Friday, July 19, 2013

Utah legislature repeals bill to limit feds’ law powers

Faced with a likely legal defeat over a bill’s constitutionality, the Utah Legislature on Wednesday repealed a measure limiting federal land agencies’ law enforcement powers. HB155 sponsor Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, sought the repeal "on advice of counsel" after U.S. District Judge David Nuffer issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law’s implementation. Dubbed "the sheriffs’ bill," HB155 would have barred Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service officers from enforcing state laws, imposing criminal penalties on them for "impersonating a peace officer" if they detained or ticketed someone for speeding, fishing without a license and other violations that are not specifically prohibited under federal law. Backed by the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, Noel claimed BLM rangers and Forest Service forest protection officers harass citizens and step on the law-enforcement priorities of local authorities, who are accountable to voters. But on Wednesday he conceded that a better way to resolve these issues is to build better relationships between local law enforcement and federal agencies. Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, put it this way: "When you find yourself riding a dead horse, the best option is to dismount." Noel joked back, saying his horse might be down, but it will rise again...more

Judge orders BLM to reassess Ruby Pipeline

Federal land management agencies have been ordered by a judge to reassess the environmental impacts of an existing natural gas pipeline to rectify what conservationists are calling an incomplete and arbitrary assessment, leading to an improperly certified project. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to release a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to address accusations by a number of conservation groups and concerned citizens that the construction of the Ruby Pipeline violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The court found that “the BLM violated its substantive duty to ensure that its authorization of the project would not jeopardize the survival of the nine listed fish or adversely modify the species’ critical habitat.” The court also voided a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biological opinion issued in 2010 and the BLM’s record of decision regarding the project...more  

The pipeline is already built, but "the court ruled it is still possible to mitigate the pipeline’s adverse effects on listed species and critical habitats." 

We sure do have smart judges these days. Why they even know more about wildlife biology than the folks at USFWS.

Wildfires Will Worsen, And Further Strain The Forest Service

The deaths of 19 firefighters near Yarnell, Ariz., this summer have focused a lot of attention on just how bad wildfire has become in the West. And research predicts the situation is going to get worse. Over the past decade, the region has seen some of the worst fire seasons on record. In addition to lives lost, the fires have cost billions in terms of lost property and in taxpayer money spent fighting the blazes. Ray Rasker, an economist who lives in the fire country of southwestern Montana, tracks fire records the way other economists study business cycles or commodity prices. He's seen a disturbing trend. First, he says, "the fires are twice as large, they're burning twice as long, and the season is starting earlier and ending later." Second: More homes are being built right next to national forests, and when those forests burn, firefighters have to defend those homes. He notes that about 84 percent of the private land around national forests is open to development, versus 14 percent of surrounding land that's already built up with housing developments, resorts and vacation homes. With an improving economy, and no restrictions on where people can build, he's worried. Nowadays, the U.S. Forest Service has less money to spend on trimming back or burning undergrowth and trees to prevent bigger fires in the future. Estimates put the area of forest that needs fire prevention work performed on it at over 200 million acres, but the service is only able to treat about 3 million acres a year. One solution is to let some natural fires burn longer instead of putting them out right away. That gets rid of built-up fuel, and it's cheaper than mechanically thinning forests or doing prescribed burns. But this tactic isn't popular with homeowners nearby...more  

Too bad these stories never explore why the trees and understory are so thick. 

Let the private sector harvest these areas and the feds can actually make money. But no, the enviros and the courts won't let that happen. 

 The enviros just want to let it burn, but they have a problem: The folks who live in or around the forests. They know their "let it all burn" policy will never sell as long as folks' lives are at stake, thus their constant screaming about and demanding control over private development near the forest.


Move afoot to use Forest Service land for housing

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced legislation to facilitate the use of Forest Service land for affordable housing in Summit County. The legislation calls for a 40-acre land exchange from the Dillon Ranger District to Summit County. It serves as a companion bill to the one Rep. Jared Polis introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in June, the Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act. “This legislation is a result of a community-driven effort to create housing opportunities for people who live and work in our communities,” Polis said in a written statement...more  

Hey Udall, Bennet & Polis: Why not introduce legislation that will once again allow private sector harvest of timber, bringing down the cost of lumber and making housing more affordable for everyone?

Hunting for 1,000 stolen bison

A Manitoba rancher has enlisted a detective agency to unravel an unusual crime: the theft of approximately 1,000 bison from a family-run range near Pine River. Tom Olson of High Country Bison, located about 100 kilometres north of Dauphin, said the animals disappeared during the winter and the disparity was discovered only after his family -- who runs four ranges across the Prairies -- did a count a few weeks ago. That count came up about 1,000 short of the expected 2,000-plus herd. That would be a massive theft that would have required several semi-trailer trucks and an intimate knowledge of the range, Olson said. "Suffice to say someone with a very planned organization came in and removed 1,000 bison over a period of time," Olson told the Free Press Wednesday from Pine River, noting a semi-trailer would hold about 50 bison. "It was obviously someone who knew our operation very well. "They would have had to know exactly where the range was and when we wouldn't be out there." The Olson operation is a massive, although not widely known bison-recovery project that began 20 years ago with six bison on a ranch near Calgary, where Olson had become a successful international tax lawyer. Since then, along with his wife and 10 children, the Olson clan runs four bison ranches with 40,000 acres across three provinces. The Pine River operation is spread over 30,000 acres...more

Bison burglars got half his herd?

I see he is a tax attorney.  Could be the Canadian IRS got them.


Plea deal vacates Costilla County rancher trial

Prosecutors on Wednesday formally dropped the case against a Costilla County rancher accused of threatening several officials, based on their belief that a jury would not convict him. Under the agreement, the 72-year-old man pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon, a Class 2 misdemeanor offense. Judge Gonzales, in turn, placed Martinez on supervised probation for 18 months, and ordered him to write letters of apology to Costilla County Sheriff’s Deputy Cruz Soto and former Deputy Celena Martinez. However, the judge declined to impose any jail time, as recommended by Deputy District Attorney Rob White. The case against Gene Martinez centered around an April 2012 water rights dispute. Authorities alleged that he threatened a Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association member, as well as Deputies Soto and Celena Martinez, by pulling a gun on them. Gene Martinez denies that claim, although he acknowledged on Wednesday that the incident was serious. It was so serious that it led to an eight-hour standoff with law enforcement officials, which ended only when SWAT team members and other agency partners dispersed tear gas into the defendant’s cabin...more

Tom Olson, meet Gene Martinez.  Hire him to patrol your ranches and your bison burglary problem will go away.

Song Of The Day #1056

We had a request, sort of.  The Crayola Cowboy wanted to know who sang Looking Back To See.  This Justin Tubb & Goldie Hill version hit #23 on the Billboard charts in 1954.  That same year, Jim Ed & Maxine Brown's version came in at #43.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Five Hutterite men plead not guilty in grizzly bear case

Five men from the Pondera Hutterite Colony pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of illegal possession of a threatened species in connection to burying two grizzly bears that reportedly died from exhaustion on the colony after being chased. Sam Kleinsasser, Daryl Kleinsasser, Jonathan Waldner, Ike Waldner and Tom Waldner entered their pleas Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in U.S. District Court in Great Falls. Strong set their trial for Oct. 3 and a deadline of Sept. 6 for the filing of motions. “For all clients, not guilty your honor,” Mac Smith, the attorney for the men, told Strong. Court records state the grizzly bears, which reportedly died from exhaustion, had been in a corn field and that colony members were trying to chase them off in September 2012. The men are not charged with killing the bears but rather with possessing a threatened species. Leonard Kleinsasser, who cut the corn for the colony, told authorities that the deaths were not reported because the members of the colony were scared, documents said. Special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allegedly found the bears on colony property Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 last year, according to court records...more

 Leonard Kleinsasser, who cut the corn for the colony, told authorities that the deaths were not reported because the members of the colony were scared, documents said.

Are the members of this colony the only ones afraid of the government?  Nope, now Americans fear their government more than terrorism.  What a shame. 


Pendley Interview: New Book On Reagan's Battle w/ Environmental Extremists

Here's an interesting interview with William Perry Pendley, author of the just released Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan's Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today.  I hope to have a review of the book posted this weekend.

Save a Chicken, Drill a Well

The rolling prairies around this tiny ranch town in the Oklahoma Panhandle might soon be home to an experiment aimed at preserving the habitat of both football-sized fowl and oil-drilling rigs. The area occupied by the brownish birds, known as lesser prairie chickens, spans portions of five states but has shrunk so much that the federal government has said it might classify them as threatened or endangered as early as March. Such a listing would complicate companies' efforts to develop large oil deposits under the grassland where the birds like to nest. To prepare for such an eventuality, ranchers and oil companies, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, are pitching a free-market solution to help both bird and industry thrive: a "habitat exchange." The proposal is meant to benefit all parties by creating a "stock exchange" of sorts, said David Festa, vice president of the land, water and wildlife program at the environmental nonprofit. If the chicken is listed as threatened or endangered, under the exchange plan, ranchers would generate credits by taking steps to protect the bird's habitat, such as tearing out invasive juniper trees or letting land revert to grassland. To drill new wells or build roads, oil companies would offset the impact on the chickens' habitat by purchasing these credits at auctions. "Talking to ranchers, they say, 'There is a lot we can do, but why would we do that for free?' " Mr. Festa said. Work on setting up the exchange has been quietly under way for several months. One participant, Chevron Corp., said it likes the idea of a market-based system that "allows creative solutions that benefit both landowners and the lesser prairie chicken." Other companies, including BP , Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp., also have participated in meetings to develop the exchange. The plan—which must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the Interior Department—would be the biggest effort to date to use a "cap-and-trade" approach to habitat preservation. A similar exchange was first tried in central Texas about a decade ago to protect the golden-cheeked warbler, and more recently with a small lizard in west Texas. But the lesser prairie chicken's habitat spans Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas...more

This may be an excellent solution, but don't call it a free market.  These folks are hardly free to manage their own property as they choose.


Another calf found dead as ranchers question state wolf investigations

A northeast Washington cattle rancher says wolves killed a three-day-old calf from his operation last week. Len McIrvin is owner of the Diamond M Ranch in Laurier, Wash. That's the ranch where Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials in September 2012 killed six wolves from the Wedge Pack. The wolves had killed at least 17 cattle from the ranch. The killed calf was dragged from a barbed wire calving enclosure 200 yards from human presence, McIrvin said. There were fresh wolf tracks nearby in the river, he said. "We know it was a wolf, but they can't confirm it because the calf was 95 percent eaten up," he said, noting coyote tracks were also found in the area. Stephanie Simek, WDFW wildlife conflict section manager, said the case was unconfirmed as a wolf kill because there were signs of coyotes in the area. The six-strand barbed wire fence did not show signs of a larger carnivore entering the area, she said. "The issue was the carcass was so far gone, you really couldn't get a lot of those measurements," said Dave Ware, WDFW game program manager. "You just couldn't tell for sure what killed it." The Stevens County Cattlemen's Association believes the department's unconfirmed ruling on the calf shows a "troubling trend" in which the department does not confirm wolf kills, a determination that could lead to killing the predators. Association spokesperson Jamie Henneman said WDFW needs to clearly outline how they will deal with wolves. "Right now we are seeing the department buckle under pressure from environmental groups who have absolutely no skin in the game," she said. "There is no impact to their finances or livelihood if wolf management is done in a poor, watery or slipshod fashion. Band-aid payments of compensation will not solve this problem."...more

Interior Chief Defends Federal Fracking Regulations

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell drew on her experience as a former oil-industry engineer to defend proposed federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on publicly owned land. Testifying to the House Natural Resources committee today, Jewell faced criticisms from Republican lawmakers, who said the department’s proposed rule on fracturing, or fracking, will lead to unnecessary production delays. Lawmakers told Jewell that state regulators best know the local geology and the federal government should leave the regulation to them. “The states vary in their understanding of hydraulic fracturing,” Jewell said. Some states, such as Wyoming, have strong rules, while “in many cases, the state rules don’t exist or are out of date.” Further, no matter where a well is drilled, “having well-bore integrity is essential,” she said, using the technical term for cementing and casing wells to prevent leaks...more

Big-Nosed Dinosaur Species Found in Utah

Take the horns of a bull, mix it with the nose of a proboscis monkey, add in a dash of Triceratops, and you'll get something that paleontologists unearthed at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The first details of the new dinosaur, named Nasutoceratops titusi, were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Scott Sampson, the lead author of the article and VP of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, said that it got its name because of its distinctive skull. "It literally means 'big nose horn face,' which sounds a little bit like an insult," he told ABC News. Nasutoceratops differs from other horned dinosaurs, like Triceratops, mostly in the shape of its skull. It lacks the crooked horns and spikes (what Sampson refers to as "the bells and whistles") that normally decorate other horned dinosaur skulls. Sampson and his team have found three skulls in the excavation site, as well a couple of forelimbs. They have yet to find the back end of the dinosaurs, but Sampson said that the skulls are enough evidence to say it's an entirely new group of dinosaurs. "It's the head that really makes the difference," he said. The fossils were found in the late Campanian Kaiparowits Formation in Grand-Staircase-Escalante. Sixteen other types of dinosaurs have also been found in this region, which was part of the landmass known as Laramidia during the Late Cretaceous Period. Many of these dinosaurs are unique to Laramidia...more

Doubt if you'd need any horn wraps on him.

Editorial: Republicans Get Filibusted

Senate Majority Leader Rich Trumka, er, Harry Reid held a gun to the head of Republicans on the filibuster, Republicans blinked, and President Obama and the AFL-CIO will now get their nominees confirmed for the cabinet and especially a legal quorum for the National Labor Relations Board.

Cut through all the procedural blather and that's the essence of the Senate's "deal" Tuesday over the 60-vote filibuster rule. While Democrats didn't formally pull the trigger of the "nuclear option" to allow a mere majority vote to confirm nominees, they have now established a de facto majority-vote rule. Any time Democrats want to do so, they can threaten to pull the majority trigger.

Republicans might as well acknowledge this new reality, even if it means admitting defeat in this round. GOP Senators should state clearly for the record that the next time there is a GOP President and a Democratic Senate minority wants to block an appointment with a filibuster, fuhgedaboutit. Majority rule will prevail.
Otherwise Republicans will be conceding that the filibuster remains the rule—except when Democrats say it isn't. Democrats would be able to use the filibuster to block confirmation of GOP nominees the way they did John Bolton for U.N. Ambassador during the Bush Presidency, but Republicans couldn't return the favor. Bottom line: This week Democrats killed the filibuster against executive-branch appointees when the same party holds the White House and Senate.

They did so, moreover, to serve AFL-CIO chief Trumka, who all but ordered Mr. Reid to threaten the nuclear option. Big Labor desperately wants a quorum of at least three National Labor Relations Board nominees to keep issuing pro-union orders that have become the NLRB's standard operating procedure in the Obama years. Today there are only three board members and Chairman Mark Pearce is set to resign on August 27.

Under Tuesday's Senate deal, the Obama Administration will agree to withdraw the nominations of the two NLRB board members whom Mr. Obama first appointed in January 2012 as recess appointments though the Senate wasn't in recess. The President will then nominate two new pro-union board members, whom Republicans won't filibuster, as well as two GOP nominees. Mr. Trumka gets his new legal quorum.

Army investigates radiation in ex-nuclear weapons bunker at Fort Bliss in West Texas

Army and federal investigators have detected radiation in a former nuclear weapons bunker at Fort Bliss and are trying to determine if anyone or other buildings on the West Texas post may have been contaminated, officials said Tuesday. A group of investigators from the Army, experts on nuclear and chemical weapons, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigations Weapons of Mass Destruction team arrived Tuesday to the desert area where the bunker is located. It sits along with other above-ground concrete storage facilities completely buried in dirt. A yellow and red sign warning of radiation danger could be seen on the steel doors of bunker 11507. Fort Bliss leaders said an investigation that began about two months ago revealed levels of radiation in the igloo-like bunker that was used by the Air Force for the assembly and storage of nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s. The Air Force transferred the area to the Army in 1966. Fort Bliss spokesman Maj. Joe Buccino said epoxy paint was applied to the interior of the bunker years ago to contain the radioactivity, but that over the years the paint has become chipped, allowing the radioactive surface to become exposed...more

Radiation fallout: 40 people so far report contact with Fort Bliss bunker

Fort Bliss officials have received close to 40 phone calls from people who had contact with a Cold War-era storage bunker at Biggs Airfield where radioactive residue was found. On Tuesday, Army officials announced that the bunker had tested positive for low-levels of alpha and beta radiation, but not the dangerous gamma radiation. During a news conference, Sgt. Joe Buccino, Fort Bliss spokesman, urged anyone who worked in the bunker or had any contact with it to call a 24-hour hotline at one of four phone numbers. Buccino said that about 40 people had called the hotline on Wednesday. One of the callers was Efrain Zamora, 71, who was the key custodian at the bunker for several years until he retired last year. "We had no idea we were working in a hazardous environment," Zamora said. "The family and myself are a little concerned about my health. With radioactivity you don't know what will happen as time goes on." He said he would sweep out the bunker before it would be used to load and unload weapons, such as rifles and machine guns. He estimated he would spend about two or three hours inside the bunker, at least once a week for half of the year. Vivian Thomas, 48, worked at the bunker up until two years ago. She kept inventory of the weapons and ammunition inside the bunker for ManTech International Corporation, which had a contract with Fort Bliss from 2007 to 2011. "I wasn't really that surprised because it was an old bunker," Thomas said. "It is rather large and it has a safe inside. It kind of looks like a dome." Thomas would spend an entire day in the bunker about two to three times a month while she did inventory. She also called the hotline and gave her information. She was told it would take about 24 to 72 hours for someone to get back to her. "I'm just waiting to see what they tell me," Thomas said. "I don't have any idea what their plan is."...more

New Mexico oil patch county paces population growth

Lea County, in the heart of southeastern New Mexico's bustling oil patch, was the fastest-growing county in the state last year, while two-third of the counties lost population, according to the Census Bureau. With New Mexico's economy still weak, the statewide population increased by a meager 0.3 percent from 2011 to 2012. All of the growth came from births, because more people left New Mexico than moved into the state, according to the federal agency's latest population estimates. "I am very disturbed about this," said Jack Baker, the state demographer and senior researcher in geospatial and population studies at the University of New Mexico. "What worries me most is that now we're looking very negative on migration. That's the first time we've seen that in 20 years." The Census Bureau estimated a net loss of about 5,200 people from migration into and out of the state from July 2011 to July 2012. The loss was somewhat smaller — about 1,100 people — when viewed from April 2010 to mid-2012. Births and deaths are other components of population change. "More people are leaving than are coming. That's a problem. They're probably exploring their economic opportunities elsewhere. That's probably the driver of that but that's not good for us," Baker said in a telephone interview this week. Lea County's population grew by 1.8 percent last year, and Baker attributed much of that to the booming oil field economy. There's also a uranium enrichment plant in the county near the small community of Eunice. The county ranked fourth in the state in population growth in the past decade...more

Tim Cox "Looking For A Ride"

"Looking for a Ride" is the newest original oil painting from Tim Cox Fine Art. It will be available at the Cowboy Artists of America Art Show and Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Would you like to receive a written invitation to attend the 2013 CA Show on October 12th & 13th? Click here to sign up with your full mailing address:

Song Of The Day #1055

Dustin' off another 78 rpm with Carolina Cotton singing Betcha I Getcha.
Looks like youtube grabbed their pic right during a transition from one picture to another.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Editorial: Public land debates take good turn (really??)

Good news this week from both Washington and Salt Lake City about public officials, and private landowners, who are wisely taking a step back from confrontational approaches to matters involving the stewardship of public lands in Utah. First came word that Utah’s congressional delegation has shelved, at least for the time being, a bill that would have commanded the U.S. Forest Service to sell 30 acres in Big Cottonwood Canyon for the construction of the controversial SkiLink gondola project. Then we learned that the special session of the Utah Legislature that is to convene today will be asked to repeal a fight-picking law, passed only four months ago, that purported to ban federal officers from enforcing state laws on federal property, such as land overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service. Advocates of each idea were heard to say that there are larger plans afoot and that their concerns would be better addressed by being part of a multi-player planning process than by short-circuiting those processes with legislative edicts. Good for them. Meanwhile, HB155, the new law that would have told federal lawmen to take a hike rather than enforce state laws on federal land, was quickly, and correctly, set aside by a federal judge. That action apparently moved the law’s primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Noel of Kanab, to seek a do-over. And led Gov. Gary Herbert to put the proposed repeal on the call of today’s special session. In both cases, advocates for some unwise actions have stepped back from the cliff. And that’s good news all around...more

However, according to this AP story, Noel is defending his bill:

...But the Kanab Republican told The Associated Press that he didn't agree to repeal his measure. Noel declined further comment until the Legislature takes up the debate Wednesday. "I didn't agree to repeal it or do anything," Noel said Tuesday. "It's my bill and I'm not going to say anything about it." The government is waging a successful battle in federal court to overturn the state law, and a judge has issued an injunction to stop it from taking effect. The law aims to prohibit federal officers from trying to enforce state or local laws anywhere in Utah. Officers violating the law could be arrested and prosecuted. The Utah attorney general's office asserts in court documents that federal officers and rangers don't have the right to enforce state or local laws on national forest or federal range lands or in national parks. The federal government says Utah doesn't have the right to arrest or prosecute Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management rangers who enforce laws on federal lands, which make up two-thirds of Utah. The U.S. Department of Justice told The Associated Press in June that federal officers can issue speeding tickets and enforce Utah gun laws and hunting and fishing regulations on federal lands. Justice Department officials said federal officers enforcing state or local laws are acting under federal authority. They also said they can pursue a suspect onto state, local or private lands. Historically, federal officers in Utah could act only under the authority and control of sheriffs — they had to phone a sheriff before making an arrest, Noel said. He continued to make an argument why his law hamstringing federal officers is justified. In recent years, federal officers have been aggressively confronting people in the backcountry and issuing citations at the drop of a hat, he said. "Don't get on a stinking highway and use your GPS to track them down and give them a ticket for speeding — that happened to a lady in Kanab," he said. Noel said that "I like the least amount of law enforcement," and "a lot of people in BLM do not like this oppressive law enforcement."

U.S. Forest Chief Responds To El Dorado County Sheriff Banning Feds Enforcing State Laws

The chief of the U.S. Service is reacting to an El Dorado County Sheriff’s plan to strip federal officers of their authority to enforce state laws in the county. “We’re very concerned about that, and I’m going to have my director of law enforcement sit down with our folks and see how they can address the concerns the sheriff has,” Chief Tom Tidwell said. It comes after El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini informed the feds that their officers will no longer be able to enforce California state law in his county. “I take the service that we provide to the citizens of El Dorado County very seriously, and the style and manner of service we provide, and the U.S. Forest Service, after many attempts and given many opportunities, has failed to meet that standard.”  In June, the sheriff told CBS13 that he received more than 50 complaints about overly aggressive forest service officers. In blogs, complaints are growing over federal officers stopping people in the forest looking for campers carrying guns. And the sheriff’s decision means El Dorado County deputies—not forest service officers—will be responsible for responding to all state crimes committed on federal land in his county...more

McCain, Flake introduce bill to reduce wildfire risks

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a bill on Tuesday that would give federal agencies greater incentive to contract with companies to harvest trees and other vegetation that fuels wildfires. The Republican senators’ legislation comes in the wake of the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire, which killed 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots and destroyed more than 100 homes and buildings. That fire burned primarily on state and private land but was fueled in part by overgrown vegetation. The bill would grant the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management flexibility when holding funds in reserve to cover the cost of canceled contracts with timber companies and other businesses. Typically, the federal government must hold the full amount of the contract for the duration of the agreement, which can last up to 10 years. This costly requirement can be an impediment to long-term contracts to remove timber, underbrush and other wildfire risks. “Thinning our forests will reduce the fuel load for wildfires and make them more manageable for our firefighters,” McCain said in a statement. “This legislation extends the Forest Service’s authority to enter into forest stewardship contracts that use private timber companies to thin our forests and sell the harvested wood as compensation. The bill further streamlines Forest Service regulations and gives the agency more flexibility to execute the large-scale, long-term thinning projects that are so critical to the health of Arizona’s forests and the safety of our communities.”...more

Judge rules against upper Klamath Basin ranchers

A Klamath Falls judge denied a request Tuesday to keep the state of Oregon from shutting off irrigation water in the upper Klamath Basin. That leaves intact a state decision recognizing the senior water rights of the Klamath Tribes. The water rights decision came down this spring, as drought began to sap the water supplies in the high-desert basin. The tribes have used their water rights to protect threatened fish, and state workers have been shuttling off irrigation water in the upper basin where ranchers use the water to green up pastures and grow hay. Judge Cameron Wogan ruled Tuesday against putting the water rights decision on hold while it's appealed. He said that could take five to 10 years. A stay would give the ranchers water in violation of the "first come, first served" principle of Western water law, he said. Granting a stay, Wogan said, "would elevate petitioners over everyone so they would be the only ones to get extra water if downstream rights are curtailed as they request." The ranchers have four cases before Wogan. He rejected stay requests in two. He said the plaintiff in a third may want to consider withdrawing to avoid exposure to liability for damages if a stay were granted but the appeal eventually failed. He set a hearing next week to schedule arguments in a fourth that still has a chance to make arguments for a stay...more

Mexico's water crisis may shed light on water treaty non-compliance

As deep South Texas continues to struggle with a severe water crisis, many local leaders of government and industry in the agriculture-rich Rio Grande Valley are wondering why Mexico does not live up to terms of a 1944 bi-national water treaty with the United States and deliver water they believe is long overdue. They argue the economic disaster to South Texas farms, ranches and even communities will be real if overdue water obligations are not soon met, and they are asking why Mexico is turning its back on the problem instead of acting like good neighbors. They are also quick to point out reports of at least one northern Mexico reservoir full to capacity and even overflowing, representing a loss of a precious resource when every drop of water counts. As some Valley leaders have suggested, the lack of action on the part of Mexico not only seems inappropriate but also verges on what some farmers and ranchers are calling “criminal.” But while it is easy to blame Mexican officials for hoarding water in fear of needing the extra resource for farms and ranches south of the border during dry times, a closer look at Mexico's little publicized internal problems across the northern region may provide a clue as to why they have been stalling on water deliveries to Texas. Deep in the heart of northern Mexico's arid Chihuahua State, a water war may well be brewing, one so serious that shots have already been fired and proverbial war drums continue to beat louder with each passing day. According to recent reports, in some cases Mexican federal police have been stationed at water well sites to provide protection and/or to monitor operations, and a growing contingent of local and independent Mexican farmers and ranchers have united and are threatening to take law into their own hands if the government continues to turn its back on what they term an escalating land management crisis in Chihuahua. At issue are a rapidly falling water table and a shrinking aquifer level deep beneath the desert floor...more

The "Drought-ocalypse" Continues, Hitting Cattle Ranchers And Rice Farmers (And Us)

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 90 percent of the state is still in drought and 35 percent of the state is in severe drought. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reports things are so bad that 665 public water systems have put water restrictions in place. Texas is known for oil and cowboy hats, yes, but it's also known for being cattle country -- hence the cowboy outfits. However, the drought has been driving the herd numbers in Texas to record lows this year (and they were already at the record low from the 1960s, when cattle got scarce in the wake of the late 1950s Six-Year Drought). It's also driven the size of the U.S. Herd down past the 72-year low that the herd numbers sank to last year, according to Agrimoney. And the herd numbers will likely keep falling as ranchers sell off their herds. Ranchers can't feed their cattle on the grass that isn't growing, so they have to either get the livestock fed using feed, which is expensive. The only other option is to sell off the livestock, which they have been doing a lot of in the past couple years. The livestock has been getting sold off, dropping the sizes of the hers and making it more likely that some of the smaller cattle outfits will end up cutting their herds down so much they'll downsize right out of the industry. Maybe it'll all turn around (i.e. the drought will end) and the whole modern ranching thing - already burdened with plenty of challenges before the drought set in - will recover, but it feels very possible right now that the day will come when ranching in Texas will be as of-the-past as those John Wayne movies where he plays a Texas rancher. As if all this weren't bad enough, the drought has also killed off the fungus that regulates the grasshopper population. Meaning, the crop-chomping creatures are everywhere, eating everything in sight in a way that comes across as nothing short of biblical, according to Agrilife...more

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Utah rancher wants compensation for ‘prescribed’ burn

A Summit County rancher is accusing the U.S. Forest Service of negligence in losing control of a 2003 "prescribed" burn that torched his private grazing allotment, setting him back $200,000. While the agency found that the then-Uintah National Forest mishandled the Cascade Springs II burn, the federal government this year decided not to honor Dennis Earl’s claim for damages, according to a suit filed in federal court Friday. The burn targeted 600 acres for treatment on the west side of Deer Creek Reservoir, but Forest Service personnel ignited some ground outside of this zone on the afternoon of Sept. 23, 2003, according to the suit. Winds kicked up, igniting spot fires beyond the containment line and by 5 p.m. the blaze was declared an escaped wildfire. About 250 firefighters spent the next seven days reining in the fire that eventually burned 7,828 acres and filled the skies above the Salt Lake Valley with smoke. The blaze torched about 85 percent of the 2,265 acres Earl leased west of Deer Creek Reservoir from Property Reserve Inc. The rancher submitted his claim in March 2004, after the Forest Service issued a report identifying numerous failures in the planning and implementation of the burn. It took nine years for its parent agency, the Department of Agriculture, to formally deny the claim, saying the fire was not the result of "negligence or wrongful conduct" on the part of the federal government...more  

Nine years to deny a claim.  Let's hope they don't put USDA in charge of Obamacare.

Idaho Ranchers Prove Valuable as Wildland Firefighters

There isn't much to say about the 5-acre fire that burned on John Solosabal's property. Lightning struck, smoke rose and flames erupted. Yet the wildfire destined to spread across the dry and windy rangeland never got to its goal. That's what makes it remarkable. Solosabal is a member of the Saylor Creek RangelandFire Protection Association. Its one of several recently formed associations made up of professionally trained ranchers who are allowed to engage in initial wildfire suppression on public lands. The groups give ranchers an opportunity to keep flames to a minimum even as this year's wildfire season is expected to reach record levels. Three associations have formed in the Magic Valley, with more expected to be approved next year. Solosabal immediately contacted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to let them know flames were on the ground. He then rounded up help to get a tractor and disc out to the wildfire. The small group of ranchers used the disc to dig a line around the fire, containing the flames in one place, before BLM firefighters got to the scene. Earlier this year, Gov. C.L."Butch"Otter approved a $400,000 appropriation to help train and form rangeland fire protection associations across the state. After taking online and hands-on training with the BLM, ranchers were given radios and permission to respond to wildfires on public lands...more

Report: Arizona wildfire grew quickly, was erratic

An Arizona wildfire that began with a lightning strike and caused little immediate concern because of its remote location and small size quickly blazed into an inferno, leading officials to rapidly order more resources in the hours before flames killed 19 members of an elite Hotshot crew, according to a report released Monday. The report from the Arizona State Forestry Division provides precise detail about the response to the fire that began June 28 outside the small town of Yarnell, including the unpredictable weather around the blaze and the exact times in which it escalated and key resources were deployed. The report described how the fire worsened hour by hour — causing flames up to 20 feet high — as managers called in inmate and Hotshot firefighting crews and air support. The report does not address the question of why the fire crew was still on the mountain above the town more than an hour after the winds shifted about 180 degrees and brought the fire back toward them. It also wasn't immediately clear whether the Hotshots were warned of the erratically changing weather before they were forced to take shelter and were killed...more

It appears it’s a monument or nothing

The proposal to turn the Boulder-White Clouds into a national monument is an empty page so far. Proponents like the Idaho Conservation League and the Wilderness Society have laid out some parameters, but have not supplied maps or details. That has caused people who are generally satisfied with the status quo to express fears and concerns. This lack of clarity has been by design so far, said ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson. Proponents have wanted to show that they are listening to the conversation, not just selling their own plan. The Sawtooth Society, a group formed by supporters of the 1972 legislation that created the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, surprised everyone a week ago with a full page ad expressing fears of “unintended consequences” of a national monument designation and a call for President Obama to preserve the sanctity of Public Law 92-400. Some of the proponents of a national monument — including Craig Gehrke, Idaho representative of the Wilderness Society — have suggested President Obama consider designating the entire SNRA as a national monument. Others just want the Boulder-White Clouds and the Jerry Peak area, which is outside of the SNRA. No one has suggested the National Park Service take it over. No one has suggested overriding Public Law 92-400. John Freemuth, a Boise State University political science professor and scholar on national monuments, said he believes any contradiction in a monument proclamation to 92-400 would likely be challenged in court...more

Is National Park Service Abrogating Its Responsibility With The Tour Of Utah Bike Race?

Federal lands make up the majority of Utah's landscape, so it shouldn't be surprising that state roads crisscross those lands. But when a state road crosses a national park, and that road is going to be traversed by a bike race, should National Park Service approval be required? That's the question that arises in light of a professional cycling tour that will wind its way through Utah early next month. Along its 586 miles, the Tour of Utah will cross sections of both Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. In doing so, it will negotiate state roads -- Utah 143, which crosses a sliver of Cedar Breaks, and Utah 12, which crosses Bryce Canyon north of that park's wondrous hoodoo-filled amphitheaters. While a proposed professional bike race through Colorado National Monument outside Grand Junction, Colorado, has generated great debate, the Tour of Utah so far has been largely overlooked. Now, however, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is curious about whether the National Park Service has "abandoned its authority to regulate and oversee conduct on state-numbered roads that traverse the two parks. " Don't be surprised if the Tour of Utah matter gains more and more attention. After all, if the Park Service continues to take a hands-off approach on it, promoters of other events who want to involve iconic parkscapes in their plans could point to it as a precedent-setting decision that would justify their plans...more

Managing Federal Lands: Does "Multiple Use" Include Energy?

Nearly 30 percent of Montana is owned by the federal government. Naturally, when development of energy resources is at issue, the topic of production on federal lands is a central concern. Stories abound on all sides of the issue – permitting delays that last months or even years, environmental damage that takes years to restore, economic investment delayed or lost. But what is the real story? What does it really mean to produce energy – be it oil, gas or coal – on federal lands in Montana? Who is looking out for the public interest, and is it really a regulatory nightmare to work with the federal agencies? Producers routinely complain that the federal agencies, primarily the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), operate too slowly to encourage investment and that agency processes are often unreasonably delayed by public protests and lawsuits. Producers also suggest that uncertainty related to the regulatory environment and unnecessary rules, such as the currently pending federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, create excessive obstacles. “I can’t wait these things out. I have to feed my family,” said Tom Hauptman, an independent petroleum producer in Billings, Mont. According to the Congressional Research Service, concerns about delays and regulatory hurdles are starting to have an impact. From 2007 to 2012, total U.S. oil production increased by 1.1 million barrels per day – all of which was produced on nonfederal lands. The overall share of crude oil production on federal lands has dropped by seven percent and by 23 percent for natural gas. BLM representatives counter that they have a statutory obligation to engage the public extensively, in order to resolve competing land use desires...more

UM researchers, others close in on cause of bee collapse

The bees swarm in the morning heat, their buzz pouring from boxes stacked on Mount Sentinel. Numbering in the thousands, they’re warming up for their morning quest for pollen. These docile honeybees are players in a national mystery, helping researches at the University of Montana determine what’s killing colonies like theirs across the country. After years of work, the team of sleuths is close to isolating at least one cause of Colony Collapse Disorder and proving it with scientific certainty. “We still think it’s a pathogen – a concurring infection of at least two different organisms that cause colony collapse, and they all happen to infect the intestines of the bees,” said Colin Henderson, a project research manager at Bee Alert Technology and a professor at Missoula College. “We’ve done whole-colony experiments on this, and it works every time.”...more

UAVs fly high at InfoAg demonstration

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are part of the future of agriculture and the future is here. It was in a central Illinois cornfield and along a private airstrip where representatives from three companies demonstrated their UAVs (also known as drones) to farmers, precision ag folks and others on Monday. Three companies demonstrated three very different looking machines. One looked like a mini helicopter and weighed 28 pounds. Another looked like a large bird in flight and, while made of foam, weighed only one pound. The machines can be controlled remotely by growers and the aircraft does the high-tech scouting for them. Images and date are processed in some cases by the time the vehicle lands. The UAVs can be programmed ahead of time or controlled as you go...more

Fla. mom gets 20 years for firing warning shots

A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state's "Stand Your Ground" law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order. CBS Affiliate WETV reports that Circuit Court Judge James Daniel handed down the sentence Friday. Under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander couldn't receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before. Judge Daniel said the law did not allow for extenuating or mitigating circumstances to reduce the sentence below the 20-year minimum. "I really was crying in there," Marissa Alexander's 11-year-old daughter told WETV. "I didn't want to cry in court, but I just really feel hurt. I don't think this should have been happening."...more


Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. 
--Samuel Adams

Oh, to be a colony again...and enjoy all that freedom.

Song Of The Day #1054

Tom Emerson's Mountaineers (Polly Shaffer voc.) - (Honey I've Got) Everything But You
78 rpm  Bluebird B-8346A  1939

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mule's foal fools genetics

    When it reportedly happened in Morocco five years ago, locals feared it signaled the end of the world. In Albania in 1994, it was thought to have unleashed the spawn of the devil on a small village.
    But on a Grand Mesa ranch, the once-in-a-million, genetically "impossible" occurrence of a mule giving birth has only drawn keen interest from the scientific world. That, and a stream of the locally curious driving up from the small town of Colbran to check out and snap pictures of a frisky, huge-eared, gangly-legged foal.
    "No one has run away in fear yet," laughed Laura Amos, the owner of the foal, along with her husband, Larry.
    The foal is being called a miracle because mules aren't supposed to give birth. Mules are a hybrid of two species - a female horse and a male donkey - so they end up with an odd number of chromosomes. A horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey has 62. A mule inherits 63. An even number of chromosomes is needed to divide into pairs and reproduce.
    But those numbers added up to implausibility in late April when the Amoses awoke to a braying and whinnying ruckus in the corral behind their house.
Running to the rescue
    They spotted a foal peeking out from between the front legs of one of their favorite black mules, Kate. They tore outside to save the baby from the male mules - the johns - that were trying to stomp the little critter and the other female mules - the mollies - that were trying to steal it.
    And then the Amoses began to ponder how the foal had fooled mule sterility, a phenomenon first noted by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
    The Amoses, who have about 100 horses and mules at their Winterhawk Outfitters business, knew that what they were seeing is considered scientifically impossible - as much so today as in ancient Greece. They began doing research and found that in the past two centuries about 50 cases of mules giving birth have been recorded. Only two of those were proved with genetic testing.
    It's an event so rare that the Romans had a saying, "cum mula peperit," meaning "when a mule foals" - the equivalent of "when hell freezes over."


Editorial: Jewell response on ANWR laughably, provably dishonest

Can the Obama Administration tell the truth about anything? Barely into the second term, it has long been clear that the only time you don’t have to decide whether this administration is being dishonest or incompetent is when it is being incompetently dishonest. Such is the case with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s June 28 letter to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell rebuffing his pledge of $50 million in state funding for 3-D seismic exploration of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “This Administration remains opposed to drilling in the Refuge and I support that position,” Jewell wrote. “We, nevertheless, have reviewed your offer and conclude that any new ‘exploratory activity,’ which would include seismic work by the statutory definition, is prohibited by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and would require Congressional authorization.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s a straight-up lie. To figure that out, you need read no further than the “purpose” statement in the very section of ANILCA cited by Jewell (16 USC 3142b) in her letter to Parnell: “The purpose of this section is to provide for a comprehensive and continuing inventory and assessment of the fish and wildlife resources of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; an analysis of the impacts of oil and gas exploration, development, and production, and to authorize exploratory activity within the coastal plain in a manner that avoids significant adverse effects on the fish and wildlife and other resources.” (emphasis mine) So while Jewell claims Congressional authorization is needed for exploratory activity, a plain reading of the purpose statement shows that approval has already been granted. Jewell wasn’t done, though...more

Montana rancher shoots collared wolf after sheep slaughter

About 10 days ago, Gardiner rancher Bill Hoppe made a gruesome discovery - 18 of his sheep were slaughtered. He took pictures of the carnage, and federal investigators determined that two wolves were responsible. On Monday, he shot and killed a wolf that he believes killed the sheep. "I've been going down and checking, saw two and the other one made it off the property before I could shoot it," Hoppe said. The wolf was collared. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, the wolf was from the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park. FWP officials say that Hoppe didn't break any laws, because he was issued a kill-on-site permit to kill two wolves after the loss of his sheep. Hoppe said he saw two other wolves with some cattle on his property north of Gardiner on Saturday night. "It's an ongoing problem, every night. I spend most of the night checking to make sure wolves ain't in my calves and the sheep," he said...more

Big Brother is watching the farm and his name is EPA

In this age of free-flowing information, when most anything can be found in cyberspace, it’s a little disconcerting that government knows the most intimate details of your family, finances and business. It’s downright alarming when they release that information to those who might do you harm. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released personal information about thousands of livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers in 20 states in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from three environmental organizations. The massive data release included home phone numbers, home emails, employee contact information, home addresses, GPS coordinates and, in some cases, personal notes about the families, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). When agriculture groups protested, EPA redacted some of the information and asked the groups to return the original information. But the horse was out of the barn. Now EPA intends to release more personal information on farmers in a number of states. AFBF and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) say enough is enough. They are seeking an immediate court order stopping EPA until a court can clarify EPA’s obligation to keep personal information about private citizens private...more

Mutilations: Aliens?

At first, rancher Tom Miller thought the savagery wrought on his cattle was a cruel joke. Mutilated cows and calfs. Field-dressed and missing ears, organs and eyes. Carcasses devoid of blood. A second-generation rancher, it wasn’t until 1999 that Miller said he started looking at the animal deaths differently, not as the product of twisted mischief or the feeding scraps of predators. “At first I thought it was a prank, but there were no tracks, no blood. It looks like the carcass is pealed off, and it happens overnight,” Miller said. “There are just so many things that happen that doesn’t seem like it’s human. I know people think you’re crazy, but there are so many things people can’t explain.” Since ‘99, six cows and calfs have been mutilated on Miller’s ranch northeast of here. Two calfs were mutilated in May and the day after meeting with a Chieftain reporter and photographer this week, he found another mutilated cow on his property. Miller thinks the seventh death happened in the last week. Chuck Zukowski has been investigating UFO sightings, paranormal cases and animal mutilations throughout the United States for 28 years. A California native who lives in Colorado Springs where he makes his living designing microchips, Zukowski has investigated at least 24 mutilation cases in Trinidad and Southern Colorado. In his cases, he’s found little evidence to suggest human intervention or natural predators. “You don’t see any predator markings at all — bite marks, claw marks — and if you did it would be a clear giveaway,” Zukowski, a former volunteer sheriff’s deputy said. “I don’t see blood stains on the hides, which is ridiculous. Completely devoid of blood. Why would an animal carve and cut a perfectly round circle on one side of a head? Why would a scavenger do that? The lack of blood, unusual cuts, and there’s no human evidence there — no foot prints, no tire marks.” Not everyone subscribes to the thought of extraterrestrial life. For some ranchers in the San Luis Valley they believe the deaths to be the work of the blood-thirsty “Chupacabra,” a creature of Hispanic lore that preys on livestock. Zukowski said some ranchers have seen black military helicopters hover over their cattle and later find a mutilated carcass. Some may think Satanic cults are to blame, or such was the case in some of the earliest publicized mutilation cases in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Whatever the thought or theory, mutilations continue to happen and the culprit(s) remain at large. And Zukowski, who volunteers his time to investigate, has linked commonalities that he says points to aliens...more

Raisin outlaw battles feds over Depression-era regulation

A California raisin farmer is facing at least $650,000 in fines for defying a Depression-era law that requires him to set aside some of his crop and turn it over to the U.S. government without being compensated. Marvin Horne of Raisin Valley Farms in Kerman has been breaking the obscure law since 2002 and owes the government 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, which is roughly about the size of his entire harvest for four years, The Washington Post reported. "I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right," Horne told the newspaper. "They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them." At the center of the dispute is a law passed by Congress in 1937 aimed at protecting impoverished farmers by controlling supply and demand for dried grapes after the Great Depression. The law established the Fresno, Calif.-based Raisin Administrative Committee, which is allowed to set prices for raisins by determining how much of the crop will be sold domestically. The committee is overseen by the Department of Agriculture and is allowed to sell off a portion of raisins it collects from farmers for free, according to The Washington Post. It reportedly generated over $65 million in one recent year. "The hell with the whole mess," Horne told the paper. "It’s like being a serf." Horne handed over part of his crop to the government-controlled raisin "reserve" until 2002. He has since embarked on a mission to overturn the specific regulation that he has been defying...more

PETA, other groups to protest frog gigging fundraiser in Tennessee

National groups have mobilized to protest a fundraiser in Tennessee tonight that will reward the top hauls in a frog gigging contest. Participants of all ages can pay $15 per person to participate in the "Giggin' for Grads" event sponsored by the DeKalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers. Proceeds will go toward a scholarship for a local student interested in agriculture. The winner, who spears and collects the 15 heaviest frogs, will receive a prize. "It's for a good cause that increases education in the area," said Dan Strasser with the Tennessee Young Farmers and Ranchers state committee. PETA and other national groups have urged protestors to flock to the event tonight and to call DeKalb County High School to ask them to fund-raise in a different way...more

Governor names Shoshoni rancher as Wyoming’s new Poet Laureate

At his news conference today, which is also Wyoming Day, Governor Matt Mead signed an Executive Order appointing Echo Roy Klaproth as Wyoming’s new Poet Laureate. Klaproth, a rancher from Shoshoni, is the sixth Poet Laureate in state history. “Echo captures the essence of Wyoming and our state’s ranching heritage in her poetry,” Governor Mead said. “We look forward to her serving Wyoming in this distinguished capacity. Her poetry is inspiring and will enrich our lives.” Klaproth is a nationally recognized poet who has written three books of poetry. Klaproth is also a teacher who participated in an event at the Smithsonian celebrating ranch life. “As a fourth generation Wyoming rancher, one of the reasons I write is to save the legacy my family has been blessed to enjoy – that which they’ve worked diligently to keep going since the late 1800s,” Klaproth said. Source

A brand-new $34 million U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan. And nobody to use it.

The U.S. military has erected a 64,000-square-foot headquarters building on the dusty moonscape of southwestern Afghanistan that comes with all the tools to wage a modern war. A vast operations center with tiered seating. A briefing theater. Spacious offices. Fancy chairs. Powerful air conditioning. Everything, that is, except troops. The windowless, two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, was completed this year at a cost of $34 million. But the military has no plans to ever use it. Commanders in the area, who insisted three years ago that they did not need the building, now are in the process of withdrawing forces and see no reason to move into the new facility. For many senior officers, the unused headquarters has come to symbolize the staggering cost of Pentagon mismanagement: As American troops pack up to return home, U.S.-funded contractors are placing the finishing touches on projects that are no longer required or pulling the plug after investing millions of dollars. In Kandahar province, the U.S. military recently completed a $45 million facility to repair armored vehicles and other complex pieces of equipment. The space is now being used as a staging ground to sort through equipment that is being shipped out of the country. In northern Afghanistan, the State Department last year abandoned plans to occupy a large building it had intended to use as a consulate. After spending more than $80 million and signing a 10-year lease, officials determined the facility was too vulnerable to attacks. But some senior officers see the giant headquarters as the whitest elephant in a war littered with wasteful, dysfunctional and unnecessary projects funded by American taxpayers. A hulking presence at the center of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, it has become the butt of jokes among Marines stationed there...more