Saturday, January 10, 2015

PEN America: "The Harm Caused by Unmistakable"

PEN America published a report this week summarizing the findings from a recent survey of 772 writers around the world on questions of surveillance and self-censorship. The report, entitled "Global Chilling: The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers," builds upon a late 2013 survey of more than 500 US-based writers conducted by the organization. The latest survey found that writers living in liberal democratic countries "have begun to engage in self-censorship at levels approaching those seen in non-democratic countries, indicating that mass surveillance has badly shaken writers' faith that democratic governments will respect their rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and that—because of pervasive surveillance—writers are concerned that expressing certain views even privately or researching certain topics may lead to negative consequences." Specifically, more than 1 in 3 writers living in "free" countries (as classified by watchdog Freedom House) stated that they had avoided speaking or writing on a particular topic since the Snowden revelations, and only seventeen percent of writers in these countries felt that the United States offers more protection for free speech than their countries. A whopping sixty percent of writers in Western Europe and fifty-seven percent in the remaining Five Eyes countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK) think that US credibility “has been significantly damaged for the long term” by NSA spying. PEN also asked respondents to share their feelings about surveillance in their own countries, and found that in every grouping ("Free", "partly free," and "not free" by Freedom House standards), more than seventy-five percent of writers are "very" or "somewhat" worried about government surveillance at home...more

Venezuela puts food distribution under military protection

How bad are things getting in Venezuela? People are being forced to wear dirty clothes because there is a shortage of laundry detergent. And the military has had to take over security for food distribution because the shortages are causing people to panic. In fact, there's a shortage of just about anything that has to be imported. That's because falling oil prices have brought the economy to the brink of ruin and foreign exchange rates have made buying anything overseas nearly impossible...more

DHS Extends Protected Status for 200,000 El Salvadorans, Blames 2001 Earthquake

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week once again extended Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for more than 200,000 El Salvadorans currently living in the United States, blaming continued damages in the Latin American country from an earthquake that occurred there nearly 14 years ago. Under the latest in a long line of TPS extensions, the DHS, under the authority of Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, extended TPS status to qualified El Salvadorans for an additional 18 months until at least September 2016. Those approved for TPS protection are not subject to deportation and can obtain a work permit. Temporary Protection Status was first given to El Salvadorans in 2001 under the Bush administration after two major earthquakes killed more than 1,000 El Salvadorans, injured thousands more, and displaced many families from their homes. Since that time, the TPS has continued to be granted to El Salvadorans who came to the United States seeking refuge for nearly 14 years now. Under U.S. law, Temporary Protection Status can be granted to individuals from certain countries, provided “there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected.”...more

Ape in Argentina granted human rights

In the eyes of Argentina's courts, female orangutan Sandra is a person -- or at least worthy of rights and protections similar to those of a human being. As Andrés Gil Dominguez, spokesperson for the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights in Argentina, puts it: she's no longer just an "object" in the eyes of the law. It's the first time an animal has been granted expansive basic rights on par with a human. The decision was handed down by a high-level criminal appeals court in Buenos Aires last month; it's expected to spur action on some 17 similar cases, filed by animal rights activists on behalf of some 17 chimpanzees in zoos throughout Argentina. "Considering that they are very close to human primates, it is an absurdity that they are still in captivity in prison," primatologist Aldo Giudice, a researcher at the University of Buenos Aires, told the Scientific American. "Scientific research has shown that they are sentient beings with reason, self-consciousness and individuality," Giudice said. "We cannot be accomplices and let them suffer in prison." A new hearing will soon be held to determine where -- in the best interests of an orangutan who's only known the confines of the Buenos Aires Zoo for the last 20 years -- Sandra should live out the rest of her days...more

Friday, January 09, 2015

Editorial: Federal firefighting strategy should not downgrade private property

...If there’s a fire on the range, what should be saved first? The federal government sets priorities when fires break out and when deciding where to spend money on fire prevention. The priority has been to protect human life first, then private property and then to consider environmental impacts and public lands.

That order makes sense, but it could be changing. Private property could get moved to the bottom.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued an order Tuesday for federal land managers to develop a science-based strategy for preventing rangeland fires. It’s driven in part by concern for the sage grouse and what its listing as an endangered species could mean. Millions of acres in Oregon are considered sage grouse habitat, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says 21 percent of the habitat is on private property. 

The details of the new fire strategy have not been spelled out. But Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze recently suggested putting the protection of rangeland resources ahead of property. Protecting human life would stay at the top.

“If we were to flip the bottom two, it would change a lot, and it would be hard,” Kornze said at a meeting on rangeland fire in November in Boise, Idaho, according to The Associated Press. “It would be hard to explain that to some of our urban and mixed-landscape firefighting partners.” 

He’s right in a way. Discounting the protection of private property is hard to explain.  

Appreciate the paper's position on private property, but on their concern for an explanation, here tis:

This is the Obama administration, so no one should be surprised that private property would be on the bottom of their list. In this particular case it also fits in with just what they want:  

° official policy becomes no or very limited protection of private property, causing
° fire insurance rates to go through the roof, resulting in
° fewer people moving to the wild land interface (their real goal, humans not welcome)

Then all the little birdies will sing and little furry things will flutter about until...the next fire comes along and turns them into crispy critters.

Chairman Chaffetz will shine spotlight on Interior, EPA powers

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

The House GOP's new top watchdog plans to intensify oversight of the Interior Department and U.S. EPA in the 114th Congress, spotlighting everything from alleged restrictions on federal lands to employee misconduct.

Jason Chaffetz, the recently minted chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, created an Interior Subcommittee to oversee Interior, EPA, and the Energy and Agriculture departments.
The four-term Utahn could be a formidable obstacle for the Obama administration as it pursues executive protections for Western public lands, including national monuments, and seeks to balance energy development with protections for wild lands, water and the climate.

Chaffetz's home state is flush with oil, natural gas and other minerals, but roughly two-thirds of the land is federally controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service.
Chaffetz said he's deeply concerned with the ability of Utahns to access federal lands and the "ever expanding" size of the federal estate.

...Chaffetz's new Interior subpanel will be led by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who yesterday was also named chairwoman of the Congressional Western Caucus, a GOP group that has vigorously opposed Obama's lands agenda.

The panel's staff director will be Bill McGrath, former legislative counsel with Safari Club International who spearheaded the group's legislative and political strategy around public lands and the Endangered Species Act. At Safari Club, McGrath oversaw legislation on polar bear trophies and ivory regulations and was treasurer of the group's Republican-aligned political action committee.

Chaffetz also hired Machalagh Carr, an oversight staffer from the Natural Resources Committee who led investigations of Obama's energy and wildlife agenda.

Chaffetz said the Interior panel will take a microscope to the Antiquities Act -- the 1906 law that allows presidents to unilaterally set aside lands from energy development -- and the National Environmental Policy Act and ESA. It will also scour the Federal Register for decisions affecting federal lands.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has taken note. She set up a half-hour meeting with Chaffetz last month in which the two discussed the need for openness and transparency in the executive branch.

Nebraska Justices Back Pipeline; Now Obama Must Decide

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built through the state, removing President Obama’s chief reason for delaying a decision on the project. Gov. Dave Heineman had approved the Keystone project after the pipeline company, TransCanada, proposed a route that avoided Nebraska’s ecologically delicate Sandhills region. In making their decision, the Nebraska justices effectively overturned a lower court’s ruling that had blocked a state law giving the governor the right to approve the pipeline project. That law, passed in 2012, let oil pipeline companies take their projects directly to the governor, bypassing the Nebraska Public Service Commission. In February, however, a state district judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional. That ruling was appealed to the State Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in September...more

Obama's Lucrative Climate Change Strategy on Keystone: Feign Interest, Then Veto

With the holidays over the stage is set for the Keystone XL pipeline to be the first political battle of 2015, pitting the lame duck President Obama against the new Republican-led Congress. 

The political posturing over approval of the pipeline that would bring oil sand crude oil from Canada to refineries in Gulf Coast states began shortly after the midterm elections.

During his end of the year press conference last month, Obama downplayed the economic benefits of construction of the pipeline saying it would not benefit consumers at the gas pump and job creation would be limited to a few thousand temporary construction jobs and some additional employment in the refinery industry.

Obama followed those comments by saying in an interview with NPR that he would use his veto power to block the Congressional bills that threaten his accomplishments in areas including the environment.
As new members of Congress were being sworn into office, word came from the White House that Obama would not sign a bill approving the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), promised to put a vote on the Keystone pipeline on the fast track. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had scheduled a hearing on the Keystone approval bill on January 7 but the hearing was blocked and by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). 

Despite the last minute gymnastics by anti-fossil fuel Democrats, a bill approving the pipeline will pass Congress but be met with an Obama veto.

The truth is Obama never had any intention to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama’s obsession with his climate change agenda and the money flowing from radical environmentalists such as billionaire Tom Steyer to Democrats will serve as motivation to use his veto pen.

Additionally, Obama’s arrogance would not allow him to yield to the first bill coming from the Republican led Congress.

Stopping Keystone Ensures More Railroad Tank-Car Spills

by Terry Anderson

...Clearly, we are going to continue moving crude oil and petroleum products from where they are extracted to where they are needed. When considering whether to approve the Keystone XL, therefore, the question has to be: Which is safer, pipeline or rail tank cars?

President Obama's own State Department answered the comparison question plainly in February. According to the report, pipelines larger than 12 inches in diameter in 2013 spilled more than 910,000 gallons of crude oil and petroleum products—compared with 1.15 million gallons for tank cars, the worst in decades.

Comparing total oil spilled makes it appear, at first glance, that pipeline and rail safety records are similar. That's only until you factor in that pipelines carry nearly 25 times more crude oil and petroleum products.

The State Department report estimates that the Keystone XL carrying 830,000 barrels a day would likely result in 0.46 accidents annually, spilling 518 barrels a year. Under the most optimistic rail-transport scenario for a similar amount of oil, 383 annual spills would occur, spilling 1,335 barrels a year.

The report is even harsher on railroads when it comes to human injuries and fatalities. It estimates that tank cars will generate "an estimated 49 additional injuries and six additional fatalities" every year, compared with one additional injury and no fatalities annually for the pipeline.

Consider the safety record of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which includes the huge 48-inch-diameter mainline pipe carrying crude from Prudhoe Bay, 11 pumping stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines and the Valdez Marine Terminal. The largest oil spill in the system occurred in 1978 when an unknown person blasted a one-inch hole into a pipeline. It leaked 16,000 barrels and had no disastrous effects.

The debate over the Keystone XL vs. railcar transport can be likened to the safety of offshore vs. onshore oil production. By putting nearly 60% of potentially oil-rich onshore lands off limits, we have forced exploration and production offshore. Oil production onshore is safer than offshore just as pipelines are safer than tank cars. While the Deep Water Horizon oil spill well gushed nearly five million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico over an 87-day period beginning on April 20, 2010, a blowout in western Pennsylvania in June (while Deep Water Horizon was spilling) was capped in 16 hours and spilled only a few thousand gallons.

Similarly, pipeline spills are more easily controlled and cleaned up than are tank-car derailments. With so many railroads running along waterways and wetlands, 17-mile-long oil slicks, like the one from the Lynchburg derailment, will be more common. In contrast, the State Department reports that the Keystone XL would drill under rivers to avoid "direct disturbance to the river bed, fish, aquatic animals and plants, and river banks." Moreover, between 1992 and 2011, 40% of the liquids spilled from pipelines was recovered.

Putting the debate over the Keystone XL in this context shows the absurdity of killing the pipeline project. But the Obama administration appears determined to accept environmental arguments that the pipeline could leak (even though the likelihood is less than with rail) and that with the extraction and use of oil from Alberta, Canada's oil sands will increase global warming. On the latter point, the State Department report again is clear that net carbon emissions won't be much different with or without the Keystone XL—because the Canadian tar sands will likely be developed regardless of how the oil is transported and because trains emit more carbon dioxide than pipelines.

Obama veto of Keystone pipeline would stick, top Democrat says

If Republicans push through Congress a measure approving the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline, Democrats would have the votes to uphold a presidential veto, a top Senate Democrat said Sunday. Republican leaders say that when lawmakers return to Congress this week, a bill approving Keystone, which has support of most Republicans and some Democrats, will be an early priority. But Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said that President Obama should reject a bill approving the pipeline. If he does, Schumer said, the pipeline’s supporters in Congress won’t be able to get enough votes to override a veto. Obama should reject the pipeline even if Congress approves amendments making it more palatable to opponents, such as a requirement that all the oil transported by the pipeline stay in the U.S., Schumer said. The 1,179-mile pipeline, intended to transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, has become a symbolic issue for both sides: Environmentalists say it will worsen global warming, while backers say the project will provide jobs...more

Push is on for Unmanned Aerial Systems in agriculture

The push is on—from farmers and ranchers to rural appraisers—to make Unmanned Aircraft Systems a part of what the Federal Aviation Administration calls the National Airspace System. As things stand now, farmers and ranchers may use a small UAS, or drone, mounted with cameras for their own, personal use on land they own or manage. It’s the commercial side of sUAS that has officials of the Federal Aviation Administration concerned. The FAA had said in recent statements it is continuing efforts to develop the regulatory framework for safely integrating small UAS into routine NAS operations. It plans to issue its small UAS rule for public comment later this year. As of Jan. 7, the FAA has received 214 requests for exemptions from commercial entities, with 12 exemptions granted to 11 companies in a variety of industries. Two have been granted to firms that have a major agricultural interest. The exemptions to the current ban on commercial drone flights were granted by the FAA to Advanced Aviation Solutions of Star, Idaho, and its eBee fixed-wing aircraft for “crop scouting,” and to Trimble Navigation of Sunnyvale, California, and its UX5 to “perform precision aerial surveys for agricultural purposes by taking still photographs of crops.” According to a company release, the 5.5-pound Trimble UX5 is targeted at the surveying, agriculture, oil and gas, mining, construction, environmental industries. The system autonomously captures a series of high-resolution images during flight, which is typically up to 50 minutes covering as much as one square mile when flying 400 feet above the ground. Using Trimble Business Center Aerial Photogrammetry software, images are used to generate two and three-dimensional deliverables such as orthomosaic images, three-dimensional point clouds and contour maps. The Trimble UX5 enables the collection of large amounts of data, often faster than traditional surveying or mapping technologies. Advanced Aviation Solutions plans to use its 1.5-pound, fixed-wing eBee drone to make photographic measurements of farm fields, determine the health of crops and scouts for pests. The aim is to save farmers time walking through fields. The drone also can carry sensors that pick up information invisible to the naked eye, which can help determine which fields need watering. Meanwhile, sales of UAS to the non-commercial, individual, user continue at a fast pace at Neodesha, Kansas-based AgEagle, LLC, with more employees being hired to meet manufacturing demand...more

Cattle plunge through ice, die in mass drowning

In a pasture alongside the White Clay Reservoir that straddles the Nebraska-South Dakota border, Mike Carlow fed 207 beef cattle on Tuesday, and his brother, Pat, fed them on Wednesday. Thursday was the next time the two saw the cattle, and the sight was ghastly: dozens of dark, motionless lumps in the winter-white setting of that reservoir. The carcasses of at least 49 of the cattle were stuck barely above the water level. After counting the survivors, Mike Carlow estimated 100 of the brothers' cattle had drowned, many of them still under the ice-water mixture. "I've been ranching over 40 years," he said, "and I don't ever remember cattle walking out on ice or falling through." Bob Fortune, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, said the large number of deaths resulting from breaking through ice and drowning is extremely rare. "I've heard of it happening one or two times in my lifetime," Fortune, a rancher for about 50 years, said. Occasionally, he added, "one or two or three" will drown that way...more

Trail boss gives detailed account of coast-to-coast horse ride

The build up to the Grass March/Cowboy Express ride focused on the protest. And the conclusion of the coast-to-coast horse ride centered on organizer Grant Gerber’s death. On Thursday, trail boss of the Grass March/Cowboy Express Jess Jones filled in details about the day-to-day experience at an Elko County Commission meeting. On a mildly foggy September morning, seven riders saddled up their horses on a Pacific beach in Bodega Bay, California, then headed east. Jones said the riders took turns in 5-mile stretches with new riders waiting up ahead to continue the journey. Twenty-eight horses were used, as well as a couple of mules. After a while, the groups reduced the legs to four miles. “We were leap-frogging, which sped us up,” he said. “We were able to ride our horses a little harder and cover more country. … We were able to rotate quite a bit, but we would use every horse every day.” Before leaving, the horses’ diets were supplemented with alfalfa cubes to prepare their bodies’ digestive system for the sustenance. Every few days, more cubes were purchased, Jones said. The horses also ate grains. California was difficult, according to the trail boss, because of the tight roads with narrow shoulders and traffic concerns. In response, the riders mapped out routes on the back roads. “By the time we got through California our horses were used to pretty much anything,” he said. Along the way, people opened up their horse arenas and homes for the riders. “Trying to find places for 28 head of horses is kind of a logistical nightmare every night,” Jones said. “And the farther east you go the less rodeo ground you can find with places to hold them.” Cowboys in Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Kansas helped the original group for portions of the trip. “Each day started at about 4 o’clock in the morning and ended at midnight,” he said...more

The 1887 Blizzard That Changed the American Frontier Forever

On this day in history, a blizzard hit the western open range, causing the “Great Die Up” and transforming America’s agricultural history

Back in the late 19th century, the land that is now Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas were mostly miles and miles of open terrain, punctuated by the settlements of the few intrepid settlers who braved isolation and hostile conditions in hopes of adventure and a decent living. Many who quested out from the east (including the grand adventurer himself, Theodore Roosevelt) came for the beef business. The fenceless open range meant grazing land was easy to come by so ranchers could own massive herds of cattle. Modern Farmer reports that between 1866 and 1885, around 5.7 million cattle were driven to market or northern ranges.
The tricky part came in feeding the animals, but through much of the late 1870’s and into the 1880s, cooler summers and mild winters meant that grass and feed was typically pretty plentiful. But everything changed in the disastrous winter of 1886-1887. A blazing hot summer had scorched the prairies, so when snow started falling in early November much of the frontier’s livestock were already starving and ill equipped for a hard winter. The problem became a catastrophe when, on January 9, 1887 a blizzard hit, covering parts of the Great Plains in over 16 inches of snow. Winds whipped and temperatures dropped to around 50 below.
Few farmers had hay stored for their cattle, so many cows that weren’t killed by the cold soon died from starvation. When spring arrived, millions of the animals were dead, with around 90 percent of the open range’s cattle rotting where they fell. Those present reported carcasses as far as the eye could see. Dead cattle clogged up rivers and spoiled drinking water. Many ranchers went bankrupt and others simply called it quits and moved back east where conditions appeared less punishing. They called the event “The Great Die-Up,” a macabre play on the term “round-up”. Ultimately, the disaster altered not just the development of the west, but also the direction of America’s agriculture. Ranchers stopped keeping such gigantic stocks of cattle, and began larger farming operations in order to grow food for the animals they had. Most also quit the open range, where livestock could roam far from grain reserves, in favor of smaller, fenced in grazing territories. The winter of 1886-1887 signaled the beginning of the end to the days of roving cowboys and the untamed western wilderness.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1351

Can't have a week of new bluegrass releases without a good banjo tune, so here is Rob McCoury picking Banjo Riff.  That's brother Ronnie McCoury taking the mandolin break and Jason Carter taking the fiddle break.  The tune is on his 2014 CD 5 String Flame Thrower.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

FBI: December Gun Sales Skyrocket, 2.3 Million Background Checks Conducted

The FBI’s December figures show 2.3 million background checks for gun purchasers were conducted in one month alone. That is an increase of nearly 300,000 from the number of background checks conducted in December 2013. Breitbart News previously reported that on Black Friday alone there were nearly three background checks conducted every second. A strong December was expected. CNN Money reports that the 2.3 million background checks for December were considerably higher than the number of background checks for other months in 2014. For example, there were 1.4 million conducted in July and 1.5 million conducted in August. This was topped by 1.6 million in October and 1.8 million in November...more

Secretary Jewell announces wildlife and climate studies at Southwest Climate Science Center

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the Interior’s Southwest Climate Science Center is awarding nearly a million dollars to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.
    “These climate studies are designed to help address regional concerns associated with climate change, providing a pathway to enhancing resilience and supporting local community needs,” Jewell said. “The impacts of climate change are vast and complex, so studies like these are critical to help ensure that our nation’s responses are rooted in sound science.”
    The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

• Studying the link between drought and tree death following fires in the Southwest to better estimate the effect of fires on Southwestern forests in the future.

• Understanding the joint impacts of cool-season precipitation and increasing spring temperatures on snowpack declines and runoff to help address future water management challenges. 

• Examining the impact of increased storms and sea-level rise on connected coastal habitats to support future planning and conservation of nearshore natural resources.

• Identifying a chronology of extreme storms, especially atmospheric rivers, over the past 30 years and their effect on the Sierra Nevada and western Great Basin ecosystems.

• Providing customized climate data from across the Southwest region to inform decision-making by private landowners, public agencies and natural resources managers.

• Assessing climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the Great Basin

The press account also includes this:

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network, and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center,located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.
Jeez, this cowboy is behind on all this stuff.  8 CSCs and 22 LCCs?  Go here for more info on Climate Science Centers. And just what is a Landscape Conservation Cooperative? 

LCCs are applied conservation science partnerships with two main functions. The first is to provide the science and technical expertise needed to support conservation planning at landscape scales – beyond the reach or resources of any one organization. Through the efforts of in-house staff and science-oriented partners, LCCs are generating the tools, methods and data managers need to design and deliver conservation using the Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) approach. The second function of LCCs is to promote collaboration among their members in defining shared conservation goals. With these goals in mind, partners can identify where and how they will take action, within their own authorities and organizational priorities, to best contribute to the larger conservation effort. LCCs don’t place limits on partners; rather, they help partners to see how their activities can "fit" with those of other partners to achieve a bigger and more lasting impact.

More info on LCCs and SHCs (uh, Strategic Habitat Conservation) is here.

One can only conclude there is a huge demand for more government plans, and this system has been created to give those plans to us good and hard.

I've noticed that over the last decade or so the terms "landscape" and "landscape planning" have entered government speak, sparingly at first and now its in virtually every government document.  Reading about the LCCs last night sent me on a journey I really didn't want to take.

What the hell do these terms mean?

Follow me through Wikipedia and you'll find the definition of landscape.  Then you can go to landscape planning where you will discover:

Landscape planners are concerned with the 'health' of the landscape, just as doctors are concerned with bodily health. This analogy can be taken further. Medical doctors advise both on the health of individuals and on matters of public health. When individuals take actions injurious to their own health this is regarded as a private matter. But if they take actions injurious to public health, these actions are properly regulated by law. The collective landscape is a public good which should be protected and enhanced by legislation and public administration. If, for example, mineral extraction has a damaging impact on the landscape, this is a proper field for intervention. Negative impacts on the landscape could include visual impacts, ecological impacts, hydrological impacts and recreational impacts. As well as protecting existing public goods, societies are responsible for the creation of new public goods. This can be done by positive landscape planning. There are, for example, many former mineral workings (e.g. the Norfolk Broads) which have become important public goods. Medical doctors are trained in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry etc. before becoming practitioners. Landscape doctors are trained in geomorphology, hydrology, ecology etc. before becoming practitioners in design and planning.

So the next time you’re in a meeting with government planners, just think of it as an appointment with a doctor…whose about to give you a rectal exam.

You will also notice that landscape planning for energy "is concerned with designs and plans to mitigate the impact" of energy projects, landscape planning for recreation "is concerned with mitigating the environmental impact" of recreation, and landscape planning for mineral extraction is to "minimize" its impact.

That doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to forestry or agriculture.  Notice in both instances the planning is for "non-timber objectives" or "non-food objectives" such as scenery, wildlife, water quality, biodiversity and other "environmental goods."

Of interest too is a reference to NEPA:

The principles of landscape planning are now incorporated in various types of legislation and policy documents. In America, the National Environmental Policy Act was influenced by the work of Ian McHarg on Environmental impact assessment.
Go to the link on McHarg and you will find this:

 In 1971 McHarg delivered a speech at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Portland, Oregon, called "Man: Planetary Disease". In the speech he asserted that, due to the views of man and nature that have infiltrated all of western culture, we are not guaranteed survival. Of man, McHarg said, "He treats the world as a storehouse existing for his delectation; he plunders, rapes, poisons, and kills this living system, the biosphere, in ignorance of its workings and its fundamental value." [4] To this end man is a "planetary disease", who has lived with no regard for nature.

Aren't you pleased to know the philosophy that "influenced" NEPA?

And there we go with the disease thing again.  Apparently we must go to our government doctors to be cured.  Just think of your Forest Service or BLM landscape planning as ObamaCare for cowboys.

There is a cure though.  Please read The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future. by Randal O'Toole. This whole "journey" has made me sick so I need to visit Dr. O'Toole immediately. 

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1350

Today's selection is some string band music by the Glade City Rounders titled The One Called Shave Em Dry.  The tune is on their 2014 CD They're After Us.  For the more venturesome, you'll have a better understanding of this recording if you are familiar with Lucille Bogan's 1935 recording of Shave Em Dry...warning...that recording is super raunchy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Judge strikes down California ban on foie gras

They tried to ban large sodas in New York City, but the courts said “no.” And now the same thing has happened to the ban on foie gras in California. West Coast nanny-state proponents took a hit Wednesday when a federal judge struck down the state’s two-year-old prohibition on foie gras, a delicacy made from fattened duck or goose liver. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson said in his opinion that California health and safety codes that ban restaurants from serving foie gras run afoul of federal law, namely the Poultry Products Inspections Act. According to the judge, this federal statute supersedes any state law in governing the production and sale of the pate. The California state legislature passed a foie gras ban in 2004 under pressure from animal rights advocates, who argued that foie gras is inhumane because it is traditionally made by force-feeding birds in order to enlarge their livers. The law went into effect in 2012 after legal challenges failed, but it was habitually undermined by restauranteurs who continued to serve foie gras, saying they were not selling it but giving it away as a gift, which is not prohibited under the law. Chef Ken Frank of La Toque restaurant in Napa, who was sued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund for continuing to serve foie gras, sponsored an essay contest in June on the topic, “Why California’s Foie Gras Ban Is Foolish,” according to San Francisco Eater. Foodies rejoiced at the decision. Mr. Frank posted a celebratory message on Twitter shortly after the judge’s ruling was issued Wednesday: “Foie Gras is legal again in California. On the menu tonight.”...more

Does Yosemite Really Need $435,000 of Military Equipment?

Assault rifles, knives, tactical vests, night vision goggles, infrared-monitoring devices. It sounds like the gear for a company deployed to a Middle Eastern war zone, right? Wrong. This bevy of aggressive military equipment belongs to the National Park Service, according to new information released in November. It’s enough to make one think some villainous entity plans a full-scale invasion of our park system. The NPS quietly started acquiring high-end, military-grade weaponry from the U.S. Department of Defense 25 years ago. The initiative was part of the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which has distributed approximately $5 billion in military equipment to law enforcement agencies across the country since 1990. The initial goal was to bolster the police’s fight against drugs, but it was expanded in 1997 to let all agencies acquire military-grade equipment for “bona fide law enforcement purposes.” The program's come under fire recently as police violence has spurred protests across the nation. The images from Ferguson showed a law enforcement force that looked more like a military unit in hostile foreign territory than local police. In response, President Barack Obama released a report in December proposing to limit a law enforcement agency’s ability to get military equipment, but he stopped short of advocating to end the 1033 program. While the general outline of the weapons giveaway initiative has been widely reported, it wasn’t until late November that the Pentagon released details on the 1033 program following intense pressure from the media and civil liberties organizations. According to data from The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news outlet, the National Park Service has acquired roughly 4,100 pieces of equipment worth about $6 million since the program’s inception...more

Senator maps GOP strategy on environment

Senate Republicans are planning a full-on assault against a wide range of the Obama administration’s environmental rules, with a focus on overturning them or cutting their funding. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters Wednesday that the Congressional Review Act (CRA) will be a primary tool for the GOP. The CRA, a key piece of Republicans’ Contract with America in the 1990s, allows an expedited route for Congress to vote to overturn regulations, including those from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Inhofe is prioritizing fights against the EPA’s climate rules for power plants, its rule to redefine its Clean Water Act jurisdiction, potential limits on methane emissions for the oil gas sectors and ozone pollution limits. But the GOP will also battle Obama on larger fronts, such as the “social cost of carbon,” the internal accounting it uses to calculate the benefits of climate change regulations. Inhofe identified a total of six priorities for the committee, including infrastructure, changing the Endangered Species Act, rewriting the Toxic Substances Control Act and overseeing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission...more

FAA approves drones for ag use

Until now, the only nonhobbyist drones flying over crops in the U.S. were part of sanctioned studies or were operated by growers ignoring a ban on drone use for commercial purposes. The commercial drone industry - which experts estimate could be worth billions of dollars, serving a collage of other industries - has been on hold for years as the Federal Aviation Administration has struggled to develop rules for commercial drones' safe operation. But one small Treasure Valley company - Advanced Aviation Solutions, or Adavso - received the FAA's blessing Monday for its drone services. Adavso became the 13th business in the country and the first agriculture-based company to receive exemption from current FAA rules. An unmanned aviation vehicle, or drone, can snap hundreds of photos through infrared filters as it flies over farm fields, producing images that computers analyze to identify crops affected by insects, disease and lack of water or nutrients. The drone imaging helps farmers find and treat problems without spending hours or days traversing fields to spot problems from the ground...more

Green Power Would Make Life Nasty, Brutish And Short

...Three centuries ago, the world ran on green power. Wood was used for heating and cooking, charcoal for smelting and smithing, wind or water power for pumps, mills and ships, and whale oil for lamps. People and soldiers walked or rode horses, and millions of horses and oxen pulled ploughs, wagons, coaches and artillery.

But smoke from open fires choked cities, forests were stripped of trees, most of the crops went to feed draft animals, and streets were littered with horse manure. For many people, life was "nasty, brutish and short."

Then the steam engine was developed, and later the internal combustion engine, electricity and refrigeration came along. Green power was replaced by coal and oil. Carbon energy powered factories, mills, pumps, ships, trains, and smelters; and cars, trucks and tractors replaced the work-horses. The result was a green revolution — forests began to regrow and vast areas of cropland used for horse feed were released to produce food for humans. Poverty declined and population soared.

...Already urban environmentalists are polluting city air by burning wood and briquetted paper in stoves and home heaters, and trying to prevent millions in Asia and Africa from getting cleaner energy. Other misguided nations are clearing forests and transporting low-energy wood chips to burn in distant power stations. And the high costs of green energy are already forcing some poor people to burn old books and strip parks and forests for firewood.

In addition, crops that once fed people are now making "green" ethanol to fuel cars, and native forests are being cleared and burnt to make way for more fuel crops. Our modern iron "Horses" are eating the crops again.

Oil driller says its high-tech rigs can’t compete with cheap crude

Even the most technologically advanced drilling rigs are finding less work as oil prices crash. Oklahoma oil driller Helmerich & Payne expects 40 to 50 of its souped-up drilling machines to come off the market over the next few weeks, after 11 of those models went idle in the past month, it said in an investor presentation Tuesday. The firm added it has seen spot prices for its so-called FlexRig units fall 10 percent, and some oil companies are dropping out of contracts early. It’s a marked decline for rigs that had emerged in recent years better equipped than old mechanical models to take on dense shale formations, powered by AC top drives and capable of “walking” between drill sites with huge mechanical feet. Pressure on those rigs shows just how widespread the impact of the oil’s $58-a-barrel slide will be, as Helmerich & Payne’s new models are the cream of the crop in the U.S. land rig market, said Rob Desai, an analyst with Edward Jones. “H&P is one of the stronger operators,” Desai said. “Other players are probably going to be hit even harder.” Twenty-six U.S. land rigs stopped working last week, with a dozen of those idled in Texas, according to Baker Hughes, which has reported declines in the U.S. rig count for four straight weeks. Fourteen of last week’s idled rigs were horizontal drillers, which target shale plays...more

Forest Service yanks $10M contract to boost its public image

The U.S. Forest Service has abruptly decided not to spend $10 million on a five-year nationwide public relations campaign to brand itself as a public agency that cares about people and nature. The agency was planning on the campaign at a time when it’s struggling to pay for fighting wildfires, maintaining trails and offering timber for sale. It has also faced a major public backlash in the West over plans to close trails and roads to motorized vehicles due to a lack of money for maintenance, as well as to prevent erosion and protect fish and wildlife. The Forest Service issued a statement Tuesday saying that it had not accepted any contract bids and would look for other ways to enhance the public’s access to national forests and understanding about what the agency does. The agency wouldn’t say why it withdrew the contract. Andy Stahl, director of the watchdog group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, said he thought the agency’s leaders “finally listened to Forest Service employees, and no one thought this was a good idea.” Stahl said that after he learned of the contract, he sent an email to 25,000 Forest Service employees, and about half of them opened it. He got about 50 replies, all critical, suggesting the money could be put to better use on recreation programs, revising forest management plans, restoring ecosystems, hiring more employees, and lifting a three-year wage freeze. Forest Service retirees also objected. Al Matecko, retired chief of public and legislative affairs for the northwest region and head of the Old Smokies, which represents about 950 retirees, said he received 50 emails from members who were strongly opposed. He passed on those objections to Forest Service leaders, Matecko said. “Retirees were just amazed that at this time of shrinking budgets, the Forest Service could find $10 million,” he said...more

Science doesn't lie: Forest thinning pays off

...For example, the Natural Resource Working Group — a collaboration of local and state governments, state and federal land management agencies, forest product and livestock industries, environmentalists, recreation industries and universities, including the University of Arizona — launched more than 20 years ago to address the devastation of forest fires. The group sought to identify and implement science-based solutions to reduce the number and intensity of wildfires, save lives, property and watersheds, as well as return forests to healthy, diverse and economically productive ecosystems. But to be successful, the effort needed funding and sites to test the science. With the assistance of then-state Sen. Jake Flake and then-Navajo County Supervisor Lewis Tenney, the U.S. Forest Service provided the working group with access to 12,000-forested acres in 1998 to try new forest restoration concepts. The effort eventually evolved into the White Mountain Stewardship Project and realized success: 70,000 acres of previously dense degraded forest were on the road to healthy diversity and thinned effectively to help mitigate low-intensity, ground and crown wildfires. Since then, several large wildfires have affected the White Mountains, and the areas managed by the working group did markedly better than those that were not. When the San Juan Fire reached this treated area last June, it changed abruptly from a high-intensity crown fire to a low-intensity ground fire. The initial investment in infrastructure in the working group was $130 million in federal money. That now provides more than $20 million annually in new regional income and more than 300 jobs for local families. Just like investing in roads and bridges, this has proven to be a prudent investment with an effective return many times over. In 2013, Navajo and Apache counties took over the working group, ensuring the work would continue and be managed by the local community. This program, and programs like it, serves as a national model and should be expanded for use in other fire-vulnerable states...more

Interior secretary seeks wildfire strategy that protects habitat

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is calling for a new wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species. She issued an order Tuesday seeking a “science-based” approach that safeguards the greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. The wide-ranging Western bird has been on a collision course in recent years with oil and gas, agriculture and other industries. Jewell’s order stems at least in part from a conference this fall in Boise that brought together scientists and land managers to find collaborative ways to protect Great Basin rangelands from the plague of increasingly intense wildfires. One change suggested by Neil Kornze, director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, was to put the protection of rangeland resources ahead of property. The protection of human life would remain the top priority. “If we were to flip the bottom two, it would change a lot, and it would be hard,” Kornze said in closing remarks at the conference. “It would be hard to explain that to some of our urban and mixed-landscape firefighting partners.” Jewell’s order creates a task force and sets a March 1 deadline for it to report on guidelines for the 2015 wildfire season...more

We are fighting the “big boys” for our land

by Pamela Openshaw

What do you do when the “big boys” won’t give you your “stuff”? Do you cave, or fight?

That’s the issue with Utah’s lands and House Bill 148, the “Transfer of Public Lands Act”. The feds have our property and we want it. In 2012, the Utah legislature served notice that on Jan. 1, it intended to take title to, and management of, 31.2 million acres of Utah land that the feds claim—lands presently managed mostly by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. We aren’t asking for national parks, congressionally designated wilderness areas, military installations or Indian reservations. When we receive these lands we will make them public, unlike the federal government who is shutting us out.

January 1 has come and gone, and the feds still hold title to the land. The federal government claims 66 percent of Utah, despite its promise to give us our land at statehood, as was done to most other states. We are crying “foul”.

Those who oppose Utah’s move say managing these lands will break our piggy bank. A detailed study by three universities, Utah, Weber State and Utah State, disagrees. This task force considered best to worst case scenarios. It found that the increased revenue to the state from taxes and fees on oil, gas and coal production will cover the state’s land management costs in all but the worst case scenario. In addition, a profit of $100 million to $1 billion yearly will result. If the worst happens, and gas and oil prices do fluctuate, state profits from a renewed timber industry, minerals extraction and grazing, will cover any temporary shortfall.

Opponents say the effort is unreasonable; that we cannot succeed. Why? Other states have done it. In the 1930s, Illinois, Missouri, and several other states united to wrest their commandeered lands from the feds, and Hawaii got federal lands back in 1959. Canada is now returning lands to its provinces, having realized that local control is more economical and effective. Utah has help; eight other states in the same boat have joined us to demand federal fairness...

Government priorities constrain


The Congressional freeze on expenses for sage hen listing is a hopeful step toward scientific and political propriety. Meanwhile, negative economic and ecological impacts of the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and other agencies continue range-wide.

Persistent grazing allotment reductions enhance cheatgrass invasion of the range, requiring expensive chemical and mechanical treatment. Basically, herbicides, drill-seeding and contractors expand agency budgets, unlike grazing cheatgrass with cattle and sheep. Agencies reduce public land grazing while ignoring results on private land where ranchers can rotate herds after grazing down cheatgrass before natives emerge.

Fundamentally, cheatgrass becomes fuel for fires which are the principal unquestioned off-budget spending approved for these land management agencies. Apparently with little effective oversight of their bureau-scientific complex, agencies evidently have established policies tending toward large firestorms.

They receive emergency funding with no substantial inquiry into methods of avoiding fires in the first place. Their studies seem to focus on justifying costs and blaming climate change, not eliminating firestorms. This especially is troubling since historical records and common sense show that grazing down fuel eliminates the problem before it erupts in flames. Range-wide, fires apparently take nearly 200,000 sage hen each year.

In addition to grazing down fuel, livestock provide food for the sage hen, who have no gizzards and must consume soft matter. Livestock excrete grouse-edible soft matter in abundance – readily apparent on stock-producing land across the 11 states of the birds’ range.

A significant factor persistently evaded by all land and wildlife management agencies is predation. Bureaucratically avoiding the scientific method by allowing no discussion, regulators declare predator effects unimportant to the matters facing sage hen. Yet population mortality calculations indicate more than 1.4 million sage hen embryos and nestlings are killed each year by predators. Evidently 1.1-1.3 million due to ravens, the rest predominately by coyotes.

Though based on government numbers and research, regulators never acknowledge either the base numbers or the mortality analysis … population mortality which is understood by every ranch and farm child. But if bureaucrats acknowledge existence of an immediate and effective solution to saving millions of sage hen, they would not be able to increase their employee headcount and control of the private sector.

Ski areas pay record amount for use of White River National Forest lands

The 11 ski areas that operate in the White River National Forest broke the record for fees they paid to use public lands during the 2013-14 season, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The ski areas — headed by four owned by Vail Resorts and four owned by Aspen Skiing Co. — combined to pay $15.75 million during the Forest Service’s 2014 fiscal year. That was up $2.26 million, or 17 percent, from the 2013 fiscal year, according to figures supplied by the national forest supervisor’s office. The federal agency’s fiscal year ends in September, so the fees paid reflect booming business during the snowy 2013-14 ski season and a small but growing amount from summer operations. The ski-area payments are determined by a complex formula that includes uphill chairlift capacity, percentage of public lands used for the ski area, skier visits and revenues from facilities and services operated on public lands...more

Wildlife managers approve plan to kill more bears in Utah

A troubling number of black bears were killed by federal and state wildlife managers in 2014 after they destroyed crops, feasted on livestock or threatened people. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) leaders hope changes to the bear hunt approved by the Utah Wildlife Board Tuesday could lead to rank-and-file hunters killing more black bears — perhaps an additional 70 to 90 animals each year — and cutting the number that have to be removed by other means. Last year, 91 black bears were identified as nuisance animals and killed. Most years, an average of 57 problem bears in Utah are destroyed by wildlife managers. Predators took center stage during the wildlife management meeting. Just over a week after a gray wolf was shot and killed outside Beaver, board members also approved a request from the state wildlife agency to extend Utah’s Wolf Management Plan, which expired on Dec. 31. Meanwhile, hunters in Utah will have more chances to kill black bears starting this spring...more

Feds ban rope-swinging from Utah arches for 2 years

Federal officials are temporarily banning daredevil rope-swinging, rappelling and other rope activities from several iconic Utah arches. The Bureau of Land Management announced a two-year restriction at Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges on Tuesday. The agency says rope activities can disturb people in the popular hiking areas and the arches are showing signs of wear. The ban comes after two people died in swing accidents in 2013, one at Corona Arch and the other in Day Canyon, about 7 miles west of Moab. YouTube videos helped the sport gain popularity...more

Federal court OK's Over the River

Huge gains were made last Friday for Over the River champions. A federal judge dismissed charges that the Bureau of Land Management had violated its own rules in approving the project, brought to court by OTR's main opposition group, ROAR.  The Pueblo Chieftain reported that U.S. District Judge William Martinez didn't find the BLM violated any laws, and in his 30-page ruling, wrote: "As long as an agency has complied with the procedural requirements of NEPA, the court should not second-guess that agency's decision. ... BLM engaged in a thorough consideration." ROAR can appeal the decision, and in a release sent from the group, says that it is reviewing its options. Should it decide not to appeal, only one suit still lies between Over the River and the chance to start the process, which is now being heard in the Colorado Court of Appeals. Though the Chieftain article speculated that, given the three years lead-up needed for the project, it could happen as soon as August 2018, Christo's camp won't give a possible date, saying they are waiting for "successful resolution of the legal process before identifying the Over the River exhibition date."...more

Farmers Deploy New DNA Test for Tastier Meat

When Mark Gardiner looks at one of his bulls, he sees generations of high-quality steaks. By having his animals’ DNA scanned by a gene-testing firm, Mr. Gardiner, a Kansas cattle breeder, can tell nearly from birth how many pounds they are likely to pack on per day and how much rich, marbled beef their carcasses will yield. U.S. cattle ranches, using technology developed by companies including food-safety firm Neogen Corp. and animal-drug maker Zoetis Inc., are conducting more-sophisticated genetic tests like the ones that give Mr. Gardiner a glimpse of his animals’ future. Advances in DNA analysis help veterinarians and breeders identify prize animals whose offspring will yield a larger volume of tastier steaks—fetching producers higher prices from Cargill Inc. and other beef processors. Testing also can save money on animal upkeep by culling cattle with less-desirable genes. Cattle breeders say such tests allow them to assess a bull’s genetic value with the same accuracy as if it already had sired up to 20 calves. Proponents describe the genetic analysis tools as “Moneyball” meets “Bonanza.” “This helps give you a higher batting average,” said Mr. Gardiner, 53 years old, whose family runs Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kan. The American Angus Association estimates that about 20% of the purebred animals registered under its breed in 2014 were genetically tested, up from less than 1% in 2010, when the Angus-specific tests became available. Two-thirds of commercial cattle ranchers in the U.S. say their cow herds include animals with Angus genes, according to the association...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1349

From his 2014 CD Another Day From Life we have Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers with Through A Coal Miner's Eyes.

Arizona Game & Fish To Sue Federal Officials Over Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan

The Arizona Game and Fish Department today served a Notice of Intent with the secretary of the Department of Interior and director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). The action was taken in an effort to support development of an updated recovery plan for Mexican wolves that utilizes the best available science as legally required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Game and Fish has requested an updated recovery plan from the Service on multiple occasions over the past several years because the current recovery plan for Mexican wolves developed in 1982 is so outdated that it no longer provides an adequate framework to guide the recovery effort. That plan also fails to identify the recovery criteria required by the ESA including downlisting and delisting criteria. “This Notice of Intent is an effort to ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service adheres to its legal obligation to develop a thorough science-based plan that will lead to a successful recovery outcome that recognizes Mexico as pivotal to achieving recovery of the Mexican wolf given that 90 percent of its historical range is there,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department Director Larry Voyles...more

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

New Congress Grapples With Energy Issues

Legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which lawmakers will take up as soon as this week, will open the first broad debate on energy policy in Congress in eight years and give the new Republican majority a chance to push for significant changes to President Barack Obama ’s agenda. GOP lawmakers, who now control the Senate and have a firmer hold on the House, are planning measures that would aim to spur greater development of fossil fuels and curtail a series of Mr. Obama’s environmental regulations, including ones cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans are likely to run into roadblocks, however, including Mr. Obama’s ability to veto legislation. The first step in moving the GOP agenda will come Friday, when the House is expected to consider a measure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, with the Senate following in the next few weeks. The legislation is expected to pass both chambers, but it is not clear whether Mr. Obama would sign it...more

Then, of course, there are the "moderates" in the party, and please remember how the Republican establishment supported Lamar Alexander in the primary.  We will all pay the price for that now:
The GOP also is sorting through how aggressive to be in trying to stop or delay environmental regulations. Some centrist Republicans, such as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for example, have in the past been reluctant to support completely stripping the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over certain regulations.
That pretty well leaves us with the annual appropriations process.
Republicans will pursue their agenda through two main tracks. They aim to pass bills on the floor that can get 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. For more controversial items, such as stopping or delaying environmental regulations, they will seek to change policies through the appropriations process, which only requires 50 votes. Republicans hold 54 seats in the new Senate.
And guess who is a senior member of Senate Appropriations...that's right, Lamar Alexander.  And we lucky New Mexicans are "represented" on that Committee by Little Tommy YouDull.

Can't help but notice no mention is given of actually amending legislation such as the Antiquities Act of 1906 or the Endangered Species Act. 

Looks like the R's, at least on the Senate side, and even though they control both Chambers, are only going to play defense.
A Senate GOP aide said Monday the policies Republicans pursue will depend on how aggressively the administration writes its regulations, such as its draft standard setting a maximum level of ozone, commonly known as smog, that can be emitted into the atmosphere.

Obama Administration Burnishes Environmental Legacy at Expense of Jobs

by Marita Noon

For the past six years, the oil and gas industry has served as a savior to the Obama presidency by providing the near-lone bright spot in economic growth. Increased U.S. oil-and-gas production has provided new energy security. The president often peppers his speeches with braggadocio about our abundant supplies and decreased dependence on foreign oil.

So now that the economic powerhouse faces hard times, how does the administration show its appreciation?

By introducing a series of regulations—at least nine in total, according to the Wall Street Journal
(WSJ)—that will put the brakes on the US energy boom through higher operating costs and fewer incentives to drill on public lands.

The WSJ states: “Mr. Obama and his environmental backers say new regulations are needed to address the impacts of the surge in oil and gas drilling.”...

U.S. oil production, according to the Financial Times, “caught Saudi Arabia by surprise.” The kingdom sees that US shale and Canadian oil-sand development “encroached on OPEC’s market share” and has responded with a challenge to high-cost sources of production by upping its output—adding to the global oil glut and, therefore, dropping prices...

Last month, Enbridge Energy Partners “laid off some workers in the Houston area”—which the Houston Chronicle (HC) on December 12 called “the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.” The HC continued: “Other key energy companies have also announced layoffs in recent days as oil tumbles to its lowest price in years. Halliburton on Thursday said it would slash 1,000 jobs in the Eastern Hemisphere as part of a $75 million restructuring. BP on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate job cuts and pare back its oil production business amid crumbling oil prices.”...

Different from Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it. Under pressure from the environmental lobby to increase regulations on the oil-and-gas industry, he, said: “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy—it would be crazy economic policy—to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” He added: “We are not going to kill jobs and we are not going to impose a carbon tax.”

Introducing the new rules now kick the industry while it is down and shows that President Obama either doesn’t get it, or he cares more about burnishing his environmental legacy than he does about American jobs and economic growth.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.

Warmists apoplectic as Brazil president names climate skeptic as science minister

By Thomas Lifson

You can almost feel the sense of betrayal emanating from this diatribe from the Environmental Defense Fund’s Steve Schwartzman, denouncing two cabinet appointments in Brazil.  You see, Brazil has a leftist government, and until now had mouthed all the politically correct positions at international gatherings.  And worst of all, the skeptic is a communist – a real one.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff  has repeatedly claimed international leadership for Brazil on climate change in international forums, based on successes in reducing Amazon deforestation.
But days before the start of the new year, Rousseff appointed two ministers who cast doubt on Brazil’s leadership and bode ill for the atmosphere – especially given increases in Brazil’s deforestation rates from 2012–2013 and signs that deforestation may be once again be on the increase. (snip)
Bad choice #1: Katia Abreu, Minister of Agriculture
The new Minister of Agriculture Katia Abreu was the president of the National Confederation of Agriculture (the national association of large and middle-size landowners and ranchers). As senator, she led the Congress’ powerful anti-environmental, anti-indigenous “bancada ruralista”, or large landowners’, caucus and earned the title among environmentalists of “chainsaw queen.”
Well, if greenies call her a nasty name, that’s pretty conclusive.  We wouldn’t want people who actually own land to have their interests represented.  And God forbid, Brazil might actually lift some of its rural people out of poverty.  Can’t have that.
Bad choice #2: Aldo Rebelo, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation
Rebelo is clearly out of touch with modern science on climate change.
The new Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Aldo Rebelo is a long-time Communist Party of Brazil congressman and vocal anti-environmental advocate, and the principal author of the divisive and controversial Forest Code revision.
Rebelo is also on the record rejecting climate science. 

We already knew Brazil was providing some of the best bull riders to the PBR and PRCA, and some of the best MMA fighters to the UFC, and now we find out that even their Communists are better than ours!

Kansas expert questions effort to list monarch as threatened

A University of Kansas expert on monarch butterflies said he is leery of a request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the butterfly be considered for inclusion on the Endangered Species list. The federal agency was presented with a petition in August from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Xerces Society in Arizona and monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower asking that the monarch be listed because of its population has declined by more than 90 percent in less than 20 years. Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist and founder of Monarch Watch, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the butterfly, said he's concerned about the public reaction if the agency begins telling property owners that they need to conserve certain vegetation to provide critical habitat for the butterflies, The Lawrence Journal-World reported. "Nobody wants the government to tell them what to do with their property," Taylor said. "The real challenge is to get the message out and get the public involved. This really is the way to go." Taylor noted an ongoing controversy over the lesser prairie chicken, which began in March when the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as threatened under the Endangered Species Act...more

Bloody good ideas: Novelist C.J. Cox shares inspirations for new story collection

C.J. Box
For someone known for writing and publishing an average of two books a year, the prospect of hammering out a short story might seem the literary equivalent of a walk in the park. C.J. Box would heartily disagree with that sentiment. “If anything, short stories are the hardest things in the world,” he said. “In a novel, you can meander a bit, fill in the back story a little more. But in a short story, there’s no room for error. You’ve got to launch in, establish your characters, the location, the motives for what’s to come, and everything has to be there for a reason.” It’s a challenge Box, the Edgar Award-winning author of “Blue Heaven” and the series of thrillers featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, has undergone about 10 times in his writing career. That’s the number of stories collected in his latest book, “Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country.” The collection includes three stories featuring Pickett and one that focuses on one of the secondary characters in the series, Nate Romanowski. The others range from a tale set in the 1830s, about two trappers who tax each other’s patience, to a story about people trying to smuggle unique microorganisms from the geysers of Yellowstone National Park, to a darkly twisted tale set in Disneyland Paris. “I believe everything you do helps make you better,” Box said. “Writing these stories, which I did over the past 10 years or so, has made me better as a novelist, just as writing the stand-alone novels like ‘Blue Heaven’ has helped me bring a fresh approach to the Pickett stories."...more

Regulators weigh proposal to close part of New Mexico plant

New Mexico regulators began taking testimony Monday on a plan that calls for shutting down part of an aging coal-fired power plant that provides electricity to more than 2 million people in the Southwest. The plan would curb haze-causing pollution at the San Juan Generating Station, but some environmentalists argue it doesn’t do enough to wean the state’s largest utility off fossil fuels. The hearing before the Public Regulation Commission began Monday with dozens of people braving frigid temperatures to protest. They talked about asthma, cancer and other health concerns throughout the region, which also is home to other coal-fired plants. Inside the packed hearing room, the head of the nation’s largest American Indian reservation told regulators the plan was the best option for meeting environmental mandates while avoiding what he called an unnecessary economic sacrifice, including job losses. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly ticked off statistics that included the tribe’s high unemployment rate and the percentage of Navajo families who are without electricity and running water. He also cited the number of tribal members who work at the San Juan plant and the coal mine that feeds it. “I have seen the result of economic loss on the Navajo Nation, and I do not wish for Navajo communities or the region to become a further impoverished area because of the environmental rules,” Shelly said. “That leads to ripple effects.” He noted the 2005 closure of the Mojave Generating Station in Nevada. The power plant was the sole buyer of coal from a Navajo mine, which ultimately closed and took 160 jobs with it...more

Report ranks New Mexico second most violent state in nation

The Land of Enchantment is the second most violent state in America, according to an analysis by financial news website 24/7 Wall Street. The list is based on 2013 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which defines violent crimes as murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery. New Mexico's high ranking comes from a 6.6 percent spike in the state's overall violent crime rate from 2012 to 2013. That put the state average at 597 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Most crime seems to happen in Albuquerque, which boasts a troubling rate of 775 crimes per 100,000 residents, which 24/7 Wall Street reports is twice that of the national average...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1348

Bob Amos was the lead singer and guitarist for Front Range who made seven CDs. His first solo release (Borrowed Time) from 2012 has so many great songs its hard to pick a favorite, but let's go with the intrumental tune Last Mountain