Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pro-Obama Ad Has Children Singing About an America Where ‘Sick People Just Die’ & ‘Oil Fills the Sea’

The ad agency behind the iconic “Got Milk?” ad campaign and some of the other most well-known advertisements in the country has a new message: re-elect President Barack Obama, or your children will live in an America where “sick people just die” and “oil fills the sea.” A two-minute black-and-white spot features a chorus of children — “the children of the future” — singing to their parents that “something happened to our country, and we’re kinda blaming you.” A few other choice lyrics: “The Earth is cracked, Big Bird is sacked and the atmosphere is frying.” The ad is the brainchild of Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, of the San Francisco-based Goodby Silverstein & Partners, for their Future Children Project. The Future Children Project states on its website, “Re-electing President Obama is a momentous decision that will require every single voter. What would the children of the future say if we let them down this November?”...more

Here are the lyrics:

Imagine an America
Where strip mines are fun and free
Where gays can be fixed
And sick people just die
And oil fills the sea
We don’t have to pay for freeways!
Our schools are good enough
Give us endless wars
On foreign shores
And lots of Chinese stuff
We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we’re kinda blaming you
We haven’t killed all the polar bears
But it’s not for lack of trying
The Earth is cracked
Big Bird is sacked
And the atmosphere is frying
Congress went home early
They did their best we know
You can’t cut spending
With elections pending
Unless it’s welfare dough
We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we’re kinda blaming you
Find a park that is still open
And take a breath of poison air
They foreclosed your place
To build a weapon in space
But you can write off your au pair
It’s a little awkward to tell you
But you left us holding the bag
When we look around
The place is all dumbed down
And the long term’s kind of a drag
We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And yeah, we’re blaming you
You did your best
You failed the test
Mom and Dad
We’re blaming you!

And here's the video:

The Westerner's Radio Theater

Ranch Radio brings you the 1/19/1947 broadcast of The All Star Western Theater.

Feds to cut property rights under Endangered Species Act!

 by Reed Hopper

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court announced the Endangered Species Act was intended to protect species “whatever the cost,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have enforced the ESA with a callous “blank check” mentality.  That is, without regard for the effects on people.  Under the ESA, it is a crime to harm any species listed as “threatened” or “endangered.”  Among other things, this prohibition has stymied development nationwide and driven up the cost of energy, transportation, housing, food production, and flood and fire protection.  But the greatest drag on the economy is the Act’s impingement on private property rights.

When a species is listed, these agencies are required to designate “critical habitat” for the species.  Depending on the species, this can include a few acres or thousands of square miles, on both public and private lands.  Once an area is designated as “critical habitat,” the federal government obtains a virtual veto power over the land’s use.  Any adverse modification of such areas may be deemed harmful to the species and therefore prohibited without federal approval.  But, to protect landowners from this type of heavy-handed enforcement, Congress amended the ESA to require the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to consider the best scientific and commercial data available, including the economic consequences of designating any area as “critical habitat.”  Where the benefits to the species are small and the costs of designating any particular area as “critical habitat” are high, the agencies may exclude the area from regulation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that this is required “to avoid needless economic dislocation produced by agency officials zealously but unintelligently pursuing their environmental objectives.” But the agencies have never been on board with this.  To minimize the apparent economic consequences of designating “critical habitat,” these agencies routinely look at only the incremental effects of the designation while ignoring the cumulative effects.  Some courts have correctly concluded that this approach necessarily understates the economic impacts of “critical habitat” making the required analysis a nullity. But the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are proposing to double down on their marginal economic analyses by adopting new regulations that weaken the ESA’s property rights protections even further.  They propose making the analysis both subjective and discretionary.  We take issue with this illegal rewriting of the ESA in extensive comments submitted to the agencies today.


Arizona Game and Fish Opposes Jaguar Critical Habitat Proposal

Arizona and New Mexico offer less than one percent of total rangewide habitat for jaguars

 The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently submitted comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on their proposal to designate critical habitat for jaguars in Arizona and New Mexico. The department is committed to the conservation of all of Arizona’s diverse wildlife species. Critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a legal designation that must meet defined criteria within ESA and those criteria have not been met for jaguars.   
Game and Fish has asked that the proposal be withdrawn because conservation of the species is entirely reliant on activities in the jaguar's primary habitat of Central and South America to be successful. Lands in Arizona and New Mexico make up less than one percent of the species' historic range and are not essential to the conservation of the species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposal considers jaguar occurrence from 1962 to 2011.     All of the available information from that time frame and even decades before consistently indicates that Arizona does not provide habitat that is critical to jaguar conservation. Male jaguars from Mexico infrequently use southern Arizona as they roam. Females have not been confirmed in Arizona since 1962, and no breeding populations of jaguars exist now or ever have been documented in the U.S., even in historical times. 
“The sanctity of the ESA is put at risk when litigious groups misuse legal terms to gain more control of wildlife conservation and public lands. Their maneuvers undermine the true intent of the act and jeopardize the public’s support for wildlife conservation,” said Director Larry Voyles of Game and Fish. 
Arizona and New Mexico represent the northern most extent of the range for a population segment of jaguars centered approximately 140 miles south of the international border.
It was thought the species had completely disappeared from the state for many decades until 1996 when the first jaguar documented since 1986 was photographed by an Arizona houndsman. In the last half century, at most 12 different jaguars have been documented in Arizona or New Mexico.
The Fish and Wildlife Service proposal identifies six areas as proposed jaguar critical habitat in Arizona and New Mexico where jaguars already receive the full protection of the federal Endangered Species Act. The vast majority of the proposed critical habitat area is public land that is already under federal management jurisdiction or federally-approved conservation plans.
Game and Fish believes that the unwarranted designation of critical habitat for jaguars would likely result in denial of access to lands for jaguar conservation and research efforts; fewer observations of jaguars being reported; less timely sighting reports from people that do choose to report a jaguar; and, an increased likelihood of illegal activities which undermine endangered species conservation.  Press Release

The Dept's complete comments are here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Congressmen rip Park Service for huge California blaze

Two California congressmen blasted the National Park Service on Wednesday for letting a wildfire burn despite extreme conditions last summer, a decision that conflicted with the practices of other state and federal agencies. U.S. Reps. Wally Herger and Tom McClintock, both Republicans from Northern California, criticized Lassen Volcanic National Park officials for decisions that allowed the Reading fire to eventually erupt into an inferno that scorched more than 42 square miles and cost $15 million to suppress. It destroyed private property, hurt the region's logging industry and devastated prime tourism destinations in an area known for its remote beauty. Herger said the officials responsible for allowing the fire to burn during "a terrible fire season" should be removed and changes made to the national policy that uses managed wildfires as a tool to clear out forests and improve wildlife habitat. McClintock used the hearing to advocate for a resumption of widespread logging. He said clear-cutting can have the same effect as fires that leave behind a "moonscape" of devastation, though he later said he is not advocating clear-cutting. Massive wildfires cause air pollution, environmental damage and threaten people and wildlife, McClintock said. "Any squirrel fleeing a fire knows this," he said, "which leads me to the unflattering but inescapable conclusion that today our forest management policy is in the hands of people who lack the simple common sense that God gave a squirrel." McClintock said the current policy is that "we have to destroy the forest in order to save it," a notion that he described as "New Age nonsense." Bill Kaage, the park service's Wildland Fire Branch chief, generally defended the decisions but said park officials intend to learn from the fire. Park officials should have done a better job of coordinating with other federal, state and local agencies and area residents, he acknowledged, and other lessons may come from an internal review due to be completed next month...more

Groups find agreement on logging issues

Following a Sept. 16 meeting of the minds between Congressman Steve Pearce, Bryan Bird of WildEarth Guardians and representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and Mescalero Tribal lands, an avenue of cooperation has been opened between groups that typically promote opposing agendas. "The general push of this (meeting) was to look at the fire, talk about forest management and fire ecology, all of that," said Quentin Hays, wildlife biologist and assistant professor at Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso who also attended the visit. "It was really good that both the congressman and (Bird) were there. Meeting face to face and realizing there's people behind these issues is beneficial for everyone. I was very appreciative of the fact that (Pearce) listened very closely to a lot of what we had to say and left with a lot of the take-home messages we'd like for him to see." Hays added that he had volunteered to help Pearce, as needed, with consultation on current fire ecology or other issues that concerned both poles on the conservation field. "I'm happy to talk with (Pearce) any time," he said. "I'm very appreciative of the congressman, of Bryan Bird and his folks for setting this (meeting) up. Nobody wants to see homes burned down, we have to come to a consensus and work together to get things done, and that's what we're doing." The current drought, which actually "occurs regularly" in the southwest, has caused a buildup of fuels to dangerous levels, threatening communities through the southwest, Pearce said in June 21 speech to the House of Representatives. He added that fire, a preferred forest service method for forest treatment, was a natural process in a forest that is in balance, but, "the forest is desperately out of balance right now."...more

Lincoln National Forest supervisor promoted

The supervisor for the Lincoln National Forest the past almost two years is moving up. Robert Trujillo has been appointed to the USDA Forest Service's Southwest Region as the deputy director of Ecosystems, Analysis, Planning, Watershed, Soil and Air. Trujillo will report to the position in the regional office in Albuquerque on Monday. Trujillo was appointed the Lincoln National Forest's supervisor in January 2011. The local position at the Lincoln's Alamogordo headquarters will be filled temporarily by Tony Edwards, who currently works in the Office of the Chief in Washington, DC. Edwards is a legislative affairs specialist. He will hold the Lincoln's supervisor's post for 120 days, beginning on Monday. The soon to be acting forest supervisor has been with the Forest Service since 1990, beginning as a student employee on the Coronado National Forest located in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico...more

Email includes DOE official's midnight confessions on picking 'losers'

It's 3:30 in the morning and you can't sleep, so what do you do if you are a senior government executive working on President Obama's clean energy loan program at the U.S. Department of Energy? If your name is Jim McCrea, it's apparently Midnight Confessions time. The date is Nov. 18, 2009. For whatever reason, McCrea was answering email, including one he had received earlier in the day from a DOE colleague. In his somewhat rambling response, a couple of McCrea's sentences stand out when viewed in the context of the Solyndra and Abound Solar debacles. Those two companies stand atop the growing list of clean energy firms that got billions of tax dollars from DOE and have since either gone bellyup or are approaching such status. Take this one, for example: "l really cannot fathom how one figures out whether a loan to a PV manufacturer is being made to one that will survive. Everything about the business argues for the failure of many lf not most of the suppliers." The "PV" reference is to photovoltaic solar panel manufacturing technology. Solyndra and Abound Solar both used PV technology. Then McCrea offers this further confession: "lf, as a jobs creation mechanism, there is an incentive for PV solar installations, I do think demand could soar and create large numbers ofjobs simultaneously. "However, lf I were going to invest on that thesis, l might look at inverter manufacturers like Xantrex rather than bet on the PV solar anufacturers. All in all in the solar field, l think it is extremely easy to pick losers and l really do not know how to pick winners." There are currently multiple congressional investigations being conducted concerning the DOE's clean energy program and how it decided which firms to award with loans, grants and guarantees. McCrea's email suggest the answers being sought by the Hill aren't all that complicated.

Originally posted at the Washington Examiner.

HSUS Animated Video Draws Concern

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board are making farmers available to provide accurate information following an animated film about pork production focused on sow housing and tail docking released Wednesday as part of Food Day. HSUS produced the four-minute animated children's film, which exposes "problems with factory farming from the perspective of a piglet named Ginger." According to HSUS, the film is intended for children ages 7 to 10. The story follows the hog's journey on a "typical factory farm," and the "evolution of a farmer who opens his eyes to a more humane and sustainable way of farming," according to HSUS. Joe Maxwell, vice president of outreach and engagement at HSUS said the group is hoping the film will spur conversation about "inhumane practices in the pork industry." "The Humane Society of the United States is thrilled to celebrate Food Day with the release of this endearing and educational short film," Maxwell said. But President and CEO of the Animal Ag Alliance Kay Johnson Smith says parents should watch the video with caution. HSUS leaders' goals are more about creating conflict, distrust in farmers and fundraising than improving the care of animals, she said...more

Here's the HSUS video:

And here's the industry video:

Governor names rancher to Senate seat

Curry County rancher John "Pat" Woods has been named by Gov. Susana Martinez to fill a vacant state Senate seat in eastern and northeastern New Mexico. Woods will be sworn into office at 4 p.m. Friday at the Curry County courthouse in Clovis. Republican Clint Harden of Clovis held the seat until he resigned from office earlier this month after nearly 10 years in office. He had announce plans to retire from the Senate at the end of his term in December. Woods is the only candidate for the office on the Nov. 6 ballot after defeating a Martinez-backed candidate in the June Republican primary. He is a farmer and rancher and operates the family's 100-year-old farm near Broadview about 30 miles north of Clovis...more

EPA beset with taxpayer paid union organizers

The Environmental Protection Agency revealed in response to a Freedom Of Information Act request by Americans for Limited Government that seventeen employees in the Agency do nothing but labor related activities at a cost of more than $1.6 million in annual salary. The FOIA response provides the names and salaries of each employee revealing an average salary of $95,560 per union employee. When benefits are included the average employee nets more than $120,000 a year...more

Perverse environmentalist oil sands ethics

Oil has been seeping out of Northern Alberta soils and river banks for millennia. Native Americans used the bitumen to waterproof canoes, early explorers smelled and wrote about it, and “entrepreneurs” used it in “mineral waters” and “medicinal elixirs.” Today, increasingly high-tech operations are extracting the precious hydrocarbons to fuel modern living standards in Canada and the United States. Enormous excavator/loading shovels and trucks used in open pits during the early years are giving way to drilling rigs, steam injection, electric heaters, pipes and other technologies to penetrate, liquefy and extract the petroleum. The new techniques impact far less land surface, use and recycle brackish water, and emit fewer air pollutants and (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide every year. Water use for Alberta oil extraction is a tiny fraction of what’s needed to grow corn and convert it into ethanol that gets a third less mileage per gallon than gasoline. Affected lands are returned to forest and native grasslands at a surprising pace. And the operations are removing oil that would otherwise end up in local air and water...more

Song Of The Day #958

The Williams family from San Antonio requests we play Beautiful Lies by Jean Shepard.  Ranch Radio is happy to comply as it is one of our favorites too.  The tune was recorded in Hollywood on April 11, 1955.

Senators ask president for 2 national monuments in NM

U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall asked President Obama to consider designating two special areas in New Mexico — already managed by the Bureau of Land Management — for National Monument status. The senators are the sponsors of legislation that would elevate these two places — the Rio Grande Gorge and adjacent Taos Plateau, and the Organ Mountains and other important public lands in Doña Ana County — to National Conservation Areas/Wilderness Areas. In a letter to the president Thursday, the senators acknowledged that it has been difficult to pass legislation in this Congress and it is unclear whether the logjam will be broken in the lame-duck session.Given this uncertainty, they asked the president to consider exercising his authority to establish National Monuments — authority granted to presidents by Congress in the Antiquities Act. The senators are also the sponsors of legislation — called theOrgan Mountains Ð Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act— which seeks tocreate wilderness and conservation areas in Doña Ana County that provide for continued public use while protecting the granite peaks of the Organ Mountains and the volcanic cinder cones of the Potrillo Mountains, among other public lands in the county...more

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Did I read this right? Obama wants end to critical habitat for marbled murrelet

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to throw out the birdy with the lawsuit. The federal government's principal wildlife conservation agency said this week that it wants to withdraw a 16-year old designation of protected habitat for a Pacific Northwest bird species in order to resolve settle an industry lawsuit. In a proposed consent decree filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Washington, the Obama administration, an Oregon county, a timber industry organization, and a carpenter's union agreed that a series of court decisions requires that critical habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet be "reconsidered." The industry lawsuit alleges that FWS improperly included in the designation land that is not actually needed by the bird species for survival. A coalition of environmental organizations said that the administration has "given up" in the face of the lawsuit. “Given the precarious plight of the murrelet, the administration’s decision to remove critical habitat is the height of recklessness,” Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland, said. “The murrelet cannot withstand increased logging on BLM lands or anywhere else.” A government spokesman said that other provisions of the Endangered Species Act and a management plan for Pacific Northwest national forests would provide enough protection for the bird. Gary Frazer, the FWS assistant director for endangered species, said in an affidavit filed in court that removing the critical habitat designation "will not result in significant harm to the murrelet."...more

The Man With a Million Acres

He's from Kentucky, makes his own bourbon, drives a Ford pickup—and flies in a private plane. These are some of the few details that have emerged about Brad Kelley, 55, a deeply private billionaire who made his fortune in the discount cigarette business. Mr. Kelley, whose hobbies include breeding rare, exotic animals, very rarely gives interviews. He doesn't tweet or use email. He is also one of the largest private landowners in the country, spending by his own account hundreds of millions of dollars on about a million acres—or about 1,600 square miles. The state of Rhode Island, by comparison, has a land area of 1,215 square miles. According to the Land Report 100, which tracks land ownership, Mr. Kelley is the fourth-largest private landowner by acres in the U.S., just behind Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, media mogul Ted Turner and the Emmerson family, headed by timber magnate Archie Aldis Emmerson. Mr. Kelley says it wasn't his goal to become one of the country's biggest landowners. "I grew up on a farm and that's about as good an explanation as there is," he says in an interview. "Land is something I know. It's something I have an affinity for. It becomes part of your DNA." Ranches, which are Mr. Kelley's specialty, don't tend to yield much of an annual return. Instead, their value is in the underlying appreciation of the land: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the national average value of U.S. ranchland rose 12% compared with five years earlier; in Texas, it is up 30% compared with five years ago. Investors make cash on ranches when they are subdivided and sold to developers or as "trophy ranches," where the wealthy can fish and hunt. Texas oil baron T. Boone Pickens describes his strategy with ranches as "simple: Change the use of the land." He recently joined six other investors in a new ranch fund called Sporting Ranch Capital. The plan, says the fund's manager Jay Ellis, is to buy 12 to 15 premier ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Idaho, fix them up and then resell them as "trophy sporting ranches." In August, the fund made its first purchase—a 760-acre ranch in Colorado with a 2.6-mile fishing stream and five lakes—for about $6 million in cash; the fund hopes to put it back on the market in 2014 for over $10 million. Mr. Kelley's ranch strategy is different. He looks for good deals on cattle ranches in out-of-the-way places he thinks are undervalued, and holds on to them. He likes to buy adjoining parcels because it's more efficient to operate a ranch in large blocks and because it tends to be easier to buy property when it's right next door: He already knows what he's buying and what the seller is like. And he doesn't develop the land he buys: "We don't try to inject our way of doing things on other folks," he says. In this way, he has pieced together existing cattle ranches in remote parts of Texas, Florida and New Mexico. Once he has bought the land, Mr. Kelley does what some ranchers call "resting." He keeps the cattle operations running, almost always leasing the land back to the previous owner, who already knows how to run the existing operation. Mr. Kelley says his operations break even...more

Mexican gray wolf leaving Brookfield Zoo to enter the wild in NM

A Mexican gray wolf who has lived at Brookfield Zoo since 2010 will leave this week to prepare to enter the wild, joining 58 of the endangered animals roaming free in New Mexico and Arizona. On Saturday, Ernesta will be taken to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wolf Management Facility at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, NM, according to the Chicago Zoological Society. The goal is to bolster the population of a species once on the verge of extinction. She will then choose a mate and the pair will receive survival skills conditioning — a sort of pre-release boot camp — to prepare them for life in the wild, according to a release from CZS. The boot camp is to assure the wolves are good candidates for release.  Biologists will observe Ernesta and her mate as they slowly transition to feedings that mimic wild wolf food patterns, such as eating native prey (road-kill deer and elk); and experience the natural condition of feeding only every several days, the release said. They will also go through a process of taste aversion to beef so they will avoid cattle ranches once released. Natural wolf behaviors have been encouraged since Ernesta first arrived at Brookfield Zoo, the release said. This includes keepers not interacting with wolves; and feeding them native prey such as elk and bison. Their habitats are designed to mimic the wild environment, with heated rocks, pools and loose dirt; dens and tunnels of the size they can dig themselves; and buildings that blend in with nature so they don’t associate manmade structures with shelter or food...more

Song Of The Day #957

The song on Ranch Radio today is Jack Guthrie's 1948 recording of Next To The Soil.

The tune is on his 29 track CD Oklahoma Hills.

After a midnight close encounter with nine grizzly bears on his family’s ranch, one Beaver Mines area business owner is thanking the family dog for alerting him to the alarming situation at hand. In the early hours of Sunday, Oct. 14, rancher Ryan McClelland made the call to the local Fish and Wildlife division. Not surprisingly, the sheer number of bears has made this case unprecedented for officers as well. Though used to living in bear country, the owner of McClelland’s Meat Processors—a small-scale meat packaging plant—said he has never seen so many bears at once. “There was a sow and three cubs who broke in one granary and a sow with two cubs that broke into another granary,” he said. “There was a boar in my meat department and there was a boar by our garage.” McClelland said he chased the two boars out of the yard and then while patrolling his property, he found the other bears as well. The family dog alerted him to the boar closest to the house. In the end, the bears destroyed part of the door to the meat department, chewed a customer’s quarter of beef and wrecked two granaries. Just as the property damage is worrisome, McClelland voiced concern for his family members. “We’ve got kids in the yard so anytime after dark, you’re a little bit worried,” he said. “When kids get on the school bus in the dark in the morning, it’s a little worrisome.” In fact, over the past five years, McClelland has seen the numbers of bears increase drastically. One bear was already removed from the property in early September. He explained the wooden granary bins had been on the property for close to five decades; this was the first time they had been broken into...more

Drought, Congress pushes prices for wheat up

With grain in the bin, Montana farmers are watching as wheat prices make a late-year climb. Drought conditions elsewhere are once again working in Montana’s favor. America’s Corn Belt suffered its worst drought in a half century this year and supplies are tight. The drought bodes well for ordinary quality wheat, which is often fed to animals as a replacement when corn gets expensive. “When the price of corn goes up, the floor price for wheat — the price of feed wheat — is pushed up because it’s a substitute,” said Vincent Smith, Montana State University economist. At elevators across Montana on Tuesday, cash prices for wheat prices ranged $8 a bushel to $8.84, with the exception of southeastern Montana, where a $7.69 a bushel payout was the outlier. For now, the price difference between ordinary wheat and the high-protein variety is as little as 33 cents a bushel at some elevators. Baker farmer Randy Wolenetz said the spread is understandable. “Why you’re seeing such a small difference for high-protein wheat is because there’s a lot of high-protein wheat,” he said. If the demand for corn remains tight, wheat prices should stay strong. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated this month that ending stocks of corn were roughly 600 million bushels, slightly more than half the bushels on hand at the beginning of 2012. Two years ago, ending corn stocks were 1.7 billion bushels. Corn wields more influence on wheat prices than any other factor, Smith said. For the last four years, demand for corn has pushed wheat prices upward, not only because of America’s demand for corn products like animal feed and sweeteners, but also because of corn ethanol. The federal government’s renewable fuels standard requires ethanol to be blended into gasoline. In 2011, roughly 5 billion bushels of corn went to fuel...more

As if the drought weren't enough, the DC Deep Thinkers are driving the price of corn up, which drives up the price of wheat which drives up...well you get the picture. 

Dead, dying fish at Boulder lake highlight drought's damage

The Merritts' favorite Boulder County fishing spot is gone. The Boulder couple brought reel and rod to Teller Lake No. 5 this past weekend only to find 12 acres of cracked mud littered with puddles of dead and dying fish -- a poignant illustration of the destructive power the drought has wrought on Colorado for the better part of a year. "It was quite disturbing to see these fish with half of their bodies sticking out of the water, struggling for their last breath," Jen Merritt said Tuesday. "I've lived in Boulder for three years, and I've never seen anything like it." Neither have those who have worked alongside the county's lakes, ponds and waterways for years -- like Jim Reeder, division manager for Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. The agency oversees Teller Lake No. 5 and the nearby South Teller Farm property at Valmont Road and 95th Street. "I've been working this job for 11 summers, and it's never, ever come close to this, not even in (the severe drought year) of 2002," he said. "We knew since it didn't get much water in the spring that it would be low by this time, but we didn't anticipate it would be dry." It was the only body of water under Boulder's control to go completely dry this year, Reeder said...more

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Many of Obama’s ‘green pork’ alternative energy projects are vaporizing

The centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to jumpstart the economy— spending billions of stimulus dollars on alternative energy—has become a flashpoint in the presidential election amid growing evidence that taxpayer dollars have been squandered on numerous “green pork” projects. Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and his vice presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan both leveled the charge during their respective debates—an indictment backed up by dozens of hearings and official inquiries on Capitol Hill as well as investigations conducted within Obama’s own administration. “The past four years of this president’s administration have been defined by bailouts, handouts and copouts,” said Rep. Cory Gardner (R –Colo.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that led the congressional inquiries. “The green initiative of the president is certainly the epitome of handouts.” The Energy Department says it distributed $90 billion of stimulus funds in “government investments” and tax incentives to put “Americans back to work making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, increasing the use of clean and renewable electricity, cutting our dependence on oil, and modernizing the electric grid.” However, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman told Politico in April that he has initiated 100 investigations into projects that received the funding including accusations of taxpayer money diverted for personal use, false information in grant and loan requests, conflicts of interest and inferior work quality. So far the inspector general’s work has led to eight criminal prosecutions and he has recovered $2.3 million in misspent funding...more

U.N. calls for 'anti-terror' Internet surveillance

by Declan McCullagh

The United Nations is calling for more surveillance of Internet users, saying it would help to investigate and prosecute terrorists.
A 148-page report (PDF) released today titled "The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes" warns that terrorists are using social networks and other sharing sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Dropbox, to spread "propaganda."
"Potential terrorists use advanced communications technology often involving the Internet to reach a worldwide audience with relative anonymity and at a low cost," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The report, released at a conference in Vienna convened by UNODC, concludes that "one of the major problems confronting all law enforcement agencies is the lack of an internationally agreed framework for retention of data held by ISPs." Europe, but not the U.S. or most other nations, has enacted a mandatory data-retention law.
That echoes the U.S. Department of Justice's lobbying efforts aimed at convincing Congress to require Internet service providers to keep track of their customers -- in case police want to review those logs in the future. Privacy groups mounted a campaign earlier this year against the legislation, which has already been approved by a House committee.
The report, however, indicates it would be desirable for certain Web sites -- such as instant-messaging services and VoIP providers like Skype -- to keep records of "communication over the Internet such as chat room postings." That goes beyond what the proposed U.S. legislation, which targets only broadband and wireless providers, would cover.
Other excerpts from the UN report address:
Open Wi-Fi networks: "Requiring registration for the use of Wi-Fi networks or cybercafes could provide an important data source for criminal investigations... There is some doubt about the utility of targeting such measures at Internet cafes only when other forms of public Internet access (e.g. airports, libraries and public Wi-Fi hotspots) offer criminals (including terrorists) the same access opportunities and are unregulated."
Cell phone tracking: "Location data is also important when used by law enforcement to exclude suspects from crime scenes and to verify alibis."
Terror video games: "Video footage of violent acts of terrorism or video games developed by terrorist organizations that simulate acts of terrorism and encourage the user to engage in role-play, by acting the part of a virtual terrorist."
Paying companies for surveillance: "It is therefore desirable that Governments provide a clear legal basis for the obligations placed on private sector parties, including... how the cost of providing such capabilities is to be met."
Today's U.N. report was produced in collaboration with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, which counts the World Bank, Interpol, the World Health Organization, and the International Monetary Fund as members.

 Originally posted at

Song Of The Day #957

Ranch Radio's selection today is The Train That Carried My Girl From Town by David Davis & The Warrior River Boys.  The tune is on their Two Dime & A Nickel CD.

NRDC Challenges Navy's Plan to Utilize Dangerous Sonar in More Than 70% of World's Oceans

Today, NRDC sued the U.S. Navy and the government agency charged with protecting marine mammals from the Navy’s harmful use of sonar. Both the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) have a responsibility to manage, conserve, and protect living marine resources, like whales and dolphins, particularly those protected by the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, the Navy and NMFS failed to meet their obligation to protect whales and other marine life from the harmful impacts of low-frequency active sonar (“LFA”), when they authorized the deployment of LFA in 70-75 % of the World’s Oceans without instituting adequate protective measures. As we noted when filing our case, the deployment of LFA will harm thousands of marine mammals, including significant numbers of endangered species such as blue whales, humpback whales, sperm whales (all shown in photos here), and other species whose numbers are depleted. Impacts from LFA will occur hundreds of miles from the source of the technology...more

Putting a price tag on where endangered species live

What is the economic cost for protecting a threatened or endangered species? For the first time, the federal government will provide an answer at the same time it designates the territory considered essential for the recovery of a plant or animal on the brink of extinction. The proposed policy shift could be significant because the designation of critical habitat sometimes leads to prolonged fights with local landowners and developers. Federal officials said the change would give the public a better understanding of the potential economic impacts upfront and may produce more exclusions of private and state land from such a designation. Texas officials said they support the Obama administration's plan, considering 29 species statewide are currently under review for possible listing as threatened or endangered. Once a plant or animal is listed, the Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to designate lands as critical habitat if they are "essential to the conservation of the species." "It never made sense to us to have the economic analysis done after the proposal," said Lauren Willis, a spokeswoman for Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who leads a state task force that tracks the impacts of endangered species listings. "We want it as soon as possible." The proposal comes as some Central Texas officials are trying to prevent the listing of four species of salamanders, saying it would cripple development in a three-county region. Combs' task force estimates the listing would cost the local economy at least $6 million a year...more

La. landowners intend to file lawsuit over frog habitat

The owners of about 1,500 acres of land in St. Tammany Parish have put federal agencies on notice that they will file a lawsuit if the government does not reverse its designation of the property as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, a species that hasn't been seen in the wild in Louisiana in about 50 years. The intent-to-sue notifications, required before parties can sue over an Endangered Species Act regulation, were filed by Edward Poitevent II, whose family owns most of the property in question, and the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing land owner Markle Interests LLC, a company owned by cousins of Poitevent. Weyerhaeuser Co., which has a timber lease on the 1,544 acres and owns a small part of it, is preparing its own demand letter, Poitevent said. But Poitevent is under no illusion that the litigation warnings to Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Daniel M. Ashe, will trigger any action from the federal government. "I'm told that they ignore (such notifications) and never respond and most certainly don't reverse themselves." The case will undoubtedly be decided in the federal courts, perhaps ultimately in the U.S. Supreme Court, he said. "It could take three or four years." Under the law, a lawsuit can be filed 60 days after a notification is made. "This case is about a federal land grab in one parish in Louisiana -- but it's also about property rights from coast to coast," Pacific Legal Foundation attorney M. Reed Hopper said in a news release. "Never before have federal officials attempted to rope off private property as 'critical habitat' for a species, where the land is manifestly not suitable for that species."...more

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Longtime Indian Activist Russell Means Dies at 72

Russell Means spent a lifetime as a modern American Indian warrior. He railed against broken treaties, fought for the return of stolen land and even took up arms against the federal government. A onetime leader of the American Indian Movement, he called national attention to the plight of impoverished tribes and often lamented the waning of Indian culture. After leaving the movement in the 1980s, the handsome, braided activist was still a cultural presence, appearing in several movies. Means, who died Monday from throat cancer at age 72, helped lead the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee — a bloody confrontation that raised America's awareness about the struggles of Indians and gave rise to a wider protest movement that lasted for the rest of the decade...more

Endangered beetle species holding up TransCanada pipeline in Oklahoma

Pipeline developer TransCanada’s Gulf Coast project has been dogged by protesters in east Texas but its progress in Oklahoma has been slowed by concerns about the American burying beetle. Some of the endangered insect’s habitat is along the route of the $2.3 billion pipeline being built from the crude oil storage hub at Cushing to refineries in the Houston area. The American burying beetle has been a troublesome issue for oil and gas companies in Oklahoma for more than a decade. The insect has been listed as an endangered species since 1989. To ensure the bug’s safety, environmental regulations require companies to hire biologists and survey areas for the beetles before they dig in areas where the beetle may be found. If any of the species are found in an area, biologists must trap or bait them away. Because the beetles hibernate in the winter, environmental regulations state the insects can be moved only in the spring and summer...more

Conservationists win Ruby pipeline appeal

RENO, Nev. — Two federal agencies violated the Endangered Species Act and now must reconsider additional protection for the Lahontan cutthroat trout and other rare fish adversely affected by the 700-mile Ruby pipeline that carries natural gas from Wyoming, through Utah and Nevada into southern Oregon, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management broke the law by failing to adequately examine the potential harm to fish as a result of pumping more than 300 million gallons of water from beneath the ground in Oregon and Nevada in connection with a project completed two years ago. The appellate court also agreed with environmentalists who said the government illegally relied on mitigation measures that have not been funded in concluding there are enough protections in place for the cutthroat trout and other fish in hundreds of rivers and streams in the four states. Besides the Lahontan cutthroat trout, the 42-inch pipeline built in 2010 affected habitat for the Warner sucker, Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker and Modoc sucker, as well as four endangered fish in the Colorado River — the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub. Ruby Pipeline LLC voluntarily agreed to a dozen conservation measures intended to mitigate the impacts on the fish, including constructing fish migration barriers and restoring riparian vegetation along streams — but committed to fully funding only seven of them. As a result, the 9th Circuit ruled that the voluntary conservation measures are "unenforceable" and therefore cannot be considered in assessing whether they provide adequate offsets to keep the species from being threatened with extinction. Congress did not contemplate leaving the federal government's protection of endangered and threatened species to mechanisms other than those specified by the ESA, the statute designed to accomplish that protection," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote in the opinion. "Rather, it entrusted the federal government's protection of listed species and critical habitat to the act's own provisions and to the FWS, the agency with the expertise and resources devoted to that purpose." The court also ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service's biological opinion that concluded the project could go forward without jeopardizing the fish "provides no indication at all that FWS applied its expertise to the question of whether groundwater withdrawals may adversely affected listed fish species." The government had argued groundwater withdrawals would have no discernible impact on listed fish species because "those species do not live in groundwater — they live in rivers and streams." "That explanation is specious," Berzon wrote. "Obviously, fish do not live underground. But as the government recognizes, 'groundwater and surface water are physically interrelated as integral parts of the hydrologic cycle.'"...more

Environmentalists Score Win To Protect Endangered Fish, One Million Water Users Affected

A federal lawsuit filed by a dozen Inland Empire water agencies challenging the Obama administration's decision to expand the habitat for an endangered fish species was rejected today by a U.S. District Court judge. The suit, filed by the Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, Riverside Public Utilities and 10 other area agencies, sought to stop the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from doubling the protected space set aside for the Santa Ana sucker, arguing that the expansion would cut deeply into water supplies available regionally. Judge James V. Selina in Santa Ana ruled that the agencies' suit lacked merit and upheld the government's action. "We are obviously troubled by the court's decision, which appears to give free reign to federal agencies to interpret scientific information however they see fit, regardless of the inconsistencies, contradictions, omissions or gaps in the data they use to support their arguments," said Douglas Headrick, general manager of San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. There was no immediate word on whether the agencies intend to appeal. They contend a December 2010 ruling by federal officials effectively shut off 125,800-acre-feet of water, depriving the region of one-third of its current fresh water stocks. The reduced supplies could impact one million residents in Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties, according to the lawsuit. Court papers state that the Wildlife Service's decision to designate headwaters of the Santa Ana River as "critical habitat" for the sucker will disrupt reclamation operations along the entire channel and result in wasteful releases from the Seven Oaks Dam, located in the San Bernardino Mountains. The water agencies allege the Wildlife Service violated provisions of the Endangered Species Act by refusing to consult with state and local parties and apply objective scientific criteria in figuring out how best to balance conservation plans against the economic and resource needs of affected communities...more

NM peanut capital at heart of national recall

The country's largest organic peanut processing plant is scrubbing its facilities top to bottom and hopes to get back in production soon after a massive recall of scores of products linked to a salmonella outbreak. The recall has affected peanut butter and nut products sold at major retailers around the country, raising concerns about the long-term impact on the industry especially in products grown and processed in the flat, dusty eastern New Mexico town of Portales. The region is home to the prized Valencia peanut, which represents just a small percentage of the nation's massive peanut crop, but is favored for natural and organic peanut butter products because of its sweet flavor. This year's crop is exceptional, growers say, and the town is set this weekend to celebrate at its 39th annual peanut festival. But the festivities are likely to be overshadowed by anxiety as the crop is piling up in drying trailers while the Sunland Inc. facility linked to the outbreak remains shuttered for a top-to-bottom scrubbing. "We are very concerned about it," said Wayne Baker, a retired peanut farmer and chair of the New Mexico Peanut Growers Association. "The harvest is going on as normal and Sunland is receiving peanuts, but we have got to get the FDA to approve some changes and get going." Sunland, which operates the country's largest USDA certified organic peanut processing plant, first closed its peanut butter plant late last month when the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked a salmonella outbreak to peanut butter that it produced for Trader Joe's. Its roasting and processing facilities were also closed and the recall expanded this month to include more than 300 peanut and other nut products after the FDA found salmonella at the plant. On Friday, New Mexico health officials reported a 5-year-old girl from the Portales area who they said had consumed multiple peanut products was confirmed to have been sickened by the same bacteria found at the plant, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 36 in 20 states. Though most of the illnesses have only been linked to Trader Joe's product, Sunland Inc., which manufactures products for Target, Costco and other major retailers, has recalled everything made in the plant since March 2010. The recall list does not include major brands like Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan, meaning there are plenty of other brands on the market to fill the void for customers amid the plant's shutdown...more

Song Of The Day #956

Today, Ranch Radio says let's drift back to October 24, 1936 in San Antonio where the Tune Wranglers were recording a risque, Crayola Cowboy type song titled Hot Peanuts.

The West v. the feds

by Roger Hedgecock

    Ken Ivory is a committed constitutionalist, an elected member of the Utah Legislature, and the leader of a renewed movement among western states to get the federal government to finally give those states title to lands held by the feds “in trust.”
    The feds hold “in trust” 57.5 percent of Utah, 84.5 percent of Nevada, 69.1 percent of Alaska, 36.6 percent of Colorado, 50.2 percent of Idaho, 41.8 percent of New Mexico, 42.3 percent of Wyoming, 48.1 percent of Arizona, and even 45.3 percent of California.
    Today, the feds continue to administer all this land in western states through many federal agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
    Here are a few examples of the lousy management job the feds are doing:
    Federal data, despite Obama’s assertion to the contrary in Debate number two, shows that oil and natural gas production on federally administered lands declined 13 percent from 2010 to 2011. Oil and gas production on private land is soaring thanks to new technology and new discoveries.
    In another example, millions of acres of federal forest go up in smoke every year not because Smokey the Bear is not doing his job but because federal agencies are run by and for anti-timber, anti-ranching, anti-road, and endangered species zealots who prevent good forestry practices.
    After the devastating recent forest fires in New Mexico, the Forest Service even blocked recovery logging of still usable trees to clear the land for new growth. By contrast, good practices on the Apache reservation forest land in New Mexico (not subject to Forest Service rules) spared that forest from the recent devastating fires.
    Here’s another example:
    Mining of “rare earths,” the scarce minerals in every computer, smartphone, and military weapon system, has been shut down on federal lands. A dozen rare earth mines on federal land in New Mexico have been closed to “protect the environment,” leaving us dependent on mines in China to meet our needs for these critical minerals.
    Rep. Ivory’s contention is that these “federal” lands (other than national parks, national monuments, veterans memorials, and other special cases created by Congress) belong to the western states by law.
    Ivory relies on a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case (Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs), where the court unanimously ruled that the state of Hawaii had the right to dispose of federal lands within its boundaries for private development.
    The U.S. Constitution (Article IV) provides that Congress has the power to grant federal lands within a new state to that state. Congress provided for transfer of federal lands to new states in statehood enabling acts.
    The court cited a long history of federal land becoming state land after statehood. Lands held by the feds east of the Mississippi River were granted to the states formed out of those lands in the 1830s and ‘40s.
The vast Louisiana Purchase resulted in the creation of many other states. Congress granted some of them (North Dakota, for example) nearly all federal land within the state boundaries. This is why North Dakota is nearly all privately owned and why the so-called Bakken oil field boom is possible today.
    All other western states have the same enabling act language that North Dakota has.
    This case is the foundation of Ken Ivory’s campaign for the rest of the western states, and why, he says, this effort will succeed where previous efforts, like the 1980s “Sagebrush Rebellion” failed.
    This year, Rep. Ivory introduced, the Utah Legislature on a bipartisan basis passed, and the governor signed, House Bill 148 placing a Dec. 21, 2014, deadline on Congress to transfer control of federal lands to the state of Utah.
    Ivory’s Utah bill sets up a showdown with Congress, which, since 1976, has said that no more federal lands would be transferred to the states.
    Other western states have taken notice of Ken Ivory’s stand. The New Mexico Legislature will see similar legislation introduced in January. In Nevada, a similar bill has already been introduced. Arizona is working on similar legislation after Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill she thought was too broad.
    If the federal government wants to block oil and natural gas production, block “rare earth” mining, limit grazing, steal water rights, and leave the West a scorched earth of preventable wildfires, the western states want the land they were promised to reverse those policies and build a foundation of a new prosperity.

Hedgecock hosts a news talk program on U-T TV, Cox 114, and on, 11 a.m. to noon, weekdays.

Originally posted at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

After the Boom in Natural Gas

...At its peak, Chesapeake ran 38 rigs in the region. All told, it has sunk more than 1,200 wells into the Haynesville, a gas-rich vein of dense rock that straddles Louisiana and Texas. Fed by a gold-rush mentality and easy money from Wall Street, Chesapeake and its competitors have done the same in other shale fields from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. For most of the country, the result has been cheaper energy. The nation is awash in so much natural gas that electric utilities, which burn the fuel in many generating plants, have curbed rate increases and switched more capacity to gas from coal, a dirtier fossil fuel. Companies and municipalities are deploying thousands of new gas-powered trucks and buses, curbing noxious diesel fumes and reducing the nation’s reliance on imported oil. And companies like fertilizer and chemical makers, which use gas as a raw material, are suddenly finding that the United States is an attractive place to put new factories, compared with, say, Asia, where gas is four times the price. Dow Chemical, which uses natural gas as a material for producing plastics, has assembled a list of 91 new manufacturing projects, representing $70 billion in potential investment and up to three million jobs, that various companies have proposed or begun because of cheap gas. “The country has stumbled into a windfall on the backs of these entrepreneurs,” said Edward Hirs, a finance professor at the University of Houston who contributed to a report that estimated that the nation’s economy benefited by more than $100 billion last year alone from the lower gas prices. But while the gas rush has benefited most Americans, it’s been a money loser so far for many of the gas exploration companies and their tens of thousands of investors. The drillers punched so many holes and extracted so much gas through hydraulic fracturing that they have driven the price of natural gas to near-record lows. And because of the intricate financial deals and leasing arrangements that many of them struck during the boom, they were unable to pull their foot off the accelerator fast enough to avoid a crash in the price of natural gas, which is down more than 60 percent since the summer of 2008...more

Layoffs, failures test Colorado's "new energy economy"

The resilience of Colorado's vaunted "new energy economy" is being tested after a series of job cuts, financial setbacks and political firestorms. The latest loss was Phillips 66's announcement last week that it is pulling the plug on a major alternative-fuels research-and-development center that was planned on the former StorageTek site in Louisville. That followed the recent news that Vestas Wind Systems was making its biggest round of Colorado layoffs, bringing the job-cut tally to about 500. The Weld County district attorney's office is investigating the failure of Colorado solar-panel manufacturer Abound Solar, and congressional Republicans are asking tough questions about Abound's federal loan guarantees. Also in the loss column is General Electric's recent decision to suspend development of the proposed $300 million PrimeStar Solar plant in Aurora that would have employed 355 workers. At the least, the setbacks are a speed bump in Colorado's effort to maintain a leadership status in renewable energy. At worst, they could significantly impair growth of the industry. The combined layoffs, plant closure and mothballed projects in Colorado represent the loss of more than 1,000 existing and projected jobs, plus millions of dollars of tax revenue and spinoff economic activity...more

Candidates play to rural swing audiences

Recognizing that several swing states have substantial rural constituencies, the two major presidential candidates unveiled policy statements on their websites. Republican candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney released a white paper titled "Agricultural Prosperity: Mitt Romney's Vision For A Vibrant Rural America." President Barack Obama's campaign, meanwhile, issued an open letter to farmers and ranchers highlighting the farm and rural initiatives undertaken by the administration. The presidential campaign is seen as tight in states such as Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin...more

The Green Guitar: An Argentine Widower's Memorial to His Late Wife

Graciela Yraizoz, a vibrant young rancher’s wife of the Argentine Pampas, loved to play the guitar. Flying home over the plains one day, she saw a farm that seemed to form the shape of a milking pail from the air, and asked her husband if they could plant a guitar-shaped field on their own farm. “Later, we’ll talk it about it later,” he told her. But tragically, there was no later—shortly thereafter, Graciela was dead of a sudden brain aneurysm at the age of 25, leaving her husband, rancher Pedro Martin Ureta, heartbroken and raising four children on his own. Ureta always regretted never indulging his wife’s whim about the guitar-shaped field, so a few years later, he took on the project in her memory. Professional landscapers thought he was crazy, so he and his field hands did all the work themselves. Instead of conventional surveying, he would line up his four children in rows and plant trees where each of them stood. In all, Ureta planted more than 7,000 trees—cypresses for the guitar’s neck, body, and sound hole, blue eucalyptus for the six strings. At first, Pampas pests ravaged the saplings, but the rancher eventually figured out a way to surround the trees with scrap metal, and the guitar-shaped garden began to flourish...more

Monday, October 22, 2012

Drug Smugglers Are Driving Across the Arizona Border in Broad Daylight

...With the election looming, voters needs to hear the truth at a time when Washington is spinning the nation into believing that the mission of securing the border has been accomplished. Nothing to see here, folks -- we've got this under control. Not even close, says rancher John Ladd. His San Jose Ranch sits right on the Arizona-Mexico line, ten and a half miles of land stretching from the town of Naco west toward the San Pedro River. Border Patrol has three camera towers on his property, an eye-in-the-sky Cyclops, and sensors hidden in the desert shrubs that activate when smugglers pass. A pedestrian fence (pictured below) blocks the entire ten and a half miles. None of these security measures have worked. Since the end of February, Ladd has had at least nine drug drive-throughs across his land involving 21 trucks. The smugglers cut the mesh border fence and pull it down, then ramp over the vehicle barrier just inside it. In most cases they tack-weld the fence back up and brush out tracks to disguise the incursion. Eight of these episodes occurred in broad daylight, and in two of them the smugglers passed within 50 feet of a camera tower. The ninth happened near dusk on Friday, September 28. The smugglers cut open a nine-foot-wide portion of the fence and pulled it back, leaving a hole wide enough to accommodate three trucks, including a Suburban and a Tahoe. This is the border that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says is as secure as it has ever been. Over and over she reminds us that crossings have dropped to their lowest level since the Nixon years. Fair enough; folks I talk to every day confirm that the number of workers crossing has plummeted. The lousy economy here is one reason, the robust Mexican economy another. But there's a third explanation: workers are afraid to cross land in northern Mexico controlled by drug gangsters...more

Unaccompanied migrant youth in U.S. detention centers rises 50%

Gang violence in Central America has led to a startling increase in the number of children who make the dangerous journey across the Mexican border alone in search of asylum in the United States, according to a report by the Women's Refugee Commission, a nonprofit that advocates for displaced women and children. The number of unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. detention centers grew nearly 50%, from 6,854 in fiscal 2011 to more than 10,000 in the nine-month period ended June 30, according to federal statistics cited in the report, titled "Forced From Home: The Lost Boys and Girls of Central America." With three months left in the latest reporting period, the fiscal 2012 figures are expected to rise further. In interviews conducted with 151 children in federal holding facilities, nearly 80% told researchers that violence was the main reason they set out for the U.S. by themselves, traveling with paid guides on buses or chancing the desert trek as stowaways on top of trains. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group, blamed the influx of Central American children on a new federal program granting a two-year reprieve from deportation to some young immigrants. "The Obama administration has made it very clear — if you get your kids to the U.S. and keep them here for a while, they can stay," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the group. "That's the unmistakable message he's sent around the world. Not surprisingly, you have parents who say, 'Let's do that.'"...more

DHS Inspector General: ‘80 Percent Increase’ in Cross-Border Tunnels Since 2008

In its final report on Customs and Border Protection’s strategy to address illicit cross-border tunnels issued Sept. 26, 2012, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security said there has been an 80 percent increase in the “tunnel activity” since 2008. “Since 1990, law enforcement officials have discovered more than 140 tunnels that have breached the U.S. border, with an 80 percent increase in tunnel activity occurring since 2008,” the report stated in its executive summary. “Illicit cross-border tunnels along the southwest border of the United States represent a significant and growing threat to border security,” the summary stated. “Criminals primarily use the tunnels to transport illegal narcotics into the United States." “Criminals also attempt to use cross-border tunnels to smuggle contraband, currency and weapons,” the report stated...more

Study on El Paso, Juárez children shows violence, poverty affect mental health

Collective violence attributed to organized crime and poverty is adversely affecting the mental health of children living near the U.S./Mexico border, according to an expert at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry. The research by Marie Leiner, a research associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), was presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. "There is cumulative harm to the mental health of children from the combination of collective violence attributed to organized crime and poverty," Leiner said. "Untreated mental health problems predict violence, anti-social behaviors and delinquency, and this affects families, communities and individuals. It is crucial to address the mental health of children on the border to counteract the devastating effects this setting will have in the future." In the study, "Children's Mental Health and Collective Violence: A Bi-National Study on the United States/Mexican Border," researchers compared psychosocial and behavior scores among children and adolescents living in El Paso and Juárez in 2007 and 2010...more

10 Die in Shootouts in Mexican Border City

Ten suspected criminals were killed in shootouts in Nuevo Laredo, a border city in northern Mexico, a city spokeswoman said. Soldiers, marines, state police and municipal police engaged armed subjects in gunfights early Saturday that lasted several hours, the Nuevo Laredo spokeswoman said. The shootouts started around 2:30 a.m. Saturday at kilometer 10 of the highway that leads from Nuevo Laredo, located across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, to the airport. Army troops encountered a convoy of gunmen on the airport road and came under fire. The soldiers engaged the gunmen, setting off a chase, the city spokeswoman said. Mexico registered 27,199 murders in 2011, or 24 per 100,000 people, the highest number since Calderon took office, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, or INEGI, said in a report released on Aug. 20. The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which was founded by human rights activist and poet Javier Sicilia, puts the death toll from Mexico’s drug war at 70,000...more

Song Of The Day #955

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio.  Could be a sad Monday though, as Asleep At The Wheel is gonna Hang Up My Spurs And Saddle.  The tune is on their 12 track CD Hang Up My Spurs.

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The ghost stallion 

 Julie Carter

Ghost stories in October are like Christmas carols in December, rodeo cowboy tales in July and the ever popular fishing story any time of year. The good ones get repeated forever.

This story in its original telling appears in Frank Collinson's "Life in the Saddle." I have shared it before but it is worthy of a seasonal repeat.

It is a story that has been told around campfires for more than a century. It began about 1879 when some cowpunchers rode into the camp of a buffalo hunter known to be a spinner of tales.

That night around the campfire, the grizzled hunter pointed a roughened finger in the direction of a wagon load of buffalo hides he was taking to market. "I would gladly give every hide for the young white stallion I have seen running these plains,” he said. “I've been trying to catch him for two years without any luck. I first saw him when he was a yearling running with his mother.”

A year later, he had another failed to attempt to capture them and the stallion disappeared, "as if a mirage." He never saw him again.

The cowboys were spellbound with the tale and knew they’d like nothing more than to hunt the white mirage. They traveled to Fort Sumner to meet with the Trujillo brothers, Pedro and Soledad. The brothers had seen the white stallion often. "He is too fast to catch; we have all tried and failed," they said. “When we get close to him, he vanishes, so we have named him The Ghost.”

Agreeing to help hunt the “ghost” stallion, the brothers told the cowboys to meet them at Gato Montes Spring in the Blackwater Draw in March. "We'll find him if he's still alive."

When the cowboys arrived, the brothers were waiting and had learned where the white stallion was watering with his band of heavy-bred mares. The next morning they saw the horses out ahead of them feeding on lush grass but the band quickly scattered as the men approached.

Pedro pursued them while Soledad marked the grazing spot with a long pole and red flag. In the distance, The Ghost dashed over the plains, his white mane and tail blowing in the breeze.

Pedro was away all day. He said he chased the horses 70 miles as they made a huge circle, eventually returning to their home range. The following day, one of the cowboys trailed  them, returning late to say the band was now near Spring Lake.

The third day the cowboys, Trujillo brothers, two other vaqueros and a half-blood Apache with a reputation for his roping ability headed out. When they spotted the horses they struck a long lope and followed at a distance.

They ran by the old buffalo hunter's camp near Running Water and headed north. By noon, they had reached Tule Draw, the south prong of the Red River, and turned west. Sometimes they'd slow to a trot, later returning to a lope or a run. The mares began to fall out as they grew tired, but The Ghost never weakened.

By sundown, all but 10 mares had dropped out, soon to be only three and then none.  The Ghost was headed south to Yellow House Lake.

Yellow House Lake is a big alkali sink on the Llano Estacado. Its water, only a few inches deep and not fit for man or beast, covered a bottomless bog. A large animal could never conquer the horror that loomed below the deceivingly tranquil surface.

For four days, The Ghost had been leading the chase, but when he headed down the backbone of the ridge to the lake, cold chills ran up the spines of his pursuers. They turned back hoping the stallion would do the same.

In his intelligence, The Ghost preferred death to capture. The stallion knew as well as the men there was no way out of Yellow House Lake.

He was sky-lighted on the ridge top, his proud head held high. Poised, his beautiful body stood still for a fleeting moment before he took one mighty jump and landed fully 25 feet away in the alkali bog that would become his grave.

He floundered briefly as the quagmire sucked him under. The bitter water filled his nostrils and oozed into his mouth. Quickly a few bubbles were all that was left on the surface and The Ghost of Llano Estacado became a legend.

A tragic end to a magnificent noble spirit who surely runs free in another world.

Julie can be reached for comment at