Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sage grouse rider -- what it all means

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

A one-year ban on new Endangered Species Act protections for sage grouse in this year's $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill is a foreshadowing of partisan wildlife battles to come when Republicans take over the Senate.

The rider, pushed by Republicans at the behest of grazing, mining, and oil and gas interests, passed the House last night in H.R. 83, which squeaked by 219-206 and is expected to clear the Senate by the weekend.

It sparked an outcry from environmentalists, who accused Congress of blocking crucial protections for Western rangelands, among other environmental safeguards.

Republicans and their allies said next September's court-imposed listing deadline for greater sage grouse was arbitrary -- it was set in 2011 settlements between the Obama administration and green groups, including CBD -- and will ultimately harm the bird. More time is needed to ensure that state conservation plans can bear fruit, they said.

This is not the first time Congress has intervened in a major wildlife battle -- it stepped in to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains in 2011 -- but it's a preview of battles next Congress when Republicans legislate with a unified voice.

President Obama has pledged to block GOP attempts to dismantle his climate change agenda, but the White House's support for the omnibus bill yesterday proves that wildlife and their habitat are bargaining chips in spending fights.

If Democratic appropriators could not stop a sage grouse rider when they controlled the upper chamber, there's almost no chance they'll be able to defeat it when they're in the minority.

"Once a rider is into an appropriations bill, it is very hard to get out," said one conservation lobbyist.

In its policy statement on the omnibus bill, the White House said it "objects to the inclusion of ideological and special interest riders," but said it supports passage of the bill.

Its main beef with the bill was policy riders increasing the amount of money individuals can donate to political party committees and relaxing banking regulations from the Dodd-Frank law. But there was no mention of sage grouse.

The Interior Department has blasted the sage grouse rider, but the truth is it had limited sway in the high-level spending negotiations between the White House and House and Senate leaders.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Senate seeks to end Congress, pass $1.1T funding bill

The Senate could approve the $1.1 trillion government-funding package as soon as Friday evening, one day after a dramatic vote in the House. Senators are looking to wrap up the 113th Congress by this weekend, and the funding bill keeping most of the government open through September is the big piece of business left.  But it’s not the only thing on the Senate’s to-do list. The chamber is scheduled to vote after 3 p.m. Friday to approve the annual Defense Department authorization bill, and will then confirm several nominees, including the new U.S. ambassadors to New Zealand and Iceland. The Senate also needs to pass a package extending a variety of expired tax breaks for one year, as well as a House-approved reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Under a separate measure approved by the House and Senate, the government is operating under a two-day continuing resolution that expires Sunday. That makes clearing the funding bill by Saturday at the latest the top priority. A single senator’s objection could slow the process down, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cautioned Friday that he would need the cooperation of all 99 of his colleagues. Reid said he wanted to hold a final vote on the funding bill on Friday...more

House approves $1.1T bill to fund government despite Dem uprising

The House on Thursday approved a $1.1 trillion bill funding most of the government through September despite an outcry from Democrats and significant defections in both parties. By a vote of 219-206, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where a similar debate may break out between liberal Democrats and the White House. The vote split Democratic leaders, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposing the bill and criticizing the White House, but Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) backing it. Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill, while 139 opposed it. The House also voted by unanimous consent on a two-day continuing resolution that would expire on Saturday. This is meant to keep the government funded and give the Senate cushion to consider the "cromnibus" package...more

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'CRomnibus' may include sage grouse rider but no money for forested counties

A $1 trillion bill to fund most of the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year is believed to contain language to restrict an Endangered Species Act listing decision for the greater sage grouse and does not include payments for forested Western counties, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill. Inclusion of those riders as well as possible other language aimed at U.S. EPA rulemaking on Clean Water Act authority could be a tough pill to swallow for environmental groups. National Journal yesterday reported that lobbyists believe the package may also include language exempting lead bullets and tackle from being regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Multiple lobbyists who track public lands issues yesterday said it appears the final deal includes language to push back the Fish and Wildlife Service's deadline next September to decide whether to propose federal protections for the sage grouse. A listing would be bitterly opposed by Western Republicans and oil and gas, ranching and mining interests. The deadline was set under the Obama administration's 2011 legal settlements with wildlife advocates. A final listing decision for the sage grouse would likely not occur until the very end of the Obama administration, or possibly beyond. One public lands lobbyist said the sage grouse language in the CRomnibus would be "less controversial than people might think," though the lobbyist had not seen the final spending deal. Another source close to Capitol Hill said he had heard the sage grouse language would be more "surgical," though still not palatable to greens. One conservation lobbyist said it appeared "very likely" a sage grouse listing delay would emerge in the package, and that greens at this point are doing all they can to clean up the language rather than remove it. Some concessions to Republicans may be inevitable in the spending bill, given that the GOP will be controlling the Senate next month and will then have much more leverage to pass environmental riders. Republicans can tell Democrats they can back out of CRomnibus discussions if they want and pass a CR until the GOP solidifies power, the conservation lobbyist said. "Republicans are saying we can come back and do this in three months," the lobbyist said, "but if you want a full-year budget, we're going to get some cats and dogs." Sources on and off Capitol Hill yesterday said there are strong signs that the spending deal will not include a reauthorization of the expired Secure Rural Schools, a program that for more than a decade has compensated forested counties that historically depended on federal timber revenues...more

Western Watersheds Project urges no on National Defense bill full of “riders”

The National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) set for a Senate vote this week contains language that will forever change the West. Renewal of many grazing permits would be exempted from public oversight and environmental review by being tucked in with a sprawling public lands package, undermining the already inadequate public lands grazing management performed by federal agencies The new laws would mean that the BLM and Forest Service must continue status quo grazing regardless of the environmental laws being violated until the agencies have sufficient funding (or inclination) to do otherwise. If this seems like a bad dream, it is. Congressman Raul Labrador and Senator John Barasso snuck the language of the Grazing “Improvement” Act (GIA) into this must-pass defense bill. The GIA would severely limit the ability of groups like WWP to hold the agencies accountable for impacts to clean water, imperiled wildlife and plant species, soils, and sensitive cultural sites. Title XXX would result in a net loss of wildland and wildlife protection on tens of millions of acres of public land. The provisions would undermine some of our nation’s preeminent environmental and public lands laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Wilderness Act,would give landscapes deemed sacred by Native American tribes to a foreign-owned mining company, and would diminish the federal estate held in trust for all Americans as an important part of our natural birthright...more

Will the Supreme Court Deliver Relief for Central Valley Farmers and Ranchers?

In California, water issues are of top concern. So, all eyes should be on Washington now as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to potentially take-up two major cases that may affect water policies in the Central Valley for years to come. The cases, Stewart Jasper Orchards v. Jewell and State Water Contractors v. Jewell, are about water rights for Californians and they tell a story of environmental regulation gone wild.

As we know too well, ranchers and farmers are hurting under severe drought conditions throughout California. These troubles are only exacerbated by the federal government’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations, which are forcing additional water restrictions, in the Central Valley, for the benefit of the Delta Smelt, a pinky sized fish that has no commercial value. These restrictions prevent farmers and ranchers from receiving their full water allocations—meaning precious rain water and snow-melt is passing into the San Francisco Bay while agricultural communities are running dry. In fact early this summer farmers in the Central Valley were forecast to get “zero allocation” in order to protect the Delta Smelt. That projection was revised upward only after we received a little more rain than was originally expected. But the farmers still received far less water than they really needed.

Ever since U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) began imposing mandatory water restrictions, farmers have been forced to get by with less, or to rely more heavily on their private wells. But, for some, those wells are beginning to run dry. And, as the State moves to limit water that can be tapped from underground reservoirs, things are looking grim.

Many have simply abandoned large sections of their farms—letting crops wither and die—for lack of water. Some have reduced output. Others have simply given up. All of this means fewer opportunities for agricultural workers, and hard times for businesses reliant on agriculture—not to mention rising food costs throughout the nation.

There can be no doubt that these water restrictions have imposed serious hardships on farmers, with major adverse economic impacts on the entire Central Valley economy—if not the country. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has no obligation to think about economic consequences. In their view, the only “economic impact” they need to consider is the cost of enforcing the restrictions—never mind the devastating impacts on California communities.

First sheep killed by wolf in Whitman County; ranchers, farmers advised to secure fences

The first sheep kill attributed to a wolf has been reported in Whitman County in southeast Washington. The ewe was found dead Friday after it strayed from a flock near Lamont, apparently through a break in an electric fence. "We've ruled it a probable wolf kill," said Joey McCanna with the state Fish and Wildlife Department, noting that the investigation didn't come up with all the evidence needed for a confirmation. However, location of the wounds, canine teeth punctures and a broken femur indicated wolf, he said. McCanna told The Spokesman-Review that other ranchers and farmers in the area are being alerted to secure their livestock with fences. They also are advised to make sure any carcasses are buried to avoid attracting coyotes and wolves. The dead ewe was one of several sheep that had strayed from the flock where there was a breakdown in their enclosure of three-strand electric fence, McCanna said...more

Lima Climate Talks Set for Record Carbon Footprint

The current U.N. climate talks will be the first to neutralize all the greenhouse gas pollution they generate, offset by host country Peru's protection of forest at three different reserves, organizers say. Now the bad news: The Lima conference is expected to have the biggest carbon footprint of any U.N. climate meeting measured to date. At more than 50,000 metric tons of carfb/phbon dioxide, the negotiations' burden on global warming will be about 1 1/2 times the norm, said Jorge Alvarez, project coordinator for the U.N. Development Program. The venue is one big reason. It had to be built. Eleven football fields of temporary structures arose for the 13-day negotiations from what three months ago was an empty field behind Peru's army's headquarters. Concrete was laid, plumbing installed, components flown in from as far as France and Brazil. No hybrids or electric vehicles have been seen at the event. Japan donated 121 electric and hybrid vehicles, chiefly for dignitaries. "Unfortunately, most didn't arrive," said Alvarez, blaming shipping bureaucracy...more

Deal reached on $1.01 trillion spending bill

Congressional leaders unveiled a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill Tuesday night that will keep most of the federal government funded through September. The legislation is expected to pass in the coming days and will allow the incoming Republican-controlled Congress to clear the decks of lingering spending issues while setting the stage for a prolonged fight with President Obama over immigration policy. At 1,603 pages, the bill includes at least $1.2 billion for agencies to deal with the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. There’s also money to fight the rise of the Islamic State and $5.4 billion to fight the threat of Ebola. But there are also significant changes to campaign finance laws and potential cuts to retiree pension plans. Democrats were cheering bigger budgets for enforcement at agencies created after the 2008 economic collapse. House leaders are planning to introduce a stopgap bill to give the House and Senate a few more days to pass the final measure and avoid a government shutdown Thursday night...more

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Mexican gray wolves bite domestic dogs in Gila Hot Springs area

Two domestic dogs were bitten by Mexican gray wolves in the Gila Hot Springs area around Thanksgiving day, according to New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Service public outreach specialist Jeff Humphries. The wolves belong to the Coronado Pack, which were originally released at McKenna Park in the Gila Wilderness during the summer. Neither of the wounded dogs was seriously injured, Humphries reported. The two domestic dogs that were attacked are a retired sheep dog and a dog of unknown breed, though the second dog is believed to be a pet. The dogs had puncture wounds in their flesh and the Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the bites came from Mexican gray wolves. The bites occurred on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29. Humphries added that a field crew went into the Gila Wilderness area on Nov. 24 to get a handle on wolf movement. Two of the adults in the pack wear collars which transmit the wolves’ location via satellite. By early December, the field crew was able to drive the wolf pack back into the Gila Wilderness area through the use of yelling, firecrackers and horns. New Mexico Cattle Growers Association Executive Director Caren Cowan said that as more Mexican gray wolves are released into the wild, there will be more conflict between wild animals and people...more

NOAA: Don't Blame Climate Change for Calif. Drought

Is humanity off the hook for California's record-breaking drought? A new federal report says the drought, "while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state," and is the result of natural weather patterns instead of man-made climate change, reports USA Today. NOAA researchers say a major cause of the drought has been a warm, dry, high-pressure ridge over the eastern Pacific and western US that has blocked precipitation—and climate models say greenhouse gases should have the opposite effect, causing slightly more precipitation in the region instead of blocking it. "The report is not dismissive of global warming at all," an NOAA meteorologist and study co-author says. "At the same time, drought is not a consequence of the warming planet to date." But scientists not involved with the study accuse the NOAA researchers of failing to take into account how warmer temperatures aggravated the drought, including causing more moisture to evaporate from the ground...more

North Dakota to require every barrel of crude oil be filtered

North Dakota is poised to impose the strictest oil standards in its history on Tuesday, requiring every barrel of crude to be filtered for dangerous types of natural gas in an effort to make crude-by-rail transport safer. The new requirements come as federal, state and local officials grapple with how best to ensure the safe transport of North Dakota's crude oil, which has been linked to a string of fiery crude-by-rail explosions, including one last year in Quebec that killed 47 people. Because most of the oil extracted in the United States via hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking," is transported on rail and because North Dakota is the second-largest oil-producing state after Texas, the new standards will have a ripple effect throughout the nation. At its core, the standards will require crude extracted from the state's shale formations - more than 1.1 million barrels per day - to be processed through machinery set at mandated temperatures and pressures, which the NDIC believes will remove the most amounts of propane, butane and other volatile natural gas liquids (NGLs) naturally found in oil. Some producers do this now; the NDIC aims to make all comply...more

Nevada counties sue over sage grouse

A lawsuit alleges the federal government is skirting necessary due process in a looming sage grouse decision by not considering “warranted but precluded” as a listing category. The Nevada Association of Counties, Nevada Mineral Resources Alliance, the American Exploration & Mining Association, and F.I.M Corp. – a family-owned sheep operation in Smith – jointly filed the lawsuit on Thursday. The coalition asserts that the government violated the Endangered Species Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution, and specifically takes issue with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2011 legal agreement with conservation groups to determine whether candidate species – in listing limbo – needed to be recognized as protected or not. A species under consideration for protection can be classified in one of three ways: It will be added as an endangered or threatened species, it won’t warrant a listing, or a listing is warranted but precluded because other species are in more dire straits. But the 2011 court settlement takes the third possibility off the table for many candidate species. “Under the Settlements, FWS voluntarily, and without congressional authority, eliminated one of these three statutory options that the ESA requires it consider,” the complaint states. Plaintiffs also argued that the greater sage grouse decision date, Sept. 30, 2015, doesn’t give states and local governments, as well as business entities, landowners and nonprofits, enough time to demonstrate how their efforts have improved sage grouse habitat and bird populations. “The purpose of the ESA is not to add species to the protected list but to protect species and their habitat so they never warrant listing as a threatened or endangered species,” the document continues...more

Too many wild horses, Wyoming sues

Wyoming filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking to force the federal government to reduce the number of wild horses that roam the state. Wyoming claims the U.S. Department of Interior has failed to follow federal law in controlling wild horse populations. Gov. Matt Mead said too many wild horses can harm habitat used by other wildlife species, including sage grouse, deer and elk. He says overgrazing by horses can even threaten the horses themselves. "It is my belief, and the belief of other western governors, that the BLM does not have the resources to manage wild horses effectively," Mead said. "By filing suit, it sends a message that wild horse management is a priority and the BLM must be provided the funding necessary to manage them." The Western Governors' Association passed a resolution last weekend at its meeting in Las Vegas stating that federal agencies' inability to rein in rising wild horse and burro populations is an urgent concern...more

Groups want public lands bills pulled from defense act

A coalition of 47 environmental organizations called on U.S. senators Monday to remove public lands riders from a defense bill, criticizing what they described as a "kitchen-sink" approach to conservation. Several public lands proposals in several states including Montana have been attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015. The House approved the bill Wednesday. The Senate is expected to vote later this week. Greenpeace, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Watersheds Project and a handful of Montana-based groups sent a letter to senators Monday urging them to remove the natural resources related provisions from the defense act. Calling the public lands package a "stealth" provision driven by provincial political considerations, the groups say the bills will result in logging, mining and grazing in exchange for modest wilderness protections. "I don't know what's going to happen with the defense bill, but if nothing else the public is becoming more aware what's in the bill is bad news," said George Nickas, executive director of Missoula-based Wilderness Watch. Other conservation groups are standing by the public lands package in the defense bill, despite misgivings about individual provisions, arguing it will result in protections for national treasures such as the Rocky Mountain Front. Nickas said the bill is pitting public lands advocates against one another. The price to protect some areas, such as the North Fork of the Flathead, should not be logging old-growth forest in Alaska or mining in Arizona, he said...more

Senator to delay NDAA vote

Lawmakers are still searching for a way to avoid a government shutdown, while a conservative senator is vowing to delay a must-pass Pentagon policy bill. It’s just another end-of-session Tuesday on Capitol Hill. House and Senate leaders and the heads of both Appropriations committees had hoped to introduce a “crominbus” spending bill Monday or Tuesday morning. But as the Tuesday lunch hour approached, they had yet to adequately address some members’ remaining concerns. The bill would by a hybrid of the omnibus spending measure the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees had been working on for weeks. It would include full-year spending bills for a dozen agencies, including the Defense Department, but not the Department of Homeland Security — a GOP legislative response to President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Also still pending is a $559 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House easily passed last week. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., says the bill should be introduced Tuesday evening. However, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a longtime fiscal hawk, told reporters Tuesday he intends to prevent the measure from being adopted via unanimous consent. “It’s not going through on a UC,” Coburn said sternly. Coburn said he will force a vote on ending debate “because it has packages, and earmarks, and every other kind of thing that shouldn’t be in the NDAA.” If Coburn objects as the NDAA is brought up, “you’ll have to file cloture,” Levin said. That means a clock would begin with 30 hours of debate time, likely setting up Thursday floor votes on ending debate and perhaps final passage...more

6 Years Later, Stimulus Funds Still Being Spent on Manure

Almost six years after the passage of the stimulus package, taxpayer dollars have finally found their way into a shovel ready project: $60,000 to haul horse manure. Sold as an opportunity to bring America into the “21st century,” the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus, is now being used to remove wild horse manure off of public lands. According to a contract awarded last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will pay $58,650 to load, haul, and dispose manure from a corral in Burns, Oregon. The facility holds wild horses and burros found on the Oregon range where they await adoption. “Manure shall be wind-rowed, piled if necessary, loaded, and hauled to a site for a beneficial use,” the BLM said in their solicitation outlining the project. “If there is no beneficial use for the manure, then it shall be legally disposed of in a landfill or by another approved disposal practice.” “Stockpiling of the manure shall not be permitted,” they added. The government anticipated that laborers would be paid $16.86 an hour plus fringe benefits for the job, which was awarded to ACW, Inc., a company in Hines, Oregon...more

Federal lands transfer could cost Idaho millions

Taking control of federal public lands in Idaho could cost the state $111 million a year, a new report shows. The study by the University of Idaho’s Policy Analysis Group found the state could lose millions of dollars in eight of nine different scenarios involving such a transfer. Researchers compared various financial benefits for the state’s timber industry to increased costs connected with management of the land. The report was requested by a legislative committee tasked under a resolution known as HR22 with studying a state takeover of federal lands in Idaho. The panel will finalize its recommendation Tuesday. Supporters of a land transfer claim timber harvests would boom under state management. Meanwhile, opponents say the boost in revenue would do little to offset the millions of dollars needed for land management expenses. Researchers only saw a profit of $24 million a year in one scenario. In that case, Idaho would have to boost its harvest by 1 billion board-feet of timber a year and sell it at $250 per 1,000 board-feet. Under the worst-case scenario, Idaho would increase its harvest sales by half a billion board-feet and would sell it at $150 per 1,000 board-feet. This would result in $35 million of revenue a year and $146 million of costs, resulting a loss of $111 million a year. “The question becomes, after you consider the timber markets, is how are these lands going to be managed?” said Jay O’Laughlin, who wrote the report shortly after retiring as director of the research group. “That’s going to determine the cost structure and the revenues.” O’Laughlin said the state would face steep wildfire prevention and suppression costs if it takes control of federal lands. O’Laughlin said the state would face steep wildfire prevention and suppression costs if it takes control of federal lands. Currently, Idaho relies on federal firefighters to put out wildfires on state lands. By taking control of the federal lands, Idaho would be in charge of providing enough staffing and equipment to suppress the state’s largest wildfires. Idaho would also be responsible for payments the federal government now doles out to help offset losses in property taxes from nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. “The question whether payments to counties should continue is likely to spark lively debate,” O’Laughlin wrote in the report...more

BLM sued - no environmental review of coal leasing since 1979

Coal leases on public lands operated by the US Bureau of Land Management are responsible for 40% of US coal production and 14% of total US CO2 emissions, writes Mike Gaworecki - yet their environmental impacts have not been reviewed in 35 years. 

It has been 35 years since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last performed an environmental review of its coal leasing program.

But now two environmental groups are suing the BLM to force a review of the program.
Given advances in scientific knowledge of the risks posed by mining and burning coal to human health and Earth's climate made since 1979, the groups argue that the review will
"compel the Bureau of Land Management to deliver on its legal obligation to promote environmentally responsible management of public lands on behalf of the citizens of the United States."

Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, naming Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and BLM Director Neil Kornze as lead defendants, along with the Department of the Interior and the BLM.
BLM coal producing 14% of US's CO2 emissions

Citing requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, the complaint states:

"Even though coal mined under the federal coal management program is one of the single greatest contributors to US greenhouse gas emissions, constituting approximately 14% of annual carbon dioxide emissions and 11% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, BLM has unlawfully failed to evaluate and consider these environmental effects."


San Carlos Apache Leader Seeks Senate Defeat of Copper Mine on Sacred Land

The leader of the San Carlos Apache Tribe is asking the Senate not to vote on the annual National Defense Authorization Act until a provision that would allow a massive copper mining project on sacred land is removed. The House approved a bill on December 4 that gives 2,400 acres of sacred Apache land to a giant international mining corporation, then sent it to the Senate for a fast vote in a process that won’t allow amendments to be made. The Senate is expected to act on it this week. The land swap bill, called the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 (H.R. 687), was attached as a rider to the annual must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with several other land-related bills. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama, the land swap legislation will allow Resolution Copper Co., a subsidiary of the controversial international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected public land in the Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state...more

Monday, December 08, 2014

Possible Hope in Western Battle Against Cheatgrass

A century-long losing battle has been waged in the West against an invasive weed that is responsible for massive wildfires and threatens native species and rangeland. Now, some 65 years after famed naturalist Aldo Leopold summed up the general consensus in the battle against cheatgrass as hopeless, there might be hope. "We're in a better position to fight back than we have ever been," said Susan Meyer, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist working with fungus at the Shrub Sciences Laboratory in Provo, Utah. Cheatgrass with its barbed seed pods is known for sticking to socks and injuring pets by getting in their ears and paws. It arrived from Europe in the late 1890s, and is found in every state in the Lower 48, though it thrives in colder, drier climates. In the Intermountain West, it's the most common plant and the dominant plant in an area about the size of Montana, Meyer said, and it's spreading. It has taken over some areas so thoroughly that scientists call the regions monocultures, and public land managers have mostly thrown up their hands and opted to spend resources elsewhere. That's changing as the battle has taken on an urgency with cheatgrass eliminating sage brush. Among the 400 or so species that rely on sage brush is the greater sage grouse. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a court-ordered September 2015 deadline to determine if sage grouse need federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. A listing could have ramifications for agriculture and energy, possibly damaging the economies of the 11 Western states where the chicken-sized bird resides. "It's probably the biggest public land issue of our time," said John Freemuth, a public land policy expert and professor at Boise State University. The spread of cheatgrass and the battle to control it, he said, will likely factor into the decision about sage grouse. "As you start losing habitat, you start getting this downward spiral, and people are worried you won't have enough habitat to avoid a listing," Freemuth said. What all that means is that Meyer and Ann Kennedy, a scientist in Washington state working with bacteria, are drawing attention from top land managers and policy makers — and research money — after showing that the seemingly invincible cheatgrass might have an Achilles' heel. "The land management agencies, they're pretty desperate," said Meyer, who is pursuing a soil-born fungus capable of wiping out cheatgrass stands. "It isn't just sage grouse — it's the whole system going down the tube. Sage grouse is just the canary in the coal mine." Kennedy, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, has sorted through some 20,000 strains of naturally occurring soil bacteria to discover two that single out cheatgrass...more

Obama Administration Urged to Oppose Copper Mine, Grazing Giveaway in Defense Bill

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to fight provisions tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act that would pave the way for a copper mine in Arizona — long opposed by local tribes and citizens — and automatically renew grazing permits on public lands without any consideration for how it will affect rivers, streams, wildlife and pristine habitat.

The bill is set for a vote in the coming days by the Senate.

“If there ever was a moment for the Obama administration to come to the defense of America’s public lands, this is it,” said Randi Spivak, the Center’s public lands director. “These provisions have nothing to do with our military and everything to do with ramming through the right-wing agenda to tear protections away from the lands that Americans own and love. Secretaries Jewell and Vilsack should ask President Obama to veto the bill. ”

Included in the bill are provisions that would:
  • trade 2,400 acres of national forest land in Arizona to Resolution Copper, a foreign mining company, to facilitate development of a copper mine that’s long been opposed by locals. The lands are considered sacred by local tribes who have fought the land trade for years.  
  • automatically renew livestock grazing permits on tens of millions of acres of public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers. This section, if enacted, would exacerbate habitat degradation that will imperil the greater sage grouse, increasing the need to protect this western bird under the Endangered Species Act.
  • transfer 70,000 acres of public forest in the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corporation, thereby privatizing dozens of the best undeveloped coves, bays and recreational areas on the Tongass National Forest, damaging vital fish and wildlife habitats and jeopardizing the livelihoods of several small communities and other forest users.
“This defense bill has become a Trojan horse with provisions that will do long-term damage to our public lands, especially in the West,” Spivak said. “Secretary Jewell and Secretary Vilsack are the guardians of our public lands and we need them front and center in this fight. We’re relying on them to ensure the Obama administration does everything it can to protect these places that are owned by all Americans, not just those exploiting them for profit.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Land-swap Senate vote imminent

A U.S. Senate decision is imminent on legislation that would ease the way for a massive copper mine 100 miles north of Tucson. The Senate could vote Wednesday or Thursday on the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a bill to give 2,400 acres of national forest land near Superior to a foreign mining company. Opponents are outraged that legislators inserted the hotly contested land swap into a must-pass piece of legislation at the 11th hour. “They’re trying to sneak it through,” said Superior Town Councilman Gilbert Aguilar, a former miner. “That’s pretty desperate to me.” The land-swap legislation has repeatedly failed to pass both houses of Congress since it was first introduced in 2005. It was inserted into the defense spending bill at the behest of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona — who has been pushing the land-swap since 2005 — as well as House supporters U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona “This is not unusual,” Gosar said in a phone interview. The bill is not completely unrelated to the defense bill, he said, because “critical mineral access” is in the best interest of the military. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in a Monday email, “Sen. McCain will be extremely proud if the Resolution Copper land exchange is enacted into law. There is clearly a strategic national interest in increasing America’s domestic production of copper.” Mining company Resolution Copper, jointly owned by U.K.-based Rio Tinto Group and Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd., wants access to a massive copper deposit 7,000 feet beneath the land parcel, just east of Superior. The mine would generate enough copper to meet 25 percent of U.S. demand...more

Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins


You may have seen the news of a supposed “Historic” day for Wilderness in Montana and America’s public lands legacy. For example: here and here.

For those who care deeply about the future of America’s public lands legacy, it’s very important for everyone to look at this 449 page pork-filled public lands rider package in its entire context, and what that means not only for Montana, but for America’s entire public lands legacy.

There are a total of 6,397,000 unprotected Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana.  This public lands rider would protect only 67,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness. That means that this “Historic” “new hope for Wilderness” would amount to protecting just 1% of the total Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in Montana as Wilderness.

Nationally, the number of Wilderness acres protected in this bill is even more pitiful. This ‘historic’ 449 page-long Public Lands rider attached to the National Defense Authorization Act would protect a whopping 0.2% of all remaining Wilderness-eligible roadless acres in the United States. Nothing says “Happy 50th Birthday Wilderness Act” than boldly protecting 0.2% of what remains, right?


The so-called “Grazing ‘Improvement” rider in the bill – as was pointed out by a work colleague/public lands policy expert – is a complete roll back of environmental law and public input into public lands grazing permit renewals. Essentially, public lands grazing permits would now be renewed regardless of a NEPA analysis, public land health conditions and regardless of the impact on wildlife, including endangered species.

“The only environmentally beneficial part of the Grazing Improvement Act — voluntary grazing permit retirement — was removed, making this bill a wholesale disaster,” said Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians. “This bill would make it harder for government agencies to manage livestock grazing on public lands, and create new obstacles to restoring damaged habitats where livestock grazing is currently degrading the health of our public lands.” More info from a coalition of conservation groups is here.

Ironically, as the coalition conservation groups point out, and as Andy Kerr mentioned in the E&E article highlighted in a previous blog post, the Grazing “Improvement” Act all but ensures the US Fish and Wildlife Service will have to list greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act as it completely circumvents the current process of revising land use plans by the BLM and Forest Service. In addition, extending public lands grazing permits to 20 years will continue the fleecing of U.S. taxpayers. A General Accounting Office (GAO) report found that federal land management agencies lose $10 for every $1 paid in grazing fees.

I've read Sec. 3023 of the bill, and nowhere do I see any language to change the length of grazing permits to twenty years.

NDAA - Wilderness watchers wonder what's next for Montana wild country

While everyone wonders if the U.S. Senate will pass a huge package of public lands legislation this week, many Montanans are already looking beyond the fate of the two wildland protection bills in the mix. “The positive thing is a logjam is going to break loose,” said Scott Bosse of American Rivers in Bozeman. “That helps future conservation bills. I think members of our delegation were reluctant to take on other big projects as long as the logjam existed.” Wilderness advocate Steward Brandborg felt quite the opposite. The man who helped pass the Wilderness Act of 1964 called last week’s omnibus addition to the National Defense Authorization Act “a lamentable drift.” “It doesn’t represent anything beyond a bad precedent for managing our public lands,” Brandborg said. “It’s a totally inadequate, half-assed approach that we shouldn’t allow.” Brandborg was also angry about the deal Republican Rep. Steve Daines cut with Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh to downgrade 29,000 acres of eastern Montana wilderness study areas in return for supporting the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which adds 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. In addition to the Bob Marshall wilderness additions, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act gave 208,000 acres conservation management status, which allows existing travel and recreation uses but prevents other development. And the North Fork Preservation Act took 400,000 acres along the North Fork of the Flathead River out of energy development. That dovetails with British Columbia legislation giving the northern part of the river similar protection. Montana’s trade-aways opened 112 million tons of coal tracts to the Signal Peak mining operation out of Roundup, while reassessing oil and gas potential on 15,000 acres south of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Daines said that kind of balance between land protection and resource opportunity was essential in bringing the deal together. It also marked a nearly unprecedented release of wilderness study areas that had been hanging in limbo for almost 40 years...more

Feds want to save sage grouse without listing

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told a meeting of Western governors Saturday in Las Vegas that the U.S. government’s goal is to find a way to save the sage grouse without having to list it as an endangered species. Jewell was meeting with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and other state leaders who object to listing the sage grouse, arguing it would lock up hundreds of thousands of acres and harm the mining, ranching and cattle industries while changing the way of life in the Silver State. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies have been working with environmentalists and local authorities in 11 Western states to find a way to protect sage grouse habitat and preserve the species without a formal listing, Jewell said, speaking at a news conference. She said there’s a September 2015 deadline for Fish and Wildlife to make a decision on whether to list the bird as an endangered species and set aside protected habitat for it. “We want to create an environment where a listing is not warranted,” Jewell said. “So we’re all working with that common objective. ... It truly is epic collaboration. It’s not just the sage grouse that’s at stake. It’s the Western way of life that’s at stake.” Jewell’s comments came during a luncheon speech to a two-day winter meeting of the Western Governors Association. Sandoval, who is chairman of the association, hosted the conference at the Four Seasons...more

Montana wilderness bill a product of last-minute horse-trading (NDAA); Senate vote this week

Years of legislative wrangling squeezed down to hours of last-minute negotiating to get a bundle of Montana land bills into the National Defense Authorization Act last week. “We were not sure what was going to be in the package until 11 p.m. Tuesday night,” Rep. Steve Daines, R-Montana, said Friday. “There’s a lot of pieces in that package. It was late in the game before we could see what was going on.” For Montana Democratic senators Jon Tester and John Walsh, the legislative work started in October. But the final horse-trading took place just days before all three members of the congressional delegation stood together to announce their achievement on Wednesday. And even after they shook hands, other national forces threatened to pull the omnibus apart before it can reach President Barack Obama's desk. “There are folks here that are still playing games,” Tester said Friday. “But we hope we can get this across the finish line.” The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $495.6 billion in Pentagon discretionary spending and $63.7 billion in overseas contingency operations. Those dollars go to things like developing the F-35 fighter jet, maintaining nuclear weapons, operating aircraft carriers and paying military personnel. That makes it “must-pass” legislation. Tester said two months ago, a group of Western state senators decided to combine all the public land management bills that had relatively wide support and amend the package to something that had to pass in the last days of the session. The defense authorization act was the chosen pony. The 70 smaller bills represent the most significant public lands management progress since the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009...more

A grazing provision, sage grouse and conflict (NDAA)

It's the kind of political firefight than can flare in the waning days of a congressional session, as members try to attach favorite legislation to bills that must pass before Congress can head home for Christmas. Language to help ranchers protect their grazing privileges - which some environmentalists say could put the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List - got added to an 11th-hour defense bill, prompting a war of words this week. But the officials at the Department of Interior in charge of both grazing and sage grouse protections said Friday that the proposal by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, would not have the unintended consequence of listing the grouse. Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act 300-119 on Thursday. Labrador, R-Idaho, added a provision that would automatically renew grazing permits that ranchers hold on public lands. The provision would restore a policy in place since the 1990s that was struck down this year by an Idaho federal judge, who said grazing leases needed more environmental review. Labrador, who actually voted against the bill, says the automatic renewal protects ranchers who might lose their grazing rights waiting for bureaucrats to perform the reviews. His language was passed by the House as a stand-alone bill earlier this year. But the provision caught the eye of some environmentalists. Todd Tucci, an attorney with the Boise-based Advocates for the West and other conservation groups, said Thursday that the bill could lead to the listing of sage grouse - either by the Department of Interior or a federal judge - because the BLM's lack of money could mean grazing permits would not get the conservation measures needed to protect sage grouse until funds come years later...more

Interior secretary disappointed at land swap in Defense bill

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell sharply criticized a proposed land swap deal attached to a defense bill that would threaten sacred American Indian land. The swap is part of a massive federal parks and energy package that was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by the House this week. It would transfer the Arizona site of the proposed Resolution Copper mine — estimated to be one of the largest deposits in the world — to a British mining company, enabling its development. The land, currently a national forest, contains a site sacred to the San Carlos Apache tribe, where warriors are believed to have leapt to their depth in the 19th century to avoid being captured by troops. “I’m happy to see public lands bills make progress,” Jewell said Saturday, according to the Washington Post. “The preference on public lands bills is that they go through a typical process of public lands bills and they get debate and discussion.” But she said the copper mine deal is “profoundly disappointing.”...more

The Environmental Protection-Racket Agency


The Environmental Protection Agency consistently justifies its onerous regulations by insisting that they safeguard human health and environmental quality.

From carbon dioxide standards that slash coal industry operations and jobs to Draconian new water rules that let EPA control farm ponds and puddles, the agency claims that benefits to people, plants and wildlife far outweigh any costs.

For EPA's new ground-level ozone standard, however, there is no doubt costs will greatly exceed any asserted benefits. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has said those costs cannot be considered — even though they are enormous, while the benefits are minimal to nonexistent.

It was only in May 2012 that EPA decided which U.S. counties met its 2008 ozone standards, which cut allowable ground-level ozone levels from 80 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb (equivalent to 75 seconds in 32 years).

Now EPA wants to slash allowable levels even further: to 70 or even 60 ppb, which many researchers say is below natural ozone levels. Even Jackson Hole and Teton County, Wyoming could be out of compliance, mostly due to emissions from pine trees.

Predictably, EPA says the lower limits are vital for limiting smog, reducing respiratory problems and protecting public health in "at-risk populations." It bases this claim on a 2009 study directed by University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health Professor Michael Jerrett, who claimed to find a connection between long-term ozone exposure and death.

Other researchers sharply criticized Jerrett's work, saying he made questionable assumptions about ozone concentrations, did not utilize clinical tests, ignored the findings of other studies that found no significant link between ground-level ozone and health, and failed to gather critically important information on test subjects' smoking habits. When they asked to examine his data, Jerrett refused.

Yet EPA apparently is basing the new ozone standards solely on Jerrett's analysis. That's typical. The agency usually focuses on one or two studies that support its regulatory agenda, while ignoring those that cast doubt.

A fix for the desert tortoise

In a long hallway at Las Vegas’ Oquendo Center, a renowned veterinary training facility, dozens of plastic totes are lined up against a wall. Each holds a single Mojave desert tortoise, a threatened species. This is pre-op: The nearly 60 tortoises, rescued from captivity, are pioneers in Nevada’s new strategy to help stem the state’s captive tortoise problem. They’re waiting to be sterilized. Sterilizing members of a species you’re trying to save may sound weird, but there’s a reason for it. Pet, or “captive,” tortoises were exempted from the 1990 Endangered Species Act listing of the Mojave desert tortoise, an unconventional arrangement designed to allow Southwesterners to keep any tortoises they already had in their backyards. Even as the wild population faces habitat loss and fragmentation, caused primarily by development, tortoises thrive in captivity. And when people dump unwanted pets or their offspring in the desert, those tortoises compete with the fragile wild population and frequently spread diseases — one of many reasons why dealing with them diverts resources needed for wild tortoises...more

Browns Canyon national monument measure debated

About 400 people turned out for a public meeting on a proposed national monument in Browns Canyon in the southwestern Colorado mountains. Supporters say a national monument designation would resolve conflicting jurisdictions, while opponents expressed concern about grazing and access. Sens. Mark Udall has proposed designating 16 square miles of federal land as a monument and wilderness. The rugged and scenic canyon is near the Sawatch mountains, seven miles northwest of Salida and 100 miles southwest of Denver. Udall's bill discussed on Saturday would exclude the nearby Arkansas River from the monument and would allow existing livestock grazing to continue. It would also allow efforts to control wildfires, insects, noxious weeds and non-native plants.  AP

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Benny Binion Bucking Horse and Bull Sale

Benny Binion’s World Famous Bucking Horse and Bull Sale returns to the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Dec. 4th-6th. Much like the Permit Holder of the Year Challenge, 2014 marks a landmark year for the Bucking Horse and Bull Sale as they have completely revamped and restructured the entire event. There are several first for this years Benny Binion’s World Famous Bucking Horse and Bull Sale and one of them will kick off the event Thursday morning. For the first time ever at the sale, they will dummy buck both colts and bucking bulls which will then be sold in the arena after they are bucked. The dummy bucking section will include 20 two and three year old colts, and dummy yearling and two year old bulls. The first ever Permit Holder of the Year Challenge which features all events, with the top five permit holders entered from the standings, will also be part of the sale. All of the horses in the Bareback and Bronc Riding, along with the Bulls in the Bull Riding, are consignments that are featured Thursday, and sold Saturday.. The five contestants entered in each event, each get two rounds in that one performance so there will be ten Bares, Broncs and Bulls from Thursdays Permit Holder of the Year Challenge that are up on the auction block. Fridays event, the World Futurity Bronc Finale has quickly become a must see show in its short existence. Some of the rankest four and five year old Broncs in the business will match up against some of the very best Bronc Riders in the country. Just as the Thursdays consignments were, all of these horses that will be featured in the Bronc Finale on Friday, and sold on Saturday with video playback of their outs...more

New Mexico Fines U.S. $54 Million for Nuclear Accidents

New Mexico has fined the U.S. Energy Department more than $54 million over accidents at the country’s only underground repository for nuclear waste. The fines, which state officials announced Saturday morning, stem from an underground fire and a radiation leak earlier this year at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, known as WIPP. Nearly two dozen workers were exposed to contamination at the plant, which handles radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear-weapons program. The fines represent the largest penalties New Mexico has ever levied against the Energy Department, state officials said, noting that their investigation found major procedural problems. The Energy Department committed 37 violations of state regulations in its handling of radioactive waste, the state said. Drums of the waste were improperly treated and stored at Los Alamos National Laboratory before being shipped to the nuclear repository, according to the state, contributing to the accidents last February...more

New Mexico struggles despite federal largess

Average per-capita income in Rio Arriba: $20,000, well below half Los Alamos County’s $50,740. The contrast highlights an unusual wealth gap in New Mexico: Unlike other states, the richest residents of New Mexico work mainly in the public sector, while almost everyone else is employed in the private sector. That dynamic is both a blessing and a curse. In all, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust’s Fiscal Federalism Initiative, about 35 percent of New Mexico’s economy comes from the federal government – the highest such figure for any state. Critics say an inability to diversify the economy has exacerbated income disparities. They say that at a time of tight federal budgets, the state can’t afford to stake its economic future on government spending. Unless new industries can be attracted, workers will have to settle for whatever lower-paying government jobs are available or for low-wage service industry work, according to political leaders and experts on the state’s economy. “The rest of the nation is subsidizing New Mexico,” said Jake Arnold, a political consultant. New Mexico ranked last among states for job growth from January 2011 through 2013. It is second, behind Mississippi, in the percentage of its residents living in poverty – a percentage that increased from 20.8 percent in 2012 to 21.9 percent in 2013, Census figures show. It also consistently ranks at or near the bottom of national rankings for education and child welfare...more

New Mexico struggles because of the federal largess, not despite it.

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

Cowboy code

by Julie Carter

We live in a time when rules and regulations are everywhere. If the government hasn’t regulated it, we the people have.

We write rules and pass out manuals with job descriptions. We have laws to abide by while on the job or as members of most organizations.

A cowboy’s job is not just a career. It is a heritage that has evolved over more than a century of man working with cattle. With it comes a code that isn’t written in any manual. The rules aren’t printed and handed out at the bunkhouse or posted on the saddle room door.

They have been passed from generation to generation among the cowboys themselves and between father and son. These are laws of respect and cowboy etiquette that are just part of the job.

The concepts are age-old but hold true still today. But, because more and more cowboys are “found” and not raised, fewer and fewer are aware of the content of this unwritten manual.

Genuine legitimate indisputable cowboys have influenced my life. Over the years, I have asked them to tell me what it was a cowboy should know in order to live true to the code.

If the cowboy had an employee handbook, these men all agreed that these simple laws, no matter which outfit it was on, would be included:

·         Never ride another cowboy’s horse unless it’s a matter of life and death.
·         Never use another cowboy’s equipment without permission.
·         Never ride between another cowboy and the herd. Always ride behind him to get where you are going.
·         Don’t ride in front of the boss. He knows what he wants to do. He will let you know what he wants you to know. If he’s tracking cattle, stay back or you’ll mess up the tracks.
·         Never ride into the herd if you haven’t been asked to do so. If you are holding herd, hold the herd -- period. Helping to cut cattle from the herd is not a volunteer option.
·         Don’t ask the boss what you are going to do the next day. Again, if he wants you to know, he’ll tell you.
·         Always take care of your horse before you take care of yourself.
·         Always be on time. Nothing makes a cow boss quite as mad as having to wait on someone.
·         Cowboy, take that hat off! If you are in the presence of a lady or if you go into someone’s house, show your respect and hold that hat in your hand. Watch your language in mixed company. If you are sitting in a room and a lady enters, stand up.
·         Always help the cook with wood and water and don’t ever get into his grub unless he asks. Always put your plate and silverware in the roundup pan (dishpan) after you eat.
·         Don’t ever take a dog when you go to help another outfit. They may not like dogs. Never yell at another man’s dog.
·          Always roll your bedroll when you first get out of it. ALWAYS leave a clean camp.

The best advice my mentors could offer was to always be respectful, dependable and do your best at whatever it was you were asked to do. Manners count.

There is no one finer to be in the presence of than a gentleman cowboy.

Julie can be reached for comment at

NDAA - The Case of Private Rights Massacre

The Case of Private Rights Massacre
Absurd and Suicidal Leadership
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            My friend Myles Culbertson remains a disgusted democrat.
            In discussions over the past several years, I must admit I have given him a tough time regarding his political affiliation. The basis for our friendship, however, is not predicated on absolutes. Rather, the allegiance to our families and our industry, Agriculture, gives us ample common ground. More often than not, we agree on the fundamentals of that bond. The sanctity of family and private property rights allows us to emerge from any debate to stand united. On that basis, our friendship endures.
            The matter of the idiocy of the pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), though, draws attention to the vacuum between Myles and the Republican Party. It came to light in a spontaneous remark.
“Every time I think about changing affiliation I am reminded of why I don’t,” he once said. “I look at a republican and ask myself why I would want to be one of those!”
More than a few of us have been asking ourselves … the same question.
To the political skeptic yet the unbending Constitutional devotee, the measure to fund this nation’s defense should be limited to military operations. That would necessarily include a package of tanks, a submarine or two, a number of equipped combat teams, the allocation of corrupt gratuity for clandestine operatives, worldwide catastrophe reparations, electronic camouflaging technology, a new front sign for Ft. Bliss (in Spanish), paper for congressional committee presentations, the recruitment of superior coaching talent at the military academies, 7.62 brass, NightForce scopes, rules of engagement critics, a unit train of purple hearts, billet machined actions, F-18 biofuel overhaul kits, unisex caps, meager wages, cadavers without thumb prints, portable mosques, a warehouse of Starbucks coffee, 8,232,001 miscellaneous items, and toilet paper.
What actually came out of the Armed Services panels of both chambers was a package negotiated by those bastions of military nemeses, the leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and House Natural Resources committees. NDAA has been morphed into an omnibus bill that includes the noted .308 brass along with an environmental dream of immense proportions.
In a hypocritical announcement of bipartisanship, even Doc Hastings (R-WA) is proclaiming victory. “The agreement offers a balanced approach to public land management, providing opportunities for new job creation and energy and mineral production, while simultaneously protecting special areas”, he said.
 He said nothing, though, about whether the United States would be prepared to fight the next dozen world conflicts. Combine that with what others have divulged and this matter must worry us all.
To the hinterlands
We didn’t expect to face this fight on this front. We thought we could trust Representative Hastings and Senator Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of Senate Armed Services Committee.
The problem is those of us in the hinterlands have come to know what the terms “balanced approach” and “protecting special places” actually imply. Those are code words signifying members within our ranks are going to get hosed.
We view overlaying this omnibus approach into a defense spending package as a cowardice leadership facade. To exploit the funding of military needs with a concession toward more wilderness, more agency regulations, and more restrictions on private property rights in the West is unconscionable.
There is no balance.
Tax payers are in line for 11 more national parks!
The nation is going to get gored with another 250,000 acres of wilderness for the meager offset to release 26,000 acres of wilderness study areas.
Arizona is going to be ceded the right to create jobs in the Resolution copper project on 2,000 acres of federal land by giving up 5,000 acres of private land in a state that needs more government land ownership like Washington needs more politicians.
Section 3023 of the bill is actually rewriting parts of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the act that promised the West certain usage rights of federal lands in a vacuum of private land ownership. In a first read through this monster bill, there is a suggestion that ‘looks’ will be overlaid into grazing permit renewal and transfer process. Does that mean that if somebody sells a permit it might wind up with zero value because the ‘look’ determines cattle numbers may be reduced or eliminated?
Martin Heinrich (D-NM) is one senator who seeks such federal grazing elimination. Moreover, he and Tom Udall (D-NM) are going to be rewarded in NDAA with the inclusion of another 45,000 acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico to go along with their 575,000 acres of federal, state, and private land national monument debacle in southern New Mexico that couldn’t pass legislatively on its own merit.
In fact, none of the 250,000 acres of wilderness involved has demonstrated worthiness or it would already be law. The more you read, the more you realize this is a continuing model of self-serving political exploitation on the backs of our military and the West.
That point is particularly illuminated when Paul Spitler of the Wilderness Society labels this whole package as a wilderness …“blockbuster”.
November results
Do Republicans understand the consequences of November?
Do they comprehend they were sanctioned to put their money where their mouth is with the demand to lead this nation out of an absurd and suicidal glide path toward destruction or do they think they got elected on their looks and tedious chatter?
The signs of sincerity and capability of doing what they promised in their campaign slogans and democratic lambasting are starting to appear curiously and hesitatingly tentative. What many of us have feared … the propensity for republicans to avoid conflict by annulling political advantages when actually placed in the leadership spotlight is already starting to be manifested.
When the news of NDAA hit the airwaves, our anger was immediate!
How dare this congress horse trade into another 1,648 page entanglement suggesting that it is a law of fairness and bipartisanship. The reality is we are embarking on another example of leadership tomfoolery that must be passed before we figure out what is in it and what the consequences will be to our freedoms.
In short, what the hell does a defense appropriation measure have to do with creating wilderness, rewriting the FLPMA, ostensibly streamlining oil and gas permitting, and nominating at least 67 additional provisions in a natural resources title of measures that should begin and end with munitions to kill our enemies?
This nation is in the throes of a systemic private rights massacre.
If NDAA is indeed a bipartisan victory, we can expect nothing new from this incoming republican congress. What we are witnessing is a continuation of citizenry sacrifice for a subversive environmental policy that has become an existential threat to the West, specifically, and to America’s economic base, in general.
If republicans waver and continue on this imbecilic path… their fate will be sealed in a similar November ambush.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “America has committed to a unilateral effort to create wilderness. This country is now feeling the affects of a policy that can only exist on the expansion of itself.”

First, I don't like the precedent of the House agreeing to land use legislation that hasn't even had a hearing in the House.

Second, I question the timing of this agreement.  Why not include the NDAA in the short-term CR and then negotiate these provisions when the Senate is controlled by the R's?

And third, this shows the R's are as guilty of package log-rolling on non-related legislation as the D's.  

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) released the following statement on the House passage of the NDAA:

“Voting against the NDAA today was a difficult decision for me,” said Congressman Steve Pearce.  “As a Vietnam veteran, I always look to support the military and their families. However, the NDAA does not fully meet the needs of our troops and grossly expands the federal footprint in the West.”  “As well as being a veteran, I am the co-chair of the Congressional Western Caucus. In this capacity I have a responsibility to protect and fight for the West.  Included within this NDAA is a massive lands package, added at the last minute of negotiations.  Creating nearly 250,000 new acres of wilderness that will greatly restrict multiple use on the lands, is simply unacceptable.  Already extremely disadvantaged by massive amounts of public lands, the West continues to be under attack by environmental and special interest groups that degrade the Western way of life.  In the past year, New Mexico has seen this first hand with the President designating a nearly 500,000-acre monument, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. While the bill does include a small allocation for local governments through a payment system called Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILT), this does little to offset the dramatic damages this package will have to access and ranching in the West.”...

Baxter Black: Try Me, a rodeo story

When Marvin Garrett nodded his head, no one knew that 8 seconds later the Thomas and Mack Arena would be covered with goose bumps.

Marvin drew “Try Me” in the fourth round at the National Finals Rodeo 1989. He marked her out and hung the steel to’er like the rods on a Union Pacific driver! “Try Me” jumped the track! She slid, slipped and rolled around inside her skin! She punched holes in the arena dirt!

Somewhere in the last 2 seconds, Marvin reached his limit. Everything in his firebox — experience, intuition, talent and training — were at full throttle and blowin’ blue smoke! It was then, over the din of 15,000 rabid fans, Marvin reached down inside himself, I heard him whisper, “Yer mine.”

The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The buckin’ horse went down! From where I sat 60 rows up, it looked like Marvin’s shoulders actually hit the ground. His legs pistoned; the horse exploded; she climbed out of that hold with Marvin stuck to’er like a remora on a shark’s belly.

I don’t believe you could’a cut Marvin loose with an acetylene torch.

The whistle blew. The crowd went wild. Marvin tipped his hat. But if you’d touched him at that moment it would’a been like layin’ your hand on an electric motor. He was hummin’!

The case of the missing 13th amendment to the Constitution

by Scott Bomboy

A few years ago, a group of Iowa Republicans claimed the legitimate 13th Amendment to the Constitution was “missing.” The debate is part of a historical detective story with some surprising twists that is still taking place.

The Daily Beast did a fairly extensive feature on the missing amendment in 2010, which didn’t feature a cloaked Freemason stealing the amendment because it had a secret treasure map printed on it.

Instead, the debate between historians and conspiracy buffs is about an amendment that was almost ratified in 1812 that would have been the 13th Amendment, bumping back the current 13th Amendment–which was ratified on this day in 1865 and abolished slavery–to the position of the 14th Amendment.

Writer Jerry Adler’s 2010 explanation of the “Thirteenthers” controversy is pretty detailed and covers both sides of the issue—which isn’t new but got a big burst of publicity thanks to the Iowa GOP’s 2010 platform.

The Iowa Republicans didn’t want the current 13th Amendment banned; they just wanted the “original” one reintroduced for approval.

That “missing” proposal was called the “Titles of Nobility Amendment” (or TONA). It sought to ban any American citizen from receiving any foreign title of nobility or receiving foreign favors, such as a pension, without congressional approval. The penalty was loss of citizenship.

It was an extension of Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, which doesn’t allow a public office holder to receive a foreign title or similar honors without the consent of Congress.

Today, the idea of a constitutional controversy about the royals may seem kind of silly, but in 1812, the United States was fighting the British and had a rocky relationship with France.

The fear of both nations using noble titles as bribes, along with pensions from a foreign government, was persistent. And both the Senate and the House easily passed the TONA and passed it on to the states.
By late 1812, a total of 12 states had approved the 13th Amendment and ironically, it needed a 13th state to become ratified. As the War of 1812 escalated, the TONA faded away as an issue and was never ratified.

Or so we think.

In the 1980s, Adler says a conspiracy researcher started finding copies of the Constitution from the pre-Civil War era that had TONA listed as the 13th Amendment. The premise was that Virginia’s legislature had approved the amendment in 1819, but somehow, it was never listed as accepted by the federal government.

Further research revealed that President James Monroe asked his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, to confirm that the TONA was never ratified, which he did.

A law journal article from 1999 by Jol A. Silversmith, an attorney, explains how the TONA appeared in widely published versions of the Constitution for more than 30 years, including the official United States Statutes at Large (an official compilation of laws published by the government in 1815).

Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.