Friday, October 18, 2013

States won’t get paid back for reopening national parks

A deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling won’t repay the states for kicking in funds to the National Park Service to open the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and other national icons during the 16-day shutdown. According to the deals between the Interior Department and the states, Congress would need to specifically authorize the repayment of any money spent that states had donated to fund the sites.  “These funds from states are donations, not loans,” an Interior official said. “It would take an act of Congress to authorize any sort of reimbursement.” One caveat: If a state donates money for more days than necessary — for example, it donated money to operate a site for 10 days and the government reopened after seven — the state would get the remaining balance back. The National Park Service set up a separate account to collect and spend as necessary the money states donated.
These included:
— New York’s donation of $369,300 to reopen the Statue of Liberty from last Saturday through Thursday
— Arizona’s $651,000 to open Grand Canyon National Park to visitors for a week from last Saturday
— South Dakota’s $152,000 to fund Mount Rushmore National Memorial for 10 days starting this past Monday
— Utah’s $1,665,720.80 for eight sites that opened for 10 days starting Oct. 11
— Colorado’s $362,700 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days starting Oct. 11

Hee, hee...

Utah’s Bishop says D.C. park closures may have been illegal

Rob Bishop
Rep. Rob Bishop charged Wednesday that the National Park Service may have violated federal law by erecting barriers around open-air monuments in Washington during the government shutdown. Democrats countered that Republicans were engaging in a sideshow to deflect from the GOP-caused closure. Bishop, R-Utah, said that since the park service doesn’t normally place barriers or fencing around the National Mall monuments when docents and rangers leave for the day, doing so during the now-ended government shutdown was illegal. "If there is no specific threat, you have violated the Anti-Deficiency Act," Bishop said Wednesday during a joint congressional hearing on the closure of hundreds of national parks and monuments nationwide. The law prohibits doing work without federal funding. Violations can result in jail time and fines. While about 800,000 federal employees were furloughed in the shutdown and many services were curtailed, the national parks — including the iconic World War II Memorial and others — became the face of a shuttered government. Republicans seized on the barriers and closures as naked political maneuvering by the White House to amp up the sting of the shutdown. Democrats charged back that there wouldn’t have been a single closed park had the GOP not tried to halt funding for the Affordable Care Act, prompting the shutdown in the first place.  Some closures were essentially moot since states — including Utah, Colorado, South Dakota and California — stepped up to fund and reopen parks during the shutdown. The states are hoping to be reimbursed for those costs. GOP members vowed to continue investigating the parks service actions. Before the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa said he would issue several subpoenas to the Interior Department for documents relating to the closures. "It’s very clear that the promises you make have no value," Issa told Jarvis...more

Shutdown over, but energy data not flowing yet

The government shutdown is over, but new drilling permits and energy data won’t start flowing out of federal agencies right away. As furloughed workers return to jobs at the Interior and Energy Departments, they are being greeted by “to do” piles that only accumulated during their 16-day hiatus. And it seems, turning the government back “on” after a shutdown is hardly as easy as flipping a switch. The Energy Information Administration, for instance, was unable to push out a weekly natural gas inventory report this morning, even though the government had officially reopened hours earlier. The agency’s closely watched weekly crude stockpile report, due out Wednesday, also was not issued because of the shutdown. An EIA spokesman said a schedule for resuming the data reports would be announced later, but for Thursday, at least, the weekly petroleum status report and the weekly natural gas storage report would not be issued. Engineers at the Bureau of Land Management now will have to work through a larger backlog of drilling permit applications, after that work was halted two weeks ago.  The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported Wednesday that there is a backlog of more than 500 oil and gas drilling permits at the bureau’s North Dakota office, up from roughly 450 a month ago. North Dakota Petroleum Council Vice President Kari Cutting told The Forum that the BLM staff who “already struggle to keep up” now will “be that much further behind” thanks to the shutdown...more

Debt/shutdown deal has $636 million in money for wildfire operations

Legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law early Thursday didn't just end the 16-day-old partial government shutdown and keep the country from potentially defaulting on its $17 trillion debt. It also paid back $636 million to the U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department -- the combined amount they transferred from other accounts in their budgets to battle wildfires in the 2012-2013 season. The lion's share -- $600 million -- would go to the Forest Service, which transferred an equivalent amount from other accounts to its fire-suppression account in August to make it through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. The Interior Department, which transferred $36 million, oversees the U.S. Park Service and Bureau of Land Management...more

Scottsdale wildlife sanctuary opens new enclosure for rare Mexican Gray Wolf

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale is opening a new enclosure for its Mexican Gray Wolves, a highly endangered species that once covered much of the Southwest and Mexico, but now numbers only about 60 wolves in the wild. The enclosure will allow people to walk down “Lobo Lane” into the midst of the wolves, which are in enclosures on both sides. Southwest Wildlife hopes the enclosure will help the public learn more about theremarkable animals and help give them a future in the wild. The wildlife sanctuary also is holding a Wolf Awareness event on Sat., Oct. 19, which will include crafts for kids, opportunities to learn about the endangered wolves and their place in our world, and a tour of the sanctuary including all its resident animals...more

 I previously posted that in NM the ABQ BioPark Zoo is holding Wolf Awareness Days on October 18-20.  Now this center in Arizona is having a Wolf Awareness event on Oct. 19.  All while the FWS is proposing to expand the recovery area for the wolf.  But I'm sure this is just a coincidence.

Proposed Cuckoo Protections Cause Confusion, Concern

The western yellow-billed cuckoo, a bird subspecies whose populations have verged on extinction in the western United States, is again up for consideration for special protections under the Endangered Species Act — and the proposal has some farmers and ranchers worried for their livelihoods. For farmers and ranchers in West Texas, the proposal to list the bird's western population as a threatened subspecies — submitted Oct. 3 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — has created questions and few answers. Critics of the proposal, including Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, say the increased protections are unnecessary and could hurt the agriculture industry. But the agency that proposed the special protections has been out of commission and unable to answer questions about the proposal for more than two weeks because of the partial government shutdown. “We oppose the listing of the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, as we believe there is inadequate scientific basis for such a listing and it has the potential to reduce economic activity in the affected region,” Lauren Willis, a spokeswoman for the comptroller's office, said in a statement. Proponents of protected status for the bird, however, say the proposal shouldn't come as a surprise, because the animal's habitat has been disappearing for decades. A listing under the Endangered Species Act would protect the cuckoo's habitat from encroaching development and livestock, experts said.  "Cattle eat the cottonwood and willow saplings" — that mature into trees that the cuckoo prefers to nest in — "and prevent regeneration of the riparian ecosystem," said Ken Rosenberg, an applied conservationist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University...more

Utah officials laud feds' decision to back off beetle listing

Utah officials are celebrating the Thursday decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw its proposal to list the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle under the Endangered Species Act. "That is outstanding news, and we appreciate that," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. "The Legislature thanks them for taking a look at it." The decision was reached after the federal agency worked with county, state and federal partners to expand an existing conservation agreement that it said will better protect the rare invertebrate’s habitat in Kanab. The conservation agreement — endorsed by the service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Utah Department of Natural Resources and Kane County — expanded on the success of existing conservation measures to address all threats to the species until it no longer is considered threatened or endangered...more

Groups Seek to Protect Endangered Red Wolves in Recovery Area from Deadly Mistaken Identity

Conservation organizations today challenged North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission's authorization of coyote hunting—including by spotlight at night—in the five county area of eastern North Carolina inhabited by the world's only wild population of about 100 red wolves. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute, Red Wolf Coalition, and Defenders of Wildlife. By authorizing the shooting of coyotes within the Red Wolf Recovery Area, the commission is causing unlawful take (i.e., harass, harm, hunt, or kill) of the red wolf. In July, the law center notified the commission that it was in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act by allowing hunting of coyotes within the Red Wolf Recovery Area, and that the groups would file a federal enforcement action unless the commission took steps to protect the wolves. Red wolves and coyotes are similar in appearance so red wolves are frequently mistaken for coyotes, even in daylight. Since 2008, 20 red wolves have died from confirmed gunshot. Gunshot is the suspected cause of death for an additional 18 wolves. Five tracking collars cut from red wolves were also found during this period, indicating to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel that wolves may have been shot and disposed of unlawfully. Since 2012, five shooters who killed red wolves have reported to authorities that they mistook the wolves for coyotes...more

Growing Hezbollah Presence in Southwest U.S., 'business relationship' with Mexican drug cartels

Terrorism expert Matthew Levitt writes that an increasing number of U.S. prison inmates have tattoos that are pro-Hezbollah or are in Farsi, the language spoken in Iran. The claim is made in Levitt’s new book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God.  “Law enforcement officials across the Southwest are reporting a rise in imprisoned gang members with Farsi tattoos” and some express loyalty to Hezbollah. His book includes an eye-opening quote from another official: “You could almost pick your city and you would probably have a [Hezbollah] presence.” Hezbollah’s business relationship with Mexican drug cartels is seen as a driving force behind the phenomenon. In 2009, Michael Braun, former Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said that Hezbollah uses “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels.” In April 2010, an individual named Jamal Yousef was apprehended in New York City. During interrogation, he admitted to stealing weapons from Iraq for Hezbollah. Yousef alone knew of a Hezbollah stockpile in Mexico that included 100 M-16 assault rifles, 100 AR-15 rifles, 2500 hand grenades, C4 explosives and anti-tank weapons.  An actual member of Hezbollah was captured in Tijuana in July 2010. His arrest was the smoking gun proof that  Hezbollah is investing in building a network in Mexico. An unnamed senior Mexican military officer confirmed to then-Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) that Hezbollah was giving explosives training to members of Mexican drug cartels. She wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security warning it “might lead to Israel-like car bombings of Mexican/USA border personnel or National Guard units in the border regions.” Very shortly thereafter, a drug cartel detonated a car bomb for the first time and killed 4 people in Ciudad Juarez. It was described as having “Hezbollah-like sophistication” and a Tucson Police Department reported later said there is a “strong suspicion” that Hezbollah had traded its expertise. Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, could not be clearer in his urgent warnings:  “If our government and responsible partners in Latin America fail to act, I believe there will be an attack on U.S. personnel, installations or interests in the Americas as soon as Hezbollah operatives believe that they are capable of such an operation without implicating their Iranian sponsors in the crime.”...more

After losing high court case, rancher stays positive

Last August, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that rancher Joe Lemire was required to fence land along Pataha Creek to protect it from his cattle. The decision was the culmination of a 9-year battle with the state Department of Ecology. Since then, Lemire, 70, has decided to plant a hay or wheat crop in the contested 47 acres and move on, he told fellow ranchers at a recent meeting. “The cattle aren’t on the creek or near the creek anymore, so the potential (to pollute) is removed,” Lemire, of Dayton, Wash., said. “We’re not standing back, licking our wounds. We’re really positive about it.” Lemire said he was taken aback by the 8-1 ruling. “Don’t miss the deadline when you get a piece of paper, don’t throw it in the wastebasket — respond to everything,” Lemire said, becoming emotional as he recalled a quote he recently came across. “It says, ‘It’s a dangerous place to be when you’re right and the government’s wrong.’” “We’re not giving up, we are going to be using the land for planting rather than grazing,” said Margaret McVicker, Lemire’s longtime companion. “That, in our situation, is going to be about the best we can do.” McVicker said Lemire’s case was a pilot for Ecology. “They started with us to see just how far they could go,” she said. “Then they could move on to different areas and push their agenda in different waterways.”...more

The Long, Slow Decline Of The U.S. Sheep Industry

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in this country has been cut in half. In fact, the number has been declining since the late 1940's, when the American sheep industry hit its peak. Today, the domestic sheep herd is one-tenth the size it was during World War II. The decline is the result of economic and cultural factors coming together. And it has left ranchers to wonder, “When are we going to hit the bottom?” Some sheep are raised for their wool, others primarily for food. Both products – lamb meat and wool – have seen declining consumption in the U.S. If you look at the tags on clothes in your closet, chances are quite a few pieces will be blended with synthetic fibers: nylon, rayon and polyester. As these human-made fibers have become more prevalent and inexpensive, people are wearing less and less wool. The same goes for lamb. In the early 1960s the average person in the U.S. ate about 4.5 pounds of lamb in a year. That has dropped to less than a pound in 2011. At the same time as the American sheep industry’s decline, Australian and New Zealand wool and lamb imports are way up, squeezing into niche markets that America’s sheep producers are having a hard time filling. Ranchers are feeling the industry contraction, whether it’s caused by epic drought, scarce feed supplies, harsh winters, or wild price volatility.  “The numbers are just way down – and less sheep ranchers, just in general,” said Albert Villard, a sheep rancher in Craig, Colo...more

Snap Blizzard Kills Vast Number of South Dakota Livestock

A freak autumn blizzard killed tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota during early October as the animals were still in their summer pastures and had not yet grown their winter coats. Freezing rain was followed by up to 4 feet of snow, which was blown around with near-hurricane force and became lodged in some of the animal’s lungs, suffocating them. “I've been in this business 50 years and I've never seen anything like this," rancher Kathy Jobgen told Reuters. She estimated her family lost nearly half of its herd of 350 when the storm swept through October 3-5. “The vision of seeing all these cattle dead is something you can't wipe out of our eyes.” Winds were so strong during the blizzard that they toppled at least 1,500 utility poles,knocking out power to tens of thousands of South Dakota residents...more

State Vet Estimates Storm Killed 15-30K Livestock

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven now estimates that 15,000 to 30,000 head of livestock died in the early autumn blizzard that hit western South Dakota nearly two weeks ago. Oedekoven earlier estimated the livestock loss at 10,000 to 20,000, but he says reports from ranchers, emergency officials and others caused him to increase his estimate. Some ranchers have reported heavy losses of a half or more of their cattle herds after the animals were soaked with rain and then were hit by heavy snow and high winds...more

The heartbreak of livestock loss multiplied beyond comprehension

It’s not uncommon to have a few inches of snow in early October, and the cattle weather it fine. But then something changed. The temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and the rain that had drenched the livestock and driven them to find shelter turned into heavy, wet, relentless snow. Unable to reach their livestock, ranchers had no choice but look out the window and pray. When the storm lifted, it was difficult to see the devastation because much of it was buried. The sun came out and settled the snow, and when people finally snowmobiled or plowed their way out, they began to realize that this storm would change their lives. Farmers checked unharvested fields only to find them full of dead cattle who had sought shelter any place they could find it. Ranchers went searching for cattle, following trails of carcasses for miles to pick up a few weak survivors far away from where they were at the start of the storm. Motorists drove past heaps of cattle along the fencelines, dead from hypothermia or suffocation or exhaustion. Horses perished, tangled in wire they could not see in the blinding snowstorm. The numbers of dead livestock were staggering. No one was sure how many were dead, partly because they were still buried, and partly because people didn’t want to keep counting...more

Washington rancher agrees to settle labor lawsuit for $110,000

A trio of former employees will receive a total of $110,000 in a settlement stemming from a 2011 lawsuit alleging mistreatment at the hands of a Centerville rancher. Elvis Ruiz, Francisco Javier Castro and Eduardo Martinez, who all came from Chile on H-2A temporary work visas to work as sheepherders, claimed rancher Max Fernandez illegally underpaid them for work, failed to provide adequate food, restricted outside communication, withheld wages and threatened deportation if they left his ranch. The settlement, signed Sept. 25, does not include an admission of liability on the part of Fernandez or the Western Range Association, the agency that recruited the workers from Chile and was also named in the suit. Fernandez’s lawyer, Gary Lofland, said there was no merit to the allegations. “Mr. Fernandez disputes all claims in the lawsuit, but simply thought the opportunity to settle was a prudent business decision,” Lofland said. Neither Lofland nor the WRA’s lawyer, Larry Williams, would say how much of the settlement money came from Fernandez and how much from the association. Both parties paid some amount, Lofland said. The WRA’s position was that it was not a legitimate target of the suit. The association agreed to the settlement for financial reasons and does not believe the violations occurred, Williams said...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1129

We'll wind up Fiddle Week with Blaine Sprouse playing April's Reel.  The tune is on his 1979 album "Blaine Sprouse".

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Republicans attack national parks chief over government shutdown closures

House Republicans on Wednesday pilloried National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis for his handling of national park and land closures during the government shutdown, raising questions about whether the agency’s reputation has been sullied by images of landmarks being barricaded to keep the American people off their own land. A tense joint hearing of the House oversight and natural-resource committees took place Wednesday following allegations that the NPS and its rangers had allowed themselves to become a political arm of the Obama administration, erecting the barriers to score political points and remind Americans of the primacy of government stewardship. Mr. Jarvis vehemently denied those charges, saying nothing could be more painful for rangers than turning visitors away. Still, the 40-year NPS veteran, who assumed the top post in 2009, acknowledged that “lessons have been learned” about the agency’s special guardian status over America’s natural treasures – especially during times of crisis. One of those lessons is for the service to be better prepared to stave off closings by working with local and state governments to keep funds flowing. When asked whether the parks belong to the government or are, in fact, the people’s land, Jarvis answered, “They are the people’s land.”  Republicans on Wednesday charged that it cost the NPS more money and resources to barricade the monuments than to simply use essential personnel to police them. They also faulted Jarvis and his agency for waiting until the shutdown commenced to begin ameliorating the economic damage for rural areas and tourist towns. Within 10 days, the Department of the Interior, which oversees the NPS, had reopened a dozen parks as well as some private enterprises that take place on federal lands. “You made your point, that you could punish the American people by taking away assets they care about, and that everything you’ve done to reopen some parks could have been anticipated and done in advance,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “If you can reopen a parking lot, for example, doesn’t that mean you had the authority to never close it?” “The policies have been arbitrary, inconsistent, and ever-changing,” said Rep. Doc Hastings (R), chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources. Mr. Jarvis said he and a skeleton staff of attorneys and superintendents began looking immediately at “workarounds” for major sites like the Grand Canyon, as well as smaller, privately run enterprises on federal land. The dozen parks that reopened used state funds, after first being told that only Congress could reopen them.  “We took prudent and practical steps to secure the life and property of national icons,” Jarvis said. “There were no politics involved here, just our responsibility to take care of national parks with the resources we have.”  “I realized that in the proverbial heat of the battle, wasn’t anyone watching the news? Couldn’t someone come forward and admit they made a huge mistake?” said Anna Eberly, who testified on behalf of Claude Moore Colonial Farm, a privately run attraction on federal lands in Virginia that was forced to close but later allowed to reopen. “Maybe it was the White House, the Department of Interior, or maybe the Park Service acted on their own, or maybe nobody is in charge. Either way, the Park Service looks foolish, inept, and not worthy of managing the resources entrusted to them.” Jarvis explained that shutting down the 24,000-worker federal agency is a difficult task, and he also apologized for the amount of time it took to reopen areas such as the privately run Jamestown Settlement, which sits on federal lands. He refused to disclose with whom at the White House he discussed the scope of the closures, but added that he made the ultimate decisions...more

When asked whether the parks belong to the government or are, in fact, the people’s land, Jarvis answered, “They are the people’s land.”

The people's land?  What bunk.  If nothing else came out of this partial shut down, it demonstrated once and for all that these lands are owned and controlled by politicians who will use them to suit their own purposes. The people's land?  They want you to believe that, but you should know better. 

Those White House squirrels better run for cover.

Congressman Criticizes National Park Service Director for Treating Occupy Protesters Better Than Nation’s Veterans

During a U.S. House hearing concerning the closure of national parks and monuments during the partial government shutdown, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) scolded the director of the National Park Service for treating “pot-smoking” demonstrators in the Occupy movement with more respect than the nation’s war veterans. Gowdy relentlessly challenged National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to cite the federal regulation that prompted his department to put up barricades to keep veterans out of war memorials on the first day of the shutdown. He also pointed out that the Park Service failed to issue a single citation when Occupiers camped out at D.C.’s McPherson Square for 100 days — 100 days in “non-compliance” with federal regulations. “That was two years ago,” Jarvis explained. “Well, I can cite you the regulation that you did not follow two years ago. Can you cite me the regulation that required you to erect barricades from accessing a monument that they built?” Gowdy pressed. The Republican congressman repeatedly asked for a straight answer as to why Jarvis ignored a federal regulation for 100 straight days when dealing with protesters, but erected barricades on the first day of the government shutdown. “On the very first day of the closure, I implemented a closure order for all 401 national parks in compliance with the Anti-Deficiency Act,” Jarvis replied. “And immediately, that day, also included, as a part of that order, that First Amendment activities would be permitted on the National Mall.” Unimpressed, Gowdy snapped back: “Do you consider it First Amendment activity to walk to a monument that you helped build, or is it only just smoking pot at McPherson Square?” Source

The National Park Service's Behavior Has Been Shocking, And It Should Be Privatized

The behavior of the National Park Service during President Obama’s shutdown campaign has been shocking. As has been widely reported, Park Service employees have been told to make life as uncomfortable as possible for people, and have flourished in that endeavor. They have acted unprofessionally as a partisan and ideological arm of the White House and its campaign.
    If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, then just click Google and start searching. There are unfortunate first-person accounts everywhere. Among the worst examples was a case innocently covered by a small Massachusetts newspaper that reported on a group of tourists traveling to Yellowstone National Park. The tourists, by no means a bunch of Tea Partiers, described the Park Service as “Gestapo”-like in its tactics.
    That, of course, is an exaggeration. But the mere fact that a group of apolitical citizens would invoke such hyperbole to describe how they were treated really says something.
    The Weekly Standard, a conservative source likewise not given to hyperbole, argues in an editorial that the Park Service’s conduct “might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration.” That’s no small claim for an administration plagued by scandals ranging from Benghazi to the eye-opening overreach of the IRS, the NSA, and (among others) the HHS mandate. The Standard rattled off examples of abuses during the shutdown, highlighting the most egregious of them all, the shameless scene at the World War II Memorial:
    “People first noticed what the NPS was up to when the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was “closed.” Just to be clear, the memorial is an open plaza. There is nothing to operate. Sometimes there might be a ranger standing around. But he’s not collecting tickets or opening gates. Putting up barricades and posting guards to “close” the World War II Memorial takes more resources and manpower than “keeping it open.”
    No question. What happened at the World War II Memorial was pure political exploitation. For the propaganda artist, the image of elderly, heartbroken, wheelchair-bound vets voyaging thousands of miles to remember their fallen brothers, maybe for a final earthly time, only to be denied by cruel, intransigent Republicans, was apparently too lovely to pass up. What great political theater! The propaganda points for the White House and its lieutenants must have been irresistible.
    Indeed, as the Standard noted, the barricading of the World War II Memorial was “just the start of the Park Service’s partisan assault on the citizenry.” It noted other historical sites that are privately owned and operated, where “the Park Service doesn’t actually do anything.” Nonetheless, the Park Service mustered the resources to deploy officers to forcibly remove volunteer workers and visitors. As the Standard put it, the Park Service “is now in the business of forcing parks they don’t administer to close…. It’s one thing for politicians to play shutdown theater. It’s another thing entirely for a civil bureaucracy entrusted with the privilege of caring for our national heritage to wage war against the citizenry on behalf of a political party. This is how deep the politicization of Barack Obama’s administration goes.”
    This is Obama’s shutdown campaign, pure and simple—akin to the kind of crass political campaigns the American far left has engaged in for decades. This time, sadly, federal employees have been enlisted in the cause; the National Park Service is serving as an army of agents in the campaign. Not unlike the IRS, NPS agents are abusing their powers. They are being tasked as a political/ideological arm of the state. This is precisely not what civil servants are to be.
    As a personal sidenote, the National Park Service falls under the Department of Interior, once run by my late friend Bill Clark, whose biography I wrote. A rancher and cowboy, Clark left Reagan’s National Security Council to run the Department of Interior in 1984. He had great respect for the department, its mission, and its employees. Clark died in August. We talked constantly. He was depressed at the country’s direction under Obama. If he had seen his former Interior employees enlisted and behaving like this, he would have been despondent. I’m thankful this happened after his death.
    And so, my reaction to this egregious behavior by the National Park Service is one word: privatize. Privatize. Privatize. Privatize.
    I’m not talking about privatizing the parks themselves, a suggestion others have raised. In the 1990s, I specialized in privatization, writing reports for state and local think-tanks, particularly the excellent Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. I quickly learned one of the most crucial things about privatization that most people don’t understand: much privatization involves not ownership but operation. It’s often wiser to privatize not ownership but operation. (Roads are an example. Let the government own the roads, but their maintenance should be contracted.) That’s particularly true when government employees operating a service become unionized, entrenched, bloated, and over-extended. And that’s precisely what we should now consider with the National Park Service. We should privatize not the parks but the service that operates, manages, administers them.
    The beauty of privatizing management rather than ownership is that ownership is permanent but management is not. This means that if one management group doesn’t perform up to expectations, a new one can be hired. The hiring process should always be regularly competitively contracted. This “competitive bidding” process keeps the current management group on its toes and accountable. If it performs badly, it can be fired and replaced—unlike the current group of government employees running the National Park Service, which is a protected class with a monopoly on its service.
    Let’s privatize the National Park Service.
    This thought will anger NPS employees. Well, for that, they can thank White House schemers for overplaying their heavy hand and unwittingly shedding ominous light on the abusive possibilities of this agency. That’s not a sentiment that the president and allies intended to foster when they began agitating and orchestrating their shutdown campaign. Rather than convincing us of the alleged evils of congressional Republicans, they’ve unveiled the roguish tendencies of some federal employees who blindly follow orders. Let’s respond by taking power away from those employees, so this cannot happen again. Easily maneuvered into providing propaganda for a president or party, these NPS workers have proven themselves unworthy of the mission entrusted to them. They are the embodiment of the dangers of unaccountable, big government.
    Let’s respond by privatizing the National Park Service.

Dr. Paul Kengor is executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

This column first appeared at

Rabid Bobcat Ambushes Arizona Quail Hunters

Bobcats are generally not thought of as dangerous predators, especially in areas where the larger, far more deadly mountain lion lurks. However, these pint-sized predators can still be a serious concern to hunters in the field. Two quail hunters traveling near Prescott Valley, Arizona last Thursday were attacked by a bobcat. The unnamed hunters saw the adult bobcat scamper underneath their vehicle and were met with claws and teeth when they investigated. According to the Prescott Valley Tribune, the men suffered severe lacerations and puncture marks across their chest, arms, and back. The hunter who peeked underneath the car received the brunt of the assault and the cat turned on his companion when the other man tried to remove the animal. The hunters eventually shot and killed the bobcat with one of their hunting rifles. Bobcats, like coyotes, may be drawn to decoys or bird calls. Since these animals may carry rabies, it is always wise to be cautious while hunting for birds. Hunters bit by bobcats or coyotes are advised to destroy the animal and save the body for rabies testing. The two hunters took the carcass with them to a nearby hospital, where it was picked up by a Arizona Game and Fish employee while the men were being treated. Testing can be finished only a few hours and by Friday the bobcat was confirmed to be positive for rabies...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1128

Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson plays Bumblebee In The Gourdvine from his 1970 album "Country Fiddling From The Big State".

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ABQ BioPark Zoo Hosts Wolf Awareness Days Oct. 18-20

Come to the ABQ BioPark Zoo for Wolf Awareness Days on October 18-20 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Learn about Mexican gray wolf conservation through interactive discovery stations and educational activities. Get hands-on with wolf biofacts and crafts and learn how lobos communicate with barks, yips and howls.

"Think like a mountain" as you learn about the critical role of wolves as keystone predators. Hear from experts about why conservation hero Aldo Leopold said, "Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf."

"The BioPark's wolf pack is fascinating to watch," said Sarah Shrum, Zoo Education Specialist. "We have all males on exhibit right now and their behaviors show how dynamic their relationships are. Zoo guests can enjoy watching the pack interact, participate in activities to understand their role as a keystone species, and learn how the BioPark has been involved in conservation efforts in the wild."

Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1976. Populations had been severely reduced as wolves increasingly came into conflict with humans. Today, captive breeding and recovery programs in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest attempt to re-establish this important species in the wild.

Wolf Awareness Days are included with regular admission. On Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20, zoo guests can take advantage of Half-Price Weekend and purchase single admission tickets for 50% off regular rates. For more information, email or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

Learn about wolf conservation and re-introduction in the Southwest starting Oct. 18.


Oct 18, 2013 10:00 AM - Oct 20, 2013 02:00 PM


ABQ BioPark Zoo
903 10th SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102


Visit the Mexican gray wolf exhibit at the ABQ BioPark Zoo to learn about wolf conservation and re-introduction in the Southwest.
Find out the crucial role these animals used to play in New Mexico's ecosystem and get hands-on with wolf biofacts.
Learn about Aldo Leopold, a conservation hero active here in New Mexico from 1900-1928, and find out why he said, "Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf."


  • Discovery Stations at the Mexican gray wolf exhibit, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. daily
  • Keeper Q & A at the wolf exhibit, Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.
  • Aldo Leopold Talk in Colores Education Building, Saturday at 11 a.m.

Student Worksheets

Students in grades K-12 can learn with Wolf Awareness Worksheets from ABQ BioPark Zoo.
Download Wolf Awareness Worksheets

Oh no! Squirrels attack First Lady's White House garden during shut down

Squirrels are living high on the hog thanks to the government stalemate – feasting on tomatoes from the First Lady’s beloved White House garden while federal gardeners remain idle. With the shutdown entering its third week, the Park Service gardeners who normally tend the mushrooms, peppers, squash and other tasty items have only been permitted to water the plants. Under the peculiar rules in effect, they are not allowed to rake or weed or even mow the grass. “The tomato plants are now an impressive tangle of browning vines, with ripe Sungolds littering the ground beneath,” writes Eddie Gehman Kohan on her Obama Foodorama blog. “Yellow and brown leaves now remain on crops throughout the garden, including on the potted dwarf papaya tree that sits on one side, now boasting five big green papayas,” she continues. Local squirrels – already a nuisance in D.C. thanks to soft-hearted tourists bearing popcorn and other snacks – have been milking the shutdown as much as camera-hungry politicians. “The squirrels are always a problem in the garden, eating the berry crop in the summer months,” notes Kohan. “But they’re now kids in a candy store, gorging themselves” on Sungolds and other tomatoes...more

You've got to hand it to these squirrels.  They've outwitted all the essential employees, the Secret Service and even the NSA (squirrels don't email, text or use cell phones).  They better watch out though, because if what I've heard about the First Lady is correct, she'll have her hubby declare them enemy combatants and ship them off to Guantanamo.  Last I heard, there are no Park Service gardeners there.  Worse yet, another report says the Pentagon delivered a shipment of mini-drones to the White House yesterday.

Judge Rules Federal Government Cannot Close County Park in Shutdown

Earlier, I wrote about the federal government’s use of the federal government shutdown as an excuse to close many private businesses. Those were businesses that lease federal land, operate on it, or are surrounded by it. They were shut down by the government even though such businesses were not closed in previous government shutdowns (and even though many federal civilian employees are still on the job), suggesting that such closures were likely illegal. A federal judge in Virginia ruled on October 9 that the federal government could not close a county park that it did not even run. That ruling involved a county-managed park, not a privately managed park, but as a Washington Post story notes, “it might inspire similar legal actions” to reopen other facilities closed by the federal government. There does not appear to be any legal requirement for the government to force the closure of parks just because they operate on federal land. Indeed, such privately managed parks were left open in past government shutdowns. Even if the government had the authority to close them, the fact that the government has closed some private businesses while allowing others to continue operating (ones that are operated by larger, more politically influential businesses), and kept some closed while reopening surrounding government operations (or even reopening the property on which they operate to the public, while barring the business from it, and thus leaving the premises unsupervised and insecure), could not be justified by the Anti-Deficiency Act or reconciled with the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement that agencies act in an internally consistent, non-arbitrary way.
As Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler notes, the federal government recently allowed some national parks to reopen — and allowed states to pay the federal government to reopen them. But the federal government has refused to allow private parks and campgrounds to reopen, even when the private operators offered to pay the federal government to reopen them (and when operating such private facilities requires no federal employees on site because the private operator provides maintenance and security). As Warren Meyer of Recreation Resource Management, Inc., notes, the closures in many cases do not save a dime (but rather cost taxpayers money, including incurring more federal staff time), are at odds with past agency practice, and are based on internally inconsistent rationales. That suggests a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and a lack of any justification under the Anti-Deficiency Act...more

Two top Peninsula lawmen unsuccessful in trying to dismiss Olympic National Park's $125 'closure' tickets

Two top North Olympic Peninsula law enforcement officials unsuccessfully lobbied federal authorities Tuesday to dismiss the $125 “violation of closure” tickets issued to people who visited the closed Olympic National Park over the weekend. Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict and Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher separately wrote Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, asking for the dismissal of citations. They said Ranger Jennifer Jackson — working without pay since the partial federal government shutdown Oct. 1 — did not use “common sense” when she issued three citations in the Barnes Point lot at Lake Crescent on Saturday. “It's absurd,” Gallagher told the Peninsula Daily News on Tuesday. “There was absolutely no reason to issue citations to these people.” Said Benedict: “Nobody is questioning the closure of the park. “But to essentially issue a trespass citation to people for going to the park shows a lack of common sense and discretion,” he added. Durkan, in an email response to Sheriff Benedict, defended the ranger's actions, saying those ticketed drove past signs and cones that declared the park closed. Park officials also backed the ranger's decision to issue citations. “We support the way the ranger was doing her job,” Maynes said. The “violation of closure” regulation is included in federal code, Maynes said. It is typically used when areas of the park are closed due to mudslides, fallen trees or washed-out roads. The main sticking point expressed by both Benedict and Gallagher was the ranger's choice to issue the tickets. “What this is really about is the Park Service, whether this is ordered from on-high or not, using incredibly poor discretion,” Benedict said. “If one of my deputies was to abuse his discretion to that extent, I would at least have to have some counseling with them.” Police officers have the option of issuing a citation or not in any misdemeanor case, Gallagher said. “I don't have a problem with the ranger enforcing the closure,” he said. “But the choice to issue citations was entirely discretionary.”...more

House panel will grill head of National Park Service

A House panel Wednesday will grill the head of the National Park Service about why the White House chose to barricade open-air monuments and close privately owned parks during the government shutdown. “The Obama administration is taking advantage of every opportunity to make this shutdown as painful as possible,” said House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who is holding a joint hearing with the House Oversight Committee to demand answers from Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “The Obama administration is arbitrarily and inconsistently barricading open spaces, restricting access to privately operated facilities within the forests, and wildlife refuges, and hurting small businesses that do not rely on federal funds to operate,” he said. “Many of these places were not barricaded during the last government shutdown 17 years ago.” The panel also will hear testimony from people affected by the administration’s sweeping shutdown policy...more

These cartoonists get it

Privately funded Colonial Farm is shut down...but is fighting back

Ace covered the NPS-forced closure of the privately funded, privately operated living history museum Claude Moore Colonial Farm. The Farm is fighting back. Managing director Anna Eberly says that the Farm is pursuing a legal remedy thanks to a generous volunteer. "We believe, according to our lease with the National Park Service, that we have both a right and a duty to be open to the public," she wrote to supporters. In a separate email, Eberly explained that the Farm's lease agreement "states that we will operate the Farm and open it to the public and the only thing [the NPS] will provide is police protection if needed."  Notably, the Farm hasn't relied on NPS police because Fairfax County PD is closer and more convenient.
Unlike federal employees, the Farm isn't going to get any money back when the shutdown is over. So far, according to Eberly, the Farm has lost $15,000 in operating income due to the shut down. That's from cancelled rentals, admissions, sales, and program fees. Today, the Farm has declared a "Freedom from Tyranny Colonial Rally" to take place in front of the Department of the Interior at noon...more

States react to Obama offer to pay to reopen parks

Ten days after the partial shutdown of the federal government shuttered the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon and other national parks, the Obama administration has offered to let states foot the bill to reopen parks within their borders. Here's how states are reacting to the offer:
State officials were negotiating with federal officials over the possible reopening of the Grand Canyon. Gov. Jan Brewer is pressing for a partial, less expensive reopening. Interior Department officials said that is not an option.
Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to at least open a scenic road through Rocky Mountain National Park so more visitors can reach the gateway town of Estes Park, which was hit hard by flooding and hopes to attract more tourists to boost the economy.
Gov. Steve Bullock said his state won't pick up the tab to reopen Glacier National Park. Bullock told Lee Newspapers of Montana that it's long past time for Congress to end the "reckless and job-killing shutdown."
Gov. Brian Sandoval said his state can't afford the costs of reopening parks when it is already facing critical funding decisions on food stamps, unemployment insurance and aid to women, infants and children.
Negotiations were underway on the possible reopening of the Statue of Liberty but no deal had been reached, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard was considering the government's offer but wanted to see how much it would cost. Daugaard was one of at least four governors who requested the authority to open some or all of their parks.
Utah was the first state to jump at the federal government's offer, with Gov. Gary Herbert signing a deal for a 10-day reopening of the state's five national parks. State officials wired $1.67 million to the federal government, and National Park Service workers began removing barriers and opening gates.
Gov. Matt Mead's office said the state would not pay to reopen two heavily visited national parks or the Devil's Tower national monument. Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said, "Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government."  AP

States have parks and states have law enforcement officers.  Why don't they offer to manage selected areas rather than pay the high cost of federal management?

National Park has issued 20 tickets at Valley Forge since shutdown began

The National Park Service is literally making a federal case out of a guy going for a run. A Chadds Ford man was issued a citation for entering Valley Forge National Historical Park Sunday to go running on some of the park’s miles of multi-use paths, which are closed to the public for the duration of the federal government shutdown. “I just went for a run like I always do,” said John Bell, 56, a real estate broker who has run 100 marathons in his life, raising more than $100,000 for charity. “I’m a marathon runner. I’ve been going down to Valley Forge for probably 25 years. I had no idea the park was even closed.” Bell said he drove to the park Sunday morning and noticed that internal park roads were barricaded, much like they are at night after the park closes, so instead he drove to a remote parking lot off of state Route 23. He proceeded to run about five miles through the 3,500-acre park and returned to find a pair of park rangers in the parking lot. “When I came back my car was surrounded by two ranger vehicles with their lights flashing,” Bell said. “I felt like I was a terrorist.” Bell said the rangers asked him if he “watched the news” and told him the park was closed because the government is shut down. Bell said they had already placed a $100 ticket on his car. “I’ve got to go to federal court if I want to fight this thing,” he said. Bell said that there were dozens of other runners, walkers and bikers throughout the park the day...more

Hearing held on troubled youth ranch owner's lawsuit against the state

Scott Chandler, the owner of the Tierra Blanca Ranch for troubled youth, was a no-show at the Seventh Judicial District Court in Truth or Consequences, N.M. Instead, his lawyer, Pete Domenici, Jr., represented him in the lawsuit Chandler is bringing against the New Mexico Children's, Youth and Families Department. Tuesday's motion hearing changed from trying to stop CYFD from investigating the Hillsboro, N.M., ranch to reshaping the whole lawsuit into a question. "We will hopefully have a jury trial. And they will decide some of these very fundamental rights of these very fundamental issues of parental rights," Domenici said. Basically, it's a question of how much custody does someone like Chandler have over children on his ranch? The lawsuit, filed last week, stems from a criminal investigation by CYFD. They're looking to see if any of the children have been abused or neglected. However, KFOX 14 obtained documents in which a few teens claim abuse. Chandler's attorney denies any wrongdoing. "He is absolutely not hiding anything," Domenici said. Chandler hasn't talked to state police since an Amber Alert was issued last Friday. He is still considered a person of interest. His attorney said he's asked Chandler to stay out of the spotlight until he speaks in court. In the meantime, teens and even some adults still attend the ranch's rehabilitation program...more

‘Inventing the American Guitar’ Explores 1840s Innovations

C.F. Martin 10 String Guitar, circa 1859
For guitar aficionados, a visit to the C. F. Martin & Company factory is akin to a religious experience. They talk in reverential tones about the handcrafted instruments that have been coming off the production floor here for more than 150 years, even referring to certain models in online discussion forums as “the Holy Grail” of the acoustic guitar.  A new book due out on Tuesday, to be followed by a yearlong exhibition of Martin guitars at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will surely add to that aura. The book, “Inventing the American Guitar,” argues that Christian Friedrich Martin, who founded the company in 1833, was not only a sublime craftsman and canny entrepreneur, but also a design and technology innovator of the first order, responsible for many features accepted today as standard on stringed instruments. “At every step of the way, as others dropped by the wayside, C. F. Martin was an astute businessman responding to market demands and opportunities,” said Peter Szego, a co-editor of the book. “He was always modifying things, pushing the limits,” he said, and, “by the late 1840s, was making a guitar that, except for its size, had all the main attributes of today’s Martin guitar.” In Mr. Szego’s view, the instrument “deserves to be adjacent to a Stradivarius violin.” Up to now, collectors and researchers have tended to regard the period between World Wars I and II as the company’s golden era of innovation, not its first decades. Chris Martin, a great-great-great-grandson of the founder and the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview here that the new book “has forced me to rethink our own history, and made me want to know more about those earliest years.” Although Martin guitars have been made in eastern Pennsylvania since the 1840s, New York City was C. F. Martin’s first stop after arriving in the United States as an immigrant from Germany. According to company records on file here and cited in the book, he set up his first shop at 196 Hudson Street, at what is now the mouth of the Holland Tunnel; soon opened a second location at 212 Fulton Street; and also operated from 385 Broadway. Those first years in Manhattan seem to have been a culture shock for Martin, who grew up in a small village in Saxony. He not only had to incorporate new materials and features into his construction and design, but he also had to deal with a new, more demanding type of client: since the guitar was then considered a parlor instrument, many among the nouveau riche were buying guitars for their wives or daughters. “He arrived here using his German shop training, that Old World model of apprenticeship and a guild system, and ran right into American capitalism,” said Jayson Kerr Dobney, a curator in the department of musical instruments at the Metropolitan Museum. “So his work began to change almost immediately. Because of the melting pot nature of New York, he was exposed to influences he would not have experienced had he remained in Germany.”  The most important of those new influences, “Inventing the American Guitar” demonstrates, was Spanish. Most notably, Martin abandoned the Austro-German system of lateral bracing to reinforce and support the guitar soundboard in favor of Spanish-style fan bracing, which he then adapted into the X-bracing style that is the hallmark of Martin and other modern guitars. “The most fundamental features, things that we take for granted in Martins, he wasn’t doing before he discovered Spanish guitars,” said Mr. Szego, an architect and collector. Adopting those techniques made Martin’s guitars “bigger, louder and more resonant than before that time,” in keeping with what an emerging American market wanted...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1127

On fiddle week:  Aubrey Haynie - Foolin' Around.  The tune is on his 1997 cd "Doin' My Time".

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stop at Olympic National Park, get $125 ticket

People who pulled into a ranger station at Olympic National Park over the weekend were given $125 tickets for "violation of closure" — entering the park during the government shutdown. Three of the cars were a group of international students from Peninsula College led by host Kelly Sanders, a teacher from Port Angeles, the Peninsula Daily News reported Tuesday. They pulled off Highway 101 at Lake Crescent, got out and posed for a picture behind the Storm King Ranger Station when Ranger Jennifer Jackson pulled up and wrote all three drivers tickets. Each carries the $125 fine. The students from Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China were puzzled, Sanders said. "I didn't know how to explain it to them because I can't really understand why all this happened myself," Sanders said Monday. "I know they were surprised that we would get a ticket for trying to go for a hike." The driveway into the Storm King lot was partially blocked by orange road cones and a sandwich board with a sign stuck to it with duct tape reading, "Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Service facility is closed," Sanders said. "It was a really wide opening —wide enough I could get my car through easily," said Leanne Potts of Sequim, who also received a $125 citation from Jackson. Both Potts and Sanders were confused by the wording on the sign. "When I think of facilities, I think of buildings or bathrooms or features or something," Potts said. "I just assumed that it meant the bathrooms were closed, not that I would be breaking the law," Sanders said...more

Utah BLM says cut grazing by 25-50% to make room for wild horses

In a move that was praised by local ranchers, Iron County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to send a letter to the Bureau of Land Management in support of livestock owners who use public lands to graze their cattle. The commissioners’ letter will be in response to a message the BLM recently sent to ranchers, asking them to reduce the number of livestock they keep on public lands due to an increase in the number of wild horses that now roam on the same land. The issue is that the estimated populations of wild horses are above the Appropriate Management Level. To resolve the problem, the BLM is requesting ranchers to reduce their livestock by 25 to 50 percent. Matt Wood, an Iron County resident, told commissioners at the meeting that he has already reduced his livestock from 330 to 200 heads and now is being asked to do away with 100 more. “If you figure it at $850 a head that I sell them for each year, that’s 100 grand I’m out — again,” Wood said. “That’s as much as some of those BLM workers make a year. I don’t think they’d like it if I demanded they reduce their income by 50 percent.” BLM officials maintain in their letter to the ranchers that the situation is only going to worsen with the agency’s predicted 2014 budget cuts. The cuts are expected to leave workers scrambling to cover the costs of running the national wild horse and burro program, which is responsible for managing and adopting the horses. “There currently is no place to put horses removed from the range as wild horse and burro holding facilities are filled to capacity. Although this situation may change, the Cedar City Field Office must plan for no wild horse gathers or removals in FY2014,” Chad Hunter, range and wild horse specialist, states in the letter. This doesn’t hold well with the commissioners, who say they think the BLM should be held to the same standard as the ranchers. “It should be reciprocal,” Commissioner Dave Miller said. “If the ranchers have to reduce their number of livestock, so should the BLM have to find a way to reduce the number of horses.”...more

Fire-killed Timber Can Be Saved, If Congress Acts

by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Ca)

It is estimated that up to one billion board feet of fire-killed timber can still be salvaged out of the forests devastated by the Yosemite Rim fire, but it requires immediate action. As time passes, the value of this dead timber declines until after a year or so it becomes unsalvageable.

The Reading Fire in Lassen occurred more than one year ago. The Forest Service has just gotten around to selling salvage rights last month. In the year the Forest Service has taken to plow through endless environmental reviews, all of the trees under 18” in diameter – which is most of them – have become worthless.

After a year’s delay for bureaucratic paperwork, extreme environmental groups will often file suits to run out the clock, and the 9th Circuit Court of appeals has become infamous for blocking salvage operations.
We have no time to waste in the aftermath of the Yosemite Rim Fire, which destroyed more than 400 square miles of forest in the Stanislaus National Forest and the Yosemite National Park -- the largest fire ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The situation is particularly urgent because of the early infestation of bark beetles which have already been observed attacking the dead trees. As they do so, the commercial value of those trees drops by half.

Four hundred miles of roads are now in jeopardy. If nearby trees are not removed before winter, we can expect dead trees to begin toppling, risking lives and closing access. Although the Forest Service has expedited a salvage sale on road and utility rights of way as part of the immediate emergency measures, current law otherwise only allows a categorical exemption for just 250 acres – enough to protect just 10 miles of road.

By the time the normal environmental review of salvage operations has been completed in a year, what was once forest land will have already begun converting to brush land, and by the following year reforestation will become infinitely more difficult and expensive – especially if access has been lost due to impassibility of roads. By that time, only trees over 30 inches in diameter will be salvageable.

Within two years, five to eight feet of brush will have built up and the big trees will begin toppling on this tinder. You could not possibly build a more perfect fire than that.

If we want to stop the conversion of this forestland to brush land, the dead timber has to come out. If we take it out now, we can actually sell salvage rights, providing revenue to the treasury that could then be used for reforestation. If we go through the normal environmental reviews and litigation, the timber will be worthless, and instead of someone paying US to remove the timber, WE will have to pay someone else to do so. The price tag for that will be breathtaking. We will then have to remove the accumulated brush to give seedlings a chance to survive – another very expensive proposition.

This legislation simply waives the environmental review process for salvage operations on land where the environment has already been incinerated, and allows the government to be paid for the removal of already dead timber, rather than having the government pay someone else.

There is a radical body of opinion that says, just leave it alone and the forest will grow back.
Indeed, it will, but not in our lifetimes. Nature gives brush first claim to the land – and it will be decades before the forest is able to fight its way back to reclaim that land.

This measure has bi-partisan precedent. It is the same approach as offered by Democratic Senator Tom Daschle a few years ago to allow salvage of beetle-killed timber in the Black Hills National Forest.

Finally, salvaging this timber would also throw an economic lifeline to communities already devastated by this fire as local mills can be brought to full employment for the first time in many years.

Time is not our friend. We can act now and restore the forest, or we can dawdle until restoration will become cost prohibitive.

This is Rep. McClintock's statement on H.R. 3188, the Yosemite Rim Fire Emergency Salvage Act.

As I've stated before, Congress should grant the same authority to waive environmental laws to the Secretaries of Ag and Interior as they have already granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

It is estimated that up to one billion board feet of fire-killed timber can still be salvaged out of the forests devastated by the Yosemite Rim fire, but it requires immediate action. As time passes, the value of this dead timber declines until after a year or so it becomes unsalvageable. - See more at: