Saturday, November 02, 2013

Turning Detroit into Farms and Forests

The story of Detroit is a familiar one for anyone living in the so-called rust belt of the USA, where the once-mighty automotive manufacturing industries have left many towns and cities shadows of their former selves. Now bankrupt, Detroit’s population has halved over the last fifty years. No one actually knows just how many buildings are abandoned, but it is estimated at over 1/3 of all structures. In the midst of this urban decay, farming has started to fill the hole left by industry. Local businessman John Hantz just bought 600,000 square meters of land from the city of Detroit with an option to buy an additional 700,000, promising to demolish all the existing (abandoned) buildings, clean up the land, and plant hardwood trees. The Bank of America announced plans to demolish 100 homes and donate the land to urban agriculture. They’re not alone, as other small-scale urban farmers are adapting what’s left of the city to meet their needs. Detractors are quick to point out that urban farming will never be a large-scale, mass-produced operation that could compete with big agriculture, but urban farmers have a different goal in mind. Greg Willerer of Detroit says that he isn’t trying to save the world, just to save his city. “For all intents and purposes, there is no government here,” says Willerer. While Detroit’s story is unique for now, the finances of other similarly affected cities may mean that the Motor City won’t be alone in its misery for long. Detroit’s urban farmers are helping to make the city more self-sufficient even when its own government has given up.


“For all intents and purposes, there is no government here,” says Willerer.

Never thought I would want to live in Detroit, but that sounds mighty tempting.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Jewell: Obama may ‘take action’ on monuments

Sec. Jewell
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she will meet with communities in the coming weeks and months to evaluate opportunities to protect the nation’s “stories and landscapes.” Jewell, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, urged Congress to pass some of the dozen wilderness and land protection bills that have been held up since 2010. And she noted that President Barack Obama has used the Antiquities Act nine times to establish national monuments without congressional approval, such as the Rio Grande Del Norte in New Mexico and the San Juan Islands in Washington. “If Congress doesn’t step up to act to protect some of these important places that have been identified by communities and people throughout the country, then the president will take action,” Jewell said in her first major speech since her appointment six months ago. “We cannot and will not hold our breath forever.”...more

Senator Coburn Blames Congress, Bloated National Park Service, For State Of National Park System

Senator Coburn

Just as important programs like Medicare and Social Security have been raided for decades to pay for politicians’ pet projects, Washington has also plundered the National Park Service budget to create new parks and programs with little national significance. -- Sen. Tom Coburn.

Our National Park System has become a bloated, underfunded, kowtowing shadow of the ideal for which it was created, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who lays out his case in a report that casts a withering portrait of Congress as a poor overseer.

In that 208-page report, Parked! How Congress' Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Treasures, the Republican from Oklahoma blames years of political self-aggrandizement for a park system that carries an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog and which is showing serious signs of decay and, in some areas, insignificance.

But the senator, well-known for pointing out "pork" in the federal government, also describes an overly bureaucratic National Park Service that he paints as a cumbersome agency that spends more on administration and overhead than on the parks themselves.

"... only half of the funds appropriated by Congress even go to the park superintendents, while the national headquarters and regional offices consume more of the NPS budget than facility maintenance projects," the report charges. "Beyond the staff and funding at the individual park units, there is an expansive amount of administrative and specialty support offices and programs.

"In total, the NPS budget provides $455 million to regional and service-wide support offices," the report illustrates. "In comparison, the 59 National Parks representing the 'crown jewels' of the park system receive $442 million in annual general operation and maintenance funds. An additional $168 million is needed for external administration costs such as space rental, postage, and centralized IT costs."

The report, released late Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., and provided in advance of that to the Traveler, comes at an interesting time, less than two weeks after a budget impasse in Congress was resolved and so allowed the national parks to reopen after being closed for 16 days. That closure of the parks generated much anger in some corners of Congress over how the Park Service handled the system's shutdown.

Whether the details of Sen. Coburn's report are used to attack the Park Service's budget remain to be seen. Action on the report could prove interesting, in that it might ferret out wasteful spending by the agency ... or provide justification for a better-funded Park Service.

Senator Coburns press release is here.  It has a link to the report and a list of the key findings, three of which are:

Of the top 25 most visited National Parks in 2012, only 8 have been approved since 1970 – of the 25 least visited parks, 20 have been established since 1970

 Congress continues to spend between $255 and $529 million annually for more land despite the inability to care for the federal property we already own

The behavior continues today – despite a $256 million shortfall in maintenance funding and an $11.5 billion backlog, more than 35 bills have been introduced this year to study, create or expand national parks, monuments and heritage areas, including a bill to establish a national historic park on the moon

Interior’s Jewell: no partisan motive in closing monuments

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Thursday there was "absolutely no political motive" in erecting barriers around some of Washington’s most iconic monuments during the government shutdown despite Republican critics who say the White House wanted to make the closure sting more for Americans. "The people of the National Park Service did not want to barricade the monuments, but the monuments don’t take care of themselves," Jewell said at the National Press Club. "The barricades protect the resources and we worked as best as we could" to accommodate groups, like veteran’s Honor Flights, who came to Washington during the shutdown to visit memorials. Jewell, in her first public remarks since the 16-day partial government closure, said that federal law prohibited her from employing park rangers to staff the monuments or national parks, both of which became the public face of the shutdown when Republican members of Congress helped push through the barriers around the World War II Memorial for veterans to visit. In wide-ranging remarks, Jewell also said members of Congress who say the Interior Department can repay states for re-opening national parks during the shutdown are spreading "misinformation," and that in the 1995-1996 shutdown, the department didn’t send a check to states, either. "We had to do some digging in historical records to understand that, but our records are going to be much more helpful should this crazy thing ever happen again," she said...more

That still doesn't explain why those same monuments reportedly weren't barricaded in the 90s shutdown or why a Park Ranger said, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

Interior Secretary Calls for Congress to Help Fund Conservation

When Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took to the stage to speak at the National Press Club on Thursday, her underlying message was clear: The administration can't protect public lands and national parks unless Congress foots the bill. "Congress needs to deliver a sustainable, thoughtful budget that supports our parks, our rivers ... and strengthens our economy," Jewell said. "Do we want a legacy of shortsighted funding and partisan gridlock? I don't think so." The Interior secretary covered a range of topics, including the department's efforts to increase renewable-energy production on public lands—a directive issued under the president's Climate Action Plan—and roll out regulations for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. She kept circling back, however, to the harm the government shutdown caused to public lands and the need for lawmakers to work together to pass an appropriations bill that will undo some of that damage. Jewell called the shutdown "absurd" and "wasteful," and she catalogued the impact of the event on a variety of her department's offices while estimating local communities lost $76 million a day in revenue due to park closures...more

Jewell cites need to conserve water, points to Colorado River threats

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell cited the Colorado River and Lake Mead as examples of the water conservation problems that she called one of the top issues facing her department. And that problem will only get worse as climate change creates more extreme droughts in the Southwest, Jewell said. It was part of a wide-ranging speech  at the National Press Club Thursday in which she defended the closure of parks during the federal government shutdown and called on Congress to provide sufficient park maintenance funding. On water issues, Jewell said the region has not done enough to conserve water and that the federal government needs to work with states on conservation efforts. She also said the Colorado River Basin’s water issues are a symptom of climate change. “Climate change is upon us,” she said. “You see it in droughts throughout the West. You see it in the Colorado River. If you look at the levels in Lake Powell or Lake Mead or any of the other lakes that are in that region, you will see that we have a huge problem.” Her comments came the same day that more than 80 public officials from the Colorado River basin – including 16 local government officials from Arizona – sent a letter to the Interior Department supporting water conservation measures. While thin on specifics, the letter supported “urban and agricultural water conservation” and urged state and federal governments to follow up on a 2012 Bureau of Reclamation report that warned about the future of the Colorado River. That report said the Colorado is not on track to keep up with the demand on its water. It said the river’s water supply could be reduced by 10 to 20 percent by midcentury, creating a deficit that would be exacerbated by the area’s rapidly growing population. Demand for Colorado River water may surpass the river’s supply by 2060, the report said – or even by 2025 in extreme circumstances...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1139

Its the last day of Mule Week and all you rounders heading out tonight better pay attention to Dub Dickerson as he sings "I Must've Drove My Mules Too Hard".  The tune was recorded for Capitol Records in 1955 and is available on a Hillbilly Researcher cd.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Navajo Nation purchases coal mine for $85 million

BHP Billiton Ltd. ( BHP ) has signed an agreement to sell a coal mine in New Mexico to the Navajo Nation for roughly US$85 million, part of the mining giant's ongoing efforts to drive down costs and exit smaller operations around the world. A pact between the Australian company and the Native American group had been delayed in mid-June by proposed reforms in Arizona's electricity market. However, the Arizona Corporation Commission last month agreed not to push ahead at this time with the deregulation of the market. "There's nothing of consequence to be negotiated any more; there's just a lot of paper work to go through," said Craig Moyer of law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, who is lead counsel for the Navajo Nation. Mr. Moyer in a telephone interview said the sale is expected to be completed Dec. 1. Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, in a statement said the agreement would protect more than 800 jobs and revenue for the group. The mine on Navajo land has supplied fuel to the Four Corners Power Plant for about 50 years, generating revenue for the Navajo Nation of more than US$40 million in 2011. The plant supplies power to New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas...more

Cross-border drug tunnel equipped with rail system

A tunnel designed to smuggle drugs from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego was equipped with lighting, ventilation and an electric rail system, U.S. authorities said Thursday, making it one of the most sophisticated secret passages discovered along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities seized 8 1/2 tons of marijuana and 327 pounds of cocaine in connection with the tunnel’s discovery, according to court records. Three men who authorities say worked as drivers were charged Thursday with possession of marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said they face prison sentences between 10 years and life if convicted. The tunnel, which zigzags the length of nearly six football fields, links warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial area. The area is filled with nondescript warehouses, making it easier to conceal trucks being loaded with drugs. The tunnel was shut down Wednesday night, before any drugs made it through undetected, authorities said. Federal agents had the San Diego warehouse under surveillance after being tipped off by an informant who told them that operators bought drills and other construction equipment in August and September. As U.S. border security has heightened on land, Mexican drug cartels have turned to ultralight aircraft, small fishing boats and tunnels. More than 75 underground passages have been discovered along the border since 2008, designed largely to smuggle marijuana...more

Amid NSA spying revelations, tech leaders call for new restraints on agency

Mounting revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance have alarmed technology leaders in recent days, driving a renewed push for significant legislative action from an industry that long tried to stay above the fray in Washington. After months of merely calling for the government to be more transparent about its surveillance requests, tech leaders have begun demanding substantive new restraints on how the National Security Agency collects and uses the vast quantities of information it scoops up around the globe, much of it from the data streams of U.S. companies. The pivot marks an aggressive new posture for an industry that often has trod carefully in Washington — devoting more attention to blunting potentially damaging actions than to pushing initiatives that might prove controversial and alienate users from its lucrative services. Six leading technology companies — Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL — sent a letter to Senate leaders Thursday reflecting the sharpening industry strategy, praising the sponsors of a bill that would end the bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans and create a privacy advocate to represent civil liberties interests within the secretive court that oversees the NSA...more

Happy Halloween


Obama will not attend Gettysburg ceremony

Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said Wednesday that President Obama will not be attending the Dedication Day Ceremony on Nov. 19 at the Gettysburg cemetery, as many had expected. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will represent the administration, she said. This year’s ceremony is considered particularly special because it comes on the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of his best-known speech, the Gettysburg Address...more  

I guess that "of the people, by the people, for the people" stuff would be embarrassing to the President.

Obama to Nominate Rhea Suh as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today praised President Obama's intent to nominate Rhea S. Suh as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Suh would oversee and coordinate policy decisions for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Suh currently serves as Interior's Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget (PMB) - a position she has held since May 19, 2009. As Assistant Secretary, Suh oversees a broad portfolio of policy and administrative functions that support the Department and its workforce, including budget, law enforcement and security management, human resources, and procurement. Suh holds responsibility as the Department's Chief Financial Officer and Chief Human Capital Officer, and provides policy leadership on international affairs and initiatives on land conservation, sustainability, diversity, and youth engagement and employment...more

FBI seized Lavabit secure email keys, wrecked business, told owner to trust government

The FBI fined, threatened, and forced Ladar Levison to suspend the operation of his secure email service, Lavabit LLC, telling the entrepreneur that his users were more likely to trust the government than him. This year, the government demanded that Levison turn over his private SSL (secure socket layer) so that the FBI could investigate a single user account allegedly belonging to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. “By taking these keys from me they were able to unlock everything coming in and out…gaining access to email content, passwords, and credit card numbers,” Levison told The Daily Caller in an interview. The keys allowed the FBI to “masquerade” as Levison himself, giving the agency administrative access to his system. “They were completely unwilling to provide any kind of transparency back to me to assure me that the only information they were collecting was the information on this one specific user,” said Levison. “Users trusted me to protect their private information and I was essentially opening up the doors wide for the feds to come in and take whatever they wanted.” And the FBI wanted a lot more access than to just one account, Levison said. “I had an FBI agent that came to my home office saying that they wanted to collect content, wanted to collect passwords. I could not in good conscience turn over these keys and let them have unaudited access.” According to Levison, the worst part was being under court-sanctioned gag order, leaving him unable to explain his self-described “existential crisis” to customers. “How do you fight a law that nobody knows exists?” said Levison, “I was having trouble sleeping. It was a huge problem for me ethically.” Instead of willfully handing over the SSL keys, Levison went to court, but he was eventually ordered to comply, with a $5,000 per day penalty if he refused. So in August, Levison suspended the operations of his company indefinitely — a decision that led to contempt of court charges against him. “Eventually the reporters will stop calling and I’ll realize I’m unemployed,” Levison said. “It goes to show how far the feds are willing to go to get what they want.”...more

New Mexico’s Spaceport America to seek more state money in light of Virgin Galactic delay

Virgin Galactic has again pushed back its estimated start date for launching commercial flights from New Mexico’s Spaceport America, and spaceport officials say they’ll need to ask the state for more money to make up for lost user fees and visitor revenue at the fledging project. Christine Anderson, executive director of the spaceport, said Wednesday that she plans to ask the Legislature for $7 million to finish paving a road between the spaceport and Las Cruces because other expenses have eaten into her budget. The budget had assumed Virgin’s space flights by would begin in February 2014, and that the spaceport’s visitor center would be open at the end of this year. But the first flights have been pushed back to August, and the visitor center, which will feature theme-park style, space-related experiences, is a year behind. Years ago, Virgin Galactic originally planned to begin flying from Spaceport in 2011. But delays on development of its rocket continue to push that date forward. It began paying $1 million a year rent on the facility in January. And minimum user fees of $50,000 a month will kick in in about 45 days, Anderson said...more


"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men."
-- John Stuart Mill

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1138

 Can't leave the ladies out of Mule Week on Ranch Radio, so here's Loretta Lynn - Two Mules Pull This Wagon.  The tune is on her 1966 LP album I Like 'Em Country

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NM game and fish director to resign

The director of New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department announced his resignation Wednesday, but the department remained tightlipped about his departure. Word that Jim Lane would be stepping down was first made public after a special, closed meeting held by the Game Commission in Albuquerque. The meeting agenda did not list any specifics, only that commissioners would be discussing personnel issues involving the hiring, promotion, resignation or investigation of several employees. The department released a statement Wednesday afternoon that did not mention Lane and said only that Assistant Director R.J. Kirkpatrick would soon begin serving as acting director. Lane did not return messages seeking comment that were left at his office. Lane was selected by the commission to serve as director in October 2011. He had worked previously as the chief of the department’s Wildlife Management Division...more

Is it a Chupacabra or a Zombie Dog - video

PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - An unwanted visitor has made himself at home in the quiet town of Picayune. "If a zombie had a dog, it would look like that," said Jennifer Whitfield. She and her 11-year-old son, Justin, spotted the mysterious creature on a lot near their home. They weren't sure what to think, but Justin believed it could be a chupacabra. They captured video of the animal and posted it online. That's when they discovered they weren't the only ones to spot the animal. A few streets over, the Dentons were lready on the case. "I kept looking up ‘hairless coyote,' and it kept saying ‘chupacabra,'" said Amanda Denton. "We've been running back and forth to our cars because we didn't want the chupacabra to get us." Her husband, Jonathan, was at a loss as well. "I didn't know what it was, but then Animal Control couldn't find it, so maybe it was a chupacabra," he said. Right up the road, the Cooper family presented another possibility. "My dad said that it was a ‘squatchdog' because he's obsessed with watching ‘Finding Bigfoot'," said 17-year-old Caroline Cooper. Despite their squatchdog theory, the Coopers wanted an expert opinion, so they called the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Master Sergeant David Burnette said the creature was a coyote with mange The legend of "El Chupacabra" dates back to the 1970s. The term literally translates to "goat-sucker," because the creature is believed to have sucked the blood of goats...more  

Here's the WLOX video report:

NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.

The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.
The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.

White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas.
In a statement, Google said it was “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity.”

“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” the company said.

At Yahoo, a spokeswoman said: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

Under PRISM, the NSA already gathers huge volumes of online communications records by legally compelling U.S. technology companies, including Yahoo and Google, to turn over any data matching court-approved search terms. That program, which was first disclosed by The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper, is authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

PRISM already gave the NSA access to tech giants. Here’s why it wanted more.

A new report from the Post's Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani reveals that the NSA has been tapping into the primary communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. That allowed the agency to collect metadata and content from hundreds of millions of user accounts -- including many belonging to American citizens and residents.

The NSA already had robust front door access to those companies via PRISM. So why did it need a back door?

There are some obvious reasons: The operations take place overseas, where many statutory restriction on surveillance don't apply -- and where the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court (FISC) has no jurisdiction. In fact, the FISC ruled a similar, smaller scale program involving cables on U.S. territory illegal in 2011. So if the NSA decides to harvest that data on foreign soil, it can skip most of the oversight mechanisms.

Data are an essentially global commodity, and the backup processes of companies often mean that data is replicated many places across the world. So just because you sent an e-mail in the U.S., doesn't mean it will always stay within the nation's borders for its entire life in the cloud...

 But the NSA may have preferred its back-door method of accessing the data because it was less visible to the technology companies holding the data. By accessing data without the knowledge of tech companies, it didn't have to worry that the volume of data iit was accessing could raise privacy alarm bells within those companies.

Bringing conservatives back to the conservation movement

by Marc Gunther

Sometime in the last decade, conservatives left the conservation movement.

Lynn Scarlett, the new director of public policy at The Nature Conservancy, wants to bring them back. It's a big – and important – job.

Fortunately, she's not alone. Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, leads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University, which aims to "unleash the power of free enterprise to deliver the fuels of the future". A group called the Conservation Leadership Council, which is led by Gale Norton and Ed Schafer, who were interior and agriculture secretaries during the George W Bush administration, is "encouraging conservative voices to join the conversation about the environment".

Furthermore, prominent business leaders, including John Faraci, the CEO of International Paper, and Jim Connaughton, a vice-president at Constellation Energy and a former White House official, also belong to the council.

"There are solutions to environmental problems that are consistent with conservative principles," Scarlett told me last week at The Nature Conservancy headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. The business-friendly NGO works across party lines and has branches in all 50 states (and in 35 countries).

And Scarlett has the right credentials – pun intended – to reach Republicans and business leaders, many of whom have turned away from environmentalism. She served as deputy secretary of the interior for eight years, and before that she spent 15 years at the libertarian Reason Foundation, rising to become president of the think tank "dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets". She's also a lifelong and passionate birder.

Here's why her work matters: No major environmental law has been enacted by Congress without bipartisan support.

President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The first President Bush backed the 1990 expansion of the Clean Air Act, which helped curb acid rain and introduced the principle of cap-and-trade into environmental law. And as recently as 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain supported climate regulation. Going back much further, a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, was perhaps America's greatest champion of national parks.

In Scarlett's view, conservatives in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and beyond generally supported the values of environmentalism – protecting land, air and water from pollution – even as they criticized "the tool kit", meaning top-down, command-and-control rules that expanded federal power, created a drag on economic growth and mandated specific actions or technologies.

I've met Lynn Scarlett and wish her well.  There is one thing though...Nixon, Bush I, McCain and Teddy Roosevelt were or are not conservatives.  Anyone interested in free market environmentalism should visit the PERC website.

Are ‘kid cages’ protecting N.M. children, or a case of ranchers crying wolf?

A child waiting for a school bus in Reserve, a tiny community in rural New Mexico, may feel a little caged in, perhaps claustrophobic — but that’s precisely the point. About a half-dozen wooden and mesh "kid cages" are located at bus stops in the rural, western New Mexico town, where there have been sightings of the Mexican gray wolf. Some of the 300 or so residents say the shelters could save the life of a child who waits in the predawn hours for a ride to school, but critics say they are part of an effort by ranchers to demonize the animals. “They’re designed so children can step up in them and sit down and wait for the bus,” Catron County Sheriff Shawn Menges told “What happens out here in these rural areas is that most of the time, the parents are going to sit and wait with the children [for the bus] in their vehicle, but that’s not always true.” The shelters have been in place for about a decade, but their purpose is under renewed scrutiny as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposes to extend Endangered Species Act protections for an estimated 75 Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. Ranchers are opposed to the extension, and claim that the wolves, which prey on livestock but have not been known to attack humans in the area, should be hunted. Earlier this year, according to Menges, a wolf frightened a mother and her young son near a bus stop on the outskirts of town. It was removed by FWS agents, but word of the encounter spread. “She saw the wolf and tried to make it leave, but it didn’t,” he said. “It moved toward her instead.” The cages were installed on orders of Reserve Independent Schools officials, according to Menges. Cindy Shellhorn, principal of Reserve High School, initially told that the school was “not involved” in the cages and referred additional questions to local community members. Shellhorn later acknowledged that the shelters were constructed under the direction of a previous superintendent and school board. “Some of them are still in place and students are able to access them as shelters from weather, etc., at bus stops,” Shellhorn told in an email. The cages are unnecessary and are part of a larger “anti-government” fear held by some in the Southwest, according to Eva Sargent, director of Southwest programs for Defenders of Wildlife...more

I guess the Defenders folks expect these parents to wait and see if there is an attack before they take action to protect their children.

Idaho tribes want first crack at federal land

If anyone should get Idaho's 32 million acres of federal land, it should be the Indian tribes, tribal leaders said Monday. Representatives of three of Idaho's Indian tribes testified before the Idaho Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee Monday. They added to the doubts about the legality, cost and value of transferring the state's popular public lands from federal to state management. "If Congress is to transfer title to any lands, they should transfer them to their original owners, the Indian tribes," said Helo Hancock, legislative director of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. But several speakers Monday, including timber industry representatives, offered solutions and ways for the state to improve public land management short of a state takeover. Under questioning, the tribal representatives said any transfer of federal land to the state would bring legal challenges from the tribes. Timber industry representatives focused not on a state takeover, but on changing federal land management laws that they said discourage timber harvesting. Several noted that reform of laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act can't be made by the Idaho Legislature. "We know that change has to come from Washington, D.C., and likely won't come from Boise," said Jerry Deckard, speaking for 400 log-hauling contractors. The timber industry is focused on the 23.5 percent of Forest Service land designated for timber production nationwide, said Robert Boeh, vice president of Idaho Forest Group, which has five sawmills in Idaho employing 800 people. It wants to see the same certainty for lands dedicated to timber production as lands designated for wilderness. To do this, he advocated federal legislation that would clarify to the courts that timber production is the primary objective on that fourth of the national forests; clear targets for timber volume and acreage to ensure accountability; and streamlined environmental laws...more

Ten-year study in Alberta found warmer grizzly bears fatter, more fertile

Research by the University of Alberta shows that grizzly bears in parts of the province are getting fatter and more fertile thanks to global warming. The study conducted over 10 years found that warmer temperatures and easier access to food help grizzlies build more body fat and increase their likelihood of reproduction. Bears in more development-prone foothills of the Rockies are generally larger and healthier than those in remote old-growth forests in places like Jasper National Park, data shows. “It is kind of contrary to what you would think,” Scott Nielsen, a biologist in the university’s Department of Renewable Resources, said. Bears in secluded alpine environments are less productive because they have a more limited food supply, Nielsen said. The down side is that animals that live closer to development have higher mortality rates. “The bears do better, but they don’t live as long,” Nielsen said. “The important thing is controlling their interactions with people."...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1137

On Mule Week on Ranch Radio is Al Hopkins & Buckle Busters - Whoa, Mule.  The tune was recorded in New York City on May 13, 1927 and is available from Document records.  Folks may find some of the lyrics offensive, but it is our intent to play country music as it was originally recorded, without sugar coating.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Professor warns world entering 'little ice age'

Global warming? More like global cooling, according to a leading U.K. scientist. Professor Mike Lockwood from Reading University told the BBC that at the current rate of decline in solar activity, there is a risk that Northern Europe could become much colder and enter a new “Little Ice Age.” The “Little Ice Age” refers to a period during the 1600s when winters were harsh all across Europe. The cold weather that plagued the continent coincided with an inactive sun, called the Maunder solar minimum. Lockwood argues that during the late 20th century, the sun was unusually active, with the so-called “grand maximum” of solar activity occurring around 1985. But solar activity has decreased since then. “By looking back at certain isotopes in ice cores, [Lockwood] has been able to determine how active the sun has been over thousands of years,” The BBC reports.” Following analysis of the data, Professor Lockwood believes solar activity is now falling more rapidly than at any time in the last 10,000 years.” Based on these findings, Lockwood argues that there is an increased risk of a Maunder minimum; and a repeat of a “Dalton solar minimum,” which occurred in the early 1800s, is “more likely than not” to happen again. “He believes that we are already beginning to see a change in our climate — witness the colder winters and poor summers of recent years — and that over the next few decades there could be a slide to a new Maunder minimum,” BBC reports, adding that harsh winters and cooler summers would become more frequent. Lockwood’s research flies directly in the face of scientists who argue that human activities are causing the planet to heat up, commonly known as global warming. They argue that greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, trap heat in the planet, causing the Earth’s surface and oceans to warm...more

At least 63,900 New Mexicans must change health care policies

At least 63,900 people in New Mexico have been notified they’re going to have to change their individual health care policies — some must do it within a matter of months while others can wait until end of next year — according to a review by New Mexico Watchdog. One of those people who will see his coverage change is Jerry Hardin of Albuquerque and he’s not happy about it. “I have had a lot of things done in the last few months,” the 58-year-old Hardin told New Mexico Watchdog. “I went to the cardiologist, had a procedure done with my eyes and it didn’t cost me a whole lot. Now everything’s changing and getting more expensive.” Earlier this month, Hardin received a letter from the University of New Mexico health care plan he belongs to — called UNM Care — informing him his policy will be cancelled by the end of next March...more

Don’t Retreat on ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

Having kicked the debt-ceiling can down the road, Congress is back to grandstanding over the non-economic issues that occupied its time before it was reminded that it hadn’t passed a budget in nearly five years. One of those bizarre discursions is the crusade against Stand Your Ground (“SYG”) laws, which have been blamed for every recent shooting death, most notably that of Trayvon Martin. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), is holding a subcommittee hearing to discuss the issue, while SYG laws remain a tremendously misunderstood part of the debate over criminal-justice reform. Notwithstanding recent efforts to politicize the issue, there’s nothing particularly novel, partisan, or ideological about these laws. All they do is allow people to assert their right to self-defense in certain circumstances without having a “duty to retreat.” The SYG principle has been enshrined in the law of a majority of states — currently more than 30 — for over 150 years. Of the 15 states that have enacted SYG since 2005, a majority were signed by Democratic governors, including Jennifer Granholm, Janet Napolitano, and Kathleen Sebelius. Louisiana and West Virginia passed them with Democratic control of both state houses. Florida’s supposedly controversial law passed the state senate unanimously and split Democrats in the state house. When Illinois strengthened its longstanding SYG law in 2004, state senator Barack Obama joined in unanimous approval. Even in more restrictive states, courts have held that retreat isn’t required at home or when preventing a serious crime. Indeed, it’s a universal principle that a person can use force when she reasonably believes it’s necessary to defend against an imminent use of unlawful force. Where there’s no duty to retreat, she’s further justified in using deadly force if she reasonably believes it necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm, or a forcible felony like rape...more

Sen. Paul bashes 'electric car-driving Hollywood liberals'

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attacked Hollywood liberal types on Tuesday at a coal-industry sponsored rally on Capitol Hill. Thousands of coal miners, advocates and others dressed in mining hats and holding signs that read, "Obama hates coal miners," gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol to bash the administration's proposed power plant rules. Paul took the opportunity to share his views of those in Hollywood who have become steady buyers of green vehicles like Teslas. "Are any of you Hollywood liberals?" Paul asked to a riled-up crowd that answered with a resounding "No!" "I can't wait till their electric cars stop running," he said to cheers. There is a disconnect with Hollywood liberals, Paul said to The Hill. "They plug their car into the wall and they think that just because they can't see the smoke coming from the smoke stack that somehow that electricity is perfectly clean because it came out of the wall," Paul said on Tuesday. "They also fly around in their private planes and are probably polluting more than you and I will in our car in a decade."...more

Witnesses testify to House committee on threats and intimidation by federal land managing agencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held an oversight hearing entitled “Threats, Intimidation and Bullying by Federal Land Managing Agencies.”  The hearing examined the ongoing and abusive conduct by federal land management agencies taken against private property rights.

“Pioneers viewed the West as the land of opportunity. They saw a chance for greater independence, self-sufficiency, and a better way of life for their families. Today, however, some of these same families, industries, and communities are struggling to stay afloat thanks to some overbearing federal agents who think they are above the law. The witnesses today shared their personal stories of federal intrusion, harassment, and bullying. These incidents involving certain federal land managers and private citizens are not isolated to the recent shutdown, but have become all too routine in communities throughout the West. Private property rights have regularly been trampled by well-funded activist operations and their political allies, but to have federal agents using similar tactics is absolutely unacceptable.  My hope is that through this hearing we can shed light on this growing problem and advance solutions that limit the federal government’s abusive behavior in the future,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01).

Witnesses who testified before the Subcommittee shared their personal experiences of abusive conduct by federal land management agencies and offered solutions on how to stop this behavior.

Lorenzo Valdez, who is a cattle rancher from Rio Arriba County in New Mexico, told the Subcommittee that he and other ranchers were denied grazing permits because they spoke out publically against the U.S. Forest Service’s actions to “destabilize and degrade” private property rights.  Valdez said, “The Forest Service has made it nearly impossible for these ranchers to sustain their grazing permits which results not only in a loss of their private property but in the slow destruction of their cultural fabric.”

In 1984, Tim Lowry bought a cattle ranch in Oregon’s North Fork Wilderness Study Area (WSA) only to find out that just months after his purchase, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was planning to drastically cut the grazing allotment on Lowry’s land.  Lowry proactively reached out to the BLM because he was “confident that working together we could solve any issues relating to grazing in the WSA.  I was wrong.”  Lowry added, “If family ranches are to remain intact, a functioning un-fragmented landscape maintained, the economy Owyhee County protected, and access for recreationists preserved, then this broken, dysfunctional land management must be fixed.”

Brenda Richards, Idaho rancher and Owyhee County Treasurer, shared one specific example of misconduct by federal land management agencies when it came to the Gateway West Power Transmission Line.  “Early on in this process these lines were to come across the public land, leaving as much private ground as possible” because private land is scarce in this area.  This decision was made with input from all stakeholders involved – the power company, recreational groups, county groups, county elected officials, and surrounding residents.  Unfortunately, one person in the BLM’s Washington office negated all the input, time, and money spent on arriving at a decision that was satisfactory to everyone involved. “The player in this game that we have found out to be playing by their own set of rules – and truly that is a form of bullying when you are aware you can get away with it – is the Bureau of Land Management,”said Richards.

Frank Robbins, a Wyoming Rancher who exercised his right to decline demands from the BLM for an uncompensated right-of-way across his private land, shared his experiences when the BLM began “engaging in a pattern of intentionally abusive conduct to coerce me to grant my property rights to BLM and punish me for not immediately capitulating to the BLM’s demands.”  Robbins called for a solution to stop this behavior by federal land management agency employees. “Win or lose, should private individuals and businesses have the chance to prove that that have been harassed, punished, and bullied by federal bureaucrats, there needs to be more accountability of federal employees and opening the courthouse door is one way to provide for that accountability.”

Nevada Rancher Wayne Hage, Jr. noted that since 1978 he has experienced a “disregard for my family’s property rights” by federal land management agencies and that these agencies“have punished us for making an honest use and assertion of these rights.”  For the past 23 years, Hage and his family have been in court protecting these property rights from the federal government.  From his experiences in dealing with “threats, intimidation, and bullying” by the federal government, Hage called for “harsh penalties to be placed upon employees who break the law and violate a person’s rights” and an “easier way to hold them accountable.”


An elderly gentlemen...

Early one morning, an elderly retired gentleman yelled to his wife....

"Honey....! Come see what I created....! It's an abstract panorama depicting the five years of the Obama presidency!"

She yelled back, "Flush the toilet and come eat your breakfast."

Global warming gets nearly twice as much taxpayer money as border security

New estimates show the federal government will spend nearly twice as much fighting global warming this year than on U.S. border security. The White House reported to House Republicans that there are 18 federal agencies engaged in global warming activities in 2013, funding a wide range of programs, including scientific research, international climate assistance, incentivizing renewable energy technology and subsidies to renewable energy producers. Global warming spending is estimated to cost $22.2 billion this year, and $21.4 billion next year. At the same time, the federal government will spend nearly $12 billion on customs and border enforcement this year...more

Take This State And Shove It: The New Secession Movement

There's a big race right now to become the 51st state. Forget traditional contenders like Puerto Rico. In several existing states, residents of less populous areas are hoping to create new states of their own. Citizens in 11 northeastern Colorado counties are among them. They'll vote on Nov. 5 whether to break off and form their own state. Many are unhappy about liberal state legislation they believe reflects the values of the Denver-Boulder corridor, but not their part of the world. "We're rarely listened to when it comes to legislation," says Butch White, the mayor of Ault. "I'm sure the vote will pass in Weld County quite easily." The Colorado counties aren't alone. There's been occasional talk of secession at various times in recent decades, but now the idea is showing signs of taking root across the map...more

Sea lion species removed from endangered species list

The eastern Steller sea lion, which roams the West Coast between Alaska and California, has been taken off the U.S. Endangered Species List after a major population comeback over the last several years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Fisheries Service, which manages the population, announced the decision this week after proposing to delist the sea lion species last year. Steller sea lions, whose scientific name is Eumetopias jubatus, are the largest of the eared seals. Historically, the animals had been hunted for their meat and hides and killed by fisherman who blamed the animals for stealing their catch. The creatures were first added to the Endangered Species List in 1990 in light of evidence that the species had experienced a steep decline over the previous decades. According to biologists' estimates, the number of eastern Steller sea lions had dwindled to around 18,000 by the late 1970s. But by 2010, the population had bounced back to more than 70,000 individuals, NOAA officials said. That translates to a growth rate of 4.18 percent each year, exceeding the federal agency's recovery criteria...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1136

We continue Mule Week on Ranch Radio with the Rice Brothers Gang performing "Brown Mule Slide."  The tune is on their BACM cd King Cotton Stomp.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feds seek threatened status in Nevada and California for some sage grouse

Federal wildlife officials on Friday proposed to list as threatened populations of greater sage grouse in Nevada and California in an effort to save the struggling species, a decision that promises to have wide-ranging effects on mineral and energy development in the West. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that invasive species and energy development in the desert have had a devastating effect on the large, ground-dwelling bird’s populations,” said Ted Koch, Nevada state supervisor for the service. The service found multiple threats facing this specific sub-population of the sage grouse, a chicken-size bird whose males have a large white tuft around their necks. The service estimates there are only about 5,000 of the birds left. Non-native pinyon and juniper trees introduced to the habitat coupled with the power lines that crisscross through the area have given low-to-the-ground perches for raptors, which eat the grouse, Koch said. The service also found that an invasive grass that burns easily has helped decimate sagebrush, which is key to the grouse’s survival. The cheat grass rebounds after wildfires much quicker than sagebrush. The final decision on the service’s proposal will occur next year, and the public will have 60 days to comment on the decision. Ranchers, miners and energy developers who use the mostly public lands that serve as the sage grouse’s habitat have opposed the listing, saying it would have a deep economic impact in the rural West...more

Harry Reid represents Nevada and he's the powerful majority leader in the Senate, so let's see what he had to say:

Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said the decision will have “major ramifications” on the way of life in parts of Nevada and California. “This listing is further proof that we need to work together to protect sensitive species before they get to such a dismal point and negatively affect our rural economies,” Reid said in a statement.

It has "major ramifications" for his constituents but all old Harry can say is we need to "work together" to protect, what? His constituents?  Nope, the birds.  How about we make some reasonable amendments to the ESA Harry.  As long as the west keeps electing knuckle heads like this we'll keep having laws and policy that "negatively affect our rural economies".

BLM says 18 of 25 renewed Owyhee grazing permits require cuts

Eighteen of 25 renewed grazing permits unveiled Friday include reductions in the number of cattle and sheep Owyhee County ranchers will be able to graze on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The agency issued a final environmental impact statement for renewing 25 livestock grazing permits on allotments in the Jump Creek, Succor Creek and Cow Creek watersheds in western Owyhee County. It will publish proposed decisions Nov. 8. The EIS includes analysis of how the alternatives meet environmental laws and BLM’s Idaho standards for rangeland health, a series of guidelines to ensure that the desert ecosystem is functioning. The standards help agency scientists determine that the native grasses and shrubs are healthy, that streamside areas and watersheds are thriving and that habitat for sage grouse and other endangered species is protected. The ranchers' own proposals were picked as the preferred alternative in six of the allotments. Seasonal grazing reductions and a rest and deferment program were preferred for seven of the allotments, and a program of postponement and delay of grazing was preferred in 11 of the allotments. Two allotments were merged. The 25 allotments are part of 68 grazing permit renewals the BLM was ordered to conduct by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill after a lawsuit by Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group that opposes grazing. The bureau has until the end of 2013 to renew the remaining permits...more

Owyhee Initiative still alive

You wouldn't have known from Owyhee County rancher Dennis Stanford's presentation Wednesday about reseeding after a range fire that he is facing orders to remove up to half his cattle from public land. Stanford is one of the ranchers the Bureau of Land Management told in January to reduce their seasonal grazing to meet rangeland health standards. He also is one of the key proponents of the Owyhee Initiative, formed by Owyhee County more than a decade ago to bring ranchers together with groups such as the Idaho Conservation League and the Nature Conservancy to protect wilderness and ranching. The grazing cuts came as a result of an order by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who ruled in a lawsuit by Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group that opposes grazing. Winmill ordered the BLM to update the grazing permits to show the agency was meeting its standards for rangeland health, guidelines to ensure that the desert ecosystem is functioning. The standards help agency scientists determine that native grasses and shrubs are healthy, streamside areas and watersheds are thriving, and habitat for sage grouse and other endangered species is protected. Many observers predicted the BLM's grazing orders would break up the collaboration, which helped Republican Sen. Mike Crapo get a bill passed by Congress in 2009 to protect 517,000 acres of wilderness and provide help to ranchers and other groups. "There is a lot of tension," said Brenda Richards, Owyhee County treasurer and a rancher who still serves as chairman of the Owyhee Initiative. "If you had your job and your children's education at stake, think about how you would feel." But the Initiative Board and its conservation members signed a letter to the BLM, expressing concerns over its decisions to limit grazing to comply with Winmill's order. "They stepped up," said Richards, who kicked off a series of presentations on desert restoration Wednesday at the American Legion Hall...more

Western Ranchers Defend Big Victory in Grazing Battle

Two ranching organizations, an Arizona ranch, and an Arizona rancher at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today defended their victory from an Arizona federal district court that granted them summary judgment in a lawsuit by environmental groups demanding that grazing permits be revoked and subjected to lengthy federal environmental review. The groups claim the U.S. Forest Service violated federal law when it reauthorized permits that allow ranchers to graze their livestock on nearby federal lands as they have done for generations by failing to conduct full environmental impact statements (EISs) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prior to reissuing the permits. The Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, the Public Lands Council, Orme Ranch, Inc., and Bert Teskey, all represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), maintain that Congress made clear that no EISs are required. After the two groups dropped challenges to seven Forest Service decisions, the matter was briefed and argued. The district court upheld the agency’s ruling as to seven of the eight decisions. “The Forest Service complied with the law and the panel should uphold the district court’s ruling,” said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.” In fiscal years 2005 through 2007, the Forest Service, without conducting environmental reviews pursuant to NEPA, reauthorized several grazing permits on lands managed by the Forest Service. On August 15, 2011, the Western Watersheds Project and the Center For Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit alleging that 17 of the reauthorizations—seven in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona, three in the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, six in the Prescott National Forest in Arizona, and one in the Coronado National Forest in New Mexico—violated NEPA. The lawsuit was filed despite the clear intent of Congress that the Forest Service is not required to do the reviews...more

Saving a Texas rite of passage, one ranch at a time

In Texas, quail equals money. It’s “the sexy wildlife species,” as one rancher put it. Hunters love to bag the small ground-dwelling birds. Ranchers are eager to attract them. But the quail population has declined precipitously along with the grasslands that make up their native range — victims of lost habitat, overgrazing, drought and changing farm practices. Alarmed, the Texas Legislature appropriated $4 million in 2013 for quail research by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and $2 million for studies of the bobwhite quail by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Kelly Reyna is already digging in. Two years ago, Reyna, executive director of UNT Quail, a new research and landowner extension program, envisioned cobbling together enough landowners to form a 50,000-acre corridor where the prized but increasingly scarce game bird can thrive. “I thought if I could just get three or four ranchers, it would be enough to take me through to retirement,” said Reyna, 41, a Flower Mound native who has raised $500,000 for the research program at the University of North Texas and hopes to attract $1.5 million more. He figured it might take years to persuade enough ranchers to participate in a plan to reverse decades of habitat destruction. But Reyna’s sales pitch was unique: Grazing cattle, squeezing a living out of a ranch and sustaining bobwhites were all part of the equation. And his phone started ringing. Plenty of landowners, as it turned out, were intrigued by the idea of a quail restoration effort that tapped the synergy among habitat, wildlife and livestock. Reyna has signed up 47 landowners with 565,000 acres, or about 882 square miles. He’s in discussions with ranchers who own an additional 100,000 acres. “It has been amazing. It has gotten really big, really fast,” he said...more

Ain't it amazin' what you can do on private property with a voluntary program.

Chase Ranch to be preserved

A ranch near Cimarron that had been run by a couple of members of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame will be preserved and managed by the nearby Philmont Scout Ranch under an agreement that goes into effect Friday. And perhaps as early as next spring, members of the public will be able to visit a museum that will be created in the main house of the Chase Ranch. “These two great ladies demonstrated a pioneer spirit that we don’t have today,” John Clark, Philmont’s general manager, said of Gretchen Sammis and Ruby Gobble. Sammis, the fourth generation of her family to own and operate the 11,000-acre cattle ranch, died in August 2012 and specified in her will that it be preserved and operated as a model historic ranch, with Gobble having the right to live there the rest of her life. Gobble, a trick rider and world champion roper, was Sammis’ companion for 49 years and ranch manager. She died on June 14 of this year. Her death helped spur the Chase Ranch Foundation, which owns the ranch, to come up with a way to fulfill Sammis’ wishes for its future, according to Clark. “They came to us and asked us if we can partner with them,” he said. “We are absolutely thrilled to death to do that.” In a news release, Ed Pease, president of the Chase Ranch Foundation, noted that Philmont, owned by the Boy Scouts of America, has both the expertise and the funds to make Sammis’ dream come true. No money changed hands in the lease and operating agreement, according to Clark. In return for having access to the land for some of its own scouting programs, Philmont will manage the working ranch, repair and maintain structures on the property, turn the house into a museum and staff it, as well as develop educational programs for both Philmont scouts and the public...more

Gretchen Sammis was one of the early supporters of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1135

Shelton Brothers - Ridin' On A Hump Back Mule will kick off Mule Week on Ranch Radio and also serve as our Swingin' Monday tune.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Ghost tales from the camp fire

by Julie Carter

Phantom horses, phantom rider – the stuff ghost stories are made of.

In J. Frank Dobie’s “Coronado's Children,” a tale from cow camp relates the story of the murder of a cowboy along the Loma Escondida road.

Carrying gold coins in his saddle bags to buy a herd of cattle, he rode out on his cream-colored dun stallion with the black stripe down his back --what the Mexicans called a bayo coyote.

After his second night out, he rose, saddled the lineback dun and went to receive the herd he was purchasing. A couple hours later, the sheriff came along on his way to inspect the herd for stray brands. He found both the cowboy and his horse dead. The saddle bags were gone. 

The sheriff gathered a posse, followed the tracks and caught up with the murderers late in the afternoon. Although both the murderers readily admitted to the killing the cowboy, nothing could persuade them to divulge where they had hidden the saddle bags full of gold coins. They were hung for their crime and with that, carried the secret to their graves. 

Over the years, many tried unsuccessfully to find the hidden treasure. There was only a short stretch of road between where the murder took place and where the criminals were overtaken, but nothing was found.

Years later, another cowboy was sent from a cow camp to the headquarters of the ranch to fetch coffee. He left camp after dark and was trotting along the same road where the cowboy had been murdered, when up ahead he spotted two figures in the moonlight. 

Coming closer, the cowboy could see what he believed to be a man and a horse. The man mounted the horse and loped off. The curious cowboy set out to catch up, thinking it would be nice to have company on his night ride. 

As he narrowed the distance between himself and the rider ahead, he could see that the horse was a lineback dun. He continued following the rider and the dun up a steep brush-covered hill. 

At the top, the rider got a burst of speed and as he was passing by a dead mesquite tree, he totally disappeared. The cowboy thought the rider had simply slipped away into the brush in the dark of night. Without more thought, he continued his coffee-fetching errand.

He reached the ranch, twisted the coffee up in one end of a flour sack and began his return to cow camp. There at the same place as before,  he again saw the rider on the dun horse.

Putting a spur to his side, he kicked his horse off into a high lope with every intention of catching up with the mysterious rider. However, he never could quite close the gap between them,  even though the moonlight kept them silhouetted against the night. 

Once again as before, the rider and bayo coyote stallion seemed to disappear into that same mesquite tree. 

The cowboy dismounted, tied his horse and began to carefully explore the ground surrounding the tree. He could find no tracks. 

Perplexed, he leaned on the trunk and felt a long, deep gash that appeared to be a very old axe mark. Stumbling over a large rock, he saw something gleaming on the ground. Striking a match to see in the dark, he picked up the $20 gold piece.  

Familiar with the lost treasure story, he knew he’d likely found the spot where the fabled gold had been hidden. Turning over more rocks, he found the partially rotted saddle bags. 

The cowboy returned to the cow camp, presented the coffee to the cocinero, all the while keeping the other end of his flour sack carefully closed. 

Over the years, people would still come to hunt for the treasure, but now they hunted on the ranch belonging to the coffee-fetching cowboy. No one has ever again reported seeing the rider on the dun horse.

Traditional campfire stories carry a tone of gospel truth to them when belief is fed more than it is refuted.

Julie can be reached for comment at