Friday, November 07, 2014

Gartersnake protection lawsuit to cite grazing (Az. & NM)

It has been four months since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared two southwestern aquatic snakes threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Now, the Center for Biological Diversity has announced that it intends to sue the federal agency over its management of livestock grazing permits, saying they threaten the two listed snakes, the northern Mexican gartersnake and the narrow-headed gartersnake. The snakes are native to New Mexico and Arizona. In a letter to the Forest Service issued Tuesday, the Center argued that livestock grazing threatens the narrow-headed gartersnake and the northern Mexican gartersnake by damaging the riparian areas those species call home. It continues that the Forest Service has failed to consult federal biologists in its management of those allotments, a process that is required because the snakes are now listed as threatened. But while grazing may be one factor in the snakes’ decline, scientists who have studied the species for years say it’s much less of a threat than invasive species that eat the snakes’ babies and alter their habitat. “The overwhelming effects (to the snakes) have to do with nonnative species,” said Philip Rosen, an assistant research scientist at the University of Arizona who has studied the snakes since 1985. “(Grazing is) definitely an impact but compared to the exotic species problem I would say it’s almost insignificant.” But the potential impacts of livestock grazing are imminent, the Center said in a press release about its intent to sue. Cattle trample and eat streamside vegetation and degrade water quality, the Center argued. Its letter names 170 permits that cover parcels where livestock grazing occurs within, adjacent to or immediately upstream of the snakes’ habitat. The parcels span six national forests across Arizona and New Mexico, including the Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Prescott national forests...more

New Global Warming Remedy: Turning Rangelands into Carbon-Sucking Vacuums

Studies conducted on a ranch in the heart of Marin County and led by UC Berkeley researchers and alums seem to confirm what home gardeners have long suspected: Compost really can save the world. That sounds hyperbolic, of course. But research led by Whendee Silver of Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management concludes that a judicious scattering of finished compost on our rangelands could lock up gigatons of atmospheric carbon, preventing it from heating up the planet and contributing to such unpleasantness as prolonged drought, polar ice cap loss, sea level rise and ocean acidification. What kind of numbers are we talking about? If a quarter-inch to one-half inch layer of compost were applied to 5 percent of California’s rangelands, it would sequester 28 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere—the equivalent to the annual emissions of 6 million cars. That certainly sounds too good to be true. And yet, the published papers and support in the scientific community indicate that it’s the real deal...more

 OK, but I'll bet it plays hell with the gartersnakes.

Desert Bald Eagles Get no Special Protection

A few hundred, eminently adaptable bald eagles did not become a "distinct population segment" when they took up residence in the Sonoran Desert, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge David Campbell granted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's cross-motion for summary judgment in the case filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. The bald eagle is a "habitat generalist" that can survive almost anywhere, and the Sonoran Desert represents only a "minute fraction of the total suitable habitat for bald eagles throughout their range," Campbell wrote. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service largely removed the raptor from Endangered Species Act protections in 2007, hailing it as one of the law's greatest success stories. In the Lower 48 states, the bald eagle came back from fewer than 500 breeding pairs in 1963 to nearly 10,000 breeding pairs in 2007.  "Bald eagles are highly adaptable, wide-ranging habitat generalists," Campbell wrote. "Across the range of the species, there is no 'usual' ecological setting, in terms of the elevation, temperature, prey species, nest tree species, or type of water source." Noting that bald eagles have "been documented to nest on cliffs, on the ground, in mangroves, in caves, and in man-made structures such as cell-phone towers," Campbell agreed with the government that the desert eagle cannot be considered vital to the greater species "merely because it lives in the desert."...more

Jim Inhofe in line for Senate's top environmental job

The Senate’s top environmental job is set to fall to Jim Inhofe, one of the biggest names in US climate denial, but campaigners say Barack Obama will fight to protect his global warming agenda. Oklahoma Republican Inhofe has been denying the science behind climate change for 20 years – long before it became a cause for the conservative tea party wing. Following midterm elections which saw the Republicans take control of the senate, he is now expected to become the chairman of the senate environment and public works committee. However, advocates believe Obama will work to protect his signature power plant rules from Republican attacks, and to live up to his earlier commitments to a global deal on fight climate change. Obama will get a chance to show he is still committed to fighting climate change during a trip to Beijing next week, where the US and Chinese are expected to announce new energy co-operation. Extracting a pledge from China to cut emissions is hugely important now for Obama, who faces growing pressure from Republicans to demonstrate that other countries beyond the US – especially the high-emissions, rising economies – are acting on climate change. Obama is going to feel that pressure the most from Congress. With his opponents now in control of both houses, the top slot on the Senate’s environment and public works committee passes from a climate defender, the California Democrat, Barbara Boxer, to Inhofe. He published a book in 2012 calling global warming a hoax, and has compared the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Gestapo...more

Better get ready EPA, cuz Senator Inhofe doesn't play nice-nice.

Senator Hatch of Utah to be president pro tempore

Sen. Orrin Hatch wasn’t on the ballot this week, but he won a grand prize nonetheless. As the senior Republican in the Senate, Hatch will earn a new title when the GOP takes back control of the upper chamber in January: Senate president pro tempore. It’s a position that comes with a variety of new powers and new perks, like being a few heartbeats away from being commander in chief. "It’s a constitutional post," says Senate Historian Donald Ritchie, "and it’s in the line of presidential succession, which is not to be sneezed at." Senate majority leader, by the way, isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, but Hatch’s soon-to-be gig is. The president pro tempore — meaning "for the time being" in Latin — signs legislation passed by the Senate, appoints people to various commissions and boards and is responsible to ensure there’s a presiding officer on the dais in the chamber whenever the Senate is in session...more

Northern Colorado reservoirs have highest storage levels recorded

Northern Colorado cities, farmers and industries have plenty of water stored up this fall. The Greeley Tribune reported Thursday the Colorado-Big Thompson Project has the highest storage levels on record. Colorado-Big Thompson supplies water to Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Lafayette, Longmont and Louisville. It also supplies northeastern Colorado farmers and smaller communities. The project has 12 reservoirs including Granby, Carter and Horsetooth. Officials of Northern Water, which manages the Colorado-Big Thompson project, say the abundance came from a wet spring and summer and from the 2013 flood.  AP

Cow Prices Jump Over the Moon

U.S. cattle prices are surging again, a fresh blow to consumers already stung by record costs for steaks and ground beef. Live-cattle futures leapt to an all-time high of $1.705 a pound last week, reflecting concerns that domestic cattle supplies are even tighter than many analysts expected. Futures have risen 11% since mid-August and 23% for the year, among the best-performing U.S. commodities. Analysts said the latest jump in cattle prices likely would be passed along to grocery shoppers in the next few months. That would push up retail fresh-beef prices that soared to a record $5.924 a pound in September, a 20% increase over a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cattle and beef prices have spiked in the past several years as drought in the southern U.S. Great Plains dried out pastures and raised costs for hay and other feed, forcing ranchers to cull herds. Now, weather conditions are improving, prompting ranchers to hold on to more breeding animals in order to expand herds. While the rebuilding efforts could ease supply constraints in coming years, they are curtailing the number of cattle moving through the supply chain now. U.S. beef production will tumble 5.3% this year, to 24.4 billion pounds, the USDA estimates, a shortfall that is driving up beef costs for restaurants, grocery stores and food-service companies. “It’s a nightmare,” said Andy Wiederhorn, chief executive of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based burger chain Fatburger North America Inc. “The forecasts for beef have been consistently wrong and price increases significantly higher” than expected earlier in the year. Fatburger, which has about 150 restaurants in 30 countries, has raised some burger prices this year, generally by 25 to 50 cents, in an effort to keep the closely held company’s profit margins stable, Mr. Wiederhorn said. On Thursday, live-cattle futures rose 0.15 cent, or 0.1%, to $1.6535 a pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, about five cents shy of last week’s record...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1319

Staying with our recent inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, here's another Hank Cochran song, George Strait's 1985 recording of The Chair

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Murkowski readies for reins of Senate Energy

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is gearing up to take control of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as the balance of power shifts to Republicans next year. A Senate Energy committee under Murkowski may not seem a drastic change from one under Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on its face, as both lawmakers support fossil fuels and expanded drilling, but Murkowski will have an easier time rallying her Republican colleagues behind her than Landrieu did liberal Democrats. Dillon said Murkowski will run the committee under the rules of regular order, as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged on the floor if he is voted majority leader. “That will be a big improvement over the way the floor operates now,” Dillion said. With Murkowski at the helm, Dillion stressed, the committee and entire upper chamber could push through bills that “never saw the light of day under Democratic leadership.” “The current gridlock on the Senate floor means there are going to be bills left over from this Congress that could get bipartisan support if they were processed under regular order,” Dillion said. “Those bills are candidates for early consideration.” Dillion didn’t specify which legislation Murkowski would like to work on first, but Keystone XL, natural gas exports and expanding offshore and onshore drilling will likely be priorities for her and Republicans. Murkowski is also expected to use her new position as head of the committee to advance the conversation on lifting a decades-old ban on crude oil exports. Finally, Murkowski's new power will allow her to fight for a proposed Alaskan road through a federal wildlife refuge. The ongoing battle over the road with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has intensified in the last year. “The committee under Democratic leadership has shown a reluctance for conducting oversight of this administration — that is something Sen. Murkowski believes needs to change,” Dillon said. Also notable is the second gavel Murkowski will wield on the Appropriation's subcommittee that controls Interior's budget. Using her second gavel, Murkowski can push bills that tighten finances for Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies critical to the president's climate agenda. There is also a strong possibility McConnell will tether anti-EPA riders to bills flowing through the subcommittee...more

No mention of amending the Endangered Species Act?  315 million acres (and still counting) of private and federal lands designated as Critical Habitat and its not even on their list?  Nothing mentioned about amending the Antiquities Act?  13 monuments that include 260 million acres of land and water designated by Obama with the stroke of his pen and that's not high on their list? Oil drilling, a pipeline and a road is all we can look forward to?  Then there's those "bipartisan" bills that are "candidates for early consideration" which could very well mean more Wilderness.  So far, not so good.

Ecosystem expert says landowners key to saving endangered species

When it comes to managing nature, humans aren’t naturals. “We have this idea that if you just took your hands off the system, put a fence around what you want to conserve, it would go back to a natural state,” said Paul Robbins, a University of Wisconsin-Madison geographer and natural resource management scholar. “But everything inside the fence is going to change anyway. It turns out, if you don’t want things to change, you have to do lots of things instead of not doing things.” That’s especially true where wild animals are involved. Whether endangered species like grizzly bears or popular game animals like elk, Robbins said people have to make some tough choices to keep those critters on the landscape. They may have to spend money or change policy. Or they may decide to let some creatures disappear as they’re overwhelmed by habitat loss, livestock conflicts, population collapse or failure to compete with more successful newcomers (Montana wolves, for example). “You’re turning knobs on a very complex machine with lots of downstream side effects,” Robbins said. “What I’ve found is if you care about endangered species, you have to care about landowners,” Robbins said. “They’re an intrinsic part of how you craft environments to promote the wildlife you want.”...more

NM oil production pushing US closer to energy independence, industry official says

New Mexico is the third-largest supplier of energy in the nation, and the state is poised to get even bigger, according to Terri King, who is the ConocoPhillips general manager for the San Juan Basin. King spoke at the Economic Forum of Albuquerque on Wednesday morning. As oil prices have spiked over the last several years and technology has developed to produce more oil and gas, she said, North America is poised to become a net exporter of energy for the first time. And for the first time in 40 years, the country is seeing major growth in energy production. "Now the U.S. is the energy envy of the world," King said. In New Mexico, ConocoPhillips has operations in the San Juan Basin, near Farmington, and in the Permian Basin, near Hobbs. Much of the state's energy growth has been in oil and gas drilling; the industry has 105,000 employees in the state and contributes 31 percent of the state's general fund dollars. (Click on the links to see our lists of the state's largest oil producers and gas producers.) That growth has occurred because oil companies are using new fracking technologies that can split shale and extract the oil and gas, King said...more

U.S. farm exports soar to record $152B

Light the fireworks – cue the patriotic band – and thank every U.S. farmer and rancher. It's time to celebrate agriculture’s latest economic achievement. U.S. farm exports have soared to a record $152.5 billion - up from last year's $141 billion level, according to data tabulated and released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Secretary Tom Vilsack – “American farmers and ranchers have once again achieved another year of record export,” said the USDA’s chief executive...more

Lame Duck Congress Faces Section 179 Expensing Extension, Tax Extenders

The Election Day takeover of the Senate by the Republican Party might boost the morale of farmers and small business owners advocating for revised tax policies, but the work likely will rest on the shoulders of the lame duck congress, the National Farmers Union suggested Wednesday. The section 179 provision in previous tax years has allowed farm businesses to take the full depreciation deduction of an item that meets certain specifications – in many cases machinery – in the current tax year, with a maximum deduction of $500,000 and a phase-out threshold of $2 million. That deduction level, however, has fallen to $25,000 with a $200,000 phase-out for 2014, and will remain that way unless Congress acts on tax reform or a "tax extenders" package before the end of the year. Without higher expensing levels under section 179, farmers may be slower to make needed equipment purchases, which is why NFU President Roger Johnson on Wednesday said his organization is ready to make the case for an extension. The Senate package advocates for a two-year reinstatement of the $500,000 section 179 expensing level, and while it has been approved in Committee, it has not moved on for consideration by the full Senate. The entire House, however, has addressed the section 179 issue, approving in June a package that included permanent restoration of section 179 to the $500,000 level...more

Soda Tax Succeeds In Berkeley, Fizzles In San Francisco

Voters in Berkeley, Calif., have passed the nation’s first soda tax with a resounding 75 percent of the vote. The measure aims to reduce the effects of sugar consumption on health, especially increased rates of obesity and diabetes. Across the bay in San Francisco, however, a similar proposal failed to get the two-thirds supermajority it needed. More than 30 cities and states across the country have attempted but failed to enact such a tax, at least in part because of well-funded opposition from the soda industry. Berkeley’s Measure D needed only a simple majority to pass. It will levy a penny-per-ounce tax on most sugar-sweetened beverages and is estimated to raise more than $1 million per year. Proceeds will go to the general fund; Measure D calls for the creation of a health panel to advise Berkeley’s City Council on appropriate health programs to receive funding. Campaign Co-Chair Josh Daniels called Berkeley’s win a tipping point. “I think you will now see many, many other cities and communities around the country looking at this as a genuine public policy to address the diabetes and obesity crisis that we face,” he said. While the San Francisco proposition did not pass, supporters there declared a victory of their own: More than half the voters approved the tax despite millions spent by the American Beverage Association to defeat it...more

The Not So Great Cowboy Strike of 1883

by Clay Coppedge 

We don’t normally think of cowboys going on strike as a protest against unfair labor practices and big corporations because cowboys are usually too busy being iconic for such diversions and because, as we all know, a cowboy’s work is never done. 

In 1883, in the wild and wooly cowtown of Tascosa on the banks of the Canadian River, a group of cowboys got mad as hell and announced to the owners of five big Panhandle ranches that they weren’t going to take it anymore. For a little more than two months in 1883, somewhere between 160 and 200 cowboys (estimates vary) went on strike in what is known as the Great Cowboy Strike of 1883, even though it wasn’t all that great.

The strike happened at a time when both the cattle business and the wild plains country of the Panhandle were in transition. The buffalo were gone and with them the Comanche, who depended on the buffalo. The cattle drives were over and the railroads had arrived. A lot of the old ranch owners were also gone, their places taken by investors who were apt to refer to the cowboys as “cow servants.”

The LIT was owned by Scottish investors. The LX and LS were owned by East Coast bankers.  Businessmen William M.D. Lee and Albert Reynolds owned the LE Ranch and its more than 20,000 head of cattle. The biggest of the area ranches, the XIT, was owned by a Chicago syndicate that owned more than two million acres of Panhandle land in exchange for building the state capitol. The other big ranch, the Anchor-T, fired all of its striking cowboys as soon as the strike was announced.

Cowboys were among the original long-hours, low-pay workers. They worked sunup to sundown in all kinds of weather doing frequently dangerous work, eating two meals a day and sleeping on the ground unless they were among the pampered few who had tents. On average, they received $30 a month, or about a dollar a day. The work has always been romantic only to those who are not actively engaged in it, and that was especially true for these hired hands.

In the old days before the syndicates and absentee owners, cowboys might receive some calves in addition to their salary, or they could take some unbranded mavericks and work their own herds out on the range; many a future Panhandle rancher got his start that way.

The syndicates put an end to all that up-by-the-bootstraps nonsense. They didn’t give away calves, and all mavericks found on ranch property became property of the ranch. This change, more than salary, was at the heart of the cowboys’ discontent. “There was even talk among the ‘big bosses’ of firing men for wearing six shooters or getting drunk,” Frederick Rathjen noted in his book “Tascosa: Its Life and Gaudy Times.” “What next?”

... After the strike ended there was a dramatic increase in rustling from what some have called The Get Even Cattle Company. The ranchers brought in Pat Garrett, famous as the alleged killer of Billy the Kid, to control the rustling.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1318

Ronnie Milsap was inducted with Hank Cochran and Mac Wiseman into the Country Music Hall of Fame and here he performs Daydreams About Night Things.

Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan among winners at CMA Awards 2014

Miranda Lambert walked away with four awards at this year's CMA Awards. The singer was named Female Vocalist of the Year, and won the Single of the Year for her hit 'Automatic' as well as Album of the Year for Platinum. Lambert also scooped the Musical Event of the Year award for featuring on Keith Urban's 'We Were Us'. On collecting the Female Vocalist of the Year award, she said: "I don't even know what to say, I just can't believe that I'm standing here. I can't believe this is my life, this is what I get to do for a living, this is my job - thank you fans for that. "I just appreciate what God allowed me to do in my life. Thank you so much for letting me live my dream and for believing in my art, it means my world to me." Elsewhere, Luke Bryan collected the Entertainer of the Year award, while Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally celebrated victory in the Song of the Year category for their track 'Follow Your Arrow'. Vocal Group of the Year went to Little Big Town for the third consecutive year and Florida Georgia Line took the Vocal Duo of the Year award for the second time. Meanwhile, Mac McAnally was handed Musician of the Year, Brett Eldredge was named best new artist and Dierks Bentley's 'Drunk on a Plane' won the best music video award. Lambert's husband Blake Shelton also picked up an award at this year's ceremony for Male Vocalist of the Year.   Source

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

It’s time to tell EPA and the Corps: Ditch the rule

By Kari Fisher and Rayne Thompson

For the past six months, Farm Bureau has been urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to drop a proposed rule that would allow them to expand their jurisdiction and enforcement authority under the federal Clean Water Act. Now, there are only days left to submit comments to EPA and the Corps—and it's important for the agencies to hear directly from farmers and ranchers who would be harmed by the proposal.

In discussions with EPA and the Corps, and with members of the California congressional delegation, the California Farm Bureau has made it clear that the rule should be withdrawn because of its significant, direct effects on family farms and ranches. We have invited Washington, D.C.-based regulators to California to see firsthand how the proposed rule would affect routine farming practices. It's crucial for those regulators to understand the impact this proposal would have on farms and ranches.

Here's why: The proposed rule would significantly expand the federal government's authority over small streams, ditches, floodplains and other areas where water may flow—no matter how infrequently. The proposal would give regulators room for inconsistent interpretation and application, and could invite more enforcement actions and lawsuits by activist groups.

The proposed rule would extend Clean Water Act requirements to areas that have not been previously regulated as "waters of the United States," such as seasonal drainages; ditches, including roadside, flood control, irrigation, stormwater and agricultural ditches; water bodies in riparian or floodplain areas; and isolated waters.

Under the proposal, virtually every area that gets wet or has flow during rainfall could be regulated. For example, the rule asserts jurisdiction over waters or wetlands located within a "floodplain" or "riparian area" of a water of the U.S. Interpretation of these ambiguous terms could result in large areas of farmland falling under newly created federal jurisdiction. Additionally, the proposed rule would include many, if not most, smaller waters and even dry land in the definition of "waters of the U.S."

As a result, Clean Water Act permit requirements that apply to navigable waters would also apply to most ditches, drains, small ponds—and even depressions in fields and pastures that are only wet when there is rain. This means a farmer or rancher would likely have to obtain a permit prior to conducting activities such as spraying for weeds or insects, disking, or pulling weeds. Permits are far from guaranteed, may take months to obtain and often include paperwork, consultation with other agencies and reporting requirements in addition to any requirements aimed at protecting water quality. Not only that, but permits are costly: An individual Section 404 permit application for dredge-and-fill activities costs $62,166, plus $16,787 per acre of impacts to "waters of the U.S."

Violations of paperwork or reporting obligations carry the same potential penalties as unlawful discharges to waters of the U.S.—up to $37,500 per violation per day. The proposed rule's expansion of jurisdiction would also make many routine farming and ranching activities vulnerable to lawsuits brought by environmental activist groups.

Tar sands mining, up front and grotesque

by James Blakely

Heartbreaking, dehumanizing, toxic -- these aren’t the words most people would pick to describe the boreal forest of Canada. But in the far reaches of northern Alberta, this description seems accurate to me. This lush forest of larch, aspen and spruce –– a place where wood bison used to roam –– has degenerated to ravaged Mordor, the hellish land described in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings 
For the past two summers, I’ve made the long, nearly 1,300-mile trek from Boise, Idaho, to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to see the tar sands up close. I wanted to bear witness to the horrific scraping away of the land and to experience, even just for a moment, what it is like for the people who live with this industry in their backyard. But I didn't go there just to gape at the largest, most destructive industrial project on the planet: I went to walk.

The tar sands Healing Walk, organized and led by Canada’s First Nations people of the Athabasca region, began with a three-day gathering held mostly along the shores of Willow Lake. It featured workshops, local speakers and a glimpse into First Nations culture. This year marked the fifth and final Healing Walk.

The walk drew hundreds people from across North America, from Midwestern ranchers fighting to stop the Keystone XL pipeline to folks from Houston, Texas, who deal with the impacts of tar sands refineries.

In Idaho, we are struggling to stop these corporations from using the narrow, winding road along the Lochsa, a designated wild and scenic river, as a shipping corridor for their super-sized equipment. These “megaloads” are as long as a football field and weigh up to 900,000 pounds.

Cost of Keystone XL has jumped nearly 50% during six years of delays

TransCanada Corp. president and CEO Russ Girling won’t say whether he thinks a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate after Tuesday’s midterm elections will mean an accelerated approval for the often-delayed Keystone XL pipeline. But he does know what six years of Presidential indecision have cost the controversial project. Mr. Girling said the delays have inflated the estimated cost of KXL to $8-billion — up from an initial estimate of $5.4-billion — thanks to an increasingly tight market for pipelines in North America. TransCanada has long signalled that the longer it’s forced to wait for a permit, the more expensive the pipeline would become. But this is the first time the company has given a specific cost impact. “I think we enjoy a majority of support in both the House and the Senate and the project is in the national interest,” Mr. Girling said on a third-quarter earnings call. “Suffice it to say that we’re supportive of any process that can help advance a decision on the project, given that the environmental review is completed and that at this point in time, we’re just sitting waiting for someone to say, ‘Go.’” TransCanada first applied to build the oil pipeline between Hardisty, Alta. and Cushing, Okla. six years ago, but the construction of the pipeline has been delayed multiple times as it waits for U.S. presidential approval. Mr. Obama has the authority to approve the pipeline because it crosses the Canada/U.S. border...more 

A fifty percent increase in the cost of a project due to government delays.  Now think of all the permits, permissions, licenses, etc. required by all forms of government and you start to get a feel for how much the regulatory state is costing us. 

The oil price election connection


...Two years ago, Saudi Arabia did much the same thing—increasing production and dropping oil/gasoline prices. At that time, the U.S. faced an important presidential election where one candidate loudly supported America’s new energy abundance and the other’s energy agenda was all about “green.” Had gasoline still cost in the range of $4.00 on November 6, 2012, the party in power would have suffered; the public would have been screaming: “Drill, baby, drill.” The Saudis came in and with their unique ability to throttle production up or down, took some heat off of the Obama Administration.

Now, in the midst of another election cycle—one that is very important to the future of oil production in America, the Saudis, once again, appear to be orchestrating geopolitical outcomes. OPEC’s oil output is close to a two-year high—despite production drops in Angola and Nigeria. Saudi Arabia has made up the difference.

Some observers say the Saudis’ increased production in a time of global over-supply “is not about a political attack on the U.S.” Others see it, as “more nuanced.” Yet, last week a Saudi industry official, discussing the production/export data leaks acknowledged: “Sorry, it is politics.”

It seems clear that OPEC does not want U.S. production to increase, and Saudi Arabia is in a position to try influence American politics. Lower prices favor the party in power. A shift in control of the Senate would mean a change in America’s energy policy—one that favors our homegrown energy resources; one that Saudi Arabia doesn’t want.

Federal Government Made $20 Billion in Secret Purchases in Recent Months - video

The federal government has spent at least $20 billion in taxpayer money this year on items and services that it is permitted to keep secret from the public, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team. The purchases, known among federal employees as “micropurchases,” are made by some of the thousands of agency employees who are issued taxpayer-funded purchase cards. The purchases, in most cases, remain confidential and are not publicly disclosed by the agencies. A sampling of those purchases, obtained by the I-Team via the Freedom of Information Act, reveals at least one agency used those cards to buy $30,000 in Starbucks Coffee drinks and products in one year without having to disclose or detail the purchases to the public. A series of other recent purchases, reviewed by internal government auditors, include wasteful and inappropriate purchases by government employees -- including a gym membership and JC Penney clothing -- that were not detected or stopped until after the purchase was completed...more

Here's the video report

Colorado’s GMO labeling ballot measure fails

Colorado’s initiative to label genetically modified foods failed strongly among voters Tuesday, with 68 percent of votes statewide coming in against Proposition 105 with 10 of 64 counties reporting results as of press time. The measure failed even worse among Weld County voters. Seventy-seven percent voted against the initiative in early poll results, with 46.6 percent of county ballots counted. Don Shawcroft, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said future discussions on GMO regulations should be handled on the federal level to avoid disadvantaging Colorado producers. “The major flaw comes back to what we’ve been saying all along, that is was misleading, it was costly and it was unfair. There’s no doubt that the voters made their decision based on what we presented as the facts and they were not refuted,” Shawcroft said. “There were a lot of false claims and scare tactics that were presented to the voters, but it certainly is evident that they turned those down and that they joined not only Colorado farmers and ranchers, but certainly the editorial boards across the state that urged a ‘no’ vote.”...more

Alberta ranching family donates $5 million for cattle welfare research

A father and daughter’s donation could help the University of Calgary become a world leader in animal behaviour and welfare research. Jack Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm of W.A. Ranches have donated $5 million for cattle research. Chisholm and her dad have a passion for technology and animal care, and decided to act when they heard the University of Calgary’s vet school could use some research money. The donation will help establish the U of C as a world authority on cattle research. “I think what we’ll see is Calgary emerging as a national, international leader in the area of animal welfare in the cattle industry,” said Pajor. “I think you’ll see lots of different discoveries.”...more

Dancing to the El Niño shuffle

Weather has got to rank as one of the hot topics of conversation when farmers communicate with their neighbors. After all, like Will Rogers often reminded us, "farming goes as the weather goes." But beyond that, perhaps our pre-occupation with discussing the weather so much is because weather is fickle, plain and simple, meaning ever-changing and unpredictable, even by the best forecasters. But Dave DuBois, a New Mexico State University (NMSU) climatologist, says the current and often conflicting dialogue about the on-again, off-again chances of an El Niño event this winter may be the result of over thinking the issue. While NOAA Climate Prediction Center forecasters are still giving a 67 percent chance of development for an El Niño this winter, most agree it could well be a late and weak system. But DuBois says significant rains over the last 60 days could be a good indication that the climate is trending more toward favorable conditions for an El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO event, that should bring wetter and colder conditions to parts of the Southwest. He says El Niño may require a month or more to develop and unleash its full effect, but he points to the return of more normal rainfall totals in recent weeks to much of New Mexico and parts of Texas as a possible prelude to what may yet be coming. While rainfall amounts very greatly from block to block and farm to farm, so far this fall many areas of New Mexico have fared extremely well in terms of the amount of rain accumulated. In Las Cruces, for example, as much as 90 percent of the city's annual average rain total has fallen this year already. According to rain gauges at NMSU, nearly 100 percent of the annual average has been realized at that location. DuBois and Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielson-Gammon agree that if and when an El Niño forms this winter, chances are good it will be a weak system. But DuBois says that doesn't mean it won't have a positive impact on weather in the Southwest...more

‘Election Eve Dump:’ Eric Holder Releases Fast and Furious Documents That Got Him Cited for Contempt

Justice Department officials provided House investigators with thousands of documents related to Operation Fast and Furious that President Obama had previously claimed were exempt from congressional review. In an “election eve dump,” as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) put it, DOJ handed over 64,280 pages of documents, a release that is still only a partial fulfillment of the committee’s request. “This production is nonetheless a victory for the legislative branch, a victory for transparency, and a victory for efforts to check Executive Branch power,” Issa said of the release. DOJ handed over the documents pursuant to a court order...more

Mexico: Mayor, wife detained in case of 43 missing students

Mexico's most-wanted couple, accused of running their town as a drug fiefdom and ordering an attack that killed six and left 43 college students missing, were caught on Tuesday in a rough-and-tumble neighbourhood of Mexico City where they were hiding. Federal police seized Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, in a raid before dawn in Iztapalapa, a working-class neighborhood of the capital. It was a far fall from their reign of wealth and power as the mayor and first lady of Iguala, a town in southern Guerrero state where the students from a teachers' college went missing Sept. 26, allegedly at the hands of police and a drug cartel. Even as they were hauled off to the Attorney General's organised crime unit to give their statements, the capture did nothing to answer the biggest mystery: Where are the students? Their disappearance, and the failure to make progress in the case, has ignited protests across the country and broadsided President Enrique Pena Nieto's efforts to paint violence in Mexico as a thing of the past...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1317

Mac Wiseman was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last week and here he is performing one of my favorites, Black Sheep

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Editorial - Make a deal instead of suing over public lands

A new analysis from the University of Utah Law School’s Wallace Stegner Center affirms what so many others have said about the state’s effort to sue the federal government to take over its federal lands: "Utah’s claims … are doomed to failure."
That by itself is enough reason to abandon the fight, but the two authors take it a step further. "This may be the larger lesson — that the transfer movement does more harm than good to the federal-state relationship needed for effective land management."
Even Anthony Rampton, the assistant attorney general who is the state’s legal expert on suing for land, told state legislators in June that it would be a "tough case," tough enough that Rampton says the state should keep negotiations with the feds open, negotiations like Rep. Rob Bishop’s effort to settle multiple land disputes in eastern Utah in one bill.

...Utah’s case is akin to flying through the eye of a needle. For the state to succeed, the courts have to:

1) Buy the argument that the "enabling act" that allowed Utah to become a state is ambiguous in that it says in one place that Utah has relinquished rights and in another place that the federal government will sell land and give a share of the proceeds to the state.

2) Choose to give the state the benefit of that ambiguity and take the second statement as the right interpretation, and

3) Allow that argument, and the enabling act itself, to take precedent over the Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, That is the "property clause" that gives the federal government full authority to do as it sees fit with its property, and the courts have not flinched from that authority. 

The Editorial concludes by saying, "If Rep. Bishop fails in his effort to settle the land disputes the right way — through negotiated legislation involving all stakeholders — it likely will be because he couldn’t hold the county commissioners, many of whom have bought Rep. Ivory’s tenuous legal claims. If the Bishop process fails, a real opportunity will be lost in pursuit of a fake one."

You have to wonder if the Tribune editorial board has read the Kochan article in the BYU Law Review, which comes to the opposite position. 

Further, the Bishop proposal has a better chance of passage because of the education and pressure brought by Kent Ivory's effort.

However, Bishop's proposal is a threat to Ivory's efforts, i.e. if Bishop succeeds there will be less political support for Ivory's transfer efforts.

Finally, notice the approach The Tribune supports, where in their "let's make a deal" the feds stay in control of the entire process right up to the end.  In the Ivory approach, the lands would be transferred and then the state would go to local communities and stakeholders for comment.  The Tribune wants the feds in control of the process while Ivory's approach would put the state and locals in control.  Why does The Tribune so mistrust the people of Utah?

Both approaches though are better than the status quo.

State lawmaker wants to take over BLM-managed Little Sahara

A proposed bill for the 2015 Legislature would transfer control of the popular Little Sahara Recreation Area currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management to Utah State Parks. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is sponsoring the "Little Sahara State Park Designation" bill and says the the idea first came to him when one of his constituents asked why the annual Utah State Parks pass didn’t work at the federal recreation area. "In general, the Bureau of Land Management is not in the business of operating specific parks, which is what Little Sahara really is," Eliason said. "The state is in the business of operating parks and manages off-highway vehicles across the state, including at Little Sahara already. It seems like it might be a better fit as a state park." Eliason’s idea is just one of several suggested expansions of Utah’s system of state parks. State Park managers are focused on a proposal to expand Goblin Valley State Park onto surrounding BLM lands in Emery County. And Congressman Rob Bishop has encouraged county and state leaders to create "wish lists" of federal lands they might take over as part of his Public Lands Initiative — tentatively slated to go before Congress early next year...more

County releases Snake River management plan as part of land exchange with BLM

A draft management plan for the Snake River between Moose and Hoback released last week calls for maintaining commercial use at or below current numbers. The 37-page document comes after worries about increasing commercial use on the river, and to prepare for a land swap between Teton County and the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM owns 23 parcels that are to be transferred to the county; the exchange requires a management plan for the parcels before the exchange can occur. The plan supports regulation for commercial fishing trips, commercial scenic tours, commercial lessons and other such uses. No limits are proposed for private boaters. “The overall goal is to stabilize use near average levels from 2010 to 2014 ... with commensurate development, group sizes, social conditions, commercial use, and management intensity,” the draft plan reads. That means boaters should not expect solitude when they launch but that they might find it along the river. It also means commercial use would remain around current averages, but without the peak numbers observed in the past three years...more

This is a proposed land exchange so that local government can limit certain uses and ban other uses that are currently allowed by the BLM.  A good example of the many possibilities that could occur if some of the federal lands are transferred to the states.

Berkeley Lab scientists identify new driver behind Arctic warming

Scientists have identified a mechanism that could turn out to be a big contributor to warming in the Arctic region and melting sea ice. The research was led by scientists from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). They studied a long-wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum called far infrared. It's invisible to our eyes but accounts for about half the energy emitted by the Earth's surface. This process balances out incoming solar energy. Despite its importance in the planet's energy budget, it's difficult to measure a surface's effectiveness in emitting far-infrared energy. In addition, its influence on the planet's climate is not well represented in climate models. The models assume that all surfaces are 100 percent efficient in emitting far-infrared energy. That's not the case. The scientists found that open oceans are much less efficient than sea ice when it comes to emitting in the far-infrared region of the spectrum. This means that the Arctic Ocean traps much of the energy in far-infrared radiation, a previously unknown phenomenon that is likely contributing to the warming of the polar climate. Their research appears this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...more

Judge queries all sides in suit over Mora County drilling ban

The word “fracking” came up only a few times during the five hours of oral argument in federal court Monday on an oil company’s challenge to a Mora County ordinance intended to forestall the practice – or indeed any kind of oil and gas extraction. U.S. District Judge James O. Browning posed lots of questions to attorneys for the Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary SWEPI, which is challenging the constitutionality of the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance of 2013. He did the same to an attorney representing both Mora County and a land grant group seeking to intervene in the action. The litigation focuses on the county ban making it “unlawful for any corporation to engage in the extraction of oil, natural gas or other hydrocarbons within Mora County.” Browning followed his usual practice, telling attorneys his “inclinations” with respect to at least a dozen legal issues but reserving final judgment for his thorough, and likely lengthy, opinion. Browning signaled the likelihood that he will deny the motion to intervene by the land grant and probably find some of the language in the ordinance a violation of federal law – for instance, a segment that denies corporations rights under the 1st and 5th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Whether that kind of judicial editing would eviscerate the ordinance to the point that it would no longer be viable was among the questions he wanted attorneys to answer...more

90 million-year-old turtle found in New Mexico

Paleontologists have unearthed a 90-million-year-old fossilized turtle in southern New Mexico, near the town of Truth or Consequences. What may have looked only like a pile of stones to the untrained eye, seemed a bit unusual to to Jeff Dornbusch, a volunteer with the local museum who first spotted the ancient rubble more than a decade ago. But when tried to find the spot on a number of follow-up hikes, the outcropping proved elusive. Ten years later, he happened back upon the rocks and subsequently recruited a team of paleontologists to return and investigate further. He was surprised to learn that he had led scientists to the site of an ancient fossilized turtle. "I never really knew this area as a place for marine fossils -- shells and stuff in the mountains," Dornbusch told The Las Cruces Sun-News. The unearthed turtle -- a specimen of the Adocus genus -- hails from the the late Cretaceous Period. Researchers know this because of the ground from which the fossilized fragments were gathered -- a chunk of dirt from stratum known as the Crevasse Canyon formation. Today, southern New Mexico is dry steppe and desert. But 90 million years ago, the landscape was much different, says Tom Suazo, one of four scientists with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History who helped excavate. "Basically, what this is a swampy, near-shore environment," he said. Though Suazo and his colleagues located portions of the turtle's shell and spine, the scientists are hoping much more of the turtle can be located once back in the lab in Albuquerque. Researchers dug up and plastered a large portion of dirt, which they will comb through in a controlled setting...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1316

Hank Cochran was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last week.  Cochran wrote such tunes as The Chair, A Little Bitty Tear, Make The World Go Away and today's selection, I Fall To Pieces by Patsy Cline.  The tune was recorded in Nashville on Nov. 16, 1960.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Wind Tax Credit is Redistribution to the Rich

Democrats are famous for pushing the idea that the rich don't pay their fair share of taxes. So, why are many of them lining up to support tax breaks for Big Wind's millionaires? Under the leadership of Harry Reid, lawmakers are pushing to extend the wind-energy industry's cash cow subsidy, the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC). Created in 1992, the Wind PTC was scheduled to expire at the end of last year. Now, wind industry cronies and their friends in the Senate are leading the charge to revive the PTC by ramming an extension package through Congress during this year's lame-uck session. Supporters of the Wind PTC claim the subsidy is crucial for the development of reliable, clean, and safe wind-driven energy. In reality, the PTC amounts to nothing more than corporate welfare for green energy investors on Wall Street. Warren Buffet said it best when explaining his logic behind investing in wind energy. During an investors presentation in Omaha last May, Buffet confessed, "I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire's tax rate...For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." While Warren Buffet may be thrilled to have the PTC help boost his bottom-line, hardworking American taxpayers have every reason to be less than pleased. That’s because the PTC lowers costs for industrial wind producers and utilities but sticks consumers with higher electricity bills.  Not only has the PTC wasted a colossal amount of taxpayer money since its inception in 1992, it’s also inflicted financial pain on millions of middle class Americans in wind energy states. Even with healthy subsidies from the federal government, an over reliance on industrial wind energy is raising energy prices in states across the nation. A recent analysis of the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s data found that nine of the 11 largest wind power states have seen their energy costs rise more than four times the national average. Ultimately, these costs are passed off to consumers, leaving your average Joe stuck with higher energy bills each month...more

TSA treats Bundy Family as terrorists at Sky Harbor Airport

November 1, 2014

This morning my twelve year old daughter and I tried to fly to Salt Lake City from Phoenix for a special event of a loved one. We had to be there by 1:00 pm in order to be a part of the occasion. Everything was going as planned until we came to the Gate B check station and the first TSA agent looked at our boarding passes. He seemed a bit alarmed and asked me if my name was Ammon, I told him yes, he then circled my name and sent me down the line. I could tell there was suspicion but thought it may be because my daughter was a minor, or because my name is unusual and sometimes taken as Arabic.

When we reached the actual check station the Second TSA agent saw my boarding pass and immediately called for a Commanding Officer on the radio. Over the coarse of several minutes he called multiple times for assistance, meanwhile the line behind me was stopped and backing up. When the Commanding Officer finally came the two agents conversed privately as they looked at my barding pass and drivers license. The Commanding Officer then directed me to an area and confiscated all of our possessions along with the normal clothing checked, such as my boots, belt, jacket and so on.

By this time, we were feeling a bit scrutinized and those around us were staring and talking among themselves of the matter. They then escorted us to a back area where they rummaged through our items, testing it with devices and inspecting each article. The agent then began to check me physically and boy was that uncomfortable, no cavity check was completed but everything else was.

I asked the agent why we were being treated so differently and why we were selected. He told me it was because my boarding pass was tagged with the bold letters "SSSS". He also told me that this will happen every time you fly because you are marked. Beyond that he did not disclose of anything else. My daughter then asked him if she could put her shoes back on. The agent said that she could, but that I was not to touch my possessions. He then called for his Commanding Officer.

After a few minutes, the Level Three Officer showed up and asked me several question and wrote the answers down on a yellow sticky note. This Commanding Officer then went to a computer and began typing and reading. The whole thing was very interesting to me. I thought to myself, "WOW, Harry Reid really does have me tagged in the federal database as a Domestic Terrorist". I have never been charged and prosecuted with anything in my life, and yet Senator Reid, without due process, has declared me, for life, a Domestic Terrorist. He unilaterally named me, Ammon Bundy, a terrorist against the people of this country, the people I love and would so willingly to give my life for.

After the Commanding Officer typed a few things in the computer, my boarding pass was written on and hole punched 5 times with stars mostly over the SSSS (see picture). Our possessions were then returned and we were free to go to the boarding gate. When we left the security area many people were looking at us in curiosity. The entire process took about an hour, and my daughter and I did not make our flight. We knew we would not make it to the event even if we got on another flight so we left the boarding gate area and went to ask for a refund from US Airlines.

U.S. Airlines resisted to give us a refund at first, they insisted that they could not be held accountable for what the government chose to do. I showed them the boarding pass and the SSSS, then told them why I believed I was marked and harassed. They immediately began to process the refund request, one lady said "that sends chills up my spine that they would do that to you". I thanked them and we left the airport.

This incident reaffirmed to me the danger that the American people are in. When a very small group of elitist use the peoples power without authority, and are willing to destroy the lives of those who disagree or stand up to them, when this type of unlimited power is commonly exercised without checks and balances the people are in danger.

Ammon Bundy
Facebook: Bundy Ranch

More Horror Stories from the TSA Bureaucrats

by Daniel J. Mitchell

I’m wondering whether the Transportation Security Administration is a valuable part of government.

Not because the bureaucracy does a good job, but instead because it does so many foolish things that it helps convince more people to become libertarians.

Consider these horror stories.

o Confiscating a plastic hammer from a mentally retarded man.
o Detaining a woman for carrying breast milk.
o Hassling a woman for the unexplained red flag of having sequentially numbered checks.
o Demanding that a handicapped 4-year old boy walk through a metal detector without his leg braces.
o Putting an 8-year old cub scout on the no-fly list.
oStopping a teenager from flying because her purse had an image of a gun.

Let’s add a few more examples to this list.

Here’s a story from Reason about the Keystone Cops of the TSA, as they deal with the horrific threat of a belt buckle shaped like…(gasp)…a ray gun.

...If a raygun belt buckle is scary to the TSA, you won’t be surprised to learn that kitty cat key chains also are very frightening.  Even when in the hands of famous people.

...Let’s put the private sector in charge, as Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz have argued. And as Steve Chapman explains, there were lots of benefits to the pre-TSA system.

NY Times - For Gray Wolves, a Success Story Not Without Detractors

Few mammals are as unloved as the wolf. Not that the feeling is universal. Some North American Indian tribes traditionally honored the predator as a worthy fellow hunter. Other societies have shown comparable reverence. How can anyone bear a grudge against the she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, mythological founders of Rome? Without her, would we have had all that glorious architecture, those inspiring Michelangelo frescoes, Sophia Loren? Still, in popular culture and many a metaphor this animal is far from adored. There it is at the door in hard times, disguising itself in sheep’s clothing, tormenting the likes of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. But should it be denied the right to live? Of course not, federal wildlife officials say. They pride themselves on having brought wolves — specifically, gray wolves — back from the brink of oblivion in the northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest, where kill-them-all attitudes once prevailed. By the first decades of the 20th century, the gray wolf was close to being wiped out. Then along came the federal Endangered Species Act, in 1973. Wolves were among the first species to fall under its protection. By itself, the law did not revive moribund populations. That started to happen in the mid-1990s, when the United States Fish and Wildlife Service brought some wolves down from Canada and set them free to roam Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and, soon enough, neighboring Idaho and Montana. As chronicled by Retro Report, a weekly series exploring major news stories from the past and their lasting impact, federal officials regard their restoration effort as a spectacular success story. They had set a target of 300 interbreeding wolves for that region. There are now believed to be more than 1,600. That number is high enough for officialdom to ponder whether the gray wolf, already no longer covered by the Endangered Species Act in several Western states, should lose its protective shield everywhere else. Considering that more than 2,200 species of animals and plants are formally deemed endangered or threatened — with a mere two dozen or so ever having been dropped from the list over the decades — such an action would surely send eyebrows soaring. More than the fate of the wolf is on the line. Federal-state relations are also at stake, especially out West, where admiration for Washington and its edicts tends to run thin...more

Editorial - Congress must act on Klamath water issues

(Klamath) Basin water issues remain unsettled and time is quickly slipping away.

Think things can't get worse? They can. And if there isn't a serious enough push from the local area to move the water settlement legislation in Congress, they will.

Several years have been spent developing good will among those who speak for irrigators and tribes and other water users. That resulted in the legislation pending in Congress. Things need to move. If not, what happens next? What happens after 2014?

While leaders of the various groups have the general support of those they represent, that support isn't unanimous and that applies to both the Tribes and irrigators. There is pressure from within to come up with results.

The Klamath Tribes agreed this year not to fully enforce the water rights granted them by the state. That left more water this year for those on the 240,000-acre Klamath Reclamation Project, who had negotiated a separate water agreement with the Tribes. How long the agreement lasts is up to the Tribes.

Water is the Basin's lifeblood, but Basin farmers and ranchers, who are part of an industry that produced $290 million in Klamath County sales last year, don't control the water. It was over-promised many decades ago, tribal treaties were largely disregarded and there was no such thing as the Endangered Species Act.

The treaties are now being enforced, most noticeably through adjudication that awarded the highest-priority water rights to the Klamath Tribes. Environmental concerns are now a major part of water management and there are endangered fish species at both ends of the river.

Other key points

Can there be an overall agreement on water allocations in the Basin without dam removal?
The answer's simple: No.

PacifiCorp owns the four dams on the Klamath River targeted for elimination. Their removal is inextricably woven into the fabric of the agreements pending in Congress. PacifiCorp has already said it wants to remove the dams, rather than make improvements, which would mean less power at a higher cost. Oregon and California public utility commissions in Oregon and California have given their approval.

Ratepayers have already begun paying a charge for dam removal through a 2 percent surcharge with a cap of $200 million for ratepayers.

It's worth remembering, too, that private enterprise built the dams, private enterprise ran them and private enterprise wants to remove them.

Fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 says UN climate panel

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world's electricity can - and must - be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050. If not, the world faces "severe, pervasive and irreversible" damage. The UN said inaction would cost "much more" than taking the necessary action. The IPCC's Synthesis Report was published on Sunday in Copenhagen, after a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials. It is intended to inform politicians engaged in attempts to deliver a new global treaty on climate by the end of 2015. The report suggests renewables will have to grow from their current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050.  In the longer term, the report states that fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be "phased out almost entirely by 2100"...more

Despite collaborations, federal stewards face threats

by Rocky Barker

Most Westerners acknowledged that their symbiotic relationship with the federal government until the Sagebrush Rebellion grew from the tinders of anti-federalism into a fast-moving range fire in the 1970s.

Since then, the job of managing federal land has become dicey. Just ask Guy Pence.

In 1995, someone mad at his decisions aimed at protecting the Nevada public land of which he was steward bombed him not once but twice. The first bomb exploded outside his office in Carson City, Nev.; the second under a van parked outside his house, shattering glass and burying a couch with debris. Pence, his wife, Linda, and their three daughters were not hurt - at least not physically.

"I couldn't describe for people the mental anguish," Pence said.

The Forest Service moved him to the Boise National Forest, against his will. Soon after that, a bomb threat cleared the Forest Service office in Boise.

Pence is retired now and all of his daughters have followed in his footsteps into pubic lands management.
My experience is that the sharp personal battles between ranchers, loggers and others who use the federal land have subsided. But as this spring's standoff on Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch illustrated, it hasn't disappeared.

A High Country News report last week examined an issue that is both ideological and personal. The larger, ideological issue is very much alive, as demonstrated in the gubernatorial debate last week when Libertarian candidate John Bujak called again for the state to take over federal lands in Idaho.

Boise State University public policy analyst John Freemuth, a former park ranger, told High Country News that he expected the issue will remain contentious despite movement toward collaboration over federal lands issues.

"There's enough people right now of the persuasion to keep the fight going ... who want to keep this revved up," Freemuth said. "Little successes will help, but I think we're in for it for a while."

Read more here:

Immigration Crisis: 94% of Border Crossers Skip Court Hearings over 11-Week Period

Thousands of family units that recently entered the United States illegally failed to appear before immigration judges between July 18 and October 7 of this year. Documents from the Executive Office of Immigration Review provided to the House Judiciary Committee this week and exclusively obtained by Breitbart News offer a brief snapshot into the failure of certain undocumented immigrants who've been released into the United States to appear in immigration court. According to the EOIR documents, in that two-and-a-half month period from mid-July to early October, immigration judges across the country rendered 3,885 decisions on removal cases dealing with “aliens” in family units. Of those decisions, 94 percent (3,661) were made “in absentia,” or the alien’s failure to appear resulted in an order of removal. The document also showed that 9,874 cases were still pending over those months. Also during that same brief snapshot of time, there were 9,274 first hearings scheduled for unaccompanied minors. An EOIR document shows that of the 9,170 cases that appeared before a judge, there were 7,330 adjournments, 436 venue changes, and 1,404 decisions rendered. Of the 1,404 decisions, 1,229 unaccompanied minors were ordered removed, 1,148 of which were made in absentia, or their order for removal resulted from a failure to show up...more

Analyst: EPA’s hydraulic fracturing investigations can have significant impact

Surging use of advanced hydraulic fracturing technology, especially in areas not accustomed to oilfield activity, has given rise to studies on the technology’s impact on water. Such investigations are “potentially highly significant to industry and, therefore, conclusions must be supported by good science,” said Daniel B. Stephens, principal hydrologist and chairman of the board of DBS&A of Albuquerque. Stephens visited Midland recently to discuss his analysis of the controversy surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s groundwater monitoring in the Pavilllion, Wyoming natural gas field. He said the controversy shows that such investigations need to be carried out with a clearly and carefully defined objective, the process needs to be carefully carried out, stakeholders need to become involved, transparency and making the data available is important, as is peer review. “The impact is huge — you don’t want to cavalierly go around making statements,” he said. Working groups should be formed to study similar issues, he said. Those groups should be comprised of local regulators, state regulatory agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Railroad Commission, Texas Water Development Board, local ranchers and local industries. “Then they can invite the EPA,” he said...more

Environmental groups want Farmington's BLM Field Office to pause issuing permits for oil and gas wells

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management say they will organize an internal committee to respond to a letter from environmentalists that calls for the bureau to stop issuing oil and gas drilling permits until an environmental analysis is complete. The San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Chaco Alliance, WildEarth Guardians and the Western Environmental Law Center sent a 34-page letter to the bureau on Monday outlining issues with BLM's Farmington Field Office and its approval of Mancos Shale drilling permits. A BLM spokeswoman, Donna Hummel, said the agency received the letter and will draft a formal response to its demands. "Yes, we are in receipt of the letter, and we have responded back. We have responded back to the authors," Hummel said, adding that an internal team has been formed to prepare a full response. In the letter, the environmental groups state the BLM continues to issue permits for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but hasn't analyzed how the process affects the environment. "The BLM's rampant approval of Mancos shale drilling and fracking is not only threatening the region's air, water and wildlife, but undermining our nation's progress in reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change," the letter states. Issues outlined in the letter include methane emissions, flaring, protection of cultural resources and water usage. "(The letter) raises a lot of concerns. The BLM is leaping before looking at what the consequences are of committing public land," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, in a phone interview...more

Why marauding elk make a California GMO labeling law a bad idea

...Meanwhile, the Bay Area’s supply of organic dairy products is being threatened by a herd of marauding tule elk in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County. The drought has made vegetation in the area scarce, and the elk are bullying the cows that forage there. Ranchers say the elk threaten their dairies’ existence because at least 30 percent of a cow’s diet must be foraged material or they lose their organic certification. (I have no idea how you actually keep track of this.) But outfits like the Center for Biological Diversity are less than sympathetic. “The public doesn’t want these elk relocated, fenced into an exhibit, shot, sterilized or any of the other absurd proposals from ranchers who enjoy subsidized grazing privileges in our national seashore,” said a spokesman.“I think on balance cattle are eating more grass that’s supposed to be going to wildlife than the other way around.” As you can see, California’s foodies are already grappling with several demons. The state doesn’t need a labeling law to make things any more complicated...more

Yellowstone park considers bumping up bandwidth starts debate

Can Old Faithful compete with Netflix? The prospect of streaming wireless service deep inside Yellowstone National Park is re-igniting the debate over whether there should be any place off limits to technology. Park officials are in preliminary discussions with CenturyLink about installing a $34 million fiber-optic line through neighboring Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone. That would dramatically improve connectivity in certain areas for mobile devices. Details on the Yellowstone fiber optic project were obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility through a public records request and confirmed by The Associated Press. The Washington, D.C. advocacy group's executive director, Jeff Ruch, warned that bumping up the park's bandwidth will create more electronic distractions at the expense of the park's natural wonders. The CenturyLink proposal coincides with a National Park Service campaign to "Go Digital" ahead of its 100th anniversary in 2016. And it comes as concession companies have been pushing for more digital access in national parks, including Arizona's Grand Canyon, Texas' Big Bend and Maine's Acadia...more

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Some days are like that

by Julie Carter

There are some constants in life you can count on and in ranching it’s no different right up to and including the promise of “death and taxes.”

Water problems always top the list when you are discussing the certainties of what can and will go wrong. With livestock, water is a sacred necessity. The first thing you can count on is when you have water troubles, the weather will not be pleasant in any way.

The heat of June is when cattle shade up around the water hole just waiting for the next drink. You can mark the days with broken water lines, wells that “go down”, and pumps that quit. The same applies for a cold miserable January day. General philosophy is that if your storage tank is full your pump will last 30 years.  If you ever let it get below half way mark, you may as well plan the next days for pulling a well and hauling water.

The day that you have a meeting to get to, a funeral to attend or a date with your banker in town, guaranteed, you will end up with a job that includes calf pullers. That last check on the heifers on your way off the ranch is your undoing.

In your Sunday best you will slip and slide around in the corral to get the wild wench (heifer) captured enough to pull the calf. The bonus to follow is bodily adornment of manure, amniotic fluid and a little blood for color.

By the time you have wallered the slimy calf around to save his life so his wild-eyed mother doesn’t step on him and then wallered him a little more to get him to stand up and suck his mama, your appearance is not fit for polite company. This is more often than not in the same miserable cold weather you had to pull the well in yesterday.

For the ranch wife there are some constants that can and do include the aforementioned and some that are unique to her gender. In the remote quiet life of ranching, if she stays in her jammies without brushing her hair past 8 a.m., it’s a guaranteed invitation for the feed salesman to happen by or a hunter to arrive asking permission to hunt.

If for some unknown reason she decides to drive the kids to the bus in her nightie, it’s a 90-to-1 odds deal that she will break down and have to catch a ride home with the neighbor. It’s pretty hard to look ole neighbor Fred in the eye anytime after that.

For the wife, most of her dilemmas occur either because of her husband or when he is on the other side of the state buying something—cattle, horses or equipment.  It is then she will find the milk cow has milk fever and the pickup he left her has flat and the jack and four-way tire wrench went with him. By the time he gets home, invitations to his lynching have been printed and mailed out.

Horses that come in every morning for feed and water will not be seen all day if you so much as whisper the words, “We need to catch a horse tomorrow.” The same science applies for the day you intend to rope or windmill; the wind will blow with a gusto seen only accompanied by hurricane ratings.

There is no end to the list that defines the “romance” of ranch life, but most wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Julie can be reached for comment at

A thousand miles away from home … they have rejected us

All around the Water Trough
Searching for Refrain
A thousand miles away from home … they have rejected us
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I can’t swim.
            For years I was ashamed of that. There is no use debating or casting blame, though, because I have come to believe there are more important regrets. I suspect I am not alone in that conclusion.
In fact, there are a cast of characters just like me. A number of us claim the Gila River as home, and, on occasion, we talk about that. Our plight isn’t because we never had water around us. We had the river, but our anecdotal response has long been, “we never had enough water to cover our heads”.
There is a degree of truth in that.
It wasn’t because we didn’t spend time at the river. We spent a lot of time there. We fished often and most of us became pretty fair fishermen.
If there is a singular thread it came from our predecessors. We share common traits. They may have been fair mentors in things that mattered, but, in the shortcomings of this aspect, they failed. They couldn’t swim either.
Visually, the commonality can be seen in our exposed skin. Aside from our hands, necks, and faces up to our eyebrows, we have become varying shades of fluorescent white as we have aged regardless of our genetic configuration.
The fact is we come from a community of Americans who didn’t arise within or adhere to mainstream. We had grandfathers who shocked us when we witnessed them rolling their sleeves up to fix a float on a water trough or making ready to assist a first calf heifer trying to have her calf. We didn’t see that exposed skin very often, and, when we did, it was clearly apparent it had been protected from the sun for all the reasons implicit in the heritage they lived.
Across the country, we are a distinct minority.
Too often, we find ourselves misunderstood or in the crosshairs of public controversy. Most of the time, the conflict emanates from matters regarding the gradual encroachment and diminishment of access affecting our investments on federal lands. As the issues are elevated, the results don’t just affect us. Each is a skirmish that is revealed to be less about our impact on the land than how the decision making was handled by Washington.
I have become more brazenly proud of the life I live. If a marker happens to be the fact I can’t swim, so be it. The greater hallmark is that I am a linked to an American underpinning that doesn’t have to rely on abstract values to justify its existence. As American ranchers, we exist by our wits.
If you don’t believe that … try it.
Searching for Refrain
As the November 4 election looms, we seek not what is faddish or politically correct. We seek realism.
No doubt Nevadan Grant Gerber sought the same thing in his decision to organize what the nation came to know as the Grass March. An attorney who dedicated his life to the matter of access to public lands, Gerber didn’t come to the game with opinions garnished with intentions to diminish somebody’s character or extract revenge on their existence. He came to the conclusion there is broken communication between western states and Washington, and there is nobody repairing it.
The straw was broken when the rancher evictions took place under drought demands, but his actions had long been building. They started with wilderness access issues for the handicapped. Thereafter it was an agency conflict over a pipeline installation. Then, in succession, it was road closures, wildfire mismanagement, sage grouse listing, more grazing restrictions, and even camp ground closures.
He, too, recognized it was less about the land itself than it was about Washington, but something had to be done. So, Mr. Gerber and a handful of Westerners committed to his Grass March, a parallel to Gandhi’s Salt March opposing the tyrannical British dictates over the acquisition of salt. The group rode horseback from the California Coast to Washington for the purpose of delivering petitions of redress of grievances that have been imposed on Americans whose customs and culture necessarily depend on federal lands.
Yes, something has to be done. Somebody must affect a repair of the disconnect that exists between Washington and the West.
Interestingly, Gerber foretold of what his endeavor would bring. He counseled of the need to succeed in the march even if he was killed.
Just beyond the halfway point, his horse fell. He pushed himself away but his head struck the ground. He recovered enough to complete the ride and deliver his appeal, but the damage was done.
With severe headaches on the way home, he checked himself into a Wyoming hospital. Thereafter he was transferred to a Utah hospital where he suffered complications from the surgical procedure attempting to correct the trauma.
Grant Gerber died.
A thousand miles away from home they continue to reject us
 Change the names, but the plight of Nevadans represented by Grant Gerber is no different from ours in New Mexico. Ours is no different from our colleagues in Arizona. Theirs’ is no different from any of the other western states where federal land agency management dominates.
Indeed, November 4 is an important date.
Our hopes, however, shouldn’t be pegged to expectation of substantive change. Our biggest problem is our existence isn’t politically correct. We can continue to try to alter that predicament, but the odds are not in our favor.
What we have is each other and the intimacies of our way of life. It can be seen in our bleached arms each and every time we roll our long sleeves up to work in depths of a trough or reach inside a heifer to help her with her calf. Every one of us can stand around a trough and know it is us who pays for that water and it is us who expended the cost and effort to get it there and keep it there. We know what our presence on this land means, and we need no accolades.
We do, though, need realism.
It remains our charge to figure out how we continue. Like any business, we need to be able to plan for longer horizons than our resource management plans allow and dictate. We need to be free to develop parallel enterprises, and we need the freedom to continue to perfect the matter of stewardship we have chosen. The agents of such change are not a thousand miles from home. We are those agents, but the American government long ago lost touch in matters of individual freedom.
The elections of 2014 are a stepwise referendum. There is no trust.
Our message to the leaders who will be elected is simplistic. Take us as we are … you are directing an American tragedy of grandest proportions, but you have no right to orchestrate our demise.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Read the transcripts of the ranchers evicted in the Tularosa Basin during and following WWII. Pleading for their way of life got them … nothing.”