Friday, June 07, 2013

Rural county commissioners discuss seceding from Colorado - video

A group of county commissioners say they are pursuing a plan to secede from Colorado and create a new state because they feel the Democrat-controlled state legislature is not representing their way of life. Sean Conway, a commissioner in Weld County, is leading a charge to ask voters in November whether to form a new state. “I know you think, wow, this is crazy when you first hear about it, but then you realize that five of our states — Vermont, Maine, Tennessee, Wyoming and Kentucky — came about in this fashion, and the circumstances were very similar to what we’re going through now,” Conway told FOX31 Denver Thursday afternoon. Conway, a Republican, said informal discussions have been underway between county commissioners about what kind of action to take. They say the state government has been ignoring values of rural counties when passing recent legislation including gun control measures, expanding oil and gas production and creating new renewable energy standards for rural areas. Gov. John Hickenlooper, after a long deliberation, signed the increased renewable energy standard for rural electric co-ops into law on Wednesday. Opponents of that bill labeled it as part of a “war on rural Colorado.” Now, it’s become Fort Sumter. Commissioners from Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma and Kit Carson counties all expressed interest in the idea.  Many met earlier this week at a Colorado Counties Inc. conference in Keystone to discuss the feasibility of forming a new state.  Any move to secede would require votes in each county. Then the plan would require the approval of the state legislature and the governor in order to petition Congress to create a new state, the newspaper reported...more

Here's the Fox31Denver video report:

Wyoming wants other states to join fight for federal land

by Laura Hancock

Wyoming lawmakers on a task force studying the possible transfer of federal lands to state ownership want other Western states to join the fight. On Wednesday, the Task Force on Transfer of Public Lands decided to request permission from organizers of the Council of State Governments West for two task force members — Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, and Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton — to address one of the organization’s committee meetings in August. The council is a platform for elected officials to discuss ideas affecting the region.

Hicks and Miller will gauge whether other Western states want to take up the fight. Task force member Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said states may be more successful if they approach the federal government as a group.

“In my gut, it’s going to have to be two parallel tracks: one political and one litigation,” said task force member Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, of the fight to get federal lands. “They probably need to run together because I think each one adds some impetus to the other.”

The Wyoming Legislature ordered the land transfer study. The task force will meet twice more and then present a report to the Legislature’s Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee by November. The interim committee will decide whether to sponsor a land transfer bill for the 2014 Legislature session.

The issue of federal land ownership has become important in recent years in part because states are financially crunched, said Ken Ivory, a Republican Utah state lawmaker and president of the American Lands Council, an organization that has been pushing for Western states to fight the feds for land.

State legislatures think that if states could control the lands, they could turn the lands into a source of revenue by either selling them and collecting yearly property taxes from the new landowners or by keeping them but allowing minerals extraction at a faster rate than the federal government, Ivory said.

Wyoming is one of five states where state legislatures have passed bills ordering similar studies. The other states are Nevada, Utah, Montana and Idaho, Ivory said.


Drought numbers don't lie

The Ag 50 of eastern New Mexico met Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce to hear a presentation by John Longworth from Santa Fe, who is the chief of the Water Use and Conservation Bureau under the State Engineer. Data showed that for water year 2012, which is a measure of precipitation from October 2012 through April 2013, the state of New Mexico received 45 percent of normal rainfall. Water year 2012 was the driest year on record for the state, and calendar year 2012 set an all-time record for hottest temperature in New Mexico history. “The previous 24 months have produced some of the most intense drought conditions on record,” Longworth explained. The data he shared also predicted below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for the summer. Ag 50, an agricultural committee whose mission is to promote the expansion, growth and retention of the agricultural of eastern New Mexico, is made up of local ranchers and dairymen and works under the Clovis/Curry County Chamber...more

 Fast facts 

 • Clovis received 1.26 inches of rain from January to April 2013.
 • Clovis received 1.81 inches of rain from October to April 2013.
 • From January to April 2013, New Mexico’s statewide average of rain was 47 percent of normal rainfall.
 • Due to drought conditions, New Mexico lost almost one year of rain in the past three years.

Plan lifts Lower 48 wolf protections, future recovery efforts to focus on Mexican gray wolf

The Obama administration on Friday will propose lifting most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that would end four decades of recovery efforts but has been criticized by some scientists as premature. With more than 6,100 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told The Associated Press that a species persecuted to near-extermination last century has successfully rebounded. But prominent scientists and dozens of lawmakers in Congress want more. They say wolves need to be shielded so they can expand beyond the portions of 10 states they now occupy. The animal’s historical range stretched across most of North America. Under the administration’s plan, federal protections would remain only for a fledgling population of Mexican gray wolves in the desert Southwest. The proposal will be subject to a public comment period and a final decision made within a year. While the wolf’s recent resurgence is likely to continue at some level elsewhere — multiple packs roam portions of Washington and Oregon, and individual wolves have been spotted in Colorado, Utah and the Northeast — Ashe indicated it’s unrealistic to think the clock can be turned back entirely. “Science is an important part of this decision, but really the key is the policy question of when is a species recovered,” he said. “Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered? Our answer to that question is no.” Hunters and trappers already are targeting the predators in states where protections previously were lifted. They’ve killed some 1,600 wolves in the past several years in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin. That’s been a relief for ranchers who suffer regular wolf attacks that can kill dozens of livestock in a single night. Supporters say lifting protections elsewhere will help avoid the animosity seen among many ranchers in the West, who long complained that their hands were tied by rules restricting when wolves could be killed...more

Feds propose expanding range for Mexican wolves

Endangered Mexican gray wolves would have more room to roam in the Southwest under a proposal unveiled Friday. The provisions regarding the Mexican wolves are part of a plan proposed by the Obama administration that calls for lifting most of the remaining federal protections for gray wolves. Protections would remain only for the fledgling population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The plan would also allow for captive Mexican wolves to be released in New Mexico and for the wolves to roam outside the current Blue Range recovery area — two changes that independent scientists and environmentalists have been pushing for over the past decade. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle said managers in the Southwest need more flexibility. "When you look at our ability to have initial releases within the limited area that we have, it has sort of hamstrung us to a degree," Tuggle said. "If we expand those opportunities, we sort of minimize the potential of conflicts on the landscape." A subspecies of the gray wolf found in the Northern Rockies, the Mexican wolf was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976. The 15-year effort to reintroduce them has stumbled due to legal battles, illegal shootings, politics and other problems. The proposal calls for expanding the area where the wolves could roam to include parts of the Cibola National Forest in central New Mexico and the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. In all, there would be a tenfold increase in the area where biologists are working to rebuild the population. Environmentalists welcomed the prospect of expansion, but they voiced concerns about provisions that could create loopholes that would expand circumstances in which wolves could be killed for attacking livestock or for other reasons.  AP

Pearce - Feds ignore NM with wolf decisions

Las Cruces, NM (June 7, 2013) - Today, U.S Congressman Steve Pearce released the following statement on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to continue the failed Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program in New Mexico and Arizona, even while allowing other western states to manage wolf populations at the state and local level.

 “The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proven once again that it would rather play to special interests than listen to the citizens of New Mexico,” Pearce said. “I hear constantly from New Mexicans who have been gripped by fear when a wolf approaches their home or their family. Ranchers in New Mexico see firsthand the terror that these predators bring when they destroy their livestock—often without any compensation. The needs of New Mexicans are more important that Washington politics—it is time to put an end to this dangerous, wasteful, and failed program. I will request that the Fish and Wildlife Service hold an open public hearing, so they can hear our stories straight from the New Mexicans who have lived in fear for far too long. New Mexicans are better equipped than Washington bureaucrats to manage local populations, and should have the same freedom to do so as other western states.”

 After millions of dollars spent and over a decade of efforts, the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program is an outright failure, with populations unable to achieve any measurable successes—even as wolf populations elsewhere have thrived. Congressman Pearce has been a consistent opponent of continuing to pour money into an unsuccessful experiment that jeopardizes the lives and livelihoods of countless New Mexicans. Press Release

What happens in the backroom of a sue-and-settle lawsuit?

by Ron Arnold

Is Big Green running things in President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency? Wake up and smell the corruption.

A virulent 2009 sue-and-settle lawsuit, WildEarth Guardians v. Jackson (as in Lisa Jackson, former EPA administrator) is an outrageous sweetheart deal rife with collusion and manipulation to create arbitrary regulations, along with the EPA takeover of state regulatory programs and a price tag of more than $2.5 billion -- all aimed against the domestic fossil fuel industry.

William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute discovered the details after a Freedom of Information Act request produced 659 pages of EPA emails.

"WEG's lawsuit centered on the EPA's regional haze program to improve visibility, which was created by Congress, which gave the states, not EPA, primacy to choose their own standards and controls for regional haze," Yeatman told me. "A federal court confirmed that authority, so how did EPA take it away from them?" he asked.

Buried in hundreds of EPA emails was the backroom story. Beginning in 2009, 10 green groups including the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians filed lawsuits against EPA alleging that the agency had "missed the deadlines pertaining to the regional haze program."

Rather than defend these cases, EPA simply chose to settle and sign a consent decree agreeing to new enforcement deadlines negotiated with the green groups, not the states, which weren't even notified. WEG's case dealt with the south-central states including New Mexico -- EPA Region 6 -- where the administrator was Al Armendariz, the man later forced to resign after a video became public of him expressing admiration for how the Roman legions used random crucifixions to enforce obedience among Roman subjects.

But CEI's EPA emails revealed a timeline that stank of collusion and corruption. Armendariz came straight from WildEarth Guardians, where he had worked on regional haze issues with Jeremy Nichols, director of WEG's climate and energy program (Nichols' main job was "to fight fossil fuels").

In June 2009, WEG filed its lawsuit against EPA; on Nov. 5, 2009, Armendariz was appointed Region 6 administrator; on Nov. 10 EPA settled new deadlines with WEG and presented a consent decree to the U.S. District Court for Northern California. Armendariz wouldn't be at his desk for another three weeks, but his connections in government and Big Green were well-known.

The point is that an activist who worked on regional haze for a plaintiff suing EPA switched sides to become an official of defendant EPA, and a settlement was reached in less than a week.

It gets worse.

Editorial: EPA's back-room 'sue and settle' deals require reform

Imagine the outcry if the nation woke up this morning to New York Times and Washington Post headlines reporting that in order to settle a lawsuit against Charles and David Koch, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency had met behind closed doors with them to iron out a deal that effectively allowed the brothers to rewrite regulations as they pleased. Imagine, also, that the EPA and the Kochs then got a federal court to issue a decree ratifying the deal and giving it the force of law? The sun would not likely set on a peaceful America until the EPA/Koch deal was utterly repudiated and those in government responsible for it frog-marched to jail after being charged with multiple violations of the Administrative Procedures Act.

So where were the outraged headlines for any of the 34 times since 2009 that the EPA did similar closed-door deals, but with the Sierra Club rather than the Kochs? Or the 20 times the agency accepted closed-door deals with another environmental activist group, the WildEarth Guardians? Why no headlines for the nine deals EPA accepted with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the six with the Center for Biologial Diversity or the five with the Environmental Defense Fund? In fact, none of the 71 closed-door deals EPA has accepted since 2009 with private parties involved in environmental advocacy and activism got front-page headlines.

All of these deals are unintended consequences of the "sue and settle" process included in major environmental laws adopted since 1970. Here's how the process works: First, the private environmental group sues the EPA in federal court seeking to force it to issue new regulations by a date certain. Then agency and group officials meet behind closed doors to hammer out a deal. Typically in the deal, the government agrees to do whatever the activists want. The last step occurs when the judge issues a consent decree that makes the deal the law of the land. No messy congressional hearings. No public comment period. No opportunity for anybody outside the privileged few to know how government regulatory policy is being shaped until it's too late.

U.S. mining data from 9 leading Internet firms; companies deny knowledge

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority. Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues. The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage. In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to certify periodically that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant...more

The NSA Spying Is Bigger Than Verizon

The National Security Agency's warrant for metadata on every single Verizon call for three months is jaw-dropping in its scope. Except, well, the NSA's surveillance of our communications is most likely much, much bigger than that. Technology has made it possible for the American government to spy on citizens to an extent East Germany could only dream of. Basically everything we say that can be traced digitally is being collected by the NSA. We're supposed to trust that our government will be much better behaved, but they're not, and the White House almost admits it. That doesn't mean they're admitting everything. "On its face, the document suggests that the U.S. government regularly collects and stores all domestic telephone records," The Week's Marc Ambinder writes of Glenn Greenwald's scoop last night. "My own understanding is that the NSA routinely collects millions of domestic-to-domestic phone records. It does not do anything with them unless there is a need to search through them for lawful purposes." Previous reporting from many outlets suggests that's true. In 2006, USA Today's Leslie Cauley reported the NSA was secretly collecting call records with data from AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth. A source told Cauley, "It's the largest database ever assembled in the world" and that the NSA wanted "to create a database of every call ever made" within U.S. territory. Likewise, in 2011, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer spoke to former NSA crypto-mathematician Bill Binney, who "believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America, in case the government wants to retrieve the details later." He thinks the NSA wants all emails to be searchable, the same way we search with Google. "The agency reportedly has the capacity to intercept and download, every six hours, electronic communications equivalent to the contents of the Library of Congress," Mayer said. As Mark Rumold, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Atlantic Wire last night, "This is confirmation of what we've long feared, that the NSA has been tracking the calling patterns of the entire country." Update: In defending the program, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein seems to indicate that the court order is a regular, quarterly thing. "There is nothing new in this program. The fact of the matter is, that this was a routine three-month approval under seal that was leaked," Feinstein said on Thursday. And the NSA isn't just collecting the things we say. It's also tracking what we buy and where we go. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Gormanreported that the NSA's domestic data collection "have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people's communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks." That means emails records, bank transfers, phone records, travel records...more

Now combine the EPA "settlement" scandal with the NSA "surveillance" scandal, with USDA, etc.

Will the NSA report to the EPA that I no longer have a toilet that meets "low flush" standards?  I mean they don't call me High Flush Frank for nothing.

And to think all I was worried about was Drones.  Drones are bad enough, but they aren't capturing my emails, texts, phone calls etc.  Besides, I've already invented the DuBois Drone Detectors.

Then there's the USDA Animal ID program.  Remember how we stomped around and didn't want our operation given a gov't number and our cattle tracked if we moved them across the road, etc.?  Well all that time Bush y Obama were trackin' your every phone call.  Turns out our cows have more privacy than we do (kinda gives Cattle Free by 93 a different meaning, don't it).  Hell, give me an ear tag but stay the heck away from my private communications.  That will put me right in style with the young folks anyway.

My worst fear?  They send sleuth drones to my place and blow up my fed defyin' toilet, and the explosion runs all the cattle off and Sweet Sharon grabs me by my ear tag and makes me clean up the whole mess.

What a horrible nightmare.  Think I'll just quit and go to work for the IRS.

Obama officials face tough questions on oil drilling, land access

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and a top deputy were questioned about drilling on federal lands, the cleanup of legacy oil wells in Alaska and how the government will protect endangered species in the West during a wide-ranging hearing Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Separately, Jewell committed to “an ongoing collaborative effort” to address protections for the sage grouse, a bird whose habitat includes such oil drilling hotbeds as North Dakota and Montana. Sens. James Risch, R-Idaho, pleaded for a “state-driven” approach to protecting the species, now a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, asked Jewell to heavily consider Utah’s own management plan for the bird, amid oil industry concerns that some safeguards could block energy development. Jewell acknowledged that endangered species protections are “a challenging issue” but pledged cooperating with state and local stakeholders as the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to make final decisions on hundreds of creatures that are candidates for protection. A major dispute Thursday arose over the status of drilling on federal lands and waters, with Murkowski and Jewell squaring off over whether oil production had climbed or fallen in areas under the Interior Department’s control. Murkowski cited “a pattern of falling production on federal lands.” “Production on federal lands is in trouble,” she said. “Contrary to some of the rhetoric we’ve heard, oil production from the federal estate actually fell 5 percent last year, after falling by even more than that in 2011.” And Murkowski insisted that natural gas production from the same federal areas “is in virtual free fall, down 8 percent last year, and down 23 percent since 2009.” But Jewell took issue with those stats...more

Forest Service in closed door discussions with anti-grazing activists, but deny grazing permittees the right to participate

U.S. Forest Service officials are slated to spend two days behind closed doors this week in settlement discussions with anti-grazing activists. Other parties to the lawsuit over the reauthorization of grazing permits, including the grazing permittees whose allotments are at issue, have been denied the right to participate in the talks, according to three sources affiliated with the case. The multi-state lawsuit was filed in federal court in Idaho by anti-grazing activists Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Utah Environmental Congress, and Grand Canyon Trust. These groups challenge the Forest Service use of "categorical exclusions" (CEs) to reauthorize grazing permits instead of going through a much more detailed and time consuming environmental analysis process for each permit (through creation of either Environmental Assessments or Environmental Impact Statements). The use of CEs has been authorized by Congress, but these groups allege that the Forest Service is using CEs improperly, and that extensive analysis should be done on grazing permits since livestock grazing "causes so many adverse environmental impacts." It’s worth noting that several of these groups have declared their intention to rid public lands of livestock, and use the environmental planning process and litigation in attempt to drive permittees from public lands. Intervening in this case are Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Public Lands Council, Peter R. Arambel, Wyoming County Commissioners Association, and the State of Wyoming. This case challenges the use of CEs to authorize grazing on national forests in Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah...more

Interior Department Fracking Rule: Comment Period Extended For 60 Days

Companies that drill for oil and natural gas — and their critics — will have 60 more days to comment on a new rule regulating hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the extension Thursday after industry groups and environmentalists said they needed more time to digest a 171-page "fracking" rule issued last month. The rule requires companies for the first time to disclose publicly the chemicals used in fracking operations. It also sets standards for proper construction of wells and disposal of wastewater...more

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Environmental groups file suit against coal shippers

The Sierra Club and allied groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Wednesday against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BSNF) and several coal companies for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The environmental groups, concerned by the prospect of increased coal exports through the Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere in the Northwest, earlier sent a 60-day notice of their intent to file the suit after collecting evidence of coal emitted into waterways in several Washington locations. Other groups joining the suit are Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and Friends of the Columbia Gorge. BSNF Railway hauls coal bound for British Columbia through Washington on an average of 4 trains a day containing 480 open rail cars. There are three pending proposals for new coal export ports that might send an additional 42 trains daily through the Northwest...more

Taxpayers Can't Verify the Success of Alternative-Energy Incentives


The U.S. federal government has been encouraging alternative energy through tax credit and subsidies to try and pull the private sector off of fossil fuels. Not only does the federal government give subsidies and incentives to companies, so do the states. As a result, Americans have no idea how much taxpayers and consumers, through higher energy bills, are spending to subsidize all of those green energy projects, says Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation.
  • Currently at the federal level, a 2012 paper from the Washington-based Brookings Institution estimates that federal spending on "clean energy technology," which includes nuclear, could hit $150 billion from 2009 through 2014. Averaging out to be around $30 billion a year.
  • President Obama's 2014 budget includes $2.8 billion for the Office for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and $28.4 billion for the Department of Energy to be spent on various projects.
But there's more, as state and local governments have created thousands of green and renewable energy programs.
  • There are 1,124 state, territorial and local financial incentive programs for renewable energy (all numbers exclude a small number of listed federal programs).
  • The programs do not seem to follow the usual red state-blue state patterns. While no one would be surprised that California is toward the top of the list for renewable rebate programs (56), Minnesota has the most (76). But red state Indiana has 34 and Texas 29, while blue state Vermont has only one and Connecticut four.
  • 1,442 state, territorial and local financial programs encourage energy efficiency, including 1,137 rebate programs and 222 grant programs.
However, no one seems to know how much state and local governments spend on these programs. Complicating the cost estimate is the fact that while many are funded with tax dollars, others are funded by overcharging consumers (i.e., ratepayers) on their utility bills. California's Legislative Analyst's Office released a paper in December that claims, "Over the past 10 to 15 years, the state has spent a combined total of roughly $15 billion on such efforts [energy efficiency and alternative energy], the vast majority of which has been funded by utility ratepayers."
While some of the green energy programs may be well worth the money, it's hard to know because most taxpayers have no idea how much they're spending. State legislators should press for those answers. We may be surprised at how much we spend for how little we receive.

Source: Merrill Matthews, "It's Time We Learn What Green Energy Costs States and Cities," Dallas Morning News, May 27, 2013.

Magdalena runs out of water due to drought

The village of Magdalena is scrambling now that its sole drinking water well has gone dry. The water table has dropped almost 20 feet since January due to the persistent drought that has plagued nearly all of New Mexico for the last three years. On Wednesday, about 1,000 residents and several businesses were left without water when the level dropped below the well's pump. Matt Holmes with the New Mexico Rural Water Association says the problem is a combination of drought and infrastructure. Magdalena officials have put in a request with the state engineer's office to drill a new well, but that could take a week or two. For now, the community will have to rely on water tenders from Socorro and White Sands Missile Range. Magdalena is not alone. Across the state's eastern plains, livestock wells stand empty and ranchers are selling their cattle. Domestic wells near Santa Fe and Las Vegas have been going dry and reservoirs across the state have reached record lows. Albuquerque, Santa Fe and other cities have imposed watering restrictions in an effort to conserve heading into what is expected to be another hot, dry summer...more

NSA secretly vacuumed up Verizon phone records

The National Security Agency is vacuuming up records of millions of phone calls made inside the United States, a top secret court order reveals. A top secret order that was released this afternoon requires Verizon to hand over to the NSA "on an ongoing daily basis" information about all domestic and overseas calls -- "including local telephone calls." The FBI obtained the secret order, which was disclosed by The Guardian newspaper, from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets behind closed doors and whose proceedings rarely become public. It was signed by FISC Judge Roger Vinson, who normally serves as a federal judge in Florida. Vinson's order relies on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, 50 USC 1861, better known as the "business records" portion. It allows FBI agents to obtain any "tangible thing," including "books, records, papers, documents, and other items," a broad term that includes dumps from private-sector computer databases with limited judicial oversight.  The Justice Department's secret interpretation of Section 215 was what alarmed Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) when the Patriot Act was up for renewal two years ago. Both senators served on the intelligence committee and were briefed on the NSA's activities. "I believe that when more of my colleagues and the American public come to understand how the Patriot Act has actually been interpreted in secret, they will insist on significant reforms too," Wyden said at the time. There have been other hints that the NSA's massive databases were being fed Americans' confidential telephone records -- which can then be perused by the FBI for domestic criminal investigations. Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN last month that, in national security investigations, the bureau can access records of a previously-made telephone call. "All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not," he said. Clementeadded in an appearance the next day that, thanks to the "intelligence community" -- a likely reference to the NSA -- "there's a way to look at digital communications in the past."...more

Arizona Republic - Give wolves a chance

Those who continue to peddle scary stories and post signs urging people to “beware” of endangered Mexican gray wolves haven’t looked at the numbers.

 Since 1998, when wolves were reintroduced to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, 46 of the rare animals have been illegally shot, 17 died of natural causes, 14 died in vehicle collisions, 12 were killed by government agents and four died in capture-related incidents or legal public shootings. The fate of nine is unknown, and two dead animals are awaiting necropsy.

 Only 75 were left at the end of 2012.

 Beware the people. Not the wolves. A few people.

 Environmentalists who track such things say ranchers who support or tolerate the reintroduction process exist. But they don’t grab the microphones.

 Public-land ranchers with an entitlement mentality are big wolf opponents. Their position is out of sync with reality.

 After all, most Western ranchers rely on public-land leases to graze their cattle. As anybody who has ever rented an apartment can tell you, a lease is not a deed of ownership.

 The public owns the public lands. Those lands are meant to support a variety of uses. Grazing is one use.

 Here’s another: Federal law makes preserving and restoring endangered species a national value.

 If achieving a healthy population of wolves proves inconvenient for public-land ranchers, it might be time to rethink those grazing leases.

Biologists rescue native Rio Grande cutthroat trout from area threatened by NM wildfire

Nearly 50 native Rio Grande cutthroat trout have been rescued from a creek that's being threatened by a wildfire in northern New Mexico. Biologists hiked about 2 miles up Macho Creek in the Santa Fe National Forest on Wednesday and removed 49 trout. Officials say the rescue mission will ensure the pure strain of native fish will survive if the Tres Lagunas Fire threatens the area. The fish were taken to a hatchery for safekeeping. They will be returned to the creek if it's spared by the fire...more

Ex-Interior staffer joins lefty group

An ex-aide to former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is headed to the Center for American Progress (CAP). Matt Lee-Ashley will join the left-leaning think tank as a senior fellow for energy and environment policy, CAP announced Wednesday. In his previous role of deputy chief of staff for the Interior Department, Lee-Ashley handled policy, legislative, external and communications matters for the agency...more

Obama Continues To Lose Support With Voters Over Gun Control

President Obama is continuing to lose support among the American voters over his gun control proposals, says a new study by Rasmussen Reports. According to the study, which was released Tuesday (6/4/13), 46 percent of likely voters consider the president’s handling of issues related to gun control to be poor – the highest it’s been since Rasmussen began asking the question back in January. Only 37 percent of voters say that his handling of gun control policies have been excellent or good. In addition, 53 percent of men and 54 percent of voters who consider themselves not to be Republicans or Democrats believe that the president is poorly handling issues related to gun control...more

11-Yr-Old Suspended From School For Merely TALKING About Guns

The father of a middle schooler in Calvert County, Md. says his 11-year-old son was suspended for 10 days for merely talking about guns on the bus ride home. Bruce Henkelman of Huntingtown says his son, a sixth grader at Northern Middle School in Owings, was talking with friends about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre when the bus driver hauled him back to school to be questioned by the principal, Darrel Prioleau. "The principal told me that with what happened at Sandy Hook if you say the word 'gun' in my school you are going to get suspended for 10 days," Henkelman said in an interview with So what did the boy say? According to his father, he neither threatened nor bullied anyone. "He said, I wish I had a gun to protect everyone. He wanted to defeat the bad guys. That's the context of what he said," Henkelman said. "He wanted to be the hero." The boy was questioned by the principal and a sheriff's deputy, who also wanted to search the family home without a warrant, Henkelman said. "He started asking me questions about if I have firearms, and [the deputy said] he's going to have to search my house. Search my house? I just wanted to know what happened." No search was performed, and the deputy left Henkelman's home after the father answered questions in a four-page questionnaire issued by the Sheriff's Office...more

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Pie Lady of Pie Town; Kathy Knapp subject of documentary

The owner and operator of the Pie-O-Neer, Kathy Knapp is the subject of a documentary – The Pie Lady of Pie Town – that that was in the restaurant filming May 31 in Pie Town. Since its auspicious re-opening in September 2004, The Pie-O-Neer has been the subject of several articles and a country song by Jimmy Wayne. The restaurant was the subject of a short feature film called A Piece of Pie in 2006. It, and its adjoining art gallery, was featured in a segment for NBC’s Rock Center last fall. If that’s not all, Knapp and crew will also be featured on the History Channel in August in a segment called All About Food. As for The Pie Lady of Pie Town, director Jane Rosemont said she discovered Pie Town when she and her husband took a road trip from Santa Fe to see the Very Lare Array. “In the gift shop there was a mileage sign that included Pie Town,” she said. “I asked the clerk ‘What’s in Pie Town?’ She looked me square in the eye, and without smiling, replied, “…Pie.” Rosemont said they sampled both Pie Town eateries, The Good Pie Café and the Pie-O-Neer. “There have been questions raised about when the film will be completed,” Rosemont said. “I don’t know the answer to that yet. I’m considering some additional scenes that can be shot in Santa Fe next month.” In the meantime Knapp said she is trying to find grant money for saving or restoring the old Pie Town Hotel. “It is doomed to be demolished this fall if no one intervenes,” she said. “It will cost about $10 thousand to do it right, and no one around here has that kind of money. I’ve contacted a couple of New Mexico Historic Preservation websites and gotten no response.”...more

Group sues over endangered plants found in Eddy County

A California-based environmental law firm is suing the federal government over its classification of certain plant species in the southwest. Two of the plants that have warranted attention in the lawsuit are native to Eddy County. Daniel Himebaugh, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, says the government ignored a 2012 petition arguing for the reclassification of five plant species found in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The Kuenzler hedgehog cactus and gypsum wild-buckwheat found in Eddy County are listed among the five plants that PLF believes should either be downlisted to a threatened species or delisted and removed from government protection all together. The Kuenzler hedgehog cactus is currently labeled as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. According to Bureau of Land Management Wildlife Biologist Johnny Chopp, the classification means the species could potentially become extinct. The "threatened" label affecting the gypsum wild-buckwheat identifies it as a species that has the potential to become endangered. But Himebaugh claims scientists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended in 2005 and 2007 that neither plant should keep its current classification...more

George Strait's Father Dies at Age 91

George Strait's father died Tuesday (June 4) at age 91 following a lengthy illness. John Byron Strait had been hospitalized for almost a month. George Strait performed the last concert of his 2013 The Cowboy Rides Away tour Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio but canceled his Wednesday night appearance on the CMT Music Awards in Nashville. John Strait was a junior high school mathematics teacher, as well as a rancher on his property near Big Wells, Texas. The family worked at the ranch on the weekends and in the summers. In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife Anna, daughter Pency Edel and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "We are grateful for the time over the last few weeks we were able to spend with Daddy before he passed away," George Strait said in a prepared statement. "I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support during this difficult time as we mourn our family's loss." The funeral service will be private, reserved for friends and family only. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Jenifer Strait Memorial Foundation. CMT

Judge Napolitano Slams DOJ Over Gibson Guitar Raid - video

The Judge and Fox are focusing on the DOJ because of recent events, and it was the DOJ who released info on the settlement with Gibson. However, it was agents with the US Fish & Wildlife Service who made the raids and who chose to use SWAT-military type tactics.

On BLM land? Eurasia Will Build World's Largest Mall, Convention Center and Private Jet Airport In Las Vegas

Fresh off its highly successful launch at RECon 2013, ICSC's Global Retail Real Estate Convention, Eurasia Resorts International, Ltd. Of Nassau, Bahamas has announced further plans to build the world's most compelling, must see, play and shop experience in the world on 1200 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land located not too far from the Las Vegas Strip. "To say we were immensely gratified by the excitement of more than 31,000 attendees and exhibitors at RECON showed for the Eurasia concept is a major understatement," said John Ray, President of Eurasia Resorts International, Ltd. "The interest shown in our static and video presentations by city, county and state officials, the number of top executives – many of them from major real estate management companies also exhibiting – requesting copies of our master plan book, the sheer volume of 'keep us informed' contact cards filled out, all these things combined have convinced us to accelerate our timetable for acquiring 1200 acres of BLM land through a combination of outright purchase, leases and pushing forward with construction by Q3, of 2014," Ray added...more  

And what kind of BLM lease would that be?

BLM plan prompts land take-back talk

The draft resource management plan for the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area on Monday prompted citizens to advocate taking back public lands from the federal government. Bureau of Land Management staffers from the agency’s Grand Junction office presented commissioners with an update of the draft plan for the NCA, and informed the public of two open houses designed to gather input that would be used to refine the management plan. “Nobody is going to read this (draft plan) any more than they read the PATRIOT Act,” said resident Roger Brown, noting the massive tome the BLM produced. “I just find this whole thing repugnant. People in Colorado are fully capable of managing (the lands). This is Colorado property.” Subscription required

Arizona rancher jailed in dispute over Grand Canyon Skywalk access

The man who incurred the wrath of the Hualapai Indian tribe and many tourists by charging a toll to reach the Skywalk Grand Canyon West attraction over the Memorial Holiday weekend was arrested late Tuesday. Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said Nigel Turner was taken into custody and jailed in Kingman for allegedly threatening, intimidating and harassing a construction worker. Turner owns property traversed by Diamond Bar road off U.S. 93, which is the primary gateway for thousands of tourists who visit the “U”-shaped glass overhang affording a spectacular view of the Grand Canyon’s west end. Turner owns and operates Grand Canyon Ranch, which caters to tourists seeking a Western experience, and has maintained that their enjoyment is compromised by traffic on Diamond Bar Road. A decade ago he sued to change the route, and a settlement reached in 2007 required completion of a new road more than a year ago. Upset that construction of the new road is well behind schedule, Turner hired a security detail and began charging a toll of $500 per tour bus, or $20 per adult and $10 per child, during the busy Memorial Holiday weekend. Sheahan later said Turner had been arrested at the new road construction site after a confrontation with a construction worker. When the worker told Turner that he lacked the legal authority to impose his will on the workers, Turner reportedly answered, ``I don’t need a Court order, I’ve got a gun.”...more

US to offer first offshore renewable energy lease auction in July

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau today announced that the first-ever competitive lease sale for renewable energy on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) will be held on 31 July. The auction will offer 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for commercial wind energy leasing. ‘This is history in the making as we mark yet another major milestone in the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,’ said Secretary Jewell. The Wind Energy Area offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts is located 9.2 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island coastline...more

Ranchers Respond to New State Regulations on Identifying Cattle

There's an old saying, 'we are what we eat'- but the Food and Drug Administration wants to know where 'what we eat' comes from. "We've been talking about individual animal ID for about 6 or 8 years now" Cherokee Ranch owner and Florida Cattleman's Association Executive Committee member Mack Glass said. "It's a federally driven thing to identify animals so that in case of disease or an outbreak of some kind they can trace it back to its origination." The feds tasked state veterinarians to come up with specific regulations for each state. "The state vet tells the Florida Cattleman's Association that it's time to create a rule. And the state association says, 'Well, if it is time to create a rule, we would like to support you in that effort and be a part of creating the rules so that we feel like it's something the industry can live with and suits everybody.''' Glass said not everyone wanted to 'live with' the new regulation- claiming: "'government intrusion', 'it's going to be hard to live with'. None of us like change" he said with a smile. But this change sat well with Glass...more

Illinois Drone Nullification Gets Final Approval, Heading to Governor’s Desk

By Mike Maharrey

An Illinois bill restricting drone spying to the point of near extinction now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

If signed into law, SB1587 would prohibit law enforcement angencies from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information without a warrant in most cases.

The House overwhelmingly passed the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act 105-12 on May 30. The Senate gave its approval 52-1 in April and quickly concurred with two House Amendments the day after House passage. SB1587 now moves on to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.

The act does leave the door open for some drone use.  The prime exception allows for the use of drones “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.” In addition, the bill would permit law enforcement agencies to use drones when attempting to locate a missing person, as long as that flight was “not also undertaking a criminal investigation.”  It would also allow for review of a crime scene and traffic crash scene photography.  Any information gathered by a drone would have to be destroyed within 30 days, unless the information proved to contain evidence of criminal activity, or was relevant to a trial or investigation.

The House amendments actually strengthened the bill.

The first tightened up admissibility provisions. It now provides that if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a law enforcement agency used a drone to gather information in violation of the information gathering limits in of the Act, then the information shall be presumed to be inadmissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding. It does allow that the State may overcome this presumption by proving the applicability of a judicially recognized exception to the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution to the information. It also provides that nothing in the Act shall be deemed to prevent a court from independently reviewing the admissibility of the information for compliance with the aforementioned provisions of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

The second amendment deleted a provision that permitted the use of drone by a law enforcement agency if the law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent serious damage to property.

The Senate concurred with both amendments unanimously.

The Action Items section of this post has the following info of which we should all be aware:

While the legislation only limits drone use by state and local government, it will seriously impact federal plans. At this stage in the ‘drone game,’ the feds are working hard behind the scenes to get states to operate the drones for them. In fact, the federal government serves as the primary engine behind the expansion of drone surveillance carried out by states and local communities. The Department of Homeland Security issues large grants to local governments so they can purchase drones. Those grants, in and of themselves, represent an unconstitutional expansion of power. The goal? Fund a network of drones around the country and put the operational burden on the states. Once they create a web over the whole country, DHS steps in with requests for ‘information sharing.’  Bills like these put a dent in this kind of long-term strategy. Without the states and local communities operating the drones today, it’s going to be nearly impossible for DHS plans to – take off.


Renewable Energy’s Reversal of Fortune

by Marita K. Noon

Nearly a decade ago, in the mid-2000s, states were busy passing legislation that mandated the use of renewable energy—generally called a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Today, more than half the states have renewable requirements that range from modest to aggressive with California’s being the most stringent at 33% by 2020

Legislators eagerly embraced the renewable mandates based on three specific myths:

·       Climate change is a manmade crisis caused by the use of hydrocarbons,

·       Hydrocarbons are finite and are about to run out and, therefore, are expensive. And

·       Renewable energy, specifically the wind and the sun, is unlimited and free.

Since then, each of the key selling points has been wiped out.

Environmentalists have been crying “wolf” for so long that the public has become immune to their scare tactics—the disasters predicted at the first Earth Day haven’t happened and despite increasing CO2, the climate hasn’t warmed for 17 years.

The combination of new technology and new applications of old technology have unleashed a new abundance of natural gas and oil—dropping the prices and displacing the market for renewables. Last month, Atlantic Magazine’s cover announced “we will never run out of oil.”

Increasing utility bills have convinced people that, even though wind and sunshine are free, converting them to electricity is not—as Monica found out. Europe, the global leader in renewable energy, is backing away from the policies that are making energy more expensive and Europe less competitive.

Combined with the hard-hitting economic collapse and ongoing sagas of taxpayer-funded green energy failures, the public’s appetite for renewable energy has waned—producing headlines, such as “Cheap natural gas prompts states to sour on renewables” and “U.S. states turn against renewable energy as gas plunges.” Compared to last year, investment in renewable energy has dropped: 54% in the US and 25% in Europe—with the sharpest decline, 96%, in Spain. But, as long as the mandates exist, so does the rationale for subsidies, grants, and tax credits.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The biofuel debate goes to Washington

The brewing battle over a federal biofuel-blending mandate will hit Capitol Hill at a Wednesday hearing. The House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements will take a look at the renewable fuel standard, which is the subject of a growing political and lobbying effort. “It is one thing to say we want to help and protect the environment in our nation. It’s another thing to create an impossible standard,” Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who chairs the subpanel, told The Hill on Tuesday.  Several bipartisan bills aimed at changing the rule have been filed in both the House and the Senate, though the GOP-controlled House looks more eager to tackle the issue. The rule requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuel into conventional fuel by 2022. Among the rule’s detractors are the oil-and-gas industry, livestock and poultry groups and some environmental organizations that oppose corn ethanol. Opponents argue the rule’s blending targets are accelerating too quickly. They say refiners must then either churn out gasoline with higher ethanol concentrations or purchase renewable fuel credits...more

Congressman delivers epic indictment of Obama - in one minute

Immigrants Force Rancher out of Cattle Business

PENITAS - A landowner is opting for a new approach to keep illegal immigrants from destroying his fences. Rene Garcia, of Penitas, said illegal immigration forced his family out of the cattle business. He said repeated trespassing and vandalism left his fences in shambles. Garcia said he will install a ladder to help the immigrants go over the fence. He hopes that will keep them from destroying his property. "We just couldn't keep up with it," Garcia said. Garcia said his father-in-law sold off his cattle because he could not keep up with the fence repairs. He said his father-in-law raised cattle for nearly 50 years. Garcia said the new fences they built are meant to keep people out. "They want to get across, and they don't care what they have to go through. They will knock it down, climb over it (and) go through it," Garcia said. Garcia said problems started when construction on the border fence stopped just behind his property. He said illegal immigrants were funneled to his ranch, and sometimes right up to his doorstep. "You really don't know what their intentions are. Some come with good intentions ... some don't," Garcia said. Garcia thinks illegal immigrants are staying for long periods of time at his property. He said the evidence is toys, hygiene products and other items that litter his property. "This is an endless effort," he said. Garcia said he has resigned himself to the fact that he has to live with the intrusions. Garcia said adding a ladder may be against the Border Patrol's efforts to catch illegal immigrants. But he feels he has no other choice. "I don't believe the border is secure," he said. KRGV

Please go to KRGV to see the more complete video report. 

Federal Judge Rules for Property Rights, Smacks Down Abusive Feds

In an historic 104-page ruling, Chief Judge Robert C. Jones of the Federal District Court of Nevada has struck a major blow for property rights and, at the same time, has smacked down federal agencies that have been riding roughshod over Western ranchers and property owners. Judge Jones said he found that “the government and the agents of the government in that locale, sometime in the ’70s and ’80s, entered into a conspiracy, a literal, intentional conspiracy, to deprive the Hages of not only their permit grazing rights, for whatever reason, but also to deprive them of their vested property rights under the takings clause, and I find that that’s a sufficient basis to hold that there is irreparable harm if I don’t … restrain the government from continuing in that conduct.” In fact, Judge Jones accused the federal bureaucrats of racketeering under the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations) statute, and accused them as well of extortion, mail fraud, and fraud, in an effort “to kill the business of Mr. Hage.” Notably, the court said, "The Government may not abuse its discretion in refusing to renew, or in revoking, a [grazing] privilege."  Significantly, the family will be under permanent injunctive relief and the government shall not reduce the Hage's permits by more than 25 percent for any period of time without the courts' consent, and never permanently.  Specifically, the court found, "The Government has abused its discretion in the present case through a series of actions designed to strip the [Hage] Estate of its grazing permits, and ultimately to strip Defendants of their ability to use their water rights." He explained, "Substantive due process protects individuals from arbitrary deprivation of their liberty by government."  The court further explained, "The Government cannot withdraw them (grazing permits) or refuse to renew them vindictively or for reasons totally unrelated to the merits of the application as governed by published laws and regulations, lest the Government abuse its executive power in a way that shocks the conscience."   Because of the government's refusal to consider any grazing applications from the Hages, the court found the subsequent "chain of events is the result of the Government's arbitrary denial of E. Wayne Hage's renewal permit for 1993-2003, and the effects of this due process violation is continuing."...more

Newly released emails show EPA director’s extensive use of fictional alter ego

Richard Windsor never existed at the EPA, but the agency awarded the fictional staffer’s email account certificates proving he had mastered all of the agency’s technology training — including declaring him a “scholar of ethical behavior,” according to documents disclosed late last week. was the controversial email alias used by former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who resigned earlier this year amid questions about whether her agency was complying with open-records laws. The new records — the latest in a series that EPA critics have pried loose under open-records requests — suggests Ms. Jackson used the alias even more widely than known, including taking required agency computer training under the fake identity. “At least her alter ego was up on the law and ethics of federal record-keeping,” said Christopher Horner, the researcher and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who made the open-records request that pushed EPA to release the certificates. Mr. Horner first revealed the existence of the alternate addresses last year in his book “The Liberal War on Transparency,” and since then has pushed for more disclosure about the practice. In a set of emails released to Mr. Horner earlier this year Ms. Jackson appeared to using the email to pretend she really was Windsor. Mr. Horner argues that the secondary email matters because it wasn’t clear that EPA was searching those records in response to open-records requests for Ms. Jackson’s emails. Mr. Horner said that EPA didn’t really begin to produce emails from the Richard Windsor account until after he exposed that address...more

Republicans take aim at 'sue and settle' agreements

The Utility MACT rule, regional haze regulations, proposed endangered species protection for the lesser prairie chicken: All are the products of court settlement agreements between federal agencies and environmental groups. Republicans have dubbed the practice "sue and settle," wherein outside groups sue a government agency and then negotiate a settlement that sets rulemaking requirements. This week, two House panels will hold hearings on the issue, as part of a broader effort to pass legislation requiring more transparency during the process. The "Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act" would force agencies to publish proposed consent decrees and settlement agreements for public comment before they are filed with the court. Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the bill would also require agencies to report to Congress on their use of such agreements. Republicans say it would help close a back door that environmentalists use to circumvent the rulemaking process, while Democrats and environmentalists argue that the lawsuits are a legitimate way to ensure agencies are following the law...more

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell casts for young converts in fishing expedition

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell distributed night crawlers Monday morning among a group of excited Washington middle school students; many had never been fishing before. Some baited their hooks skittishly, while others couldn’t get their lines in the water fast enough. Jewell was celebrating National Fishing and Boating Week, highlighting conservation and outdoor recreation by going fishing with more than 200 students from the surrounding metro area on Washington’s Anacostia River. Fishing is growing in popularity in the United States. In 2011, 33.1 million people went fishing, an increase of 3.1 million people from the previous survey in 2006, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fishing accounted for $41.8 billion in outdoors expenditures in 2011, according to the survey. Even so, Jewell said, many youths haven’t experienced much time in nature...more

Land buy near Taos to provide access to monument

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing new routes into the Río Grande del Norte National Monument after procuring an adjacent acreage. According to information from the Trust for Public Land, that organization bought 78 acres at the end of County Road 110 from the First National Bank of New Mexico and sold it to the BLM. “We are thrilled with this latest acquisition, which adds a key parcel to one of our most cherished landscapes, the ‘Taos Valley Overlook,’” New Mexico State BLM Director Jesse Juen is quoted as saying in an announcement from the Trust. “The parcel will also provide the public a future trailhead and wonderful access into a portion of the newly designated (National Monument).” President Obama used his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate the 242,555-acre monument in March, after legislative efforts to create the Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area stalled in Congress. Federal attempts to create wilderness areas around the Río San Antonio and Ute Mountain continue. According to the Trust announcement, the 78-acre parcel cost $780,000. The money came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is funded through fees paid by offshore drilling companies...more


Monument at stake in central Idaho

Backers of a proposed national monument for the Boulder and White Cloud mountains east of Stanley and north of Sun Valley want to make sure it's the right size and has the right federal agency to give the region the focused "showcase management" it deserves. But as the Obama administration undertakes a review of a possible monument designation, just how much of the 500,000-acre roadless area in central Idaho would be included in the proposed monument and how it would be managed remain open questions. In a visit to Boise last month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed to Chimney Rock, a 4,700-acre archeological site in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado designated by Obama as a monument, as a model for decision-making that involves all stakeholders. Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor Becky Nourse pointed to Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska as an example of how the U.S. Forest Service has addressed monument-management issues. Craig Gehrke, Wilderness Society regional representative in Boise, said Obama should consider including the entire 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area in a new monument. Idaho Recreation Council Executive Director Sandra Mitchell doesn't see the need for any changes, but she knows the political reality: Whatever is chosen needs only President Obama's signature to become law under the 1906 Antiquities Act...more

Federal judge says Forest Service must consider critical habitat designations in regional forest plan guidance for lynx

The U.S. Forest Service has once again been called out for failing to live up to its legal obligations to protect endangered species, this time by a federal judge in Montana, who ruled last week that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a regional forest plan amendment. Dana L. Christensen, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the State of Montana, ordered the Forest Service to re-initiate consultation, but did not block any specific projects on the affected forests, saying that plaintiffs couldn’t show any “irreparable harm.” The Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did formally address the lynx amendment with a consultation starting in 2005, ending with a finding that the lynx amendment wouldn’t jeopardize lynx across the northern Rockies — but that was before the fish and wildlife service designated critical habitat for the wild cats. The USFWS finalized a critical habitat designation in 2009, covering lands on 11 national forests in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, including lynx habitats. Conservation groups raised concerns that that lynx amendment and the critical habitat designation didn’t mesh and later sued the Forest Service for failing to start a new consultation process with the USFWS...more

New Mexico Man in Trouble for Selling Elephant Tusks

A businessman from New Mexico has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pensacola, Florida for the illegal sale of two African elephant tusks. Charles Kokesh is alleged to have imported a sport-hunted African elephant trophy mount from Namibia in a legal manner, but then illegally removing the tusks to sell them to a buyer in Florida. Kokesh is charged with violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act for removing and selling the trophy’s tusks and for “making false accounts of wildlife related to that sale” to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...more

Monday, June 03, 2013

USFWS Seeks Proposals from States & Tribes for Wolf-Livestock Demonstration Grants

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites submission of grant proposals from eligible states and Native American tribes for demonstration projects intended to reduce and address the impact of wolves on livestock operations. The agency will award approximately $850,000 in two categories: Prevention Grants that assist livestock producers in undertaking proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss due to predation by wolves, and Compensation Grants that reimburse livestock producers for livestock losses caused by wolves. “The Wolf-Livestock Demonstration Project Grants Program is a tool for coordinating with state and tribal governments to reduce conflicts where gray wolves and livestock operations overlap,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. Grant amounts will be contingent upon the quality and number of proposals received. Qualifying projects must include a 50 percent non-federal cost share, which may be cash or a third-party, in-kind contribution, such as volunteer efforts and donations of goods or services. Qualifying livestock includes cattle, swine, horses, mules, sheep, goats, livestock guard animals and other domestic animals. Proposals must be submitted to the appropriate Service regional offices by July 8, 2013...more

Interior Secretary Jewell announces renewable energy projects

A new large-scale renewable energy project is coming to Arizona. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Monday details of the Quartzsite Solar Project, and two other solar plants in Nevada. When built, Jewell said they are expected to generate enough electricity to power nearly 200,000 homes. “These projects are helping power our nation, strengthen our economy, and diversify our energy portfolio. This is one of the most important things we can do at Interior as we work toward a clean energy future, a low-carbon economy, and addressing the risks of climate change," Jewell said. Neil Kornze, Deputy Director of Interior's Bureau Land Management, said Arizona is the perfect place to build a renewable energy facility. "This is especially beneficial for Arizona, where peak electricity can continue after the sun goes down," said Kornze. "This means that this project can continue to put energy on the grid after twilight."...more

Federal Squatters - Employees set up gym in EPA warehouse

Contracted employees at an Environmental Protection Agency warehouse in Landover, Md., used surplus equipment to set up a gym and personal television spaces, a report by the agency inspector general released Monday said. The EPA inspector general found “multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces that included such items as televisions and exercise equipment” at the 70,000-square-foot warehouse, which the EPA leases for approximately $750,000 a year. EPA contracted Apex Logistics, LLC to maintain the warehouse, but according to the IG report, Apex employees spent more time on the bench rack than on the forklift...more

N.M. rancher: ‘It’s crazy dry’

GRADY — This is wheat and cattle country, where 18 inches of rain a year makes the prairie bloom. Even the roads here bow in respect to agriculture: Instead of running straight, they turn at right angles to make way for a patchwork of wheat fields and cattle pasture. Lane Grau drove me down one of those roads and then bounced us out into one of his pastures, where blue grama grass should be green and a few inches high in June. “I’m 51 years old. I was born here, and I’ve never lived anywhere else,” he told me. “And this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s crazy dry.” He grows a few hundred acres of organic wheat, but makes most of his payday from selling breeding stock of creamy white Charolais cattle. “That was my wheat crop,” Grau said as we passed a field of sparse stalks a few inches high. We were a little more than a dozen miles from the Texas Panhandle, where Curry and Quay counties meet, on the high eastern plains. When we got to the grazing pastures, Grau didn’t bother to close the gate behind us, because he no longer keeps any cows here. When he stopped the truck, got out and kneeled down on dirt, I could see why. The ground was pocked with short brown tufts of dry grass and patches of dark gray grass that flaked off under the kick of a boot toe. Staring in 2011, he said, his land has gotten about 5½ inches of moisture on average. Grau, who told me he doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, told me 2011 was a year of extremes like he’s never seen on his land. “We had the coldest ever — it got down to negative 18. We had the driest ever — I had less than 3½ inches. And we has the hottest ever — we were 57 days of over 100 degree temperature.” What Grau thought was the worst is now looking like it could be repeated. We stood under a bright blue sky around lunchtime, and the thermometer registered 95 degrees. He’s had less than an inch of rain in 2013...more

Apache County cites states' rights with Mexican Gray Wolf ordinance

Apache County Supervisors have passed an ordinance that prohibits state and federal government from releasing Mexican Gray Wolves in the county.  But the measure is drawing criticism from environmentalists who want to protect the threatened wolf species. The Apache County Board passed the ordinance this week after listening to hours of testimony from ranchers who complained the wolves are killing  their livestock. The county said it has the authority to ban reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolf under the 10th amendment of the constitution that addresses the rights of states and local government.  But, Michael Robinson with the Tucson-based environmental group The Center for Biological Diversity said the county ordinance can’t supersede the federal wolf reintroduction program. “This is another livestock industry attempt to attack the very vulnerable Mexican Wolves that are out there and to challenge the broad authority and responsibility of our federal government to conserve and eventually recover this endangered animal," Robinson said. Robinson said 75 Mexican Gray wolves currently live in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.  Apache County Supervisors have sent copies of their 11-page ordinance to Governor Jan Brewer, the state legislature and Congress. KJZZ

How Undercover Animal Rights Activists are Winning the Ag-Gag War

...Since the Internet first granted activists a direct pipeline to the public, groups like HSUS, MFA, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have waged guerrilla war via undercover video. Each time they've uploaded footage, Big Ag has struggled to explain away what Americans could see with their own eyes. Today, the guerrillas are winning. It doesn't seem to matter where the operatives have landed. Be it a slaughterhouse in Vermont or a pig farm in Wyoming, the videos portray factory farms to be "like something from Dante," Carlson says. According to one Kansas State University study, media attention to the welfare of livestock has reduced demand for poultry and pork. Last year, Big Ag decided to fight back. But not by playing a kinder, gentler game in search of better publicity. Instead, it sought to make criminals of the people exposing its underbelly...So Iowa decided to outlaw the likes of Cody Carlson. Last year, the state made it illegal to lie on a job application regarding association with an animal-rights group. It also banned the filming of farms without an owner's consent. The bill flew through the legislature in a matter of hours, effectively making exposing cruelty a greater crime than abuse itself. Those found guilty faced up to a year in jail, with felony charges for repeat offenses. After Iowa passed its law, Missouri and Utah followed, joining Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota, which had passed similar statutes two decades earlier, when a more violent strain of activists threatened arson at animal testing labs. Other "ag-gag" bills have since appeared on dockets in 10 states, from California to Florida. The bills tend to be variations of the Iowa law, combo platters of video bans and the criminalization of job-application lies. Most also mandate that anyone with evidence of abuse hand over the footage to police immediately—usually within a day or two...more