Saturday, January 24, 2015

Border Patrol agents say GOP’s border security bill is weak ‘window dressing’

Border Patrol agents’ labor union announced their opposition Friday to the House GOP’s new border security bill, calling it “window dressing” that doesn’t add any new agents or updated their firepower to get the job done in sealing off the U.S.-Mexico border. The agents’ opposition could be a major problem for House GOP leaders who have scheduled a vote on their bill for Wednesday, but who are facing a revolt among some conservative lawmakers who say the bill needs to go much further. The legislation, written by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, would direct the Homeland Security Department to build about 50 miles of more fencing, to fly more drones and add more technology sector-by-sector along the border, and to come up with a strategy for catching 100 percent of illegal immigrants or smugglers trying to cross. But the National Border Patrol Council said the bill needs to be more specific in calling for an additional 5,000 agents on the southwest border — there are about 20,000 now — and for updating training to a 20-week course, and to acquire more M-4 rifles and other gear so they can operate out in the field. “This legislation speaks about metrics but frankly does not provide either the strategy or the resources necessary to achieve them,” said Shawn Moran, spokesman for the union. “We need real solutions on the border where the trends are moving in the wrong direction with increased apprehensions, more aggressive action from smugglers and drug cartels, and continued threats from terrorists.” Indeed, numbers show that illegal immigration has risen over the last few years, after dropping dramatically during the depths of the economic slump. The Obama administration was caught off-guard last year by a surge of illegal immigrants from Central America, who overwhelmed the immigration services and exposed serious loopholes in U.S. policy...more

Friday, January 23, 2015

USDA Secretary orders update of animal welfare research strategy

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed agency staff to create and send him an updated Animal Welfare Strategy plan within 60 days, according to an internal memo reviewed by Reuters. The memo from Chavonda Jacobs-Young, head of the agency's Agricultural Research Service, was sent out to all ARS employees on Friday afternoon in response to recent media reports over controversial animal welfare conditions at its U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. As part of the update, the memo stated that an independent panel would be convened to review ARS's animal handling protocols, policies and research practices. Reuters

Why is the Senate GOP attempting to thread the needle on climate change?

By Robert Romano

“[I]t is the sense of Congress that — (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity contributes to climate change.”

That was part of an amendment offered by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to S.1, legislation that will require the Obama administration to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S.
It drew the support of 59 senators, including 15 Republicans: Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bob Portman (R-Ohio), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.).

Hoeven voted against his own amendment, which fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
Right afterward, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered a second amendment that Democrats preferred. It read: “[I]t is the sense of Congress that — (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate.”

That version of the amendment only drew the support of 50 senators, including just 5 Republicans: Alexander, Ayotte, Collins, Graham, and Kirk.

This time it was 10 votes short.

Yet, the two votes — just 21 minutes apart — signify very interesting political positioning by Republicans on the issue.

Managing the people, not the wolves

We're not managing wolves; we're managing people for the sake of wolves.

“Wolf management” is a misnomer. What state officials in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and elsewhere have been doing is managing people. The wolves seem to be doing just fine; it’s the people who need help.

The line of reasoning wildlife managers use is this: When wolves attack livestock, the predators aren’t at fault, the people are. It’s not the wolf’s fault that a lamb jumped into its mouth, it’s the lamb owner’s fault. He, or she, just didn’t use enough fladry and special flashing lights or hire enough range riders to protect the livestock from the wolves.

That’s the topsy-turvy world we live in when it comes to wolves spreading across the region. Just last week another wolf popped up in Southern Oregon, bringing to three the number — plus a couple of pups — that have set up housekeeping in that part of the state. That brought this admonition from an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist to a group of Southern Oregon cattlemen: “We have wolves, folks. They are not going away. I realize this is a lifestyle change.”

What that means is any newly arrived wolves take priority over ranchers who have been there for generations. Ranchers now must accommodate the behaviors of their new neighbors — including their diet of fresh lamb and beef. The state will help with some of the costs, but any other costs will come out of their pockets.

Wyoming Senate committee softens language in study of federal lands

A legislative committee approved a bill that funds a $100,000 study about state management of public lands, after words in the measure having to do with the transfer of the title of federal lands were removed. “We’re not talking about transferring of titles,” Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton said. “This is the contemplation of Congress turning over the management. So we’re not talking about this study saying, 'How do we own the lands of the state?' because I think that’s a tough sell. I think even though legally we’ve got grounds to do it, Congress isn’t just going to just give them back to them back to us. I understand that.” Senate File 56 states the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments would commission a study to identify which lands the state would manage, revenue sources to pay for land management, how to divide additional revenue that the state could earn from lands, and an analysis of revenue the state is losing through federal management...more

That's stupid.  If the lands aren't transferred then FLPMA, NEPA, ARPA and all the other federal laws would still apply along with their cumbersome regulations.  The people of Wyo. would still be denied the efficiency of state management under state law and the equity of being on an equal footing with those east of the Mississippi River.

New U.S. Senate energy chairwoman Murkowski has Alaska-size plans

...Already, Murkowski has led the Senate's first debate of the year - a freewheeling, weeks-long fight over legislation to authorize Keystone, with votes on more than a dozen amendments. Murkowski insists that's how bipartisan energy policy - and good legislation - is made. Murkowski has already laid out an ambitious agenda for the energy panel, with plans to swiftly hold hearings on liquefied natural gas exports, electric grid innovation, offshore oil and gas development and nuclear waste. And she aims for the committee to craft a broad bipartisan energy bill dealing with supply, infrastructure, efficiency and accountability. Her success will depend on wrangling support not just from the many western Republicans on the panel, but also finding common ground with committee Democrats, including their highest-ranking member, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington. Cantwell opposes offshore drilling off the West Coast and has been vocal in criticizing oil and gas industry priorities. In a wide-ranging interview with the Houston Chronicle, Murkowski said the proximity of their home states, their shared love of the outdoors and the economic ties between Washington and Alaska will serve as building blocks for consensus...more

Utah senators sponsor grazing protection legislation; Grand Staircase-Escalante

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee announced Thursday they are sponsoring a bill to enact the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act. The bill comes at a time when the Bureau of Land Management has reduced permitted grazing to the lowest levels the range has seen, despite recognition of grazing as an important heritage of the region. This bill will preserve the historical uses of the land in addition to granting BLM clear authority to issue future grazing permits. Hatch said: “When President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante a monument, I called it ‘the mother of all land grabs.’ But BLM’s ongoing campaign to reduce grazing here makes its look more like a hijacking." While Hatch and Lee have introduced this legislation as an amendment to the Keystone pipeline in the Senate, they will introduce it as a standalone bill in the near future. Congressman Chris Stewart plans to introduce a companion bill in the House...more

Range For Mexican Gray Wolves Increases Tenfold

The federal government this week finalized a plan to increase the range of endangered Mexican gray wolves tenfold, a shift that could bring the beleaguered predators to Rim Country. The rule change won praise from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, but spurred criticism by environmentalists, hunters and ranchers. Environmentalists objected to a plan to cap the number of wolves at 325 and recapture and remove wolves that wander into areas north of Interstate 40, like the Grand Canyon. Some hunters and ranchers objected to any expansion of the range, given the wolves’ reliance on elk for most of their food in addition to sometimes killing cattle. The federal government has a program to compensate ranchers for cattle killed by the wolves, but many ranchers say the program doesn’t cover their losses. The new rules for the 83 Mexican gray wolves now living in portions of far eastern Arizona and western New Mexico will allow for the introduction of new wolf packs in a vast sprawl of central Arizona, which includes all of Rim Country. The introductions locally would most likely occur in remote, unpopulated areas like the Hellsgate Wilderness. The rules call for the eventual establishment of up to 325 wolves roaming wild in that Arizona and New Mexico. If the wolf populations grow above that number, biologists may trap and move them — most likely down into Mexico, which is just beginning reintroduction efforts of its own, with a single breeding pair and several pups. The rule change will list the Mexican gray wolves as an endangered subspecies, but continue its listing as an “experimental, non-essential” population. The “nonessential” designation gives wildlife managers more flexibility to kill or remove wolves that pose a problem by threatening people, pets, cattle or even the stability of local elk populations...more

Commission protests forest service activity over grazing; call for county involvement

The County Commission passed a resolution officially requesting the forest service immediately cease actions it has been taking since 2013 pertaining to grazing on Dixie National Forest. The forest service actions protested include the gathering of data, conducting studies and preparing reports without the county’s involvement. The resolution further protests a cooperative relationship the forest service has engaged in with Grand Canyon Trust Inc., which the commission and the Utah Association of Counties maintain constitutes an improper relationship with nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs. In its resolution, the County Commission “respectfully requests” the forest service discard any data, studies and reports prepared without notice and involvement of the county since 2013 and that the service coordinate with Washington County in any future action from the outset. An undated letter from Mark Ward, senior policy analyst and general counsel for the Utah Association of Counties, (responding to an Aug. 18, 2014, forest action), supports and is made a part of Washington County’s resolution. In his closing, Ward wrote to the supervisors of Dixie National, Fishlake and Manti-LeSal forests, all affected by the Aug. 18 action:  Forest Service should scrap the FS Initial Review, start over and next time, integrate NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) into the process. After all, it is the stated policy of Forest Service to ‘fully integrate NEPA requirements into agency planning and decision-making,’ … and ‘apply (NEPA procedures) to the fullest extent practicable to analyses and documentation of Forest Service actions. …’Another concern is that the forest service is coordinating very closely with nongovernmental organizations, Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said, like the Grand Canyon Trust, in compiling data regarding cattle grazing in the Dixie, Fishlake and Manti-La Sal national forests. These NGOs have expressed intentions to limit grazing in these areas, he said...more

Warmer, drier climate altering forests throughout California

Historical California vegetation data that more than once dodged the dumpster have now proved their true value, documenting that a changing forest structure seen in the Sierra Nevada has actually happened statewide over the past 90 years. A team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey compared unique forest surveys collected by UC Berkeley alumnus Albert Wieslander in the 1920s and ’30s with recent U.S. Forest Service data to show that the decline of large trees and increase in the density of smaller trees is not unique to the state’s mountains. “Older, larger trees are declining because of disease, drought, logging and other factors, but what stands out is that this decline is statewide,” said study leader Patrick McIntyre, who began the research while a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and now manages biodiversity data for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Forests are becoming dominated by smaller, more densely packed trees, and oaks are becoming more dominant as pines decline.” The authors found that the density of large trees declined in all regions of California, with declines up to 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the south and central coast ranges and Northern California. “Based on our data, water stress helps to explain the decline of large trees,” McIntyre said. “Areas experiencing declines in large-tree density also experienced increased water stress since the 1930s.” The increased density of smaller trees is usually attributed to fire suppression statewide, he noted...more

The Keystone Bill's Most Hilarious Amendment - Protecting Chicken, Alaska

The new Senator from the Klondike is making sure that nobody—not even the Environmental Protection Agency—tries to bully Alaska's scrappiest town. Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) first amendment as a lawmaker sent a clear message to the federal government: Nobody messes with Chicken, Alaska. Nobody. Sullivan's amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill—expected to be voted as soon as today— bars officials from Environmental Protection Agency from carrying guns, a direct result of a "raid" conducted in a tiny gold mining town in 2013. A town called Chicken.Here's how the raid in Chicken went down, according to local press reports and a special counsel's report commissioned by then-Alaska Governor Sean Parnell (R): In August 2013, Chicken was inhabited by less than 80 miners (Sullivan’s statement says 17), eking out a hardscrabble living in the hopes of one day striking it rich. That was until the nine miners—or roughly 11 percent of the population—were visited by ten armed "criminal law enforcement officials"representing the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Environmental Conservation, according to the report. The feds were there to investigate possible violations of the Clean Water Act and they meant business.In addition to the guns, they brought military helicopters, wore body armor and donned jackets with the word "police" on them, according to local report...more

Mens rea - What were you thinking?

BOBBY UNSER, a former car racer, was snowmobiling with a friend in Colorado when a blizzard sent them off course. After their vehicles broke down the two men spent a night in the wilderness, nearly freezing to death. They survived, but two weeks later the Forest Service charged Mr Unser with operating a motorised vehicle inside a protected area, a federal crime. “I got lost,” said Mr Unser. “People shouldn’t be prosecuted for something they have no control over.” A judge disagreed, finding him guilty. Under the common-law system that America inherited from England, a person performing a prohibited act (actus reus) must also possess a guilty mind (mens rea) in order to be convicted of a crime. In other words, intent matters. In keeping with this tradition, many states differentiate between criminal behaviour that is purposeful, negligent or something in between. But things have got fuzzy lately. New criminal laws often lack intent requirements—sometimes on purpose, often by mistake—and thus ensnare people, like Mr Unser, who inadvertently fall foul of them. Inconsistent courts have added to the muddle. In an effort to sort things out, Ohio’s state legislature now requires greater precision when its members draw up new statutes. At the end of last year John Kasich, the governor, signed a first-of-its-kind law that requires new crimes to specify a threshold level of intent, or be declared void. So, for example, if legislators want an action to be criminal regardless of intent, they must state that in the law. Where the existing code is unclear, the threshold for guilt becomes “reckless” behaviour. The bill passed with unanimous support. Most states, though, are ignoring the problem, even as a flood of new laws means more will be unwittingly broken. Federal statutes contain some 4,500 crimes, and there are thousands more in the federal regulatory code. In 2009 the Heritage Foundation, a think-tank, and the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers (NACDL) found that two-thirds of the non-violent criminal offences enacted by the 109th Congress (which sat from 2005-06) lacked an adequate intent requirement. A rule change that lets the House Judiciary Committee review all new federal criminal laws is intended to address these problems...more

Nevada rancher's son dropped from drug court, faces prison

An adult son of southern Nevada rancher and states' rights advocate Cliven Bundy has been dropped from a court diversion program and is facing prison time for violating probation. Cliven Lance Bundy's appointed deputy public defender, Jeffrey Rue, didn't immediately respond Thursday to messages about Clark County District Court Senior Judge Joseph Bonaventure's order terminating Bundy's drug court privilege. The 35-year-old Bundy remains jailed pending sentencing Feb. 4. Clark County District Court Judge Carolyn Ellsworth could impose a two-to-eight year sentence stemming from Bundy's guilty plea in February 2013 to felony burglary and weapon theft charges...more

Interior Secretary to announce SunZia transmission decision in ABQ Saturday

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be in Albuquerque Saturday with officials from the Departments of Defense and the Bureau of Land Management to announce a so-called “record of decision” on the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line in southern New Mexico. The Department of Defense last May withdrew its objections to the SunZia project if parts of the transmission line were buried in White Sands’ “northern extension area” – a call-up zone where ranchers and other are often evacuated for missile tests and exercises. The military had objected to a 45-mile stretch of the line through that zone because of concerns it would interfere with military exercises there. The objections led to nearly year-long impasses on SunZia – a 550-mile project that would carry clean energy from Central New Mexico to Arizona for export to Western markets – after the BLM released its environmental impact statement in June 2013. The military’s objections prevented the BLM from moving forward with a final record of decision on the project. “Saturday’s announcement will highlight the Obama administration’s commitment to job creation and modernizing America’s infrastructure while giving consumers more energy choices,” a press release from the Interior Department said today. “Prior to the announcement, Jewell and others will tour the Sandia National Laboratories for a briefing on alternative energy project research and development.”...more

Reies Lopez Tijerina dies at 88; Chicano rights movement leader

On June 5, 1967, a group of armed men, led by fiery preacher Reies Lopez Tijerina, arrived at the county courthouse in the small New Mexico community of Tierra Amarilla. They were there to free prisoners who were arrested in a land grant dispute and to place the district attorney under citizen's arrest. The raid was almost entirely botched. The prisoners and district attorney weren't there, but a gun battle broke out in which a state policeman and jailer were wounded. A judge escaped harm by using a ladder to climb into an attic and pulling up the ladder behind him. The raiders fled, kidnapping a reporter who later got away and another man whom they let go. The incident, as bungled as it was, vaulted Tijerina — captured six days after the raid — into the national spotlight, where he was eventually seen as one of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano rights movement, along with Cesar Chavez,, Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales and Jose Angel Gutierrez. His leadership role was relatively brief, but the influence of the raid lives on. "It's the moment that the Chicano movement became an important part of the civil rights movement," said David Correia, a professor at the University of New Mexico. Tijerina, 88, died Monday in an El Paso hospital. He died of natural causes after battling diabetes and heart conditions for several years, said Estela Reyes-Lopez, a family friend. He remained a divisive figure to the end — to some a hero and to others a reckless egoist. The land grant issue was of particular importance to Latinos who felt vast sections of the area had been taken from their ancestors. The land had been granted to farmers, ranchers and other settlers during the time that Spain and then Mexico ruled the territory that is now the states of New Mexico, Arizona and part of California. Land grants were given to farmers, ranchers and other settlers "to be a kind of buffer against Indian tribes," said Correia, author of the book "Properties of Violence" about the land grant movement. The 1848 treaty that ended the Mexican-American War ceded the land to the victorious United States. The treaty originally upheld land grants, but that section was stricken by the U.S. Senate...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1362

We'll close out our look at 1968 tunes with the classic Plastic Saddle by Nat Stuckey.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

No easy answers: Dealing with brucellosis difficult for state, ranchers

A herd of elk congregates next to cattle being fed on private land

The problem seems insurmountable. Some wild elk in southwestern Montana, valued by hunters and conservationists, are infected with brucellosis. Cattle ranchers in the same region want those infected elk kept away from their cows to avoid transmitting the disease and the consequences that come with a cow that tests positive for brucellosis. “FWP finds itself very much in the middle,” said Jeff Hagener, director of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, at a brucellosis talk on Saturday at Montana State University. The agency has even been sued by sportsmen for creating new tactics to keep cattle and elk separate. That lawsuit was eventually settled out of court. FWP estimates that about 25,000 to 30,000 elk winter on 22 core ranges in the large landscape that surrounds Yellowstone National Park in Montana. About 56 percent of those elk winter on private land. The scale of private land ownership on winter ranges goes from 14 percent on the Taylor’s Fork in the southern Madison Mountains to 99 percent in the Pine Creek area of the Paradise Valley. At the end of 2010, the state Department of Livestock said “234 producers owning approximately 42,000 cattle and domestic bison” overlap with those elk winter ranges in what’s called the Designated Surveillance Area for brucellosis in southwest Montana. The DSA covers portions of Gallatin, Beaverhead, Madison and Park counties. Although elk often use private lands where cattle graze, only 27 positive cases of brucellosis have been detected in cattle in Montana since the first outbreak in 2007, this despite the fact that 10,520 animals have been tested — an infection rate of .0025 percent. All of the cattle that became infected had been vaccinated against brucellosis, meaning the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective. “There’s no perfect vaccine out there,” said Eric Liska, the Montana Department of Livestock brucellosis veterinarian. Even at such a low rate of infection among cattle, those 27 cases have sent shock waves through the Montana cattle industry, reverberating back to FWP. “Brucellosis and the fear of brucellosis are huge to our trading partners,” Liska said. Having a cow test positive for the disease also presents a hardship to the landowner. If brucellosis is found in a cow, the entire herd cannot be moved unless they go directly to slaughter. If not slaughtered, every cow in the herd must be tested and all that test positive are removed. It takes a minimum of two negative tests and a negative test during calving to declare the herd disease-free. Another assurance test is conducted six to 12 months after the quarantine. Neighbors to the infected herd must also test their cattle immediately and have them tested again six to 12 months later. Funding for the tests comes from the state, but ranchers lose money on any cattle that are slaughtered and must also continue to feed animals that likely would have been sold at auction, without having the revenue from the cattle sale to buy feed...more

Here you have federal or publicly-owned elk migrating on private land and causing harm to an entire industry.

Let's reverse that.  

Say it was privately owned cattle migrating on federal land and causing harm to a federal resource.  What would the federal reaction be in that case?

Majority of Senate says climate change is real and human-driven

Most U.S. senators now agree on two things about climate change: That it is driven by humans, and that it is not a hoax. Getting to that point during a series of votes on amendments for Keystone XL pipeline legislation was tortuous for Democrats and Republicans alike. "I'm not sure that there were any clear expectations, but I think the way the day transpired was productive but it was also fascinating," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told reporters. "We made good progress today and we were pretty pleased there is an emerging bipartisan group of people who believe climate change is real, is caused by humans and is solvable." Fifty senators, including five Republicans, agreed that climate change was real, human-induced and solvable on Schatz's amendment, though it failed because it needed 60 votes to pass. The Republicans who backed the amendment were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine. Democrats hoped the Schatz amendment and another from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., would put Republicans on record regarding climate change. Scientists say climate change is driven by humans, largely by burning greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels, and many GOP lawmakers are skeptical of that science. A separate amendment from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., that also said climate change was occurring and humans contributed to it — though without the word "significantly," as Schatz's amendment said — narrowly failed by one vote, a result that Hoeven aided by switching his vote against the measure. Fifteen Republicans voted for the amendment, which lifted language from the State Department's environmental review that said Keystone XL wouldn't have a significant impact on emissions. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also voted against the amendment because he said he doesn't agree with the State findings. The vote on the Hoeven amendment illustrated the uncomfortable position Democrats had sought to put their GOP colleagues in by adding climate change amendments to the Keystone XL bill...more

Federal agencies at odds over drilling plan for Alaska reserve

What's the best way to drill for oil in a mostly untouched Alaskan tundra, home to migrating caribou, abundant waterfowl, and Native Alaskan hunting and fishing grounds? It depends on which federal agency you ask. The Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are split on how to approve ConocoPhillips Co.'s bid to become the first oil producer in the 22.5-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A) in northwest Alaska. How they resolve those differences could point to how -- and to what extent -- the nation taps into a reserve believed to hold upward of a billion barrels of crude. "The federal government is at odds with itself on this decision," said Lindsey Hajduk, Alaska program director for the Conservation Lands Foundation in Anchorage. "The public deserves a thorough, scientific analysis of the project with an outcome that best protects the Arctic's fragile wetlands, wildlife and subsistence resources." The issue came to a head Friday when the Army Corps issued a Clean Water Act permit to ConocoPhillips that allows an 8-mile gravel road and drill pad and the filling of 73 acres of waters and wetlands. In the corps' view, that road configuration, known as alternative A, was the "least environmentally damaging, practicable alternative," a key litmus test under CWA (Greenwire, Jan. 20). "This alternative meets the overall project purpose, is practicable in consideration of costs, logistics and existing technology, and would result in the smallest footprint impacts to aquatic resources," the corps said in its decision, noting that the shorter route would also affect drier wetlands. But BLM came to a different conclusion in its final environmental impact statement on the project in October and picked alternative B, calling for a slightly longer road that swings south of Fish Creek, an important hunting ground for Native Alaskans in the nearby village of Nuiqsut...more

Bayou Teche added to National Water Trails System

The Bayou Teche, which begins in Port Barre and continues south for 135 miles until it joins the Atchafalaya River near Berwick, has been added to the National Water Trails System, a first for Louisiana. “We just found out that it has been accepted. We are so excited,” said Conni Castille, executive director of the TECHE Project, which has been working for years to restore the bayou to its former glory. “Designation as a national water trail places the Teche in an elite group of rivers across the nation and will increase recreational tourism for the visitors to the 15 communities and four parishes the river runs through,” Castille said. The National Water Trails System, part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Parks Service program, is a network of “exemplary water trails that are cooperatively supported and sustained.”...more

Humane Society Refuses To Release Documents, Sues Oklahoma AG

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's Office has been sued by the Humane Society of the United States after the organization's refusal to release documents the Oklahoma official has requested. The AG's office has called into question HSUS fundraising efforts. According to a news release, Pruitt on Wednesday urged the HSUS to disclose documents that the group will not give to the Attorney General's Office pursuant to a civil investigative demand (CID). After several time extensions, HSUS failed to comply with the requests in a timely manner and instead has chosen to respond with a lawsuit, Pruitt says. The AG said he is reviewing the solicitation practices of the HSUS in order to address concerns that the group's solicitations in Oklahoma may be misleading. "The concern is that the HSUS projects heart-wrenching imagery of puppies and kittens in solicitations in order to extract donations from unsuspecting Oklahomans who believe their donations are going to help local animal shelters, but instead, their hard-earned money may go to high-powered lobbying and special interest campaigns that are determined to shape state and federal legislation that would harm farmers, ranchers and other Oklahomans," a statement from Pruitt says. Pruitt says his office has the statutory authority to monitor and regulate charities operating in Oklahoma and has requested records from the HSUS through a CID. "After multiple attempts by the Attorney General's office to acquire a good faith response, including extra time to comply with the CID, the group has responded with a lawsuit," Pruitt said. HSUS released a statement to media on Wednesday, claiming Pruitt's requests amount to a “fishing expedition,” that he doesn't have the authority to request the documents and that the documents his office seeks include confidential and proprietary information...more

Over 100 Years Later, The Water Battle That Inspired 'Chinatown' Reaches A Truce

Over a century since Los Angeles grabbed land in the Owens Valley to steal water away for what would grow into a city of almost four million, a truce has been reached in a long-fought battle that resulted in its wake. The new deal will eventually save Los Angeles up to 10 billion gallons of water a year and control the dust and air pollution that has plagued the Eastern Sierra valley. The dry dustbowl left behind by the draining of the Owens Lake is at the center of the deal reached between the LADWP and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. It became the largest source of particulate air pollution in the country, but communities in the Owens Valley were powerless to hold Los Angeles accountable for decades. Tensions grew between the urban and rural communities. "It’s not an understatement to say that resolving Owens was similar to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bad blood had just been passed on through the generations," vice chairman of the DWP William W. Funderbunk told the New York Times. Passage of the Clean Air Act and state laws in the early Eighties finally got the city to sign an agreement in 1997 to clean up their mess. For the past two decades Los Angeles has used 25 billion gallons of water a year to flood the bed in order to cut down on the dust. A new, mostly waterless, method will instead rely on tractors to dig 3-foot furrows every few years in the mud and form large dirt clods that would bottle up dust. The process has already begun last month according to the LA Times...more 

House GOP launches secure-borders bill

House Republicans are officially launching their immigration reform effort Wednesday, with a border security bill aimed at keeping unlawful immigrants from entering the United States. The bill could become the first in a series of measures Republicans take up in what they have promised will be a piecemeal approach to immigration reform in the new GOP-majority Congress. Republican senators, led by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., are drafting companion legislation. If the measure clears congress, it could pose a political challenge for President Obama, who so far this year has threatened to veto most GOP legislation, but who has also struggled to control an influx of tens of thousands of illegal migrants, many of them children, in the past year. The bill, however, excludes provisions that would address Obama’s recent executive actions that aim to stem deportations and provide work permits for millions of people already living here illegally. The legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security to achieve “operational control” of heavily trafficked border areas within two years and control of the nation’s entire southwest border within five years. The bill calls for completion of the southern border fence by filling in and completing miles of existing gaps and constructing 27 miles of new fencing. It would also allow border patrol agents access to restricted federal lands that are used by illegal immigrants to sneak into the country. And it would require implementing new biometric identity security measures at all points of entry into the United States within five years...more

Republican rift threatens high-tech immigration bill

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced legislation this month that would tweak the nation’s immigration laws, making it easier for high-tech firms in the United States to hire more foreign specialists in so-called “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and math. The bill, which has several Democratic as well as Republican sponsors, would increase the number of high-tech visas to 115,000 a year from 65,000. That cap could go as high as 195,000 in any one year if there were enough demand for the workers. High-tech firms for years also have been pushing for an increase in the quotas, saying that a lack of talented high-tech workers in the U.S. has stifled innovation and production that ultimately hurts the nation’s economy. But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called such talk a “false claim” and a “hoax” and has been actively pressing his Senate GOP colleagues to oppose the proposal. “Not only is there no shortage of qualified Americans ready, able and eager to fill these jobs, there is a huge surplus of Americans trained in these fields who are unable to find employment,” the Alabama Republican said in his 2015 “immigration handbook,” a 23-page memo he’s been circulating among Republican senators. Sessions has accused high-tech firms of manufacturing the “myth” of an American high-tech worker shortage to flood the market with workers to keep wages down. He cites recent Census data showing that three in four Americans with STEM degrees don’t hold a job in one of those fields...more

House immigration plan slammed, spends $10B and deports no illegals

Critics including Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions are slamming a House GOP border security plan set for debate Wednesday, claiming it will spend $10 billion on new equipment and border security tricks, but not send one single illegal home. Sessions, the influential Center for Immigration Studies, and the head of the association of former Border Control agents all slammed the H.R. 399 being marked up in the House Homeland Security Committee today as unfocused on the No. 1 issue: U.S. sanctuary to illegals. The bill, however, is geared to handling the tight security of the actual border, not how illegal immigrants are handled once they cross in. Several related pieces of immigration reform legislation are expected to be addressed by the House. “As long as sanctuary cities, welfare, education, and jobs and principally lack of enforcement and enabling by the federal government, are made available to the undocumented alien, we will not be able to secure the physical border,” said Zack Taylor, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. “Until lawmakers end the catch-and-release policies of the Obama administration,” said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, “any infrastructure improvements, new strategies, and better metrics are pointless.” Sessions, the key conservative immigration strategist in the Senate, added, “it does not end catch-and-release; it does not require mandatory detention and return; it does not include worksite enforcement; it does not close dangerous asylum and national security loopholes; it does not cut-off access to federal welfare; and it does not require completion of the border fence. Surprisingly, it delays and weakens the longstanding unfulfilled statutory requirement for a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.”...more

Drone Carrying Meth Crashes Near San Ysidro Port of Entry

A drone carrying methamphetamine crashed in Mexico near the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Tuesday night. The unmanned aircraft hauling more than 6 pounds of crystal meth in six packages fell from the sky into the parking lot of a supermarket in Tijuana just before 10 p.m., according to Vicente Calderon, a Tijuana-based freelance journalist for NBC 7. Tijuana police said an anonymous citizen reported finding the drone in the parking lot. The packages of drugs were attached to the drone using plastic webbing and strips of black tape, police said. The aircraft itself had six propellers and a lithium battery. The drone and the drugs were handed over to Mexican authorities to look into who's responsible for the attempted smuggling. While smugglers have long used a variety of tactics to shuffle drugs across the border, Calderon said Tijuana police reported that this is the first time smugglers have attempted using drones to pass drugs through the San Ysidro Port of Entry...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1361

Here is the #1 song from 1968:  Henson Cargill - Skip A Rope

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Murkowski defends ANWR record; state fights in court to open refuge

Oral arguments were heard Tuesday in the state’s legal bid to crack open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to its first oil and gas exploration in decades, with lawyers jousting in federal court over whether Congress wanted updates on the oil potential of a coastal swath of the 19-million-acre refuge atop Alaska. And in Washington, D.C., an aide to Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that as the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski is strategizing on the best way to convince Congress to open the 1.5-million-acre coastal stretch of the refuge, set aside by Congress in 1980 for hydrocarbon evaluation. Murkowski, a Republican, is facing recent criticism from Democrats and other Alaskans who believe she is not doing enough to open the potentially oil-rich area while she advocates strongly for the Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver tar-sands crude from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Alaska Democratic Party recently argued that the Keystone XL bill would put more oil on the market, hurting oil-dependent Alaska by further bringing down oil prices while promoting development in Canada at the expense of the 49th state. “It’s time for Murkowski to start setting an agenda based on Alaska priorities, not take orders from lobbyists” in D.C., said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, in a recent statement. Dillon said Murkowski has not included an ANWR measure in the Keystone pipeline bill she is promoting because that would give President Obama -- who has said he would veto both measures -- a larger target and an easier way out when he seeks to explain why he vetoed Keystone...more

Pearce: Latest Wolf Rule Puts New Mexicans In Danger

Last week, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mexican Wolf as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and quadrupled its recovery zone in New Mexico.

“These actions will do nothing to recover the species and will harm New Mexico families who rely on farming and ranching for their livelihoods,” said Pearce. “I am concerned about how the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to manage this significant increase in population area. The Service has failed to manage the original zone, but now expects to manage an area four times the original size without a plan to allocate the necessary resources to the program. The new rule also fails to provide ranchers the ability to defend their children, livestock, and family pets against a lethal predator.

“In finalizing this rule, the Service has disregarded the comments and concerns of southern New Mexicans. For over a decade, the people of southern New Mexico have complied with the Service to nearly reach the established population goal, but are now being punished with almost three times as many wolves. Additionally, the Service is rejecting the will of communities like Catron County, which issued an ordinance against the wolf, as its growing population has endangered children and resulted in livestock depredation.  I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to fight against litigation-driven listings like this that endanger and disenfranchise southern New Mexicans.”

-Since 1998 the Service has managed Mexican wolves under a rule that designated them as “non-essential experimental.”  The 1998 rule established a population of 100 wolves as a goal and despite having almost met this goal; the Service has decided to move the goal to 350.
-This rule is a result of a settlement that was not made by the people of New Mexico or elected officials, but instead by the special interest lawyers from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Press Release

U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit

At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise. There are, however, some complications. Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed. Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation. Continue reading the main story “It’s horrible,” one veterinarian said, tossing the remains into a barrel to be dumped in a vast excavation called the dead pit. These experiments are not the work of a meat processor or rogue operation. They are conducted by a taxpayer-financed federal institution called the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a complex of laboratories and pastures that sprawls over 55 square miles in Clay Center, Neb. Little known outside the world of big agriculture, the center has one overarching mission: helping producers of beef, pork and lamb turn a higher profit as diets shift toward poultry, fish and produce. Since Congress founded it 50 years ago to consolidate the United States Department of Agriculture’s research on farm animals, the center has worked to make lamb chops bigger, pork loins less fatty, steaks easier to chew. It has fought the spread of disease, fostered food safety and helped American ranchers compete in a global marketplace. But an investigation by The New York Times shows that these endeavors have come at a steep cost to the center’s animals, which have been subjected to illness, pain and premature death, over many years. The research to increase pig litters began in 1986; the twin calves have been dying at high rates since 1984, and the easy care lambs for 10 years. As the decades have passed, the center has bucked another powerful trend: a gathering public concern for the well-being of animals that has penetrated even the meat industry, which is starting to embrace the demand for humanely raised products...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1360

Staying with 1968 here's Hank Williams Jr - It's All Over But The Crying

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Report: EPA Tested Deadly Air Pollutants On Children

A government watchdog group has obtained documents detailing how the EPA exposed children as young as 10 to deadly air pollutants without disclosing the full risks of the substances. Government watchdogs say these EPA-backed studies could violate California state and federal law, because children were exposed to diesel exhaust in experiments with no health benefits to the subjects. Between 2003 and 2010, the EPA backed experiments done at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles that exposed children aged 10 to 15 to diesel exhaust — an air pollutant which the EPA and the California Air Resources Board says has no safe exposure limit. CARB found in 1998 that based “on available scientific information” there is no “level of diesel exhaust exposure below which no carcinogenic effects are anticipated has not been identified.” This statement was made by CARB six years before the EPA-backed studies took place. The EPA lists diesel exhaust as a “likely” carcinogen.“N ot only has EPA been caught violating the letter and spirit of virtually every national and international code, law and regulation for the protection of human subjects in medical experiments developed since World War II,” said David Schnare, an attorney with the Energy and Environmental Law Institute, the group that has released the documents. “They have done so in shocking style, abusing the most vulnerable people of all, children.”..more

The Cow Liberation Moovement, bear tizzies and more

by Jonathan Thompson

Many things define the West: our vast swaths of public land, our fiercely independent spirit and, of course, our cows and the zany — sometimes disturbing — ways we interact with them, whether living or dead. 

Consider this Salt Lake Tribune headline: “Dead cow clogs Utah slot canyon; rancher’s impromptu barbecue makes things worse.” You know you want to know what happened. Well, in early December, the cow in question ambled down Peek-a-Boo canyon in southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, apparently unaware that ungulates of its ilk are forbidden. When the cow’s owner found out, he headed out on his ATV (also forbidden) to retrieve the cow. Slot canyons are skinny; the cow was not, and it became irretrievably jammed. The frustrated rancher then shot and killed the cow. He tried to extract the carcass, first by butchering it, then by burning it. Neither succeeded. As of mid-December, monument staff were still trying to remove the carcass. In the meantime, hikers are forewarned: That thing that smells like a charred, dead cow really is.

And in Pocatello, Idaho, a cow escaped the frying pan in December only to end up in the line of fire. An unhappy heifer bolted from a butcher shop’s chopping block, racing out into the town. Local cops gave chase, and the desperate cow rammed an animal-control truck and two police cars, according to the Idaho State Journal. Police officers, concerned about the safety of residents, shot the cow once, without result, then again, fatally. The former cow was returned to the meat-processing facility from whence it escaped.

Meanwhile, in Salmon, Idaho, cows have been vanishing at an alarming rate. Modern-day rustlers are believed to be trying to cash in on high beef prices. It’s a logical explanation. But then again, with cows elsewhere hiding out in slot canyons and busting out of butcher shops, you gotta wonder. … Is the Cow Liberation Moo-vement to blame?

The fencing of private property: A history and look ahead at the issues at stake

by Luke Clayton

...There is a fence war of sorts going on today and from what I can determine, it’s very much like the fence war on the open plains that took place back in the 1870s and 1880s. Today’s war is a nonviolent one that will be fought in the courts between landowners that construct high fences in order to better manage wildlife and the faction that are opposed to the practice.

First, let’s take a look at the previous fence war that occurred over 130 years ago.  The term “war” very accurately describes this conflict of the early days of Texas.

Cattlemen ranged their herds on the open plains, allowing cattle to mostly fend for themselves on the abundant wild grasses of the prairie. When the country was opened to settlers, both farmers and ranchers, and barbed wire was introduced by Henry Sanborn and Joseph Glidden, conflicts between the free rangers and low-fenced property owners were inevitable.

The first big ranch in Texas to be fenced was the Frying Pan Ranch, up in the Panhandle in the 1880s.  Just over 150 miles of low fence were constructed at a cost of $39,000, which ultimately contained 15,000 head of cattle. The necessary fencing of this big parcel of land obviously obstructed the travels and to a degree, north-to-south migration of the cattle herds during the winter months.

With the Frying Pan as an example, the XIT Ranch, also in the Texas Panhandle, was formed in a trade of sorts from the state of Texas to the capital syndicate of Illinois. When the state capital building burned in 1881, the state joined into an agreement to transfer title to three million acres in the Panhandle (to become the XIT Ranch) to the capital syndicate. The syndicate took on the duty of constructing the new capital building as payment for the land.

After precedence was set by the fencing of these two huge properties, ranchers and farmers with large and small tracts of land followed suit, fencing their properties. Fences were a natural progression to economic growth of the period.

When the once-wide-open plains were owned by private citizens who had different land use desires for their prospective properties, barbed wire fences became commonplace and necessary. If you stop to think about it, fences were as necessary to a newly developing country as were the hedge fences on the old English hunting estates hundreds of years before.

From the late 1800s, let’s fast forward to present-day Texas. About 30 years ago, the practice of construction high (game-proof) fences became popular in Texas.

The reason for building these high fences was to create an environment where the overall quality of the animals could be improved. A landowner with a few hundred acres in Mesquite and Oak brush out in the Hill Country or the same amount of land in the Piney Woods could high fence his property and decide exactly which bucks he wished to harvest each season and assure that he had mature bucks to harvest in upcoming years.

If he so desired, he could remove management bucks, allowing the heavier antlered animals to do the breeding. He could also stock his property with exotics to provide additional hunting opportunities. Keep in mind, these landowners that decided to high fence held deeds to their land and there were obviously no restrictions as to whether the fences they constructed on their properties were 5 feet high or 10.

It seems absurd that the question of “how high can I build my fence” would be questioned by others.  But questioned it was.

Vilsack Directs USDA to Review Land Ownership Trends

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee to put a special focus on land ownership. According to Red River Farm Network, Vilsack said one-third of the farmland in this country is owned by non-operating farm owners. "This has an impact," said Vilsack. "With the aging nature of our farmers, there is potential for more and more land ownership to get into the hands of folks who are not working the land or are not on the land. I want to be sure that the policies that we have in play at USDA continue to encourage those non-operating land owners to understand the long view as well as the short view." In addition to providing access to beginning farmers and ranchers to land, Vilsack hopes these landowners will also invest in conservation. Vilsack said the last time USDA looked at this issue with any great detail was 1937.  AgNet

They should ask Vilsack how much ag production occurs on the 193 million acres he oversees through the Forest Service?

Idaho poll finds 90 percent support for grazing public lands

A new statewide poll found that 90 percent of Idaho residents approve of livestock grazing as a legitimate use of public lands, the same percentage as guided recreation and mountain biking.

The survey conducted by the University of Idaho Social Science Research Unit for the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission found that:
  • 98 percent of those surveyed by telephone approve of hiking and camping on public lands.
  • 71 percent approved of logging on public lands.
  • 65 percent approve of the use of motorized recreation, such as ATVs and motorbikes, on public lands.
The survey completed in December was based on 585 telephone surveys with Idaho residents, says Gretchen Hyde, executive director of the commission, in a media release.  More than half of the survey participants have lived in Idaho for more than 30 years, and participants represent a diverse cross-section of political ideology, she said...more

Western Governors Seek Jewell's Help on Sage Grouse

Governors of western states have asked for clarification from U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on the federal agency's efforts to save the greater sage grouse in the face of congressional action to delay a federal listing decision on the bird. A letter from the Western Governors' Association (WGA) was sent Friday seeking Jewell's thoughts on when a final decision will be made on whether to list the greater sage grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The $1.1 trillion budget bill (HR 83) passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December prohibits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from writing or issuing a rule to list the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered under ESA, and the governors said the Interior Department has interpreted the law to allow all work leading up to a listing decision. They asked Jewell about the current schedule for completing the greater sage grouse listing determination, and what funding was provided in the latest congressional spending authorization for greater sage grouse conservation. "In particular, how will the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] use $15 million appropriated to the agency?" Hickenlooper and Mead asked Jewell. The governors said the western states are currently in "the largest effort ever" to conserve a species and its habitat, and they support a "constructive process" that will result in "a reasonable course of action" by BLM and FWS, along with state and private landowners...more

Haven't seen the letter, but does the WGA consider a deadline set by a judge to be a "constructive process" and a "a reasonable course of action"?  Almost sounds like they're more interested in BLM spending the money than they are in the one year breathing spell.


Army Corps OKs road for Conoco project in Alaska reserve

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last Friday quietly approved an 8-mile access road for a drilling project that would be the first to produce oil from the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The Army Corps' record of decision allows ConocoPhillips Co. to continue pursuing its Greater Mooses Tooth project, known as GMT1, to drill up to 33 development and injection wells at an 11.8-acre drilling pad in the northeastern corner of the 22.5-million-acre NPR-A. The Bureau of Land Management still must give final approval for the project. The Clean Water Act permit "incorporates all practicable avoidance and minimization measures" and allows up to 73 acres of waters and wetlands to be filled, the corps said.
"The authorization includes special conditions to further avoid and minimize potential adverse impacts and to compensate for unavoidable adverse impacts to the aquatic ecosystem," the corps said. The approval follows BLM's decision last October to issue a final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project offering tentative final approval of the project...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1359

We'll meander around 1968 this week.  Here's Jerry Lee Lewis - What's Made Milwaukee Famous

Robert Redford says GOP is 'living in the 1950's' concerning the environment

Robert Redford, a guest on the latest edition of Variety‘s PopPolitics on SiriusXM, says that the Republican drive to pass a bill greenlighting the Keystone pipeline “makes no sense,” attributing the GOP majority’s prioritization of the project to the influence of the oil lobby and too many lawmakers “living in the 1950s.” He also singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Somebody has got to start looking at the bigger picture here and telling what the real truth is, so you don’t have people like Mitch McConnell giving you truth that is falsified,” Redford said in an interview. “He represents the polluters’ interest because he is living in the 1950s. So for me we are missing real leadership. Instead we have a guy who looks like he just slid out from under a rock trying to propose an idea that is simply not that truthful. Somebody has to get to the truth of what this is all about.” Redford, whose environmental activism extends back to the 1950s, has been particularly vocal about the Keystone pipeline, which would ship oil extracted from the tar sands in Canada through the Midwest to the Gulf coast...more

Gohmert to Have Oversight of BLM

U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) was appointed chairman of the House Subcommittee for Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations. This subcommittee has, among other responsibilities, oversight of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Gohmert received the committee chairmanship despite his recent historic challenge to House Speaker John Boehner earlier this month. “It is an absolute privilege to represent the Lone Star State, more specifically east Texas, in the capacity of subcommittee chairman of such a relevant and responsible subcommittee,” Chairman Gohmert told Breitbart Texas. “This administration has hindered the United States’ ability to produce and manage our own vast resources, but I am really looking forward to helping the federal government become more responsible.” “The Natural Resources Committee is blessed to be under the professorial leadership of Rob Bishop (R-UT),” the Chairman continued. “I issued a statement shortly after the November election supporting Rob as chairman because he has extraordinary insights and knowledge about our nation’s resources. He has my complete respect, and I am honored to work with him as his subcommittee chairman during this crucial time in our history. “Other Congress members have mentioned that bureaucrats at the E.P.A., Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and related bureaucracies are not likely going to be excited about having to be accountable and testify before me and my committee,” Gohmert concluded. “Personally, I very much look forward to it myself.”...more

Colorado lynx numbers unknown as feds launch first review

Fifteen years after granting lynx endangered species protection, federal wildlife officials are launching a first review to find out how these elusive, quick-pawed predators are faring. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists say they'll rely on insights from Colorado, where state crews transplanted 218 lynx from Canada into the Rocky Mountains. But Colorado stopped monitoring lynx after 2010 and today cannot say whether they are thriving or on the slide. Colorado Parks and Wildlife "hasn't done any monitoring that would provide information one way or another on how lynx are doing," agency spokesman Joe Lewandow ski said in response to Denver Post queries. "There's no way to make an estimate. Radio collars, which gave biologists a way to monitor individual animals, died long ago." Colorado biologists do believe, however, that the mountains here can sustain a lynx population, he said...more

Mexico suffers gasoline shortages because of pipeline thefts

Mexico’s state-owned oil company acknowledges that pipeline thefts have gotten so bad they’re causing gasoline shortages in some states. The Pemex oil company says thieves repeatedly drilled illegal taps into pipelines carrying gasoline from refineries to distribution centers in north-central Mexico. The company often has to shut down or reduce pressure in pipelines to repair the damage caused by illegal taps. Pemex said it had increased the number of tanker-truck runs to deliver gasoline. But the company said that trucks can’t replace pipelines in the long term, and are much more costly way to distribute gasoline. Thieves drilled around 2,500 illegal taps in the first nine months of 2104, and stole more than $1 billion in fuel.  AP

80% Of Americans Support Mandatory Labels On Foods Containing DNA. DNA!

A recent survey conducted by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics found that 80.44% of respondents supported a government policy mandating labels on foods containing DNA. Not GMOs. DNA, the genetic material contained in every living thing known to science and practically every food, GMO or otherwise. The results smack of satire, but they're real. The Food Demand Survey (FooDs) is an online poll of a representative sample of the U.S. population, conducted every month by Oklahoma State agricultural economist Jayson Lusk and research specialist Susan Murray. The most recent month's survey included a question regarding the institution of government policies concerning food. The results, which you can read in full here, indicate that "a large majority (82%) support mandatory labels on GMOs." What's curious, note Lusk and Murray, is that roughly "the same amount (80%) also support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA."The results indicate that most Americans do not understand the difference between DNA and a genetically modified food...more

Monday, January 19, 2015

Forest Service still investigating illegal pot operations...Guess where

Several months after the eradication of two separate illegal marijuana-growing operations on national forest in the Aspen area, the U.S. Forest Service is still trying to find the responsible parties. No arrests have been made, but the agency said its law enforcement branch continues to investigate a case from September 2014, when a grow operation was discovered in the Fryingpan Valley, and a September 2013 case in the Crystal Valley. The agency cannot comment during active investigations on whether it suspects drug-trafficking organizations to be involved in the pot gardens, said Chris Strebig, a spokesman for the agency’s regional office in Lakewood. A source familiar with the investigations said the Fryingpan Valley grow operation in particular appeared to have ties to drug traffickers. The source wasn’t authorized to speak for the agency. The first discovery was made in a secluded area along Hayes Creek near Redstone. Two archery hunters came across the operation and reported it to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office...more

Pitkin County?  The same Pitkin County whose officials are so concerned these lands might end up under state management?  The same Pitkin County where they want enviros to pay more attention to federal lands transfer advocates?  The same Pitkin County where in one federal wilderness area they found 175 piles of human waste, 244 dogs off leash, 107 illegal campsites, 307 illegal fires in one year? 

Now we find two large marijuana-growing operations on federal land in Pitkin County.  Notice it wasn't the federales who spotted these grows, it was private citizens.

One can only conclude that Pitkin County would rather have illegal drug operations benefiting the drug cartels than have these lands transferred to state management.  Not to worry, Commissioner Richards can have the drug cartels sign her honor code

Ireland’s Dairies Date Back 6,000 Years

Ninety percent of the fats found in Neolithic cooking pots from Ireland came from dairy products, according to a new study conducted at the University of Bristol. “We know from previous research that dairying was an important part of many early farming economies, but what was a big surprise was the prevalence of dairy residues in Irish pots. It looks to have been a very important food source,” said Jessica Smyth of the School of Chemistry. The remaining ten percent of the residues came from beef or mutton fat, or a mixture of milk and meat. “People can obviously cook meat in other ways than boiling it in pots, and there is plenty of evidence for cereal processing at this time, but the Irish dairy signal remains very striking, particularly when you compare it with the continental European data sets. Ireland really does seem to go mad for milk in the Neolithic,” she said...more

U.S. rig count sees biggest drop in six years

More than 40,000 upstream oil and gas jobs in Texas could be lost as energy sector activity here continues to slow, said Karr Ingham, the economist who compiles the monthly Texas Petro Index tracking the industry’s economic indicators. The latest data point that spells trouble for the industry: data released Friday indicating that that the number of rigs operating in the U.S. was down 74 this week, the rig count’s biggest one-week decline in more than six years. “We’re now at the point where there’s likely to be some damage inflicted on the Texas economy,” Ingham said. “I’d sure be fine if I was dead wrong, but a turnaround in drilling activity is not on the horizon at this point. Ingham said the industry suffered 40,000 upstream job losses in Texas when crude oil prices fell as low as $35 per barrel during the 2008-2009 downturn. The last time the rig count fell as dramatically as it did this week was in January 2009, when it fell by 98. This time, Ingham said, the job losses might even be bigger because the drop in oil prices could be more prolonged...more

After nine years in prison, accused eco-terrorist adjusts to sudden release

Eric McDavid was running late for his interview Wednesday, unavoidably delayed when a detective asked to chat with him after he stopped at the Placer County Sheriff’s Office to register as an arsonist. After nine years in federal custody, McDavid, 37, had been out of prison just six days and was still adjusting to life on the outside. Until earlier this month, McDavid was scheduled to remain in prison another eight years – until Feb. 10, 2023 – following his 2007 conviction for conspiring to blow up and burn the Nimbus Dam, a U.S. Forest Service genetics lab and cellphone towers. But in a twist described as unprecedented by the judge overseeing the case, McDavid won his release on Jan. 8 after agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge: a single count of conspiracy to attack a government facility that, had he made the same deal nine years earlier, would have cost him, at most, five years in prison. That guilty plea, which came with a promise by McDavid not to appeal or sue the government, resulted in his immediate release. His previous conviction and sentence were wiped out by an order of the court. The dramatic shift followed a concession by authorities that information the defense had a legal right to acquire before McDavid’s trial was not turned over as it should have been. Instead, thousands of pages were not produced until after his trial, with nearly 2,500 pages handed over in 2010 as his lawyers continued to fight his conviction. It was not until November 2014 that the government produced the letter and series of emails between McDavid and an FBI informant that led to the deal that won him his release...more 

See The Untouchables: America's Misbehaving Prosecutors

A 2006 review in the Yale Law Journal concluded that "[a] prosecutor's violation of the obligation to disclose favorable evidence accounts for more miscarriages of justice than any other type of malpractice, but is rarely sanctioned by courts, and almost never by disciplinary bodies."

State senator leads debate on federal lands in Montana

...Over the past few years, some in the West have begun pushing for state takeover of federal lands, arguing that states can manage their land better than people in Washington, D.C. The idea isn't new. It has its roots in the Sagebrush Rebellion, which rose in the 1970s under the same states-rights philosophy. But now, in the age of the Internet, proponents of the idea are more organized and can spread their ideas to eager listeners who have grown weary of an ineffective Congress. Those ideas prompted Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, to run for office in 2012. Fielder has met regularly with other Western politicians through a Utah-based group called the American Lands Council, which is dedicated to the transfer of federal lands. "Up in northwest Montana, we are surrounded by millions of acres of federally controlled lands that are at catastrophic wildfire condition levels right now. That affects our lives," Fielder told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. "I think we have bipartisan interest in correcting the problems with federal land management — there are just differences of opinion in how we go about it." Fielder and at least two other GOP legislators — fellow Thompson Falls legislator Rep. Bob Brown and Rep. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton — have requested about three dozen bills dealing with federal land management. The bill subjects range from simply continuing to study federal land transfer to calling on Congress to transfer lands to Montana...more

This could have been an interesting and informative article...too bad its so biased against the land transfer concept.

Farmers, ranchers left waiting for ban to drop before they can use unmanned aircraft

While North Dakota faces the full onslaught of winter, farmers’ minds are already on spring planting and perhaps how that and other farm operations could one day be aided with unmanned aircraft technology. Commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems is currently banned by the Federal Aviation Administration, which means farmers and ranchers can’t use the devices just yet. “From the FAA’s point of view, farmers can’t do this over their own land if it’s a commercial farm,” said John Nowatzki, agricultural machine systems specialist at NDSU. That is, unless they like paperwork. Bob Becklund, executive director of North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site, says there are options, but most involve operating an unmanned device for research and not commercial gain. Hobbyists can operate unmanned aircraft for recreational purposes, which Becklund says the FAA defines as something that doesn’t relate to one’s profession, leaving out farmers. For now, most will watch from the sidelines as researchers in North Dakota, such as Nowatzki, begin putting theory into practice and testing out aircraft and agronomy. The research Nowatzki and others conduct at NDSU’s research center just outside of Carrington, N.D., includes the types of everyday tasks farmers and ranchers may use UAS for. “We had a number of objectives, one of which was to compare fixed-wing and rotocopter types of aircraft,” he said...more

Ranchers take on the beef industry over mandatory checkoff payments - video

From their small farms set in the rolling hills of northeast Kansas, two ranchers are raising a few cattle — and a lot of Cain. David Pfrang and Jim Dobbins turned themselves into activists, launched a mirror corporation, got hauled into federal court and had to hire a lawyer. All over $1. That buck, though, divides the beef industry. And it may influence what you decide to have for dinner. The federal “beef checkoff” mandates a rancher or feedlot pay $1 every time a head of cattle is sold. That adds up to about $80 million a year nationwide, money that is supposed to be used to convince us to buy more beef. Nobody in the beef industry argues much about that idea. Checkoff officials say a recent study calculated that every dollar collected by the checkoff delivers $11.20 in return. Among its successes is a series of iconic commercials called “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” But that $1 assessment, critics like Pfrang and Dobbins say, flows to state and national lobbying groups that work against them. Sellers must pay even if they don’t believe they have any say over who gets the money, or why. And they must pay even if they believe the fund advances the interests of multimillionaire ranchers against their own. “We just lost some freedom and we’re not being represented,” Pfrang said. As many as a fourth of the nation’s 730,000 ranchers — mostly small independent farmers — say that the checkoff has become a billion-dollar bonanza for big ranchers, industry executives and giant beef packers. Their complaints have taken on new urgency with efforts to double the checkoff...more

KCPT video:

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1358

Its Swingin' Monday and our selection is Tequila and High Heels by the Toy Hearts.  The tune is on their 2010 CD Femme Fatale.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Unconditional love from our dogs

by Julie Carter

Out here in the country everyone’s got a good horse or snake story. But better than those, they always have great stories about an old dog in their life.

Favorite dogs we remember aren’t limited to rural living but it is often in the rural setting you find canines in greater numbers. Acres of living space allows for an assorted collection of the critters to accumulate before anyone actually takes a count.

At one time, my family had five of those absolutely worthless and some not so bright hounds. They loved, fed and nurtured them all. As well they should.

Bridgett, a Saint Bernard, was quite the “nanny” of the bunch, but did look a little out of place on a desert dry ranch in New Mexico. Her most unpopular day was when she broke through the door into the house to steal the roast off the counter that had been set out to thaw.

Poppy and Puppy were the watch dog/guard dog committee. They would bark you in the door then Puppy would leave to his guard post and Poppy would stand and “smile” at you. She had a muzzle and teeth that looked like she was perpetually smiling.

Tiny was just that on a “compared to” basis. He was some sort of terrier dog with big bug eyes. There was nothing special about Tiny except he was there. He had joined the herd of mutts that had been dropped off or deserted only to find their way to a middle-of-nowhere ranch.

And then there was Rupert. Rupert was a small red long-haired mutt that until his dying day thought it was his job to bark and bite even when he was deaf, blind and had no teeth. He’d lie under the kitchen table and when an unsuspecting guest would move their feet the wrong direction he’d make an attempt to “gum” their foot off.

There were more dogs after that; Jessie, Mike, and Murphy among others. The point is we all have memories of a special dog, be it mutt or purebred. 

We cuss them, love them, and call them names. And we miss them more than we can explain when they are gone and our hearts ache with their loss. They are doormats, babysitters, guardians and companions. Often completely worthless pain in the rear buddies, they mark a place in our hearts that lasts forever. Their unconditional love for us is returned and never forgotten.

We identify a dog with his owner and vice versa. When we lose a loved one, their dog is a cherished link to them in the days ahead. Then when we lose the dog, it’s like losing the person all over again.

Dying of old age is the ultimate we can wish for our pets. Sadly it happens too soon. Rural living brings with it other dangers for them that can shorten their life span including snake bite and predators. It’s hard to tell a dog with a tendency to hunt to not be sniffing around the bushes because he might find a diamond back rattler.

I’ve lost some pretty special dogs over the years and the loss was so painful. And always, I swore I’d not get another one to avoid that grief. Then somewhere along the way a roly-poly blue heeler puppy would catch my eye and I’d cave to the cuteness.

And the cycle would begin again.

Julie can be reached for comment at And no, don’t send me your puppies, blue heeler or otherwise. My son already did that.