Saturday, June 01, 2013

Green groups to Obama: Designate public lands to stop oil and gas drilling

Environmental lobbyists are pressing President Obama to turn more western lands into national monuments to prevent oil-and-gas companies from drilling there. The Sierra Club is leading the charge and is sweetening its message with political sugar, saying Obama could thereby help Democrats win House and Senate seats in midterm elections year. This week it will launch a campaign called “Our Wild America,” which will call for new national monument designations. “We think there’s real opportunities for them to do additional monument designations by the midterm elections and that it’s a positive political thing for the administration and for senators and congressmen,” Dan Chu, who is leading this program, told The Hill in a recent interview. Chu argues the West is becoming “less purple and more blue” because of an influx of Latino and younger voters. The Sierra Club aims to marshal those voting blocs to get new national monuments in New Mexico and Colorado. Chu said Latino and young voters care more about conservation than about energy drilling, citing a poll for the Sierra Club and National Council of La Raza that said 69 percent of Latino voters support increasing the number of national monuments. Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government affairs with the Western Energy Alliance, said that its polling suggests 74 percent of Latinos favor boosting oil-and-gas production...more

U.S. Forest Service to Fly Next Generation Tankers

After weeks of limbo, on Thursday the U.S. Forest Service went from having no next-generation air tankers to three, one of which will be fighting wildfire in California Saturday morning. Rick Hatton, president of 10 Air Tanker Carrier, said Friday that Forest Service officials ordered his company's DC-10 -- a "very large air tanker" to San Bernadino to help douse a fire. Two other companies, Minden Air Corporation and Coulson Aircrane (USA) Inc. were also given five-year contracts with the federal fighting agency, said Bruce Palmer, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center, a branch of the Forest Service. When the DC-10 deploys on Saturday it will become the first next-generation air tanker to join a federal fire fight, after nearly two years of industry squabbles over the coveted contracts...more

Patient Dies Because EPA Regulated Emissions Control Shut The Engine Off

The D.C. fire department is trying to determine why one of its newer diesel ambulances broke down as crews were transporting a patient in cardiac arrest. It happened on I-295 Wednesday afternoon as Ambulance 19 was taking a shooting victim to the hospital. Then it took several minutes for a second ambulance to arrive. The driver of Ambulance 19 is telling investigators the indicator lights on the emission control system suddenly and unexpectedly jumped from a warning to shut down in a matter of seconds, and as the engine died, she was able to pull the rig to the side of the road. The question now is why? And can these newer rigs be trusted to be there in an emergency? When the D.C. fire department began buying these diesel engine ambulances a few years ago, officials knew they would have to manage them with a new emission control system that would automatically shut the engine down if it wasn’t allowed to what’s called “regenerate.” It was a mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency...more

NM drought remains worst in the nation, feds spend $4 million for a fish


In the eight months since Oct. 1, just 0.91 of an inch of rain has fallen at the Weather Service’s Albuquerque station, less than a quarter of average and the third-driest start to the city’s “water year” since record-keeping began in Albuquerque in the late 1800s. “I’m worried that the dirt’s gonna catch fire,” said Adrian Oglesby, a member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s board of directors. Oglesby was kidding, but barely. The district, an irrigation agency that manages the Rio Grande riverside woods – the bosque – through much of central New Mexico, has closed much of the land it administers to the public because of fire risk. Wildland closures because of fire danger around New Mexico are growing, including closure of much of the Sandia and Manzano mountains, beginning June 10, and drought is taking its toll on farmers and ranchers across the state. According to the weekly federal Drought Monitor, 98 percent of New Mexico is in “severe” drought, the worst conditions in the country...more

Sequestration must not be too bad - the feds have $4 million to buy water for a fish.

The only water agency with a stockpile left is the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, which has been saving a multi-year supply in Abiquiu Reservoir. The utility’s board earlier this month agreed to sell 40,000 acre feet of that water – an amount equal to nearly half of Albuquerque’s annual consumption – to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to keep the Rio Grande wet for the silvery minnow. The utility will get $4 million for the water, which will go into a fund for future water rights purchases, according to John Stomp, chief operating officer at the utility.

California Senate passes bill for background checks to buy ammo and a $50 fee

The California Senate on Wednesday approved a package of seven gun control bills, including background checks for people who buy ammunition, introduced in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The shooting deaths in December of 20 children and six adults in Newtown as well as mass shootings in Colorado and Arizona, spurred Democratic legislators in California to look for ways to tighten the state's gun laws, which are already some of the toughest in the nation. “We all can recite the horrific acts that have occurred in our country over the last year,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). “These bills attempt to respond to those well publicized tragedies and many more that go unpublicized.” The measures include a requirement that Californians who want to buy ammunition, and the vendors who sell it, would have to submit personal information for a background check to determine whether they have a criminal record, severe mental illness or a restraining order that would disqualify them from owning guns. The goal of SB 53 is “to ensure that criminals and other dangerous individuals cannot purchase ammunition in the state of California,” said Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s author.  “To purchase a product that has the potential to maim or kill another human being you can (now) walk into a gun store, no questions asked,” he added. “I think that’s a little outrageous.”
Ammunition purchasers would submit their information and a $50 fee to the state Department of Justice which would maintain a list of qualified buyers that would be checked by ammo stores. Purchasers would have to show their driver's license or other ID at the time they buy bullets...more

Judge orders Google to comply with FBI's secret NSL demands

A federal judge has ruled that Google must comply with the FBI's warrantless requests for confidential user data, despite the search company's arguments that the secret demands are illegal. CNET has learned that U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco rejected Google'srequest to modify or throw out 19 so-called National Security Letters, a warrantless electronic data-gathering technique used by the FBI that does not need a judge's approval. Her ruling came after a pair of top FBI officials, including an assistant director, submitted classified affidavits. The litigation taking place behind closed doors in Illston's courtroom -- a closed-to-the-public hearing was held on May 10 -- could set new ground rules curbing the FBI's warrantless access to information that Internet and other companies hold on behalf of their users. The FBI issued 192,499 of the demands from 2003 to 2006, and 97 percent of NSLs include a mandatory gag order. It wasn't a complete win for the Justice Department, however: Illston all but invited Google to try again, stressing that the company has only raised broad arguments, not ones "specific to the 19 NSLs at issue." She also reserved judgment on two of the 19 NSLs, saying she wanted the government to "provide further information" prior to making a decision. NSLs are controversial because they allow FBI officials to send secret requests to Web and telecommunications companies requesting "name, address, length of service," and other account information about users as long as it's relevant to a national security investigation. No court approval is required, and disclosing the existence of the FBI's secret requests is not permitted. Illston, who is stepping down from her post in July, said another reason for her decision is her desire not to interfere while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the constitutionality of NSLs in an unrelated case that she also oversaw. In that separate lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of an unnamed telecommunications company, Illston dealt a harsh blow to the bureau's use of NSLs. EFF had challenged the constitutionality of the portion of federal law that imposes nondisclosure requirements and limits judicial review of NSLs. Illston ruled that the NSL requirements "violate the First Amendment and separation of powers principles" and barred the FBI from invoking that language "in this or any other case." But she gave the Obama administration 90 days to appeal to the Ninth Circuit, which it did on May 6...more

Kindergartener interrogated over cap gun until he pees his pants, then suspended 10 days

In the latest incident of anti-gun hysteria to erupt in a school setting, a kindergarten boy has been suspended from school for 10 days because he showed a friend his cowboy-style cap gun on the way to school. The incident happened on Wednesday morning at about 8:30 a.m. on a school bus in Calvert County, Maryland, reports The Washington Post. The kindergartener had brought the toy gun because his friend had brought a water gun the previous day. He later told his mother that he “really, really” wanted his friend to see it. School officials at Dowell Elementary School in the town of Lusby proceeded to question the five-year-old for over two hours before finally calling his mother, whom The Post also does not name. The principal eventually called the boy’s mother at 10:50 a.m. By that time, the five-year-old had wet his pants (which the mother called highly unusual). The Post explains that the principal — Jennifer L. Young, according to Dowell Elementary’s website — told the kindergartener’s mother that things would have been even worse had the toy gun been loaded with caps. In that case, the school would have regarded the plaything as an explosive and called the police...more

Friday, May 31, 2013

Upgrade of United States' BSE Risk Status


Statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Regarding World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Upgrade of United States' BSE Risk Status
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2013–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement about notification received today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) upgrading the United States' risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to negligible risk:

"I am very pleased with OIE's decision to grant the United States negligible risk status for BSE. This is a significant achievement that has been many years in the making for the United States, American beef producers and businesses, and federal and state partners who work together to maintain a system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protect our public and animal health. This decision demonstrates OIE's belief that both our surveillance for, and safeguards against, BSE are strong. U.S. beef and beef products are of the highest quality, wholesome and produced to the highest safety standards in the world.

Last year, exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products totaled $5.5 billion. With our negligible risk classification from the OIE, we have a strong foundation in place to continue increasing exports of U.S.-origin beef and beef products. In doing so, we will continue to press trading partners to base their decisions on science, consistent with international standards. U.S. food and agricultural exporters and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt science-based international standards."

Thank you Center for Food Safety for costing farmers millions

by Harry Cline

Please send a thank you note to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director, The Center for Food Safety, 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE #302, Washington, D.C. 20003.

Thank him for the opportunity to spend far more money than necessary to control weeds in non-Roundup Ready alfalfa. And be sure to add special thanks for the chance to replant alfalfa stands that would have otherwise stayed in for another year or two had they been glyphosate-resistant. And, don’t forget to give him praise for lost income for not putting up extra high quality hay. Of course remind him of the environmental benefits of doing all of that as well.

No guarantee, but it looks like Kimbrell and his band of parasitic government coffer marauders have lost the last and final round of their attempt to halt the sale of RR alfalfa. The U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals in San Francisco has upheld a lower-court ruling that unconditionally deregulated alfalfa genetically modified to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The same court that created the chaos over RR alfalfa in the first place now says  agriculture officials correctly ruled that Roundup Ready alfalfa is not considered a plant pest, as plaintiffs had claimed.“The Court of Appeals’ ruling provides legal certainty for U.S. alfalfa growers,” said Kyle McClain, Monsanto’s chief litigation counsel, in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg Businessweek. “The decision is an important reaffirmation of the federal government’s process for regulating biotechnology-improved crops.”

It would be nice if we could all break out in a Don Meredith rendition of “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” However, this ruling is not likely to be the end of it. Too much government money to snatch to quit now. (Remember, the Center for Food Safety collected government money for at least one round win in this protracted battle). Kimbrell promises that his public trough feeders will pursue other avenues to “halt the sale and planting this harmful crop.” The horse is so far from the barn door, you need a spotting scope to see the equine’s posterior.

Be sure to enclose a self-addressed envelope in your thank you note  for Kimbrell’s freeloading gang to send you a check for the losses incurred while the center for socialism wasted your taxpayer money and time on your behalf. Sure, the check’s in the mail.



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Farm Bill Would Increase Spending 47%

House and Senate farm subsidy supporters are pushing to enact the first big farm bill since 2008. Democratic and Republican supporters say that this year’s legislation will be a reform bill that cuts spending. Hogwash.
Last year, House farm subsidy supporters proposed a bill that would spend $950 billion over the next 10 years, while the Senate proposed a bill that would spend $963 billion. By contrast, when the 2008 farm bill passed, it was projected to spend $640 billion over 10 years. Thus, the proposed House bill would represent a 48 percent spending increase over the last farm bill, while the Senate bill would represent a 50 percent increase.
A new estimate of the House bill finds that it would spend $940 billion over 10 years, which would be a 47 percent increase over the 2008 farm bill. This new estimate is shown in the chart alongside the estimate of the 2008 farm bill.






Waddie Mitchell - The Western Jubilee Recording Company - video



http://youtu.be/ykS3re16i1g

U.S. sued over policy on killing endangered wildlife

Environmental groups are taking the Justice Department to court over a policy that prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be proved that they knew they were targeting a protected animal. Critics charge that the 15-year-old McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors and whooping cranes as well as 48 federally protected Mexican wolves. The policy stems from a Montana case in which Chad McKittrick was convicted under the Endangered Species Act for killing a wolf near Yellowstone National Park in 1995. He argued that he was not guilty because he thought he was shooting a wild dog. McKittrick appealed the conviction and lost, but the Justice Department nonetheless adopted a policy that became the threshold for taking on similar cases: prosecutors must prove that the individual knowingly killed a protected species. The lawsuit charges that the policy sets a higher burden of proof than previously required, arguing, "The DOJ's McKittrick policy is a policy that is so extreme that it amounts to a conscious and express abdication of DOJ's statutory responsibility to prosecute criminal violations of the ESA as general intent crimes." WildEarth Guardians and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance said they intend to file a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Arizona, one of the states where Mexican wolves were reintroduced. The Times received an advance copy of the lawsuit...more

Suit to uncover political deals behind gray wolf de-listing

The federal government’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, as detailed by a draft Federal Register notice posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), is temporarily on hold. The reasons for the indefinite delay announced this week were not revealed and neither were the records of meetings beginning in 2010 to hammer out this plan. Today PEER filed a federal lawsuit to obtain the records from those meetings. The draft Federal Register notice would strike the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened or endangered species but would keep endangered status for the Mexican wolf. Yet, no protected habitat would be delineated for the Mexican wolf, of which far fewer than 100 remain in the wild. This long-planned step is the culmination of what officials call their National Wolf Strategy, developed in a series of closed-door federal-state meetings called “Structured Decision Making” or SDM, beginning in August 2010. On April 30, 2012, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for all SDM meeting notes, handouts and decision documents. More than a year later, the agency has not produced a single responsive record, despite a statutory requirement that the records be produced within 20 working days. Today, PEER filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to obtain all of the SDM documents...more

Editorial: Sen. Wyden disappoints, fails to deliver meaningful timber plan

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s long-anticipated plan for the Oregon & California Railroad trust lands amounts to a bold call for — input. Anyone who thought that Wyden would propose something specific has to be disappointed. Nevertheless, people as prominent and impatient as Gov. John Kitzhaber dutifully issued stilted remarks thanking Wyden for his “leadership.” Tongues had to be firmly in cheek. No one dared point out that the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had again failed to do anything to help the people who inhabit a large part of his state. Instead of legislation, Wyden offered a “framework for legislation.” We are at a loss to see how this represents progress over Wyden’s previously released “principles.” Sure, the senator keeps saying more timber should be harvested in Western Oregon, but he can’t bring himself to act upon that stance. While others are ready for action, Wyden is “requesting input” and “consulting a cross-section of Oregonians” on what to do. Meanwhile, Oregon’s timber counties suffer the economic consequences of an 84 percent reduction in timber harvests on O&C lands since 1990. Until Wyden commits himself to specific harvest goals and a way to get there, his framework will leave timber counties hanging...more

Climate Better than 'We' Thought

by Marlo Lewis

...We won’t have productive conversations in Congress about climate policy until the pro-“action” (i.e. pro-tax, pro-regulation) side starts acknowledging some basic realities:
(1) Affordable, abundant energy is a blessing, not a curse. As Cato Institute scholar Indur Goklany explains in a recent study, fossil fuels, by dramatically increasing the productivity of food production, distribution, and storage, “saved humanity from nature and nature from humanity.” The same fossil-fueled productivity gains that emancipated mankind from the Malthusian trap of overpopulation and famine also helped spare 2.3 billion hectares of habitat (an area the size of the U.S., Canada, and India combined) that would otherwise have to be converted to cropland to maintain today’s farm output.
Fossil fuels have been and remain the chief energy source of a “cycle of progress” in which economic growth, technological change, human capital formation, and freer trade co-evolve and mutually reinforce each other. If “action” advocates want to be taken seriously, they must stop demonizing these still vital sources of human and environmental well-being.
(2) Carbon mitigation schemes make nations and consumers poorer, not richer. Heritage Foundation economists David Kreutzer and Nicholas Loris compared household income, utility bills, gasoline prices, and job creation in two policy scenarios (“side cases”) in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012. Compared to the “no greenhouse gas concern” case, the $25/ton carbon tax case cut the income of a family of four by $1,900 per year in 2016, increased the family-of-four energy bill by more than $500 per year (not counting the cost of gasoline), and reduced employment by more than 1 million jobs in 2016 alone. If “action” advocates want to be taken seriously, they must stop pretending that carbon mitigation schemes are “win-win.”
(3) Carbon mitigation policies have social costs. Livelihoods, living standards, and life expectancy are linked by more than etymology. Given the continuing indispensability of fossil fuels to human flourishing and the mortality risks of poverty and unemployment, carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and renewable energy mandates can easily do more harm than good to public health. If “action” advocates want to be taken seriously, they must stop ignoring the social costs of carbon mitigation.
(4) We can’t get there from here. Because affordable energy is vital to prosperity and much of the world is energy poor, it would be economically ruinous and, thus, politically suicidal to make people abandon fossil fuels before cheaper alternative energies are available. In “Rethinking Wedges,” Davis et al. (2013) conclude that “Current technologies and systems cannot provide the amounts of carbon-free energy needed soon enough or affordably enough” to meet projected global energy demand and stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations at 500 parts per million. If “action” advocates want to be taken seriously, they must stop pretending that the only or main thing lacking to “solve” the “climate crisis” is political will.
(5) Many findings in climate science are reassuring, not alarming. For many years, the “action” crowd’s constant refrain has been that climate change is “even worse” than scientists previously believed – as if all news in climate science must inevitably be bad news. This once-fashionable narrative is no longer credible.
One reason is simply that “it’s worse than we predicted” is hard to square with a 15-year period of no-net warming. The long pause in warming is a development most scientists did not predict and struggle to explain. Whatever the underlying causes, the observed warming rate over the past 15 years is lower than the IPCC’s best estimate, as this graph by NASA scientist Roy Spencer clearly shows...

Grant Court Takes Stand On Future Road Closure Decisions

There was applause last week as the Grant County Court unanimously approved an ordinance requiring that agencies contemplating road closures consult first with the court and the sheriff. The May 22 decision culminated a second public hearing on the ordinance, held at the County Courthouse. County Judge Scott Myers said the Forest Service and other agencies were supposed to be working with the county, “but they have not been as forthcoming as they should have been.” “What we’re trying to do here is to spark some cooperation, some dialogue,” he said. Commissioner Chris Labhart noted “the legal, binding power” of a county ordinance. He said past courts have not been at the table on the issue of road closures. “The new court will be at the table,” he pledged. Commissioner Boyd Britton called it sad that the matter had to come to this point, but the new ordinance will force Forest Service and other agencies “to have a discussion with us.” Roger McKinley said it’s not sad or bad, but “a wakeup call” for the agencies and the community...more

Montezuma County-BLM water dispute lives

Two Montezuma County landowner groups and the county itself have told a water-court judge they’re not anywhere near settling a dispute over water claimed by the Bureau of Land Management. The heart of the dispute is 5.25 cubic feet per second of flow from Yellow Jacket Creek that the BLM in 2009 acquired when it bought at auction 4,537 acres owned for decades by the Wesley Wallace family. A peripheral issue for the objectors is the loss to Montezuma County of taxable land that the new BLM holding represents. An estimated 70 percent of land in the county is owned by federal agencies or the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, neither of which pays property tax. Opposing the BLM in the 6th Judicial District courtroom of Judge Gregory Lyman in Durango last week were Montezuma County, the Southwest Colorado Landowners Association and Water Rights Montezuma. “We are not ready to agree,” Sheldon Zwicker from the landowners group said. “This (the claim to 5.25 cfs) is speculation. A water-right filing has to be specific.” Montezuma County Attorney John Baxter and Commissioner Keenan Ertel were in the courtroom. Kristen Guerriero, the BLM attorney, was on a speaker phone. The landowners raised two objections: The BLM is violating Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires state legislature approval of private-land purchases by the federal government. This has not happened, they said. The agency also violates Article 16, Section 5 of the Colorado Constitution, which says that unappropriated water is owned by the public. The objectors said the BLM claim to water is speculative, and the agency has no planned use for the water nor has stated how much it needs...more

Will Politics Take Away Your Caffeine?

For as long as anyone can remember, Americans have enjoyed their morning cups of coffee without incident. But now, an increasingly loud minority insists an essential component of coffee - caffeine - is so dangerous government should limit its consumption. The Food and Drug Administration, prompted by growing public pressure, announced this month plans to investigate the use of caffeine as an additive, with a focus on the risks it poses to children and adolescents. Given the FDA is undertaking this study in response to political pressure, its conclusions are likely to be politicized...more

New Mexico County First To Ban Fracking In U.S.

Mora County...is the first U.S. county to ban the practice of fracking, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times. Wells are the only source of water in Mora, which is why last month officials announced a countywide ban on fracking citing water safety concerns. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial process involving the high-pressure injection of undisclosed chemicals into rocks containing natural gas or oil. "I don't want to destroy our water," 63-year-old Mora County resident Roger Alcon told the LA Times. "You can't drink oil." The county is a tiny, low-income ranching area that lies less than 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe. In voting for the ban, local landowners turned down potentially lucrative royalty payments from fracking companies, according to the report. Pittsburgh in 2010 became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking, with city officials citing threats to drinking water and public health. Since then, more than a dozen East Coast cities have followed suit, and efforts to enact a statewide ban are currently underway in California...more

By golly they're a "low-income" area and they sure as hell aren't gonna let companies come in there and raise incomes, no sirree. Median household incomes are $12,000 per year less than the NM average and 25% of Mora County residents have incomes below the poverty level...and they apparently want to keep it that way.

Animal Welfare and Animal Rights: A War of Words with Casualties Mounting

By Jill Montgomery on behalf of the Animal Welfare Council

The media and public use animal welfare and animal rights interchangeably, but they are not synonymous terms. In fact, the philosophical gulf between these two belief systems and the advocacy efforts currently underway by each group carry enormous implications for true welfare of the horses and for the future of the horse industry. In light of legislation pending on the Federal level as well as in various state Houses, it is imperative that the general public, as well as anyone with an interest in horses as work or recreational animals, come to a full understanding of each philosophy, the methods by which proponents of each carry out their missions, and the implications of each approach for the horse industry and for the animals the industry serves.
    Animal welfare is a traditional model that directs stewardship of animals to their best use and humane practices, while setting the value of the animal relative to its benefit for mankind. The American Veterinary Medical Association describes animal welfare as “a human responsibility that encompasses all animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, responsible care, humane handling, and when necessary humane euthanasia.”
    Animal welfare reflects the belief that animals have the right to be handled humanely and to live a life free of pain; however, animal welfare advocates do not believe that animals should have rights equal to those of humans. Animal welfare has been advocated for more than 140 years in the United States. This approach is codified in law at the local, state and federal levels.
    The animal rights movement is a relatively new ideology that embraces the philosophy that an animal has rights and that those rights are equivalent to those of humans. Animal rights activists reject the use of animals for any purpose, whether or not the animals are treated humanely. Animal rights activists do not believe that animals of any type should be used in research, sporting events or entertainment venues, or as food. Animal rights activists do not believe that animals should be used as work animals and believe that breeding and exhibiting animals in zoos and conservation parks is a form of exploitation. Animal rights activists lobby strongly for legislative action to further their agenda; in some instances, such action has drastic consequences not only for the livestock industries but for the well-being of the animals. That the consequences are, perhaps, unintended is irrelevant.
    Animal rights activists have a heavy influence on public attitudes. The horse industry is currently encountering many challenges, not all of them from the animal rights movement—but all exacerbated by the animal rights movement’s interference. A number of influences, ranging from social ideology to economic recession, have combined over the past decade to create a shift in the traditional use and value of horses as livestock. Wildly fluctuating fuel prices have increased feed and transport costs. Available land for horse facilities is disappearing, driving land costs up. Changing economics make continuing horse ownership unrealistic for many owners. The closing of processing plants has dropped the baseline value for horses to zero, increased the number of marginal horses on the market, overloaded rescues and sanctuaries, and lowered the market value of horses being sold and resold within their useful lifespans.1 Yet proponents of animal rights have put increased pressure on an already vulnerable industry by insisting that the humane treatment of a horse be defined as having one unchanging  guardian from the cradle to grave, regardless of that person’s capacity to provide ongoing care. Even the change in nomenclature from “owner” to “guardian” implies an enormous shift in attitude toward the rights and duties of animal management.
    The “Unwanted Horse” has become a battle zone between animal welfare and animal rights proponents. The American Association of Equine Practitioners defines unwanted horses as “horses that are no longer wanted by their current owners because they are old, sick, injured, and unmanageable (e.g. vicious or dangerous), fail to meet their owner’s expectations (e.g. performance, color, or breeding) or their owner can no longer afford them.”  While numbers that encompass all unwanted horses are not well defined, the number of US horses that are exported and processed for food in Mexico and Canada has been widely adopted as a figure that tracks the overall number of unwanted horses. In the US, for 2012 that number is estimated to be 158,657, or 1.7% of the 9,200,000 US horse population.2 This number represents the additional number of animals each year that, absent an option for processing, must be housed in rescues or sanctuaries, euthanized by other (generally more expensive with greater environmental impact) methods, or simply abandoned—and there is certainly no “humane treatment” in this last alternative.  In fact, since the U.S. processing plants were closed in 2007, a dramatic increase has been documented in the number of horses being neglected or abandoned, further straining the capacities of local and state government animal control departments. The severe economic consequences of a ban on processing cannot be ignored, and must be addressed.3
    How do animal rights activists further their mission? The general population’s increasing distance from agriculture creates an opening for animal rights extremists to sway the public perception of the role animals play in our lives...

Please read the rest of this excellent article at the Animal Welfare Council website.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hage - Federal Misconduct Corralled by Federal Judge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Federal Misconduct Corralled by Federal Judge  

In a 104-page decision, the U.S. District Court in Reno, Nevada ruled in favor of Nevada ranchers, finding that United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management had, over a period of more than two decades, engaged in a conspiracy against the Hage family of Central Nevada.  The ruling chronicles the drama of 21-day trial in Reno last spring between a Wayne N. Hage who, unable to afford an attorney represented himself and Mark Pollot, the Estate's attorney who were defending their case against two agencies of the federal government represented by the Department of Justice.

Terming the situation “extreme”, the court issued an injunction requiring the Hages to apply for the permits taken from them and long denied them and mandating that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to grant the permit.  The court’s order significantly restricts the agencies’ discretion over permit management decisions and the court indicated it would keep jurisdiction over the case indefinitely to ensure that the court’s orders are followed.

Wayne N. Hage, son of the late E. Wayne Hage, who had represented himself before the Nevada Court, commented from Pine Creek Ranch.  "This decision restores my family's grazing permits which the Court found were arbitrarily denied my parents in 1993.  But more importantly, the court has ruled they can never take our grazing permits again simply because they want to.  Those permits were acquired based upon our historic grazing preferences and property rights to the use of stock water dating back to the 1860's."

Although the events that resulted in the decision began more than 20 years ago, the case before Judge Robert C. Jones, Chief Judge of the Court, began when the United States filed a civil complaint against Wayne N. Hage and the Estate of E. Wayne Hage, a well-known and respected property rights advocate.  It claimed massive, multiple trespasses on allegedly federal lands.  The Estate, however, had filed a counterclaim against the United States, alleging that officials of the Forest Service and the BLM were engaged in a pattern and practice of misconduct intended to deprive the Hage family of its property and other constitutional rights and to disrupt their perfectly legal business relationship and asking the court to intervene.  It was this claim that resulted in the findings of conspiracy.

The decision issued by Judge was historic in more ways than one.  Not only did it recognize that agency officials engaged in a conspiracy to defeat the constitutional rights of citizens whose rights they obliged to protect, conduct stretching over two decades so bad it that it “shocks the conscience of the court,” it also recognized that there is in fact a property right in grazing permits entitled to significant protection under the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment due process clause.

The Court minced no words in addressing the governmental conspiracy.  "The Government has abused its discretion in the present case through a series of actions designed to strip the Estate of its grazing permits, and ultimately to strip Defendants of their ability to use their water rights, for reasons unrelated to the appropriate use of the range or ensuring that historical grazing use is respected."  He explained, "Substantive due process protects individuals from arbitrary deprivation of their liberty by government."

This case is not the only one between the Hages and the United States.  In 2010, the United States Court of Federal Claims issued a judgment against the United States for a taking of property under the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause.  That court, whose decision was appealed by the United States and is currently before the Supreme Court, also noted a pattern of hostility and harassment toward the Hages.  The Claims Court case provided motivation for the government’s filing of the case before the Nevada federal court.

Attorney Mark L. Pollot, who represented the Estate before the Nevada Court and who represents the Hages before the Supreme Court in the related case, noted that the government’s misconduct continued even while the case was before the Nevada Court.  “As Judge Jones pointed out in his decision, the court found that at least two agency officers were cited for contempt and found liable.  They were also referred to the United States Attorney for further investigation.”  Among the actions leading to the contempt finding were inviting other parties to apply for the Hages’ rights, interference with Hage-owned water rights, and the issuance of trespass notices and demands for payment from various ranchers doing business with Wayne N. Hage despite being told that the cattle involved were in Hage’s legal custody and control.  None of these were innocent actions and the government official’s actions with respect to the various ranchers were meant, as the decision points out, "to pressure other parties not to do business with the Hages, and even to discourage or punish testimony in the present case .”  The Court noted such demands for payment were even issued to "witnesses soon after they testified in this case."

As a result, Tonopah BLM Manager, Tom Seley and Forest Ranger, Steve Williams were both found to be contempt of court at a subsequent three-day hearing  Noting that Seley and Williams knew of ongoing litigation between the parties in this court and the Claims Court, they "took actions to interfere with the defense of the present trespass action by intimidating witnesses."  A written order is pending from the contempt hearing.

Further defining the scope of the Hage property interests the Court found a half-mile forage right around and adjacent to Hage water rights, as a defense against trespass.   The Court did find trespass in two minor cases in which Hage permitted cattle to wander onto USFS and BLM lands more than a half mile from Hage water sources.  Damages for the minor trespass in the amount of $165.88 were awarded to the government.  

However, the Court refused to award punitive damages for trespass under state law, because there "is not 'clear and convincing' evidence of 'oppression, fraud, or malice, express or implied' on behalf of Defendants.  Defendants clearly had a good faith belief in their right to use the land as they did and had no intention to disregard the right of others.  This does not prevent a trespass claim, but it does prevent punitive damages."

Finding a “great probability that the Government will continue to cite Defendants and potentially impound Defendant's cattle in the future in derogation of their water rights and those statutory privileges of which the Government has arbitrarily and vindictively stripped them," the Court issued permanent injunctions that require Hage to apply for a permit and the Government to grant it, and hedge the government about with restrictions on their abilities to take adverse actions against the Hages.  "The government's normal discretion is restricted under the present injunction, an injunction required in this extreme case because of the conspiracy noted and the history of violations of the Hages' due process rights in their permits and vested property rights in the use of water, and the obvious continuing animus against Hage by the government officials charged with administering his permits."

# # # # #

U.S. v. Hage Decision available upon request to rhmorrison@sbcglobal.net.

Contact information:
Mark Pollot, Attorney for Estate of E. Wayne Hage, Constitutional Resource Center, (208) 867-4335, mpollot.CRC@benturylink.net.
Ramona Morrison, Executive Director, Liberty and Property Rights Coalition, (772) 722-2517, rhmorrison@sbcglobal.net.

Sequester is fed speak for Now Hiring; government posts 27,000 high-paying job openings

The budget cuts known as sequestration were supposed to wreak havoc, forcing the shrinking of critical workforces including airport security officers and food inspectors. But since sequestration kicked in March 4, the government has posted openings for 4,300 federal job titles to hire some 10,300 people. The median position has a salary topping out at $76,000, and one-fourth of positions pay $113,000 or more, according to an analysis by The Washington Times of federal job listings. Altogether, the jobs will pay up to $792 million per year. Including job postings that have been open since before sequestration, the government is in the market for 27,000 employees who will make up to $1.8 billion a year. The jobs posted since sequestration include 10,195 positions at the Department of Agriculture, 2,800 at the Department of Veterans Affairs and 1,611 the Department of Health and Human Services. They include jobs to provide services to military personnel on bases around the world, including 71 bartenders and 123 waiters. Nearly 200 positions related to Army-run bowling alleys are also open. The Agriculture Department's Forest Service is hiring numerous people at nearly 800 locations, but could not specify how many it would hire in all...more

Is the Northern Spotted Owl a victim of the War On Drugs?

In the West Coast marijuana-growing region known as the Emerald Triangle, scientists want to know whether the rat poison spread around illegal pot plantations is killing northern spotted owls, a threatened species. But because it is so rare to find a spotted owl dead in the forest, they will be looking at an invasive cousin owl from the East that has been pushing spotted owls out of their territory since the 1990s. Mourad Gabriel, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, said Tuesday they are testing 84 barred owls from Northern California killed in the course of research on whether removing them allows spotted owls to reclaim lost territories. Those owls were collected primarily by the California Academy of Sciences and Green Diamond Resource Company, which grows redwood for timber. Among the first roughly 10 barred owls tested, about half have been positive for the poison. Two spotted owls found dead in Mendocino County in Northern California also tested positive for the poisons, Gabriel said. The research is funded primarily by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...more

Interior faces pressure to slow down fracking rule

The Interior Department is coming under fresh pressure to slow down planned rules to govern oil-and-gas “fracking” on public lands. The American Petroleum Institute (API) on Tuesday urged Interior to extend the public comment period on revised draft rules to regulate the process called hydraulic fracturing. The industry group, which opposes the rules floated on May 16, wants the public comment period quadrupled to 120 days. Interior is already under pressure from the bipartisan leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee to extend the comment period...more

1986 Immigration Reform Push Had Profound Impact On Farmworkers

After Paulino Mejia crossed the border illegally into the U.S. in 1980, he picked grapes, peaches and other crops in California's agricultural heartland, lived in crowded rental housing, hid from immigration agents and sent paychecks to family in his native Mexico. His life, however, changed in 1986, when Congress agreed to allow immigrants who were in the country illegally to get legal status – with a special provision that focused on farmworkers. Mejia then stopped living in fear. He left agriculture to join a construction company that hired only legal workers, sent his two daughters to college and bought a house in Madera, near Fresno, instead of wiring money to Mexico. Unlike in 1986, growers and worker advocates say the current reform proposal would also ensure that a poor, illegal class of farmworkers isn't created again – by including a viable guest worker program that would allow for a flow of legal temporary workers into California's fie "Nobody knows the future, but if the past is any guide, the farmworkers who get legalized, many of them will leave agriculture pretty quickly," said Philip Martin, professor of agricultural and resource economics at University of California, Davis. More than 1 million farmworkers applied for legalization under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. After the corresponding drop in the number of farmworkers in the country illegally, federal data show that farmers failed to retain their legalized workers and turned again to hiring employees from the groups of people entering the U.S. illegally. Today, experts say, at least two-thirds of the nation's farmworkers are in the country illegally and those legalized thanks to the 1986 changes make up just 12 to 15 percent of the agricultural workforce...more

Pricey Beef Puts Heat on U.S. Grilling Season

Retail beef prices are widely expected to set new records in coming weeks after wholesale prices, or the amount meatpackers charge sellers for beef, hit an all-time peak this past week. After achieving new highs for three weeks, choice-grade beef, the most common variety in the U.S., jumped to $2.1137 a pound Thursday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That level broke a decade-old record for wholesale prices set in 2003, when a case of mad-cow disease in Canada led to a spike in export demand for U.S. beef. Wholesale prices retreated slightly Friday afternoon, falling to $2.0887 a pound, confirming some market-watchers' suspicions that retailers may be unwilling to swallow the record-high beef costs. The fat beef prices are the result of years of drought in major cattle-producing states, a trend that has shrunk the nation's cattle herd to its smallest level in six decades. Higher beef prices are pinching food budgets for consumers already wrestling with a rise in gasoline prices, the expiration of the federal payroll-tax holiday and stubbornly high unemployment. They're also expected to drive consumers to other meats after the holiday weekend, one of the biggest beef-sales periods of the year. That could threaten high beef profit margins for meatpackers like Tyson Foods Inc. TSN -0.04% and Cargill Inc. and also pose a challenge for restaurants and grocery stores. Last year, Americans spent $288.40 per person on beef, a 4.2% increase from $276.80 a year earlier as retail prices rose, according to Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center in Denver. U.S. beef sales reached $90.6 billion last year, up from $86.4 billion in 2011, he says. Yet volume is in decline. Consumers have been fickle about beef this year. In the first quarter, beef sales volumes fell 1.7% from a year earlier at 18,000 grocery stores, supermarkets and other retail outlets tracked by market-research firm Nielsen Co. In contrast, pork volumes rose 3.1% and chicken volumes were flat...more

The "Farm" Bill Has The Wrong Name




German railways deploys surveillance drones

A fleet of miniature helicopter drones mounted with thermal imaging cameras will be deployed to combat graffiti-spraying gangs on the German railway network. The drones, which fly at an altitude of 150 yards, will be used at graffiti 'hotspots' such as the big German cities of Berlin, Leipzig, Cologne and Hamburg, a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn confirmed. The use of drones against vandals is the latest indication of the growing civilian market for unmanned aerial reconnaissance. Over 400 new drone systems are being developed by firms based in Europe, according to an EU report published last September. The drones used by Deutsche Bahn cost 60,000 euros each and are manufactured by German firm Microdrones, which also markets the machines for landscape photography, analysing traffic accidents and monitoring crops...more

Battle over gun rights shifts to state courthouses; challenges to new laws mounting

The gun control battle has shifted from Capitol Hill to the states, where both sides have gone to court to challenge laws passed in the wake of December’s school shooting in Connecticut. Most recently, a coalition of gun rights groups and supporters filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport against Connecticut’s new bans on military-style, semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines — about 20 miles from Newtown, where the deaths of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary helped reignite the national debate over guns. The suit argues that the laws violate their Second Amendment rights and says that Hiller Sports, a retailer and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, has had to refund about $60,000 worth of back orders on “AR”-type firearms to its customers because wholesalers wouldn’t ship them. Similar court action has been taken against anti-gun measures passed in New York, Colorado and Maryland in the wake of the Connecticut shootings...more

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

A rapid expansion in 2013 of vigilante militias – civilian armed groups that claim to fight crime – has created a third force in Mexico’s ongoing cartel-related violence. Some of these militias contain well-meaning citizens and have detained hundreds of suspected criminals. However, they challenge the government’s necessary monopoly on the use of force to impart justice. As the militias spread, there is also concern some are being used by criminal groups to fight their rivals and control territory. The Peña Nieto administration needs to develop a coherent policy for dealing with the vigilantes, so that it can work with authentic community policing projects while stopping the continued expansion of unregulated armed groups; this also requires demonstrating that the state has sufficient capacity to restore law and order on its own. If the government fails to deal with this issue, militias could spread across the country, triggering more violence and further damaging the rule of law. President Peña Nieto had expected to have to cope with the well-armed, ruthless cartels that dominate portions of the country, as well as the problems presented by uncoordinated national, state and municipal law enforcement bodies and a legacy of impunity. The appearance of a growing number of armed groups in at least nine of the 31 states, from close to the U.S. border to the south east, however, has added another dangerous level of complexity to the security challenge. Their epicentre, on which this briefing concentrates, is in the Pacific states of Guerrero and Michoacán, where thousands of armed men participate in a range of vigilante organisations. There have been more than 30 killings there since January 2013, either by or against the vigilantes, and they have become increasingly worrying hotspots of insecurity. While the vigilante killings are still only a fraction of the more than 5,000 cartel-related murders that took place across Mexico in the first five months of Peña Nieto’s administration, the concern is that this new type of violence could expand across the land...more

Dying to come to the USA

Cochise Stronghold rises abruptly from the desert outside Tombstone, Ariz., a craggy nest of pink granite spires and domes. Rock climbers like me flock to the area for its tall, coarse slabs, weird rock formations, epic sunsets and remote backcountry feel. Although it’s never happened to me, many climbers I know have encountered tattered backpacks, energy bars with Spanish wrappers, clothing or migrants themselves, a group drawn similarly drawn to Cochise’s inaccessibility, but for obviously different reasons. Increasingly, immigrants aren’t making it beyond secluded border areas like Cochise: New statistics released by the U.S. Border Patrol show that while fewer people are sneaking over the border than a decade ago, more are dying in the process. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, someone attempting to enter the U.S. illegally today is eight times more likely to die than approximately 10 years ago...more
border stats

Troops Pour Into Mexican Town Besieged by Drug Violence

Residents of the drug-ravaged town of La Ruana lined the streets on Monday (May 20) to cheer the arrival of hundreds of soldiers. They are part of a new military push to re-take towns in Mexico's methampetamine heartland of Michoacan, currently besieged by the notorious Knights Templar drug cartel. According to local media, the Knights Templar has torched local business, blocked roads and cut off vital supply routes to residents. After meeting with security officials in the state capital of Morelia on Tuesday (May 21), Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong told media the military offensive aims to bring peace to the people of violence-ravaged Michoacan. Upon taking office last year, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto vowed to take a new approach to fighting the country's brutal cartels by putting stress on reducing murder rates and drug-related crimes. The cult-like Knights Templar cartel are blamed for the worst violence in Michoacan and are believed to be behind most of the drug-related murders in the state, including dozens of decapitated or dismembered victims...more

Mexico drug war, rebooted

President Enrique Peña Nieto says he wants to soften Mexico's bloody, military-led offensive against its criminal lords with a brainier, more preventive strategy. Well, wish him luck with that. Peña Nieto this week had to dispatch troops to the so-called hot country of western Michoacan to quell confrontations between marauding gangsters and village self-defense militias. An army general with special forces experience has been placed in charge of the state police. Michoacan is also where the last president, Felipe Calderon, launched a militarized drug war offensive in late 2006 that's left tens of thousands dead or disappeared. Though government pressure has pushed news of it from front pages and airwaves, the gangland mayhem continues. Officials have tallied some 1,000 people killed in each of the first five months of Peña Nieto's term. Outside experts smirk at official clams of a double-digit decrease in mob murders compared with last year. "The incidence of violence hasn't greatly varied since the last months of the Calderon administration," Alejandro Hope, who served in Mexico's intelligence agency during Calderon's watch, commented in his blog. "That's the real reality, the true truth, the cosmic bottom line. The bad thing isn't that a government makes propaganda but that it's believed."...more

Texas - Authorities probe lawyer murder, drug cartel link

SOUTHLAKE, Texas -- The man gunned down Wednesday night in Southlake Town Square in front of dozens of onlookers worked as an attorney and has ties to Mexican drug cartels, sources tell WFAA. Juan Jesus Guerrero-Chapa, 43, was shopping with his wife just before 7 p.m. Wednesday when a man with a partially-covered face shot nine times at the passenger side of the couple's Range Rover, killing Mr. Guerrero-Chapa as he and his wife got in the vehicle. "Obviously, the nature of this homicide -- the way it was carried out, indicates an organization trained to do this type of activity," said Southlake Police Chief Steve Mylett. Southlake police wouldn't publicly link Guerrero-Chapa to the cartels, but did acknowledge federal authorities are helping the investigation and did say the killing wasn't random...more

Tale of Mexican drug violence rattles Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival has had its first shock to the system, in the shape of Mexican director Amat Escalante's unsparingly violent drug war drama "Heli." The story of the devastation wreaked by narco-violence on an ordinary Mexican family, the movie paints such a bleak picture that one journalist told its director Thursday that she had cancelled a planned trip to the country after seeing it. Escalante said that wasn't the reaction he was hoping for. "It would be very socially irresponsible not to talk about those bad things that are happening in our country," added Gabriel Reyes, who co-wrote the screenplay with Escalante. "I think if we never talk about the bad things then problems might never be solved." Filmed in the bleak and beautiful landscape around the central Mexican city of Guanajuato, the film focuses on Heli (Armando Espitia), a young man who works in a car plant and lives with his wife, baby, father and 12-year-old sister, Estella (Andrea Vergara). When Estella falls for a police cadet, the family is sucked into the world of the country's drug wars. With shocking suddenness, violence busts over them, then leaves the damaged survivors to pick up the pieces as best they can...more

BravoTV Should Make A New Reality Show: Real Ranch Wives Of Rural America

by Amanda Radke in BEEF Daily

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this but, on occasion, I tune into BravoTV’s reality series featuring the Real Housewives of New York, Beverly Hills, Orange County and New Jersey. The show features women who live lavish lifestyles -- their glitz, glamour, diamonds, sprawling mansions and extravagant events are a far cry from my modest life in rural South Dakota.

As I’m writing this, I’m covered in mud and straw. My life these days feels a little like musical chairs. I sit down to write, get up to check cows, pen up a calving cow, make sure her baby is up and sucking, lay down fresh bedding, haul away manure, haul water, feed hay, check cows again, run to the house to blog, clean up and make a quick dinner, go back outside -- you get the picture. My boots and coveralls go on and off me repeatedly throughout the day as I try to manage my calving responsibilities with my writing deadlines.

 It’s days like this when I’m covered in the muck of calving season, my hair is a mess, and makeup and perfume are long forgotten that make it blatantly obvious to me that I will never be a real housewife of Beverly Hills. I’ll never have the free time to plan elegant dinners, tan by my pool, get my nails done, drive my Escalade down Rodeo Drive, sip martinis with my girlfriends, be pampered with leisurely facials and enjoy fresh-cut flowers in every room of my home. And, although all of these things would be nice, I wouldn’t trade my rural lifestyle for anything in the world.
 
So, BravoTV, if you want a suggestion for a great reality show -- unlike any you’ve ever produced in the past -- consider this idea: The Real Ranch Wives of Rural America. The women on the show know how to drive a tractor and a four-wheeler. They can saddle up a horse, rope a calf, run through the snow and mud, work through any weather condition, and care for their livestock. They can also put a hot meal together in less than 20 minutes; do loads of laundry in record time; maintain a clean home even when family members are dragging dirt and straw in the entryway every time they come in the house; raise a family; keep a job in town; and look good doing it all, too. These are the real women we should be featuring on television; they are super heroes.



Regulating behind closed doors, the cozy relationship between the Feds and environmental groups

by  

When federal agencies can’t justify an action through normal channels, they seem to invite lawsuits from environmental groups, the settlement of which allows the agency to obtain court sanctioned, negotiated settlements that bypass input from affected parties and the public.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes that this tactic is most often used by the EPA and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and somewhat less often by U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The Sierra Club is the most often used partner in this scam, closely followed by the WildEarth Guardians, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

This “sue and settle” tactic is made possible due to the structure of environmental laws which not only get the Feds what they want, but also enriches environmental groups while at the same time hindering the legitimate function of the government agency.  For instance, the Endangered Species Act is used as a money generator for such groups.  The structure of the law makes it easy for environmental groups to game the system.  According  to attorney Karen Budd-Falen, “Species are listed by a petition process, which means that anyone can send a letter to the federal government asking that a species, either plant or animal, be put on the ESA list. The federal government has 90 days to respond to that petition, no matter how frivolous. If the federal government fails to respond in 90 days, the petitioner – in the vast majority of cases, radical environmental groups – can file litigation against the federal government and get its attorneys fees paid. The simple act of filing litigation does not mean the species will get listed or that it is warranted to be protected; this litigation is only over whether the federal government failed to respond to the petition in 90 days.  Between 2000 and 2009, in just 12 states and the District of Columbia, 14 environmental groups filed 180 federal court complaints to get species listed under the ESA and were paid $11,743,287 in attorneys fees and costs.”  The burden of responding to the many lawsuits causes government biologists to spend much less time on conservation work.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opines that “As a result of the sue and settle process, the agency intentionally transforms itself from an independent actor that has discretion to perform its duties in a manner best serving the public interest into an actor subservient to the binding terms of settlement agreements, which includes using congressionally appropriated funds to achieve the demands of specific outside groups. This process also allows agencies to avoid the normal protections built into the rulemaking process, review by the Office of Management and Budget and the public, and compliance with executive orders, at the critical moment when the agency’s new obligation is created.”

A major concern is that the sue and settle tactic, which has been so effective in removing control over the rulemaking process from Congress, and placing it instead with private parties under the supervision of federal courts, will spread to other complex statutes that have statutorily imposed dates for issuing regulations, such as Dodd-Frank or Obamacare.

The Chamber says that it is important to fix this culture of “sue and settle” because: “Congress’s ability to act on or undertake oversight of the executive branch is diminished and perhaps eliminated through the private agreements between agencies and private parties. Rulemaking in secret, a process that Congress abandoned 65 years ago when it passed the Administrative Procedure Act, is dangerous because it allows private parties and willing agencies to set national policy out of the light of public scrutiny and the procedural safeguards of the Administrative Procedure Act.”

Read the full report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here.

WryHeat

 

Arizona endangered wolves still on the brink - video

A brown-streaked wolf — named Ernesta by her admiring captors — bounded from a crate and onto Arizona soil. She carries in her womb the newest hopes for a rare native species that is struggling to regain a footing in the Southwest. Her government-sponsored April 25 relocation with her mate, from New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge to a mountain south of Alpine, was the first in the state for a captive-bred pair of Mexican gray wolves in more than four years. The last time a new canine couple sniffed freedom in these mountains, in fall 2008, they didn't last the winter. Someone shot the female almost immediately, and the male disappeared by February...As of 2011, the federal, state and tribal agencies involved estimated they had spent about $26 million studying, breeding and restoring Mexican wolves over about 20 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paid the biggest share, nearly $17 million. The Arizona Game and Fish Department paid $2.5 million and used another $3 million in federal funds...John Hand has raised cattle across the state line in Catron County, N.M., since 1953. He said the Fish and Wildlife Service made a mistake bringing wolves back. It's ranch country, he said, and the unavoidable conflicts mean the restoration is "doomed to fail." Wildlife agents confirmed wolves killed 18 cattle and one mule last year. The previous year's toll was 20 cattle, a horse and a sheep. An
interagency compensation fund helps offset losses. Although wolves enjoy federal protection as an endangered species, their status here as an experimental population gives ranchers a right to defend cattle. They can legally shoot wolves that are attacking their stock on private land, and can report them to government officials for potential agency-directed trapping or killing after repeated offenses on public lands. "I don't want them on (our ranch)," Hand said. "If they come here, it's not something we'll tolerate. We'd probably shoot them. Our neighbor shot one not too long ago."...Many conservationists hope that a new recovery plan will include two new wolf zones: one north of the Grand Canyon and one in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. These would help disperse wolves to reduce in-breeding — which reduces litter sizes — and protect against extinction during disease outbreaks...

 Check out the full article and the video below at USA Today.

Two days later the FWS released another pair in New Mexico's Gila Wilderness.  The outcome of that release is one of my topics in a column for the June issue of the NM Stockman, and I'll soon have more about that on The Westerner.

South Carolina city eyes conservation...and economic development?

Calhoun Falls was selected as one of four communities to undergo a comprehensive study led by the Conservation Fund. The Conservation Fund's Livability Initiative is designed to help gateway communities - communities near public sites such as parks, forests, and in the case of Calhoun Falls, Lake Russell - better utilize natural resources. Livability Initiative partners with the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and The Conservation Fund's Conservation Leadership Network to locate areas of economic development while still preserving the natural resources around those communities...more

I do believe that's the first time I've seen FWS, NPS, FS and BLM used in the same sentence with "economic development".

Lincoln National Forest has a new leader

Moseley started in his new position as the Lincoln National Forest Supervisor Monday. Travis Moseley has a love for the outdoors, working for the Forest Service and protecting human life and property. Moseley was officially named forest supervisor on March 29th but he was the acting Cibola National Forest Supervisor at the time. Moseley needed to complete his Cibola assignment before transferring to the Lincoln National Forest. Moseley said he also likes to hunt and fish. Moseley, a native of New Mexico, grew up in the small town of Los Ojos, which is in northern New Mexico. He started as a forester with the U.S. Forest Service after graduating from Colorado State University in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in range and forest management. Most of Moseley's experience was gained primarily while working in Alaska and in northern New Mexico's Carson National Forest. Prior to becoming a ranger, Moseley was a district range and watershed staff officer on El Rito Ranger District and Jemez Ranger District in northern New Mexico; a range conservationist on the Umatilla National Forest in Oregon; and timber sale planner on the Umpqua National Forest in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon...more

Forest Service drops plans to use drones in Montana, north Idaho

Last week, Forest Service officials said they’ve dropped plans to use unmanned aerial systems — commonly known as drones — to survey forest fires because of clashes with Federal Aviation Administration rules. While some national forest firefighters in Alaska touted the remote-control planes’ ability to map forest fires in thick smoke, their legality proved a limitation. “Getting FAA approval to fly one is a lengthy process,” Forest Service Northern Region spokesman Phil Sammon said Friday. “It takes too long to make it practical for a two- or three-week occurrence.” FAA rules require a drone in U.S. airspace to be in visual range of its pilot at all times. That sets up a Catch-22 problem where if you want to remote-control fly a drone into a smoke column too thick for human pilots to see through, you must still send up a human pilot to keep an eye on the drone. Sammon said the agency has used aerial surveys in the past for forest health studies, as well as fire mapping and spotting. But those activities required long hours of flight time, which even the best non-military drones can’t manage. Traditional pilots in traditional planes got those jobs. Some have speculated drones are used to find marijuana farms hidden in forest stands. Sammon said he knew of no such activity, although he admitted if Forest Service law enforcement officials were doing so, they weren’t saying anything about it...more

NY County Sheriffs Oppose Gov. Cuomo’s Strict Gun Laws, Join Federal Lawsuit, Cuomo May Retaliate

County sheriffs have asked to join the federal lawsuit challenging New York’s tough new gun restrictions, calling some provisions vague and impossible to enforce fairly. The New York State Sheriffs’ Association and five individual sheriffs are asking U.S. District Judge William Skretny to add their position to the record. They support gun rights advocates seeking to block enforcement of new bullet limits for magazines and the tighter definition of assault weapons.The law bans magazines with a capacity of more than 10 bullets and generally prohibits loading them with more than seven. It defines assault weapons as semi-automatics with detachable magazines and a single military-style feature such as a pistol grip. The old definition required two such features. The law also requires New York owners of an estimated 1 million guns, including popular versions of AR-15 rifles now reclassified as assault weapons, to register them by April 15. Since Jan. 15, it has been illegal to sell or buy those guns in the state...

The sheriffs thought they were being summoned to the Capitol to discuss ideas for changes to New York’s gun control law, the SAFE Act. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told them to keep quiet. Opposition to the new law has simmered in upstate areas since Cuomo signed the law in January. Many county sheriffs oppose it, particularly its expanded definition of banned assault weapons, and have spoken out around the state. In January, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association wrote Cuomo with an analysis, and later suggested tweaks. Cuomo invited its leaders to the Capitol last month, people briefed on the meeting said. Rather than discuss the merits of the letter, Cuomo asked those in attendance to stop publicly discussing opposition to the SAFE Act. One individual briefed on the meeting claimed that Cuomo had threatened to remove some sheriffs from office...