Saturday, May 03, 2014

Smoking BLM Gun – Public Records – Harry Reid Owns 93 Acres Next to Bundy Ranch

by Rick Wells

While Senator Harry Reid professes that he is running the Bundy cattle off of public land because it’s the right thing to do, evidence indicates that Dirty Harry might have a personal interest in seeing that the Bundy’s join the other 52 ranchers they’ve run out of business.

Parcels held by an entity, Reid Bunkerville, LLC, which is partially owned by the Nevada Senator are in close proximity to the Bundy ranch.

The parcels appear to be in the path of future development, which may even involve a freeway interchange and loop, all west of Bunkerville in the same general area as those “trespass cattle.”

The parcel numbers below link to the Clark County Assessor’s Office, with all of the pertinent information and property descriptions shown.

They total 93.33 acres in size. 

Reid Bunkerville L L C Dst-901 # 002-26-301-002

Reid Bunkerville L L C Dst-800 #002-26-301-004
Reid Bunkerville L L C Dst-800 #002-26-301-005
Reid Bunkerville L L C Dst-800 #002-26-701-001
Source: Before It’s News

Rancher’s family takes grazing fight to sheriff

Family members and other supporters took a Nevada rancher’s grazing rights fight against the U.S. government to the sheriff in Las Vegas on Friday, filing reports alleging crimes by federal agents against people protesting a roundup of cattle from public land. Rancher Cliven Bundy wasn’t among those who filed handwritten complaints with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department — the agency with jurisdiction over Bundy’s ranch in the Bunkerville area and much of Clark County. Ammon Bundy of Phoenix headed a delegation of three Bundy sons, two sisters and perhaps 15 other supporters who filed reports accusing Bureau of Land Management agents of wielding high-powered weapons, using attack dogs and stun guns, closing public lands, blocking roads, harassing photographers and threatening people. “We fervently hope and pray that these heavy-handed tactics will not be used on us or any other Americans ever again,” Ammon Bundy said as he read a three-page media statement at the door of police headquarters. “Will our sheriff keep his oath this time and use his lawful forces to stop them?” Bundy asked. “Or will the people be left to their own protection?” Ammon Bundy said Cliven Bundy didn’t join supporters Friday in Las Vegas because he previously filed a complaint asking Gillespie to investigate...more

The next NSA? Police departments under scrutiny for phone, license plate surveillance

The NSA isn’t the only government agency raising concerns about electronic privacy. Local police departments are coming under similar scrutiny – not only for using spying technology, but for hiding their use from the public. At least 25 police departments now use what is known as "Stingray," a briefcase-sized box that swallows up cell phone data within a mile radius. More than one in three large police departments are also using license-plate readers, which can record every plate -- even on a four-lane highway – from vehicles going at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. The technology is a remarkable crime-fighting tool, according to former D.C. homicide detective Rod Wheeler. "Not just automobile thefts, but homicides, all kinds of robberies, so the technology is definitely something that's an asset to us," he said. But in a May 1 article, Wired magazine reported that Harris Corporation, maker of the Stingray, and Vigilant Solutions, which sells license-plate readers, holds its police department buyers to vows of secrecy. But the two technologies raise broader questions about 4th Amendment protections. Last year, then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued an opinion on license-plate readers that said data cannot be collected unless directly related to a criminal case. The opinion was not binding. Many jurisdictions in Virginia and beyond still retain the data for years...more

New Mexico taking aim at drone use in hunting

New Mexico is in line to become the next state to take aim at the use of drones for hunting big game animals. Alaska, Colorado and Montana already have outlawed the use of drones in hunting, but some sportsmen groups and animal advocates are pushing to see that regulations are passed in every state to protect the concept of fair chase. They argue the art of hunting should be based on skills and traditions that have been honed and passed down over generations, not technological advancements such as drones. "Hunting an animal with your physical senses, with your eyes and your ears and even to a lesser extent your sense of smell, that puts you on fairly even ground with these animals that can see far better, hear far better and smell far better than we can," said Joel Gay, a spokesman for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Drones would simply take the challenge out of hunting and could lead to the sport becoming more exclusive, Gay and others said. There's only anecdotal evidence of drones being used for hunting, but the national group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Humane Society of the United States both say they want to get ahead of the issue before it becomes a problem. In New Mexico, the state Game Commission is set to vote this month on a proposal that would make it illegal to use drones to signal an animal's location, to harass a game animal or to hunt a protected species observed from a drone within 48 hours. All of that is already illegal if done from an aircraft. The proposal calls for redefining aircraft to include unmanned, remote-controlled drones...more

The organic civil war

The organic apple in your lunch might come from a tree treated with an antibiotic. The organic milk in your coffee this morning could have come from a cow that — a little more than a year ago — could be found on a conventional farm, treated with antibiotics and fed non-organic grain. And that organic chicken in the oven? There’s a chance it’s been fed a synthetic amino acid. All these things are allowed under the green and white “USDA Organic” seal on packages in the grocery store, but there’s a civil war raging in the industry over how much longer such exceptions should be permitted and how to best to get rid of them. The antibiotic used on apple trees is already on its way out. It’s a fight that played out this week in San Antonio, where a 15-member panel charged by Congress with advising the Agriculture Department on its organic food standards haggled over a large stack of seemingly obscure rules. But while these organic food specialists were arguing over the use of streptomycin — the antibiotic used on apple trees — and methionine — the amino acid put in chicken feed — there’s a much bigger implication for that coveted “USDA Organic” label.  Organic food and fiber sales grew to $35 billion in 2013, up 11.5 percent from 2012, and that was before recent announcements from Target and Wal-Mart that they are upping their role in the game. American consumers are increasingly looking for food that is free of pesticides, antibiotics and synthetics, leaving what was once a niche industry struggling to meet the demand for foods that are certified as organic...more

Friday, May 02, 2014

Border Patrol Adding More Rescue Beacons That Allow Immigrants To Call For Help

The U.S. Border Patrol is reinforcing infrastructure to help keep immigrants from dying in the desert as they cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials from the Tucson sector say they expect an increase in traffic coming through the desert during the summer and they want to be prepared. They announced to a group of reporters and immigration activists Wednesday plans to add 10 more emergency beacons in the desert that allow migrants to call for help should they find themselves suffering from heat exhaustion, bitten by a rattlesnake or severely dehydrated. They will also be adding new hoist mechanisms to their helicopters to pluck injured victims from the perilous terrain according to the Associated Press. “The smugglers are telling people, 'oh it's going to be a short walk, it's not going to be a big deal,' when the reality is you're looking at 114 degree temperatures, this very rugged terrain that you see behind us, and once they cross the border, many times they're abandoned there and left vulnerable to the elements of the desert," Tucson sector chief Manuel Padilla, Jr., told the group. The beacons are 30-feet-tall and solar powered and are placed in such a way that they are visible for 10 miles with sun reflectors and blue lights. The signs, in three languages, instruct users to push a red button for help. Response times vary but help usually arrives in under an hour. Padilla told the group that agents found 194 bodies and rescued 802 people from the desert in fiscal year 2013. This year there have already been 38 deaths reported...more

EDITORIAL: Sage-grousing

The battle in Bunkerville over grazing fees and the purported need to protect the desert tortoise caught the nation’s attention last month. But no matter how that conflict is ultimately resolved, the impact will pale in comparison to the economic damage that will hit Nevada if the sage-grouse is designated a threatened or endangered species in northern and central parts of the state.

As reported by the Review-Journal’s Sean Whaley on Sunday, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is considering just such a designation. In fact, the agency determined the sage-grouse needed it back in 2010, but the service had to hold off because of more pressing issues. Mr. Whaley noted that a decision on how to proceed must come by September 2015 as a result of a court-ordered settlement between the agency and environmental groups.

No surprise there. Environmental busybodies occasionally have reasonable causes, but more often than not, the goal is to make more land off limits. Rancher Cliven Bundy’s feud with the Bureau of Land Management was born from the desert tortoise listing, which has greatly complicated putting public lands to productive use. A sage-grouse listing could greatly harm the movement to get more federal land under state and local control. Furthermore, as Mr. Whaley reported, ranching, mining and the energy sector — fracking prospects in this state could be tremendous for energy and job creation — would take a huge hit.

The numbers don’t support a federal listing of the sage-grouse, just as they didn’t support special protections for the tortoise. There are untold thousands of desert tortoises living in the Las Vegas Valley, proving the animals are more than able to adapt to their environment. The Nevada Division of Wildlife estimated the sage-grouse population at nearly 86,000 in 2012. Although that number was closer to 75,000 in 2013, the ongoing drought was noted as the primary cause of the decline, not any competing activity.

In fact, job-creating activities pose no real threat to this bird, particularly oil and natural gas wells, which have a minimal footprint. But the federal government and its allies in the environmentalist camp are pursuing an endangered or threatened designation as a means to an end: to seal off land from public use...

Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife Reaches Agreement with Navajo Nation to Protect Horses

The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife today announced it has formalized an agreement with the Navajo Nation to develop a comprehensive and humane program to manage the thousands of free-roaming horses on the reservation. The ultimate goal of the agreement is to develop alternatives to transporting the horses to slaughter facilities. Former New Mexico Governor and Foundation co-founder Bill Richardson negotiated the agreement with Navajo President Ben Shelly. “This historic agreement is a great first step in our efforts to not only protect these horses, but to find humane and long-term solutions that are in the best interest of the Navajo people and their land,” Governor Richardson said. “I commend President Shelly for his commitment to this issue, and we look forward to getting right to work.” The two men have initialed the agreement, allowing work to begin, and hope to hold a formal signing ceremony with all involved parties in the near future. The Foundation and its partners are currently working with representatives of the Navajo Nation on developing the first phase of the equine management program, which may eventually include adoptions, triages, veterinarian services and sanctuaries. They are also working to identify possible funding sources for these activities. Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation has agreed to immediately make every effort to only deal with those horse buyers that offer humane alternatives to the transportation of horses to slaughter facilities. Governor Richardson and actor, director and conservationist Robert Redford founded the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife in 2013. Since its inception, the Foundation has worked to stop the slaughter of horses and seek out alternative and humane solutions to deal with the country’s wild horse population...more

Bills Advanced to Update & Improve ESA

This week, the House Natural Resources Committee approved four bills that will improve and modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, a cosponsor of all four measures, is a member of the ESA Congressional Working Group, which developed the findings and recommendations for the proposals.

The measures seek to improve scientific and litigation transparency, enhance states’ role in species restoration, and cap government-paid attorneys’ fees under ESA-related litigation.

The four pieces of legislation approved by the Committee to enhance the Endangered Species Act are:
  • H.R. 4315, 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act.  Approved 17-15, the bill would require data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet.  The bill would allow the American people to actually see what data is being used to make key listing decisions.
  • H.R. 4316, Endangered Species Recovery Transparency Act. Approved 26-16, the bill would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online: 1) funds expended to respond to ESA lawsuits; 2) the number of employees dedicated to litigation; and 3) attorneys’ fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements.
  • H.R. 4317, State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act. Approved 26-16, the bill would require the federal government to disclose to affected states all data used prior to any ESA listing decisions and require that the “best available scientific and commercial data” used by the federal government include data provided by affected states, tribes, and local governments.
  • H.R. 4318, Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act.  Approved 27-15, the bill would prioritize resources towards species protection and place reasonable caps on government-paid attorneys’ fees for suits filed under the ESA.

Vandals spray-paint rocks, trees at Blacktail trail to build folf course

Vandals have struck the Blacktail Canyon trailhead in an apparent attempt to erect a disc golf course. Rocks and trees in the area were spray painted with red and blue arrows and top soil was removed in places to make tee boxes. A Forest Service worker discovered the vandalism. In disc golf, also called “folf,” players throw a disc at a target. Similar to golf, the object of the game is to traverse a course from beginning to end in the fewest number of throws of the disc. The Forest Service considers digging up the soil, building structures or painting trees or rocks vandalism as an unauthorized use of the national forest. Dodge said the act is punishable with a fine of up to $5,000 and-or six months in jail. Dodge added that people are welcome to play disc golf in the national forest, but they cannot create a course. Dodge said her trails crew will spend part of this weekend rehabilitating the area by removing the paint from the rocks and replacing the soil that was removed. It is practically impossible to remove spray paint from trees, so crews will use earth-toned spray paints to cover the vibrant reds and blues to make the paint less noticeable. “It is discouraging because we are trying to provide opportunities for this activity and it takes away a lot of manpower for other duties such as opening up the trails,” Dodge said. “It costs us time and money when we could be more productive in other areas to provide recreational opportunities to the general public.”...more

I don't understand.  If "opening up the trails" is a higher priority then why not do that?  But no, the Forest Service instead will spray paint over spray paint.

And remember all you foolish private individuals, no folfing in the forest.

Bird Enthusiasts To Sue Feds For Allowing Wind Turbines To Kill Eagles For 30 Years

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) announced it was suing the Obama administration for finalizing a rule that would allow wind farms to kill eagles for up to 30 years. The bird group says that the new rule violates existing federal laws. ABC says it supports green energy, including wind power, but the Interior Department’s eagle “take” rule finalized last December goes too far and allows wind power producers to ignore basic environmental protections and analysis. “ABC will take appropriate action to protect eagles and other migratory birds. The 30-year eagle permit rule – adopted in the absence of any [National Environmental Policy Act] document or any consultation under [the Endangered Species Act],” the group wrote to the Interior Department. Last year, reports began to surface of the huge impact wind farms have on bird populations. One report said that 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats were being killed each year by wind turbines, more than 30 percent higher than federal government estimates. Many of these birds were protected by federal laws, including the Migratory Bird Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act...more

Yes, but you can't dish out grants and low-interest loans to those endangered birds the way you can to political contributors.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Lawsuit targets cattle grazing in Capitol Reef National Park

Two environmental groups are suing the National Park Service for allowing livestock grazing in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park. The groups are not asking for grazing to be immediately discontinued. Instead, they say, they want the National Park Service to follow environmental law and study the impact grazing is having on two cactus plants listed on the Endangered Species Act. "Few people even know that private grazing occurs on these priceless public lands,’ said Jonathan Ratner, Western Watersheds Project director for Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, in a statement. "National Parks, tiny cacti, fragile soils and a bunch of cows don’t mix," he said. "Unfortunately, the service hasn’t wanted to address this problem and has turned a blind eye to the trampling and degradation caused by cattle in Capitol Reef." The Winkler’s pincushion, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the Wright fishhook cactus, listed as endangered, are both found within the grazing allotments in Capitol Reef National Park...more

Capitol Reef was first a National Monument proclaimed by FDR and then expanded by Eisenhower and LBJ.  An act passed Congress in 1971 to make it a National Park, and contained the following language:

Sec. 3. Where any Federal lands included within the park are legally occupied or utilized on the date of approval of this Act for grazing purposes pursuant to a lease, permit, or license for a fixed term of years issued or authorized by ant department, establishment, or agency of the United States, the Secretary of the Interior shall permit the persons holding such grazing privileges or their heirs to continue in the exercise thereof during the tern of the lease, permit, or license, and one period of renewal thereafter.

Sec. 4. Nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting in any way rights of owners and operators of cattle and sheep herds, existing on the date immediately prior to the enactment of the Act, to trail their herds on traditional courses used by them prior to such date of enactment, and to water their stock, notwithstanding the fact that the lands involving such trails and watering are situated within the park: Provided, That the Secretary may promulgate reasonable regulations providing for the use of such driveways.

It would appear the one renewal period is over and thus the shall permit language is no longer operable and the enviros aren't happy that grazing is continuing.  So we have a nice little enviroscam going where they allow grazing, no doubt for political purposes to get the bill passed, and then use the ESA to either disallow grazing or make it economically unfeasible.  Note the Wright fishhook cactus was listed 8 years after the park law passed and the Winkler’s pincushion was listed 17 years after the law passed.  

Our enviroscam model would look like this:

Monument with grazing → Park with grazing → ESA listings → Park without grazing

Similar models have been imposed across the West and I'll bet there's one being planned in your area right now.

Utah ranchers sue BLM, demand removal of wild horses

Thirteen ranchers in southwestern and central Utah are asking a federal judge to order the Bureau of Land Management to control the burgeoning number of wild horses that share the range with their cattle and sheep. A lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City names Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, BLM Director Neil Kornze and BLM Utah Director Juan Palma as defendants. The ranchers, angry about BLM requests that they slash their herds (or the herds’ time on the range) in half, formed the Western Rangeland Conservation Association this winter, pooling their money to bring the lawsuit. The Utah Farm Bureau Federation along with Iron and Beaver counties also have pledged money to pay for the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the BLM has failed to comply with the Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971 by not controlling the number of wild horses on BLM rangeland as well as on private and state lands. The ranges are deteriorating as wildlife, horses and livestock compete for scarce grasses, brush and water, the ranchers say. Horses have damaged range improvements made by ranchers, such as fences, springs and other water developments, the lawsuit says, and ranchers have had to haul extra water and feed to their animals as well as cut back on their grazing...more

Massive Crash in Tour of the Gila; 80 cyclists involved; dozens of injuries

huge pileup took out more than half of the cyclists competing in New Mexico's Tour of the Gila Wednesday afternoon. About 13 riders were taken to a local hospital, and two had to be airlifted to a hospital in Tucson, Arizona. The cyclists, more than half of them in the men's professional division, had been racing 92 miles from Silver City to Mogollon as part of the tour's first stage. Cyclist Michael Dziedzic said that a crosswind made a tightly packed group swerve as they were heading downhill. "Next thing you know, it's just the sound of broken wheels and frames," he told the Albuquerque Journal. "All the mechanics were screaming for medics." It didn't help that this occurred on a descent, leaving riders little room to avoid the pileup.
"This was the most devastating crash I have ever seen," cyclist Kirk Carlsen told a Tour of the Gila correspondent. Three riders for Jamis-Hagens Berman, led by Daniel Jaramillo, managed to avoid the crash and sweep the podium. Race spokesperson Rebecca Reza said Wednesday night that 14 riders won't be racing on Thursday, but added that none had serious injuries...more

EPA supporting plan to close two PNM plants

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency offered support for the state of New Mexico’s plan for shutting down two of PNM’s coal-fired power-generating units in the Four Corners area in connection with a regional haze dispute. The proposal will be published in the Federal Register and will be up for public comment with the EPA. PNM and the other owners of the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington, had been ordered to cut emissions from the plant due to haze concerns. However, plans that required the use of costly pollution control systems, at the cost of nearly $1 billion in one case, would have caused a huge rate hike for PNM Customers. In 2012, Gov. Susana Martinez requested that PNM, the EPA and the New Mexico Environment Department meet to come up with a new proposal after one offered by the state was rejected by the EPA in 2012. The EPA, PNM and the state have been working to craft a settlement that is less expensive than one originally proposed. The settlement will require PNM to retire two of the four coal-fired units at the San Juan Generating Station and add pollution-control equipment. In addition, PNM agrees to no layoffs, to create 350 person-years of construction jobs and to build a natural gas peaking-station in the Four Corners area. The company will also provide $1 million in job training and economic development funds in the Four Corners...more

I wonder what the total cost is to PNM and the rate payers.  Haze?  Section 169a of the Clean Air Act placed parks, monuments and wilderness areas as Class I areas under that act.  We see what that has done to the four corners area, wonder what 500,000 acres of wilderness and national monument will do for Las Cruces?

Western lawmakers get serious about transferring federal lands to states

    Late last week leaders from numerous western states convened at the Utah capitol for discussions on transferring federally controlled public lands to the states. I joined the Montana delegation in the talks.
    For some time now, states have been assessing the legal, economic, and environmental realities associated with assuming state control of public lands. Utah was the first in contemporary times to pass a Transfer of Public Lands Act in 2012.
    Hawaii and all states east of Montana were as much as 90 percent federally controlled at one time. Today the federal government controls less than 5 percent of the lands within their boundaries. The federal government has held onto over 50 percent of the acreage in the west. The level of conflict that comes with Washington DC governance of western public lands has reached an all time high.
    In a press conference covered by the A.P. Friday afternoon, Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said forests and rangeland managed by the states suffer less damage and watershed degradation from wildfire than lands managed by federal agencies.
    “It’s time the states in the West come of age,” Bedke said. “We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.”
    Comparison reports show states actively manage resources on millions of acres of public lands in a manner that perpetually generates revenues to fund public institutions while providing public access, wildfire protection, and meeting strict environmental regulations.
    The forest service has been reducing access to federally managed public lands, allowing fuel loads to reach catastrophic levels, and losing money on resource management at an alarming rate since the early 1990’s. Today the bulk of the national forest budget is spent fighting lawsuits and wildfires, leaving as little as 10 percent to 20 percent for actual resource management.
    The immediate urgency to better care for these public lands is becoming apparent even across party lines. In his address to the Western Governors Association last June, democrat Montana Governor Steve Bullock had this to say about federally managed lands in Montana:
    “For those of us in the western states, you know, there’s a real high degree of frustration when it comes to management of our federal forest lands. In Montana alone the numbers are astounding. Since 2000, 6.3 million acres of Montana’s forests have been affected by the mountain pine beetle. 4.3 million acres of forest and range lands have been impacted by wildfire. The urgency is so apparent.”
    Bullock continued, “Wildlife habitat has been degraded, watersheds are at extreme risk, endangering key fisheries and clean water. Fire danger is off the charts, threatening local communities and stifling recreation, to say nothing of the economies of our rural communities. We now can’t wait for the federal government, though, to figure out a solution. It’s up to us as westerners to really bring answers forward, which brings me back, to I guess, my experience as a member of managing Montana’s public lands. I think that model works well because there is a clarity of purpose, first of all. Secondly with 5 statewide elected officials managing these lands there is direct accountability for decision making.”
    States and counties from all over the west are moving forward in a variety of ways to curtail the severe threats that have built up as a result of poor federal management over the past few decades. Earlier this month, Governor Bullock utilized a provision in the farm bill to nominate over 5 million acres of USFS lands in Montana for expedited treatment due to declining forest health and imminent risk to public infrastructure, health, and safety.
    Unfortunately the tools offered in the farm bill came with no funding or guarantees it will succeed as advertised. Many western leaders now believe transferring federally held public lands to the states is the only solution truly big enough. The economic and environmental advantage of state based management has proven quite favorable on the millions of acres western states already manage.
    States can better care for the lands, reduce wildfire hazard, provide multiple use access, boost funding for government services, respond to local desires, and bring good jobs back to the rural west.
    For more info, you can reach me at or email

Jennifer Fielder is a State Senator in Montana 

For a great source of info on the transfer of public lands see the American Lands Council.

Red River land dispute echoes Cliven Bundy fight in Nevada

Lt.Gov Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Patterson and Henderson

A federal agency’s planning effort for land along the Red River has ignited a new skirmish in the fight between conservative Texas politicians and Washington. The uproar follows a high-profile controversy around the Bureau of Land Management’s actions in Nevada. The tangle between the bureau and Texas has led to political saber-rattling, including threats of legal action from Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor. The fight is over a 116-mile stretch of land along the river’s southern edge, which forms a portion of Texas’ border with Oklahoma. The agency, which manages 250 million acres of public land, says the land has belonged to the federal government since the Louisiana Purchase. The agency has never actively managed the land but is considering ways to do so as it updates its land management plans for the region. The plan, which will be finished sometime in 2018, could call for closing off sections of the land along the Red River, limiting certain activities like grazing to designated areas, or leaving it the way it is. Critics including Abbott, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz say the actions are an attempt to take land from Texas. “The BLM is now claiming that the federal government has always owned the land in question,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott, said in a written statement. “That is certainly news to the Texans who have possessed, cultivated and reportedly paid taxes on that very land for years.” The controversy hinges on the area’s murky boundaries. The state line between Oklahoma and Texas is pegged to the middle of the Red River through the 1920s Supreme Court decision. Go north of an imaginary line dividing the river down the middle, called the medial line, and you’re in Oklahoma. Head to the small cliffs to the south that the river has carved out, called cut banks, and you’re in Texas. Anywhere in between is federal land. The problem is, rivers change course. Under the court’s decision, changes that take place over time, called accretion, also shift the state line between Texas and Oklahoma. More sudden changes, called avulsion, don’t. That’s created uncertainty as to who owns what. Court decisions have upheld the federal claim on the land. Texan Tommy Henderson, who was involved in a 1986 case over land rights between ranchers from both states, had paid $300,000 for 140 acres, but a court ruled it actually belonged to the government...more

Wildlife managers investigate death of Mexican gray wolf on Fort Apache reservation

Wildlife managers are investigating the death of a Mexican gray wolf on tribal land in eastern Arizona. The male wolf was found dead at the end of March on the Fort Apache reservation. The animal belonged to one of two packs known to frequent the area. State and federal officials involved in the reintroduction effort say the cause of the wolf's death remains under investigation. It marks the second wolf death since the beginning of the year. The reintroduction program has been hampered over the years by politics, illegal killings and other factors. Disputes over management of the predators also have spurred numerous legal actions by environmentalists and ranchers. A survey in January showed there were at least 83 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. AP

Western Governors Defend Their Efforts to Protect the Sage Grouse

How much is enough? Maybe even too much? That's what the Western Governors' Association wants to know as it pertains to protecting the Western and Gunnison sage grouse. In a recent letter to Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell, the governors offered their third inventory of programs and initiatives that the states are undertaking to preserve the potentially threatened birds. "These steps preclude the need to include the greater sage grouse on the federal endangered species list," the governors asserted. Should the greater sage grouse or the smaller population of Gunnison sage grouse be listed as an endangered species, the states fear that it would impact oil and gas operations and cattle ranching across much of the Intermountain West. Eleven states have sage grouse habitat, and not one wants its birds listed.  Writing in High Country News, environmental studies professor Andrew Gulliford doesn't think so. He states that the Gunnison sage grouse in particular is faced with extinction, with fewer than 5,000 remaining. Another assessment of the sage grouse's fate is offered by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which notes their greatly reduced numbers largely due to disrupted habitat...more

Feds spend $236 million to help landowners protect grouse

The federal government paid $236 million to landowners in 11 states — including $35.6 million in Nevada — to preserve sage-grouse habitat amid a debate over whether the bird should be listed as an endangered species — potentially hindering energy development and ranching. The Casper Star-Tribune reported Wednesday that the money was paid for conservation efforts on nearly 6,000 square miles, mostly in the West, over a four-year period. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the numbers at the request of the Western Governors Association. That group argues the figures show that state and private efforts are more effective at preserving sage-grouse than an endangered species designation would be. “Western Governors believe that providing economic incentives for landowners to voluntarily participate in greater sage-grouse conservation efforts … is likely to achieve more efficient and cost-effective results, as well as more rapid conservation,” the group said on its website. The governors association said participation in the program fell off steeply in California and Nevada after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally proposed listing a segment of the sage grouse population as endangered. “It seems unlikely that landowners will want to participate in such voluntary programs when federal regulation is in place,” the group said...more

Military air tankers readied for wildfire season

CHEYENNE, Wyo.-- More than 200 firefighting pilots and support workers who fly some of the largest retardant-dropping airplanes are training at the National Guard airbase here for the start of the wildfire season. The training focuses on the use of military C-130 cargo planes equipped with U..S. Forest Service-owned water tanks. The tanks can blast 3,000 gallons or water or retardant onto a wildfire in just five seconds. The cargo airplanes carry aloft what's known as a modular airborne firefighting system. Like smaller tankers, the MAFFS drop retardant on wildfires to slow their spread and protect homes. Unlike traditional air tankers, however, the MAFFS teams can only be called into action once all other civilian tankers are either in use or out of service. The four C-130 planes in Cheyenne this week belong to the Wyoming and North Carolina Air National Guard, and the military pilots are training with Forest Service pilots who fly smaller planes used to guide in the tankers...more

Under pressure, Utah BLM fast-tracks plea to round up wild horses

Under pressure from ranchers and southern Utah elected leaders, the Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office is fast-tracking proposed roundups of wild horses on the state’s parched southwestern ranges. In an environmental assessment posted Thursday on the BLM website, the agency said it wants to remove 607 horses this summer from the Bible Springs Complex northwest of Cedar City, an area now home to an estimated 777 horses but able to sustain only 170. Utah BLM managers, according to an internal memo, also want to gather 400 horses from the Sulphur herd management area that stretches from northern Iron County, north along Beaver County’s western border and into Millard County. That herd has exploded to about 718 horses, nearly three times as many as the 250 horses the BLM says the land can handle. The "gather," as the BLM calls its roundups, is needed to protect the range from further degradation by wild horses, the document says. The BLM will take public comment for 30 days, but wants to be poised to round up the horses this summer — if it gets the go-ahead from Washington. Environmental assessments typically take a year...more

Judge rules against Forest Service fees in Southern California

Opponents of day-use fees in national forests chalked up another victory this week with a federal court ruling in the long-running battle over the recreation charges. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter Jr. sided with four hikers who contended that Southern California forests were improperly requiring them to buy an Adventure Pass even when they didn’t use any developed facilities. The regional pass, which costs $5 a day or $30 annually, has funneled millions of dollars to the four Southland forests, which are some of the most heavily used in the nation. The pass was adopted under an unpopular national program of forest recreation fees that has been scaled back by Congress and the courts. Citing a 2012 federal appeals decision involving an Arizona national forest, Hatter said that case made it clear that “the Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking.”...more


"Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones."

-- Lucius Annaeus Seneca
(4 B.C.-A.D. 65) Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist

A custody fight gone crazy

Everybody in Grady knew Ruth White-Kitchen and her boys. But then, everybody knows everybody in Grady, a dusty speck of a ranching community, population around 100, on New Mexico’s eastern plains. Here, neighbors are tightknit though their homes may be miles apart. So when White-Kitchen was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, the community embraced her boys, Adrian Lunsford, then 8, and Adam Lunsford, then 10, to make sure they knew they would always have a home in Grady. And when she died Jan. 25, 2012, at age 52, thus began an unusual custody battle for the boys that pitted the rights of a parent with the wishes of children and exemplified how sometimes the law can’t always make things right. White-Kitchen had grown up in Grady and married Cliff Lunsford. The couple had five sons, including Adam and Adrian, their two youngest. The family lived in Pilot Point, Texas, a suburban town less than a hour’s drive from Dallas and about 450 miles east and a world away from Grady. When the marriage soured in 2002, White-Kitchen packed up her youngest boys and returned to Grady. By all accounts, the boys – smart, athletic and “yes ma’am” polite – thrived in Grady. Both were stars on the schools’ basketball teams. Adam was the salutatorian of his high school class; Adrian was valedictorian of his middle school class. The boys spent summer and holiday vacations in Pilot Point with their father, often working side by side with him in the mechanic shop he owns. Things might have stayed as pleasantly as that had White-Kitchen not passed away. It was her dying wish for the boys to remain in Grady, if they chose to, said attorney Richard Queener of Clovis...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1242

Carl Smith & June Carter recorded Time's A Wastin' in 1953.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

As fire season approaches, let’s create ‘charter forests’

With the number and severity of wildfires increasing dramatically, it’s time to rethink management policies for our national forest system.

A new study by the American Geophysical Union, for instance, found that serious wildfires in the American West have been increasing significantly over the last 30 years, with the total number of acres destroyed increasing an average of 90,000 per year from 1984 to 2011.

In 2013 alone, according to government estimates, 4.2 million acres of U.S. forest lands were destroyed by wildfires, an area seven times larger than New York City and Los Angeles combined. The fires claimed lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service in 37 states.

The American Geophysical Union attributes the dramatic increase in wildfires to several possible factors, including climate change, an increase in invasive species, and what one member describes as “past fire management practices.”

The greatest blame for faulty fire management practices lies squarely with the U.S. Forest Service, which has helped turn many national forests into literal tinderboxes.

The agency understands it has problems. In a 2002 report, the Forest Service lamented that it was operating “within a statutory, regulatory and administrative framework that has kept the agency from effectively addressing rapid declines in forest health.”

Desperate for improvement, Congress in 2009 enacted the ironically named Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act, or FLAME, requiring the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to develop a “National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.” The report was finalized April 9, 2014, nearly four years after its statutory deadline.

Like other past reform efforts, the new fire management strategy fails to come to terms with the statutory, regulatory and procedural quagmire that now exists.

Rather than trying to comprehensively fix all of the problems plaguing the Forest Service, whose 35,000 employees manage approximately 10 percent of all land in the United States, what’s needed is a new management model — the type public education reformers have been experimenting with. Like charter schools, we need “charter forests.”

The secret is local management autonomy: We need to apply that management model to the U.S. Forest Service.

A decentralized charter forest would operate under the control of a local board of directors, which might include local government officials, economists, environmentalists, and recreational and commercial users of forest resources. They would have wide freedom to hire and fire employees, bypassing usual civil service procedures.

Like charter schools, which receive public support based on the number of students enrolled, charter forests would receive federal funds to support their operations based on a forest’s size, ways in which it is used, past federal spending for the forest, and other appropriate criteria.

Charter forests would be exempt from current requirements for public land use planning and the writing of environmental impact statements. These requirements long ago ceased to perform their ostensible function of improving public land decision making and instead have become open invitations to litigation — effectively transferring much of the management control over our national forests to litigants and federal judges.

Charter forests would operate under federal oversight, including broad land use goals and performance standards relating to environmental quality. But they would have the flexibility to develop and implement innovative solutions to the growing health problems that threaten many national forests.

It’s time to give a new management model a try. If not, we may find the destructive pattern of the past 30 years continue for another 30.

Robert Nelson, a senior fellow with The Independent Institute, Oakland, Calif., is professor of environmental policy at the School of Public Policy of the University of Maryland and author, most recently, of The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America.”

Today’s “Sagebrush Rebels” Seek Better Land Management At State Level

By Terry L. Anderson
...Lawmakers from eight western states joined forces on April 18 in Salt Lake at a summit to declare “enough is enough” when it comes to the mismanagement of federal lands in their states. One of the summit organizers, Montana Sen. Jennifer Fielder, said, “There is a distinct difference in the way federal agencies are managing the federal lands today. They used to do a good job, but they are hamstrung now with conflicting policies, politicized science, and an extreme financial crisis at the national level. It makes it impossible for these federal agencies to manage the lands responsibly anymore.”

Almost no one with an interest in federal land management can disagree with Fielder’s conclusion—even the land managers themselves. As Jack Ward Thomas, former chief of the Forest Service, put it, federal land management is tied in a “Gordian knot” of laws and litigation.

When the first Sagebrush Rebels made the same point, most thought the movement was about privatizing the federal estate. But neither ranchers nor environmentalists want the government out of land management. They just want the locus of management to be where they think they can more easily get what they want. Both sides should be careful what they ask for.

Today’s Sagebrush Rebels want federal lands transferred to the states. But if they succeed, grazing fees would likely increase. In Montana, BLM grazing fees are $1.35 per AUM (animal unit month—the amount of land necessary to support a cow-calf pair for one month), while the state land fees are between $6.12 and $80. Moreover, if managed under state trust land requirements, the land would have to turn a profit. In fiscal year 2004, the year for which we have the best estimates, the BLM lost over $55 million dollars on its grazing programs, and the Forest Service lost another $60 million. Admittedly, this is as much due to high management costs as it is to modest revenues, so turning a profit would require adjustments on both sides of the ledger. Are ranchers ready to have less taxpayer money spent on their grazing lands and to pay more for their permits?

Environmentalists, on the other hand, want more control in Washington D.C., where urban constituencies can have a say in land management decisions. When President Clinton occupied the White House, environmentalists carried signs calling for “No Moo in ‘92” and “Cattle Free in ’93.” Their political pressure helped reduced grazing on federal lands from 8.3 million AUMs in 1991 and to 7.9 million in 2013. At the same time, however, grazing fees plummeted from about $2.00 per AUM to $1.35, the minimum that can be charged, where they remain today.

But “no moo” may mean fewer tweets, clucks, and bugles from wildlife. As private ranchers demonstrate, good land management can control noxious weeds, improve water quality, sequester more carbon, and generate more wildlife habitat. Ecologist and rangeland specialist Dan Daggett has documented hundreds of cases where cattle grazing has improved the ecosystem.

At a time when federal deficits are running at their highest levels ever and when guns are literally drawn over public land management, perhaps it is time for a real land management rebellion. It is time to consider privatization rather than more politicization of federal lands. We could start by selling off millions of acres of grazing lands. Private ranchers have proven that they are good stewards of the land they own, both in terms of livestock production and ecosystem services. If environmental groups want to have authority in land management, they should also accept responsibility by buying lands, as groups such as the Grand Canyon Trust and the American Prairie Reserve already do. Perhaps a little experimentation of this sort would provide further evidence that fiscal responsibility and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand.

Terry L. Anderson is the president of PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center) in Bozeman, Mont., and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.


Property rights attorneys decry environmental ‘lawlessness’

Two legal experts who have made careers of defending property rights advise rural residents to keep out ahead of the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency is the “most lawless agency in a lawless administration,” said attorney and author William Perry Pendley, president and chief operating officer for the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Lakewood, Colo. He cited efforts to drive coal plants out of business and determine 1 million acres in Wyoming, including the town of Riverton, Wyo., belongs to Native Americans. Environmentalists want to elevate the legal rights of inanimate objects, Pendley charged, allowing lawyers to represent streams or wildlife on farmers’ lands. Pendley said the National Environmental Policy Act, originally a procedural statute and not a environmental protection statute, keeps oil refineries from being built in the United States and allows timber to rot before harvest every summer. The Endangered Species Act was originally slated to protect a hundred species on federal land, with “just compensation” for any impact to private lands. “We’re now 2,000 (species) and going north,” Pendley said. “It’s on private property coast to coast, border to border. And I know of no case in which a private property owner has been paid. We’ve gone from protecting the warm and fuzzies to protecting the cold and slimies.” All 50 states have laws requiring state agencies to coordinate with local policy and local governments, including more than 15 statutes in Washington, said Fred Kelly Grant, lead attorney for the Stand and Fight Club, a project of the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Wash. “If only the local governments knew it,” he said. “If we had 5,000 local governments in this country using the coordination process, the EPA would be toothless.”...more

Utah’s Stewart: BLM doesn’t need a ‘SWAT team’

The Bureau of Land Management doesn’t need its own heavily armed police force, Rep. Chris Stewart said Tuesday, referencing the recent standoff between federal agents and a civilian militia siding with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Stewart, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, says he’s going to try to cut funding for any "paramilitary units" and require the BLM, Internal Revenue Service and other regulatory agencies to rely on local law enforcement rather than their own armed crews. "There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with its own SWAT team," the Utah Republican said off the House floor Tuesday, noting that land managers aren’t the only government agents with serious firepower. "They’re regulatory agencies; they’re not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us." Stewart, who insists he isn’t taking sides in the Bundy showdown, says he was shocked to see the government’s response and believes it led to the civilian militia that showed up to defend the rancher. But Stewart says agencies such as the BLM should defer to local police for muscle instead of bringing in their own. "They should do what anyone else would do," Stewart said. "Call the local sheriff, who has the capability to intervene in situations like that." Stewart, a freshman lawmaker seeking a second term this election year, could find powerful friends in his targeting of such special-force units in government agencies. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told WHAS radio of Louisville, that the feds shouldn’t have "48 federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams."...more

Wildfires in the Western U.S. Are on the Rise, Posing Threats to Drinking Water

When the Las Conchas Fire scorched some 151,000 acres of northern New Mexico in 2011, it wasn’t just the direct fire damage that was cause for worry. Striking as it did in the midst of a persistent drought, but just before summer “monsoon” rains, the Las Conchas – the largest blaze in New Mexico’s recorded history – set in motion the one-two-three punch of drought, fire and flood that much of the western United States has seen all-too frequently in recent years. As the intense rains pounded burned-out watersheds, peak floods poured through the Jemez Mountain canyons pushing tree trunks, boulders and tons of blackened soil down to the valleys below.   Soon after, to avoid the high costs of de-clogging equipment and treating sediment-laden river water, the Albuquerque drinking water utility cut its intake from the Rio Grande by half – and tapped more groundwater to make up the deficit. With new research showing that fires in the western United States are getting larger and more frequent, water managers need to mitigate the impacts of fire in their source watersheds, as well as prepare for the consequences. In a study published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Philip E. Dennison of the University of Utah and colleagues analyzed a database of large wildfires (those greater than 1,000 acres, or 405 hectares) in the western United States over the period 1984-2011 and found a significant increase in the number of large fires and/or the area covered by such fires. For water managers, the new research is a clarion call to begin action now to safeguard water supplies originating in watersheds prone to fire. Fires are natural and beneficial to forested watersheds. But for many decades, firefighters focused on protecting people and property have squelched even small fires that would do the important work of cleansing the forest floor and thinning trees to healthy densities. As a result, many forests have accumulated an excess of “fuel,” so when a fire ignites– whether from a natural cause, such as a lightening strike or a human one, such as a campfire – the forest is primed to burn rapidly, increasing the potential for a mega-fire like Las Conchas. Drought only adds to the favorable fire conditions. Partly in response to the damage wildfires have inflicted downstream, a few pioneering water suppliers are taking a proactive approach to addressing wildfires’ costs and risks to drinking water sources...more

Idaho counties air objections to new forest plan

North Idaho’s counties want more influence over how the U.S. Forest Service manages hundreds of thousands of acres in the region. Actions such as road closures, fire management and proposed wilderness areas affect local governments, their citizens and their tax base, the county officials said. They said officials at the Idaho Panhandle National Forests didn’t listen to their concerns when the agency developed a new forest plan. “Seventy-four percent of the lands in Shoshone County are federally owned,” said Larry Yergler, a Shoshone County commissioner. With such a large land base, Forest Service actions affect everything from the number of local timber jobs to revenue for the county’s road budget, he said. Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for individuals and organizations who filed objections to the revised forest plan to air their issues before a Forest Service review officer. Associate Deputy Chief Jim Pena traveled from Washington, D.C., for the hearing. Pena listened to a variety of objections to the plan, which lays out the future management direction for the 2.5-million-acre forest. But the morning session was dominated by the Forest Service’s interaction with local governments. Representatives from all five northern counties spoke. Local officials said the Forest Service wasn’t meeting its obligation to consult with local counties on a government-to-government basis. Some wanted more meetings with agency officials, and assurance that the issues they raised were given more weight than individual public comments. Others challenged federal authority. “The concept of federal supremacy just doesn’t float well with us,” Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen said. Pena said the Forest Service is required to reach out to local and state governments through meaningful dialogue during the forest planning process. But local and state government’s input is advisory only, he said...more

Bucky's Birthday Bash

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1241

Our tune today is Sweet Marie, an instrumental recorded in 1954 by Hank Snow & The Rainbow Ranch Boys.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

GOAL Advocacy Launches Radio Ad in Las Cruces

(April 28, 2014)  GOAL Advocacy recently launched a radio ad in Las Cruces aimed at bringing attention to the Organ Mountain National Monument debate.

The radio spot can be heard here.  The spot encourages residents of Dona Ana County to contact Senators Heinrich and Udall and ask them to pursue the legislative process in the effort to protect the Organ Mountains as a national monument.   The legislative process will help ensure the issues Dona Ana County residents care about most are addressed in any designation.  According to a recent survey of Dona Ana County residents by GOAL Advocacy, strong majorities were more likely to support a designation that addresses and protects grazing, border security and flood control projects.

GOAL Advocacy was created to educate and promote policies which will have a positive impact on the state and region. GOAL brings together business and community leaders from across the region to share their expertise, experiences and ideas.  Through their commitment to the state and region, the board will guide the organization to change the landscape of public policy discussion in the region and be a consistent voice on all issues relating to jobs and the economy.   To learn more visit our website at

Blurred Lines - Texas-BLM Spat Has Complicated History


Tommy Henderson’s Chevy Silverado bobbed as he drove recently over the North Texas pasture he knows so well. It was part of the ranch where his family had grown crops and grazed cattle for more than a century.

The landscape had changed over time. The cottonwood and salt cedar trees weren’t here when his forefathers arrived. “It was just tall prairie,” he said. And the Red River, which runs about a quarter-mile north, has, at times, snaked closer to this spot, its flow changing with Mother Nature’s whims.

The 60-year-old rancher knew exactly when his truck rolled past the invisible boundary that splits what’s still his land and the 140 acres the courts took away — despite the fact that Henderson paid for it.
“We’re on BLM land right now,” Henderson said.

It’s been nearly 30 years since an Oklahoma judge ruled that the land belonged to the federal government, to be overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The issue is getting attention now as the BLM decides what to do with an area along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River it says it controls. That area includes an indeterminate amount of land that North Texans have long considered theirs. Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, are speaking out about the case, with some officials talking about federal “seizure” of private property and “overreach.”

Henderson, who is no fan of the BLM, said he’s happy with the attention on the issue. And because of his role in the dispute’s legal history, he has become a point man for those looking to clear up the confusion. He wants more Texas officials to first grasp the two centuries of litigation and changing geography rooted in the dispute. He said they need to know about the Louisiana Purchase, the Adams-OnĂ­s Treaty, Buck James, the Langford family and the huge legal ramifications for the different ways a river can move. Only with that understanding can officials try to answer the landowners' new set of questions.

“I think it’s very difficult to fully understand it,” he said. “To know how we got here, we kind of got to know where we’ve been.”

The BLM, the federal government’s trustee for nearly 250 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of mineral rights, is updating its resource management plans in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — designating how the land will be used for the next 15 to 20 years. The area includes about 90,000 acres along the Red River that the agency considers public land.

Texans, however, have long managed some of that land. They hold deeds to it and have diligently paid taxes on it. The BLM has not fully surveyed the area, so it is not clear how many acres the locals have claimed and how many sat untouched.


Can a DOE competition jump-start wind power in America's vast offshore?

Right about now, offshore wind developers across the United States have started holding their breath. Next month, the Department of Energy will announce three competition winners that could blaze a path for offshore wind's future in the United States, where, despite the best efforts of a few determined mavericks, no utility-scale offshore wind farms have yet been built. When announced in December 2012, the DOE competition involved seven offshore wind demonstration projects that were awarded an initial $4 million to get off the ground. Each has spent the past year scrambling to prove it is one of three that merit an additional $47 million to transform their ambition to "get steel into the water" into reality. The projects, with backers as diverse as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and one of the Southeast's largest energy companies, have started work on both U.S. coasts, in the Great Lakes and in the Gulf of Mexico. All aim to be the impetus that begins to spin a robust offshore wind industry in their region...more

 The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind, along with about $169 million of your tax dollars.

Endangered Species Act protections for frogs and toad

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada will be given protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the mountain yellow-legged frog will be listed as endangered and the Yosemite toad as threatened under the ESA. The final rule announcing the actions is expected to publish in the Federal Register on April 29, 2014 and the final rule will become effective on June 30, 2014...more

Has the Endangered Species Act become immune to amendment?

An animal rights group has filed a lawsuit arguing that the Endangered Species Act — which is itself constitutionally suspect — limits Congress’ powers, i.e. Congress cannot legislate on endangered species issues unless that legislation would be consistent with the ESA. This absurd proposition has already been rejected by that bastion of anti-environmentalism: the Ninth Circuit, which recently characterized the protection of endangered species as the “highest priority” under federal law. The subject of the most recent controversy is a permit exemption for exotic hunting ranches, which finance populations of species that are endangered or extinct in the wild through regulated hunting. This fantastically successful model for species conservation has been consistently attacked by animal rights groups. A few years ago, 60 Minutes produced a piece on this success and interviewed those on both sides of the political and legal fight. Lest you have any doubt that the opposition isn’t about species conservation, the leader of the animal rights group is asked directly whether she would rather see these species go extinct than be saved in this way. And she said yes! The group previously sued to stop a administratively adopted permit exemption for these ranches on the grounds that it violated the ESA. The district court agreed with them, and the case is now on appeal. In the wake of this decision, Congress decided to change the law, perhaps because it didn’t think the ESA was meant to contribute to species extinction. A court interpreted the law. Congress, disagreeing with the result, changed the law. That should be the end of the story. Nope. The group argues that Congress violated the Separation of Powers. Because there is a pending lawsuit, Congress’s decision to change the law in effect directs the judiciary to decide the case in a particular way...more

The Return of the Wolf ... In Germany

Surrounded by a flock of 250-odd black-faced sheep near this northeastern town, Frank Neumann jams his green Trilby hat on his head before a gust of wind sends it flying, then chuckles as his 120-lb sheepdog leaps up to lick his face. The bearlike Pyrenean mountain dog is people-friendly, but it's no pet. Before the stocky farmer obtained six of them to protect his flock, he arrived one morning to find 27 of his cherished sheep eviscerated, their guts strewn across the pasture. It was a tough way to learn that the wolf had returned to Germany. “Officially, there weren't supposed to be any here,” Neumann says. “I was pretty angry because no one had warned us.” New sightings confirm that wolves are making a rapid comeback across Europe. But the most surprising success story — together with possible related problems — is here in Germany, which lacks the infrastructure for wildlife protection despite its strong tradition of environmentalism. “Germany as a whole is becoming affected by wolves,” says World Wildlife Fund wolf expert Janosch Arnold. “Five years from now we’ll have them in nearly every district.” Since the year 2000, when an infrared camera produced the first evidence of their return close to the Polish border, the number of wolf packs in Germany has mushroomed from two to more than 30. Their comeback was initially attributed to the emptying of rural areas in what was formerly East Germany. But with wolf packs settling amid wind-energy projects, along well-trodden nature trails and even on Berlin’s doorstep, it's now clear that the European Union's tough protection laws are responsible. In a troubling development for some farmers, wolves are proving no more prone to remaining isolated in the wilderness than America's coyotes...more

Yakamas file suit to stop Rattlesnake wildflower tours

The Yakama Nation is asking a federal judge to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from conducting wildflower tours on Rattlesnake Mountain starting this weekend. Fish and Wildlife has finished a lottery to award seats on two bus tours a day today, Sunday, May 8 and May 10 to a portion of the Hanford Reach National Monument closed to the public. Fish and Wildlife had not received official notice of the lawsuit Wednesday and told the Herald that it had no plans to alter the tour schedule. No hearing is set in U.S. District Court on the injunction request. It’s the third year that Fish and Wildlife has offered the tours. This year, like last year, stops are planned on the Arid Land Ecology Reserve, as well as a possible trip up Rattlesnake Mountain on the reserve if the weather is good. The Yakama Nation told Fish and Wildlife two years ago that the cultural significance of the Rattlesnake Mountain area “is not conducive to tourism and recreation” and that tours would adversely affect it. Rattlesnake Mountain, the highest point in the Mid-Columbia, was designated at a Traditional Cultural Property by the Department of Energy in 2007, recognizing its religious and cultural importance to the Yakama Nation...more

Chaffetz voices support for public lands initiative

If Rep. Jason Chaffetz could wave a magic wand, he says he would give local governments more power to manage Utah’s public lands. But the third-term Utah Republican congressman told local voters that he won’t use any powers – supernatural or otherwise – to influence the shape that an ongoing public lands initiative may take. Speaking at an April 21 campaign event in Moab, Chaffetz said he and Rep. Rob Bishop don’t believe they should be inserting themselves into the process at this point. Instead of telling local citizens or officials, “This is how it’s going to be,” they believe the initiative should be driven primarily at the county level, he said. “We want a bottom-up process,” he said. Chaffetz said that he supports the concept of multiple-use management, but he acknowledged that others might not hold the same views. Discussions about public lands management can grow “very emotional” at times, he said. But as he envisions it, a successful initiative process could provide everyone with a clearer direction of future activities on eastern Utah’s public lands. “Part of what we’re trying to do is change the equation and the tools they have in Washington, D.C., so that we can have more certainty,” Chaffetz said. Seven counties across the region are currently participating in the initiative process, and among those, Emery and Uintah counties are furthest along, he said...more

Tribal capitalists earning the ire of environmentalists

Not all modern-day tribal revenue comes out of slot ma­chines. Apaches make decent money from their logging op­erations, especially since law­suits ostensibly intended to save the habitat of the Mexi­can spotted owl shut down their competitors off-reserva­tion. (Side note: According to the Arizona Game and Fish De­partment, about 30 percent of spotted owl habitat in Arizona has been wiped out in the last 12 years by the mega-fires sweeping through timber-­choked forests that greenies fight to the death against be­ing commercially logged. Just sayin'.) Navajos, meanwhile, oper­ate coal mines that fuel power plants that energy firms lease on Navajo lands. And a rather bold tribe in British Columbia, Canada, appears to have hit the salmon-fishing jackpot with "open-sea mariculture" that has produced a bounty of salmon in their region. And a bounty of hostility from green groups. In all these cases — by har­vesting pine trees regardless of diameter; by mining coal; and by seeding a portion of the ocean floor with iron sulfate in order to stimulate a food source for young salmon — the tribes have incurred the wrath of the environmental left, which would be happy to keep the tribes on the federal dole rather than earning filthy lucre on their own...more

The true story of why my great-uncle was buried in a tree

For as long as I can remember, my father has told the story of his uncle from back home in Illinois who, upon his death, somehow wound up having his ashes entombed in a giant sequoia tree in California. My father had never actually seen the tree and this bit of family lore always seemed strange, even far-fetched. But as part of a personal quest to learn more about my heritage, I recently discovered the uncle-in-a-tree story is absolutely true. I saw it myself earlier this month, four miles down a rugged dirt road on the western boundary of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, where I stood at the base of the giant redwood tree that contains the ashes of a great-uncle who died a decade before I was born. Merritt Berry Pratt was born in the tiny hamlet of Paw Paw, Illinois on Oct. 3, 1878. He was my grandmother's older brother and was described in a 1959 biography by C. Raymond Clar as a "short, plump and rather handsome lad," which, I suppose, was intended as some sort of compliment. Merritt received a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1904 and a master's degree in forestry from Yale a year later, after which he was immediately hired by the newly-established United States Forest Service. Merritt was assigned to the Tahoe National Forest, and at a 1906 Fourth of July picnic in Nevada City he met Laura May Schraeder, who became his wife the following year. He left the Forest Service in 1914 to teach at UC Berkeley in the new Division of Forestry of the College of Agriculture, and four years later was appointed deputy California state forester in Sacramento...more

Monday, April 28, 2014

Harry Reid: A McCarthy for Our Time

by Victor Davis Hanson

    We should ask Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) the same question once posed to Senator Joseph McCarthy by U.S. Army head-counsel Robert N. Welch: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
    Reid is back in the news for denigrating the peaceful supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a popular critic of the Bureau of Land Management policy, as “domestic terrorists.”
    McCarthy in the 1950s became infamous for smearing his opponents with lurid allegations that he could not prove, while questioning their patriotism. Reid has brought back to the Senate that exact same McCarthy style of six decades ago — and trumped it.
    During the 2012 presidential campaign, Reid slandered candidate Mitt Romney with the unsubstantiated and later-refuted charge that Romney was a tax cheat. “The word’s out that he [Romney] hasn’t paid any taxes for ten years,” Reid said.
    Later, when asked for proof, Reid offered a pathetic rejoinder: “I have had a number of people tell me that.” One wonders how many names were on Reid’s McCarthyite “tell” list — were there, as McCarthy used to bluster, 205 names, or perhaps just 57?
    When asked again to document the slur, Reid echoed McCarthy perfectly: “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes.”
    When the Koch brothers donated money that was used for political ads — just as liberal political donors   George Soros and the Steyer brothers have done — Reid rushed to the Senate floor to question their patriotism: “These two brothers . . . are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.” The charge of being “un-American” is also vintage McCarthyite slander.
    Reid also has a bad habit of racial bigotry. He once praised fellow senator Barack Obama because he was, in Reid’s words, a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
    When Reid was worried that he would not get enough Hispanic voters to the polls, he condescendingly lectured the Latino community: “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay. Do I need to say more?”
    Reid once singled out for damnation just one Supreme Court justice — Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.”
    Reid has also brought back McCarthy’s custom of vicious and sometimes profane insults.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid announced: “I can’t stand John McCain.” Of then-president George W. Bush, Reid said: “President Bush is a liar.” Reid claimed that fellow Mormon Mitt Romney had “sullied” his religion.
    When General David Petraeus brought proof to Congress that the surge in Iraq was beginning to work by late 2007, Reid declared, “No, I don’t believe him, because it’s not happening.”
    He elaborated on that charge by labeling Petraeus — at the time the senior ground commander of U.S. forces fighting in Iraq — a veritable liar. Reid alleged that Petraeus “has made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual.”
    When an African American and Democratic appointee to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, William Magwood, opposed Reid on the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste-disposal-site controversy, Reid called him a “first-class rat,” a “treacherous, miserable liar,” a “s*** stirrer,” and “one of the most unethical, prevaricating, incompetent people I’ve ever dealt with.”
    Like a pre-reform-era politician, Reid entered public service relatively poor and will leave it as a multimillionaire.