Saturday, April 11, 2015

8-foot-long carnivorous cat-eating lizards are invading Florida

A Florida resident spotted one of the creatures sunning itself in his backyard.The exotic pet trade has a way of introducing destructive and potentially dangerous creatures to places in which they don't belong, and Florida's sunny, warm climate makes for a perfect home for many of these invasive species. People buy a small snake, lizard, or colorful fish, and when it gets too big to handle, they dump it in an area in which they figure it will fit in. But if these unleashed creatures fit in too well, they not only thrive in their new homes — but without natural predators they can wreak havoc on the surrounding ecosystem, unbalancing it and potentially wiping out the native animals. Lately we've heard a lot about the Burmese pythons and the more aggressive African rock pythons that wildlife officials fear will wipe out the foxes, rabbits, deer, raccoons, opossums, and bobcats of the Everglades. But another creature that Florida wildlife officers are trying to get a handle on is the Nile monitor lizard, a cousin of the most famous monitor lizard, the Komodo dragon, which has been spreading through the state since at least 1990.
Thousands are thought to be loose in parts of the state, but they have recently begun to appear in Palm Beach County, and officials are hoping they can eliminate the lizards in the area before they establish a firm toehold. Wildlife officials armed with shotguns will be increasing patrols of Palm Beach County canals from once a month to four to six times a month to try to hunt the reptiles down, according to the Sun Sentinel. The plan is to catch or shoot the lizards on sight — they've got 20 in Palm Beach since July...more

California Officially Bans Hunters From Using Lead Bullets

Environmental activists cheered the California Fish and Game Commission’s decision to adopt regulations banning the use of lead ammunition for hunting throughout the Golden State. In a unanimous vote, the Commission opted to phase out lead bullets, which hunters groups are calling a de-facto ban on hunting in the state. Environmentalists, on the other hand, are saying these regulations will save California Condors and Golden Eagles from getting lead poisoning. A bill that designated “lead-free” hunting zones was signed into law by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. By 2008, California hunters could not use ammunition containing more than one percent lead by weight within range of California condors. But the Commission’s decision Thursday makes California the first state to completely ban lead bullets for hunting. Hunting groups argue the ban is intended to stop hunting altogether in the state because ammo prices will skyrocket...more

New Mexico: Governor Signs Bill on Asset Forfeiture

Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill Friday virtually ending the practice of civil forfeiture, making the state a leader in sharply restricting a contentious policy that critics say deprives citizens of due process and gives law enforcement a profit motive. “This is landmark legislation to protect people’s property and due process rights,” said Lee McGrath, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian civil rights group that has long campaigned against the practice. The law preserves criminal forfeiture, in which assets tied to crime can be taken if the owner is convicted. In a letter to lawmakers, Governor Martinez said the law improved constitutional protections even as she said that forfeiture funds had helped “in keeping our communities safe and in protecting our officers from harm.” Only one other state, North Carolina, does not permit civil forfeiture, but law enforcement officials there can still profit from forfeitures by cooperating with federal agents, Mr. McGrath said. The New Mexico law seeks to end such profit-sharing in cases where the assets are valued at less than $50,000. Civil forfeiture, in which law enforcement officials can take possession of property they believe is tied to criminal activity without filing charges or winning a conviction, has come under fire as abuses have been widely chronicled in the news media and the federal government has taken steps to curb the process. NY Times

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why state efforts to grab federal land keep failing


State Legislatures magazine/April 1980: Fierce regional sentiment; generations of history; tangled political and legal questions; new economic and social realities …

Christopher A. Wood/Washington Post/May 1995: Buildings damaged by anonymous bombers. Armed men threatening federal officials. Politicians passing local ordinances repudiating federal law.

These two quotes, separated by 15 years, fairly portray the evolution of the image of efforts to wrest control of public lands from the federal government. Nevada has been in the forefront of these efforts, which continue today with Senate Joint Resolution 1 at the 2015 Nevada Legislature.

It’s an effort that reflects an enduring notion in Nevada politics, that the small counties are the “real” Nevada and that politicians can advance by tailoring their appeal to that region. This notion has had little election success, but a good myth dies hard, and state politicians keep pandering to the small counties. And few envisioned the 2014 election, which swept Republicans more oriented to dogma than practical action, into the legislature.

The Sagebrush Rebellion
In 1976, Congress enacted the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which outlined new functions of the Bureau of Land Management, set federal policies on control of public lands and mining, and established multiple use, sustained yield, and environmental protection practices and policies. It also ended the practice of homesteading, which—along with benign uses—had been used to shift tribal lands to whites. More to the point, the new law made federal land holdings permanent. It was not a new idea—the original founding Atlantic coast colonies that held land had willingly turned it over to the federal government.

On the quarter-century anniversary of the act, the BLM said, “[B]ecause of the insight and vision of the people who crafted it, FLPMA provides us with the tools we need to cooperatively and creatively manage the public lands, and in the process, dispel the notion that a variety of uses and resources cannot co-exist.”

Not everyone agreed. “The legislation dashed Western hopes that the U.S. would gradually turn control of public lands over to local governments, which residents argue could do a better job of managing public land than bureaucrats stationed in Washington,” reported U.S. News & World Report.

In 1979, Nevada Assemblymember Dean Rhoads convinced his colleagues in the Nevada Legislature to launch an effort to take state control of federally held land through a lawsuit.

Rhoads is one of those very conservative Republicans—a longtime member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—who later found himself less comfortable with the Republican Party as militants, evangelicals, and social conservatives used the GOP as a vehicle for increasingly extreme public policies and accused those traditional conservatives who didn’t go along with being RINOs. In getting the Rebellion legislation through the Nevada Legislature, Rhoads listened to criticism with an open mind, accepted amendments, treated critics with respect.

Many, including some liberals who should know better than to use guilt by association, have portrayed the Sagebrush Rebellion as akin to the extremist groups like county supremacists (fired by a theory that county officials, particularly sheriffs, trump federal power) who followed later. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said in a report after the 2014 Cliven Bundy standoff, “Today’s disputes with federal authority, many long simmering, are an extension of the earlier right-wing Sagebrush Rebellion, Wise Use and ’county supremacy’ movements.”

In fact, while there were extremists on the fringes, the Rebellion was a peaceful movement motivated by issues. “The bill does not constitute a rebellion, a revolt, or a secession,” Rhoads told the Assembly on April 25, 1979, the day the Nevada Assembly voted for Assembly Bill 413. “It does constitute a constitutional challenge to the right of the federal government to unilaterally control and manage the public domain and to hold the land in perpetuity without any conversion to private ownership.” Many moderate legislators who voted for Rhoads’ bill would not have gone along otherwise.

Here's the picture the author is trying to paint:  Proponents of the Sagebrush Rebellion were gentlemen, open-minded and willing to compromise, but an "evolution" has occurred and today's proponents of a lands transfer are violent, right-wing extremists.

The author makes no mention of Utah.  Everyone acknowledges the current lands transfer effort began and is continuing to be led by Utah, not Nevada.  So why leave them out?  Because Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory and others have proposed a reasonable, well-researched program for returning these lands, just like was down for the midwestern states.  Mr. Ivory and his approach don't fit the canvas strokes the author is trying to force upon the public.  An interesting article though, well worth a read.

For more info see American Lands Council and Utah's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office

Panel passes gutted version of Bundy bill

A Nevada Assembly committee voted Thursday to pass a gutted version of a public lands bill that was supported by southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy but was considered unconstitutional by the Legislature’s staff lawyers. The original version of AB408 prohibited the federal government from owning water rights and wide swaths of public land within the state’s borders, and it would have allowed county commissions to parcel out the land for commercial use. The rewritten bill clarifies the commonly accepted idea that sheriffs are the primary law enforcement officers in unincorporated areas of counties. “The previous language had significant constitutional concerns,” Republican committee Chairwoman Robin Titus said. “We need to respect and honor the people who give us advice.” The state’s legislative counsel bureau said the federal government, which manages more than 80 percent of land within Nevada borders, has clear authority to own the property. The bureau said the bill would be struck down if challenged in court for attempting to put state law ahead of federal law. Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, however, said she disagreed with that finding “100 percent.” Assemblyman John Ellison, a Republican co-sponsor, said a more viable way to accomplish the goal of transferring federal lands to the state was to encourage Congress to take action. Other measures working their way through the Legislature take that route. But Ellison said the new language might have helped situations like Bundy’s. The Bureau of Land Management should have sought permission from the sheriff before enforcing the law on property within the county, Ellison said, and the revised bill clarifies the hierarchy...more

This article has the following:

Assembly Bill 408 was originally written to "prohibit the federal government from owning or regulating certain public lands or the right to use public waters." Since the introduction of the bill, the Legislature's lawyers worked with bill sponsor Rep. Michele Fiore to completely rewrite the bill. As amended, AB 408 would still allow the feds to own and manage public land, but states that "the sheriff and his or her deputies are primarily responsible for the exercise of law enforcement authority on the land managed by federal agency."  The costs of sheriff patrols and law enforcement activities would be borne by the federal government, according to the amendment.

One year later, authorities mum as Bundy celebrates

Rogue rancher Cliven Bundy and his family are inviting some of their patriot movement pals to a three-day party this weekend to celebrate the anniversary of their standoff with the federal government. Starting today, the Liberty Celebration outside Bunkerville, 80 miles north of Las Vegas, will feature live music, cowboy poetry and speeches from the Bundys’ sovereign-state supporters. Meanwhile, almost nothing is being said by those who found themselves on the other side of the standoff that ended one year ago Sunday, when the Bureau of Land Management hastily canceled its roundup and let Bundy retrieve his impounded cattle. Since then, BLM officials in Nevada and Washington, D.C., have repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about what happened last year and what could happen next. The agency responded to inquiries this week with the following statement: “The Bureau of Land Management remains resolute in addressing issues involved in efforts to gather Mr. Bundy’s cattle last year and we are pursuing the matter through the legal system. Our primary goal remains, as it was a year ago, to resolve this matter safely and according to the rule of the law.” Both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment, as did Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Shayne Sampson, owner of the Utah company hired by the BLM to round up Bundy’s cows last year, didn’t want to talk, either. Reached for comment Wednesday, Sampson said he wasn’t allowed to say anything. Then he offered a clarification: It wasn’t that he couldn’t comment, he just didn’t want to.  In advance of this weekend’s event at the Bundy ranch, the National Park Service sent a reminder to its employees at Lake Mead National Recreation Area to be on their toes. Jessica Kershaw, spokeswoman for the Department of Interior, called the internal communication “a prudent and routine step taken to raise situational awareness when additional activity is expected on or near public lands or waters.”...more

Editorial - Senator Crapo defends vote (on lands transfer) as just budget measure

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo says his recent vote on a potential future transfer of public lands from federal to state management is nothing to get excited about. He says the amendment only provides the Senate with the ability to hold future deliberations on land transfers. Lewiston Tribune writer Eric Barker quotes Crapo saying the amendment does not undercut the collaborative processes. “It was a budget amendment with no substance in terms of details and left working out of any details to future legislation that would necessarily, if it comes together, be as a result coming to consensus,” Crapo said. Brad Brooks, speaking for the Wilderness Society, isn’t buying it. “Votes matter more than words, and a vote to allow the sale of public lands speaks for itself,” Brooks says. “The vast majority of Idahoans enjoy our national forests and BLM rangelands regularly and would be upset — to put it mildly — if their favorite hunting, camping or fishing spot were sold to the highest bidder and a ‘no trespassing’ sign went up instead.” But a few legislators and counties feel the federal government is unable to properly manage the land through logging, grazing and mining, and states could do better. The Tribune explained Crapo’s point of view as: “It’s a stretch to go from a technical budget to shifting Idaho’s national forests or rangeland to state ownership.” But the newspaper asks a good question: “Why even go there? The minute Idaho takes over these lands, the state budget will blow up.” Congressman Mike Simpson agrees, quoting the Congressional Research Service that the state would spend at least $392 million managing those acres. A state Senate committee voted this month against joining Utah and Arizona in a compact to study possible legal action on land transfers...more

N. Dakota bill to have new committee review fed environmental laws and regs

Sponsors of the bill say House Bill 1432 is pushback against what they call constant federal government meddling with the state’s agriculture and energy industries as well as litigation by environmental groups to push for additional regulations. “We want to take a proactive approach. We can work together for agriculture and for the oil industry,” prime bill sponsor Rep. Michael Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, said. If approved, the bill would create a state committee — which would review federal environmental legislation and regulations that may impact the state’s agriculture and energy sectors — consisting of the agriculture commissioner, the governor, legislators and representatives of the agriculture and energy industries. The amended Senate version of the bill passed Wednesday. The House can either concur with the amended bill or go to conference committee to address differences between each chamber...more

Another tough year on tap for Rio Grande water users

Cities and farmers that depend on water from the Rio Grande could be in for another tough year. Snowpack from the mountains that feed the waterway is halfway gone, and there has been little to no precipitation in the last month. That means federal officials will be managing the river for drought for a fifth consecutive year. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the annual operating plan Thursday for the Middle Rio Grande. Some of the lakes that store river water are in better shape than last year but nowhere close to the 100 percent average that federal officials had predicted a month ago when snowpack was plentiful. The Bureau of Reclamation said it is negotiating water leases to supplement river flows through at least June 15. After that, the agency can let small stretches of the river south of Albuquerque and above Elephant Butte to run dry, spokeswoman Mary Carlson said. For now, federal officials are forecasting the flow into reservoirs along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico to be about half of average. Albuquerque, Santa Fe and others that rely on San Juan-Chama water will see a shortage in their allocations, based on Thursday’s predictions. The agency also is working to find extra water for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. With little water flowing down the river, minnow management has turned into a vicious cycle that starts each fall with the release of hatchery-raised fish, followed by hopes for snow and runoff in the spring. Summers often are spent scrambling to rescue stranded on dry land...more

American Cowboy Magazine Announces the Rockin’ WR Poetry Contest

The American West and the Cowboy way of life have been a point of inspiration for generations of writers, poets, and artists, and now, American Cowboy magazine is asking fans to submit their Western and Cowboy poetry.  Western wordsmiths are encouraged to share their original works of Western poetry in the Rockin’ WR Poetry Contest. Two lucky writers will win tickets for two to the Rock’n Western Rendezvous at The Ranch, Larimer County Fairgrounds and Event Complex in Loveland, Colo., May 29–31. Along with tickets to the event, the two winners will receive the opportunity to recite their winning poem live on the Cowboy Poetry Stage. “Our fans have always shown a strong interest in Western and Cowboy poetry,” said American Cowboy Associate Editor, Lauren Feldman. “We’re excited to provide this opportunity for our readers to share their poetic talents in the form of a contest.” Users have until April 30, 2015, to submit their original poems at About The Rock’n Western Rendezvous: An authentic Western event with a modern twist! Experience the thrill of dirt-flying WRCA Ranch Rodeo action, the horsepower of the Extreme Mustang Makeover, tantalizing world-class barbeque, authentic Western craftsmen, and a rock’n musical lineup.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Group makes legal play to force BLM to cough up Bundy standoff docs

Scott Streater, E&E reporter

A government watchdog group is ramping up its ongoing efforts to compel the Bureau of Land Management to release documents related to its failed roundup of cows owned by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility today filed a motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against BLM asking U.S. District Judge Richard Leon to order the agency to turn over documents to the group regarding the April 2014 roundup of cattle illegally grazing on federal lands that was called off after an armed standoff with protesters.

PEER filed the lawsuit in June 2014 after it said BLM failed to respond to the group's Freedom of Information Act request for the documents (Greenwire, June 12, 2014).

...The Washington, D.C.-based group filed the FOIA requests in an effort to find out why BLM called off the high-profile, weeklong roundup of Bundy's cattle on federal lands last spring and what it has done afterward to ensure its employees stayed safe.

The group is also seeking documents on whether the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to criminally prosecute Bundy, which, according to PEER, would make cattle impoundment BLM's only option to bring Bundy to justice.

PEER's motion asks the judge to rule that BLM has "wrongfully withheld the requested agency records" and to order BLM to turn over the requested records within 20 business days.

A Howling Triumph: Mexican Gray Wolf Wins 'Rare & Ready to Be Saved'

The endangered Mexican gray wolf routed the northern hairy-nosed wombat 78 percent to 22 percent in the championship round of "Rare & Ready to Be Saved," TakePart's bracket game showcasing the work of Conservation International and Disneynature to safeguard imperiled animals and their diminishing habitats. The northern hairy-nosed wombat's Cinderella run—the underdog marsupial defeated the wild sand cat, the red panda, and the Asian tapir in the first three rounds to reach the title match—came to an abrupt end against the loping juggernaut that was the Mexican gray wolf. In four rounds, "El Lobo," as the wolf is known, won by an average margin of victory of 52 percentage points. The predator's fictional victory added to its already stellar nonfictional year...more

Take note:

“Rare & Ready to Be Saved” is a sponsored series produced in collaboration with Disneynature, its upcoming film Monkey Kingdom (in theaters April 17), and Conservation International. For every person who sees Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom during opening week (April 17–23, 2015), Disneynature will contribute $.20 per ticket to Conservation International through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $100,000.

Federal land transfer proposals still alive in region

Despite being largely opposed and proven wastes of taxpayer money, right-wing efforts to transfer Western federal lands to state control continue in some states, including Idaho and Washington. 

In Washington, Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest reports:
The Washington House Capital Budget Bill includes this:
SECTION. Sec. 7023. RESEARCH ON TRANSFER OF FEDERAL LANDS TO WASHINGTON STATE. Staff from the appropriate legislative16committees shall use existing studies and available literature to research the potential costs, revenues, and policy impacts of transferring federal lands to state ownership…”
  • Look here for a sampling of how sportsmen's groups have opposed the transfer efforts.
  • Find stories about a report with insight on the motivation for the federal land grabs, plus links to stories looking into the costs to taxpayers.
  • Here's a website that looks into funding for ALEC, which is supporting state takeover campaigns.

And the knives are out...

Scientists seek source of giant methane mass over Southwest

Scientists are working to pinpoint the source of a giant mass of methane hanging over the southwestern U.S., which a study found to be the country’s largest concentration of the greenhouse gas. The report that revealed the methane hot spot over the Four Corners region — where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet — was released last year. Now, scientists from the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA are conducting a monthlong study to figure out exactly where it came from. The answer could help reduce methane emissions that contribute to global warming...more

Central Valley Farmers Wait Months, Even Years, for Wells to be Drilled - video

More and more farmers are depending on groundwater in California’s ongoing drought, but Central Valley ranchers claim they have no choice but to wait for months for their wells to be drilled because of the exponentially growing demand. The sound of drilling is a sound of relief for Charles Voss, a farmer who has waited since June for a second source of water for his almonds. “It makes me feel very, very good,” Voss said. The owners of Calwater Drilling Company explained he’s lucky because the wait for drilling is now years-long. “People call us and say ‘we’re out of water.’ There’s nothing we can do,” said Curtis Hennings, president of the Calwater Drilling Company of Turlock. Hennings said they’ve been overwhelmed with the number of farmers who need wells on their ranches. “No, no it’s not the kind of business we want. We like to help people and we can’t help people,” he said. In a non-drought year, the company was able to drill about 150 wells, Hennings said. In California’s fourth driest year in a row, Calwater has built that many in 2015, and it’s only April...more

Here's the Fox40 video report:

Here’s why governor didn’t order water cuts on farms


Get ready. The drought just became real for millions of our fellow Californians. They’re going to start asking more questions about water use. For our part, farmers need to be ready to address those questions, honestly and forthrightly.

...As our fellow Californians pay new or more intense attention to the drought, they’ll also hear the tired refrain about agriculture using 80 percent of the state’s water. They will ask, “Why didn’t the governor order cuts on farms?”

When we hear that question, those of us who have been living with the drought for four years — and dealing with chronic water shortages far longer than that — may be stopped in our tracks. Of course, water use has been cut on farms and ranches, with many of the state’s farmers facing water-supply cuts of 60 percent, 80 percent, even 100 percent, and for a second straight year.

We’ll need to make sure urban and suburban Californians understand how the water system works: that farmers are always the first to be cut back — always — and that those cuts go deeper and deeper until the water planners can no longer ignore the need to cut urban uses, too. That day has come.

...Our growing state, national and global populations will continue to need more food and farm products, and what California farms do for the nation and world can’t be easily replaced or duplicated. For example, dozens of foods taken for granted in produce aisles — wholesome and nutritious fruits, vegetables and nuts — are grown in the U.S. largely or exclusively in California.

If we don’t continue to grow food and farm products in California, they’ll have to be grown somewhere else — and that “somewhere” will almost certainly be a place that’s not as efficient or tightly regulated as California farms are. That will affect the global environment, in terms of habitat loss in other places and the rising “carbon footprint” of importing that food back into California and the rest of the U.S.

This terrible drought year will test our patience, both in trying to maintain our farms and ranches and in responding to the Californians who have now discovered that the drought affects them, too. Individual farmers and ranchers must be involved in the debates about water use that will doubtless spread to many more communities this year. We must make the case for the importance of agricultural water use, and for the continuing need to build more storage and take the other steps needed to assure our state’s water future. Get ready.
Paul Wenger is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation

Despite the drought, produce prices are staying stable -- why?

California's drought has driven the prices of some fruits and vegetables up substantially, but others are actually cheaper than they were a year ago. In fact, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s forecast for produce prices predicts modest increases of 2% to 3%. Why aren’t fruit and vegetable prices skyrocketing in these dry times? There are several reasons, farm experts say. For one, many produce products are grown in coastal areas that have not been as affected by the drought as the Central Valley has been. Also, they say, it’s partly because the actual cost of growing the produce makes up only about 10% of the retail price -- the rest covers transportation, handling, packaging and mark-up. And almost paradoxically, except for the lack of rain, growing conditions have been nearly ideal. Clear skies and mild temperatures have meant that farmers who have water are harvesting abundant crops much earlier than they normally would have, said Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation, a nonprofit organization representing farmers and ranchers...more

Laurence Tribe Fights Climate Case Against Star Pupil From Harvard, President Obama

Laurence H. Tribe, the highly regarded liberal scholar of constitutional law, still speaks of President Obama as a proud teacher would of a star student. “He was one of the most amazing research assistants I’ve ever had,” Mr. Tribe said in a recent interview. Mr. Obama worked for him at Harvard Law School, where Mr. Tribe has taught for four decades. Mr. Tribe went on to serve in the Justice Department during Mr. Obama’s first term and has argued in favor of the legal standing of Mr. Obama’s signature health care law and executive orders on immigration. Which is why so many in the Obama administration and at Harvard are bewildered and angry that Mr. Tribe, who argued on behalf of Al Gore in the 2000 Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case, has emerged as the leading legal opponent of Mr. Obama’s ambitious efforts to fight global warming. Mr. Tribe, 73, has been retained to represent Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal company, in its legal quest to block an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants — the heart of Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda. Next week Mr. Tribe is to deliver oral arguments for Peabody in the first federal court case about Mr. Obama’s climate change rules. Mr. Tribe argues in a brief for the case that in requiring states to cut carbon emissions, thus to change their energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable sources, the E.P.A. is asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority under the Clean Air Act. At a House hearing last month, Mr. Tribe likened the climate change policies of Mr. Obama to “burning the Constitution.” To Republicans who oppose Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, Mr. Tribe is a celebrated convert. “When I saw the brief, I thought, this is dazzling,” said Michael McKenna, a Washington energy lobbyist. “And the fact that it was written by a guy on the other side made it even better.”...more

Railways are links to history of Orange County

...The Southern Pacific Railroad linked Anaheim to Los Angeles in 1874, becoming Orange County’s first rail connection. Nearby farmers celebrated the potential opening of new markets for their oranges and walnuts, and residents looked forward to a convenient ride into Los Angeles. Collis P. Huntington, one of the “Big Four” leaders of economic and political influence in California history and founder of the Southern Pacific Railroad, next attempted to extend his line through the Irvine Ranch and down along the coast to San Diego. However, a legendary account tells that James Irvine and Collis Huntington had met as early as 1849 on a steamship bound for the California Gold Rush. After a shipboard disputed poker game, they maintained a lifelong dislike of each other. Whatever formed the basis for their strained relationship, the aversion prompted Irvine to block any Southern Pacific tracks on his property, a position that was upheld in court – a rarity for the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad. Quickly the California Central Railway (soon taken over by the Santa Fe Railroad) moved to make an arrangement with Irvine for a right of way through his property and on to San Diego. That line was completed in 1889, and soon persuaded ranchers such as Moulton and Daguerre to expand their crops with the use of warehouses near the El Toro railroad station for storage before shipment northward and eastward...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1410

From time to time we honor modern artists who keep the traditional sound and that's what we're doing today with Junior Brown and his 1993 recording of My Wife Thinks You're Dead.  The tune is on his Let's Guit It CD.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Colorado River At Grand Canyon National Park Called "America's Most Endangered River"

In many situations organizations from sports teams to corporations strive to earn the distinction of being named "Number One in the country." That's not the case, however, when it comes to a list of America's Most Endangered Rivers, and the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park has unfortunately earned that label on a just-released annual report. The 2015 version of "America’s Most Endangered Rivers®" was been released by the conservation group American Rivers, and it names the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon "the #1 Most Endangered River in the nation." Describing the Colorado River through the canyon as "one of our country’s most iconic stretches of river and an irreplaceable national treasure," the report notes the waterway "faces a battery of threats that could forever harm its health and unique experience that belongs to every American." The organization identifies "three serious threats" facing the river and canyon, "each with a key decision this year: the massive Escalade construction project in the heart of the canyon, pollution from uranium mining on the north and south rims, and expansion of the town of Tusayan that could deplete vital groundwater supplies."...more 

How convenient.  Just a coincidence, I'm sure, that this report comes out right while there's a renewed push for a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument

Secretary Visits Site of Robert E. Lee’s Surrender to Highlight Importance of Land and Water Conservation Fund

Marking the 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox Court House that effectively ended the Civil War, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as she joined community partners and local conservation leaders to highlight the benefits of LWCF to protect and preserve America’s historic landscapes.  Today’s visit is the second of a two-day series of events to celebrate the success of the LWCF during its 50-year anniversary and underscore the importance of LWCF as one of the nation’s most effective tools for preserving treasured landscapes; expanding historic, and cultural and outdoor recreation sites; and protecting rivers, lakes and other water resources...more

Lee grew to regret his decision to surrender, and so will the Republicans if they surrender on this issue. 

Feds to consider endangered species listing for spotted owl

Federal biologists have agreed to consider changing Endangered Species Act protections for the northern spotted owl from threatened to endangered. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce Wednesday there is enough new scientific information in a conservation group's petition to warrant a hard look, which will take about two years. A notice will be published Friday in the Federal Register. After the northern spotted owl was listed as a threatened species in 1990, it became a symbol for Endangered Species Act protections that harm local economies. Conservation groups won court-ordered logging cutbacks to protect owl habitat that put many Northwest timber towns into an economic tailspin from which they have yet to fully recover. Political efforts to ramp up logging in the ensuing years have largely failed. Paul Henson, supervisor for Fish and Wildlife in Oregon, says a lot has changed since the original listing. Back in 1990, the biggest threat to the owl was cutting down the old growth forests where the owls live. Now it is the barred owl, an aggressive cousin from the East Coast that migrated across the Great Plains and invaded spotted owl territory. Those two areas will be the focus of the review, he said. "The bad news is that the spotted owl population has continued to decline," despite logging cutbacks of about 90 percent on federal lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, Henson said...more

There were still a few folks and some rural communities left standing after the threatened listing.   They will pick them off if  its changed to endangered.


Environmentalists sue over Grand Teton grizzly take limit

Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit saying Grand Teton National Park and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow too many grizzly bears to be killed in confrontations with elk hunters before officials would have to reassess their rules for elk hunting in the park. The Sierra Club and Western Watersheds Project filed suit Friday against the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Grand Teton is one of very few U.S. national parks that allow hunting. Each fall, the park hosts a hunt designed to control elk numbers. Elk hunters regularly kill grizzly bears in self-defense in western Wyoming. That's happened only once since Grand Teton was established in its current boundaries in 1950, however. In 2012, two elk hunters killed a grizzly as the 530-pound animal was charging them and their father from 42 yards away in the park. Investigators determined the two acted appropriately under the circumstances...more

Senate support for public lands transfer is misguided

It cannot be stated often enough, nor apparently loud enough and by enough people/voters/constituents. So the plea goes out yet again: Stop the madness. For some baffling reason, the shortsighted proposal to transfer ownership of vast swaths of federally managed public lands to underfunded states continues to be resurrected in the halls of government despite clear objection to the notion by sportsmen, conservation groups and nonpartisan polling of residents in the states where the majority of federal public land is found. The most recent assault on our nation's collective backyard occurred a little more than a week ago, when the U.S. Senate passed a budget amendment sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that encourages Congress to "sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument ..." While Murkowski's amendment lacks any genuine authority, prevailing thought holds that the senator was testing the waters to gauge how her colleagues might vote on a formal land transfer bill in the future. Some anticipate legislation will be introduced in the fall...more

Apparently, this writer for the Denver Post doesn't even want the feds to exchange lands with a state.  The states aren't "underfunded", the feds are overfunded.

NM dairies, enviros agree on waste water rules

The dispute over the so-called dairy rule ended before the hearings had barely begun. On Monday, the dairy industry and clean-water advocates reached an agreement with the state on changes to the dairy rule governing how dairies dispose of waste water. Both sides say they gained some and lost some in the proposed settlement, which must be approved by the Water Quality Control Commission. The location of monitoring wells and frequency of inspection reports, and the use of clay versus synthetic liners in waste water lagoons, were among the sticking points. The dairy industry had requested greater flexibility on both issues. The settlement grants dairies — and the Environment Department charged with enforcing the rule — more flexibility in determining the location and number of wells used to monitor groundwater contamination. It also permits, under certain circumstances, the use of a two-foot clay “liner” beneath waste water lagoons instead of mandating use of a synthetic liner in all cases. Clay costs nearly half as much as a synthetic liner, according to Walter Bradley, business and government director with Dairy Farmers of America. But the settlement requires monitoring wells be placed uphill and downhill of potential pollution sources, and dairies are required to submit quarterly reports on groundwater contamination. If pollution is found in groundwater, dairy farmers will have to upgrade their waste water lagoons from clay to a synthetic liner, or from a synthetic liner to a “double” liner, according to Dan Lorimier, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande chapter...more

Copters vs. Canines - They’re Using Drones to Herd Sheep

First they supplanted secretaries, factory workers and store clerks. Now robots are setting their sensors on one of the world’s oldest jobs: herding sheep. Michael Thomson says his homemade drone is the fastest way to move the roughly 1,000 sheep on his sister’s spread in Dannevirke, New Zealand, to greener pastures. Workers on the 200-acre ranch typically have used horses or all-terrain vehicles to herd the animals and check on their condition. Those all are tasks his quadcopter, a helicopter with four rotors, can do in a fraction of the time, says Mr. Thomson, 22 years old. “There are limitations, but you don’t have to get on a horse, you don’t have to feed it,” Mr. Thomson says. “Just give it more batteries.” Tech-savvy livestock farmers from the Australian Outback to the Irish countryside are starting to use drones as a relatively cheap alternative to the cowboy and the sheepdog. Camera-wielding copters that can be bought off-the-shelf for as little as $500 can cover hilly terrain quickly, finding and guiding sheep and cattle while the rancher operates remotely—sometimes wearing goggles that show the drone’s perspective. Farmers in the U.S. and elsewhere are flying sensor-equipped drones over their crops to gather data on the plants’ size and health. And ranchers are using unmanned aircraft to count livestock, locate animals scattered across large properties and even spot which cattle are sick or in heat using thermal sensors. In the Australian Outback, many ranches use helicopters to herd cattle that roam areas of up to 1 million acres. Jack Hurley, one of those pilots, says he knows drones will replace him once their battery life improves, so he is trying to build such a device today. Mr. Hurley’s colleague, Ross “Rossy Rotor” McDowell, is confident that his job is safe. It sometimes takes him 10 hours to muster several hundred cows over thousands of acres. Drones “need to have at least three-hour endurance before there are any breakthroughs,” said Mr. McDowell, who has a pink two-seat chopper. “But they’re handy for getting maverick cattle from one yard to another, when it’s bloody dangerous to get in there with them.”...more

Corn, Scorn, and Policy Porn


Imagine a government energy program that is such a disaster that the Environmental Working Group and the American Petroleum Institute both oppose it. The anti-poverty group ActionAid USA wants to get rid of it, as does the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants to end it. So does Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. They’re both sponsors of the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015.

Feinstein pans the ethanol mandate as “both unwise and unworkable.” Quoth Toomey: “It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines and is harmful to the environment.” Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group told me the Environmental Protection Agency “shows corn ethanol is worse for the environment than gasoline.” The free market-promoting Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce believes that the renewable fuel standard costs American families $10 billion annually in higher fuel prices. But will Congress vote to kill the program? And if so, will President Barack Obama, a longtime ethanol booster, sign the bill?

The renewable fuel standard, or RFS, started off with the best of intentions: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote American energy independence. It morphed into a victim of its own success. Some 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop now goes into American gas tanks, which has driven up the cost of feed for livestock, as well as food prices for American families. In 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers figured the standard pushed up food prices at chain restaurants by $3.1 billion per year. Because the standard requires refiners to purchase increasing volumes of ethanol, production increased from 3.9 billion gallons in 2005 to 13.9 billion gallons in 2011, according to the Manhattan Institute. At the same time, gasoline consumption is down 12 percent from 2015 projections. The industry is up against the “blend wall.” When blends contain more than 10 percent ethanol, some automotive engines break down.

Add up the many groups that oppose the ethanol mandate and you would think the Feinstein-Toomey bill is a slam-dunk. But there may be one state more powerful than ranchers, consumers, environmentalists, and capitalists: Iowa. As the host of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, Iowa has a supersize presence in U.S. politics. Iowa’s GOP governor, Terry Branstad, has a pithy warning for self-styled free market GOP hopefuls: “Don’t mess with the RFS.”


Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1409

Today western singer and cowboy actor Ray Whitley performs Come On Boys We're Ridin' Into Town.  The tune is on his British Archives of Country Music CD Back In The Saddle Again.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Cliven Bundy helps renew old debate, but will things change?

by Michelle Rindels 

When rancher Cliven Bundy arrived at the Nevada Capitol with hundreds of supporters recently to urge legislators to pass a bill demanding state control of federally owned lands within Nevada's borders, it renewed a fight over grazing rights that turned into an armed standoff last year. But it also represented the latest push in a decades-old tug-of-war that surfaces regularly in political debates and policy discussions.

This year, federal lands bills are being considered in 11 Western states, including Nevada. Here are some questions and answers about the debate:

What's in dispute?
Several federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, administer land within state borders that isn't owned by private or other public entities. About 4 percent of land east of the State of Colorado is managed by federal agencies, while that figure is much higher in the West and is more than 80 percent in Nevada.  Much of this acreage is wilderness, and agencies including the BLM lease some of it for grazing and oil and gas development.

What's being proposed?
Public lands bills in Western states run the gamut from measures that would study the cost of the state managing federal land, to measures asking or demanding Congress turn over property.
Nevada's measure is the most far-reaching and would lay claim to almost all federally managed public lands and water rights in the state.

Why do such bills come up so regularly?
Part of it has to do with politically conservative values that prefer local control and resist federal overreach. It's also rooted in the belief that federal authorities are standing in the way of ranchers and developers who say they can use the land to create jobs and boost the economy.

Who wants federal control maintained?
Conservationists worry that states would sell the land to oil and gas companies and mineral exploration firms, cutting off public access and allowing iconic landscapes to be destroyed.

Why haven't the efforts succeeded?
The bills are largely considered to be unconstitutional because they put state authority ahead of federal law. But sometimes they do succeed, even if the effect is muted. In Utah, for example, legislators passed a law in 2012 demanding that the federal government turn over about 31 million acres of public land by the start of this year. The deadline for the transfer passed with no action, however, in a move predicted by both critics and supporters.

The author pretty much quotes experts who give the movement short shrift. We shall see...

Conservatives breathe sigh of relief as Obama ends Utah visit without land grab

Property rights advocates and conservatives were breathing a sigh of relief after President Obama completed his first visit to Utah without turning vast chunks of the state into a new national monument. Mr. Obama traveled to Utah late last week just as Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, a leading opponent of the president’s campaign to declare huge swaths of Western lands off-limits to development, is preparing to unveil a new proposal that would give the state more control over the land-use process. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, took advantage of a 30-minute motorcade ride with Mr. Obama on Thursday night to lobby the president on the state’s public lands initiative, which would give Utah a larger role in defining lands for federal protection and for oil and gas development. A spokesman for the governor said it would be “helpful” if Mr. Obama comes out in support of the proposal. A White House spokesman said Friday he didn’t know the outcome of Mr. Obama’s discussion with the governor. In his State of the Union address in 2014, Mr. Obama vowed to use more of his authority “to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”  Within hours of departing Utah on Friday, Mr. Obama thrilled environmental groups by announcing that he was finalizing plans to expand protected areas of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge...more

It must be nice to have a governor who is actively involved in these issues.

Editorial: California drought is a call for change

...Over the weekend, the New York Times used the example of Palm Springs, an oasis in the California desert where daily water use is more than twice the state average, per capita. The result isn’t an abnormally hydrated populace but rather an eye-popping amount of lush greenery where there shouldn’t be any. Irrigation for aesthetic purposes alone has never been a smart use of such a precious natural resource, but in light of the current drought it is insanity. Perhaps recognizing that cold truth, city agencies in Palm Springs are cutting their water use by 50 percent and replacing public lawns and medians with native landscapes.

The 38.8 million people of California need to fundamentally change the way they live if they want the Golden State to survive and thrive. The best time to act, of course, is before a crisis, but out West that ship has sailed over the arid horizon. Here in New Hampshire, where landowners are just beginning to make plans for spring yard work, it is the ideal time to act.

It starts with altering long-held aesthetic principles about the ideal suburban landscape. Well-manicured lawns may be beautiful to look at, but the nation’s land and water pay a hefty price.

According to the EPA: 

∎ Per acre, residential application of pesticides is typically at a rate 20 times higher than that of farmers.
∎ Yard waste makes up 20 percent of municipal solid waste collected, most of which still ends up in landfills.
∎ Lawns add to suburban flooding problems because they have less than 10 percent of the water absorption capacity of a natural woodland. 

Those are some interesting stats about suburban lawns.  Keep those in your pocket for the next time city folks get after your practices.

Carly Fiorina blames environmentalists for California drought

Carly Fiorina is blaming liberal environmentalists for what she calls a “man-made” drought in California. “It is a man-made disaster,” Fiorina, who is “seriously considering” a run for president in 2016, told the Blaze Radio on Monday. “California is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology. It’s a tragedy.” The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, a Republican, ran for a California Senate seat in 2010 against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and lost. Now, the state is facing a devastating drought in its fourth year. On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to restrict water usage. The directive orders California’s State Water Resources Control Board — which supplies 90 percent of Californians with water, according to The New York Times — to reduce its supply by 25 percent. Republicans have blamed California’s protections for endangered species for the drought. In December, the House passed a bill to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California, a move that environmentalists said would harm endangered fish species. The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill. “That’s the tragedy of California, because of liberal environmentalists’ insistence — despite the fact that California has suffered from droughts for millennia, liberal environmentalists have prevented the building of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades during a period in which California’s population has doubled,” Fiorina said. “There is a man-made lack of water in California — and Washington manages the water for the farmers,” she added...more

NM - Warm March has ‘destroyed the snowpacks’

Remember those good snowpacks in New Mexico’s northern mountains a month ago? Well, a memory is just about all they are now. “We really took a huge hit for snowpack in March,” Brian Guyer, senior forecaster with the Albuquerque office of the National Weather Service, said Monday. “All that warm weather we had in March, some record highs, it really just destroyed the snowpacks.” At the start of March, two basins in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were at 100 percent and 121 percent of normal, and other northern basins were at more than 80 percent. With the possibility of more snow in March and maybe even April, things were looking promising then. Not so now. As of Monday morning, the Sangre de Cristo basins – which feed the Rio Grande – were at 64 percent of normal. In addition, the Pecos basin was at 65 percent, the Rio Chama River basin at 53 percent, the mountains around Cimarron at 30 percent and the Jemez River basin at 15 percent. Those numbers come after three consecutive years of bad snowpacks. And if there’s any more snow coming, there’s no sign of it yet. “No snowfall on the horizon for the next 10 days or so,” said Chuck Jones, also a senior forecaster with the Weather Service’s Albuquerque office. “Between the wind, sunshine and warm temperatures, we have below normal snowpack and early snow melt.”...more

Greenpeace Activists Have Barnacled Themselves to a Shell Oil Drilling Rig Bound for Seattle

Guess we now know why many of those attractive activists ("attractivists," as coined by The Stranger's Mike Force) have backgrounds in extreme sports. Greenpeace reports that this morning, six activists from the Esperanza—the Greenpeace vessel tracking a Shell oil drilling platform called the Polar Pioneer as it travels across the Pacific Ocean—managed to scale the rig and affix themselves to the underside of the main deck. The six are now tweeting from the rig, located 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.  In 2012, Shell won an injunction that kept Greenpeace activists away from its rigs. This drilling season, Seattle-based activists are also planning to greet the rigs with a flotilla of kayaks in Elliott Bay. The Polar Pioneer is due to arrive in Port Angeles on April 12, according to, and activists expect it to pull into Seattle a few days later...more

Signatures needed on bighorn congressional letter

The American Sheep Industry Association

A congressional letter regarding sheep grazing and bighorn sheep management will be sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in April. The letter is a follow-up to a June 2014 letter on the serious issue signed by 37 U.S. representatives and senators. It requests that the officials supply answers to questions asked by Congress last year that still require a response. It also points out the continued lack of cooperation between the U.S. Forest Service and the Agriculture Research Service in considering the science-based reasoning and expertise ARS has to offer in examining disease transmission.

Last year’s letter was bipartisan and bicameral, representing a very strong message to land-management agencies that are implementing a management framework developed in cooperation with Western Watersheds project, an anti-livestock grazing group. Sheep producers need to ensure the 2015 letter receives as much, if not more, support. Please reach out to your congressional delegation and ask them to join the letter.

In addition to this letter, the industry is requesting that language reflecting the bighorn concerns be included in the Appropriations for the Department of Interior for fiscal year 2016 report and bill language.
The draft letter, a copy of the Call to Action, a sample email to your congressional office and the report and bill language are all available by clicking on the Legislative Action Center link at

Industry meetings with the U.S. Forest Service in March indicated their proposed management framework is still in place, though moving at a slower pace than expected.

Here's a great movie for kids (and you)


From a Chris Rossini review of the movie Chef :

This film portrays the entrepreneurial spirit with near perfection. It's loaded with valuable lessons that kids will never (ever) learn in the indoctrination camps:
  • It shows the importance of identifying your calling. 
  • After you've identified it, you let nothing (even unemployment) stand in the way of letting your calling unfold
  • The film shows that when you follow your calling, other like-minded individuals will gravitate to you.
  • The film shows that money is not the driving force when it comes to your calling. Money, and the desire for its acquisition, is not condemned in the movie either, which is refreshing.
  • Chef has lessons on the division of labor, and trading your production for the production of others.
  • Chef shows the extreme value of the capitalist, and how prior savings by the capitalist assist in the creation of new ventures.
  • The movie shuns the indoctrination camps, and promotes working at a young age by getting your hands dirty.
  • The movie clearly displays that your calling must cater to the consumer. It's not something that exists in a vacuum, but must always have the end customer in mind.
**Note: There are a few instances where some foul language is used in the movie. I don't want to recommend to kids without disclosing that.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1408

Ricky Skaggs swings with the old Roy Acuff favorite Low And Lonely.  The tune is on his 1981 CD Waitin' For The Sun To Shine.  That was his first album after signing with Epic and helped start the New Traditionalist style.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Stray Mexican donkey seized in Texas tests positive for much-feared glanders

A stray Mexican donkey seized within the US border has tested positive for the much-feared disease, glanders.  Glanders is a life-threatening, notifiable zoonotic disease which can be fatal to both animals and humans. It is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia mallei. Due to its high mortality rate and the small number of organisms needed to establish infection, it is regarded as a potential biological warfare or bioterrorism agent. It is highly infectious and can be transmitted by aerosol, causing invasive fatal disease in combination with resistance to multiple antibiotics. The only known reservoirs of B. mallei are single-hooved animals, particularly horses. Chronically infected horses can be asymptomatic but may remain highly infectious. Although glanders has been eradicated from many Western countries, it recently emerged in Asia, the Middle-East, Africa, and South America. Last September, researchers sounded a warning that the global horse trade from at-risk regions had the potential to re-establish the disease in countries that had previously eradicated it...more

Here is more from the Soutwest Farm Press

It's a long and lonesome border that separates the United States and Mexico, about 1,900 miles of largely desolate and arid land. Just over 1,250 miles of that international border separates Texas from Mexico, a unique border frontier for nearly 200 years. While illegal immigration and the movement of contraband catch the spotlight when it comes to modern border issues, of equal or even greater risk is the unavoidable movement of animal and plant diseases across the vast, remote and poorly monitored region. Many of these diseases have been contained or eradicated on the U.S. side of the border for decades but continue to thrive in parts of the harsh, desolate northern regions of Mexico. In spite of diligence and strict monitoring of well-established border crossings to prevent the introduction or re-introduction of these threats, some of them find their way back across the border in spite of programs designed to keep them out. While plant and animal inspection stations are operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help monitor and inspect all goods that enter the United States, stray animals, often carrying diseases or that serve as a host to parasites that carry diseases, cross undetected at points where the Rio Grande River is shallow. Disappearing into the rangeland or mingling with herds of animals in Texas, it is extremely difficult to secure and protect an area that encompasses nearly 67,000 square miles of open range. As much as this happens with stray cattle and equine, it also involves wildlife like deer, elk, bear, mountain lions, and such smaller animals as raccoon and coyotes. Some of these animals carry diseases, some of which represent a major threat to wildlife and livestock in Texas. Once an animal crosses the river, fleas, ticks, flies and pathogens can be transferred to soil, water or other animals. Recently a team of tick riders stumbled upon stray Mexican donkeys that had found their way across the river. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reports a USDA mounted quarantine enforcement inspector apprehended the five Mexican donkeys just north of Presidio. The animals were transported to USDA-Presidio holding pens where they were isolated.  One of the five donkeys subsequently tested positive for Glanders, a highly contagious, bacterial disease of the equine family. It is characterized by the development of ulcerating growths most commonly found in the upper respiratory tract, lungs, and skin. Infections are usually fatal. Humans and other animals are also susceptible.  The disease is commonly contracted by consuming food or water contaminated by the nasal discharge of carrier animals. The organism can survive in a contaminated area for more than one year, particularly under humid, wet conditions. No vaccine is available for Glanders and prevention and control depend on early detection, elimination of affected animals, and complete quarantine. Glanders was once prevalent worldwide, but has been eradicated or effectively controlled in many countries, including the United States. The last naturally occurring equine case in the U.S. was in 1942...

U.S. National Parks Embrace Digital Media to Reach Millennials

The National Park Service launched its largest-ever marketing campaign in preparation for the agency’s centennial celebrations in 2016. The goal of the campaign, several years in the making, is to raise awareness of the park system among millennials. In addition to the website,, with its content on the parks and trip-planning tools, the campaign will include contests, social media engagement and influencer relationships. The parks drew 292 million visitors, who enteried at least one national park in 2014, but there are misperceptions that they’re family destinations only or all located in the West.  “We get a lot of visitors but the demographic of that visitation is not representative of the country,” says National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “We want to see not just an increase in visitation but a more diverse population that is using the national parks.” When the National Park Service hired ad agency Grey in 2010, they required a year’s worth of qualitative and quantitative research to gauge the public’s understanding and awareness of the organization. Jarvis says the organization will replicate the same research in 2017 at the end of the campaign to determine its ultimate success. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis kicked off the campaign in New York City where they introduced Find Your Park Virtual View Kiosks in which people can virtually experience parks from around the country.  New creatives and events will be rolled out throughout the year and then again in 2016. There will be a combination of Instameets, consumer contests, and local activities hosted by individual parks. The National Park Service also hopes to foster a personal connection to the future of the parks through contribution programs where the public can donate to a certain project and volunteering opportunities. The multi-million dollar campaign is being paid for exclusively through sponsor partnerships with big name brands like American Express, REI, Subaru and Budweiser. Partnerships will also play a major role in spreading awareness of the campaign. For example, there will be a feature on national parks in every 2016 issue of National Geographic...more

The Park Service gets around $2.6 billion to manage 84 million acres at 407 different sites, and includes Parks, Monuments and Wilderness areas.  Congress, the administration and various lobbying groups keep telling us there is a huge demand for these type areas.  If that be the case, why hire a private marketing firm to conduct a seven-year, multimillion dollar campaign to raise "awareness" of these areas?

Sorry, but this is all about current and future funding, i.e., money.  First, they want to use the 100 year anniversary to obtain a substantial increase in their annual operating budget.  Second, the dirty little secret is that youth and minorities make fewer visits to these areas than their national population would indicate, thereby becoming a threat to future funding.  The future of the agency and the crony capitalists in the outdoor industry is at stake. 

Jarvis says they want a "personal connection to the public."  They do. To your wallet and to Congressional coffers.  

Just wanted you to be "aware" of that too.

President Formalizes Coastal Plain Wilderness Plan

Months after announcing its unilateral actions to close off more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), the Obama Administration today formalized its plans to begin managing the area as wilderness by releasing a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan and a formal request to Congress to approve the wilderness distinction. In a letter today to both the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, President Barack Obama recommended that the Congress pass legislation making additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed as part of the revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan and final EIS for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The President stated his recommedation is based on the best available science and extensive public comment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's preferred alternative recommends 12.28 million acres -- including the Coastal Plain -- for designation as wilderness. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also recommends four rivers -- the Atigun, Hulahula, Kongakut, and Marsh Fork Canning -- for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Following the announcement, Alaskan Congressman Don Young (R-AK) shared his thoughts. “There’s a growing theme with this Administration; bad news can only be delivered on holidays or weekends. They think they can hide from their shameful decisions while the minds of Alaskans are elsewhere, but they cannot." Young said, “Today’s formal announcement shows us that the concerns of the Alaskan people mean absolutely nothing to this Administration. Only Congress has the ability to act on this matter, which is clearly defined in law by ANILCA. This Administration and its environmental allies would go through the roof if future Administrations began managing 12 million acres of ANWR for resource development without an Act of Congress, and this move by President Obama and Sally Jewell should be viewed no differently."  On Friday, April 3, 2015, Geoffrey Haskett, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska, signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement. The plan can now be implemented...more

Congress keeps delegating more and more authority to these agencies, yet insists they are not happy with the outcome.  We get temporary delays and "fixes" through riders on appropriations bills, but no permanent relief.  Until these authorities are revised we are forced to watch this political theater play out, always ending to the detriment of the public.  We need a new set of playwrights.

The President signs a letter and we have 12 million acres of de facto Wilderness?  The President signs a proclamation and huge swaths of land are National Monuments?  Only Congress can put a stop to this, but will they?


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Herding turkeys

by Julie Carter

With the stealth of a Ninja fighter, the cowboy eased his way around the end of a 20-foot stock trailer, his tall frame hunkering down just far enough to stay out of sight of his prey.

In the flash of time it took for a single thought and with deadly precision he slammed the trailer gate closed. His job was done. The last turkey hen was loaded.

The yard at ranch headquarters had become home to a flock of wild turkeys, some that had been relocated to the spot and others that had just shown up. Through the laws of nature and procreation, their numbers had tripled.

These big birds roosted in the cottonwoods, perched on the vehicles, decimated the flower garden and left unpleasant reminders of their recent presence. A big event involving a lot of guests was in the planning so a turkey relocation program was "hatched" by the head cowboy.

Whereas the head cowboy can plan a major cattle working in a matter of hours, this project was going to take at least two weeks. With careful cunning, he began baiting the turkeys into the trailer by trailing feed down the length of its interior.

When the time came that he could get a few captured, which sounds easier than it was because as soon as they saw him several would fly out, he'd shut the gate and haul them to a grove of cottonwoods on the south end of the ranch.

This took three trips for 14 turkeys. The last trip was for a lone rebel bird that refused to be captured, inspiring a new level of a stalking-capture mode.

I missed the photo opportunity of the year - a cowboy hauling one turkey in a 20-foot gooseneck trailer. While it truly needed to be done, the very idea of it takes the cowboy image to a new low. On the upside, it certainly became fodder for moments of hilarity as the tale was told and retold.

During a recent discussion of the turkey-herding incident, it was mentioned that the turkeys had returned to their first home one night last week. The return just happened to coincide with the arrival of a new grandchild whose parents also reside at the ranch.

While the incident could seem somewhat mystical and the oh's and ah's momentarily sustained the coincidence, the reality was hard and cold. It was pointed out these were notoriously dumb drown-in-a-rainstorm turkeys - not baby-delivering storks.

In looking for a, perhaps, positive use for the turkeys besides Thanksgiving dinner and turkey sandwiches, it was suggested that they be painted white. And if a process of launching them could be engineered, they then could be used at an upcoming wedding instead of white doves. The suggestion brought a look on the bride-to-be's face that could only be interpreted to mean that this wouldn't happen in her lifetime.

Another response to the jovial turkey herding story came from a poetic friend who deemed it wiser to mail the freshly penned words rather than deliver in person. He wrote:

The Gobblers Shuda Went to Town
Darn bro...
I heard u was a turkey man.
A turkey man what am!
U shuda brung dem
turkeys to 'querque
We'd a put'um in a pot
an eat'um onda spot.
Yup...them turkey's uda
stayed right here in 'querque

Okay, it's not Whitman or Emerson but it is funny all things considered.

The next story I'm waiting for is the response of the saddle horses when they are asked to get in that same trailer. Horses are funny about loading up in trailers that have hauled anything other than a horse or a cow. Try loading one after a hog hauling.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Sara Hopkins - Lady Cowboy

Gathering Remnants
Sara Hopkins
Lady Cowboy
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The last time we talked the inevitable seemed far off.
She was upbeat and sharp. I gave her a hard time about her aversion to doctors and she drove the discussion right back at me.
“Anybody who super glues an axe cut across your foot rather than going to get it sutured by a doctor has no leg to stand on,” she lectured.
“Either way, all I could stand on was only one leg, or, as it was, one foot,” was the comeback.
She laughed in her patented gravelly style and it was apparent she was satisfied with what she deducted to be the superior position of the exchange. The conversation evolved into what she could and couldn’t eat and then horses.
            We talked about a kid horse for my grandson and she came to the conclusion it was important to find one. “I’ll come up with something,” she said.
            “Take care … big sister.”
            “Thanks for the call … little brother.”
            Shortly later, I checked my emails and there was a one line note from Sara Hopkins … “I really enjoyed our talk.”
            That was our last exchange. Soon, she was gone …
            Gathering Remnants
            Sara Lou Hopkins died March 28, 2015.
Born April 10, 1940, she was raised on what she called the Wind Mountain Ranch. Although she settled into ranching on the Organ Mountain Ranch east of Las Cruces, the old ranch held her heart.
             She returned there when she talked about her childhood. She returned when she talked about the first horses. She returned when she talked about her mother, Florence’s, trauma over the rattlesnake that was heard knocking cologne and perfume bottles off the chest of drawers in the bedroom, and it was there she returned to visit when she was trying to heal from the loss of daughter, Danna Leigh Hopkins, killed in a terrible accident.
            Ostensibly, the enrollment of the three sisters, Bonnie, Kathryn and Sara, in high school was the reason for the move to Las Cruces, but, perhaps, Sara’s father, A.B. Cox, felt a bit of heart tug from memories of his own childhood. Son of pioneering rancher, W. W. Cox, their empire was built in the Organ Mountain/ Tularosa Basin country starting before the turn of the 20th Century.
            W.W. laid eyes on the San Augustine Ranch when he rode out of Texas in 1888. In his wake, was some historical color.
            His father, James W. Cox, was killed in the longest and most deadly feud in Texas history, the Sutton-Taylor Feud. Jim Cox had been in the Texas State Police commanded by ‘Cap’n Jack’ Helm. Helm was backed by William E. Sutton, the Sutton in the feud’s name.
With Sutton’s urging, Helm’s police took it upon themselves to rid a swath of southeast Texas from horse thieves and cattle rustlers. Many were Taylors, the Sutton adversaries. The outlaw John Wesley Hardin was a Taylor operative who was party to the ambush that killed Jim Cox. The slaying was brutal. The body was riddled with bullet holes and knife trauma. Seventeen year old W.W. vowed revenge.
            The violence was quelled when clan leader, Jim Taylor, was killed along with a doctor named Phillip Brassel. The latter killing infuriated Judge Pleasants who called the Texas Rangers to clean up the mess. That coincided with the departure of young W.W. The New Mexico/ Texas border was his destination.
            Reaching New Mexico, W.W. rode up to the historical headquarters of the San Augustine Ranch and introduced himself to the owner, Benjamin Davies. Davies was cordial and helpful. Circumstances prevailed, and, within five years, Mr. Davies died of natural causes, his son-in-law was killed in a horse related accident, and W.W. purchased the ranch.
            No other ranch in what became Dona Ana County, New Mexico had a more beautiful setting. With the Organs as a backdrop to the south and west, the Tularosa basin spread out to the east from the headquarters. The morning sun would break over the Sacramento Mountains and cast ribbons of color across the expanse.
             Structures dating from the 1790’s built by Franciscan friars were part of the headquarters compound. They were built with rocks skidded off the higher slopes of the Organs. One of the sleds with an oaken body and runners was found by the Cox children over 100 years ago.
             South from the compound stood a grove of giant ash and oak trees that sheltered yet another structure. Its age and origin remain a mystery, but in this land that has seen European habitation since 1598, such mysteries abound. One of the trees, an oak, thought to be over 350 years old, could have been planted by Spanish settlers who used the site as a stopover along the old Salt Trail from Salt Flat, Texas to Santa Fe.
             Springs watered a large vegetable garden, a vineyard, and an orchard. Just north at Hackberry Springs a large peach tree stood that dated from times well before the Cox family arrived.
            W.W. expanded his holdings. He acquired homesteads, railroad lands, mining claims, and squatter’s rights. In all, he controlled over 150,000 acres and grazed on many more sections of territorial land. He and his wife, the former Margaret Rhode, had ten children. Sons Hal, Jim, and A.B. would all become respected ranchers. Daughters Lena, Blanche, Bettie (Bonnie), Emma Lou (Lou), and Annie Laura (Laura) gave the Cox family character and feminine grace. Sister, Laura Cox Stablein, was the wife of Eckert Stablein who became a partner with his brothers-in-law. Two children, eldest son Frank and third child William Hester did not survive childhood.
            W. W. died in 1923. The ranch was operated as an estate until 1926 when the brothers and Stablein purchased the ranch from other heirs. It continued to be operated as a single unit until 1936 when the corporation was dissolved. Eldest son, Hal, took the northern portion of the ranch and second brother, Jim, bought out Sara’s father, A.B, along with Eckert Stablein on the remaining country. A.B. took his proceeds and bought the Otero Mesa ranch.
            Drought, frontier violence, and the cattle business shaped the family. The brothers would all become respected amongst their peers and fellow citizens. They would carry the heritage of W.W. Cox with class and dignity, but the biggest challenge for Hal and Jim lay ahead.  It started with World War II and it ended with their eviction from most of the historical range when the federal government created the White Sands Missile Range.
            A.B. was spared with his decision to move to Otero Mesa.

            Lady Cowboy
            Sara was shaped by her immense heritage.
Although a rancher and her daddy’s cowgirl to the core, she was, foremost, a wife and partner to Dale Hopkins for 53 years. She was a mother to Danna, Shelly, and Les. She was also a western and landscape artist extraordinaire, a teacher, a mentor, a superb horseman, and a friend. Her obituary describes how those fortunate enough to be around her learned what wielding a pencil, a brush, a pair of reins, a rope, a pair of pliers, baling wire and duct tape actually meant.
Those of us who stood together eight years and fought the takings of our customs and culture through the presidential proclamation designating the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks National Monument came to know her for her courage under fire. She never said much in the endless meetings, but, when she talked, we listened. It was also Sara that emerged as the watershed target with the allotment that was heralded as the centerpiece of the executive action.
For a long time, she predicted that the government would not protect our property rights. Her family experience in the Tularosa Basin served as the model for governmental behavior. Of course, she was right.
Her husband, Dale, asked family and friends gathered at the funeral to jot down memories of Sara. Tough came to mind, but so did empathy and kindness. It occurred to me that Sara was better described as what she really was … a true lady cowboy. She was tougher than nails, but softer than silk.
There is also the aura of the true but difficult to describe Westerner factor that lingers in Sara’s impact on us. The Westerner himself, Frank DuBois, printed a quote from Henry David Thoreau several days ago that might describe her.
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.
I believe Sara epitomizes that suggestion. She was her own person and knew full well she was the best master of her landscape. That is the essence of ranching.
Perhaps neither Sara nor I fit the suggestion of the biblical meek, but, if our last words shared in that phone call reflect an earthly inheritance, it will be interesting to observe the rangelands of our heavenly future. Which range will she prefer? Will it be the Wind Mountain of her youth or the Organ Mountains of her life?
I am not part of this story although my friendship with Sara Hopkins is. As such, my range is also part of the epilogue, and it will be … what has become most dear.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Indeed, Sara fought the good fight. She finished the race, and … she kept the faith.”