Saturday, March 28, 2015

School District Losing Thousands in School Lunch Sales

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. -- Thousands of students have now stopped buying lunch each week in Buncombe County cafeterias. The district says it all started when schools were forced to implement the USDA's Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. It was part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative to get kids to eat healthier. All of a sudden, kids are pitching pounds of food in the garbage. The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act slapped strict salt regulations on schools saying nothing but whole grains, and now fruit and veggies must be on the tray. It they're not on there, the cashier must put them there for students. Hundreds of kids have now dropped out of the lunch program. Over the last two years, Buncombe County says they've lost about $1.2 million in sales. It's downsized its staff, equipment is getting old and the current menu has less options...more

Jobs gone, loss of income, fewer options...just another Obama this case the War on Meat.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Special forces set to swarm Southwest and operate undetected among civilians in massive military exercise

Seven Southwestern states will soon be infiltrated by 1,200 military special ops personnel as part of a controversial domestic military training in which some of the elite soldiers will operate undetected among civilians. Operation Jade Helm begins in July and will last for eight weeks. Soldiers will operate in and around towns in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado where some of them wil drop from planes while carrying weapons loaded with blanks in what military officials have dubbed Realistic Military Training. But with residents of the entire states of Texas and Utah dubbed 'hostile' for the purposes of the exercises, Jade Helm has some concerned the drills are too realistic. 
The Houston Chronicle reports that, among the planned exercises, soldiers will attempt to operate undetected among civilian populations. Residents, in turn, will be asked to report suspicious activity in order to gauge the effectiveness of the soldiers. Military officials say they've gotten the go ahead for the operations from local authorities such as mayors and county commissions. 'The size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states,' the USASOC wrote in a March 24 release. 'The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.' The military has also reacted to widespread fear of the operation by calling some ultra-conservative coverage of the 'martial law' drills alarmist and inaccurate...more

High Hopes - Willie Nelson Is Launching His Own Brand of Weed

There will be branded bongs and stores, too, as Willie gets out ahead of big industry in states where pot is legal.

by James Joiner

Willie Nelson takes a hit of the cigarette-sized vaporizer in his gnarled hand, exhaling a small cloud, before placing it on the foldout table in front of us. We’re seated in the cool enclave of his tour bus, at the entrance to his sprawling property just outside Austin, Texas, which he has dubbed the town of Luck. Up a hill and around a corner, people are rocking out at Willie’s own Heartbreaker Banquet, an annual fundraiser/music festival held concurrently with SXSW.

Now 81, Willie is biding his time before joining the festivities, and we’re talking about why he puts on the event every year. In the process, he lets slip that he has something else in the works: a new brand of weed, called, naturally, Willie’s Reserve.

Pressed on this, he’s either dismissive or coy, though he does indicate that the smoking implement he has again picked up is a part of the line. The PR person promises to connect me with Michael Bowman, a veteran hemp and pot lobbyist who serves as the fledgling brand’s spokesperson. Two days later, much colder, much more sober, and back in my native New England, Bowman and I connect by phone.

The discussion is below, but the rub is that the marijuana world is about to get its first connoisseur brand, edging it farther from an illegal substance and closer to the realm of fine wines.

Gimme that dang land!

by Steve Sebelius

It’s the map that galls them. The map of Nevada, painted mostly red to depict how much of the state is owned or managed by the federal government. That scarlet is an indignity that they see every day on the windswept plains of their state.

They’re the ranchers, outdoorsmen, hunters, trappers and public officials who’ve been trying for decades to wrest the 81 percent of Nevada’s lands held by “the feds” into state, local or private hands.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Sagebrush Rebellion saw Western officials try to gain more control over federal lands in their states. Nevada — considered the heart of the rebellion — had been chafing under federal land ownership for decades before that.

In 1955, the Nevada Legislature sought to repeal a section in the ordinance portion of the state constitution that “forever disclaim(ed) all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.” It was a legally meaningless act, however.

Court fights, state laws and other legal maneuverings didn’t do much to change the color on that irksome map, either. “I don’t want to say we’ve lost,” says state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “But we certainly haven’t won.”

Now, led by Goicoechea — whose district stretches from the Idaho border all the way south to Primm — the state is advancing the ideals of the Sagebrush Rebellion on a new front: A formal resolution requesting the government turn over just 7.2 million acres — around 10 percent of federal holdings in Nevada — to state management.

Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Goicoechea and state Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, along with a handful of conservative Assembly members, is based on the work of the Nevada Land Management Task Force, authorized by the 2013 Legislature under a bill Goicoechea fought hard to pass.

The task force, headed by Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, met every month between June 2013 and August 2014 to study the idea of federal transfer of land to the state, and made several reports to an interim legislative committee. (A final report was not heard after the committee’s chairman, now-former Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, declined to hold a vote. As a result, Goicoechea introduced the resolution in this session of the Legislature.)

The 130-page report is heavy on details and promises: The state would gain title to certain lands, mostly designated for disposal already, excluding wilderness areas, National Conservation Areas, land controlled by federal agencies such as the Energy Department, Defense Department and environmentally sensitive land.

Assembly bill continues Bundy saga

Outspoken Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy told the Desert Valley Times Wednesday he plans to be at the front of a contingent of Nevadans planning to rally at the Capitol in Carson City Tuesday to show support for AB408, a bill that “reclaims” rights to Nevada land from the federal government. The Legislative Counsel says section 3 of AB408, which was sponsored by GOP Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, “prohibits the federal government from owning or administrating any land or resources in the state that it has not acquired with the consent of the Nevada Legislature and upon which it has not erected forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards or other needful buildings.” The bill prohibits the federal government from owning any Nevada water rights; requires that state land registration of grazing, logging, mineral development or any other beneficial use rights on public lands “including land to which the federal government claims ownership or ships. The registrar must award such rights to the first person who puts the land to those beneficial uses, and hold an auction to sell permits to use. County commissioners can impose a tax on the unit sold through the beneficial use of public lands.” “We feel like we’ve got a good bill that represents ‘we the people,’” Bundy said of AB408. “This bill is promoting the U.S. Constitution; the state sovereignty and law, and county government. We feel like we’re in tune with ‘we the people.’”...more

Elko legislators not supporting Bundy bill

ELKO – A land grab bill backed by embattled rancher Cliven Bundy is failing to garner support from local officials. Assembly Bill 408, sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, states that except in special cases, the federal government “shall not own rights to use land or water” and the state would take over management of most public land in Nevada. Bundy and his supporters plan to attend a hearing next week in Carson City when the bill will go before committee, according to the Associated Press. But Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, despite signing on initially as a co-sponsor, said he could no longer support it after a more thorough review. “That’s a bad bill,” he said. Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, agreed. “The intent is fine but the language in the bill is horrible,” he said, adding that he thought it would be harmful to the ranching industry. The bill specifies that the State Land Registrar would sell grazing permits and require county commissions to tax profits from resource use. Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl said AB 408 takes the opposite approach of Senate Joint Resolution 1, a measure he’s backed, which asks Congress to transfer an initial 7.2 million acres to the state and opens up more land transfers in subsequent phases...more

American billionaires on welfare: Cliven Bundy, Ted Turner and other ranchers stealing your tax dollars

The typical, strident, left-wing attack on federal lands ranching, with the added hook of listing 12 "billionaires" who graze on federal land.  Published in Salon, here is the list:

Some of America’s biggest welfare ranchers:

David and Charles Koch (Koch Industries)
The brothers hold a half-dozen grazing permits on public land in Montana to go with its 300,000-acre Matador Ranch there. The brothers are tied for fourth place on Forbes 2014 400 Richest People in America list (net worth: $ 42 billion each). The Koch family ($ 89 billion) is #2 on Forbes Richest Families list; Koch Industries is #2 on Forbes America’s Largest Private Companies list, ($ 115 billion in sales).

J.R. Simplot Corp.
The largest U.S. public lands ranching entity (with an estimated 2 to 3 million acres of allotments in CA, ID, NV, OR and UT) is #63 on Forbes 2014 list of America’s Largest Private Companies ($ 5.8 billion in sales). In 2014, the family was #29 on Forbes list of America’s Richest Families (net worth: $ 8 billion).
Bruce McCaw (McCaw Cellular)

McCaw was #382 on Forbes 400 list of America’s Richest People in 2005 (net worth: $ 925 million). Through his 9 sprawling ranches, he controls a significant number of public grazing leases in ID and possibly NV. One of them (Camas Creek ranch) includes 272,000 acres of Federal grazing allotments in Idaho’s Camas Prairie. Grazing permitted to his other ranches could easily double or triple that to a million acres or more.

Barrick Gold
The Canadian mining company is one of the two largest public lands ranchers in NV, ranking 771st on Forbes Global 2000 list of the World’s Biggest Public Companies in 2014, (sales: $ 12.56 billion). Like many other large public lands ranchers, Barrick buys ranches to secure water rights.

Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
The supplier of drinking water to Las Vegas is a large NV public lands rancher with an estimated 1 million acres of public grazing allotments. Like Barrick Gold, it, buys up private ranches to gain their water rights.

W. Barron Hilton (Hilton Hotels)
The hotel heir dropped off Forbes Billionaires list (ranked #459 in 2011) as well as its list of the 400 Richest Americans (#144 in 2010), with a net worth of $ 2.5 billion. He died in 2013.
Though records are hard to pin down, Hilton’s heirs inherited a ranching operation in the CA-NV border area, which has been known to have vast public lands grazing allotments permitted to it.

Mary Hewlett-Jaffe (Hewlett-Packard)
Jaffe holds the largest BLM public lands grazing permit in central ID and is among the top 15 public lands ranchers in the state (estimated at under 200,000 acres that are said to be in extremely degraded condition, according to sources).

James Barta (
Barta is not on any Forbes rich lists, but owns one of the largest cattle ranching operations in the U.S., according to his attorneys. Barta holds grazing permits to nearly 900,000 acres of public grazing allotments in connection with two properties: White Horse Ranch (in OR) and Soldier Meadows (in NV). Barta may have additional NV grazing leases through two other ranches in NV, according to Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds Project.

T. Wright Dickinson
Though not on any Forbes list, the Dickinson family is a large public lands rancher, with  grazing permits estimated at more than a half million acres of CO, UT and WY public lands under its LLC, Vermillion Ranches. Dickinson is a former County commissioner and proponent of county efforts to gain control of federal lands, according to the Denver Post.

Stan Kroenke (Kroenke Group) & Ann Walton Kroenke (Walmart)
With just two of his ranches (in MT and WY) totaling 664,000 acres (not including public grazing allotments), Kroenke is one of the ten top land owners in the U.S. In 2014, he ranked #89 on Forbes list of the 400 Richest Americans, #247 on its Billionaires list, and #5 on its list of Richest American Sports Team Owners (net worth: $ 5.8 billion). His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke (net worth: $ 5.6 billion), was #261 on Forbes Billionaires list and #11 on its list of America’s Richest Women.

Family of Robert Earl Holding (Sinclair Oil and hotels)
Forbes ranks the family #87 on its 2014 list of America’s Richest Families (net worth: $ 2.7 billion). With 400,000 acres of land, the family is the 19th largest private land owner in the US, according to the 2014 Land Report 100. This includes land that Forbes reported “may be the largest ranching operation in the Rocky Mountains.” Public grazing leases are associated with some of the family’s WY and possibly MT holdings, according to Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds.

Ted Turner
He’s the second largest U.S. land owner (2 million acres in 6 states), is estimated to hold grazing leases in MT and NM (estimated at as much as 300,000 acres), and owns the world’s largest bison herd. Forbes ranked him #296 on its 2014 list of the 400 Richest Americans and #818 on its global Billionaires list (net worth: $ 2.2 billion).

Senate makes statement on WOTUS

The Senate made a strong statement against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed waters of the U.S. definition by approving an amendment as part of its budget resolution. Nearly reaching the 60 vote threshold, a total of 59 senators voted in favor of the amendment which will “establish bright lines for Federal jurisdiction, and to create clear and unambiguous exemptions for features” the EPA administrator or Army Corps of Engineers secretary claims they are not seeking to regulate. “The Administration claims it has no intention of using this rule to regulate things like drainage ditches and isolated ponds. My amendment simply holds the Administration to their word. This will give our farmers, ranchers and small business owners the certainty and peace of mind they deserve,” said Sen. Johan Barrasso (R., Wyo.) who introduced the amendment. Barrasso’s amendment #347 establishes a spending-neutral reserve fund to ensure federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act is focused on water quality, which may include limiting federal jurisdiction based on certain criteria. The amendment specifically limits how the Environmental Protection Agency or the Army Corps of Engineers determine what is connected to the waters of the United States. It also prevents the agencies on making a determination based on the movement of birds, mammals and insects. It also prevents determinations based on the movement of water through the ground – or the movement of rain water, or snow melt, over the land outside of a channel. Finally it prohibits the Water Pollution Control Act from extending to things like puddles, isolated ponds, roadside ditches, and wastewater systems...more

Newhouse introduces bill to make federal lands sales easier

Freshman U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse introduced his first bill Thursday, a reauthorization of a program that enables federal agencies to sell surplus federal lands. The bill gives the Bureau of Land Management the ability to sell public lands that have been approved for sale to states, local governments or private owners who can put the lands to economic use. Proceeds from the sales are then available to fund the purchase of other lands that provide conservation or recreation benefits near national parks, forests or wildlife areas. The program also provides the funding for the agency to appraise and sell land. The Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act was first passed by Congress in 2000 but expired in 2011. During the years the act was in place, the BLM sold about 27,000 acres of surplus lands, and the proceeds were used to buy 18,000 acres to add to national forests, recreation and conservation areas, according to the news release from Newhouse...more

BLM abandoning Nevada mustang roundup for now

The federal government has abandoned plans — at least for now — to round up more than 300 wild horses in northern Nevada after a U.S. judge temporarily blocked the effort last month for fear of harm to the mustangs. The agency won’t move forward with the roundup in the Pine Nut Range southeast of Carson City until it completes another review of potential environmental effects, lawyers for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said in papers filed in federal court in Reno. Judge Larry Hicks had granted a restraining order sought by horse advocates preventing the roundup until he could hear further arguments from both sides on the merits of the case. Opponents say the Bureau of Land Management was relying on a nearly five-year-old environmental analysis that ignores the latest scientific evidence about the dangers posed by injecting female horses with a fertility drug that keeps them from reproducing for two years. The Bureau of Land Management maintains there are nearly twice as many horse in the Pine Nut Range as the high desert habitat can support without causing ecological damage, some of which could hurt the imperiled sage grouse.The Bureau of Land Management maintains there are nearly twice as many horse in the Pine Nut Range as the high desert habitat can support without causing ecological damage, some of which could hurt the imperiled sage grouse...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1400

Recorded in Nashville on July 13, 1955:  Faron Young - It's A Great Life (If You Don't Weaken)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wooly Mammoth Genes Inserted into Elephant Cells

Researchers from Harvard University have successfully inserted genes from a woolly mammoth into living cells from an Asian elephant, the extinct giant's closest remaining relative. Harvard geneticist George Church used DNA from Arctic permafrost woolly mammoth samples to copy 14 mammoth genes -- emphasizing those related to its chilly lifestyle. "We prioritized genes associated with cold resistance including hairiness, ear size, subcutaneous fat and, especially, hemoglobin," Church told The Sunday Times. Then, using a kind of DNA cut/paste system called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat), Church dropped the genes into Asian elephant skin cells.
The result? A petri dish of elephant cells functioning normally with mammoth DNA in them, marking the first time mammoth genes have been on the job since the creature went extinct some 4,000 years ago, as Sarah Fecht, from Popular Science, noted...more

House Dem: Global Warming Could Force Women to Trade Sex for Food

A senior House Democrat has once again issued an apocalyptic warning that climate change will hit women harder than men, and that it could drive millions of poor women to engage in “transactional sex” in order to provide food and water for their families. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) proposed a resolution on Wednesday that said as the climate changes, it will cause food and water scarcity around the world. That will create pressures on poor women in particular, since they are often charged with growing food and collecting water for their families. As resources dwindle, it could force many women to barter sexual favors for food and water, the resolution stated. “[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health,” it read. The resolution concluded by saying Congress must recognize the “disparate impacts of climate change on women,” and must encourage the use of “gender-sensitive frameworks in developing policies to address climate change.”...more

If any of these poor women resemble Nancy Pelosi or some of the other senior House Democrats, they are definitely going to starve to death.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1399

Our selection today is Elton Britt - Ain't You A Little Bit Sorry

Will public-lands ranchers pay more for grazing?

by  Tay Wiles

Twenty years ago, fees for ranchers grazing livestock on federal public lands were a major political issue, the subject of regular national debates between conservationists and ranchers. The fee program brings in far less money for the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service than the agencies spend on maintaining rangeland. But thanks to the power of the livestock lobby, proposals to raise grazing fees have been stymied in political controversy for decades.

Now, the Obama administration is trying again — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has proposed an additional administrative fee of $2.50 per animal unit month (the forage needed to sustain one cow and calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month).

The fee would provide $16.5 million in 2016 for the BLM — a $13.5 million net gain, considering a proposed $3 million decrease in rangeland management funding. Currently the BLM spends over seven times as much money on rangeland management and improvement programs as it collects in grazing fees; that’s $89 million versus $12 million. (The rangeland programs include things like permit administration, weed management, water development and vegetation restoration.) Income from the new fee would go toward rangeland health efforts, as well as help address a massive backlog of grazing permit renewals.

Jewell’s proposal would bump the feds’ income from grazers by 148 percent, but, because it’s a separate administrative tax, it doesn’t  violate the requirement that the baseline grazing fee (for the BLM, $1.69 per AUM this year) can’t increase by more than 25 percent annually. The move, which Interior has attempted in similar forms since 2012, appears to be a last resort to get around bitter political resistance to baseline fee increases. But the attempt has been repeatedly thwarted — stripped from Obama’s budget before being passed each fall.

There are many things, both pro and con, that one can say about BLM's management of rangelands and the fees charged.  For instance, studies have shown that in some areas the grazing fee is above market value, while in other areas it is below market value.  But that's what you get when you have a top down, one-size-fits-all approach to fees.

One thing, though, is pure bunk:  that it costs BLM seven times more to manage grazing than what the fee brings in.  It's all in the accounting.  Let's say a rancher wants to put in a pipeline to use water to better distribute his grazing.  A T&E survey must be done, an archaeological survey must be done, etc.  While those surveys are there to benefit wildlife and archaeological resources, they are charged to the grazing budget.  When I was at Interior we found instances where a District Manager wanted to check on a wildlife project but his budget was running low in that category so he/she would just charge his/her time and mileage to the rangeland budget.  Most of those "costs" associated with the program aren't there because of the rancher or the BLM.  Those "costs" are imposed by Congress and the Courts - the Congress by the laws they pass and the Courts by the way they interpret them.  Think NEPA.  The cost side of the ledger is far more ripe for reform than the income side.

'Quietly philanthropic' tycoon makes his mark in the West

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

A Swiss billionaire is forging a conservation legacy across the western United States and having an outsized influence on federal policies.

His name: Hansjorg Wyss.

The media-shy 79-year-old built a $6 billion fortune manufacturing medical devices, and he's pledged to give more than half of it away to preserve the American West, among other philanthropic pursuits.

Hansjorg Wyss (pronounced "Hans-yorg Wees") and his nonprofit, the Wyss Foundation, have so far donated more than $350 million to acquire land and buoy dozens of green groups molding lands policy in Washington, D.C., and Western communities.

"Hansjorg Wyss is a godsend to the conservation community," said Bill Meadows, former president of the Wilderness Society, which has received significant Wyss funding. "Without their funding, all of our organizations would be much less equipped to do serious research, serious policy analysis."

Industry-aligned groups say Wyss promotes radical environmentalists who block energy development and destroy jobs on Western lands.

"Wyss's foreign money -- tens of millions of dollars of it -- takes American natural resources out of productive uses," according to a profile of Wyss by the Center for Organizational Research and Education. The center is run by Richard Berman, a D.C. public relations consultant who runs attack campaigns against green groups.

Love him or hate him, Wyss' policy footprint on Western lands is growing.

In late 2013, Wyss signed the "Giving Pledge," an initiative started by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates that asks wealthy individuals to give at least half of their wealth to charity.

Among Wyss' biggest gifts:
  • $4.25 million in 2013 to help buy back 58,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Wyoming's Hoback Basin, a prized retreat for rafters, fishermen and hunters, and a major migration route for wildlife.
  • $2 million in 2013 to remove the century-old Veazie Dam and restore fish passage in Maine's Penobscot River.
  • $35 million in 2010 to help purchase 310,000 acres of private timberlands to protect grizzly bear and wolverine habitat in northern Montana, stitching together a checkerboard of federal, state and private lands.
In 2013, the politically connected Wyss Foundation quietly donated roughly $19 million, much of it to conservation nonprofits that lobby for new wilderness and national monuments and curbs on drilling, mining and grazing on public lands, according to the foundation's most recent 990 report to the Internal Revenue Service.

He apparently gave $280,000 to the NM Wilderness Alliance.

Oil Industry Fights New Fracking Regs

The gas and oil industry claims a new Bureau of Land Management rule regulating fracking on federal land places "arbitrary and unnecessary burdens" on it. The Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance sued Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Land Management on March 20 in Federal Court. The new regulation - No. 1004-AE26 - has provisions requiring validation of well integrity, disclosure of chemicals used in the process, higher standards for interim fluid waste storage and measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination. But the energy groups seek court review of the regulation, claiming it is based on unproven environmental claims and that it duplicates laws. "BLM's rulemaking represents a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns and the administrative record lacks the factual, scientific or engineering evidence necessary to sustain the agency's final rule," the complaint states. "The rulemaking has been procedurally deficient and the final rule as issued is contrary to law. Because the regulatory conditions the final rule imposes constitute arbitrary and unnecessary burdens that either duplicate state law requirements or improperly curtail the primary jurisdiction of state governments, and because the regulations are not properly tailored to achieve a legitimate government purpose, the court should find the rule invalid and set aside the challenged agency action." They sued under the Administrative Procedures Act...more

U.S., Oregon mark milestone with sage grouse agreement

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will be in Bend March 27 to celebrate the state’s efforts to conserve greater sage grouse habitat and possibly stave off an endangered species listing. The event coincides with the Oregon Department of State Lands completing a conservation agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that covers 540,484 acres in Eastern Oregon. The document, called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or CCAA, is going through a required public review period. The CCAA is similar to agreements signed with other non-federal landowners throughout the sage grouse range in Eastern Oregon. The federal wildlife service, which implements the Endangered Species Act, previously signed CCAA accords with soil and water conservation districts representing ranchers and other private landowners in Harney, Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Lake, Malheur and southern Union counties. In all, more than 4 million acres of sage grouse habitat is covered under conservation agreements. The state land covered under the agreements includes only an estimated 638 of the state’s 24,000 sage grouse and eight known leks, or breeding areas, but is significant because it makes management plans “seamless across the landscape,” said Lanny Quackenbush, Eastern Oregon manager for the Department of State Lands..more

12,509 illegal kids already over border in second wave, just 1 in 6 returned

The next explosion of illegal teen border crossing is in full swing, but just one-in-six are being sent home, with most of the rest settled in the United States, according to new government figures. The U.S. Border Patrol agency reported that they have seized 12,509 illegals under age 18 since October, making it the second biggest surge in history after last year's unprecedented movement of unaccompanied youths across the nation's southern border. However, when compared to the numbers of illegal kids turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it is clear that most are being "booked in" to U.S. facilities and then released — not sent home. ICE documents provided to the Washington Examiner shows that ICE is accepting an average of 2,000 a month, meaning that the Border Patrol is returning just one of six kids to their countries, mostly Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. For example, the papers show that ICE "booked in" 2,355 unaccompanied youths in December 2014, second only to the previous December's 3,582. "And this is supposed to be the slow time of year," said expert Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. "Cities and towns that have already received large numbers of unaccompanied illegal alien minors should brace themselves to repeat the process again in the coming months," she added. Based on those figures and her experience charting the last year's surge of illegal immigrants, teens, she projected that U.S. border officials are on track seize about 42,000 unaccompanied alien children, or UACs, this year...more

Heinz And Kraft To Marry

It was just announced that puppet master Warren Buffett connected some of his favorite companies to create the third-largest North American food company by merging H.J. Heinz Company, Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital, and Kraft Foods Group, Inc. in a $46 billion deal. Mega-mergers are not new in the highly competitive world of consumer packaged goods. Consumers are exceedingly price sensitive. The success rate of new products is very low, resulting in little opportunity for organic growth. The search for cost savings and efficiencies is constant. Acquisition is the natural (and sometimes only) option to grow revenue and increase margins. The Heinz/Kraft merger reportedly expects to save about $1.5 billion in annual costs by the end of 2017. 3G has a reputation for introducing aggressive cost cuts and improving efficiencies at other portfolio companies including Anheuser-Busch. Its corporate culture is supposedly one of no-frills. Never mind a corporate jet. 3G execs reportedly travel coach, even internationally. Imagine the combination of two old-school CPG companies like Heinz and Kraft is like a late-life marriage with Warren Buffett officiating the wedding. The result is a large blended family composed of once highly successful child stars who haven’t done much lately. CEO Bernardo Hees is the new stepdad from Brazil who isn’t going to let them live in the basement anymore without paying rent...more

Who will be the next king of Texas ranching?

Texas Landowners Association, the leading landowner organization in Texas, today released their highly anticipated winter magazine, Texas Landowner Magazine: W.T. Waggoner Ranch Collector's Issue, featuring a six page story on the upcoming sale of the massive 510,000 acre empire known as the W.T. Waggoner Ranch in Vernon, Texas.

A preview of this issue was recently distributed to international attendees of the 2015 Dallas Safari Club Convention, as a part of the collector issue's Pre Launch Event.

The cover story chronicles a rare perspective into the revered cowboy culture and lifestyles of one of the most iconic operations in cowboy history and what this opportunity could mean to the new owner beyond livestock and land.

The feature takes a look back at how the W.T. Waggoner Ranch history parallels the other Texas ranching giant, the King Ranch, and takes a look forward at how the road paved by the famous ranch's brand into mainstream recognition could mean a massive windfall to the next owner of the Waggoner. Together, these empires are said to be the cornerstones of American ranching history. After 165 years of storied family stewardship, the pending sale of the Waggoner Ranch offers an enterprise purchase that will likely never be seen again.

The similarities between the properties have considerably heightened media interest surrounding the sale of the W.T. Waggoner Ranch.

The issue's release comes just as the W.T. Waggoner Estate brokers Bernard Uechtritz of Briggs Freeman Sothebys International Realty in Dallas, Texas and Lubbock resident Sam Middleton, of Chas. S. Middleton & Son have begun scheduled showings and inspection tours of the ranch. The brokers report strong interest in the sale with sequential tours of prequalified buyer's prospects already scheduled into March 2015.

The issue will be mailed to Texas Landowners Association members this week. The entire W.T. Waggoner cover story is publicly available at

Texas Landowner Magazine is the official publication of Texas Landowners Association. Any inquiries regarding Texas Landowners Association or Texas Landowner Magazine can be directed to Marketing Director, Sara Noll, at (888) 979-1744 or

Press Release

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fear, Loathing, and Grizzly Bears in the Northern Cascades

Concerned ranchers and excited environmentalists have had a lot to talk about in the past month as long-standing plans to restore grizzly bear populations in the North Cascades have inched closer to action. It’s been 40 years since grizzly bears were first listed as a threatened species, and more than two decades since 9,800 square miles of Washington’s North Cascades were named as a possible area for restoration efforts aimed at building a new, sustainable population of grizzlies. According to the National Park Service, that area could support up to 200 bears, though those numbers won’t be reached for decades—even in the best of circumstances. In the near future, reintroduction plans would see only a few bears returned to the area every few years. But before the grizzlies can return, the program needs to get through the public-comment period, which closes on March 26. Following the progress of a habitat-restoration project can be a bit like watching paint dry, but the topic of grizzly restoration has brought an interesting twist to the six public meetings, held across the state from Wenatchee to Bellingham, and mail-in and online comments: namely, that many people find grizzly bears absolutely terrifying. “There is a lot of fear, in general, and concern, especially from people who don’t understand the species,” says Ann Froschauer, a public-affairs supervisor for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. She provides information to those who are slightly nervous about these cuddly creatures, which can weigh up to 790 pounds and could function as a regulation-height basketball hoop if they stood on their hind legs and wore a rim as a hat. “It’s an issue that really does seem to attract polar-opposite camps. Some people are really excited. Others . . . are a bit more reserved,” she says.

Ranchers find ways to live with wolves despite losses

Mountains cradle the Diamond G Ranch in northwest Wyoming. A long dirt road winds from a two-lane highway into the ranch where cows graze in the summer and elk wander during the winter. A two-story barn towers over stables and a few nearby houses. It feels safe, protected by the snowcapped mountains that stand guard in the distance. But over those peaks almost 20 years ago came a threat for which Jon and Debbie Robinett couldn’t prepare. About a year after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, they arrived at the ranch. The great canines sowed destruction, killing 61 calves in a herd of 800. Sometimes the carcasses were found in mangled pieces. Other times they simply disappeared. Jon keeps envelopes of photos to document the carnage. One day in November, standing in his kitchen wearing a white and tan button-down shirt tucked into dark blue Wranglers, he flipped through the pictures. One shows a horse that had been dead for 36 hours. Another is a calf taken down 200 yards from the house. “This is a yearling heifer the wolves killed. A sow and cubs came down to eat it and the wolves killed the cubs,” said Jon. In two decades, the Robinetts have lost hundreds of cows and calves, five horses, seven dogs and an 11-day-old painted colt to wolves. “We learned real early on to start documenting, taking pictures,” said Debbie. “Sometimes it’s really hard to do, like with my dogs, to take pictures of dead dogs. But you had to do it; if you didn’t have the proof, it didn’t work.” But mixed in that stack of pictures, and on Debbie’s computer where she keeps digital images, are thousands of photos of wolves themselves. The couple describes them with equal emotion. “This was Paul, caught in a trap,” Jon said, looking at a picture of a black wolf he’d named. “We caught him when he was a pup in August. He weighed 42 pounds and we caught him again in November and he weighed 90 pounds.” “We used to go out and count the pups — well, we still do — to see how many pups they have. There are five here. They’re real unique animals, even at a young age.” The Robinetts’ relationship with wolves in some ways encapsulates the journey followed by Wyoming’s ranchers, conservationists, hunters, politicians and recreationists in the last 20 years. Those relationships have, at times, been filled with frustration, anger, sadness and awe. Jon was involved in one of the first lawsuits filed against the federal government after wolves were reintroduced. Debbie bought wolf hunting licenses. But they also spend hours roaming the mountains, hoping to catch glimpses of the large canines. Some of the raw emotion associated with the animals following their reintroduction has abated in recent years, though bumper stickers calling wolves government-sponsored terrorists or telling people to shoot, shovel and shut up are not uncommon. Wolf management meetings that once drew hundreds now may bring only a handful. Jon wanted to work with the carnivores from the beginning. He believed that humans and wolves could coexist. Some early wolf opponents are beginning to find a middle ground, too. One drainage over from the Robinetts, fellow Dubois-area rancher Reg Phillips is building a similar tolerance for the hungry carnivores as long as wolves are managed and ranchers are paid for livestock kills. “I like wildlife, I love looking at big elk and deer, and I like seeing grizzlies,” Phillips said. “Wolves, they’re big and neat. But they’re also big and meat eaters. If they would manage wolves, I’d be able to accept a little larceny, a little death loss.”...more

Kansas establishes quarantine zones in Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties

In response to the confirmed positive case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Agriculture has established a quarantine zone in Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties to respond quickly and decisively to eradicate the outbreak of HPAI.  The transportation of all HPAI susceptible livestock, including live poultry and poultry products (including eggs), into or out of the designated control zone within Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties in Kansas is prohibited unless authorized by an official permit. Poultry and poultry products, including eggs, within the control zone shall not be transported without first receiving an official permit from the Kansas Department of Agriculture.  If you have questions regarding the quarantine area, visit to see a map of the quarantined area.  Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown encourages all poultry owners to closely monitor their flocks and contact their local veterinarian immediately if birds appear infected. For a listing of symptoms of HPAI, visit

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1398

Here's some Country Roots music:  Riley Puckett - Bile Dem Cabbage Down.  The tune was recorded in New York City on September ll, 1924.  Riley Pucket, vocals and bango, Gid Tanner, fiddle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wolf attack: a cow man’s worst nightmare

By Mack Birkmaier

Wolves attacked and stampeded 250 head of very pregnant cows (calving start date March 1) on the Birkmaier private land on Crow Creek pass Feb. 12, 2015. The cows were wintering on the open bunch grass range receiving one-half feed of alfalfa hay. This 1,700-acre piece of land is about 10 miles northeast of Joseph. These cows were to be moved to the Birkmaier home ranch at the mouth of Crow Creek the last of February (the ranch is about 20 miles north).

With no warning from agency people, who normally warn producers of wolves in the area, the wolves attacked in the night. The herd split into three groups. One group of about 70 cows went east, running in total panic, obliterating several barb wire fences. These cows ran about two miles to the Zumwalt road, then south and west about five miles down the OK Gulch road to the Wallowa Valley, then north to the Birkmaier ranch land, about three miles, then reversed and ran about three miles south where they were stopped. These cattle were wet from the condensation of cold air on their overheated bodies. Their tongues were out gasping for air.

Another bunch went north through several fences to the Krebs ranch, about four miles, then back and were going in a large circle still running when they were stopped. A third bunch stayed in the pasture, but were in a high state of panic. The cattle could not be fed for two days. They ran away from hay and the pickup trying to feed them. None were killed, no broken legs or stifled joints; some cuts from barbed wire, not serious. We thought we were lucky. The rest of the story, we feared, would be told at calving time and maybe before. By the way, the attacking wolves, from the Umatilla Pack, were at Dug Bar on the Snake River the next day (32 air miles away and over a mile climbing and descending).

Now about fladry and why it wasn’t used. Fladry was not an option under these conditions on a large area with cattle grazing out in the winter time. Fladry is an electric wire with strips of colored plastic attached. Wolf cheerleaders, both local and everywhere, claim this cure-all is the answer to end all wolf depredations. Our experience: It may have a place on small acreages; we find it hard to keep it electrified. Wet snow will take it to the ground, wind blows tumbleweeds and mustard plants into it and if you use existing fences to put it on, wind blows it into the wires of existing fence and shorts it out. To use it on larger acreages requires a separate fence and many electric fence controllers and it’s just impractical.

...As I write this on the 11th day of March, 50 cows have calved. Our worst fears are coming true: one aborted a few days after the attack; three backwards hind feet first; one upside down and backwards (the hind leg of this calf penetrated both the virginal and rectal walls); one more upside down and backwards; one tail first (breech); two with legs turned back; one with head turned back. Several vaginal prolapses probably caused by improperly positioned calves. Is this indirect loss or what?

My son Tom and his wife Kelly have had to deal with this horrible task night and day, 31 miles from vet clinics and assistance. What kind of people support turning the terrorist of the animal kingdom loose on these defenseless animals and inflicting this kind of pain and loss? When I think of my family out in the barn trying their best to save these poor animals — it takes hours with good luck to straighten and get them out — I get damn mad. Who do I blame?...

We lost eight calves this summer, we were compensated for one. If we aren’t compensated for indirect loss from wolves, our ranch and all others are in serious jeopardy.

Mack Birkmaier, a past president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, is a lifetime rancher on Crow Creek and Joseph Creek.

Montana officials end bighorn sheep hunting after die-off

The die-off of bighorn sheep from pneumonia led Montana wildlife managers on Monday to take the unusual step of abruptly closing a hunting season tied to a wild herd near Yellowstone National Park whose seasonal mating rituals attract scores of wildlife watchers. The emergency closure came after state biologists estimated that pneumonia had claimed nearly 40 percent of a herd near Gardiner, Montana, whose numbers fell to 55 this month from 89 last year, state wildlife managers said on Monday. Such pneumonia outbreaks have been linked to contact between wild sheep and domestic ones that graze on public allotments and private lands across the Rocky Mountain West. Moves by U.S. land managers to reduce the number of sheep grazing allotments to lessen the disease risk to bighorns have been met with fierce resistance by sheep ranchers, who say the leases of ground are vital to their operations in states like Idaho where the majority of land is under federal control. Hunters and ranchers, usually in harmony about wildlife management, are divided over bighorn sheep...more

Trail would connect Rapid City, Badlands; Ranchers voice concerns about proposed route along rail bed

You can’t see the Badlands from the path alongside Rapid Creek in Rapid City, but someday it might be possible to keep following the path until you reach them. That’s the dream of the West River Trail Coalition, whose members want to convert an unused, 100-mile rail bed into a hiking, biking recreational trail stretching between Rapid City and Kadoka. The name given to the project is the Mako Sica Trail, after the Lakota phrase for the Badlands. Backers have completed a feasibility study and have lined up some help from Rapid City officials, who plan to build a small segment of the trail within city limits by next year. But little of the project’s estimated $21.5 million cost has been raised, it’s unknown who would manage the trail, and some ranchers along the route oppose the project. The rail bed targeted for the Mako Sica Trail was built in 1907 by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, commonly known as the Milwaukee Road. The company went bankrupt in 1977, and in 1981, South Dakota’s state government began acquiring hundreds of miles of the track to protect it for possible future use. But the line between Rapid City and Kadoka never was used again, and the ties and rails eventually were removed. The old line is now just a raised earthen bed with 83 bridges, 123 culverts and fencing along much of the route. Bruce Lindholm, rail program manager for the state Department of Transportation, said the state-owned rail bed is “railbanked” under the National Trails System Act. “That allows the right-of-way to be used for a recreational trail if everybody can agree on what to do,” Lindholm said. Keith Ham, a rural Caputa rancher who has land adjacent to the rail bed, said he’d rather live next to a train track than a recreational trail. Cattle can get accustomed to a train that comes at regular times, he said, but could be highly agitated by random comings and goings of bicyclists. He also fears litter, damage to fences and accidental wildfires, and he said people on the trail could be endangered by a lack of consistent cellphone service and by long distances from emergency responders...more

CORVA and Partners Sue Forest Service on Travel Management Plan

Sacramento, CA - California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), a non-profit organization advocating for all forms of motorized access to public land by representing motorized recreation enthusiasts throughout California, filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the U.S. Forest Service's Travel Management Plan which restricts motorized travel in the Plumas National Forest located in Northern California. Joining CORVA in the lawsuit are Sierra Access Coalition (SAC), Butte County and Plumas County. Amy Granat, Managing Director of CORVA and Corky Lazzarino, Executive Director of Sierra Access Coalition, are also named as individual plaintiffs. In this lawsuit the public is fighting the federal government, which has been compared to a David vs. Goliath battle. The litigants are being represented by Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento. The Plumas National Forest Travel Management Plan was signed in August of 2010 and designated forest roads and trails that will remain open to motorized use. Non-designated routes, including many that have been open to motorized travel for decades, are now off limits to the public including the disabled, firewood cutters, campers, hunters, Christmas tree cutters, hikers and other recreationists. This decision affects everyone who uses unpaved roads and trails for access to the forest using pickups, cars, 4x4s, motorhomes, quads, tow rigs for equestrian trailers, travel trailers and others. Thousands of recreationists, sportsmen, and many businesses are affected by this ill-conceived plan. For outdoor enthusiasts who suffered the indignities of the Travel Management Process over the last several years, this lawsuit has 12 claims for relief. Claims include failure to coordinate with local governments, inadequate analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, failure to provide the public with a scientific basis for the Record of Decision, failure to analyze affects to the human environment and socioeconomic impacts, inadequate response to public comments, and other violations to law and regulation...more

Legislature honors legendary Oregon rancher

William “Bill Kitt” Kittredge, a cowboy who became a successful Oregon rancher and businessman, was honored as one of Oregon’s most influential leaders during the state’s first 100 years by the Oregon Legislature last week. House Concurrent Resolution 6, sponsored by Rep. Gail Whitsett and Sen. Doug Whitsett, both of Klamath Falls, along with representatives from Eastern Oregon, passed unanimously. Kittredge’s family members, including his nephew Jack Nicol, Nicol’s sister Nancy Thompson and Nicol’s son Mark, were in attendance on the Senate floor for the speech by Sen. Whitsett. The resolution read March 19 notes Kittredge, who was born in 1876 in Washington Territory, was 16 years old when he started as a cowboy in Eastern Oregon. He worked for large cattle companies and participated in cattle drives, including one that spanned 1,600 miles. He began acquiring a small herd of cattle in 1900 and eventually owned 19,000 head when he died in 1958, when Kittredge controlled more than 1 million acres of land and was Oregon’s largest independent cattleman. The resolution also credits Kittredge with purchasing and irrigating unproductive land and turning it into meadowland and for “reclaiming swamplands and turning them into bountiful grain fields.” He was honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing habitat and feed for wildlife, especially for migrating ducks and geese...more

Kudos to the New Mexico Legislature for Restricting Civil Asset Forfeiture

Good news from out west.  A New Mexico bill, HB 560, to restrict civil asset forfeiture has cleared the legislature - receiving unanimous support in the State House and State Senate - and awaits the signature of Governor Susana Martinez to become law.  Among other things, the New Mexico bill requires a criminal conviction for forfeiture actions, bolsters the “innocent owner” defense by requiring that the owner know that his/her property was being used illegally, requires that all forfeiture proceeds be deposited into the general fund rather than into the seizing agencies, and limits the ability of state and local law enforcement agencies to circumvent state law by utilizing the federal equitable sharing program...more

Elkhart elementary schools use Cowboy Ethics to teach good values


The Code of the West is not just for cowboys.

Fifth-graders at Mary Beck Elementary and the Roosevelt STEAM Academy are also learning to act like cowboys by basing their actions on principles like courage, pride and fairness.

It’s a program called Cowboy Ethics that was introduced at Beck in 2014 and expanded to Roosevelt this year.

The program’s director, Dwight Moudy, stumbled across the idea in James P. Owen’s book, “Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.”

The author is a 35-year veteran of Wall Street who became disillusioned by the way business was being conducted, with financial crises like the Enron scandal making headlines.

“But imagine what could happen if Wall Street firms looked back to a simpler time, when a handshake was enough to seal a deal and right and wrong were as clear as black and white,” Owen writes.

Moudy was struck by that idea, and thought about how it could be applied in the classroom.

“These kids are looking for principles, they’re looking for some guidance in their life,” he said.

He teamed up with his daughter, Beck fifth-grade teacher Suzanne Holcomb, to create a curriculum for the program.

“They’re learning about values and ethics without knowing it,” Holcomb said. “It’s not that the parents don’t try, because I think they do, but we need to give them that support here.”

Each week, the students receive a visit from Moudy and other cowboy volunteers to go over the 10 main principles:
  1. Live each day with courage
  2. Take pride in your work
  3. Always finish what you start
  4. Do what has to be done
  5. Be tough, but fair
  6. When you make a promise, keep it
  7. Ride for the brand
  8. Talk less and say more
  9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale
  10. Know where to draw the line
On Monday, March 23, the students competed in a “cattle drive.”

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1397

Its Swingin' Monday and here is Ridley Bent performing Nine Inch Nails.  The tune is on his 2007 CD Buckles & Boots

Returnees to ND Oil Boom Town Here to Stay

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Before oil tanker trucks rumbled down the roads at all hours, this town was so quiet that Erin White rode her horse to a deserted Main Street one night. Back then, this was a dusty hamlet with few prospects for a future. Like many teens, White considered her high school diploma a one-way ticket out of town. She didn’t expect to be back. After college, she and her husband, Lange, settled in the grasslands of eastern Colorado. But when his temporary stint as an airplane mechanic ended, he needed work. White’s parents piped up: There are lots of jobs at home. It would be a good time to get in on the oil bonanza. Within two days, White’s husband had a job in the oil business. She found work soon after they returned to her family’s ranch 40 miles from town, joining a reverse migration that was unthinkable a decade ago. The discovery of crude oil here has been a powerful population magnet, not just bringing hordes of outsiders to the Bakken but luring back others who’ve discovered that, yes, they can go home again. After a decades-long population drain, North Dakota became the fastest growing state in the nation in recent years, expanding by nearly 10 percent in a 50-month period ending last June, according to Census figures. That pace dropped sharply in 2014 but the state still preserved its No. 1 ranking. Growth last year trickled to just 2 percent, a slowdown attributed to the lack of housing, not plummeting oil prices. The layoff of thousands of oil workers, though, in the last few months could reduce the influx of out-of-staters, but those who’ve come home are confident they’ve made the right move. “There are no regrets, no second thoughts,” White says. “No matter what happens we’ll be able to find something to do. …There are a lot of people who are really committed to the town and don’t want to leave.”

Nevada county gets help in road fight

RENO, Nev. – Nevada’s attorney general for the first time is joining a rural county in a 15-year-old legal battle with the U.S. government and environmentalists over control of a remote national forest road – one of the longest running of many similar disputes across the West. The states of Arizona and Idaho have mounted claims to such roads before, and Utah’s attorney general has filed dozens of lawsuits in recent years asserting county rights of way on more than 14,000 roads on federal land. Nevada hasn’t tried to intervene since the federal government first sued Elko County in 1999 to halt the reopening of a washed-out road near the Idaho border for fear of harm to the threatened bull trout in the Jarbidge River. But newly elected Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced the change of course this week when his office filed a request in U.S. District Court in Reno for friend-of-the-court status in the proceedings. “Nevada’s voice deserves to be heard,” according to the filing. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du has scheduled an April 27 evidentiary hearing in a case that centers on the interpretation of an 1866 law that established so-called RS 2477 roads by granting states and counties the right of way to build highways on federal lands. The goal was to help settle the West and applied in some cases even to crude paths, such as wagon trails. Congress repealed such rights of way in 1976, but recognized those roads that were established on lands before national forests were formed or the land was placed into a federal reserve. Elko County’s lawyers maintain the Jarbidge South Canyon road enjoys such status because miners and ranchers traveled the route in the 1890s before President Teddy Roosevelt effectively established what is now part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in 1909. Environmentalists argue that’s not necessarily the case. Other states that have proved their claims to RS 2477 roads did so under their own state laws that allowed for establishing public highways on the basis of “continuous public use,” said Michael Freeman, a Denver-based lawyer for The Wilderness Society who has been involved in the court battle from the beginning. However, Nevada law in effect at the time required action by the Elko County Board of Commissioners to establish a public highway and the county has no evidence that ever occurred, he said. The case is unique because, while the U.S. government denies Elko County has established such a right of way, the Forest Service signed a settlement agreement in 2011 that included its assurances it no longer would challenge the county’s claim it exists...more

It’s a bird, it’s a, it’s a drone

The use of drones in agriculture can ultimately assist or replace what is now used to monitor crops, through satellite, by manned planes or physically walking through the fields. Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), are unmanned aircraft that have been used by the military for many years to assist with surveillance and intelligence. Although unmanned, they are piloted by trained crews at bases who analyze the information that is seen on the drone’s cameras and then take action accordingly. Drones are also used by law enforcement and other government agencies to seek information, and patrol and monitor areas, such as those with wildfires or those areas along the U.S. border. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), through their Unmanned Aerial Systems Working Group (UASWG), are currently examining the use of drones for agricultural purposes. The group is looking into the use of drones and agriculture, along with other industries the department regulates. “We started the group last year and they are still looking into the use and viability of drones,” said Erin Gillespie, press secretary for the department. Drones make a lot of sense for the agricultural industry as they can perform a lot of labor intensive tasks in faster time, such as reviewing insect problems, assessing moisture, inspecting watering issues, checking out crop yields or tracking farm animals, such as cattle or sheep who may have strayed. Also, applications like pesticides and fertilizers can be monitored and, ultimately, be reduced, due to the precision-agriculture that drones can allow. Landscapes could also be mapped making it easier to plan and plot. Furthermore, farmland can range great distances and drones can cover these areas in a faster amount of time. Since the areas are not heavily populated, there are less privacy issues than there would be in heavily populated areas...more

Cornyn Offers ESA Reform Bill

Sen. John Cornyn has introduced a bill to reform the listing procedure for the Endangered Species Act and change the way settlements are reached when environmentalists sue the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service to force a listing. The Texas Republican intends his “Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act” to limit the impact on individuals’ lives from legal settlements between special-interest groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). On introducing the bill, Cornyn issued a statement saying, “There must be a balance to ensure Washington bureaucrats don’t run roughshod over Texas landowners and job creators. This bill gives states and counties facing regulation a seat at the table with the FWS and special interest groups in ESA settlement negotiations.” The ESA Settlement Reform Act will give local governments and stakeholders a chance to have a say in ESA settlements affecting them, by requiring public notification when a lawsuit has been filed and allowing affected landowners and governments to intervene in the case. The bill would limit taxpayer liability by disallowing courts from awarding litigation costs when an out of court settlement or consent decree is reached. In addition, for settlements not involving a consent decree, the court would have to ensure the settlement does not include payments to plaintiffs for their litigation costs. Cornyn wrote the ESA reform in response to settlements the FWS made with two environmental groups in 2011 resulting in an accelerated “work plan” for the agency to determine whether hundreds of species merited endangered species listings by a specified deadline. This settlement required FWS to make these determinations outside of normal, transparent, ESA procedures. The settlement also required the federal government to pay the plaintiffs’ litigation fees. Duggan Flanakin, director of policy research for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, describes sue-and-settle as chicanery that violates the public interest. “The sweetheart sue-and-settle schemes by which environmentalists and bureaucrats collaborate to destroy the value of private and public property in the name of protecting species, often without any public comment, should be disallowed,” Flanakin said...more

Ranchers’ dispute has deep ties to Fort Hood history

Last week, a group of ranchers appeared in a Coryell County courtroom as part of a lawsuit against the Central Texas Cattlemen’s Association. The five men are fighting the association’s board, which stripped them of their rights to graze cattle on Fort Hood land after the men allegedly erected a cattle pen on a restricted section of land without proper permission. While the lawsuit works its way through the court system, the case has roots dating back to the earliest days of the sprawling military installation and the hundreds of Central Texas families displaced by its construction. The establishment of an Army post, known as “Camp Hood” in 1942, swallowed up 22 area communities and displaced more than 700 families in Bell and Coryell counties. The initial 108,794 acres of land that became Camp Hood — once home to ranches, farms and schools — became a place for tanks, barracks and areas blasted by artillery fire. Much of that land was taken by the federal government under the auspices of eminent domain, and the process was expedited by the Second War Powers Act in 1942, according to Baylor University’s Sylvia Edwards’ thesis, “Land Acquisition in Coryell County ... A Civilian Perspective.” At the time, many of the families had been on the land for generations, but many acquiesced to help with the war effort. In J. Akiens’ “History of Fort Hood and Local Area,” a witness relayed the reaction of one group of families to an Army official explaining the land acquisition to them. “Many of them were gray and stooped; they had been born upon that land; and their forefathers were buried there. They had labored to improve it and expected to pass it on to their sons and daughters. No tears were shed, nor were many words spoken. Each family group went its own way, but on their faces could be seen the deep hurt.” The land acquisition was especially painful for ranchers, who not only lost their homes, but had to scramble to figure out what to do with their livestock...more

Native Americans at sunrise ceremony in Post predict fair year

With several butterflies, feathers and bright colors adorning her traditional Native American dress, Zoe Kirkpatrick put her hands up and spun around clockwise before entering a circle with a fire burning in the center of it. As she danced around the circle, Kirkpatrick dropped sage to cleanse the area around the fire, made of all-natural materials and built in the shape of a teepee. The fire, which had been lit just before sunrise Sunday morning at Post City Park, was a focal point of the traditional Taba’na Yuan’e, or sunrise wind ceremony. About 15 Native Americans took turns praying, singing and dancing as they circled the fire as part of the ceremony, which is performed at sunrise every March 22. Kirkpatrick, whose Indian name is Pretty Butterfly, said the ceremony welcomes spring. Based on the direction of wind, it also predicts the forecast for success of crops for farmers, grass prospects for ranchers and economic outlook for merchants. “It’s really special to me and it’s perplexing to me that the community doesn’t understand or want to get up this early,” said Kirkpatrick, a member of the Taba’na Yuan’e tribe who has been a part of the ceremony for more than 30 years. “We’re always just really pleased for whoever comes out and I hope that they’re blessed.” Kenneth LeBlanc, who served as the pariabo, or head man, for the ceremony, said wind coming from the east or northeast signals a good year ahead, while north or northwest wind means a fair year. Wind from the west or southwest means a poor year, and from the south or southeast a bad year. “The wind at sunrise will change three or four times,” said LeBlanc, who has been a part of the ceremony for 29 years. “It was out of this direction, it was straight up for a while ... It finally ended up right at sunrise coming out of the northwest and that predicts a fair year, which I’m glad.” During the past 30 years, the prediction of the sunrise wind ceremony has been 92 percent correct, according to the group...more

Rule Change May Devastate International Travel for Hunters and Shooters

The Obama administration’s relentless assault on the Second Amendment continues as the State Department implements a new rule which catches American hunters and sport shooters in a web of bureaucratic red-tape when traveling outside the United States.  Coming close on the heels of the withdrawn BATFE ammo ban we reported on last week, an unmistakable pattern of abuse is beginning to emerge, suggesting Obama’s last two years could prove the most challenging period in history for America’s gun owners.  Exporting firearms and ammunition from the U.S. normally requires a license--from the State Department for rifles, handguns, and rifle or handgun ammunition, and from the Commerce Department for shotguns and shotshells.  But for many years, the State Department’s International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) have allowed Americans to temporarily export up to three non-automatic firearms and up to 1,000 rounds of ammunition without a permit, as long as the firearms were declared and presented to a Customs officer.  This was done by bringing the firearms to a Customs office at some point before the trip and completing Customs Form 4457--a form that can be completed for any personal property and that is normally used to prove that the traveler owned the property before going abroad, thus protecting the traveler from paying import duties on items already owned.  The traveler would retain the form and present it upon reentry if needed.  But a 2012 State Department rule change added an important new requirement that the traveler declare rifles or handguns “upon each departure” by presenting documentation generated through the Commerce Department’s “Automated Export System” (AES)--an online reporting tool designed for use by businesses.  (Non-“combat” shotguns are not regulated by the State Department, so the AES requirement does not apply to temporary shotgun exports.)  The rule change was buried in a Federal Register notice aimed at authorizing the temporary export of gas masks by government employees and contractors...more

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

No batteries required

by Julie Carter

It can be argued over the hood of a pickup or while leaning on the gate waiting for the brand inspector, but the fact is, the world has become a complicated place to navigate from the ranch at the end of 40 miles of dirt road.

The cow business might possibly be the last bastion of commerce conducted on a man’s word. Cattlemen of good repute can still buy and sell cattle over the phone and the rancher will send the check with the trucker when the new cattle are delivered.

A generation has passed since the day of signature loans for large amounts of money for cattle, equipment, feed or whatever. Now you need to have a credit report from some place in the sky and a mortgage on whatever you were using the money for and sometimes even throw in the first-born male child for security.

And counter checks? Remember when you just walked into any place of business and filled out a blank check that was on the counter and then signed it? Now you have to have three photo ID’s, your home and cell phone numbers, your blood type and recent dental records to cash a $12 check in a business you frequent three times a week.

The concept of buying groceries on a tab still exists in a few tiny places off the beaten track. And some, not many, will let you pay when the fall check comes after the calves, lambs or wool are sold, even knowing it might not happen this year.

Along with the economic changes we have also lost an entire language that was common to rural living. If you hear it now, it is usually prefaced with “my grandmother used to say,” or “my dad used to call it that.”  

What passes for words today is set of labels and directions directly related to electronic devices and make no sense to any cowboy old enough to remember black and white television and Bonanza. We live in a high-tech fast-paced world that swallows up time faster than we can get comfortable with each new thing.

“Store bought” was an indicator of a slight increase in financial status. Eating “light bread” as opposed to biscuits or cornbread was said when it came from the store.
“Store bought” indicated extra value and often came with braggin’ rights.

Getting big enough to reach the “foot feed” in the pickup so I could drive was a milestone. I remember my first “picture show,” and when my brothers got their “ears lowered.”

Does anyone get lumbago anymore or self-medicate with castor oil and prune juice? And remember Metholatum rub and that stinkin’ rag around your neck if you had a cough?

There was a time when the saddle was a workbench in the making of Western history and then became a throne of tradition that endures yet today. But just as fishing became a sport, so, also, did cowboying. Horses have gained recreational value and saddles are created specific to the job of cutting, steer roping, team roping, calf roping, barrel racing or reining. One saddle that does all is an endangered species.

And remember the horse racks that fit in the bed of the pickup? The fancier ones had a hood right over the top of the cab to protect the eyes and head of the horse. Somewhere in time horse trailers got popular and now they cost more than a house.

This is the standard “I remember when Hershey bars were a nickel and I walked five miles to school, up hill both directions” discussion. It doesn’t have an ending and doesn’t serve any purpose other than the warm fuzzies of reminiscing the “good old days.”

Anyone recall Big Chief tablets with pages of paper that had wood chips embedded in them so big that your pencil skipped when you wrote over one? But, no batteries were required.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Trailer of Days Gone By... (Julie Carter)

The Paterson Boys

Our Faith
The Paterson Boys
Yesterday and Today
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The fight wasn’t unexpected.
            The game was in the confines of old James Stadium. That was where we played our home games long before Silver High School had its own football field. Perhaps the college component of the atmosphere was a factor, but it was a great place for high school football.
            The game was against El Paso Andress. We played them on their home field the year before. That game should have ended at half time. We had them down 21-0, but we were out of gas. The heat and our absence of any depth prevailed and a team that played into the quarter finals in the big school playoffs in Texas beat us 22-21.
            A year later, we had them at our place. We were seniors and had a pulling guard that weighed 157 pounds soaking wet. His name was John Paterson. He had moved from Clifton, Arizona the year before. He had assimilated and was one of us. What he lacked in speed and size, he made up in endless endurance and attitude.
            John had been talking hokey with Andress’ defensive end, a kid who had come in being touted as a high school All American. We knew George Oaks and we bantered back and forth with all the bravado of being that age and under those lights. John was six or seven inches shorter than George and at least 55 pounds lighter, but that didn’t matter.
            The whistles were blowing and threats were being exchanged when I turned to see John swinging away at him. The problem was he wasn’t landing any blows because George stood out beyond John’s reach with a hand on his helmet. John was flailing air. George was smiling and suggested we needed to take care of this before somebody got mad. We drug John away while he was telling us what he would do if we’d just let him go.
            That was a glimpse of John. What he lacked in natural talents he made up in sheer will. He never believed for a minute he couldn’t succeed … at anything.
            The funeral
            Last Saturday, I slipped into the Methodist Church in Silver City just before the service. Dusty and Pat Hunt saved a place for me and we talked and greeted friends and family around as we waited.
            We were there to honor the memory of Helen Gunnary Paterson, wife of Alex and mother of the Paterson children.
            In shared duties, John and his brother, Tom, remembered their mother. The outcome was as courageous as it was dignified.
John took the lead and talked about early years and how his mother had grown up speaking Finnish on a Minnesota farm. She had been that state’s spelling champion, but had foregone studying English in preference to nursing. Her nursing degree brought her to Morenci, Arizona and the Phelps Dodge hospital. It was there she met a young man delivering milk to the hospital from his Ward Canyon dairy every morning at 5:00 AM. That was Alex, and, soon, they were married.
From that union four children would be born … John, Jimmy, Tom and Mary Helen.
The surviving Paterson children were in attendance. When John talked about his brother, Jimmy, he struggled. Jimmy was killed in an electrical accident. The family struggled to survive the loss. It was Jimmy’s death that made the family decide they simply couldn’t live in Clifton anymore. They moved to Silver City in 1967. Alex began his teaching career in the Cobre School System and Helen became a school nurse.
In horrors, John divulged they arrived in Silver City with a mattress tied to the top of their car only to meet the football team out running. I don’t remember the incident, but I do remember the first time I met him.
Tom then approached the dais and spoke.
Tom was younger. In the vernacular of time, he was just a ‘kid’. He was always there, and we all came to know what a bright young man he was. Early in high school, he went to work for a local vet and never played sports. When John and I were in college at Western, we watched Tom’s activities variously, and he became known outside the family circle as a growing sensation in scholastic achievement.
That extended to his decision and ability to go to Texas A&M. It then extended to his selection as a Rhodes Scholar finalist, and it would continue with his acceptance into a new PhD Ag Econ/ law degree combination at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
After years of different directions, I saw Tom at a reception at Purdue where we were attending some national meetings. He had hitched a ride from Madison with some ladies and he was following them around in his droopy, patented slouch walk. From across the hall, I knew that could only be Tom Paterson.
“Hey, Tom,” was the greeting. “Where’ve you been?”
I became convinced that night Tom Paterson was going to survive without having played football. I retrieved all doubts, and smiled at the success of that little brother.
His eulogy for his mother was polished proof.
To the Ranch
In the decade before Jimmy’s death, the Patersons bought a federal lands ranch north of Luna, New Mexico. I know now it was not just a ranch, but a place to go and heal. It became their natural sanctuary.
It remains that way.
John’s journey was always a matter of blue collar scholastics. He finished at Western where he worked his tail off to survive. Interestingly, success started appearing in chemistry and that gave him encouragement. When he finished his BA with nary a professor giving him much of a chance much less offering praise or encouragement, he enrolled at Utah State. He was in a different element and bovine nutrition was closer to his heart and his talents. He finished his MA and set a course for higher goals. From there, it was on to Nebraska where he earned his PhD.
I was in Kansas City one time on business when John was a young professor at the University of Missouri. I drove over and spent the weekend with him and Diana at Columbia. He was happy and in his element.
When he got to the University of Montana and filled the roll of their extension beef specialist, he blossomed. I would seen him from time to time on RFD TV on Cattlemen to Cattlemen or read something about him in a beef periodical. He retired in 2014 and took a position with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association where he will continue to impact the cattle industry.
Tom remains in Houston where he not only fills the role of a high powered Texas attorney he looks like one. When I walked up to him to greet him after the service his shop made boots and tailored suit largely hiding any suggestive abdominal silhouette were proof positive he is, indeed, that successful Texas attorney. I shook his hand, but I also reached around him, hugged him, and told him I was proud of him.
As Brothers Paterson and I talked, ranch remained a central theme. Tom talked about his loss of a pasture because of some endangered species. John talked about the difficulty of keeping labor. They both knew of my situation with our ranch operation being submersed into a national monument. They had seen the Blaze TV Losing our Land segment, and they had seen some of The Westerner history.
We discussed philosophy, but, mostly, it was a time for renewed greetings.
And, now
Our future is starting to appear in its rear view mirror.
We are graying and we are no longer as we were. That is disconcerting, but it is reality. The service that brought us together serves as a punctuation mark. It is a marker. It was also the forum that suggests what actually lies ahead.
Alex and Helen Paterson were enormously proud of their family and individual accomplishments. The eloquence of first Alex and then the brothers, though, brought to light a greater promise that surpasses the temporal issues of which we dwell.
It heralded family and Christian values.
There is no way we escape the coming years without tragedy and strife. Together we’ve shared life’s true pleasures and pain
Along with our nation’s turmoil, end of life experiences will accelerate. Alex suggested that Heaven’s door is open and the streets pave the way to a new and better existence. That is our Christian promise, but there remain duties in this setting.
A meaningful path was glimpsed in the faithful performance of the brothers. It was couched in words, but it reflected the true gift. It was the reminder that each of us must exemplify actions that support our steadfast devotion and faith in … our loving, living God.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.