico. “Sánchez has worked for the Forest Service in all forests in New Mexico,” the announcement states. “Sánchez was acting deputy forest supervisor for the Plumas National Forest in Quincy, Calif. In New Mexico, he was a district ranger on the Smokey Bear Ranger District in the Lincoln National Forest; deputy district ranger on the Sandia Ranger District in Albuquerque; acting district ranger for the Carson’s El Rito Ranger District; the first manager for the Valles Caldera National Preserve; range/wildlife staff on portions of the Cuba and Jemez ranger districts for the Santa Fe National Forest; and range/wildlife/watershed staff on the Black Range Ranger District of the Gila National Forest.”...more

AG review: Forest Service response to Little Bear fire was prompt and complete

An independent review by Attorney General Gary King’s office has found that the response by the U.S. Forest service to combat the Little Bear Fire was prompt and complete. King assigned a special investigator to look into the firefighting effort following a complaint from an Alto resident who felt the USFS may have mismanaged the battle against the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso earlier this summer. In a letter to the complainant and officials at the USFS, the AG’s office wrote: “The USFS responded to the fire in a prompt fashion. Substantial resources were committed to containing the fire, which unfortunately spread rapidly, despite the best efforts put out the fire. There is no evidence that anything other than a full fire suppression effort was made by the federal authorities tasked with fighting this massive fire. Under a time of emergency it is inevitable that rumors fly when a bad situation turns much worse. Our office is confident that the public records of the USFS indicate that everything was done in an expeditious fashion to combat what would become the largest wildfire in New Mexico history...It is our belief that the USFS cooperated completely with [our investigator] and he had unfettered access to all necessary records and personnel. As a result of our investigation, this matter will be closed without further action on our part.”...more

Links of interest

Trinity Ridge Fire tops national priority list

Lightning sparks more blazes across the West

View all federal lands with recreational ops online

Court lifts injunction blocking Ore. ski expansion

Lawsuits fly over access to public land

Hunting and Fishing Increase in Popularity, Who Gets the Credit?

IN PHOTOGRAPHS: Wildfires wreck havoc in US

McDonald’s suspends meat purchases from slaughterhouse under investigation

McDonald’s Corp. has joined a growing list of companies that have severed ties with a California slaughterhouse at the center of a federal cruelty and food safety investigation. The world’s largest fast-food chain announced Wednesday that it took immediate action against Central Valley Meat Co. when it learned the U.S. Department of Agriculture had suspended operations at the plant. The plant came under fire this week after an undercover video showed workers kicking, shocking and shooting downed animals in an attempt to get them to walk to slaughter. McDonald’s said behaviors in the video appear to be unacceptable. The video was shot in June and July by an undercover operative working for Compassion Over Killing. Also on Wednesday the USDA announced it was suspending purchases from the company for school lunch and other nutrition programs. It bought 21 million pounds of beef last year. AP

US testing surveillance balloons that proved effective in war zones along Mexico border

Floating 2,500-feet above scrub-covered U.S. ranchland near the Mexico border, the payload of high-tech cameras onboard a balloon being used by the Border Patrol can easily see a cluster of reporters and the make, model and color of their vehicles a couple of miles away. In Iraq or Afghanistan, where the technology has already proven effective at spotting attackers, such balloons provide surveillance around bases. U.S. officials think they could be equally helpful in tracking drug smugglers and illegal immigrants along a rugged stretch of the Rio Grande that doesn’t have any segments of border fence. The Border Patrol is testing two blimp-shaped, helium-filled balloons, which are on loan from the Defense Department. The 72-foot model can stay airborne for at least 14 days. While the aerostats can’t cover nearly the range of a helicopter or drone, they are far less expensive to operate and can be moved if needed. Since the testing began Aug. 10, the balloons have already assisted agents patrolling the area. “We have seen some successes off of the aerostat in the testing phase,” Mendiola said, declining to give details. On the border, agents already employ an arsenal of surveillance tools that includes airplanes, helicopters, drones, boats, ground-based sensors and agents equipped with night-vision goggles...more

Song Of The Day #915

Today Ranch Radio brings you a slightly risque song.  It might not be up to Crayola Cowboy standards, but is cute and ought to bring a smile to your face.  Here are the VW Boys and The Rooster Song.  You'll find the tune on their Retroactive CD.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ice core shows Antarctic Peninsula warming is nothing unusual

New ice core data from the Antarctic Peninsula has revealed that temperatures in the region during the past 10,000 years have often been higher than they are today, and that warming of the sort seen there recently has also occurred in the pre-industrial past. The new data are derived from a massive new 364m-long core extracted from the ice sheet lying on top of James Ross Island towards the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the freezing Weddell Sea. The core was extracted by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, assisted by French boffins, who reached the area courtesy of the Royal Navy ice-patrol ship HMS Endurance and her helicopters. The mighty core has allowed analysing boffins to reconstruct local temperatures and snowfall way back to the end of the last ice age. The info is of particular interest as the Peninsula has warmed up rather quickly over the last 50 years or so, and is bucking the overall Antarctic trend which has seen vast new expanses of sea ice appear around the coasts of the austral continent. Thus it is that the Ross Island ice core results have made it into this week's edition of agenda-setting boffinry mag Nature...more

Analysis of Madeleine Pickens’ eco-sanctuary plan begins

Federal authorities have started to analyse the proposal for a wild horse eco-sanctuary in northwest Nevada backed by Madeleine Pickens. The Bureau of Land Management has published its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement to analyze the potential impacts of the proposed sanctuary, which would operate as a public-private partnership. The proposal is to create a wild horse eco-sanctuary of a non-reproductive herd on most of the existing Spruce Grazing Allotment, including about 14,000 acres of private land and 508,000 acres of public land. The land is about 25 miles southeast of Wells, Nevada. The wild horse eco-sanctuary would be operated by Saving America’s Mustangs, a non-profit group, which has bought the Spruce Ranch and acquired the associated grazing permit in the Spruce Allotment. The group also seeks to develop an eco-tourism operation in conjunction with the wild horse eco-sanctuary...more

A road too far

The November election presents plenty of hot-button issues. But amid the fuss about the economy and health care and other social issues, questions of how to handle our public lands and how to protect our environment also hang in the balance. This week, Boulder Weekly begins a series that will examine legislation Republican members of Congress have proposed. In some cases, these bills are loaded and ready, waiting in House committees for a Republican-dominated Senate that would look favorably on what Democratic representatives and a former secretary of the interior have declared to be some of the most radical assaults on the environment in decades. Environment America, a federation of state-based environmental advocacy organizations that includes a Colorado division, released a report called “Trashing our Treasures: Congressional Assault on the Best of America” that highlights some of the threats to conservation around the country. “Trashing our Treasures” argues that wilderness areas support the function of natural ecosystems, protect watersheds and aid in climate regulation by sequestering carbon, in addition to contributing to the economy nationwide to the tune of $646 billion and 388,000 jobs...more

Reid: Yerington land bill must include wilderness

Sen. Harry Reid said he'd support transferring federal land to the city of Yerington in Lyon County if the deal includes creating a wilderness area in the region. The bill co-sponsored by other members of Nevada's congressional delegation would require Yerington to pay fair-market value for 19 square miles of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Pumpkin Hollow, a copper mine being developed by Nevada Copper. "It is not a lot of wilderness area, but it is something that is important," the Democratic Senate majority leader told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "They cannot think they are going to get this thing and do nothing for the environment." Nevada Copper says its operation will employ up to 500 workers making an average yearly salary of $80,000 when the mine is fully operational. The surrounding land targeted in the bill will be used for businesses serving the mine, but plans also include a BMX track, outdoor amphitheater, a solar farm and a light-manufacturing district. "I've been pretty good to mining and will continue to be," Reid said. "I have fought their battles for 30 years in Washington. And they are going to get their mining law passed, but they are going to have something environmentally in it." The proposed wilderness area is land between Smith Valley and Bridgeport, Calif., that has significant cultural meaning for Native Americans, Yerington Mayor George Dini said. The entire area is around 80,000 acres, but Dini was unsure how much would be designated as the wilderness area...more

They do stuff all the time for the environmentalists without requiring a benefit to local communities or business, so why this requirement by Reid?

Mexico and the United States have a long and profitable trading relationship

You can pick out a lot of horns on the dilemma that is Mexico. The big one, most likely, is the issue with immigration and that one branches off into several smaller points that include border violence, drug trafficking and the desperate need in the United States for Mexican labor. Water issues frequently stick up as one side of the border claims the other is taking advantage. And then there is trade, which comes with its own tines of alleged barriers, quotas, rules and food security questions. But the bottom line is this: Mexico and the United States have a long and profitable trading relationship. “Mexico is one of our largest trading partners,” said Pete Olsen, agriculture attaché with the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service in Mexico City. Olsen led off a panel discussion on trade issues at the Texas Produce Association annual conference in San Antonio. “We have a big time trade relationship with Mexico,” Olsen said. U.S. exports to Mexico top $19 billion annually. Imports are $16.5 billion. Mexico wants increased U. S. market access, “especially for potatoes, avocadoes and poultry. Food safety will be an issue and Mexican imports have to meet USDA standards.” USDA has 19 offices in Mexico, including FAS, the Animal-Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS and the Agricultural Research Service...more

USDA Says Don’t Eat Meat, and Then Buys Meat

When does the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) say you should eat meat? It depends on the day. On July 23, the agency’s interoffice newsletter, Greening Headquarters Update, encouraged employees to participate in the “Meatless Monday” initiative that was supposed to help the environment. Three weeks later, on August 13, the agency announced plans to buy up to $170 million worth of meat, poultry, and fish from drought-stricken livestock producers (yes, fish from livestock producers) and put it toward subsidized school breakfast and lunch programs and other food assistance. That’s a paradox of bovine proportions. Of course, this buyout gives the illusion of the federal government having rescued livestock producers, but it is merely cosmetic—a temporary solution for a deeper problem. In fact, the USDA was rescuing livestock producers from the consequences of federal policy. After all, the federal “renewable” fuel mandate—requiring 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol this year alone—is inflating the price of corn beyond what cattle ranchers can afford. Some 30 percent to 40 percent of the nation’s corn yield now goes to ethanol, which has sent cattle feed costs soaring. Ranchers have been feeling the squeeze for years, but the drought’s effect on corn and hay production has exacerbated matters. As news of the Meatless Monday promotion spread, agency officials dared not defend it, particularly in light of the ranchers’ ire. Instead, they claimed that the promotion had not gone through the proper channels. Meanwhile, livestock producers are pleading for a temporary waiver of the ethanol mandate to free up corn supplies and slow the rise in feedstock prices. The Obama Administration has refused, evidently preferring to make a show of buying out a few ranchers. All of which is further proof that government has grown wild. Congress should revisit the renewable fuel standard as well as agriculture policies that are costing consumers and taxpayers dearly.  Heritage

Waiting for the HSUS

Almost a year ago, the Humane Society of the U.S. and the Nebraska Farmers Union (NFU) formed an advisory council.  It was the first such alliance in the country between an ag organization and the HSUS. But it wasn’t the last. In July, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) said it has formed an alliance with the Humane Society. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle spoke at the OCM meeting in Kansas City, August 10. I understand what the HSUS and independent farmers and ranchers have in common: The NFU and OCM need allies in their fight against the large (some would say monopolistic) groups that control ag markets and the lives of farmers and ranchers. HSUS is opposed to factory farming methods that are the foundation of corporate agribusiness.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend. I get it. I also understand the benefits of this kind of alliance. HSUS gains an ally in the farm and ranch country where the organization is trying to change factory farming practices — from tail docking at dairies to the size of gestation crates on hog farms. The farmers and ranchers at OCM and NFU, meanwhile, believe HSUS could help open new markets for the food they produce by steering urban foodies to their products. (Maybe the HSUS could brand products from independent producers.) HSUS could also provide some lobbying clout in Congress when it comes to writing (or enforcing) laws about competition and monopolies. In theory, everybody wins. Markets are opened, allowing independent producers to thrive. Animals are saved from factory farms. Food quality improves. Rural communities benefit from having local owners and operators who are making more money. It could work. But for a coalition to prosper, don’t you need to have both sides publicly supporting each other?...more

The lefties in the ag world are making fools of themselves.

Notorious 2006 elk escape, then-Gov. Risch's kill order subject of Idaho Supreme Court hearing

A continuing dispute over then-Gov. Jim Risch's 2006 order for state wildlife agents to shoot elk rancher Rex Rammell's escaped animals has now reached the Idaho Supreme Court, where justices Wednesday heard arguments contending the state can't just shoot somebody's private property without a good reason. The escaped elk and Risch's subsequent efforts to kill them caused a furor in 2006, precipitating efforts in the next Legislature to more strictly regulate ranches such as Rammell's offering high-priced hunts for prized bucks behind high fences. Rammell tried to capitalize on the attention to bolster his political fortunes, including a failed 2008 run against Risch for U.S. Senate. The Spokesman-Review reports justices Wednesday appeared skeptical of Rammell's arguments that Risch's shoot-to-kill order was illegal. Questioning Rammell's attorney, Justice Jim Jones suggested Idaho law allows state wildlife managers to carry out emergency hunts when animals are on the loose for more than seven days. "Doesn't Fish and Game have the authority to issue emergency depredation hunts when situations arise?" Jones asked. Rammell's lawyer, Patrick Furey, countered that Risch's order came unaccompanied by any evidence that roughly 160 elk that fled through a broken fence at Rammell's ranch were diseased or posed a threat to Idaho's wild elk herds near the border of Yellowstone National Park, located some 10 miles away...more

Alarm bells ringing: World food prices rising

With the 2008 food-price riots in developing nations still fresh in mind, non-governmental agency analysts are wary of where this year’s diminishing U.S. corn yields might lead. With much of U.S. farm country under a punishing drought -- along with reports that world food prices have gone up some 6 percent in the last few weeks -- corn prices have spiked. Following several consecutive USDA reports showing corn stocks and yields dipping, the U.S. ethanol production quota is under fire and waivers have been requested from the EPA. The ethanol industry’s advocates have pushed back hard against the idea that such a waiver would ameliorate the tight supply of corn. While U.S. row crops bake in the field, the potential repercussions are being considered. Also in the mix are concerns that countries, citing the need to protect homegrown food stores, could refuse to export commodities like India and Russia did in 2010. This would only exacerbate the problem of rising food prices. Farm Press spoke with food price expert Gawain Kripke, director of policy and research for Oxfam America, shortly before the release of the latest Food Price Index report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Kripke spoke about the food-deficient hot spots being watched, why the world’s poor are especially vulnerable to rising food prices, and why the situation is on a “knife’s edge.”...more

Buffalo rancher plans herd expansion into cattle country

Frank King is on a mission to find the perfect meat. King, the owner of King Bio Natural Medicine, holistic pharmaceutical company based in Asheville, is testing and researching different types of animals that will prosper in the Western North Carolina climate while at the same time provide nourishing steaks and burgers. He has tried everything from the Eland, the looming antelope-like animal from the plains of Africa, to the Himalayan Yak, of which he now has a group grazing in the field in front of his house in Haywood County. Some of his meat ventures he won’t even talk about. But so far, his most successful is the American classic: American Bison. King, through his company, Carolina Bison, has sold millions of dollars in bison meat to regional food distributors, Asheville-area restaurants and farmer’s markets as well as the Ingles grocery store chains and other food venues. Thanks to Carolina Bison, buffalo meat has become the latest darling of local food champions and health-conscious shoppers. King has a bison ranch in Buncombe County. Although a large amount of the bison meat he sells is raised in other parts of the United States by King’s business partners, the ranch near Asheville provides enough space for between 300 and 500 head of bison. But, all that might change soon as he attempts to expand...more

Escalating risks of West Nile Virus in rural Texas

Health officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta are calling the current outbreak of mosquito-transmitted West Nile Virus (WNV) disease across Texas the worst outbreak in the state’s history, causing cities across the state to launch comprehensive pesticide spraying programs in an effort to protect the public. The death toll related to West Nile Virus in Texas this year has reached 17 so far and health officials from Austin to Atlanta are warning that number could go higher. Also at risk are farm animals, especially horses, and Texas AgriLife officials are warning farmers and ranchers to take steps now to control potential mosquito breeding grounds to protect both humans and animals. In addition to stock ponds and water troughs in rural areas that serve as mosquito breeding grounds, officials say the problem is serious in urban areas as well. Dallas County, for example, has begun aerial spraying of pesticides to control mosquitoes for the first time in 45 years, largely because of concerns that public schools are set to open this week and next, which has alarmed parents over the dangers. West Nile Virus is a flavivirus commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. It is closely related to St. Louis encephalitis virus, which is also found in the United States. The virus can infect humans, birds, mosquitoes, horses and other mammals. The most severe type of disease for a person infected with West Nile virus is sometimes called “neuroinvasive disease” because it affects a person’s nervous system. Specific types of neuroinvasive disease include: West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis or West Nile meningoencephalitis. While most people who contract the virus experience only mild flu-like symptoms including lethargy, weakness, muscle stiffness, malaise and loss of appetite, other and more symptoms might include possible neurological signs of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The latter might include stumbling, staggering, abnormal posture, disorientation, muscle twitching, seizures, paralysis, and coma. In humans, those with underlying health conditions, including the elderly and extremely young, are at greater risk. In some cases, the disease can be fatal.

Song Of The Day #914

Yesterday Ranch Radio brought you a song written about the Crayola Cowboy.  It's only fair that we bring you a similar risque song written about me.  Yes, now everybody will know why women called me the Peanut Man.

Here's Georgia White singing Hot Nuts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rancher, wolf battle escalates

When Laura Schneberger sent out an email over the weekend about her suspicions in regards to a wolf trap being tampered with, her frustration was clear. Schneberger is president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association and said the association, now at 95 members, once was 150 or so members strong. She blames this, in part, on wolves. Or rather on the wolf program as managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. “Its like dealing with the dang mafia,” Schneberger said in reference to Fish and Wildlife. She said GLGA does not believe the department is doing enough to protect the ranchers. Representing Fish and Wildlife, Tom Buckley said his department is doing what it can. He said there have been four confirmed wolf depredations since March. A single wolf, the alpha female of the Fox Mountain pack in Western Catron County, had been singled out by the service to be killed earlier this month, but because of public concern, Fish and Wildlife rescinded the kill order two days later, Aug. 10, and agreed to trap her instead. But to rancher Corwin Hulsey, it’s more than a sensitive subject, it’s his life. With his cattle endangered after several losses in the last 12 months, Hulsey felt he had to move them off of land he leases at a cost of $1,600 a month. “I moved all my cows in trailers with two pickups,” Hulsey said. And because he moved the animals to his own land, quickly overgrazed, he had to buy hay to feed them. “I fed them $8,500 worth of hay,” he said. “It took $800 in fuel just to move them back and forth.” “Last year we lost 25 out of 200 calves,” Hulsey said. “You could attribute maybe two or three of those to other predators.” Three days after Hulsey took his herd back to the leased land earlier this month, the wolves took another cow...more

Solyndra’s taxpayer-funded glass tubes now in modern art exhibit

Taxpayers lost $500 million when Solyndra went bankrupt, but their loss proved to be the gain of a modern art exhibit at the University of California at Berkeley. “Descending into the Strawberry Creek from the California Native section of the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, one discovers The SOL Grotto,” the botanical garden website explains. “Inside is an array of nearly 1,400 glass tubes that transmit light into the cool, dark space . . . Seen from afar, the glass tubes appear to be a continuation of the shimmering creek or a cloud of mist rising from the waterfall. The tubes were recovered from Solyndra.” The exhibit is a memorial to and a mockery of Solyndra’s failure (this photo from Pajamas Media shows that the acronym, SOL, means exactly what you think it means)...more

On the 20th anniversary of Ruby Ridge

Ruby Ridge Is History, But the Mindset That Led to Ruby Ridge Is Thriving

Ex-reporters recount Ruby Ridge standoff, aftermath

20 Years After Ruby Ridge, Newspapers and Hatewatch Groups Can't Quite Bring Themselves to Fully Describe the Government Screw-Up

Ruby Ridge: When Officials Realized That We Scare Them

20 Years Ago Today, The Govt Murdered Some “Domestic Terrorists”

Ruby Ridge: 20 Years Later, Daughter Finds Freedom In Faith And Forgiveness

20 years after deadly Ruby Ridge standoff, there is forgiveness for federal agents

Silent Spring After 50 Years

This year marks the 50th anniversary of a foundational document in modern environmentalism: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Today, when Carson’s book is often mentioned but rarely read, it is easy to forget how important it was in shaping American attitudes about the environment. Serialized in The New Yorker, featured as a Book of the Month Club selection, given a CBS TV special, and praised by President John F. Kennedy, Silent Spring was a national sensation in the early 1960s. The book led to Carson’s testimony before a Senate subcommittee, which, together with her 1964 death from cancer, established the book’s iconic status and placed Carson on a pedestal as the “mother of the environmental movement.” It is difficult to justify Silent Spring’s reputation as crusading investigative reporting. Carson was a longtime critic of DDT rather than a scientist who discovered pesticide problems in research. She edited 1940s reports by her boss at the Fish and Wildlife Service, Clarence Cottam, which were critical of DDT’s use to control mosquitoes in marshlands. Indeed, in the anniversary volume I coedited for the Cato Institute, Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu report that Carson herself unsuccessfully pitched an article attacking DDT to Reader’s Digest in 1945. Unfortunately, the legacy of Silent Spring is—at best—mixed. Carson rightly pointed to abuses by government pesticide-spraying programs that ignored private property rights and caused significant harm. But Carson also embraced strands of what University of Maryland economist Robert Nelson has labeled “environmental religion.” Indeed, as Desrochers and Shimizu show, the intellectual “groundwaters” for Silent Spring included sources such as her friend William Vogt’s 1948 best-seller Road to Survival, which praised pests such as tsetse flies and malaria-carrying mosquitoes as “blessings in disguise” for reducing populations in poor countries, whose “greatest national assets” included high death rates. And Carson’s message that chemicals posed an existential threat—she termed pesticides like DDT “biocides”—helped legitimize the long-standing strain of apocalyptic thinking that environmentalists have ever since invoked to justify measures restricting liberty. Indeed, Carson’s original title for the book, Man Against the Earth, embodied the apocalyptic theme...more

Federal Judge Says Poker Is Not Gambling

Yesterday a federal judge threw out the conviction of a Staten Island poker room operator accused of violating the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA), ruling that poker does not qualify as gambling under the statute because it is primarily a game of skill. According to the Poker Players Alliance, which "played a central role in the case" by advising the defense, supplying briefs, and arranging for expert testimony, this is "the first federal court decision on whether poker is a game of skill rather than gambling."...more

Detroit Has No Horses But Pays $56K for Horseshoer

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) pays a “horseshoer” $29,245 in salary and roughly $27,000 in benefits. There’s only one problem — Detroit has no horses for the horseshoer to shoe. Some critics argue that the department has been turned into some sort of a government jobs program. Meanwhile, the local union president says it is “not possible” to eliminate positions, the Michigan Capitol Confidential reports. The horseshoer’s job description, which was last updated in 1967 (Lyndon B. Johnson was president), is “to shoe horses and to do general blacksmith work… and to preform related work as required,” according to the department’s website. With a large amount of debt, DWSD has struggled with rising water prices and inefficient services. They use roughly twice the number of employees per gallon as comparable cities like Chicago...more

Over 20 Challenges To Offroad Plan

More than 20 appeals were filed by the midnight deadline Tuesday, challenging the Forest Service’s new travel management plan which prescribes where visitors can and cannot go on motorized vehicles when visiting the Santa Fe National Forest. Various groups, along with the village of Jemez Springs, have taken umbrage with the plan, released June 28, that would reduce access to nearly 70 percent of roads and trails currently open to vehicles, while prohibiting all off-road travel. “The forest service never showed that current motorized use was causing unacceptable impacts, yet they’re still closing over 70 percent of the existing roads and trails,” said Mark Werkmeister, recreation resources director for the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance. And once in place, Jemez Springs Mayor Edmund Temple – who co-signed the NMOHVA appeal – said that the new travel plan would have a severe impact on his community of 254 residents, which relies heavily on visitors to the forest for its funding. “I’m reflecting the view of a number of residents of the village, and the feeling is that they chose the most conservative plan. A number of people own property up in those areas and they’re restricted out,” Temple said. “There are issues out there, but this is essentially a forest closure. “When the forest has closed in the past, the village has suffered. The feeling is that if this goes through as is, there would be a severe economic impact on the village.” The new travel plan reduced motorized access to a designated system of approximately 2,463 miles of motorized travel roads and trails. Visitors will be limited in how far they can travel off-road for camping and game retrieval. The plan does allow corridors of 100 feet on either side of approved road segments. Gilbert Sandoval, chairman of the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias, also co-signed the NMOHVA appeal, agreeing that the new plan is too restrictive – and in the case of Sandoval and his constituents, the plan inhibits area residents from accessing lumber and areas for grazing...more

Coming Soon: Higher Energy Prices, Shortages

The real costs of renewable energy are coming out—both in dollars and daily impacts. After years of hearing about “free” energy from the sun and wind, people are discovering that they’ve been lied to. On Tuesday, August 14, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) approved a new renewable energy rate rider that will allow the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to start recovering a portion of its recent development costs for building five solar facilities around the state, a pilot solar facility with battery storage, and wind resource procurements. The renewable rider could be on ratepayers' bills by the end of the month—“depending on when the commission publishes its final order,” said PNM spokeswoman Susan Spooner. The rate rider currently represents about a $1.34 increase for an average residence using 600 kilowatt hours of electricity per month—or a little more than $16 per year. This increase seems miniscule until you realize that this is only a small part of increases to come. PNM needs to recover $18.29 million in renewable expenditures in 2012 and the rate rider only addresses monies spent in the last four to five months. The remaining expense will be carried into 2013. Like more than half of the states in the US, New Mexico has a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that mandates public utilities have set percentages of their electricity from renewable sources. In New Mexico the mandate is 10 percent this year, 15 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020. Most states—with the exception of California (which is 33 percent by 2020)—have similar benchmarks. To meet the mandates, PNM will need considerably more renewable energy with dramatically more expense—all of which ultimately gets passed on to the customer. PNM acknowledges that the rider will increase next year and predicts the total cost recovery for 2013 to be about $23 million. By 2020, based on the current numbers of approximately $20 million a year invested, resulting in a $24 a year increase, consumers’ bills will go up about $200 a year just for the additional cost of inefficient renewable energy. Environmental groups, who’ve been pushing for the renewable energy increases, opposed the special renewable rate rider and have threatened a potential appeal of the PRC’s decision. It is hard to tout “free” energy when there is a special line on the utility bill that clearly points out the new charge for renewables...more

Mexican Cartels ‘Increasingly’ Corrupting DHS Employees to Smuggle Aliens From Countries ‘Likely to Export Terrorism’

Mexican cartels “increasingly” are involved in the “systemic corruption” of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) workers as the cartels attempt to expand their drug and human smuggling operations -- including the trafficking of aliens from terrorism-linked countries into the U.S., the DHS acting inspector general told lawmakers earlier this month. “As the United States enhances border security with successful technologies and increased staffing to disrupt smuggling routes and networks, drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have become not only more violent and dangerous, but more clever as well. The DTOs have turned to recruiting and corrupting DHS employees,” Charles Edwards, the acting DHS inspector general, said in written remarks prepared for an August 1 hearing of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. “According to government reports, DTOs are becoming involved increasingly in systematic corruption of DHS employees to further alien and drug smuggling, including the smuggling of aliens from designated special interest countries likely to export terrorism.” Special interest countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia, among others. As previously reported, in Fiscal 2011, 255 aliens from special interest countries were apprehended along the Southwest border and164 were detained along the border with Canada...more

Georgia, New Mexico join call for end to U.S. ethanol rule

Two U.S. states that depend on the livestock industry are adding their voices to a string of states asking Washington to ease pressure on corn prices by suspending rules that send a large share of the crop to produce ethanol. Georgia, the center of U.S. poultry production, and New Mexico, with its large cattle industry, this week asked federal officials to suspend a program that encourages converting corn into ethanol fuel. Roughly 13 billion gallons of ethanol are due to be blended with gasoline this year under a federal renewable fuels mandate meant to bolster domestic energy sources. The rules can be waived under a formal appeal from a state to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Livestock farmers complain that demand for ethanol wrongly diverts a large share of the feed corn they need and drives up prices already inflated by a long dry season. "New Mexico's agricultural economy is primarily composed of dairy and range livestock production," Governor Susana Martinez wrote in a letter to the EPA this week. "I urge you to consider granting an immediate waiver."...more

NM: Tough times on the Pecos as miles of river go dry

Close to three dozen miles of the Pecos River have dried up, shorelines at state parks up and down the waterway are expanding, and threatened fish have to be relocated. State and federal officials on Tuesday pointed to what's happening on the Pecos River as another example of fallout from two years of drought. One of New Mexico's longest rivers, the Pecos stretches from mountain wilderness northeast of Santa Fe down through the plains and into West Texas. Parts of the river went dry in 2011, but officials say this summer is worse due to compounding conditions. So far, around 35 miles have dried up, double last year's amount, and reservoirs along the river have been reduced to just a few thousand acre-feet of water. A team of biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation will be collecting threatened Pecos bluntnose shiner from the river this week so they can be moved to a wetter area upstream. In previous years, the fish were collected in the spring and held at a hatchery through the dry months. That couldn't happen this year because the hatchery was full of fish pulled from areas around the Southwest that were ravaged by wildfire. State Parks Director Tommy Mutz said some of the lakes along the Pecos River have been forced to close their boat ramps due to low levels and an emergency salvage order was issued allowing anglers to catch more fish at Santa Rosa Lake to avoid spoilage as the level drops...more

Song Of The Day #913

By now the thousands of fans of Ranch Radio are aware of the Crayola Cowboy's liking of risque songs, and we have featured several songs of that type for him.  Few have been honored, though, with a song written especially about them.  That is the case for this song about A-10:  Buffalo Johnson - Tain't Big Enough.

I'm confident he'll celebrate this honor with one of his great western cartoons.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Energy Regulators Think You're Crazy

Federal regulators evidently believe that Americans are irrationally choosing to spend hundreds of billions more on energy than they should. Consequently, benevolent bureaucrats have imposed regulations to guide hapless consumers toward making the proper energy saving choices when it comes to purchasing cars, air conditioners, clothes dryers, refrigerators, and light bulbs. A new study finds that the regulators are, in fact, the ones being irrational.  In recent years, the Department of Energy (DOE), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been imposing energy efficiency regulations of various sorts on Americans. In a new working paper, "Overriding Consumer Preferences with Energy Regulations," Brookings Insitution economist Ted Gayer and Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi look for the market failures that DOE and EPA regulations are supposedly addressing and do not find them. Instead, they find blinkered agencies ignoring important aspects of products that consumers value in their single-minded pursuit of energy efficiency. Instead of seeking to ameliorate market failures, the agencies largely justify the costs of their energy conservation regulations by asserting that Americans are irrational. Specifically, consumers are supposedly incurring huge welfare losses because they myopically undervalue future energy costs when they purchase various consumer durables, e.g., cars, clothes dryers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and the like. This means that rational and benevolent regulators know better and must force Americans to change their choices for their own good...more

Court strikes down major pollution rule

A federal court has struck down an Environmental Protection Agency rule that forces cuts in soot- and smog-forming power plant emissions that cross state lines, dealing a major blow to the White House's air quality agenda. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that forces cuts from plants in 28 states in the eastern half of the country, finding that it exceeds EPA’s powers under the Clean Air Act. The 2-1 court decision Tuesday is a victory for industry groups, some states and GOP lawmakers, who alleged the rule would create economic burdens and force the closure of substantial numbers of coal-fired power plants. The court decision instructs EPA to continue administering a less aggressive, George W. Bush-era rule called the Clean Air Interstate Rule pending the creation of a "valid replacement." The judges said the Obama administration rule allows EPA to “impose massive emissions reduction requirements on upwind states without regard to the limits imposed by the statutory text.” Several states, including Texas, Alabama and Georgia, challenged the rule alongside the National Mining Association, power companies and other parties. But other states such as New York and Delaware, as well as environmental groups, joined the case in defense of EPA. Capitol Hill Republicans have taken aim at the rule, passing legislation in the House to scuttle it and force EPA to re-write the restrictions. But a bid to nix the rule in the Senate fell well short of the needed votes last November...more

Jaguars Win Critical Habitat in U.S.

Jaguars, the third-largest cats after lions and tigers—and the biggest in the Western Hemisphere—used to live here. During the 18th and 19th centuries they were spotted in Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas. Sometimes the cats roamed as far east as North Carolina and as far north as Colorado. As humans encroached on their territory, the endangered cats' range shifted south. Today it stretches from northern Argentina into Mexico's Sonoran Desert. But jaguars cross into the American Southwest frequently enough for some conservationists to argue that they deserve critical habitat protection. Now, after years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has agreed. In a  plan (pdf) published yesterday, the agency proposed designating 838,232 acres—an area larger than Rhode Island—as critical jaguar habitat. That means federal agencies cannot fund or authorize any activities that might "adversely modify" the earmarked land, which covers four stretches of mountain in southeastern Arizona, a section of the Peloncillo Mountains on the Arizona–New Mexico border, and a tiny piece of New Mexico's San Luis Mountains. It includes the site of a proposed copper mine in Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains, which will have to be carefully evaluated for its potential impact on jaguar habitat if the proposal is approved later this year, following a period of peer review, public comment (pdf) and economic analysis...more

NM rancher touts benefits of fire when used at right time, conditions

A more-than-five-decades-long Lincoln County rancher, well known for his conservation and land restoration work, said Monday that fire is a necessary part of creating healthy forests. Speaking to the Little Bear Fire Reform Coalition, Sid Goodloe contended a number of changes are needed to avert another disaster like June's Little Bear Fire. "I was a bit apprehensive about talking to you all," Goodloe told the coalition of which he is a member. "In fact I wouldn't have done it earlier because of the feelings here. What I've got to say is a little bit different from what we've been talking about but I think it's important for this group. I guess when I first heard about it I was a little standoffish because I thought it was just a bunch of people that were mad at the Forest Service and I don't share that feeling. I think the Forest Service did about as much as they possibly could on this fire." Goodloe, who has managed his Carrizo Valley Ranch north of Capitan through planned burns and thinning, has been applauded over the years for restoring the landscape and bringing creeks back to year-round life, said fire can be beneficial at the right times. "The point of what I want to get across here, and it's contrary to the way this thing started, is that we've got to have fire. We're going to have fire. It's just how we handle it or how we are able to prevent it. We've got to do controlled burning, prescribed burning. And in some cases we've got to let these natural fires burn. Goodloe criticized the Endangered Species Act and related litigation regarding the law. He said that has stopped the Forest Service from undertaking needed work. "These people, like the WildEarth Guardians, they're well intentioned but they're lawyers and they got money. You get that combination against you, you got a problem. And we've got a problem."...more

Change on the plains - grasslands reserve buys land

A U.S. conservation group said Tuesday it has bought a 150,000-acre (60,704-hectare) Montana ranch in a major step in its plans for a privately funded, national park-caliber wildlife preserve that has brought fears of change in the heart of cattle country. Some local ranchers see the American Prairie Reserve's plans as an assault on their way of life as families that stuck with the cattle business through generations of blizzard and drought are bought out. Steve Page with Page Whitham Land and Cattle said the century-old ranch was sold for an undisclosed sum to the reserve. The purchase more than doubles the amount of land under the reserve's control. American Prairie aims to create a vast grasslands wildlife complex, roamed by up to 10,000 bison, bordering the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Critics lump the reserve's goals with a contentious federal proposal to convert a vast swath of eastern Montana into a new national monument an idea that continues to echo more than two years after U.S. Interior Sec. Ken Salazar repudiated it. The sprawling South Ranch traces its history to a pair of Civil War veterans and professional bison hunters who moved into ranching after bison were wiped out of the area. But Page said restrictions on public grazing and higher government fees combined with the prospects of a national monument made ranching on the land no longer viable. "We have concluded that traditional ranching operations in south Valley and south Phillips counties are in jeopardy of becoming history in the not so distant future," Page said. American Prairie already has started pulling fences on other properties it has acquired in the area...more

Feds Drop $100 Million to Spot Flying, Homebrew Cocaine Mules

Stopping drug smugglers on the ground is one thing. You can build a fence, send more Border Patrol agents and put up more cameras. But it’s a whole other thing to stop Mexico’s cartels from using tiny planes that are nearly impossible to catch. That’s why the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is spending $100 million on new sensors that can detect ultralight aircraft. The giant contract — awarded to New York defense company SRCTec earlier this month — comes as the cartels have been using more of the planes to elude Border Patrol agents. The cartels also seem to have become pretty good at it. The Air Force has chased them with jets, and the Border Patrol has pursued them with Black Hawk helicopters. Closer to gliders than complete planes; ultralight planes are small, cheap and their engines are relatively quiet. They move slowly, but are flown low to blend in with the southwest border’s rugged and hilly terrain, which the smugglers use to hide from radar. The last available data on ultralight incursions is from 2011, when the CBP detected 223 flights, double from two years prior. It stands to reason the real number is much higher, owing to the diminutive aircraft’s sneakiness...more

Song Of The Day #912

The head vaquero at Ranch Radio had his Op-Ed published in the local paper today, so I'm feeling in a Yas, Yas, Yas mood. Besides, we all know the Crayola Cowboy likes these "blue" songs. In fact, we will feature a song tomorrow that was written specifically about Mr. Etcheverry, so everybody tune in.

I've got 8 versions of Yas, Yas, Yas, and I can't make up my mind which I like best, so here are three of my favorite versions, each with slightly different lyrics.

First up is Jimmy Strange with Yas, Yas, Yas, followed by The Three Peppers with The Duck's Yas, Yas, Yas and finishing with The Three Bits of Rhythm and their version of Yas, Yas, Yas.

Monday, August 20, 2012

EPA’s hazy outlook threatens to bankrupt coal-fired power plants

The nearly five million visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona each year stare in awe at the canyon’s long 277 river miles that can be up to 18 miles wide and about a mile deep. However, even amidst this beauty, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focused on the haze in the national park and says it is coming from a very important electricity source in the area. The Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a coal-fired power plant that supplies electricity for the 14 pumping stations required to move water to southern Arizona—to about 80 percent of the state’s population—is being blamed for creating poor air quality in the national park. Currently, this power plant meets all federal clean air guidelines—except the EPA’s interpretation of the Regional Haze Rule. The goal of the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule is the “remedying of any existing impairment of visibility” at 156 National Park and Wilderness areas throughout the U.S.  Congress approved of this amendment to the Clean Air Act in 1977, however, power to set standards of emissions was left to the states—not the EPA.  The EPA’s role was to simply provide support. Now the EPA seems to be trampling on the state’s authority to control emissions standards by creating its own set of standards.  Is the EPA really that concerned about cleaning up haze or is this just another aggressive move to push out the coal industry? If the EPA decides that the NGS power plant needs additional emissions control technology, owners of the power plant can expect to invest $1.1 billion, with no promise of improved air quality in the national park. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a report titled, “EPA’s New Regulatory Front: Regional Haze and the Takeover of State Programs,” highlights how the EPA, along with court-mandated deadlines, has wheedled its way into state territory by delaying state plans for emission control...more

National parks face severe funding crunch

After more than a decade of scrimping and deferring maintenance and construction projects — and absorbing a 6 percent budget cut in the past two years — the signs of strain are beginning to surface at national parks across the country. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which curves along the spine of the easternmost range of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina, has a $385 million backlog of projects, mainly in road maintenance, and has been unable to fill 75 vacant positions since 2003. For the past three years, New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument has lacked the money to hire a specialist to protect its archaeological ruins and resources. Park managers say they are alarmed at the prospect of both next year’s budget and a possible 8 percent across-the-board cut if negotiators fail to reach a budget deal by January. The president’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal — which was largely adopted by the House Appropriations Committee — would cut 218 full-time jobs, or 763 seasonal employees. Thomas Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said policymakers face a critical decision as the park system approaches its 100th anniversary in 2016. A major influx of funds could mobilize public support for the system, he said. Without it, he said, conditions at the parks will continue deteriorating and visits could drop sharply. “It’s clear that inadequate federal funding is the number one threat to the future of the national parks and the national park idea,” Kiernan said. “We’re at a crossroads of historic importance here.”...more

Expect more of this as the budget cycle...and the elections draw near.

Is Fire Suppression the Best Approach?

...Now firefighters are trekking deep into the Gila National Forest with trains of equipment-carrying horses and one overriding goal: snuffing out all fires, no matter how small or remote. The U.S. Forest Service’s decision is temporary. But after years of upholding fire’s natural ability to clean up the landscape, the agency’s about-face has drawn criticism from watchdog groups, some scientists and others who fear the agency might be setting the stage for an even more destructive season next year. “At a time of both drought in the interior West and overall increases in average global temperatures, we will be seeing more fire on the landscape and not less. Yet this policy attempts to put our hands over our eyes and deny that reality,” said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. “Rather than making our landscapes more fire resilient, we’re going to return to the mid-20th century approach and earlier of trying to stamp out every fire, which we can’t do,” he added. Forest Service officials acknowledge that decades of fire suppression have combined with drought, a changing climate and invasive insects to turn much of the West into a tinder box. The decision was purely financial. “We don’t want to do this long-term,” said Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard. “We know being able to use fire makes good sense, and we know some forests are very good at it. And in their ecosystems, it’s the thing they should be doing.” However, the agency can’t afford to let fires smolder week after week, constantly consuming firefighting resources as crews monitor the flames. Putting out fires quickly costs less, Hubbard said...more

Eyes in the sky spy on threatened jungles

In the two minutes it takes to read this story, an area the size of 60 football pitches will have been clear-cut by illegal loggers globally, according to Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London. Catching the loggers and their bosses has long been a problem because of corruption, lax law enforcement and limited ability to detect the crime quickly. Satellite monitoring is changing that. Powerful eyes in the sky and cheaper and more powerful data-crunching computers mean there will be no place to hide for palm oil, logging or mining firms that clear without permits or outside their concessions. Higher resolution satellite imaging and near-real time analysis will mean investors, green groups, law enforcement agencies and the public can monitor any patch of forest. Washington-based World Resources Institute plans to launch an upgraded version of Global Forest Watch, a free Web-based service, either later this year or early in 2013. Using a NASA satellite, the service will focus on tropical areas of the globe with an image resolution of 500 metres by 500 metres every 16 days. Users can choose an area of interest and be alerted by e-mail about any changes in tree cover. The Global Forest Watch tool, supported by Google and the University of Maryland among others, will also contain data about logging or agricultural licences and their owners, protected areas, infrastructure and other details...more

Billionaire's new Colorado town is a private Old West marvel

There's a new town in Colorado. It has about 50 buildings, including a saloon, a church, a jail, a firehouse, a livery and a train station. Soon, it will have a mansion on a hill so the town's founder can look down on his creation. But don't expect to move here — or even to visit. This town is billionaire Bill Koch's fascination with the Old West rendered in bricks and mortar. It sits on a 420-acre meadow on his Bear Ranch below the Raggeds Wilderness Area in Gunnison County. It's an unpopulated, faux Western town that might boggle the mind of anyone who ever had a playhouse. Its full-size buildings come with polished brass and carved-mahogany details and are fronted with board sidewalks and underpinned by a water-treatment system. A locked gate with guards screens who comes and goes. Koch's project manager has told county officials that the enclave in the middle of the 6,400-acre Bear Ranch won't ever be open to the public. It is simply for Koch's amusement and for that of his family and friends — and historians. It is the ultimate repository for his huge collection of Western memorabilia...more

Wall Street warns against using eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages

Heavy hitters in the financial industry are lining up against a new idea brewing among local government officials to help struggling homeowners by seizing control of their mortgages through eminent domain. With many areas of the country still digging out from the housing crisis, some local governments are considering taking on the underwater mortgages at a substantially lower price, thus making them more affordable for the borrower. With policymakers at the federal, state and local level struggling to find a way to relieve the burden of unaffordable home loans, the eminent domain idea is being met with open ears. The receptive response to the idea has put the financial sector on high alert. Firms are warning that a governmental action to seize private property to reduce its value could throw the entire housing market off-kilter...more

Wildfire Chokes Outdoor Tourism Prospects in Western US

Apart from destroying hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of parched forest, the wildfires sweeping the western United States, encroached national parks, recreation sites, and campgrounds thereby, adding to woes of communities dependent on summer tourism. As U.S. Forest Service firefighters waged a long battle against wildfires that scorched 80,000 acres of mountain pine forests, prospects of tourism appeared blunted as the fires curtail trips on rivers where river rafting drew international crowd from June to August, Reuters reported. In fact, tourists who booked rafting trips in advance cancelled their reservations as forests were cut off by road blockade and smoky haze. Earlier, close to 300 Middle Fork rafters were stranded northwest of Salmon by wildfires grazing east central Idaho after falling rock closed the only road to the site. Details of tourism losses due to fires and other natural disasters are yet to be made available. However, losses owing to fires and cancellations seem to have spooked tour operators...more

Forest Service bans USA Pro Challenge camping atop Independence Pass

The USA Pro Challenge's Independence Pass party won't roll through the starry night as it did last year. Forest Service officials have banned roadside camping atop the 12,095-foot pass during the Wednesday and Thursday stages of the stage race. All campgrounds on the Aspen side of the pass are open, but camping is prohibited on the top 5 miles of Colorado 82 on both sides of the pass, between mile markers 56 and 66. Last year, more than 3,000 campers lined the race course atop the very peak of the pass, sparking a starlit alpine party. Down the road in Aspen, as many as 15,000 visitors crowded city streets to welcome the racers. But this year, with racers descending from Independence Pass into Aspen on Wednesday and then climbing back up Thursday, Forest Service officials were concerned that many more spectators could be trampling tender tundra...more

Lawsuit Over Roads

A national group representing off-highway recreationists is suing the U.S. Forest Service to try to overturn a new travel management plan they say is overly restrictive on national forest lands in the Sierra west of Reno. The Pacific Legal Foundation said in a lawsuit filed recently the agency plan adopted in 2010 illegally closed more than 800 miles of roads and trails the public has used for years in the Tahoe National Forest. Environmentalists counter that a crackdown is long overdue because the dirt bikes, Jeeps and all-terrain vehicles are causing profound damage to the land. Similar disputes are under way in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, primarily in northeast Nevada's Elko County, and in the Eldorado National Forest in California mostly west of Lake Tahoe. AP

Drought Cripples Hay Feed Industry - Alfalfa Crop Worst Since 1953

Widespread drought has scorched much of the pastureland and hay fields needed to sustain cattle herds in the U.S., forcing many ranchers to find feed alternatives or sell their animals early into what has become a soft beef market. The shortage has led to higher hay prices, with some farmers saying they have to pay two to three times last year's rates. While crop insurance is curbing losses for the big corn, soybean and wheat growers during this year's severe drought, cattle and dairy farmers still have to pay high prices for feed, including hay. Despite farmers setting aside more land to grow hay this year, they are still producing a lot less because of the drought, according to a recent Department of Agriculture estimate. Hay futures don't trade on national exchanges, and statistics are difficult to find for hay, which can be made from a number of tall grassy plants. The harvest of alfalfa, generally considered to make the best hay because of its high nutrient levels, is forecast to be the worst since 1953, according to the USDA. Farmers and ranchers will produce about 120 million tons of hay this year, but that estimate could change, since about 63% of the land used to grow hay is in drought-stricken areas, according to the USDA...more

NM pecan crop ranks No. 2 in size

New Mexico ranked No. 2 nationally in the amount of pecans produced last year and the overall value of the crop, according to a recent federal report. Also, the average price for the crop, while high, didn't reach the record-setting price level of two years ago, according to the report issued last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. New Mexico growers reported producing about 61 million pounds of nuts in 2011, according to the document. That's a dip of about 5 million pounds from the prior year. Georgia, typically the largest pecan producer, churned out 102 million pounds in the same year. Texas, which sometimes produces more pecans than New Mexico, yielded just 32 million pounds in a year that was known for its severe drought. Notable about New Mexico's crop in recent history is that there hasn't been a large swing in size from year to year, said Richard Heerema, pecan extension specialist at New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. That's different from a trend that characterized most of the 1990s and 2000s, when trees tended to produce a heavy crop one year and a light crop the next...more

U.N. Slams U.S. on Ethanol - video

CEI's Sam Kazman talks about the consequences of ethanol mandates and subsidies on Fox Business' Cavuto.

Mexico's government in transition phase on ag trade issues

Mexico is U.S. agriculture’s second largest export market estimated by USDA at $19.0 billion for the fiscal year ending September 30. The election of Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) will result in a change on Dec. 1 in the political party controlling the presidency for the first time in twelve years. Contentious agricultural trade policy issues do exist between the two countries, but no sharp changes in agricultural imports are expected. Mexico has been a growing market for U.S. agricultural exports increasing from $12.4 billion in FY 2007 to $17.7 billion in FY 2011. Part of the increase in purchases this year is due to the devastating drought that Mexico suffered last year and a decline in corn production. Through the first eight months of the fiscal year, exports of coarse grains, the largest category of exports to Mexico, are up 45 percent to $2.5 billion from the same eight months last year. Wheat sales, the fifth largest product, are up 35 percent to $780 million, while dairy products, the fourth largest category, are up 27 percent to $840 million. Poultry meat, the sixth largest commodity, is also up 27 percent to $660 million. Red meat sales, the second largest sales category, are up 17 percent to $1.4 billion. Soybeans, the third largest category, are up just 1 percent at $1.2 billion...more

Nervous global food market eyes US corn crop

With the 2008 food-price riots in developing nations still fresh in mind, non-governmental agency analysts are wary of where this year’s diminishing U.S. corn yields might lead. With much of U.S. farm country under a punishing drought -- along with reports that world food prices have gone up some 6 percent in the last few weeks -- corn prices have spiked. Following several consecutive USDA reports showing corn stocks and yields dipping, the U.S. ethanol production quota is under fire and waivers have been requested from the EPA. The ethanol industry’s advocates have pushed back hard against the idea that such a waiver would ameliorate the tight supply of corn. While U.S. row crops bake in the field, the potential repercussions are being considered. Also in the mix are concerns that countries, citing the need to protect homegrown food stores, could refuse to export commodities like India and Russia did in 2010. This would only exacerbate the problem of rising food prices...more