Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mexican drug cartels helped orchestrate massive influx of unaccompanied alien children

by Ryan Lovelace

Mexico’s warring drug cartels helped orchestrate the massive influx of unaccompanied alien children that streamed through the Rio Grande Valley last summer, according to a leaked report from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Contrary to the narrative articulated by the Obama administration and promoted by major news organizations, the children did not enter the country entirely “unaccompanied.” How, when, and where the alien children crossed into the United States appears to have been determined by transnational criminal organizations who exercise control over much of the southern border, according to the leaked report first obtained by the Houston Chronicle. 

Intelligence gathered by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows the cartels were making strategic decisions at the border in response to the actions of former Governor Rick Perry. When Perry deployed the National Guard to the border in the middle of the crisis in late-July of 2014, the cartels immediately responded. “As of August 2014, the cartels had told the “river bosses” to stop sending unaccompanied alien children across from Mexico to the U.S. due to the deployment of the military to the U.S. border,” the report says. “Illegal alien family units were still being sent.”

...In response to Perry’s efforts to secure the border, the cartels stepped up their surveillance and scouting activities to uncover vulnerabilities in the system. The report says the cartels began conducting “reverse interviews of law enforcement” to learn the officers’ working schedules and the scope of their operations. Further inland, a “network of spies for the cartels” observed the officers and conducted photographic and video surveillance at hotels where some illegal immigrants were being stashed. The report finds that the cartels used houses, ranches, hotels, apartments, and businesses located inside the U.S. to move illegal immigrants into the country without gaining attention. While the stash houses for humans, drugs, and other contraband were most prevalent near the border, one Houston-area stash house held 115 illegal aliens who were held captive by gang members wielding guns, Tasers, paddles, and other weapons.

...The increasing number of “special interest aliens,” those from countries that are known terrorist hotbeds, poses a “significant threat to homeland security,” according to the report.

“The number of CBP encounters with SIAs in Texas sectors increased 15 percent during the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013,” the report finds. “Over the past few years, these have included SIAs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Turkey.” 

Between November 2013 and July 2014, approximately 143 individuals on terrorist watch-lists successfully crossed the southern border into the U.S. before encountering law enforcement or immigration-enforcement officers.

Watchdog: 'Potential instruments of terrorism' could be slipping into US on rail shipments

Weapons of mass destruction and "potential instruments of terrorism" could be at risk of entering the country through cargo rail shipments, according to a new watchdog report.  The scathing inspector general investigation claims Customs and Border Protection agents working at ports of entry aren't properly screening rail cargo coming in from Mexico and Canada. In turn, CBP cannot say for sure whether they made the right move in releasing various "high-risk" shipments into the U.S.  CBP policy requires port inspectors to use "large-scale non-intrusive inspection equipment" to scan shipments that its automated system flags as high risk. This process is supposed to let inspectors screen cargo for everything from drugs to weapons to other contraband. The policy also requires that ports use radiation detection equipment when inspecting high-risk rail shipments. The audit, however, revealed CBP agents, who operate within the Department of Homeland Security, failed to consistently do both on rail shipments entering the United States from Mexico and Canada. Officers “may have failed to require examinations of rail shipments that were at higher risk to contain contraband, dangerous goods or weapons of mass destruction,” the report concluded. “CBP may also have failed to detect potential instruments of terrorism or dangerous materials from entering the United States.” The IG report based its findings from a sample of 254 high-risk rail shipments from six ports that processed much of the overall fiscal 2012-2013 shipments. The report found that officers used incorrect targeting data criteria on 23 percent of the shipments tested. The report also found officers did not always use the required radiation detection equipment to examine the shipments, missing the mark 72 percent of the time in the IG test...more

We are told not to worry that Senators Udall & Heinrich want to designate as Wilderness a massive area along the border with Mexico where 80 trains per day run along side it (with plans to double that so trains will be running every nine minutes).

Military Commander Fears ISIL Could Enter US Through Mexico

During a Pentagon briefing, General John Kelly, commander of US Southern Command, warned that the roughly 100 Caribbean citizens who went to fight in Syria could reach the United States through their home countries. "A hundred certainly doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s not, but the countries they come from have [a] total inability to deal with it," he said, speaking specifically about Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Surinam, and Venezuela. Kelly argued that since these nations lack the extensive security apparatus necessary to track domestic threats, many radicalized fighters could return to their home countries and then find their way north to the US-Mexico border. Kelly’s principal concern is the trafficking network which already exists along the border as a part of the illegal drug trade. The general says it would be relatively simple for extremists to enter the country through that network. "The network that comes up through the isthmus and Mexico that carries anything and everything on it…the amount of movement is what I think overwhelms our ability – and the sophistication of the network – overwhelms our ability to stop everything," he said...more

Feds allege major immigration fraud in L.A. trade schools

Authorities arrested the operators of four Los Angeles-area trade schools for allegedly running an elaborate “pay-to-stay” scam in which foreign nationals used student visas to stay in the United States without actually going to school. The schools appear to have tapped the booming Asian immigration population in Koreatown and the San Gabriel Valley. Authorities say the suspects took in $6 million a year in tuition payments. Hee Sun Shim, 51, of Beverly Hills; Hyung Chan Moon, 39; and Eun Young Choi, 35, were named in a 21-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury Tuesday. Authorities say Shim operated three schools in Koreatown and a fourth in Alhambra that enrolled hundreds of foreign nationals in their schools so they could remain in the country knowing the students had no plans of attending. The schools identified by investigators were Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute; an Educational Center and the American College of Forensic Studies and Likie Fashion and Technology College in Alhambra. Shim, Moon and Choi were arrested by immigration agents and are expected to be arraigned Thursday. Their charges include conspiring to commit immigration fraud, money laundering and encouraging illegal residence. The arrests were the culmination of a four-year probe by Homeland Security Investigations.  The men’s scam was discovered when agents with Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program made a surprise visit to Prodee University’s main campus on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown. The school had more than 900 students enrolled on its books, but officials say they found only three students in a single English-language class.  A surprise check at American College of Forensic Studies had a similar result, authorities said. Investigators found one student in one religion class though 300 foreign students were considered “active” at the school...more

DACA Recipients Arrested by ICE for Crime Convictions, Breaks Deferred Action Eligibility Rules

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency arrested 15 immigrants who were allowed to stay in the country after qualifying for the DACA program. The program was created by President Barack Obama's executive action in June 2012 and granted eligible undocumented immigrants--under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and having been in the U.S. before June 15, 2007--the ability to apply for protection from deportation on renewable two-year cycles. On Nov. 20, 2014, Obama announced new guidelines for DACA that would eliminate the age cap and make the program available for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2010.  One important guideline since 2012 was for an undocumented immigrant to have a clean criminal history record. The Associated Press reported 14 of the 15 DACA recipients were convicted of a crime, which was confirmed by the DHS on Thursday. For one DACA recipient, the individual's DACA renewal application was granted despite being convicted in a drug case. The alleged crimes of the DACA recipients were not disclosed in the report. The names of the undocumented immigrants were also not revealed. An official did disclose that one DACA recipient was found with an armed gun. Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron did acknowledge some of the arrested undocumented immigrants had received DACA benefits, and three of those individuals have had the privileges revoked. The Associated Press indicated the 15 DACA recipients were arrested with more than 2,000 convicted criminal immigrants during a five-day nationwide operation dubbed as "Cross Check," which occurred between March 1 and March 5. The ICE operation targeted individuals who posed the "greatest risk" toward public safety. Of the 2,059 convicted criminals, more than 1,000 of those people had multiple criminal convictions ranging from voluntary manslaughter, child pornography, robbery, kidnapping and rape...more

7 more Mexican federal police officers detained on extortion allegations in border city

Mexican authorities said they detained seven more federal police officers Thursday in the northern border city of Matamoros in connection with an extortion investigation. A statement from the National Security Commission said the seven were taken into custody at the Matamoros airport. On Saturday, Mexican officials said soldiers and marines had detained 14 other federal police officers in Matamoros for kidnapping a businessman and demanding a $2 million (31 million peso) ransom. One was later released. Thursday's statement did not say if the latest detentions were related to that case. But Federal Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo tweeted later that a total of 20 officers had been detained for the kidnapping. Matamoros lies across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.  AP

Friday, March 13, 2015

Operation Choke Point is government run amuck

by Matt Schuck

Liberal economist and health care advisor Jonathan Gruber was forced to testify before a House committee months ago to explain and apologize for his now infamous comments about the “stupidity of the American voter.”

While Gruber was scolded by members of both parties for callously dismissing the actions of millions of Americans, his comments represent a feeling all too common among the Beltway establishment. They will not admit it, but they really believe that voters are dumb and consumers need government to protect them from themselves.

Liberal economist and health care advisor Jonathan Gruber was forced to testify before a House committee months ago to explain and apologize for his now infamous comments about the “stupidity of the American voter.”

While Gruber was scolded by members of both parties for callously dismissing the actions of millions of Americans, his comments represent a feeling all too common among the Beltway establishment. They will not admit it, but they really believe that voters are dumb and consumers need government to protect them from themselves.

A new program from the Obama Administration operates under the same idea as Gruber, and I bet you haven’t even heard about it…until now.

Operation Choke point is an Obama Administration Justice Department program created in 2013 to intimidate banks into not loaning money to businesses that they simply do not like. This means that gun shop owners, tobacco retailers, and other companies like this are going to be feeling the stranglehold of government.

Already, they have used the program to block credit being issued to small business owners and have put gun dealers out of business. They have targeted companies that sell fireworks. They targeted online gaming companies.  They went after tobacco sellers and dating services. They have even targeted loan companies if they don’t favor the rates and the recipients, such as “payday” loan companies.

A good example of what the DC Deep Thinkers think of us and how long will it be before they target ag "polluters"?

It’s Here: The Roadmap for a Government-Controlled Internet

by Michael Sargent 

A full two weeks after voting to regulate the Internet as a public utility, the Federal Communications Commission has finally revealed the text of its Open Internet Order to the American public. Weighing in at 400 pages, the decision is an immense one—but it’s  clear that the order’s impact on the Internet and the economy will be even heftier.

The Commission’s action replaces 18 years of “light-touch” regulatory policy with clunky, antiquated rules first devised in the 1930s for the Bell telephone monopoly. These common carrier, or “Title II,” regulations the agency has imposed on Internet service providers are about as appropriate in the Internet age as trying to use a rotary phone to watch a movie on Netflix.

The burdensome rules will chill investment in the core of the Internet, leaving everyone with slower speeds and less innovation.  A broad range of innovative and pro-consumer services will potentially be stopped cold by the rules, potentially including such popular offerings as T-Mobile’s “Music Freedom” plan that allows unlimited access to music streaming services, and Sprint prepaid social media access plans.

What exactly will be prohibited to consumers, however, is still unknown, as the rules leave final decisions in the discretion of regulators. Is this really what openness looks like?

Fortunately, the debate over these rules is not over. Congress is gearing up to overturn the new rules, with Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., last week introducing a bill to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s actions. And the rules will no doubt be reviewed by a wary judiciary, which has twice before knocked down similar regulatory power-grabs by the Commission. The text released Thursday is far from the final word.

Daily Signal


U.S. efforts on grouse not enough to avoid ESA listing -- scientists

Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Leading experts on the greater sage grouse warned the Obama administration today that it must take stronger, more scientifically sound steps to protect the imperiled bird and avoid the need to place it on the endangered species list.

The letter from 11 scientists who have studied the sage grouse urged the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to finalize amendments that would add grouse conservation measures to as many as 98 BLM resource management plans (RMPs) and Forest Service land-use plans covering millions of acres of public lands across the sage grouse's 11-state Western range.

But the scientists cautioned that the 14 draft plans unveiled in late 2013, and the one completed RMP amendment finalized last year in Lander, Wyo., don't adopt all the necessary sage grouse conservation measures highlighted by the best available science, particularly as it relates to allowable surface disturbance activity in sage grouse habitat.

"This must be fixed in all final BLM RMPs if there is any reasonable hope to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing," they wrote in the letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The latest letter underscores the urgency to adopt strong conservation measures to protect the greater sage grouse, which Fish and Wildlife officials are evaluating for possible ESA protection.

..."The scientists' letter affirms that draft federal conservation plans are insufficient to conserve sage grouse," said Mark Salvo, director of federal lands conservation for Defenders of Wildlife. "Fortunately, there is still time to improve the final plans to protect and recover the species per the scientists' recommendations."

Salvo's comments are a threat to sue.   Comply with our revisions to the plan or we'll sue and be backed up by the scientific community.  That's what the letter is really about. 

Let's say Interior doesn't list, the enviros sue and the judge rules against Interior.  That will put a politically connected lawyer in a robe and his enviro buddies in charge of 11 million acres.  Isn't it time to revise the ESA?

Judge dismisses Nevada cattlemens’ challenge to wild horse management

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by ranchers who challenged federal land managers over what the cattlemen claimed was an overpopulation of wild horses in Nevada. Judge Miranda Du, sitting in the US District Court in Nevada, today granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties and the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation that sought the removal of thousands of wild horses from the rangeland. The lawsuit asked the court to compel the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to immediately round up and remove thousands of wild horses from Nevada public lands, conduct wild horse and burro roundups every two months in the state, and to auction, sell or otherwise dispose of the 50,000 wild horses and burros currently held in government warehousing facilities. The successful motion to dismiss the case was brought by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) , author Terri Farley and photographer Mark Terrell. Judge Du granted the dismissal “with prejudice,” meaning the court action cannot be amended or refiled. She ordered the clerk to enter judgment in favor of the defendants in the case, which included the BLM and the wild horse advocates who had been granted permission to intervene in the case – the AWHPC, Farley, Terrell, and Wild Horse Education’s founder, Laura Leigh...more

Groups sue feds over drilling in northwest New Mexico

A coalition of environmental groups on Wednesday challenged federal land managers over the approval of dozens of oil and gas drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico. The groups filed their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Interior Department in federal court as a small group of activists rallied outside the State Capitol. The activists said more development and hydraulic fracturing could harm the environment and sites such as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. “The Bureau of Land Management is not taking serious consideration of the sacredness of the greater Chaco region and the impacts on surrounding Dine communities as they continue to approve more drilling and fracking,” said Colleen Cooley with Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment. Dine (dih-NEH’) is the Navajo word for “the people.” The BLM did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The agency is in the process of updating its management plan for the San Juan Basin in the face of an expected shale oil boom, and the groups have been pushing the agency to stop approving new drilling permits until the plan is in place. The agency in January did postpone an oil and gas lease sale for more than 4 square miles in northwestern New Mexico, saying more time was needed to review public comments that raised concerns about environmental justice and other issues. AP

Editorial - Regulators of a Feather

This week, nine years after a federal agent infiltrated a religious ceremony to seize an American Indian tribe’s sacred objects, pastor Robert Soto finally got his feathers back. But the feds are still threatening civil and criminal penalties against Mr. Soto if he shares his feathers with anyone. And the government intends to seize them again upon his death. In the annals of government abuse, the federal “Operation Powwow” is one for the ages.

As long ago as 2005 gumshoes from the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service started sniffing around Mr. Soto’s Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and the McAllen Grace Brethren Church, where he leads the exercise of traditional American Indian worship. In 2006 a special agent made his not-so-daring move.

He attended the ceremony, asking questions about the feathers but identifying himself as a federal investigator only after encouraging a worshipper to share information. The government eventually confiscated dozens of eagle feathers that were being used in the peaceful exercise of religion.

Mr. Soto and his flock consider eagles “a great gift from God our Creator,” he says. And thus he says they would never kill them. But the feathers, most of them from a golden eagle and given to him in 1971, are illegal to possess without a permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

This week, nine years after a federal agent infiltrated a religious ceremony to seize an American Indian tribe’s sacred objects, pastor Robert Soto finally got his feathers back. But the feds are still threatening civil and criminal penalties against Mr. Soto if he shares his feathers with anyone. And the government intends to seize them again upon his death. In the annals of government abuse, the federal “Operation Powwow” is one for the ages.

As long ago as 2005 gumshoes from the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service started sniffing around Mr. Soto’s Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and the McAllen Grace Brethren Church, where he leads the exercise of traditional American Indian worship. In 2006 a special agent made his not-so-daring move.

He attended the ceremony, asking questions about the feathers but identifying himself as a federal investigator only after encouraging a worshipper to share information. The government eventually confiscated dozens of eagle feathers that were being used in the peaceful exercise of religion.
Mr. Soto and his flock consider eagles “a great gift from God our Creator,” he says. And thus he says they would never kill them. But the feathers, most of them from a golden eagle and given to him in 1971, are illegal to possess without a permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Unlicensed possession can result in fines and even jail time. Two of the offending feathers were from a bald eagle. Mr. Soto says they had been given to his brother-in-law by an American Indian soldier who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not that it’s easy to get a feather license, even if one accepts Washington’s authority to regulate such things. Mr. Soto says it can take years. Designated Native Americans receive feathers for religious purposes from the government-run National Eagle Repository. We kid you not.

The problem for Mr. Soto is that he is Native American under federal law but his particular tribe, while recognized by the State of Texas, is not recognized by Washington. Under current federal regulations, it is therefore illegal for Mr. Soto to practice his faith. So with the help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, he filed a civil suit against Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Last year Mr. Soto won his appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Crucial to his victory was last summer’s landmark Hobby Lobby decision affirming religious freedom—another Becket case. So Fish and Wildlife has now returned Mr. Soto’s feathers, but he still can’t give the feathers to other worshippers.

Perhaps regulators will now stake out the Grace Brethren Church. Secretary Jewell, can’t you find something better for these guys to do?


Sec. Jewell Feels the Pressure of Time When Dealing With Native Issues

Sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Interior on April 12, 2013, Sally Jewell leads a governmental agency with more than 70,000 employees while stewarding 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. Recently, after Secretary Jewell signed a $60 million dollar water rights settlement for the Shoshone-Paiute in Washington, D.C. – she took a moment to speak with ICTMN about her role as the DOI Secretary, her thoughts about the Obama administration and the Center for Native American Youth 2015 Champions for Change...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1394

Finishing up our A-10 Week will be Merle Haggard - Old Fashioned Love.  The tune is on his 1970 album A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World.  This week has been a tribute to The Best Damn Western Cartoonist In The World...Etienne Etcheverry.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Editorial - Obama AR-15 Bullet Ban Lifted, Gun Rights Still Target

Fifty-two senators, 238 House members and 80,000 public comments have forced the ATF to pull back for "more study" its proposed ban on ammo for the AR-15, the leading gun for hunting and self-defense.The Second Amendment, written in the era of muskets, does not mention what arms we have the right to keep and bear.

But we have an idea, based on how they were used: to protect their owners' homes, businesses, farms and families, and to resist the tyranny of government, which during the American Revolution was the British crown.

Snarky gun-control zealots say the amendment certainly doesn't mean the right to possess tanks or tactical nukes, so it's merely a question of where we draw the line. They would draw the line at the AR-15 and its counterparts — which are commonly used for legal, defensive purposes.

The AR-15 and its variants have long been a gun-control target based largely on the "scary" appearance of the particular firearm, rather than on any difference in lethality. It, and the 5.56mm M855 "light-green tip" ammo commonly used for target practice, have been said to be a danger to law enforcement, though no evidence to back up that claim has been forthcoming.

Attempts to reinstate the ineffective and expired 1994 Assault Weapons ban, which targeted "scary-looking" guns, failed. So the Obama administration decided to go after the bullets that the AR-15 uses, reclassifying AR-15 ammo as an armor-piercing "NATO round" more fit for combat than self-defense or hunting.

The problem is, police don't agree. They dismiss the 5.56mm M855 as not being a significant threat, with no record of use in violent crime.

"While this round will penetrate soft body armor, it has not historically posed a threat to law enforcement," according to James Pasco, executive director of the Washington office of the 325,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, the world's largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received more than 800,000 comments, some of them ear-piercing, over the proposal. A letter written by Sen. Charles Grassley to the ATF noted that when Congress wrote the 1986 Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, it specifically exempted ammunition that was used primarily for hunting and target practice.

So the proposed ATF ammo ban was quite illegal.

"ATF's proposed restriction of the M855 cartridge is particularly serious in the light of efforts to ban other forms of ammunition," Grassley wrote in the letter signed by a majority of the U.S. Senate.
He added that "efforts to ban lead ammunition are proceeding apace. Second Amendment rights require not only access to firearms but to bullets."

As we've noted, and which Grassley commented on, the Environmental Protection Agency has tried to ban the production of lead ammunition on the grounds that lead from spent ammo finds its way into groundwater and the food chain. It claims that lead ammo can cause elevated lead levels in blood just from handling it.

The Second Amendment not only threatens police but the environment as well, it seems.

Branding Pen of My Father/What Will I Tell Him...

Adrian and Waddie Mitchell from her CD Buckaroogirl

Branding Pen of My Father/What Will I Tell Him...

Adrian and Waddie Mitchell from her CD Buckaroogirl

The Ride of Their Lives

No family dominates a rodeo event the way the Wrights do saddle bronc. But rodeo is a young man's game, which is why the family patriarch works to grow his cattle herd. Rodeo and ranching may be vestiges of the Old West, yet the combination is one family's hope for future generations.

The 1,000-foot cliffs of Zion National Park that border the open range of Smith Mesa glowed orange and red, like hot coals. The sun slinked low on the opposite side of a wide sky. Bill Wright, 60, stopped his pickup on the dirt road, dusty from drought. He walked west, weaving through green junipers, scraggly shrub live oak, flowering barrel cactus and dried cow pies last spring. His pointed boots left a string of meandering arrows in the red sand. The boys were off riding saddle broncs on the professional rodeo circuit’s Texas swing — somewhere between Austin, Nacogdoches and Lubbock, Bill could never keep up. Bill’s wife, Evelyn, was at home, two hours north in Milford, Utah, teaching at the elementary school. Bill was alone, living in a camper, eating from a skillet, surrounded by silence and 20,000 acres of rugged rangeland hiding a few hundred of his cattle. The sand gave way to stair-stepped rocks, like risers on which enormous choirs might perform, until the last one dropped off several hundred feet. The canyon below was a deep and jagged cut in the forever landscape of southern Utah, as if carved by impatient gods with a dull knife. The Wrights have been running cattle in the area for more than 150 years, since great-great grandparents arrived beginning in 1849 during the Mormon migration. “My boys will be the sixth generation,” Bill said. His mouth never opened very far when he spoke. “And Cody’s boys will be the seventh.” Cody Wright is the oldest of seven boys among Bill and Evelyn’s 13 children. The boys, ages 18 to 37 and similarly built — like a litter of puppies, Bill said — are a posse of the world’s best saddle bronc riders. Taut-muscled and not too tall, they are able to muster the guts, strength and balance to ride a bucking horse like few others, as if genetically gifted to do so. A Wright boy has won the saddle-bronc world title every even-numbered year since 2008. Cody won twice, in 2008 and 2010. Jesse, now 25, won in 2012. Jesse’s twin, Jake, was second in 2013. In 2014, those three and a fourth Wright boy, Spencer, 24, qualified for the sport’s most prestigious event, December’s National Finals Rodeo — a record for one family. But rodeo careers can end without warning, as quick as the next try at an eight-second ride. So the boys, most with families to support, increasingly plug their rodeo earnings into Bill’s modest ranching business. While they crisscross tens of thousands of miles to more than 100 events a year across the West, Bill shepherds the growing herd back home in Utah...more

 A great article, well worth your time, and from the NY Times no less.

Mountain bikers left out of Simpson's wilderness

by Rocky Barker 

Rep. Mike Simpson's strategy for passing the Central Idaho Economic Development Act hasn't changed since he started working on the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill 14 years ago.

He tried to give each of the many players as much of what they wanted, without taking away too much of what somebody else wanted.

Preservationists started from the position that they wanted all of the areas identified for wilderness study when the Sawtooth National Recreation Area was established by Congress in 1972.

Opponents, including Custer County and motorized recreation groups, started from the position of opposing any new wilderness. In the early versions, Simpson offered lots of land transfers and goodies like the Challis Civic Center to satisfy the county. Eventually, when he couldn't deliver such goodies, he turned to appropriating money for the county.

Ranchers got permanent buyouts to help them deal with the grazing cutbacks already working their way through the system. Machines are not allowed in wilderness, which means no bicycles, motorcycles, chain saws or generators. Motorized recreation groups - motorcyclists, ATVers, snowmobilers - lost access to just one major trail in the proposed wilderness. But even that was too much for them to bear and they never signed on.

Preservationists had to live with the motorized corridors criss-crossing and subdividing their wilderness area, but they agreed. Mountain bikers wanted the popular Fisher Creek Trail in the White Clouds out of the wilderness and open to biking, and it was.

Motorized recreation's opposition became more important after 2010, when they got Sen. Jim Risch to stop Simpson's bill. The bill is revived now because those groups are satisfied, having that single trail remain open under CIEDRA and a snowmobile area left open to snow play.

In the meantime, mountain bikers cut a deal with preservationists to allow them in the spectacular Ants Basin and Castle Divide trails in the proposal for a Boulder-White Clouds national monument.

Simpson doesn't support the monument, and kept those two trails within his wilderness proposal and off-limits to mountain bikes. He told the mountain bikers this week there are plenty of biking opportunities in the area without the two trails and he's sticking to his guns.

Mountain bikers in general want more access to wilderness, Simpson wrote in a detailed response this week, and want to use his bill as a proxy in the national debate over allowing these human-powered machines in wilderness. He's got enough of a challenge without trying to resolve that larger conflict.

But that leaves mountain bikers today in the same position that motorized users were in previous CIEDRA fights: They either have the political muscle to stop Simpson or not. They are banking on a more flexible presidential monument declaration instead of the rigid wilderness designation.

Read more here:

USDA Reports 19 Wolf Killings in Idaho to Restore Elk Herds

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has announced the killing of 19 wolves last month by USDA Wildlife Services specialists in Idaho’s Lolo Zone, near the Montana border, according to a press release published on Monday. Officials described the wolf killings as part of a multipronged initiative to improve the local elk population, which also includes habitat improvement and generous seasons and bag limits on elk predators. Experts including Jerome Hansen, a regional supervisor at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, say that the area’s increasingly dense forests have reduced the local elk population, which hovered around 16,000 animals in 1989, to 1,000 in recent years. Hunting has been extremely restricted in the Lolo Zone since 1998 and is not considered a primary cause of the elks’ decline. Officials say that wolves are the most prominent factor in preventing the population from rebounding. “We have to manage wolves aggressively in order to get elk turned around,” Hansen told the Lewiston Tribune. As Outside wrote in January, the resurgence of gray wolves in the American West has been a considerable source of resentment and ire, particularly since they were removed from protections under the Endangered Species Act. While ranchers and livestock owners decry restrictions on wolf killing as an infringement on their right to defend themselves and their animals, conservationists say that state agencies have far too much latitude in pursuing a wolf management plan. (State and federal agents have killed 48 wolves in the Lolo Zone in the past five years; the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Lolo Predation Management Plan calls for reducing wolf numbers by 70 to 80 percent.)...more

Cattlemen plot strategy to fight Calif. grazing regulations

A cattle group is gearing up to fight a California water board’s plan to regulate livestock grazing near rivers and streams. The California Cattlemen’s Association plans to meet with the State Water Resources Control Board and with other farm groups in the coming weeks and will conduct ranch tours to educate water board members in early April, according to a CCA newsletter. The state’s largest ranchers’ organization will join other groups such as the California Farm Bureau Federation in an attempt to fight the grazing regulations, which the state could propose later this year. “We’re very much opposed to this grazing regulatory project,” said Kirk Wilbur, the CCA’s director of government relations. “We’re not trying to mold it in any way. Our goal is to put an end to it.” The state water board asserts its proposed Grazing Regulatory Action Project would enhance the environmental benefits from grazing while addressing its impacts on water quality. Such impacts could include sediment loading and the introduction of bacteria and nutrients to streams and wetlands as well as trampling of stream banks and vegetation that’s important for maintaining water temperature, state officials have said...more

New Mexico agriculture production report 2014

On March 6 the United States Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) released their preliminary report—New Mexico Agriculture Overview for 2014—indicating that in spite of an ongoing drought, farming and ranching remains a strong and driving economic force for the state.

Livestock inventories (as of Jan. 1, 2015) indicated modest growth in most sectors, especially in production of milk and milk products. New Mexico remains the 9th leading state for dairy production in the nation featuring about 323,000 milk cows.

Overall, New Mexico showed positive results for milk production in 2014 with just over 8.1 million pounds of fresh milk. Milk production per head of dairy cattle also ranked high with 25,093 pounds of milk per cow compared to the previous year's (2013) 24,944 pounds of milk per cow. Total value of milk production in New Mexico climbed to an estimated $1,515,231,000.00, slightly more than in 2013.

Beef cow numbers for 2014, including calves, were up slightly as well, indicating slow herd growth. As of Jan. 1, 2015, there were 1,340,000 non-dairy cattle across the state. At the beginning the year, the state had an estimated 90,000 sheep including lambs and 11,000 goats but only 1,300 domestic hogs in New Mexico in 2014.

Supporting the state's progressive dairy and beef herds was a robust production of hay forage, primarily high-value alfalfa grown in the southeastern corner of the state. Thanks to beneficial rains and an extended growing season, 2014 was another good year for alfalfa producers. Those same rains provided healthy grass and multiple cuttings last year, keeping the high demand alfalfa of New Mexico popular among local and out-of-state buyers.

While New Mexico's love affair with their famous green and red chile remains as strong as ever and demand runs high for authentic New Mexico chile within the state, chile acres harvested in 2014 were even less than the reduced number of acres harvested in 2013.

In 2014, USDA-NASS reports 8,100 acres were planted and only 7,700 harvested. That represents a substantial drop from the 8,600 acres harvested in 2013 and 9,600 acres harvested in 2012. Final production numbers for 2014 total 58,700 tons compared to 65,000 tons the previous year. The value of New Mexico chile was estimated at $38.7 million, compared to $49.5 million the year before.

USDA Makes Surprise Cuts to Corn, Wheat Stockpiles Outlook

The U.S. government made surprise cuts to its outlook for global corn and wheat stockpiles amid signs of improving grain demand. The forecast for world corn stockpiles was smaller than the lowest prediction in a Bloomberg survey of 16 analysts, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed March 10. The agency also reduced its estimate of domestic reserves for both grains. Corn and wheat futures climbed on Wednesday. Smaller grain inventories can help to revive crop prices after surging world harvests drove the Bloomberg Agriculture Index down 27 percent in the past year. Improving demand for U.S. corn exports will erode American stockpiles, while global use of the grain in livestock feed will climb, the USDA said. “The overall conclusion is corn demand has been better than expected,” Bryce Knorr, a Chicago-based senior grain-market analyst at Farm Futures, said in a telephone interview. “Prices are cheap, and we have a growing livestock herd. The pace of exports is quite good, even if sales are a little slow.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day No. 1393

Still Swingin' in honor of A-10 with John England & The Western Swingers - Mississippi Gal.  The tune is on their 2004 CD Thanks A Lot

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Land commissioner hears concerns about SunZia

Joe Bill Nunn

Hoping to gain a better understanding of the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line, New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn met with Luna County residents Tuesday evening to get public input. "A lot of people have been dealing with this since '06, we have been in office since January first," Dunn said. "We have only been able to asses the project for about 70 days. When we put a stop to it, we were only in office 24 days." Dunn delayed the project moving forward by issuing a 60-day right-of-entry suspension to SunZia shortly after the transmission line project gained approval from the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and the Bureau of Land Management. Dunn said he wanted to have the meetings in Deming on Tuesday and in Socorro tonight to get public opinions and comments on the proposed transmission line.  Residents from Luna, Grant and Hidalgo counties, and from as far as Arizona, attended the standing-room-only meeting Tuesday at the Luna County Courthouse Third Floor Commissioners Chambers.  Residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinions in a question-and-answer forum. Luna County resident Joe Bill Nunn addressed Dunn directly, saying the transmission line was nothing but an investment scheme using Luna County and southwestern New Mexico. Nunn urged the land commissioner to use his "conscious and head" to make the right decision for residents. Residents like Mike Wear, a transplant from Arizona, who said he lives adjacent to the Nutt Grasslands, voiced his concerns on the affect about the impact on the environment but also applauded Dunn for "showing up" and attempting to show a "transparent government"...more

Fire emphasized in sage grouse habitat strategy

A new wildfire strategy designed to protect sagebrush terrain vital to a chicken-sized bird now under consideration for endangered species protection was announced by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Tuesday, with Nevada officials praising proposals that they've been pushing for years. The plan is detailed in the first of two reports called for in a secretarial order issued by Jewell in January and outlines actions and activities designed to reduce the size and severity of rangeland fires as the summer 2015 fire season quickly approaches. In Nevada, wildfire and the related invasion of cheatgrass and other non-native vegetation is described as the foremost danger facing populations of the greater sage grouse, a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The plan calls for a firefighting strategy making protection of prime sage grouse habitat a top priority. To do so it will, among other things, rely to a greater degree on the expertise of veteran fire crews, rural fire departments and fire protection associations made up of ranchers who can respond to a fire quickly. It also calls for accelerating restoration of burned sagebrush terrain by developing a "reliable supply of genetically appropriate and locally adapted seed" and use of seeding technology and equipment "for successful and expanded effective restoration of the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem."...more

It appears the Secretary is taking the appropriate steps to keep the bird off the list, and to withstand a court challenge.

Desert plan shifts focus to public land

A ballyhooed energy development and land conservation plan for California’s deserts will now focus just on public lands managed by the federal government, at least for the time being, state and federal officials announced Tuesday, March 10. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan has been hailed by the Obama administration as an all-encompassing plan for the desert regions of seven counties, including Riverside and San Bernardino. In the works since 2009, its goal was to get federal, state and local officials to agree on the best places to locate huge solar, wind and geothermal projects while also preserving the desert’s most important wildlife habitat, and archeological and recreational areas. When the 8,000-page draft was released last fall, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell appeared in Palm Springs to promote it. The draft called for directing alternative energy development to 2 million acres of mostly privately owned land that is expected to have little value as endangered-species habitat. But after receiving 12,000 public comments on the plan, federal Bureau of Land Management and California Energy officials, in a conference call with reporters, appeared to reel back expectations, if not the plan itself. With no certain time frame, the plan now is being broken into phases, the first of which will pertain only to public lands managed by the BLM, said Jim Kenna, the agency’s California director. Planning for privately owned land will be delayed to give local officials in the seven counties more time to complete their own planning initiatives, he said...more

The Gray Wolf Rollercoaster

By John Collins

In 2012, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed the gray wolf from its list of endangered and threatened species. With the protections granted under the Endangered Species Act lifted, managing the wolf’s recovery became a matter for the states. That’s not to say that states with wolf populations weren’t engaged in management prior to 2012, they certainly were, but state DNRs lacked the authority to implement kill-policies without federal oversight. The Secretary of the Interior first announced that the gray wolf was out of danger in 2009, but legal battles on multiple fronts challenged and delayed that ruling. The controversy surrounding the decision was much like every aspect of wolf policy implemented before and after: difficult to overstate.

Last November, when I started working on Do We Need Wolves? I was planning to write a story about the different ways Great Lakes states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michican) with gray wolf breeding populations went about wolf management—counting packs, addressing livestock confrontations, and regulating the recently reinstated hunting and trapping seasons.

I knew very little about wolves except that I’d been living in rural Wisconsin for almost 4 years and had never seen one. What quickly became apparent was that, whether I’d seen one or not, the wolf wasn’t just a four-legged carnivore making a comeback in the lower 48—it was a code word for an emotional and political human debate. With no shortage of passion on all sides, the wolf seemed to target the raw nerve exposed whenever science and sentiment collide—a nerve the other 1,361 endangered plants and animals in the United States had apparently failed to agitate anywhere near as successfully. To figure out why, I started asking the question: Why is the wolf so controversial?

Regardless of who I talked to—wildlife biologist, rancher, trapper, wolf advocate—their answer started with a failed attempt to stifle some form of laughter, followed by a variation of the question: "How much time do you have?"

John Collins is the editor of Rural America In These Times.

Memorial to denounce wolf recovery plan heads to House floor

A House memorial that would seek to put Mexican Wolf populations under the control of the state instead of the federal government is headed to the House floor. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee voted in favor of HM 117 by a vote of 7 to 2. The memorial, sponsored by Rep. Andy Núñez, R-Hatch, calls on Governor Susana Martinez to denounce the federal Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan and for the state to take over the wolf recovery programs. An example of how polarized the topic is materialized during the committee meeting when the bill’s sponsor made his feelings known about wolves. Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, asked Núñez if he wanted to see the Mexican Wolf population completely eliminated. Núñez answered with a quick “yes.” McCamley went on to ask Nunez if he wanted all of “God’s creatures” to be eliminated. Besides McCamley, the only other dissenting vote for the memorial came from Rep. Bealquin “Bill” Gomez, D-La Mesa. He told the committee that he knows that wolves pose a problem to livestock, but that he was worried about the possibility of wiping out the entire Mexican Wolf population. The memorial will now head to the House floor for debate. “Not all of them, just the wolves,” Núñez answered...more

Silver City women's group to protest wolf documentary

A local women's group plans to protest the showing of a documentary in Silver City today. The Great Old Broads For Wilderness intend to protest the Silver City/Grant County TEA Party Patriots' showing of a 30-minute documentary, "Wolves in Government Clothing."  Laura Schneberger, president of The Gila Livestock Growers Association, will be the guest speaker for the event, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Silver City Woman's Club.  "We plan on being there at 5:30 to protest and make some noise," Stephanie Smith said.  Scheneberger will be showing and commenting on the documentary.  The documentary film is directed by David Spady and is about predators in the wild, and in government, and how the Endangered Species Act has empowered both of them to destroy people's lives, according to the website,'...more

Baxter Black to perform last show on April 4 in Sun Valley

World-famous cowboy poet and comedian Baxter Black will perform in Sun Valley on Saturday, April 4, before taking a prolonged hiatus from show business. Black has sold more than 1 million books and audio tapes. He may also be the only entertainer in the country to have appeared on the “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, National Public Radio and the U.S. Farm Report. His performance is a benefit for the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. The Trailing of the Sheep Cultural Heritage Center is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit with a mission to gather, present and preserve the history and culture of the families and individual men and women involved in Idaho sheep ranching and to honor their contributions to the development of Idaho and the West. Each October, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival celebrates these cultures in the Wood River Valley. Baxter Black’s website reports that he will hang up his hat from his hectic schedule of performances, yet his columns, radio and television programs and other sponsor commitments will continue uninterrupted. “Health is good, just takin’ a break!” he said...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1392

Its A-10 Week and here's Shoot Low Sheriff performing Big Texas.  The tune is on their 2012 CD The Mockingbird Sessions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Forest Service law enforcement takes budget hit

Budget cutbacks at the U.S. Forest Service have taken a big slice out of its law enforcement capabilities. Region 1 forests, headquartered in Missoula, have at least 15 law enforcement vacancies, according to spokesman David Smith. They range from administrative support to special agent in charge – the supervising officer for all of Montana, northern Idaho and parts of South Dakota. Forest Service national spokesman Larry Chambers said the agency has been dealing with consistent cuts as wildland firefighting costs have climbed. Said Chambers: “Over the last decade alone, the agency has been forced to reduce full-time employees in non-fire programs by about 35 percent, as wildfire suppression has grown to more than 50 percent of the agency’s budget. As of today, the agency has 712 full-time law enforcement employees. That number will continue to decrease, through retirements, as the fiscal year 2016 budget stays even with the previous year. This reflects the changes the agency has had to make across all non-fire programs to fund wildfire suppression.”...more

Poor management by the Forest Service results in more, larger and hotter fires, which results in more spending for wild fires and less funds for non-fire programs.  One causes the other.  The poor management is not all the Forest Service's fault.  Congress passes the laws, enviros file the lawsuits and judges (appointed by the President and approved by the Senate) issue the decisions.  The whole thing is a mess and instead of fixing the real problems they want to change how fire fighting is funded.

The Forest Service 2016 Budget Justification shows the agency dropping from 813 full-time equivalent officers in 2015 to 680 in 2016. Jeff Ruch of the federal watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said the decline has been particularly steep in the past two years. And it's taking place when the demand for law enforcement services appears to be increasing. “One thing we’re trying to get out of the agency under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) is just how busy they are,” Ruch said. “We’re trying to find the numbers for visitation and overnight campers and things like that. The national parks had the highest visitation ever last year, but the Forest Service doesn’t keep the same kind of records or doesn’t display them.”  The 2016 budget report states Forest Service law enforcement will prioritize “responses to emergency and life-threatening situations” with an emphasis on drug trafficking, “particularly in California and along the Southwest and Northern borders.”

Why along the Southwest border?  Its all being put into Wilderness, Wildlife Refuges or National Monuments where they can't go at all or have limited access.  Why would the Forest Service place a priority on policing the border with Mexico when the administration claims its safer than ever?

The National Federation of Federal Employees Local 5300 represents Forest Service law enforcement officers. Its president, Matthew Valenta of Colville, Washington, said the falling numbers are making it tough to get the job done. Forest Service law enforcement officers are empowered to handle all federal, state and local crimes on federal lands.  “We’re basically the police in the woods,” Valenta said. “Our primary focus is resource protection, but we also do vehicle stops, DUIs, timber theft, recreation vehicle enforcement, and crimes against persons. It’s the same as any other officer would do in a county or city.” In a February letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he observed that “the budget and staffing cuts have greatly diminished the ability of the agency to respond to crimes and the ability to conduct complex criminal and civil investigations ranging from minor infractions to serious felonies such as homicide, rape, assaults, ...domestic disputes, robbery,...gang activity.”

Exactly.  Their spokesman says their top priority is "resource protection" yet they are involved in all kinds of non-resource infractions both on and off federal property.  Those activities should be handled by local law enforcement as authorized and encouraged by FLPMA.

Instead they've built a bureaucracy with their own chain of command at USDA.  And of course the copycats at Interior are doing the same.

Legislative resolution: Drilling & Grazing are ‘best use’ for Cedar Mesa and San Rafael Swell

State lawmakers are declaring grazing and mineral extraction the "highest and best use" for Cedar Mesa and the San Rafael Swell. A resolution sailing through the Legislature, SCR4, is aimed at curbing what lawmakers say are abuses of the Antiquities Act by Democratic presidents — a sort of warning shot meant to discourage President Barack Obama from designating another monument in the state. But the bill's language is prompting conservationists to wonder why lawmakers would prefer mining and drilling such cherished landscapes — both candidates for national monument status — over preserving their archaeological sites and geologic wonders for future generations. Utah conservatives contend national monuments have become trophies handed down to curry support for liberal politicians without regard to what Congress had in mind when it passed the Antiquities Act more than a century ago. "There is not a lot a state can do when a president wants to make hay with special interest groups, gobbling up a lot of our public lands and moving it away from multiple use," sponsoring Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, told the House Natural Resources committee on Friday. "Past being prologue, you know it's coming again with this president."...more

I hope you folks in Utah appreciate what a supportive legislature you have.  You need to thank'em and thank'em and thank'em

Louisiana congressional delegation fights Obama administration proposal to strip off-shore revenue sharing

The Louisiana congressional delegation is continuing efforts to block a budget proposal by the Obama administration to reverse 2006 energy legislation providing revenue sharing to Louisiana and three other Gulf states for off-shore oil and gas production. The revenue sharing is slated to begin in 2017, and provide up to $500 million a year to the four states. It was former Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's signature legislative achievement in her three terms in office. The revenue sharing would amount to 37.5 percent of royalty payments to the four states, or up to $500 million a year. It is supposed to begin in 2017 under the bill pushed through by Landrieu and former Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1391

We'll dedicate the whole week to A-10, the Crayola Cowboy.  This is Asleep At The Wheel performing Am I Right (Or Amarillo). The tune is on their 2007 CD Reinventing The Wheel.  It will be a Swingin' Week, cuz that's what A-10 likes.  I am confused though. In his comments on Monday's song, Etienne mentions the Desert Sun, El Corral and Graham's...all of those are places I've never heard of.  I just knew my dorm room, the class room and the NMSU library.  Maybe he can clue me in...Mad Dog, aka The Westerner

Please help! ASAP

I'm being stalked by Salma Hayek.  This is just terrible. Any ideas on how I can defend myself?

Who will control Utah's public lands?

The Utah House GOP caucus met Thursday to hear the latest details on the political fight to gain control of certain federal public lands, with leaders in the battle stressing they are not solitary soldiers on the field. Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, and the legislative sponsor of the 2012 Transfer of Public Lands Act, said there are 37 measures pending in other states across the country, with states including Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia exploring the effort.  "So we are not alone by any means," Ivory said. "It is just a matter of us continuing to put the pressure on from the ground up. … The nation looks to this House and this body and this state to lead on this issue." Utah has 14 different public lands legislative proposals, including HB323, which requires counties to develop their own resource management plans, and SB48, ordering an examination of potential revenues should certain lands come under state control. Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, and a chairman of the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands, urged his GOP House colleagues to become informed and engaged on the public lands debate. "We need to have a national dialogue on this," Stratton said, "and it has to start with us teaching true principles. If you have critics on this, invite them to come to the table."  Some lawmakers said they had been confronted by constituents over the intent behind the public lands fight and the worry that lands would be sold off or access would decrease. Stratton and others say it would make little sense to "sell off" those lands when 95 percent of the proceeds would go to the federal government.  "If you had to give 95 percent of the sales of your house, would you do it? So there is really not a lot of motivation to sell it," Stratton said.  Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, waded into a crowd of rallying protesters Monday afternoon at the state Capitol in an event organized by foes of the movement.  Noel said he told protesters that they need to stop talking past each other and begin talking to each other about critical public lands issues...more

A 1986 Double Murder Cold Case in the Mojave Desert Is Finally Unraveling

On the afternoon before they disappeared in 1986, Barry and Louise Berman followed a bone-jarring road deep into the California desert. They were bound for the hot springs in Saline Valley, 50 miles from the nearest pavement and long a popular Mojave Desert draw for nudists and eccentrics. Desert campers who hung out with the couple the day they vanished had no clue that Barry was heir apparent to a vast fortune. liquor importer Jules Berman, became known as “Mr. Kahlua” after turning the Mexican coffee-flavored drink into America’s top-selling liqueur. In 1960, when Barry was 10, his father segued into real estate by buying private Lake Arrowhead, a vast mountain hideaway for Southern California gentry such as the O'Malleys and Dohenys. The elder Berman owned a Beverly Hills estate north of Sunset Boulevard, sailed a yacht christened Kahlua and drove a Rolls-Royce. His friend Pat Brown, governor of California, appointed him to the state athletic commission. But Barry was "repulsed by his dad's money and wanted to go the other way," recalls Brent Lieberman, a teenage buddy, now a surf photographer in Santa Barbara. Nearly three years after Barry and Louise Berman vanished, setting off one of the most elaborate searches of its era, the couple's bleached bones and bits of clothing were discovered after a desert hiker spotted a skull, uncovered by heavy rains. Police found the murdered couple's grave nearby — they were buried atop one another.

President Obama Spreads Climate Witch Hunt to Elected Officials

by Ron Arnold

Hot on the heels of the assault by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva against climate change skeptic scientists by demanding their academic institutions reveal who is funding their work, President Barack Obama has mounted a companion attack campaign against climate skeptics in Congress.

Obama ordered his “independent,” IRS registered, 501(c)(4) community organizing project, Organizing for Action, to “put together a site highlighting deniers across the country, and the impact of climate change on your state,” as indicated in a personal email from the president.

His Organizing for Action website shows a grid with pictures of 161 Republican senators and representatives, each labeled “DENIER,” above a “call them out” button that leads to a “bill of indictment”-style page. There we find stories of climate disasters envisioned in the accused’s states (with the utter certainty that bad weather – but not good – is proven to be manmade) with links to send a pious message by Twitter, Facebook or email.

The president’s pitch line said, “This shouldn’t be a controversial opinion. We need to listen to our friends at NASA and the 97 percent of climate scientists who agree that climate change is real, man-made, and happening right now.”

“We need to listen to our friends…” That’s a call for belief, conformity and zeal. It’s clearly a political policy pitch, not “social welfare” as IRS rules require for 501(c)(4) groups.

As the New York Times said, applicants for 501(c)(4) status need to be “asked by the Internal Revenue Service to prove they are ‘social welfare’ organizations and not the political activists they so obviously are.” The NYT was talking about Tea Party groups, but did say the rules “should be applied across the board,” including pro-Obama groups. An activist president telling us we need to listen to those who toe the Democratic Party line isn’t social welfare.

It gets worse. Obama’s email kicker line was, “OFA’s mission is holding climate change deniers’ feet to the fire,” perhaps evocative of burning at the stake. That’s not social welfare, it’s zeal raised to fanaticism, and that’s social warfare. We can fervently hope that “believe or die” will not follow from such provocation.

The Orwellian implications are chilling, but all-out social war to eradicate policy opposition is to be expected of Obama in the run-up to his big December legacy fest in Paris, France, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Nothing should come as a surprise from Obama’s social war machine for the months before Paris.

Judge Rules for Hunters in Fight Over Captive Herds

A federal judge has ruled for hunting interests in the latest skirmish of the longstanding battle regarding captive herds of three species of endangered antelope. On March 4,U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of the District of Columbia Federal Court ruled against plaintiff animal advocacy group Friends of Animals (FOA), and for defendant Sally Jewell, as Director of the Department of Interior, and defendant-intervenor Safari Club International. The struggle over the fate of the captive antelope herds has raged for more than two decades. In 1991, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list North Africa's scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, and the addax, as endangered species due to drastic population declines that have left all three species at the brink of extinction in the wild. That attempt stalled due to budget constraints until 2005, when the listing proposal was coupled with a proposal to exclude ranched hunt-club herds in the United States on the presumption that the animals depended on captive-breeding for their conservation. Conservation groups sued to have the exclusion for the hunt clubs repealed on the basis that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires a case-by-case permitting process rather than a blanket exemption, and finally prevailed in 2009. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the exclusion in 2012. With a "$1.3 billion industry" at stake, Safari Club International then sued to block the listing status, but Judge Howell denied them an injunction in April 2012 holding that they could still operate through the case-by-case permit requirement. SCI was joined by the Exotic Wildlife Association of Texas in a suit to invalidate and set aside the rule that removed the exemption. In response to petitions from the hunt clubs, the Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the species' status, but declined to delist the captive populations in June 2013. The agency determined that captive animals should have the same restrictions as wild animals under the similarity-of-appearance provisions of the ESA. In August 2013, Judge Howell ruled for the federal agency on the basis that the USFWS' "default" approach has been to list captive and wild members of a species together. Then, in a stunning reversal, the fate of the captive animals changed again due to the Consolidated Appropriation Act (CAA) in early 2014, which was enacted to prevent another government shutdown. The act carried a rider inserted by a Texas congressman that directed the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the hunt club exemption. The FOA filed suit in March 2014, challenging the exemption once again on the basis that it violates the ESA. The current ruling addresses this suit, but the ruling itself hinges on the court's determination of the standing of the plaintiff, rather than on the merits of the exemption or the most effective method to conserve the animals...more

EPA Scrambles To Finish ‘Global Warming’ Regulations Before Obama Leaves Office

EPA Chief Administrator Gina McCarthy claims she is “busier than [she's] ever been” as the agency rushes to finish major carbon dioxide regulations on power plants before President Obama leaves office. “One of the main focuses of the White House right now is to make sure that the administration is coordinated, so that the entire breadth of the climate action plan can be basically realized before the president leaves office,” McCarthy told the Hill in an interview published Thursday. With only 22 months left in Obama’s second term and the departure of climate adviser John Podesta, McCarthy has been meeting with the president more than ever in a rush to finalize the administration’s legacy: the first-ever carbon dioxide regulations on power plants. As part of Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” the EPA proposed two new regulations capping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The first, proposed in fall 2013, is a de facto mandate that new coal-fired power plants install carbon capture technology to meet new emissions standards. The second regulation, and most contentious, was announced summer 2014. The rule, also called the “Clean Power Plan” of 111-D, forces states to cut carbon emissions from power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030...more

Monday, March 09, 2015

An update on Nevada scofflaw Cliven Bundy

by Tay Wiles

...By all accounts, Bundy still has not been charged for the trespassing cattle or the unpaid fines. Bundy told me in an email that his cattle have “all returned back to their normal grazing habitat”—i.e., where the BLM restricts grazing in part because it’s sensitive desert tortoise habitat. The BLM would not confirm or deny that, nor would the agency comment on whether security has been increased or procedures have changed in Nevada, or agency-wide as a result of the standoff, except to say that they “implement routine security measures at many public meetings.”

Environmental groups are urging the feds not to let Bundy off the hook. On Feb. 26, the Center for Biological Diversity wrote a public letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder imploring them to act on the Bundy case and report progress toward resolving it. In a budget hearing last week, Jewell said that “any kind of investigation of federal crimes that have been committed” are in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. (The FBI reportedly opened an investigation last year over possible threats to law enforcement officers and illegal weapons, but the agency declined to comment for this story.) The whistleblower nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), says that the DOJ is likely sitting on the case. But Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in Nevada, said that she cannot confirm or deny whether the Department of Justice has an open case on Bundy, and the BLM has remained mum as well.

Montana - Committee hears bill on state control of federal land

A state House committee has heard testimony for and against a bill that would create a task force to study the feasibility of the state assuming ownership or management of federal land now run by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Proponents cited loss of access to forests, the increasing threat of wildfires, and pests such as mountain pine beetle and other problems under federal management as reasons for supporting the study of state management. Opponents said the idea of turning over control to the state doesn't have merit and a study is a waste of time. They acknowledged that problems do exist on federal land but added that there are collaborative ways to address them. Rep. Kerry White, R-Bozeman, brought House Bill 496 before the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday, saying the task force would help answer questions about land management in Montana. "I think that's what this study is trying to get is the answers on how we as the people of this state can make a difference," White said. "Can we do a better job of managing our watershed and our clean air and clean water and an environment for wildlife habitat? The state does one heck of a good job managing our land." White said the task force would study ways Montana could make a difference in getting projects such as fuels reduction accomplished. The study will look at the possibility of pilot projects in the state where the state can take over the lead in getting these projects completed, he said. The task force would conduct an economic analysis under the assumption that federal public land would remain in public ownership but under state control. Designated wilderness areas would not be part of the study. The analysis would include measures that could improve the cost-effectiveness of land management if federal lands are transferred to state control...more

Lawsuit pits Fort Hood cattle ranchers against each other

An attempt to round up cattle at Fort Hood unleashed a legal dispute among the cattle ranchers whose families originally inhabited the area. Five members of the Central Texas Cattlemen’s Association filed a lawsuit Feb. 5 in Coryell County District Court against the group, claiming their rights to keep cattle at Fort Hood were wrongfully terminated. The men are seeking up to $200,000 and want their shares returned. While the lawsuit involves a temporary cattle pen built in December and removed three days later, the history of the people and families involved stems from the creation of Fort Hood in 1942...The history of these families began in 1942 when the U.S. War Department announced the acquisition of about 108,000 acres in rural Bell and Coryell counties to build what was then known as Camp Hood, and later Fort Hood. Ranchers and families displaced by the Army post were granted permission to continue to graze their cattle on the land for a nominal grazing fee. A decade later, the displaced ranchers and other local ranchers formed the association, a nonprofit corporation, in an effort to organize the grazing ranchers, to better manage authorized grazing and to deter unauthorized grazing on the military installation. Since June 2009, membership is for “those persons, and their heirs, who were displaced or otherwise adversely affected, by the taking of land to form Fort Hood Military Reservation.” Members were issued shares by the association, each of which entitled them to graze a certain number of cattle on Fort Hood, which now is more than 200,000 acres. The association pursued and eventually entered into a lease agreement with the Army for the grazing of cattle that is renewed every five years. The current lease will expire within the next few months, according to the lawsuit. A renewal is in the process of approval with the Army. There are 1,240 authorized shares issued to about 80 members, the lawsuit stated. Each share allows for 1.6 animals to graze on post...more