Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cowboys for Cancer Research team roping raises funds and awareness

When it came time to cowboy up and fight for a good cause, many were tough enough to wear pink. Top cowpokes from throughout the Southwest came Saturday to begin the 30th anniversary Cowboys for Cancer Research (CCR) annual two-day team roping event at Sproul Arena, north of Las Cruces on Harvey Farm Road. The event — one of the largest roping competitions in New Mexico — continues Sunday, as cowboys vie for prizes that include a three-horse gooseneck trailer, saddles and buckles and cash.
Splitting a $7,000 purse early Saturday were team ropers Hecter Lucero of Belen and Sterling Kelly of Mesquite. "It happens this is the year we got lucky, but we'd be here anyway. This is the best hobby in the world. My wife and I have been coming for at least 10 years, and it's for a very good cause," said Lucero, whose father, Pete Lucero, had leukemia but lived to be 85. "It's a good run. I'm here to support my father this year," said Ricky Martinez of Las Cruces, sharing a horseback ride around the grounds with his daughter Paytyn, 4. "This is my first year here, but I've been team roping all my life," said Linda Davis, a trait she shares with veteran roper Trey Miller of Las Cruces. "We have 625 teams signed up for Saturday and it looks like we might have another 625 on Sunday. That's above average. Last year we had about 550 each day," Denny Calhoun said. CCR, in conjunction with the New Mexico State University Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink breast cancer awareness initiative, has had a long winning streak as top fundraisers for cancer research at NMSU and the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center. Cowboys for Cancer Research began in 1981, after Alma Cohorn, wife of roper Kenneth Cohorn, died of cancer. To honor her memory, several Las Cruces residents pulled together to organize a team roping competition to raise money to fight cancer. The event went from raising about $700 in its first year to status as the largest cancer fundraiser in New Mexico where contributions stay in the state...more

'Solar energy zones' created on federal land in Southwest

Federal officials on Friday approved a plan that sets aside 285,000 acres of public land for the development of large-scale solar power plants, cementing a new government approach to renewable energy development in the West after years of delays and false starts. The plan replaces the department's previous first-come, first-served system of approving solar projects, which let developers choose where they wanted to build utility-scale solar sites and allowed for land speculation. The department no longer will decide projects on case-by-case basis as it had since 2005, when solar developers began filing applications. Instead, the department will direct development to land it has identified as having fewer wildlife and natural-resource obstacles. The government is establishing 17 new "solar energy zones" on 285,000 acres in six states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Most of the land — 153,627 acres — is in Southern California. Environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy who had been critical of the federal government's previous approach to solar development in the desert applauded the new plan.
"We can develop the clean, renewable energy that is essential to our future while protecting our iconic desert landscapes by directing development to areas that are more degraded," said Michael Powelson, the conservancy's North American director of energy programs...more

The BLM map is here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gov. Martinez: Relocate Mexican gray wolf pack

An endangered Mexican gray wolf pack linked to recent killings of cows in southwestern New Mexico should be captured and moved out of the area, the governor told federal officials. In a recent letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gov. Susana Martinez wrote that the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack in Catron County has created significant concerns and is affecting the psychological well-being of families, and the agency should use a clause in the reintroduction program to remove the endangered wolves. "I request that the USFWS immediately capture and relocate the entire pack to an area where they will not negatively impact the lives of New Mexico citizens," Martinez wrote. "The livestock owners who have been impacted need to be made whole as allowed by the program." News of the letter came just as federal officials captured an elusive female Mexican gray wolf Wednesday wanted for killing too many cows in the disputed area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said federal trappers finally caught the elusive pack leader and mother of pups in Gila National Forest. The wolf was listed and found to be in good condition. According to officials, she is scheduled to be handed over to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, which has offered to take the wolf into captivity. Four cattle deaths linked to the pack happened outside the wolf recovery boundaries within four months, with the most recent reported Aug. 1. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, praised the governor for sending the letter and listening to ranchers' concerns. "We are pleased that the governor chose to stand in solidarity with ranchers and to request that this pack be relocated," she said...more

Colorado: Udall, Bennet seek in-depth wildfire study

Colorado’s two U.S. Senators are asking the U.S. Forest Service for an in-depth study of several major wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes along the Front Range wildland-urban interface — the red zone, where up to 40 percent of the state’s population has chosen to live in areas where fires are a natural part of the ecosystem. “The unprecedented nature and pattern of these fires calls for a systematic and scientific analysis to learn how we as a society can do better. Our goal is to make sure that the lessons learned — positive and negative — are captured and acted upon appropriately,” they wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Specifically, the senators want the Forest Service to determine the influence of beetle-kill trees on fire behavior and severity. Day by day reports from the fire indicated that beetle kill was not a major factor in the early phases of the fire, when most of the home destruction happened on private lands. As the fire later moved west into national forest lands, it did affect areas with a higher percentage of beetle-killed trees. The senators also want the Forest Service to study whether previous forest treatments were effective in stopping or slowing the fire and reducing soil damage, and to outline the “long-term ecological trajectories” of the burned areas...more

And NM's two Senators are asking for??

Wanted Mexican gray wolf captured in Gila National Forest

A female Mexican gray wolf wanted for killing too many cows in southwestern New Mexico was captured Wednesday following an extensive search, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced. The agency said that federal trappers finally caught the elusive pack leader and mother of pups and was listed and found to be in good condition. In a statement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional spokesman Tom Buckley said the wolf will be transported to a holding facility for observation then will be handed over to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services had been combing the northwestern portion of the Gila National Forest for any signs of the wolf for weeks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially issued an order in early August to shoot the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Pack. A few days after issuing the lethal order, the agency rescinded it, calling instead for the animal to be trapped and removed from the wild. The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center offered to take the wolf into captivity. The center is a participating member of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan and currently houses other wolves for the program. Four cattle deaths linked to the pack happened outside the wolf recovery boundaries within four months, with the most recent one being reported Aug. 1...more

Wyoming wolves die ‘at a trickle’ - 19 so far this season

Wolves have been killed at a slow rate and in places officials say they expected since the predators lost federal protection Oct. 1. In Wyoming’s “trophy game” area —about 15 percent of the northwest part of the state — 16 wolves were harvested through Wednesday. The maximum allow-able kill is 52 in a season that runs through Dec. 31. Six wolves have been killed in Jackson Hole hunt areas. Outside the trophy hunt area, where wolves are classified as predators and can be shot at any time by any means, just three animals have been reported killed. The location of wolf kills roughly matches their population density, state officials said Wednesday. “It almost exactly reflects the number of wolves in proportion to how they occur in the trophy game and predator zones,” said Mark Bruscino, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore supervisor. “Most of the wolf population in Wyoming is in areas where they have protections as a game animal, where harvest is controlled.” There is, however, a 10-day reporting requirement in the predator zone, so kills in most of the state could be reported slowly. In the trophy game zone, there’s a 24-hour requirement...more

Hunters ready for 1st wolf hunts in Wis., Minn.

For years, vacationers and farmers across northern Wisconsin and Minnesota have heard the eerie howl of the gray wolf and fretted the creatures were lurking around their cabins and pastures, eying up Fido or Bessie. The tables are about to turn: Both states plan to launch their first organized wolf hunts in the coming weeks. The hunts won't be anything on the scale of the two states' beloved whitetail deer hunts, when hundreds of thousands of hunters rearrange work and school schedules and fan out across the woods. Both states have limited the number of wolves hunters can kill and capped the number of permits, creating an exclusive club of hunters who will get what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take on the wiliest of predators. Anticipation has reached a fever pitch, but most hunters will come face-to-face with a sobering fact within a few hours of venturing into the woods - wolves aren't deer or ducks. They're intelligent, mobile creatures with an unmatched sense of smell. The states could be hard-pressed to meet their kill goals...more

Wyoming Site Approved for Largest U.S. Wind Farm

Clearing the way for the largest wind farm in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday approved the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre site in Wyoming as suitable for wind energy development. A maximum of 3,000-megawatts of power will be generated by as many as 1,000 wind turbines on two sites in Carbon County south of Rawlins, Wyoming, enough to power nearly one million homes. Land ownership in the windswept area is a checkerboard of public, private, and state lands. The project is sited about 50 percent on federal land and and 50 percent on private land within the boundaries of a 320,000-acre ranch owned and operated by The Overland Trail Cattle Company LLC...more

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NAPI considers drones for agricultural flyovers

Navajo Agricultural Products Industry plans to acquire a drone aircraft as soon as next summer to monitor the farm's crops. The unmanned aerial vehicle would be used to watch for changes in NAPI's crop fields and to spot problems early, said Tsosie Lewis, CEO of the Navajo farm enterprise. It would replace airplane flyovers conducted by a contractor for NAPI. Lewis said he got the idea after attending a conference in Vermont for major farm operators. “We can early on begin to see some problems that may exist because of lack of water, or salt conditions,” he said. Drone flyovers could lead to improving irrigation systems or changing fertilizer recipes in response to crop conditions, he said. NAPI currently conducts airplane flyovers at least monthly. Drones would be cheaper, Lewis said. “It lessens the cost for us,” he said. NAPI is a major producer of potatoes, alfalfa, pinto beans, corn and winter wheat on 72,000 acres of farmland south of Farmington. The tribe-owned enterprise is aggressively seeking to expand the market for its “Navajo Pride” products. Drones are used by federal agencies to watch forest fires and hurricanes, and to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico. Researchers at The Ohio State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying possible agricultural uses for drones...more

Bison Protest Limits Hunting

Farmers and ranchers in Valley and Phillips counties, the grassy prairie that some envision as an American Serengeti for free-roaming bison, have turned their opposition to this plan back on Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in a new way. To demonstrate that they do not accept FWP’s translocation of Yellowstone bison to northeast Montana, about 70 landowners have cut years-long ties with FWP’s game management programs and the hunter friends they have hosted on their land. The decisions have been announced in newspaper advertisements in The Courier and The Phillips County News. The first to make the public move were the Stonebergs on Horse Ranch, some 40 miles south of Hinsdale on Timber Creek, the home of Ron and Rose Stoneberg, and their daughter Sierra Holt, her husband, Jason Holt, and their daughter, Zora. Their Aug. 15 ad stated that Horse Ranch was no longer in FWP’s Block Management program, which pays landowners to open almost 8 million acres of private property to public hunting.   “We are against state FWP policies that adversely affect hunters and landowners,” they said, without referring specifically to bison relocation, although all of the adult members of the family have written opinion pieces on the subject. The ad said hunters were welcome and should come to the ranch house for permission to hunt...more

U.S. Struggles to Rescue Green Program Hit by Fraud

A Maryland man is awaiting sentencing for what may seem an unusual crime: selling bogus renewable energy credits and using the $9.3 million in illicit proceeds to buy jewelry and a fleet of luxury cars. In a similar case in Texas, a man has been indicted for selling a whopping $42 million in counterfeit credits. He bought real estate, a Bentley and a Gulfstream jet. As a result of such cases, the Environmental Protection Agency is scrambling to retool a program that relies on such credits to encourage the use of cleaner diesel fuel in engines. The refining industry has meanwhile seized on the schemes to argue that government fuel mandates don’t work and the rules should be relaxed or scrapped. Under the E.P.A. program, initiated in 2009, a producer who makes diesel fuel from vegetable oils and animal fats receives renewable energy credits for every gallon manufactured. The producer can then resell the credits to refiners, who pay millions of dollars for them under a government mandate to support a minimum level of production. The credits can also be resold, a commonplace activity in the arena of corporate compliance with federal environmental rules. The problem is that at least three companies were selling bogus credits without producing any biodiesel at all, the E.P.A. has said in announcements over the last year. Agency officials declined to comment for this article. Now no one is certain how many of the credits are real. So far, more than $100 million in fraudulent credits have been identified, the refining industry estimates. That amounts to roughly 5 percent of the credits issued since 2009, but the percentage could rise as current investigations of other producers progress...more

Produce industry monitoring fallout from immigration labor laws

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has dealt with Arizona’s controversial immigration law, what will happen in states with similar laws? What will be the impact on produce operations that rely on migrant work crews? “For United Fresh and the produce industry, immigration and related issues have been a long-time concern and interest,” says Julie Maines of the United Fresh Produce Association. “Estimates vary, but you see consistently that well over half — even upwards of three-quarters — of the folks who work in the fields in the produce industry haven’t been born in this country. So, certainly, anything related to immigration policy is of great interest to our industry.”...more

Wildfires threaten ranches' future

It's been a tough summer for ranchers in southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada. Three wildfires devastated nearly 1.2 million acres, much of it government grazing allotments, and killed cattle. At the 12-Mile Ranch, owners Richard and Jeanette Yturriondobeitia lost half of their herd of 300 cattle to the Long Draw Fire. They and other ranchers in the area have had to buy hay or find other sources of feed for the cattle that remain. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said it may allow grazing next year of some unburned allotments but it likely will be two years before cattle are allowed on the areas that burned. Seven or eight ranches are in "heavy trouble," said Bob Skinner, a Jordan Valley rancher and past president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association. "They are still foundering, trying to find pasture and hold things together," Skinner said. "It takes time for them to know how long they can hang on." The wildfires, and the uncertainty they leave in their wake, mark a turning point for ranchers of the Trout Creek Mountains. They say they sacrificed for two decades to rebuild the grazing allotments, only to watch them go up in flames. And pervasive talk of imposing wilderness designations on some of the area has them worried about how serious BLM managers are about helping them get back on their feet...more

USDA Requires Little Documentation for $50,000 Discrimination Payouts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay up to $50,000 each to female and Hispanic farmers and ranchers who claimed they were discouraged from applying for USDA loans due to perceived discrimination. But those farmers won’t be required to prove that they ever actually farmed. The payments are part of a settlement agreement reached between the USDA and North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford that created a $1.33 billion fund to compensate farmers who say they were discriminated against by USDA officials between 1981 and 2000. Previous payments have gone to black and Native American farmers. The women and Hispanic farmers fund provides different levels of compensation based on the nature of the alleged discrimination. Tier 1(a), as it’s known, is comprised of farmers and ranchers “who sought to apply for a USDA loan but were actively discouraged from submitting an application” due to perceived discrimination. In other words, by definition, USDA has no record of 1(a) claimants actually applying for a federal loan. And according to documents USDA is providing to would-be claimants, a 1(a) payout requires minimal documentation showing that they actually farmed during the period in question. According to a checklist of required claimant submission materials, USDA requires that all tiers submit “documentation of farm land ownership interest, if available” [emphasis added]. In other words, documents showing that one actually farmed are optional...more

Song Of The Day #948

Ranch Radio sends this one out to his 92 year old Mom, who really likes the harmony between Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kay Starr.  Here they are with Oceans of Tears.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The San Gabriels: A National Forest? A National Park? Does it Matter? (See how I propose to save Smokey)

The Angeles National Forest is poised to get the ax. There are a lot of hands gripping that particular handle, too. The National Park Service (NPS) is eager to swing into action, laying claim to a large chunk of the 655,387-acre forest now managed by the U.S. Forest Service, with the avowed goal of turning these lands into a National Recreation Area. In a draft report entitled the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study, which has taken six years to write and cost taxpayers $500,000, the most expansive land-transfer option is the one the Park Service is most interested in pursuing...Local congressionals are also falling over themselves to advocate for this project in general, and Alternative D in particular. So are national environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, and the grassroots coalition, San Gabriel Mountains Forever. Government officials in the affluent foothill communities that lie along the 210 Freeway and struggling valley cities through which I-10 runs have voiced their wholehearted support; they are anticipating an increase in recreational opportunities and tourist dollars. Many seem convinced as well that the proposed change in management, with the putative enhancements for outdoor exercise, will rein in obesity and diabetes...more 

So there you have it:  The Park Service can cure obesity and diabetes.  Come to think of it, Smokey Bear is a little on the chunky side.

Save Smokey! Transfer him to the Park Service!

  ...Where will the funds come from to provide those listed (and unlisted) services that the non-profit group dangles before our eyes? It doesn't say. Gordon Bonser, a paid consultant for groups supporting the transfer, is confident he knows that answer, telling the Whittier Daily News in November 2011: "The Forest Service doesn't get the funding the way the Parks Service does -- from inside the Department of the Interior. For whatever reason, people are real sentimental about parks so they (NPS) get a much more direct funding stream." And then he flung this jab at his former employer; the Forest Service is "like the little cow that is last in line at the feeding trough." However delightfully snarky Bonser's comments may be, they are no more data rich than the assumptions of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, yet this is the rhetoric that area politicians are eagerly peddling as they hunt for votes this November. At public sessions over the last two months, for instance, Representative Judy Chu (D-El Monte), who is expected easily to win the new 27th Congressional District in which much of the proposed recreational area would lie, repeatedly compared the Forest Service's lack of fiscal and human resources to the National Park Service's more robust budgets and staffing. As a result, she told voters in bright-green Claremont, the San Gabriel mountains have been poorly maintained, reflected in "overgrown trails, little signage and too few trash receptacles," Her cure: "the area should become part of the National Parks system." Chu has promised to make this happen.

Columnist Miller decides to check this out by looking at recent appropriation bills: 

Because the two agencies are funded through the same subcommittee, comparing their fiscal resources is straightforward. Consider their total budget authorities for 2012: the Park Service secured $2,579,600,000; the Forest Service's take was $4,595,300,000. Does this substantial disparity in the agencies' funding -- two billion dollars -- suggest that the Park Service is the relative fat cat? Or that the Forest Service is a rib-thin cow, always the last to muzzle up to the trough? It beggars the imagination that anyone can make this claim, let alone report it, with a straight face. That face gets even harder to maintain after reading over the proposed 2013 budget, which was reported out of the Appropriations Committee in late June; while there is a stopgap funding measure in place until March 2013, the House appropriators' proposal for the rest of the year would bless the Forest Service with a two-percent budgetary increase, adding $86 million to its coffers. This boost was less than President Obama had proposed, but among its land-management peers -- the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Park Service -- only the Forest Service has secured a bump over last year. By contrast, the Park Service received a curious pat-on-the-back. Observing that the agency "will be 100 years old in 2016," and applauding its "historic ten-year effort to enhance the national parks leading up to this historic celebration," the committee offered its continued support for "this effort and the $2,445,198,000 recommended will help the Service prepare for a second century of conservation, environmental stewardship and recreation benefiting millions of visitors from throughout the world. In spite of extraordinary fiscal challenges, the Committee has provided funding sufficient to manage NPS units nationwide without disruptions to operations." That last phrase is the puzzler, for House appropriators actually cut the Park Service's budget by more than five percent from 2012. How can that be anything but disruptive? Among the hardest hit line items are two that are of particular relevance to those clamoring for the creation of a San Gabriel National Recreation Area. The NPS recreational account was slashed by 9% from the previous year; worse, according the Congressional Research Service, "most of the decrease in the bill relative to both the FY2012 appropriation and the FY2013 request would be for Land Acquisition and State Assistance." Those dreaming that the Park Service will spray a hose-full of cash on the San Gabriels and into the surrounding communities might want to damp down that fantasy.

Miller also points out the difference in approps is not that much if you figure it on an per acre basis, and the joint custody proposed by the Park Service would be confusing.

OK, but here's the deal:  The Forest Service can't cure obesity and diabetes.  So, hands down, any caring person would insist these lands go to the parkies.

The only chance the Forest Service has is to tell the truth and do something like:


Sudden Oak Death, Tree Pathogen, Rapidly Killing Northern California Forests

Researchers at UC Berkeley recently completed a survey of the health of Northern California's forests and the results aren't pretty. A microbial disease called Sudden Oak Death is sweeping through the region at a blinding rate, increasing in prevalence nearly tenfold over last year. The San Francisco Chronicle notes a study conducted by the U.S. Forestry Service which documented 375,700 news cases of dead oak trees spanning 54,400 acres of California this year, up from 38,000 cases over 8,000 acres a year ago. This exponential growth in cases over last year is made even more disturbing by the previous year's study, which found a 200-300% increase in Sudden Oak Death between 2010 and 2011...more

Update on five forestry lawsuits

Forest Owners React to Fire Suit: The fallout from the punitive US Forest Service lawsuit that extracted over $122 million in a fire damage settlement from Sierra Pacific Industries has Oregon landowners scrambling to prevent similar attacks by Obama administration federal prosecutors. Potential fire liability impacts and defensive strategies are being explored by state and private forest attorneys. Forest landowners near national forests have stepped-up fire prevention and closed their private lands to public recreation use until fire liability changes can be enacted in Oregon law.
Forest Road Legal Brief: Associated Oregon Loggers joined several forest industry groups who submitted to the US Supreme Court a legal brief, which supports the high court overturning a harmful Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The wrongheaded Ninth Circuit decision—if implemented—would require every forest landowner across the West to seek a federal Clean Water Act permit from the Environmental Protection Agency just to use a forest road. Concurrent with the high court effort, industry is lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would exempt roads from federal permitting.
Suit to Overturn Planning Rule: In August, the American Forest Resources Council (AOL a member) and several national forest user groups, filed a lawsuit in the Washington DC District Court to overturn the flawed National Forest Planning Rule that was adopted in April 2012. For three years during Rule development, forest users had argued that the proposed Forest Service Rule was both unbalanced and illegal. The new Rule wrongly dictates future forest plans must discard multiple-use, instead illegally making environmental & species preservation the preeminent Forest Service goal...more

Ranchers, others grapple with Off-Highway Vehicles impacts

Longtime Orme Ranch managers Alan and Diana Kessler must deal with the massive damage unauthorized, unrestricted OHV use causes. "Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who cares," Alan Kessler said. "The trails don't heal over, and what is not often recognized is the 'staging areas,' where large areas of grass are trampled out by campers, trailers, fire pits and increased and concentrated traffic." Other OHV users see a bare area and continue to use it, he noted. Some recreational OHV users, and sometimes hunters, cut fences, leave gates open and even injure livestock, leading to economic and safety concerns. "There are a lot of nice people out there. But nice or not, the sheer numbers cause resource damage," Kessler said. Buckley said researchers began to focus on particular ecosystems, including the U.S. Southwest. What they found was 4-wheel drive vehicles and trailbikes applied five to 15 times the pressure to the soil as that of a hiking boot, and that can be 10 times greater when OHVs are braking, accelerating or skidding. Immediate effects are to break up soil crusts and compress deeper layers. Ultimately, this increases erosion, destroys vegetation and introduces non-native plants. "There are enormous differences in impacts between different OHV users. Driven carefully at the right speed, with the right tyres, in the right places, by a well-informed user, a 4WD vehicle is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate way to enjoy many landscapes. Driven carelessly or with deliberate impacts, in fragile areas, by an ignorant or heedless user, OHVs can rapidly cause major and ecologically significant damage to soils, plants and animals," Buckley concluded...more

Bucky Allred's Halloween Dance

Aerial Survey Finds an Estimated 37,170 Lesser Prairie Chickens

The lesser prairie chicken is an iconic grassland grouse species native to parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma whose long-term population declines have brought state and federal agencies together to better manage the birds and their habitat, according to a western wildlife group’s news release. Now, through a multistate collaborative effort, the first statistically valid, range-wide population estimate for the lesser prairie chicken has been done, according to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Grassland Initiative. And the number is … envelope please … estimated at 37,170 birds. The Grassland Initiative and the Lesser Prairie Chicken Interstate Working Group, composed of biologists from state fish and wildlife departments in five states, the Bureau of Land Management and West Ecosystems Inc. of Laramie, Wyo. conducted a large-scale, helicopter-based survey of lesser prairie chicken leks across all five states, the release said. The surveys were conducted from March to May and encompassed more than 300,000 square miles, according to the wildlife group...more

Plant that got $150M in taxpayer money to make Volt batteries furloughs workers

President Obama touted it in 2010 as evidence "manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States,” but two years later, a Michigan hybrid battery plant built with $150 million in taxpayer funds is putting workers on furlough before a single battery has been produced. Workers at the Compact Power manufacturing facilities in Holland, Mich., run by LG Chem, have been placed on rotating furloughs, working only three weeks per month based on lack of demand for lithium-ion cells. The facility, which was opened in July 2010 with a groundbreaking attended by Obama, has yet to produce a single battery for the Chevrolet Volt, the troubled electric car from General Motors. The plant's batteries also were intended to be used in Ford's electric Focus. Production of the taxpayer-subsidized Volt has been plagued by work stoppages, and the effect has trickled down to companies and plants that build parts for it -- including the batteries...more

Song Of The Day #947

Its time for Ranch Radio to get back to what we're famous for - dustin' off some old 78s. Here's the Hackberry Ramblers with Darbone's Breakdown.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Steve Pearce discusses government control of land in the West at CPAC Colorado - video

CPAC Colorado, an American Conservative Union event to address issues and rally regional support for conservatives, was held on Thursday, and among other regional speakers, featured Representative Steve Pearce of New Mexico, chairman of the Western Caucus. His speech addressed the topic of government land control, an issue particularly important in the West, where the federal government alone owns between 30% and 85% of land in each state. His discussion addressed the history of public land, its effects on state economies, and other problems with such a high portion of government land control. “In each state, the public lands were given back to the states after they were chartered, but in the West, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, who had the idea of big forest and big national parks, they held that land.” He dismissed the idea that these lands were national parks or forests, citing the figure that only 15% are available for public access, and that the rest are owned by the bureau of land management, with excessive regulations which prevent them from being productive. Meanwhile, the government spends $347 (million) per year acquiring new lands, and even more managing them. By the end, this land costs the government billions more than it produces in revenue. Public ownership of land starves education. Much of public education is funded by state and local property taxes, so by reducing the amount of land available to be taxed reduces the amount which can be spent on education in states with rapidly rising populations and numbers of students. Western states pay more in taxes as a percentage of income than Eastern ones, but get less in return because so many of their resources and land are tied up. The Western Caucus has endorsed a plan called the Action Plan for Public Lands and Education, or APPLE Act, which would authorize western states to sell five percent of their federal owned land and use the revenue to fund education...more

Here's the video of his speech:

Experts say 8.8 million acres destroyed by fire so far this year

Members of the Forest Service briefed Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden on Monday about why it's been a bad fire season this year and how to prevent destructive fires like the one in September near Sisters. So far $250 million has been spent this year fighting fires. It's been so bad the U.S. Forest Service is out of money to fight fires and is asking Congress for more of it to buy equipment and fund programs to prevent them. Dry weather has been the primary factor in fueling the flames this season. But interestingly, while the total number of fires in the Northwest this year is lower than average, the total acreage burned is much more. Forest service experts said that fires this year destroyed 8.8 million acres, which is well above the 10-year average. Normally, grass and brush all over the Northwest holds moisture deep down with enough rain and dew to slow down the flames. The recent run of dry weather, however, has kept firefighters on alert as fires have popped up around the region. Over the past several weeks, firefighters said the fires have burned stronger and spread faster because the grass and brush underneath was so dry. To help curb the threat, members of the Forest Service want more money from Congress to clear out fuels during the off-season so those large fires won't burn as strongly. About three quarters of the major fires this season started with lightning strikes. The rest were human caused...more

U.S. runs out of funds to battle wildfires

Each year that money was removed from brush disposal and timber salvage programs, the Forest Service’s efforts to prevent fire fell “further and further behind,” said Jake Donnay, senior director of forestry for National Association of State Foresters. “Even with the appropriations they get, they’re not able to catch up. We’re thankful that Congress did act to repay them this time, but that hasn’t always been the case.” Three years ago, Congress appeared to find a solution that satisfied all parties. It created the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement fund, or FLAME. The premise was simple. In the few good fire years, when the Forest Service and Interior isn’t compelled to spend every penny appropriated to fight fires, the balance would go into the FLAME account to pay for suppression in seasons when things really heat up. Congress allocated $415 million for FLAME’s first fiscal year, 2010 — a mild fire season, it turned out. As luck would have it, the following season also presented fewer fires, and a small budget surplus went into FLAME. But in 2011, Congress went right in after it, taking at least $200 million from the fund and placing into the general treasury to use for other expenditures...more

Sierra beaver dams targeted by U.S. Forest Service

LAKE TAHOE – To Sherry Guzzi, the beaver dam on Taylor Creek was more than a watery jungle of sticks and branches. In that snarl of debris, she saw hope for a species long regarded as non-native in the Sierra but which new research claims has occupied the range for centuries and is key to ecosystem health. Late last month, her hope was extinguished when the U.S. Forest Service tore down the dam to protect a tourist facility celebrating a non-native species: kokanee salmon. "They are doing all this to showcase an introduced species," said Guzzi, co-founder of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition, a local environmental group. "It's a little nuts, isn't it?" The Forest Service, which is holding its 23rd Kokanee Salmon Festival this weekend, defended the action. But spokeswoman Cheva Heck said the agency hopes to make its facilities and festival more beaver-friendly in the future...more

Which one brings them more attention and money?

It appears the beaver aren't giving up:

In recent days, the Taylor Creek beavers have been busy with matters of their own – gnawing down more aspen and willows to repair the dam the Forest Service tore down. By Thursday, the dam had been rebuilt. But when Guzzi returned to the site Friday, she said it had been destroyed again.

I guess the beaver didn't have a permit to fell those trees.

Colorado's controversial Koch land exchange

This story doesn’t easily fit into the mega-rich nefarious neighbor category, but you’ve got to hand it to fossil fuel magnate Bill Koch for putting a new spin on the classic land-grabbing NIMBY narrative. Koch — yes, he’s the somewhat lesser known brother to Charles and David of Tea Party fame — is perhaps most famous for winning the America’s Cup back in the early 1990s, rallying against the Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound and collecting oil paintings of boats and really old bottles of wine. Koch is valued at around $4 billion — and has emerged as a major supporter of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Although his recent entry into the political scene has been garnering some headlines, it's Koch's real estate development that has been stirring up attention. Through a controversial public-to-private land swap dubbed the Bear Ranch Land Exchange, Koch is attempting to acquire roughly 1,800 acres of Bureau of Land Management-controlled land in Gunnison County, Colo., in exchange for several other parcels of land totaling 991 acres that he owns throughout the state and in Utah. What does a nautical-minded oil tycoon with homes in Palm Beach and Cape Cod need with a bunch of undeveloped land outside of Aspen? Koch is an avid collector of Western frontier memorabilia — he owns Jesse James’ gun, Wyatt Earp’s vest and a photo of Billy the Kid that he purchased at auction for last year for $2.3 million, among other Old West relics that most American history museums would clamor over. To house his massive collection, he’s in the process of erecting an entire ersatz frontier town in the middle of 6,400-acre Bear Ranch. Composed of 50 or so faux frontier buildings, the town will include a jail, saloon, church, a train station and various other structures, some of which were plucked from Buckskin Joe, an honest-to-goodness Western theme park (formerly a movie set) that Koch purchased for $3.1 million in 2010. (That's a picture of a Buckskin Joe building pictured up top). Koch has also been given approval to construct a 21,000-square-foot mansion overlooking his Old West replica town...more

BLM Owes No Fees In Grazing Permit Suit

An environmental group cannot collect attorneys' fees in a sprawling dispute over Idaho wildlife habitat and grazing lands destroyed by a fire, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday. Back in 2004, Western Watershed Projects convinced U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill that the Bureau of Land Management had violated federal law by renewing grazing permits in Southern Idaho's 1.7 million-acre Jarbidge Resource Area. The group said such plans failed to properly protect the habitat of the pygmy rabbit and sage grouse, but it reached a settlement that should have ended the case, attorneys' fees and all, in 2006. While the settlement agreement was still pending in 2007, the Murphy Complex Fire swept through the area and burned more than 400,000 acres, much of it the disputed rangeland and habitat. Western Watershed intervened afterward when the bureau began issuing grazing permits for some of the unburned land. Judge Winmill ultimately agreed that the agency was still neglecting the pygmy rabbit and sage grouse, but refused to grant a formal injunction after finding that it would act in good faith to reduce grazing on the unburned lands. Western Watershed then sought for attorneys' fees as the prevailing party in the post-fire litigation, but the District Court in Boise rejected the motion...more

Police Shoot Mountain Lion Just Blocks from Elementary School In Iowa

Police shot and killed a 6-foot-3-inch mountain lion inside the Des Moines city limits, just blocks from an elementary school yesterday morning. Homeowner Jim Eagen alerted police to the large feline after almost running into the cat in his backyard. “I come around the corner of the greenhouse where we have benches with plants ... I looked down and there he was, looking up at me,” the 65-year-old told the Des Moines Register. Eagen said he eased back into his house to call authorities with the cat’s eyes watching his every move. Despite his explanation in a call to 911, Eagen says he doesn’t think the dispatchers immediately believed him. He told KCCI about the call: “He [911 dispatch] said 'what?' And I said 'I'm telling you what I saw, what I'm seeing.' ” Sgt. Jeff Phillips was the first to respond. An avid outdoorsman, the sergeant knew what he was dealing with and made the quick decision to kill the cat as it tried to escape rather than wait for a tranquilizer gun to arrive...more

Zetas Racing Horses Will be Auctioned Off

Hundreds of race horses used by high-level Mexican cartel members to launder millions of dollars in drug money will be auctioned off next month, a judge ruled. About 379 horses, all allegedly bought with dirty money by Zetas cartel leaders to mask their multi-million dollar drug operations, will be sold at auction Nov. 1-3 in Oklahoma City, The Oklahoman reports. The horses are being auctioned by the Internal Revenue Service. In late May, agents raided a sprawling ranch in Oklahoma and a prominent quarter horse track in New Mexico to take down the alleged horse-breeding operation. An indictment accused Miguel Angel TreviƱo Morales, a key figure in the Zetas cartel, of setting up a horse operation that a younger brother operated from a ranch near Lexington, south of Oklahoma City. The operation bought, trained, bred and raced quarter horses throughout the southwest United States, including the famed Ruidoso Downs track in New Mexico. "This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system," Richard Weber, the chief of the IRS' criminal investigation unit, said at the time...more

Energy Dept.: Carve a Windmill or Solar Panel Into Your Halloween Pumpkin

Green energy is going orange for Halloween, as the U.S. Energy Department offers downloadable pumpkin-carving patterns on its website. The "Energy-ween" designs include a windmill, solar panel, and compact fluorescent light bulb. “As the fall weather continues to cool, you’re probably already thinking of ways to save energy and maximize efficiency inside your home,” wrote April Saylor, a Digital Outreach Strategist for the Energy Department, in a recent blog post. “But if you’re looking for a way to ‘energize’ the neighborhood this Halloween (and have a little fun while you’re at it), we’ve put together a few pumpkin-carving patterns with an energy twist.” The blog encourages Americans to “geek out on your pumpkins,” as a way of promoting National Energy Action Month, designated by President Barack Obama on Oct. 1...more

Just what we need:  political pumpkins.

Think I'll have my grand kids carve smokestacks into theirs. 

Ted Nugent’s New TV Show - Gun Country

So when Discover Channel asked if we would like to produce a TV show titled TED NUGENT’S GUN COUNTRY, I told them it is already in progress so just bring the cameras and push the record button. Our new show airs Wednesday October 10 at 10pm ET, and it simply celebrates and promotes the self evident truth how 99.999% of American gun owning families use our guns on a regular basis for all the right reasons. The same 99.999% of Americans with guns that will never use our guns in a crime or for any negative misuse whatsoever. We train, we plink, we shoot, we compete, we hunt, we have unlimited fun perfecting the use of these wonderful tools for the most pragmatic, utilitarian functions. We shoot billions and billions of rounds of ammo each year, and we own more firepower today than any society in the history of planet earth. And for the brainwashed cult of denial drooling in the shadow of a gun hating media and White House, with all this unprecedented increase in guns and ammo in American citizens’ hands, the use of guns in crime is at an alltime low. It’s not just Ted Nugent’s Gun Country, it’s working hard, playing hard America’s Gun Country and we could not be more proud of it. Tune in to the Discovery Channel, for like our award winning Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild on Outdoor Channel, witness how real Americans enjoy the great outdoors and peace through superior firepower...more

BLM to treat dense sagebrush

Starting next week, the Bureau of Land Management plans to start clearing 12,230 acres of sagebrush from federal lands in the Farmington Field Office administrative area. Low-flying planes will drop a pellet of herbicide called teburthiuron on areas plentiful with sagebrush. Teburthiuron is a soil-activated herbicide that stops photosynthesis. The BLM has selected areas where sagebrush densities have surpassed historic, naturally occurring levels, according to a BLM news release. The areas include east of Navajo Reservoir south to Counselor. "Reducing the density of sagebrush will result in an increase of native grasses, forbs and other herbaceous vegetation," Jeff Tafoya, a range land management specialist for the BLM, said in a prepared statement. "Our goal is to improve species diversity, which will benefit wildlife, range lands and the watershed." Tafoya said the herbicide will have no affect on grasses and forbs and the pellets won't drift outside the treatment areas. The pellets won't be dropped near waterways, he said. The BLM treats dense sagebrush areas to reduce the risk of fire damage...more

Feds Won’t Relist Mexican Wolves

Environmentalists are blasting a federal government decision not to list the Mexican gray wolf as a separate subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. The group WildEarth Guardians says today’s decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service means efforts to help the wolf population recover will be hurt. WildEarth Guardians petitioned to relist the Mexican wolf as a separate subspecies in 2009. Mexican wolves are a subspecies of the gray wolf. They were first added to the endangered species list in 1976 after hunting and government-sponsored extermination campaigns nearly wiped them out. A reintroduction effort along the New Mexico-Arizona border began in 1998 with the release of 11 wolves. The program has been hampered by everything from illegal killings to legal wrangling, and only about 60 live in the region. AP

Cross-border trade with Mexico worth $500 billion a year

More than $1 billion in goods trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border each day. In 2011 U.S.-Mexico good and service trade reached a major milestone of $500 billion with virtually no recognition. While media coverage and political conversation about the border, of late, has focused almost exclusively on illegal immigration and drug trade, the great success story of commerce between the United States and Mexico is being overshadowed. The economic value of the U.S.-Mexico partnership for many in the U.S. remains “hidden in plain sight.” For example:
• U.S. sales to Mexico are larger than all U.S. exports to China, India, Russia and Brazil, combined, as well as all combined sales to Great Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
• Mexico is the second-largest export market for the U.S. (Canada is first), and the U.S. is the largest global export market for Mexican exports. • Approximately 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico.
• Mexico’s $349 billion in 2011 exports to the world, on average, contained 37 percent U.S. inputs.
• For every dollar Mexico makes from exporting to the U.S., it will in turn spend 50 cents on U.S. products and services.
• Twenty-two U.S. states count Mexico as their No. 1 or No. 2 export market – states as close to the border as Arizona, California and Texas and as far away as from the border as New Hampshire, Michigan and Ohio.   Western Farm Press

Oh Yes

Song Of The Day #946

Ranch Radio is craving some bluegrass and here's The Foggy Hogtown Boys with Straighten The Curves.  The tune is on their 15 track CD The Golden West.

Monday, October 08, 2012

On Public Land, the Fire Still Burns

As wildfires raged across the Magic Valley this summer, not all the heat came from the flames. Some farmers and ranchers who use grazing allotments to feed livestock during the summer or own land bordering public lands felt red-hot anger and frustration. The source: federal lands policies that prevent them from crossing onto public land to help suppress wildfires. In August, Elba resident Clair Teeter arrived home to find a wall of flames 12 feet high in front of his house that spread from a wildfire on adjacent public land. He drove through the fire and with the help of local firefighters, saved his family’s home. Later that afternoon, he stood in his yard and looked over his still-smoldering farm equipment that did not escape the blaze. It was 16 years to the day after another rangeland fire had destroyed four miles of his fencing and 150 tons of hay. Teeter’s anger boiled over. “You can’t go onto public land even to save your own home,” Teeter said. “They’ll give you a ticket. Thirty years ago my grandfather would have got up and shot somebody over this.” Local firefighters take responsibility for putting out wildfires that reach private property. However, during a raging wildfire local fire crews are spread thin as they fight the blaze at multiple crossover points. Landowners sometimes watch as crops, livestock and equipment burn, because public land policies prevent them from using their own tractors or dozers to make firebreaks on public lands to prevent the blaze from encroaching on their property. Dennis Crane, farmer and commissioner for Cassia County, said the issue causes a lot of angst among landowners. “I hear about it all the time, especially when we have a fire,” Crane said. “It’s really typical for people to be angry and frustrated by the policy.” In June, the BLM sent out letters reminding ranchers about the agency’s stance. The letter cited agency concerns about private citizens fighting fires, including their lack of training, fire safety equipment and the means to communicate with agency fire crews. And there are consequences for those who disregard the BLM’s advice. Tiel-Nelson said during an incident this summer, one individual who held a grazing permit in the Jarbidge area received a warning and then a misdemeanor citation for unauthorized destruction of vegetation. Tiel-Nelson said he pleaded guilty and received a $1,250 fine. The amounts of the fines are determined on a case-by-case basis...more

White House again says no new national monuments for Montana

There will be no end-of-term national monument designations by President Barack Obama, the White House said Sunday, reaffirming earlier assurances that one isn’t planned. The assurance, the second of its kind this year, comes days after Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., raised the monument issue again Friday in a letter to Obama. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last March said there were no plans to designate new national monuments in Montana. But that assurance from a member of Obama’s cabinet was an empty promise, Rehberg said in his Friday letter to the president. “It’s not up to the Secretary Salazar or those of the Department of Interior to designate national monuments. The only person whose promises matter is you,” Rehberg wrote. Montana’s lone congressman then asked for Obama’s “unequivocal promise not to misuse the authority granted under the Antiquities Act to designate any new national monuments in Montana at the end of your first term in office.” The White House said the president’s position and the Interior secretary’s were the same. “Secretary Salazar’s statement represents the administration’s position,” said Clark Stevens, White House assistant press secretary...more

Wolf attacks rise to 15 in eastern Washington

In the latest incident report, five calves were attacked by wolves at the Diamond M Ranch in northeastern Washington, bringing wolf-livestock conflicts to 15 in a three-month period. Three calves were found dead, and two more suffered severe injuries, according to ranch co-owner Bill McIrvin. The two calves that survived were discovered on Sept. 12 and 14. Both had suffered severe bites and torn flesh to their hindquarters, King said. One of the calves had parts of her reproductive and urinary tract torn from her body. She can no longer urinate properly. Diamond M has been working with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to implement non-lethal methods to prevent damage. It waited to turn calves out on summer range until they were 200 pounds. The ranch also employed more cowboys to patrol its grazing range. Despite these efforts, attacks to the herd have persisted, resulting in a state confirmation of 10 dead and five injured since June. The McIrvin’s herd records suggest there are likely a total of 40 dead from wolf attacks. The WDFW dispatched personnel to try and “incrementally” remove a few of the problem wolves in late August but deemed the radio-collared Alpha male and a breeding female off-limits. Despite nearly 20 days of pursuit by WDFW of the “Wedge” wolf pack, the Department efforts have not brought an end to the aggressive wolf pack behavior...more

Judge Dismisses NM Wild Horses Suit

A federal judge has dismissed a case filed by a group of Placitas wild horse enthusiasts against Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the Bureau of Land Management and an Algodones man the suit claimed was working with the BLM to round up the horses. Members of the Wild Horse Observers Association filed the lawsuit last year, claiming Salazar and the BLM violated a 1971 federal law designed to protect wild horses because they have never recognized horses that roam around Placitas as wild. The group later amended the lawsuit to seek an injunction preventing the BLM and Al Baca from capturing, transporting or allowing the sale of the horses except as permitted by the Wild Horse and Burro Act. It claimed Baca was working with the BLM and planning to capture and sell the roaming Placitas horses. Late last month, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo denied the association’s request to further amend its case and granted Baca’s request to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be refiled. In her order, Armijo granted Baca’s request because the Wild Horse Act does not provide for an action filed by a private group or individual. It also said the law the association sought relief under did not apply to a “non-governmental defendant.” BLM representatives have said the horses don’t fall under the protections of the Wild Horse and Burro Act because they belong to San Felipe Pueblo and were not therefore classified as wild. The lawsuit disputed that position, saying the pueblo has never made efforts to claim the horses and the BLM is breaking the law by not recognizing them as wild and protecting them...more

AMY KIRK: My rancher’s first love

In all of the 19 years of knowing my rancher-husband, the only times I’ve ever seen him get misty-eyed was when his hay fever got to him. There are few things that cause my husband to get emotional — unless of course we’re talking about money, ranch work, or maybe even hand signals -- but that’s an emotion of a different kind for many future columns. Showing his emotions is just not something my rancher’s walnut-tough exterior will allow him to do. Only females like Samantha have the power to stir up a rancher’s emotions. I witnessed once just how much buying his first cow meant to him. It was during a time when he had to endure a court ordeal that pertained to defending the morals of his cowboy way regarding our land and cattle owner rights. When a lawyer asked my husband how long he’d been a rancher, a hairline crack in his stoic facial expression revealed how he truly felt about his cows. He began his response with a long pause at the recollection of Samantha before he said as simply and as quickly as possible with a hint of emotion in his voice; “I bought my first cow when I was thirteen.” Ranchers don’t wear their emotions on their sleeves or anywhere else that I’m aware of but when it comes to a man’s livestock, a rancher is protective of the strong ties he has to them. The memories that are created from putting a man’s whole heart and life into his livestock everyday are not forgotten. Rare circumstances can cause the most calloused, persevering, hardship-hardened men to reveal a poignant, albeit brief moment of emotion regarding what his cows mean to him. Something you’re not likely see with the same level of emotion expressed on the faces of animal rights activists...more

Rancher's book depicts authentic cowboy lifestyle in Florida

Alvin Futch won't describe himself as a good storyteller. But as it turns out, he has quite a knack for it. The 81-year-old Plant City rancher recently released his second autobiography, "Saw Mill," a sequel to his first autobiography, "Wild and Wooley." The book is on sale at Come See, Come Save in Bradenton and Parrish General Store. In both books, Futch retells his experiences as a cracker cowboy in Florida, from his early beginning in the late 1930s into the 1990s, and documents the development of urban and rural Florida through family photos. "You get people saying,'I remember growing uplike that' or 'My grandfather used to live like that,'" Futch said. "I wrote what I knew." The authenticity of his writing, which includes several cowboy phrases and retelling stories that portray hardships of life as a cowboy, has resonated with Manatee ranchers and farmers and others across the country. The book includes a preface from Jim Strickland, Manatee's agricultural property appraiser, who also owns agricultural land in East Manatee. "What I like about both books is he tells a story from somebody that has been there and done that," Strickland said. "That's a great perspective from an older gentleman. He was in the mud. He was in the cattle business and timber business. It's an inside look of how we came to be by him being right in the middle of it."...more

Song Of The Day #945

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio and here are The Time Jumpers with Pig Dog Hop.  The tune is on their 26 track CD Jumpin' Time.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Drought in the digital age

By Julie Carter

Going, going, gone. The cattle trucks are rolling -- sending this year’s calf crop down the road to -- I started to say “greener pastures” but I’m not sure there are any of those left in the West.

Right behind those calves go a good portion of the industry’s mama cows because once again, the enduring drought cycle has pushed producers to the breaking point.

It is a bad deal for a whole lot of people including all those associated with the cattle business -- from banks on down to the feed companies, fuel suppliers, and local merchants. It gives the “trickle down” theory a big fat slap in the rear and turns the trickle into a raging river.

The rancher has done all he knows how to do to outlast the whammy Mother Nature has put on the land. Those September showers that ran water in the ditches and put ruts in the roads came too late to grow enough grass to hold a herd over for another year.

Technology has been trickling into the ranch industry for 25 years. In the late 1980s the satellite livestock auctions took selling cattle to a new cyber realm. Not long after, cowboys who couldn’t figure out how to turn on the TV with a newfangled remote control were now watching cattle markets and weather forecasts via new computers.

Universities began gathering data on a plethora of behaviors and nutritional processes provided by a grazing cow. They were looking to not just bring convenience, but had a main goal of increasing productivity with the best spent dollar. Technology companies began specializing in the cattle industry with a focus on software development, content publishing, and livestock supplies.

More recently, the smartphone has become a source to hold information. It also provides the cattleman with an efficient way to communicate with feed suppliers and veterinarians by text message and link up with buyers over the Internet.
The weather is one area that technology can’t improve or redesign.  In a world where everything is computerized, digitized, and data overloaded, Mother Nature hasn’t signed on for any of it.

Man can’t change the weather, order the weather or force the weather. And, most of the time he can’t predict it with any accuracy. Still, very faithfully, people in agriculture watch the weather reports daily seeking a glimmer of hope dosed with some optimism for tomorrow.

Only God knows what next year will bring. Hope and prayer remain, but the cattle will go. People in the industry, generations of them, have already ridden out market cycles, and continuing fuel and feed price increases. But they can’t make it rain. They can’t make the grass grow. There isn’t an app for that.

Julie can be reached for comment at