Saturday, October 25, 2014

Billionaire Businessmen Buying Up Mega-Ranches - NM Showdown

It was a showdown in New Mexico earlier this year, as two billionaires, both from Fort Worth, Texas, battled it out to buy two enormous cattle ranches. When the dust cleared, oil, gas and real-estate investor Bobby Patton, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, had won the 174,000-acre York Ranch, spending more than the $10.9 million asking price and outmaneuvering D.R. Horton , one of the country’s largest home-building companies. In a separate deal, D.R. Horton, founded by Donald Horton, outbid Mr. Patton for the nearby 292,779-acre Great Western Ranch, closing in July for around the asking price of $59 million. The market for large ranches is on the rebound. The recession and droughts dampened demand for wide swaths of ranch land in recent years. Dry conditions forced ranchers to sell off their herds, creating a glut that drove down cattle prices. Now, with easing drought conditions across much of the country and higher cattle prices, ranches that had been sitting on the market have started to sell. A boom in the oil and gas industry and current 2% interest rates on ranch mortgages are also fueling big land grabs. “It’s the perfect storm,” says Sam Middleton, a Lubbock, Texas-based ranch agent who is representing Waggoner Ranch. With 510,000 acres across six counties in Texas, Waggoner Ranch is one of the largest ranches ever to go on the market. The heirs of Texas cattle baron W.T. Waggoner listed it just a few weeks ago for $725 million. Mr. Middleton and Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International broker Bernie Uechtritz say “hundreds” of interested buyers have called about the property. Demand is particularly strong right now for mega ranches—those with over 25,000 deeded acres and often more than 100,000 total acres listed in the $10 million to $175 million range. Deeded acres are more desirable because they’re owned outright; ranches may also include acreage leased from the state or federal government, which allows them to graze their cattle in exchange for a fee. These properties typically have cattle operations, as well as recreational assets such as hunting, fishing or hiking. Some listings include mineral rights in the sale, which offers potential revenue from oil, gas, uranium, coal or other resources. Hall & Hall, a ranch real-estate agency that listed both the York and Great Western ranches in New Mexico, says a substantial part of its $1 billion-plus in ranch sales since 2012 has come from these larger properties. The firm has sold seven ranches bigger than 25,000 deeded acres since 2011, three times the number it sold in the previous four years. Buyers of these mega ranches are looking for income, such as a profitable livestock operation or fees from allowing wildlife-hunting, says Jeff Buerger, a Denver-based partner with Hall & Hall. More important, they are looking for a safe, long-term investment. The value of U.S. pasture land normally grazed by livestock rose 11% in the fiscal year 2014, which ended in September, from a year earlier, after averaging about 5% yearly increases for the two years before that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture...more

Friday, October 24, 2014

NMSU rodeo steals the spotlight in last rodeo of the season

The men’s and women’s rodeo teams of New Mexico State University rose to the challenge, taking top spots at the Mesalands College rodeo in Tucumcari, New Mexico, Oct. 10-11.

The women’s team finished in first place, while men’s took second.

“I am very proud of the teams, they competed well and finished the fall season off on top,” NMSU rodeo coach Jim Brown said.

Cody Mirabal was the recipient of the men’s All-Around award.

First place went to Josh Davison in saddle bronc riding, Zoe Billings in breakaway, Tyke Kipp in steer wrestling, Courtney Campbell in barrel racing, Sheldon Church in tie-down and Luke Webber and Garrett Hendrix for team roping.

Winners include: Paden Underwood in bareback, Casey Wood, Ryan McCauley and Tyke Kipp in saddle bronc riding and Channing Moore in bull riding. NaLynn Cline and Makayla Jacobs placed in breakaway, while Carter Blackmore and NaLynn Cline took places for barrel racing. Sheldon Church, Cody Mirabal, Jed Davison and Russel Van Soelen all placed in tie-down, Nicole Sweazea and Zoe Billings for goat tying and Trey Blackmore, Daniel Baeza, Russel Van Solen, Nicole Sweazea and Carl Sweazea in team roping.

“This was a great end to our fall semester rodeos and will be a great starting point when we kick back up in the spring,” Brown said. “Now we can relax and recover. We will continue to practice strong to stay sharp.”

The rodeo team has six rodeos left before they compete at home.

NMSU rodeo hosts the annual “Wild Ride” and the Frank DuBois Bronc Riding/Tie-Down Roping Event at the end of this month.

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

Heated Meeting - Management Plan Is Sought For Area Wolf Introduction

A heated meeting regarding the introduction of Mexican gray wolves south of Interstate 40 highlighted the efforts by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to push the federal government to create a management plan for the wolves. Winslow City Councilman Marshall Losey reported that the federal plan has no cap on the number of wolves and does not include any sort of plan for managing the population, including attacks on livestock. He noted that, according to information presented at the Oct. 15 meeting, Arizona Game and Fish is working to find a balance between the $28 million federal wolf recovery program and the concerns of local residents. “I believe they are trying to do the best they can for all of us,” he said. “I believe they are trying to help ranchers as much as possible to manage it.” Losey noted that the general consensus is that the program cannot be stopped and the wolves are going to be released throughout Arizona, so the best course of action is to try to establish a plan that will limit the population and provide compensation for lost livestock. “The thought is that there’s going to be a wolf rule one way or the other, so we better get on the right side of this,” he said. Game and Fish had previously reached an agreement with the Cattleman’s Association for a cap of 100 wolves, but the department has now asked to increase that number to between 300 and 325. According to Losey, Game and Fish officials feel that the federal government will not accept a cap of 100. “The feds have determined that 100 is not a viable number,” he remarked. Approximately 35 area residents attended the meeting, which was sponsored by Arizona Game and Fish, and of those around 25 were directly involved in ranching. Some ranchers were opposed to the release of any wolves in the area, while others agreed that the best course of action is to work with the federal government to limit the number of wolves. “Arizona Game and Fish’s stance is that an unmanaged wolf program will be disastrous. They are looking toward a compensation program for farmers and ranchers,” Losey said. “It’s a matter of trying to manage it rather than buck it.” The current plan calls for the release of wolves across most of Arizona, including the areas south of Interstate 40 in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is advocating releases to extend across the entire state as a means to ensure recovery,” Losey said...more

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oklahoma State suing NMSU over mascot likeness

Oklahoma State has issued a cease and desist letter to New Mexico State asking it to stop using its Pistol Pete mascot.

The two schools use a similar likeness of Pistol Pete, a character based on a real cowboy named Frank Eaton. Oklahoma refers to the likeness as Pistol Pete while New Mexico State refers to it as the Classic Aggie. However, New Mexico State doesn't use that particular logo anymore.
We have just learned that OSU has filed a lawsuit claiming it has exclusive rights to the character some call Pistol Pete and which we here at NMSU call Classic Aggie. The basic character has served as mascots for both schools — OSU and NMSU — for many decades. We were surprised that OSU took this step, but are in communication with its legal and academic representatives and are confident that good sense will prevail and that this court action will lead to an agreement that will allow both schools to carry on their respective uses of characters that are part of their academic and athletic traditions.
Oklahoma State said it was the first to have the mascot in the 1920s and then New Mexico State adopted a similar mascot in the 1960s. NMSU said it initially paid Oklahoma State royalties when it adopted the mascot.
Still, Oklahoma State would like the Sun Belt school to stop using it now 50 years later.
Oklahoma State University owns incontestable federal trademark registrations for its Pistol Pete marks. Based on Stillwater-area, real-life lawman Frank Eaton, the Pistol Pete mascot originated from Oklahoma State University in the 1920s and is well-known nationally. For more than 80 years, Oklahoma State has continuously used marks depicting Pistol Pete. The university is strongly opposed to any effort to infringe upon its trademarks and will take the necessary steps to protect its rights to the Pistol Pete marks.
According to legend, Eaton earned his nickname by showing off his shooting skills in Oklahoma and winning a legendary gunfight in Albuquerque.
For more Oklahoma State news, visit

No More Wilderness Designation

GRANTS – The Coalition to Keep Cibola National Forest Open for Multi-use meeting occurred two days before the National Wilderness Conference and Festival in Albuquerque. Protecting public lands while providing public access was the theme of both events. U.S. Representative Steve Pearce, State Speaker of the House Ken Martinez, State Senator Clemente Sanchez, Cibola County Commissioner Pat Simpson, City of Grants Councilman Edwin Dickens, and Village of Milan Manager Marcella Sandoval attended the “Wilderness Prevention Forum” at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Grants on Monday evening. Approximately 200 people gathered to listen to a three-member panel, Clayton Thayer, Kendra Brown, Les Gaines, pose questions to Cibola National Forest (CNF) Supervisor Elaine Kohrman and Bob Davis, director of ecosystems analysis, planning, watershed and air, Southwestern Region. Derrick Underhill, owner of KMIN Radio, provided live coverage. “This Coalition was established to protect all four of the CNF ranger districts,” said Gaines. “No more wilderness designations.” “We are interested in this process,” emphasized Thayer. “We have no other affiliations; we are concerned citizens of Cibola County.” He explained that the questions posed to CNF officials were based on residents’ interest in making sure no further access restrictions were implemented. Anti-wilderness advocates maintain that seven federal laws are already in place and no additional designation is necessary to protect Mount Taylor. Commissioner Simpson asked, “Is the budget not big enough to maintain the roads in the Zunis? Is that why we are shutting roads down?” “How many roads have locked gates?” asked Congressman Pearce. The Supervisor commented that Forest Service budget allocations had been drastically reduced in the past five years. “You have money to lock roads off but not money to maintain them?” questioned Pearce. “Are you mandated to hunt for wilderness areas?” asked Commissioner Simpson. CNF Regional Planner Davis, whose career spans more than 30 years, replied, “There is a mandate to review wilderness every time we update a management plan.” “Where did that idea come from?” questioned Simpson. “Congress,” Kohrman and Davis answered...more

Feelings Are Mixed About Wilderness Designation As Group Celebrates 50 Years

CIBOLA COUNTY - “It is the job of the [U.S.] Forest Service to ensure that our national forests are preserved, but also to ensure that they are kept open for outdoor recreation and resource development that does not harm the environment,” according to U.S. Representative Steve Pearce’s recently published opinion column. He expressed concern that some groups wish to directly affect the way ranchers and job creators work within the forests and claimed their goal includes the reduction of ranching and resource production. “Recently, environmental groups pushed the Cibola National Forest (CNF) to move forward with the initial steps of a wilderness designation within the Mt. Taylor Ranger District during the development of the new forest management plan,” noted Pearce. Furniture Zone 3 CNF Supervisor Elaine Kohrman explained that federal regulations require the Forest Service to evaluate areas for potential wilderness designation when revising existing management plans. She has repeatedly reassured community members, “We are very far away from deciding on areas of [wilderness] recommendation. This is only one part of the process.” Once the evaluation process is completed, USFS then makes recommendations to Congress, which has the final decision-making authority. Forest Service staff began revising the 1985 CNF Management Plan in 2012. The five-year process is scheduled for completion in 2017. “We (CNF) are at the first stage of a six-step process before any public land can be designated. I am responsible for making the final recommendation(s) to Congress if any areas are identified as suitable,” said Kohrman. One example of concern focused on area ranchers with grazing allotments in the national forest. One man questioned how a wilderness designation might affect them. CNF officials assured audience members that active grazing allotments in good standing would remain valid for use. Kohrman added that existing mining rights would not be affected; firefighters and emergency personnel would be granted access to deal with threatening situations; and valid in-holdings would be provided with access to their property...more

Sen. Reid quietly moves to block development of 800,000 acres in central Nevada

A bill quietly introduced in Congress would restrict mining and energy exploration over a sweeping area of rural Nevada, preserving scenic valleys and buffering a landmark piece of desert artwork. Sen. Harry Reid last month introduced legislation to withdraw 805,100 acres of federal land in Garden Valley and Coal Valley straddling the Lincoln and Nye county lines, a desolate area bigger than Rhode Island. The restrictions would not affect current valid land use such as grazing, but it would forbid the Bureau of Land Management from selling any land or granting permits for oil or mineral prospecting. Activities for new geothermal, solar or wind energy development also would be restricted. The bill would ensure the most significant feature in the 1,250-square-mile area would be “City,” one of the largest earth sculptures ever created. It is roughly the size of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and has taken its creator, noted artist Michael Heizer, more than 40 years to craft. But conservationists said the withdrawal would have a much broader impact, offering a level of protection to some of Nevada’s more stunning landscapes...more

What? No Wilderness or National Monument?  Just a simple withdrawal to protect the lands.  Guess Harry's not as radical as Tom Udall who, when he couldn't get his Wilderness bill passed went running to his buddy Obama and had the lands placed in a National Monument.

Sportsmen seek room for wildlife amid drilling push

Sportsmen's groups see the White River plan as a key opportunity for BLM to enhance protections for backcountry lands that nourish big game and imperiled birds like the greater sage grouse. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has mobilized hundreds of Colorado sportsmen and more than a dozen hunting- and fishing-related businesses to lobby BLM to set aside nearly two dozen backcountry conservation areas (BCAs) under the field office's jurisdiction, totaling about 230,000 acres. The BCAs would be managed primarily for wildlife and nonmotorized recreation. Oil and gas development -- wells, pipelines and new roads -- would be either banned from the surface or tightly restricted. "We want a tool that considers backcountry lands as one value in multiple use," said Joel Webster, who directs the Roosevelt partnership's Center for Western Lands from Missoula, Mont. "BLM has few tools in [the] administrative process for protecting special places." The partnership is mobilizing sportsmen across the West to urge similar BCAs in lands under the jurisdiction of BLM offices in north-central Montana, eastern Idaho, southern Oregon and central Nevada, among other places. It sees a major window of opportunity as BLM updates RMPs covering 123 million acres, Webster said. RMPs are the blueprints BLM relies on to decide where and how the public lands may be used, be it for drilling, all-terrain vehicles, hikers, hunters or wildlife. The sportsmen's effort comes as BLM also pursues a major overhaul of its planning process, a move aimed at updating RMPs more frequently and with an eye toward landscape-scale planning and mitigation...more

Federal Land Managers Agree To Collaborate On National Wilderness Preservation System

A unified approach to managing the country's wilderness areas has been agreed to by the land management agencies under the Interior and Agriculture departments, with goals of connecting more people to wilderness areas and completing wilderness inventories of lands that might be suitable for inclusion in the wilderness system. The 2020 Vision: Interagency stewardship priorities for America’s National Wilderness Preservation System was signed this past weekend in Albuquerque, where a conference was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act. As envisioned, the agreement is to guide the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey, all under the U.S. Department of Interior; and the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The document outlines interagency work and partnerships with non-government organizations for the management of wilderness. The plan emphasizes three broad themes: * Protect wilderness resources. * Connect people to their wilderness heritage. * Foster excellence in wilderness leadership and coordination During the next five years, the agencies will focus on four priorities: * Completing wilderness character inventories across the National Wilderness Preservation System using standardized interagency protocols and institutionalizing ongoing monitoring. * Fostering relevancy of wilderness to contemporary society by inspiring and nurturing life-long connections between people of diverse cultures and wilderness. * Strengthening commitment to and support of the interagency Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute to foster excellence in interagency leadership and coordination. * Conducting climate vulnerability and adaptation assessments across the National Wilderness Preservation System to improved ecological resiliency across broad landscapes...more

Environment Is Grabbing Big Role in Ads for Campaigns

In Michigan, an ad attacking Terri Lynn Land, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate, opens with a shot of rising brown floodwaters as a woman says: “We see it every day in Michigan. Climate change. So why is Terri Lynn Land ignoring the science?” In Colorado, an ad for Cory Gardner, another Republican candidate for Senate, shows him in a checked shirt and hiking boots, standing in front of a field of wind turbines as he discusses his support for green energy. And in Kentucky, a spot for the Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, depicts him flanked by coal miners as a woman intones, “The person fighting for our coal jobs is Mitch McConnell.” Ads mentioning energy, climate change and the environment — over 125,000 spots and climbing on the Senate side — have surged to record levels during the 2014 midterm election cycle, reflecting the priorities of some of the nation’s wealthiest donors, with Democrats now pouring millions into campaigns to match Republicans, according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising. The message that voters are receiving about energy and the environment in this election cycle depends on where they live. In Kentucky and West Virginia, where many rely on jobs in the coal industry, political advertisements from both parties have been overwhelmingly pro-coal. In states likely to be battlegrounds during the 2016 presidential race, groups like NextGen Climate have been airing anti-oil and green-energy ads...more

The black-footed ferret, once thought extinct, is again eating prairie dogs

Rancher Gary Walker squats in his cowboy boots and jeans and rests a small animal carrier against a black-tailed prairie dog hole before swinging the door open. He's careful to keep his hands out of the way. "These are little vicious guys, too," Walker says, with a laugh. "I just love 'em." The black-footed ferret inside is timid at first, and buries herself in the shredded paper of her enclosure. But with a little coaxing, she bounds into the hole, than peeps her head out to stare across 65,000 acres of flat, short-grass prairie that will be her new home. Her pink snout twitches. Her eyes blink behind a Zorro-like mask of black fur. If all goes well, this little girl and her buddies will live to be 3 or 4 years old here on Walker's Turkey Creek Ranch, located between Fort Carson and Pueblo West. They'll live in prairie dog holes, emerging mostly at night, when they'll search from burrow to burrow until they find a sleeping prairie dog, which they'll bite on the neck and asphyxiate with their slinky bodies. A ferret can live on a prairie dog corpse for about three days before killing again. She and the 18 others being released today could produce as many as four litters, usually of three to four kits, but sometimes as few as one or as many as 10. Less than a year after they're born, the young males will begin mostly solitary lives. The females hopefully will grow up and have families of their own...more

Rural Nevada Residents See Bank, Brothel Closures

Life in rural Nevada has its challenges. Jobs can be scarce. A full-service supermarket is usually 70 miles from home. And a doctor’s appointment may be a two-hour trip. For years the local bank branch has been a staple of rural life -- meeting the financial needs of farmers, ranchers and business owners. Now that’s even disappearing from rural Nevada, replaced by so-called smart ATMs. Washington Federal is the latest bank to pull out. The bank is closing branches in Beatty, Pioche and Hawthorne. All three were purchased from Bank of America earlier this year. Lynn Lundahl, division manager for Washington Federal in Nevada, says there just aren’t enough households to generate the income to make it work. Banks aren’t the only businesses that are closing in rural Nevada. Brothels, once a stable business, are facing hard times in some communities. In August, Angel Lady’s brothel near Beatty closed its doors for good, a victim of the recession. Mack Moore bought the brothel in 1997, and for years, business was good. He though it was a sure bet, making an investment in an 80-acre ranch, which included a brothel...more

No brothels and no banks!  

Surprised about the brothels.  If any business qualified for stimulus funds you'd think it would be brothels. 

If the feds owned 85 percent of every state like they do in Nevada, we'd all be facing the no dinero, no dames syndrome.

Feds Capture Accused Head of Cartel Gun Manufacturing Ring in Texas

A South Texas man who claimed to have been a U.S Navy Seal has been accused of running a large gun running group that also manufactured hundreds of firearms for Mexican cartels. The accusations against accused gun runner Jose Guadalupe De Leon come after more than three years of investigation into illegal gun purchases and gun smuggling which included a Dallas area gun manufacturing group whose members have not been charged in the matter, court records obtained by Breitbart Texas show. The investigation into De Leon began on January 2011 when U.S. Border Patrol agents at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge seized a shipment of 15 rifles that had been hidden inside the gas tank of a truck. Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives traced the weapons to a Dallas man who had sold the weapons to De Leon at a gun show just days before. The two men then met several other times to exchange firearms...more

Canada threatens tariffs on U.S. wine, juice and ketchup after WTO ruling

Canada is looking at slapping duties on iconic U.S. products ranging from California wine to ketchup after the World Trade Organization (WTO) found the country’s meat-labelling laws offside for a third time in five years. A WTO appeal panel ruled that a U.S. law requiring grocery stores to list the country of origin on meat products discriminates against Canadian and Mexican livestock, in a decision made public Monday. The Conservative government warned that it will strike back with punitive duties unless the U.S. ends the “blatantly protectionist” regulations, which its says are costing the North American cattle and hog industry more than $1-billion a year. Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz insisted Canada will use “any and all means” to get the United States to repeal its labelling country-of-origin (COOL) legislation...more

Native Women Aim to Make Waves in NM Political Arena

A record number of Native American women in New Mexico are jumping into the political arena, looking to win over non-Native American voters in races with statewide impact. For the first time in the state’s history, a Native American woman is running for lieutenant governor from one of New Mexico’s two largest parties. Two Native females are vying for a seat in the House of Representatives and three are seeking House reelection. Debra Haaland of Laguna Pueblo is on the ticket for lieutenant governor. Catherine Begaye and Doreen Wanda Johnson, both Navajos, are on the ballot for a House seat. Sharon Clahchischilliage of the Navajo Nation and Georgene Louis of Acoma Pueblo are running for reelection. Sandra Jeff, a Navajo and an incumbent in District 5, which includes Gallup, is running against Johnson as a write-in candidate after she did not produce enough signatures to be eligible to run in the primary. Seats in the New Mexico House are up every two years, whereas elections for the Senate are every four years. Although Native women have been part of the New Mexico Legislature since 1989 when Lynda Lovejoy, a Navajo, was the first Native American female elected to the House, this is the first time there are several Native women running and competing in districts without a high Native American population...more

Don Imus puts New Mexico ranch up for sale

A northern New Mexico cattle ranch belonging to radio personality Don Imus is on the market for $32 million. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the 2,400-acre ranch near the small community of Ribera and about 45 miles east of Santa Fe has been used to benefit children afflicted by cancer. The 74-year-old Imus says he is selling the property to support charitable foundations with the sale proceeds. He says he hopes to sell the ranch to a group interested in continuing the goal of benefiting kids. Imus and his wife founded the ranch in 1998. It has hosted children for nine-day visits during summer months. AP

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Federal Judge: Eric Holder’s DOJ Likely Defrauded Company of $55 Million And 22,500 acres

Judge England
In 2012, Sierra Pacific Industries was ordered to pay $55 million to the United States and transfer 22,500 acres of land to the United States government after the Department of Justice launched a massive lawsuit against the company. The DOJ argued that the company was responsible for a massive fire that destroyed 65,000 acres of land in California. Since the beginning of the case, however, Sierra Pacific has insisted that the fire started elsewhere and that the Department of Justice was being deceitful in their prosecution. Now, new evidence showing an outrageous miscarriage of justice has emerged, including the DOJ’s interest in gaining large “revenue” from a “deep pocket:” large companies. In other words, the basis of the lawsuit was not justice, but rather making money for the government. In a stunning turn of events, Judge Morrison C. England Jr. agrees that the appearance impropriety occurred. He has taken a second look at the case and ordered the recusal of every single federal judge in the Eastern District of California. He wrote in his ruling, “Based upon facts alleged in the Motion and accompanying Declarations and Exhibits, the impartiality of the District and Magistrate Judges in the Eastern District might reasonably be questioned… Accordingly, all District and Magistrate Judges in the Eastern District of California are RECUSED from hearing case number 2:09-cv-02445 and all related matters.” The same case was looked at by Judge Leslie C. Nichols earlier this year. He stated bluntly that there was not nearly enough evidence to pin the blame on Sierra Pacific.More, he called the government’s actions “egregious and reprehensible”...more

Commissioner pleads not guilty to charges stemming from ATV protest ride

A San Juan County commissioner who organized a ride to protest the federal government's closure of an ATV trail in southeastern Utah pleaded not guilty along with four others Friday to misdemeanor charges. Federal prosecutors charged the five men, including Commissioner Phil Lyman, with one count of conspiracy to operate off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles and one count of operation of off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles. Also charged are Jay Demar Redd, Shane Morris Marian and Franklin Trent Holliday. This spring, Lyman told reporters he organized the ride in San Juan County's Recapture Canyon to protest the decreasing access to ATV trails on public land. The Bureau of Land Management declared the area off-limits to all-terrain vehicles because off-roading was causing damage to ancestral Puebloan ruins. The county submitted a right-of-way application to the agency for construction of a new trail in the canyon, a decision that remains under review and is fueling frustration over a closed trail that Lyman says has been a thoroughfare for cattlemen and others since pioneer days. Lyman appeared in court without a lawyer, but U.S. District Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse appointed him one for the hearing. Lyman told the judge that the County Commission has an interest in the validity of the right-of-way and is willing to participate in his defense, which adds "complexities" to his hiring an attorney...more

Thousands of federal workers on extended paid leave

Tens of thousands of federal workers are being kept on paid leave for at least a month — and often for longer stretches that can reach a year or more — while they wait to be punished for misbehavior or cleared and allowed to return to work, government records show. During a three-year period that ended last fall, more than 57,000 employees were sent home for a month or longer. The tab for these workers exceeded $775 million in salary alone. The extensive use of administrative leave continues despite government personnel rules that limit paid leave for employees facing discipline to “rare circumstances” in which the employee is considered a threat. The long-standing rules were written in an effort to curb waste and deal quickly with workers accused of misconduct. And the comptroller general, the top federal official responsible for auditing government finances and practices, has repeatedly ruled that federal workers should not be sidelined for long periods for any reason. But a report by the Government Accountability Office, first made public by The Washington Post on its Web site Monday, found that 53,000 civilian employees were kept home for one to three months during the three fiscal years that ended in September 2013. About 4,000 were idled for three months to a year and several hundred for one to three years. This is the first time the government has calculated the scope and cost of administrative leave...more

These are the same federales that everybody claims do a much better job of managing land than the states could ever hope to...

Rugged ranchers or welfare cowboys? Dispute over grazing fees on public land rages on

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE, N.M. — The accusation is a blunt one: That ranchers who hold permits from the federal government to graze their cattle on public land are little more than welfare recipients. The response is just as blunt: Like hell we are.

The argument has kicked around the West for years, and it’s come into sharper focus in recent months as ranchers in parts of northern and southern New Mexico have clashed with environmentalists over the recent listing of a critter most people in the Land of Enchantment have never even seen — the meadow jumping mouse.

In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the mouse — which can hop up to three feet from its hind legs — on the endangered list. That has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to reinforce a gate along the Agua Chiquita in Otero County and erect barbed-wire fencing near the Rio Cebolla creek in the Santa Fe National Forest to keep cattle from damaging the mouse’s habitat.

“The livestock industry has enjoyed special treatment from the federal government for so long that our streams have been trampled to death,” Bryan Bird, program director at WildEarth Guardians, said earlier this month when his group filed a lawsuit just before the fencing was constructed.

Bird’s comment echoes a long-running complaint environmentalists have about grazing fees on public lands.

They say ranchers have been getting a sweetheart deal from the government for too long, pointing to fees charged by the entities such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service charging $1.35 a month for what’s called “Animal Unit Months,” compared to an estimated $16-$20 a month on private land.

They also cite data from a 2005 report from the General Accounting Office and say U.S. taxpayers suffer a direct loss of more than $120 million because of the fees.

“Ranchers have benefitted from a whole suite of subsidies. I used to call them welfare queens,” John Horning, the executive director of WildEarth Guardians-NewMexico, told New Mexico Watchdog in an interview in July. “I don’t really care if it’s welfare because the bigger issue for me is not that (taxpayers) subsidize it, but that we allow the activity to degrade so many valuable things.”

But cattle growers push back just as forcefully.

“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. “And it’s a tired old argument.”

Cowan says the price difference between grazing fees is misleading because ranchers have to pick up the costs for things such as managing and fencing their allotments, supplying their herds with water and absorbing any losses due to death and attacks by predators that aren’t usually incurred when grazing on private property.

“It’s kind of like you renting a house in Albuquerque that has all the amenities,” Cowan said. “It’s furnished, you’ve got electricity, all the utilities are done.” But grazing on public lands is like “renting a house that’s totally vacant, has no amenities … and anyone can come through your house and use the bathroom anytime they want … The price is low until you look at the amenities that don’t go with it.”

Conservation Leaders to Discuss North America’s Large Landscape Challenges and Offer Solutions

This week conservation leaders and policymakers are meeting to consider landscape-scale conservation initiatives that are helping to address some of North America’s most significant land and water challenges. The National Workshop on Large Landscape Conservation (NWLLC) on Oct. 23-24 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is a collaborative forum that will feature keynotes from conservation leaders such as Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Mike Boots of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. They join other notable conservation experts from the public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors, including USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and the former governor of Wyoming, Jim Geringer, now a director at Esri, a leading provider of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. Presenters are sharing research and insights that show how large landscape efforts are an integral part of our response to challenges such as wildlife habitat degradation, threats to water quality and quantity, losses of working farms and forests, and limited public access to urban, rural, and wild open spaces. The sold-out workshop draws nearly 600 national experts interested in large landscape conservation issues, which directly impact environmental, wildlife and public health...more

  "Large landscapes" - Sounds a whole lot like National Monuments.

Photographers sue to stop Grand Teton elk hunt

Two Teton County photographers filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C. Monday seeking to stop the annual elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park. Tim Mayo and Kent Nelson, operating as Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, target the “elk reduction program,” in which hunters killed 202 elk last year. The hunt also resulted in the shooting of a grizzly bear, a federally protected species, in 2012. The suit goes beyond hunting alone, challenging supplemental winter elk feeding on the nearby National Elk Refuge. The hunt violates a slew of federal laws, the suit claims, including the Grand Teton Act, the National Park Organic Act the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Nelson and Mayo ask a judge to declare the 2014 hunt illegal, along with the park’s “policy, practice and pattern,” of adopting it annually. The suit challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2013 determination that park hunters could kill four additional grizzlies by 2022 before Grand Teton would run afoul of the Endangered Species Act. The suit seeks reversal of that Fish and Wildlife “incidental take” number. It also asks for an environmental review, with public comment, of the park’s elk reduction program...more

Monday, October 20, 2014

US Ordering 34 Million Green Cards for Immigration Plan

With some lawmakers predicting a sweeping executive order on immigration from President Barack Obama after the Nov. 4 elections, one federal agency is already making plans to hire a vendor to crank out up to 34 million  blank green cards to accommodate an expected surge in immigrants in 2016. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has published a draft solicitation for a contractor capable of producing 4 million cards a year for five years — and 9 million in the early stages — that would allow immigrants to live and work in the country, Breitbart reports.  One estimate suggests 34 million cards will be printed in total. An official from the government agency told MailOnline on Monday a plan was developed "in case the president makes the move we think he will," even though the agency's Document Management Division isn't yet committing to buying the materials. Another official cautioned the plan was only a "contingency" in case immigration reform legislation passes in Congress, stressing to MailOnline it wasn't in anticipation of an Obama executive order...more

Court weighs gun rights (property rights) of felons

The Supreme Court is taking up a case that pits property rights against firearm regulations, with the justices poised to decide what becomes of a person's guns after they are convicted of a crime. The case, Henderson v. United States, is among three new cases the high court has agreed to hear this term, according to orders handed down Monday. It centers on Tony Henderson, a former U.S. Border Patrol agent who was charged with selling marijuana in 2006, and later convicted of a felony. Federal law prohibits felons from possessing firearms, and Henderson turned 15 personal weapons over to the FBI while his case was pending. Two years later, he submitted a bill of sale to the FBI, indicating that he had sold the guns to another man and asked the FBI to transfer them accordingly. The government refused, reasoning that doing so would amount to granting “constructive possession” of the guns to Henderson. By denying his sale of the guns, the government is trampling on his property rights, his lawyers argued in a petition seeking Supreme Court review of the case. “It allows the government — based on a statutory prohibition on mere possession — to bypass formal forfeiture procedures and effectively strip gun owners of their entire ownership interest in significant, lawful household assets following a conviction for an unrelated offense,” petitioners say...more

WTO rejects US country-of-origin labels for meat

The World Trade Organization has rejected U.S. rules requiring labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat identifying where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. In a ruling Monday, the WTO said the requirements put Canadian and Mexican livestock at an unfair disadvantage. In 2012, the WTO had ruled against the "country of origin labeling" (COOL) requirements, which Congress originally wrote in 2002. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rewrote the rules to win WTO approval. But Monday's ruling held that the revised guidelines still violated trade rules...more

EPA water proposal is stirring up Senate race

Sasse left, Domina right.
A proposed federal rule is muddying the waters in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race. Democrat Dave Domina and Republican Ben Sasse say there should be no confusion on the matter. Domina says it’s clearly much ado about nothing. Sasse says it’s clearly an attack on state and local government and private landowners. At issue are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed regulations to clarify part of the Clean Water Act by defining what is meant by “waters of the United States.’’ The proposal expands the definition of waterways and focuses on streams and wetlands that feed into navigable lakes and rivers. Critics contend the proposed Waters of the United States rule poses a serious threat to farmers, ranches and other landowners. They say permits could be required to till soil or fertilize crops. Puddles, ponds, water in farm ditches — even streams that carry water only after rainstorms — could come under EPA control, critics warn. Food prices could climb if farming becomes a field in which it becomes more difficult to remain competitive and profitable, they say. Domina said the doomsday scenarios are myths that prey on well-meaning farmers and ranchers...more

Domina, the Democrat, goes on to say:

“There is no question the proposed regulation goes beyond what existed, but the rule does not disturb agricultural practices that I’m aware of anywhere in Nebraska,’’ he said. “This misinformation is a disservice to people who will spend money and energy they don’t have on unnecessary consultants selling them services they don’t need to manage their businesses.”

Ah yes, the whole issue is a "myth" caused by "misinformation" and if only the rural heathens were as smart as Domina & the envirocrats at EPA,  they would understand.  

The real problem, don't you see, is not the proposed regulation but the evil private sector and those "consultants" who are scaring the hell out of us with "misinformation" just so they can sell their services.

We also have a little divide and conquer going on here.  If the proposed rule "goes beyond what existed, but...does not disturb agricultural practices...anywhere in Nebraska", then we should just keep our mouths shut.  How dare someone oppose something just based on the principal involved.

Sasse, the Republican, says:

“I believe in reasonable, smart regulations,” Sasse said. “The Clean Water Act has done good things. But this is not smart regulation. Farmers are scared.’’

Sasse is apparently one of those Republicans who believe our environmental laws are OK, we just need "reasonable" reg's to implement them.  In fact, the reg's must be "smart."  I'm trying to remember the last time I saw a smart regulation.  Experience shows that what is "reasonable" will vary from one administration to another and we'll continue to be stuck with this problem until the law is amended.  A "smart" Republican would know that.

Finally, look at the photo.  If I hadn't labelled them, which one would you have guessed to be the Republican?  At least some things are looking up.

Castrating conservative principles in Iowa

by  Froma Harrop

...Two fierce winds have made it especially thorny for conservatives to justify blowing huge sums on energy projects — for oil and gas in Alaska, as well as for ethanol in the Corn Belt.

One is the conservative respect for market forces. A boom in production has actually created an energy glut. The global price for oil recently sank below $90 a barrel.

The other is the successful conservative crusade to curb federal spending. There's less money sloshing around for dubious programs, as well as the noble ones.

"National support for the ethanol program is collapsing as the reality of corn ethanol has become more and more apparent," Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group told me. EWG has been a forceful critic of U.S. farm programs and their impact on the environment.

The ethanol giveaway comes on top of the usual bonanza of farm subsidies. But now, because of the ethanol craze, "farmers trip over themselves planting every square foot they can find with corn," said Cox, who's based in Ames.

The result has been fouled water supplies. There's also a soaring world price for food — and for feed, hurting pig farmers and cattle ranchers.

Oil refiners are also taking it on the chin. Today's big ethanol subsidy comes in the form of a mandate requiring refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into motor fuels by 2015.

"There's only so much ethanol that can be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply," especially as fuel consumption declines, Cox noted. The blend is typically 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.

The current flashpoint is a pending Environmental Protection Agency decision to possibly roll back the mandate. The American Petroleum Institute is leading the charge for that.

By the way, the one compelling rationale for ethanol was that it would reduce carbon emissions. And the blending mandate theoretically rests on ethanol's cutting those greenhouse gases by 20 percent.

Recent science shows that on the contrary, ethanol increases them. But no matter.

"The funny little secret," Cox said, "is the fine print in the 2007 energy law, which exempts all existing ethanol plants or plants that commenced construction from that requirement." In other words, all 15 billion gallons stay.

Ranchers Offering a Reward for Information Regarding Cattle Shooting

Nevada ranchers are offering a $20,600 reward after the shootings of about 60 head of cattle across northern Nevada since midsummer. Nevada Cattlemen's Association President Ron Torell says 10 of the animals were killed and the rest received serious or minor injuries. He says the latest case was discovered Wednesday, and the toll could climb as ranchers continue their fall gathers on the range. The shooting spree has occurred in remote areas over a wide swath of northern Nevada stretching from north of Winnemucca to Wells...more

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Grandma's kitchen

by Julie Carter

It had been more than 35 years since I first saw it and yet when I looked through the doorway, I could see that nothing of consequence had changed.

The kitchen, lit by a single window over the old single-basin sink, stood exactly as it had when I took my first baby girl to spend the day with her grandma. It was the same two decades later when that same baby girl took her baby to spend the day with his great-grandma.

Look around your life and see what, if anything, has not changed in appearance in 35 years and you can honestly say, "It looks exactly the same." I absolutely cannot look in the mirror and say that. Sure can't point to the pickup (or car) and say that. I have owned six or seven since then.

The house - I can't even begin there because I've moved more than a dozen times. Good horses and dogs have come and gone. So have the bad ones.

Fresh paint, a new curtain and new floor tile. That was all that was different in her kitchen. Except, in the interim, they invented microwaves so there was one of those and the old wall mounted rotary dial phone was gone. The table sat where it always was and the center of it, as before, was filled with napkins, condiments, a silverware holder and an assortment of other things deemed important enough to just stay there.

The old bright white wood cabinets filled the east wall broken only by the sink in the middle. The sink with its signature Rubbermaid dishpan inside and no cabinet below it, so a curtain covered up those things you put under a sink.

The cabinets went up the wall all the way to meet the 10-foot ceiling and the top row of cupboards could be accessed only by standing on a stool. The very limited counter space was always full of canisters, a bread box, dish drainer, percolator coffee pot and assorted packages of cookies and crackers.

Knick knacks, a corkboard full of keys, a big calendar and grandma-kind of decorations filled the walls. In any kitchen except Grandma's, it would have been clutter. In her's, it was personality, warmth and comfort.

It was her favorite room and she liked it the very best when it was filled full with family members of all ages and generations laughing, talking and telling stories. Stories like the one about how the refrigerator got a bullet hole in it.

As each generation of grandmas passes on, the matriarchal crown moves a little closer to home. My mom is a wonderful grandma who has many special things she has shared with her grandchildren. They will each have a little different piece of her in their hearts forever.

When the rolling pin passes, it makes us all put on life's brakes, look around and reflect. We take just a moment to ponder what legacy we are leaving for those coming behind in our tracks.

Aprons, cookies, hugs and plenty of sympathy. Good smells from the stovetop, bushels of apples to be made into jam and rows of jars of canned fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps mine, or yours, may not look and smell the same as the generations before us. However, there is something about grandmas that makes each one special to those who love them.

Thank God for grandmas. They keep us grounded in what really counts. Pass the cookies, please.

Julie can be reached for comment at

The tyranny of defying the Constitution

Practicing no borders
The tyranny of defying the Constitution
It is spelled I-M-P-E-A-C-H
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

Constitution Pledge

I, as one of “We, the People of the United States,” affirm that I have read our U.S. Constitution and pledge to maintain and promote its standard of liberty for myself and for our posterity and do hereby attest to that by my signature.

George Washington, Witness

            How many of us have signed that pledge?
            Of course, the answer is likely none, and … we can also be assured that not a single elected official has signed such a pledge either. They have pledged allegiance and they have stood for swearing in ceremonies upon entering their respective offices, but the process has long been ceremonial. There is no consequence for the breach of oath in dispensing with any adherence to the words of the pledge.
            It’s a token and meaningless practice, and … the historical impact is fully revealed.
            Fenceless borders
            The news conference announcing the second ebola case involving the health worker in Dallas was as discomforting as it was underwhelming. There stood the mayor, a judge, and the chief clinical officer from the Texas Presbyterian Hospital. Each took a turn at the mike attempting to select words that were meaningful and inclusive. They failed miserably.
            What was noticeably absent was any sign of the Executive branch of the United States.
There was not a hint of an official from DHS, CDC, OSHA, HHS, or a spokesperson representing the fellow who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Teetering on the verge of the greatest disease threat since American troops came home from Europe with catastrophic influenza in 1918, the Executive branch is missing in action.
It is AWOL.
While the president is discovering someone to blame, the crisis that could hasten our demise is loitering at our doorstep. Politically correctness is about to take us to the woodshed, and, this time, it may not be explained away.
Fences are prudent instruments of security.
I am not inferring all fences have to be physical structures, but I am inferring that fences of all forms serve many functions, and security to our Union is a most important example. Fences in this context necessarily equate to all borders and all border crossings which include access into our country through ports of entry that are land, water, and air based.
This president’s natural inclination to jettison our security elevates him to the most derelict among his peers in managing our borders in general and the southern border in particular. Perhaps a requirement of future presidential candidates should include spending a year in its shadow to realize the actual risks to our nation. Those of us who have fought so tirelessly to avoid another restricted access federal wonderland on that border know the implications of limiting American access while deferring to the demands of the environmental cartels for the outright expansion of opportunities for smuggling and entrée corridors.
His is blatant and hugely feckless leadership.
The ebola crisis must now be categorized in the same mindless quagmire of the litany of mismanagement debacles our country has endured over the past six years. In this case, it wasn’t the southern border initially, but it will grow to include that border. What can be characterized is the no borders crowd, through their chief executive, has opened the floodgates of outright threat to our nation through their demagoguery, political correctness, and inchoate criminality.
We find ourselves in dire straights. Just wait for the progressive news organizations to realize their lives might be in jeopardy as a result of their own complicit participation in this nonsense.
They will certainly dance to a different jingle.
Constitutional implications
Article II of the Constitution sets forth the executive Power of the President of the United States.
Since the implicit assumption the President would be a prudent man dedicated to the health, welfare, and perpetuation of our union, there was no clause specifically admonishing the office holder to follow the law. Certainly, there was an implied demand and that was set forth in the Oath of office in Section 1. It reads:
I solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Since his duties defer to the Constitution, it must be that document we seek understanding of how this president should act based upon his sworn oath.
In Article I, Section 8 powers delegated to Congress, Congress shall “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the Unites States.” As Commander in Chief as well as the executive officer of our nation directing the agencies charged with matters of defense and welfare, this president not only failed to make ready to receive the ebola threat, he failed to take appropriate actions to limit any risk of exposure to the citizenry.
Continuing in the same Section, Congress is required to “execute the Laws of the Union … and repel Invasions.” Regardless what this president and his secretary of Homeland Security have represented, his actions on our border have attenuated and impaired the security of this country. Those of us who live and work on the border know exactly what it means to be put at risk through the invasion of those parties who seek to do us harm. This president has not only failed to demand those security measures be enforced, he has placed us at higher risk in the matter of our ranch lands now under the footprint of elevated access restrictions through his executive order recently designating the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.
This president has further placed us in harms way in his legal action against the State of Arizona when that state sought to curb the flow of illegal human and drug trafficking across its international borderlands. Certainly, there is acceptance of the limitation of State rights regarding border protection, but when an invasion is underway, and multinational forces by the hundreds and thousands have now crossed our borders, Section 10 of the same article outlines the recourse. It disallows State defense until and “unless actually invaded …
    The fact is invasion of our southern border has been ongoing for years. A recapitulation of that matter appears in Article IV Section 4. “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion …”
We are witness to that failure.
It isn’t just the community of our border ranchers. Every one of us has now been placed in outright jeopardy on the basis of singular defiance and willful neglect of the Constitutional oath by this president. It is time this president and this Congress assume the roll of elected citizens who have sworn allegiance and oath of office to the sanctity of the United States of America.
 If each of you wishes to follow a scripted path contrary to the Constitution and disregard the matter of management of our borders, you have the ability to seek such a change through a prescribed amendment process. Until that time, it is incumbent on you to follow your oath.
As for the matter of recourse made more unappealing because of outright and ultimate political correctness, Article II, Section 4 defines the process for the Senate to follow. It is simplistic. “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The word is spelled I-M-P-E-A-C-H, and … it is pronounced impeach.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “America survives only through leadership that inherently believes in …us.”

Baxter Black 'Brand name beef'

ROADSIDE CHUCK — Delicious cuts of beef collected from scenic highways around the country. Flattened to the peak of tenderness.

COUNTY LINE CUTS — (A division of Borders Beef Co.) Steaks and stew meat with an exotic history. Green card available upon request.

PENCIL THIN MEATS — The closest thing you can get to jerky and still pay fresh meat prices.

HYDEN HARE — Novelty meats for teething babies and dog training.

NO FAT PATS — Ground meat from aged, exercised beef, supplied by Vold Rodeo Productions.

HOLIDAY HELPER — Pressed patties preformed in the shape of the occasion; Santa, a turkey, a football, the judge’s gavel.

SPACE FOODS — Shrink wrapped, unidentifiable portions intended to be served a long way from point of purchase.

SWEET MEATS — Chocolate covered chicken kidneys, beef liver or sliced pork tongue, expensively and individually wrapped in foil.

MARINATED MERRY MEAT — Your choice of brisket or flank steak marinated in the fruit juice of the day. Hawaiian punch, grape, etc.

CHURCHILL DOWNS SPORTS MEAT — A line of highly select steaks and specialty cuts from near winners.

Good News! CBS: 'Collapse in Confidence' of Government, Media

Appearing on Friday's CBS This Morning, Republican pollster Frank Luntz reacted to the latest CBS News poll showing Americans having a "crisis of confidence" in government institutions: "The problem is that the institutions that have the greatest impact on us, the CDC, the FDA, the EPA, those that are responsible for our health and safety, are the ones that have had the biggest collapse. In fact, in some cases it's 20-30-point drop in just the last 15-18 months."...more 

Simpson makes another run at Central Idaho wilderness

Rep. Mike Simpson is asking President Barack Obama to give him six to eight months to push for wilderness protection for the Boulder and White Cloud mountains in Central Idaho. "They're ready to move sooner than later on this," Simpson said in an interview with the Statesman on Friday. "What I've asked them to do is give me the opportunity to pass this in Congress." Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who visited Idaho earlier in the week, supports Simpson's legislative efforts. She said it would be the best solution to the complex Boulder-White Clouds question. "We'd love to see legislation passed," Jewell said. She noted, however, that "the president's not afraid to use his pen." At a wilderness conference in Washington last month, White House Counselor John Podesta said Obama plans to designate more national monuments - protection he can create with his signature. Podesta told Simpson that he'd better hurry if he wants to pass his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, which includes wilderness for the now-storied mountain ranges as well as incentives for communities and ranchers to support the plan. Simpson has been working on legislation to protect 300,000 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds and Jerry Peak area for more than a decade. It died at the last minute in the 2006 Congress and was killed in 2010 when Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, withdrew his support. That prompted environmental groups and former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus to call on Obama to protect up to 700,000 acres as a national monument, using his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906...more

Secret DOI sage grouse workshop infuriates House reps

U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Washington, and 17 other members of Congress sent a letter Thursday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell questioning the Interior Department’s bias and lack of transparency regarding the possible listing of the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species. “With less than a year to go before the department’s self-imposed September 2015 settlement deadline to determine whether to list the Greater Sage Grouse under the ESA, it appears that the department is blatantly ignoring or downplaying significant flaws and gaps in its own sage grouse data and science, and failing to incorporate recent data that suggests sage grouse populations are stable and not declining,” wrote the representatives in the letter. “We are also concerned that, at the same time, the department has set in motion a process to mandate, through revisions to 98 resource management plans, mitigation requirements which have not been deemed necessary or helpful to sage grouse that would devastate state and local economies and severely impact private property owners’ activities in portions of eleven western states,” said the letter. In the letter to Jewell, the representatives strongly objected to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Geological Survey joint October 22-23, 2014, workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado, ostensibly “to collect information from scientific experts” on various scientific questions on genetic differences of sage grouse. “In addition, the FWS recently confirmed that the few (were invited according to)_rigid, somewhat exclusionary criteria to participate at the Fort Collins October workshop,” observed the representatives. “It is concerning that the invited participants … do not include any representatives of affected states or state fish and wildlife agencies that have been working on plans to avoid a federal ESA listing. Non-profit science researchers (such as those from litigious groups favoring a federal listing) are apparently invited, while other scientists employed by industries or non-government entities appear to be excluded.” “Adding insult to injury the public would not be allowed to observe or obtain any information relating to this ‘workshop’ until well after the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service finalize their resource management plan revisions and the FWS finalizes its listing decision,” the representatives asserted...more

Sage Grouse and Oil Drilling Can Co-Exist, Says New Report

For the past five years the greater sage-grouse has been considered a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Also during that time something unique happened: the 11 western states with sage-grouse populations cooperated with the federal government and private conservation organizations and corporations to do everything they could to keep the bird off the endangered species list.  Why would they do this? The logic was simple: if the bird’s populations could recover or at least stabilize—and there was some indication that it could—there would be less need to protect it. Keeping the sage-grouse off the ESA would ensure that the Act did not close off some lands to energy development. One of the components in this was the identification of priority areas of conservation (PACs) for the sage-grouse (pdf). Although much smaller than the birds’ historic range, these lands represent what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined to be the most important habitats for the birds in the future. The process didn’t actually set aside any land for conservation or establish any new land-use rules. That would follow after an eventual ESA listing. Now a new report (pdf) finds that these PACs are of great value to the greater sage-grouse but not all that important for energy development. The report—prepared by Western EcoSystems Technology for a conservation group called the Western Values Project—compared PACs on federal land in seven states to existing leases and rights-of-way for coal, oil, natural gas, solar and wind development. It also looked at the potential of PACs for development of those energy sources. The conclusions: only 16 percent of federal land within the PACs had much potential for oil and gas development. An additional 30 percent have potential for solar development. Just six percent have wind-power potential...more

1491 - The Western Hemisphere prior to Columbus

Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact...Dappled across the grasslands below was an archipelago of forest islands, many of them startlingly round and hundreds of acres across. Each island rose ten or thirty or sixty feet above the floodplain, allowing trees to grow that would otherwise never survive the water. The forests were linked by raised berms, as straight as a rifle shot and up to three miles long. It is Erickson's belief that this entire landscape—30,000 square miles of forest mounds surrounded by raised fields and linked by causeways—was constructed by a complex, populous society more than 2,000 years ago. Balée, newer to the Beni, leaned toward this view but was not yet ready to commit himself. Erickson and Balée belong to a cohort of scholars that has radically challenged conventional notions of what the Western Hemisphere was like before Columbus. When I went to high school, in the 1970s, I was taught that Indians came to the Americas across the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago, that they lived for the most part in small, isolated groups, and that they had so little impact on their environment that even after millennia of habitation it remained mostly wilderness. My son picked up the same ideas at his schools. One way to summarize the views of people like Erickson and Balée would be to say that in their opinion this picture of Indian life is wrong in almost every aspect. Indians were here far longer than previously thought, these researchers believe, and in much greater numbers. And they were so successful at imposing their will on the landscape that in 1492 Columbus set foot in a hemisphere thoroughly dominated by humankind. Given the charged relations between white societies and native peoples, inquiry into Indian culture and history is inevitably contentious. But the recent scholarship is especially controversial. To begin with, some researchers—many but not all from an older generation—deride the new theories as fantasies arising from an almost willful misinterpretation of data and a perverse kind of political correctness. "I have seen no evidence that large numbers of people ever lived in the Beni," says Betty J. Meggers, of the Smithsonian Institution.  More important are the implications of the new theories for today's ecological battles. Much of the environmental movement is animated, consciously or not, by what William Denevan, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin, calls, polemically, "the pristine myth"—the belief that the Americas in 1491 were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land, "untrammeled by man," in the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964, one of the nation's first and most important environmental laws. As the University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon has written, restoring this long-ago, putatively natural state is, in the view of environmentalists, a task that society is morally bound to undertake. Yet if the new view is correct and the work of humankind was pervasive, where does that leave efforts to restore nature?...more

These 3 Players Have a Lot to Lose if School Lunch Reform Takes Effect

For many young professionals far from their schools days and a ways away from having children of their own, the battle over healthier school lunches seems of little relevance. But in Washington, D.C., the policy debate has become an all encompassing issue highlighting the intricate network of lobbyists, corporations and associations all with a financial stake in a policy that was otherwise born of good intentions. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010, offering $4.5 billion in new funding over 10 years. However, the details of the new program have yet to be implemented due to a growing chorus of criticism from stakeholders in various industries, combined with the fear that a new Republican Senate could gut the program all together. No one is doubting that healthy school lunches are a critical part of building a healthy society. The federal government first began subsidizing school lunches in 1945 as a national security effort after receiving testimony that many potential army recruits were being turned away due to poor nutrition. In 2009, the Department of Defense announced that obesity was the number one medical reason for turning away potential soldiers. However, the financial stakes involved are hard to ignore. In the 2009-10 school year, $20 billion was spent on food and operating costs in America's school cafeterias. Much of this profit is going to the large food companies that supply these schools with cheap meals in bulk, whereas schools themselves are hoping to turn a profit on sales from snacks and vending machines. As the debate wages on, schools are arguing that nutrition requirements are preventing them from making money off of unhealthy snacks. They are also struggling to break even with less students choosing to buy the newer, healthier lunches. As a result, food companies are making less profits, and are unable to now sell certain products due to nutrition requirements. To break this down, here's a look at the three biggest special interest actors with the highest stakes in this debate...more