Friday, May 09, 2014

FBI investigating Bundy supporters in BLM dispute

The I-Team has confirmed that FBI agents have launched a formal investigation into alleged death threats, intimidation and possible weapons violations that culminated with a dangerous showdown on April 12, and the first people to be interviewed by FBI agents are Metro Police, starting with Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillispie. Federal employees suspended their roundup of Cliven Bundy's cattle, following a confrontation outside the BLM compound near Bunkerville. At the urging of Metro Police, Bundy's cattle were released, but BLM's new director announced the matter wasn't over and would be resolved, one way or another. We now know what that means. Last week, the I-Team talked with Metro officers who intervened to protect the lives of federal employees from the 400 or so Bundy supporters and armed militia members. Officers told the I-Team they feared for their lives that day because of the assembled firepower, and because many in the crowd had pointed weapons at officers, taunted them, told them they should be ready to die. Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was left in charge of the Metro contingent by Sheriff Doug Gillespie, told the I-Team that such alleged behavior would be the subject of a criminal investigation. "The federal authorities are conducting an investigation and I am pretty confident it is going to go into the future," Lombardo said. "(Would there be consequences for somebody there on video tape, on a news camera pointing a gun at a Metro officer, pointing a gun at a federal ranger?) Yes, there is definitely going to be consequences, definitely. That is unacceptable behavior. If we let it go, it would continue into the future," Lombardo said. The I-Team has learned that Lombardo was interviewed by FBI agents earlier this week. The first person to be questioned by the FBI team was Lombardo's boss, Sheriff Gillespie...more

Utah ATV protest gathering steam

A protest ride by all-terrain vehicle users set for Saturday in Recapture Canyon east of Blanding, Utah, is capturing national attention. Federal officials have warned that participants may be prosecuted. The canyon, about three miles east of Blanding’s main drag, has been off-limits to motorized use since a Bureau of Land Management decree in September 2007. The BLM is in the process of considering San Juan County’s application for a right of way for an ATV trail in the canyon. Phil Lyman, the San Juan County, Utah, county commissioner who is organizing the ride, said Thursday that earlier this week, he went into the canyon with federal archaeologists to scout areas where there are ancient Native American sites that should be avoided during the protest ride. He said he has “huge respect” for local BLM employees. “The frustration is Washington-style politics and policies that come down and affect us here in the West,” Lyman said in a phone interview. The issue has ballooned on the heels of the recent incident involving Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM rounding up his cattle. In fact, Bundy’s ranch is urging its Facebook followers to go to Blanding and protest the BLM’s actions. The BLM’s canyon country district manager, Lance Porter, cautioned Lyman in an April 28 letter about possible violations. “I strongly urge you to cancel the proposed ride in the closed portion of the canyon,” Porter wrote. “To the extent that you or anyone else uses a motorized vehicle within the closed area, BLM will seek all appropriate civil and criminal penalties.” San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge told the San Juan Record, based in Monticello, that his department will merely provide crowd control for the event. “We have no idea on the number (of protestors),” Eldredge told the Record for a Wednesday story. “My job is to keep the peace.” Several national media members as well as regional TV and newspapers have said they plan to cover the event, Megan Crandall, BLM Utah spokeswoman, said Thursday. Crandall said the BLM has a couple of law-enforcement rangers in southeastern Utah, but wasn’t certain if they will be at Saturday’s gathering. She said the BLM will not be sending in “re-enforcements.”...more

BLM worker allegedly threatened on Utah highway

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is warning its workers in Utah to be on alert after two men threatened an agency wrangler on the state’s main highway by pulling out a weapon and holding up a sign that read, “You need to die.” The incident occurred Tuesday morning on Interstate 15 about 90 miles south of Salt Lake City, said BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall. A BLM employee was driving his agency vehicle and pulling a trailer when two hooded men came up alongside him in a dark blue Dodge truck and flipped him off, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Corey Houskeeper said. The truck slowed down before the men came up beside the BLM officer again and pulled out the sign and flashed a firearm, he said. No one was hurt, as the men sped away. An investigation is underway, but there are no suspects. The BLM officer wasn’t able to get the license plate number because it was covered by what appeared to be duct tape, Crandall said. Highway troopers searched the area for the truck, and the agency has put out an alert statewide for the truck, but Houskeeper said it will be difficult to find the men since there could be thousands of trucks that fit the description. This is the first incident of this type in recent years, Crandall and Houskeeper said. But it comes during a time of high tension between some Western residents and the Bureau of Land Management...more

Now that's two stupid jerks.

Trashing Rural America

by Robert Gordon

...People often assume — erroneously — that all federal lands were set aside expressly for the preservation of an animal, plant, vista or other natural resource. The environmental movement has promotes this false assumption because it helps advance their goal, which is to treat the entire federal estate as a national park.

In pursuit of that agenda, the greens — abetted by allies in Congress and the land managing agencies — have steadily sought to strangle beneficial economic uses of the federal estate. Some are placed off limits by wilderness designations or restrictive land management plans. Or cumbersome National Environmental Policy Act assessments or Endangered Species Act challenges are launched to thwart use. Swath by swath, the greens are blanketing the West with “Human — Keep Out” signs.

It’s killing rural economic activity. Over the last 50 years, grazing on public lands, which is measured in AUMs (the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf for a month), has plummeted from 18.2 million AUMs to 7.9 million AUMs. Between 2009 and 2013, as crude oil and natural gas production surged on non-federal lands, it fell – by 6 and 28 percent, respectively — on federal lands. Timber harvesting on public lands has fallen from 12 billion board feet in the Reagan years to under 3 billion board feet in FY 2013. The statistics for miners on public lands are equally grim.

The environmental movement often uses “flagship species” to strangle economic activity. The spotted owl, for example, was used to close off huge tracts of federal timberland. As Andy Stahl of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund put it: ”thank goodness the spotted owl evolved in the Northwest, for if it hadn’t we’d have to genetically engineer it. It’s a perfect species to use as a surrogate.”

The owl was weaponized through the Endangered Species Act. Small wonder that many Western ranchers now see desert tortoises as crawling legal land mines.

The irony, of course, is that rural Americans actually walk the walk unlike most professional environmental activists who seek to shut them down. Ranchers, farmers, loggers and miners actually live in rural communities and spend their days in the desert, mountains, forest, pasture and on the range. They enjoy the hoot of the owl or the flash of a lizard skittering across their path. It’s part of why they choose to stay in the boondocks — a partial trade-off for foregoing the comforts of urban life. It’s hard for them to swallow the environmental self-righteousness of people paid to yammer on about “saving family farms” from their stylish concrete and glass edifices.

New BLM grazing battle brewing in Nevada

Several Lander County ranching families are scrambling to survive after what they describe as the Battle Mountain Bureau of Land Management’s decision to close the Argenta Allotment, where the families have been grazing cattle for generations. Battle Mountain BLM District Manager Doug Furtado countered that he has not made a formal decision to close the allotment, he has simply asked the ranchers to rest sensitive areas through the hot summer months to allow the range to recover from three years of extreme drought. He adds the Tomera family already has cattle in one field on the north end of the allotment and other areas will be available this fall. But the effective closure of the majority of the allotment leaves the ranchers scrambling to find pasture for the critical summer months. The closure is the latest example of what the ranchers say is heavy-handed treatment by the BLM. Furtado takes exception to that characterization. “I’m trying to help these guys be successful, but these are extreme circumstances,” he said. Pete Tomera, who holds the majority of the grazing rights on the allotment, said he has always cooperated with the BLM and takes pride in the fact he has never been cited by the federal agency for improper grazing practices. He also said he has cooperated with the BLM’s concern over the drought and voluntarily accepted a cut of 8,000 animal unit months (AUMs) last year and 11,000 AUMs this year. An AUM is the amount of forage consumed by a cow in a month. Over an eight-month grazing period, the 11,000 AUMs would represent a reduction of 1,375 cows. He added he currently has grazing rights for 24,000 AUMs within the Argenta Allotment, which reflects a 50 percent reduction imposed by the BLM in the 1960s. His acceptance of an 11,000 AUM reduction this year would have been a further 45 percent reduction in the carrying capacity of the range. Tomera said he could understand the closure if the allotment truly could not support his cows, but that is not the case. The last three months have brought much needed relief from the recent drought and the range is in good condition. He has invited anyone interested in inspecting the range for themselves to come out for a tour of the allotment on May 17. In addition to the voluntary reductions in their AUMs, the Tomera family also agreed to a BLM recommendation that they build a 16-mile fence to separate the BLM controlled land from their private land. They hired a contractor at a cost of more than $80,000 and the fence was completed this spring. Tomera and his wife, Lynn, then went to the BLM office in March and had a three-hour meeting with a range conservationist to hammer out the final details of their grazing permit for this year on the Argenta Allotment. Tomera reported that even though the plan included the reduction of 11,000 AUMs, his family could live with it, and the range conservationist also seemed happy with the plan. He made the short drive home to his ranch, completed his afternoon chores and walked into his house around 5 p.m. to hear a message from the BLM that it had decided to close the allotment completely. Tomera said he was dumbfounded...more

Ranchers hopeful Otero County Sheriff can unlock USFS gates - video

Ranchers in Otero County, New Mexico, will have to wait until Monday to see if commissioners pass a resolution that would allow the sheriff to unlock newly installed gates on the Agua Chiquita. The water supply for livestock in the area is between Sunspot and Timberon. The U.S. Forest Service recently installed new fencing and locked gates to protect what they call a riparian area. "It's not about watering cattle, it's not about grazing fees, it's not about the things that you hear. It's about simply, our constitutional rights and what America stands for," rancher Odie Prather said. Cattle ranchers in Otero County say the USFS is blocking off access to the Agua Chiquita, a small stream in the Sacramento Mountains that's dependent on how much precipitation the area gets. "If you can get control of the water and the rights, then you can get control of the people. We're facing a tyranny right now," Prather said. "This is the federal government encroaching on rights that they don't have," County Commissioner Ronny Rardin said during a meeting on Thursday morning. County commissioners are taking the ranchers side on the issue, and tried voting Thursday to allow the sheriff to remove the locks on the gates. But the resolution vote had to be pushed back until Monday...more

Here's the KVIA-TV video report.


Otero County rancher says rights violated

Rancher Judyann Mederios said her water rights have been violated. Mederios told KFOX14 that the U.S. Forest Service fenced off a small creek where her cattle grazes. Now the cattle have to travel to get to water. "Our cattle have to walk long distance," said Mederios. She said fences are illegal and may force the cattle to walk in the road. Mederios' cattle are sitting on a patch of land near the Agua Chiquita riparian area in the Lincoln National Forest. Travis Moseley supervises the area. He told KFOX14 that fences like those have been around since the1990s are completely legal. He said they are there to protect the habitat of the stream. He did say that the cattle will have access to water but only in certain areas. Mederios said the water is part of her grazing permit and can't be restricted. That's why she's asking the county commissioners for help. Otero County commissioners sent Moseley a cease-and-desist letter that told him to stop building fences. When that didn't work, they asked him to open the gates. He said no. "We see no need to do that at this point," said Moseley. “Water is available. And we continue to work with the livestock operator there to look at contingency plans in the event the drought restricts water availability." Now the commissioners have asked the Otero County sheriff to unlock the gates but to do that, he'll need a court order. As of Thursday afternoon the fences near Agua Chiquita were still locked.  KFOX14

Public-private habitat ventures at risk as FWS weighs listing for sage grouse

More than 100 sage grouse have returned to this mating field, known as a lek, on Wes McStay's ranch near the Wyoming line for the annual springtime ritual known as "strutting." A handful of lucky males will impregnate nearly all of the hens. But it's not the rye field that attracts these birds as much as the plentiful sagebrush, forbs and wet meadows that surround it. Sagebrush and native grasses hide the birds from predators and protect them from next winter's snow. Forbs and insects provide a buffet for newly hatched chicks. "The lek site is simply the dance floor," said Luke Schafer, the West Slope advocacy director for Conservation Colorado. "It's the habitat within 4 miles of that lek that matters." To a large extent, the efforts of ranchers like McStay will determine whether the bird receives protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Interior Department faces a court-ordered deadline of September 2015 to decide. While more than half of the remaining sage grouse habitat is on federal lands, more than 30 percent of it is on private lands where farmers and ranchers are pursuing habitat protections with money and technical assistance from the Agriculture and Interior departments. Others in Colorado are pursuing a habitat credit exchange where oil and gas and other energy developers agree to pay landowners to offset harm to sage grouse. McStay said he rotates his cows' grazing areas to ensure vegetation has a chance to recover for birds and other native wildlife. He participates in the Department of Agriculture's conservation stewardship program, which helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems, and he has also supported a study with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to collar and track sage grouse on his ranch. At the neighboring 16,000-acre Bord Gulch Ranch, manager Ray Owens has installed miles of wildlife-friendly fences that allow passage of elk, prevent collisions for sage grouse and reduce perches for predatory birds. He has also installed 80 stock water tanks to distribute its cows more evenly across the landscape, relieving stress for pastures and riparian areas to grow native bunch grass that sage grouse need for cover...more

Dirty Drilling Will Hurt Uintas, Greens Say

An "insidious" federally approved 400-well oil and gas development project in a "biologically critical area" of Ashley National Forest will further pollute an airshed that already "periodically experiences some of the highest concentrations of ozone in the nation," environmentalists claim in court. WildEarth Guardians sued the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and three agency officers, in Federal Court. WildEarth, a clean energy advocate working "to safeguard the climate," claims the project, approved in 2012, violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and Utah water quality standards. Ashley National Forest, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, spans 1.3 million acres and six counties in northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming. "The 400-well project is being developed on 25,900 acres, or 40.5 square miles of the Ashley National Forest, 11 miles south of Duchesne, Utah," the complaint states. "The Forest Service has approved a development scenario that will continue for 55 years and entails the construction and operation of 400 oil and gas wells from approximately 162 well pads." The project will put at risk an "ailing" Anthro Mountain population of greater sage grouse, "which will be additionally imperiled by the project's roads, traffic, noise and industrial development and intrusion of oil and gas wells into sage habitats considered to be of crucial importance to the survival of the species," according to the complaint. The project and its infrastructure also threaten 20,000 acres of inventoried roadless areas, "the last remaining segments of the forest still characterized by pristine wildlife habitats, natural vistas, sources of clean water, quiet recreational opportunities and solitude," the complaint states...more

Counties Clash over Boulder-White Clouds Proposal

Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said he wanted his board to find similarities with the Custer County Commission during their first joint meeting in memory Wednesday. The similarities could benefit the debate over creating a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument, he said. But after rounds of mostly skeptical public comment, Custer County Commissioner Wayne Butts turned conservationists supporting the monument into his personal punching bag. Butts said his board felt “lied to” by conservationists who promised transparency when they expanded the monument proposal, now before the Obama administration, to include Malm Gulch. The area — all in Custer County — contains petrified sequoia trees and is 10 miles south of Challis. With that mid-April expansion, the monument grew from 571,276 to 591,905 acres, most of it in Custer County. The Blaine commission has supported the monument idea; the Custer commission has opposed it. “They assured this board that if there was anything in the works that they would come to us,” Butts said. “Well, they not only lied, they stabbed us in the back. We read it in the (newspapers) … so the relationship is not looking real good.” Rob Mason of The Wilderness Society said Thursday he emailed Butts about the change several days before his group announced the decision publicly. After the meeting, members of both commissions agreed to draft a letter to ask various federal officials to come to the area and answer questions about the monument declaration process and to vet key issues...more

Thursday, May 08, 2014

NM ranchers confront feds over water

The water is drying up, making every stream worth a fight. Ranchers in Otero County are wrangling with the Forest Service over a patch of land where a creek called Agua Chiquita runs. The Forest Service says it built a new, sturdy fence to keep cattle away from a recovering river habitat, but cattlemen say the new fence and locked gates infringe on long-standing water rights. The battle goes beyond a single stream and the single ranching family directly affected, say ranchers and county officials, and rests on the principle that even on federal land, ranchers holding water rights dating to before 1907 – as often happens in Otero County – should have access to the water, including the portion downstream of the fenced-in area. The Forest Service says it has a right to manage the land, including where water flows. After the Forest Service refused to open the gates, the Otero County commissioners this week demanded the sheriff cut the locks, potentially igniting a confrontation on the order of Nevada’s Cliven Bundy, the rancher who has rallied armed supporters in a fight against federal land managers. So far cooler heads have prevailed in New Mexico. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to mediate the conflict next week, according to Otero County attorney Blair Dunn and a spokeswoman for Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment. “I really, truly believe the U.S. Attorney is going to be able to facilitate this in a fashion that prevents it from escalating to what happened in Nevada,” Dunn said. “That is where things feel like they are headed.”...more

Why Grazing Fees Are the Third Rail of Western Politics

By Eric Pianin, The Fiscal Times

Long before Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy became a conservative folk hero last month for battling the government, federal grazing fees have been a flashpoint of controversy between western cattle ranchers and agencies that govern the use of remote, sprawling and environmentally sensitive western lands.

...The BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies managing public range lands in 16 states were mandated by Congress to treat the grazing program as a giveaway – with no effort to make it self-sustaining.
The monthly grazing fee of $1.35 per head of cattle – which hasn’t changed in the past seven years – barely covers a sixth of the government’s overall management costs including issuing permits. Even so, some like Bundy have refused to pay even a pittance for access to the public lands, and ranchers and their allies on Capitol Hill erupted over any attempt to raise those fees.

“Raising the fee has been a long-time goal of many wildlife activists, but it’s a bit of a third rail in western politics,” Chris Clarke, a California-based natural history and environmental journalist, recently wrote.

...“The biggest thing to understand here is that the grazing fee is not a cost-recovery fee,” Tom Gorey, a spokesman for the BLM, said Wednesday in an interview. If you want to blame Congress for that, go ahead, because they created the formula that we use.”

Public lands grazing fees are set according to a formula Congress enacted as part of the 1978 Public Rangelands Improvement Act. It was reaffirmed by an executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

BLM says that the grazing fees – computed from a 1966 base value of $1.23 per head of cattle – are periodically recalibrated to reflect current private grazing rates, beef prices and livestock production costs.

...Gorey of the BLM dismisses environmentalists’ complaints about the puny size of the grazing fees as a “subterfuge.”

“Many of these groups plainly don’t want cattle ranching,” Gorey said. “They don’t view grazing as a legitimate use of the public lands. Well, Congress begs to differ. . . . There is kind of an indifference [on the part of environmentalists] to the economic impact to rural communities.”

Efforts by the Obama administration in recent years to boost the grazing fees have encountered stiff opposition from cattlemen and their Capitol Hill allies, including an effort last year to slap a tax on the fees.

Nothing much new there, but here's the part I found interesting:

But few government officials have stuck their necks out to seek an increase in the grazing fees. The last time a top BLM official attempted to raise the grazing fee, it cost him his job.  Jim Baca was forced to resign as BLM director in 1993 after only nine months in office following a political uproar over his proposal to boost the grazing fee to just under $4. Clinton administration Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt reportedly made it clear to Baca that his services were no longer desired. Baca later recalled for reporters that he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of paper containing his resignation. “I told him it was probably best if I went on,” Baca explained, according to one report.

CO: BLM Using Off-Highway Vehicle Fees to Limit Public Land Access

Thanks to a troubling government arrangement, ATV operators on western Colorado federal lands have been paying to help give themselves less room to ride. The Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Junction Field Office is preparing to implement plans to shut down a significant number of roads under its jurisdiction. Documents obtained by Watchdog Wire Colorado indicate that off-highway vehicle (OHV) permit fees are funding the project to limit off-highway access. Many Coloradans who pay permit fees to use their ATVs and other off-highway vehicles likely are not aware that the permit fees they pay to the BLM are being used to implement “Travel Management Plans” (TMP) designed to limit their hunting and recreational access to Colorado’s public lands. Tied to the BLM’s Resource Management Plans (RMP), the Travel Management Plans are currently being staged to close down 50-70 percent of the roads now used by Colorado hunters and OHV users, ranchers, and recreation-seekers...more

EPA accused of blocking independent investigations; "Homeland Security"

A unit run by President Barack Obama's political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a "rogue law enforcement agency" that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA's inspector general for years, a top investigator told Congress. The assistant EPA inspector general for investigations, Patrick Sullivan, was expected to testify Wednesday before a House oversight committee about the activities of the EPA's little-known Office of Homeland Security. The office of about 10 employees is overseen by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's office, and the inspector general's office is accusing it of impeding its independent investigations into employee misconduct, computer security and external threats, including compelling employees involved in cases to sign non-disclosure agreements. "Under the heavy cloak of 'national security,' the Office of Homeland Security has repeatedly rebuffed and refused to cooperate with the OIG's ongoing requests for information or cooperation," Sullivan wrote in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press. "This block unquestionably has hamstrung the Office of Inspector General's ability to carry out its statutory mandate to investigate wrongdoing of EPA employees."...moreep

US Government Begins Rollout Of Its 'Driver's License For The Internet'

An idea the government has been kicking around since 2011 is finally making its debut. Calling this move ill-timed would be the most gracious way of putting it.

A few years back, the White House had a brilliant idea: Why not create a single, secure online ID that Americans could use to verify their identity across multiple websites, starting with local government services. The New York Times described it at the time as a "driver's license for the internet."

Sound convenient? It is. Sound scary? It is.

Next month, a pilot program of the "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace" will begin in government agencies in two US states, to test out whether the pros of a federally verified cyber ID outweigh the cons.
The NSTIC program has been in (slow) motion for nearly three years, but now, at a time when the public's trust in government is at an all time low, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST -- itself still reeling a bit from NSA-related blowback) is testing the program in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The first tests appear to be exclusively aimed at accessing public programs, like government assistance. The government believes this ID system will help reduce fraud and overhead, by eliminating duplicated ID efforts across multiple agencies.

But the program isn't strictly limited to government use. The ultimate goal is a replacement of many logins and passwords people maintain to access content and participate in comment threads and forums. This "solution," while somewhat practical, also raises considerable privacy concerns.
[T]he Electronic Frontier Foundation immediately pointed out the red flags, arguing that the right to anonymous speech in the digital realm is protected under the First Amendment. It called the program "radical," "concerning," and pointed out that the plan "makes scant mention of the unprecedented threat such a scheme would pose to privacy and free speech online."

And the keepers of the identity credentials wouldn't be the government itself, but a third party organization. When the program was introduced in 2011, banks, technology companies or cellphone service providers were suggested for the role, so theoretically Google or Verizon could have access to a comprehensive profile of who you are that's shared with every site you visit, as mandated by the government.
Beyond the privacy issues (and the hints of government being unduly interested in your online activities), there are the security issues. This collected information would be housed centrally, possibly by corporate third parties. When hackers can find a wealth of information at one location, it presents a very enticing target. The government's track record on protecting confidential information is hardly encouraging.

Report: Pentagon Paid $150 Per Gallon for Green Jet Fuel

The Department of Defense (DOD) paid $150 per gallon for alternative jet fuel made from algae, more than 64 times the current market price for standard carbon-based fuels, according to a report released on Wednesday. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted in its report that a Pentagon official reported paying “about $150 per gallon for 1,500 gallons of alternative jet fuel derived from algal oil.” GAO’s report examined the financial challenges facing increased purchases and use of alternative jet fuels by federal agencies. “Currently, the price for alternative jet fuels exceeds that of conventional jet fuel,” the report noted. The price for conventional jet fuel is currently $2.88 per gallon. GAO’s report reveals that federal agencies have paid significantly higher prices in an effort to promote biofuels in commercial and military aviation. “Of the two alternative jet-fuel production processes approved for use in commercial and military aircraft (Fischer-Tropsch and HEFA), DOD, according to a DOD official, paid from about $3 to $150 per gallon,” GAO reported. HEFA is an acronym for Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids, and refers to “renewable oil (e.g., vegetable oils, animal fat, waste grease, and algae oil) … processed using hydrogen treatment (hydroprocessing) to yield a fuel in the distillation range of jet fuel and diesel.” GAO interviewed 23 “academic, federal government, and private industry stakeholders” about challenges facing the increased adoption of alternative jet fuels. Twenty-two of them cited the fuels’ exorbitant costs...more

New Report Says Climate Change Will Hurt SW

Climate change is here.

That’s the word from the US Global Change Research Program, which just released its third overview of climate change impacts and projections across the nation.

Broken down into regions, the National Climate Assessment offers some key messages for the Southwest, which includes 56 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico:
  • Snowpack and streamflow amounts are projected to decline. This will affect cities, farms and ecosystems.
  • Irrigation-dependent farms are vulnerable to declining surface water supplies and crops are vulnerable to extremes of moisture, cold and heat. The report’s authors note that as temperatures and competition for water increase—and crop yields decrease—rural communities will lose jobs.
  • Thanks to warmer temperatures, drought and insect outbreaks, the region is already experiencing more wildfires. Between 1970 and 2003, the burn area of the West’s mid-elevation conifer forests—such as those in the Jemez Mountains—have increased by 650 percent. And between 1984 and 2008 wildfire and bark beetles killed trees across 20 percent of New Mexico and Arizona’s forests. And this is only the beginning: Models predict more wildfires and increased risk to Southwestern communities. 
  • The continued rise in regional temperatures will threaten public health in the region’s cities. The report’s authors add that “disruptions to urban electricity and water supplies will exacerbate these health problems.” Heat stress can kill people, especially elderly residents, but it also aggravates respiratory and heart problems. 

‘Methane backpacks’ capture cow farts, turn them into green fuel

It’s common knowledge that certain types of organic waste can be harnessed as energy sources, with UK firm 2OC even recently turning huge greaseballs found in the country’s sewers into power for local homes. Now Argentina’s INTA governmental research body has developed cow backpacks that trap the methane they produce in order to turn it into green energy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane accounts for nine percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and the agriculture sector is the primary source of these emissions. Recognizing that methane released into the atmosphere is damaging to the environment, but valuable as an energy resource when captured, scientists at INTA developed a system that places a cannula tube into the digestion tract of cattle in order to directly collect any methane produced. The tube runs from the cows’ rumen into an inflatable bag secured to their back. Each sac gets filled with the 1,200 liters of various gases emitted each day, which is then taken to a lab to separate the 250 to 300 liters of methane contained inside. The gas can then be compressed and stored in containers, ready for use to power a fridge or even a car. According to INTA, the trial of the system has now concluded but the team’s proof of concept could be used as the basis of a much larger scale program in the future. Although there could be potential concern for the wellbeing of the animals, each cow was anesthetized for the insertion of the cannula and the backpacks weigh no more than 500g each. Additionally, the program actually tackles two big environmental problems — the release of climate change causing methane and the production of green fuel. Could we see this idea being rolled out across farms in the future?  Yahoo

Enviros Accuse Governor Martinez of "Wholesale Disregard of the Law"

Tracy Hughes was a career employee in the New Mexico Environment Department who was just three months away from being eligible for retirement when she was fired by an appointee of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.  The Martinez administration calls itself "business friendly," but Hughes, along with environmental lawyers, activists, authors, renewable energy advocates, and current and former state employees told Truthout that Gov. Martinez is little more than a lobbyist for big oil and gas, the copper and dairy industries, and other environmentally destructive industries that decide to set up shop in New Mexico. "The Martinez administration will make sure that environmental protection does not get in the way of industry being able to do business in New Mexico," Hughes, who now works for an energy and environmental law firm, added. As an example, she pointed to the "copper rule," legislation the Martinez administration passed that allows copper mines to pollute the groundwater on their property. "I worked on [opposing] the copper rule, and what I saw happen on the copper rule was that it was wholesale disregard of the law by the Martinez administration," Hughes said. These strong words from a long-term former state employee might sound alarmist, yet they are but the tip of a giant iceberg of discontent towards a radically industry-friendly state governor with national political ambitions who has a reputation for slander, hypocrisy and trying to rewrite laws in her favor...more

New Mexico oil country struggles as cities boom

Carlsbad is centered in one of the most productive regions of the oil-rich Permian Basin, which is concentrated in Texas and stretches into New Mexico. The basin has long been a robust oil corridor, but the discovery of rich fields in southeastern New Mexico and advances in drilling technology have transformed once-quiet cities like Carlsbad into boom towns. As a result, the city of 26,000 people is struggling to keep up with its fast-growing population and the accompanying challenges, from housing shortages, higher crime rates and a spike in deadly accidents between big rigs and cars on narrow country roads. It’s one of the few areas of New Mexico experiencing an economic boom. “We just can’t keep up,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway said. The upswing mirrors those in North Dakota and Montana where the discovery of oil turned towns into thriving cities virtually overnight, creating similar issues of crime, road safety and lack of housing. Despite the growing pains of New Mexico’s boom, the oil industry points to the economic benefits it can bring in the form of jobs, business development and taxes. An industry trade group says it’s worked with governments to solve problems like housing. New apartment complexes have waiting lists as soon as construction starts. RV parks are overflowing with oil workers and families, who have given up on finding anything else affordable. And roadside hotel brands like the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express are charging as much as $300 a night. “We have a new society out there that’s called an RV society,” Hobbs real estate broker Bobby Shaw said. The problem is that the oil industry has the unique ability to expand almost overnight, Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said. “You can stand up a drilling rig in two days. Twenty-five jobs are created that quickly,” said Cobb, whose town has been struggling for years to build enough houses and hotels to catch up. Carlsbad, meanwhile, is struggling to adapt to the influx of transient oil workers, a new breed for a city that previously existed more along the fringe of oil country. Past booms here have brought miners, scientists to the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump and tourists visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Eddy County, where the city is located, last year became the top oil-producing county in New Mexico, pumping out 51.5 million barrels of crude...more

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

NMSU men’s rodeo team holds national ranking

The New Mexico State University men’s team reached the number one spot in the Grand Canyon Region this weekend, making this the 10th consecutive seasonal win.

“It is a great accomplishment by these rodeo athletes to dominate the region and win all 10 regular season rodeos. Almost unprecedented,” NMSU rodeo coach Jim Brown said. “I don’t know if it has been done in our region in quite some time. As coach, this is definitely a milestone for our team’s accomplishments.”

A three-day rodeo event, April 25-27, held at the Aggie tailgate lot at NMSU proved to be successful, with two men’s team first place titles and two women’s first and third place titles.

Rodeo athletes Bailey Bates, Shelby Montano, Nicole Sweazea, Tyke Kipp, Trenten Montero and Ty Anderson made the men and women’s all-around places for the weekend.

“It was an amazing feeling seeing our stands full despite the wind and blowing dust,” Brown said. “Our hats are off to all the fans, students, community, faculty and staff for coming out and supporting the team. Our rodeo was awesome.”

Tyke Kipp is currently nationally ranked in fourth place for the men’s all-around honor. He will be representing NMSU in saddle bronc riding and steer wresting at the College National Finals Rodeo.

“Your goal as a high school student is to take state, and now being at the collegiate level I’ve taken regional and now national,” Kipp said. “It feels great!”

As regional champions, the Aggies will head to Casper, Wyo. for the College National Finals Rodeo, June 15-21, sending nine rodeo athletes to compete in events.

Qualifiers include: Trenton Montero, Tyke Kipp, Cody Mirabal, Pacen Marez, Colt Capurro, Reno Eddy, Russell Van Soelen, NaLynn Cline and Meghan Johnson.

“My formula as coach is to keep it simple,” Brown said. “I do everything I can to provide the students with quality practice stock, so they stay sharp in their events; provide scholarships; and be there for them in their times of need, in and out of the arena and classroom.”

The men’s team currently holds the number one national spot, with four regions left to complete rodeos.

For a full list of rodeo events visit the NMSU Rodeo Facebook page at

NMSU Rodeo Team on RFD-TV

The NMSU segment starts at 1:20

BLM to review its planning process

After using the same basic planning approach for 38 years, the Bureau of Land Management has announced it will review how it develops its Resource Management Plans. “As I’ve met with elected leaders and citizens from across the West on BLM issues, I’ve consistently heard two things: first, the BLM needs to more effectively address landscape-level management challenges; and second, planning takes too long.” BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement. The decision was hailed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership as a way to “modernize this approach and remedy its shortcomings. “For example, tracts of intact and undeveloped lands, commonly known as backcountry, are key BLM resources that aren’t adequately recognized and managed through existing agency planning guidance,” said Henri Bisson, former BLM deputy director for operations and BLM Alaska state director. Based on an initial review, the BLM intends to target changes to, in part, create a planning process that is responsive to change, allowing BLM to keep plans current through amendments; and to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete RMPs. “The main challenges the BLM face are incompatible development and land use, as well as the need for well-funded restoration,” said Ken Mayer, former director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife...more

Just relax.  Having Harry Reid's former aide heading this up should give everyone confidence.

Actually, my gut feeling on this is not good.  Notice who is praising it.  It appears to me they are looking for ways to have more wilderness, wildlife corridors and other set-asides from multiple use.  Go to the BLM page on this issue and you will find statements such as, "we hope to improve our land use planning process so that we can more effectively plan across landscapes at multiple scales and be more responsive to environmental and social change."  Sounds to me like environmentalists and urban residents are who they are aiming to please. 

BLM's planning process takes so long because of NEPA and lawsuits, not because of their approach.  

BLM says they want your comments, so you better check it out.

Editorial: No freedom to ruin public lands

Wild mustangs are an invasive species in the American West. But, then, so are all the humans living here who are not of American Indian descent. The wild lands in Utah and other Western states where wild horses now roam are fragile and arid — places easily endangered by encroaching, rapidly multiplying horses numbering in the thousands and tens of millions of people who are multiplying even faster and doing more to threaten the land. Humans have all but obliterated many of the native plant and animal species, including wolves, buffalo, beaver, otters, sage grouse, tortoises, prairie dogs and myriad varieties of plants and even fish. Running cattle on fragile public land causes more harm than wild horses do, but the humans who have taken over this part of the globe do not want to share scarce feed with animals they cannot work, sell or butcher. Two recent incidents demonstrate how shortsighted many Utahns and other Westerners are about the ecosystems they have usurped. A Nevada rancher who opposes welfare for humans is determined to let his cattle graze on land that belongs to all Americans without paying for the privilege. Other ranchers are threatening to round up wild horses to keep them from eating vegetation they feel belongs first of all to their herds. Public lands in the West are part of a legacy all Westerners should want to leave for their children and grandchildren. But if they continue to put what they demand as their due today ahead of preservation for the future, there will be little left of the West for those who want to raise families here...more (if you can stand it)

I believe its time to resurrect an award I started during the early years of this blog.  Some of you will remember this.  For a wonderful dose of "Outhouse Soup" read the Salt Lake Tribune editorial above.  Its full of it.

Is Billionaire Steyer Taking Aim at Obama’s Policy on Natural Gas?

Is San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer really about to declare war on natural gas? Rumors are swirling in Colorado and Washington, DC that Tom Steyer is ready to side with Democrat Congressman Jared Polis of Boulder and national ban-fracking activists who are working to shut down Colorado’s booming natural gas industry. The WSJ today reports: “Tom Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire turned environmental activist, is also likely to help financially support Mr. Polis’s effort, according to three people close to the situation.” Yet doing so puts him squarely at odds with a growing bipartisan coalition in the state that supports the jobs and economic opportunities that come from natural gas development in Colorado. This move would also have huge impacts on the energy debate across the country. The revelation made in the Wall Street Journal is stunning for several reasons. First, it shows that Tom Steyer is ready to bankroll groups opposed to all fossil fuel development – including natural gas. Additionally, this position would seemingly put him at odds with Senator Mark Udall, an incumbent Democrat who calls himself “a champion of Colorado’s natural gas industry.” Steyer and his team have repeatedly said their number one goal is to ensure Democrats retain the majority in the United States Senate...more

EDITORIAL - Bundy militias

There are plenty of second-hand accounts of armed militiamen patrolling the Bunkerville-Mesquite area of northeastern Clark County. According to these stories, the men are limiting the movements of regular folks who just want to get on with life after last month’s high-profile confrontation between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and rancher Cliven Bundy.

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., has called on state and local officials to remove Mr. Bundy’s supporters, who clearly make a number of area residents uncomfortable. At the height of the Bundy-BLM dispute, armed civilians were everywhere, and there were reports of threatening and intimidating behavior toward civilians, to say nothing of federal employees.

But Rep. Horsford hasn’t seen any militia members out in public. Review-Journal journalists haven’t seen them manning checkpoints along rural roads. And surely, if armed outsiders were restricting the rights of residents, the Mesquite Local News would have the story. But there is no story.

The truth is probably less dramatic. It’s not hard to imagine some of Mr. Bundy’s supporters overreaching and playing soldier despite the absence of any threat — or any authority, for that matter. But the narrative that Bundy allies are behaving like some sort of cartel in the Mesquite area is an exaggeration. Certainly, anyone behaving in such a way should be arrested by Mesquite police, the Metropolitan Police Department or the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Rep. Horsford is responding to constituent concerns. Good for him. But Mr. Bundy’s supporters have every right to assemble. If they’re breaking the law, by all means cite them. But rounding them up simply because their anti-government politics offend some Nevadans isn’t an option. Until they exhibit criminal behavior, they have as much right to remain in Nevada as anyone else.


NM College spends $5 million to save $200,000

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

Santa Fe Community College has just unveiled a solar array that, it says, will save the college at least $200,000 a year on its utility bills.

But the array, funded by taxpayers in a 2010 bond election, will cost $5 million.

You don’t have to be a math major at the college to figure out it would take 25 years of $200,000 cost savings per year to reach the $5 million mark for the project to just break even.
So is the solar array a good deal?

SFCC interim president Randy Grissom thinks so.
First off, Grissom told New Mexico Watchdog the college expects to save more than $200,000 a year on utility bills.

“We took a really conservative approach in doing our analysis,” Grissom said. “We anticipate it will be between $200,000 to $300,000 (a year in savings).”

...But given some of the solar industry’s problems in recent years, taxpayers have reason to be skeptical.
For example, in summer 2012, after getting $16 million in grants from the state, Schott Solar shut down its manufacturing plant in south Albuquerque and laid off 250 workers. New Mexico taxpayers had to eat more than $12 million because the administration of then-Gov. Bill Richardson did not include any clawback provisions in the deal with Schott.

Taxpayers also got stuck losing millions in 2009, when Advent Solar went belly-up, despite receiving nearly $17 million through the State Investment Council and its private equity arm.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Lesser prairie chicken listing opposition continues by NM County Commissioners

Local leaders don’t think federal exemptions for farmers is a consolation prize from the threatened listing of the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that farmers, ranchers and landowners implementing Farm Service Agency Conser-vation Reserve Program practices intended to protect and increase the chicken populations will not be subject to additional regulations from the threatened listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. But Roosevelt and Curry County commissioners say that’s not reason enough to put their picket signs down. The commissioners represent counties and landowners who oppose the listing. Their concern is it will result in regulations created to protect the bird that would hinder or shut down their operations. The listing of the lesser prairie chicken, a bird native to New Mexico and four other states and known for its rare mating rituals, was made in March by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March. Roosevelt County Commissioner Kendell Buzard said not all farmers have CRP land or are signed up with other conservation agreements. He feels it’s necessary to continue to oppose the listing. He added that a good portion of the county’s tax revenue comes from energy industries and ranchers. “Management of conservation is best left to the county and the state…and not the (federal) government,” Buzard said. “We went to great lengths to set aside habitat to benefit this species and I think it will work if it’s given time.” Roosevelt County ranch manager Willard Heck said the whole point of conservation agreements were to make people exempt from further regulation. He thinks a lot of ag producers in the area are still weary about how the programs work.  Curry County Commissioner Wendell Bostwick however refuses to concede to the listing because he said history has shown that it will only get worse for farmers and the energy industry. “They tell us all these good things but for some reason it ends up bad,” Bostwick said. Bostwick said environmentalist groups have intentions of petitioning to list the bird as endangered. He used the spotted owl as an example of what could go wrong because it was listed as endangered and he said the lumber industry in the state perished as a result. “The (conservation agreements) go away if it becomes endangered,” Bostwick said. “They’ll start chipping away until there’s no more.”...more

Podesta: Congress Can’t Stop Obama On Global Warming

White House adviser John Podesta told reporters Monday afternoon that Congress could not derail the Obama administration’s efforts to unilaterally enact policies to fight global warming. Podesta said that the president was committed to using executive orders to pass regulations under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide emissions that they say cause global warming. “They may try, but there are no takers at this end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Podesta told reporters at a Monday press conference at the White House. Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have urged the Obama administration to scale back their climate goals because of the adverse impact of new regulations on the coal industry. Coal supporters have portrayed the administration’s actions as the “war on coal” due to huge job losses in coal states like Kentucky and West Virginia. Obama has made 2014 his “year of action” — promising to use his executive authority to implement various actions of the president’s agenda that are too divisive for Congress to consider. Podesta was brought into the White House late last year to help Obama find ways to use executive orders to unilaterally push climate policies. Podesta authored a report in 2010 outlining ways the president could use his executive authority to push a progressive agenda, including unilateral actions on climate policy. Podesta wrote that the president could use executive power to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent by 2020 — the very goal the Obama plans to meet using his executive powers...more

Administration brags about actions bypassing Congress, promises more

The White House this weekend recapped how it has skirted a defiant Congress on climate change, fuel efficiency and a host of other issues so far this year. President Obama touted his efforts to circumvent Congress during his "Year of Action" in his weekly address Saturday, and the White House issued a new report detailing its actions so far and top administration officials bragged about their efforts during a press call last week. "In my State of the Union Address, I said that in this year of action, whenever I can act on my own to create jobs and expand opportunity for more Americans, I will," Obama said in his weekly speech. "And since January, I've taken more than 20 executive actions to do just that." That includes launching a new website to make climate change data more accessible; directing U.S. EPA and the Transportation Department to develop the next phase of fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for trucks; adding public lands to the California Coastal National Monument; and launching new regional "hubs" to prepare farmers for the effects of climate change. Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's senior adviser, said Friday that Obama would work with Congress when he can, "But he's not going to wait for it. So whether it's with his pen or his phone, the president's been driving his agenda forward."  And there's more where that came from, he said. "This doesn't stop just because we're a few months into the year. We're going to keep going all the way to the end, because the president has instructed us to every day look for ways to try and advance his agenda in ways big and small."...more

Commissioners instruct sheriff to unlock forest gates

Otero County Commissioners instructed the county sheriff to unlock U.S. Forest Service fences in the mountains on Monday. During a commission meeting to discuss the Forest Service's alleged illegal fencing activities within the county the commission and ranchers decided the USFS should unlock some of its fence gates to allow cattle easier access to water in the region. District 1 Commissioner Tommie Harrell asked Forest Service Supervisor, Travis Moseley, to unlock a few gates to allow cattle easier access to water. Moseley replied with a simple no to Herrell's request. "Now the procurement is since they won't, then we've instructed Sheriff Benny House to unlock those fences," Herrell said. "And we'll do this by court order." According to Herrell, House is being ordered to unlock four gates to two enclosed areas near the Agua Chiquita riparian area. The order was issued on the heels of the commission's recent request for the USFS to halt fencing projects in April. In April, the commission issued a cease and desist illegal fencing activities letter to the U.S. Forest Service. Ranchers that attended the meeting were concerned with the legality of the USFS fencing off their cattle from water supplies and the danger it causes to their livestock. "Fencing our cattle off of the water denies us our usage rights, and the cattle are only there three months in a normal rain year and six months during times of drought," rancher Judyann Holcomb Medeiros said. "During the drought, our cattle have to walk extended lengths to reach water. The fences also causes the cattle to use the heavily used county road, and we have had cattle hit and killed or severely crippled or damaged by the impacts." Medeiros said she understood the Forest Service has recently been concerned with maintaining the riparian areas for the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse but that she believed there was solid proof the species inhabiting the area. Blair Dunn, an Otero County attorney, addressed the issue of the fences being put up to protect the potentially endangered species by saying the USFS doesn't have the right to appropriate water for wildlife. "They have no lawful right to the stream," Dunn said. "So to pen something off for wildlife to go drink and to appropriate that water for wildlife when they don't have the necessary legal permits or rights to do so amounts to an illegal diversion of water."...more

Utah Wildlife Officials Backing Ranchers Threatening To Break Federal Law To Round Up Wild Horses

State wildlife officials are supporting Utah ranchers and county leaders who are threatening to break federal law and round up wild horses this summer if federal officials don’t do it first. The ranchers say a swelling feral horse population is edging cattle and elk out of drought-plagued southern and central Utah pastures. Utah Wildlife Board members, at a meeting in Salt Lake City on Thursday, voted unanimously to send a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Bureau of Land Management state director Juan Palma urging a reduction in the number of horses on the range. The letter is the latest form of public pressure on the BLM. Earlier this week, a group of 13 ranchers filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the BLM is not doing its job to protect wildlife and cattle. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared last week that local entities should be allowed to manage the horse herds because the BLM has not. “It’s a sad situation in the southwest desert,” said board member John Bair, one of about a dozen on Thursday who said the feral animals are hogging food and spring water, trampling soil and clearing the way for invasive species...more

EPA out of touch, out of control in Wyoming

By William Perry Pendley

Paper-pushers in Washington need to get out more — the real world bears little resemblance to the view from the federal cube farm or from space.

In mid-March, a story out of Wyoming reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had targeted a Fort Bridger (population 345) welder for violating the Clean Water Act and threatened to fine him $75,000 a day unless he restored a wetland he altered without a permit and, therefore, contrary to federal law. Andy Johnson, who owns eight acres in Uinta County in southwestern Wyoming on which he runs horses and watches his three daughters play, says the stock pond he built, filled with crystal-clear water, and used to create a habitat for brook and brown trout, ducks and geese, was permitted by the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office.

The timing could not have been worse. Folks in Wyoming were still fuming over the EPA’s December 2013 decision to designate a million acres, including the town of Riverton (population 10,000), inside the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation. In doing so, the EPA ignored 110 years of history and state, federal and U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Moreover, the EPA was a month away from issuing new regulations to give it even more authority over private land like Mr. Johnson’s by broadening the definition of “waters of the United States.”

Wyoming’s Republican senators demanded the EPA withdraw the compliance order, which they labeled “a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy” that puts “each and every landowner throughout the country” in fear. For his part, Mr. Johnson did not back down. “I have not paid them a dime, nor will I . If you need to stand up and fight, you do it.” He can draw strength from another Wyomingite who stood up, fought the EPA, and won.

In 2005, David Hamilton of Worland (population 5,500), in north-central Wyoming, cleaned out an irrigation ditch on his 400-acre farm. Mr. Johnson and his wife may have put their “blood, sweat and tears into [their] dream” of a stock pond, but Mr. Hamilton spent $30,000 hauling away discarded cars, broken appliances and assorted debris that lined the ditch to foil erosion, and made other agricultural improvements. The project was a success, but the EPA disagreed. In 2007, its agents showed up on the farm and in 2010, the agency sued Mr. Hamilton in federal court.

The EPA claimed Mr. Hamilton destroyed 8.8 acres of wetlands, an impossibility given that Worland records the least rainfall in Wyoming — less than 8 inches a year. Facts did not matter to the EPA. instead, it relied on the National Wetlands Inventory — prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using Google Earth satellite images — to target the landowner and to tally wetlands damaged. Unfortunately, when Mr. Hamilton’s attorney, Harriet M. Hageman, challenged the EPA, the district court ruled that “Slick Creek,” which is actually Mr. Hamilton’s irrigation ditch, is “navigable waters of the United States,” as “a matter of law.”

(There's actually a happy ending)

William Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation and author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle With Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today” (Regnery, 2013)

Westerners fear Obama preparing monuments land grab

Just south of Canyonlands National Park, the redrock wonders merge into a scrubland oasis with a peak that juts 11,000 feet into the sky. Mesas and buttes provide panoramic views and canyons, and ancient cliff dwellings offer a unique retreat. It’s a region that holds sacred and historic value to the Navajo Nation, which has pitched Congress on creating the Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area to protect the 1.9 million acres in San Juan County from development. But as with most things involving Congress, inaction has been the order of the day. Even as supporters of a conservation area remain hopeful, they’re ready for Plan B: Asking President Barack Obama for a national monument. Willie Grayeyes, and other members of the nonprofit Utah Diné Bikéyah, traveled recently to Washington to lobby Interior Department officials to designate the region north of the San Juan River and just outside the Navajo Reservation as a monument. "The Utah delegates are only fumbling the ball. They aren’t really tackling it," Grayeyes said. A monument is a logical fallback to congressional designation, under which many of the current uses could continue. That commitment has some in the West fearing more intrusion by the federal government into their backyard, undermining locally driven efforts to decide the future of public lands. That fear isn’t without precedent. "It makes me worried that [the president will] just ignore the wishes of the people of Utah and just do what he wants to — like Clinton did," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a recent Salt Lake Tribune interview. "Sometimes he does act unilaterally."...more

The Salt Lake Tribune article had this side bar:

Possible candidates for national monument status
Alpine Lakes – Washington
Berryessa Snow Mountain – California
Boulder-White Clouds – Idaho
Desolation Canyon – Eastern Utah
Diné Bikéyah – San Juan County, Utah
Gold Butte – Nevada
Greater Canyonlands — Southeastern Utah
Organ Mountains – New Mexico
Rocky Mountain Front – Montana
San Gabriels – California
San Rafael Swell – Emery County, Utah
Tule Springs – Nevada

For Obama, a renewed focus on climate

After years of putting other policy priorities first — and dismaying many liberal allies in the process — Obama is now getting into the weeds on climate change and considers it one of the key components of his legacy, according to aides and advisers. He is regularly briefed on scientific reports on the issue, including a national climate assessment that he will help showcase Tuesday. He is using his executive authority to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and is moving ahead with stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the heaviest trucks. It’s a notable transformation for a politician who as a senator talked in grand terms about the need to combat global warming but adopted a much more constrained approach in the run-up to his 2012 reelection. Environmentalists also remain anxious about Obama’s delay in making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the movement’s signature issues. On Tuesday, the White House’s reinvigorated strategy will be on full display. Back in June 2009, the administration’s low-key launch of its second national climate assessment received only a smattering of coverage from regional papers. This time, Obama will conduct interviews from the White House with local and national TV meteorologists, who will also be briefed by senior administration officials...more

Feds: Air tanker fleet incomplete ahead of wildfire season

A decade ago the U.S. Forest Service had more than 40 air tankers it used to fight the nation's most destructive wildfires. Now the fleet has dwindled down to 10. A number the agency's spokesperson Jennifer Jones called "insufficient." "We've been working very hard to try and bring additional air tankers into service. It's proven to be very challenging and time consuming," said Jones. Officials say five brand new aircraft that were supposed to be ready for take-off are grounded because they don't yet comply with federal standards. "The next generation air tankers need to meet contract requirements to ensure they can fly safely and effectively," said Jones. Of the 10 aircraft actually in service, eight of them are over a half century old. "As the air tankers age the risks increase and so do the cost," said Jones. Officials said they don't know when those five new aircraft will be ready. Meantime, if additional air support is needed officials told CBS 5 the military and or private contractors as well as planes from Canada could be called in. KPHO

The Long History of BLM's Aggressive Cattle Seizures


    Every month, Raymond Yowell, the 84-year-old former chief of the Shoshone Indian Tribe in northeastern Nevada, has almost $200 garnished from his $1,150 Social Security check, and it all dates back to a 5:00am phone call on a Friday morning in 2002.
    That morning, a government official from the Bureau of Land Management told him to come down to a seizure site where the 132 cattle he owned were about to be impounded.

    When he arrived, men brandishing handguns told him he couldn't get any closer than 250 yards from his cattle. He watched from a distance as the government loaded the livestock onto stock trailers.

    Within a week, the cattle had been sold at a private auction – for what Yowell estimated to be a quarter of their market price. The proceeds belonged to BLM, officials told him, paying a portion of the grazing fees he suddenly owed. It wasn't enough to cover the full debt, and BLM sent Yowell a bill for $180,000.

    Yowell has been fighting the BLM in court ever since, but while the case moves its way through the system, his Social Security check takes a hit every month.

    The story, ranchers in Nevada say, is far from unique. Beginning in the late 1980s, BLM adopted aggressive tactics in the West, leading to large-scale cattle seizures and a disruption of life for ranchers that had utilized public lands for decades prior.

    While the press has showered attention on Cliven Bundy, a polarizing man who prompted a tense standoff between Bundy's well-armed militia supporters and federal police, the struggle between ranchers and the BLM is much broader. 
    ...Idaho Republican Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage and her husband Wayne Hage, lost their grazing permit on their Nevada ranch property for federal lands in 1991, when the federal government refused to renew it. This incident started a 20-year battle with the BLM. The government also denied access to the Hage family’s water rights, which pre-dated the implementation of the 1934 Taylor Act’s grazing permit requirement, by not allowing access to streams and wells. Eventually, the agency built fences around any water source, so the cattle could not drink. The BLM seized Hage’s cattle and filed a civil trespass action against Hage.
    A little over twenty years later, however, seven years after Hage and his wife died, Hage’s children, Wayne Jr. and Ramona Morrison Hage won a victory for the family in court.
     Last May, U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones ruled that “the government and the agents of the government in that locale, sometime in the ’70s and ’80s, entered into a conspiracy, a literal, intentional conspiracy, to deprive the Hages of not only their permit grazing rights, for whatever reason, but also to deprive them of their vested property rights under the takings clause, and I find that that’s a sufficient basis to hold that there is irreparable harm if I don’t … restrain the government from continuing in that conduct.”
    Judge Jones found the government’s demand for trespass fines and damages from innocent ranchers to be “abhorrent to the Court and I express on the record my offense of my own conscience in that conduct. That’s not just simply following the law and pursuing your management right, it evidences an actual intent to destroy their water rights, to get them off the public lands.”
    Jones went further and accused federal government personnel of racketeering under the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations) statute, and accused them of extortion, mail fraud, and fraud, in an attempt “to kill the business of Mr. Hage.”
    Morrison Hage, a member of the Nevada Agriculture Board, told Breitbart News that “In the west our governors almost conduct themselves as if they’re a colonial governor and as if they’re only governor over the private land, adding “They take their hands off the steering wheel even though all state power emerge from the state. They take their hands off the steering whenever there’s anything to do with federal land management.”
    Harvey Frank Robbins became a Wyoming dude ranch owner in 1994, after buying a piece of land in the state, but Robbins troubles began soon after his purchase. He told Live Stock Weekly, "The government — the Forest Service, the BLM and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department — were trying to buy the ranch," he explains. "They had these plans of grandeur of having this sanctuary of elk and trout fishing and all the things they could do. Then this guy from Alabama comes in at the last minute, not knowing any of this, and buys this ranch."
    Robbins accused BLM employees of trying to force him to renew an easement to the point of almost putting him out of business. When Robbins refused to do so, according to his lawyer, Karen Budd Falen, BLM employees broke into his house and demanded to be allowed on to his property without a court order, among other things. While Robbins won victories in lower courts, a RICO case against the BLM employees eventually went before the Supreme Court in 2006, where the majority ruled the BLM agents were not liable for the alleged actions against Robbins.