Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yellowstone supervolcano 'even more colossal'

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report. A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested. A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock. The findings are being presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Prof Bob Smith, from the University of Utah, said: “We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger... but this finding is astounding." If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic. The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate. The team found that the magma chamber was colossal. Reaching depths of between 2km and 15km (1 to 9 miles), the cavern was about 90km (55 miles) long and 30km (20 miles) wide. It pushed further into the north east of the park than other studies had previously shown, holding a mixture of solid and molten rock...more


Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1166

Here's one for Mom and A-10:  Benny Goodman - Jingle Bells

Friday, December 13, 2013

U.S. wildlife managers urge lifting Yellowstone grizzly protections

Federal and state wildlife managers of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area recommended on Wednesday that U.S. Endangered Species Act protections be lifted for the animals, a decision that would open the way for them to be hunted. Yellowstone's grizzlies, now classified as a threatened species, were briefly removed from protected status by the federal government in 2007, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that the outsized, hump-shouldered bears had made a healthy comeback. At the time, the number of grizzlies in the region had exceeded the government's recovery goal of 500 bears, the government said. But conservationists successfully challenged the de-listing in court, arguing that the government discounted climate changes that brought about the decline of whitebark pines, a crucial food source for grizzlies, in the Yellowstone area. On Wednesday, members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee sought to reverse that decision, recommending a new de-listing after reviewing a report suggesting Yellowstone's bears can be sustained by berries and a multitude of other food sources. The panel estimated the grizzly population in and around Yellowstone, which spans parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, has now climbed to about 600 bears...more

Abundant 2013 corn harvest boosts ethanol production

Expectations for a record corn harvest in 2013 have helped lower corn prices since this summer, improving ethanol production margins and spurring an increase in the supply of ethanol. During the 2012 corn-growing season, the United States experienced the most severe and far-reaching drought since the 1950s. By late August 2012, approximately 85% of the corn grown in the United States was located in a drought area, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) World Agricultural Outlook Board. A projected 2012 record crop of 14.8 billion bushels of corn dwindled to a final production level of 10.8 billion bushels by the end of last year's harvest period.  Abundant snow and rainfall in late winter and early spring revived prime corn-growing land. For 2013, the USDA is predicting a record-high corn crop of 14.0 billion bushels, a 30% increase over 2012. Much of the United States is still experiencing drought in 2013, but large portions of the Midwest avoided prolonged drought during the critical growing months. The ethanol margin, the difference between the market price of ethanol and its cost of production adjusted by the value of co-products, is a measure of the profitability of producing ethanol. Between October 2012 and January 2013, the ethanol margin for producers was close to zero. The recent reduction in corn prices had a major impact on the profitability of ethanol production, because purchased corn is by far the largest cost incurred by ethanol producers. On average, one bushel of corn can be used to produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol. Between January and November 2013, corn prices fell from about $7.50 per bushel to below $4.50 per bushel. A $3 reduction in the price of a bushel of corn translates into a roughly $1.08 reduction in the cost of ethanol production. While ethanol prices have also declined, ethanol producer margins have risen above $0.50 per gallon in recent months...more

Tech giants' demand for NSA reform 'a major game-changer', advocates say

Senior figures behind efforts to curtail the powers of American spy agencies have seized on the decision by the world’s largest tech companies to call for radical surveillance reform, saying the unexpected intervention is a potential “game-changer”.  In an open letter published jointly on Monday, eight tech giants, including Apple, Google and Facebook, said disclosures by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that basic rights and freedoms were being undermined. The companies – which also include Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, LinkedIn and Twitter, and have a combined value of $1.4tn – called for widespread changes that, if enacted, would end many of the current programs through which governments spy on citizens at home and abroad. "This is a major game-changer,” Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an advocacy group, told the Guardian. She said the letter was certain to get the attention of the White House and Congress, not least because the often-cautious tech companies wrote the letter in unison, accompanied by personal statements from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his counterpart at Google, Larry Page. Tech giants usually leave public lobbying to the dozen or so industry associations in Washington. It is unprecedented for the major tech giants to put their names to a single political statement of this kind...more

Secretary Jewell meets with western governors to provide update on Sage Grouse Conservation Planning

At a meeting with western governors today, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded the unprecedented federal-state cooperation on planning efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse but emphasized that much work still needs to be done by both the federal government and the states in advance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s September 2015 deadline to determine if the species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act. “Thanks to our partnership with states throughout the range of the greater sage-grouse, we have made tremendous progress analyzing and planning landscape-level strategies that could lessen the threats to the bird and conserve its sage-brush habitat,” said Jewell. “At the same time, we are not yet where we need to be and it is time for both the states and the federal government to redouble our efforts so that we can have effective conservation efforts in place before a listing determination must be made.” Jewell highlighted important steps that have been taken including publication before the end of the year of draft changes to 98 resource management plans by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service that are expected to be finalized next year following a public comment period. She emphasized that conservation efforts on state and private lands need to be accelerated to mitigate the threats to the bird. “The states, too, must complete and begin to implement their own plans for state and private lands on a similar timeline,” she said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service needs substantial certainty that these plans will both be in place and effective as it considers the biological and legal issues related to a listing decision.”...more

Wyoming Gov. Mead seeks better cooperation with states from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

Gov. Matt Mead hopes Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will further commit to cooperation with and deference to the states during her keynote address today at the Western Governors' Association Conference in Las Vegas. Mead has not always agreed with Jewell or her predecessor, Ken Salazar, but it helps to have a working relationship, given that the secretary oversees the Bureau of Land Management's national parks and fish and wildlife services, said the governor’s press secretary, Renny MacKay. Mead would like to see the department reconsider the BLM's hydraulic fracturing rule, which is redundant since Wyoming’s rule -- the first one adopted by a state -- applies to BLM land, MacKay said. Other governors attending the winter meeting are John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, C. L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho, Steve Bullock of Montana and Gary Herbert of Utah...more

Secretary of Interior, study group visit Laguna Pueblo school

Greg Sorber/Albq Journal
A deteriorating building, the difficulty of recruiting and retaining teachers and the importance of maintaining a tribal identity while providing challenging classes were all issues U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell heard about Wednesday during a visit to Laguna Pueblo Elementary School. Jewell said it was her “first opportunity to see an Indian school directly” since she was sworn in as Interior secretary last April. Jewell was accompanied by a number of people with expertise in various education-related fields, who came together as part of the American Indian Education Study Group. They also attended a roundtable discussion with principals from other tribal schools. Assembled by Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the study group is charged with recommending improvements to Native American education. The group is also looking at how new educational reforms and Common Core standards will affect tribal schools. “Indian education is not like a regular public school system because it covers the entire country. So how do we deliver what’s right for students and do it in a way that provides academic rigor, but also supports the unique interests of each tribe?” Jewell asked...more

County ups ante to get early input with federal agencies

After years of verbal appeals and a systematic letter-writing campaign, the Okanogan County commissioners have ratcheted up efforts to encourage federal agency managers to coordinate their planning and decision-making with the county government. The commissioners adopted a resolution at the end of October that dedicates staff time and resources to implement a strategy to achieve their coordination goals and “[bring] the federal agency decisions to a greater level of consistency with the plans and policies of Okanogan County.” While the details of the strategy have not been developed, it could include litigation to compel federal agencies to involve the county from the earliest planning stages, according to Okanogan County Commissioner Jim DeTro. The resolution establishes a partnership with attorney Fred Kelly Grant, noting that “Okanogan County officials and staff have relied heavily on the training and guidance provided by Fred Kelly Grant to assist them in their interactions with federal agencies.” Grant is an attorney who has pursued the coordination issue on a national level, taking cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Okanogan County Commissioner Ray Campbell, who said Grant had offered to help Okanogan County and the three other northern-tier counties take on the coordination issue. “If necessary, we will be prepared to litigate to take the coordination process further,” said Campbell...more

Beetle aftermath Part 2: New forestry

Colorado’s timber industry is inextricably linked to the U.S. Forest Service. Over two-thirds of the state of Colorado is forested or woodland, and most of it lies in the high country. The U.S. Forest Service manages the bulk. And when it comes to beetle kill in the West, nearly all of the salvageable timber for mills lies in national forests – around 88 percent. As Colorado’s forests experience mass disturbances, from wildfire to beetle epidemics, mills argue the federal agency must work to make timber available and revive a lumber industry that died out decades ago. It’s useful in the short-term by helping to remove hazard trees and unsightly dead stands. Loggers and mill operators contend their industry is also vital in the long-term for forest regeneration, reducing wildfire fuels and thinning tree density for healthier stands that fight future bug outbreaks. Operators like Birtcher know the economic importance of their sawmills, too. The Montrose mill creates nearly 100 jobs and opportunities for workers to provide for their families. The mill contracts local loggers and truckers. Workers spend their wages at businesses in town. But studies show logging has negative impacts, too, both environmentally and economically. Even in a landscape awash with over 3 million acres of dead pine and an ever-growing number of dead spruce, the question remains whether Colorado can sustainably harvest enough trees and support a timber industry into the future...more

More Shots Fired in Snowmobile Wars

Four days after environmentalists sued Uncle Sam for opening up 3,000 miles of trails to motorized vehicles in Clearwater National Forest, two Idaho counties have gone to court demanding that 200 more miles be opened. Clearwater and Idaho Counties sued the U.S. Forest Service in Federal Court, claiming their residents will lose jobs, money and recreational opportunities under the government's plan. Three environmental groups sued the Forest Service last week, claiming its approval of 3,000 miles of off-road vehicle trails will "have significant, negative impacts on practically every aspect of the natural environment." Now, the two counties claim the Forest Service's Record of Decision (ROD) for its November 2011 Travel Management Plan illegally wipes out 200 miles of trails previously open to motorized vehicles. The counties claim it also designates portions of the forest as de-facto wilderness without Congressional approval. The plan prohibits the use of snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles (ORVs) in designated areas. This will affect timber harvesting, which will derail local economies, the counties say. The Travel Management Plan was developed without consideration for the counties' own land use plans, as required by federal law, the lawsuit states. It creates a "de-facto" wilderness out of Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs) based on "insufficient" and "non-existent" data from the Forest Service's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the counties say...more

Thursday, December 12, 2013

F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday put in place a major new policy to phase out the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in cows, pigs and chickens raised for meat, a practice that experts say has endangered human health by fueling the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance. This is the agency’s first serious attempt in decades to curb what experts have long regarded as the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals, with the drugs typically added directly into their feed and water. The waning effectiveness of antibiotics — wonder drugs of the 20th century — has become a looming threat to public health. At least two million Americans fall sick every year and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections. The change, which is to take effect over the next three years, will effectively make it illegal for farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics to make animals grow bigger. The producers had found that feeding low doses of antibiotics to animals throughout their lives led them to grow plumper and larger. Scientists still debate why. Food producers will also have to get a prescription from a veterinarian to use the drugs to prevent disease in their animals. Federal officials said the new policy would improve health in the United States by tightening the use of classes of antibiotics that save human lives, including penicillin, azithromycin and tetracycline. Food producers said they would abide by the new rules, but some public health advocates voiced concerns that loopholes could render the new policy toothless...more

Western governors show wildlife maps at Vegas meeting

Governors in 16 states are unveiling a high-tech wildlife habitat mapping project they hope will encourage economic development across the West while protecting the region’s environmental treasures from Puget Sound to the Rocky Mountains. The Western Governors’ Association wants to make it easier to chart paths across large landscapes where developers can expect the least regulatory resistance and threat of litigation as they draft plans to build highways, dig gold mines and erect power lines, pipelines or wind farms. Five years in the making, the database will connect 16 western states from California and Alaska to Montana and Oklahoma with a first-of-its-kind online system of colorful GIS maps displaying wildlife habitat, wetlands and other valuable natural resources — much of it detailed down to square-mile increments. The Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, or CHAT, provides layers of data that rate the resources on a scale of one to six, from most to least “crucial.” Individual states determine those priorities based on their information about such things as the condition of the habitat and the individual species’ economic and recreational importance. “The governors intent back in 2008 really was to cater to industries within their states who need data while at the same time conserving the resources the states are blessed with and the governors are charged with preserving,” said Carly Brown, policy manager for the Western Governors Association...more

Court rejects Las Vegas' groundwater rights to rural valleys

Las Vegas’ 25-year effort to import groundwater was dealt a major legal blow this week after a Nevada state judge invalidated the desert metropolis’ rights to the water under four eastern Nevada valleys. In his long-awaited decision Tuesday, Senior District Judge Robert Estes ruled that state engineer Jason King did not adequately investigate whether the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s proposed groundwater scheme would pump these basins dry or conflict with existing water rights. Nor did his award of 61,000 acre feet from Spring Valley establish measures to protect ranchers and other water users, including those in Utah’s Snake Valley. "It was a huge victory for the opponents of SNWA’s pipeline project," said attorney Simeon Herskowits, who represents a diverse group of ranchers and environmentalists fighting Las Vegas’ water ambitions. "The judge ruled in our favor on all the fundamental issues we have been asserting for years." He argued SNWA’s latest legal setback could be "the death knell" for the groundwater scheme, which includes a $15 billion, 285-mile pipeline to move billions of gallons from the Dry Cave, Delamar, Cave and Spring valleys. Water authority spokesman J.C. Davis could not be immediately reached Wednesday...more

EPA reservation boundary decision sparks controversy in Riverton, Wyo.

A flurry of confusion shrouds an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that claims Riverton as part of the Wind River Indian Reservation. But those working closely with the tribes and federal government believe it’s a complicated but clear-cut case. The EPA’s decision raised the eyebrows of local and state officials on Monday after it declared Riverton has been part of the reservation for the past 108 years. The announcement came five years after the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes filed an application with the EPA to have more authority in monitoring the reservation's air quality. The boundaries of Riverton and environmental policy may seem independent of one another. But the application process forced the EPA, Department of Interior and Department of Justice to dig through the annals of history to delineate what areas the tribes are in charge of monitoring. In their research, the agencies discovered that a 1905 land act previously thought to have passed tribal land to homesteaders didn’t legally do so. Riverton’s boundaries have been a long-running point of contention between tribal members and Riverton residents. While the tribes view the EPA ruling as a victory, city residents don't. The EPA decision has raised questions about how state and local governments will conduct law enforcement policies, legal jurisdictions and tax collections if the city is truly within the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation. “On face value it sounds like it could be a very difficult change to swallow,” Riverton City Councilman Jonathan Faubion said...more

Blakes sell Taos Ski Valley to billionaire conservationist Louis Bacon

After almost 59 years, the Blake family is leaving Taos Ski Valley. Founded in 1955 by skiing pioneer Ernie Blake and run by his children and grandchildren ever since, the family announced on Wednesday it is selling the steep and soulful New Mexico ski area to billionaire conservationist Louis Bacon. "I'm in mourning a little bit but I realize this is really a good thing for the ski area," said Adriana Blake, whose grandfather moved his family — including her father, Mickey — into an 11-foot camper trailer at the base of the ski area in the early 1950s and built the first chairlift with 16 local men and a mule named Lightning. "We — this family — we have all these amazing ideas but the ski area itself never makes enough money to do them without risking our ability to pay our people," Adriana Blake said. Bacon, a media-shy hedge-fund manager and land baron renowned for locking his acreage in conservation trusts, owns several large ranches in Colorado. He famously battled Xcel Energy's plan to run solar transmission lines across his 171,400-acre Trinchera Blanca ranch in southern Colorado's San Luis Valley in 2010 and 2011. In 2012 he placed his 20,000-acre Tercio Ranch near Trinidad in a conservation easement with Colorado Open Lands. His easement prohibiting development on Trinchera Blanca is the largest ever for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as well as the largest in Colorado....more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1165

Today's tune on Ranch Radio is Prairie Ramblers - Cowboy Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Song - You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Blue Shield

Howls of protest over Obama proposal to lift gray wolf protection

The Obama administration’s proposal to remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list is prompting howls of protest from environmentalists and congressional Democrats and has given ranchers, hunters and Republican lawmakers reason to cheer. Other Americans can also weigh in. People have until Dec. 17 to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service what they think about the proposed rule to lift federal protections for the gray wolf in much of the continental United States. The Mexican wolf, found only in the Southwest, would remain on the list, meaning it will be illegal under federal law to kill or harm the animals. There are about 75 Mexican wolves. The wildlife agency will issue a final rule next year after reviewing public input. As of late Thursday, it had received 194,188 comments since June 13, when the administration announced the gray and Mexican wolf proposals. A majority of the comments oppose de-listing. The administration de-listed 1,674 gray wolves thought to be living in the Northern Rocky Mountains last year and 4,432 animals in the Western Great Lakes region in 2011. Officials justified the decisions by saying both wolf populations had exceeded the “minimum recovery goals” of 300 for three consecutive years. This year’s proposal would de-list the wolves in Oregon and Washington — home to about 46 and 51 animals respectively — and 40 other states where the wolves could potentially move to if their numbers increase in the territory they now inhabit. Critics oppose federal de-listing because that leaves it up to the states to decide how to manage wolves living within their boundaries. They say states have ramped up hunting quotas and fear that the gray wolf’s slow and fragile recovery could be overturned...more

Crowd urges Ravalli County not to attempt takeover of federal lands

The Ravalli County commissioners opted Monday not to immediately embrace a resolution formally supporting the federal government’s ownership of about 70 percent of the land in the county. That decision followed a two-hour morning meeting that attracted a standing-room-only crowd to the Ravalli County Courthouse. The meeting was called by local residents worried about the movement by some state and local governments to attempt a takeover of federal lands within their borders. A Utah state representative will speak Wednesday in Hamilton on his state’s move to force the federal government to relinquish control of federal lands there. County Commissioner Suzy Foss told Monday’s crowd the meetings with Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory were meant to be purely educational and were paid for by private monies. Ivory will speak at the Eagles Lodge, 125 N. Second St. in Hamilton, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. In a widely spread Internet post announcing Ivory’s visit, Foss wrote “the transfer of public lands, as contracted in our state’s Enabling Act is the only way that is big enough, 100 percent constitutionally solid, and a workable solution to our public land multiple-use issues.” The bulk of the 21 people who offered public comment Monday morning asked the commission to steer clear of any movement that would attempt to force the federal government to turn over management of federal lands to the state and counties...more

Ohio utility commissions are facing a dilemma over rare bat

Ohio environmentalists and utility commissions are butting heads over the future of a rare species of bat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants the northern long-eared bat added to the endangered species list. But those with interests in oil and gas, electricity, coal mining and road work are fighting the recommendation. If the bats are declared an endangered species, mining companies might face stricter regulations of abandoned mines, where bats often hibernate. Because the bats live in tree bark, electric, oil and gas companies might be required to survey before cutting down trees to accommodate power lines. Road crews would also be expected to take extra precautions when planning routes in wooded areas...more  

The northern long-eared bat could reach a long-way into the southern end of their pocket book.

It is a beautiful animal though.

Advocacy groups may sue water district

A fight over the health of two endangered Virgin River fish species could end up in court, as two advocacy groups threatened Monday to sue Washington County Water Conservancy District. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Utah Rivers Council filed a formal Notice of Intent, advising that it planned to sue the district over what the council alleges are excessive withdrawals of Virgin River water to Quail Creek Reservoir. The withdrawals, used to supply the district’s main culinary water source, have reduced flows and increased temperatures in the river, making it difficult for the endangered woundfin and Virgin River chub to survive, according to the letter. Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the withdrawals have consistently violated a requirement to allow a minimum of 86 cubic feet per second to bypass the Quail Creek diversion and supply the fish species’ habitat with an adequate amount of water. Barbara Hjelle, associate general manager and counsel for the water district, said the letter indicates that the groups have little legal argument, saying the letter instead focuses on cherry-picked data and false presumptions...more

Project confirms beef is sustainable

The checkoff-funded U.S. Beef Sustainability Project has used science and surveys to confirm the continuing progress made by people all along the beef production chain to improve sustainability. The results also provide what Kim Stackhouse-Lawson of Denver, director of sustainability research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, calls “the words to the song” in defending the beef industry against untrue and unfair criticism on issues ranging from global warming to food safety to consumption of natural resources. The two-year peer-reviewed and third party-certified study that started in September 2011 found that beef’s overall sustainability improved 5 percent from 2005 to 2011. The environmental and social fingerprint was reduced by 7 percent. “It’s about continuous improvement over time,” Stackhouse-Lawson said earlier this week in Kearney as a Cattlemen’s College speaker at the Nebraska Cattlemen convention. “Using less to produce more” in a world where a population that is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050 will need 70 percent more food...more

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

WIPP extension plan stricken from Congressional defense bill, Pearce blames Udall

A Congressional proposal that would have allowed Carlsbad's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to accept nuclear waste from additional sources is dead, for now. Rep. Steve Pearce's amendment to change the definition of the type of waste WIPP could receive to "any non-defense Federal Government-owned transuranic waste" was dropped by the U.S. Senate on Monday evening, and likely won't be present in the final version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. Pearce (R-Hobbs) on Tuesday questioned Sen. Tom Udall's willingness to support the nuclear waste repository 27 miles east of Carlsbad. "My main question right now is why did Sen. Udall's office deny he was opposed to the WIPP language when today it has been published he told environmental activists in Santa Fe that he was opposed all along," Pearce said in a statement. "His action will now hurt jobs in Carlsbad and prevent cleanup of waste at Los Alamos. The Senator should explain himself to the citizens of New Mexico." Sen. Udall (D-N.M.) said Pearce's allegation was "flat out false." "Sen. Udall never told environmental activists that he was opposed to Rep. Pearce's amendment," said Jennifer Talhelm, communications director for Udall. "Sen. Udall believes Rep. Pearce's amendment was poorly drafted and would hurt New Mexico and New Mexico jobs. Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway was in Washington D.C. this week to support the WIPP amendment, as well as attend a conference on the oil and gas industry. He said he was disappointed by the latest development. "We are very disappointed the Senate did not recognize the importance of the language, not only for New Mexico but for the country as a whole," Janway said...more

Court says NM farm laborers covered for injuries

Farm and ranch laborers in New Mexico are gaining workers' compensation protections for job-related injuries because of recent state court decisions, according to a legal advocacy group. The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty on Tuesday applauded a ruling by the state Court of Appeals directing the Workers' Compensation Administration to follow an Albuquerque judge's ruling in favor of agricultural workers. A state district court judge in 2011 declared unconstitutional a state law provision that excluded laborers at farms, ranches and dairies from workers' compensation coverage for back wages and medical expenses for injuries on the job. The Court of Appeals didn't directly decide the constitutional question in its decision last month, but said the workers' compensation enforcement agency is bound by the Albuquerque judge's ruling because it didn't appeal the constitutional issue. The agency's appeal had focused on legal procedural matters. Efforts have failed in the Legislature over the years to change state law to require workers' compensation coverage for agricultural laborers in New Mexico. Some large agricultural producing states, such as California, Arizona and Colorado, provide those protections, according to the legal advocacy group that filed the lawsuit challenging the workers' compensation exclusion in New Mexico. "This decision should be a wake-up call to New Mexicans. The working poor in our state are too often the victims of discrimination and abuse," said Maria Martinez Sanchez, an attorney for the Center on Law and Poverty. The Workers' Compensation Administration isn't planning to challenge the Court of Appeals decision, but spokesman Van Cravens said the agency is trying to sort out the effects of the ruling. He said there are questions of whether the Albuquerque judge's ruling will be binding on other district courts across New Mexico...more

The article also has this:

"We are still in the process of trying to figure out how we are going to follow this ruling," said Cravens. "We're not going to go against the court ruling. We have to follow the law."

The law was declared unconstitutional in 2011 and the Workers' Compensation Admin. didn't make any plans on how they would administer the program if they lost at the Appeals Court level?

The court's opinion is here.

Greenpeace ‘Santa’ Threatens to ‘Cancel Christmas’ Due to Global Warming - video

Greenpeace UK is soliciting donations to combat global warming with a video entitled “An Urgent Message From Santa.”
The video features a deeply depressed, creepy-looking Santa who claims that “melting ice” at the North Pole will force him to “cancel Christmas” unless world leaders act to stop global warming.
The Greenpeace “Santa” is played by British actor Jim Carter, a member of the environmental group who also plays the butler in the popular PBS “Downton Abbey” TV series.
But the only thing this doom-and-gloom “Santa” has in common with the beloved Jolly St. Nick figure is his familiar-looking red and white suit.
“Dear children, regrettably I bring bad tidings,” the Greenpeace “Santa” says, speaking from what looks like a stark, dimly lit bunker. “For some time now, melting ice here at the North Pole has made our operations and our day-to-day life intolerable and impossible, and there may be no alternative but to cancel Christmas.
“I have written personally to President Obama, President Putin, all world leaders. Sadly, my letters have been met with indifference. Needless to say, these individuals are now at the top of my naughty list.
“My home in the Arctic is fast disappearing and unless we all act urgently, then I have to warn you of the possibility of an empty stocking forevermore. Please help me.”
- See more at:

Greenpeace UK is soliciting donations to combat global warming with a video entitled “An Urgent Message From Santa.” The video features a deeply depressed, creepy-looking Santa who claims that “melting ice” at the North Pole will force him to “cancel Christmas” unless world leaders act to stop global warming. The Greenpeace “Santa” is played by British actor Jim Carter, a member of the environmental group who also plays the butler in the popular PBS “Downton Abbey” TV series. But the only thing this doom-and-gloom “Santa” has in common with the beloved Jolly St. Nick figure is his familiar-looking red and white suit. “Dear children, regrettably I bring bad tidings,” the Greenpeace “Santa” says, speaking from what looks like a stark, dimly lit bunker. “For some time now, melting ice here at the North Pole has made our operations and our day-to-day life intolerable and impossible, and there may be no alternative but to cancel Christmas. “I have written personally to President Obama, President Putin, all world leaders. Sadly, my letters have been met with indifference. Needless to say, these individuals are now at the top of my naughty list. “My home in the Arctic is fast disappearing and unless we all act urgently, then I have to warn you of the possibility of an empty stocking forevermore. Please help me.”...more

Here is the video:

Harry Reid's Personal Green Goldmine

by Marita Noon

We are weeks away from being fully immersed in the 2014 election cycle. Predictions abound, likening the 2014 cycle to 2010—when the House flipped from Democratic to Republican. Only this time, it is the Senate that has the potential to change. Twenty of the 33 seats up in 2014 are currently held by Democrats—more than half of whom are in trouble.

In 2010, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was up for reelection—for his fifth term—and he was facing “a ferocious challenge.” He was “in trouble.” Remember, 2010 was the year of Tea Party victory. In light of the mounting government debt, pork barrel spending was no longer vogue. But Senator Harry Reid, apparently, didn’t get the memo. “The 71-year-old one-time boxer touted his ability to bring federal money to his home state—no one could do more,” said the HuffPost coverage of his “surprise” win.

A May 2010 internal email addressing the need to expedite Department of Energy (DOE) green-energy loan approvals for projects in Reid’s district says: “Reid is constantly hit at home for not bringing in the federal dollars.” In the email, reported Obama bundler and former Clinton Administration staffer, Jonathan Silver, who was, at the time, the executive director of the Loan Programs Office, was to assure Reid that he anticipated “a good number of projects to be approved in the coming months.”

Reid saw the potential in green-energy dollars before anyone else. He laid the foundation to allow him to bring home the “federal dollars.”

The White House and DOE insiders helped Reid secure green-energy stimulus funds for his home state of Nevada—which he touted in his 2010 campaign. He is tied to more than $3 billion of taxpayer money—currency that created just over 200 permanent jobs.

The Washington Times reported: “Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, who led passage of the $814 billion stimulus bill and worked to include the loan guarantee program to help finance clean-energy projects…” The 2009 stimulus package—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—was jammed-packed full of clean-energy provisions, about 10 percent (nearly $100 billion) of the monies were earmarked for renewable energy.

Having “worked to include the loan guarantee program,” Reid was frustrated when the federal dollars weren’t flowing into Nevada fast enough.

Seven months after the stimulus was signed into law, Reid, sent a letter, dated September 23, 2009, to President Obama, complaining about the “slow pace of implementation of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee programs.” In it, Reid patted himself on the back for his role (via the stimulus bill) in helping to “appropriate an additional $6 billion for an expanded loan guarantee program.” Despite Reid’s acknowledgement of the “risks” involved, he proceeded to request that “obstacles be cleared away,” and basically demanded that the ARRA monies for the loan program be “rapidly” dispensed.

Reid had campaign donors anxiously waiting for the federal dollars. The Washington Free Beacon revealed that executives from three companies that received millions through the “fast-track” approvals all donated to Reid and other Democrats—Nevada Geothermal, Ormat Nevada, and SolarReserve—have contributed more than $58,000 since 2008. Additionally, the then-CEO of BrightSource energy—which ultimately received $1.6 billion in stimulus funds—hosted a fundraiser for Reid.

Each of these projects did receive the federal dollars—but not because they were such great projects. President Obama has declared that DOE decisions had “nothing to do with politics.” But, all four of the above, plus a transmission project originally known as Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP), were speculative—at best. Their ratings, along with the majority (22 out of 26 projects) of the stimulus-created 1705 Loan Guarantee Program, were rated as “junk” grade investments (“with a high likelihood of failure”), yet the taxpayer-backed loans were approved, with many of these projects also being awarded huge amounts of free taxpayer cash in the form of stimulus grants. Why? Politics.

Loan Program Office emails indicate that Reid’s projects were prioritized because they were “high profile,” “tied to larger events,” or because they had Reid’s support. Here’s a sampling from the hundreds of leaked emails relating to the various Reid projects:

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1164

The Christmas tune on Ranch Radio today is Johnny Bond - I Wanna Do Something For Santa Claus.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Fire season tamer than expected; U.S. burn acreage far below average

A wildfire season that began with dire warnings that dry conditions had set the stage for a year of flames across California and the West turned out to be among the quietest of the past decade. Although 2013 was marked by two high-profile blazes, one in California and the other in Arizona, nationally the total wildfire acreage, 4.15 million, is far below the 10-year average of 6.8 million acres. “All of the modeled conditions supported a lot of significant fire potential,” said Jeremy Sullens, a wildfire analyst at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. “But in reality, because of the drought we actually had less fuel on the landscape than we would in a normal year.” In Nevada -- often the scene of huge, racing wildfires fueled by invasive cheatgrass -- only about 163,000 acres were blackened. Late winter and spring storms in the South and an active summer monsoon season in the Southwest kept a lid on burn acreage in those regions. Still, 2013 will be remembered for a lethal blaze in Arizona and the largest wildfire recorded in the Sierra Nevada in more than a century of record keeping...more

Our Fragile Planet

by Walter Williams

Let's examine a few statements reflecting a vision thought to be beyond question. "The world that we live in is beautiful but fragile." "The 3rd rock from the sun is a fragile oasis." Here are a couple of Earth Day quotes: "Remember that Earth needs to be saved every single day." "Remember the importance of taking care of our planet. It's the only home we have!" Such statements, along with apocalyptic predictions, are stock in trade for environmental extremists and non-extremists alike. Worse yet is the fact that this fragile-earth indoctrination is fed to our youth from kindergarten through college. Let's examine just how fragile the earth is.

The 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano, in present-day Indonesia, had the force of 200 megatons of TNT. That's the equivalent of 13,300 15-kiloton atomic bombs, the kind that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. Preceding that eruption was the 1815 Tambora eruption, also in present-day Indonesia, which holds the record as the largest known volcanic eruption. It spewed so much debris into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight, that 1816 became known as the "Year Without a Summer" or "Summer That Never Was." It led to crop failures and livestock death in much of the Northern Hemisphere and caused the worst famine of the 19th century. The A.D. 535 Krakatoa eruption had such force that it blotted out much of the light and heat of the sun for 18 months and is said to have led to the Dark Ages. Geophysicists estimate that just three volcanic eruptions, Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947), spewed more carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than all of mankind's activities in our entire history.

How has our fragile earth handled floods? China is probably the world capital of gigantic floods. The 1887 Yellow River flood cost between 900,000 and 2 million lives. China's 1931 flood was worse, yielding an estimated death toll between 1 million and 4 million. But China doesn't have a monopoly on floods.

Between 1219 and 1530, the Netherlands experienced floods costing about 250,000 lives.

What about the impact of earthquakes on our fragile earth? There's Chile's 1960 Valdivia earthquake, coming in at 9.5 on the Richter scale, a force equivalent to 1,000 atomic bombs going off at the same time. The deadly 1556 earthquake in China's Shaanxi province devastated an area of 520 miles. There's the more recent December 2004 magnitude-9.1 earthquake in the Indian Ocean that caused the deadly Boxing Day tsunami, and a deadly March 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck eastern Japan.

Our fragile earth faces outer space terror. Two billion years ago, an asteroid hit earth, creating the Vredefort crater in South Africa. It has a radius of 118 miles, making it the world's largest impact crater. In Ontario, there's the Sudbury Basin, resulting from a meteor strike 1.8 billion years ago, which has an 81-mile diameter, making it the second-largest impact structure on earth. Virginia's Chesapeake Bay crater is a bit smaller, about 53 miles wide. Then there's the famous but puny Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is not even a mile wide.

I've pointed out only a tiny portion of the cataclysmic events that have struck the earth — ignoring whole categories, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning strikes, fires, blizzards, landslides and avalanches. Despite these cataclysmic events, the earth survived. My question is: Which of these powers of nature can be matched by mankind? For example, can mankind duplicate the polluting effects of the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption or the asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs? It is the height of arrogance to think that mankind can make significant parametric changes in the earth or can match nature's destructive forces.

Occasionally, environmentalists spill the beans and reveal their true agenda. Barry Commoner said, "Capitalism is the earth's number one enemy." Amherst College professor Leo Marx said, "On ecological grounds, the case for world government is beyond argument." With the decline of the USSR, communism has lost considerable respectability and is now repackaged as environmentalism and progressivism.

 Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Oil and gas spending to hit record in 2014

Oil and gas companies will spend more money in 2014 than ever to explore for and produce oil and gas, with $723 billion expected to fund the global effort, according to projections from Barclays. The financial services firm projected that spending on exploration and production will jump 6.1 percent from the 2013 level of $682 billion, driven by high oil prices and increased success worldwide. “Despite fears of capital spending peaking, (capital expenditures) will reach yet another record this year, surpassing the $700 billion mark for the first time,” said James West, lead oil services and drilling analyst for Barclays. Rapid expansions in the United States, the Middle East and Latin America are among the trends driving the spending growth. In the United States, oil and gas companies have identified so many potential well sites that they could be busy producing from those known resources for decades, West said. “We believe well inventories are at the highest level ever for companies to drill in the United States,” he said...more

ATF uses rogue tactics in storefront stings across nation

By John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Journal Sentinel

    Aaron Key wasn't sure he wanted a tattoo on his neck. Especially one of a giant squid smoking a joint.     But the guys running Squid's Smoke Shop in Portland, Ore., convinced him: It would be a perfect way to promote their store.
    They would even pay him and a friend $150 apiece if they agreed to turn their bodies into walking billboards.
    Key, who is mentally disabled, was swayed.
    He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid's. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, "Squid," and the store clerks.
    So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.
    It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid's were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.
    The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.
    The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.
    Earlier this year when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel exposed a botched ATF sting in Milwaukee — that included agents hiring a brain-damaged man to promote an undercover storefront and then arresting him forhis work — ATF officials told Congress the failed Milwaukee operation was an isolated case of inadequate supervision.
    It wasn't.
    The Journal Sentinel reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports and other documents and interviewed dozens of people involved in six ATF operations nationwide that were publicly praised by the ATF in recent years for nabbing violent criminals and making cities safer.
    Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employed rogue tactics similar to those used in Milwaukee in every operation, from Portland, Ore., to Pensacola, Fla.
Among the findings:
■ ATF agents befriended mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them in at least four cities in addition to Milwaukee. In Wichita, Kan., ATF agents referred to a man with a low IQ as "slow-headed" before deciding to secretly use him as a key cog in their sting. And agents in Albuquerque, N.M., gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a "tutorial" on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.
■ Agents in several cities opened undercover gun- and drug-buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.
■ As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes — no questions asked — spurring burglaries and theft. In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several ripped off from police cars.
■ Agents damaged buildings they rented for their operations, tearing out walls and rewiring electricity — then stuck landlords with the repair bills. A property owner in Portland said agents removed a parking lot spotlight,damaging her new $30,000 roof and causing leaks, before they shut down the operation and disappeared without a way for her to contact them.
■ Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court. They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back — and provided instructions on how to do it. The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.
■ In Pensacola, the ATF hired a felon to run its pawnshop. The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers.Even those trying to sell guns legally could be charged if they knowingly sold to a felon. The ATF's pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar. Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail — and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.
"To say this is just a few people, a few bad apples, I don't buy it," said David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and an expert on law enforcement tactics and regulation. "If your agency is in good shape with policy, training, supervision and accountability, the bad apples will not be able to take things to this level."

Judge grants temporary stay in Glorieta dispute

A federal judge issued a temporary stay in a lawsuit involving homeowners at Glorieta Conference Center after LifeWay Christian Resources sold the leased property on which their houses are located. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Hayes Scott issued the stay during proceedings in the suit Kirk Tompkins of Little Rock, Ark., filed against the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and other parties. Tompkins’ suit seeks to block the completion of LifeWay’s sale of the New Mexico conference center to Glorieta 2.0, a group of investors directed by Anthony Scott, executive director of Camp Eagle  in Southwest Texas, and chaired by Houston homebuilder David Weekley. Tompkins’ suit  asserts LifeWay lacks authority to dispose of the conference center without the approval of messengers at two consecutive annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention annual. The lawsuit maintains the original 1950 warranty deed grants the conference center property to the SBC Executive Committee, and no other transfer of deed is on record. Tompkins’ suit claims LifeWay’s officers and directors failed in their fiduciary duties by selling 2,400 acres in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe, N.M., for $1.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1163

Its time for Christmas tunes on Ranch Radio and we'll begin with Bob Wills - Christmas On The Range.

Warner Brothers Inc. Presents Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - video

I found this interesting to watch:  Warner Brothers Inc. Presents Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

National Park Service is supposed to work for America, not for Big Green


It's not over yet, although it seemed like National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis was off the hook for attempting to sabotage energy production and hydraulic fracturing on federal land — until Tuesday.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, was performing normal oversight monitoring of a proposed energy production and hydraulic fracturing rule on federal and Indian lands when he spotted a problem. In early September, he had noticed that the Park Service had submitted alarming comments about the proposed rule to the Bureau of Land Management.

The Park Service's comments wove a false narrative that hydraulic fracturing is not regulated and is unsafe. In fact, hydraulic fracturing and well stimulation have an impeccable decades-long safety and efficiency record on private, state, and federal lands. We’ve seen that state-by-state regulations, tailored to the exact geology of well sites, are the best regulation to protect the environment. Why were the Park Service's comments so false?

They relied on a New York Times opinion piece by Cornell Professor Anthony lngraffea asserting that methane "leakage" rates from oil and gas production were as high as 17 percent. A major federal agency was basing a potentially devastating rule on a New York Times op-ed by an outspoken anti-fracking activist in academia.

Ingraffea says he’s an advocate, not an activist, but he appeared in the ranting anti-fossil fuels film “Gasland Part II,” and gives pep talks to aggressive anti-fracking groups. Independent scientists and federal agencies have challenged, studied and dismissed lngraffea’s methane leakage claim.

Bishop widens probe into Park Service's withdrawn comments on BLM rule

A leading House Republican yesterday asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to weigh in on the National Park Service's decision last month to withdraw hydraulic fracturing comments that were submitted without its director's approval. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees national parks, told Jewell he's troubled that the Park Service "lacks a system of data accountability and quality control." He asked Jewell to clarify how Interior Department bureaus review and submit comments on rulemakings and whether any other Interior agencies have commented on the Bureau of Land Management's draft hydraulic fracturing rule. He also asked whether Jewell has taken steps to ensure that agency employees do not submit "erroneous, inappropriate and unapproved comments," or whether employees are educated on the agency's comment protocols. Park Service Director Jon Jarvis last month acknowledged that the comments inappropriately relied on editorials rather than peer-reviewed science, though he did not call them inaccurate (EnergyWire, Nov. 27). "I have requested that the comments be withdrawn from the record," Jarvis wrote to Bishop in a letter dated Nov. 12. "The comments did not undergo management review, they were not on official letterhead, and they were not signed." Jarvis added that neither he, the White House nor the Office of Management and Budget had reviewed the comments...more

Altar Valley ranchers believe gas pipeline will destroy a way of life

Sasabe residents in the Altar Valley are nervously watching as construction crews bulldoze land just across the Mexican border. They believe, or more accurately fear, the corridor the size of a football field being carved into the Mexican desert is evidence that approval of a proposed 59-mile Kinder-Morgan pipeline through their area is little more than a formality. With a decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the actual route of the pipeline not expected until next year, Altar Valley residents are left to wonder how the 36-inch natural-gas-pipeline extension expected to cut through a path through their ranches and sensitive wildlife corridors will affect their lives. Sarah King can trace her husband’s ranching roots in the Altar Valley back to 1895. Fences crisscross the 55,000 acres her herd of roughly 300 cows graze on. Her worries focus on smugglers who might use the north-south path of the pipeline to bring drugs into the county. History, she says, has taught her that criminals use the path of least resistance, cutting a fence even if there is a gate 20 feet away. A cut fence might not seem like a big deal, she said, but it impacts her bottom line every time a cow escapes. Kinder Morgan, she said, has told her that it won’t be responsible if an increase in smuggling leads to problems on her ranch. King said it is impossible to know how much the pipeline will threaten her family’s century-old ranch...more