Saturday, January 17, 2015

PA: Armed Woman Stops Crime Spree

In Lancaster County, PA, an alert and armed woman stopped a crime spree.  One of the things that destroys the sense of security in a neighborhood is  the proliferation of  burglaries and thefts of personal property from vehicles.  That is what the pair of suspects were involved in when an alert woman stopped Robert LaFleur from breaking into her car at 2:30 am and held him at gunpoint until the police arrived. It seems unlikely that LaFleur would have obeyed the woman's commands if she had not been armed.   The police report that he resisted arrest when they arrived, and that they used a taser on him.  They then turned their attention on LaFleur's accomplice, who was in a vehicle.   The vehicle turned out to be stolen...more

Free Markets Smash Chinese Rare Earth Minerals Monopoly

Last week China announced that it would adhere to a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling from last year by removing export quotas among other restrictions on rare earth minerals (RE). After controlling the global market for a number of years and extracting handsome rents, why is Beijing suddenly deciding to comply?

It probably has little to do with the Chinese deciding to play by the rules and more to do with the realization that their attempt to use their dominant position to coerce political concessions has backfired. China’s monopoly of RE production has been quickly slipping away due to market forces since it “slashed” export quotas in 2010.

In 2010, China produced 97 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, which are used in high-tech products such as wind turbines, cell phones, and hybrid cars. In the same year, China began restricting these exports and the price of many RE rose tenfold. At the time, there was a global scare that the Chinese would use the precious minerals as an economic weapon, particularly after they severely restricted exports to Japan due to a political dispute.

Fast forward four years. Today, the Chinese share of the RE industry has dropped to 70 percent and is set to fall much further. As we are witnessing in the crude oil industry, the best cure for high prices are high prices. The skyrocketing price of RE caused production to start or expand in Japan, Malaysia, and Australia. Manufacturers found ways to economize by recycling the minerals or finding substitutes. Chinese manufacturers of the minerals found ways to smuggle. By the late 2000s, it was believed that they were selling 15–30 percent of their RE outside China.

Food Shortages Undermine Venezuela's Teetering Socialism

Venezuelans are being arrested for posting Internet photos of shortages in stores. So let's get this straight: Murder and mayhem are de facto legal in that crime pit, but posting evidence of socialism's failure merits jailing.

As socialism plays out to its logical conclusion in Venezuela, the specters of long lines, rationing, troop enforcers, bizarre edicts and desperate statements are now the order of the day.

Not only have more than a dozen Venezuelans been arrested for posting photographs of empty store shelves on social media, three governors have responded to long lines by — prohibiting them; ordering the arrest of anyone who lines up for goods before sunrise.

Troops now supervise lines because so many fistfights and looting incidents break out in these daily 12-hour ordeals for rice or toilet paper. Warehouses full of diapers have been seized and their owners accused of "hoarding." Strange arrangements have cropped up, too, with the rich paying the poor to spend their days in line for them, securing supplies so they don't have to.

And along with 80% food-price inflation, an economy premised on importing 70% of its food supply, and a minimum wage that covers only 17% of a basic food basket, it's obvious that the poor are suffering the most from 16 years of socialism.

Which is what Venezuela's bishops stated in a pastoral letter that powerfully denounced the poverty and ruin brought to their country.

The government's decision to "impose a political-economic system" that is "socialist, Marxist or communist," "totalitarian and centralist" and "undermines the freedom and rights of individuals and associations" is to blame, they wrote.

The system, they said, has failed wherever it's been tried and "created growing poverty among large sectors of the population, particularly among those with the fewest economic resources."

EPA faces internal review over scrubbed text messages

The Environmental Protection Agency, on the heels of the controversy at the IRS over missing emails, is facing a probe of its own over whether it improperly scrubbed text messages. The EPA inspector general's office announced this week it is launching an audit into the agency's policies for keeping text messages. The audit was prompted by a complaint from Republicans on the House science committee, worried the EPA may have "deleted thousands of text messages" that should have been preserved. Jennifer Kaplan, spokeswoman for the EPA inspector general's office, confirmed the complaint prompted the audit. "Our auditors were persuaded that this is something that they needed to look into," she told The official IG notice said they would examine whether the EPA followed policies on preserving text messages, or whether they deleted or destroyed messages that should have been saved -- and if so, whether anyone was disciplined...more

Poachers, Conservationists Use Drones and GPS in Wildlife Battle

It's a decades-old war, but conservationists and poachers alike are using 21st century technology like GPS and drones in their fight to protect endangered wildlife on the planes of Africa. Now Namibia, an arid desert country on Africa's south-western coast that holds half the world's remaining black rhino population, is turning increasingly to hi-tech conservation. Ninety-six percent of the black rhino population has been wiped out since the 1970s. In Namibia, which has 79 conservation areas, no rhinos were lost to poachers between 2005 and 2010, and just one was killed in 2011. But in 2014 that number jumped to 24. Rhino horn can fetch as much as $43,000 per pound in Asia. Even de-horned rhinos have been taken by poachers, and the threat to Namibia's safe havens has conservationists up in arms and prompted the government to deploy army units against poachers. In their high-stakes battle against poachers, conservationists have turned to drones, which provide essential night-time surveillance through thermal imaging. But just as conservationists use modern technology, so too do poachers. Another high-tech tool, the "shot spotter" system, is being trialed in Kenya. It is made up of a series of microphones placed high in treetops that can detect gunshots up to two miles away and alert nearby rangers with coordinates. The system may not always prevent the kill, but poachers tend to leave evidence that makes prosecution easier if the site is reached quickly...more

Friday, January 16, 2015

Groups Fight 'Slaughter' of Yellowstone Bison

The federal culling of Yellowstone bison herds threatens genetic diversity and long-term survival prospects, a federal complaint calling for emergency measures alleges. Friends of Animals and Buffalo Field Campaign sued Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Jan. 15 in Washington, D.C. Under the Interagency Bison Management Plan to control disease, the U.S. government has authorized the killing of at least 900 bison. The plaintiffs claim that the measure is unnecessary since there has never been a documented case of wild bison transmitting brucellosis to cattle. "This is a profoundly tragic event," BFC spokeswoman Stephany Seay said in a statement. "These buffalo are a national treasure, a native keystone species beloved the world over, and are the most important bison population in the world. Yellowstone should be preventing harm to the buffalo, not bending over backwards for cattle interests by participating in their destruction." Meanwhile the government has allegedly delayed acting on an emergency petition that the groups submitted last year to protect the genetic diversity of the bison herds of Yellowstone National Park and Gallatin National Forest. "The current management of bison in Yellowstone National Park is inconsistent with the National Park Service's Organic Act (and relevant agency policies and guidance), which contains wildlife conservation requirements," their complaint states. "Specifically, the IBMP [Interagency Bison Management Plan] allows for the disruption of the bison's natural movements, has unacceptable impacts on bison."...more

20 years ago, 4 wolves were released in Idaho. What if it never happened?

On Jan. 14, 1995, Moon Star Shadow, a 90-pound, silver-tipped black male, stepped out of his cage at Corn Creek and urinated, marking his new territory in Idaho. He and three other wolves released at the edge of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness were the first of 66 wolves brought to Idaho and Yellowstone National Park from Canada in 1995 and 1996. By 2009, the wolf population had grown to more than 1,500 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and today has spread to Washington, Oregon, Utah and even California and Arizona. Congress delisted the populations in Idaho, Montana, northern Utah, western Oregon and western Washington in 2011, which removed them from protections under the Endangered Species Act and led to wolf-hunting seasons. Today, more than 600 wolves are thought to live in Idaho and the haunting howl of a pack of wolves is an almost common sound in Idaho’s backcountry, pleasing the people who pushed to restore them. Idaho hunters and trappers now harvest hundreds of wolves every year, but many complain that traditional elk-hunting areas are no longer as productive because wolves kill, move or stress the big game. Ranchers now have the right and the means to kill wolves that attack their livestock, but they remain bitter that they aren’t compensated for losses that can’t be definitively linked to wolves. Ranchers also say elk and other big game are streaming out of the backcountry to raid their pastures and haystacks as they get away from the wolves. But what if the federal government had decided not to reintroduce wolves to Idaho and Yellowstone in 1995?...more

USDA Launches Regional Approach to Conservation

An new approach to conservation launches today, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The idea is to improve habitats and the local environment using a regional approach, spanning public and private land, with funds coming from the public and private sectors. The Department of Agriculture is kicking it off with 115 projects across all 50 states with $370 million in funding. Partners are contributing $400 million, bringing the total close to $800 million. Projects will improve wildlife habitat on private lands, and help farmers and ranchers fight droughts by resuscitating the soil, improving water practices and protecting drinking water supplies. Over 600 project proposals were submitted last year. "As venture capitalists provide financial resources to burgeoning, high-potential growth startups, USDA must lead in a new venture conservationist movement that empowers and launches high-opportunity startup partnerships that deliver locally-led conservation solutions," says Jason Weller, Chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is leading the initiative. The agency uses a competitive process to select projects, designed by local partners specifically for their region. Partners can be private companies, universities, non-profit organizations and local and tribal governments. Not only will they invest money, but they provide peoplepower and materials to get the job done. Over the next five years, USDA's $1.2 billion (approved in the Farm Bill) will be matched, bringing $2.4 billion to conservation in the US...more 

Certainly resembles landscape planning and landscape conservation cooperatives, except this time aimed at private landowners.

Scientists: Human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’

Clmate change: A severe drought plagued a third of Queensland, Australia in 2013. Destabilizing the global environment could make Earth less hospitable for humans. (David Gray/Reuters) At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world. The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean. “What the science has shown is that human activities — economic growth, technology, consumption – are destabilizing the global environment,” said Will Steffen, who holds appointments at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center and is the lead author of the paper...more

Tribes In Three States Ask Obama Administration To Reject Keystone XL

An association representing 16 American Indian tribes in three states along the Keystone XL pipeline route sent a letter to President Barack Obama this week urging him to reject the pipeline permit application. The association represents tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska, and is also seeking a meeting with Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to discuss their concerns about the pipeline...more

BP cuts 200 staff, 100 contractors as oil prices fall

BP has announced it will cut an estimated 200 staff jobs and another 100 contracting jobs in light of falling oil prices. The company said Thursday the cuts will be made in onshore roles, not in offshore operational positions. Regional president Trevor Garlick said BP remains committed to its North Sea operations but needs to take "specific steps" given the challenging economic environment. He cited toughening market conditions as a reason for the cuts. Union officials fear other oil-related jobs will be cut by other firms soon as prices continue to soften. The price for the benchmark U.S. crude oil is down about 41 percent in the past three months amid oversupply.  AP

Lake Berryessa chamber opposes Snow Mountain-Berryessa monument

The Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors says creation of a proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument would be bad for lake businesses. Proponents want President Barack Obama to bestow national monument status on 350,000 acres of public lands, including 62,000 acres in eastern Napa County. In December, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Helena, hosted a Napa forum on the proposal attended by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The chamber Board of Directors voted Monday to oppose national monument status for several reasons. Among them is a concern that the proposal might discourage bidding for contracts to renovate five of seven resorts on federal land along the lake, a chamber press release said...more

No Fry for the Small Fry says USDA in new day care regs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing strict new dietary guidelines for day cares that would prohibit them from frying food that is served to children. Child care providers would also be formally required to provide children with water upon request, though they would face restrictions on how much apple juice and orange juice they serve. The proposed nutrition standards are intended to promote the "health and wellness of children" at day cares that participate in government-funded meal programs, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service said Wednesday. One of the more notable provisions would restrict day cares from frying food on site and discourage them from serving pre-packaged fried food, such as chicken fingers, from the grocery store. "While facilities would not be permitted under this proposed rule to prepare foods on site by frying them," the USDA wrote in the Federal Register, "store-bought, catered, or pre-fried foods can still contribute large amounts of calories and saturated fat to a meal. Therefore, facilities are encouraged to limit all fried and pre-fried foods to no more than once per week."...more

Federal bucks reap a bumper crop of farmers markets

Know your farmer, know your food, but most importantly, know where your tax dollars are going. As part of first lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture now provides over $15 million in federal grants to subsidize farmers markets across the country, promoting local and organic foods to communities where demand is already high. The USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program is designed to help farmers meet the skyrocketing demand for homegrown food and specifically aims to help make those foods more accessible to lower-income consumers, but many agriculture experts and taxpayer advocates say the grants are a waste of taxpayer dollars and a perfect example of the federal government meddling in the private market that doesn’t need the help. The USDA awarded nearly $80,000 to the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace in Washington to help establish a new Wednesday evening farmers market and promote food-stamp redemption at the market in a city with multiple such markets and in an area where the average home price is $518,400, according to data from “That’s outrageous. There’s absolutely no reason why a bunch of craft beer-drinking, white-collar hipsters need a farmers market paid for by hard-working, tax-paying families across America,” said Ryan Ellis, tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform. Other critics say that the grants are the USDA’s way of solving a problem that they themselves created by subsidizing certain crops under the periodic farm bills...more

School Lunch, Food-Safety Bills Start Popping up in State Legislatures

A Republican legislator in New Mexico wants to bail out the state’s school lunch program by using tax money to purchase $1.4 million in locally grown fruits and vegetables, which would then be provided to the schools without charge. State Rep. Jimmie C. Hall of Albuquerque, who is also executive director of the 4-H Development Foundation and Farm and Ranch Operation, came up with the idea. Many school lunch programs have been financially struggling since new federal standards have required menus with more fresh fruit and vegetable offerings. Local fruits and vegetables purchased by the new state program would be available for use by meal programs in school districts, charter schools, and juvenile detention centers throughout New Mexico. The bill also funds a full-time administrator for local produce and allows unspent money to be retained by the program rather than returned to the general fund at the end of the fiscal year. By the third week of January, 41 state legislatures are in session, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. That number will increase to 44 by the end of the month when, in addition to New Mexico, legislative sessions in Hawaii and Utah will get underway. New Mexico may not be the only state where there could be interest in bailing out cash-strapped local school lunch programs with infusions from state taxpayers. School lunch program directors around the country have said that since federal standards were changed, many local school lunch program budgets have been upside down. Some local school districts have even withdrawn from the National School Lunch Program because of regulations they deemed too onerous. Meanwhile, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, an amendment to the state constitution was pre-filed last Dec. 10 that would add language to that state’s Bill of Rights making it a right of the people “to acquire for their own consumption, farm-produced food directly at the farm with the agreement of the farmer who produced it.”...more

Cliven Bundy's son makes video appearance in Vegas court

A judge told the son of southern Nevada rancher and states' rights advocate Cliven Bundy on Thursday that he faces prison time following his arrest on parole violations and a drug court arrest warrant. Cliven Lance Bundy, 35, appeared in custody via closed-circuit video from the Clark County jail and said nothing as Senior Clark County District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure set a Jan. 22 probation revocation hearing. "He's had many chances," Bonaventure told Bundy's appointed deputy public defender, Jeffrey Rue. Rue said outside court he'll ask the judge next week to let his client, who uses the name Lance Bundy, stay in a court-run diversion program that aims to help substance abusers remain out of prison...more

Appeals court: Quarter horse group may reject clones

The United States' pre-eminent quarter horse organization may refuse to register cloned animals, an appeals court ruled Wednesday in a case brought by two Texas ranchers. In a 20-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that the ranchers failed to prove their antitrust case against the American Quarter Horse Association. The ruling overturns a lower-court decision that had said the association had to admit cloned quarter horses to its breeding registry. The prestigious list adds financial value to listed animals. In August 2013, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo had issued a permanent injunction against the group's prohibition after the ranchers sued. The ranchers argued the association was operating a monopoly by not allowing clones. The lower-court ruling would have set a precedent as no American horse-breeding groups allow cloned horses to be registered...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1357

For some west coast western swing here is Spade Cooley - You Better Do It Now.  The tune was recorded in Hollywood on June 6, 1946, and that is, of course, Tex Williams with the vocal.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The mystery of the 132-year-old Winchester rifle found propped against a national park tree

Archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park came upon a gun frozen in time: a .44-40 Winchester rifle manufactured in 1882. It was propped up against a juniper tree. “They just happened to notice the rifle under the tree,” said Nichole Andler, Basin National Park’s chief of interpretation. The public will get a chance to view the rifle over the weekend. Although staff have no idea how the rifle ended up there, “it looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Andler said. It’s remarkable that anyone was able to spot the gun back in November, as it had blended in so well with its surroundings. The unloaded gun appears to have been left undisturbed for more than 100 years; its wooden base had turned gray and was partially buried, and the barrel had rusted...more

Then they speculate:

While the rifle’s back story remains a mystery, the history of the place offers some clues: Great Basin was primarily a mining site at the time, but could have also been home to grazing cattle and sheep. The gun may have also been the relic of game hunting in the area.

One thing is for sure - it wasn't a National Park in 1882.

Park Service policy on hunting:  

Hunting shall be allowed in park areas where such activity is specifically mandated by Federal statutory law.

If its not in the law creating the park then it will not be allowed.  Policy is virtually the same for livestock grazing and possessing, carrying or using a weapon.  If they have a choice, it ain't gonna happen.

We've come a long way, haven't we baby.

Lame-duck riders run afoul of sage grouse advocates

Last month’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act had conservationists howling over a host of controversial riders touching on everything from wilderness study area releases to perceived giveaways to coal and timber interests. Included in that firestorm of criticism were statements decrying the attached Grazing Improvement Act, which extends livestock grazing permits on federal land even as environmental reviews are being processed, for its potential impacts on greater sage grouse habitat throughout the United States, including Montana. The Center for Biological Diversity dubbed it a “devastating blow” to the sage grouse, and public lands director Randi Spivak says the organization was “profoundly outraged” to see Congress and President Barack Obama approve such a measure. Less than two weeks later, a sage grouse rider attached to a separate piece of legislation—the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill—also made it across the president’s desk. The 78-word provision directly barred the Secretary of the Interior from using any funds to write or issue a rule extending Endangered Species Act protections to the greater sage grouse. Conservationists weren’t shocked by the opposition of some in Congress to sage grouse listing, but Obama’s willingness to approve the bill did come as a surprise, Spivak says. She adds that her group will subsequently “double-up” pressure on the president to safeguard the ESA in the future. “I think it’s important that the White House and other champions of wildlife stand strong on what’s right,” she says, “and not let species’ survival be used as a bargaining chip.” The spending bill expires Sept. 30—the same day the Interior is required under court order to decide whether listing of the species is warranted...more 

Is this really about the sage grouse?  Let's dig a little deeper here to find out what's really concerning the enviros.

First is the precedent of the Congress intervening in the administrative/legal processes of the ESA.  Its okay for politicians to pass the legislation, but its not okay for politicians to be involved in how its administered.  Its okay for a single judge to set a deadline, but its not okay for 535 members of Congress to change the deadline.

Second, the enviros just had a hammer stripped from their hands.  In every negotiation with the BLM, Forest Service, state wildlife agency and private land owner, they came to the table with the court-set deadline.  This gave them a distinct advantage in the negotiations.  That hammer is now taken off the table for one year and probably for more years.  They now face equal partners at the table and their ability to extract concessions on grazing, oil & gas leasing, mining, or whatever else is on their agenda, has definitely been weakened.

Its not about the sage grouse, its about hammers.

New watchdog to sink teeth into EPA regs, public lands issues

The GOP chairwoman of a new House watchdog subpanel will use her perch to target the Obama administration's climate, air pollution and public lands policies. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) was recently handed control of a new Interior Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that is charged with oversight of U.S. EPA, the Interior Department, the Energy Department and the Agriculture Department. Among her top priorities: scrutinizing some of the administration's most controversial energy and environmental policies. "There are a couple things that are of particular interest -- proposed rules that the EPA has proposed on power plants and ozone are things we want to look at," Lummis told E&E Daily yesterday in an interview. "We want to better understand the scope of the rules and their impacts." Also on her radar, she said, will be executive actions, including National Environmental Policy Act reviews, the Endangered Species Act and Forest Service regulations...more

Forest Service official: Visitors getting too wild for Aspen-area wilderness

One hundred seventy-five piles of human waste, 244 dogs off leash, 107 illegal campsites, 307 illegal fires. Those are some of the outdoor transgressions the U.S. Forest Service dealt with in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in 2014. The numbers reflect a growing number of visitors to the vastly popular wilderness area on the outskirts of Aspen. It turned 50 last year with the golden anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which passed in 1964. The swelling use of the pristine attraction — which includes the Conundrum Hot Springs, Crater Lake, the Maroon Bells and a number of hiking trails — has prompted Forest Service officials to eye ways to make visitors more aware of proper outdoors protocol, whether it’s by collecting their own feces, cleaning up their trash or leashing their animals. The Forest Service also is pondering the creation of a permit system that would limit visits, an idea that is partly based on the contention that the outdoor experience’s serenity and solitude have been compromised by the high volumes of visitor traffic...more

Hey, there's Pitkin County again.  I posted yesterday about them being so concerned the state might take over management of the federal lands.  Recall that Commissioner Richards and another county official thought the whole movement to transfer lands was a bunch of snake oil.  I kindly suggested Obama designate the entire county a national monument and it be named the Snake Oil National Monument.

Well, little miss Snake Oil herself is back with some grand ideas:

Richards suggested an honor code of sorts — “making people sign on to understand the rules” — in which users initial forms that explain proper protocol and the laws of the land. “I think for a lot of people in the city, this is as close as they’ll ever get to true wilderness,” she said.

 Its also as close as they'll ever get to 175 piles of human waste.  Let's see, all those piles of "human waste" plus "307 illegal fires" under federal management.  That's it!

We'll call it the Shit Fire National Monument.

I can't wait to see the honor code for that.

BLM Ranger accused of severely beating boy, 3

ALBANY, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A Bureau of Land Management ranger is accused of severely assaulting his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son. Jason William Cox faces first-degree assault and criminal mistreatment charges in the beating that left the boy with a traumatic brain injury, Albany police told KOIN 6 News. The boy was initially treated for life-threatening injuries on on Jan. 8, but is now expected to recover. That night, Albany medics were called to an apartment in the 3300 block of Jackson when the boy had trouble breathing. The fire department medics called police when they noticed the child had bruises on his forehead. Cox, 35, was home all day with the child, police said, and allegedly admitted to drinking a 6-pack of beer and took prescription medication...more

Greenhouse Gases “Rise” in Importance for NEPA Reviews --National Environmental Policy Act

Just before Christmas, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) published revised draft guidance intended to direct federal agencies on when and how to consider the effects of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and climate change when evaluating the environmental effects of proposed agency actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).  Consideration of climate change is not a new phenomenon in agency NEPA reviews, decision-making, or litigation.  Nevertheless, the draft guidance is noteworthy for the sheer breadth of its envisioned climate change analysis for all projects with a federal nexus.  It could significantly alter how federal agencies approach NEPA review.  As written, the open-ended draft guidance could engender significant delays, confusion, or new grounds for challenging projects. This draft guidance represents a significant departure from an earlier version released almost four years ago (and never finalized).  If adopted, the draft guidance would apply to all proposed major federal actions, including site-specific projects, project grants, permit issuance, rulemaking, and land and resource management decisions.  Additionally, this recent draft more fully recognizes agency discretion in complying with NEPA and allows greater flexibility in determining when, how, and to what extent climate change analyses are to be included in agency NEPA documents.  From a project proponent’s viewpoint, that could be a good or a bad thing. The CEQ sets out a two-fold inquiry for all proposed major federal actions.  Specifically, federal agencies should consider:
  1. the extent to which a proposed action and its reasonable alternatives contribute to climate change (through GHG emissions or proxies); and
  2. ways in which a changing climate may affect the resources impacted by the proposed action, or the ways in which climate change may affect the proposed action itself.
While CEQ disclaims any new legally binding requirements, as a practical matter most agencies will defer and conform to the new guidance for pending and future NEPA analyses.  Given the ubiquitous scope of climate change considerations, it is critical that stakeholders provide comments within the next 60 days before CEQ considers finalizing the guidance. Here are some of the guidance highlights:...more

Obama vs. Climate Change: Round Two

Last year, the Obama administration proposed the country's first-ever regulations on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, an important step in tackling the largest sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Now comes the second big stage of President Barack Obama’s climate strategy, which is no less important to drive down pollution. That finally came Wednesday, after months of anticipation. The White House announced its goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as much as 45 percent over 2012 levels by 2025.
It's a strong goal. The question is whether the strategy the White House outlined will do enough to get there. 
The White House plan combines voluntary and regulatory actions, and cuts across the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA this summer will announce its first rules to target methane directly, under the same Clean Air Act authority under Section 111 that forms the legal basis for last year's carbon pollution regulations. Also this year, the Department of Transportation will propose updated natural gas pipeline safety standards and the Department of Interior will release standards for venting and flaring on public lands. 

The spike in oil and gas production in America has made it impossible to ignore methane, the second-worst offender in greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas is almost entirely composed of the colorless, odorless gas, and the sector is America's largest source of methane emissions. Per 2012 EPA data, methane accounts for 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But methane's ability to trap heat makes it potentially more dangerous than carbon dioxide. The White House says methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are on track to rise more than 25 percent by 2025, without new regulations. Lowering methane is crucial to meeting Obama's pledges to reduce greenhouse gasses 17 percent by 2020 and 28 percent by 2025. To reach international goals of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the United States ideally would cut its pollution even more. 

Is the new plan enough to do it? Not yet, but that doesn't mean Obama can't and won't go further.

Plan to cut methane emissions brings quick rebuke from oil industry

The Obama administration's plan to slash methane emissions by imposing sweeping new rules on the oil and gas industry invites a fight with the sector and its allies on Capitol Hill. But industry leaders insist the decline in emissions _ alongside soaring production _ shows the administration is advancing regulations in search of a problem. "Emissions will continue to fall as operators innovate and find new ways to capture and deliver more methane to consumers, and existing EPA and state regulations are working," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute. "Another layer of burdensome requirements could actually slow down industry progress to reduce methane emissions." Marty Durbin, president of America's Natural Gas Alliance, said the White House is missing the mark by focusing on regulation instead of voluntary programs that would capitalize on the industry's economic interest in capturing and selling now-leaking methane. "We are disappointed the administration is choosing to take a regulatory approach that will take years to implement, rather than a cooperative approach with the industry that we believe will ultimately result in greater emissions reductions in a shorter timeframe," Durbin said in a statement. Speaking in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance said he is also disappointed the emphasis is on regulation. "The industry is already doing a lot of things to voluntarily deal with the methane emissions problem," he said...more

Study to look at beetle infestation on elk habitat

A $448,000 study begins next month looking at the impact of mountain pine beetle infestation on elk habitat and herd movement in the Elkhorn Mountains, north of Boulder. The project entails collaring 30 cow and 15 bull elk -- and possibly two wolves -- allowing researchers to closely monitor herd movements over a four-year period. Researchers will look to see how the extensive beetle infestation and death of ponderosa, lodge pole, and white bark pine are affecting elk movements, hunter access, elk security, hiding cover, and forage availability. Data derived from an elk movement study conducted in 1982 and 1992 will provide researchers comparisons on elk locations pre-beetle infestation and now. If possible, two wolves will be collared so that elk movements relative to wolves may be tracked as well. All capture and collaring operations for this study are expected to be completed in early February. Funding for the study has been appropriated by the Forest Service and FWP, with contributions from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Montana Department of Military Affairs, and the Cinnabar Foundation. The Elkhorn Mountains are managed in partnership as the Elkhorn Cooperative Management Area by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and FWP. Within the USFS, the Elkhorn Mountain range is the only one of its kind, designated and managed as a Wildlife Management Unit...more

Darrell Hugh Winfield, long-serving Marlboro Man, dies at 85

Darrell Hugh Winfield, a Wyoming rancher whose rugged American Cowboy looks landed him the job as the Marlboro Man, died Monday, his family said. He was 85. Winfield died of an unspecified lengthy illness while in hospice care in his home in Riverton. Winfield was working on the Quarter Circle 5 Ranch in Pinedale, Wyo., in 1968 when he was discovered by Philip Morris Advertising and chosen to be the Marlboro Man. He held the position for more than two decades. His image was used on billboards, signs, advertisements and other promotional materials to advertise the cigarettes from 1968 to 1989. The iconic character, played by numerous actors and authentic ranchers over the years, was first used in Marlboro advertisements in 1949.  UPI

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1356

Our selection today is Cliff Bruner - Singin' The Low Down Blues Down Low.  The tune was recorded in Houston on Sept. 1, 1939.  In addition to Bruner, in the studio that day was J.R. Chatwell f, Bob Dunn sg, Russel Bryant b and Moon Mullican on p and doing the vocal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Rancher Bundy’s son arrested on warrant

One of rancher Cliven Bundy’s sons has been arrested for skipping a court appearance. A warrant had been issued for Cliven Lance Bundy in September after he failed to appear in court for a hearing before Judge Linda Marie Bell. He was arrested on the warrant Sunday and is expected to appear in court Thursday, according to the Clark County Detention Center log. It’s not the first time Bundy has missed a court appearance. The rancher’s 34-year-old son was arrested in August for criminal contempt and parole violations on burglary and weapons theft charges. He was released from jail. Bell had issued a warrant for Bundy in July after he didn’t appear for a drug diversion program hearing. He had undergone hip surgery the day the July hearing was scheduled, according to his father.  The younger Bundy, one of the rancher’s 14 children, was not part of the armed protest against federal agents in a cattle roundup dispute earlier this year, his father said...more

And according to the AP he was arrested by a BLM ranger while driving a commercial tour bus.

Crossbow Kills Coon - Death by Darts - $5K Reward

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever used a crossbow to shoot and kill a raccoon in West Oakland. The 15-pound animal was found stumbling in the parking lot of a church at 10th and Center streets on Sunday, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund of Cotati. Someone had shot it with five aluminum bolt darts. Good samaritans took video of the wounded raccoon. “What do we do about him in this moment?” one of them is heard asking in the footage. The group brought the raccoon to WildCare, an urban wildlife hospital in Marin, where medical staff removed four high-impact darts from soft tissue and a fifth from its skull. That injury was not survivable, and so the raccoon was euthanized to end its suffering. The freshness of the wounds indicated that the animal had been attacked relatively close to the church, officials said...more

As the friend who sent me this item said, "In most places outside the Bay Area, this would simply be regarded as roadkill."

And notice the words and phrases used:  the animal was "attacked", has "wounds" to "soft tissue", the injuries were "traumatic and malicious", its not a vet's office but an "urban wildlife hospital" with "medical staff."  All right out of the animal rights playbook.

Ranchers wary of proposed BLM handbook

Cattle industry leaders fear ranches throughout the West stand to lose value and access to potential rangeland if the Bureau of Land Management implements a proposed change to its grazing handbook. BLM bases grazing densities on animal unit months — the amount of forage a cow would need to subsist for a month. Dustin Van Liew, executive director of the Public Lands Council, explained most grazing permits include a percentage of AUMs that still exist but have been suspended based on poor grazing conditions. Those AUMs may be reactivated once conditions improve. In the draft version of the BLM’s updated handbook, which offers guidance on how BLM rules should be implemented, the agency has proposed to give field managers authority to remove suspended AUMs that are unlikely to be active in the foreseeable future when they reissue grazing permits. Van Liew said ranchers consider permits property, and even suspended AUMs are taxed and carry weight with lenders. He worries it would more difficult for a rancher to get new land added to a permit than to demonstrate recovery of suspended land. “Our biggest concern is those suspended AUMs are part of the overall value of a permit to our members,” Van Liew said. Dick Mayberry, BLM’s rangeland management specialist, said the proposed handbook update is now under review by state BLM offices, and the agency hopes to release the final version during the summer. He said a public comment period isn’t required to update the guidance document...more

New national monument proposed for Santa Cruz coast

Coast Dairies, a 5,843-acre expanse of rolling hills, redwood forests and scenic trails that stretches for six miles along the north coast of Santa Cruz County, was preserved from development in 1998 when environmentalists purchased the land with roughly $40 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Now Bay Area conservation groups want to raise its profile. They are launching an effort to have President Obama declare the property a new national monument this year. The plan, which would establish the Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument, could bring national attention to the bucolic oceanfront land along Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Davenport. On Feb. 12, Bruce Babbitt, who served as U.S interior secretary under President Bill Clinton, will travel to Santa Cruz for a free public event at 6 p.m. at the Kaiser Permanente Arena to kick off the campaign and answer questions. Sempervirens Fund, which takes its name from the Latin word for coast redwood, has preserved more than 33,000 acres of redwood land since its founding in 1900, including much of Big Basin, Castle Rock and Butano state parks. The organization joined the Nature Conservancy, Save the Redwoods League, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and the Peninsula Open Space Trust to form a coalition to push for the new monument. Last week, the group established a website: It has also set up a group called Friends of Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument, funded with a $50,000 donation from Sempervirens Fund. To manage the effort, monument supporters have hired Steve Reed, a Santa Cruz port commissioner and former campaign manager for Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson...more

Same MO here - they formed a Friends Of The Organ Mountains.  Wonder where they got their money?

White House Climate Push Goes Beyond Coal, With New Rules Targeting Oil and Gas Industry

The White House unveiled plans Wednesday to cut leaks of methane from oil-and-gas production and transport, signaling an expansion of President Obama's fight against climate change that until now has focused most heavily on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. The strategy, which will include binding new regulations, aims to curb emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent of 2012 levels by 2025. That's expected to save 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas, or enough to power 2 million homes for a year, the White House said. While the administration has gone heavily after coal and transportation fuels in its effort to fight climate change, the rules announced today mark one of the only attempts to regulate the booming natural-gas industry, which is at an all-time high and has pushed down global oil prices. It's an effort certain to face political and lobbying pushback from the petroleum industry and its Capitol Hill allies. The methane action will be driven through several agencies, headlined by EPA standards on new and modified natural-gas wells to reduce emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds. Those rules will be proposed this summer and finalized in 2016. Those standards will not affect existing gas wells, as senior White House climate policy aide Dan Utech said the administration was trying to move a "standard-setting process" that focused on new sources where emissions were rising the most. EPA will work with the industry on a voluntary basis on existing sources, although Utech said the administration did make clear "that we need to get reductions from existing sources." The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management will also update its decades-old standards on natural-gas flaring, or the burning of excess natural gas. The Energy Department will work on technology to reduce methane loss during gas drilling and to measure emissions from the oil and gas sector for the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory...more

Ca. - Proposed water quality rules may limit grazing

A new effort to regulate grazing and its potential impacts on water quality has California ranchers concerned new rules could limit their food production activities and yield little environmental benefits. State water regulators launched a series of public listening sessions around the state during January to solicit public comments before developing a new "Grazing Regulatory Action Project." The State Water Resources Control Board and the nine regional water quality control boards said in public documents they're working together on the new project to explore ways to improve environmental benefits from grazing, while protecting surface and groundwater. The Water Board said it wants to reduce stream sediment loading and introduction of bacteria and nutrients to water bodies and wetlands, as well as prevent physical alteration of the land that can harm habitat and wildlife. At a listening session on the proposed GRAP, grazing and livestock expert Kay Mercer urged Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board representatives to avoid premature decision-making, noting that much analysis of assumptions is needed. For example, she said water-quality impairment listings can be out of date or inadequate or lack properly calibrated baselines for California conditions. This gap in accurate scientific data could lead to misguided or unnecessary regulations. In her work with the Central Coast Cattlemen's Leadership Group, Mercer said well-managed livestock grazing provides important benefits to the people of California. Any discussion of regulatory options must include consideration of these benefits and provide for continuation of sustainable food production...more

Another wandering wolf arrives in southwest Oregon

Another wandering wolf has found its way to the Cascades of southwestern Oregon, where OR-7 has established his pack after trekking thousands of miles in search of a mate. An automatic trail camera snapped a photo of the new wolf in timberlands west of the Klamath County community of Keno, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said Tuesday. The camera was set out by an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist after he spotted a track in the snow in December. The arrival of another wandering wolf confirms that the animal continues to spread widely across the region after being reintroduced in the Northern Rockies in the 1990s...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1355

A great song by Jimmie RodgersNobody Knows But Me.  Recorded in Atlanta on Nov. 25, 1929 and released as Victor 23518.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Burrowing owls flew almost 2,000 miles, study finds

Just like retirees traveling south to escape the snowy winter, two female burrowing owls have been documented traveling almost 2,000 miles to central Mexico from Eastern Montana for the first time. “Now we’re learning more about how incredible these birds are,” said David Johnson, of the Global Owl Project. Last year, GLOW fitted 30 burrowing owls in the Northwest and Canada — including three from the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana — with tiny backpacks containing satellite transmitters. The devices track their migration routes and destinations in an attempt to give researchers insight into the birds’ population decline. Burrowing owls date back in the fossil record millions of years, Johnson said. They may be one of the very few birds to nest underground, an adaptation to their prairie home where few trees exist. Instead, the birds use abandoned badger, swift fox and prairie dog dens to nest in, often as far as 10 feet underground to escape the reach of predators like coyotes. The owls are small, averaging about 9.5 inches long with 21-inch wingspans and tipping the scales at only 5 ounces. In addition to bugs, the owls will eat small mammals like mice and voles, birds, reptiles and snakes. Most of the owls live about five to six years. The females migrate south around October to stay healthy for the spring breeding season when they return north. The exception is California’s burrowing owls, which reside there year-round...more

Wyoming grazing dispute threatens bighorn sheep

Well before Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy started a new range war for refusing to pay his federal grazing fees, Frank Robbins was protesting his revoked cattle grazing permits in Wyoming. He wanted to draw attention to what he saw as unfair treatment from the BLM after he denied the agency’s request for an easement across the ranch he bought in 1994, he told Livestock Weekly. So he spent the frigid February of 2000 riding his mule Buford around the outside of the Bureau of Land Management office in Worland, Wyoming. The long-standing conflict between Robbins and the BLM has flared up again recently, and this time it could have dire consequences for one of the lower 48’s largest bighorn sheep populations...So the BLM pulled all of Robbins' 14 cattle grazing leases again in the mid-2000s, and he had to shrink his herd to what his 75,000 acre ranch would support. The BLM did offer to return some of the cattle leases to Robbins, but he refused the deal. Instead, a few years ago he started running domestic sheep on his ranch. The problem is that Robbins’ ranch is smack dab in the middle of prime habitat for 600 to 800 bighorns, and those sheep intermingle with even more herds. It’s well established that bighorn sheep can catch pneumonia from domestic sheep — often with fatal consequences for adults and newborns. Robbins recently told the Casper Star-Tribune that the sheep were an economic necessity after the agency rescinded his public-land grazing permit, since sheep require less land than cattle. But it also looks like the decision was a form of protest against the agency.  The Star-Tribune reported that he sent the BLM a letter in April 2012 stating, “Since you decided not to return the permit in whole we have decided to go forward with sheep.” “If and when a bighorn die-off occurs I want you to know that we feel we have done everything that we have been ask (sic) and been patient for years and you will have to answer for what happens,” Robbins wrote.In the worst cases pneumonia from domestic sheep can obliterate bighorn herds, erasing years of work on the part of biologists, agencies and cooperative landowners...more

County officials keep eye on lands group

A movement to have the ownership of Western federal lands turned back over to the states has spilled into western Colorado and caught the eye of Pitkin County officials. The American Lands Council, a Utah-based, politically involved nonprofit organization, has pushed for the transfer of public lands to local stewardship in its home state, and is also sowing the seeds of its vision nationally. But locally, the movement is seen as a concern, being brought up in recent Pitkin County commissioner and open space and trails meetings. Hawk Greenway, an open space board member, attended a Club 20 meeting that Utah Republican Rep. Ken Ivory spoke at in Grand Junction on Dec. 11, concerning the transfer of public lands. Ivory is president of the American Lands Council. “It’s one of those goofy, far-right, tea-party, Sagebrush Rebellion type of things,” Greenway said at Thursday’s open space meeting. “There were 150 people there who were enthusiastic at, what I can only characterize as ... a snake-oil salesman. He was talking about how everything would be the same, only better, if the federal lands were owned by the public.”...more

Those are certainly intelligent and informative comments on the issue.  Also makes you wonder about all those "goofy, far-right" Founding Fathers and early pioneers who made sure those lands were transferred to states situated east of the Mississippi River.  Those guys must have been nuts.

Commissioner Rachel Richards is secretary for Club 20, a conservative-leaning, Western Slope advocacy group, and is familiar with the pitch of the American Lands Council (ALC). It is one she said tends to resonate with many Westerners. “Many Western counties just don’t like the government,” Richards said Saturday. “It’s easy for them to buy into it. … There are way too many unknowns about state management.” But she noted that Pitkin’s board of county commissioners doesn’t support ALC’s mission. “I don’t support that concept. How can we when we don’t know the implications?” Richards said. “They’ve been pushing this item for a long time. …Making the land pay for itself is a lot of snake oil and pie in the sky with a very slick preacher delivering it like it’s gospel.”

Ms. Richards is worried about "unknowns of state management."  That is why the ALC is promoting legislation to have each state do a careful study of the issue and then come to their own conclusion.  If Ms Richards is really wanting answers to those unknowns she should trot up to the state legislature and support legislation that would fund such a study. Or could it be she's afraid of what an objective analysis would find?

And there we go with the snake oil again.  Seems to be a lot of that in Pitkin County, but its not being slung by Ken Ivory.

Richards said she’d like to see environmental groups paying more attention to Ivory’s group, adding that litigation over the issue is a “horrible distraction” for counties and land managers.

Here we have a so-called conservative soliciting environmental groups to keep an eye on the ALC.  They sure grow'em different up there in Colorado.  I'm sure many will find that its her comments that are a "horrible distraction."

I would suggest folks visit the ALC and State of Utah websites, study the documents and reach your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, I'm gonna see if I can't get legislation introduced to make Pitkin County a federal enclave.  That way Richards and Greenway won't be so horribly distracted by such things as prosperity and liberty.

If that doesn't work I'll have to go to my ace in the hole, President Obama.  I'm sure he'd relish designating the entire county a national monument.

Should we call it the Pitiful Pitkin National Monument?

No.  Most appropriate would be...The Snake Oil National Monument.

Conservationists file objection to Wolf Creek Pass land exchange

A coalition of conservation organizations filed a 96-page objection to a proposed land exchange near Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado with the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday. The objection comes after the completion of a final environmental impact statement and the Forest Service's approval of the land swap in November. The land exchange would allow construction of a high-altitude resort known as the Village at Wolf Creek. The development was proposed in 1986. If the resort is constructed, it would consist of 1,171 units. If approved, the U.S. Forest Service would trade 205 acres of federal land for 177 acres of private land within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest. The Forest Service also would pay the land owner $70,000 as a cash equalization payment...more

Rio Grande now largest source of ABQ water

Albuquerque’s effort to wean itself from unsustainable groundwater pumping took a major step forward in 2014, with Rio Grande water for the first time in history meeting more than half the needs of the metro area’s largest water utility. In a year-end report to the state, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility reported that 60 percent of its water came from its diversion dam, which intercepts Rio Grande flows near Alameda at the north end of town. Groundwater, pumped from deep layers of sands and gravels beneath the city, made up the other 40 percent of supply. The water utility serves a population of more than 600,000 in Albuquerque and neighboring areas of Bernalillo County. The shift from groundwater to river water is critical to maintaining the long-term viability of Albuquerque’s water supply, said University of New Mexico water expert Bruce Thomson. “The groundwater is our drought reserve, so we need to preserve that,” Thomson said in an interview Monday. The shift to river water, bolstered by water imported from the Colorado River Basin via the San Juan-Chama Project, began in 2008. At the time, excess groundwater pumping over more than a century had dropped the water table beneath Albuquerque by as much as 120 feet in some places...more

Rio Ruidoso stream forecast below normal flow

The prospects for a decent spring melt runoff across New Mexico will hinge on the future storm track, the authors of the New Mexico Basin Outlook wrote in the seasonal report for Jan. 1. "El NiƱo conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are expected this winter and spring," Jason Weller, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and J. Xavier Montoya, state conservationist with the NRCS Albuquerque office, wrote. While that prospect offers some hope for a better runoff season than recent years, "so far, that has not been the case," they concluded. "Most of the year 2014 was very dry with limited snowpack during the winter translating into extremely meager runoff in the spring," they wrote. "The monsoon season was marginal with only slight increases across the state, followed by a somewhat dry November. Going into New Mexico's fifth consecutive year of below average precipitation continues to leave both water supply and snowpack levels well below average." Although the snow season was predicted to start strong in northern New Mexico, it tracked south and delivered the majority of its snow to the southern half of the state, they wrote...more

Wolves given larger area to roam in Southwest

Mexican gray wolves will be able to roam a greatly expanded area in the Southwest under the first major changes to a reintroduction program that has stumbled through legal battles, illegal shootings and politics. The wolves currently roam about 7 million acres of federal, tribal and private land in far eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Up to 325 of the animals eventually will be allowed to disperse south of Interstate 40 to the U.S.-Mexico border in both states, and the number of release sites will grow, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday. Conservation groups had mixed reactions to the announcement and vowed to sue over the changes. They said the changes allow for fresh DNA in the wild to prevent wolves from inbreeding and the animals could establish territories outside of the recovery area. However, some were worried the predators would be subject to killings and the target population of between 300 and 325 doesn't allow for a reasonable chance of recovery. Under the Fish and Wildlife proposal, livestock owners could kill any wolf that is biting, wounding or killing livestock on federal land. Pet owners could do the same. Tribal officials could request that any wolf on American Indian land be removed without reason. The animals would have to be proved problematic elsewhere to warrant removal, Tuggle said. The agency also announced Monday that Mexican gray wolves will be listed as an endangered subspecies. Environmentalists sought the listing in 2009...more

Bill would study transfer of federal lands to Wyoming

A Wyoming legislative committee is pushing a bill in the upcoming session to put up $100,000 to study the idea of seeking the transfer of federal lands to the state. The effort is part of a wider push in which several Western states have demanded the federal government transfer lands to them. Proponents say states could manage lands better. Opponents, including some national environmental groups, say the effort could be the first step toward privatization. Utah passed a law a few years ago demanding that the federal government hand over 31 million acres, about half the land in the state, by Dec. 31, 2014. The federal government ignored the deadline. Montana, Nevada and Idaho all have expressed interest in getting federal lands. Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, is co-chairman of the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee that drafted the bill. He said people in Wyoming are closer to the land and able to manage it better. Wyoming needs to be able to show that it can manage the land and that it would be in the state’s financial interest to take it over, Stubson said Monday. “And without some of those basic answers, we’d look pretty foolish going to Congress or anywhere else and demanding a transfer of any of the state lands,” he said. The bill would exempt lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That would leave lands administered by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, excluding wilderness areas, for study for transfer. The bill specifies that the state would pledge to continue to allow access to the lands for hunting, fishing and recreation, “subject to closure for special circumstances including public safety and environmental sensitivity.” Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael leads a task force with the Conference of Western Attorneys General looking at legal issues concerning the transfer issue. He said the conference intends to come out with a paper giving solid legal analysis without taking sides. “Ultimately, we hope there will be something where we say, ‘OK, these are the arguments that can be made, pro and con on various issues, and kind of develop a white paper that people can rely on,‘ Michael said...more

National Monument status splits Angeles National Forest in two; creates inequities, confusion

King Solomon
In Solomon-like fashion, President Barack Obama split the heavily used Angeles National Forest in two, placing one half inside a brand-new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument while leaving out the other half. Exactly three months after the historic designation, some are questioning the president’s wisdom as nonprofits, environmental groups, federal, state and local agencies grapple with a confusing arrangement that baffles even proponents and leaves an inequitable division of haves and have-nots. For example, when asked to state the size of the monument, three heads of nonprofit groups working in the 700,000-acre Angeles — which stretches from the San Fernando Valley to Mt. Baldy — each gave wildly different answers. Just locating the boundary when driving rock-pitted fire roads or trekking up 5,000-foot elevation trails overgrown with poisonous weeds became a difficult task. “From my perspective, we consider it an invisible line,” said Eagle Rock resident Steve Messer, president of the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association and a member of the national monument collaborative committee. Groups such as CORBA, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps and the National Forests Foundation say the monument is a positive effort that will stoke the donor community but won’t affect their work. They will continue to repair trails, rip out invasive weeds and plant trees both within the monument and non-monument area, saying they can deal with whatever new bureaucracy is thrust upon them by the presidential designation. Those representing areas left out of the monument are not as sanguine. They feel slighted and are calling for an expansion of the monument boundaries by Congress or the president. These include the collective of environmentalists, ethnic minority groups, labor and clergy called the San Gabriel Mountains Forever and Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, the lead legislator in the monument effort, who behind the scenes are working to expand the boundary. But the strongest voice for expanding what the White House web site describes as a 346,177-acre monument mostly situated in the eastern portion of the Angeles is the Arroyo Seco Foundation Managing Director Timothy Brick. Brick has written the president and the mayor of Los Angeles for help. “The areas cut out are at least as important or more important than the areas included in the monument,” Brick said Wednesday during an interview...more

Great Old Broads on a mission to save wilderness

Members of a group called the Great Old Broads for Wilderness will host an event in Tucson Wednesday to tell about their organization and invite others to join them in doing “serious work for Mother Earth.” The nonprofit group, founded 25 years ago, has 4,500 members nationwide, including about 200 in Arizona. It aims to engage the activism of elders and others to preserve and protect wild lands. “We want to let people in Tucson know about us, and ultimately we would like to organize a chapter there,” said Kathy Ann Walsh, leader of the group’s Phoenix chapter. The Broads also have chapters, known in the group as “broadbands,” in Prescott, Flagstaff and Nutrioso in eastern Arizona. She said the group was founded by “some older women” who took issue with an argument that more roads were needed in wild areas to accommodate older people. “They said they were not decrepit, that they were active hikers, campers and backpackers — and they didn’t need more roads in the wilderness,” Walsh said. “They chose the name of the group because it was catchy and funny and would get attention.” “The group’s mission is to preserve and protect wilderness areas and wildlife from threats such as mining, all-terrain vehicles and overgrazing,” Walsh said. “We use education, advocacy and stewardship.” Members also pitch in with volunteer work on public lands...more

Eight killed in Santa Clarita Valley off-roading crashes during past year

Eight people have been killed locally and at least three others seriously injured in off-roading accidents during the past 12 months. Five of those killed died in crashes at Rowher Flats. The latest incident at the Canyon Country Off-Highway Vehicles area claimed the life of 25-year-old Jacqueline “Jackie” Cork of Redlands on Saturday. Cork was a passenger in a Jeep that plunged 1,500 feet down a ravine at the off-roading site. The Jeep’s driver, Ian James Pike, 28, of Granada Hills suffered major injuries in the crash and was airlifted to Antelope Valley Hospital. The single-vehicle crash occurred about 2 p.m. Saturday when Pike drove the 1996 Jeep Cherokee up a steep incline, California Highway Patrol Officer John Lutz said. Saturday’s fatal crash is the latest in a series of off-road crashes in and around the Santa Clarita Valley that have claimed someone’s life an average of every other month for a year. Rowher Flats is owned and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, and spokeswoman Sherry Rollman said the service emphasizes safety...more

The houses of Aldo Leopold

A Burlington, Iowa, nonprofit group is raising money to purchase the boyhood home of Aldo Leopold, widely regarded as one of the country’s foremost naturalists. Leopold was born in 1887 in the Mississippi River city about 90 miles southwest of the Quad-Cities, and he lived there until he left for Yale University. After graduation, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico and later in Wisconsin. In 1948, he finished "A Sand County Almanac," a ground-breaking book about the Earth and humankind's relationship to the planet. The newly organized Leopold Landscape Alliance is raising money to buy the boyhood home with the idea of turning it over to another group — possibly the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Wisconsin or the Forest Service — to make it into an educational center, said Steve Brower, a member of the group. The goal is $230,000, an amount that has been agreed to by the current owner, who bought it in 1989 from Aldo's younger brother, Frederic...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1354

Our selection today is Jack Guthrie - The Clouds Rained Trouble Down.  The tune was recorded in Hollywood on March 19, 1946 and released as Capitol 341.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Since mad cow scare, Ireland is 1st EU nation to export beef to US

The United States will permit imports of beef from Ireland, the first European Union country allowed to resume sales since the mad cow disease scare over 15 years ago, officials said Monday. Simon Coveney, Ireland's minister for agriculture, food and the marine, issued a statement announcing that access to the lucrative U.S. market will be restored after American authorities inspected Ireland's beef production systems last year. Authorities estimate annual exports could be worth at least 25 million euros ($30 million). The U.S. lifted its ban on beef from the EU in March 2014, but inspections are necessary before exports are allowed to resume. The European Commission praised the move, saying it sent a positive signal to other EU member states and that the "re-opening of the market is a welcome first step to abolish the disproportionate and unjustified" U.S. ban that followed the onset of the crisis in the 1990s. "It is now desirable that the (U.S.) acts expeditiously to extend the approval to the rest of the European Union and to fully bring their import conditions in line with international standards," the statement said. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is fatal to cows and can cause a fatal human brain disease in people who eat meat from infected cows.  AP

Are Mexican wolves in Arizona actually wolf-dog hybrids?

by Jonathan DuHamel

    ...There is another issue: there is some evidence that the captive bred and wild Mexican wolves in Arizona are actually wolf-dog hybrids or wolf-coyote hybrids which would make them ineligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
    The Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association (SACPA) has archived correspondence regarding this question at I will summarize the material.
    Besides wild caught wolves, there are three lineages for Arizona Mexican wolves included in the FWS captive breeding program named the “Ghost Ranch,” “Aragon,” and “Certified” lineages. These are the animals that FWS is releasing into the wild.
    The first item in the SACPA archive is a letter dated June 2, 1997, to the FWS from Roy McBride, the person who captured five of the foundational wild Mexican wolves from which the FWS experimental population descended.
    Mr. McBride writes that it was the conclusion of the original recovery team that all members of the Ghost Ranch lineage were wolf-dog hybrids, and that he is “shocked” that these wolves were to be included in the captive breeding program. “This was the primary factor behind the decision to seek and capture the remaining wild population, because it was the only pure genetic stock available.” The Ghost Ranch animals were from a private zoo in Carlsbad, N.M. and upon inspection, Mr. McBride had no doubt that these animals were hybrids.
    FWS responded that a review of data by a “genetics committee” concluded, in 1994, that all three lines, Certified, Aragon, and Ghost Ranch, were pure Mexican wolves.
    The second item is a history of the captive breeding program written in 1986 by Jack B. Woody. At the time of that writing the Mexican wolf was “presumed to be extinct in the United States.”
    Woody notes that at the time, there was no taxonomic means of assigning an individual wolf to the Mexican wolf subspecies (Canis lupus baileyi). He also notes that the skulls of the Ghost Ranch lineage have definite characteristics of dogs. Woody says it is unclear whether this trait is due to hybridization or the effects of inbreeding. The genetic base of the captive breeding program is only four wild-caught wolves.
    Item three is a summary from the Mexican Wolf stud book, 1987. This report notes some problems with inbreeding.
    Item four is a partial transcript from Symposio Sobre Lobo Mexicano, which reported on field investigations of Mexican wolves in northern Mexico and southeastern Arizona. The study shows that the Mexican wolf population in Arizona is transient.
    Item five discusses the ancestry and distribution of Mexican wolves in the Southwest. The pedigrees of the founding members of the three captive bred families is murky. This paper suggests that members of at least two of the three lines had some dog-like characteristics.
    Item six is a concise fact sheet listing the origins of the three wolf lineages:
    The “Certified” lineage was established from one female and two male wild-caught wolves.
    The origin of the original “Ghost Ranch” female is unknown. The original male was probably a wolf-dog hybrid according to reports documented at the time. The founders of the “Aragon” lineage were obtained from the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City, but the lineage is unknown.
<     After writing the above, I sent a draft for critique to two friends knowledgeable about this issue. One sent me a copy of a new paper published in November, 2014, that studied the genetics of wolves in North   America. The paper is: Cronin et al., 2014, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) Variation of Wolves (Canis lupus) in Southeast Alaska and Comparison with Wolves, Dogs, and Coyotes in North America, Journal of Heredity, doi:10.1093/jhered/esu075.
    This paper says that the so-called Mexican wolf is not a valid sub-species; rather it is a hybrid with coyotes and possibly with dogs...