Saturday, May 16, 2015

Attempting to rein in the EPA

By Daren Bakst and Nicolas Loris

Dare to reform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and you are sure to be attacked. It's as certain as death, taxes or EPA regulatory overreach.

Case in point: Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) recently introduced a bill to address egregious EPA waste and abuse. Immediately, he was denounced as trying to "gut" the agency. In reality, Johnson's bill is a modest attempt to keep the EPA from gutting the economy and wasting taxpayer dollars.

The Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act of 2015 takes on some specific and serious problems. It would prohibit the agency from using funds to issue a new ozone standard. States have just begun implementing the latest standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb), which was issued in 2008. Now, the EPA wants to make the standard even more stringent.

 When nearly 40 percent of the nation's population lives in areas that haven't met the current standard, it's premature to adopt an even more stringent standard. It would be exorbitantly expensive, too. The National Association of Manufacturers argues that if the standard is dropped to 65 ppb, it would be the single costliest regulation in American history.

And the benefits of a tighter standard are far from clear. Much of the alleged benefits the EPA ascribes to a stricter standard have nothing to do with an actual reduction in ozone. Rather, it cites benefits accruing from reductions in fine particulate matter. Moreover, the agency's limited analysis fails to account for the relationship between health and wealth. Lost jobs and less disposable income are not just economic costs; they can lead to significant health problems, particularly among the poor.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Congress Demands Environmental Protection Agency Hand Over More Emails, Texts

Republican lawmakers are demanding a former top Environmental Protection Agency official’s texts and emails that could point to collusion with environmental activist groups. “Documents show that in 2011, then-EPA Associate Administrator for Policy Michael Goo seemingly used his private e-mail account to routinely communicate with outside groups attempting to influence agency policy,” Texas Rep. Lamar Smith wrote in a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy. Republicans have been trying for months to get the EPA to turn over more than 1,000 pages of text messages and cellphone records sent from McCarthy’s government phone. GOP lawmakers say the agency has so far only given them two text message records from McCarthy. The agency also sent over phone billing records and texts from lower-ranking officials. Smith now has his eyes set on getting Goo’s texts and emails. News reports have shown Goo, who now works for the Department of Energy, has close ties with environmental activists. He communicated with activists using a private email account and set up meetings outside EPA property to prevent them from being public record...more

Elko - Work party to build Argenta fence w/o BLM permit

John Carpenter says he isn’t going to wait for bureaucrats to OK building a small fence on federal land, which he believes would allow cattle to graze portions of the Argenta allotment while protecting a riparian field. The former assemblyman and rancher is organizing a “work party” to construct a steel-post fence on May 23. There’s a chance members of the group will build another fence on a ridge, according to Carpenter. He said those interested will meet at the Pete Tomera ranch in the morning. “We want to get as many people as we can out there,” Carpenter said. The group also needs fence posts. A dispute over grazing on the Argenta allotment spurred several protest stunts last year, most notably the Grass March/Cowboy Express ride that sent cowboys on a journey from California to Washington D.C., and beyond carrying anti-fed petitions. Due to drought, cows were ordered to be removed from nine of 20 parcels. The Argenta allotment is a mix of private and public land. Carpenter said the unsanctioned fence project is an extension of the Grass March, but also, he said, it will lead directly to a solution. “Feed is not the problem,” he said. “The problem is these smooth riparian areas.” Carpenter envisions the fence to have three rows of barbed wire, and a string of smooth wire for the bottom strand. “So if wildlife goes through, they won’t get scratched,” he said. The Dan Filippini ranch turned out more than 150 head of cattle Wednesday on the benches and flatlands below Mill Creek in an area where grazing is allowed. Eddyann Filippini said the fear is that those cattle will wander up Mill Creek into a large section where cows are currently barred from grazing. She said the main justification for the closures is to protect riparian spots. “Eleven miles are closed for an area the size of two pickups,” she said. Certain that cattle would settle on the riparian grass, Carpenter suggested building a fence. “What we’re afraid of is those cattle that were turned out on the flat are going to go up Mill Creek, and that’s an area that’s closed,” he said. “The reason it’s closed is that there’s a postage stamp riparian area right there.”...more

USDA invests $6.5 million to conserve water in Ogallala Aquifer

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $6.5 million in the Ogallala Aquifer region this year to help farmers and ranchers conserve billions of gallons of water and improve water quality. Funding will be targeted to seven focus areas to support their primary water source and strengthen rural economies.  “This funding assists conservationists and agricultural producers in planning and implementing conservation practices that conserve water and improve water quality,” said Vilsack. “This work not only expands the viability of the Ogallala Aquifer but also helps producers across the Great Plains strengthen their agricultural operations.” Underlying the Great Plains in eight states, the Ogallala supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States. It has long been the main water supply for the High Plains’ population and is being depleted at an unsustainable rate. The reservoir was created more than a million years ago through geologic action and covers about 174,000 square miles; mainly in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (also known as the High Plains). The aquifer also covers part of South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico...more

A classic case of public ownership of a resource.  Call it Tragedy of the Commons or whatever, it always results in waste, inefficiency and damage to the resource. It didn't work for the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony and its not working in the Ogallala.

Hickenlooper: 'Very close' to avoiding sage-grouse listing

The debate over the greater sage-grouse is gaining intensity as a May 29 deadline looms for a federal agency to complete plans for the bird, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday. “We’re not playing chicken, but we are pushing back against each other pretty hard,” Hickenlooper told the members of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado about discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado. Eleven states stand to be affected by a listing of the bird as threatened or endangered. The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado was one of the first Colorado organizations to criticize the potential listing of the bird, saying that a listing would endanger the region’s energy economy. If the bird is listed, “All of Moffat County is out of business,” Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe told Hickenlooper. The Interior Department has said it wants to reach the point that the Fish and Wildlife Service can find that no listing is warranted. Much of that decision lies with the way the BLM manages its lands and both agencies report to Jewell. “We are very, very close to avoiding a listing altogether,” Hickenlooper said, noting that he spoke to Jewell 10 days ago. Finding that the bird should not be listed is Jewell’s goal, Hickenlooper said. “I believe her. I don’t think she’s posturing.” Hickenlooper supported the filing of a suit against the agency when it listed the Gunnison sage-grouse as threatened, but declined to say whether he would do the same if the greater sage-grouse is listed...more

You can just imagine the horse trading, maneuvering and attempted bribery going on behind the scenes.  To list the bird would be political suicide for the Democrats and probably lead to a Congressional delisting or even changes to the ESA itself.  The enviros want neither of those to happen.  They will, however, use the threat of a listing to get all they can get.  The more serious envirocrats inside the administration will also be working for a program that will survive a legal challenge.  

All of this will, of course, be based on "science".

Energy production and species conservation working hand in hand

By Barry Russell 

This Friday marks Endangered Species Day, an event intended to spotlight and encourage the conservation efforts underway to protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats. As companies who work every day to provide the energy we all rely upon, while protecting the environment we all care about, America’s independent oil and natural gas producers take great pride in the efforts they are making to support species conservation across the country.

In the west, independent oil and natural gas companies are working closely with states, local communities and stakeholders, and conservation groups in the development and implementation of state-based plans to conserve the greater sage-grouse. Some of these initiatives include Colorado’s Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan and Wyoming’s Sage-Grouse Core Area Program. One leading independent oil and gas company, for example, runs an annual conservation and restoration project in the Powder River Basin alongside the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Wyoming Conservation Corps to thin and remove invasive trees across priority sage-grouse habitat on BLM lands.

In recognition of the value of these collaborative efforts, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has stated that her department is “more determined than ever to work with the states, ranchers, energy developers, and other stakeholders who are putting effective conservation measure in place” so as to avoid the need to list the greater sage-grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In addition to supporting and complying with state-based plans, oil and natural gas companies also utilize various resources and techniques to limit the impact of their operations on sage-grouse and other species. Thanks to the advancement of hydraulic fracturing and improved horizontal drilling technologies, energy producers are able to access reserves miles away from the well pad. This practice enables operators to greatly reduce the number of wells required to develop oil and natural gas, thus reducing land disturbances and fragmentation of habitat. As Secretary Jewell has acknowledged, this practice gives operators “an opportunity to have a softer footprint on the land.”

Many energy companies in the 11-state range of the greater sage-grouse are also consolidating their operations to limit surface disruptions and adapting equipment to mirror the surrounding environment, reducing the visual disturbance to the natural habitat. As a recent peer-reviewed report from researchers at Anadarko Petroleum found, “new oil and gas development is being deployed at lower pad densities and should reduce impacts” on sage-grouse breeding ground. Companies also execute rigorous reclamation plans after operations are complete, ensuring the well pad area is restored to its original condition.

 Russell is the president and CEO of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the leading, national upstream trade association representing oil and natural gas producers that drill 95 percent of the nation's oil and natural gas wells.

A PR piece by the industry, helping to build political cover for the non-listing.

Interior secretary returning to Idaho to deal with sage grouse

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is returning to Idaho for the fourth time since President Barack Obama picked her to be the nation’s public landlord in March 2013. The former REI CEO will talk about wildfires, the same issue she came to talk about the last three times. That’s not surprising since Boise is the home of the National Interagency Fire Center, the nerve center for fighting fires. But Jewell’s last trip and this trip will focus on fire and sage grouse. The 2-foot-tall bird has become a major chore for the former oil and gas drilling engineer, who had been an active member of the environmental community before she went to Washington, D.C. But the potential listing of the grouse as a threatened species — the symbol of the health of the West’s sagebrush ecosystem — has forced Jewell to spend a lot more time on the issue than she expected when she was appointed.. The sagebrush sea, once 290 million acres, has been cut in half over the past century, and in the Great Basin that includes Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and Utah, fire has been the final destroyer of much of that desert land. Jewell heard it from her biologists, ecologists and range managers, and from governors such as Idaho’s Butch Otter.  Getting an entire bureaucracy of firefighting agencies, land managers and wildlife biologists all moving the same direction is not easy. Climate change has increased fire intensity and spread for at least the past 20 years. But only now is the fire threat to the sagebrush sea rising to a place of prominence in the national discussion. It had been largely ignored, as were the birds by some of these same agencies only a decade ago...more

Ranchers Request Their Land Be Left Out Of Sage Grouse Protected Area

Some landowners are expressing concern about how expanded sage grouse protections could affect their private property rights. At a state sage grouse meeting last week in Douglas, two ranchers requested that their property be removed from the grouse’s current protected areas or be left out of proposed additions. Rancher and attorney Peter Nicolaysen has property inside the bird’s core area now but a proposal would add even more. He says he’s worried about proposals that would make it difficult for him to drill new water wells within the bird’s so-called buffer zone, which is six-tenths of a mile around any sage grouse breeding ground. “We’re constantly trying to improve our water capacity,” Nicolaysen says. “And we certainly don’t want to be restricted and don’t feel it’s appropriate for those types of activities to be considered exempt activities.” He said if he needed more water in a buffer zone, he’d have to get a biological review...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1426

To close out the week here's Jimmy Riddle with a harmonica version of Stoney Point.  The tune is on his 1964 LP album Country Harmonica.  The Westerner

Thursday, May 14, 2015

video - Calif. Golf Courses Rip Up Grass During Drought

Published on May 13, 2015
Golf courses in California are ripping up acres of turf grass to save on water costs and conserve the precious liquid as Gov. Jerry Brown and state water officials impose drastic cuts. The move is designed to save millions of gallons a year. (May 13)

University Pulls Funding For Think Tank Because It’s Run By A Global Warming Skeptic

Professor Bjorn Lomborg has become the target of environmental activists. Last week, activists convinced the University of Western Australia to cancel a plan with Lomborg to create a major research center that would focus on the economics of global development projects. Why were global warming activists upset? Because Lomborg doesn’t believe global warming is currently the greatest threat facing mankind. Activists pressured the university to return $4 million to the Australian government that would have gone to create the think-tank Australia Consensus. The move was celebrated by environmentalists, but bemoaned by Australian conservatives as a blow to free and open debate. Lomborg, the self-styled “skeptical environmentalist,” didn’t sit idly by, but instead took to the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal to voice his disgust...more

Judge: Feds Didn't Follow Law in Okaying Two Colorado Coal-Mining Plans

n a move that could have far-reaching implications for the the West's ailing coal industry, a federal judge in Denver has ruled that U.S. Department of Interior officials failed to follow the law in approving expansion plans at two Colorado coal-mining operations — and that the agency has an obligation, in considering such plans, to take into account not simply the environmental impacts of mining but the negative health effects of burning the coal produced. Judge Brooke Jackson's decision came last Friday in a lawsuit brought by the environmental group WildEarth Guardians, challenging the DOI's approval of permit revisions at the Colowyo and Trapper coal mines, both of which have been operating in northwest Colorado since the 1970s. Both mines supply fuel to Tri-State Generation and Transmission's 650-megawatt, coal-fired power plant outside Craig...more

Editorial: Game board unfairly takes aim at gray wolf protector

Playing tit for tat with an endangered species is not only unproductive; it’s petty. Yet that appears to be what the New Mexico Game Commission did last week when it declined to renew a permit that had been in place for 17 years allowing Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch in the Gila mountains to assist the federal Mexican gray wolf recovery program. 

Ever since the program began in 1998, the Turner ranch has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide pen space for holding endangered wolves being taken from the wild or being reintroduced into the wilderness. Turner raises bison commercially on the 156,000-acre ranch in Sierra County and maintains it as a habitat for endangered and threatened species and for ecotourism.
Currently, there are just over 100 Mexican gray wolves in the wild – a species that once numbered in the thousands. 

In the past, the Game and Fish director routinely signed off on the Turner permit. However, in November, the commission adopted a rule requiring commission approval for permits to keep wolves and other carnivores on private land for purposes of recovery or reintroduction. It appears to target the wolf program, and last week’s action is likely to hamper its success. 

...That may relate to a new Fish and Wildlife Service rule that greatly expanded the wolves’ range south to the Mexican border and north to Interstate 40 and broadened areas where wolves bred in captivity could be released. It also gave ranchers, who generally oppose the program, more authority to shoot wolves dead if they prey on livestock or domestic animals.  

The Journal's attempt to dismiss the legitimate concerns of our state and those most affected by calling the Game Commission's action "tit for tat" and "petty" is unfortunate.

This is the second tit for about a thousand tats as the USFWS has continually ignored the many concerns of the state and local citizens.  It's hardly petty for the Governor and Commission to stand up for the health and safety of our folks whereas you seem more interested in the health and safety of the mexican wolf.

Most galling is your attempt to use property rights to oppose the Commission's action:

Landowner rights should not become as endangered as the wolf. Turner should be allowed to use his property as he wishes in cooperation with the federal government, and the commission shouldn’t flex its self-granted power to punish a private landowner to make a statement.

Turner should be free to use his property as he wishes. But the moment he chooses to participate in a taxpayer-funded program the public also has a right to try and influence that participation. Would the Journal deny the public that opportunity? There are also private landowners who oppose the program, and until the Martinez administration came along, their voices were silenced. Turner chooses to participate and you defend him, while other land owners are "punished" by being forced to participate, and you ignore them. Thank goodness the Game Commission is not.

Proposed Road Paving Puts Monumental Divide Between Dona Ana County Residents

Should the two roads leading up to the Organ Mountains be fully paved? That is a question that has put a monumental divide between many Dona Ana County residents. In 2013, Dona Ana County applied for federal money to pay for the proposed road enhancements with the intention of improving public and tourist access to the Organ Mountains and public lands. In a Tuesday night meeting at the Farm and Ranch Museum County residents got a chance to discuss the proposal. Retired photographer Williams Giles lives on the East Mesa, a 15 minute drive from Baylor canyon road. He says he would spend more time taking photos and hiking in the Organ Mountains if the rocky dirt roads weren’t so hard on his car. “It is like driving on a wash board, slinging all that gravel up on your car. So its pretty loud and raucous.” Giles said. Retiree Terry Denning lives and works part time as a ranch hand on Baylor Canyon road. He says while Dripping springs road needs to be paved, paving Baylor Canyon road would bring traffic that would threaten wildlife and cattle grazing in the area. “You can’t anticipate what a cow or a horse necessarily is going to do if something comes by at a high speed.” Denning said. “That is our concern for safety, both the people in the cars and the people that are using the road way for other purposes and for the livestock and for the wildlife that have to cross.” Denning said...more

Terrible Terry is speaking out, and actually making sense.  One way or the other, you can bet BLM will spend that federal money.

BLM plan to close over 1,000 public routes riles western Colorado

A plan that will close nearly 2,000 miles of public roads that have previously been open for use by the people of Mesa County is creating a public backlash against the Grand Junction field office of the federal Bureau of Land Management. The BLM’s resource management plans (RMP) regulate the access and types of traffic allowed on roads on public lands. Road maintenance and seasonal closures are also detailed in such plans. But the most recent RMP in Mesa County indicates the BLM’s intent to limit access to public roads which have traditionally been open to motorized, horse, and foot traffic. Accessible routes will decrease from the current 3,469 miles to just 1,777. The BLM has not offered a clear justification for its planned road closures, which has left many in Mesa County frustrated and baffled...more

House passes act to stop WOTUS rule

The House passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Act of 2015, by a vote of 261-155 yesterday. This bill would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers to stop moving forward with the proposed “Waters of the United States” rule. As soon as the vote was announced, agricultural groups began thanking House members who voted for the act. The first statement came from Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. In part, Stallman said, “Members of the House today sent a strong, bipartisan message that the flawed Waters of the U.S. Rule is unacceptable and should be scrapped. Furthermore, it was refreshing to see members of Congress order regulators back to the drawing board, with an admonition to listen to the very real concerns of people who would have their farm fields and ditches regulated in the same manner as navigable streams. “The way that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers drew up the WOTUS rule, it was more about regulating land than it ever was about protecting valuable water resources.” House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) spoke in support of H.R. 1732 before the final House vote. “This (WOTUS) rule, in its current form, is a massive overreach of EPA’s authority and will impact nearly every farmer and rancher in America. It gives EPA the ability to regulate essentially any body of water they want, including farm ponds and even ditches that are dry for most of the year. The EPA’s defense of this rule is that it provides clarity to producers regarding what is and is not regulated, but in reality, this rule will allow nearly every body of water in the United States to be controlled by federal regulators...more

Hunting groups press BLM to protect more backcountry

Conservation and hunting groups are pressing the Bureau of Land Management at the 11th hour to protect more backcountry in the agency's final resource management plan for the Hi-Line District, arguing it fails to strike a balance between wildlife habitat protections and development. The BLM says it does. The final plan is expected to be out by the end of the month. The groups want protections for more undeveloped land in northeastern Montana that support elk, pronghorn, mule deer, sage grouse and with access valued by hunters. "The BLM needs to balance habitat needs for our critters, and we have a wonderful opportunity with this plan for the BLM to do just that," said J.W. Westman of Park City, who hunts on Hi-Line BLM land. "And if they fail to do so, we have missed a wonderful opportunity. I believe in a bold approach. Not a stupid approach, but a real bold approach." Westman participated in a tele-press conference Wednesday where the groups explained their concerns to reporters. Others who participated were officials with the Montana Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Dan Vermillion, the owner of Sweet Water Travel and chairman of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission...more

Big Spring Ranchers Paid to Accommodate Jade Helm, Says Mayor

Military officials have negotiated contracts with local ranchers to conduct Jade Helm training on their property, according to Big Spring Mayor Larry McLellan. However, he said residents will not be "forced out of their homes" to accommodate troops during the large-scale military exercise, scheduled to run July 15 through September 15. McLellan had no details about the contracts supposedly offered to Big Spring homeowners. Military officials were not available to answer questions about how many ranchers were being displaced or inconvenienced due to Jade Helm, and how much they would receive in compensation. Jade Helm operations planners previously confirmed training will only be conducted on private and public land with the permission of landowners or regional authorities. One lifelong Big Spring resident told NewsWest 9 he would not accept any amount of money to surrender his home to troops. "I support our troops, but when they're trying to take over our civilians, that ain't cool," he said. "[Those are] their homes. That's where they live." McLellan told NewsWest 9 residents could anticipate "[hearing] more airplane traffic," but no other major changes. "We might also see new faces around town and in the grocery stories... but I don't think we're going to have people kicked out of their homes or [military personnel] knocking on doors in the middle of the night," he said. McLellan confirmed Jade Helm personnel would be purchasing groceries and other supplies locally. Operations planners and city officials calculated "wherever they're training could see as much as $150,000 increase in sales" during the two-month exercise...more

BLM employees win Valor Award for actions during Wetmore Fire

Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office employees Jonathan Brewer and Tyler Webb were honored last week at the 70th Honor Awards Convocation of the Department of the Interior at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Valor Award is the highest award given by the Department of Interior and recognizes employees who have demonstrated unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. Firefighters Brewer and Webb were assisting local law enforcement personnel in evacuating residents in the path of the advancing Wetmore Fire in October 2012. The Wetmore Fire was a fast-moving, wind-driven fire that consumed about 1,800 acres and 14 residences during the first afternoon and evening of initial attack. Brewer and Webb were told of civilians that were in the path of the quickly advancing Wetmore Fire. They made the decision to drive through smoke toward the fire so they could locate the civilians. By the time they reached the civilians, it was too dangerous to exit, so Brewer and Webb located a safe zone to gather until the danger passed. There were two different waves of flames, wind and smoke that came over the group. Because of good situational awareness, both employees were able to remove themselves along with civilians and vehicles from what could have been a tragic outcome...more

Cattle thief sentenced to 15 years in prison

Coleman, Texas - A Rockwood man was arrested and charged with second degree theft of livestock and sentenced to 15 years in prison on Feb. 2 after stealing $3,000 worth of cattle from a rancher located in Coleman, Texas. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Joe Roberts and Coleman County Sheriff's Deputy Archie Lancaster led the investigation. Roberts received a phone call on March 6, 2014 from a ranch hand who stated that three head of cattle from were stolen from his boss's ranch in Coleman, Texas. The foreman told Roberts that he found four wires cut on the victim's fence and a gate going into the neighbor's property had been moved. The suspect, Don Ernest Estes, 40, of Rockwood, owns the land neighboring the victim's property where the fence and gate had been tampered with. Roberts determined that Estes had stolen the cattle from the victim, whose land shared a fence line...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1425

For Peter Ibarbo and his son, both Wilburn Brothers fans, here they are with Much Too Often.  The tune is on their 1957 Decca LP album titled Wilburn Brothers:  Teddy & Doyle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Economic costs top legal costs in timber suits

A recent study of the costs of litigation in Forest Service timber contracts found that economic impacts to local communities far outweighed the costs of attorneys and analysis. The study by Todd Morgan and John Baldridge at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research looked at impacts across the U.S. and Region 1 but focused on one case study — the Spotted Bear River Project at the south end of the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Economic impacts caused by litigation to stop this project were estimated to be a loss of 136 jobs and $10 million in income and taxes. The goals of the 50,000-acre Spotted Bear River Project included maintaining and improving forest health, timber productivity, recreational values on a Wild and Scenic River Corridor, and access at two trailheads. The project called for harvesting about 7.3 million board-feet of timber on 1,193 acres, thinning on 660 acres and prescribed burning on 1,346 acres. Scoping for the project began in November 2009. Litigation began in February 2012 when the Friends of the Wild Swan and The Swan View Coalition filed suit in federal court in Missoula. The plaintiffs claimed a full-blown environmental impact statement was needed and that inadequate analysis had been completed on the cumulative impacts to endangered and threatened species, including wolverines, lynx and grizzly bears. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ruled in favor of the Forest Service on June 3, 2013, and the Tin Mule Timber Sale portion of the project was awarded 16 days later. The plaintiffs filed for a temporary restraining order to block the sale the next day. On July 8, 2013, District Court Judge Dana Christensen ruled not to grant the temporary restraining order. The plaintiffs appealed his decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2013, and the appellate court upheld Christensen a year later.About half the Tin Mule sale was completed by February 2015, and a second timber sale for the project will be awarded in fiscal year 2016. According to Morgan and Baldridge, direct costs of the litigation were about $95,000 to the Forest Service and $4,500 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They also found that Forest Service personnel spent 1,833 hours working on litigation for the Spotted Bear case instead of other projects. Nationwide, Morgan and Baldridge found that attorney fees and Equal Access To Justice Act fees paid to prevailing private parties in 738 Forest Service cases from 2003 to 2013 came to $7.7 million. Region 1 had the most cases — 133 cases costing more than $1 million. “The relatively high frequency of litigation in Region 1 and the protracted duration (often one to two years) of litigated cases certainly contribute to agency workload, cost and uncertainty, as well as uncertainty and related economic impacts for loggers, mills and communities near the forests,” they reported...more

Update on S. 750 and the potential impact on NM

On Sunday, I posted about S. 750, the Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act.  Recall the definition of federal lands would limit its applicability to lands within Arizona.  The Homeland Security Committee had reported out an amended version of the bill which was not yet available to the public, so we didn't know if the definition of federal lands had been changed.

Well now we do.

While the committee markup and report are not available, a source tells me:

°  The definition of federal lands is still limited to Arizona, and
°  The operative language in the bill will only apply from the Mexican border to 100 miles north.

This is still good language for Arizona, but my concerns about the potential impact on New Mexico remain the same:

You don't have to be a genius to see the ramifications if this were to become law.  The BP would have full access to all federal lands in Arizona, but prohibited or limited access to similar lands in NM. If you were a human or drug trafficker, which area would you pick?  And, thanks to Obama-Udall-Heinrich, we New Mexicans have a brand new, half-million acre National Monument on and near our border with Mexico.  New roads are prohibited and off-road vehicular traffic is prohibited.  Patrols would be limited to BLM-approved existing roads and you'd play hell deploying "communications, surveillance, and detection equipment" if you can't go off-road.

Others are telling me the legislation will probably not come to the Senate floor for a vote, as the minority party would tie it up with procedural moves.  There is always the possibility, though, that it could be attached to other legislation moving through the Senate.  There is also a House version of the bill, H.R. 1412, to keep an eye on.

Shell’s Record Adds to the Anger of Those Opposing Arctic Drilling

When the Obama administration announced on Monday that it would let Shell drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this year if it met certain conditions, environmentalists were outraged — not just by the administration’s decision to allow drilling, but by its decision to give Shell, in particular, the green light. They said that the company’s track record in the Arctic should rule out another chance for it. Shell tried to drill in the Arctic in 2012, and the company’s multibillion-dollar drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground. The operator of a drill ship hired by Shell also pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay $12.2 million over shoddy record-keeping that covered up hazardous conditions and jury-rigged equipment that discharged polluted water. Shell, Europe’s leading oil company, has spent about $7 billion in the Alaskan Arctic over the last decade, and drilled two shallow wells during the 2012 attempt. But the federal government did not allow the company to reach the deeper oil-bearing formations because the containment dome designed to cap a runaway well had been destroyed in testing. Shell executives said they had shaken up their Alaska team, putting in new management that would emphasize better management of contractors, readiness for any problems and contingency plans to care for any more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1424

Some roots music today:  Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers - I Once Loved A Sailor.  The tune was recorded in NY City on July 23, 1928 for the Columbia record label.  In the studio were Charlie Poole-v-bg/Roy Harvey-g/Lonnie Austin-f.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cliven Bundy reaches out to man who pleaded guilty to threatening BLM

Cliven Bundy is worried about one of his supporters.

On Monday, the recalcitrant Nevada rancher, who has waged a running battle of words and lawsuits with the federal government over public lands, made a phone call to an out-of-state supporter facing prison time over comments he made in support of the newly christened tea party folk hero.

Pennsylvania resident Will Michael, 24, pleaded guilty last month in federal court to threatening a Bureau of Land Management official as well as making interstate communication threats during Bundy's 2014 standoff with federal officials over land grazing rights.

Bundy says he feels responsible for the man's predicament and wanted to offer a show of emotional support.

"He's just a youngster -- he seems like a nice young man with good sense for a boy," Bundy told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. "They picked him out of a large group of people and I'm nervous these federal types are going to hang him as an example."

Michael left a profanity-laced phone message for Mike Roop, the chief BLM ranger for Washington and Oregon, that warned, "We're going to kill you," according to federal court documents. Officials say it was one of 500 threatening messages that Roop received.

 Michael told authorities that he saw a video on social media showing Roop shoving aside Bundy's sister, who was blocking BLM vehicles in the cattle raid, officials said. Michael will be sentenced in July.

 ...In a phone interview, Michael told The Times that he was surprised to hear from Bundy. "I never expected the head of the entire cause would reach out to me," he said.

Michael, an assistant manager of a smoke shop in the tiny town of Emmaus, just south of Allentown, Pa., said he worries about his future but appreciates Bundy's gesture. He said he borrowed money from his parents to pay for a lawyer.

...Bundy believes the aggressive federal approach is just the first in a series of legal moves officials might take against his own family after Bundy's so-called citizen militia challenged BLM officials in an armed face-off in April last year.

The case of the four-legged bootlegger

The Roan Horse 1913 (Hornung)

This is the true story of the only time a horse was arrested and tried for a felony in a federal court in New Mexico.

...This horse tale starts at Jemez Pueblo during a feast-day celebration in November 1913.
Lambert, two years into his service with the Mounted Police, was also serving as a deputy special officer for the U.S. Indian Service, which was charged with enforcing a law prohibiting alcohol on Indian reservations.

While Lambert was working the Jemez festival, a heavy-set Hispanic man trotted a roan horse into the pueblo. A roan horse, by the way, is a horse whose coat contains a thick sprinkling of white hairs. Dangling from the horse’s saddle were 13 gunny sacks, each of which, as it turned out, contained a quart bottle of alcohol.

Suspecting just that, another officer grabbed the big man by the collar of his coat and pulled him out of the saddle while Lambert got hold of the spooked horse’s reins and settled it down. Before the man could be subdued, he spun out of his coat, jumped into a fast-moving stream and disappeared into the willows as the other officer fired four or five shots at him, apparently in vain.

Left standing with only the horse and the prohibited booze, Lambert arrested the animal and charged it with taking alcohol onto an Indian reservation. If the horse made any statement, no record of it has been discovered.

In the hope of arresting the escaped suspect, or at least getting a lead on him, the officers put an ad in the newspaper saying that a roan horse lost at the Jemez Pueblo festival could be claimed at the U.S. Marshal’s Office in Santa Fe. No one was danged fool enough to claim the horse, so it remained in the marshal’s custody for six months.

To get the issue resolved before the horse ran up too big a feed bill, the animal was put on trial in federal court in Santa Fe in May 1914.

Did the jury find him guilty?  Read the entire article here.

video - Cattle Ranchers vs. The Feds: "You don’t just come into a ranch and say I’m going to run it."

"They say you can’t fight City Hall," says rancher Eddyanne Filippini, but "what they’re doing to us is not right."  A cattle rancher in Battle Mountain, Nevada, Filippini and her husband Dan are fighting with the government to get their grazing rights back on land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Permits to graze on federal lands are part of a ranch's assessed value and transferred when property is bought or sold. The BLM, a federal agency within the Department of the Interior, controls a total of 155 million acres in the U.S. that is sets aside for livestock grazing. Private ranchers like the Filipinis rely on this land to feed their cattle. Last year, the BLM revoked the Filippinis' grazing rights on the grounds that a drought had made the land too dry. Raul Morales, the deputy state director for the Nevada State Office of the BLM, tells Reason that "Nevada has actually been in drought 8 of the last 10 years. The last four years we’ve had...consistent drought." "We know how to take care of it and we do, we have for years," explains rancher Pete Tomera, a neighbor of the Filippinis who is also fighting for the return of his grazing rights. "We’ve done it all our lives. I mean you don’t just come into a ranch and say I’m going to run it."

Here's the Reason tv video:

Sheep Industry Concerned About Proposed Labor Law

American Sheep Industry leaders are concerned about a proposed Department of Labor rule that would rewrite the H-2-A sheep herder rule. ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick says comments on the rule are due June 1. He says if the Labor Department rule goes into effect it could force many sheep ranchers out of business. Orwick says the definition of open range within the proposed rule isn’t practical or workable. He says besides the range definition problem, the weight formula in the proposed rule is too costly. Orwick says 38 percent of all breeding sheep are under the care of H-2-A sheep herders so if the rule goes into effect packing plants, wool warehouses and wool mills and meat distributors will all be lost.  WNAX

Is noise from Navy jets a threat to Olympic National Park?

The joys of Washington’s Olympic National Park include being put to sleep by the sound of surf, the whistle of winds at high places like Bogachiel Peak, and the swift, purposeful, near silent movement of a Roosevelt Elk herd across a meadow. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., who represents the Olympic Peninsula, wants to know if these sounds — and silences — are threatened by the U.S. Navy’s interest in using areas of the Peninsula for electronic warfare range testing, with an increased number of jets flying over pristine places. Kilmer wants the National Park Service to collect new noise samples and data for FICAN. He wants the federal agency to review possible noise pollution of the 917,000-acre park, its mountainous interior and renowned coastal strip. The Navy has already conducted a noise study related to the National Environmental Policy Act. But, said Kilmer, the study used a framework “that is more commonly associated with community noise in urban settings and not appropriate for analyzing the impacts to a national park.”...more

The Presidential Proclamation for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument says that nothing in the document shall " preclude low level overflights of military aircraft".  It says nothing, however, about noise pollution.  I'm sure, though, that Udall-Heinrich would never let the monument designation interfere with the operations of White Sands Missile Range, Ft. Bliss or NASA...aren't you?

Terror in the sky - Obama's 'avian genocide'

President Obama’s avian genocide is one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated against the bird community. His determination to eradicate the population of majestic bald eagles—the single greatest symbolic representation of the American freedom—is particularly unsettling. Half-hearted protests from fair-weather environmentalists, who regard the thousands of brutally murdered eagles every year as mere collateral damage in their misguided quest to save the planet, have done little to dissuade this president. In fact, Obama appears to be pursuing his genocidal ambitions with increasing zeal, as his lust for bird blood grows beyond the “green” energy sector’s capacity to chop or incinerate them out of the sky. Energy Wire reports that an estimated 3,500 birds were slaughtered at the Ivanpah solar power plant in its first year of operation. The 377-megawatt plant, sprawled across nearly five square miles in the Nevada desert, was financed in part by a $1.6 billion taxpayer-guaranteed loan from the Department of Energy. It has been touted by President Obama and Senate minority leader Harry Reid as a critical weapon in the left-wing “war” on “climate” “change.” But while the plant’s energy production has been lagging, it continues to surpass expectations when it comes to bird murder...more

Arizona Files Motions to Protect Arizona’s Interest in Mexican Wolf Recovery

The State of Arizona, on behalf of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, recently filed two motions aimed at protecting the state’s interest in the Mexican wolf reintroduction program and successful recovery of the endangered wolf subspecies that inhabits east-central Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit Center for Biological Diversity v. Sally Jewell. The suit concerns the recently-revised 10(j) Rule that governs the management of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The state filed the motion to intervene to defend its trust authority over wildlife conservation in Arizona and its involvement in the revision of the 10(j) Rule. The state also filed a motion to dismiss the suit based on the court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiffs are unable to demonstrate that their interests have suffered due to the revised 10(j) Rule. The Arizona Game and Fish Department also is working with the Arizona Attorney General’s office to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to develop an updated Mexican wolf recovery plan that incorporates Mexico, which has historically held 90 percent of the habitat for Mexican wolves...more

Western snowpack melts early, little remains

West-wide snowpack has mostly melted, according to data from the fifth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Across most of the West, snowpack isn’t just low—it’s gone,” NRCS hydrologist David Garen said. “With some exceptions, this year’s snowmelt streamflow has already occurred.” Garen said that for much of the western US, the snowpack at many of the stations is at or near the lowest on record. Months of unusually warm temperatures hindered snowpack growth and accelerated its melt. “It’s been a dry year for the Colorado River,” NRCS hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. “Snowmelt inflow into the Lake Powell Reservoir is forecast at 34 percent of normal.” The Lake Powell Reservoir supplies water to much of the Southwest, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles and southern Arizona. “We only forecast streamflow from current conditions,” McCarthy said. “Spring and summer rains might relieve areas that are dry.” In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. National Water and Climate Center scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts...more

Park Service rangers honored for rescue

Three National Park Service rangers in Tennessee have been recognized for rescuing a man stranded in Big South Fork River. Receiving the Valor Award from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were rangers Thomas A. Hall, Brett F. Painter and Matt L. Hudson. The three Obed Wild and Scenic River rangers were recognized recently at the Department of Interior's awards convocation ceremony in Washington, D.C. Park Service officials say the rangers were honored for paddling a hazardous whitewater section of the Big South Fork River to rescue a 21-year-old man stranded mid-river without a life jacket. By headlamp and moonlight, the rangers plucked the victim from a small rock last May. The Valor Award recognizes an employee's demonstration of courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. AP

Cash Is King for Wild Animal Permits, PETA Says

A token donation to environmental causes allows circuses and hunters to vault the hurdles of regulations protecting endangered species, animal lovers claim in Federal Court. Though the Endangered Species Act prohibits any level of possessing or transporting endangered species except under strictly limited circumstances, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is authorized to issue permits for importing and exporting endangered animals only "to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species." While such enhancement permits were intended to cover "extremely narrow" circumstances, PETA says in a May 8 complaint that Fish and Wildlife Service routinely flouted environmental principles with a "pay-to-play" policy that allowed permit applicants justify their hunting trophies by claiming that their display of the animal's carcass heightens public commitment to conservation and thus enhances the species' survival...more

PETA and its ilk will always oppose any idea that an economic incentive can promote conservation. No sir, Coercive Conservation is the name of their game. Obey or go to prison.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1423

Here's the Jimmy Wakely Trio (Jimmy Wakely, Johnny Bond, Dick Reinhart) performing Old November Moon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Senators propose two north NM wilderness areas

Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall – both New Mexico Democrats – last week proposed two wilderness areas within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos. The two proposed wilderness areas – dubbed the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness – would comprise 21,420 acres within the 242,500-acre national monument, which President Obama designated two years ago. According to the Bureau of Land Management, a federally designated wilderness area must “offer outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation,” and must be at least 5,000 acres or large enough to preserve and use as wilderness. It must also contain “ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, scenic, or historical value.” “For many years now, a broad coalition of northern New Mexicans has worked to conserve these two very special areas within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument,” said Heinrich, who last month received the National Park Heritage Award from the National Parks Conservation Association for his work on protecting public lands. “Designating these two wilderness areas completes a national example of community-driven, landscape-scale conservation that will preserve the culture, natural resources and economy of this stunning corner of New Mexico.”...more

Their press release is here and a map is here.

Will restored creeks thrive if Rosemont gets OK?

Empire Gulch and Cienega Creek are environmental success stories, though their futures are uncertain if the Rosemont Mine is built. The gulch and creek are centerpieces of the 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, a federally owned grasslands site that is both a working cattle ranch and home to eight endangered and threatened species. But the proposed Rosemont Mine could change all that — the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and Pima County have said the mine could dry up the creeks. The U.S. Forest Service and mine owner Hudbay Minerals Inc., have said they don’t expect Cienega Creek to be seriously degraded for at least 1,000 years, if ever, although the Forest Service has said Empire Gulch could suffer serious impacts...more

Thompson to try again to change federal oversight of Lake Berryessa

Rep. Mike Thompson will try again to switch federal agencies in charge of managing Lake Berryessa, and again he will have the support of Napa County. Thompson wants the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, not the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, to manage recreation at the eastern Napa County reservoir. He plans to reintroduce legislation in Congress to make the switch. The Bureau of Reclamation for several years has tried to renovate the lake’s seven resorts. But there have been delays, leaving two resorts at full strength, two in stripped-down versions and three closed. That, in turn, has led to frustration among lake businesses and residents. “BLM is just the agency best suited to manage the recreation activities at Lake Berryessa,” Thompson aide Austin Vevurka said last week. The Napa County Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday. Thompson (D-St. Helena) sought the board’s support before reintroducing the bill and received it...more

Senators introduce bipartisan WOTUS bill

A bipartisan group of United States senators held a news conference April 30 to introduce S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Jim Ihhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma; John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming; Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota; Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas; and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. The bill is similar to House Bill R. 1732, which would direct the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the existing Waters of the U.S. proposal and issue a revised WOTUS rule that protects traditional navigable waters from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners. “The issue is this: We have always had the states have jurisdiction over the waters of the United States except for those that are navigable,” Inhofe said. “We all agree that those that are navigable are justification for the federal government to be involved. However, there are a lot of people that have wanted to concentrate these efforts into Washington and in order to do this they wanted through legislation to do away with the word ‘navigable.’”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1422

Its Swingin' Monday and we'll get your foot tappin' with Whoop and Ride by Lonesome River Band.  The tune is on their 2006 CD The Road With No End

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mea Culpa

On Friday I linked to Congressional testimony by Senator Heller concerning his Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2015.  In my comments I said the ESA had "expired", and that was less than precise.  A reader had a question about it and I quickly wrote an Update saying a Section of the ESA had expired and I would provide further clarification.

The section authorizing appropriations expired in  FY 1992.  The rest of the Act remains intact, including the enforcement provisions.  Back in 2013 I quoted extensively from a Congressional Research Service report explaining all this, including speculation on what would happen if there were zero appropriations, and summarizing Senate & House rules against appropriating moneys that have not been authorized.

Bottom line:  I'm having to correct myself on an issue where I had previously corrected others.  Shame on me.

Did your mother give you an unfair advantage that caused you to harm mother earth today?

That unfair advantage would be reading you bedtime stories.  That's right.

Bernie Goldberg reports on a British academic who says that "societal unfairness" is created when parents read bedtime stories to their children.  Goldberg quotes the good professor as writing,  “Evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.” 

This learned man has a solution too:  abolish the family.  “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family,” says the professor. “If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.” 

Well, why not?  If these political Deep Thinkers have banned books, movies, liquor, guns and heaven knows what else, why not ban the family?

Now let's say your Mother gave you an unfair advantage by reading you bedtime stories and to honor her on this day you sent her flowers.  Well that's bad too.

In a Washington Post column titled Flowers may be nice for Mom, but they’re terrible for Mother Earth, another Deep Thinker puts it this way:  "How’s this as a gesture of love for the woman who bore you? Chop off the reproductive organ of a plant and send it to her in a box tied up with a pretty bow."

Flowers are evil because they come from other countries, are bathed in toxic chemicals and use up a whole lot of energy for storage, shipping and delivery.

Is there a way to love your Mother without raping mother earth?  I have no idea.  I just know I had to share all this nonsense with you.

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Looking to the positive

by Julie Carter

Someone found it necessary to make a list of the advantages of living past the age of 50, or 60 and climbing to 70. I tend to believe that every day above ground is a good day, but there are other perks to hanging on in the second half of your century of living. 

1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you. I find that to be absolutely true. I have never been kidnapped nor even threatened with abduction. In fact, the only reference made to it my lifetime was by my dad. His comment was something
about having pity for the kidnappers.
2. In a hostage situation, you are likely to be released first. See No.1 for references.
3. No one expects you to run, anywhere. Speed takes on a more relative definition with each passing decade. What you thought was fast, probably wasn’t. Ask an over-50 barrel racer.
4. People call at 9 p.m. and ask, "Did I wake you?" I’ve gotten good at sounding convincing to the contrary.
5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac. Instead, one learns the polite art of not monopolizing the conversation with long, detailed renditions of aches, pains and remedies.
6. There is nothing left to learn the hard way, or so they say. I haven’t yet found that to be true.
7. Things you buy now won't wear out. The Maytag man never considered that he might never see you again when he promised that the new washing machine he just delivered would last you 25 years.
8. You can eat supper at 4 p.m. or breakfast at noon. This holds true especially if you are unemployed, single and living alone.
9. You can live without sex but not without your glasses. Enough said, except to note, well ... never mind.
10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans. That may have changed with the recent political black cloud that came over people's plans for retirement. There is no edgy humor here.
11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge. In fact, you no longer think of them at all. That may indicate more habit than age.
12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room. Bulkier sweaters, "big" shirts, and jackets allow breathing. Oxygen is so much better for your health than holding your breath.
13. You sing along with elevator music and the designated "oldies" radio station is your "home station" while driving anywhere.
14. Your eyes won't get much worse. Refer to No. 9 and buy reader glasses in bulk.
15. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service. The "weather knee" is a valuable indicator and every old timer has a good story to go with it.
16. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either. It takes several friends to keep a good rumor going.
17. You notice that you are drawn more and more to things written in big print and you have learned the keystrokes on the computer keyboard to make the font on websites bigger.
18. You can't remember where you saw this list before and why you thought it was funny at the time.

No matter the age, take time to enjoy today. Tomorrow is not promised. Now, where are my glasses?

Julie, claiming firsthand knowledge of most of the above, can be reached for comment at

Side Saddlists

Stewards of our Future
Side Saddlists
Recreant Representation
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I smiled all morning.
            Not long ago we rode with a Sierra Alta Ranch cowboy in the attempt to retrieve some cows. Brannon Mobley was there representing his grandfather and father, Tom and Fred Mobley, to help us locate those wayward cattle, return them home, and find the hole in the fence they climbed through.
            Oh, to be 18 again …
            To be around young men like Brannon who are skilled and have lived around elders who not only provide mentorship, but teach them to interact with all ages is reassuring. He was as interested in riding with a different crew as we were getting to see his country and all what goes on across our own fence lines. He talked nonstop.
            We spread out and made big circles converging back together on Brannon’s instructions of points of water. Finding no cows or fresh tracks, we rode together to the ranch’s Little House Tank. Around a steep hillside we rode as Brannon continued the discussion hanging out over the drop looking backward but keeping balanced in the manner that only comes from experience. He was booted and spurred with shotguns just like his predecessors a hundred years ago. Only his current hat style with a glimpse of a mass of curly blond hair gave the suggestion that he is also aware of what the young folks prefer these days. I am fine with that. I like to see each generation define themselves. I just prefer to turn my hat around the right way with the broad flat plain covering the back of my neck.
            We learned about the new horse he was riding. We learned about Jesse, his first mare named from The Man from Snowy River, and we learned that he expected his grandfather to continue shoeing his own horse until the day of his great reward.
            It was all unpretentious, good stuff. He owned the moment as much as he owned the mountain.
            Brannon was courteous, respectful, well spoken, and confident. As a young steward in training, we expect him to parlay that into the future with his own style of leadership that his family has displayed in the fight for our heritage. We want him to find much success, and we hope the central focus remains on the rocks, grass, and big sky that we all observed that day. He and others like him represent special emissaries to our future, and they are fewer and fewer.
            What stands apart from the memory of the day, though, was the ride as much as the rider. It was second nature and all in a morning’s work, but few could actually do it with the economy of effort to both rider and horses that was done. There was no show. Regardless of age, it was of horsemen with horsemen.
            That stands in juxtaposition to the majority of circumstances in the world around us. Too much of the agenda of the contrived world is absent of foundational substance. Regardless of how or what hat they wear, too many folks are not sitting straight and natural in any saddle. In fact, too many of them are riding … side saddle.
            Recreant representation
            Politics is a terrible thing. Perhaps it always has been, but the waste of the national treasury and the abuse of the citizenry seems to have no boundaries. Examples abound.   
            There are now 1,438 college programs in the world that are teaching this new sensation, sustainability. A whopping 89% of those programs are being taught in the United States. The programs are not in one department or even one school within universities, but scattered throughout different disciplines. As loosely defined as it is, the subject is becoming an order of the grand secular faith, environmentalism.
            Its leadership projects an aura of intellectual sophistication as if they are bold new adventurers in realms unfathomed by us commoners. In that matter, there is agreement. We can’t comprehend the paradoxes and enlightened principles of this supposed science. We view it as the same fraud and deception that we assign to the mother ship, environmentalism.
            And, the cost is incomprehensible.
            The 1,280 programs being built in American universities are consuming some $3.4 billion annually. At the same time, those schools are graduating a human product that is woefully unproductive. Forty six percent of all college graduates are underemployed and there is little hope of that changing.
            As for leadership needed to curb educational waste, there is none. In fact, the acceleration of spending in this segment only increases.
            Viewed by this administration as inconsistencies in historical intent, even the tests for citizenship are being tweaked. No longer is “Freedom of Religion” a correct answer among the multiple choice questions. The correct answer has become “Freedom to Worship”. That sets the stage for boundaries of the implied freedom. The vast majority of American institutions of faith ‘worship’ within the confines of four walls. When those worshippers leave those sanctuaries, the course is now set whereby the matter of “Freedom of Religion” faces potential jeopardy. The modified freedom now implies the act of worshipping only and that takes place for Christians within a structure not in the street or the public square.
            As for substantive leadership outrage and demand for correction, there is none. In fact, the acceleration of antagonistic faith appeasement only increases.
            There is abundant evidence illegals are registering and voting in American elections. The prevailing press no longer even shrugs. The matter has become an open act of defiance on the part of the illegals and dismissal on the part of the press.
            Organizations pushing for voter verification and remedial actions are being ignored and mocked. The agency quagmire is infinite. No longer is administrative procedures even ruled upon by majority action of the Election Assistance Commission as required by law. The Commissioner himself is calling the shots.
            As for Congressional leadership forcing adherence to the law, it is absent. If corrections are made at all it must come from citizenry suing the agency and the government for compliance.
            The environmental demand is dwarfing other discretionary spending. The EPA is establishing yet another advocacy platform. The Natural Environmental Justice Advisory Council has arrived. From this body, the agency will receive advice about “crosscutting” issues relating to environmental justice. This will include new and undiscovered environmental related strategies along with scientific, technological, regulatory, and economic issues related to environmental justice.
            As for committed leadership from any governing body, they seem to be in the dark about this hallucinogenic folderol as we are.
            That also applies to the pending USDA recommendation to remove all meat from American diets and to adopt full plant based nutrition. Those bureaucrats are no longer even condemning red meat in our diet as much as they are adhering to the marching orders of the progressives who have the perception that cows are harmful to the planet.
            Then, there are the Christmas police. Observing what the private Underwriters Laboratories set forth in the ‘90s for festive lighting standards, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has finally taken the information and created official, enforceable regulations. They’ve made law.
            As for constitutional Congressional leadership, they will only blink and, at most, stage another grand charade of disgruntlement by crowing and flapping their wings in a committee hearing.
            Future Steward(s)
            Career politicians and their wards of state, those that rely on the system, are crushing us. We are weary of supporting their elaborate fiefdom that effectively retards productivity, ingenuity, and hope.
There is no civility and the majority of us are tired of being told we need to be civil in order to win and prevail against the modern day version of sun worshippers. The point is simplistic. Why should we be civil to anybody who is seemingly intent on terminating our existence? There is nothing civil or kind about that mission.
The tail is wagging the dog. Our system is out of control and there appears to be no moderating force for correction. As for a vigilant and free press, we have learned there is no such thing. There has likely always been a biased and politically aligned press. We must count them out.
            That leaves the dilemma of seeking the force that can balance the chaos and install some degree of discipline and hope into our representative republic. Congress has failed and Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of breaching their oaths to support the Constitution.
            That brings us to the future presidency.
            The choices are either slovenly narcissistic, or they are examples of popularity tightrope walkmanship that is unbecoming. We are weary. Someone must step forward and demonstrate they can ride tall in the most important saddle, and doing so by discarding the political propensity of riding … side saddle.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Leadership coupled with quality mentorship is a very powerful thing. Fortunate is the youth who is exposed to the combination.”