Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Restore 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty'

by Jared Meyer

Many Americans have not heard of civil forfeiture, but this outrageous, and expanding, law enforcement tactic is becoming more difficult to ignore.

Civil forfeiture does not receive the condemnation it deserves because most people cannot believe that, in the United States, the government can take property from individuals without charging them with a crime. This is the type of behavior expected of the Venezuelan government, not of the United States, where individuals are supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

Instead of charging property owners and having to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” in civil forfeiture cases, law enforcement charges the property itself—which does not enjoy the same legal protection as do individuals. All that is necessary for civil forfeiture is suspicion based on a “preponderance of evidence” that some property was connected with criminal activity. The burden of proof to prove property not guilty is on individuals, as it is assumed to be guilty.

The government developed civil forfeiture laws to combat drug dealers and money launderers, but this system is now used to target innocent individuals. The warped logic behind civil forfeiture abuses is that property—inanimate objects—took part in crimes. People can use property to commit crimes, but it makes no sense to argue that vehicles, homes, or piles of cash willingly undertook criminal actions.
Though property is being charged, civil forfeiture victimizes innocent individuals. Take, for example, the case of Roderick Daniels. Daniels was pulled over in 2007 in Tenaha, Texas for going 37 in a 35 mph zone. Officers discovered $8,500 in cash that Daniels planned to use to buy a car. Daniels was forced to forfeit his money when the officers threatened him with money-laundering charges.

This situation is similar to the experience of George Reby, who had $22,000 stolen from him last year in Tennessee after he was stopped for speeding. Officer Larry Bates asked Reby if he had any large sums of cash in his vehicle and, when Reby answered truthfully, Bates proceeded to take all the cash under forfeiture laws. This happened even though Reby had proof that he was using the money to buy a car, evidenced by his active bids on eBay. During an interview, when Bates was asked why he did not include this critical fact in his report, Bates responded, “I don’t know.” Carrying cash is apparently all the evidence of guilt he needed.

These cases are not isolated. The value of property seized under civil forfeiture laws, including cars, homes, boats, electronics, jewelry, and other property, increased nearly tenfold from $407 million nationwide in 2001 to $4.3 billion in 2012. Over that time period, police have seized $2.5 billion in cash alone from almost 62,000 people without warrants or indictments, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Some states and localities have taken positive steps toward combatting civil forfeiture abuse. This summer, Minnesota enacted a law requiring criminal conviction before property can be taken. Earlier this month, Washington, D.C. also passed a bill to overhaul its forfeiture laws. However, civil forfeiture is not just a state and local issue. The federal government creates perverse incentives that perpetuate civil forfeiture abuse.

When federal law enforcement agencies seize property under forfeiture laws, the proceeds are transferred to the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Fund, where the funds can be directed to law enforcement activities.

The federal government’s role does not end here. Under the federal equitable sharing program, funds seized by local law enforcement can be transferred to the federal level to bypass state or local prohibitions against civil forfeiture, with Washington taking a 20 percent cut (which goes to DOJ's Fund). States and localities are powerless to do anything when the federal government awards forfeiture funds to local law enforcement, as federal law trumps state or local law.

There are practically no restrictions on how forfeiture funds can be used.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mimbres apple growers named Farm Family of Year

John and Josie York, apple growers in the Mimbres Valley, were named Farm Family of the Year by the state's largest agriculture organization at the 96th annual meeting of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau. When they met, John was on leave from the Navy and Josie was a student at New Mexico Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, now known as New Mexico State University. When John's stint in the Navy was done, he enrolled in New Mexico A&M, pursuing dual degrees in horticulture and biology. Upon graduation, he went to work for the soil and water conservation service, where he spent his entire career. He retired in 1992 and the Yorks moved to the Mimbres Valley, where they had purchased an apple orchard. There they grow asparagus, table grapes and several varieties of apples, including winesaps, golden delicious and Jonathans, and several antique varieties including Jonagold, Arkansas black and sweet sixteen. They market their apples through farmers markets in New Mexico and Arizona, and through word of mouth. The Yorks have four children — Craig, Daunann, Nolen and Heather — and 10 grandchildren, the oldest of which is completing her doctorate degree as a pharmacist. The Yorks have been active in the Grant County Farm Bureau for over 20 years. John York has served as president for many years, and was on the state board for a decade. They have hosted pancake breakfasts at the county fair to recruit members, built parade floats and have found new ways to involve local 4-H and FFA students into county Farm Bureau activities...more

Range-riding wolf patrol shows signs of success

In a place where wolf recovery is about as divisive as politics or religion, one program is cutting through the controversy. For the last three summers, a pilot program has put patrols on the range to keep tabs on where the wolves are, and to check up on livestock that could be nearby. Funded by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife with a match from ranchers donated mostly by the nonprofit group Conservation Northwest, the program expanded last summer to include five ranchers with cattle or sheep grazing in areas now occupied by wolf packs. The idea is to prevent wolves from killing livestock. And so far, it’s working. Twisp cattle rancher Karla Christianson, who signed on last summer, said she was initially skeptical about the program. She said she wants to get along with the wolves, but after signing the contract with the state and Conservation Northwest, she wondered what she was getting into. Her cattle spend the summer in the same area where the Lookout Pack was discovered in 2008 as the state’s first wolf pack in 70 years. It’s also where she thinks wolves killed three of her calves in 2009. Jay Kehne, outreach coordinator for Conservation Northwest, and a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife commissioner, said they started with one rancher in 2012, worked the bugs out and gradually built to five range riders last year. In addition to Christianson, they worked with ranchers in Stevens and Kittitas counties, and on the Colville Indian Reservation. When a rancher signs up for the Fish and Wildlife program, they’re eligible for up to $10,000 from the state to hire a range rider and pay for gas and other costs. “How they choose to use it is up to them,” he said. For the ranchers involved so far, Conser-vation Northwest has donated $9,000 for each of the five range riders hired. After three summers, ranchers who participated have not lost any livestock to wolves...more

Dead cow clogs Utah slot canyon, rancher’s impromptu barbecue makes things worse

Earlier this month a cow wandered into a southern Utah slot canyon. But it won’t be coming out in one piece. Some of it may not come out at all after a rancher’s effort to rescue the animal ended in its death, dismemberment and partial incineration. Now the popular hiking canyon in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is permeated by the acrid odor of rotting meat and officials are trying to figure out how to clean up the mess. The trouble started Dec. 9 when a monument visitor notified officials of an adult cow trapped in the canyon, which hikers access from the Hole in the Rock road east of Escalante. Most of the monument is grazed, but dogs and cows are not allowed in Peek-a-Boo or neighboring gulches which drain toward the Escalante River. Fences cross the monument’s range to keep cows out of slot canyons, but they often are damaged during fall storms. Monument officials believe the cow entered through a fresh breach...more 

Every cow should know you can't play peek-a-boo in a National Monument; it's forbidden.

The Carnivores Next Door


The Jutland wolf may be a harbinger of a broader recovery. According to a study published today in the journal Science, Europe is “succeeding in maintaining, and to some extent restoring, viable large carnivore populations on a continental scale.” Historically, these same carnivores—bears, wolves, wolverines, and lynx—were zealously hunted. In 813, for example, Charlemagne established the luparii, an élite corps charged with killing wolves; though the animals held out against the luparii for more than a thousand years, by the nineteen-thirties they were believed to be extinct in France. (The luparii, for their part, survive in vestigial form as the lieutenants de louveterie, volunteer wildlife officers who help manage France’s populations of boars, jackdaws, and other nuisance creatures.) In recent decades, however, the European landscape has become considerably more predator-friendly.  The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, which took effect in 1982, greatly restricted the conditions under which large carnivores could be captured or killed. At the same time, urbanization was drawing people away from the countryside and its wild inhabitants. In 1950, about half of the European population lived in urban areas; today, nearly three-quarters does.

Carnivores have also learned, in a sense, to live with people. According to Adrian Treves, a wildlife biologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, European brown bears, which are closely related to grizzlies, are shyer and more nocturnal than their American brethren. “Over many generations, the brown bears of Europe have adapted to the risk posed by people,” Treves told me. Likewise, European wolves have broadened their diet, eating not only large prey, such as deer, but also small mammals and carrion—and, in the case of at least one Greek wolf, apples and figs. As the Science study notes, a third of the European mainland is now home to at least one large predator species. Wolves have established permanent residence in twenty-eight European countries, brown bears in twenty-two, and lynx in twenty-three; large carnivores can be seen in forests, farmland, and even, at times, in suburbs. Though the study’s authors acknowledge that some isolated populations remain critically endangered, they conclude that, over all, Europe’s large carnivores are an “often underappreciated conservation success story.” And the comeback, though not without its hitches, has elicited little public fuss. Run-ins with humans are rare, and in many places traditional livestock-protection measures—including the use of guard dogs and shepherds—have been sustained or revived. “If you want to conserve large predators, you don’t need to exclude people,” Guillaume Chapron, one of the Science study’s lead authors, told me. “You just need to have the political will to coexist.”

In the Western United States, attitudes toward large predators are less measured.

I wouldn't recommend playing peek-a-boo with wolves either.

Wolf attacks are suspected cause of death of commissioner’s sheep

More sheep have been killed by a wolf or wolves in northwestern Whitman County since the county’s first attack in decades occurred on Dec. 9. On Tuesday, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials investigated three dead sheep where about 1,200 sheep are being pastured in stubble fields near the Spokane and Lincoln county borders. One of three Anatolian shepherds protecting the sheep has been missing for about a week and is presumed dead, the ranchers said. The mother and sister of the missing 4-year-old male dog also were with the sheep but are unharmed. Both wolf depredation events occurred on sheep belonging to Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack near his ranch north of Lamont. Wildlife officials confirmed on Wednesday that one pregnant ewe was killed by a wolf or wolves. The other two sheep could not positively be confirmed as wolf kills because the remains were too sparse, said Nate Pamplin, the agency’s assistant director in Olympia...more

District court limits tiering of biological opinions

On December 5, 2014, a federal district court held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it relied entirely on existing programmatic biological opinions to satisfy its formal consultation obligations. The court’s decision is likely to impact the manner in which FWS cross-references or “tiers to” existing biological opinions in evaluating the impacts of a site-specific project on listed species. In Native Ecosystems Council v. Krueger, the plaintiffs challenged a decision by the U.S. Forest Service authorizing commercial logging on 1,750 acres of the Gallatin National Forest. The plaintiffs brought claims under the ESA, alleging that the FWS improperly relied on previous biological opinions for the grizzly bear and the Canada lynx during the formal consultation process, instead of preparing project-specific biological opinions. The court in Native Ecosystems Council acknowledged that tiering was permissible in some circumstances, but focused its decision on whether based on the facts before it the ESA required a second biological opinion, or whether the two previous programmatic biological opinions adequately analyzed the logging project’s potential impacts on grizzly bears and Canada lynx. Op. at 4-5. The court determined a second biological opinion was necessary because the previous opinions did not address all of the potential impacts to the species identified by the Forest Service as part of the site-specific logging project. Op. at 5-13. The court acknowledged that the FWS did not need to redo the previous analysis to the extent that previous analysis was relevant to the logging project, but that it was not excused from evaluating new potential impacts of the project beyond the scope of the previous analysis, even if the FWS believed them to be insignificant...more

Group petitions for grizzly bear reintroduction in Selway-Bitterroot

The Center for Biological Diversity wants to restart efforts to transplant grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border. The national environmental group formally petitioned Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe on Thursday to craft a new rule reintroducing the bears. The 16 million-acre area is one of six overseen by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and the only one with no resident grizzlies. FWS grizzly bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen said the area was already approved for an experimental population of grizzlies with an initial reintroduction of 25 bears. That plan was developed in 1996, but shelved in 2001. “The funding has never been available to do it,” Servheen said. “It doesn’t expire or need renewal, and it’s never been withdrawn. But you can’t just drop money on something and it happens.” Santarsiere said the state and federal wildlife agencies shouldn’t be working on delisting grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act before they re-establish a grizzly population in the Selway-Bitterroot...more

Crucial Keystone ruling could come Friday

The Nebraska Supreme Court could rule as early as Friday on whether the governor had authority to approve a route for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state. The court heard arguments in the case in September after a lower court ruled against against a 2012 law that allowed Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to greenlight Keystone’s route. The lower court said that law was unconstitutional, siding with landowners who challenged it. Now both sides are anxiously awaiting the Nebraska Supreme Court's decision, which could come Friday morning. The decision is key to the larger debate over the oil sands pipeline. Depending on which way the court rules, the State Department could resume its national determination review of the pipeline early next year. The Obama administration froze its review of the pipeline in April to let the Nebraska court fight play out, enraging Republicans, the oil industry and pipeline developer TransCanada. If the court doesn’t hand down a decision by Friday, the ruling will likely come early next year...more

Climate change could cut world food output 18 percent by 2050

Global warming could cause an 18 percent drop in world food production by 2050, but investments in irrigation and infrastructure, and moving food output to different regions, could reduce the loss, a study published on Thursday said. Globally, irrigation systems should be expanded by more than 25 percent to cope with changing rainfall patterns, the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters said. Where they should be expanded is difficult to model because of competing scenarios on how rainfall will change, so the majority of irrigation investments should be made after 2030, the study said. International food markets will require closer integration to respond to global warming, as production will become more difficult in some southern regions, but new land further north will become available for growing crops. If climate change is managed correctly, food production could even rise 3 percent by 2050, the study said, as a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fertilizing effect on plants...more 

Those scientists might want to check in with their local enviros about expanding dams by 25 percent.  Rest assured they'd let us all fry before agreeing to more dams and irrigation.

Protection sought for scenic California region

A contingent of California environmental groups, business representatives and politicians will use a visit Friday from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to push for permanent protection of some 350,000 acres of picturesque federal land near the state's famous wine country. Congress declined this session to pass legislation from Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson that would have designated the land as a national conservation area, and companion legislation by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer also faltered. That prompted Thompson and other supporters to push the Obama administration to act on its own and designate it a national monument. The difference revolves primarily around who does the authorizing. Congress approves new national conservation areas, while presidents can protect wildland and historical sites as national monuments. Officials said the practical effect is the same — permanent protection of federal land that can lead to greater recreational opportunities but also restrictions on new mining and other commercial activities. Three separate federal agencies currently manage land in the region that Thompson wants to set aside: the U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; and Bureau of Reclamation...more

Peñasco native to head U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Estevan R. López, former director of New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission, as the new head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. As commissioner, López will oversee a 112-year old agency responsible for dams, hydroelectric power plants, reservoirs and canals it built in 17 states to foster development. The agency is the largest wholesale supplier of water in the nation. López, a Peñasco, N.M. native, directed the Interstate Stream Commission under the administrations of both Gov. Susana Martinez and former Gov. Bill Richardson. López worked as the Santa Fe County manager and director of the county’s land use and utilities departments before becoming the Interstate Stream Commission director in 2003. He earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and petroleum engineering from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Pres. Barack Obama nominated López to head the Bureau of Reclamation in March. López has served as the principal deputy commissioner of the agency since October...more

Thousands of cattle quarantined near Yellowstone

Several thousand head of cattle have been quarantined in Montana after a cow near Yellowstone National Park tested positive for brucellosis, the livestock disease feared by ranchers and carried by elk and bison, state livestock officials said.
 The disruption comes at a crucial moment for the region’s beef producers, who are in the midst of readying the bulk of their herds for sale at a time of record high prices for the cattle they bring to auction.
 The quarantine will for the time being place off-limits livestock belonging to the rancher whose cow tested positive — likely infected by an elk — and neighbouring producers whose herds may have been exposed through intermingling of livestock, officials said.
 But the finding will not cost Montana its prized brucellosis-free status, which allows cows to be shipped across state lines without vaccination or testing, he said.

Coyote Catalog available for hunters, landowners

The Coyote Catalog, a statewide effort connecting coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who want fewer coyotes in their areas, has been reopened by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “I encourage landowners, especially farmers and ranchers who have problems with coyote depredation, to sign up for the Coyote Catalog,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in a news release. “Hunting and trapping are valuable tools in managing these predators.” This past season, 74 landowners signed up for the Coyote Catalog, a more than 50 percent increase over the previous year. Nearly 900 hunters and trappers also signed up. The Coyote Catalog will remain active through March 31. NDDA officials estimate livestock producers in North Dakota lost more than $1 million last year to coyotes. At the same time, coyotes are a popular furbearer species for hunters and trappers...more

Rancho Co-Owner Will Go To Trial Alone, Three Others Make Plea Deals

Jury selection will begin July 16, 2015, in the federal criminal conspiracy case involving former Rancho Feeding Corp. co-owner Jesse J. Amaral Jr. The 76-year-old cattle company executive will be tried alone as three others, implicated in the alleged conspiracy to sell for human consumption cattle known to have cancerous eyeballs, have all made deals with the prosecution. Felix Sandoval Cabrera, 55, the foreman of Rancho’s slaughterhouse at Petaluma, CA, is the latest to reach a plea agreement with the government, entering a single guilty plea to count 7 of the original indictment last Aug. 14 charging him with distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. Earlier, Eugene D. Corda, the 65-year-old Rancho yardman, and 77-year-old Robert Singleton, Rancho’s other co-owner, also entered guilty pleas to the same sole count. That leaves only Amaral going to trial next July. The court-approved plea agreements the other three defendants have with the government are sealed, but it’s likely that all three have agreed to appear at the trial as government witnesses against him...more

Cowgirl boots

BOOT trends come and go every fall – over-the-knee, ankle, combat, wedges – but one boot remains, impervious to passing fads: the cowboy boot. The cowboy boot entered mainstream fashion beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, when actors like Roy Rogers glamorised cowboys onscreen. Its popularity has ebbed and flowed since then (John Travolta, the star of “Urban Cowboy,” could be called the Roy Rogers of the 1980s), but has never gone out of style. And in the last 10 years, the cowboy boot has experienced a new boom -- especially among women. Wade Allen, the owner of The Bull Chute Western Wear in Raleigh, says for years now he has been selling more boots to women than to men. “I never would’ve predicted that 60 to 70 per cent of my boot sales would be from selling ladies’ boots,” he said. “It’s become a fashion staple in people’s closets. It started when these suburban moms got into cowboy boots about 10 years ago and turned them into a fashion statement. Since then, younger generations have embraced the boot as well.” Designed in the mid-1800s by boot makers for ranchers, the cowboy boot features an underslung heel and high boot shaft, which protected the cowboy’s feet and kept them in stirrups while riding horses. On the day of this year’s first North Carolina State football game, local sports radio personality Joe Ovies tweeted, “As I walk up to Carter-Finley (Stadium), a couple thoughts. 1) Cowboy boots are still a thing ...” Yes, they are. Even in the heat of August, all across the stadium young women were decked out in cowboy boots and short dresses. In fact, Allen said many college girls pick up their boots at his store specifically for football games. He even carries cowboy boots branded with college logos just for that. Larry Denny of Raleigh, who sells cowboy boots at his booth at the Raleigh Flea Market at the N.C. State Fairgrounds, sees the same trend. “A lot of college girls come and get cowboy boots from me,” Denny said. “The sales are best in the fall.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1337

Can Santa do the mambo?  That's what Terry Fell wants to find out with his We Wanna See Santa Do The Mambo. 

Artist Biography by Cub Koda

Known for his one big hit, 1954's "Truck Driving Man," Terry Fell is but a footnote in country history, but an important one nonetheless. His hit literally spawned the whole truck driving saga that is still a major part of country music's lyrical pool. He was also the first to see the promise in a young Buck Owens, signing him to a manager's contract and using him as a lead guitarist on his sessions.

Fell started his recording career around 1945 as a member of Billy Hughes' group for Fargo Records. After the lone Fargo release, Fell recorded for Courtney and 4-Star, kicking up enough noise and sales with the 4-Star singles to get signed to RCA Victor's new 'X' subsidiary in 1954. It was at his first RCA session held in Hollywood that Fell waxed his first, and biggest, hit, the two-sided smash "Don't Drop It" and the immortal "Truck Drivin' Man." At first, "Don't Drop It" was the side to watch, spawning no less than five different cover versions for two different marketplaces. But it was the flip side that became the classic, spawning innumerable cover versions and hitting again on the country charts as late as 1976 for Red Steagall. Fell stayed with RCA and show business for the next five or six years, seeing no more hits but making serious inroads into the behind-the-scenes side of Nashville. Although he continued to record sporadically for Crest, Lode, and even RCA again, he had made the successful move into songwriting and music publishing, earning far more than he ever had as a performer.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Study: Your all-electric car may not be so green

People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming. Ethanol isn't so green, either. "It's kind of hard to beat gasoline" for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. "A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean ... are not better than gasoline." The key is where the source of the electricity all-electric cars. If it comes from coal, the electric cars produce 3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than gas, because of the pollution made in generating the electricity, according to the study that is published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They also are significantly worse at heat-trapping carbon dioxide that worsens global warming, it found. The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire life cycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries. "Unfortunately, when a wire is connected to an electric vehicle at one end and a coal-fired power plant at the other end, the environmental consequences are worse than driving a normal gasoline-powered car," said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who wasn't part of the study but praised it. The states with the highest percentage of electricity coming from coal, according to the Department of Energy, are West Virginia, Wyoming, Ohio, North Dakota, and Illinois.  The study finds all-electric vehicles cause 86 percent more deaths from air pollution than do cars powered by regular gasoline. Coal produces 39 percent of the country's electricity, according to the Department of Energy...more

NM racing panel concerned with enforcement backlog

Regulators who oversee New Mexico's horse racing industry said Tuesday they are grappling with a significant enforcement backlog after adopting tougher sanctions and boosting testing for illicit drugs. Racing Commission Director Vince Mares told members of the Legislative Finance Committee it could take until mid-2016 for the panel to clear its backlog of cases against owners and trainers accused of violating state racing and doping rules. The bottleneck comes when cases are challenged in court, a process that can take a year, Mares said. Defendants are often granted the right to keep racing while the findings are appealed, and he said that has created the perception that the state isn't doing anything to crack down on cheaters. "These trainers and owners are still running their horses. The perception that nothing is being done is a valid perception, but it's beyond the commission's control," he said. Lawmakers and racing officials discussed the possibility of hiring a dedicated attorney to handle the commission's cases rather than funneling prosecutorial duties through the state attorney general's office. Another option would be classifying a first offense as a misdemeanor, which would clear the way for local district attorneys and judges to handle the cases...more

Heinrich kills deal to compensate mine

With the 113th Congress failing to stop large-scale mining the Santa Clarita Valley, Cemex appears ready to start mining aggregates in Soledad Canyon. The Senate closed up shop for the holidays Tuesday night after a flurry of last-minute legislative activity left the city without the Senate vote needed to avert a mine in Soledad Canyon just east of city limits. Santa Clarita officials and Cemex executives struck a partnership seven years ago, after years of fighting. The deal essentially entailed the international mining company holding off on profiting from its mineral rights contracts in Soledad Canyon, so both sides could work on a way to compensate Cemex by other means. The latest version of “the legislative solution,” the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act, calls for Cemex to cancel their mining contracts in exchange for 10,000 acres of federal land being sold, with those proceeds compensating Cemex. Santa Clarita officials said the bill, which was authored by Boxer and achieved a zero score, led to city officials celebrating the move as the best bet for Santa Clarita to stop a massive sand and gravel mine...more

Here is the most interesting part, at least for New Mexicans:

About one week after city officials sent out a letter expressing their disappointment in McKeon for not using a manager’s amendment to include the Cemex bill in the NDAA, he pulled the bill off the suspension calendar. “(H.R. 5742) was never an appropriate bill for the NDAA and the omnibus,” said Morris Thomas, Santa Clarita Valley field representative for McKeon, shortly after McKeon got the bill passed with a unanimous voice vote.

This means Rep. McKeon got unanimous consent, i.e. all members of the House, both D's and R's, agreed to the bill.  It then moved to the Senate, where this happened:

This placed Boxer and her staff with few options, and just a few days to garner support from Heinrich — who served two terms in the House of Representatives in the HASC under McKeon before his election to the Senate and opposed the Cemex bill on ideological grounds. Heinrich placed a legislative hold on the bill, indicating he didn’t support it, leaving Boxer little option. “Heinrich has no objection to buying out the gravel mining contract outside of Santa Clarita, Calif.,” said Whitney Porter, Heinrich’s spokeswoman. “However, the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act uses the sale of 10,000 acres of BLM land as a budget offset to pay for the buyout. This is highly unusual for public land legislation.” The bill sets a dangerous precedent, she added, noting it could allow Congress to use federal lands as a “piggy bank” any time legislators need funds. His views echo those of the Bureau of Land Management officials, who also formally opposed the bill, despite numerous attempts by city officials.

Heinrich opposed this on "ideological grounds", i.e. the privatization of 10,000 acres of federal land.  Apparently using a public resource to protect the public is a no-no.  He's fine with spending public dollars to compensate the mine, but opposes the loss of any public land.  This should give all New Mexicans insight on our Senator, who just happens to sit on the committee with jurisdiction over public lands, and is the only member of New Mexico's Congressional Delegation who sits on such a committee. 

UPDATE, I just found this: 

N.M. Senator Introduces Own Bill, Calls Cemex ‘Dangerous Precedent’

...Heinrich, who touts his concern for the environment, said such a bill establishes a precedent for Congress to use its national lands as a piggy bank, Porter said. On his website, Heinrich considers himself “a lead proponent of preserving New Mexico’s public lands and wildlife.”“Fighting for public access to public land and conservation has been a centerpiece of Senator Heinrich’s public career,” Porter stated in an email. “America’s forests, wildlife refuges and conservation lands are part of the fabric of our democracy.”...Heinrich applauded Congress’ bipartisan passage of dozens of public land use bills in the National Defense Authorization Act on Friday, some of which were similar in nature to the Cemex bill...Heinrich introduced a bill last week, S.B. 3016, that would, going forward, allow the BLM “the authority to accept a relinquished ‘mineral materials’ (sand, gravel, aggregate, etc.) contract and reimburse the company for funds paid for the contract,” Porter said. Currently, BLM has this authority for oil and gas leases, but not gravel, she added. However, there are two foreseeable concerns with the situation for advocates of the Cemex bill, which includes the city of Santa Clarita, that has spent about $12 million for the property. The relinquishment must happen before production of minerals and before any surface disturbance, Porter said. However, Soledad Canyon was reportedly mined without federal permits in the 1990s, which is what reportedly prompted the sale of contracts, and led to the city purchasing the property. The other issue is one of time. Cemex officials have said this current legislative session is the deadline for the international mining company to look for a legislative solution that would avoid a mine opening up in Santa Clarita’s backyard, according to congressional testimony.

 I see nothing there that would cause me to revise my comments.  He's still willing to spend public dollars to partially compensate, but unwilling to turn loose of public acreage for the same purpose.  The fact there were similar provisions in the NDAA package is interesting.  I guess if he gets Wilderness in NM his "ideological grounds" change. 

Jewell says grouse rider won't stop BLM, state plans

A rider that delays a final listing decision for sage grouse across 11 western states won’t efforts to put in place state and federal plans to protect the bird, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday. Jewel said the rider in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act won’t stop effortds to continue working with ranchers, the states and energy companies to develop conservation plans to reduce the threat of wildfire and invasive species invasion that protect the birds and allow economic activities to continue. Idaho, led by Gov. Butch Otter, developed its own conservation plans, meant to conserve sagebrush habitat, while allowing development and livestock grazing to continue. It has been incorporated into the environmental analysis of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service as a co-preferred alternative for its regional sage grouse plan, which is scheduled to be completed in 2015. Republican Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the delay will give Idahoans and other residents of Western states more time to develop a collaborative sage grouse plan. “By delaying the listing decision, we can provide the BLM with time to do the job right,” he said. Jewell said the rider has no impact on the BLM planning schedule and won’t stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from collecting data to determine whether listing the bird under the federal Endangered Species Act is warranted or not...more

How Greenpeace Wrecked One of the Most Sacred Places in the Americas

Greenpeace can get a little aggressive with its tactics. That doesn't mean that it's not fighting for a good cause! But after the organization marched through the sacred Nazca Lines etched into the Peruvian desert for a climate protest, capturing it all on camera with a drone, you have to wonder what the hell they were thinking. Greenpeace isn't the best at thinking things through, though.

In fact, this is far from the first time Greenpeace has screwed up, though this latest episode of Greenpeace Being Reckless is particularly atrocious. The environmental group has a long, long history of insensitive or poorly-staged actions, ranging from big—like helping to destroy a GMO crop designed to prevent blindness—to small—like papering a small town with posters the day after a community cleanup. 

In case you missed io9's post about the outrage, here's a recap: The environmental activists wanted to send a message to government officials from around with world who are attending a climate change conference in Lima this week. So they headed to the Nazca Desert, one of the most famous and archaeologically significant sites in Peru, to lay down a bunch of yellow banners that spelled out: "TIME FOR CHANGE! THE FUTURE IS RENEWABLE! GREENPEACE."

The message is practically on top of the hummingbird geoglyph, which is now surrounded by their footprints. And the irony is thick. The future may be renewable, but these fragile, ancient drawings are not. 

"This has been done without any respect for our laws," Peru's deputy minister for culture Luis Jaime Castillo told the press, calling Greenpeace's actions "thoughtless, insensitive, illegal, irresponsible and absolutely pre-meditated." He explained further: "It was done in the middle of the night. They went ahead and stepped on our hummingbird, and looking at the pictures we can see there's very severe damage. Nobody can go on these lines without permission—not even the president of Peru!"

Castillo, unfortunately, isn't exaggerating when he says the damage was severe.

New York to ban fracking; environmentalists cheer

Handing environmentalists a breakthrough victory, New York plans to prohibit fracking for natural gas because of what regulators say are its unexplored health risks and dubious economic benefits. New York, which overlies part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation that has led to a drilling boom in Pennsylvania and other nearby states, has banned shale gas development since 2008, when the state began an environmental review of the drilling technique also known as hydraulic fracturing. Wednesday’s announcement, though not final, means a ban is all but etched in stone. “Never before has a state with proven gas reserves banned fracking,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, adding that the decision “will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world: Fracking is too dangerous and must not continue.” Industry and its supporters expressed outrage at the decision...more

Obama pardons man for 1996 archaeological crime in Utah

A Colorado man received a presidential pardon Wednesday for a 1997 Utah crime. David Neil Mercer, of Grand Junction, Colo., was sentenced to 36 months of probation in April 1997 for his role in damaging American Indian remnants in February 1996 on federal land in Grand County. Mercer also was ordered to pay just under $1,500 in restitution to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and was fined $2,500. On Wednesday, Mercer was one of 12 people to whom President Barack Obama granted pardons. Eight others were given commutations by the president.  Source

Water pipeline leads to years of court battles

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is moving ahead with plans to import water to the Las Vegas valley from underground aquifers in rural parts of Nevada. But is the plan still workable after decades of court battles over the environmental impact of a giant pipeline? The pipeline would run across 300 miles of public land and requires federal approval. There are serious concerns about the project -- which include predictions of devastating environmental effects. But amid cheers about progress on a third intake to draw water from Lake Mead, the water authority took action with much less fanfare on another multi-billion dollar project. The board decided to move forward with a plan to build a 300-mile long pipeline to pump water to Las Vegas from sources in rural Nevada. "The water of the state of Nevada belongs to the people of the state of Nevada," said John Entsminger, SNWA general manager. "Seven out of every 10 people live here in the Las Vegas valley." "This pipeline is going to cost in excess of $16 billion to build and the water it's going to pump is of very limited nature and the reason you are pumping it is to sustain unreasonable growth in the Las Vegas valley. It just doesn't make sense," said Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity. Critics of the pipeline say sucking water out of rural aquifers will dry up streams and wells vital to wildlife and agriculture. "The water table will be 200 feet down, in excess of 200 feet. Everything will die," said Lincoln County rancher Farrel Lytle. So far, not an inch of pipe has been laid in the project despite roughly $100 million being spent on research, water rights and court battles with opponents...more

"The water of the state of Nevada belongs to the people of the state of Nevada," said John Entsminger, SNWA general manager.

That statement highlights the problem.  How many times have you heard that certain lands "belong to all the people"?  That is just a fancy way to say government ownership.  

Government ownership of resources such as land, water and wildlife leads to political management, which then leads to gross inefficiencies and oft times corruption.

You have a choice:  Let the highest and best use of these resources be determined by the market, or let it be determined by a political hack.

California needs 11 trillion gallons of water: NASA

California needs 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from its three-year drought, the US space agency said Tuesday after studying water resources by using satellite data. The more than 40-trillion-liter volume is a huge quantity of water, larger, for example, than the total amount held behind China's historic Three Gorges Dam. The entire southwestern United States is far drier than normal, with groundwater levels across the region in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949, scientists said. Meanwhile, other NASA satellite data showed that so far this year, the snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada range is only half previous estimates...more

Volume of world's oldest water estimated

The world's oldest water, which is locked deep within the Earth's crust, is present at a far greater volume than was thought, scientists report. The liquid, some of which is billions of years old, is found many kilometres beneath the ground. Researchers estimate there is about 11m cubic kilometres (2.5m cu miles) of it - more water than all the world's rivers, swamps and lakes put together. The study was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. It has also been published in the journal Nature. The team found that the water was reacting with the rock to release hydrogen: a potential food source. It means that great swathes of the deep crust could be harbouring life. Prof Barbara Sherwood Lollar, from the University of Toronto, in Canada, said: "This is a vast quantity of rock that we've sometimes overlooked both in terms of its ability to tell us about past processes - the rocks are so ancient they contain records of fluid and the atmosphere from the earliest parts of Earth's history. "But simultaneously, they also provide us with information about the chemistry that can support life. "And that's why we refer to it as 'the sleeping giant' that has been rumbling away but hasn't really been characterised until this point." The crust that forms the continents contains some of the oldest rocks on our planet. But as scientists probe ever deeper - through boreholes and mines - they're discovering water that is almost as ancient. The oldest water, discovered 2.4km down in a deep mine in Canada, has been dated to between one billion and 2.5bn years old...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1336

Today we have George Jones and his 1957 recording of A New Baby For Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trial for ATV protest ride postponed until March

A trial has been postponed for four men charged in an ATV protest ride through an off-limits area of southeastern Utah last May. The men were originally scheduled to stand trial for the Recapture Canyon protest on Dec. 22, but a judge has pushed that back to late March. In the meantime, a judge will hear arguments about whether one of the men charged should be allowed to keep a court-appointed attorney. The four men have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and illegal use of all-terrain vehicles. They are among some 50 people who rode ATVs into Recapture Canyon to protest what they call the federal government's overreaching control of public lands...more

It's Official. Dunn Won

Although just about every news organization in the state, including The New Mexican, was reporting last night that Republican Aubrey Dunn, Jr. had won the recount for state land commissioner, the Secretary of State's Office announced this morning that this officially didn't happen until about midnight, when Santa Fe County completed its work. Dunn beat incumbent Democrat Ray Powell, Jr. by 656 votes. That means Powell gained 48 votes in the recount...more

Obama bars oil, gas development in Alaska's Bristol Bay

President Obama has placed an indefinite ban on oil and gas development in Alaska's Bristol Bay. Environmental groups hailed the move Tuesday, billed by the president as a necessary safeguard, while the state's U.S. senators offered a mixed response. “These waters are too special and too valuable to auction off to the highest bidder,” Obama said in a surprise video announcement from the Oval Office posted to the White House website. Bristol Bay is part of the 32.5 million-acre North Aleutian Basin Planning Area in Southwest Alaska. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had hoped to open the region for leasing. Newly inaugurated Alaska Gov. Bill Walker responded positively to Obama's move, a sharp departure from previous Gov. Sean Parnell's often adversarial take on federal actions concerning Alaska. Walker said he had received advance notice of the decision from Jewell. “The pristine waters of Bristol Bay feed some of the world’s most premier fisheries," Walker said in a statement. "I look forward to working cooperatively -- in Alaska’s clear interest -- with the federal government to safely and economically develop regions of our state and offshore waters for oil and gas. Bristol Bay, however, is not that place.”...more

Utah Demands Feds Surrender Lands by Dec. 31


With the federal government engaged in a de facto unconstitutional occupation of some two thirds of Utah’s territory, citizens of the state and their elected representatives have had just about enough. So, on December 31, the State of Utah is formally demanding that Washington, D.C., relinquish control over more than 30 million acres of valuable land currently controlled by various federal bureaucracies.

While apparatchiks for an all-powerful U.S. government and far-left activists are fuming over the plan, Utah lawmakers, citizens, and experts say the time has come for the state to manage — and profit from — its own resources. Constitutionally speaking, experts say the lands should have gone to state control generations ago, as the federal government promised when Utah became a state.

The escalating battle now brewing between the feds and Utah formally got underway in in 2012, when Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, riding a wave of public outrage over federal abuses and land grabs, signed the popular Transfer of Public Lands Act. Among other elements, the law calls on the federal government to hand over control of public lands purportedly owned by the U.S. government within Utah’s borders.

The law also commissioned a study, released this month, examining various aspects of the process and finances — including how Utah would manage the land it is calling on the federal government to relinquish. According to the study, contrary to the hysterical claims of pseudo-environmentalists and federal supremacists demanding ever greater federal land grabs, transferring the lands to Utah would likely be “profitable” for the state.

Indeed, if Utah controlled its own lands — as opposed to bureaucrats and politicians in faraway Washington, D.C., who siphon away much of the state’s wealth and mismanage the resources — the state could easily bring in enough revenue to cover the costs of managing the lands, and then some. According to the researchers, the vast swaths of federally owned land represent an overall “drag” on the state’s economy — especially in the 20 out of 29 counties where the feds purport to own more than 40 percent of the land.

...“We’re going to move forward and use all the resources at our disposal,” explained Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the 2012 law and also leads the American Lands Council, a group seeking to strip the feds of their gargantuan land holdings across the Western United States. Among other possibilities, state leaders are exploring a plan to hire a private law firm to lead the charge in court if Washington, D.C., refuses to surrender the lands by the deadline set in the law.

The first step in the process is to see whether the federal government will voluntarily comply with the Constitution and Utah’s law mandating that it be upheld. “That’s what you do any time you’re negotiating with a partner. You set a date,” explained Rep. Ivory. “Unfortunately, our federal partner has decided they don’t want to negotiate in good faith. So we’ll move forward with the four-step plan that the governor laid out.”

Yak Dung Is Making Climate Change Worse (the actual headline)

It gets pretty cold this time of year in Tibet. For centuries, the solution to this problem was a win-win: just burn that huge pile of yak dung that’s been accumulating all summer. For millions of nomadic Tibetans, it’s a system that works. But that system comes at a hefty cost. Tibetan homes have some of the worst indoor air pollution in the world, and the soot the dung fires release is a big contributor to climate change. Yak dung, when used as fuel, is arguably dirtier than coal but is definitely much cheaper. Particulate pollution from burning animal dung greatly increases the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory ailments, the occurrence of which can be slowed by switching to cleaner ways of heating homes. Based on the measurements her team obtained, Saikawa suspects that if yak dung burning is properly accounted for, Tibet’s contribution to regional black carbon emissions is about three times greater than official estimates that are used in climate models. Yak dung burning in Tibet alone may produce an additional 1,100 tons of black carbon per year...more 

 Listen to my tale
As the enviros wail
Cuz according to the wise
Yak dung is our demise
And soon you'll be hung
For burning yak dung

Take it away Floyd Traynor.

Never been to Tibet, but if I was to get there I'd be yucking it up with the yakboys over this issue.

Drakes Bay oyster farm closes doors after long wilderness struggle

It's the end of the line for Drake's Bay Oyster Co. On Dec. 31, after a long battle with the National Park Service, the California Coastal Commission, the Department of the Interior and wilderness advocates, owner Kevin Lunny and his family will vacate the starkly beautiful Drake's Estero, a 2,500-acre estuary where some of the tastiest oysters on the West Coast have been farmed for more than half a century. A 40-year lease agreement between the feds and the oyster farm's original owners has expired. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar could have extended the lease for a decade, which was allowed by 2009 legislation that Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sponsored. But in 2011, Salazar — fearing a policy precedent — decided that wilderness and oyster farming were mutually exclusive. Lunny, 56, whose family runs the first organic-certified beef ranch in California, lost a fight between forces usually on the same side: sustainable farming enthusiasts and environmentalists. Lunny thought he had a fair shot to renew the lease because ranchers in other parts of the protected seashore were successful in doing so. To Lunny supporters, the bad guy was the government, scheming to take away a precious local mariculture resource. To the farm's opponents, the Lunnys became the villains. Founding members of Marin County's sustainable food movement, they were trashed as recalcitrant, water-polluting moochers who would exploit (and ruin) one of Marin County's most beautiful seascapes. In some ways, Drake's Bay Oyster Co. is a casualty of hardening attitudes about human intrusion into wilderness. In 1962, Congress created Point Reyes National Seashore, a wind-swept coastline that feels remote despite its location an hour north of San Francisco. Fourteen years later, President Ford signed the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, encompassing Drake's Estero, which was designated as a "potential wilderness" because it contained a commercial enterprise. But was the oyster company really meant to disappear at the end of its lease? In 2011, retired legislators who helped establish the Point Reyes National Seashore told Interior Secretary Salazar that they had always intended for the oyster farm to stay in business. "The issue of what to do with the oyster farm wasn't even under contention," former Rep. John Burton told the Marin Independent Journal. "Several things were grandfathered in, and aquaculture — oyster culture — was one of them."...more

Notice the method used:  First designate a National Seashore and then come in later with a Wilderness designation.  A similar model is now in place for the arid West:  First designate a National Monument and then when the time is ripe hit us with Wilderness.

In the case above they denied the permit because of the "policy precedent" it would set.  It would have allowed a commercial enterprise, i.e. people, to continue existing.  Once the permit is denied and the oyster farm is gone, it will no longer be "potential wilderne" but will become Wilderness, which was the goal all along.

Plan to use helicopters in Arizona wilderness draws complaints

Using helicopters to reach bighorn sheep in remote wilderness would ruin the solitude of areas normally free from human impact, according to complaints from local and regional environmental groups. Five organizations filed an objection Monday against a U.S. Forest Service proposal to allow up to 450 helicopter landings over 10 years in the Tonto National Forest's designated wilderness areas. Land protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act is generally off-limits to the motorized vehicles and recreational activities allowed in other parts of the forest. The Arizona Game and Fish Department requested the exception for its bighorn-sheep management and relocation efforts. Sheep from herds throughout the state are being captured and reintroduced to the Santa Catalina mountains near Tucson, where the species disappeared in the 1990s. The proposal covers nearly 200,000 acres of bighorn-sheep habitat on parts of the Four Peaks, Hellsgate, Mazatzal, Salt River Canyon and Superstition Wilderness areas. In their complaint, environmental groups said the use of helicopters would harm the "beauty, peace and solitude found only in designated Wilderness areas."...more

..."beauty, peace and solitude found only in designated Wilderness areas."  What bunk. They can be found in abundance on other federal lands and on millions of acres of private property. 

Ah, Wilderness! Forest Service Re-examining Standards for Media Access to Wilderness Areas

If you as a broadcaster, producer, or artist want to head into a congressionally-designated wilderness area to create some programming (both newsgathering and other programming), you will likely have to get a permit to do so from the National Forest Service (NFS). And yes, the power to require a permit also encompasses the power to require a fee for that permit, so you can expect to have to pay for the privilege. For years the standards imposed by the NFS on requests for such permits have been considerably subjective, which is never a good thing: the First Amendment frowns on governmentally-imposed limitations on freedom of expression and the press, especially when those limitations can be arbitrarily applied. To its credit, though, the NFS is considering tightening up its criteria. Whether the end result will assure broadcasters a constitutionally acceptable set of standards remains to be seen. But any broadcaster operating near a federal wilderness area – or who might at some point want to send a crew into such an area – should be aware of the NFS’s proceeding. In other words, as matters now stand, if any broadcaster wants to send a crew into a wilderness area to produce a piece on, say, migratory birds, a show about your local Forest Service lands akin to The National Parks documentary by Ken Burns, or some other newsworthy topic that doesn’t happen to be “breaking news”, the broadcaster may be required to make the necessary showing. The broadcaster will then have to keep its fingers crossed, hoping that the NFS will be satisfied that the proposed activities: (a) meet certain threshold screening criteria; (b) won’t harm the land, (c) won’t interfere with others’ use and enjoyment of the land, (d) won’t create any risk and (e) will “contribute[ ] to the purposes for which the wilderness area was established”. Let’s face it, those standards – and particularly that last one – are far from definite, which means that the NFS has a lot of wiggle room...more

Pro-mining budget bill awaits President Obama’s signature

On a 56-40 vote late Saturday, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending package which will fund most of the federal government until September 2015. The measure now awaits the president’s signature. The Senate turmoil and fighting reaped some benefits for mining as a rider imposing a one-year ban on new Endangered Species Act protection for the sage grouse survived in the “omnibus bill”. The rider was introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, a former president of the Nevada Mining Association. Nevertheless, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, remarked last week that “one year is not enough to find out the viability of the efficacy of programs that are out there.” Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, which manage most of the sage grouse habitat, will continue to revise 100 land-use plans covering 67 million acres in 11 western states to protect and restore sage grouse habitat, which is generally sage brush habitat. The omnibus spending bill allocates $15 million to the BLM to support state conservation plans that promote sustainable sage-grouse populations “through conservation of sensitive habitat and to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing designation of the species.” The BLM is already deferring oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of public lands...The rider also blocks the Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward on any rules that would redefine fill material under the Clean Water Act, which Republicans charge would hurt coal mining operations. Also surviving in the appropriations bill is a policy rider that would prohibit the Corps of Engineers from moving ahead on their “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule that was released for comment by the Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April...more

Ranchers mostly pleased with omnibus bill

NCBA Director of Communications Chase Adams said the bill also prevents funding for EPA to require producers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for livestock and mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure-management systems. It also maintains range and grazing management funding at FY 2014 levels, providing necessary resources for the agencies to continue working through a backlog of environmental analysis regarding permitted grazing, PLC stated. The bill also restores $1 million to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves and rejects the administration’s proposal to add a $1-per-animal unit month tax on livestock grazing. AUM is used to regulate grazing on public land based on the amount of forage consumed. The American Sheep Industry Association is pleased with those initiatives and also recognizes some particular wins for the sheep industry. The bill urges the Forest Service to work with USDA on the issue of disease transmission between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep, a conflict that has adversely affected sheep producers’ grazing permits, Orwick said. The bill also denies President Obama’s budget request for the termination and redirection of sheep research programs or the closure of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho. NCBA and PLC are also applauding the bill’s provisions that: instructs the secretary of agriculture to submit recommendations for changes in federal law to bring country-of-origin labeling into compliance with World Trade Organization rules; directs the secretary to stop any further efforts to implement a second beef checkoff program; and continues to defund marketing-reform provisions under the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration...more

Congress Launches Stealth Assault on Progressive Food Policy

Tucked into the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill recently passed by both the House and the Senate are a number of retrograde measures—intended to mollify Big Ag and its allies while throwing up a bunch of roadblocks against progressives trying to move the country toward a saner food policy. First on the list: a “congressional directive” that instructs the Obama administration to ignore any environmental factors as it works to issue a new set of national dietary guidelines next year. Never before has any administration taken into account the impact of its dietary recommendations on the environment; this year marked the first time that the government-appointed panel of nutrition experts decided to consider the environmental ramifications of their proposed guidelines. Not only that, but the spending bill also prohibits the government from requiring farmers to report “greenhouse gas emissions form manure management systems,” according to The New York Times, or from requiring ranchers to obtain greenhouse gas permits from methane released from their operations. This despite that agriculture is the primary source of methane emissions—and methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon...more

Third horse ecosanctuary approved by US authorities

Federal authorities in the US have given the nod to a third privately run ecosanctuary which intends to provides a home to wild horses. The new sanctuary is to be located in Lander, Wyoming, on the 900-acre Double D Ranch. It would initially hold up to 100 horses, with the first horses arriving as early as the spring of 2015. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says the ecosanctuary will be run by Dwayne and Denise Oldham, who own and lease portions of the Double D Ranch. It would be the second BLM-private ecosanctuary to be located in Wyoming; a 290-horse ranch is already operated by Richard and Jana Wilson on the 4000-acre Deerwood Ranch near Centennial, Wyoming. A third ecosanctuary, known as the Mowdy Ranch, operated by Clay and Kit Mowdy, holds 153 horses on 1280 acres and is located 12 miles northeast of Coalgate, Oklahoma. “This advances our efforts to improve the BLM’s management of and care for America’s wild horses and burros,” BLM director Neil Kornze said...more

EU Bans Horsemeat Processed in Mexico

An audit from the European Union's (EU) Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has resulted in a ban on the sale of horsemeat processed in Mexico. But one slaughter proponent doesn't believe the ban will stop the flow of horsemeat sold offshore or improve the welfare of American horses intended for processing. The FVO states that about 87% of the horses processed in Mexico originated in the United States. In its 2014 audit, the FVO raised “serious concerns” about Mexican horse processing, from vendor veracity about horses' medical and drug treatment records to the traceability of horses to a specific vendor. While horse slaughter opponents praised the ban, processing proponent David Duquette, equine program director for Protect the Harvest (an organization that counters slaughter opponents), believes the EU ban will have unintended consequences for American horses. Rather than stemming the flow of America horses to processing plants in Mexico, Duquette believes the ban will simply increase supply of horsemeat for sale in other markets. “All this means is that Mexican horsemeat won't be sold to the EU,” he opined. “Buyers can still purchase horses for processing in Mexico for the Russian and the Chinese markets, which are both much bigger markets.” He also believes the ban will have welfare consequences for American horses intended for processing in Mexico: “The (Russian and Chinese) markets don't have the same animal welfare regulations the EU has, and the ban will just eliminate all the welfare regulations the EU has. The ban will hurt the horses anti-slaughter groups are trying to help.”...more

Legislation will allow ranchers, farmers to expense equipment purchased in 2014

A bill that would allow farmers, ranchers and other small businesses to expense equipment for their operations is on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk. The Senate passed the one-year Tax Increase Prevention Act in a 76-16 vote on Tuesday night. The measure extends Section 179, meaning small businesses, including ranchers and farmers, may expense purchases made in 2014. Section 179 allows expensing and depreciation expense for purchase and repairs up to $500,000 of acquired business property. Not passing a bill for 2014 would not only hurt farmers and ranchers but implement dealers, Hoeven said. “It is going to cut sales of farm equipment drastically if the farmers don’t get a tax incentive to purchase equipment,” Dennis Miller, owner of Southwest Ag Repair Inc. in Dickinson, said in a statement Tuesday...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1335

Our selection today is Jimmy Wakely - It's Christmas, from the album Christmas On The Range

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sparring begins in civil lawsuit alleging trespassing by Western Watershed Project

The Western Watershed Projects has moved to dismiss a lawsuit that was filed against it this summer by five Fremont and Sublette county ranch interests. A WWP spokesman also said a news release issued by the plaintiffs in the case contained factual errors and misrepresented the project’s financial standing. In the motion, the defendants claimed the ranchers “have utterly failed to substantiate their claims and the case should be dismissed.” According to the defendants, they were also targeted by the ranchers “for exposing poor water quality conditions on public lands that violate federal law and create health risks for water users, conditions the livestock industry hopes to hide through its retaliatory lawsuit.” The motion to dismiss “demonstrates that the Plaintiffs have provided no concrete evidence of trespass, have ignored established public rights of way, and have failed to demonstrate any actual damage caused by the alleged trespass,” according to the WWP’s filing. In June, the ranchers filed a civil trespass lawsuit against Jonathan Ratner, the WWP Director for Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, and John Does 1-10 with the Western Watersheds Project, Inc. “for intentionally and without landowner permission trespassing and entering private property.” In a July response filed by WWP, the group alleges the case is an attempt to silence them. However, according to the landowners’ attorney, Karen Budd-Falen, this lawsuit is strictly about trespass. “Private citizens do not have the right to cross private property without permission,” said Budd-Falen. According to the plaintiff’s information, trespasses by WWP occurred while collecting and submitting water quality samples to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Trespasses also occurred while collecting range monitoring data. Some of the data collection was on private lands, they allege. According to a news release from the plaintiffs, “In their response, Western Watersheds Project alleges legal cost is too much for them so pro bono representation is necessary for their organization. They fail to mention they have four attorneys on staff and frequently receive money from the federal government for filing lawsuits.” The Plaintiffs alleged WWP has collected $2.3 million in taxpayer funds by “filing” lawsuits...more

Nevada Cattlemen's Association favors rider in defense bill

Although defense spending has nothing to do with the livestock industry, a rider attached to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act is good news for Nevada ranchers. The yearly bill passed through both houses of Congress this month and includes amendments to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act’s section regarding grazing permits and leases. Among the provisions, the proposed changes would restore some grazing permits on public lands. “The terms and conditions in a grazing permit or lease that has expired, or was terminated due to a grazing preference transfer, shall be continued under a new permit or lease until the date on which the Secretary concerned completes any environmental analysis and documentation for the permit or lease,” it reads. The amendments would also allow federal land agencies to grant livestock operators a “categorical exclusion” – which don’t require an extensive environmental assessment or environmental impact statement – in the permitting process. In the same vein, ranchers whose livestock cross public land could be granted a categorical exclusion. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association President Ron Torell expressed support for the NDAA add-ons. “It’s good news all around,” he said. “It makes it faster to renew permits.” Because so much of the land in northeastern Nevada is federally managed, many ranchers work with agencies so they can run their cattle or sheep on portions of public land. Any changes that can expedite the re-permitting process, Torell said, are a positive for the industry. Environmental groups, however, view the livestock operators’ gain to be the sage grouse’s loss. Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity public lands director, blamed livestock for spoiling various aspects of the environment, such as degrading water and spreading invasive plants, and specifically harmful to sage grouse. “This is a terrible deal for the American public and a devastating blow to the sage grouse,” Spivak said in a statement...more

Say you're running 200 head on federal land and your permit comes up for renewal with essentially the same terms and conditions.  That situation didn't evoke NEPA, as you were just continuing an activity that was already occurring.  Then the same enviros who are hollerin' now filed suit.  The Forest Service caved and the BLM soon followed along.  Now we spend millions of dollars to allow something to continue. Ridiculous.  NEPA analysis should occur at the land use planning level or when there is a significant new activity on the allotment.

A vast land grab to ‘protect’ water

by William Perry Pendley

In November, comments closed on a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redefine “waters of the United States,” as set forth in the Clean Water Act of 1977. While Sen. Edmund Muskie, Maine Democrat, author of the 1977 law, required 88 pages for his entire statute, this spring’s Federal Register notice ran 370 pages, not counting appendixes, one of which hit 300 pages alone. Little wonder the new “wetland” rules have generated controversy and a likely Supreme Court case.

Over the years, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers read “waters of the United States,” and hence their authority to regulate private property, both broadly and ambiguously. Unfortunately for landowners in their crosshairs, their interpretation is reminiscent of Justice Potter Stewart’s views regarding hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Worse yet, such a sighting is followed by a cease-and-desist order violation of which results in fines of tens of thousands of dollars a day, and double that if the violation is “willful.” Worst of all, landowners could not challenge those orders because they remained “unenforced” until violated.

For example, when the EPA declared arid lands owned by Dr. Larry Squires of Hobbs, New Mexico, “waters of the United States” because birds landed in ponds created by sporadic heavy rains, Dr. Squires challenged the order; but, his lawsuit was dismissed as untimely. A federal appeals court ruled his inability to question whether his lands were “wetlands” without paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines or going to jail was not “constitutionally intolerable” given that it would “undermine the EPA’s regulatory authority.” Fortunately, in 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously ended this abuse in a lawsuit by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Nonetheless, targeted landowners did reach the Supreme Court. In 1985, deciding at which point “water ends and land begins,” the Court upheld a definition that included wetlands that “actually abut on” traditional navigable waters. In 2001, the Court held that “non-navigable, isolated, intrastate waters,” even those used by migratory birds (remember Dr. Squires) were not within the Clean Water Act.

In 2006, ruling on whether the Clean Water Act included intrastate wetlands adjacent to non-navigable tributaries of navigable waters, the Supreme Court vacated the rules of the Army Corps of Engineers. On behalf of a four-member plurality, Justice Antonin Scalia required “continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right,” but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, while concurring in striking down the rules, demanded “a ‘significant nexus’ to waters that are or were navigable in fact or that could reasonably be so made.”

In 2007, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers responded to the court’s rulings and in late 2008, after the receipt of 66,000 comments, issued new guidance on identifying “waters of the United States.” Then, in 2011, the two agencies proposed guidance that expanded significantly the reach of the Clean Water Act, including over vernal pools, prairie potholes, natural ponds and playa lakes. In response to 230,000 comments, many of which demanded a formal rule-making, the agencies issued that proposal in April.

Living up to its reputation for creating, as liberal law professor Jonathan Turley put it, “a constitutional tipping point,” the Obama administration’s new rules constitute a historic land grab. Contrary to Justice Kennedy’s instruction, the rules: extend to all waters (not just wetlands) and all waters adjacent to non-navigable interstate waters; create a jurisdictional concept “similarly situated waters” by misquoting the justice; and ignore his demand that an agency “establish nexus on a case-by-case basis when it seeks to regulate wetlands based on adjacency to non-navigable tributaries.”

Worse yet, in violation of the Constitution’s commerce clause, they assert authority over waters that are neither instrumentalities nor channels of interstate commerce and that do not substantially affect interstate commerce.

Over its past six years, the Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against the Obama administration’s position on 20 occasions. These new wetland rules may make 21.

William Perry Pendley, a lawyer, is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver and author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle With Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today” (Regnery, 2013).

Washington Times