Saturday, November 01, 2014

EPA: Climate change can’t be stopped, prepare for wildfires, hurricanes, rising seas

The Environmental Protection Agency released a grim report Friday that said it must start planning for the worst possible effects of climate change, and predicted a future world filled with rising sea levels, raging wildfires and more severe storms. All of these factors will combine to create droughts, expose humans to dangerous chemicals and create other conditions that will put the human race at risk.  “These changes pose risks for a wide range of human and environmental systems, including public health, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, freshwater resources, the coastal environment, wildlife and ecosystems, infrastructure, economic activity, cultural resources and social well-being,” the EPA warned. Skeptics of the theory that mankind’s actions are causing the Earth to warm have argued there has been no appreciable increase in global temperatures for more than 10 years. But the EPA’s “Climate Change Adaption Plan” took the opposition view, and said all of the worst effects are at least “likely” to happen, while some are “very likely” or even “certain.” The EPA said air quality will be affected by higher temperatures, more frequent wildfires, heavy precipitation events, more particulate matter exposure and worsened indoor air quality. Water-related changes will include more hurricanes, rising sea levels, higher ocean temperatures, and less access to drinking water...more

 A "grim report" is right...and released on Halloween and just before the elections.

38 federal agencies reveal their vulnerabilities to climate change — and what they’re doing about it

The Obama administration published a small library's worth of climate change documents on Friday, outlining 38 federal agencies' vulnerabilities to global warming and how they will address them -- as well as a separate and even larger set of new government-wide plans to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and achieve new targets for sustainability.  In sum, the reports represent over a thousand pages of climate change threat assessment and sustainability planning by a vast federal complex that collectively operates 360,000 buildings, maintains 650,000 vehicles and spends $25 billion on energy costs per year. In many cases, the vulnerabilities revealed are stark. The Department of Agriculture, for instance, sees "the potential for up to 100 percent increase in the number of acres burned annually by 2050" by wildfires, according to its new adaptation report. The agency notes that fire suppression expenditures have already grown from 13 percent of the Forest Service's budget in 1991 to 40 percent of it today, and says the service's other operations are imperiled by the continual demand to throw more resources at fires.The Department of Health and Human Services, in its new report, says it views climate change as "one of the top public health challenges of our time."...more

Strange, fanged deer persists in Afghanistan

More than 60 years after its last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs still persists in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan according to a research team led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which confirmed the species presence during recent surveys. Known as the Kashmir musk deer – one of seven similar species found in Asia – the last scientific sighting in Afghanistan was believed to have been made by a Danish survey team traversing the region in 1948. The study was published in the Oct. 22nd edition of the journal Oryx. The species is categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss and poaching. Its scent glands are coveted by wildlife traffickers and are considered more valuable by weight than gold, fetching as much as $45,000/kilo on the black market. The male's distinct saber-like tusks are used during the rutting season to compete with other males...more

National Park Foundation Head Resigns, Yellowstone Superintendent To Take Job Temporarily

Neil Mulholland announced his resignation Friday as president and chief executive officer of the National Park Foundation, a surprise development that comes just as the Foundation is entering a "critical phase" for fund-raising keyed to the National Park Service Centennial in 2016. Replacing him on a temporary basis was Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. Though some in the national park community said Mr. Mulholland was forced out -- "Basically, he was under-performing. He was asked to resign," the Traveler was told. "The word is the board was not pleased and this was a long time coming.” -- an announcement from the Foundation said simply that he had resigned, with no reason mentioned. While the news release included praise for Mr. Mulholland's work from Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and Ellen Alberding, vice chair of the Foundation's board of directors, the timing of Mr. Mulholland's departure perhaps could not have been worse. The Foundation, chartered by Congress to raise philanthropic donations for the National Park Service, is said to have been in negotiations with several large donors for multi-million-dollar contributions to the centennial campaign, and those negotiations were hoped to be consumated in November. Too, the public relations campaign geared to the centennial is expected to kick off in January. "This is not helpful," one insider said of the timing of Mr. Mulholland's departure. "You don't want to make any of your donors skittish."...more

EPA Director on Environmental Laws: ‘Enforcement Really is Democracy in Action’

EPA Director Gina McCarthy has praised environmental lawyers for their work, telling them “enforcement really is democracy in action.” “When I think about how effective we’ve been I keep coming back to the same reason for that effectiveness, it’s because our laws have teeth, it’s because EPA is empowered to enforce them,” McCarthy told attendees at the American Bar Association Fall Conference. “And its because of your work, your hard work to uphold the integrity of those environmental statutes. Enforcement really is democracy in action.”...more

Obama’s Border Policy Fueled Epidemic, Evidence Shows

The deadly EV-D68 enterovirus epidemic, which struck thousands of kids this fall, was likely propelled through America by President Barack Obama’s decision to allow tens of thousands of Central Americans across the Texas border, according to a growing body of genetic and statistical evidence. The evidence includes admissions from top health officials that the epidemic included multiple strains of the virus, and that it appeared simultaneously in multiple independent locations. The question can be settled if federal researchers study the genetic fingerprint of the EV-D68 viruses that first hit kids in Colorado, Missouri and Illinois to see if they are close relatives to the EV-D68 viruses found in Central America. Officials ”have to do the genetic analysis” to disprove or prove the link, Nora Chapman, an enterovirus scientist at the University of Nebraska, told The Daily Caller. But there’s already more than enough statistical evidence for American citizens to demand that scientists test the viruses to see if Obama’s progressive border priorities spread the dangerous contagion throughout the country during 2014. So far, that virus has been found in nine American kids who died from illness, has apparently inflicted unprecedented polio-like paralysis in roughly 50 kids, and has put hundreds of young American kids into hospital emergency wards and intensive care units throughout more than 40 states...more

DOJ’s Fast and Furious Prequel: Failed Grenade-Running Operation

The Obama Justice Department endangered public safety by allowing a renowned weapons smuggler to continue working for Mexican drug cartels even after the agency had more than enough evidence to indict him, according to a federal audit made public this week. As if this weren’t bad enough, the case is all the more outrageous because it involves the same preposterous strategy the administration used in the disastrous gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious. That once-secret program allowed weapons from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of guns which have been used in an unknown number of crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. In this case, the feds let an American named Jean Baptiste Kingery, who smuggled thousands of grenade parts from the U.S. to Mexico, continue to operate his illicit business. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) knew he ordered large amounts of grenade components from a military surplus dealer and figured he would smuggle them into Mexico to build live grenades for that country’s drug cartels. Instead of arresting and criminally charging him, they allowed the shipments to be delivered with the idea of tracking Kingery. Similar to what occurred in the Fast and Furious, the feds lost track of Kingery and his weapons. Another Abbott and Costello moment for the agencies charged with protecting the homeland. Not coincidentally, the Arizona federal prosecutor, Emory Hurley, who failed to bring charges against suspected criminals in the Fast and Furious debacle, did the same in this case. In fact, he passed up numerous opportunities to arrest and criminally charge Kingery, according to the federal audit, issued by the DOJ Inspector General. Adding insult to injury, it was Mexican authorities that eventually charged Kingery after he eluded U.S. agents. His grenades were used in major crime scenes south of the border and when Mexican police raided his house in Mazatlan, Mexico, they found material to build 1,000 hand grenades. This is material that was smuggled with the knowledge of the U.S. government...more

Three US Citizens Shot Dead In Mexico

Mexican authorities are looking into the deaths of three US citizens who were shot dead on a visit to see their father. The investigation is focused on a specialist security unit known as "Hercules", made up of former marines and soldiers who police hot zones for crime. Nine of 40 Hercules officers, working in the violent border city of Matamoros, are being questioned over the deaths of four people, including the three US siblings. According to a witness, brothers Alex Rivera, 22, and Jose Angel, 21, arrived at their father's house to find security personnel hitting their sister Erica, 26. When the brothers intervened, the Hercules men took the siblings along with Erica's 32-year-old boyfriend Jose Guadalupe Castaneda Benitez. The father of the three Americans, Pedro Alvarado, later identified his children from photographs of the bodies showing tattoos. Each person had been shot in the head and the bodies were burned - most probably from having been lying in the hot sun for so long, police said...more

Friday, October 31, 2014

Reply to Heinrich - The only one “seizing” federal lands is Uncle Sam

By Paul Gessing and Carl Graham

In a recent New York Times editorial, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich asserted that supporters of a transfer of some federal lands to the states are engaged in a “land grab.”
He’s not just wrong he’s inverting the truth completely. It is actually the federal government that has “grabbed” New Mexicans’ lands. In the past two years, Heinrich endorsed the federal government’s placing of more than 783,000 acres of New Mexico land, much of it private or “multiple-use” in two highly restrictive “monument” designations (the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountain monuments). Ironically, while any effort to return some federal lands to New Mexico control would require the support and buy-in of large numbers of state and local  officials, these two areas were declared by the Obama Administration without so much as a single vote in Congress. 
It is no surprise that Heinrich would support such a real land-grab as he is known for reflexively supporting the radical environmental lobbying groups in Washington. He has a 93 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters and boasted a 100 percent score in 2013.

Given the environmental group’s penchant for shoving local interests and traditional users aside in order to increase the size of the federal estate (consider it one-stop-shopping for the environmental lobby), Heinrich also vastly prefers federal control of lands to private or state control. 

First, it is important to destroy a few myths. The lands in question are not national parks or native lands. Rather, our efforts are focused on federal lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. 

Under plans supported by the authors’ organizations, no lands would be privatized. Rather the aforementioned lands currently managed by Washington would devolve to state control. Economically-speaking, the impact on New Mexico of state vs. federal control over these lands would be stunning: up to 68,000 new jobs and $1 billion in new tax revenues. These astounding results are not the result of “privatizing” the lands, rather they are from simply managing Forest Service and BLM lands as other state lands are currently managed. 

These jobs and economic activity would be a tremendous boon for New Mexico, which Heinrich represents, and remains one of the poorest states in the nation with little economic growth in the recent economic recovery. 

Lest one be led to believe that such policies are only advocated by radical anti-government types and Republicans, New Mexico’s current Land Commissioner, Ray Powell, a Democrat with strong ties to the environmental community, has advocated for having the feds return 1 million acres of BLM lands in the state in order to bring in an estimated $50 million to fund new early childhood programs.  

Democrats too understand that bureaucrats in Washington are too isolated and ignorant (no matter how well-intentioned) to understand the unique needs of Western states. 

Also, our efforts to restore state control over certain federally-managed lands are by no means based entirely on economics. Climate change is often cited in the media as the cause of recent forest fires that have raged in New Mexico and throughout the West. The reality is that poor federal management (or the lack thereof) is a major contributor to rampant fires. Going back to the Native Americans, lands were intensely managed. That ended when environmental zealots took control of Washington’s land management bureaucracies, eventually putting a stop to timber production and engaging in aggressive fire suppression that has caused a buildup of flammable material on forest floors. 

Of course, users of these lands who have traditionally benefitted from their “multiple-use” management are losing out as more and more of these lands are locked up as “wilderness” vast tracts of which are off limits to motor vehicles and non-recreational forms of human use.   

The reality is that Heinrich and his radical friends in Washington are the ones grabbing lands in New Mexico and elsewhere. Advocates of restoring state control over these lands are attempting to restore some balance and sound management policies when it comes to large tracts of Western land.  

Paul Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a free market think tank based in New Mexico. Carl Graham is director of the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of the Utah-based Sutherland Institute.

Legal scholars challenge underpinnings of Utah’s public lands campaign

University of Utah legal scholars released a white paper Wednesday concluding the state has no legal basis to demand the federal government turn over title to public lands. Some state lawmakers have clamored for the state to sue after passing a law in 2012 demanding the feds give the state 30 million acres by Dec. 31. Suing would not only be a waste of money, but also set back efforts to resolve conflicts over public land management, according to John Ruple, a research fellow with the U. law school’s Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment. "We recognize there are legitimate questions about how federal lands are managed and there is room for disagreement, but demanding the federal government give those lands to the state is legally untenable," said Ruple, who co-wrote the paper with the center’s director, law professor Robert Keiter. But the state’s legal point man on public lands, Assistant Attorney General Anthony Rampton, contends the U. scholars are hardly raising any arguments. State lawyers have examined arguments raised by Keiter and Ruple. "We haven’t seen a careful critique of it yet," Ruple said. "It had gone unchallenged too long and it’s time for people to take a careful look at the arguments that underpin it." He cautioned that the analysis doesn’t explore whether the state could manage the public lands better. But environmental groups cited the Stegner scholars’ findings in calling on Utah leaders to rethink their obsession with land transfer, which they say could lead to a fiscal train wreck if the state doesn’t sell the land to cover the cost of managing it. Led by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, many state officials have long argued the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are mismanaging their holdings to the detriment of both rural communities and the environment. Ivory, who did not immediately return an e-mail request for comment, has argued that the federal government has reneged on a "promise" to Western states to sell public land within their borders. But, citing the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruple says the Constitution’s Property Clause clearly "grants Congress an ‘absolute right’ to decide upon the disposition of federal land and ‘[n]o State legislation can interfere with this right or embarrass its exercise.’" "Congress has discretion to say they want to hand over title, but they don’t have a legal obligation. That’s a very different question," Ruple said. The "Public Lands Transfer Act is putting a square peg in a round hole." Moveover, he noted, the Utah Enabling Act, which led to statehood in 1896, required residents of the new state to "forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries." Rampton believes a careful reading of various states’ enabling acts contain provisions that support the notion that the federal government would give up lands. "There is no dispute that when Utah was admitted to the union in 1896, federal policy regarding public lands was that they were to be disposed of," Rampton said. "The federal government and the states, particularly in the West, recognized that the states would be limited in the ability to derive revenue from these lands. It was understood that over time, the federal governement would dispose of these lands."...more

There are "white papers", but more credible are peer-reviewed law review articles.  In a piece last year in the BYU Law Review, Chapman University law professor Donald J Kochan wrote:

In the end, there is a credible case that rules of construction favor an interpretation of the Utah Enabling Act that includes some form of a duty to dispose on the part of the federal government. At a minimum, the legal arguments in favor of the TPLA are serious and, if taken seriously, the TPLA presents an opportunity for further clarification of public lands law and the relationship between the states and the federal government regarding those lands. Moreover, other states are exploring similar avenues to assert their claims vis-à-vis the federal government and are in various stages of developing land transfer strategies that will model or learn from the TPLA. That fact further underscores the need for a renewed serious and informed legal discussion on the issues related to disposal obligations of the federal government.

Grand Canyon gray wolf sighting could be first in 70 years

A western gray wolf has been documented roaming the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, for the first time in more than 70 years. The wolf was photographed recently, but at the time of this post, as the news was breaking, the photograph had not been made public and the sighting had not been officially confirmed. However, the Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday announced the sighting in a press release.  The wolf was wearing what seemed to be an inactive radio collar, and the animal is believed to have dispersed from a pack in the northern Rocky Mountains. The last-known wolf in Grand Canyon National Park was killed in the 1940s. The Center for Biological Diversity points out that this wolf is protected under the Endangered Species Act, and cautioned hunters and ranchers against trying to kill or harm the animal. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a report by Reuters, is going to attempt to capture the wolf. If the predator is from the northern Rockies, where wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, it would have ranged hundreds of miles to reach the North Rim. There was speculation that the wolf seen on the North Rim might have been a Mexican gray wolf, as opposed to a western gray wolf. But those who have viewed the photograph have said the animal looked too large to be a Mexican gray wolf. The sighting comes as the Obama Administration is pushing to remove protections for western gray wolves...more

Group wants environmental reviews ahead of grazing

A conservation organization is requesting the U.S. Bureau of Land Management conduct environmental reviews before renewing 453 grazing permits that contain areas designated as important sage grouse habitat. Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project in a letter sent last week to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the grazing permits expire in March. The letter followed a ruling in U.S. District Court in Boise last month that found the BLM improperly used a congressional grazing rider to renew grazing permits in Idaho without necessary environmental reviews. "It's time for the BLM to take sage grouse conservation seriously," said Todd Tucci, an attorney at Advocates for the West who represented Western Watersheds Project in the federal lawsuit. The lawsuit only pertains to Idaho, but Tucci has said he could win similar federal court battles in other states. The letter cites grazing permits in Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, California, Colorado and Utah. The letter notes that the BLM's Rangeland Administration System database lists the permits as within what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified as Sage-grouse Priority Areas for Conservation. Fish and Wildlife is expected to make a decision by September 2015 on whether sage grouse should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The agency previously deferred listing the species. "If they see that trend (in population) continuing to decline from when they deferred last time, it will be hard for them not to list," said John Freemuth, a public land policy expert and professor at Boise State University. "But if the population is stable and conservation efforts have been ratcheted up, then they might be able to reason they don't need the listing." Tucci said decisions federal agencies take concerning the 453 permits will likely play a role in Fish and Wildlife's decision. About 60 percent of sage grouse habitat, he noted, is on BLM administered land...more

BLM fails to provide public records

When High Country News began using the Freedom of Information Act to gather official reports of threats against federal employees in the West, we didn't expect that the main obstacle would arise in one federal agency's headquarters. Our intention was positive: By examining and summarizing the incidents, we hoped to ease tensions and encourage more respect for the federal employees as they go about their duties in the field. So we were surprised by the poor performance of the Bureau of Land Management's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office in Washington, D.C. Its response to our request for public records can only be described as dysfunctional. We began our investigation in January by filing FOIA requests with dozens of BLM field offices around the West, because the employees on the front lines bear the brunt of the threats and harassment. Then in February, the BLM's chief FOIA officer, Ryan Witt, urged us to "consolidate" our far-flung FOIA requests into a single request handled by Witt's office in D.C. Witt promised that running it all through his office would be would be more efficient, but as it has worked out, it's been the opposite. A comparison illustrates the problem: We filed similar FOIA requests with U.S. Forest Service offices around the West, and by the end of June, that agency had provided more than 2,300 pages of records of threats targeting its employees. At that point, the BLM's FOIA office in D.C. had provided only 123 pages of records of incidents targeting BLM employees. For two months after that, Witt and the FOIA officer to whom he delegated our request, Ore Fashola, stopped responding to us. Finally a lawyer in Witt's office, Mike Sarich, helped spring loose several hundred additional pages in September. At that point, Fashola promised to send a "final" release of the main BLM records by mid-September -- but since then, we've received nothing more from that set of records...more

Grizzly bear numbers are stable or increasing in Yellowstone area

Fewer threatened grizzly bears are being killed in and around Yellowstone National Park, and scientists said Wednesday their numbers appear to be holding stable as officials consider lifting protections for the animals.  If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service eliminates protections, it would open the door to limited hunting in the Yellowstone region of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  At least 757 bears inhabit the region, although researchers say that’s a highly conservative figure. During a Wednesday meeting of state and federal wildlife agencies in Montana, scientists said a new counting method indicates roughly 1,000 grizzlies in the Yellowstone region, with the population growing zero to 2 percent annually. Twenty bears have been reported killed or removed from that population so far this year, said Frank van Manen, a grizzly researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey. By comparison, a record 56 grizzlies were reported killed or removed in 2012, and 29 last year. Most bears die following conflicts with humans. Those range from hunters shooting bears in self-defense to wildlife agents capturing and killing bears that attack livestock or damage property. The Yellowstone population has slowly rebounded and the three-state region now hosts one of the largest concentrations of grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states. Their range covers 19,000 square miles centered on the high country of Yellowstone and surrounding national forests. The bears temporarily lost protections in 2007 but got them back two years later after environmental groups successfully challenged the decision in federal court. A judge ruled in part that the Fish and Wildlife Service had not fully considered the potential harm to grizzlies from the loss of a key food source, the nuts of high-elevation white bark pine trees, due to climate change. Since then, government scientists have issued studies showing the bears have a varied diet and are not dependent on white bark pine. The matter is now in the hands of Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe, said Chris Servheen, the agency’s grizzly recovery coordinator...more

Florida hunters, ranchers challenge state's method of counting panthers as more wildlife killed

A growing movement among cattle ranchers and hunters is challenging the way Florida counts panthers, the state’s official mammal and one of its most iconic endangered species. More than 50 hunters and ranchers from all over South Florida flocked this week to a rare public meeting in Naples of the federal and state team guiding Florida panther recovery efforts. The hunters and ranchers pushed back against recovery goals they say are causing panthers to run amok. They told stories about fearless panthers getting too close for comfort. They said a burgeoning panther population is causing native wildlife declines. They worried that panthers killing calves will ruin their livelihoods. “I just wonder if we’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” said Collier County ranch owner Liesa Priddy, who Gov. Scott appointed to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She questioned as unwise the goal of creating two distinct populations of 240 panthers each, which would move them from the endangered status to threatened. Creating three distinct populations would take the panthers off the endangered list altogether. In the mid-1980s, Florida panther trackers counted as few as 30 left in the wild. A controversial plan to introduce eight female Texas cougars into the South Florida population is credited with restoring panther’s genetic diversity and boosting the population. A 2013 count put the minimum population at 104 panthers, and scientists say a steady increase has leveled off, indicating that panthers may have no more room to grow. Panther tracker Roy McBride, a Texas-based predator control expert who does Florida’s annual counts, made the case for basing population estimates on facts. McBride uses hounds and his team’s own expertise to find panther signs — scat, urine markers, tracks, panther prey kills. He then is careful to distinguish between males and females and time and distance between signs to avoid double-counting. “If we’re going to count panthers, let’s at least use verifiable evidence or nobody’s going to believe us,” he said...more

Accident at NM Nuclear Site Points to Cost of Lapses

Earlier this year, a violent chemical reaction at a New Mexico facility that stores waste from the making of plutonium bombs broke open a storage drum and sprayed the waste into the air, leading to the closure of the repository. Fortunately, the incident on Feb. 4 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, N.M., happened at night when operations were limited; no workers were injured beyond a very small radiation exposure, and only a very small amount of radioactive waste leaked into the environment. But the reaction, which forced the closure of the site, came as a blow to the country’s efforts to clean up old nuclear weapons manufacturing sites and has forced the government to take extraordinary measures to prevent a repetition. The reopening of the waste repository will stretch into next year and cost at least $551 million, according to the Energy Department. The price could jump even higher. The State of New Mexico is nearing a decision on fining the Energy Department for its safety lapses at the repository — the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, N.M. — and at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the plutonium waste was packaged in a way that ultimately led to the accident. The storage drum was one of many filled there as part of a cleanup campaign...more

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Editorial: Gerber never stopped fighting to protect our freedoms

    We are as stunned as everyone else at the sudden loss of Grant Gerber, an attorney who dedicated his professional life to maintaining access to public lands.
    He called us a week after his terrible fall to report on the progress his Grass March/Cowboy Express had made as it approached Washington, D.C. He talked about how he had pushed himself clear from his horse when it tripped, but landed hard on his head. He spoke clearly of the group’s hardships through heavy thunderstorms, and expressed optimism that their message was being well received.
    Then, more than two weeks after the accident, his son Travis reported he underwent surgery in Utah. Two days later Grant succumbed to his injuries after miraculously seeing the march through to its completion.
    We offer our condolences to his family, and are inspired by their unwavering faith through this tragedy. They have lost a father, husband and grandfather, but the community has lost a powerful advocate for justice. Grant died fighting for the rights of ranchers to use the resources they had invested in.
    Now we can only look back fondly at the many visits Grant paid our newspaper over the years, usually to let us know what he was planning next in his never-ending battle against federal regulations. He fought hard against unbeatable odds, but always with a wide smile on his face as he approached the next challenge.
    It all started half a century ago when Congress began to designate the nation’s first wilderness areas, including one right here in Elko County. Gerber stood up for those in wheelchairs who would be denied access by restrictions on motorized travel.
    He continued to fight when federal land managers ordered a rancher to remove a water pipe installed at Kelly Spring, organizing citizens who replaced the pipe and sealed it off with fence posts signed boldly with their names.
    His biggest battle came at the end of the millennium when a flood washed out a road leading to a popular recreation site at Jarbidge. The Forest Service placed a boulder in the road to keep traffic out, but Grant helped organize a party to remove it. That battle over road rights continues today.
    When wildfires began consuming large swaths of rural Nevada rangeland, Gerber fought against grazing restrictions because of the fuel they were allowing to accumulate. At this point he decided to use fire to fight fire, creating a character called “Smoked Bear” whose goal was to save all of the animals being destroyed by wildfires. Government agencies disagreed with his conclusions, but Gerber had used their own statistics to support his claims.
    Next came the threat of a sage grouse listing under the Endangered Species Act, and Grant was not one to sit idly by as the federal government began sealing off land from productive use. He organized projects to prove that more predator control was needed to fight the decline in bird populations.
    With all of this activity we were surprised a few years ago when Grant visited us to announce he would be running for county commissioner. He had decided to work within the system as well as from the outside.
    Whatever problem surfaced on public land, Gerber would come up with a potential solution and then struggle to make it work. For that reason, many considered him an agitator. Yes, he loved a good fight, but his motive was to serve the people whose livelihoods were gradually being encroached upon through federal restrictions.
    He genuinely cared about the people who would not be able to enjoy Nevada’s outback because of wilderness restrictions. He genuinely cared about the small number of residents in Jarbidge whose livelihoods were impacted by loss of access to campgrounds along South Canyon Road. And he genuinely cared about ranchers who were losing the use of forage that ended up feeding dangerous, pollution-causing wildfires.

New Mexico Investigator Offers Stern Wolf Warning To Arizona

By Tammy Gray

    Wolves are the main killers of cattle in Catron County, N.M., and are setting a record for the number of confirmed kills in 2014.
    Catron County, which borders eastern Arizona and is included in the Gila National Forest, is the site of the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. It was one of the first areas where Mexican gray wolves were released in an effort to reestablish their population in western states.
    According to Catron County Wildlife Investigator Jess Carey, the results have been devastating to local ranchers. In a report titled Mexican Wolf Recovery Collateral Damage Identification in Catron County alone, he noted that of five ranches he studied, two went out of business and a third did not restock cattle after 2009. Over the course of the study, the five ranches lost a total of 651 head of cattle valued at more than $382,000.
    “The negative effects to livestock producers caused by Mexican Wolves are a wide spectrum not addressed and/or ignored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Prior negative data and documentation of wolf recovery from other states were not utilized to mitigate the same negative effects of Mexican wolf recovery in New Mexico and Arizona,” he noted.
    Carey also pointed out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not take into account other types of damage to cattle operations, such as stress deaths caused by wolves running cattle, or loss of production by cows due to stress created by the presence of wolves. He noted that the department “demands that ranchers change their entire husbandry scheme to accommodate the presence of wolves; if the rancher refuses, no compensation is paid on wildlife services findings on confirmed or probable livestock depredations.”
    In addition, payment of claims is running years behind schedule and a pro-wolf non-governmental organization is in charge of processing the claims, according to Carey.
    He notes that he believes that the harm caused to ranchers is not only the result of the federal wildlife service and pro-wolf organizations, but also to a lack of coverage in the media.
    “The truth about the negative impacts to rural folks by Mexican wolves is never provided to the citizens of Arizona and New Mexico because of the failure of the press. The collateral damage to achieve Mexican wolf recovery has destroyed many family ranchers,” he wrote.
    According to Carey’s report, wolves quickly become acclimatized to humans and after a time do not flee even when warning shots are fired in the air. In Catron County, domestic animals besides cattle have been killed and injured, including horses, dogs, chickens and cats. The report notes that in one instance, a wolf bit the head off of a kitten in front of a group of children, and many attacks on domestic dogs occurred in the owner’s front or back yard.
    Wildlife investigation reports from Catron County reveal that between Jan. 1, 2006, and Aug. 30, 2014, a total of 143 cattle were confirmed to have been killed by wolves. That total does not include deaths deemed as “probable” due to wolf depredation, or any other animals killed by wolves. During that same period, a total of 29 cattle were confirmed killed by coyotes, bears and mountain lion combined.
    The wildlife investigation report notes that, “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service John Oakleaf’s study of confirmed wolf killed livestock found: for every wolf killed livestock ‘confirmed’ there are 7 more that are not confirmed. Example: one ranch in 2009 had 10 confirmed wolf killed yearlings and have another 80 head missing. This is consistent with Oakleaf’s study.”
    ...Carey noted that Arizona residents should take heed.
    “The folks of Arizona do not realize what is coming to their community. Most impacted will be the rural families. They will have their family pets killed, livestock killed, and have to live with habituated wolves in yards, on front porches, and confronting children and adults alike at close range,” he wrote.

The return of wolves stirs up old hostilities between rural and urban Oregonians


   In March, Rob Klavins and his wife, Emily, picked up their life in Southwest Portland and moved to Enterprise, a town with 1,888 people and zero stoplights in the northeastern corner of Oregon. Rob grew up in Wisconsin, a scruffy-bearded, sharp-eyed and talkative son of concert violinists. He fell in love with the rural West during his college years. He and Emily realized a dream when they bought Barking Mad Farms, a bed-and-breakfast situated in a century-old farmhouse with a wraparound porch and an eye-popping view of the Wallowa Mountains. 
    ...Settling in Wallowa County isn’t easy. Winters are brutal. It’s isolated. The county has eight times the landmass of Multnomah County, yet contains only 7,000 residents.
And it’s been harder for the Klavins clan, because Rob has a very controversial second reason for moving here—wolves. 
     Wallowa County is cattle country. For every resident, there are an estimated 10 cattle, many owned by third- or fourth-generation ranchers. Cattle are as central to the area’s economy and identity  as Yamhill grapes.
     And wolves are not considered friends of cattle.
    ...And to people like Klavins. In addition to operating his B&B, he works for Oregon Wild, a group that’s taken the lead in defending wolves. 
     “Wolves are captivating and interesting animals, to be sure, but I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily any more into wolves than sea otters,” he says. “Why is Rob Klavins the wolf guy? Because there isn’t a campaign against bald eagles.”
     Klavins has been harassed. Earlier this month, he was the first on a hall-of-shame list posted by the Oregon Outdoor Council, a hunting group, which also targeted leaders of the Portland Audubon Society and the Humane Society.
    ...Tensions between environmentalists and Eastern Oregonians are hardly new. Back in September 1994, an effigy of Oregon Wild’s former head, Andy Kerr, was tarred, feathered and lynched in Joseph during a conference sponsored by the local newspaper.
     Klavins has also fared better than the former owners of Barking Mad, Diana and James Hunter, who were harassed for hosting an Oregon Wild campout. They were denied a zoning variance to build a bunkhouse in a fight that had very little to do with actual zoning issues.
     “I liken this to building a mosque at ground zero,” a neighbor testified.


It's Time For True Blue Conservation


Aubrey L. Dunn, Candidate for New Mexico State Land Commissioner

On one of the walls in the New York Natural History Museum is a partial quote from 1910 by President Theodore Roosevelt, which in its full form states that

“[c]onservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful means, the generations that come after us.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, from our beautiful state of New Mexico, does not understand and does not agree with that quote.  That is obvious from his rhetoric filled op-ed and his rhetoric fueled attack on my campaign to be New Mexico’s State Land Commissioner.  Senator Heinrich’s drop into rhetoric attacks is misplaced, and the result is an attempt to fear monger people into believing that those of us that want to engage in real, on the ground conservation and local management of public lands are trying to steal them away from the public.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

True blue conservation is not done by those sitting at desks in Santa Fe or in Washington, D.C.  It is not done by government bureaucrats in federal agencies making one size fits all decisions based upon environmental rhetoric.  No, true blue conservation is done by the people that live on the land.  It is done by ranchers, loggers, hunters, farmers, fisherman, etc.   It is done by people that make their living actively caring for the land.  True blue conservationists like President Theodore Roosevelt know that when you use the land in a responsible manner, it thrives and will be there tomorrow to provide for us.  They know it will be there for generations to come.  

In contrast, the green movement, or environmentalism, is based upon the premise that the only way protect the environment is to exclude people from the lands.  That movement represents the single greatest threat to the preservation of our western landscapes, the wildlife and the people whose customs and culture depend on healthy landscapes.  A great example is the environmental push to end logging by abusing the Endangered Species Act under the guise of protecting the Mexican Spotted Owl.  20+ years ago environmentalists like or including Senator Heinrich pushed to end logging under the guise of saving the Spotted Owl, but it turns out that logging wasn’t the greatest threat to the continued existence of the owl.  The federal government now admits that the greatest threat to the owl is catastrophic wildfire, the kind of catastrophic wildfire that is created when you don’t actively manage the forest with cutting and thinning or prescribed fire.  The greatest threat to the continued existence of the endangered spotted owl is environmentalism that has caused our forests to be overgrown and has devastated rural communities.

That is what the debate is about in the West.  It is not a land grab.  It is a discussion about the idea that instead of managing public lands based upon environmental rhetoric from D.C. we actually engage in local and state management of public lands based upon a knowledge of those living on the land and more closely tied to the issues.  The destruction of our forests and the Mexican Spotted Owl is no shock to those communities that have existed on the land for hundreds of years; they saw it coming, and they told the federal government that this is what would happen.  True blue conservation would have averted this disaster, the kind of true blue conservation that can only come from those that live on the ground with a close connection to their local and state governments. 

This debate is not about taking the land away from the public; rather, it is about caring for the land through active conservation for the benefit of the public.  This debate is about realizing that the green religion that Senator Heinrich believes in is destroying our public lands and understanding that we need real, on the ground, locally driven conservation so that future generations of Americans and our wildlife can actually enjoy healthy western landscapes instead of devastated moonscapes after catastrophic wildfires. 

Fracking: In the path of the ‘shale gale’

The oil company had hoped that by taking only written questions from the residents, it could keep a lid on their emotions. But it was only seconds after the chief executive of Great Western Oil & Gas began the Q&A with the people of Windsor, Colorado, that the lid blew off. Before Rich Frommer could read out the first submission, Connie Reifschneider rose from her fold-up chair to interrupt him. “I’m shaking because I’m angry,” she said. The family-owned oil company’s plans would turn her neighbourhood of bike-riding kids, pastureland and wild deer into a health hazard scarred by drilling rigs, trucks, noise, dust and chemical pollutants, she said. “How can you and your family, with any conscience at all, disrupt and possibly ruin the lives of so many other families by drilling in such close proximity to so many homes?” Mr Frommer was already wealthy and his only concern, she said, was to enrich his family further. “Answer this please: when is enough money enough?” Passions over fracking are on the rise in America. A boom in US production of oil and gas from shale rock formations – enabled by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that cracks open the dense rocks – has upturned energy markets. It has been cheered by both Democrats and Republicans for making the US the world’s largest natural gas producer, reducing its dependence on Middle Eastern energy and creating jobs. President Barack Obama, a champion of action on climate change, praises fracked natural gas for being “clean”, because it produces limited greenhouse gases when burnt for electricity.  But the rush to extract more shale energy is bringing industrialisation to picturesque rural towns and densely built city suburbs, where horrified residents say fracking is anything but clean. In places such as Windsor, the industry’s growth is causing political fractures as well as cracks in the rocks. That signals trouble for Democrats and Republicans in the state, as fracking joins the long list of issues stoking disillusionment with government among voters. Next Tuesday’s midterm elections will offer more evidence of the problem...more

Enviro groups file suit, claim wolverines at risk due to global warming

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Montana charges that federal wildlife managers broke the law and violated the Endangered Species Act in multiple ways when they abandoned consideration of protecting the wolverine. A 38-page complaint was issued by the law firm Earthjustice on Oct. 13 on behalf of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Greater Yellowstone Coalition and six other environmental advocacy groups. The coalition alleges three violations of the Endangered Species Act: a failure to rely on the best available science, an “arbitrary and capricious” evaluation of the species’ listing factors and a failure to recognize threats to the wolverine throughout a significant portion of its range. In a statement the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance said best available science indicates that climate change “will significantly reduce available wolverine habitat over the next century, and imperil the species.”...more

Study confirms EPA’s proposed carbon regs will fuel spike in energy costs

New analysis predicts that compliance with EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations could total upwards of $366 billion. As jarring as the numbers are, they’re of little surprise to farmers and ranchers who have been warning that the regulations would greatly jeopardize the availability of an affordable and reliable supply of energy. The analysis, provided by NERA Economic Consulting, also finds that 43 states will have double-digit electricity price surges, with 14 states potentially facing peak-year electricity price increases that exceed 20 percent. Much of NERA’s cost projection is based on consumers having to spend more than $500 billion to reduce their use of electricity. Last June, President Barack Obama issued an executive memorandum directing EPA to put in place new rules to limit carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants. These two regulations set the stage for similar regulations directed at other sectors of the economy like refining, chemicals, natural gas development, iron and steel, livestock operations and pulp and paper. In addition to the staggering $41 billion-plus annual price tag, NERA analysis also finds that the proposals could shutter 45,000 megawatts or more of coal-based electricity, which is more than the entire electricity supply of New England. The proposed rules , which the administration has dubbed its Clean Power Plan, fail to take into account farmers’ and ranchers’ leadership in producing and using clean, renewable fuels, said Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation energy specialist. Further, while the administration’s proposals come with significant costs for all consumers, they’ll provide very few, if any, environmental or health benefits. “Unfortunately, this plan does little to address the problem it seeks to solve,” Walmsley said. “Merely reducing fossil fuel emissions without producing a measurable impact on world temperature or climate cannot be regarded as a success.” “Instead, EPA’s plan will affect all Americans negatively, and farmers and ranchers will be especially hard hit because of the energy intensive nature of producing food, feed, fuel and fiber,” he added. For farmers and ranchers in a large part of the country, coal supplies all or most of their electricity. As coal plants in these areas age and are de-commissioned, these proposed rules will prevent the construction of a reliable and affordable source of electricity to take their place...more

USDA to spend $4M on honey bee aid in 5 states

Midwestern farmers and ranchers are getting $4 million in federal help to improve the health of honeybees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday. The aid through USDA's' Environmental Quality Incentives Program would help producers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan implement conservation practices, such as seeding alfalfa or clover crops on pasture land. Bees play an important role in food production, pollinating an estimated $15 billion worth of crops, according to USDA. Their numbers have been declining at a sharp rate in recent years due in part to colony collapse disorder, blamed on a number of factors including mites, pesticides and habitat loss. "The future of America's food supply depends on honeybees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honeybee populations," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Wednesday. The government is focusing its efforts through the EQIP program on the five Midwest states because about two-thirds of the commercially managed honeybees spend their time there from June to September. The $4 million for fiscal 2015, which began Oct. 1, builds on $3 million approved in fiscal 2014, USDA spokesman Justin Fritscher said. The federal government also is providing $8 million in similar incentives in those states through the Conservation Reserve Program, according to U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, D-North Dakota, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee...more

Buzz, buzz, buzz goes your tax money, right down the rat hole.

And I'm sure we're all surprised this should be released in the week prior to an election.

USDA offers farm loans for socially disadvantaged groups

COLLEGE STATION, TX – October 27, 2014-- USDA Texas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director, Judith A. Canales, reminds producers that FSA offers specially-targeted farm ownership and farm operating loans to Socially Disadvantaged (SDA) applicants. "Each year, a portion of FSA's loan funds are set aside to lend to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers," said Canales. "Farming and ranching is a capital intensive business and FSA is committed to helping producers start and maintain their agricultural operations." During fiscal year 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014), Texas FSA obligated $52.2 million in SDA loans. USDA defines socially disadvantaged applicants as a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of the group without regard to their individual qualities. For farm loan program purposes, SDA groups are women, African Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Hispanics and Asians and Pacific Islanders...more

Hey folks, I'm sure its just a coincidence this "reminder" goes out the week before an election.

USDA extends dairy program deadline

Grapevine, Texas - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting, today announced extended deadlines for the dairy Margin Protection Program. Farmers now have until December 5, 2014, to enroll in the voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin - the difference between the price of milk and feed costs - falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer. "We want dairy producers to have enough time to make thoughtful and well-studied choices," said Vilsack. "Markets change and the Margin Protection Program can help protect dairy producers from those changes." Vilsack encouraged producers to use the online Web resource at to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation...more

Wow, another coincidence.  If I didn't know better one could surmise federal farm dollars are being slung around strictly for political purposes...but we all know the DC Deep Thinkers would never stoop so low.

Home Is Where You Hang Your Hat - 'Beef Daily' Photo Contest

by in BEEF Daily

On Monday, I announced a new photo contest hosted by BEEF magazine and sponsored by Greeley Hat Works. The theme of the contest is “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hat,” which is a nod to both ranchers and the cowboy hats they often wear.

We are asking for photographs featuring images of what “home” means to you. The entry deadline is next Wednesday, Nov. 5. For more information on the contest, click here.

Folks have already sent some incredible photos, and it’s clear that the definition of home is as varied as our readership. We’ve received images of kids, horses, cattle and beautiful ranch scenery. The sky is the limit for this contest, so send us your best! Two readers will each take home a Greeley Hat Works cowboy hat, valued at $300.

View the complete gallery of photos here. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secretary Of The Interior Sally Jewell Looks To Millennials To Push The Climate Change Agenda

Despite the partisan squabbles that seem to be consuming Congress these days, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has faith that millennials can make serious progress in American domestic policies. In an interview with HuffPost Live on Monday, Jewell said that because environmental issues are a priority for younger voters, they could help turn the tide on climate change. “My optimism rests with the young generation. The millennial generation cares deeply about [climate change], and they want to be part of the solution,” she told host Josh Zepps. “And they aren’t pleased with the elected officials in Congress. You see that in approval ratings.” With the growing influence of young voters, they will soon be a force to be reckoned with, Jewell added...more 

Watch the full HuffPost Live interview with Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell here

Nature Conservancy to buy 75 square miles of land

The Nature Conservancy is buying about 75 square miles of land near Cle Elum, Roslyn and Snoqualmie Pass from Plum Creek Timber Company for wildlife protection, outdoor recreation and clean water, according to a news release. Jill Scheffer, senior conservation director in Central Washington for the statewide Forterra group, said she was thrilled at the news of the sale. Efforts have been underway for many years by conservation and environmental protection groups to find ways to sell the land as a block to allow better habitat and wildlife management, instead of selling it off piecemeal, Scheffer said. The Conservancy is buying 47,921 acres of forest land in northern Kittitas County. The $49 million purchase is the nonprofit group’s largest acquisition in Washington and will double its holdings in the state. The project is part of a larger, $134 million purchase that also includes 117,000 acres from Plum Creek in Montana’s Blackfoot River Valley, for a total of 165,000 acres...more

Bureaucratic blunder of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

By Judy Nelson

This month President Obama designated 350,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument. This action was prompted by a request from Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, to create the monument by executive order because her legislative bill, HR4858, the San Gabriel Mountains Recreation Act, had stalled in Congress. Just seven weeks after Chu announced her request, President Obama signed the monument into effect.

Obama used the controversial Antiquities Act of 1906 to create the monument. This act allows a president to rapidly create a national monument without congressional approval. The designation was rushed through so quickly that the County Board of Supervisors, the mayor of Los Angeles and cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley did not have an opportunity to state a formal opinion before it was enacted.

The San Gabriel Mountains are a vital natural resource and have been part of the Angeles National Forest since 1908. U.S. Forest Service rangers have been protecting and preserving the area for over 100 years. The mountains are not in any danger that would require an emergency order of protection, and any isolated issues with trail maintenance, signage or litter could have been handled with an increased budget for the USFS or by volunteer efforts from local organizations. To create a new bureaucratic overlay with unknown outcomes and expense was unnecessary.

The mountains are adjacent to the greater Los Angeles metro area, and the new monument raises many issues regarding drinking water rights, recreation access and land management that would have benefited greatly from prior discussion with local stakeholders. However, when a national monument is created with the Antiquities Act it can be done without any public input, studies or reviews. It does not require a vote or written legislation. Now that the monument has been enacted, the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. is tasked with creating a new management plan, which is projected to take at least three years.

This is the 13th national monument the President has signed into effect with the Antiquities Act. This legislation was created to allow presidents the power to quickly protect objects or structures that are in imminent danger of destruction such as cliff dwellings, pueblos and other archeological ruins. The legislation states that monuments should be created from “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” Presidential authority regarding size was supposed to be narrow and limited. Large-scale designations over 5,000 acres, such as the San Gabriel Mountains, were expected to be voted on by Congress to allow for the democratic process to occur.

One of the major concerns with this monument designation is that the San Gabriel River has been included within the boundaries. The river provides approximately 30 percent of the drinking water for the Los Angeles region and several foothill cities rely on it for up to 85 percent of their water. The river allows many cities to be largely independent from importing expensive water from Northern California.

Unfortunately, we now have no written assurance that the collection of water from the San Gabriel River will not be restricted.

Judy Nelson is mayor of Glendora

The Mayor's concerns over abuse of the Antiquities Act, more bureaucratic overlays, water issues and lack of public input will sound familiar to the residents of Dona Ana County.  Unfortunately, Obama says he is "not done" with this type activity and he has 15 more months to wreak havoc on the West.

Could federal protection mire sage grouse conservation?

As federal officials mull whether to protect the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, some conservationists say a federal takeover would undermine support from states, agriculture interests and hunters. Putting the species under federal management, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to decide on by the end of September, 2015, could result in a backlash from states that have invested heavily in grouse conservation, several key players say. A listing would also cut funding from sportsmen and could undermine the Endangered Species Act itself, they say. Among those holding such opinions are an architect of Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Core Area Program and the former head of Nevada’s Department of Wildlife. Their opinions are not universally embraced, however they point out that the 11 western states where the greater sage grouse still struts have spent about $200 million in grouse conservation since 2000. State contributions amount to a 21 percent share of the projected $85 million annual sage grouse conservation budget nationwide, according to one research paper. If grouse were managed from Washington, D.C., states would be less inclined to pony up, said Audubon Wyoming director Brian Rutledge. Rutledge has worked extensively with Wyoming and other states’ governors and said he’s taken their temperatures. “It would certainly reduce the investment in the grouse,” he said of federal protection. The Endangered Species Act is better used to negotiate with states for improved local grouse conservation, than it is to impose federal management, he said. Some of the 11 governors would be reluctant to cooperate with their major landowner should the grouse be listed, Rutledge said. From 2000 to 2012, the 11 western states spent at least $132 million in grouse conservation, said Ken Mayer, former director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife who helped author a 2012 white paper on the topic. That sum is closer to $200 million today, he said. “When a species gets listed, people start walking away,” he said. Among those would be sportsmen and state game and wildlife agencies...more

Decriminalizing marijuana would protect national forests

For the Capital Press 

In 32 years working for the U.S. Forest Service, I have seen the Northwest’s national forests face various threats, from the eruption of Mount St. Helens to the drought of 1977. Today, our forests face a threat that generates wildfires, deforestation, pollution and wildlife poisoning: illegal marijuana grow operations tied to international drug cartels. In both 2010 and 2011, law enforcement found over 90,000 of their marijuana plants in Oregon’s national forests, and thousands more doubtless escaped detection. Our national forests face an epidemic of marijuana cultivation from the Siskiyou to the Wallowa-Whitman.

Many voters know that Measure 91, on the ballot this November, would regulate, tax and legalize marijuana sales to adults 21 and older. But Measure 91 is also the most effective step we can take to reduce the environmental impact from illegal growing operations in our public forests. Since Measure 91 would permit licensed marijuana farms to supply the legal market at lower cost, the legal supply would gradually replace the illegal supply from operations in our national forests.

Drug cartels recruit low-income workers with promises of high wages and mentions of tree planting jobs, not marijuana. Once in the forests, workers are trained, supplied and armed. They are then criminals, facing 10 to 15 years in federal prison if caught. While taxpayers pay $300,000 to incarcerate a single grower, the cartels have no trouble recruiting replacement workers.

The growers hide in remote areas of the forests, generating plenty of flammable slash as they clear trees for their grows. They use generators, car batteries, pumps and stoves. They are concerned with avoiding detection and staying out of prison, not taking precautions against forest fires. Between 2006 and 2011, illegal growers in California started wildfires that burned 93,535 acres at a cost of $35 million.

Growers have every incentive to maximize their harvest at the expense of wildlife. They draw water from nearby creeks and rivers and pollute them with chemicals. These are the water sources from which we catch steelhead and salmon for our families to eat. Growers also douse plants with rodenticides that kill rodents and their predators, including the Pacific fisher and Northern spotted owl. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researcher found that in forests near marijuana grow sites, 80 percent of fishers and 40 percent of owls tested positive for rodenticide.

Rich Fairbanks of Jackson County, Ore., worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 32 years, mostly as a firefighter and fire prevention. For the last two years he taught fire behavior to inmate fire crews.

Feds analyzing comments on proposed Idaho wolf, coyote derby

Federal officials are going through some 38,000 comments concerning a proposed wolf- and coyote-hunting derby on public land in the east-central part of the state. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s extended comment period ended last Thursday concerning Idaho for Wildlife’s request for a Jan. 2-4 competitive event near Salmon. If the agency grants the permit it will be good for additional derbies for five years. BLM officials are analyzing the impacts of an estimated 500 hunters on about 3 million acres of BLM land over a three-day period. Spokeswoman Sarah Wheeler tells KIFI-TV that the agency expects to make a decision next week. The event last winter was held on U.S. Forest Service land and private land.  AP

Reversing Course on Beavers

Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate. Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new, rich soil. And perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away. Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which also serves as their lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones, usually working at night. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance and protects the beavers from predators. This pooling of water leads to a cascade of ecological changes. The pond nourishes young willows, aspens and other trees — prime beaver food — and provides a haven for fish that like slow-flowing water. The growth of grass and shrubs alongside the pond improves habitat for songbirds, deer and elk. Moreover, because dams raise underground water levels, they increase water supplies and substantially lower the cost of pumping groundwater for farming. And they help protect fish imperiled by rising water temperatures in rivers. The deep pools formed by beaver dams, with cooler water at the bottom, are “outstanding rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon,” said Michael M. Pollock, a fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, who has studied the ecological effects of beaver dams for 20 years...more

Fire Shelter Inventor Says New Design Will Save Lives On Front Lines Of Wildfires

The inventor of a new fire shelter says his design is going to save lives as the last line of defense on the front lines of a wildfire. More than a year ago, 19 firefighters who were part of an elite hotshot crew lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona when their fire shelters couldn’t withstand the inferno. Ever since that tragedy, Jim Moseley has worked to come up with a better fire shelter. The Arizona inventor believes his solution, which includes technology from NASA’s space shuttle, seems to hold strong. He says the blanket can withstand head up to 3,000 degrees, which would be three times more effective than firefighters’ current gear. “I was at the Reno Fire Show last week and most of the fire chiefs on the West Coast were completely blown away.,” he said. He says the U.S. Forest Service is currently testing his product...more