Thursday, July 11, 2013

Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers

A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s. The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California. They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains. And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.” “The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs. But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses. “Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home. “We lost everything.” Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible. Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation. To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment. But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land. “It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled. Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon. According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum: “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.” In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors. And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them. Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families. But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.” “That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said...more

Cattle grazing and clean water are compatible on public lands, new study finds

Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis.
The study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.
“There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.”
Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.
“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write.
“We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”
The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California.
These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus, and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander.
UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorous. 
The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health.
The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.
The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern.
The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.  Press Release
Read the study here.

How to save lives as wildfires intensify in Arizona and beyond?

“There has literally been an order-of-magnitude increase in the size of fires throughout the West, and in particular the occurrence of so-called mega fires – those that burn a half a million acres or more, and used to be extremely rare, but are now becoming more common,” says Don Falk, a professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and an expert in fire history. The fires, which are increasing in intensity and severity as well, are becoming more destructive. Along with the devastating loss of life at Yarnell Hill, this year has also seen the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history in terms of number of homes lost. More than 500 structures were destroyed in the Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs in June. The previous record in Colorado had been held by last year’s Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed almost 350 homes. “All signs are pointing that these are going to become more common events,” says Mitch Tobin, editor of, which tracks trends on a number of Western environmental issues, including fires. While fire activity varies year to year, tracking he’s done since 1987 shows that while the average number of wildfires in the West has remained relatively steady, the total number of acres burned and the size of fires have been climbing steadily. At the same time, the fires are increasing in intensity and severity...more

Forest Service demolishing 1860s Colo. mining community

The U.S. Forest Service is starting demolition work on one of the earliest mining communities on the west side of the Continental Divide. The Lincoln Townsite is an abandoned mining community east of Breckenridge in White River National Forest. The 1860s community was never platted or incorporated, but it existed through four minor booms and busts over the course of 50 years. The Forest Service says five structures will remain intact for further evaluation as possible historic sites. Officials plan to remove abandoned buildings, sheds and mining equipment and debris. The Forest Service says demolition will continue through early August. AP

 Destroy an industry, then tear down any remnant left. Yeah, that's the ticket. Bet there's folks in DC hoping soon they'll be "demolishing" fences, windmills, etc. 

Trees Using Water more efficiently Due to Carbon Dioxide Increase

Trees are using water more efficiently now than they did two decades back, according to a new study from Harvard University and the U.S. Forest Service. Researchers said that increased levels of carbon dioxide and lower levels of water in many parts of the world have increased the efficiency of water usage in trees. Plants use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via a process called photosynthesis, where they lose water through leaves. The ratio of water loss to fixed carbon is important to the water and carbon cycles of an ecosystem. Rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has already led to the greening of many deserts. Industry experts claim that rise in greenhouse gases will help woody trees more than the grasses. "What's surprising is we didn't expect the effect to be this big. A large proportion of the ecosystems in the world are limited by water. They don't have enough water during the year to reach their maximum growth. If they become more efficient at using water, they should be able to take more carbon out of the atmosphere due to higher growth rates," said Dr. Trevor F. Keenan Research Fellow, Macquarie University in Sydney, according to a news release...more

BLM conservation group has headquarters in Durango

The Conservation Lands Foundation is the neighbor who goes about business so unobtrusively that it requires a special introduction to make its presence known outside a tight circle of acquaintances. Headquartered in Durango since its founding in 2007, the foundation has branches in Phoenix; San Francisco; Reno, Nev.; Bozeman, Mont.; and Washington, D.C., no less. Ten of 17 staff members work and travel out of Durango. “We haven’t done a lot of publicity,” Executive Director Brian O’Donnell said in an interview Wednesday. “We just do our work.” Its work is to protect, restore and expand Bureau of Land Management holdings that have scenic, cultural, historical and wilderness attributes. So far, 28 million acres of the 200 million-plus acres managed by the BLM fall into the National Conservation Lands program established in 2000 by then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. Less than a handful of the conservation lands – in Florida and Alaska – are outside the western U.S. Residents of the Four Corners will find familiar names such as Canyons of the Ancients, Gunnison Gorge, Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and Vermilion Cliffs. Congress can set aside special conservation lands or the president can do the same through the Antiquities Act, O’Donnell said. President Bill Clinton created Canyons of the Ancients. Conservation is a new approach to resource management for the BLM, which in early years focused on development, O’Donnell said. “Our mission has changed,” he said. “Conservation is taking a bigger role.” The Conservation Lands Foundation receives no money from the BLM, which itself is a stepchild in the federal funding hierarchy, receiving $2.40 an acre for management, compared with $30.56 an acre spent on national parks. Foundation funding comes from grants, donations and partnerships, O’Donnell said. The foundation has built about 50 “friends” groups since 2007 among which it has distributed $3 million for projects, he said...more

UNLV Law Professor Named to Interior Department

A University of Nevada, Las Vegas law professor has been appointed as one of six deputy lawyers with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The university announced Tuesday that Bret Birdsong has been named a deputy solicitor for land resources. He and five other deputy solicitors will report to the Interior's top lawyer, Solicitor Hilary Tompkins. The assignment begins July 15. Birdsong will be leading a team of attorneys that advises the Bureau of Land Management on how to manage nearly 250 million acres of public land. He'll work on legal issues surrounding renewable energy, wilderness, livestock grazing and national monuments. Birdsong has been on the Boyd School of Law faculty since 2000 and teaches courses on natural resources law. Before that, he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice. AP

Randy Travis 'critical' after stroke, surgery

Randy Travis suffered a stroke and underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain Wednesday evening, his publicist said. "Mr. Randy Travis is out of surgery and in critical condition," the hospital website announced Wednesday night. The stroke is "a complication of his congestive heart failure" for which he is being treated at The Heart Hospital at Baylor Plano in Texas, Kirt Webster said. "We will have updates as they become available," Webster said. "His family and friends here with him at the hospital request your prayers and support." Word of his setback came just hours after his doctors said Travis had "stabilized and he has shown signs of improvement." The country singer was initially hospitalized Sunday at Baylor Medical Center at McKinney, Texas, "with a presumptive cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure," Dr. William Gray said. Travis, 54, was transferred to The Heart Hospital at Baylor Plano in Texas on Monday, Dr. Michael Mack said...more

Song Of The Day #1051

Eddy Arnold - I Want A Full Time Job (1952)
Available on Eddy Arnold - There's Been A Change In Me
7 cd Box Set, Bear Family Records

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The West is burning

Spring Mountains of Nevada

by John N. MacClean

The West is burning: Does anybody east of the Mississippi River care?
It takes an event like the Yellowstone Park fires of 1988, the fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado in 1994 that took 14 firefighter lives, or the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona that killed 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30 to focus the entire nation's attention on fire in the West.
Let's not lose this moment. What lessons should the nation take from the disaster in Arizona?
The loss of the 19 Hotshots is another example, and a horrible one, of how wildland fire has become more dangerous and destructive, and likely will get worse in the years ahead. Fire seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer. States set new records each year for destruction of property and acreage burned. Many more homeowners and others are in harm's way. Federal agencies are drawing down fire prevention funds to pay for fire suppression, which means a worse problem in the future.
As historic wildfires raged the past several years, the U.S. Forest Service tilted its budget toward preparedness and suppression — the latter getting a 27 percent increase in the Obama administration's 2014 budget. Fuel-reduction programs have suffered, however, with funding being reduced in this category by 37 percent, to $201 million...
Fire is part of western living, a lurking threat in the collective psyche, like grizzly bears and mountain lions. Everybody has a relative or knows someone who fights fire. You don't drive far without seeing a Hotshot or Forest Service rig. The crew members look young and fit and awfully grown up.
Voices from the fire line tell us, again and again, "These are the most extreme fire conditions we've ever seen."

U.S. Forest Service plans to transition away from old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service says it will back away from logging old growth in the country’s biggest national forest — Alaska’s 17-million acre Tongass — but not until after completing the  already approved Big Thorne timber sale.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack the agency’s plan to to conserve the old-growth forests by speeding the transition to management of second-growth forests. Vilsack said the goal is to increase second-growth timbers until they make up the vast majority of logging projects withing 10 to 15 years. Read the full memorandum here.  A persistent challenge on the Tongass National Forest has been low availability of second growth timber for use by the forest industry, making a transition away from old growth timber difficult. Flexibility, like that provided in the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, recently passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is critical to making second growth forest available for timber harvest...more

Park Service wants curbs on Montana wolf hunt

A proposal to relax gray wolf hunting and trapping rules in Montana got a cool reception from Yellowstone National Park administrators who said Monday the move appears to be aimed at substantially reducing the population of the animals in the park. Wolves regularly cross from the hunting-free safe haven of Yellowstone into Montana, where wildlife officials want to drive down pack numbers in response to complaints about the predators from ranchers and big game hunters. Montana wildlife commissioners are scheduled on Wednesday to take final action on proposals to lengthen the wolf season, increase the bag limit and set quotas around the park. Park administrators complained Monday that some of the changes would make it too easy to target wolves that live primarily in Yellowstone. The move to loosen hunting and trapping rules was driven in part by the Montana Legislature. Lawmakers last session passed a measure increasing the number of wolves that could be taken by individual hunters and trappers and prohibiting the formation of a no-hunting buffer zone around Yellowstone. In response to the concerns raised by Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and others, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said Monday that the agency is recommending revisions to the original wolf hunting proposal tentatively adopted in May. The changes include a bag limit of just one wolf per person in areas adjacent to the park and an increase in the area where quotas will apply...more

Come on Montana, give them a taste of their own medicine...ignore everything they say.

New monuments join National Park System this summer

It's a kind of familiar ritual of summer: pack up the family and head out for the great American road trip -- maybe to camp and visit some of our national parks and monuments. This summer, there are a couple of new additions to the national park system you might consider seeing. Joan Anzelmo, of the National Park Service Retirees group, said three new parks were added to the National Park System in time for this summer: Charles Young Buffalo Soldier’s National Monument in Ohio, First State National Monument in Delaware, and Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland. In addition, San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in the Taos Plateau were also added to the Bureau of Land Management system, she said. The three new parks all share in common that they celebrate people and ideas, rather than places. The Buffalo Soldier monument, for example, pays tribute to the African Americans who served in the Union Army during and after the Civil War, while the Harriet Tubman museum captures the history of the underground railroad, which brought slaves to freedom in the north before slavery was abolished. And the first state monument is a tribute to Delaware's status as the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787...more

A national monument for the White Clouds?

Hiking up Ryan or Castle peak in the White Cloud Mountains is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences. In all directions, the view across miles of largely untouched magnificent mountains, lakes and forests is unparalleled and certainly deserves to remain unspoiled. As the Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s leading nonprofit advocate, the Sawtooth Society for many years has supported efforts to provide appropriate long-term protection for the Boulder-White Clouds. Like others who spent much of the past 10 years working closely with Congressman Mike Simpson to obtain such protection, the Sawtooth Society is disappointed Congress has failed to provide permanent wilderness protection for such a deserving area. And, in view of Congressional inaction, we appreciate the recent discussions regarding a new approach—seeking protection through a Presidential Proclamation declaring the area a national monument. As those familiar with this area of law know, no set rules exist on what a Presidential Proclamation creating a national monument can contain and a proclamation can have very broad, and unexpected, impact...more

Sawtooth Society: Don’t rush national monument

The nonprofit Sawtooth Society said it could support a national monument designation for the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains if the presidential proclamation to make the designation explicitly preserves the existing law to protect and manage the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The group—which works to preserve and protect the vast recreation area north of Ketchum—said the process for considering monument status should take into account the legitimate interests of all SNRA stakeholders, be open and transparent, and done in a way that accomplishes the desired goals lawfully and effectively. “The idea of creating a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument is completely understandable given Congress’ inability to pass wilderness legislation for the area,” said Sawtooth Society President Paul Hill. “However, the ‘devil is in the details’ and the public is entitled to protective provisions that the establishment of a monument would not create adverse and unintended consequences for the Sawtooth NRA that could result from hasty or ill-conceived action.” Hill said groups proposing national monument status for the Boulder-White Clouds have not publicly explained what specifically they want to accomplish, other than to provide some form of long-term protection of the area. Among the unknowns, he said, are the proposed boundaries, restrictions on public use and access, and the impact on the existing SNRA...more

Traveler's Five Picks For New National Parks

Creating national parks doesn't happen every day. Lately, it seems the quickest way to create one is to legislatively redesignate a national monument as a national park. Here are five picks from the Traveler for new national parks. We offer up these nominees without consideration to fiscal impact because once you start to consider the costs -- mainly economic costs, but also political -- the possible can become impossible. With that understood, we view the following locations as truly spectacular places that should be preserved for future generations...more

  Wyoming, Idaho, Maine, California-Oregon and Utah should get ready.

U.S. Senate unanimously approves Wyoming Attorney General for 10th Circuit

Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips sailed through his U.S. Senate confirmation on a unanimous 88-0 vote Monday to earn a seat on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver. Both of Wyoming's U.S. Senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, spoke on the Senate floor in support of the nomination of the 52-year-old former Evanston resident. “I can personally attest to Mr. Phillips’ qualifications to serve as a federal judge,” Enzi said, according to a release from his office. “Greg was on the Senate Judiciary Committee when we served together in the Wyoming Legislature. On the Senate floor, we sat across from each other.” Phillips represented Uinta County as a Democrat in the Wyoming Senate. His nomination by Republican-elected officials, despite the difference in political parties, was cited as an indicator of his qualifications to be a judge and the respect he has in the legal community. The Denver-based 10th Circuit covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Yellowstone National Park...more

Secession fever cools, rural Colorado looks to retool representation

Fervor for a plan to carve northeastern Colorado into a 51st state has been cooled by legal barriers and a lack of public support, but commissioners from rural counties say they're not done fighting for better representation of their citizens. Secession remained on the table during a Monday afternoon meeting of nearly 20 commissioners from Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld and Yuma counties, as well as administrators and interested residents. However, the counties now are contemplating the Phillips County Proposal, which would change the way state House districts are represented at the Capitol. The plan, offered by Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer, would have representatives elected by county, rather than by population. "Rural residents are now a disenfranchised minority of Colorado," Schafer said. "National and urban values and needs are trumping rural values and needs." Schafer said the new proposal faces its own legal hurdles. He cited Reynolds vs. Sims, a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled state legislative districts must be equal in population. Garcia and Cheyenne County Commissioner Rod Pelton favored remaining focused on secession. While it is possible that a secession question could be placed on the fall general election ballot, Pelton said he worries that another legislative session unfavorable to rural counties will have come and gone by the time a concrete plan from the Phillips Proposal is put together. One thing seemed to be unanimous among commissioners and residents alike: Change of some kind is necessary...more

Song Of The Day #1050

Gene Autry - As Long As I've Got My Horse
Recorded in Los Angeles, June 22, 1938
78 rpm, Vocalion 4246

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Feds warn of early end to Rio Grande irrigation

Federal water managers on Tuesday warned that the irrigation season for farmers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley soon will be over. The flow between Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs ended Monday, meaning the shortest irrigation season in the history of the Rio Grande Project quickly will be coming to an end. The Bureau of Reclamation said no further releases were scheduled, and the Rio Grande south of Elephant Butte was expected to start drying up. "We're breaking all the records now of the 1950s and the '60s droughts. It's just not a good year," said Gary Esslinger, manager of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. "We do have some signs of the monsoons starting but nothing that's been any significant help to us." Reservoirs around the state have been shrinking due to a stubborn drought that has plagued New Mexico for the past three years. In fact, the latest federal maps show no other place in the country is dealing with as much exceptional drought as New Mexico. Elephant Butte, the state's largest reservoir, has reached a historic 40-year low, according to federal water managers. The reservoir's level stands at just 3 percent of its total storage capacity...more

Read more here:

Baby alien missing from standing mural in Roswell - video

The UFO Festival over the weekend in Roswell was supposed to bring in a lot of business, but it brought in a thief as well. About seven miles outside of Roswell there’s a mural painted by John Cerney out of California. "All of his murals run between $30-35,000,” said Dorrie Faubus-McCarty, the director of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce. But this one was a gift to Roswell, serving as a reminder of the event that the city has become known for, the UFO that allegedly crashed 66 years ago Monday. "Everyday people stop by and look at it," said Allen Holloway, who runs an oil and trucking business across the street. The mural has been quite a catch, attracting the tourists coming in especially for the UFO Festival. "They hop the fence, they take pictures with their family," said Holloway. But the anniversary isn’t all that Roswell had hoped for because this alien family is missing a member. Between Friday evening and Saturday morning the baby mural was stolen...more

Here's the KOB report:

Report: 3 of 4 U.S. Forest Service trails fail to meet standards

A new federal report says only one-quarter of U.S. Forest Service trails meet the agency’s own standards as it attempts to catch up with a $524 million maintenance deficit. Volunteer groups like the Backcountry Horsemen of America and The Wilderness Society have stepped into that gap, but they worry the backlog will drive folks out of the woods. “We found problems with trail maintenance was undermining support for wilderness and public land in general,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns for The Wilderness Society. “They go there and find trails aren’t maintained, and they can’t access places they want to get to. That’s not what people expect when they go visit public lands. We need to get a handle on this problem and figure out some solutions. If we don’t, we’re in danger of losing the public.” Those two groups petitioned members of Congress to look into the matter, since the last similar study was done in 1989. U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Jim Moran, D-Va., officially requested the study. The Government Accountability Office report released on June 27 found the Forest Service did some maintenance on 37 percent of its 158,000 miles of trail in fiscal 2012. But it estimated another $314 million in deferred maintenance remained on the to-do list, along with $210 million in unfinished annual maintenance, capital improvements and operations. In its recommendations, the GAO called for closer work with volunteers to get projects done...more

And yet, Congress continues to appropriate more dollars for land acquisition (Simpson chairs the Interior Subcommittee on Appropriations) when they can't manage what they have.

This year for land acquisition the Forest Service requested $177 million, the Park Service $100 million and the BLM $49 million.

And why aren't the volunteer efforts more effective?

But even volunteer work costs money. Before Himmel can mount a Backcountry Horsemen work party, the Forest Service has to get them certified in first aid, chain saw use and other necessary skills. If the project takes place in designated wilderness, that may require training in traditional tools like cross-cut saws. The agency also often provides food, fuel and other supplies for the volunteers to use. The GAO report identified that as a potential reason for the maintenance backlog. It noted “certain agency policies and procedures complicate trail maintenance efforts, such as the agency’s lack of standardized training in trails field skills, which limits agency expertise."

If you really want their help, change the damn policy and procedures.

U.S. well sites in 2012 discharged more than Valdez

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter

It went up orange, a gas-propelled geyser that rose 100 feet over the North Dakota prairie.

But it was oil, so it came down brown. So much oil that when they got the well under control two days later, crude dripped off the roof of a house a half-mile away.

"It had a pretty good reach," said Dave Drovdal, who owns the land where the Bakken Shale oil well, owned by Newfield Exploration Co., blew out in December near Watford City, N.D. "The wind was blowing pretty good. Some of it blew 2 miles."

It was one of the more than 6,000 spills and other mishaps reported at onshore oil and gas sites in 2012, compiled in a months-long review of state and federal data by EnergyWire.

That's an average of more than 16 spills a day. And it's a significant increase since 2010. In the 12 states where comparable data were available, spills were up about 17 percent.

Drilling activity in those states, though, rose 40 percent during that time.

More common than the Newfield blowout are 100-gallon leaks that are contained to the well site and get cleaned up the same day.

But together they add up to at least 15.6 million gallons of oil, fracking fluid, wastewater and other liquids reported spilled at production sites last year. That's more than the volume of oil that leaked from the shattered hull of the Exxon Valdez in 1989. About 11 million gallons gushed from that ship.

And 15.6 million gallons is almost certainly an undercount, because reports in drilling-heavy states such as Colorado, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania often exclude spill amounts. That figure also doesn't include spills from interstate pipelines or offshore wells.

Companies reported that at least one-third of the spill volume from well sites was recovered.

Key wildlife refuge hit hard in Klamath Basin's water wars

Normally, the honks and calls of thousands of ducks, grebes and egrets clustering at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge make it hard to talk over the racket. But conversation is easy this summer. The only sounds at the bird-watching deck come from trucks on the distant highway and a few twittering songbirds. The 54,000-acre refuge at the Oregon-California border hasn't had water delivered since March. The canals that supply it are empty. And the marshes for waterfowl traveling the Pacific Flyway have largely dried up, marking the earliest dry date in 70 years. In the Klamath Basin, the drought-year casualty reports typically focus on farmers, ranchers, tribes or salmon and suckers on the endangered species list. Ron Cole, who has managed the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's extensive Klamath refuge system for 10 years, wishes the birds would get more air time. "You have absolutely carved out the heart of the Pacific Flyway when you dry up the Klamath refuge," says Cole, who stresses that he's speaking as an individual, not for the Fish and Wildlife Service...more

Sage Grouse habitat challenged

A conservation group is asking a federal judge to set aside federal land managers’ plans to remove sagebrush, pinion pines and junipers across a large swath of public lands in eastern Nevada. The Western Watersheds Project contends that the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to mow, chop, burn and poison sagebrush in Cave and Lake valleys south of Ely will harm habitat for imperiled sage grouse and other wildlife. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho, last month because it’s a companion to a bigger lawsuit challenging the BLM’s management plans for 16 separate areas across the West. The Idaho-based watersheds project argues that the Ely-area plan affecting 145,000 acres will cause a cheat-grass invasion and fragment the range for the benefit of livestock in what Nevada wildlife officials call “essential and irreplaceable Greater sage-grouse habitat.” Sage grouse mainly eat sagebrush, while nonnative cheat grass has been blamed for fueling major wildfires across the West. BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency has a policy of not commenting on lawsuits. BLM officials have said their watershed restoration plan for Cave and Lake valleys is designed to reduce the potential for major wildfires and to improve habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife over the long run...more

A New Era for Public Lands: Feds Halt Mining Claims in Solar Areas

In a long-anticipated move intended to streamline building of utility-scale solar projects on public lands, a federal agency has barred new mining claims on about 475 square miles of federal lands in the southwestern United States. The ban on new mining claims will last for 20 years. The move, annonced Friday by the Bureau of Land Management, is technically known as a "withdrawal," a move that restricts certain uses of land that had formerly been managed for multiple uses. Withdrawals are often used to set aside land for military use, conventional energy production, or even wilderness protection: to ReWire's knowledge, this is the first such withdrawal with the aim of making it easier to build solar power facilities. The withdrawal, which is essentially a formal recognition of an informal ban on new mining claims, affects 303,900 acres of BLM land in 17 solar zones in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. Those solar zones were established in October 2012 by the Interior Department's Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement; the majority of the land designated as developable for solar in that document is in California's Riverside East Solar Energy Zone, whose 147,910 acres of land deemed "developable" for solar is more than that in all the other 16 solar zones combined. The BLM's withdrawal comes in response to fears that spurious mining claims might be filed as ways to slow the progress of solar projects, or to leverage the claim to seek financial rewards from solar developers...more

BLM approves New Mexico natural gas pipeline project

The federal government gave the green light to a proposal to build 234 miles of pipeline to transport natural gas liquids from one corner of New Mexico to the other and ultimately to markets in South Texas. The Bureau of Land Management’s approval of the Western Expansion Pipeline III project cames just a week after President Barack Obama unveiled his plan for combating climate change, part of which included boosting the role of natural gas in energy production. News of the pipeline’s approval encouraged oil and gas developers in New Mexico, which is home to portions of both the Permian and San Juan basins. The $320 million project will transport natural gas liquid products from northwestern New Mexico to a hub in Hobbs in the southeastern corner of the state and ultimately to Texas to help meet existing and future demand. With production increasing in the San Juan Basin and in the Rocky Mountains, Mid-America Pipeline Co.’s existing system is nearing capacity. Currently, the system can transport about 275,000 barrels per day, but more wells are going into production in New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. With the new pipeline through New Mexico, Mid-America said its capacity would be boosted to about 350,000 barrels per day. The new pipeline will follow an existing corridor across a dozen New Mexico counties and connect to adjacent and parallel pipelines through a network of valves. The system will cross a combination of BLM land, Navajo and Zia Pueblo lands as well as state and private lands...more

Song Of The Day #1049

Carl Smith - Doggone it, Baby I'm In Love
Recorded in 1953
Available on 5 cd Box Set, Carl Smith - Satisfaction Guaranteed
Bear Family Records

Hard drive crash? PC stolen? No problem!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Jimmy R. Bason 1935-2013

Jimmy R. Bason, 78, Hillsboro, passed away on July 2, 2013 at his home following complications with a broken hip. Jimmy was born on April 26, 1935 in El Paso, Texas to Irene (Godwin) and Rod O. Bason. He was reared and attended schools in Mesilla and Las Cruces, NM.

He graduated from New Mexico A & M in 1958 with a degree in Animal Science. He married Sue Carter and had three children. Jimmy served in the Air Force as a Navigator from 1958 to 1963. After being discharged from the Air Force, he returned to New Mexico to pursue ranching. He and his partner, Rob Cox, formed the F Cross Ranch west of Hillsboro, NM.

Jimmy was extremely active in the ranching industry and rural issues. He served 29 years on the Sierra Electric Coop Board, including 11 years as president as well as time on the Tri State GNT Board and the Federated Insurance Board. He was a long-time member of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, serving 10 years in leadership including President Elect, Cattleman of the Year, and represented all of agriculture as a lobbyist in the New Mexico Legislature. As President from 1999 to 2001 his accomplishments included building a network among New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Mexico's state of Chihuahua. He was an expert in tax matters and was instrumental in many pieces of legislation to protect ranchers and rural residents

In 2003 he married Pat Grimes. She moved from Carlsbad to the ranch in Hillsboro. Jimmy is survived by his wife, Pattilu; children - Stacy A. Bason of Tularosa, NM; R. Brent Bason of Hillsboro, NM; and Danielle S. Hudson (Damien) of Phoenix, AZ; as well as their mother, Sue, and nine grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Mary Moore (Rex), of Las Cruces, NM.

Cremation will take place and a Memorial Celebration Service will be held on Friday, July 12, 2013, at 2:00 P.M. at the Hillsboro Community Center with Rev. Russell Bowen officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Cattlegrowers' Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 7517, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87194.

Arrangements are by Kirikos Funeral Home, 303 N. Cedar St., Truth or Consequences, New Mexico 87901. 

In our opinion: Sally Jewell saying the right things

Newly appointed U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's speech before the Western Governor's Association in Park City recently hit all the right notes. She called for balance in the federal government's approach to land management, and she stated that there is an "appetite in the federal government to work with state governments to thoughtfully manage our land."

This approach included a promise that the Obama administration would not designate any new national monuments without consulting with local and state governments, alleviating worries that President Obama is planning to blindside Utah the way President Clinton did with the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly two decades ago.

Thematically, at least, Secretary Jewell seems to understand the needs and concerns of Utah in a way her predecessor did not. At the same time, amiable rhetoric cannot compensate for heavy-handed federal overreach, and despite the secretary's assurances that the Department of the Interior and Utah state government will do their best to "understand each other," there remains tremendous fodder for skepticism.

Consider, for instance, the president's renewed focus on executive action combating climate change, which will likely stifle attempts to accelerate shale oil production across the state. And as Jewell continually stressed the importance of balance and multiple use, she also downplayed the role of oil and natural gas in favor of tourism and recreation. While those are undeniably vital components of any land management strategy, they also are not the elements of multiple use that have come under fire in recent years. Easing opposition to expanded energy development in Utah would provide practical evidence that these renewed calls to cooperate with localities are more than just lip service.

It's also important to note that if they expect the Obama administration to be more flexible, some Utah lawmakers will need to temper their impulses to cut the federal government entirely out of the loop. Given that more than two-thirds of this state consists of federal land, it's foolhardy to believe Utah has the authority to override Washington. Making this relationship work will require genuine compromise instead of fiery speeches. Legislators should look for accommodation rather than confrontation.

Look at what the Deseret News is trying to do: compromise vs fiery speeches, accommodation vs confrontation. 

Have the editors looked at the last time compromise and accommodation were tried?  During the original Sagebrush Rebellion many Western states were passing legislation claiming ownership of the lands and yes, giving fiery speeches.  Then Reagan was elected President, Jim Watt became Secretary of Interior and "compromise" and "accommodation" took place.

Now here we are 30 years later and what good did it do us?  The feds are back stomping the life out of every commodity produced from the land, ignoring comments from state and local governments and siding with anything which has the word "green" in it.  

Why on earth would we want to repeat the same mistake that was made in the 80's?

Does the War Between Ranchers and Native Predators Need to Go On? video

Wild Things, an award-winning film produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council, explores the age-old battle between ranchers and wild predators and questions whether this battle really need go on. The film is basically a polemic against the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program that kills tens of thousands of native carnivores, including coyotes and wolves, by brutal means such as poisoning, aerial gunning, and trapping.  The program is given millions of taxpayer dollars each year to kill animals at the request of ranchers and state wildlife management agencies.  The film shows how the actions taken to eradicate these wild predators are not cost-effective and certainly not humane.  Using the evidence of science to back its claim, Wild Things makes the point that the brutality used to capture and kill these animals is unnecessary. While it's true that wild carnivores can be a threat to livestock, they also play an important role in keeping ecosystems healthy. And it is actually possible for us to coexist with wildlife. To present its case against top predator killing, the documentary includes a spectrum of speakers, from scientists and conservationists to former Wildlife Services trappers, who support alternative means of protection against predators. It also introduces viewers to progressive ranchers who learning to use new technology and old animal husbandry practices in order to live more harmoniously with their traditional enemies...more

Grab a bag of popcorn, sit back in your favorite chair and enjoy this fun-filled video.  Better save some of that popcorn to throw at your screen.

Here's the trailer:

American Farm Bureau Federation Files Suit to Protect Farmers’ Privacy

Protecting farmers’ and ranchers’ right to privacy is a top priority, said the American Farm Bureau Federation, which took legal action today to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from publicly releasing personal information about thousands of farmers and ranchers and their families. EPA is expected to respond to several Freedom of Information Act requests this week, prompting AFBF to file a lawsuit and seek a temporary restraining order before the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. By seeking an immediate court order stopping EPA’s imminent release, AFBF hopes to stall disclosures of farmers’ and ranchers’ names, home addresses, GPS coordinates and personal contact information until a court can clarify EPA’s obligation to keep personal information about citizens private. The National Pork Producers Council joined AFBF in the lawsuit. “We are sticking up for the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers whose personal information would end up in the public domain,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This lawsuit is about the government’s unjustified intrusion into citizens’ private lives.” Earlier this year the farming and ranching community was shocked that EPA released personal information about thousands of livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers in 29 states in response to FOIA requests from three environmental organizations. The massive data release contained tens of thousands of lines in spreadsheets often including home phone numbers, home emails, employee contact information, home addresses and in some cases personal notes about the families. EPA had required state regulatory agencies to provide the agency with this information, which it then publicly released in its entirety. EPA has taken the position with AFBF and others that it has no legal obligation under FOIA to keep most of the information private. Now, in response to new FOIA requests, EPA intends to release additional personal information from farmers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington. According to AFBF, the majority of farmers and ranchers, as well as their families, don’t just work on the farm – they live there, too. By turning over farmers’ names and addresses for public consumption, EPA is inviting intrusion into the privacy of farmers and their families on a nationwide scale...more

Project threatens farms, ranches

An unknown number of unfortunate Idaho farm and ranch families are about to learn the meaning of the phrase "Step back and let the big dogs eat." Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power are preparing to create a right-of-way across southern Idaho to accommodate a massive power transmission corridor called Gateway West. We all need power and infrastructure upgrades are necessary. However, the proposed route of this 250-foot-wide, 990-mile-long project will come at a significant cost to many landowners. Over 700 miles of the project is slated to cross private land. In spite of the fact that 63 percent of Idaho is controlled by the federal government and ample amounts of that public land are available for this and projects like it, the utilities are planning on taking the path of least resistance -- in other words, private land. The cheapest, easiest, most efficient route provides the utility companies and their shareholders with the optimum return on their investment. It's much easier for the utility companies in the process of purchasing a right of way to insist on confidential negotiations with single landowners and bully them with the threat of eminent domain than it is to deal with the federal government and all its encumbrances, not the least of which is the Endangered Species Act...more

Another blessing of federal land.  As more federal land is set aside as Wilderness, National Monuments, etc. this will repeat itself across the west.

Follow a ranch family's 3-day cattle drive

For generations, Cameron Bros. Ranches has driven its cattle along narrow Klickitat County highways in a grassland valley between the Columbia River and Mount Adams. Only a handful of long-distance cattle drives still occur in Washington state, said Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association. That includes the recently completed Cameron Bros. drive, a three-day affair that moved a herd of about 600 — mostly cows and calves — from High Prairie to their summer pastures in the Simcoe Mountains. “We could put them on a semi and haul them, but aside from being more expensive, that would not be near as fun or satisfying,” said longtime rancher Brad Cameron. A handful of friends woke as early as 3 a.m. to help on horseback or manage support trucks. Steadily and slowly, the sea of riders and cattle streamed past pioneer wagon trails, abandoned one-room schoolhouses and scrub-oak forests. Seventy-year-old cowboys rode alongside young ranch hands who texted down the trail. Brad Cameron, 49, has participated in his family’s cattle drive since age 3. He doesn’t recall when the tradition began, but said his family homesteaded and established the ranch in 1903...more

Go here for an interesting set of pictures.

This is one of my favorites.  Notice the government is nosing around everywhere, even a cattle drive.

Song Of The Day #1048

Bob Wills - Don't Count Your Chickens
Recorded July 23, 1941
Available on 13 cd Box Set, Bob Wills - San Antonio Rose
Bear Family Records

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Wildfire ash poses risks for some NM farmers

Recent rains have given some relief to farmers in the Middle Rio Grande Valley of north-central New Mexico, but thunderstorms also have washed wildfire ash into the upper end of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District system in southern New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reports flash floods from the area burned by the Silver Fire in the Gila National Forest washed ash into the Rio Grande. Water managers issued a warning to downstream water users because of the risk the ash could clog farmers' drip irrigation systems and municipal treatment plants. Farmers installed drip irrigation to conserve water during the drought. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which serves farmers from Cochiti to Socorro County, released the last of its irrigation water from storage in El Vado Reservoir at midday June 30. With that water gone, the only water in the Rio Grande downstream from Cochiti Dam is federal water to meet Endangered Species Act requirements for the Rio Grande silvery minnow and water earmarked for Pueblo irrigators, who have earlier and higher-priority water rights. The conservancy district notified farmers Tuesday that it was cutting off deliveries to non-Indian farmers after July 4. The only way that will change, according to the district's announcement to its farmers, is if enough rain falls to raise river flows to allow irrigation with natural flows. While the week of afternoon and evening storms has helped slow the river's decline, there has not yet been enough water for the district to resume deliveries to non-Indian farmers. Downstream, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District continues to release the last of its irrigation water from Elephant Butte Reservoir. That is currently expected to end Saturday, according to Phil King, water management consultant to the irrigation district. Releases of Elephant Butte water for New Mexico and Texas farmers and cities since June 1 has drained Elephant Butte Reservoir to its lowest levels since the summer of 1972, according to Bureau of Reclamation records. The nearly depleted reservoir stands at 3 percent of its total capacity. The last time the reservoir was full was in 1995...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Cowboy Christmas, also known as the rodeo season

by Julie Carter

By the time you read this, America will have just celebrated her 237th birthday. Rodeo cowboys across the country began a week or more ago observing the holiday in their own traditional way called "Cowboy Christmas."

The summer holiday rodeo season is one of the circuit's richest weeks of the year with at least 35 professional rodeos and several hundred open rodeos held annually to celebrate America's independence.
Cowboys and cowgirls will try to get to as many rodeos as they can in a weeklong period by driving and flying (and sometimes not in a plane) from one rodeo to the next, competing day and night for more prize money than is offered any other time of year.

The name rodeo comes from the Spanish word "rodear" which means to encircle or to surround. To the Spanish, when they arrived in Mexico in the mid-sixteenth century, a rodeo was a cattle roundup. The competition of showing off their skills in breaking broncs and roping wild cattle eventually evolved into organized contests in the mid-eighteen hundreds.

Annually millions of people from all walks of life go to watch a rodeo. The sport ranks in spectatorship ahead of pro-golf and tennis. Even more watch televised rodeo events and the cowboys that "yusta ride'em" will record them and watch over and over.

In 1997, Texas named rodeo as their official  sport as they would like to take credit for the first ever rodeo celebration. In the early 1880s in the West Texas town of Pecos, cowboys would get off work and come into town on the Fourth of July. They would thunder down Main Street roping steers and then corral them in the courthouse square. By some historical accounts, this was the birth of rodeo in the United States.
Deertrail, Colorado also lays claim to the first rodeo as does Prescott, Arizona. But it was a group of Texans that started one of those earliest rodeos in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872. 

As the story goes, some Texas cowboys had arrived in Cheyenne and decided to celebrate the Fourth of July with an exhibition of their steer riding prowess.

The event was successful enough that the next year to celebrate Independence Day, some local cowboys decided to do a little bronc busting down the middle of one of Cheyenne's main streets. This was the forerunner of the current weeklong Cheyenne Frontier Days. 

You'll spot these die-hard competitors around the country as they pull in to buy fuel -- both for their truck and for themselves when they grab a "for the road- heartburn burrito." 

By the end of the long drive, they wear a haggard and weary look. But at each rodeo, they'll perk up when the National Anthem is played signifying to the bareback riders that their event is about to begin.

Rodeo is the perfect blend of tradition, competition and showmanship. It is a piece of Western heritage boxed up and placed in an arena on display year after year, bringing new generations to the sport on both the spectator and the competitor ends. 

When the rodeo cowboy lays his hat on his heart in honor of the American flag, let us tip our hats to them for being an enduring part of American history.

Ruidoso News columnist Julie Carter may be reached for comment at

Independence Day: Cornudas Mountain Music

Framers to ordinary Americans
Cornudas Mountain Music
Independence Day
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            John Adams suggested Americans regale the celebration of this nation’s independence with great merriment. Normally a fairly high brow fellow, our second president pulled all the stuffy stops out by urging “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumination from one end of the continent to the other from this time forward.”
            The Father of our country, George Washington, did one better … he ordered double rum rations for his artillerymen. 
            North of the border, too
            If somebody asked me where the most spectacular Fourth of July fireworks celebration occurred in my life, without question it was the one in Stampede Stadium in Calgary, Alberta in an evening extravaganza production of the Stampede. The amount of powder expended that night would have made George’s artillerymen envious.  
            The only thing more spectacular would have been to watch the reactions of the broncs and the bulls that weathered the spectacle directly under where the aerial display was detonated. From our vantage point from the box seats, the pens were obscured behind the bucking chutes and Stampede race track. From the decibels and the immensity of the explosions, though, it had to have been a real rodeo unto itself.
            At the time, we thought it was part of the show to welcome Westerners to a celebration of our life’s common ties. What we learned was it was a continuing celebration of Canada’s own Independence Day held, officially, each July 1.
            Never, though, have I felt more part of our way of life.
            Diesel pickups, gooseneck trailers, good horses, and people who can speak articulately to the same issues that affect our existence were there in abundance. It was more western than most of our West.
Over the years, that theme has only grown more pronounced. We are outnumbered, but our existence may be the greatest indicator of the health of our Union.
            Life we live
            Farming and ranching are not professions. They are life styles of the most improvident dedication. There is something profoundly humbling to absorb debt, market volatility, the esoterics of our pursuits, production constraints, extreme barriers of entry, and the immensity of the stewardship of life, and … lives.
            Then, there are the external threats to our existence.
            Few of our number can operate with the degree of freedom that Adams, in particular, would have envisioned for future generation Americans. In today’s emails alone, there were 23 new federal agency regulation notices of intent and or NGO suits filed against our industry components.
            Tomorrow, there will be more.
            We can’t operate in equilibrium. We find ourselves spending as much time or more defending our lives and investments than we do planning for our future. That is a recipe for disaster and, yet, that is what we face.
            Cornudas Mountain music
In another corner of the American West, a gathering celebrating our way of life takes place every Fourth of July.
It is there, on New Mexico’s Otero Mesa, a group of Westerners gather. They come mostly in ranch broke four wheel drive pickups. They drink coffee, share discussions, offer grace, and break bread together. The mountain … Cornudas Mountain has called them back.
The women seek new babies, and offer counsel to young mothers and reassurance to themselves. The men have largely traded felt hats that have withstood the spring winds for more comfortable summer straws.
Bobby and Pat Jones are the hosts and the ranching stewards of the mountain and part of the mesa that spreads out beyond. Bobby will have wood split and stacked. He will tend the fire, the coffee, and cook the meat for the meal and gathering.
Following the meal, most of the group will make its way into the cave and find a place to sit and wait patiently in the coolness. On the walls are preserved reminders of times when buffalo soldiers chased Indians, travelers stopped on dusty overland stage journeys, and families endured the dangers and the promise of a new land.
Those reminders are preserved solely through the protection provided by the ranching stewards hosting the gathering.
The musicians will arrange their chairs. They will sit in a circle facing each other. They will talk and tune their instruments. Their attention will be concentrated inward within that circle. Their music will highlight the day’s celebration.  
The musicians are all familiar. They bring their fiddles, their guitars, and other stringed instruments. In addition to Bobby Jones there will be Pete Lewis or other members of the expansive Lewis clan. Pop Snow was a featured artist for years. Joe Delk is sometimes there with his fiddle. Vaughn Teel and his guitar often sit facing westward in the circle. Brian and Amy Muise have become regulars, and even the likes of Junior Dougherty and Frank DuBois have accompanied the tradition of the mesa.
There is no program agenda.
The process will start by one of the musicians. He, or now she, will pick up a tune and set off on a personal rendition. The others will join in variously until the circle is engaged.
The acoustics in the cave are wonderful.
The audience will tap their toes and sway to the tunes largely returned from another time. The mix might include the ‘Kentucky’ or ‘Westphalia Waltz’, ‘Draggin’ the Bow’, ‘Faded Love’, ‘San Antonio Rose’, ‘Marie’, ‘Milk Cow Blues’, or ‘The Old Rugged Cross’. There will be more spiritual favorites mixed with two steps and traditional ballads.
After a song, the musicians will comment on their mistakes or somebody’s good licks. They will pause, talk and laugh, and get set for the next tune. The protocol is to work from chair to chair with each successive performer expected to make the selection and be featured for a solo and then accompanied performance. They become noticeably unaware of the audience around them.  
The audience, though, is as interesting as the musicians. The matriarchs are honored features. From the families of Jones, Bennett, Bond, Cookson, Davis, Lee, Lewis, Schafer, and others, they will come. Collectively, they are always there to fill the table with food and the gathering with genuine western feminine charm.
Their men are there with them. Cowmen and cowboys they are. They are the men that former Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, referred to as ‘those mysterious men with the rough hands’. Their families started coming to the mesa as early as the mid 1860’s. Together, they are land stewards of significance. They are immensely important to the customs and the culture of the mesa.
The entire gathering is an event of major heritage importance, and … it is in jeopardy.
Secular affront to original intent
The mesa is high on the environmental wish list. Saving the ‘pristine nature’ of the most southern grama grasslands in New Mexico has long been a priority of the environmental left. Notwithstanding the presence of the entrenched socioeconomic ties with the land, the ranching heritage on the mesa is ignored in the process.
Evidence of that is clearly set forth in the recent BLM draft of the region’s resource management plan. In the plan’s ‘Impacts on Socioeconomic Conditions’, the mesa’s ranching heritage is mentioned only superficially and that reference is most troubling.
In one of the alternatives for livestock grazing is the plan to force the termination of grazing “after voluntary relinquishment of all or part of a grazing preference”, or, in other words, force those ranchers out with federal buyouts. The preferred alternative, the continuation of the social value of ranching, is conditionally set forth with the unqualified conclusion that such an alternative “may be slightly less potential for economic gains from livestock ranching”.
That conclusion is utter nonsense.
Unless changed through the process of public comments, this destructive principle will stand in this document and others like it that set the course for at least a decade of federal land management. That conclusion was reached without any input from a qualified Ag or impartial socio-economic evaluation.
Implicit throughout the plan is the secular, environmental agenda. The cleansing of rural communities from the land is in process. Otero Mesa is on a front burner.
John Adams would not comprehend many things today not the least of which would be to cleanse human bonds of stewardship from American lands. We can clearly discern his position time and again. It is revealed in his desire to promote the celebration of Independence Day. In his continuing words urging Americans to celebrate the day, he wrote, “It (Independence Day) ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty!”
The Cornudas Mountain July 4 musical gathering is exactly that. Those people and that event represent the heart and soul of the American experiment, and … their continued presence on that land is critically important to every American.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The Cornudas Mountain Independence Day gathering has national and historical implications.”

Many a good time was had at Cornudas Mountain. Good folks, good food and good music.