Friday, August 09, 2013

A fine line on Idaho's public lands

Ask U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo where the discussion on managing Idaho's federal lands should start, and he doesn't hesitate. "Collaboration," said Crapo, a Republican who has championed bringing Idaho ranchers, loggers and motorized recreationists together with environmentalists to find compromise. Crapo met with members of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative group Wednesday in Lewiston to discuss the next step now that they have reached a broad agreement on how to manage the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest - all 4 million acres of it. Timber companies, county officials, the Nez Perce Tribe, recreation groups, sportsmen, and conservation groups agreed to a work plan that includes increasing logging and other active management. Also in the plan are additional federal wilderness and Wild Rivers designations on the national forest in north-central Idaho that is popular for recreation. Republican state Rep. Lawerence Denney remains unconvinced. He sponsored a resolution in the Idaho Legislature, patterned after a similar bill in Utah, that demanded the federal government turn over all of the 34 million acres of federal land within Idaho - 64 percent of the state's land mass. He co-chairs an interim committee of the Legislature examining whether to follow Utah's lead. The panel will meet at the Capitol from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. "Whether we gain title or we don't is secondary," Denney said. "I hope that we can come to some solution that can benefit the resource." He and many Idahoans seek to solve the dramatic drop in timber harvest and the thousands of jobs lost over the past 30 years in the timber industry. They blame the millions of acres burned by wildfire over the past two decades on the lack of active management to reduce fuels...more

Contractor assessing Keystone XL under fire

An ethics probe of the contractor assessing the environmental impact of TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline has energized critics who say it should be grounds for the project to be delayed. The U.S. State Department inspector general's office said it is looking at conflict-of-interest complaints relating to the contractor writing the analysis of the $5.3-billion pipeline, which would connect Alberta's oilsands to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast. The review is "hopelessly tainted," because of conflicts between the contractor, ERM Group Inc., and Calgary-based TransCanada, said Ross Hammond, a campaign co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth in Berkeley, Calif. "The review should be tossed out and the review process started again." Known as a supplemental environmental-impact statement, the analysis gained new importance after U.S. President Barack Obama said in a June speech on climate change that he would reject Keystone if it was found to "significantly exacerbate" carbon pollution. Environmental groups criticized a draft analysis released in March that found Alberta's oilsands would be developed with or without Keystone, meaning the project would have little impact on the climate. Critics, including the San Francisco-based Sierra Club, say Keystone will promote development of oilsands, which have a larger carbon footprint than conventional crude oil. Friends of the Earth and the Checks and Balances Project, a watchdog group, allege the London-based ERM didn't disclose a financial tie to TransCanada through its venture with ExxonMobil Corp. in Irving, Texas, called the Alaska Pipeline Project. The project, underway since 2009, is developing a natural gas pipeline...more

Top Wolf Experts Excluded from Scientific Review of Wolf Delisting Proposal

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week disqualified many of the nation’s leading wolf researchers from participating in the scientific peer review of the agency’s proposal to end federal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. The scientists are being excluded from the peer review, which is required for all proposals to give or remove protection to species, because they signed a lettercalling into question some of the science behind an advanced version of the proposal that was leaked to the press. In total, 16 leading wolf scientists signed the letter and are excluded from the review. “The future of wolf recovery in the United States is at stake here and the Fish and Wildlife Service ought to be seeking advice from the very best wolf experts we have,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is like a hospital excluding its top doctors from deciding on the best way to save a patient’s life.” Peer review is critical in ensuring that federal protections are not lifted before a species is fully recovered. In the case of the wolf, the Fish and Wildlife Service is contracting with a private company to conduct the peer review. Recognizing their scientific expertise, the contractor hired for the review contacted several of the signers to the letter to participate in the review, including Dr. John Vucetich, Dr. Robert Wayne and Dr. Roland Kays, but then at the direction of the agency rescinded the invitations. Fish and Wildlife arguesthat these scientists have an unacceptable “affiliation with an advocacy position.”...more

Whooping Crane Case Could Affect State Water Supplies

As drought conditions and dry forecasts persist across Texas, lawyers will argue a case in front of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday that could have major implications for water supplies in the state — and for natural resource planning nationally. Known as the “whooping crane case,” the lawsuit (The Aransas Project v. Bryan Shaw, Etc., No. 13-40317) pits environmental and endangered species advocates against state and local officials across the country. State agencies worry it could end up making them responsible for protecting federally designated endangered species. Farming organizations from California to Mississippi and Wyoming have attached their names to briefs in support of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which was sued by The Aransas Project in 2010 for failing to protect the only wild whooping crane flock in the world. Of the estimated 500 whooping cranes that exist worldwide, about 300 live in the Aransas Refuge, which is 50 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. The nonprofit Aransas Project argues that the TCEQ violated the federal Endangered Species Act because it didn’t allow enough freshwater from the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers to flow into the Aransas Refuge, resulting in the deaths of 23 cranes in the winter of 2008 and 2009. In March, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack agreed with The Aransas Project, ordering TCEQ to come up with a plan to conserve the cranes’ habitat, and blocking the agency from issuing more permits in the river systems. TCEQ immediately appealed the ruling, and its supporters slammed the judge for interfering with states’ rights by “coercing” a state agency to enforce federal laws...more

Congress’s Obamacare Waiver - President Obama is buying votes from members of Congress — with stolen money.

America has a two-party system. But it’s not Republicans versus Democrats. It’s the ruling class — Republicans and Democrats — against everyone else. Consider how President Obama just gave Congress its very own Obamacare waiver. Obamacare includes a provision that should cost each member of Congress and each staffer $5,000 to $11,000 per year. Needless to say, the ruling class was not pleased. Congress wasn’t about to try to exempt itself from this provision explicitly, though. If John Q. Congressman voted to give himself an Obamacare waiver that his constituents don’t get, he wouldn’t be John Q. Congressman much longer. What’s an aristocrat to do? On July 30, I predicted that, even though he had no authority to do so, President Obama would waive that provision at taxpayers’ expense. On August 1, he ignobly obliged the aristocracy by decreeing we peasants give each member and staffer $5,000 or $11,000, depending on whether they want self-only or family coverage. It’s good to be king. The president’s supporters, like courtesans of old, are trying to quell a peasant uprising by denying there were any special favors. The denials ring hollow. Obamacare imposes two costs on members of Congress and their staff. First, it kicks them out of their current health plans, leaving them to buy coverage on Obamacare’s health-insurance “exchanges.” Second, it makes no provision for the federal government to keep paying $5,000 or $11,000 toward the cost of their insurance as the Treasury does today. The second cost is by far the larger one; it amounts to a pay cut of $5,000 or $11,000. Many staffers were threatening to quit or retire early. When the president’s supporters claim that Congress isn’t being exempted, they mean that Obama didn’t exempt them from Cost No. 1. Which is true. But he did exempt them from Cost No. 2. Rescinding that pay cut may or may not have been the right thing to do. But it’s still a break that ordinary Americans like Kevin Pace don’t get. Pace is an adjunct music professor at Northern Virginia Community College. To avoid penalties under Obamacare, his employer cut his hours — sticking Pace with an $8,000 pay cut...more

NRA asks Supreme Court to lift ban on handgun sales to teens

The National Rifle Association is asking the Supreme Court to strike down decades-old regulations prohibiting the sales of handguns to those under the age of 21. The powerful gun lobby is challenging a lower federal court’s October ruling that upheld the ban. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the current regulations are consistent with a long-held view that young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 “tend to be relatively immature and that denying them easy access to handguns would deter violent crime.” “As with felons and the mentally ill, categorically restricting the presumptive Second Amendment rights of 18-to-20-year-olds does not violate the central concern of the Second Amendment,” the court found. The court noted it is legal for adults under the age of 21 to buy other types of guns, including rifles and shotguns. Further, parents or guardians can give their 18 to 20-year-olds handguns as a gift, and there are no laws barring either the possession or use of a handgun by adults younger than 21. Still, the law’s prohibition of commercial sales of handguns to young adults amounts to a “categorical burden on the fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” the NRA argued in its petition to the high court, filed last week. The group argues that the regulations fly in the face of the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling that allows people to carry handguns for self-defense...more

Song Of The Day #1073

George Jones & Gene Pitney - I'm A Fool To Care (1965)

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Beef industry analyzing Tyson announcement

Those involved in the cattle and beef industries are still trying to digest yesterday’s announcement from Tyson that it will suspend buying cattle fed the beta-agonist growth promotant Zilmax. Purdue Extension beef specialist Ron Lemenager says it’s difficult to say if there is science behind Tyson’s announcement. “Zilmax has been a product that we have been using in the industry to increase efficiency of gain and efficiency of carcass weights for a fairly long period to time,” Lemenager says, “and for this problem to now all of a sudden just pop up seems a little bit interesting to me.” Lemenager tells Brownfield there are both short and long term implications for cattle producers. “The long-term implication is really the reduction in feed efficiency and carcass weight, and efficient lean gain, that come with taking that product out of the marketplace for producers that are marketing through Tyson.” Lemenager says within the next couple of weeks we will start to see what strategy individual feedlots supplying cattle put in place. That could include, he says, discontinuing the use of Zilmax or switching to a different packing company. Lemenager adds this is not a food safety issue – but an animal well-being issue and that, he says, needs to be addressed when it occurs. He’s just not sure Zilmax is the cause of the problem. Brownfield

Enviros urge Obama to create monuments, protect lands

Environmental groups are leaning on President Barack Obama to use his authority to preserve more open space, raise royalty and rental rates for oil and gas leases and establish a mitigation fee for energy exploration. In its "Blueprint for Balance," the groups, including the liberal Center for American Progress and the Wilderness Society, say that the Obama administration needs to act to ensure America’s treasured landscapes are not ruined by development and that long-lasting outdoor recreation opportunities exist for future generations. "There’s a gold rush mentality right now in our public lands and that mentality not only puts the energy boom at risk of bust but it also has real costs to America’s recreation, tourism and outdoor economy," Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams told reporters Tuesday. "The bottom line is we need to be as intentional about conservation as we are about energy development, putting conservation on equal ground with development." Obama can, the groups say, take action on most of the suggestions in their report, though starting a mitigation fund may have to go through Congress. While environmentalists usually align with Democrats on issues, the coalition is making its argument noting that the Obama administration is doling out energy exploration leases 2.5 times faster than it is protecting federal lands as wilderness or monuments. Included in the report to be released on Wednesday, the groups urge the Obama administration to: » Create more national monuments, including around Desolation Canyon in Utah, to protect against any drilling. The president has the unilateral power under the Antiquities Act to do so. » Hike royalty rates oil and gas companies pay to Interior so that taxpayers get a fair return, and update rules on measuring output of those drilling sites. » Boost rates charged for leases on public lands to prod companies to drill or move on. » Establish a mitigation fee for oil or gas exploration to offset impacts of drilling or mining. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources subcommittee over public lands, notes that environmental groups often forget to mention that there are more than 450 million acres of federal land with a protective designation, while just 38 million are leased for oil and gas production...more

You can download the report here.  The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is listed as one of three monuments they are pushing, plus Otero Mesa is listed as a "do not drill" area.

They also forget what happened in the picture above:  Obama, during his first term, signing the Omnibus Public Lands bill, which combined 160 bills and created 2 million acres of Wilderness.

Feds, Wyoming discuss Grand Teton National Park land deal

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell reiterated Wednesday her agency’s commitment to fulfill an agreement with the state of Wyoming that would protect 1,280 acres of Grand Teton National Park from possible development. Two years ago the Department of the Interior agreed to purchase four parcels of state of Wyoming school trust lands within the park. The federal government allocated $16 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to initially buy 86 acres of the state-owned land. Since then the department and the state have been exploring ways to find the remaining $91 million to enable the transfer of the remaining 1,280 acres to the park. Jewell toured the state lands in question Wednesday. “I have directed my team to pursue all available options and have asked the leadership of the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service to give me a set of recommendations and a plan of action of how we can ensure the long-term protection of Grand Teton,” Jewell said in a media release. “Given the fiscal climate and constrained federal resources, creativity and flexibility will be required, but I am absolutely committed to see this cross the finish line.” Jewell spoke on the telephone with Gov. Matt Mead on Tuesday to voice the agency’s commitment to work with the state on a feasible strategy. The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed zeroing out the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would typically be the traditional and fastest way to acquire parcels like those that remain within the park boundary, Jewell said in the release. Sharon Mader is the Grand Teton program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. She said one of the most promising solutions is a land exchange within the park with the BLM. “Nobody has any illusion that that’s not a heavy lift,” Mader said Wednesday afternoon. “But we’re thrilled the secretary has embraced this project, as did her predecessor, Secretary (Ken) Salazar, and is wiling to commit the energy and the resources of her agency to meet the agreements of this deal either through a cash sale or through a land exchange,” Mader added...more  

A land exchange - that's the way all federal acquisitions should occur. The state would select BLM acreage worth approximately $91 million and do the exchange, with BLM acquiring the state lands inside the Park. No LWCF $$ needed and the federal estate doesn't expand. Besides, the BLM could then make a movie about it

BLM accused of micro-managing livestock operations in new NCA

Representatives of the Bureau of Land Management heard hot opinions voiced by ranchers regarding its draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. Owners of both sheep and cattle ranches voiced their protests of RMP recommendations that include closure or partial closure to motorized vehicles of over 500 miles of roadway. The purpose of the meeting between representatives of the BLM, the federally appointed 10-member advisory council and stakeholders was to provide opportunity for the public to provide further input on the RMP. It attracted a packed room. Stakeholders spoke their minds in protest of what was frequently termed 'micro-management' by the BLM of movements of sheep and cattle on and over the roads. Ranchers, representatives of Delta, Montrose and Mesa counties, various conservation groups as well as the advisory council had plenty of suggestions for altering the draft RMP, though all of them participated in its preparation. The draft includes five alternatives and the discussion was about the best choices among those suggestions for each aspect of conservation concerns. One BLM concern is the degrading sagebrush population. More than 350 plant and animal species depend on sagebrush for habitat. The RPM suggests that no routes be developed through non-fragmented patches of sagebrush 60 acres or more in size. The rationale was that fragmenting allows introduction of invasive species. Most of this area is in Cactus Park North, near Highway 141. Another suggested protective measure is to require livestock operators who have grazing permits on federal lands to acquire special permits for what is termed 'trailing,' which is defined as movement across BLM land from one area to another, with the action taking place within an assigned number of days. Commissioner, rancher and advisory council member Doug Atchley said, “According to a study made by CSU in 2011, the economic estimate is that sales of livestock bring $36 million. If you use multipliers, you can see the importance of grazing in Delta County. Grazing is part of the culture. It has been happening here for the last 130 years since the Utes were forcibly removed. We ask that grazing not suffer more than other uses. County administrator and rancher Robbie LeValley asked that the BLM make a long term evaluation of trends with a monitoring of why and how the resources are degrading before making decisions. She said, “They didn't put in the cause of degradation. It is just going straight quick and dirty to a solution with livestock. The cause needs to be better spelled out. Utilization is spelled out but that is for the short term.”...more

NSA Collects ‘Word for Word’ Every Domestic Communication

It has been interesting to me that the most frequent question that I have been asked in the aftermath of our, “Civil Liberties and Security in an Age of Terrorism,” is regarding my description of our cell phones as a government listening device. Even though the information that U.S. surveillance agencies can remotely turn on any cell phone and use it as a listening device for conversations in its vicinity has been available for many years, this is apparently news to many—and news they are reluctant to accept.
As previously posted here and elsewhere, the government is spying on you, using your own cell phone and computer, and their drones, and they are storing every communication indefinitely.
I trust the following will be clear enough for even those most in denial:
According to two former NSA senior agents who have been fired for whistle-blowing,
they are collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country.
Here’s the video:


Do you believe us now?


N.M. Jumping mouse could be on endangered list

The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse would make a great superhero character. The mouse is semiaquatic with back legs that can propel it up to 3 feet, and its presence is fleeting: The mouse hibernates an average of nine months of the year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on the proposal to list the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse as an endangered species and to designate a total of 193 miles of critical habitat for the mouse species in 12 counties across Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The deadline to submit comments is Aug. 19. The mouse lives along the banks of southwestern streams and depends on a habitat of tall, dense vegetation. The species hibernates about nine months per year, making precious waking moments crucial to gathering food to build up adequate fat reserves. According to Wild Earth Guardians, the mouse has been forced out of 70 to 80 percent of its historic range because of excessive livestock grazing; water use and management for agriculture and urban uses; and loss of beavers, whose dams help create the wetland habitats where the mouse thrives. Off-road vehicle recreation, camping, wildfires and subsequent erosion, flooding, ongoing drought and climate change also degrade the mouse’s habitat...more

Song Of The Day #1072

Webb Pierce - I'm Tired  Recorded in Nashville, 11/6/1956.  That's my man Tommy Jackson on the fiddle.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Little-Known Pipeline Nearly as Big as Keystone Could Win Race to Gulf

A little-known pipeline could win the race to ship heavy Canadian crude oil from the Midwest to the U.S. Gulf Coast if it comes online as planned in 2015. Called the Eastern Gulf Crude Access Pipeline Project, the 774-mile line would be capable of carrying almost as much oil as the Keystone XL, the controversial pipeline mired in its fifth year of federal review. The Eastern Gulf would run from Patoka, Ill. to St. James, La., carrying oil from North Dakota's Bakken formation as well as Canadian oil sands crude. Both types of oil are creating a bottleneck in the Midwest, which doesn't have the refining or pipeline capacity to handle the large amounts of oil now being produced. The project is a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, and Enbridge, Inc. of Alberta, Canada. Enbridge is the company responsible for the largest inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history—the 2010 accident in Michigan's Kalamazoo River, which is still being cleaned up today. It's also a major competitor of TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL. The 30-inch wide Eastern Gulf pipeline would carry up to 660,000 barrels per day out of Patoka, an industrial hub of the region's refineries, storage facilities and pipelines. Energy Transfer bills the project as the "first pipeline transportation option for transportation of crude oil to the eastern Gulf Coast from the midwest U.S." The Eastern Gulf is just one of many new pipelines designed to move North American oil to the Gulf Coast for refining and export...more 

Federal agency turns over bison hazing documents after conservation group sues

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has turned over its analysis on the effects of hazing bison back into Yellowstone National Parks on threatened grizzly bears after a conservation group sued for the information. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy dismissed the Alliance for the Wild Rockies' lawsuit on Monday and awarded the alliance $3,531 in attorney fees and costs. Attorney Rebecca Smith of the Public Interest Defense Center filed a complaint on behalf of the conservation group in May asking Molloy to rule that the federal agency acted illegally by not responding and by failing to produce the requested documents. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year rejected the alliance's request to block the annual spring hazing of bison from Montana into the park to make way for cattle to graze. The alliance says helicopters used to haze the bison cause grizzlies, a federally protected species, to panic and flee from their habitat. In April, the alliance requested the file for the Fish and Wildlife Service's analysis on the effects of the hazing on grizzly bears in the area. The group asked for the final analysis and backing documents, along with all correspondence and meeting minutes regarding the analysis...more

Study finds destructive Medfly entrenched in Calif

Fruit flies that are highly destructive to crops are now permanently established in California and spreading, according to a new study published on Wednesday. The study, published in the science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that despite decades of costly eradication efforts by the state, the Mediterranean fruit fly and the Oriental fruit fly have not been eliminated. The flies' populations are currently low, said study co-author and University of California, Davis entomologist James Carey. But if the state does not change its long-term strategy to control the flies, the future could bring frequent, widespread outbreaks that would devastate California's $43.5 billion agricultural industry, he said. AP

Billionaire environmentalist goes big in Virginia governor's race

Tom Steyer, the environmentalist billionaire who has mounted a national campaign opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, has directed his political operation to spend heavily in the Virginia governor’s race in support of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, POLITICO has learned. Steyer, a California-based financier, instructed advisers on Friday to launch television ads starting this week. The paid-media blitz from his group, NextGen Climate Action, will be the opening salvo in what’s expected to be a much larger effort aimed at mobilizing and turning out climate-oriented voters in a key off-year gubernatorial race. The enterprise will be a test both of Steyer’s individual influence in electoral politics, and of the impact of heavily-funded advocacy politics within the Democratic Party. The bet, for Steyer, is that making climate issues a prominent part of the Virginia election will nudge the center of national politics in a greener direction, shaping the political landscape for 2014 and 2016 and giving environmental interests a stronger hand to play in Washington policy debates. It will be Steyer’s second major foray this year into electoral politics, after he funded a turnout operation in Massachusetts on behalf of now-Sen. Ed Markey in the special election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry. In 2012, he put about $30 million into a successful home-state ballot initiative, Proposition 39, which will require multi-state companies to pay higher taxes in California and put a percentage of the proceeds toward energy efficiency. Plans for Steyer to play in Virginia have been in the works for some time now: his consultants have already polled the state and drawn up plans for an extensive voter contact and turnout effort. But the timetable for spending money on television accelerated last week in reaction to stepped-up advertising on the Republican side. In a lengthy interview with POLITICO, Steyer outlined the thinking behind his decision to engage in Virginia, calling Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli an environmentalist’s nightmare and describing the 2013 election as an opportunity to send a national message about the power of climate-oriented politics...more

Sagebrush Rebel - Between The Covers

I recently wrote about the new book by William Perry Pendley, Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan's Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today.   I plan to write more but in the meantime here's an excellent interview with Pendley conducted by National Review.

New Mexico is the driest of the dry

Scientists in the West have a particular way of walking a landscape and divining its secrets: They kick a toe into loamy soil or drag a boot heel across the desert's crust, leaning down to squint at the tiny excavation. Try that maneuver in New Mexico these days and it yields nothing but bad news in a puff of dust. Across the West, changes in the climate are taking a toll. Almost 87% of the region is in a drought. Nevada is removing wild horses and stocks of cattle from federal rangelands, Wyoming is seeding clouds as part of a long-term "weather modification program," officials in Colorado say the state's southeastern plains are experiencing Dust Bowl conditions, and the entire western U.S. has been beset by more frequent and ferocious wildfires across an ever-more combustible landscape. But nowhere is it worse than in New Mexico. In this parched state, the question is no longer how much worse it can get but whether it will ever get better — and, ominously, whether collapsing ecosystems can recover even if it does. The statistics are sobering: All of New Mexico is officially in a drought, and three-quarters of it is categorized as severe or exceptional. Reservoir storage statewide is 17% of normal, lowest in the West. Residents of some towns subsist on trucked-in water, and others are drilling deep wells costing $100,000 or more to sink and still more to operate. Wildlife managers are hauling water to elk herds in the mountains and blaming the drought for the unusually high number of deer and antelope killed on New Mexico's highways, surmising that the animals are taking greater risks to find water. Thousands of Albuquerque's trees have died as homeowners under water restrictions can't afford to water them, and in the state's agricultural belt, low yields and crop failures are the norm. Livestock levels in many areas are about one-fifth of normal, and panicked ranchers face paying inflated prices for hay or moving or selling their herds. The last three years have been the driest and warmest since record-keeping began here in 1895. Chuck Jones, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said even the state's recent above-average monsoon rains "won't make a dent" in the drought; deficits will require several years of normal rainfall to erase, should normal rain ever arrive...more

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Wolves to roam toward Flagstaff?

It’s a long way from becoming a reality, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is floating a plan that would allow the Mexican gray wolf to roam north toward Flagstaff and across the state for the first time in generations. But in order to delist their bigger cousins, the agency must reclassify the Mexican gray wolf as a distinct subspecies and remove its designation as an experimental population. That means biologists must now focus their efforts on creating a real population of wild wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft of proposed changes last month. It includes a massive expansion of the Mexican gray wolf’s allowed territory. If implemented, the plan would allow wolves to roam from western Arizona to eastern New Mexico between Interstates 40 and 10. Currently, any wolf leaving the Blue Range is captured and returned. The draft also includes potential wolf reintroduction sites in northern Arizona on the Tonto National Forest, throughout the Sitgreaves National Forest and other public lands, as well as private lands where there’s a participating landowner. The Apache tribe has an agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service that has allowed wolves to roam on their lands in eastern Arizona. Wolves have been spotted in the past as close to Flagstaff as Mormon Lake and Holbrook along Interstate 40, as the animals are capable of traveling vast distances in search of food and mates. At an Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting in Flagstaff on Friday, the panel decided it would work with the feds to help come up with a plan, but officials emphasized that no final changes have been agreed on or even discussed at this point. Judy Prosser is the third generation of her family to operate the Bar-T-Bar ranch south of Mormon Lake on Anderson Mesa. She owns some 2,000 head of livestock and boasts the Southwest’s “largest selection of Balancer and Angus bulls.” Her grazing lands would be inside the expanded Mexican gray wolf recovery area. Prosser says that her ranching friends in the current recovery area have struggled and not been happy with the way things were managed. Losing livestock has affected their pocketbooks. “The program has not been successful. I don’t think anyone has been happy with the outcome,” she said. She said that she might be supportive of a renewed wolf effort if it was done under the control of state Game and Fish, but not with the same federal management. “We just don’t live in an isolated, unpopulated place,” Prosser said. “Coconino is one of the most highly recreated counties in the state. I don’t think campers and homeowners in the Happy Jack and Blue Ridge area need to be concerned with letting their kids and pets outside their homes.”...more

Editorial: Change in forest policy could avert fire devastation

Decades ago, when Smokey Bear became an icon, his mantra was, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” The warning has since evolved into, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

But as we learned with the devastating Carpenter 1 Fire, which was started by a lightning strike and scorched 28,000 acres of Mount Charleston last month, preventing wildfires can exacerbate them.
Scott Abella, a forest ecologist, research professor and expert on forest fires, says such fires are ever more devastating because of the way forests throughout the West are managed by the federal government.

“When U.S. policy became fire is bad — Smokey Bear and all that — there was a huge increase in tree density and underbrush,” Mr. Abella told the Review-Journal’s Henry Brean last month. Translation: Lots of fuel to facilitate the growth and duration of a wildfire, thereby increasing the threat to the forest, property and people.

In the case of the Carpenter 1 Fire, Mr. Brean reported, the Ponderosa pine forest of old featured more widely spaced trees and light ground cover that was regularly swept clean by low-intensity fires in the Spring Mountains.

That’s no longer the case, leading to the overgrowth that Mr. Abella said sets the stage for massive “forest-killing type fires” such as Carpenter 1.

The solution, according to Mr. Abella and a growing number of scientists, is smarter land management policy: thinning trees and brush so the landscape can be allowed to safely burn in the healthy, renewing way it once did before the government got carried away with preservation.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has co-sponsored legislation to simplify such a process. According to Sen. Heller’s office, the Stewardship Contracting Reauthorization and Improvement Act would make it easier for the Bureau of Land Managment and the U.S. Forest Service “to enter into contracts with public or private entities to carry out a variety of land-management projects, including those that can reduce the risk of wildland fire.” If the bill isn’t passed, the Interior Department’s authority to enter such contracts expires at the end of September.

Some people disagree with forest thinning, stating that it’s “logging disguised as restoration,” Mr. Abella said. And so what if it is? If there’s an economic benefit to go with the safety benefit, that makes thinning a doubly good policy.

The Spring Mountains have mostly low-quality wood that isn’t marketable, so costs of thinning couldn’t be recouped. But as Mr. Brean noted, the government just spent $15 million putting out the Carpenter 1 outburst, and without a better policy, taxpayers could be coughing up similar sums on a regular basis. If the Spring Mountains wood can’t be sold, give it away to those who have wood-burning fireplaces. Find a reasonable location to haul the wood to, and invite the public to come and take it all away.

It surely beats the alternative of another devastating blaze that fills our skies with ash. And the next one might not spare Mount Charleston’s homes and residents.

Fewer lawsuits, bigger harvests will restore timber industry

by U.S. Rep. Steve Daines
Montana once boasted a strong timber industry that helped maintain healthy forests, supported local jobs and provided a steady revenue stream for our counties and schools.
But in recent decades, inflexible federal policies and unrelenting appeals and lawsuits have imposed a huge administrative burden on federal agencies, limited our mills’ access to timber and ultimately resulted in the mismanagement of our forests, leaving our homes and businesses at risk for wildfire.
A U.S. Forest Service official recently acknowledged that the abundance of litigation has played a “huge role” in blocking responsible timber sales in Montana and other Region 1 states, including projects supported by collaborative groups consisting of timber and conservation leaders.
“It has virtually shut things down on the national forest,” U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard stated during a recent Natural Resources Committee hearing.
The result: Montana used to be home to more than 30 lumber mills. Now we have just seven.
Vulnerable to wildfire
This has left numerous Montana counties without the necessary funds to provide for communities’ needs, like emergency services and pay for teachers. It has also left our forests more vulnerable to wildfire. Last summer, Montana experienced one of the worst fire seasons in our state’s history, and this year’s fires have already consumed thousands of acres of trees. This is unacceptable.
Over the past few months, I’ve met with managers of Montana’s lumber mills, conservation groups and local elected officials to have candid conversations about how we can revitalize our timber industry and keep our forests healthy.
The responsible and active management of our national forests is critical for the health of Montana’s economy, as well as the health of our forests themselves.
That’s why I helped introduce the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. This bill will help revitalize the timber industry throughout Montana and create thousands of good, long-term jobs. It also tackles beetle kill, protecting our environment for future generations and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires in Montana.
The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act will cut the red tape that has held up responsible forest management and timber production. It includes comprehensive reforms to discourage and limit the flood of frivolous appeals and litigation. It also requires the Forest Service to increase timber harvests on non-wilderness lands, now that it will have much-needed latitude to do its work. This improved management will protect the health of our forests and watersheds, the safety of our communities and jobs in the timber industry.

BLM to premier new film Wednesday night

The Bureau of Land Management will host a premiere of its new film, “Arctic Visions and Voices,” on Wednesday at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks. A reception will start at 7 p.m., with the film screening at 8. The 34-minute film celebrates the landscapes, natural history, and people of northern Alaska with a focus on the Dalton Highway area. The premiere is sponsored by the Alaska Public Lands Information Center and Alaska Geographic. It is free and open to the public...more

Were you aware the BLM was an award-winning film maker? Yes, they won a bronze medal "telly" award in the travel/tourism category for a version of this film.  

You thought they were broke didn't you.  Well apparently not.  We need more sequesters.  Otherwise, they will complete the mutation from the Bureau of Livestock & Mining to the Bureau of Liberals & Movies.

BLM wild horse program slammed in National Academy of Sciences report

An independent report released today by The National Academy of Sciences is critical of the Bureau of Land Management's oversight of free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States and urges changes to its current roundup policies. The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands, the report by the 14-member panel of the National Research Council states. Evidence suggests that horse populations are growing by 15 to 20 percent each year, a level that is unsustainable for maintaining healthy horse populations as well as healthy ecosystems. BLM's current policy regarding the removal of wild horses, may be causing more harm to populations than the BLM's intentions, the report says. The panel says there are promising birth control methods available to help limit this population growth as well as science-based methods for improving population estimates and predicting the effects of management practices in order to maintain genetically diverse, healthy populations, and estimating the productivity of rangelands...more
When the sign is right, cut'em.

Or better yet, ship them to Roswell.

USGS interactive map tracks U.S. water flows

A new U.S. Geological Survey interactive map lets viewers trace the nation’s waterways – both where they go and where they come from. Click on little Beaver Creek in the Mission Mountains, and see its contribution spread throughout the Flathead Basin to the Columbia River. Reverse the process at St. Louis, Mo., and see how Missouri River barge traffic depends on all of eastern Montana for source water. “Connectivity is underappreciated,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research ecologist Jock Conyngham. “A lot of people tend to focus on the big trunk channels. This is a good way to remind people of the significance of small tributary channels.” The map can zoom in to the level of almost any named stream or creek, and out to encompass the entire nation. A click on the mouths of major rivers like the Columbia, Mississippi or Colorado divide the country into huge drainages. Downstream displays aren’t as dramatic, unless you consider the point of view of a fish. The Streamer map lets users locate points of interest by name, GIS coordinates, USGS streamflow gauging station number or simply scanning the map for regions. It can print images of upstream or downstream traces, along with reports of the river miles, populations affected and other details about a selected waterbody. It gives historic and current streamflow figures derived from those gauging stations...more

  The Streamer map is here.

LA Times: Anarchy along Mexico's southern border crossings

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — The Mexican government is pledging to bring order to its wild southern border. The stakes couldn't be higher, and the job couldn't be more difficult. The proof lies in this dusty border town of 14,000 people. Here, unmonitored goods and travelers float across the wide Suchiate River — the boundary between Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas — on a flotilla of inner-tube rafts. They cross all day long, in plain sight of Mexican authorities stationed a few yards upriver at an official border crossing. Some of the Central Americans are visiting just for the day. Others are hoping to find work on Mexican coffee plantations or banana farms. But many will continue north toward the United States. There is no guarantee they will ever get there. Lying in wait are Mexican criminals, and even Mexican officials, who aim to kidnap northbound travelers, extort money from them and sometimes even rape and kill them. About 10,000 such migrants have disappeared in Mexico every year since 2008, according to Mexican government estimates. Along with drug violence and the slaying of journalists, the ugly fate of the Central American migrant has become one of the darkest stains on Mexico's reputation.  The U.S. has as much interest as does Mexico in ensuring that the flow is stanched, particularly as Congress, in its consideration of immigration reform proposals, debates whether undocumented migrants can be effectively dissuaded from showing up on the U.S. doorstep. Central American migrants are a growing source of concern for the U.S. Although the number of Mexicans detained for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has been steadily declining, the number of non-Mexicans apprehended jumped from about 47,000 in fiscal 2011 to 94,500 in fiscal 2012, according to government statistics. Most were Central Americans, fleeing the region's stagnant economies, gang violence and street crime. (Despite their declining numbers, Mexicans, still represent the majority of people apprehended at the US border.) The Mexican government estimates that 300,000 of those who cross the nation's southern border each year without authorization are headed to the United States...more

BLM settlement prompts new air analysis, online drilling updates

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) settled a lawsuit with environmental groups on Monday, agreeing to conduct new analysis of air pollution impacts from oil and gas drilling on public land in Garfield County and the surrounding area. The agency also agreed to establish an Internet tracking system for drilling permits evaluated by the Colorado River Valley Field Office, which includes Garfield County, the Roaring Fork Valley and the Thompson Divide area. Environmental groups had specifically challenged 34 projects in Garfield County, with permits granted to various gas companies between 2008 and 2010. New permits for the drilling areas will use new analysis of air quality impacts. The BLM stopped relying on the Roan analysis in late 2011, when they began using a new air quality model. The settlement agreement states the agency can no longer rely on the old Roan air work for the 34 projects at issue. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in June 2011 by Wilderness Workshop, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club. Those groups agreed, in the settlement, no longer to “seek to prevent the drilling, construction and/or operation of wells or of any equipment or facilities associated with any wells” based on deficient BLM air quality review...more

Officials want Green Mountain lookout to stay

Members of Congress are asking the U.S. Forest Service to delay plans to move the Green Mountain forest fire lookout out of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Rep. Rick Larsen, both Democrats who represent portions of Snohomish County, and a member of the House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter Friday to the chief of the Forest Service describing their intent to pass legislation to protect the lookout where it sits. In July, Darrington Historical Society member Scott Morris joined DelBene and Larsen in testifying before the congressional committee in support of the Green Mountain Heritage Protection Act, which could be heard by the full House of Representatives in September. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, also Democrats, also are pursuing identical legislation in the Senate. At a cost of about $100,000, the Forest Service is planning to use a helicopter to haul away the lookout from the 6,500-foot mountain and put it down eight miles away at the top of Circle Peak, also in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The plan follows an order by the U.S. District Court in Seattle to remove the lookout. The court sided with a lawsuit by Montana-based Wilderness Watch against the Forest Service for using a helicopter to shore up the lookout, a violation of the federal Wilderness Act...more

Song Of The Day #1071

Hank Thompson - Love Thief (1951)

Monday, August 05, 2013

Eagles doom Ca. wind project

A plan to build 27 wind turbines on a mountain range east of Apple Valley appears doomed, a Bureau of Land Management official said Friday. BLM Barstow Resources Branch Chief Mickey Quillman said he was told this week by the BLM project manager that developer RES Americas withdrew its application to build the Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project. “I have not seen anything officially in writing, but it’s my understanding that the project has gone by the wayside,” Quillman said. Attempts to reach RES Americas were not immediately successful on Friday. An RES official confirmed last month that the company terminated its agreement to sell the power generated by the project to Southern California Edison — another grim sign for the project. The plan had been on the drawing board for more than five years. The development hit a major snag when golden eagles were found nesting near the project site, which lies on 72 acres in the Granite Mountain range near Apple Valley and Lucerne Valley. Quillman did not know the reasons for RES’ decision, but he said the golden eagle issue was not resolved and was likely a factor in the project’s downfall...more  

The DC Deep Thinkers have got endangered species eating other endangered species and endangered species killing green energy projects, all while the science behind the listings are kept secret.  An impressive policy, ain't it?

Wyo. to get its first Forest Legacy Program grant ($3 million from the supposedly broke Forest Service)

The Jackson Hole Land Trust will use a $3 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service to buy conservation easements. The easements will be located on acreage near Munger Mountain south of Jackson. Land trust land protection manager Liz Long says the amount of property the grant will preserve is being determined through an appraisal. The money will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy Program. Long tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide ( ) that the project is considered original for Wyoming because it is the first Forest Legacy grant to be awarded in the state. Since 1990, the Forest Legacy Program has preserved more than 2.3 million acres. A conservation easement will limit development of the property.  AP

I thought the FS was so broke they were having problems fighting fires, were unable to maintain camping grounds and that all their programs were "starved".  Yet here they are giving $3 million away to tie up more private property (at the direction of the Deep Thinkers in Congress).

Birthplace of Rivers National Monument in the works

Efforts are underway to create a national monument in West Virginia. It would be the first in the state and the first of its kind on the east coast. Mike Costello is the Executive Director of the WV Wilderness Coalition. His organization was instrumental in recent (2009) federal legislation that designated over 37,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest as Wilderness—affording it special protections. The coalition is now working in combination with many other organizations on a new initiative that would have more than one hundred thousand acres in the Mononghela National Forest designated as a national monument called the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. “National monuments are special designations that aim to preserve special resources that exist on federal public lands,” Costello explains. “These can be historic resources; they can be cultural resources; they can be scientific, ecologically significant resources and in this particular area we have all of them. This is the epitome of what a national monument should be.” There are several national monuments here in the East United States—most are small, historical sites. Costello says, if designated, this would be the only large-scale wild lands monument on the East Coast. The project plans to include about 123,000 acres in and around the Cranberry Wilderness which includes the headwaters of the Cranberry, Williams, Cherry, Greenbrier, Gauley and Elk rivers...more

West Virginia was the only state to form by seceding from a state of the Confederacy during the Civil War, so they deserve all the wilderness and national monuments the feds can grant.  And good luck harvesting that coal. 

3,600 mink released by activists at Idaho mink farm - video

Ranchers are frustrated after an extreme animal rights group broke into a mink ranch in Declo, Idaho, and released thousands of animals from their cages. Mark Moyle is the manager at the Moyle Mink Ranch. "I was downright upset!" He found a surprising scene Monday morning. About 20 percent of his animals had been let loose from their cages. Some were still on the ranch, but many of those had run through holes in the outer fence. "What they did is, they came in from the south side, cut that perimeter fence up on that side," said Moyle. "After they did that, they came in and opened up the pens over on this side here, six sheds of pens. That's 3,600 mink that escaped." Moyle also found breeding papers thrown into a pile, severely hampering their breeding programs. Moyle says they've recovered about 90 percent of the mink, but some are still showing up at neighbors, and some they're finding killed on the road. Moyle says that's because the animals are used to being fed by machines, and so they run right to the oncoming cars. "These people are releasing mink and they're domesticated animals out there," said Moyle. "Unfortunately, what they did wasn't humane because now they're getting run over on the highway." Claiming responsibility is the Animal Liberation Front, an extreme animal rights group that also claimed responsibility for arson at a Middleton fur shop in 2011. "They're just terrorists, plain and simple," said Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell. "They're a terrorist group. They do a lot of damage, and in an area like this where we have a rural farm-base community, that really affects us."...more

Here's the KTVB.COM video report:

Song Of The Day #1070

Hank Penny - Walking Home From An Old Country School (1939)
Available on the Krazy Kat cd Flamin' Mamie.

JaNeil Anderson - AQHA art show

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Garden of Eden to become Iraqi national park

THE "Garden of Eden" has been saved, even as chaos grows all around. Last week, amid a wave of bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Iraq's Council of Ministers found time to approve the creation of the country's first national park – the centrepiece of a remarkable restoration of the Mesopotamian marshes in the south of the country. This vast wetland of reed beds and waterways, home of the Ma'dan Marsh Arabs, is widely held to be the home of the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, the paradise where Adam and Eve were created and from which they were subsequently expelled. After the Gulf war in 1991, Iraq's president, Saddam Hussain, used dykes, sluices and diversions to cut off the country's two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. This drained 93 per cent of the marshes, largely obliterating the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East. The purpose was to expel the rebellious Ma'dan, but in the end, it sped Saddam's downfall in 2003. Invading US tanks were able to drive north over the desert he had created and enter Baghdad far more easily. The Ma'dan later returned and broke the dykes. Water returned to some areas, as did the reed beds that sustained the birdlife and water buffalo. Conservationists have been amazed that, despite the disappearance for many years of most of the marsh, every species survived...The main issue now is the hydro-politics of the region. Syria, Turkey and Iran, Iraq's upstream neighbours, are increasingly restricting the flows of the Tigris and Euphrates. In response, Nature Iraq has persuaded the Iraqi government to construct an embankment to enable water flow in the Euphrates to be diverted onto the marshes in spring, recreating the strong "pulse" of water that is essential to its ecological cycles. Last year, 76 per cent of the potentially restorable marshland flooded...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Young button lessons

 by Julie Carter

There is very little more exciting to a youngster at the ranch than branding time. It represents a coming of age for them as they work their way up the ranks through skill-appropriate jobs in the branding pen.

Spencer was 11 and had been to every branding since he was big enough to walk. However, this year was different. This was the first time he’d be allowed to spend the night in camp down on the river with the other hands.

As a special treat Jim, the boss, allowed Spencer to invite two friends who looked to be about the right size for flanking calves. One was another ranch kid, the other a town kid who aspired to one day be a cowboy.

Allen, the camp cook, had gathered up plenty of firewood, good groceries and all that he needed to feed the crew supper and a big breakfast.

After supper, the requisite campfire tales were told while the boys listened wide-eyed. When the adults drifted off to sleep, they decided to do a little exploring, run a bit and play awhile. This required keeping the campfire going.

This went on well into the night and until wee hours of the morning. The excited young “buttons” decided there was no need to sleep now, so they just kept the fire going while they swapped more tales, waiting for their big day to get underway.

When Jim came down to join the hands for breakfast, the cook was mad, which is never a good thing under any circumstances. Everybody was standing around with saddled horses, but nothing was happening about breakfast. When Allen calmed down enough to speak, he reported there was no firewood so there was no food.

Telling him it was not a problem, Jim said they would go gather the first pasture to give him some time and then be back later to eat.

Jim instructed the boys to go with him and they followed along thinking this was their big opening to go with the boss. Jim was riding a colt that needed some miles, so he took the outside circle, dropping off cowboys along the way. Three sleepy young punchers continue to follow behind the boss.

When they got to the pens with the cattle, everybody ate and the work started. The boys were assigned to the flanking crew as two ropers drug calves to the branding fire in a rapid procession. The young buttons didn’t have any time to think about much else except the next calf coming at them.

By noon the first pasture was worked, momma cows and babies paired back up and turn out. Jim sent everybody except the boys to the cook’s wagon to eat. The boys were told to gather firewood, then eat last. Just as they hit the wagon to eat, Jim was ready to gather the second pasture and said, “You boys come with me.”

The second pasture was the same routine. The boys got to perfect their flanking and another chance to gather more firewood.

Late in the afternoon after the third pasture was gathered, worked, flanked and a little more wood gathered, the neighbors and hands that had come to help drifted off toward home.

Jim told the boys to gather just a little more firewood in case they needed to brand again someday. Lesson learned, Spencer knew better than to object and the other ranch kid was in robot mode. The city kid decided to become a lawyer.

The good news is that for the next 20 years, no one would have to gather any more firewood to cook breakfast.

Cowboying is tough work, but “young button” lessons sometimes make it tougher.

Julie can be reached for comment at