Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mexico's New Generation Cartels Not Getting the Government Message

by Patrick Corcoran

The ongoing aggression of Mexico's Jalisco Cartel - New Generation suggests the government's message to cartels to keep violence down or be dismantled is yet to sink in for the many of the next generation of up and coming criminal organizations.

Five years ago the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) was a non-entity. Now it is the target of a major federal security operation in Jalisco as one of the most prominent engines of violence in western Mexico. According to at least one analysis, it has become the most dangerous drug trafficking organization in the country. 

While there is room for debate on this last point, there is no doubt the group has risen rapidly since emerging out of the embers of the organization controlled by former Sinaloa Cartel boss Ignacio Coronel, who died in a shootout with the Federal Police in 2010. It has been an overtly aggressive organization since the outset, when it announced its existence with videos threatening their local rivals, first the Resistance, and later the Knights Templar.

More recently, the CJNG has taken advantage of the geographic and public relations vacuum left by the decline of the Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Knights Templar -- organizations that have all seen their leadership decimated by arrests and shootouts with Mexican authorities. While it may not be the most powerful organization in Mexico, it is one of the few that seems to be at the front end of its narrative arc. 
The group has been linked to notorious crimes in Jalisco and neighboring states over the past five years, most recently the August murder of a Jalisco mayor and the ambush that left 15 state police officers dead in April, crimes that have called to mind the methods of the old Jalisco Cartel of Sinaloa godfather Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. The CJNG has also employed tactics that are disruptive and harmful to the society at large, such as extortion and blockades of popular thoroughfares. 

Furthermore, though members of the group have been arrested as far away as the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, the CJNG has been more content to consolidate its control over its native region, largely rejecting the expansionist tendencies that made the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas such destabilizing forces. 

But notwithstanding its lower profile, the gang remains a significant force for ill, and has helped spur a years-long wave of violence across Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Through four months of 2015, Jalisco was on pace for nearly 900 murders this year, nearly double the number in 2009, the year before Coronel’s death. 

The CJNG, then, displays something of a dichotomy: its low profile relative to past groups labeled Mexico’s most dangerous and its lack of interest in national territorial expansion contrasting with a consistent willingness to engage in mass violence.

Friday, June 12, 2015

BLM pulls workers from Gold Butte after shots fired near surveyors

A make-shift sign in the Gold Butte area near the Cliven Bundy ranch
The Bureau of Land Management has told its employees and contractors to stay out of a disputed swath of public land in northeastern Clark County after shots were fired near a survey crew’s camp last week.
The FBI and Metro police are said to be investigating the June 5 incident, which unfolded in a remote area at the northern tip of Lake Mead where Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy continues to graze cattle in defiance of federal authorities.  No one was injured, but the three surveyors from the Nevada-based Great Basin Institute packed their gear in the dark and quickly left the area after they said someone fired three shots from a nearby road and then returned an hour later to fire three more. The agency later directed that “all personnel and contractors are not to work in the Gold Butte area at this time,” said Great Basin Institute co-founder and executive director Jerry Keir, reading from the incident report submitted by his survey team. A three-person crew was collecting data on springs, seeps and cattle troughs for a BLM inventory of the Gold Butte area. They were scheduled to spend a week in the area about 100 miles northeast of Las Vegas, but at the end of their first day along the western slope of the Virgin Mountains they were approached by two men in a vehicle who asked them what they were doing. The surveyors said the men identified themselves as ranchers and were “very cordial.” A few hours later, shortly after the surveyors climbed into their tents for the night at about 9 p.m., they heard a vehicle on the road and saw its headlights shining on their camp. That’s when the first shots were fired. They told Metro and the FBI those shots and the second series an hour later came from roughly a third of a mile away from their campsite. “To my knowledge they weren’t shot at, but there was gunfire in the vicinity so they decided they should leave,” said Terry Christopher, the environmental research institute’s associate director in Southern Nevada. Keir called the incident “highly unusual” for Nevada and “unprecedented” for the Gold Butte area, where hundreds of people from the institute have spent more than a decade monitoring desert tortoise populations and restoring riparian habitat...more

California water agencies say USBR violated ESA

Two California water agencies want the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to comply with provisions of the Endangered Species Act and stop releasing water from Trinity Reservoir in northern California until consultations with other regulatory agencies can be made. Westlands Water District and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority are challenging three years’ worth of increased flows to the Trinity River that the USBR made in alleged violation of the ESA. The water districts filed a “notice of violation” with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on June 10, alleging the USBR violated federal law by unilaterally releasing 120,000 acre feet of water from Trinity Lake in northern California over a three-year period. The letter states that the releases were made without consultation with other federal agencies, which is stipulated in the ESA. According to Westlands Water District, the net effect of the USBR’s decision to unilaterally release water from Trinity Reservoir in northern California has been reduced water allocations to farmers and possible lethal impacts to migrating salmon...more

Editorial - Greetings From Jerry Brown's Planet California

California has a major water crisis the way 1990s New York once had an urban blight crisis. But don't look for a Rudy Giuliani to the rescue. The state's governor, Jerry Brown, has morphed into a full-blown space cadet.

...Instead of displaying sharp-minded leadership, Brown waxed soulfully about the philosophical implications of water when asked about the crisis at a University of Southern California conference on Tuesday.

"You said water is a commodity," he said. "Some people call water a right, some people call water the essence of life. Water is more than H2O. Water is baptism. Water is a poetry. Water has an iconic role in human history and the human condition, so how we play with water — it's not like a widget."

We're not making this up. He really said that in a conversation with the publisher of the Times.

Rather than blame the water crisis on his own failures to construct water-storage facilities to ensure that water from wet years is saved for dry years, or present new technological possibilities for long-term solutions, Brown said the crisis was all about global warming.

"This goes to the very foundation of what it means to be human in a world of living things ," he said. "The heat-trapping gases that our society generates are creating alterations in the fundamentals of our whole atmosphere. We may have already passed a tipping point."

...He also reverted to the "small is beautiful" philosophy last preached during his wretched first term as governor in the 1970s. Californians will have to find a "more elegant" way of using and reusing water, he told the USC crowd, not mentioning that the last idea that came from his office was recycling urine.
"The metaphor is spaceship Earth," he explained. "In a spaceship you reuse everything."

With Brown and others of his ilk, it's always the people who are at fault, not the incompetence and irresponsibility of their leaders.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Massive wind project aims to save the sage grouse

RAWLINS, Wyo. -- The road to what will be the nation's most powerful wind farm is so muddy, it causes a Ford F-250 heavy-duty pickup to slide helplessly. Garry Miller, a vice president with Power Company of Wyoming LLC, has made this drive south to the Overland Trail Ranch many times. On a recent afternoon, he stepped out onto the soggy road near Miller Hill, which rises hundreds of feet above the sagebrush and greasewood on the valley floor. "This is it. This is where the turbines will go," Miller said, gesturing from the top of the hill down across the valley, tracking the path of the Pacific winds that sweep with great force across the 320,000-acre cattle ranch. Power Company of Wyoming plans to string 157 wind turbines here as part of the much larger Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. Once completed in the coming decade, it will number 1,000 turbines and rank as the largest onshore wind farm in North American, if not the world. The project will be capable of producing 3,000 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power more than 1 million homes and businesses. "This is a legacy project," Miller said. "We're pushing the boundaries of renewable energy." But there's a catch: The proposed project must share the landscape with the imperiled greater sage grouse...more

Country singer Jim Ed Brown dies at 81

Smooth-voiced singer Jim Ed Brown, a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1963 and a 2015 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, died Thursday at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin. He was 81. In September Mr. Brown revealed that he had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer. In early 2015, he announced that he was in remission, but on June 3, his daughter Kim posted on Facebook that her father's cancer had returned — although not in his lungs — and that he had resumed chemotherapy. One day later, when Mr. Brown's condition appeared unlikely to improve, his dear friend and country legend "Whispering" Bill Anderson visited Mr. Brown in his hospital room to present him with a Country Music Hall of Fame medallion, five months ahead of this fall's official induction ceremony. "It was sad, but in a beautiful way, because we were making him happy," Anderson said. Mr. Brown was surprised earlier this year with the news that he would receive country music's highest honor. On Thursday night, news of Mr. Brown's death spread as country star Alan Jackson opened the sold-out nightly LP Field concerts for the 2015 CMA Music Festival. Jackson played a bit of Mr. Brown's signature hit "Pop a Top" and said, "We're gonna miss you, Jim Ed Brown. God bless you," before leaving stage. James Edward Brown was born on April 1, 1934, in Sparkman, Ark.; later, the family of seven would move to Pine Bluff, Ark. Growing up, he would listen to Opry stars such as Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe, and sing with his older sister Maxine and younger sister Bonnie. In 1954 Mr. Brown and Maxine, who had been singing on the radio and performing regionally as a duo, signed a deal with Fabor Records. Their debut single, the lighthearted "Looking Back to See," peaked at No. 8 in June of that year. The young singers became regulars on The Louisiana Hayride and Ozark Jubilee. In 1955 their teenage sister Bonnie joined the group; a year later, The Browns' recording of "I Take the Chance" for their label RCA Victor hit No. 2 on the country charts. One of their best-known songs was "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing," a song that was released in 1957, the same year that Mr. Brown was drafted into military service. He continued to record with his sisters while on leave, and when the group toured, sister Norma would take his place. After two years, Mr. Brown left the military and rejoined the family band. They would release their smash hit "The Three Bells" in August 1959. It spent 10 weeks atop the country chart, four weeks atop the pop charts and even cracked the Hot R&B Sides Top 10. The Browns' timeless version of this song would go on to sell more than 1 million records. Subsequent recordings "Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)" and "The Old Lamplighter" were also crossover hits; however, the former would be the group's final Top 10 country single. In 1965 Mr. Brown began to make solo records for RCA Victor, where he'd remain for the next 16 years. In 1967 he'd release what would become his signature song: the Nat Stuckey-penned "Pop a Top," which spent 20 weeks on the charts. He'd go on to release several other successful singles, including "Morning" (No. 4, 1970) and "Southern Loving" (No. 6, 1973)...more

Police shut down girls’ lemonade stand for not having permit

Two Texas sisters with entrepreneurial spirits decided to throw a lemonade stand to raise money for a Father’s Day gift. Andria Green, 8, and her sister, Zooey, 7, were selling lemonade for 50 cents and kettle corn for $1 on their street in Overtown last weekend. Their goal was to raise $105 to buy their dad tickets to the nearby waterpark Splash Kingdom. Business was going well and they had already made $27, when a local police officer showed up on the scene and told them to shut down because they didn’t have a permit. A family friend offered to help out and went downtown to obtain the “Peddler’s Permit” and the city waived the $150 but the staff member also said the girls needed to receive approval from the health department and undergo a kitchen inspection. Overton Police Chief Clyde Carter told Yahoo that Texas law states the sale of food requiring temperature control is illegal without a permit and health inspection. “It’s because of the bacteria that can grow in the lemonade,” Carter told Yahoo. “The popcorn they were selling was perfectly legal.”...more

House repeals country-of-origin labeling on meat

Under threat of trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico, the House has voted to to repeal a law requiring country-of-origin labels on packages of beef, pork and poultry. The World Trade Organization rejected a U.S. appeal last month, ruling the labels that say where animals were born, raised and slaughtered are discriminatory against the two U.S. border countries. Both have said they plan to ask the WTO for permission to impose billions of dollars in tariffs on American goods. The House voted 300-131 to repeal labels that tell consumers what countries the meat is from — for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” The WTO ruled against the labels last year. The Obama administration has already revised the labels once to try to comply with previous WTO rulings. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said it’s up to Congress to change the law to avoid retaliation from the two countries. The law was initially written at the behest of northern U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry. It also was backed by consumer advocates who say it helps shoppers know where their food comes from...more

Ranchers mourn wildlife employees killed in plane crash

The single-engine plane came in low as the seasoned pilot maneuvered to give his gunner a clear shot at a coyote on the ground below. They were on a mission to hunt down predators that had been killing livestock in northeastern New Mexico. A spotter less than a mile away had his binoculars trained on the coyote. He heard two or three gunshots as the plane passed over its target and through his field of view. Moments later, he heard a crash and looked up to see the plane planted in the ground. Pilot Kelly Hobbs and his gunner, Shannon "Bubba" Tunnell, were killed. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board released late Wednesday says the impact pushed the engine into the cockpit. No strangers to the risks of aerial gunning missions, the men left the Raton airport just after dawn on June 5. After passing over the edge of a mesa and spotting the coyote, the pilot began to descend. At one point, the plane was flying just 42 feet above the prairie, according to GPS data. After Tunnell took his shots, Hobbs began to climb to the left. The last reading showed the plane was nearly 100 feet off the ground and its speed had dropped to 62 mph through the turn. Ranchers across New Mexico are mourning the two men, who were working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services branch at the time of the crash. Ranchers say they would often turn to Hobbs and Tunnell for help in protecting their cattle and sheep from predators. "It hit me pretty hard when I heard about it. It was just like a punch in the stomach," said Candy Ezzell, a state lawmaker who worked with Tunnell just weeks earlier to address coyote problems on her ranch in southern New Mexico. Funeral services for both men were planned Friday...more

Jewell, enviros slam 'dreadful' policy riders in Interior-EPA bill

A top Obama administration official joined environmentalists in blasting numerous policy riders contained in the House fiscal 2016 spending plan for the Interior Department and U.S. EPA unveiled yesterday. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she is especially concerned about a provision in the bill that would bar the Fish and Wildlife Service from preparing a potential Endangered Species Act listing rule for sage grouse. "They're dreadful, and they should be eliminated," Jewell told E&E Daily about the policy riders after a wildfire briefing yesterday at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge outside Denver. Republican House appropriators unveiled the draft bill about 24 hours before a markup scheduled for this morning in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. The 134-page draft bill includes more than 20 policy riders, including provisions that would bar EPA's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants and amend which bodies of water get automatic Clean Water Act protection. Jewell yesterday also called the spending bill's overall funding level -- set by Republicans to conform to sequester spending caps -- unworkable. "We've got to get together and do some kind of a budget compromise," she said. "I'm hoping that at least with a markup, we're in a partial regular order process that will cause the sides to get together and maybe work on a two-year budget deal." In a letter obtained by E&E Daily, more than 20 environmental organizations also yesterday said the draft bill's funding levels and policy proposals would undermine the administration's efforts to address climate change, clean up the air and water, and save endangered species...more

Spotted owl numbers not only down but also at faster rate

Scientists report that after two decades of attempts to save the species, northern spotted owl numbers in the Northwest are still on the decline — and at a faster rate. The threatened bird nests in old trees and is at the heart of a decades-long struggle over the fate of the region's old-growth forests. Scientists at a conference Tuesday in Vancouver, Washington, reported that owl numbers are now dropping at an annual rate of 3.8 percent, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Glen Sachet. Five years ago, the rate was 2.8 percent. The scientists also said population declines are more widespread in the bird's range from Washington through Northern California. Besides losing habitat, spotted owls in recent years have been pushed out by barred owls, an aggressive invader from the East. Federal officials have begun a six-year experiment with shooting the barred owls to see whether spotted owls will move back into their old haunts. The longer they are established in an area, the harder barred owls are on the spotted owl, which is down as much as 77 percent in some areas, said a statement from Paul Henson, Oregon state supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service...more

Underground toad road provides safer commute for small animals

Just beyond where the "wildlife crossing" signs become apparent lies a newly installed mode of transportation to keep New Jersey's threatened wildlife safe. Small animals have notoriously gotten hit while trying to cross River Road in Bedminster, so the township — with the help of the Department of Environmental Protection — installed a series of underground tunnels to help them get to the opposite side. "There have been instances where animals such as turtles and frogs have been hit by vehicles on River Road, which is very heavily traveled through Bedminster," said Caryn Shinske, public information officer for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "This will allow smaller animals to cross." The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday the five tunnels, which run from the land next to the Raritan River to the grass and woods on the other side. Wooden fencing surrounds each tunnel entrance and lines the roadway, making the tunnels the only way for the animals to cross the road...more

Stay tuned to THE WESTERNER for all the latest news and analysis on toad roads, turtle turnpikes, frog freeways, lizard lanes and iguana interstates.  As a matter of moral principle we will not be be reporting on horny toad highways.

Congress moving to block EPA regulation of streams, wetlands

Congressional Republicans are pushing to block an Obama administration rule designed to protect water quality in small streams, tributaries and wetlands before it goes into effect later this year. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would force the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw and rewrite rules issued in May that clarify which of those smaller bodies of water are regulated under the Clean Water Act. The EPA says the rule will protect the waters from pollution and development and safeguard drinking water for 117 million Americans. Republicans in Congress say the rules are federal overreach, would expand current law and could be a costly and confusing burden for landowners and farmers. The House passed a bill last month that would also block the rules - legislation the White House threatened to veto. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has called the rule "a raw and tyrannical power grab." The Senate version of the legislation would force the EPA to further consult with local governments on the rule, do a full economic analysis and assess the impacts on small business owners. It would also lay out parameters for what could be regulated...more

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How The EPA’s Clean Water Act Expansion Will Hurt Endangered Species

by Brian Seasholes 

Big problems are looming for endangered species and the landowners who harbor them due to a combination of the Environmental Protection Agency’s huge expansion of “waters of the United States” it regulates under the Clean Water Act, and efforts to expand the Endangered Species Act to encompass entire watersheds.

Under the Clean Water Act, the federal government can regulate discharge of pollutants into what are known as “navigable waters.” But over the decades the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded this to include isolated wetlands and pools of water unconnected to navigable waters, and tiny streams that can only be navigated by a toy boat, not the type of adult-sized boat the for which the legislation was originally intended and common sense dictates. This regulatory expansion has caused significant hardships for many landowners who find, among other things, that low-lying areas that only hold a few inches of water when it rains, or seasonal streams that are dry for much of the year, are subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act — all of which is enforced with threats of jail time and huge fines
Now the Environmental Protection Agency has extended the regulatory reach of the Clean Water Act to encompass even more waters that are not navigable, including: irrigation ditches if any portion was dug from a watercourse that flows eventually, but not necessarily directly, into a navigable water; any watercourse or water drainage so long as it has a bank, bed and high water mark; and any water feature, including those that are not navigable, within ¾ of a mile of a so-called “jurisdictional water” as long as the feature meets any one of nine extremely broad “significant nexus” criteria.

 The Endangered Species Act is similarly far-reaching.

11,500-Year-Old Bison Butchering Site Discovered in Oklahoma

A stretch of floodplain in northwestern Oklahoma, already known for its profusion of prehistoric hunting sites, has turned up new find: a scatter of butchered bison bones dating back nearly 11,500 years — extending the evidence of bison hunting in the area by centuries, archaeologists say. The find includes nearly three dozen pieces of leg, foot, and back bones from ancient bison, and two stone tools: a quartzite hammerstone and a small, sharp flake fashioned from Texas chert. Together, these artifacts lend new depth to the already ample record of ancient hunts — including three bison-kill sites that are even older — in a region of the southern Plains known as the Beaver River complex...more

Climate scientists criticize government paper that erases ‘pause’ in warming

Until last week, government data on climate change indicated that the Earth has warmed over the last century, but that the warming slowed dramatically and even stopped at points over the last 17 years.
But a paper released May 28 by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has readjusted the data in a way that makes the reduction in warming disappear, indicating a steady increase in temperature instead. But the study’s readjusted data conflict with many other climate measurements, including data taken by satellites, and some climate scientists aren’t buying the new claim.  “While I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on,” Judith Curry, a climate science professor at Georgia Tech, wrote in a response to the study. And in an interview, Curry told that that the adjusted data doesn’t match other independent measures of temperature. “The new NOAA dataset disagrees with a UK dataset, which is generally regarded as the gold standard for global sea surface temperature datasets,” she said. “The new dataset also disagrees with ARGO buoys and satellite analyses.”...more

Second bear attack in Lincoln County, hunter shoots and kills animal he says charged at him

A 25-year-old Capitan man shot and killed a charging bear while looking for shed antlers in the Lincoln National Forest. The man was not injured by the bear. He reported Thursday evening that he was searching for antlers in the forest between Carrizozo and Capitan when he encountered the bear as he came over the top of a hill. He told officers that the bear charged and he shot it with his .30-30 caliber rifle from about 10 yards away. Department of Game and Fish Officers investigated the incident and recovered the carcass of the bear, an adult female, early Friday morning. No evidence indicated the presence of cubs. Referring to the man who shot the bear, Game and Fish Cpl. Curtis Coburn said, "Based on a thorough review of the scene, I believe he had little or no choice but to take the action that he did." The incident was the second this week in which bears were surprised by people searching for shed antlers. Monday, a 55-year-old man was scratched and bitten by a bear about 30 miles from the area of Thursday's incident. Officials said it is unlikely the same bear was involved in both encounters...more

E&E spotlights Tom Udall and his father, Stewart Udall

In his eight years as Interior secretary during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Udall would oversee the establishment of four national parks; six national monuments; more than 50 wildlife refuges; and a number of national seashores, historic sites and recreation areas. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act, pivotal statutes that have preserved millions of acres of the American landscape. Today, however, the fruits of Udall's conservation legacy are in jeopardy. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire in September. Fiscal conservatives are proposing to divert some of its land-protection dollars to rebuilding park roads and bridges and covering federal payments to rural counties. And Canyonlands, Udall's favorite park, faces a $40 million backlog in deferred maintenance, part of a nationwide parks maintenance backlog that has grown to $11.5 billion. It's a blemish on the system as it approaches its centennial in 2016 and poses a roadblock to the creation of new parks and the acquisition of federal lands. Udall's eldest son, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), today stands at the center of those challenges as the top Democrat on the panel that funds the National Park Service and the other federal lands agencies...more

House Republicans Take Hatchet to Obama's Environmental Budget

House Republicans are teeing up another attack on the Obama administration's climate plan, proposing to slash the Environmental Protection Agency's budget and blocking the tentpole rule limiting emissions from power plants. The fiscal 2016 spending bill for EPA, the Interior Department, and other agencies also carries riders that would bar EPA's controversial redefinition of its Clean Water Act authority, prevent the administration from increasing oil and gas inspection fees, and block the listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The Obama administration has gone full force into the climate plan in its budget request, spending billions across EPA, the Energy Department, and other agencies to advance clean-energy and climate-change regulations. Republicans have vowed to take an axe to such programs: The House Energy spending bill slashed funding for renewable programs in favor of fossil fuels, while the spending bill for the State Department zeroed out funding for an international climate-change fund. Overall, the $30.17 billion bill would cut EPA's budget by $718 million, or 9 percent, from the fiscal 2015 enacted level. The $7.4 billion spending level for the agency is well below President Obama's request of $8.6 billion. To keep EPA in check, the bill would also cut $69 million from the agency's regulatory programs ($206 million below the budget request) and hold staffing levels to 15,000, the lowest level since 1989. The move was made, the committee said, to "focus its activities on core duties, rather than unnecessary regulatory expansion." The bill also blocks EPA's Waters of the United States rule, which provides clarity over what waterways EPA could regulate. Republicans say the redefinition gives EPA more authority than it had in the past and would overstep on the agricultural and construction industry. Similar language was included in the House-passed Energy and Water appropriations bill and in a separate bill passed just days later...more

If that's a hatchet job, then its clear they should have used an axe.

Fighting Forest Fires Before They Get Big—With Drones

At 10 AM on Friday, May 15, wildland fire season kicked off in California. Officials from the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and a few other agencies gathered at the Kern County Fire Department Headquarters in Bakersfield to, if not celebrate, at least observe the moment. Everyone knew they were looking at a rough year. The ongoing western drought will make sure of that. Now, a team of researchers believes they may be able to help. The idea is to enable early location and identification of fires using drones, planes, and satellites mounted with special infrared cameras. They’re calling it the Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit—or Fuego—and once fully operational the system could spot new wildfires anywhere in the Western US barely three minutes after they start. “All year round is going to be fire season now,” says Carlton Pennypacker, an astrophysicist at UC Berkeley and lead researcher on Fuego. “That makes this more urgent.” When it’s done, Fuego would consist of infrared cameras mounted on drones and piloted aircraft soaring across fire-prone areas of the country, plus another camera on a satellite. The cameras would snap photos in a 3.9-micron band, a wavelength of light that fires emit but which is invisible to the human eye. A computer would then subtract recent photos from new ones of the same area, and by looking at the difference be able to tell when a new fire has erupted...more

Cowboy rides through century of memories

by Ollie Reed Jr.

Casimiro “Ike” Laumbach was born 102 years ago today on his father’s La Cinta Ranch at La Cinta Canyon in San Miguel County.

He doesn’t remember that – his own birth, I mean. But there isn’t much else he has forgotten. As I talk to him in his room at a retirement community in Rio Rancho, I can feel the memories crowding in around us, kicking up dust like so many horses milling around in a corral.

He remembers:

• La Cinta Ranch school, established by his father and attended by Ike’s family – six girls, 11 boys – and other local kids.
• His cowboy days at New Mexico ranches such as the Bell, the CS and the OX.
• That rough lot of 108 horses he broke for the YNB Ranch in Harding County.
• A bitterly cold February day in the 1930s when he rode 50 miles looking for missing steers.
• The sorrel horse he rode to first place in bronc riding at the 1936 Fourth of July rodeo in Mosquero.

We’ll start with that rodeo. Laumbach said the entry fee was $2.50 and prize money was $5 for first place, $3 for second place and $2 for third.

“So the guy who took second made 50 cents, and the guy in third lost 50 cents,” he said. “I just happened to get a good horse, a big sorrel. I got lucky and took first place.” And thereby doubled his money.

In 1934, when Laumbach was 21, the country was in the throes of the Great Depression and New Mexico was in the grips of a drought. His father, Peter Joseph Laumbach, was forced to turn La Cinta Ranch cattle – 1,200 head, more or less – over to the First National Bank in Raton.

With no cattle on the place, Pete told his sons they’d best find work where they could. That’s how Ike ended up working for ranches such as the CS, the Bell and the OX.

He was between ranches one day in 1936 when he stopped in Roy to get a haircut and learned that Frank Hartley, the manager of the YNB Ranch at Bueyeros in Harding County, was looking for a man wearing “a size 6 hat and size 14 boots.” That’s another way of saying Hartley wanted someone who was not all that bright, in this case someone foolhardy enough to break more than 100 head of big, ragtag horses Hartley intended to sell to the Army as cavalry mounts.

The way Laumbach looked at it, times were tough so it’d be dumb not to take a paying job.

Casimiro “Ike” Laumbach in 1926 at age 13

Sheep Ranching Families Wanted for Trailing of the Sheep Festival October 2015

In 2014, the Idaho based Trailing of the Sheep Festival began a three-year program, "Celebrating Generations." The goal is to listen, learn, share and save the memories of our western sheep ranching families who live and work the land and are the keepers of open space. The first year was devoted to honoring the visionaries; those first families who found a piece of western land that matched their dreams. They made it home, made it their life's work, cared for it and fed the country from its bounty. This year the focus will be on today's hardworking second and third generations, the landowners of today who survived depressions, droughts, fires and the pressures of a rapidly developing west. What are their stories of triumphs and loss? To accomplish this, ranching families are needed so that festival guests can see and feel the power of this important family tradition. Ranchers can help by coming to the festival, being a Lambassador, recording your story and helping trail the sheep.  Full details of the events and performances planned for the Oct. 7-11 festival are available at

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

GOP Donor To Spend $175 Million To Make Republicans Care About Global Warming

A major Republican donor is taking a page out of liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s book and joining with environmental activists to convince GOP lawmakers to take global warming seriously. Jay Faison, a North Carolina businessman, made a fortune selling his company SnapAV. Now he plans on using that fortune to change how Republicans talk about global warming. Faison has joined with left-wing environmentalists to start a nonprofit to promote “market-based” solutions to global warming. “I always felt a little alone out there as a Republican, and so I started ClearPath to create a dialogue around this in a way that hadn’t been done before and sort of be part of the solution,” Faison told Politico. “We think that there are real Republican solutions to the problem.” Faison will unveil a $40 million campaign Tuesday “through 2016 to persuade moderates and conservatives to join the fight against climate change,” according to Politico. He is also spending $10 million to create a campaigning arm similar to President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action or Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. “There’s a lot of center-right Republicans that feel like they don’t have a voice in this issue, and surveys would say they’re eager to share this information to bring other people along with them,” Faison said. “Even in small percentages, that’s in the millions.” In total, Politico reports Faison is planning on pumping $175 million into creating a GOP that wants to impose policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions...more

Obama's EPA Regulations: 6,552x As Long As Constitution; 46x As Long As Bible

Since President Barack Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued 3,373 new final regulations, equaling 29,770 pages in the Federal Register and totaling approximately 29,770,000 words, according to a count of the regulations published in the Federal Register. The Gutenberg Bible is only 1,282 pages and 646,128 words. This means the new EPA regulations issued by the Obama Administration contain 23 times as many pages as the Bible and 46 times as many words. The Federal Register publishes documents, including proposed rules, notices, interim rules, corrections, drafts of final rules and final rules. The tabulation included only final rules from the EPA. found 3,373 distinct rules published by the EPA since January 20, 2009 covering greenhouse gases, air quality, emissions and hazardous substances, to name a few.

Over the course of Obama’s presidency, the EPA has greatly expanded its regulatory overreach. In President Obama’s first year in office in 2009, the EPA issued 365 regulations, averaging one rule per day. In 2010, the EPA issued 454 regulations and in 2011, the EPA issued 557 regulations. The number of rules issued during the Obama years peaked in 2012 with 646 final rules issued--76.9 percent more than issued in Obama’s first year. In 2013, the EPA issued 548 regulations and in 2014 the EPA issued 564 regulations. So far, in 2015, the EPA has issued 241 regulations...more

When I or others write about "delegation of authority" the above is a good example.  All of these rules are based upon statutes passed by Congress and which contain language authorizing the EPA to issue regulations to implement the statute.  From this just one agency you can see the enormity of this delegation. 

Arizona sues to require new Mexican wolf plan

Saying the state’s sovereignty is at issue, the Arizona Game and Fish Department sued the federal government Monday for failing to come up with a plan that would result in Mexican wolves being taken off the endangered species list. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, is built around what Assistant Attorney General James Odenkirk said is the failure of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to develop a legally required “recovery plan” for the wolf. That, Odenkirk said, violates federal law. But the issue goes far deeper than a technical violation. Odenkirk said having the wolf listed as endangered and a project to reintroduce the wolf to portions of Arizona have imposed “significant additional cost” to Game and Fish to manage and conserve wildlife. “These costs will continue until the Mexican wolf is recovered and the Fish and Wildlife Service de-lists the species,” he wrote. “Federal control of the Mexican wolf also interferes with Arizona’s sovereign authority to manage and conserve the Mexican wolf pursuant to Arizona law,” he told the judge. That goes to the heart of the case. Once the wolf is no longer listed as “endangered,” the federal government no longer has any role to play in preserving the species. And that would open the door to Game and Fish — presumably under direction from the Legislature — deciding how best to manage the species. Heidi McIntosh, an attorney with Earthjustice, which has its own lawsuits against the Fish and Wildlife Service over lack of a realistic recovery plan, said putting the state in control of wolf populations has implications all its own...more

Bison on the Prairie (and federal lands)

...As the plains were settled by people from other cultures, the animals seemed to be inexhaustible. It was estimated that at least 25 million American bison roamed the United States and Canada, but by the late 1880s perhaps as few as 600 remained in the US! Fortunately, a few people recognized the importance of preserving this great prairie animal. One of the earliest proponents of reintroducing the North American Bison to the region of its historic range was James "Scotty" Phillip of South Dakota. He bought five calves roped during the Last Big Buffalo Hunt on the Grand River in 1881 and took them back to his ranch on the Cheyenne River. When he died in 1911 he had a herd of over a thousand bison, from which other privately owned herds originated. Today the US Department of Interior is seeking lands on which to move animals from the Yellowstone herd. Some Yellowstone bison have been quarantined for years to make sure they are free from the disease, with the intention of moving them to appropriate areas outside Yellowstone. Kansas is among the states with possible sites for these animals with the pure genetics of the original American bison. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was identified as potentially suitable for relocating these bison. Millions of acres of public lands have been leased to ranchers for grazing livestock, and the National Wildlife Federation has established a program to negotiate a fair market price with ranchers to retire their grazing leases and return these acres to the exclusive use of natural wildlife, including the bison. Their program uses the catch line "Adopt a Wildlife Acre. Give Bison Room to Roam."...more 

For more on the NWF program go here. 

New Report Highlights Ranchers Restoring Habitat for Sage Grouse

Today, the Sand County Foundation, a non-profit organization named for Leopold’s signature book, “A Sand County Almanac,” released a report showcasing the dedication of private landowners in conserving this at-risk species that is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  The foundation’s “Stories from the Range” report highlights the stewardship of ranchers, who are working with local, state and federal partners, have restored and protected 4.4 million acres of prime sage grouse habitat – an area of working lands the size of two Yellowstone National Parks. The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has been the driving force in private lands conservation efforts for sage grouse. That’s because big and intact sagebrush grazing lands are also good habitat for sage grouse. It’s a win-win effort benefiting the bird and the rural ways of life that sustain these landscapes...more

Tale of the tape -- Interior's grouse protection plans

The Bureau of Land Management released final plans last week for bolstering sage grouse protections across 50 million acres in 10 states in what's been called the agency's largest landscape-scale conservation plan. The Obama administration said the plans are a critical step to saving the West's vanishing sagebrush habitat and convincing the Fish and Wildlife Service that sage grouse need no protection under the Endangered Species Act. But industry groups panned the administration's land-use plans as a property grab, warning that they will restrict oil and gas drilling, mining, and other forms of development across much of the West and cause more economic harm than a federal listing (E&ENews PM, May 28). The plans will be a linchpin in the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision this September about whether sage grouse need Endangered Species Act protection. Stringent safeguards on BLM and Forest Service lands -- which represent about two-thirds of grouse habitat -- could avert a federal listing and ease development restriction on private lands. The resource plans released last week divide federal tracts into three categories: 31 million acres of "general habitat management areas," 35 million acres of "priority habitat management areas," and 11 million acres of "sagebrush focal areas," a subset of priority habitat. "Some will say the plans lock up development," Jewell said as she rolled out the plans last week in Cheyenne, Wyo. "I'd say, look at the numbers. The vast majority of the conventional and renewable energy resources that exist in these landscapes that we have in the plans will be available for development." Industry officials don't buy it. The Western Energy Alliance estimated that BLM's draft land-use plans released in recent years would threaten between 9,170 and 18,250 jobs in the oil and gas sector and have $2.4 billion to $4.8 billion in annual economic impact across Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Laura Skaer, executive director of the American Exploration & Mining Association, said companies believe they would be better served by a federal listing. "With a listing, there is a recovery plan," she said. "There is no recovery plan from the onerous and draconian restrictions in the land-use plan amendments released last week. Once finalized, it will be almost impossible to change them."...more

BLM allows grazing on closed allotment to avoid confrontation

The Bureau of Land Management says it didn’t give ranchers permission to graze on a closed allotment made up of public and private land, but instead indicated that it “would not interfere” with the cattle turnout. The Battle Mountain Complex, an area near Valmy that comprises both the North Buffalo and Copper Canyon allotments, falls in “checkerboard” land. Grazing was closed there in a 2013 decision, according to Nevada BLM spokesman Rudy Evenson. With fewer and fewer spots available to graze due to drought, Dan and Eddyann Filippini decided to run cattle Tuesday on North Buffalo while the closure is in appeal. The vast majority of AUMs on the allotment are privately held. Acting BLM State Director John Ruhs told Eddyann Filippini that the agency wouldn’t attempt to stop the ranchers, according to Evenson. Instead, Ruhs reminded permittees that the federal land was still off limits. “We’re not going to come out there and have a big confrontation,” Evenson said. There aren’t fences, however, separating the land by ownership. Former assemblyman and longtime rancher John Carpenter, who participated Tuesday to support the Filippinis, said whether the cows wander onto public lands shouldn’t be a problem. “It’s not a resource issue because there’s plenty of grass,” he said. “There’s all kinds of grass there.”...more

Monday, June 08, 2015

COOL supporters mount last-ditch effort to sidetrack repeal

As the House of Representatives readies a vote to repeal mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL), supporters of the controversial rule are making a last-ditch effort to save it from full repeal. Today, a coalition of 283 agricultural, environment, consumer, and faith-based organizations sent a letter to House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. In the letter, the organizations, including the National Farmers Union and the AFL-CIO, say it is “premature for the Congress to unilaterally surrender to saber-rattling from our trading partners in the midst of a long-standing dispute.” Last month, the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld an earlier ruling that a U.S. COOL rule - requiring meat labels to state where the meat-producing animal was born, raised, and slaughtered - accorded less favorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock than that given to their American counterparts. The ruling was the fourth such against the U.S., setting the stage for possible retaliatory tariffs levied by Canada and Mexico, which the two governments said last week could top $3 billion...more

French minister: 2015 climate deal must avoid US Congress

The global climate agreement being negotiated this year must be worded in such a way that it doesn't require approval by the U.S. Congress, the French foreign minister said Monday. Laurent Fabius told African delegates at U.N. climate talks in Bonn that "we know the politics in the U.S. Whether we like it or not, if it comes to the Congress, they will refuse." If negotiators follow his plan, that would exclude an international treaty that has legally-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions - something some countries still insist on but which would have no chance of being ratified by the Republican-controlled Congress. "We must find a formula which is valuable for everybody and valuable for the U.S. without going to the Congress," said Fabius, who will host the U.N. climate summit in Paris in December where the new agreement is supposed to be adopted...more

Catastrophic Collapse of Saiga Antelope Leaves 120,000 Dead in a Month

An aerial survey conducted as part of a national monitoring program earlier this year estimated that the saiga antelope population numbered approximately 250,000 animals prior to this mass die-off, which has therefore halved the total population in about one month. Preliminary analysis indicates that a combination of environmental and biological factors is contributing to this catastrophic event, which has seen four large birthing herds of the critically endangered Saiga antelope wiped out since mid-May this year. Primarily mothers and calves are among the carcasses; not a single animal has survived in the affected herds...more

EPA Fracking Study: Drilling Wins


Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency has admitted what the oil and natural gas industry has been saying for more than 60 years: “Hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water sources.”

EPA’s five-year-long study, requested by Congress, examined more than 950 pieces of information, including published papers and technical reports. While finding “potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing,” the report basically pronounces fracking safe.

This conclusion should not be a surprise. In 2011, then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told a congressional panel there has been no evidence linking fracking operations to groundwater contamination.

Still, there is something for everyone in EPA’s politically sensitive report (this is Obama’s agency, after all), allowing detractors to seize on what could occur, rather than fracking’s strong safety record. In a statement yesterday, for instance, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) reiterated the tired argument that fracking has “the potential to severely impact drinking water and endanger public health and the environment.”

Yes, and cars can crash and swimming pools risk drowning. But we drive and swim using caution to prevent accidents. Even the construction and maintenance of the anti-frackers’ beloved wind turbines, is hardly risk free. Best practices and vigilance, as in all industrial activity, are required.

Cowboy wind energy/LANL to test in Melrose

If Johann Steinlechner had his way, you wouldn't see the Coachella Valley's iconic wind turbines as you drove through the San Gorgonio Pass. The turbines would still be there, generating renewable energy. They'd just be a lot closer to the ground. Steinlechner wears a big cowboy hat — and laughs a big cowboy laugh — but he's working on technology that his Western forebears never could have imagined. The longtime Palm Springs resident has designed a new kind of turbine that he says could make wind energy profitable at much lower speeds than is currently possible, opening up vast new areas to potential clean energy development. The horizontal, energy-generating disks envisioned by Steinlechner would be mounted just 30 to 40 feet off the ground, as opposed to the hundreds of feet reached by modern wind turbines. That could make maintenance a whole lot easier. It could also substantially lower the risk of bird deaths — a sticking point for many environmental groups — and placate those who see wind turbines as a visual blight on picturesque landscapes. "There's a perspective that a wind turbine needs to have 40-mile-per-hour wind to make money," Steinlechner said. "We're trying to prove we can make money at 10 mph." Steinlechner's proposal is more than a pipe dream. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory — a federally funded research center in New Mexico — have been evaluating computer models of his designs for more than two years, using data from a small prototype near Palm Springs. The researchers are now building a larger, one-megawatt prototype in Melrose, New Mexico. They plan to run comprehensive tests this summer...more

Gun blogs, videos, web forums threatened by new Obama regulation

Commonly used and unregulated internet discussions and videos about guns and ammo could be closed down under rules proposed by the State Department, amounting to a "gag order on firearm-related speech," the National Rifle Association is warning. In updating regulations governing international arms sales, State is demanding that anyone who puts technical details about arms and ammo on the web first get the OK from the federal government — or face a fine of up to $1 million and 20 years in jail. According to the NRA, that would include blogs and web forums discussing technical details of common guns and ammunition, the type of info gun owners and ammo reloaders trade all the time. "Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule and unable to distribute or obtain the information they rely on to conduct these activities," said the NRA in a blog posting...more

Supreme Court rejects NRA challenge to San Francisco gun laws

The Supreme Court has turned down another National Rifle Association-led appeal aimed at loosening gun restrictions and instead left in place two San Francisco gun laws. The court on Monday let stand court rulings in favor of a city measure that requires handgun owners to secure weapons in their homes by storing them in a locker, keeping them on their bodies or applying trigger locks. A second ordinance bans the sale of ammunition that expands on impact, has "no sporting purpose" and is commonly referred to as hollow-point bullets. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the appeal from the NRA and San Francisco gun owners. Gun rights supporters have been frustrated by the court's unwillingness to expand on a seminal gun rights ruling from 2008.  AP

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Filippinis turn out cattle

After years of struggling with the Battle Mountain Bureau of Land Management, ranchers Dan and Eddyann Filippini decided they would turn out their hungry cattle in spite of one more last-minute reversal of an agreement made by the BLM. “The grass is green and tall, the cattle are hungry and the allotment is part of the Badger Ranch,” Eddyann Filippini said Tuesday. They bought the ranch in 1989from Leroy Horn, who got it from the Rufi brothers whose parents settled it in the 1800s. Its water rights go back to 1862. Although the Bureau of Land Management can claim only about three percent of the 100,000-acre North Buffalo Allotment attached to the Badger Ranch and none of the water rights, the federal agency controls the whole allotment and therefore, the viability of the ranch. The rules are made by non-involved bureaucrats who have no “skin in the game,” said Filippini. “Our cows are tapped out and so are we.” she said. “Badger ranch has made a stand and these cows are not coming home. If we keep backing down, we lose the ranch.” She said the latest harassment began on May 28 when the ranchers went to the BLM office to pay the grazing fee for the North Buffalo Allotment. They were told there would be no bill issued until there was agreement about the Argenta Allotment, which is being held up by Western Watershed activists. Argenta is not connected to North Buffalo. The Filippinis had advised the BLM’s acting District Manager, John Ruhs, of their intention to turn out last Tuesday in spite of the BLM’s recent ruling and they called interested people to come to Valmy at 10 a.m. when the first truckloads would arrive. Monday night Filippini received a phone call from Ruhs saying the BLM would not stop them, that they were “authorized for their Exchange of Use AUMs (Animal Unit Months)”. Filippini said, “We have verbal authorized use of our own private ground.” No agency employees were present at Valmy on Tuesday but Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Allen and two deputies were there just in case there was trouble. There was none. Two Elko County Commissioners also showed up. Demar Dahl and Rex Steninger arrived with horses to help push the cows up the canyon after they were unloaded several miles from the highway. Altogether there were eight riders. Former Assemblyman John Carpenter opened the gate...more

US won't enforce Nevada grazing restrictions in new dispute

Federal land managers say they won't immediately enforce drought-related grazing restrictions in northern Nevada so as to avoid confrontation with ranchers openly defying the order. Conservationists say it's another example of the government caving in to scofflaw ranchers like Cliven Bundy, who continues to graze his cattle illegally in southern Nevada after the Bureau of Land Management backed down from an armed standoff last year. Ranchers Dan and Eddyann Filippini have been notified they are violating the closure ordered in 2013 in an area covering more than 150 square miles near Battle Mountain about 200 miles northeast of Reno, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Rudy Evenson said Thursday. But he said BLM acting-state director John Ruhs told them the agency won't try to stop them while they continue negotiating a compromise. "We're not going to come out there and have a big confrontation," Evenson told the Elko Daily Free Press...more

Commentary: Watersheds statement on Filippini grazing

Following in Cliven Bundy’s lead, ranchers in Battle Mountain, Nevada have defied drought closure orders and turned livestock onto the North Buffalo allotment managed by the Battle Mountain District of the Bureau of Land Management. Despite ongoing good faith negotiations by the agency and conservation organizations to authorize limited turnout in a different allotment this year, the Filippini family has apparently decided their livestock operations are above the law. “It’s unbelievable, really, but not surprising, given the fact that Bundy’s cows are still trashing desert tortoise habitat over a year after armed militias defied government closures,” said Ken Cole, Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. “The BLM is enabling this kind of behavior by coddling Nevada ranchers who are surely emboldened by the lack of law enforcement within the agency and the lack of a commitment on behalf of our government to protect the public trust – the lands, waters, and wildlife that are already suffering from the drought and will now be further abused by these private cows.” The Battle Mountain ranchers have even set up a Facebook page, “Stand with Battle Mountain” to generate support for their open defiance of the BLM’s authority to close these allotments for resource protection where they have posted pictures of the release of cattle onto the allotment. There has been ongoing opposition to the BLM staff, including a protest across the street from BLM offices. Instead of offering support for the local employees following rulings by an Administrative Law Judge that upheld the drought closure decisions on the North Buffalo allotment and the adjacent Argenta allotment, the only action from the national office has been to send a temporary State Director to Nevada to try to cut a deal with the scofflaw ranchers. “It’s sick, really. We’re ceding control of important public lands to private interests, an allotment at a time,” said Cole. “The ranchers generate public sympathy for their custom and culture, all the while despoiling the land, wildlife, and water and disregarding the laws that govern the heavily-subsidized grazing permits they feel so entitled to.”  Elko Daily Free Press

Commentary: Cattlemen statement on Filippini grazing

The Nevada Land Action Association and Nevada Cattlemen’s Association are pleased that cattle have been turned out onto private lands in the North Buffalo Allotment. While the cattle are grazing in an allotment that is primarily private property exchange of use based (greater than 95 percent), it is important to note that the public lands portions of the allotment are still closed to grazing. Permittees and the BLM are aggressively working to find a solution to the closed public land grazing areas in North Buffalo Allotment. Until such time as an agreement is reached, permittees are aggressively working to keep cattle off of closed areas. It should be noted that no grazing permit was authorized on public lands in the North Buffalo Allotment, the AUMs tied to the public lands remain inactive. The use of private lands for grazing and the reduction of fuels ahead of the fire season in these areas are welcome positive steps and we applaud all those involved. Creative thinking, adaptive management, and cooperation are the critical tools needed in moving forward with grazing management in the Great Basin.  Elko Daily Free Press

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Chap or be chapped

by Julie Carter

The language of the cowboy is full of words that serve as both noun and verb. The cowboy phrase that says “rodeo is a verb and try is not” exemplifies that. Another quite common, mispronounced and misunderstood word and its variations is “chap.”

A pair of chaps is a covering of leather for the legs worn over jeans for protection from brush and the elements of severe weather.  The word is rooted in the Mexican term “chaparejos” or “chaparreras” both ultimately derived from the Spanish “chaparro.” Since at least the end of the 19th century, the term became simply “chaps” which is pronounced as “shaps”, not the phonetic “ch” sound as it is spelled.

Because the word is mispronounced repeatedly decade after decade, some cowboys just give up and call them “leggin’s” whether they are a leggin’ style of chaps or not. Chaps come in many styles, usually dictated by the geographical location of the cowboy, ranging from the “woolies” of the northern cold country, to the chinks (short chaps) of hotter regions.

The word “chap” is the verb form of the word and chaps is a noun. To chap someone or be chapped (still using the “sh” pronunciation) is the action taken by cowboys in a number of instances that I’ll explain. “We gave that greenhorn a good chapping,” you’ll hear the cowboy crew say.

Chapping is method of in-house cowboy punishment for an etiquette infraction committed by a cowboy. If a cowboy blunders in his work such as riding ahead of the boss, riding into a herd uninvited or many other such possibilities, his shortcomings will be pointed out by a chapping.

As per usual, boys will be boys and this requires restraining the cowboy that stepped out of line which involves a tackling tussling moment by his fellow cowboy crew.

He’ll be pinned to the ground face down and the “administrator” will hold a pair of chaps by the waist and bring them down on the perpetrator’s posterior like a big leather paddle. This can be a little tricky since there are usually a handful of cowboys holding down the receiver of such punishment, and staying out of the way of the heavy leather is a feat.

This isn’t a heathen or savage event. These are usually young cowboys, full of themselves and only paying back some of the lessons they learned in their “freshman” year with a crew. Cowboys are big on cowboy etiquette but not all of them come to the ranch knowing what it is. Every cowboy that participates in a chapping needs to keep in mind he at one time may be on the receiving end of one. That’s just how it works.

Because this event is as much a joking threat of some fun as it is a real punishment, it also takes place at weddings and birthdays. Keeping in mind this might involve some good clothes you don’t want to tear up and the purpose isn’t to humiliate, only to have some fun. And nothing entertains the buddies of a groom more than to see the new bride whipping her husband into shape at the end of the reception. 

The “victim” will usually fight back a little, but who wouldn’t? However, the fun for the cowboys is really in the wrestling match. As long as the first rule of the plan is to not let it get out of hand, it’s an age-old tradition that gleefully carries into each young generation. I might add that the practice seems to be somewhat geographically dictated as there are a bunch of cowboys that have worked in a lot of places that have never heard of such a thing.

Hope this hasn’t chapped your view of chaps and the men who wear them. Julie has never chapped or been chapped, but can be reached for comment at

Ranching and Generational Knowledge

Ranching versus Sustainability
The matter of History
Generational Knowledge
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Kern County rancher, Kenneth Mebane, endured a series of hip replacements in order to continue his historical calling. Mebane’s close friend and fellow Californio, Chuck Hitchcock, was no different. Chuck suffered many injuries and woes to remain active in the only thing that mattered … being a participant in the California ranching and horse culture.
            Kenneth was the model of the western slope rancher. Chuck was the epitome of the California vaquero. They were brothers born of a culture that time and the collision of circumstances created. As time passed, they both mourned the attrition of their culture as much or more than they mourned the loss of their own vitality.
            Kern County gave them life and a common soul born of sun and the gifts of the earth, and … it is there they will now rest forever.
            Ranching versus Sustainability
            Change the names, but Kenneth and Chuck’s counterparts are scattered across the width and breadth of North America. They speak Spanish on the southern tier and varying degrees of English elsewhere where grass grows and cattle convert sunlight into protein. Most accounts suggest that it is a uniquely American culture, but it isn’t. The progenitors of the Iberian Peninsula would view the similarities with great interest. So would the modern day Australians, Argentines, Mexicans, and Canadians, but what each version of range steward would agree upon is that the cow now receives the central spotlight. She is the queen of modern sunlight conversion. To replace her American annual contribution of 25 billion pounds of protein, there would be a gigantic and unsustainable slaughter of frolicking deer, antelope, and bison.
            The generic story of the creation of the American ranching industry has become dreary monochrome. What has always been absent is the description of the true nature of the relationship the self supporting rancher has with the land, the immensity and importance of his cultural heritage, and the ecological validity of his continuing existence.
Advocacy for these factors is necessary, but some will argue it was never present.  Certainly over the last half century there has been little substantive cultural or political defense. Underwritten by the federal land management agencies, the ranching industry in the West is being subjected to updated resource management plans on the basis of a) considerations for closing lands to grazing, b) grazing to be reduced 25%, c) grazing to be managed on the basis of watershed priority bases, and or d) livestock adjustments will be done on a case by case basis. There is no intention of seeking improvements in production.
This demonstrates that antagonists of the culture long ago found an unbounded niche to become dominant in policy and management formulation. Similar to the suggestions that civilization took root when advances were sufficient to allow enough leisure time to tinker with ideas, the environmentalists found adequate governmental and societal welfare to devote time and effort to laying the foundations of what has become a cultural assault. Those efforts have grown exponentially and have spread like cancer to all corners of society.
            Enforced private property rights would have done much to retard the assault, but that didn’t happen. As a result, rural cleansing is now occurring. It has huge implications of structural despair. The environmental assault against the cow is based upon a philosophy of science that has grown and has now been accepted through the element of moral standing. That corrupted moral implication is the salvation of the earth. That is being force fed to us on the basis of Sustainability. In this context, it is an environmental and political invention.
            As Thomas Kuhn has noted, this is a paradigm of science that has been professionalized on the basis of hijacked moral implications. It, like global warming and social welfare, is nearly impossible to displace after reaching the institutionalized realm of primary policy.
            Sustainability came about with the nebulous notion of biodiversity following the United Nations publication of the World Conservation Strategy in 1980.  Similar high brow reports came in 1987, 1991, and 1992. By the time the 2006 report Livestock’s long Shadow was printed, Sustainability was regarded as the guiding principle for all future development. Biased science had proven that development is sustainable only if it is ecologically sound.
            The element of elitism in this hoax is staggering.
In order to identify and map this soundness, the demand on the United States and this president is the matter of future funding. Human and institutional capacity is not fluid and properly distributed hence American taxpayers are being expected to come up with funding to field human resources (e.g. scientists), and institutional resources (e.g. systematic reference collections such as botanic gardens and genetic depositories) in order to make this all happen. The bottom line is, while we fight for our ranching existence, too many career paths and political capital expectations are riding on the outcome of the United Nations global warming funding decisions.
History will show this is being based on the professionalized and false science of … Sustainability.
Cultural cleansing
Less than two percent of American families are now engaged in primary production agriculture. Less than half are ranchers. The average age of that demographic is just under 60 years of age, and, collectively, they manage something just under 800 million acres of grasslands, pastures and grazed forests. That means that an aging cultural resource of less than one percent of the American population is serving as the front line management of 33% of the nation’s footprint.
There will be those who suggest that statistic proves that too few people are actively managing a disproportionate share of the American landscape. Those of us who know the cultural assault that is being waged against the industry will counter by saying this is a vital business sector that is being systematically dismantled. Hope is being vanquished, parallel enterprises have long been suppressed, regulatory burdens are unrelenting, and cultural despair is endemic. Young people are being driven away by the inability to create opportunities for them to remain. Next generation recruitment is a major indicator of the problem and there are huge implications. If there is a true and pending cataclysm of real sustainability, it lies with the destruction of local ecological stewardship.
Kimberly D. Kirner, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Cal State Northridge, is starting to identify this dilemma. In her work, she elevates why experiential learning forges emotional ties to the land and local communities for cultural continuity. She maintains that site specific knowledge is absolutely necessary for all adaptive co-management, monitoring, and conservation strategies. Furthermore, continuity of local ecological knowledge is a significant factor in the resilience of ranching culture, rural pastoral economies, and working landscapes.
 The Kirner emphasis relates to the importance of Cultural Heritage. Cultural heritage or history is the traditions, knowledge, places and artifacts that people inherit from past generations. This can be tangible (trails, roads, fence placement, homesteads, physical infrastructure, tack, and working heirlooms), intangible (stories, experiences, learned insight, and other, more esoteric ecological knowledge), and natural (places, livestock and wildlife patterns and habits, turf responses to rainfall, and, other, biorhythmic nuances).
As a cultural anthropologist, she has come to equate continuity of this heritage, this history, with natural system integrity. Her own words best describe her research.
Cultural heritage is part of an integrated system that ensures that knowledge is passed on from one generation to the next. It generates a sense of identity and motivates younger generations to learn the lifeways of their parents and grandparents. In the case of family ranchers, cultural heritage is an integral part of the continuity of local ecological knowledge. Local knowledge is complementary to formal scientific approaches to management … (it) contains deep and rich data on a single locale over long periods of time in ways that science rarely can provide.
Voices from the land
The problem is local management systems cannot exist without the whole. Threats to the integrity of the combined cultural history are coming from a wide array of places far removed from these systems. When too many ranches fail in a given locale, the integrity of the entire system is put at risk. In a nation that is losing direct ties to the land at an alarming rate, it must become incumbent on American leadership to recognize the cultural, economic, and ecological risks inherent in the decline.
In this case, it is time to recognize that the history value of ranching is not just an academic debate. It is the cornerstone that must be preserved for the genuine sustainability of nearly a third of the landmass of the United States all of which remains what even the environmentalists acclaim as their goal … permanent open spaces.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “In this series of essays mapping the importance of the History Value, cultural integrity appears first. The heart of the debate, cattle, will appear in the second installment.”

I'm not sure about the phrase History Value, but we'll see how Wilmeth develops it.  Note how this relates to the Filippini situation.