Saturday, April 05, 2014

Correction in the Hage Case

On Thursday I published Hage Takings Case Denied Hearing by Claims Court which was a press release from American Stewards

Ramona Hage Morrison sent along the following correction from attorney Mark Pollot: 


The case is not closed.  We never received notice of the trial court’s denial of the motion for reconsideration because the Clerk’s Office failed to provide it.  A motion is pending before the trial court for relief under the FRCP which, if denied, is itself appealable.  This case is not a done deal.  The trial court has not ruled on our motion and, if it denies it, it will be appealed.  The last chapter has not been written.

Having worked with Wayne & Helen Hage and being an admirer of both, it was with deep disappointment and a terrible sinking feeling that I published the release.  This corrected info gives us all hope that justice still may be done.

And don't forget to watch Fox News tonight!

Potential FDA move on recycling grain could spike beer prices

Beer-makers in Colorado are upset about a proposal to keep them from recycling their used grain, and it could affect how much you pay for a beer this summer. The Food and Drug Administration wants to stop beer brewers from selling their leftover grain to ranches so it can be used as food for cattle. It’s not a requirement yet, but beer-makers make money off their used grain and say the new regulation would force them to dump millions of tons of it instead of recycling. The grains are used barley, wheat and other grains that are steeped in hot water. The FDA is trying to make sure beer-makers meet the same standards as livestock and pet food manufactuers The overhaul also involves new sanitary handling procedures. The government says doing this will cut down on the spread of bacteria that can make animals and people sick. Heavy hitters from the beer industry have been included in hearings. They want the government to reconsider. Recycling the grain brings in money for beer-makers. Using that grain helps ranchers because feed prices are three times higher than recycled grain. The cost could be passed on, though it’s not expected to be a huge increase.  Source

Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, who also wrote ‘Dueling Banjos,’ died Thursday at 93

The kid from Kershaw, S.C., picked a guitar like his fingers were on fire. Hot licks flew from the instrument when Arthur Smith played – a wizard coaxing magic out of the strings. In 1945, he wrote and recorded a sizzling instrumental that eventually hit the charts worldwide. “Guitar Boogie” would go on to influence generations of musicians, including Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Glen Campbell, Roy Clark. A young Paul McCartney played the Kershaw kid’s boogie in a tryout for a Liverpool band that became the Beatles. Smith, who died Thursday at home at age 93, was a Charlotte-based entertainer with a national presence. Music great, innovator, TV pioneer, successful businessman: He was important on many levels. The amiable Sunday school teacher with a honey-dipped Southern drawl also had a feisty side; he took on Warner Bros. after his novelty song “Feuding Banjos” turned up uncredited as “Dueling Banjos” in the 1972 movie “Deliverance.” Smith filed a lawsuit and won a substantial settlement. Thousands of devoted fans watched his daily variety show “Carolina Calling” on WBTV, and a national audience later followed his syndicated “Arthur Smith Show.” Smith and his band, the Crackerjacks, served up country music and sly humor while featuring such guests as Billy Graham and Johnny Cash, two of Smith’s friends. As host, Smith endeared himself to audiences; when he pitched an advertiser’s product, people listened and trusted. “He was a good neighbor on radio and TV to so many people,” said Tom Hanchett, historian at the Levine Museum of the New South. “He was somebody who came to you every day in your living room or kitchen and felt like a member of the family in a way hard to imagine today. He was from the same mold as Doc Watson and Andy Griffith. He enjoyed the genial tradition of being a Southern gentleman. He relished that.” Grand Ole Opry star George Hamilton IV, who worked with Smith on his syndicated TV show, called him a “good, decent man.” “ ‘The Arthur Smith Show’ was where I got my country music education and inspiration,” said Hamilton, a native of Winston-Salem. “He was a childhood hero who lived up to his legend. He was the real deal. He connected with people. He was a man who walked his talk.” Born in Clinton, S.C., Smith grew up in Kershaw, where his father worked in a cotton mill and led a brass band. As a child, Smith played trumpet in the mill group and absorbed all kinds of music, from big bands to rhythm and blues and gospel and the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Around the age of 6, Smith started writing his own songs – and never stopped. He played in a Dixieland group with his brothers, Ralph and Sonny, and later mastered the mandolin, fiddle and guitar, among other instruments. Smith passed up an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., to pursue a career in music and entertainment. He was 15 when he cut records for RCA’s budget Bluebird label at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Rock Hill. The band’s name was Smith’s Carolina Crackerjacks. The session produced no hits. That came later with “Guitar Boogie,” when Smith was 24. The kid with the hot guitar licks made a name for himself around the world. “Guitar Boogie” was recorded on acoustic guitar with help from Don Reno on rhythm guitar and Roy Lear on bass, said John Rumble, senior historian at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Smith was back in the Carolinas after serving in the Navy and had found work with the popular country band the Briarhoppers and with Cecil Campbell’s Tennessee Ramblers. The name on the “Guitar Boogie” record was the Rambler Trio, but Rumble said Smith’s lead guitar picking “drove the record’s substantial regional sales and gave Smith his familiar ‘Guitar Boogie’ moniker.” The hit helped inspire a country boogie trend and led to Smith’s contract with the larger MGM label in 1947, Rumble said. MGM reissued “Guitar Boogie” in 1948, and this time the disc rose to No. 8 on Billboard magazine’s country popularity chart...more

Friday, April 04, 2014

Lawmakers push EPA for more time on water rule

Industry groups and more than a dozen GOP senators are urging the Obama administration to reconsider plans to regulate many of the nation's streams and wetlands, saying the proposed rule hurts economic activity and oversteps legal bounds. In a letter Thursday, the senators faulted the Environmental Protection Agency for announcing a proposed rule last week before the government's peer-reviewed scientific assessment was fully complete. They are calling on the government to withdraw the rule or give the public six months to review it, rather than the three months being provided. The senators' move puts them among several groups — from farmers and land developers to Western governors worried about drought management — in expressing concern about a long-running and heavily litigated environmental issue involving the Clean Water Act that has invoked economic interests, states' rights and presidential power. The letter was led by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and signed by 14 other GOP senators. "We believe that this proposal will negatively impact economic growth by adding an additional layer of red tape to countless activities that are already sufficiently regulated by state and local governments," the letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy said. At issue is the federal Clean Water Act, which gives the EPA authority to regulate "U.S. waters." Two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 limited regulators' reach but left unclear the scope of authority over small waterways that might flow intermittently. Landowners and developers say the government has gone too far in regulating isolated ponds or marshes with no direct connection to navigable waterways. Some 36 states, including Pennsylvania, have legal limitations that prevent the EPA from regulating waters not covered by the Clean Water Act, according to the Environmental Law Institute...more

3 GOP senators block vote on North Fork Flathead protection

Montana’s newest U.S. senator, Democrat John Walsh, tried Thursday to pass the bill protecting the North Fork of the Flathead River from mineral development, but a trio of Republican senators blocked the move. Walsh, appointed to the job on Feb. 7, asked the U.S. Senate to pass the measure by “unanimous consent,” but three senators – Ted Cruz of Texas, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – objected. “This is exactly what’s wrong with Washington, D.C., and I invite my colleagues who objected to the bill to float the North Fork this spring and see why this bill is so important,” Walsh said in a statement. The offices of Cruz, Toomey and Coburn could not be reached for comment late Thursday. While Walsh’s attempt to pass the bill failed, the measure remains on the Senate calendar and could be considered later. “He’ll continue working with the senators who objected to see if he can get (the hold) removed,” said Walsh spokeswoman Andrea Helling. A similar measure sponsored by Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., passed the House a month ago. Walsh’s campaign issued a statement late Thursday urging Daines to convince the three Republican senators to remove their holds from the bill. Daines asked why Senate Democratic leaders couldn’t have brought the bill to the floor for a regular vote, avoiding the need for unanimous consent. “I’m interested in getting this done and working for the solutions for the people of Montana,” he said. “We passed this in the House through regular order. I hope they can do the same in the Senate. … The Democrats control the majority in the Senate, so they can set the agenda.” As long as an individual senator has a “hold” on the bill, it takes a 60-vote majority to overcome it...more

Young blasts Interior secretary over King Cove road

Like a Bering Sea superstorm shrieking across the Alaska Peninsula, a furious Rep. Don Young laid into Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Thursday about her decision to reject a potentially life-saving road through an Alaska refuge. “I think your decision stunk,” Young said during a hearing in the House, wagging a finger at Jewell. In December, Jewell refused to allow a dozen miles of gravel road to slice through the refuge and link the village of King Cove with Cold Bay and its all-weather airport. King Cove leaders have long sought a road, saying it will save lives by allowing sick and injured residents to quickly reach a medevac flight to hospitals in Anchorage, more than 600 miles to the northeast. Jewell has recently suggested that a full-time U.S. Coast Guard presence in King Cove would help the village and eliminate the need for an emergency access road. Young demanded that Jewell explain where the Interior Department would get the money to pay for the costly helicopter rescues. Jewell didn’t answer the question, but Young, cutting her off, didn’t give her much opportunity. “You have not allowed this, and I’m losing lives,” he snapped. “I just think that’s very inappropriate. And by the way, does a helicopter bother the birds on that refuge?” “Sir, I’m sure when a helicopter is flying it bothers birds on the refuge,” Jewell replied. “Just like birds out here on the George Washington Parkway? We have thousands of cars go by and they’re about 6 feet from the road? The birds get used to it.” Jewell said Izembek is a unique wetland of critical international significance, and the birds there are different than those in the Potomac River. “They are no different, they are the same type of birds, same species as far as genetically goes and you and I know that,” said Young. At another point, a sarcastic Young said Jewell and another top Interior official would be “outstanding” performers on the hit TV program, “Dancing with the Stars.” “I love your answers; (it’s) dancing,” Young said with a sneer and twinkling fingers, chiding Jewell and another top Interior official for what he believes are their evasive answers...more

BLM ready to start roundup

A host of federal employees including Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law enforcement and other personnel, National Park Service representatives, private contractors and others have spread out across some 600,000 acres surrounding Mesquite in preparation to impound between 500 and 900 cattle owned by Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. Kirsten Cannon, BLM Southern District public affairs specialist, said the BLM is withholding the exact number of federal authorities participating in the cattle roundup or the estimated cost of the effort, but Bundy said both are sizable. The BLM has created a command post about six miles south of Mesquite on the north side of Interstate 15 in Toquop Wash, at which BLM law enforcement personnel are blocking access. Federal officers sit in vehicles parked on a gravel turn-out next to I-15 stopping anyone from approaching the “impound village” where there are trucks, trailers, corrals, communication towers and portable lights and more. “It’s not the seizure of Bundy cattle that’s important here,” Bundy told the Desert Valley Times. “It’s the seizure of state sovereignty; in the seizure of state law; it’s the seizure of the land; it’s the seizure of the (Clark County) sheriff’s police power.” Additionally, Bundy said the I-15 location of the BLM compound has created an “extremely dangerous situation for drivers.” “They’re crossing the freeway without any barriers or anything,” Bundy said. “I’m concerned they’re going to get somebody killed on that highway.” The rancher said it was at his insistence that the BLM placed flashing caution signs on I-15 to warn motorists of cross traffic. Wednesday in Monroe, Utah, some 30 picketers protested outside R Livestock Auction that is believed to have contracted with BLM to sell all Bundy impounded cattle. Bundy said the BLM has acknowledged the public’s concern with the roundup. “They are going to let us exercise out First Amendment rights,” he said. “They fenced off two areas where we’re supposed to be able to go an complain.” One area is at the southbound exit to Bunkerville off I-15 and the other is at the intersection of Highway 170 and White Rock Road directly south of downtown Mesquite. “It’s funny though,” Bundy said. “They fenced off that area so we can exercise our First Amendment rights, but there’s no gate; there’s no way to get in.”...more

National parks group supports cattle roundup

In protecting the legacy of our public lands, the National Parks Conservation Association supports plans to roundup an illegal cattle herd on property managed by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service near Bunkerville, Nevada. This last-resort option by the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies has been nearly two decades in the making. Mr. Bundy, the rancher who has illegally grazed cattle on lands which include parts of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, was given more than ample time to self-comply with laws that protect the public interest in enjoying our shared lands. NPCA is joined by diverse conservation and recreation organizations, as well as law-abiding citizens who value America’s special places and want to see them protected for generations to come. This land is our land — owned by and managed for all Americans. Instead of continuing to disregard the court orders, Mr. Bundy should end the illegal grazing damage and join the thousands of hard-working, law-abiding individuals and businesses of varying sizes and categories that respect the privilege of operating on public lands. To allow him to continue to flaunt laws that others adhere to is an affront to all Americans. While our western lands continue to provide incredible opportunities for wild experiences, we have evolved past the ‘wild west’ era...more

Iron County to feds: Remove wild horses or we will

Iron County commissioners have given the Bureau of Land Management an ultimatum: Come up with an immediate plan to remove hundreds of wild horses from the area or residents will do it themselves. As drought damages rangelands in southwestern Utah, the overpopulation of wild horses is threatening livestock and wildlife,said Commissioner David Miller. In response, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wants to reduce the number of cattle allowed or "allotted" in grazing leases, Miller said. "Inaction and no-management practices pose an imminent threat to ranchers who are being pushed to reduce their allotments by 50 percent thereby damaging the value of their private rights," reads a March 30 letter signed by Miller and Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower. Volunteers are ready, corrals are prepared and feed has been secured in case the BLM does not act promptly, Miller said. The letter, addressed to BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze, gives the federal agency until noon Friday to present a plan for removing horses by a "time acceptable to mitigate the threats and adverse conditions" in Iron County. A BLM management plan says there should be 300 wild horses in the area, but the agency estimates there are 1,200 animals, Miller said. "We will take whatever action we have to take to reduce those numbers immediately," Miller said Thursday. "We expect the BLM to take that action. If they refuse we cannot wait until the range is destroyed."...more

Forest Service probes ski area drug raid

Residents and business owners in Taos Ski Valley say the “swaggering” demeanor and heavily armed presence of a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer assigned to the ski area may have set the tone for a controversial drug sweep that now has the agency investigating itself. Jackie Banks of the Forest Service’s Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, along with Cheri Bowen, a law enforcement patrol captain also from Arizona, are part of an “After Action Review Team” that arrived in the ski valley on Thursday to meet with valley officials and residents about what happened on Feb. 22. Ski area chief operating officer Gordon Briner, village of Taos Ski Valley Mayor Neal King and village administrator Mark Fratrick met with Bowen, Banks and another review team member on Thursday afternoon. “Whatever their findings are, they are going to put it out to the press,” Briner said. He said the question of who ordered the drug sweep was one of the things discussed. “That is high on their list of things to identify.” Banks said in a telephone interview later she could not say who ordered the operation and that’s part of the review. “We want to make this as transparent as possible,” she said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this at Taos Ski Valley in the past as far back as anyone can remember,” said Briner. The review team will complete a draft report on the drug raid but it’s unknown how long that will take. “We are working quickly, this is important to us both personally and professionally,” said Banks. She and Bowen said that, following their site visit Thursday, they’ll talk to more people by phone if necessary. Several valley business operators, including Kent Forte, who manages the Edelweiss Lodge and Spa and is on the board of the Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce, cited the attitude and behavior of a particular Forest Service officer as problematic. Forte did not know the officer’s name but said, “there is a new Forest Service guy up here who seems kind of power hungry.” “I’ve seen him around and he’s always wearing a bullet-proof vest and packing a lot of heat,” said Forte. Business owner and chamber board member Bob Reminger said, “there’s a local guy who is just way gung-ho.” Bowen identified the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer assigned to the ski valley as Tommy Barr...more

Gray wolf breeding pair released in Arizona, NM pair removed

Two Mexican gray wolves have been released in southeastern Arizona, but another pair have been removed in New Mexico after roaming too far north, sparking more criticism from environmentalists about the way the wild population is being managed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed expanding the area where the predators are allowed to roam, but it could be months before a final decision is reached. Until then, the agency is required to capture those wolves found outside the nearly 7,000-square-mile wolf-recovery area, which straddles the Arizona-New Mexico line. That was the case with a pair that had traveled north to El Malpais National Monument near Grants. They had been in the area since February before wildlife managers darted and captured them last Friday. This was the farthest north a pair of Mexican gray wolves had been documented, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. The two wolves captured at El Malpais were returned to the agency’s wolf center in New Mexico. They could be released later in the Gila Wilderness. To bolster wolf numbers, officials on Wednesday released the first of two breeding pairs in Arizona’s Apache National Forest. The pair included a pregnant female and a wild male captured during the annual wolf population survey in January. Another breeding pair being held at the wolf center in New Mexico will be released next week...more

New Colorado wilderness held hostage; Conservation PAC formed

After the budget battles of the last few years, it’s clear that Congress is fiscally dysfunctional, but our elected lawmakers also face challenges in other areas — including finding the political will to support public land preservation bills that have local bipartisan support. That includes several proposals in Colorado, where the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act and the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act are all stalled in the fog of partisan gridlock. In numerous hearings, Republican congressmen like Rob Bishop (Utah) and Doc Hastings (Washington) have publicly stated their opposition to wilderness designation and environmental protection in general. The opposition to any meaningful land preservation measures is mostly based on a visceral strain of anti-federalism that runs deep in the GOP. But a pair of Coloradans with deep political roots are hoping to tilt the balance toward preservation with a targeted political action campaign aimed at supporting candidates who can find common ground on land preservation. In January, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar teamed up with conservation philanthropist Louis Bacon to launch America’s Conservation PAC. In just a couple of months, the group has raised about $200,000, according to executive director Will Shaffroth, who helped establish Great Outdoors Colorado as a force for conservation in the state...more

Fake Meats, Finally, Taste Like Chicken

Last May, Whole Foods recalled two types of curried chicken salad that had been sold in some of its stores in the Northeast. The retailer’s kitchens had accidentally confused a batch of “chick’n” salad made with a plant protein substitute with one made from real chicken, and reversed the labels. Consumers buying the version labeled as having been made from actual chicken were instead eating vegetarian chicken salad — and thus inadvertently were exposed to soy and eggs, allergens that must be identified on labels under federal regulations. “None of the customers apparently noticed the difference,” said Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive of Beyond Meat, which made the substitute in the product that was recalled. The error demonstrates just how far “fake” meat — producers hate the term but have not come up with a catchy alternative to “plant-based protein” — has come from the days when desiccated and flavorless veggie burgers were virtually the only option for noncarnivores. Demand for meat alternatives is growing, fueled by trends as varied as increased vegetarianism and concerns over the impact of industrial-scale animal husbandry on the environment. The trend has also attracted a host of unlikely investors, including Biz Stone and Evan Williams of Twitter, Bill Gates and, most recently, Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong magnate. “I’ve tasted a few,” Mr. Gates wrote in a multimedia piece on the Beyond Meat investment that was posted to his blog, “and they’re very convincing.” Mr. Brown said that one of the big agricultural commodities businesses that trades in meat also has a tiny stake in Beyond Meat, though he declined to name it. Some investors look at the development of viable meat alternatives as a sustainability issue. Or as Josh Tetrick, a founder of a company that makes “eggs” from plant proteins, said: “We didn’t start Hampton Creek to get into mayo or because we were thinking about making muffins and cookies. More than anything we’re trying to reverse what we see as a problem, which is cheap and convenient food that is always going to win in China, win in India and win with my father, but isn’t good for the body or animals or the environment.”...more

Looks like the "eat roots and shoots"and "hug your heifer" bunch would rather eat a chemical concoction than real meat.

Navajo Nation to benefit from multibillion settlement for cleanup of contaminated sites

The Navajo Nation will benefit from more than a $1 billion to clean up abandoned uranium mines that have left a legacy of disease and death on the reservation. The money is part of a $5.15 billion settlement that the federal government reached with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for the cleanup of thousands of long-contaminated sites nationwide. The settlement resolves a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a 2005 spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corp. that Anadarko acquired in 2006. Federal and tribal officials on Thursday hailed the settlement as the largest ever for environmental contamination. Kerr-McGee once operated about 50 uranium mines near Cove, Arizona, and a uranium mill in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation. The more than $1 billion will address about 10 percent of the tribe's inventory of abandoned mines.  AP

Film fest showcases wild horses, and organizer hopes to raise awareness about their plight

Jackie Fleming can envision a day when wild horses no longer roam the mountains, plateaus and plains of the West – and she very dearly wants to stave off that potential disappearance. “In 1900, there were about 2 million horses running free,” she said. “Now there are 25,000 in the entire country. That’s a drastic drop.” To do her part, she has given shelter to 34 mustangs that have been rounded up on public lands. They wander 1,100 acres at Cimarron Sky-Dog Reserve, near Watrous north of Las Vegas, N.M. And to raise public awareness, she has put together the Wild Horse Film Showcase, with five films that will be screened today and Saturday in Santa Fe. The show doesn’t feature new releases. Fleming said she put together the offerings from films she has seen and liked, or from others that friends recommended. She contacted people for permission to show them and – voila! – the showcase was born. “They highlight different aspects of wild horse issues, particularly roundups and competition for public land,” Fleming said, adding that “Wild Horses and Renegades” and “El Caballo” focus on those issues. “She Had Some Horses” takes a sentimental look at the idea of wild horses disappearing from the range, and includes footage of Fleming’s own sanctuary, as well as Monero Mustangs, run by Sandi Claypool at Yellow Hills Ranch’s almost 5,000 acres near Tierra Amarilla. “Wild Horse Wild Ride” follows a competition in which some mustangs from round-ups are taken in by people, trained for 100 days, then compete in a show after which they are auctioned to new owners, Fleming said. “It’s bittersweet – the horses are all trained, but they (the trainers) have to give them up at the end.” And “Running Wild” profiles Dayton O. Hyde, who was one of the first people to open a sanctuary for mustangs when he set one up on some 13,000 acres in South Dakota, Fleming said. “He’s nearly 90, but he’s done so many things,” she said. While the event could help raise funds for her mustangs, Fleming said she doesn’t even know if she will break even. More important, she said, is that she wants to get people thinking about issues concerning wild horses. “I hope people will be educated about it and care about it and want to be involved,” she said...more

Quote

"Whenever 'A' attempts by law to impose
    his moral standards upon 'B',
  'A' is most likely a scoundrel."
-- H. L. Mencken
(1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1237

Today's selection is Start All Over by Lee Emerson.

http://youtu.be/zrXNvsh0k64

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Hage Takings Case Denied Hearing by Claims Court

By Margaret Hage Byfield

Story Featured on Fox News this Weekend 


The historic Hage v. United States takings case is finally coming to a close after 23 years in court. The award of compensation for the taking of the Hage’s water, rights-of-way and range improvements was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 2012 (Appellate Court). Now it appears that the United States Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court) will not be granting the Plaintiffs a hearing to allow them to argue that only parts of the compensation claim were reversed. 

Plaintiffs asked for the hearing in the Claims Court to allow them to argue that the Appellate Court reversed part, but not all, of the Claims Court decision, which originally awarded compensation for $14.4 million dollars as well as attorney fees. In a November 4, 2013 decision, the Claims Court denied a hearing finding that the Appeals Court did in fact reverse the entire compensation award. Plaintiffs have submitted additional motions, but a hearing appears unlikely. 

The case was originally filed in 1991 by Wayne and Jean Hage, two Nevada ranchers whose story is well known in the West. In fact, Fox News will be airing their story in a special report this Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 10 P.M. EST and again on Sunday, April 6th at 9 P.M. EST. The program is titled “Enemies of the State.” 

Wayne and Jean Hage purchased Pine Creek Ranch in 1978, a large cow-calf operation in Central Nevada comprised of 7,000 private deeded acres and 752,000 acres of federal grazing lands. They owned all the water on the ranch, adjudicated by the State of Nevada, for livestock grazing. Immediately after purchasing the property, their ranching operation became a target of the federal agencies. The water, while not very valuable for livestock grazing, is gravity flow to Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Within a short time of owning the ranch, the U.S. Forest Service filed claim to the Hage’s water rights, fenced off critical springs, and eventually canceled their grazing permits.

In their first 105 day summer grazing season, the Hages were issued 45 citations and received 70 face-to-face visits from Forest Service agents informing them of numerous alleged violations of their grazing permits. One of these violations was for “not maintaining fences,” which turned out to be one missing staple in a 25-mile stretch of fence across the top of Table Mountain, elevation 11,000 feet.

The Hages were cited with having trespass cattle on allotments, not having enough cattle on allotments and not properly informing the agency they were taking “non-use” for an allotment. Ultimately, one of their key summer grazing allotments was canceled for five years based on a photograph taken in November after several freezes, but submitted as if it was taken during the growing season. The very next spring, standing in the same spot, knee high in grass, the Forest Service was asked to explain their decision. They determined that although the allotment was healthy and covered in spring grasses, it was the wrong kind of grass. The five-year suspension was implemented. 

Finally, in 1991, after the U.S. Forest Service confiscated over 100 head of the Hage’s cattle (half of the riders armed with semi-automatic weapons), the Hage’s had finally had enough. They took their case to the United States Court of Federal Claims alleging the taking of their property under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

The case was the first federal lands grazing case to be filed in this Court. For the first time in the history of western land disputes, Wayne and Jean were determined to resolve whether or not they held property rights on the federal lands and whether or not the federal government could regulate them out of business without compensation. 

Their cause became the rallying cry for western ranchers facing the same federal abuse. People across the nation began supporting their case. Wayne and Jean always knew they would have never been able to pursue the case through the courts without the help of so many great friends, members and often complete strangers who did everything they could to stand with them. 

Jean died in 1996, with the case still unresolved, but knowing they were on their way to vindication as the Court had made some early key decisions in their favor.

However, it wasn’t until 2002 that the Court issued the first truly landmark ruling in the case. The Court determined that despite the government’s argument that the Hage’s had no property rights in the federal lands, the Court found they owned the water on the federal lands that flowed to their private lands, they owned the ditch rights-of-way that transported that water (and 50 feet on either side), and the range improvements. The decision had a chilling effect on the federal agencies.

Wayne died in 2006 knowing he and Jean had won big for western ranchers, but still without seeing any of the awards. 

In 2008, the Claims Court issued a second landmark ruling by finding that the actions of the government agencies to prevent the Hage’s from using their property was a taking under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, they were awarded $14.4 million, plus attorney fees. 

In the interim, the government brought trespass charges against Wayne Hage, Jr. and the Estate of Wayne and Jean Hage for having cattle on the federal allotments. The dispute ended up in District Court, separate and apart from the Takings case. This court issued the third historic ruling in the Hage saga, ordering the federal agencies to reinstate the Hage’s grazing permit and ordering Wayne Hage, Jr. to sign the permit. In making this decision the court admonished the federal agencies for using the power of the federal government to target and attempt to destroy what was left of the Hage’s livestock operation. 

It wasn’t until the federal government challenged the award of compensation in the Appellate Court that they were able to erode the Claims Courts decision. In 2012, they successfully overturned the compensation award based primarily on the ripeness of the claim and failure to apply for a special use permit to maintain the ditches. Their arguments did not take on any of the major issues in the case, such as whether their regulatory actions went too far and caused a taking, but relied on minor elements. The result was the Appellate court awarded no costs. 

The Plaintiffs, now the Estate of Wayne and Jean Hage, asked for a hearing from the Claims Court to argue that the Appellate court decision did not overturn all of the takings compensation award. However, it appears the court has accepted the higher courts decision to mean that no costs will be awarded. 

What still stands as a result of Hage v. United States, is the decision that western ranchers own their water and right’s-of-way on the federal lands. However, determining what will trigger a compensation claim for these rights under the Fifth Amendment is the unanswered question. The bar is set high at the Appellate court. Still, maybe a case in the future with the right set of facts can cross this hurdle successfully. But that baton will need to be passed to a new generation of ranchers.

What Wayne and Jean withstood to bring us this far is phenomenal. Although they did not live to see how the story ends, they did leave us with their very best effort to protect private property rights for future generations. I know how thankful they were to have so many good Americans stand with them. It is what fueled them to finish the race. 

I also know they would have wanted to secure a decision that awarded compensation, not for themselves, but for the precedent and protection it would provide to every American. Although that is not how the final chapter will end, their contribution to this nation cannot be diminished. 

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Cattle rancher taking fight over land use to limit


Bundy walks by a First Amdt Area set up by BLM
The tour starts with a ranch breakfast in the house Cliven Bundy’s father built in the Virgin Valley in the 1950s. There are fresh eggs, potatoes, milk straight from the cow, and fry bread with homegrown pomegranate jelly. The main course is beef, of course. “I have a great history here,” Bundy says Tuesday from his kitchen table, a wall of family photos at his back. Outside the windows and beyond his property line, roads in the Gold Butte area have been closed as federal authorities make final preparations for the long, tense weeks ahead. If Bundy hopes to stop a federal roundup of his cattle from public land 80 miles north of Las Vegas, he’s running out of time. At the moment, Bundy’s efforts to stop the roundup involve setting up media interviews, rallying his supporters, making calls to state and local officials and taking calls from worried friends and relatives. His house is filled with the sound of ringing phones. For the next few hours, he will leave the phones to his wife and grown children so he can show the Review-Journal around. The first stop is in the nearby town of Bunkerville, where BLM has set up one of two “First Amendment areas,” dirt pens with orange plastic fencing to contain protesters. The second pen sits next to Interstate 15 at the Riverside exit, its professionally printed signs providing the ideal backdrop for all the interviews Bundy is ready to give about how the federal government is ignoring the Constitution. What he has come to believe is that the federal government has no ownership rights to or management authority over public lands in Nevada. He talks a lot about “states’ rights” and “sovereignty,” words that fueled the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion and other fights for control of huge expanses of Nevada and the West. The courts have ruled against him and his views repeatedly, but he is undeterred. Bundy says he has received countless messages of support from as far away as South Dakota. He says he has people standing at the ready to stage protests at various locations as his cattle are collected, inspected and possibly moved out of state to be sold. He also has plenty of family to back him up — 14 children and 52 grandchildren, with three more on the way. Not far from the second First Amendment area, the Bundys stop to look at what they’re calling BLM’s “compound” at a highway materials yard southwest of Mesquite. Through binoculars from a hill along I-15, they point out corrals, stacks of hay bales, portable lights and mobile communication towers. Rangers with binoculars stare back at them. Bundy says he wouldn’t be surprised if there were government snipers with their rifles trained on his house right now. He says federal law enforcement officers are itching to kill or incarcerate him. “They’re only there for one person, and that’s me,” he says. The tour ends at Whitney Pocket, one of Gold Butte’s most popular recreation spots. There, a group of law enforcement officers in vehicles with flashing lights are turning back traffic. An apologetic BLM ranger called in from Arizona for the roundup operation says he doesn’t know how long the road will be closed and can’t offer an alternate route. As he talks, his partner walks around the back of the Jeep with the Bundys and the two journalists in it. The mood quickly changes when the Review-Journal photographer steps out with his camera. The ranger from Arizona now says the entire area is closed, including the road we just drove in on unobstructed. As he explains this, an unmarked SUV races over and skids to a stop a short distance behind the BLM cruiser. The two uniformed men inside crack open their doors but don’t get out...more

Cousins line up on opposite sides of cattle dispute

When the first of Cliven Bundy’s cows is removed from federal land 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, conservationists like Terri Robertson will have reason to celebrate. To Robertson, protecting the area known as Gold Butte is personal. “I have made it my mission on this earth to save my father’s favorite places, and Gold Butte is one of them,” the 70-year-old said. But that’s not the only reason the issue hits home for her. Robertson also happens to be Bundy’s cousin. She said her grandmother and his grandfather were brother and sister. Robertson said that when she was a child her father took her along once or twice when he went to Mesquite to visit Bundy’s mother, but she doesn’t recall meeting the embattled Bunkerville rancher until about 15 years ago. They’ve only had a handful of interactions, and all of them have come at public meetings concerning Gold Butte, she said. “This is more like the city cousin and the country cousin having a fight,” she said. “I don’t have anything to do with him, and he doesn’t have anything to do with me.” That’s why she didn’t hesitate to add her name to a letter sent last week by a coalition of environmental groups urging local officials to support the Bureau of Land Management’s roundup of Bundy’s cattle...more

Utah county complains about wild horses as feds prepare for Clark County cattle roundup

A looming federal roundup of cattle in Clark County has become a rallying cry for a Utah county with its own beef with the BLM. Officials in Iron County, Utah, sent notice early this week that if the Bureau of Land Management goes ahead with plans to round up so-called “trespass cattle” 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, they immediately will move to reduce wild horse populations they say the agency has left to grow out of control. “This is not a threat. This is a plan of action,” the notice said. Iron County Commissioner Dave Miller said his county has tried for at least 15 years to get the BLM to cut the number of wild horses on public land there, but the agency keeps saying it lacks the resources to address the problem. If the bureau can afford to spend several million dollars “rustling up” a Nevada rancher’s private property, surely it must have the money to meet its own responsibility to manage wild horses and burros. “Basically we’re just calling out the hypocrisy,” Miller said. The notice was sent Sunday to Nevada BLM director Amy Lueders and the agency’s national director, Neil Kornze. BLM officials in Nevada could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. Miller said approximately 1,200 wild horses now roam western Iron County, but the BLM itself has said there should only be about 300 animals there. But while the bureau has done little to control the horse population, it has called on ranchers using the same federal land to trim their herds by as much as half to protect range conditions, Miller said. The notice from Iron County said that the sheriff, his deputies “and other authorized agents” will be ordered to “take necessary means to reduce numbers of feral horses” within the county. It does not specify how that might be done...more

Mesa County Commissioners Assert Authority Over Public Lands

Monday Mesa County Commissioners voted to pass a resolution to assert their authority over public lands in Mesa County. Last year the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its Resource and Travel Management Plans for Mesa County, but not without opposition. "Motorized recreation, hunting and fishing bring in $250 million a year in Mesa County and the BLM is trying to close 65% of motorized access on our public lands," said director of the Public Land Access Association. "We received a petition of over 1,800 signatures from our constituents asking us to protect access for them," said Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese. Determinations of access has caused disagreements and numerous public comments on the plans. "It's not a thing to stand up and say we're fighting, we're fighting, we're fighting against the federal government. All it's saying is by authority we can do this,"said Colorado Mule Deer Association director Denny Behrens. "If we have an issue with the federal government we could go forward under this resolution to reassert our jurisdiction," said Pugliese...more

Another risky Alaska flight, courtesy of Obama administration regulations

Another seriously injured patient has been required to undergo a risky flight by medevac in treacherous conditions from King Cove, Alaska, the result of the Interior Department’s refusal to allow the construction of a 10-mile road. A 58-year-old fisherman was transported by Coast Guard medevac Monday after severely injuring his eye when he was sprayed with a high-pressure hose while aboard the M/V Golden Alaska near Unimak Island in the North Pacific Ocean. The ship brought him to the deep-water port at King Cove, Alaska, where physician’s assistant Katie Eby said he needed to be transported to the Cold Bay airport in order to fly to the nearest hospital in Anchorage for treatment, according to a King Cove press release. With winds gusting up to 60 mph, however, flights out of King Cove had been canceled, meaning that the only way to move the patient to the Cold Bay airport was by Coast Guard medevac. “We managed his pain and bandaged his eye to protect it from further injury, but he needed to get to an eye specialist as soon as possible,” said Ms. Eby in a statement. “Our treatment here at the King Cove Clinic is very limited. Fortunately, the brave Coast Guard crew was able to fly in when others could not. But if we had a road, we could have driven to Cold Bay much sooner to meet the life flight team and not risked the lives of the Coast Guard and the patient.” The episode marks the eighth emergency transport of a patient from the town’s clinic to the Anchorage hospital since Interior Secretary Sally Jewell nixed in December an agreement to build a single-lane, 10-mile unpaved road from King Cove to Cold Bay. Five years ago, federal and state officials reached an agreement on a land swap that would have traded 43,000 acres of state and private land for the 206 acres of federal land needed to build the road. But the road would have run through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, and environmentalists have argued that the construction would imperil the eelgrass fed on by migratory birds. “After careful consideration, I support the Service’s conclusion that building a road through the Refuge would cause irreversible damage not only to the Refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it,” said Ms. Jewell in a Dec. 23 statement. “Izembek is an extraordinary place — internationally recognized as vital to a rich diversity of species — and we owe it to future generations to think about long-term solutions that do not insert a road through the middle of this refuge and designated wilderness.”...more

Legislators Push For New Colorado National Park (Look at the difference in the Udall's)


The more than century-long intermittent effort to turn the Colorado National Monument into a national park moved forward Tuesday when U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., unveiled a proposal that could lead to legislative action on the change this year. "It is never too late," Udall said of the effort begun in 1907 by monument founder John Otto. "There is a broad cross section of western Colorado that still believes John Otto's vision was the correct vision." The formal proposal, crafted by Udall and Tipton, would not only upgrade the 20,534-acre monument to park status, making it the 60th U.S. national park, but it would also give it a new name: Rim Rock Canyons National Park. The announcement of a "working group summary" kicks off a 90-day public-comment period...more

Mark Udall circulates his proposal as a draft and invites the public to comment.  Tom Udall just drops his in the hopper.




Sierra Club Proposes New Grand Canyon Monument

NAZ Today's Kimberly Craft talks with Alycin Gitlin of the Sierra Club about her group's proposal to create Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument, protecting land north and south of Grand Canyon National Park. The monument would cover 1.7 million acres and include the North Kaibab Plateau, House Rock Valley and Kaibab-Pausagant Wildlife Corridor, along with adjacent uranium withdrawal lands. Gitlin says this land should be protected from threats to the watershed by uranium mining and logging...more

US energy imports hit two-decade low

The United States imported a net 12.7 quadrillion British thermal units (BTU) of energy in 2013, the lowest import level in 28 years. The last time net imports were lower than 2013 was in 1985, when the U.S. brought in 7.6 quadrillion BTU, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday. The EIA tracked imports every five years until 2000. Total energy imports fell 9 percent, the EIA said. Crude oil imports dropped 12 percent, due largely to a 15 percent increase in U.S. oil production...more

Report: EPA withheld health risks from human test subjects

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not consistently disclose health risks to human test subjects it used to study the risks of pollutants, sometimes keeping information about cancer possibilities from participants, the agency’s internal watchdog said Wednesday. The EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the agency obtained the proper approvals from participants before exposing them to airborne exhaust and diesel pollutants, including particulate matter, in 2010 and 2011. However, the consent forms were inconsistent in their disclosures and did not warn of potential long-term risks of exposure to the gases. Sen. David Vitter (La.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the EPA, said the report shows the agency’s issues with science and transparency. His committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee have worked for years to find problems with the science the EPA uses to justify its controversial regulations. “When justifying a job-killing regulation, EPA argues exposure to particulate matter is deadly, but when they are conducting experiments, they say human exposure studies are not harmful,” Vitter said in a statement. “This is a prime example of how EPA handpicks what scientific information and uncertainties they use to support their overreaching agenda.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1236

More good music today from Cactus Records: Jimmie Thorpe - Strange Feelin' 

http://youtu.be/2IGXbC-90JI

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Banning warrantless data, Utah Governor signs privacy bill into law

SALT LAKE CITY, April 2, 2014 – On Monday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill which thwarts some of the effects of the growing surveillance state.
    HB0128, which previously passed the state senate by a vote of 28-0 and the house by a vote of 71-2, makes any electronic data obtained by law enforcement without a warrant inadmissible in a criminal proceeding.
    This includes data gathered by the NSA and shared through the super secret Special Operations Division (SOD) or fusion centers. The new law also stops Utah law enforcement from obtaining phone location data without a warrant. It reads, in part:
Except as provided in Subsection (1)(c), a government entity may not use, copy, or disclose, for any purpose, the location information, stored data, or transmitted data of an electronic device that is not the subject of the warrant that is collected as part of an effort to obtain the location information, stored data, or transmitted data of the electronic device that is the subject of the warrant in Subsection (1)(a).
    Utah based Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack said the bill will codify important privacy protections into law.
    “While the Fourth amendment protects our ‘effects’ from searches and seizure without a warrant, modern technology has outpaced its application. Police agencies around the country use tools and tactics that violate this constitutional guarantee in order to obtain the location or data of a cell phone or other digital device. HB128 statutorily makes clear that our digital property is part of our ‘effects’ that are to only be obtained with judicial oversight, a particular suspicion of crime, and a warrant,” he said.
    This bill will not only protect people in Utah from warrantless data gathering by state and local law enforcement, it will also end some practical effects of unconstitutional data gathering by the federal government.
    NSA collects, stores, and analyzes data on countless millions of people without a warrant, and without even the mere suspicion of criminal activity. It also tracks, along with other federal agencies like the FBI, the physical location of people through their cellphones. In late 2013, the Washington Post reported that NSA is “gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” This includes location data on “tens of millions” of Americans each year – without a warrant.
    Through fusion centers, state and local law enforcement act as information recipients from various federal departments under Information Sharing Environment (ISE). Federal partners for ISE include the Office of Director of National Intelligence, which is an umbrella covering 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. State and local law enforcement share data up the chain with the feds.
    Last fall, the public learned that the NSA expressly shares warrantless data with state and local law enforcement through a super-secret DEA unit known as the Special Operations Division (SOD). And, from a Reuters special report the public learned that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues. Most of it involves routine criminal investigations.
    This data sharing shoves a dagger into the heart of the Fourth Amendment. HB0128 will now prevent state law enforcement from gathering cell phone location data and sharing it up the chain, and it will make information vacuumed up by the feds and shared down the chain inadmissible in court, stopping a practical effect of NSA spying.
    The legislation works hand-in-hand with the more well-known “4th Amendment Protection Act” introduced by Rep. Marc Roberts this year. That legislation would ban material support to the NSA’s new data center at Bluffdale. Supporters urge the rallying cry of “no water = no NSA data center” in support of the proposal. The bill was referred to interim study where it will have public hearings between now and      December before further consideration in early 2015.
    HB128 takes effect on July 1, 2014.

10th Amendment Center

Forest Service officials visit Taos Ski Valley to probe drug sweep

by Andrew Oxford

    A senior Forest Service law enforcement official will visit Taos Ski Valley this week to meet with local leaders as the agency conducts an internal review of a controversial operation in the resort community Feb. 22 that prompted complaints from tourists and residents alike.
    Capt. Cheri Bowen, from Coronado National Forest, and a "review team" will address concerns about the operation with the officers involved as well as executives, municipal officials and former Gov. Gary Johnson, who is a resident of the community.
    The visit, scheduled April 2-5, comes as Forest Service officials backpedaled on the incident and resort executives advised staff swept up in the saturation patrol to await the agency's internal review before paying any citations.
    "The intent of the visit is to determine what happened, what worked well, what didn’t work well, and what can be done better next time," Forest Service spokesperson Larry Chambers told The Taos News.
    The review was prompted by a slew of complaints and questions surrounding a saturation patrol at the resort during which four Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations personnel accompanied by a drug-sniffing dog issued 13 violation notices including five for possession of marijuana and one for illegal possession of prescription drugs. Three notices were also issued for expired motor vehicle registrations, two for speeding, one for driving without insurance and one for passing in a no passing zone.
    The officers also issued four verbal warnings.
    The sight of federal agents leading a drug-sniffing dog around vehicles in the ski area's parking lot and the unusually heavy traffic enforcement along State Road 150 rankled local residents as well as the visitors upon whom the area's economy depends.
    "People felt threatened, bullied, and because of this intimidation, felt violated and that they had no choice but to comply...," Taos Ski Valley Mayor Neal King wrote in a March 4 letter to a Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations official.
    The village did not dispute the right of federal authorities to patrol Forest Service land within the municipality, he added, nor did he dispute the constitutionality of the officers' actions Feb. 22.
    But King expressed frustration with the method in which the operation was conducted, writing that officers were "not personable and/or polite, but overbearing and aloof."
    Local leaders also felt caught off guard by federal law enforcement with the mayor adding officials "had no information for the reasoning behind the operation and [were] unable to give any positive responses to the many inquiries we received during and after this event."
    The ordeal left Taos Ski Valley, Inc. CEO Gordon Briner with one big question.
    "The thing we keep asking is who ordered this. Who thought this was a great idea?" he told The Taos News Monday (March 31), remarking that he had not seen anything like the Feb. 22 operation in his 16 years at the resort.





El Rito man pleads to DWI charge brought by Forest Service officer

David J. Martinez, 36, of El Rito, pleaded guilty today in federal court to an aggravated driving under the influence misdemeanor charge, and was sentenced immediately thereafter. He was arrested by an officer of the U.S. Forest Service, which as been under fire for recent criminal charges filed in Rio Arriba County and from a raid at Taos Ski Valley. A Forest Service official on Monday said federal agents are empowered to enforce state laws on Forest Service territory. Martinez was arrested on Sept. 27 and charged in a criminal complaint with aggravated driving under the influence and several misdemeanors and infractions for failing to comply with the New Mexico motor vehicle code and the U.S. Forest Service’s timber harvesting regulations. The complaint alleges that Martinez was concealing a 30-pack of beer that was missing 16 cans under a coat on the front passenger seat of his truck. After Martinez failed standard field sobriety tests, the officer administered a preliminary breath test on Martinez, which registered a breath alcohol content of .166 percent – about twice the legal driving limit...more


The part about being "empowered" to enforce state law caught my attention.  Toward the end of the Albq. Journal article was this:


 Also, some Rio Arriba County residents have complained about arrests on state charges that they say Forest Service agents have no right to make without being deputized by a local sheriff. Special Agent in Charge Robin L. Poague, of the Southwestern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, said in Monday’s news release: “Federal regulations authorize Forest Service officials to enter orders permitting Forest Service officers to issue federal violation notices for violations of the state motor vehicle code on National Forest System lands and roads. “This ensures consistent enforcement of the motor vehicle code throughout the state and across agencies. The current order authorizing Forest Service officers to issue federal violation notices in the Carson National Forest has been in place since May 2012. The prosecution of Martinez on this DUI charge was initiated pursuant to this authority.”

 My understanding of state law is the same as the residents.  Some feds are cross-commissioned by state statute, such as the FBI and U.S. Marshalls, and the rest had to go through the Sheriff.  I haven't looked at the law in years, but it kind of makes you wonder if the Forest Service is violating state law to be able to enforce state law.  The sentence was handed down by a Federal judge in a federal court.  Was he found guilty of violating the federal regulation or the state statute?  If it is the state statute, why wasn't this done in state court?



Forest Service’s law enforcers give management low marks

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is not known for workplace contentment, ranking fourth from the bottom among 19 federal agencies as best places to work in an annual report last year. Morale inside the USDA’s Forest Service branch is lower still. In the areas of leadership, pay, teamwork and other measures of satisfaction, it ranked 261st out of 301 small federal divisions in the same survey, by Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that focuses on improving public-sector recruitment. Now a survey released Monday of a subset of Forest Service workers — law-enforcement officers who patrol 155 national forests, including six in Washington — offers detailed reasons for their unhappiness. Rank-and-file members of the Forest Service’s Law Enforcement and Investigations arm show they’re distrustful of management, highly critical of their top leader and believe the agency is rife with favoritism and hampered by inadequate funding. The survey was conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a professional association based in Washington, D.C.  Matthew Valenta, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 5300, a union representing 650 law-enforcement and investigation employees around the country, said the survey results reflect the feelings of his members, including those in Washington and Oregon. “This is not a simple case of a few disgruntled employees,” said Valenta, who works at Colville National Forest in Eastern Washington. “The agency is clearly in denial and has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the reality of an entire workforce with a broken spirit.” Last year, field officers reacted with outrage when they learned Ferrell had upgraded the pay grades for seven top law-enforcement supervisors. The rank-and-file workers were then under a three-year wage freeze and chafing under budget cuts. Ruch, of PEER, also contends a “boys with toys” mentality within the agency has led to purchases of Taser shock guns, rugged Toughbook computers and other equipment without input from officers in the field...more