Friday, August 22, 2014

Real conservation is taking care of what you already own

By Shawn Regan

The federal government's land acquisition fund is in need of reform.

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is traveling the country this month to promote the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the government's primary source of funding for federal land acquisitions. The fund, which marks its 50th anniversary next month, devotes up to $900 million each year from offshore oil and gas revenues to acquire lands for conservation and recreation purposes.

 While many are praising the fund's achievements, consider another upcoming anniversary: the National Park Service's centennial in 2016. The National Park Service — responsible for managing "crown jewels" such as Yellowstone and Yosemite — is on track to celebrate its 100th year facing an $11.5 billion backlog in deferred maintenance projects. These include deteriorating facilities, leaky wastewater systems, and deficient roads, bridges and trails.

The Obama administration is seeking to fully fund and permanently extend the LWCF, which is set to expire at the end of the year. But instead of helping to address the unmet needs in national parks and other public lands, LWCF funding can only be used for land acquisitions. In other words, the fund allows the government to purchase more land but does not provide for the care and maintenance of existing federal lands.

Consider just a few of these backlogged projects on federal lands: At least $15 million is needed to fix the "deteriorated condition" of the wastewater facilities in Yellowstone. As much as $200 million is needed to ensure safe drinking water at Grand Canyon National Park. And $3.3 billion in high-priority road repairs are needed across the national park system.

The basic problem is one of incentives. National parks rely on congressional appropriations for the majority of their funding, but Congress would rather acquire new lands than deal with maintenance projects. As a former chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior once put it, "It's not very sexy to fix a sewer system or maintain a trail. You don't get headlines for that." This has contributed to a doubling of the agency's maintenance backlog over the last decade.

The reauthorization of the LWCF represents an opportunity to reform the fund to address these maintenance needs and to provide the right incentives for Congress to care for the lands it already controls. In particular, Congress should amend the LWCF to require funds be used to reduce the maintenance backlog on existing federal lands before it can be used to acquire new lands.

The amount of funding that could be derived from the LWCF for these purposes is hardly trivial. From 1985 to 2010, the fund allocated $6.6 billion for federal land acquisition. (A portion of the LWCF is used to make grants to state and local governments for recreation projects, but this "state-side" program receives significantly less funding). These acquisitions only exacerbate the problem by creating more unfunded maintenance projects...

Regan is a research fellow at PERC, a nonprofit research institute in Bozeman, Mont.

Montana tribe's takeover of dam complicates water fight

Five miles below the southern shores of Flathead Lake, wedged between a rugged river canyon where a great waterfall once roared, Kerr Dam plays a prominent role in the landscape. Blockading the Flathead River behind a 200-foot concrete arch, the 194-megawatt plant produces an average of 1.1 million megawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power more than 100,000 homes annually. It can generate up to $60 million a year on the wholesale market in the West, depending on energy prices. It can also regulate the shore levels of the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi while at the same time feeding 13 different reservoirs that provide vital irrigation supplies to the area’s farmers, ranchers and other property owners. Yet alongside its power and influence, Kerr Dam has remained equally contentious and divisive among tribal members and non-Indian property owners trying to coexist amicably on the Flathead Indian Reservation while grappling over water rights. Nearly 80 years since the dam was developed, creating a significant domino effect of impacts that are still felt today, the controversial subject is approaching a tipping point. While the Montana Legislature prepares to revisit one of the most controversial subjects in recent memory — a water-rights compact for the Flathead Reservation — the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are preparing to take over Kerr Dam. Both events are being met with scrutiny, and both are equally significant. The CSKT have remained devoted to acquiring the dam for decades, and one year from now — Sept. 5, 2015 — that mission will finally come to fruition. The CSKT are slated to pay nearly $18.3 million for the facility, which will be operated through a tribally owned corporation known as Energy Keepers, Inc...more

Clash over water rules

Farmers and ranchers in Wasco County are concerned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to gain more control over agricultural practices and private property rights. “EPA is setting the stage to increase their authority over our operations,” said Keith Nantz, president of the North Central Livestock Association, which serves Wasco and Sherman counties. “This proposed rule leaves the door open for that to happen. If it goes through, the federal government will have jurisdiction over any area where water collects for only a short time, including some small ponds, ditches and even fields that are wet only when it rains.” Nantz, a Maupin rancher, is seated on the water committee of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. He said the expanded definition of “Waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act includes waters that join tributaries, adjacent waters or those that connect to waterways already under federal jurisdiction. If EPA has its way, Nantz said ranchers face significant fines for normal ranching activities, including pest control, plowing, planting, fertilizing, moving cattle, building fences and other activities. Mike Freese, an attorney who serves as director of regulatory affairs for the Oregon Farm Bureau, said the reach of EPA will go far beyond agriculture if the new rule is finalized this fall. “This is also going to affect counties, cities, homebuilders and land use anywhere near a waterway,” he said. The significance of the regulatory expansion, said Freese, is that farmers, ranchers and landowners will need federal permission to do any activity that may affect protected waters, or face civil penalties of $37,000 per day for each violation. more 

“As a result, the Clean Water Act will become a land management tool for federal agencies,” Freese said.
Read that sentence over and over again because Freese is right.  Its about controlling land use, not water quality.

Effort to restore grizzlies in North Cascades gets rolling

Nearly four decades after grizzly bears were declared threatened in the Lower 48 states, long-stalled efforts to bring the species back to Washington’s North Cascades are rolling again. The federal government announced Thursday it will launch an environmental analysis this fall to evaluate strategies to boost bear numbers. Among the options on the table, the most controversial is the possibility of transplanting grizzlies from healthy populations elsewhere. “This is huge news for the Pacific Northwest and for grizzly bears,” said Joe Scott of Conservation Northwest, which has been pushing to restore grizzlies for 25 years. “This is the turning point.” Chris Morgan, founder of the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project, said he had tears in his eyes when he heard the news. “These animals have always lived in the North Cascades, and I think they deserve an opportunity to persist and thrive there,” he said. But not everyone is thrilled about sharing the woods with creatures that can tip the scales at more than 500 pounds, run as fast as a racehorse and wield fearsome teeth and claws. The species’ scientific name — Ursus arctos horribilis — reflects the terror the bears inspired in early explorers, including Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. “Grizzly bears are incredible, wonderful animals,” said Tom Davis, director of government relations for the Washington Farm Bureau. “I just wouldn’t want them living next door to me, and I think that’s how farmers and ranchers ... feel.”  Biologists estimate fewer than 20 of what some call “ghost bears” still survive in the North Cascades ecosystem — a nearly 10,000-square-mile expanse of wild country that extends from the Canadian border to Interstate 90...more

Deal protects land near Book Cliffs, allows other drilling

A long-awaited deal will protect remote southern reaches of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation from development and, at the same time, let the tribe and state partner on oil and gas ventures to the north. While the arrangement was spearheaded by pro-drilling members of Utah’s congressional delegation, environmentalists found much to praise because the agreement safeguards parts of the scenic Book Cliffs inside the reservation from industrial development. Ute tribal leaders plan a Wednesday commemoration of the Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law July 25 and which paves the way for the federal-state mineral swap. The law enables the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to give up mineral rights it holds in the Hill Creek’s southern end in Grand County, a roadless area the tribe intends to protect for its wildlife, scenery and spiritual significance. In exchange for its claim to 18,000 checkerboard acres of minerals, SITLA will get access to an equal number of subsurface acres to the north on the Uintah County portion of the Hill Creek Extension...more

Remote corner of Navajo Nation to get electricity thanks to business deal

Most people take electricity in their homes for granted, only missing it during the occasional power outage. But near Lake Powell, some families have been waiting decades to get electricity, and for some that wait is finally over. When Margie Tso drives a bumpy dirt road to the home where she raised eight kids, a giant power plant is always in the background. For almost 40 years, day and night, the Navajo Generating Station has sent electricity to cities as far away as Los Angeles but not to the Tsos’ tiny home 3 miles away. “There’s a phrase going around saying, 'Forgotten people,’” said Tso, who is part of the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. She and her family have made do over the years with a butane stove and a refrigerator that also operates on butane or with an electrical generator. “We were content,” Tso said. “We thought, ‘Well, that’s the way we were brought up.’” This year, power lines are being connected to 62 remote homes. Homes can't be wired directly to a high-voltage power plant. It's the tribal utility's responsibility to run those lines to the homes. But some say the tribe never made it a priority in this remote corner of the reservation near Lake Powell. “I think if it was a priority with the tribe, I think maybe it could have gotten done a little sooner,” said Wilford Lane, manager of the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. But times are changing on the Navajo reservation. “Students need to use computers for their homework,” Lane said. He helped set up a partnership with the power plant owners. They're even electrifying distinctly non-modern homes, the kinds of places where generations have lived without electricity...more

Every saddle has a story

You can almost hear the clip of the horses hooves echo in the Branding Iron Room at the Teton Valley Museum. Horses have been part of the valley’s history since American Indians hunted and trappers trapped in what would become Teton Valley. Horses and the knowledge of how to raise and care for them were crucial to the settlers who began trickling into the valley in the 1880s. Eleven saddles donated by the descendants of early ranchers now sit on wooden horses in the museum — lined up with tags, every saddle with a story. The tack tells tales, too. There’s a hand-braided bridle with horsehair tassels. Larry Jacobsen used the bridle in 1906, the tag says. An artifact described as “Mormon Hobbles” hangs on one wall. The hobbles were donated by the family of John Jacob Miller, who settled on the west side of the valley in the 1890s. They were used to keep horses from straying. Stockman Samuel Harrop wore the horsehair coat and Angora chaps you will see hanging on the rough wooden wall in the room...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1275

For "Hank Week", Hank Snow - The Bill Is Falling Due.  Recorded in 1954 for RCA Victor.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mining for a Vote

Dozens of citizens voiced opposition to a proposal that would create a mining zone in a 50-acre site on La Bajada Mesa during an Aug. 12 meeting of the Santa Fe County Commission. Activists left the meeting disappointed, however, after the five county commissioners talked about the deal behind closed doors and then postponed a vote on whether to allow an Albuquerque company, Rockology LLC, to mine for basalt on the private land owned by Buena Vista Estates Inc. The commission’s decision to discuss the application during an executive session makes mine opponent Marianna Hatten—and plenty of others who were expecting a vote—wonder: “What are they discussing out of view of the public?” Hatten runs the nearby High Feather Ranch. What she calls the “oil and gas wars” and issues concerning her business have brought her to previous County Commission meetings. She found the commission’s decision to call an executive session odd, so she contacted the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a nonprofit that advocates for transparency in public business. “Is this really open and transparent? I have personally my doubts that it’s all open,” she says. “It’s certainly not transparent because I don’t know what goes on in these other meetings.”  Public bodies occasionally hold the secret meetings to discuss sensitive matters, such pending litigation or real estate deals. But a 2012 SFR investigation found that bodies like the Santa Fe City Council often abused that authority, using spurious justifications to hold executive sessions. In this case, the County Commission justified the executive session by claiming the application by Buena Vista Estates and Rockology to create the mining zone constitutes an “administrative adjudicatory proceeding.” Such proceedings are exempt from provisions of the Open Meetings Act, which defines such a decision as “a proceeding brought by or against a person before a public body in which individual legal rights, duties or privileges are required by law to be determined by the public body after an opportunity for a trial-type hearing.”...more

Report: EPA Exceeds Its Authority With Proposed Rules

Congress should use the appropriations process to reassert its authority over the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a Heritage Foundation issue brief released Tuesday. The report, written by scholar Daren Bakst, identifies three issues on which the EPA has proposed rules and regulations that exceed its authority. In all three cases, Bakst recommends that Congress prohibit the agency from using its funding to implement the proposals.  According to the report, “the EPA is using the regulatory process to require greenhouse gas emission reductions even as Congress has been unwilling to take such drastic actions.” Bakst considers this alarming, because most energy use involves some emissions, meaning the proposed regulations would “touch on almost every facet of Americans’ lives.”  The EPA has also exceeded its mandate with regard to standards for ground-level ozone, which is a main component in smog. Recently, the EPA proposed reducing the acceptable ozone level from 75 parts per billion to 60, which the agency estimates could cost “as much as $90 billion per year.” The EPA has also exceeded its mandate with regard to standards for ground-level ozone, which is a main component in smog. Recently, the EPA proposed reducing the acceptable ozone level from 75 parts per billion to 60, which the agency estimates could cost “as much as $90 billion per year.” An independent study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers found that the proposed regulations would reduce GDP by an average of $270 billion per year, cause the average annual loss of 2.9 million job-equivalents, and impose $2.2 trillion in compliance costs between 2017 and 2040, which would make the new standards “the costliest regulation in United States history.” The third overreach examined in the report is a proposed rule that would expand the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA), forcing private property owners “to obtain permits from the federal government far more often than they already do now when seeking to use and enjoy their land.”...more

The issue brief has this to say on the "waters of the U.S." issue:

3. “Waters of the United States” Proposed Rule

The EPA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, has for decades tried to expand its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Property owners may be subject to the requirements of the statute, including having to secure permits prior to taking actions that may impact covered waters. Therefore, determining what waters are covered is central to the scope of the EPA’s authority.

In April, the EPA and the Corps published a proposed rule that would define what waters are covered.[14] The CWA covers “navigable waters.” This term is further defined as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.”[15]
In defining “waters of the United States,” the EPA is going well beyond the existing regulations. For example, the new rule would regulate all ditches—including man-made ditches—except in narrow circumstances and cover tributaries that have ephemeral flow, such as depressions in land that are dry most of the year except when there is heavy rain.

This water (and land) grab is an attack on property rights. Private property owners would need to obtain permits from the federal government far more often than they already do now when seeking to use and enjoy their land. There has been widespread opposition to the rule from everyone from farmers to counties, which are concerned that the rule will impose costly new requirements on them.

The proposed rule also undermines the principle of cooperative federalism that is supposed to govern the CWA.[16] States play a central role in the implementation of the CWA. Through this proposed rule, the EPA and the Corps would be usurping state and local power. States, local governments, and private property owners are better positioned to address their unique clean water needs than the federal government.

Recommendation: Congress should prohibit funding for the implementation of this proposed rule. The House Interior and Environment appropriations bill that passed out of the Appropriations Committee includes a provision that would prohibit funding for the rule.[17]

California saw 163 new wildfires last week, most sparked by lightning

California firefighters responded to 163 new wildfires last week, most of them sparked by lightning in parched forest lands. The wildfires further stretched firefighting resources that have already been spread thin by fire activity across the state that has far exceeded what agencies experienced last year. The "substantial increase" in wildfire activity is mostly the result of ongoing “exceptional drought” conditions throughout the state, according to Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Conditions across the state continue to be extremely dry and fire potential continues to be very high throughout California,” he said. This year, firefighters from Cal Fire have responded to 4,132 wildfires, which have scorched 80,634 acres...more

Denver Diners Hoofin' It, PETA and Vegans Scream Foul

by Andra Zeppelin

Last night, some 90 dining enthusiasts trekked to four dining destinations in LoDo as part of the second night of Hoofin' It. The four night culinary tour, brainchild of chef Jensen Cummings, brings together diners, chefs, and ranchers and focuses on one individual hoofed animal each evening. Here's how it works: bison, sheep, cow, and pig are the featured animals. Four restaurants in each of the four neighborhoods/evenings prepare one course each and host the touring group for a taste and discussion. Guests walk from place to place, a rancher is the guest of honor, and the sponsors of the events are: Imbibe Denver, Heroes Like Us, the Mile High Business Alliance, and the Humane Society. That is where the rubber meets the road: PETA freaks out mostly because the Humane Society is a sponsor. Not just PETA but also Vine Sanctuary News, United Poultry Concerns, Go Vegan Radio, SF Weekly, and more. A website called All Creatures held a virtual vigil to the hoofed animals. It all boils down to this: there is no such thing as humane meat, so the Humane Society should not promote, support, or endorse it. PETA views ranching in general as animal slavery and takes offense to the idea that such an event brands itself as respectful of the animal killed and served for dinner.

PETA views ranching in general as animal slavery and takes offense to the idea that such an event brands itself as respectful of the animal killed and served for dinner.
Just as disturbing as the event's concept is its theme: "Respect Your Dinner." The organizers of the event are happily hitching their wagons to the meat industry's newest marketing buzzwords: "humane meat." But as PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk explains, "There is nothing humane about the flesh of animals who have had one or two or perhaps three improvements made in their absolutely singularly rotten lives …."

If anybody is living an "absolutely singularly rotten" life, its Ingrid E. Newkirk.  What a big ol' waste of skin.

Government will honor land buy-back program

There’s a new pledge from the Federal Government to tribes around the country. The issue -- an almost $2 billion land buy-back program, which is part of the historic Cobell settlement over the misuse of tribal royalties. The program is slow to start; some worry it will run out before the land is bought back, and that’s why the Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell visited Montana on Wednesday. "I'm honored that she took the time to come down and visit and listen to our concerns, and she is optimistic about getting it and so am I," said Tribe Chairman Ronald Trahan.  The problem boils down to multiple owners of individual land. It's called fractionated lands, passed down sometimes with no will, divided by heirs. That means several people can own one piece of land.  The buy-back program has a 10-year shelf life...more

Tribal Officials Urge Water Release Into Klamath River to Prevent Mass Fish Kill

Dropping water levels and rising temperatures in the persistent California drought have tribal members concerned about a fish kill—and, some say, fish are already dying. The Hoopa Tribe is pressing for a release of water from the Trinity River, which feeds the Klamath. Hundreds of tribal members from the northern coast of California, along with river conservationists, traveled to the state seat in Sacramento on August 19 to urge officials to reconsider their decision to stop pre-emptive water releases. Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley tribal members joined with people from the Klamath Justice Coalition, coming by the busload, according to the Times-Standard.  Tribal members are looking for a release of Trinity River water out of Lewiston Dam, they said in a release. The Trinity is the Klamath River’s main tributary. They are worried about a fish kill on the scale of one that occurred in 2002, also for lack of water and a too-high temperature. Tens of thousands of otherwise healthy fish died that year, under very similar conditions...more

Reaction mixed to no protection for Arctic grayling

While people are applauding the decision not to list Arctic grayling as an endangered species, others have resolved to sue for a different outcome. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that its protection of the fish with its sail-like dorsal fin isn’t warranted given years of conservation efforts by private landowners and federal and state wildlife agencies. For the ranching families along the Big Hole River and a grayling biologist, the news comes as affirmation of their efforts — monitoring water flows and temperature, replacing head gates, planting willows to improve riparian areas, asking ranchers to voluntarily decrease water usage and using wells instead of diverting water from the river. For others, it’s bad news for a species on the brink, a story of ranching versus fish...more

Slaughterhouse Indictment Raises Question: What Else Were They Doing?

The Petaluma slaughterhouse where workers cut off the heads of cows with eye cancer and sliced the “USDA Condemned” stamps out of their carcasses was closed in February and sold to a boutique beef company after 8.7 million pounds of meat were recalled. So far, the only persons reported sickened by the actions are those who read details of the story. Presumably, their numbers are about to grow. A federal grand jury indicted co-owner Jesse Amaral Jr. and two employees, foreman Felix Cabrera and primary yardman Eugene Corda, of the defunct Rancho Feeding Corp. for conspiring to sell “adulterated, misbranded, and uninspected” meat. Another Rancho co-owner, Robert Singleton, was named in a separate federal document, indicating that he was intending to plead guilty. The 11-count indictment alleges that Amaral and Singleton directed Corda and Cabrera to dodge U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors by cutting off the heads of cows with eye cancer and placing healthy cow heads next to the carcasses. Cows that had already been stamped unacceptable had the stamps removed on the kill floor...more

The Wild West, reimagined

A historical writer from Dane who delves into the lives of Germans and Americans during World War II has published his eighth book, and it has nothing at all to do with that war. “This book was fun,” said Arthur Rathburn, about “Return to Sierra Valley,” a western set in 1869-72. Rathburn literally returned to the valley himself, where he grew up before moving to Germany, as he wrote and researched his latest book. Growing up in a town full of loggers, railroad workers and cattle ranchers, Rathburn heard a number of stories, and the book is loosely based on those. He discovered a journal of a member of the Church family, and based the characters on those cattle ranchers. Cal Church, the book’s hero, is a purely fictional character, Rathburn said. But about half of the other characters are real, he added. The book follows Cal, a young man, as he leaves his small town of 50 to head east on the Continental Railroad. “He had never been anywhere other than his own isolated valley,” Rathburn said...more

Cold, Dark and Alive! Life Discovered in Buried Antarctic Lake

Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, teems with microscopic life. Tiny organisms dwell on the ice and live inside glaciers, and now, researchers confirm, a rich microbial ecosystem persists underneath the thick ice sheet, where no sunlight has been felt for millions of years. Nearly 4,000 species of microbes inhabit Lake Whillans, which lies beneath 2,625 feet (800 meters) of ice in West Antarctica, researchers report today (Aug. 20) in the journal Nature. These are the first organisms ever retrieved from a subglacial Antarctic lake. "We found not just that things are alive, but that there's an active ecosystem," said lead study author Brent Christner, a microbiologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. "If you had to think up what would be the coolest scenario for an ecosystem in Antarctica, you couldn't make this up." [See Photos of Lake Whillans' Drilling Project & Microbial Life] Antarctica has nearly 400 lakes trapped under its ice sheet. Some of them — like Lake Whillans — are connected by rivers and streams. Others are deep, isolated basins like Lake Vostok, where drillers have yet to successfully recover uncontaminated water samples. The new Lake Whillans discovery raises scientists' hopes that these other hidden waterways also carry life.  Drillers broke through to Lake Whillans in January 2013, after years of planning and more than $10 million spent by the National Science Foundation. The team, called WISSARD, used a custom hot-water drill with its own decontamination system. Within a day of pulling out the tea-colored water, tests done in a temporary lab confirmed the lake sparked with life. Researchers returned to the United States with 8 gallons (30 liters) of lake water and eight sediment cores from the lake bottom. Scientists at Montana State University, the University of Tennessee and other institutions parsed out the precious samples, growing cultures of different cell types and sequencing the DNA. The results show evidence for 3,931 species of single-celled life in Lake Whillans. [Video: Life Discovered in Subglacial Lake Whillans]...more 

First Ranch Rodeo action highlights Quay County Fair

Stetson Cates & Kiptyn Bidegain get ready for the calf scramble
Local ranchers displayed their skills Saturday for the first-ever ranch rodeo competition held as part of the Quay County Fair in Tucumcari. “I thought we had a great crowd, some have told me it is the biggest crowd they have seen at the rodeo arena in a long time,” said Jaree Elliot, event coordinator. Elliot said she was overwhelmed by the show of support from the competitors, local ranchers, businesses and Mesalands Community College’s interim head rodeo coach Tim Abbott and assistant coach Staci Stanbrough. Abbott and Stanbrough judged the event as a courtesy, Elliot said. Elliot said the event has received so much positive feedback from contestants and spectators that she believes there will be a second ranch rodeo during next year’s county fair. Elliot has organized ranch rodeos in New Mexico and Texas and knew this type of event would be successful, she said, adding that the Quay County Fair Board received the idea with enthusiasm. “I think it was a great event that drew in a very diverse crowd,” said Brad Bryant, Quay County Commission chair. Bryant said the ranch rodeo was a great way for people to enjoy the Saturday afternoon and provided some excitement for people who had been at the fair for four days. Many local residents took part in the event and continuing athe event next year would be a great way to draw in people to the area. Elliot said there were 13 four-member teams entered in rodeo, but many of the contestants competed on more than one team. She said individuals were allowed to compete on different teams as long as two members were different from their original team...more

Chiricahua-Peloncillo Heritage Days Sept. 5-7 in Rodeo, N.M.

Most of the folks living in the small communities nestled in the Chiricahua and Peloncillo mountain ranges along the southern Arizona/New Mexico state line have come to expect compelling presentations on local culture and nature at the region’s annual “Heritage Days” events. This year is no exception, with a keynote event on Friday evening, Sept. 5 at the Chiricahua Event Center in Rodeo, N.M. certain to attract the attention of anyone interested in the effects of climate change on the borderlands region. The presentation and accompanying community reception, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Arizona time, is free to all. The keynote address, by noted University of Arizona climate researcher Dr. Michael Crimmins, will examine the past, present and future effects of climate change in our area. Dr. Crimmins was part of the technical review team for the Southwest National Climate Assessment Report and a technical contributor to the recently-released National Climate Report. A full day of expert presentations by scientists, ranchers, conservationists and historians, will follow on Saturday, Sept. 6, including effects of climate change on regional spring flows, potential climate change impacts to area birds, history of the San Simon River, how to evaluate the health of your land, identifying native grasses, a look at the dinosaurs that once roamed our region, Mexican gray wolf reintroduction update, an historic remembrance of photographer C.S. Fly, and celebration of the Chiricahua Wilderness 50th Anniversary...more

Pecan farm begins to save with sun

Sunshine is something New Mexico has plenty of and which offers residents an opportunity to harness low-cost, clean energy. The Four Daughters Land & Cattle Company, owned by the Mechenbier family, are taking advantage of the sun’s gifts, plus a hefty grant from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program. At the Mechenbier’s pecan farm south of Belen, a 564-panel solar system has been installed to provide the electricity needed to power irrigation pumps, making the farm more profitable and competitive. The total energy capabilities of the system is 147 kilowats and cost $428,402 to construct, but the family was able to offset the expense with $107,100 from a REAP grant. Annual farm savings on electricity costs are expected to be $25,000 at a minimum, but when the pecan processing plant is built within the next three years, savings will be at least $60,000 annually, said Harvey Crowely, the farm accountant. Crowley says the Mechenbiers will receive about $0.05 per kW production credit from PNM when the system exceeds its consumption and produces surplus energy. “The system will pay for itself in about 3 1/2 years,” said Mike Mechenbier, the patriarch of the family. “For an investment like this — for it to have a break-even in 3 1/2 years — is unbelievable. It makes extremely good financial sense for people to consider this as an alternative to other fuels.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1274

For "Hank Week", here's one of my favorites by Hank Thompson & The Brazos Valley Boys - his 1954 recording of The New Green Light.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gov. Perry stripped of his right to conceal carry and buy ammo

Forget that it could ruin his presidential aspirations. Look beyond the possibility he could spend about a century in prison explaining to fellow inmates (with names like Mad Dog and Widowmaker) the intricacies of constitutional law and vetoes. Those of you who wish ill upon Gov. Rick Perry (and shame on you for doing so) perhaps will find delight in the fact that his indictment already has hit him where it hurts. It’s right there in federal law, specifically the federal law known as 18 USC 922(n), and I quote: “It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person (1) is under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” Thanks to last week’s indictment, your fun-with-guns governor is now in that category. And there’s more. As an indictee, Perry’s state-issued Concealed Handgun License, assuming he still has one — his office didn’t know as of Tuesday afternoon — will be suspended until the case against him is decided...more

Obama Weighs Broader Move on Legal Immigration

President Barack Obama is considering key changes in the nation's immigration system requested by tech, industry and powerful interest groups, in a move that could blunt Republicans' election-year criticism of the president's go-it-alone approach to immigration. Administration officials and advocates said the steps would go beyond the expected relief from deportations for some immigrants in the U.S. illegally that Obama signaled he'd adopt after immigration efforts in Congress collapsed. Following a bevy of recent White House meetings, top officials have compiled specific recommendations from business groups and other advocates whose support could undercut GOP claims that Obama is exceeding his authority to help people who have already violated immigration laws. "The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it's important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions," said White House spokesman Shawn Turner. One of the more popular requests among business and family groups is a change in the way green cards are counted that would essentially free up some 800,000 additional visas the first year, advocates say. The result would be threefold: It would lessen the visa bottleneck for business seeking global talent; shorten the green card line for those being sponsored by relatives, a wait that can stretch nearly 25 years; and potentially reduce the incentive for illegal immigration by creating more legal avenues for those wanting to come, as well as those already here...more

Leonardo DiCaprio fights 'carbon monster' in new eco-documentary

Seems the Wolf of Wall Street has a few economic ideas for halting climate change. In a new documentary called “Carbon,” released online Wednesday, narrator Leonardo DiCaprio contends that trillions of dollars’ worth of fossil fuels are awaiting commercial extraction from the ground — and that if we burn them, our planet is toast. Three additional mini-documentaries, billed as a series called Green World Rising and slated for release in the next few weeks, will explore ways to make that happen.
DiCaprio has a long history of supporting environmental causes through his nonprofit Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which pledged $7 million to ocean conservation in June...more

Student punished for saying "bless you"

Kendra Turner was brought up right. She’s the kind of kid who says “yes sir” and “no ma’am.”  She was "raised up right," with good manners as they are prone to say around Dyersburg, Tennessee. So it was not out of character for Kendra to say “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed. But that common courtesy landed the 18-year-old in hot water.  Kendra said she was rebuked by her teacher at Dyer County High School and thrown out of class for violating the teacher’s ban on the words “bless you.”...more

Teen Arrested, Suspended for Shooting a Dinosaur (In a Story He Wrote)


Now that summer is over and school is starting up again, it's time for the torrent of ridiculous "zero tolerance" suspensions and arrests to resume.

Summerville High School in Summerville, South Carolina, is wasting no time: A 16-year-old student was arrested and suspended for writing a story in which he used a gun to kill a dinosaur. The student, Alex Stone, was assigned by a teacher to write a story about himself. Stone chose to embellish his story with obviously fictional details, like dinosaurs. But the teacher saw the word "gun" and the rest is history, according to NBC-12:
Stone said in his "status" he wrote a fictional story that involved the words "gun" and "take care of business."
"I killed my neighbor's pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business," Stone said.
Stone says his statements were taken completely out of context.
"I could understand if they made him re-write it because he did have "gun" in it. But a pet dinosaur?" said Alex's mother Karen Gray."I mean first of all, we don't have dinosaurs anymore. Second of all, he's not even old enough to buy a gun."
Investigators say the teacher contacted school officials after seeing the message containing the words "gun" and "take care of business," and police were then notified on Tuesday.
The police arrested Stone and charged him with disorderly conduct. He was also suspended from school for a week.

And just like that, the pop-tart gun suspension has been dethroned as the most absurd zero tolerance story. And it's not even September yet! Well done, Summerville.

Readers, welcome back to public school.


Gun-grabber Bloomberg’s epic fail in Milwaukee

By David A. Clarke Jr

Billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg could learn a thing or two from the biblical story about an Israelite soldier named David, who went up against Goliath, a giant of a man and a powerful foe. Using just a sling and a stone, David brought Goliath down to his knees and destroyed him.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, made a huge political miscalculation when he sauntered into my territory of Milwaukee County, Wis. — a solid-blue county that overwhelmingly votes Democrat — expecting an easy signature win for his failing crusade to disarm law-abiding Americans.

Willing to spend up to $50 million of his wealth to help defeat any pro-gun candidate, he focuses his aim on those running for state legislative and congressional offices. His plan is to enact gun-control legislation state by state, since he realizes there is no appetite in Congress to enact federal gun-control legislation, not even for the misleading idea called universal background checks.

Two years ago, I ran a series of self-defense local radio ads advising residents that they are the first line of defense in their own safety. I told them to consider taking a firearms-safety course so they could defend themselves and their families from imminent attack. In April, I spoke at the National Rifle Association's convention in Indianapolis, and that brought me into Mr. Bloomberg's cross hairs.

According to one Democratic Party source, Mr. Bloomberg said of his attempt to knock me off in my re-election primary for sheriff, "This one is personal with me." That is a sign of desperation. Yes, even billionaires can be greedy. Surely, Mr. Bloomberg saw me as an easy win that he could parade around the country as a warning to other pro-gun candidates to either get in line with his anti-gun movement or face defeat at the polls. He saw picking off a big-city, pro-gun sheriff as a prize worth landing.

So in parachuted billionaire Mr. Bloomberg, dropping $150,000 on my opponent in a weekend TV blitz that depicted me as a gun nut, hell-bent on arming every law-abiding citizen in Milwaukee County. The TV ads he financed depicted me telling residents to forgo calling 9-1-1 and to handle to handle local policing themselves, which is as contorted a view of my personal-defense radio ads as one could imagine.

Mr. Bloomberg's plan didn't work. People here are smarter than he thought, and they did not like this outsider rolling into town trying to oust Wisconsin's only black sheriff.

Westerners fear monumental land grab by Obama administration

Utah officials are scrambling to prevent the Obama administration from locking down thousands of acres of land in their backyard, as federal officials consider up to a dozen possible national monument designations – all in western states. The Antiquities Act gives U.S. presidents the authority to unilaterally declare public lands as national monuments at the stroke of a pen, with no input from the public unless they choose to seek it. Many national monuments eventually go on to become national parks. But critics feel the Antiquities Act has been misused in recent decades by presidents of both parties and, in Utah, they’re seeking a compromise that would allow some land to become designated as “wilderness” instead. "The original Antiquities Act passed as a way of conserving land," Republican Utah Rep. Rob Bishop said. "It's no longer used that way. Now it's used as a political purpose to make a political statement on land that is not endangered in any way." The issue is particularly sensitive in the American West, where the vast majority of federally owned and controlled land lies. "In the West, almost half of the land, versus 4 percent in the East, is owned by the federal government," Bishop said. "So in my state of Utah, 70 percent is owned and controlled by the federal government. So we in the West clearly see this differently, because we face it and live with it every day." A draft Interior Department memo in 2010 suggested 12 sites for possible national monument designation by President Obama. The land already is mostly in federal hands, but a monument designation would more tightly restrict access. All of the sites are in the West, including Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, which President Obama declared a new national monument in May...more

Actually, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks were not on the list of potential national monuments in the draft memo, nor did the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks make the list of  "crown jewels" submitted by Secretary Salazar.  That being the case, why were the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks made a national monument?  Rep. Bishop got it right about making a "political statement".  Politics, not protection, ruled the day.

California solar power plant scorches birds in mid-air

Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays — "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair. Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version. The deaths are "alarming. It's hard to say whether that's the location or the technology," said Garry George, renewable-energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society. "There needs to be some caution."...more

We've finally found something the feds and enviros do well...killin' birds.  They either slice'em and dice'em with wind farms, nuke'em in midair with solar farms or deep fry'em in forest fires.  Meanwhile for us ordinary folks, projects are halted, jobs are lost, family businesses are destroyed, all because those same feds and enviros demand we...protect birds.  The "streamers" are us.

Senator: Affordable wood stove heat in peril

A pair of Idaho lawmakers are among those proposing legislation aimed to protect wood stove manufactures facing proposed regulations that tighten emission standards. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch introduced the Secret Science Reform Act, which would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from proposing or finalizing regulations based on science that is not made publicly available and that is not reproducible. A similar measure has been introduced in the U.S. House. Crapo on Monday toured the Kuma Stoves manufacturing facility north of Coeur d'Alene and discussed the new regulations and their possible effect on consumers. "Many Idahoans and Northwest residents heat their homes with wood and wood stoves, but that affordable heating source may soon become complicated because of newly proposed federal regulations," a press release issued by Crapo's office states. "Wood stove manufacturers are under pressure yet again to lower federal emission standards, this time to a level that may not be attainable financially or technologically for consumers or the wood stove industry." Kuma Stoves President Mark Freeman said, before the hearth industry worked to develop new technologies, older stoves in the mid-1980s would emit an average of 60 grams per hour of particulates. In 1988, the EPA worked with the hearth industry to lower emissions to 7.5 grams per hour for all new stoves. The newly-proposed regulations would lower that again to 4.5 grams per hour by the end of next year, and possibly to 1.3 grams per hour by 2020...more

Amtrak’s Broken Builder

Eighty-five years after its debut as the Great Northern Railway’s premier passenger service to the west, the Empire Builder is broken. Extreme freight congestion in the northern plains, particularly in North Dakota’s Bakken region, has resulted in major delays for Amtrak’s passenger service between Chicago and Seattle and Portland. Five years after the Empire Builder had some of Amtrak’s best on-time performance rates, even outpacing Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train between Boston and Washington, delays of three to five hours are now commonplace. It was even worse this winter, when the train was sometimes 12 hours late. In June, the westbound Empire Builder, train No. 7, stayed on schedule a scant 10 percent of the time. The eastbound train, No. 8, had a zero percent on-time rate. Passengers are also starting to notice the delays and are abandoning train travel in droves. Ridership on the Empire Builder from June 2013, when it moved 49,813 people, to June 2014 has dropped 19 percent. The decline comes just two years after the train had its best year ever, hauling more than 543,000 people in 2012, a 15.8 percent increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, the Empire Builder’s decline comes as flights out of Glacier Park International Airport are up more than 12 percent. But it wasn’t always this way. On June 11, 1929, the first Empire Builder departed Chicago with a train of luxury passenger cars that were, according to the Great Northern Railway Historical Society, “the last word in comfort, amenities and speed for their day.” The train’s name came from the Great Northern’s founder, James J. Hill, who dedicated his life to building a railroad empire that still spans the continent today. The train crossed the country in a brisk 63 hours. In 1935, an added bit of luxury arrived when the train was outfitted with air-conditioned passenger cars...more

Drones banned in Arches, Canyonlands and southeast Utah monuments

Photographers and videographers are always looking for new ways to capture the wonders of America’s national parks. The use of drones — remote-controlled miniature aircraft that can be mounted with cameras — is the newest craze. But continued issues with the high-tech toys has led to bans in parks across the country, including the formal prohibition issued Monday for Arches and Canyonlands parks as well as Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments. Kate Cannon, the superintendent of those parks and monuments, said in a news release that the drones must be banned to protect public safety, minimize visitor-user conflicts and prevent damage to "scenic values, natural soundscapes and wildlife."...more

New Mexico chile gets certified-product safeguards

Idaho has its potatoes. Florida has its fresh fruits and juices. Vidalia is the name synonymous with the nation's most famous sweet onion. Now New Mexico has its own trademark and certification program to protect the reputation and integrity of its signature crop: chile. Gov. Susana Martinez, members of the New Mexico Chile Association and other officials unveiled the program before a packed room of chile aficionados gathered Tuesday at The Range Cafe, the first restaurant to sign up. Martinez described chile as a way of life in New Mexico. Aside from being a part of breakfast, lunch and dinner, the chile industry contributes more than $460 million every year to the state's economy and employs about 4,000 workers. The governor said consumers — whether in New Mexico or New York City — shouldn't have to wonder whether they're getting real New Mexico-grown chile. "Whether you prefer red, green or Christmas (a mix of both), you want to know that your chile was grown in New Mexico by farmers with generations of experience, in rich soil and the kind of intense sunlight that makes this flavorful food," she said. The program builds upon on existing law that makes it illegal to advertise any product as New Mexico chile unless it's actually grown in the state. An independent auditor will certify whether restaurants, salsa makers and others in the hot pepper business are using New Mexico-grown chile before allowing them to post the certified logo on their labels and at their front doors...more

Hand grenades become key weapon in arsenal of Mexican drug cartels

Grenade stuffed with written threat
There’s a new terror in the vast, violent stockpiles of drug barons in Mexico: the hand grenade. Authorities on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border say the weapon of war is being lobbed by drug runners to protect their shipments and to terrorize residents into remaining quiet about their loads. Four live grenades were found in a rural home earlier this month near Texas’ Rio Grande City, where three Hondurans were found murdered. “I can’t even remember the last time we saw a grenade at a crime scene,” Starr County Sheriff’s Capt. Carlos Delgado recently told The Brownsville Herald. In the border town of San Juan, Texas, the ATF began helping local police in 2009 after a sting operation resulted in the arrest of a man who sold nearly 200 grenades to an undercover federal agent posing as a drug cartel member. “The reason you’re seeing so many more (grenades) this year is because much more heavily armed drug shipments are coming into the United States,” said James Phelps, an assistant professor of security at Angelo State University in Texas, according to Fox News. Grenades are also used to intimidate and threaten residents into remaining quiet about narcotics shipments, human trafficking and other crimes blatantly committed in rural, lawless areas of Mexico, authorities said...more

Mexican Cartels Recruiting Central American Immigrant Children for Drug Business, According to US Senator

While the focus on America's borders continues to escalate, one Senator believes he knows the cause behind the mass influx of Central American children into the nation: drug cartels. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas told a group of oil executives on Monday that Mexico’s notorious drug cartels are recruiting Central American children to enter the U.S. to become part of their lucrative drug enterprise. Roberts made the claim at the annual convention of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association in response to an audience member's suggestion that Republicans should take a “softer line” on immigration if they want to advance their conservative agenda. Following his response, Roberts was careful to specify that although he is indeed referring to the border crisis, he wasn't referring to the 60,000 Central American immigrants who have crossed the border illegally in the last few months. Rather, he is pinpointing the "people" from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who are between the ages of 16 to 22 who are crossing to become drug mules...more

Immigration crisis at border afflicts heartland harvest

The heated tempers of the nation’s border states are driving the debate over immigration policy. States farther away from the U.S.-Mexico border, though, are reckoning with a different set of challenges: a skimpy agriculture labor market and cumbersome immigrant-worker programs that go unfixed amid partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. More than 20,000 U.S. farms employ more than 435,000 immigrant workers legally every year, according to 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture census data. Thousands - probably tens of thousands - more are employed illegally. Naturally, agricultural powerhouses near the border, such as Florida and California, employ tens of thousands of seasonal immigrant laborers every year. But deeper in the homeland, such as the fruit orchards of the Carolinas, farmers confront a blue-collar labor vacuum. “Because we’re not a border state, it’s definitely harder to get people over this far from the border to work,” said Chalmers Carr, the owner of the East Coast’s largest peach grower, South Carolina’s Titan Farms. “2006, 2007, even 2008, we had a very robust economy and there were not enough farmworkers then. And there’s truly not enough farmworkers now, legal or illegal.” South Carolina in particular has a unique view, having seen the greatest percentage increase in Hispanic population in the country from 2000 to 2010 - nearly 150 percent, according to the most recently available census data. Although its Hispanic population sits at a comparatively low 5.1 percent, the increase reflects decisions by immigrants to make the trek deeper into the U.S. And while many are taking temporary seasonal work, the labor shortage has become a permanent issue for growers and workers alike...more

Advocates eye border protest in New Mexico, Texas

Immigrant advocates say they are planning a 100-mile walk along the border in New Mexico and Texas to protest the use of military-style patrols. The Border Network for Human Rights said they will unveil plans for the two-state walk at a press conference in El Paso. Organizers say the walk is aimed at protesting the use of the National Guard along the U.S.-Mexico border and to call for President Obama to act on immigration reforms. Advocates say the walk will include activists and faith leaders from Texas and New Mexico.  AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1273

Next on "Hank Week" is Hank Locklin and his 1956 recording of A Good Woman's Love.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Closer Examination of Skinwalkers in Indian Country, HIGH UINTA MOON by RanDee RedWillow

by Mike Raccoon Eyes Kinney

I know many of you here in Indian Country have been waiting for my review of Ute author RanDee RedWillow's novel: 'HIGH UINTA MOON' about Skinwalkers on the Ute reservation in the 21st Century. 'HIGH UINTA MOON is the first novel in Ms. RedWillow's series of the Moon Fire Sagas. Words to describe this novel are spelling-binding, powerful, stunning ,savage and masterfully crafted to say the least. This powerful novel is highly accurate in the traditional cultural and spiritual aspects of the belief and value system of how in Indian Country views the Skinwalker phenomena. 

The simplest definition that I might give as having investigated skinwalkers for years is as follows: the ability to wear animal skins of North American wildlife such as Bear, Wolf, Coyote or Cougar as example, while still retaining the power of human mind and physical transform from a physical human being into the actually physical animal of whose skins they wear or the ability to create a three dimensional hologram of the physical animal.

Skinwalkers themselves are very much real human beings, who in many cases are negative Native doctors who have incredible paranormal,spiritual gifts and powers that are used to create chaos, mayhem, killing and murder. These individuals in some cases are actually paid and retained for these deadly, evil skills and abilities to inflict on Native individuals, families or some cases entire Native communities.

Skinwalkers have always been among us here in Indian Country since the dawn of time. On the Colorado Plateau in the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico there are over 100,000 known Meso-American sites of the pre-historic Publeo peoples with their awesome cities found in locations like Canyon de Chelly, Chaco, and Mesa Verde and through out the valleys and Mountains of the Southwest can be found numerous petroglyphs and pictograms in these ancient cities of skinwalker activities then and in some cases ceremonies that had been done in these cities of the Ancient Ones to contain and control skinwalker activities.

...Through out Indian Country there are hundreds of killings, murders and homicides of Native people go unexplained and are not solved each year. However many Indian Country law-enforcement jurisdictions now believe that many of these crime scenes are due to skinwalker activities. As an example, the elite Navajo Nation Rangers have been trained professionally for some years now in both paranormal and spiritual investigations not only involving skinwalkers but Howlers, Bigfoot, the Dogman and other entities that may in effect be responsible for killings, murder and homicides that occur there on the Navajo Big Rez.

So with that backdrop, we come to RanDee RedWillow's novel: 'HIGH UINTA MOON', about skinwalkers on the Ute reservation in the 21st century. In her bone-chilling novel such a law-enforcement jurisdiction exists in the 21st century on the Ute reservation at Uinta and Ouray. The lead character is a young 19 year old Ute woman named Kai Moon, a gifted and talented student who graduated from high school at the age of 16 and completed her university and police academy in both criminology and law enforcement, as well had focused on Native America cultures and beliefs. Upon returning home to Fort Duchesene, Kai has been accepted and appointed as both a state and federal law enforcement agent and tribal cop on the Ute reservation. She starts investigations of the many defiled Ute archaeological sites where human remains were to be found,and other stranger disturbances at these Ute sacred sites .

Soon the trail leads Kai to skinwalkers who have killed and murdered two local high school basketball players .Now everyone is counting on Kai to hunt down the skinwalkers...

California environmentalist shakes up Florida race

A California billionaire environmentalist is pouring millions of dollars into the Florida governor's race to buy television ads attacking Gov. Rick Scott as a friend of polluters and utility companies, giving the campaign of Democratic front-runner Charlie Crist a boost as polls show a tightening race. Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has put both Scott and the Florida Republican Party on the defensive, prompting them to hit back with their own ads attacking Steyer as a hypocrite. They have also sent letters threatening television stations with lawsuits if they carry the ads, which Scott's lawyers say are misleading and defamatory. So far, one Fort Myers station has stopped running them. Steyer's so-called "super PAC," NextGen Climate, set off the blitz of attack ads more than a week ago. One ad targeted Scott's environmental record, including campaign contributions of $200,000 from oil interests that profited from permits to drill in Florida. Another ad criticized Scott over a state law that allowed Duke Energy to charge customers for nuclear power projects that have since been cancelled. While they don't mention him by name, the ads benefit Crist, who is getting in effect millions of dollars in donations. A spokesman for Crist said that the former governor has met with Steyer and welcomes his support. Polls show Crist and Scott in a tight race...more

Water in the West: Water breathes life into Western Slope economies

Nathan Fey’s passion for kayaking led him to a passionate career in river conservation and water quality issues. As the Colorado stewardship director for American Whitewater, a nonprofit that works to conserve and restore American whitewater resources, he’s watching carefully as the state progresses through its water planning process. There are some major conflicts the state needs to address as it creates the Colorado Water Plan, he said. “Sure, our population is focused on the Front Range, but the reason we all live here is because recreation is a way of life for us here in Colorado,” Fey said. “I think there’s a big disconnect for people in our urban areas about where their water comes from. They don’t understand that if they grow green grass, there’s less water in the river when they’re fishing.” With a state population expected to double by 2050, and water resources already struggling to meet demands, Fey and American Whitewater are focused on the big picture of water in Colorado, which includes stream health, conservation and, of course, recreation. Recreation along the Colorado River and its tributaries is a $9.6 billion industry, and that’s just within the state of Colorado. According to a 2012 study for Protect The Flows, done by the consulting firm Southwick Associates, which specializes in recreation economics, the Colorado River would rank as the 19th largest employer on the 2011 Fortune 500 list based on the jobs it generates...more

Man vs. trout vs. drought

In the turf war between man and trout, man inevitably wins. And the Southern California steelhead trout – an endangered species with a population a tenth of its former size – is suffering greatly as people destroy its habitat. Engineers armor streams, casting concrete channels on them to contain flooding. Home developers suck streams dry to water lawns. Builders raise dams to collect water and irrigate precious farmland, inevitably blocking fish from their upstream spawning grounds. But in the Santa Ana Mountains, the fish – with a powerful ally – have struck back. In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service launched its Southern California steelhead recovery program. Toward that end, the agency started tearing down dams across the region that block the steelhead trout from historic and potential future spawning grounds. Next month, the Forest Service is scheduled to dismantle four dams in Holy Jim Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains, according to the fire chief there, though Forest Service officials say the precise timing is still undetermined. The dams – small rock walls less than 15 feet tall – block stream flow and create pools of water above and below. The steelhead, if they return as hoped, wouldn’t be able to get upstream...more

Taking water from agriculture industry will do irreparable harm to Colorado

Denver Water — on behalf of the Bureau of Reclamation and the respective water districts from Arizona, California and Nevada — recently developed a drought management pilot program for the Upper Colorado River System to send more water downstream. Other than Denver Water, the water districts involved in this program represent the states known as the Lower Basin states. The proposal addresses several concerns, which can be summed up as the Lower Basin states cannot satisfy their current water demand. Unfortunately, when the drafters of this pilot program looked upstream for more water, it seems Colorado's agriculture industry became their target for relief. In order to send more water to these Lower Basin states, the pilot program suggests farmers could fallow more land, employ deficit irrigation techniques and plant crops that use less water. But let us explain why these ideas will greatly damage our agriculture industry. First, fallowing, a term for intentionally leaving a portion of a field vacant, is strategically used by farmers to let soils recover from a harvest. Fallowing can improve yields in future years, but because a farmer is choosing not to plant in a portion of the field, no crops are produced. Secondly, changing to deficit irrigation methods can be very difficult and result in lower crop yields. And lastly, crops are soil-, location-, elevation- and climate-specific, and each requires an enormous investment in equipment specific to that crop. Additionally, crop selection is based on market prices, demand and cost of harvest. Requiring farmers to plant different crops can be costly, and in some cases, not viable. On top of the burdens proposed in this program is the current Colorado drought, which reduced agricultural production by 25 percent last year alone. Yet despite this drastic drop in production, Colorado's agriculture industry still contributed more than $2 billion to our state's economy. Asking Colorado farmers to plant less, reduce their yield and even switch crops will have devastating impacts on our agriculture industry and ultimately our state's economy...more

‘Big Green’ Lobby Wants to Cut 2 of 3 Forestry Branches

Pay your protection money. Do the secret handshake. And, kiss the ring. Otherwise, forget having green activists attach their environmental seal of approval to the wood products harvested from your forest. That’s essentially the message organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace will be in a position to transmit if the U.S. timber industry submits to a monopoly in forest certification, free market economists argue. The “Big Green” lobby—mainly the organizations listed above plus the World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network, and a few others—wants a relatively new player to assume monopoly control of the market. Today, three share the action: the Sustainable Forest Initiative, seen as the closest to the forest industry of the three, the American Tree Forest System, and the new guys — the Forest Stewardship Council. The concept of forest certification initially gained traction during the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when it was adopted as part of a “smart growth” strategy known as “sustainable development.” If the Forest Stewardship Council takes over all forest certifications, it would mean higher prices, more jobs lost, and reduced economic output, according to a study last year from George Mason University’s EconoSTATS program...more

Neil Young, Willie Nelson concert set in path of Keystone XL Pipeline

Tickets go on sale Wednesday for Neil Young and Willie Nelson in a benefit concert Sept. 27 on a farm near Neligh that is in the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The concert was announced Monday by Jane Kleeb, the leader of the “Bold Nebraska” anti-pipeline movement. Proceeds from the "Harvest the Hope" concert will go to Bold Nebraska as well as the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, to fund the ongoing fight against the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Kleeb said a number of small, community-based clean energy projects on farms and tribal lands will also benefit. The outdoor concert will also feature Nebraska musicians and a Native American rapper. It will begin at 1 p.m. in a farm field owned by the Tanderup family, who are among the Nebraska landowners who refuse to sell their land to the TransCanada corporation for the Keystone XL pipeline. Art and Helen Tanderup are also part of the “Cowboy & Indian Alliance," a group of farmers, ranchers and tribal members that demonstrated in Washington, D.C. in April against the Keystone XL pipeline. This spring, the Ponca tribe of Oklahoma partnered with the alliance to hand-plant several acres of sacred Ponca corn on the Tanderup farm — the tribe's ancestral homeland — where it will be harvested in Nebraska this fall for the first time since the Ponca people were forced to go to Oklahoma 137 years ago...more

Program builds minority interest in conservation

...Okwu, who is African-American, is among 26 students from a variety of backgrounds who took part in a program at the University of Washington this summer aimed at broadening the diversity of students who choose careers in conservation and ecology. The concern: More than 80 percent of people in conservation jobs — like the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and private groups such as the Nature Conservancy — are white, and come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Students who go into conservation jobs often have a passion for nature and a mind for science, said Sean Watts, director of the summer program called Conservation Scholars. But they may lack people skills or the flexibility to consider an issue from different policy and social perspectives. And because few conservation workers come from diverse backgrounds, they may approach a problem with a limited understanding of how different communities are affected by the potential solutions, he said. The program drew nearly 400 applicants, and Watts said the students were carefully chosen from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds — white, black, Asian American, Native American, Latino. Five were white; nine were multiracial. Some had parents who never graduated from high school, and others came from families where both parents went to graduate school...more

On the record with… Greenpeace activist Peter Willcox

You can't call what Peter Willcox does country club activism. In his 40 years of environmental work, he's seen a colleague die at the hands of a foreign power, and—a year ago—spent weeks inside a Russian jail for his commitment to his causes. In late July, Willcox, 61, was relaxing on the island with his wife, Maggy, enjoying a few weeks of down time before returning to his work with the international environmental activist group Greenpeace. Willcox captains Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior vessel. A native of Norwalk, Conn., he found himself in 1973 with a draft number as high as they get—No. 1—as the Vietnam War and draft continued, meaning he would get called up in the next round. A registered conscientious objector, he signed on to work on the Clearwater, the famed sloop that raised awareness about pollution on the Hudson River. The late folksinger Pete Seeger often worked and sang on the boat. Willcox and Maggy met on the Clearwater; he became captain in 1975 and she joined as cook. But it was only a few years ago that they married. After six years of sailing up and down the river, he wanted a change and joined Greenpeace in 1981. Rainbow Warrior landed at a Russian oil platform in the Arctic on Sept. 19, 2013 and the crew climbed onto the rig and hung banners. Russian officials arrested them and charged them with piracy, holding them in jail for two months. The Working Waterfront sat down with him in the couple's cozy island home...more

American Farm Bureau to Court: Stop EPA Privacy Abuses

The Environmental Protection Agency’s public release of farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information violates basic tenets of federal law, the American Farm Bureau Federation told a Minnesota federal court late Friday. The EPA surprised the farming and ranching community in early 2013 when it publicly released a massive database of personal information about tens of thousands of livestock and poultry farmers, ranchers and their families in 29 states. The information was distributed to three environmental groups that had filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The database included the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses, GPS coordinates, telephone numbers and emails. AFBF’s court filing argues that privacy interests are particularly strong for farming and ranching families, who typically have multiple generations living and working on the farm. The lawsuit cites a Freedom of Information Act exemption aimed at preventing federal agencies from publicly releasing personal information held in agency files. “We wholeheartedly support government transparency, but we insist on protecting the privacy of farm and ranch families,” Stallman said. AFBF, joined by the National Pork Producers Council, filed the lawsuit last July to block EPA from responding to new FOIA requests seeking information about farmers and ranchers in six additional states. EPA agreed not to release further information pending the court’s decision in this lawsuit...more