Friday, April 03, 2015

Ted Cruz aims to win the West

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is making a play for the West in the 2016 race by touting his opposition to the federal government’s expansive land holdings. Cruz’s disdain for federal land control is resonating with Westerners whose lives are impacted by land managers, and could help him win over conservatives in Nevada, one of the early nominating states in the presidential contest. “This is an issue he’s been focused on for quite some time, and it’s one that plays extremely well with the conservative base in the western part of the United States,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who advised the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Federal control is particularly heavy in Nevada, where the government owns 81 percent of all land, the most of any state. “This is something that has been a perennial issue in the West since it became part of the United States,” said James McCarthy, a geography professor at Clark University who studies the history of western land. “It’s a staple of western politics to complain about that.” O’Connell said Nevada is especially receptive to issues of land rights, and said opposing federal control could play “extremely well” there for Cruz. “He really needs to get some traction, because he’s lingering in the polls, and he needs some elbow room in this potentially crowded field,” he said. Nevada could be critical for the senator, as it traditionally follows Iowa and New Hampshire in the early stretch of nominating states. It was third on the GOP presidential calendar in 2012, and is tentatively scheduled to be fourth in 2016. Early polling indicates Cruz has a real shot in the state.  Should the senator seek to build a firewall for his campaign in Nevada, he could tout his work on land issues in the Senate, such as his sponsorship of amendments that would prohibit the Interior Department and Forest Service from owning more than half the land in any state.  He has also fought against the Bureau of Land Management’s attempts to claim 90,000 acres of disputed land near Texas’s Red River, and urged his colleagues to vote against last year’s defense authorization bill because of provisions that he called an “extreme land grab.”...more

The article closes with this smug last comment by the good professor who "who studies the history of western land."

Still, in a primary process where big promises are expected, McCarthy, the historian, said Cruz might have little to lose by calling for a wholesale transfer of federal lands away from the federal government.  “It will help him in the primaries there, but he’ll never have to deliver on it,” he said. (emphasis mine)

Really?  Let's say a President Cruz would appoint Utah State Representative Ken Ivory as Secretary of Interior.  Would the good professor believe it would be delivered then?  For those who haven't been paying attention, Rep. Ivory quarterbacked the Utah Transfer Of Public Lands Act through their legislature, and as President of the American Lands Council is educating other states and the general public on a reasonable and responsible transfer program.

With every day that Obama is in office and with every new national monument or other restriction on access to federal lands that his administration imposes, the more politically palatable the partial transfer of these lands become.  At the rate Obama is going, it will be those who favor retention who will be on the political defensive.

And should such a transfer occur, one of the great benefits would be we no longer have to listen to a professor at a university in Massachusetts (a state where the feds own less than 2% of the land area) lecture us on how to run our business.

Locked out - Public Lands


...The scuffle over Sweet Grass Creek is part of a much larger struggle in the West. In Montana alone, more than a dozen access conflicts have flared up in recent years, as landowners gate off traditional access routes and effectively put hundreds of square miles of public land out of reach for people like Newmiller. Some conflicts, including the one here at Sweet Grass Creek, have smoldered for years or even decades. In many cases, landowners profit from the exclusive access to adjacent public land.

In an ideal world, anyone would be able to easily access the half-billion acres managed by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies in the West. But I'm struck by how tenuous, even fragile, our connection to that land is—including the land in this particular corner of Montana: just thin threads of roads, where access often hangs more on the will of a landowner than on whether a road is truly public or private. Who gets to enjoy the benefits of public land, and at what cost, is more complicated than the crisply mapped property lines. And opening public access is always more difficult than closing it off.

The roots of the problem reach back to the 1800s and early 1900s, when homesteaders carved out millions of acres from federal holdings in the West, forming rings of private land around islands of public land. And in what was probably the biggest giveaway of public resources in history, the federal government spurred westward settlement—and set the stage for innumerable future disputes—by dispensing sections (640-acre squares) to railroad companies, creating checkerboards of private land within those public-land islands.

For decades afterward, the public generally accessed public land on roads scraped in to serve homesteaders, miners and loggers. In those less-populous times, landowners were more tolerant of people crossing their property under informal, usually undocumented, arrangements. Today's camo-garbed hunters and pole-toting hikers still rely to a surprising extent on those roads. And the need for more legally binding rights to use them has grown, as a rising tide of public-land users collides with a new generation of landowners.

...Nationwide, it's hard to calculate how much progress has been made since 1992, because the agencies don't track the amount of land that is not adequately accessible. One Forest Service official in Washington, D.C., estimates that as much as 20 million acres of the agency's lands still lack adequate access today. A 2013 report by the Center for Western Priorities, a Denver-based think tank, identified 4 million acres of Forest Service, BLM, state and other public lands, in six Western states, that were completely inaccessible. Montana had the largest share—nearly 2 million acres—of this "landlocked" public domain.

...On the other side, private landowners often have good intentions, too. Until 2012, for instance, Paul Hansen allowed access through his Montana ranch to federal lands roughly 140 miles southwest of the Crazies. The ranch, which has been in his family for four generations, stretches 25 miles along a county road in a narrow valley bracketed by sagebrush foothills and timbered mountains. Several of its roads branch from the county road and climb into BLM land, with Forest Service land not far above. It's prime elk-hunting territory, and during hunting season, Hansen allowed people to use his roads, which were never gated, and even hunt portions of his land; the rest of the year, he paid little attention to the issue. But the number of hunters grew each year until they became a problem.

Montana has a "block management" program that compensates landowners for providing public hunting access on their property. But when I meet Hansen on one of the few mornings when he's not haying or moving cattle, he tells me how, in 2011, hundreds of hunters came through, maxing out the $12,000 he gets from the program. Their ATVs became a nuisance, spreading invasive knapweed. And the increase in traffic along the narrow gravel county road, which his kids drive every day to town, was especially troubling. "You'd think this was the interstate out here," he says. "It was like driving the gauntlet."

One November afternoon in 2010, when the county road was slick with new snow, Hansen's daughter, Jody, was driving home in a bulky Chevy Suburban SUV. A jacked-up Dodge pickup, obviously speeding—one hunter driving and another in the passenger seat—fishtailed and collided head-on with the Suburban, plowing onto the hood within inches of the windshield. Pinned inside with broken ankles and a broken arm, Jody drifted in and out of consciousness for two hours as emergency responders cut her from the vehicle. A similar problem occurred the following year, during hunting season: A speeding pickup, presumably driven by a hunter, crested a hill and skidded sideways past Jody as she veered into the ditch. The driver didn't stop. "It got to be too much," Hansen says. "We said: 'We're done with this.'"

Interesting, but the author makes no mention of federal agency actions to close roads and limit access. He focuses strickly on the private land owner.

Dunn: Land closure swaps with private ranches offers access to key acreage for sportsmen

Five southeastern New Mexico landowners have signed agreements with the State Land Office and the Department of Game and Fish to open 11,030 acres of private property to sportsmen in exchange for the closure of 12,904 acres of state trust lands to hunters and anglers. The agreements increase access for sportsmen to public lands normally blocked by private land and help reduce the potential for trespass by sportsmen, State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said. The closing of trust lands as part of the deal will help the private property owners better manage habitat and game, according to Dunn. The agreements, called unitizations, are good until March 31, 2016. The G.G. Armstrong and Son ranch near Roswell will open 1,880 acres, giving sportsmen access along N.M. 246 to the Capitan Mountains. In exchange, 1,880 acres of trust lands north of the Capitan Mountains will be closed to hunting and fishing. The Stephenson Ranch will open 4,000 acres of the I Bar X ranch during deer season in exchange for the closure of 3,240 acres of state trust land near Carrizozo. The agreement will not be in effect during the regularly scheduled elk season. The ranch will provide access to the Water Canyon Campground during the deer hunts. The L-Bar and Pintosa ranch will open 3,620 acres of private land off U.S. 54 near Corona in exchange for the closure of 3,200 acres of state trust lands. Brent Ward will open 960 acres of the Bettis Stoval ranch in exchange for the closure of 2,200 acres of state trust land off N.M. 219 near Santa Rosa. The Pajarito Ranch will open 570 acres in exchange for the State Land Office closing 304 acres off U.S. 70 near Ruidoso...more

Texas Water Ruling Cuts State's Power in Droughts

A state appeals court has sided with farmers, ranchers and other longstanding water rights holders in a Brazos River case with widespread implications for future water battles in drought-prone Texas. Upholding a lower court’s ruling, the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi on Thursday ruled that Texas cannot give special treatment to cities or power generators over more “senior” water rights holders on parched rivers – even if the state declares it necessary to protect the “public health, safety and welfare.” As it stands, the decision would require some cities, power generators or others with more “junior” river rights to pay up or go thirsty when severe drought strikes. The Texas Farm Bureau, which challenged a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality policy giving cities preferential treatment in certain water squabbles, applauded the ruling...more

The Fight Against Factory Farm Meat


For the first time since the advent of industrial agriculture, the federal government is considering advising Americans to eat “less red and processed meat.”

That advice is the outcome of studies conducted by an independent panel of “experts” which was asked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for recommended changes to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

The February 19 “eat less red and processed meat” pronouncement by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was reported widely in mainstream media. It set off a heated debate about whether or not consumers should eat meat, a debate that included the standard name-calling by factory farm front groups, including the Farm Bureau, denouncing consumers and environmentalists (and their alleged pawns on the DGAC) for being “anti-meat” and “anti-farmer.”

Unfortunately in its recommendations, the DGAC didn’t really come out and tell us the whole truth, which would go something like this: “Americans should eat less, or rather no red and processed meat from filthy, inhumane factory farms or feedlots, where the animals are cruelly crammed together and routinely fed a diet of herbicide-drenched, genetically engineered grains, supplemented by a witch’s brew of antibiotics, artificial hormones, steroids, blood, manure and slaughterhouse waste, contributing to a deadly public health epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption and food allergies.”

If the DGAC had really told us the truth about America’s red meat horror show (95 percent of our red meat comes from these Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs), we’d be having a conversation about how we can get rid of factory farms, instead of a rather abstract debate on the ethics of eating meat.

With a real debate we could conceivably start to change the self-destructive purchasing and eating habits (the average American carnivore consumes nine ounces or more of toxic CAFO meat and animal products daily) of most Americans. Instead we are having a slightly more high-volume replay of the same old debate, whereby vegetarians and vegans, constituting approximately 5 percent of the population, tell the other 95 percent, who are omnivores, to stop eating meat. Nothing much ever comes of that particular debate, which leaves thousands of hard-working, conscientious ranchers, and millions of health-, environment- and humane-minded omnivores, out of the conversation.

I say thousands of “hard-working, conscientious,” ranchers are being left out of the conversation because I know lots of them.
North American cattle ranchers, for the most part, have no love for Cargill, Tyson, Monsanto, JBS, Smithfield, Elanco (animal drugs) or McDonald’s. Most of these ranchers practice traditional animal husbandry, conscientiously taking care of their animals from birth. They graze their cattle free-range on grass, as nature intended, before they’re forced to sell these heretofore-healthy animals at rock-bottom prices to the monopolistic meat cartel.

Before these hapless creatures are dragged away to hell, to be fattened up on GMO grains and drugged up in America’s CAFOs, their meat is high in beneficial Omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acids (LA), and low in “bad” fats.

Unfortunately by the time their abused and contaminated carcasses arrive, all neatly packaged, at your local supermarket, restaurant or school cafeteria, the meat is low in Omega 3 and good “fats,” and routinely tainted by harmful bacteria, not to mention pesticide, steroid and antibiotic residues. What was once a healthy food has now become a literal poison that clogs up your veins, makes you fat, and heightens your risk of heart attack or cancer.

                                                      READ ENTIRE COLUMN

You might say this is slightly biased...ha...but you need to know this kind of stuff is out there.

Wild turkeys overrun Spokane neighborhood

Residents of the South Hill section of Spokane say they are being overrun by a flock of wild turkeys, and state wildlife officials have stepped in to help. “They’re proliferating like crazy and they’re causing a lot of problems for a lot of people,” said Madonna Luers, public information officer for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Spokane. Since December, wildlife conflict specialist Candace Bennett has received at least 60 different complaints about wild turkeys from South Hill residents. Complaints include feces, vehicle damage because tom turkeys see their reflection in cars and attack them, turkeys roosting and breaking tree limbs, noise and intimidation of small children and pets, Luers said. To get rid of the turkeys, the department is looking for volunteers to collect the turkey eggs or addle them, applying corn oil to the eggs to stop them from developing. A legislator from rural Washington state sees a double standard in the department’s response to the turkey problem compared with predator problems plaguing some ranchers. “It seems like there’s two different sets of standards when there’s wildlife conflict in an urban area and another in more rural areas,” Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said. The wolf debate is filled with discussions about nonlethal and preventive measures, Kretz said. “If it was wolves, that would be the whole conversation — are these people doing the preventative, nonlethal alternatives, have they exhausted all of those before they go to a lethal (measure)?” he said. “I didn’t really see that in the conversation on the turkey thing. It was ‘Oh, they’ve irritated some residents, so we’re basically going to destroy next year’s crop.’ It really makes it really clear (there are) double standards.”...more

Its not double standards...its quadruple voters. 

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1406

Carolina Cotton sings and yodels all about her Lovin' Ducky Daddy.  Recorded in Nashville in March of 1950.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Western governors tout sage grouse conservation efforts to avoid endangered species listing

A group of Western-state governors has released a report on voluntary efforts in 11 states to conserve the habitat of sage grouse as part of an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the federal Endangered Species Act. The 32-page "2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory" released Thursday by the Western Governors' Association identifies conservation work during the year and is accompanied by a 101-page appendix listing efforts since 2011. "The states have certainly done all that has been asked of them and all that can be done to prove to the federal government that a listing is unnecessary," said Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who has proposed ideas for protecting habitat that have been incorporated by federal planners. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a Sept. 30 deadline to decide whether to propose the greater sage grouse as needing protections that could limit ranching as well as oil and gas drilling in the West. The Western Governors' Association said a listing will reduce voluntary conservation work and harm states' economies. "It's a good report," said John Freemuth, a Boise State University professor and public lands expert who analyzed the documents. "What they're trying to do is show — primarily Fish and Wildlife — that all these efforts are being done to protect sage grouse habitat." Some highlights in the report include Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's executive order creating a statewide greater sage-grouse habitat conservation program and requiring compliance by state agencies. In Nevada, the report said, the state's Sagebrush Ecosystem Council adopted a plan in 2014 building on the recommendations made by the state's Greater Sage-Grouse Advisory Committee. The association's report said various agencies have also been working with private citizens to protect habitat through easements. Though too recent to be in the report, Jewell last week visited central Oregon to celebrate agreements with ranchers intended to protect sage grouse habitat. Travis Bruner of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, a conservation group, said voluntary measures on private land fall short because they lack scientific monitoring. He also said that could cause federal authorities to do less on public lands that contain most of the sage grouse habitat. If Fish and Wildlife had to make a decision today, he said, sage grouse should be listed...more

Drought: California taking sweeping steps to conserve water

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered sweeping and unprecedented measures to save water in California. A survey that day found the snowpack, which supplies a third of the state's water, almost completely vanished. Cities have developed local storage supplies to soften the blow of future dry years, which also insulates residents from the severity of the drought. Brown also asked for a voluntary 25 percent cut in water use in 1977 during his first term as governor. Nearly 40 years later, Brown warns that drought may be the new normal. Surveyors on Wednesday found the lowest snow level in the Sierra Nevada snowpack in 65 years of record-keeping, marking a fourth consecutive year of vanishing snow that California depends on to melt into rivers and replenish reservoirs. He signed an executive order ordering officials to impose statewide mandatory water restrictions and expand programs intended to reshape how Californians use water. Cemeteries, golf courses and business headquarters must significantly cut back on watering their large landscapes. Local governments will tear out 50 million square feet of lawns for drought-tolerant plants. And customers will get money for replacing old water-sucking appliances with efficient ones under a temporary rebate program.  That includes directing local agencies to charge for high water use, such as extra fees for the highest water consumption. State water officials vowed to crack down on water waste and illegal water diversions, acknowledging spotty enforcement of existing rules limiting outdoor water use. The order also prohibits new homes and developments from using drinkable water for irrigation if the structures lack water-efficient drip systems. In addition, the watering of decorative grasses on public street medians is banned...more

Low-Income, Minority Households Bear Costs Of Solar Subsidies

by Peter Fricke

Government subsidies make residential solar panels more affordable, but also lead to higher electricity bills for non-solar customers, especially low-income families and minorities.

A policy called “net metering” acts as an implicit subsidy paid for by non-solar customers in the form of higher rates. This has drawn criticism from minority groups that say those costs are disproportionately borne by low-income families.

Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, claimed in a press release Tuesday that such economic distortions have a “socially regressive societal impact,” citing a recent study by utility regulators in Louisiana which found that solar customers “have incomes 35% higher than the median statewide income.”

“When we pay solar owners a higher-than-market rate for their power, we throw basic economics out of balance,” Alford argued. “Because of overly generous net metering payments, those with the means to install costly solar panels are shifting costs to other customers, including low-income families and those on fixed incomes.”

Hispanics are also “being hit with high electricity bills that they can’t afford, thanks to … net metering,” Jose Nino said in an article for Energy Biz Sunday. “It’s lower-income and minority communities, including Hispanics, who are forced to essentially subsidize these rooftop solar systems because they’re the ones who can’t afford to own them.”

I just love this...I'm joyful as can be.  Another great example of where the DC Deep Thinkers and their fellow travelers in the enviro community are doing harm to the poor and minorities.  Nice to see that some minority leaders are catching on.  The enviro groups and foundations are spending millions to get minorities, especially Hispanics, involved in enviro issues, while at the same time sticking it to those groups through their misguided policies.  Glad to see them getting called on this.

Mountain lions have Coastsiders on edge

Statistically speaking, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, you are 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion. While they haven’t personally been attacked, Bob and Irma Mitton must feel incredibly unlucky today. Three of their goats have been killed by mountain lions in the last month, in three separate attacks on their Pescadero homeplace. They’re tired, exasperated and they are also mesmerized by one of nature’s top-of-the-food-chain predators seen up close with their own eyes. “It was the most amazing, beautiful, majestic animal I’ve ever seen,” Irma Mitton said of a lion she saw from a distance of three feet early in the morning of March 10. The Mittons are just two of several Coastsiders who have reported close sightings of the usually reclusive mountain lions in the last month. Since March 7, there have been at least nine sightings reported in La Honda, Pescadero and Half Moon Bay to either the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The latest sighting was at 9:35 p.m. Monday night, near the intersection of Miramontes Point Road and Highway 1, not far from an earlier March sighting. There was also an eventful night on Miramontes Point Road. The Sheriff’s Office reported multiple sightings of a mountain lion about 7:30 p.m. on March 20, not far from the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. But the Mittons have had the most hair-raising encounters...more

Feds declare bat species ‘threatened’ despite GOP objections

Federal officials have declared the northern long-eared bat a threatened species, defying objections from congressional Republicans. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s listing under the Endangered Species Act means the bat is under threat of becoming endangered. When the listing goes into effect in May, certain activities that could harm or kill bats in the areas where they hibernate will be prohibited, including some logging practices. The bat is typically 3 to 4 inches long and lives in forested areas throughout much of the eastern and central parts of the country. The GOP has pushed back against efforts to protect the species, citing potential impacts on businesses and landowners. “This decision flouts transparency and will fail to mitigate the real menace to this species, which is a disease called white nose syndrome — not human activities,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement...more

Shell looks to 'next chapter' as Interior clears way for next steps in summer drilling

The Interior Department yesterday ended a legal battle that blocked oil drilling in the American Arctic, clearing the decks for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to begin formally reviewing Royal Dutch Shell PLC's application to explore this summer in the Chukchi Sea. In a move that was immediately attacked by national environmental groups, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued a record of decision reaffirming the government's 2008 decision to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska's Chukchi Sea. The lease sale was suspended last year after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government's 2007 environmental review vastly underestimated how much oil could be developed as a result of auctioning the offshore region. Since then, BOEM has followed a breakneck schedule to revise its flawed supplemental environmental impact statement in time for Shell to drill during this summer's open water season. Interior's record of decision acknowledged that "environmental resources could be adversely impacted to varying degrees by routine activities resulting from [leasing] and by potential accidental events, such as oil spills."  But the final report concluded that the leasing plan includes "adequate environmental safeguards and is consistent with the maintenance of competition and national energy needs."...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1405

Here's a Red Foley double treat from back when he was known as Rambling' Red Foley:  The Dying Rustler + Blonde Headed Girl.  Both tunes were recorded in Chicago on November 20, 1933.


"There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly." -- Henry David Thoreau

"It has been thought a considerable advance towards establishing the principles of Freedom, to say, that government is a compact between those who govern and those that are governed: but this cannot be true, because it is putting the effect before the cause; for as man must have existed before governments existed, there necessarily was a time when governments did not exist, and consequently there could originally exist no governors to form such a compact with. The fact therefore must be, that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist." -- Thomas Paine


Million barrels of oil per day riding U.S. rails

More than 1 million barrels of crude oil move by train across the United States every day, according to data published for the first time by the government on Tuesday. The volume of crude shipped by rail has increased more than 50-fold in five years, from just 630,000 barrels in January 2010 to 33.7 million barrels in January 2015, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed in its first monthly report on movements of oil by rail. Railroads have become an essential part of the American energy revolution. Without the massive unit trains hauling 100 tank cars or more loaded with crude from the shale fields to refineries, U.S. crude production could not have grown so quickly over the last five years...more

North Dakota launches oil rules hoping to curb U.S. rail disasters

North Dakota will from Wednesday require the more-than 1.2 million barrels of crude extracted each day from the state’s Bakken shale formation be run through machines that remove volatile gases linked to recent crude-by-rail disasters. The controversial step is designed to abrogate the damage North Dakota crude oil – 70 percent of which is transported via rail – can cause during derailments. In the absence of concrete regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation, North Dakota’s new rules become the de facto national standard on the treatment of crude before tankcar loading. The new regulations require every single barrel of North Dakota crude to be filtered for ethane, propane and other natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are found naturally co-mingled with oil. North Dakota crude contains a far-higher percentage of those gases than, for instance, crude extracted in Texas or Alaska, and that added volatility fueled a deadly derailment in Quebec in late 2013, as well as a string of successive disasters...more

BNSF Implements New Safety Rules for Oil Trains

In an effort to safely move massive oil trains from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, BNSF Railway has told shippers that it is implementing its own rules to try and prevent explosive derailments and accidental spills. In a letter to its customers on March 30, the railroad announced it would require oil trains to travel at slower speeds through populated areas, increase track inspections along waterways and encourage shippers to use safer and stronger tank cars. The announcement comes less than two months after a BNSF oil train derailed and exploded in Illinois. No one was injured in the accident. The railroad is also urging shippers to use stronger tank cars and will ban the use of DOT-111 and unmodified CPC-1232 cars within three years. The DOT-111 tank car was at the center of the deadly 2013 oil train wreck in Quebec that killed 47 people and leveled more than 30 buildings. Tougher CPC-1232 tank cars were introduced soon after, but a series of oil train wrecks in February and March of this year showed that the new tank cars were not as safe as the industry had believed. In January, the railroad began to charge oil shippers $1,000 every time they used an older tank car...more

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Sheep Ranch Near Denhoff Gets a Big Surprise

It's a busy time of the year for many farmers and ranchers as cattle and sheep begin calving and lambing, but one set of newborns near Denhoff came as a big surprise to the owners. On Monday, Lisa Dockter discovered something she didn't think was possible. "I stood for a minute and boy my wheels were turning,: she says. She came out to check on her ewe and saw not 1, or 2, or even 3 little lambs.. but 5. A 1 in a million chance. "I, myself, had never heard of it," she says. And with over 20 years of experience, Lisa has seen it all, or so she thought. "It is kind of amazing you know, but for them all to be alive and up, that in itself is a miracle." The quintuplets are all happy and healthy, but they are small, about half the size of a normal newborn. So Lisa and her grandson bottle feed the littlest lambs, and even with 5 to look after, mom knows when one is gone. "When they're about to lamb and after they have lambed and things like this when you take one away [ewe makes noise] just like that they make that noise and you can be 50 feet away and hear that noise," Lisa says.  She will soon be hearing it a lot more often, because this is just the first set of lambs...more

Fallon Area Ranchers Receive Lowest Water Allocation on Record!

The Truckee Carson Irrigation District has announced this year's water allocation for the Fallon area and it's the lowest water allocation on record! "It's only 20%," said TCID Manager Rusty Jardine. "In a good year they get as many as say 12 waterings. In a normal year it's at least 6 or 7. This means they'll get 1 maybe one-and-a-half waterings. That's all there is!" "They're gonna have to make some drastic decisions that will impact the bottom line for farms and ranches here," said Stacy Emm, with Agriculture Extension at the University of Nevada. "They'll utilize all the water they can as early as they can and grow whatever they can," said Lynne Hettrick with the Nevada Department of Agriculture. "And then they'll have to shut it down for the year." For ranchers like Wade Workman it will mean leaving land out of production. He'll only be growing 50 of his 112 acres. "The drop in pay will be horrible," Workman said. And it's expected to ripple into the other big industry in Fallon; dairies...more

North Dakota Legislature doubles the $1 beef checkoff

The North Dakota Legislature has passed legislation that will double the $1-per-head checkoff that ranchers pay when they sell cattle. North Dakota's House approved the measure Wednesday. The Senate approved the bill earlier. The North Dakota Stockmen's Association supports doubling the checkoff to provide more money for beef research, education and promotion. Ranchers would have the option of asking for a refund of the additional dollar. The Independent Beef Association of North Dakota and the North Dakota Farmers Union are opposed to the measure. Opponents say any checkoff increase should be decided by ranchers — not by state lawmakers...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1404

We'll have a "Country Roots" song today: Charlie Poole - Leaving  Home.  The tune was recorded in NY City on September 18, 1926 for Columbia Records.  Many will recognize the tune as a version of Frankie & Johnny.

Public lands takeover bill draws Bundy crowd but is doomed

Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and about 100 supporters of a bill challenging federal control of Nevada public lands descended on the capital Wednesday to support the measure, but it will all be for naught. Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, said the Legislative Counsel Bureau has told leadership that Assembly Bill 408 from Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, is unconstitutional. “I wouldn’t expect us to move on that bill any further than it is now just because of the constitutionality of it,” Anderson said before the hearing began. Those attending the rally in support of the bill were quiet and orderly. The only minor dust-up occurred with an exchange between Bundy and a Native American man holding a sign saying “Bundy get off my property” who declined to be identified. Bundy said in his remarks that supporters of the bill are exercising their rights to have access to the 80-plus percent of Nevada land that is controlled by federal agencies. “We’re here to take our state back,” he said. At a rally in opposition to the bill, a crowd of about 50 called for the Legislature to keep Nevada’s public lands open to all. Critics say Fiore’s bill is unconstitutional and is based on a flawed legal theory about public lands, noting that on numerous occasions the U.S. Supreme Court has described the federal authority over public lands as “without limitation.” The hearing began with Fiore challenging the LCB legal opinion, noting that Nevadans have legalized medical marijuana despite a federal law to the contrary and the state has successfully fended off the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository for decades, both of which she said call into question federal authority over Nevada. More than two hours of testimony was presented by both supporters and opponents of the measure. But a further blow to the bill came in a fiscal note attached by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which estimated it would cost the Division of State Lands $95 million to implement if an estimated 60 million acres of lands were taken over by the state. The committee took no action on the bill...more

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy takes on the U.S. government again

Decked out in a buffalo-hide hat, bolo tie and Western boots, Nevada rancher and states' rights rabble-rouser Cliven Bundy stood near the Capitol building Tuesday, addressing a throng of supporters and one lone counter-protester (more on him later). Hey, if Mr. Smith can go to Washington, then, by golly, Mr. Bundy can go to Carson City — to air out his plain-spoken concerns on how the federal government's britches have just gotten too big, with a reach so suffocating it threatens to smother the constitutional health of this Western state. And so here he was, this stubborn 69-year-old cowboy, whose armed standoff last year with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights on federally administered public lands almost led to violence. But this time Bundy's supporters left their guns at home. The rancher led a busload of blue-collar followers from Las Vegas to swarm a hearing to discuss legislation calling for Washington to release its stranglehold on 85% of the land in this arid state and allow local residents greater access to fish, hike and hunt there. And in Bundy's case, run his cattle free of charge there. "For too long, we've allowed the federal government to run over us like we're nothing," he told supporters. "Well, we're not gonna be nothing no more." At issue is Nevada's AB 408, introduced by Republican state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore. It's the latest of a slew of anti-Uncle Sam bills put forth across the West that have caught the attention of land and water advocacy groups. "Bill 408 goes farther than even the most extreme bill we've seen so far — and we're tracking 37 like bills in 11 Western states," said Jessica Goad, a spokeswoman for the Center for Western Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank. Similar state legislation elsewhere has called for studies of state-controlled lands and even demanded the BLM relinquish all management to the state. Nevada's goes even further, insisting Washington "has no say in any land and water rights discussion," Goad said. Nevada's oversight Legislative Counsel Bureau, which provides legal advice and research for lawmakers, has labeled the bill unconstitutional. Goad said Bundy and his sovereign-citizen movement represented "an extremist take on the rights of the federal government in America"...more

Obama’s CO2 Plan Will Only Avert 0.001° Of Warming A Year

by Michael Bastasch

President Barack Obama formally submitted his plan to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to the U.N. Tuesday and a climate scientists has already pointed out a glaring problem: The plan will have virtually no impact on global temperatures.

Obama’s carbon dioxide reduction plan commits the U.S. to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 — a promise he made last year to secure a pledge from China to reduce its own emissions.
But Obama’s plan will only avert 0.001 degrees Celsius of global temperature rises a year, according to climate scientist Chip Knappenberger with the libertarian Cato Institute.

Knappenberger notes that Obama’s climate plan mirrors a scenario where the U.S. reduces carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2050. Using this assumption, Knappenberger calculates that only about one-tenth of a degree of temperature rise will be averted by 2100. This breaks down to about a one-thousandth of a degree of averted temperature rise every year over the next century.

The cost? It’s not clear, but EPA regulations aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector is projected to cost as much as $8.8 billion a year based on agency figures. Other studies put the cost much higher — a NERA study found the costs would be $41 billion per year.

$11.5 Billion Backlog at National Parks

The National Park Service recently released its fiscal year 2014 deferred maintenance statistics for national parks. The $11.49 billion nationwide total was up from the $11.3 billion reported at the end of FY2013. Deferred maintenance is necessary work on infrastructure such as roads and bridges, visitor centers, trails, and campgrounds that has been put off for more than a year. Aging facilities, increasing use of park facilities and scarce resources contribute to the growing backlog...more

Similar problems are experienced in the other federal land management agencies, yet, they and their Congressional allies want to acquire more property every year.

USDA earmarks $332 million for conservation easements

One of USDA's voluntary conservation programs for producers - the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) - will provide $332 million in financial and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who enroll acreage in conservation easements by May 15. There are four easement options offered through ACEP: -Permanent easements, in which the property is held as an easement in perpetuity and NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value and between 75 and 100 percent of restoration costs. -30-year easements, which expire after 30 years and NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the purchase price of the easement and of the restoration costs. -Term easements, which are effective for as long as applicable state law allows. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the purchase price for the easement and of its restoration. -30-year contracts, which are only available on land owned by Native American tribes. The 2014 farm bill created the ACEP program by combining the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The spending breakdown between the two missions of ACEP - open land and wetland easements - will roughly follow the historical breakdown of the FRPP, GRP and WRP programs with about 60 percent of the funding going toward wetland easements and the remaining funding supporting open space easements, NRCS Chief Jason Weller said today during a conference call...more

Saving prime sage grouse habitat will mean fighting fires differently this summer

Mike Courtney gave Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a tutorial on sage grouse, cheatgrass and fire last October as he guided her on a short hike in the South Hills near Twin Falls. After gathering scientists in Boise in November, Jewell issued a secretarial order in January requiring Interior officials to make stopping fire in critical sagebrush habitat the top resource priority for the Bureau of Land Management. The directive requires the BLM to send firefighting money, equipment and personnel to 15 districts in five states that have 38 million acres of critical sagebrush habitat, even at the expense of other parts of BLM’s 262 million acres in 11 states. Under Jewell’s order, Courtney is pre-positioning fire equipment in sagebrush country, which is up to 40 miles from the nearest town. He has plowed to bare dirt 12-foot wide “brown strips” along roads, designed to reduce the spread of fires before firefighters arrive. Eventually BLM plans to plant native and other non-invasive plants in the strips that will stay green and resist fire long into the summer. Jewell’s plan also calls for expanded efforts to restore habitat damaged by wildfire and to boost the amount of native seeds and plants used for rehabilitation. Early in a season, many firefighters are in Alaska. Often, when that fire season ends in June and July, firefighters get to choose where they go next. Not this year This year, they’ll go to places like Winnemucca and Vale and other out-of-the-way communities in prime sagebrush country, Dunton said. “They will not get to pick and choose,” he said. “That’s not going to make people happy.”...more

Decision on Arctic drilling rights goes Shell's way

The Obama administration on Tuesday reaffirmed a 2008 government auction of Arctic drilling rights, delivering a victory to Shell Oil Co. as it aims to resume exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer. In validating the 7-year-old auction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed that the Arctic "is an important component of the administration's national energy strategy." The move illustrated anew the balancing act the Obama administration has taken toward oil and gas development amid steep environmental opposition, coming the same day the White House formally pledged greenhouse gas emission cuts to frame international climate talks. It also marked the second time the Obama administration has affirmed the Chukchi Sea lease sale in response to a long-running legal challenge that began even before former President George W. Bush's Interior Department held the auction in February 2008...more

'Stewards of the planet’ - Questa High takes first in enviro competition

The Questa Ecocats aren’t a sports team, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take their competition seriously. The team won first place March 17 at Taos County’s Envirothon Regionals. Envirothon is an international competition that tests students chops in topics about the environment and natural resource management — forestry, wildlife, aquatics, soils and a “current topic” that this year is urban and community forestry. Second place went to the Taos High School Earthletes, while third place went to Peñasco High School’s “50 Shades of Green.” Taos’ local Envirothon competition is sponsored by the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District, but draws professional help from many of the local agencies that manage natural resources, including the National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service and others. Lopez said the last week’s day of field tests and oral presentations is really preparation for the three-day state competition in mid-April. All the teams, including a second team from Peñasco, the DHDs, will participate in the New Mexico Envirothon. “We’re beefing up the competition,” he said. Students have been preparing since at least December for the event. Much of what they must do is practical — identifying bird calls, soil types and different species of trees...more

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Federal, state officials race to save Northwest's dwindling grizzlies

Scott Streater, E&E reporter

Federal and state agencies in Washington state's rugged North Cascades are racing to save the iconic grizzly bear before the 600-pound behemoths disappear.

Grizzlies that once numbered in the thousands from north-central Washington into British Columbia have dwindled to no more than 30 or so animals spread across the North Cascades ecosystem, 13,600 square miles in the United States and Canada.

"Given what we know, there's few bears left," said Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grizzly bear recovery coordinator in Missoula, Mont. "It's a very, very small number."

The National Park Service and FWS are leading an effort that both agencies concede is long overdue to develop a formal plan to restore grizzlies in 9,800 square miles on the U.S. side of the North Cascades ecosystem. The agencies last month formally launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) to study a host of alternatives to restore grizzly populations across one of the largest contiguous swaths of undeveloped land in the Lower 48 states.

...But while no one disagrees that grizzlies in the North Cascades are at a perilous stage, how best to increase bear populations in the region while ensuring public safety and protecting the state's valuable livestock and ranching industries has already sparked a lot of public debate, as well as concerns from some local government leaders.

..."From our perspective, the only appropriate alternative is for the augmentation or translocation of bears into the [North Cascades] habitat," said Elizabeth Ruther, the Seattle-based Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife who has led the group's efforts to promote grizzly bear recovery in the Cascade Mountains.

But the mere possibly of augmenting the population in the North Cascades with grizzlies from out of state has raised the ire of the livestock industry, which worries about cattle depredation not only from grizzlies but from a growing population of gray wolves that have been designated as endangered by the state.

Endangered bighorn sheep moved to Yosemite, Sequoia parks

For the first time in a century, endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are back on their ancestral range and headed toward recovery, wildlife officials said Monday. During an ongoing relocation effort, hundreds of bighorn have been captured with nets dropped from helicopters then moved to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. “We’ve got the sheep where we want them on a broad geographic basis, which is a huge milestone,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Tom Stephenson said. “We’ve still got to get their numbers up a bit.” Between 1914 and 1986, no bighorn roamed Yosemite, and statewide their numbers hit a low of about 100. The animals were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1999. Today, about 600 exist statewide in areas critical to their survival, Stephenson said. The number is about three-quarters the size called for in the state recovery plan that indicates the importance of the animals to the survivals of mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes. State biologists recently started moving sheep from thriving herds in Inyo National Forest, in the southern mountain range. Each was examined and fitted with a GPS tracking collar. Seven ewes and three rams are being relocated in the Laurel Creek area of Sequoia National Park, while nine ewes — eight of them pregnant — and three rams were trapped and released into Yosemite...more

Proposed national monument draws mixed reaction

A proposal to designate a vast, sparsely populated area surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument is getting mixed reactions. About 100 people gathered in Flagstaff to weigh in on the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who hosted the meeting, has said she is hopeful President Barack Obama will designate the 1.7-million-acre area as a national monument before he leaves office. The meeting Thursday was closed to the media, and Kirkpatrick declined through spokesman D.B. Mitchell to provide immediate comment. He cited the office’s policy of excluding reporters from meetings for stakeholders. Some people who showed up at the meeting said they were invited, while others said they heard about it indirectly. According to them, Kirkpatrick heard from environmental groups that want to protect the region’s water, large-diameter trees and wildlife corridors. She also heard from the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and sportsmen’s groups that oppose the effort to sidestep Congress and questioned the expense of running a national monument. Elsewhere, conservationists are looking to Obama to protect areas including the Dolores River in western Colorado, Utah’s Cedar Mesa region and land surrounding Canyonlands National Park, and the Berryessa Snow Mountain region in northern California...more

I found this interesting:

Supporters of the monument designation say it would help preserve archaeological sites, seeps and springs, promote the voluntary retirement of grazing permits and ensure that a major wildlife corridor isn’t harmed in the future.

How does a monument designation promote the voluntary retirement of grazing permits?  The most recent designations by Obama allow grazing to continue as long as its "consistent" with the purposes of the designation or the protection of the objects.  What the enviros are saying could only occur if there is language in the proclamation concerning buyouts of the permits. 

Mexican Wolf Gets Special Endangered Species Status

by Kenneth Artz

...This changed in January when the FWS announced the “experimental” phase of the wolves’ release is ending. Mexican wolves will not be lumped in with the main gray wolf species. Instead, the animals will receive their own classification as an “endangered,” subspecies, affording them greater protections and ensuring the Mexican wolves living in the wild can continue to roam freely.

Brian Seasholes, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Reason Foundation, says FWS is setting the stage for increased conflict by changing the listing and dramatically expanding the areas in which the wolves are protected.

“The key to the conservation of large predators is acceptance by the rural livestock owners who bear the brunt of these predators killing their animals. Absent a more substantive and comprehensive program to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, coupled with the vastly expanded region in which wolves can live—which will lead to a significantly larger wolf population—will result in more wolf-human conflict. This is bad for wolves and bad for ranchers,” Seasholes said.

“If pressure groups that are wolf advocates want Mexican wolves to repopulate large parts of the Southwest, then they, and the wealthy foundations and individuals who support them, should use their millions of dollars on fostering goodwill with ranchers by setting up and funding a serious compensation initiative; not the halfhearted compensation programs tried to date,” Seasholes said.

Perhaps in recognition of this problem, the Mexican wolves’ new endangered species listing did contain some unique provisions. For instance, although the wolves will be allowed to expand their territory to four times its current size, their range cannot extend north of Arizona’s Interstate 40. In addition, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) usually sets minimum population goals for species’ recoveries, not maximum numbers, but Mexican wolves will be allowed only to reach 325 members from the current 80. Excess wolves will be captured and relocated to Mexico.

In another key difference from standard ESA regulations, property owners will have the right to kill any wolf found biting, wounding, or killing any domestic animals (livestock or pets) on federal or private land, and wolves may also be killed if they create “unacceptable impacts to ungulates”—deer and other game animals valuable to hunters. The law normally forbids killing protected species without a specifically authorized take permit.

The Center for Biological Diversity has hinted it may challenge these special provisions.

Ron Arnold, executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says the designation of the Mexican wolf as a separate species or the expansion of the habit is not the most important aspect of this story. What’s more important is what will follow, he said: A federal land grab under the guise of a “critical habitat” designation for the Mexican wolves.

Courtroom Battle Likely in Fight Over the Village at Wolf Creek

After delaying their decision in the controversial land trade that is crucial for the development of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek, the U.S. Forest Service just green-lighted the project. Now, conservation advocates in Colorado are gearing up for a legal battle against the Forest Service in order to fight the development.  The Village at Wolf Creek has been the vision of Texas billionaire Billy Joe "Red" McCombs since the 1980s. Mr. McCombs, 87, has spent 28 years planning a massive town near Wolf Creek Ski Area, not far from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At full build out, the Village at Wolf Creek will have up to 1,711 units comprised of hotels, condos, town homes, and single family houses. Access to the ski resort would be from the Alberta chairlift or a new chairlift called the Meadow lift.  In their November 20 decision, the Forest Service approved a 2010 land swap proposal that traded 204.4 federal acres on southern Colorado's Wolf Creek pass for 177.6 acres of private land on the Continental Divide.
But once the public comment period began in November, environmental and land advocacy groups went on full blast, causing the U.S. Forest Service to take another 30 days to analyze the land trade. Now, Rocky Mountain Region Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson affirmed Dallas' November decision. In her latest report, Gustafon states that the November decision showed "no violation of law, regulation, or policy."...more

6 Things You May Not Know About Butch Cassidy

Cassidy's childhood home

1. Butch Cassidy’s family was among Utah’s early Mormon settlers.
The eldest of 13 children, Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker on April 13, 1866, in Beaver, Utah. His grandparents and parents were Mormons who moved from England to America in the 1850s in response to Brigham Young’s call for overseas members of the Church of Latter-day Saints to help establish communities in Utah. In 1879, the Parker family moved to a piece of property near Circleville, Utah, where they farmed and raised cattle. To help contribute to his family’s finances, the future Butch Cassidy left home to work at other ranches in the area. At age 13, while working at one of these ranches, he had his first run-in with the law after being accused of stealing a pair of overalls from a store. As the story goes, he’d made a long ride into town only to find the store closed, so he let himself in, took the pants and penned a note promising to return with payment. Instead, the store owner had him arrested. Although the teen was let off, the experience reportedly left him resentful toward the legal system and people in authority. 

4. The Sundance Kid wasn’t his best friend. 
Thanks to the Academy Award-winning 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the real-life Sundance Kid, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, is often thought of as Cassidy’s best friend. In fact, that role was filled by Wild Bunch member William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay (1868-1934). Cassidy and Lay likely met around 1889 while working at a ranch in Browns Park, an area near the borders of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming that served as a sometime hideout for outlaws. In 1899, Lay was convicted of killing a sheriff following a train robbery near Folsom, New Mexico. He received a life sentence but was pardoned in 1906 after helping to stop a prison riot. Longabaugh, the Pennsylvania-born son of a laborer who moved west as a teen, earned his colorful nickname (and an 18-month jail stint) after stealing a horse near Sundance, Wyoming in 1887. In the mid-1890s, Sundance met the woman who became his companion, Etta Place, and later became affiliated with the Wild Bunch, after he and Place resided in a tent near Butch Cassidy at Robbers Roost, a remote outlaw hideout in southeastern Utah.
6. The details of his death remain a mystery.
Some accounts hold that on November 4, 1908, near the town of Tupiza in southern Bolivia, two men thought to be Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed a payroll as it was being transported to the Aramayo mine. Three days later the supposed bandits arrived in San Vicente, Bolivia, but after villagers became suspicious that the strangers were connected to the robbery, Bolivian soldiers were called in and a shootout ensued. During the shootout, the Bolivians reportedly gunned down the suspects, or one of the outlaws killed his partner then turned the gun on himself. Afterward, the bodies were buried in unmarked graves in a San Vicente cemetery. In fact, there is no conclusive evidence linking Cassidy and Sundance to the robbery and shootout. In the late 20th century, researchers exhumed remains thought to be those of the payroll bandits from the San Vicente cemetery and determined they weren’t from the two American outlaws. Meanwhile, following the alleged deaths of Cassidy and Sundance in South America, there were multiple reports the two men had returned to the United States (it’s unclear whatever became of Etta Place), where they lived for a number of years under aliases. More than a century after their presumed deaths, the true fate of Butch and Sundance remains a mystery.

The Wild Bunch - Sundance far left, Cassidy far right

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1403

From their 2004 CD In This Life here is Open Road performing Suwannee River Hoedown

What do old trees tell us about future water?

Trees respond to water like all living things, and they make useful records of dry and wet seasons. When it’s wet, the trees flourish. When it’s dry, they’re stressed. All those responses show up in a tree’s rings. Using those ring records, dendrochronologists have been able to take a look back in time and get a sense of water and drought in the West. Last month, scientists at Utah State University, Brigham Young University and The U.S. Forest Service announced they’d traced the Bear River’s stream flow back 1,200 years. That’s long before Mormon pioneers started building the first towns and cities in the area, and longer than any other tree-ring record in northern Utah to date. “One of the key messages is there is no ‘normal,’” said Roger Kjelgren, a professor and plant scientist at USU. “(Northern Utah) really is like a grandfather clock. It oscillates back and forth, moving between orbiting around a dry period and then shifting and oscillating back to a wet period.” The trick is lining up all that wet-dry variation with climate models. Climate models do a good job at predicting temperatures, but they’re not as good at predicting future precipitation. That’s where the trees can help. “I wouldn’t say it’s a match made in heaven, but it’s kind of a jigsaw-puzzle fit, taking the past tree record from the tree rings and combining it with the climate models to get an idea of these cycles,” Kjelgren said. During a wet season, trees drink in water and grow proportionally. As the season dries, they harden and cell walls get darker. That’s how tree rings form. During dry years, the rings will be tiny, sometimes requiring a microscope to see. The Bear River tree-ring study went back 1,200 years with the help of Utah juniper trees, a particularly finicky and telling species when it comes to water...more

Texas Bill Would Bar Physicians From Talking Guns With Patients

If one Texas lawmaker’s bill is passed, patients may have a few less questions to answer at the doctor’s office. Stewart Spitzer (R-TX) has authored a bill which would essentially bar doctors from talking about guns with their patients. House Bill 2823 was introduced March 16th and not only prohibits doctors from asking if there are guns in the household, but also recommends doctors who continue to talk to patients about firearms be punished. “Pediatricians are asking children away from their parents, ‘Do you have guns in your house?’ and then reporting this on the electronic health records, and then the federal government, frankly, has access to who has guns and who doesn’t,” Spitzer said in a recent interview about the proposed legislation. He said he experienced the phenomenon firsthand when he took his daughter to the doctor, who asked her whether there were any guns in the house. While HB2823 has some parents breathing a sigh or relief, the medical community has had a far less enthusiastic reaction...more

Monday, March 30, 2015

Federal Land Management Not a Good Deal for Americans

by Marshal Wilson 

“By nearly all accounts, our federal lands are in trouble, both in terms of fiscal performance and environmental stewardship.” That was an assertion made earlier this month in a study released by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). The study focused on the difference between state-managed public lands and federally managed public lands. The federal government is ill-suited to manage vast amounts of land in the West. Short of private ownership, state and local governments are best suited for the task.

Federal Land Ownership. The federal government is the largest land owner in the United States, owning roughly 640 million acres, about 28 percent of the country. The federal government owns nearly half of the land west of the Rockies, and roughly 81 percent of Nevada alone. However, east of the Rockies, the federal government owns an average of only 5 percent of the land in each state. Such a high level of federal ownership of land in Western states has led to controversy over ownership and management of public lands...

PERC’s Findings. PERC conducted its study by comparing revenues and expenditures for the management of federal land and state trust land in New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana. State trust lands are the most common form of state-owned lands in the West. State trust lands were created by land grants made to the states by the federal government and are used for the benefit of public institutions, like schools. The lands generate revenue through uses ranging from timber and grazing to mineral extraction. The study looked at two federal agencies that manage public land: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). According to the study,
  • “The federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands.”
  • “The states examined in this study earn an average of $14.51 for every dollar spent on state trust land management. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management generate only 73 cents in return for every dollar spent on federal land management.”
  • “On average, states generate more revenue per dollar spent than the federal government on a variety of land management activities, including timber, grazing, minerals, and recreation.” For example, New Mexico receives $12.78 of revenue per dollar spent on administering grazing fees, whereas the USFS and BLM receive $0.10 and $0.14, respectively.
  • “These outcomes are the result of the different statutory, regulatory, and administrative frameworks that govern state and federal lands. States have a fiduciary responsibility to generate revenues from state trust lands, while federal land agencies face overlapping and conflicting regulations and often lack a clear mandate.”


BLM allows old unplugged wells to fester in Utah, former employee’s report says

The Seep Ridge No. 3 well never produced much oil and gas. And it has been dormant since 2000 — five years after the well was acquired by a one-man Vernal energy company called Hot Rod Oil. But in defiance of Bureau of Land Management policy, several Hot Rod wells remain unplugged and unreclaimed along with hundreds of other nonproducing wells on federal lands in Utah, according to a new analysis by a retired BLM official who conducted well inspections for the agency's Vernal field office. Such "orphaned" wells unnecessarily enlarge the oil and gas industry's footprint on Utah's landscape, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which released the analysis Monday. Uncapped wells allow disturbed land at well sites to go unreclaimed and could potentially pollute the environment, the group argues. Stan Olmstead, a 20-year veteran of the BLM's Vernal field office who now lives in Tennessee, has compiled years of well status data related to four BLM field offices. His analysis identified 557 unplugged wells that haven't produced for the past 10 years. Most of the wells are in the Uinta Basin, administered by the Vernal office — the nation's busiest for energy development. Olmstead's report dovetails with an Associated Press analysis released last year that found a large number of Vernal's "high-priority" wells are going too long without inspections...more

The Rise of Outdoor Recreation

When President Obama picked REI president and chief executive Sally Jewell almost two years ago to be the 51st Secretary of the Interior of the United States, it was, like a snowball rolling downhill, a clear signal of gathering momentum for outdoor recreation. April 10 will mark two years in office for Jewell, who left her position as the head of one of the world’s biggest and most recognizable outdoor recreation retailers to lead the Interior Department. With her arrival in Washington, a story whose plot had been slowly developing for decades finally had a protagonist to support its other main characters, the millions of Americans who hike, bike, camp, backpack, ski, paddle and otherwise play in the outdoors.  In the past, the balance of that equation has been tipped in favor of development and extraction. See James Watt, Gale Norton. And while other Interior secretaries can certainly be applauded for their conservation ethic and achievements, Jewell brings a new sensibility that goes beyond simply setting land aside to protect it. Her appointment is symbolic of how America’s love of outdoor recreation is now shaping the nation’s political and economic landscape. Take, for example, America’s newest national monument, which Jewell’s agency will co-manage with the U.S. Forest Service. Browns Canyon in Colorado is iconic; 21,000 acres of rugged granite cliffs and colorful rock formations, a wild stretch of the Arkansas River slicing through it, bighorn sheep, bear, deer, mountain lions, and breathtaking vistas. Certainly qualities one would expect from a national monument. But Browns Canyon is also one of the single most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the country, attracting upward of 200,000 adventurous visitors a year, who happen to inject about $60 million into the regional economy in central Colorado. That kind of impact and popularity is hard to ignore, and similar stories are playing out across the country. Nationwide, all that outdoor fun has become a powerful economic driver, generating $646 billion in annual consumer spending nationwide. Politically, the groups and associations that represent human-powered outdoor recreation are becoming more professional and organized. And as they do, they are coming of age as strong voices advocating for policies that support their constituents, especially on issues such as protecting public lands. Once the province of the backwoods, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, snowshoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, climbing and other outdoor mainstays have blazed a trail into boardrooms and ballot boxes.  The rise of outdoor recreation is noteworthy, and Resource Media has prepared a backgrounder with more details on the many ways that it is helping shape America’s story. Read on here.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1402

Its Swingin' Monday and here's Wanda Vick and her instrumental version of Deep Water.  The tune is on her 2008 CD Romance at the Rodeo Dance

Bison preserve seeks to change federal grazing permits

American Prairie Reserve has applied to graze bison and remove interior fences on federally leased lands within the boundaries of a ranch that the organization purchased last year in south Phillips County. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking comments on the proposal to develop an environmental assessment for the Flat Creek Allotment. The Bozeman-based American Prairie Reserve is also requesting to change the allotment grazing season to year-round from the current May 1-Nov. 15 grazing season. The BLM gave approval for a similar request about four years ago on other APR federal grazing leases, according to B.J. Rhodes, a BLM rangeland management specialist. Bison have become a controversial topic in Eastern Montana as conservation groups have pressed to release disease-free wild bison from Yellowstone National Park onto federal lands like the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is working on a state bison management plan, but progress has been slow and opposition stout, including hotly debated bills introduced in the Legislature to halt any wild bison releases. Requests such as APR’s are particularly hard for the locals to swallow since they don’t want bison on the landscape but are strong advocates of private property rights. Federal grazing leases on the property total 13,075 acres, Rhodes said, or 1,243 animal unit months — an indicator of the amount of forage consumed. The AUMs and carrying capacity of the public lands would remain unchanged. All regulations for grazing public lands would apply and all grazing management would continue to adhere to the Standards for Rangeland Health. American Prairie Reserve purchased the 22,000-acre Holzhey Ranch last year...more

Proposed bill would limit federal land control

The ongoing debate over federal control of lands in Nevada will heat up again this week with a hearing on a bill proposed by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore that would prohibit the federal government from owning or managing any lands that it has not acquired with the consent of the Legislature. Assembly Bill 408 also would prohibit the federal government from owning water rights in the state. The bill is just the latest in the Republican-controlled Legislature challenging the federal government’s authority over more than 80 percent of the acres in Nevada. Fiore, R-Las Vegas, sent out an email last week asking for supporters to attend the Tuesday hearing in the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee. Critics say Fiore’s bill is unconstitutional and is based on a flawed legal theory about public lands, noting that on numerous occasions the U.S. Supreme Court has described the federal authority over public lands as “without limitation.”...more

A copy of Assembly Bill 408 is here.

EDITORIAL: Keep exceptions for seasonal ag workers

Proposed changes to an immigration policy concerning temporary agricultural workers demonstrate, once again, that the nation's urban decision-makers just don't understand life in the West.

The U.S. Department of Labor is preparing to release new rules for the H-2A visa program, covering agricultural workers from other countries who work in the United States on a temporary basis.
The changes are expected to be published on April 15, and were reportedly prompted by a lawsuit charging the Labor Department with violating federal law by allowing special – and substandard – rules for livestock herders. Now, the department is preparing to shepherd its new requirements through the larger rule-making process.

We wholeheartedly support strong protections for migrant workers, and we have a strong hunch that most Montanans also feel that seasonal workers who come to this state to work in any industry ought be given fair compensation and comfortable housing, at the very least. However, providing those protections does not necessarily require the sort of restrictions the Labor Department is suggesting.

Ranchers across Montana who employ workers through the H-2A visa program are worried that the new rules may obligate them to provide housing on a permanent foundation and to pay their workers an hourly wage. Needless to say, these kinds of requirements are ill-suited to life on the open range.

2 Wyoming ranching families are part of Japanese advertising campaign to promote US beef

Two Wyoming ranch families are part of an advertising campaign to promote and increase the demand for American beef in Japan. The U.S. Meat Export Federation chose Carol and Charlie Farthing and their family of Iron Mountain and Adam and Meghan George and their family of Cody for the campaign. An article about the Farthings was posted earlier this year on the federation's promotional website for Japan. A story about the George family will be available later this spring, Anne Wittmann, executive director of the Wyoming Beef Council, said in a news release. The profiles are written in Japanese and are translated from ones that have appeared on the Wyoming Beef Council's website. The Beef Council has written about these families to show the commitment and care it takes to provide high-quality beef, Wittmann said. The campaign has directly reached about 420,000 Japanese consumers, Wittmann told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. However, the campaign has reached millions of people through contact with distributors, bloggers and food editors in Japan and social media, according to Joe Schuele, vice president of communications for the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The federation is a nonprofit trade association that creates new and develops existing international markets for U.S. beef, pork, lamb and veal. Japan has been a large market for United States beef for a long time, Schuele said. International beef trade between the United States and Japan closed in 2002 when the U.S. reported its first case of BSE, a disease more commonly known as mad cow disease. The market reopened in 2006, and all restrictions were lifted in 2014. Now, Japan has reclaimed its spot as the top international market for U.S. beef, Schuele said. Last year set a record value of U.S. beef sold in Japan, reaching $1.6 billion, he said...more

Floyd’s Hinrichs honored

When Bruce Hinrichs, like everyone else in the crowd at the Floyd Jamboree Saturday night, was anticipating the announcement of the 2015 Floyd Lions Club citizen of the year. He just didn’t expect to hear his name. “It’s one of those speechless moments,” Hinrichs said. “I was just humbled and grateful.” The citizen award is the highlight of Saturday night tradition at the Jamboree, now in its 65th running with socializing and country music. The presenter, Floyd Schools Superintendent Paul Benoit, said Hinrichs had been chosen for his passion for the Floyd community and the work he does to help local farmers, ranchers and 4-H students. “He believes in the organization,” Benoit said. “He has just jumped in and he’s always the first to arrive and the last to leave and he does it all with a passion.”...more

Moonshine: The American Rebel Spirit

Moonshine evokes imagery of outlaw distillers practicing their craft by the light of the moon to evade the law. But Prohibition ended in 1933. Why are illegal moonshiners still a thing?  "To make this liquor on your own is really exciting to a lot of people. It's under the radar. It remains against the law to make distilled spirits even though wine and beer you can make legally [without a permit]," explains Jaime Joyce, author of Moonshine: A Cultural History of America's Infamous LiquorAccording to Joyce, it's also a matter of economics. Illegal moonshine is most prevalent in poor, rural America where getting licensed to make and sell distilled spirits comes with prohibitive costs. To a financially strapped family, it's more beneficial to risk jail and be able to afford food on the table than it is to shell out hundreds of dollars in fees.  Joyce sat down with Reason TV's Anthony L. Fisher to discuss the economics and cultural significance of moonshine, it's role in the creation of NASCAR, and why this old school tradition has grown so popular among urban hipsters...more