Friday, June 19, 2015

Colt files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Colt Defense LLC voluntarily filed petitions for Chapter 11 relief, a process the company says will accelerate the sale of its operations in U.S. and Canada. The Connecticut-based company filed the materials in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on Monday. “While entering Chapter 11 protection in the absence of a consensual agreement with our noteholders was not our preference and we do not take it lightly, we are confident it is the best path going forward and will enable us to continue to gain traction on a challenging but achievable turnaround in our business performance and competitive positioning in the international, U.S. government and consumer marketplaces,” said Keith Maib, Colt’s chief restructuring officer, in press materials. “Importantly, Colt remains open for business and our team will continue to be sharply focused on delivering for our customers and being a good commercial partner to our vendors and suppliers,” he said. Colt said it will continue normal business operations throughout the sale process and that it has asked the court to approve certain requests to protect trade creditors, vendors, and suppliers. If approved, Colt said the protections will allow for operations to continue uninterrupted during the Bankruptcy Court supervised sale process...more

'Marijuana cannon' used to fire drugs over US border seized in Mexico

The Dope Cannon
Police in the border city of Mexicali say they have recovered a powerful improvised cannon used to hurl packets of marijuana across a border fence into California. Police told the Televisa network that the device was made up of a plastic pipe and a crude metal tank that used compressed air from the engine of an old car. The apparatus fired cylinders packed with drugs that weighed as much as 13 kilos, police said. It was confiscated last week after US officers told Mexican police that they had been confiscating a large number of drug packages that appeared to have been fired over the border. Mexican police on the border have recovered a series of similar devices in recent years.  source

Obama cheers Pope's climate change push

President Obama said he “deeply admires” Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and his “decision to make the case — clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position — for action on global climate change.” “As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children's children, from the damaging impacts of climate change,” Obama said Thursday. “I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources.” Francis’s encyclical, released Thursday morning, argues that governments and individuals need to do more to combat global warming. Democrats, including several Obama administration officials, praised Francis on Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry called his encyclical “powerful,” and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said it is “an important milestone in the global effort on this issue.”...more

Catholic bishops to meet with Congress, White House on climate change

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is planning to take Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change to Congress, the White House and Catholics nationally. Stephen Colecchi, director of international peace and justice for the group, told reporters Thursday it is planning a pair of briefings with the House and Senate on Thursday and a White House briefing Friday. Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB and the archbishop of Louisville, Ky., said his group will be being a message that the pope is calling for a constructive dialogue on climate change and not prescribing specific actions. “It’s meant to be a challenging dialogue,” Kurtz told reporters. “We’re always looking for bipartisan solutions; we’re always looking to bring people together.”...more

Canada, United States enter abritration over COOL

On Tuesday, the United States Trade Representative formally triggered an arbitration process with Canada regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The purpose of the arbitration process is to determine the level of damages, if any, that Canada incurred as a result of the United States' mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) law. Canada must now prove that it actually incurred monetary damages before the WTO would consider granting it the right to impose retaliatory tariffs against the United States as compensation for any such damages. In response to the United States Trade Representative request, the WTO on Wednesday referred the United States' request regarding Canada to arbitration. Although the USTR will likely also challenge Mexico's claims for damages, Mexico inserted the wrong dollar value for its damage claims and the United States will have more time to respond to Mexico's corrected request to implement retaliatory tariffs...more

Ranchers brace for tripled wages

Sheep ranchers in Johnson County say proposed changes from the U.S. Department of Labor that would triple wages for foreign sheepherders will cripple the sheep business. The draft revision for the H2A visa would triple the wages in increments over the next five years, from the current rate of $750 per month to $2,400 per month. Ranchers say the combination of significantly increased wage costs and the proposal to house herders at the ranch, instead of the traditional practice of living with the herd, add pressure for ranchers to increase revenue. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead added his voice to the protest on June 2, when he asked the federal agency to retract the proposal, consult industry and begin again. Since the 1950s, special procedures under the Department of Labor have set labor rules, including wages, for the H2A visa, which allows ag employers to hire foreign workers. The proposed rules change was instigated when four former herders filed a lawsuit in 2011 saying the special provisions were unlawful because they didn’t follow the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a public comment period. Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association said the economics of the industry can’t support tripled wages. “To put it as simply as I can, as they (the rules) are proposed, it will spell an end to open range sheep herding in Wyoming,” Magagna said...more

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sierra Club director calls for greater lands protections

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune called for expanding federally protected lands in the Grand and San Juan counties — including the establishment of a Greater Canyonlands National Monument —during a public event in Moab on Tuesday, June 16. Brune joined other environmental activists at Star Hall for a public screening of an updated version of Justin Clifton’s film, “Our Canyon Lands,” which was first shown last fall during the 50th anniversary celebration of Canyonlands National Park. A panel discussion, moderated by Mathew Gross of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, followed the screening of the film. “You are lucky to live here. You really do live in one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Brune told a receptive audience of more than 100 people during his opening remarks. Brune’s wife and three young children were also in attendance, as the family took the opportunity to vacation in the area. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are advocating the creation of the Greater Canyonlands National Monument, which would comprise an additional 1.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands that surround the existing Canyonlands National Park. In addition, a 1.9 million-acre parcel known as the Bears Ears area in the southeast corner of Utah is also being promoted as worthy of greater federal protection...more

Sage grouse war tests limits of partnership in West


When Jack Connelly first began studying the greater sage grouse in Idaho in the late 1970s, “it was not unusual to see 500 in a single flock,” says the biologist, who is retired from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Today, it would be unusual to see 200.”

That dramatic decline has made the sage grouse—a large, pointy-tailed bird with showy mating habits—the subject of one of the biggest endangered-species battles ever in the United States. President Barack Obama's administration is under court order to decide by 30 September how to protect the bird: declare it an endangered species—the nuclear option in conservation—or opt for the less onerous conservation strategies that officials are testing on its fellow rangeland bird, the lesser prairie chicken (see "Feature: Researchers push to prevent a last dance for the lesser prairie chicken").

An endangered listing could have widespread economic and environmental consequences. The sage grouse's remaining population is spread over 67 million hectares in 11 western states, pitting it against farming, ranching, mining, and energy interests. Some members of Congress are trying to block any listing, because of the potential cost to industry and private land owners. They have even vowed to stop ongoing government efforts to protect grouse on federal lands, which hold about 65% of its key remaining habitat.

“I don't think it's an overstatement to say that this issue is the mother of all [endangered species] decisions,” says forestry scientist Eric Washburn, of the law and lobbying firm Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington, D.C. He is advising the Environmental Defense Fund and other conservation groups.

...To blunt the threat, U.S. agencies have been trying to craft what U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Director Daniel Ashe has called an “epic-scale partnership” with state governments, industry groups, and private landowners. A major goal is to avoid a federal listing, which many observers fear will spur expensive, lengthy court battles and strengthen efforts in Congress to gut the 42-year-old Endangered Species Act.

Last month, the federal Bureau of Land Management, which controls most of the grouse's prime habitat, took a major step toward implementing that partnership. It released a plan for avoiding further loss of grouse habitat on 20 million hectares of federal land by minimizing the footprint of energy developments, creating buffers around mating grounds (known as leks), and taking steps to improve and restore habitat.

“This is the single largest public land planning effort in United States history,” says Theo Stein, spokesman for USFWS's mountain prairie regional office in Lakewood, Colorado. Similar plans are in the works in states such as Wyoming, home to the largest population of birds as well as expanding oil and gas operations. The goal, as with the lesser prairie chicken, is to demonstrate that a federal listing isn't needed and that grouse and development can coexist.

Some environmental groups are open to the approach. Washburn's clients, for example, would like to see “good conservation plans that would avoid a listing,” he says. But others doubt that a win-win is possible. They note that the birds appear to be extremely sensitive to industrial activities, often abandoning areas with new wells or wind turbines. A recent study commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts found that grouse living in oil and gas fields near Wyoming's Powder River Basin and North and South Dakota may already be dropping into an “extinction vortex.” In some areas, populations dropped 70% between 2007 and 2013.

Cowboy Artists of America - Join in our 50th Anniversary Celebrations

The Booth Western Art Museum is welcoming the Cowboy Artists of America for a 50th Anniversary Reunion in Cartersville, Georgia, on June 25th to 28th, leading up to the CAA Show and Sale at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum October 8th-10th.

The Booth will display a Retrospective Exhibition featuring one work by every artist who was ever a member of the CAA, the catalog pieces for the CAA show at the NCWHM in Oklahoma City, and, finally, they are having an auction of their own of these great little drawings that are used for each artist's page in the yearly catalog.  All of the pieces for sale at the Booth are either 9" X 12" or 12" X 9".

For tickets to the Booth Event, in June, call 770-387-1541 - or click this link for more information. For tickets to the Cowboy Artists of America Art Show in October, call 405-478-2250, ext 219.

Booth Western Art Museum is pleased to offer complimentary absentee bidder service as a courtesy to collectors who cannot attend the Sketching the West auction. For additional information and the proxy bid form, click here.
In conjunction with the Cowboy Artists of America 50th Anniversary Reunion, Booth Western Art Museum's Artists' Guild Presents: 3-Day Portrait Painting Workshop with Cowboy Artists of America Member R.S. Riddick. This 3-day workshop, devoted to the portrait, students will work from a live model. Mr. Riddick's paintings are appreciated world-wide and hang in collections throughout the U.S. and abroad. He has been named one of America's top 100 most collectable living artists by the Encompass American Fine Art Newsbook. In addition, he won 6 awards at the 2014 Cowboy Artists of America Annual Exhibit including Best of Show, the CAA Stetson award, and the Ray Swanson Memorial award.
Monday through Wednesday
June 22nd - 24th, 2015
Call 770-387-3849
Please let us know if you are unable to see the photos below. These Catalog works will be previewed at the Booth and sold at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum October 8th - 10th, along with each artists' full show!

Click here to see the Catalog works.

Drowning by EPA overreach

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently found itself in hot water. The New York Times revealed the agency colluded with environmentalist groups in a campaign to manufacture public comments in favor of a new rule that expands its own power. The agency’s actions and the shenanigans of its environmentalist supporters shed light on how a bad rule can flow through the regulatory process.
The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule extends the reach of EPA to regulate ponds, ditches and even large puddles under the Clean Water Act (CWA). That’s bad news for farmers, ranchers, small businesses or anyone else who wants to use land under CWA jurisdiction: It costs an average of $270,000 to obtain the special permit required to do so, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.  The downsides are clear, and the EPA’s judgment was murky even before the rule. Last year, the agency threatened to fine a Wyoming man $75,000 a day for building a pond on his own property without a permit. Almost immediately after its proposal, the rule prompted a wide opposition urging the EPA to “ditch the rule,” from small businesses, farmers and ranchers, energy producers and others. The EPA needed support for its water grab. While the EPA failed to consult with those harmed by the WOTUS rule, documents obtained by The New York Times show the EPA worked with environmentalist groups including the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council to manufacture public comments in its favor. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy later testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing that 87 percent of the approximately 1 million public comments her agency received were supportive. By omitting mention of the efforts (or money spent) to solicit the comments, McCarthy attempted to make it look like there was a spontaneous groundswell of support for her rule. And that wasn’t the only subterfuge behind the EPA’s power grab. A number of left-wing groups camouflaged as sportsmen-friendly organizations, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) and Trout Unlimited, were also helping the EPA to foist the water rule onto an unsuspecting public. In July 2014, TRCP called for “broad public involvement,” setting the table for the EPA’s campaign to gather public comment in support. This despite the fact that the organization’s support had already been touted by the EPA in an effort to make it look like a broad coalition was in favor. These groups claim to represent sportsmen’s interests—giving the rule seemingly conservative support—but they are tangled in a web of money from left-wing foundations with anti-gun and anti-agriculture agendas. BHA gets most of its donations from three environmental groups, according to tax records, while TRCP gets its money from a handful of Big Labor and Big Green groups. Trout Unlimited, meanwhile, has taken tens of millions from fringe environmental groups...more

Obama Prepares More ‘Executive Actions’ On Global Warming

President Barack Obama is preparing to unleash a series of “executive actions” aimed at boosting the green energy industry as part of the president’s global warming agenda. Obama is launching a “Clean Energy Impact Investment Center” at the Energy Department to “make information about energy and climate programs … accessible and more understandable to the public, including to mission-driven investors.” The White House is also ordering the IRS to come out with guidance and rules to get nonprofits to invest in green energy technologies, along with creating more government financing options for small businesses looking to go green. “Today’s announcements will help ensure that even more American-made clean energy technologies can make the leap from an idea, to the laboratory, to the global marketplace,” the White House said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to unleash the power and potential of innovations that serve both our economy and our environment, and to the as-yet-unimagined breakthroughs still to come.”...more

GOP challenges Obama to veto showdown over EPA riders

President Obama has repeatedly threatened to veto legislation that rolls back environmental protections, but Republicans are apparently planning to test his resolve. The fiscal 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies spending bill marked up by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee of the same name yesterday contains numerous riders that would hamstring the administration's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, fracking and other forms of air and water pollution, to name a few. All of these provisions fall squarely in the realm of policies that the administration has vowed to defend, but Republicans are brushing aside the warnings, arguing that they're fulfilling their legislative duties in doing so. Interior-Environment Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in the past has expressed a dim view of the legislative brinkmanship that led to the 2013 government shutdown but said yesterday the riders respond to a chorus of lawmaker complaints over executive overreach. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who led efforts to include a provision defunding the recently finalized Waters of the U.S. Clean Water Act rule, said Republicans tried to craft the more contentious riders in "a way that is workable."...more

Study: Deep beneath the earth, more water than in all the oceans combined

In the remote and forested terrain of Juina in western Brazil, an ugly rock with an uglier name surfaced months ago inside a diamond mine. It was a tiny green crystal, all scars and bumps. It “literally look[ed] like [it had] been to hell and back,” one scientist said in March. But despite the provenance, the ringwoodite stone wasn’t scorched — it was, in fact, sopping wet. Providing an unparalleled glimpse into the our planet’s innards, the stone rode a violent volcanic eruption to the surface from 325 miles inside the Earth’s mantle. “The eruption … is analogous to dropping a Mentos mint into a bottle of soda,” Graham Pearson, a geochemist at the University of Alberta, told LiveScience. “It’s a very energetic, gas-charged reaction that blasts its way to the Earth’s surface.” It was one of the first times anyone had seen the sponge-like ringwoodite in anything but a meteorite or a laboratory. Formed only in conditions of extreme pressure, it is composed of 1.5 percent water and appeared to confirm that the Earth’s insides are very, very wet. “It translates into a very, very large mass of water, approaching the sort of mass of water that’s present in all the world’s ocean,” Pearson said.  Actually, according to fresh research published in this issue of Science, it may be substantially more than that. The findings, researchers theorize, tell us what makes our planet blue and suggests how the Earth formed. The oceans weren’t perhaps the product of icy comets as earlier research theorized, but were the result of geological and tectonic activity that drove water to the surface...Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” co-author Steve Jacobsen of Northwestern University said in a statement. “I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.”...more

California Water Cuts Leave City Days Away From Running Out Of Water

The upscale community of Mountain House, west of Tracy, is days away from having no water. It’s not just about lawns—there may not be a drop for the 15,000 residents to drink. “We’re out there looking for water supplies as we speak,” said Mountain House general manager Ed Pattison. “We have storage tanks, but those are basically just to ensure the correct pressurization of the distribution system. No more than 2 days are in those storage tanks.” The community’s sole source of water, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, was one of 114 senior water rights holders cut off by a curtailment notice from the state on Friday. That means Mountain House leaders must find someone to sell them water, hopefully, the GM says, to have enough until the end of the year. “We don’t want this town to become a ghost town, it was a beautiful master-planned community,” he said...more

Hacks, Breaches, and Government Ineptness

While the headlines over the past week have been swamped with coverage over the candidates bidding for the 2016 presidential election and a “trans-racial” NAACP leader lying about her race, critically important issues that are detrimental to our national security have gone virtually unnoticed. For instance, on Friday we learned that as many as 14 million current and former civilian U.S. government employees had their information compromised in an unprecedented attack by Chinese hackers. In a late Friday news dump, the Associated Press announced that the hackers stole, “Social Security numbers, military records and veterans’ status information, addresses, birth dates, job and pay histories; health insurance, life insurance and pension information; and age, gender and race data.” This was the second hack by China in one week. The first hack occurred last Monday as it was disclosed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that up to 4 million federal employees, including those who had applied for security clearances with the federal government, had their information stolen. On Friday, the AP revealed a second, even deeper intrusion into OPM servers. This hack included personal and security data on millions of past and present Pentagon employees, including intelligence and military personnel. According to Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official, the information obtained via these two hacks constitutes a disaster for Washington’s counterintelligence operatives as it “tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has a United States security clearance.”...more

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Austin’s Plastic Bag Ban Worse for Environment Than Bags It Outlaws

In an effort to protect the environment, Austin,Texas passed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags in 2013. However, a recent review concludes that Austin’s bag ban has backfired, creating more negative effects on the environment than the plastic bags it outlawed. Two years after the bag ban was implemented, the city asked the Austin Resource Recovery group to investigate its effectiveness. Their June 10 report, written by Aaron Waters, states that while the ban was successful in lowering the amount of single-use plastic bags made from high-density polyethylene in city landfills, it was actually worse for the environment overall. “The amount of single use plastic bags has been reduced, both in count and by weight,” Waters states. “However, in their place, the larger 4 mil [4/1,000ths of an inch] bags have replaced them as the go to standard when the reusable bag is left at home. This reusable plastic bag, along with the paper bag, has a very high carbon footprint compared to the single use bag.” The 4 mil reusable bags are often made from non-recycled low-density polyethylene and require more resources to manufacture than the single-use bags, Waters explained. Many of the heavier gauge 4 mil bags are also shipped from overseas, which increases their carbon footprint compared to the single-use bags. Waters also reported that the ordinance increases costs for both consumers and retailers. Consumers are spending more money purchasing reusable bags and some businesses are losing customers due to the ordinance...more

Utah lawmakers pick firms to prepare strategy for possible lawsuit in federal land takeover

Utah lawmakers inched closer to a possible lawsuit in the state's push to seize control of federal lands with the selection Tuesday of two consulting firms that will prepare a legal strategy and attempt to sway public opinion in their favor. A Utah legislative commission voted unanimously to pay up to $2 million for the work to a law firm and public policy research organization. New Orleans-based Davillier Law Group will prepare an analysis by year's end of the historical and constitutional grounds for transferring the lands, said Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, chair of a commission for the stewardship of public lands. Stratton said he only expects to use a fraction of the funds allotted for the work, but said that figure has not been set yet. Davillier was selected because of its expertise in constitutional law while Logan, Utah-based Strata was chosen for its knowledge of public land issues and its "conservative mindset," Stratton said. Strata will utilize social media and Utah State University students to make sure the public has the accurate facts about why the state wants to take over operations of about 31 million acres of federal lands, or about half of the state. David Garbett, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, called it a total waste of money to even consider a lawsuit that has zero chance of success. But in a presentation to the commission, Thomas Vaughn of the office of legislative research and general counsel, touted the upcoming paper as one that would become the preeminent brief in the country about state control of federal land. He highlighted that Ronald Rotunda and John W. Howard — who he called constitutional law experts —will do work on the brief...more

Hard questions presage challenges to federal grouse plans

Most of this article by Scott Streater for E&E is about the impact on oil & gas leasing, but here is an excerpt on livestock grazing:

    One of the most complicated and nuanced sections of the federal grouse plans deals with cattle grazing.
    Ranchers are critical to saving the sage grouse. The Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service reported earlier this year that since 2010, it has spent $296 million on programs partnering with ranchers and other private landowners that have resulted in restoring 4.4 million acres of sage grouse habitat.
    Yet the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, a national association representing Western state cattle and sheep affiliates, has called on the Interior Department to withdraw the grouse plans, claiming the Obama administration "is systematically wiping out multiple-use and ranching through regulatory overreach."
    The U.S. Cattlemen's Association has taken a softer stance. Danni Beer, the association's president, wrote this week in The Hill that the group is pleased that Interior and NRCS "are actively working with cattlemen across the West" to prevent the need for an ESA listing. "This is common-sense wildlife management and land management," Beer wrote.
    The plans clearly state that existing federal grazing allotments on BLM and Forest Service lands will be honored. What's more, "no lands are going to be placed off-limits to grazing," Robert Bonnie, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, said during the grouse plan rollout in Wyoming last month.
    There could be changes, however, in how federal grazing allotments that overlap grouse habitat are managed as a result of the new grouse plans.
    In Colorado, the Dakotas and most of the states covered by the plans, federal grazing allotments would need to be managed to achieve certain habitat conditions benefitting the grouse and its sagebrush habitat.
In Utah, there are limitations on surface disturbance during specific seasons that "could impact the time during which range improvements, such as stock ponds to improve livestock distribution, could be constructed, with some potential impacts on management time and cost for permittees," according to the plan.
    And in Wyoming, livestock grazing on the 170 grazing allotments administered by the Forest Service in the Bridger-Teton and Medicine Bow national forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland would be managed to "maintain residual herbaceous grass height for overhead and lateral concealment" of grouse during "nesting and early brood rearing life stages." Forest Service land-use plans elsewhere could also be amended to include grazing use guidelines that "could include modification of grazing strategies or rotation schedules, changes to the season of use, changes to kind and class of livestock, closure of a portion of an allotment, or reduction of livestock numbers."
    But the biggest changes could come when ranchers apply to renew their grazing allotments, particularly if they overlap grouse habitat.
    For example, the federal plan in Colorado calls on the Forest Service to consider "closure of grazing allotments, pastures, or portions of pastures, or managing the allotment as a forage reserve as opportunities arise under applicable regulations, where removal of livestock grazing would enhance the ability to achieve desired habitat conditions."
    BLM's review of grazing permit and lease renewals and modifications mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act would require the agency to evaluate whether they meet specific sage grouse habitat objectives under the plan.
    At the very least, ranchers grazing livestock in primary grouse habitat are going to see a lot more of BLM. The plans call for the agency to "prioritize field checks" in priority grouse habitat "to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of grazing permits."

Streater doesn't seem to understand the difference on how ranchers are treated by the NRCS and how they are treated by the FS and BLM.

Group threatens suit over denial of protections for Rio Grande cutthroat trout

A wildlife conservation group has put the federal government on notice that a decision last fall to deny Endangered Species Act protections to New Mexico’s struggling state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, will soon be greeted by a lawsuit. The Center for Biological Diversity announced Tuesday that it and other interested parties plan to file suit in 60 days against the Department of the Interior’s Secretary Sally Jewell in her oversight role for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The organization’s letter claims sections of the Endangered Species Act were violated when the agency decided last September that listing the cutthroat trout subspecies as endangered isn’t warranted. The move was an about-face from a May 2008 finding by the Fish and Wildlife Service that the listing was warranted but with lower priority than other threatened species. “There’s really nothing to indicate that it’s any better off than it was in 2008 or 2013,” Greenwald told The New Mexican on Tuesday. “There’s really no basis for their reversal. In fact, in the findings, they actually concluded that the trout is going to decline further under even the most optimistic scenarios.” Parties to the planned lawsuit hope that courts set aside last year’s decision and force the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a new determination based on the best available science, he said...more

Congratulations to Ronnie & Beverly Merritt

CONGRATULATIONS to Ronnie and Beverly Merritt, who received the AMIGO AWARD last night at the Summer Stockman's meeting in Ruidoso. The award recognized their decades of work on behalf of the livestock industry and agricultural communities in New Mexico and throughout the West...Kathleen Phillips-Hellman

Kathleen Phillips-Hellman's photo.
What a great couple and so deserving of this recognition

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

THE WESTERNER stalls and falls... a new computer.  Will be backing up programs, documents, email and music files for the next couple of days, then comes the installation and set up of the new desk top.  So postings may be few and far between.  Wish me luck.

Colorado cuts into use-or-lose system that caused water waste

Colorado water rights owners are forging a way out of the state's ingrained "Use It Or Lose It" rule that penalizes those who divert less than their full allotment from rivers — opening a path to cut water use as shortages grip the West. For 139 years, state enforcers have said farmers, cities and ranchers who don't use all the water they are entitled to could have their rights curtailed. Critics have said that discourages conservation. A first deal in the works, made possible by a 2013 law, lets a ranch owner near Granby leave water in Willow Creek, a tributary of the overtapped Colorado River, without facing penalties.A second deal would leave more water in the Roaring Fork River, another Colorado River tributary, in Aspen. Colorado Farm Bureau leaders said they're watching to make sure water left in rivers by those who don't exercise their senior rights stays available to next-in-priority irrigators. "We're definitely taking a wait-and-see approach," CFB president Don Shawcroft said. "We had a certain understanding when the law was passed, but it's certainly up to the interpretation of the court and lawyers." The Colorado law says not using water won't diminish or cancel a water right if the owner is enrolled in a conservation program with local approval...more

You probably missed this climate change promise hidden in Clinton’s speech

by Ben Adler

Hillary Clinton’s official campaign launch speech Saturday was largely greeted with yawns from the political cognoscenti. Her theme of economic fairness — highlighted by making her announcement speech in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City — has been telegraphed for months, and the speech itself reads like a State of the Union address: a laundry list of center-left policy proposals.

Environmental organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters and NextGen Climate issued statements praising Clinton for highlighting climate change as a priority...

But then Clinton offered one line that promised better policy on a major climate change issue: raising the U.S.’s scandalously cheap rates of fossil fuel leasing.

Clinton said her administration will use “additional fees and royalties from fossil fuel extraction to protect the environment.” The Obama administration has been giving away leases to extract fossil fuels from federal land for bargain-basement prices far below their market-rate value, and even farther below a price that accounts for the government’s own estimates of the social cost of carbon...

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced in March that her department will study modernizing its fossil fuel leasing programs to bring them in line with the administration’s goal of reducing climate change. It’s unclear how much the current administration will raise the rates. But it is clear now that if Clinton succeeds Obama, she intends to finish the job.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pope's climate change encyclical leaks

An Italian magazine on Monday posted an early draft version of Pope Francis’ highly anticipated environment encyclical, a move that a Vatican official denounced as a "heinous act." L'Espresso posted the 192-page Italian language document on Monday, four days before the Vatican is planning to release the public version. According to the National Catholic Reporter, the text is an early draft of the encyclical, which is expected to make a moral case for taking on climate change. A Vatican official told Bloomberg News that the leak is "heinous act," and a spokesman said news organizations should not report on the document until the final version comes out at noon in Rome on Thursday.  In the draft, the pope says that human activity is driving climate change, according to a translation by Crux, a Boston Globe website focused on the Catholic issues.  The encyclical calls for “changes in styles of life, of production and consumption, to combat this warming, or, at least, the human causes that produce and exacerbate it.” Francis writes that the Earth “protests for the evil that we’ve caused due to irresponsible use and abuse” of natural resources. He calls for a greater focus on a “sustainable and integral form of development” to combat climate change in the future. “We grew up thinking we were the earth’s owners and dominators, authorized to pillage it,” Francis writes. “Violence in the human heart wounded by sin shows itself also in the symptoms of disease that we see in the soil, the water, the air and living creatures.” The document calls climate change “one of the principal challenges now facing humanity," according to Crux, and it asks readers to accept that it's actually happening. “It’s enough to look at reality with sincerity to see that there’s a great deterioration in our common home,” the encyclical says. The encyclical, titled "Laudato Si, On the care of the common home,” comes ahead of a major international climate conference later this year...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

As good as I once was

by Julie Carter

Aging isn't any easier on a cowboy than it is for anybody else, but it usually takes a cowboy a little longer to recognize it.

Let me tell you about a cowboy and former bronc rider named Shade. Recently Shade fessed up to realizing that his "young man dreams in his fluffy middle-aged body" didn't always make for good choices. Not uncommon among men, but hard to swallow at any rate.

Shade explained how difficult it was to shed the disease of rodeoing and riding broncs even when you knew better. "Lots of guys I traveled with and even me, up 'til a year or so ago, wouldn't even watch a rodeo on TV. Couldn't watch, not while there was any chance we might could still get on one somewhere."

Shade says he's finally now to the point he can watch the bronc riding without the urge to start jogging, doing pushups and sit-ups to get back in riding shape.

"Depending on my level of sobriety," he says, "my armchair quarterbackin' goes from just judging the bronc ridin' to, well I'll tell ya, once in a while one will get to me. The other day I was watching one and that sucker blowed out and bucked and I mean really bucked. About the third or fourth jump I went to liftin' on my beer can and chargin' the front end of my recliner."

Shade was pretty sure he would have scored in the 90s.

Shade and his old rodeo partner take turns craving the old days and once in a while, they both get the itch at the same time.

"We will watch a rodeo on the old boob tube and we get so disgusted at those no-toe-turnin'-out, hangin'-in-the-back-Dssuckers," Shade said. "And it never seems to occur to either of us that as good as we remember our careers, there ain't a world title between us."

When Shade quit rodeoing, he sold his bronc saddle.

"You can't have that stuff around or you get to thinkin' you have to try using it again," he said. "My buddy still has his, a Hamley Gold Seal. He also has a jake steer (roping dummy). Now two or three times a year when he's particularly disgusted at the no-tryin' suckers on TV, or if he sees a spectacular ride, he will drag out the Hamley and put it and a lead rope on the jake steer. Then he'll drag it all closer to the ice chest and have at it until he gives out. Then he will just sit there for hours."

Just this spring, Shade attended a rodeo where he saw what he described as "some good buckin' horses wasted" by cowboys that didn't get them ridden right.

"I called up my ole pard and told him, 'Man, we could start now and still take the Turquoise Circuit,'" he said. "It was so terrible that, at my old obese age, I was sure I could still ride better than what I saw."
Shade's pard put it in perspective for him.

"Shade, you gotta slow down," Pard said. "I know what you're sayin' and I thought the same thing. So I drug out the Hamley and the jake steer."

The ice chest wasn't mentioned but undoubtedly was a given.

Shade got excited. "Oh yeah, right, you're gittin' practiced up and gittin' ready."

Pard replied, "No, not really Shade. The jake steer is learnin' some new tricks."

"Say that again pard, you broke up."

Pard repeated, "The jake steer learned some new tricks. It's swappin' leads now. Bucked me off."

"Man pard, that ain't good," Shade responded.

"No Shade, it's not good," his pard lamented. "Maybe we better stay home."

That defining moment when maturity forces the reality of "the mind is willing but body is incapable" comes for us all. Sometimes it stays, taking up residence in our daily decisions. But for a cowboy, it frequently leaves town just long enough for somebody to do something stupid.

It's just how it is.

Julie has been there, done that, and can be reached for comment at 

Cow Factor - Science over Beliefs

Science over Beliefs
The matter of History
Cow Factor
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I have a particular interest in any piece of information relating to Charles Goodnight.
            The relationship is not simply the fact that my great-grandfather rode for Mr. Goodnight from 1880-1888 and Goodnight cattle formed the basis of his destiny, but the man himself is a profile of many things. Courage comes to mind. Acute observation is another. He was a trail blazer, an opportunist, a businessman, and a caretaker of his surroundings. Credit him in part to the salvation of the buffalo and original Texas cattle, the longhorns. He saw the value of both and he appointed himself guardian of their plight.
            As far as I can discern, there were few absolutes in his life. He was certainly human, and his powers of observation were superb. When he described matters such as buffalo and wolves, I found myself riveted to his words. He knew wolves were about not just by the buffalo herd dust on the horizons, but by the absence of rabbits and certain birds. The wolves, following the buffalo, would simply wipe the populations of those prey animals out.
            His comments about the grass in the wake of the great herds are important. There was no grass. The turf would be reduced to bare ground after the passage. The ground itself was trampled and turned. Defecation and urination was everywhere. Carcasses of natural deaths or predator kills littered the ground in varying forms of decay and or consumption. There was nothing resembling peace or pastoral harmony. It was a veritable riot of beastly presence.
That fact was noted without attachment of judgment. The aftermath was simply … the way it was.
Cow factor
Other than period sustenance and a particular buffalo hunt to sell his cattle ideas, Goodnight demonstrated little interest in the commercialization of buffalo. He knew there were enough risks in life not to go chasing buffalo needlessly across the plain. The sensible alternative was cattle. They converted sunlight to protein just as efficiently as buffalo and did it under much more controlled conditions. They took the swings out of natural and market cycles. Uncertainty was reduced, and the controlled process surrounding the enterprise stimulated every aspect of the human condition. Ranch to market trails became farm to market roads, byways, and railways. Texas became a state as did New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. All were lands that benefited from the vision and the toil of Goodnight.
The public, fed bits and pieces of information from afar, tended to be fascinated by men like Charles Goodnight.
The public today, fed bits and pieces of false science, tend to assign guilt and environmental condemnation to Goodnight’s modern day counterparts. They also assign guilt to the cow.
Like the stewards, the cow has become a falsely accused environmental pariah, but nothing could be further from the truth. She is now the most important converter of sunlight to protein in this modern world. As science will reveal, her refined role as the major ungulate will also be the key to grassland health and robust reovery.
She is that important, and …she is that critical.
Allan Savory, once accused of being the ultimate hawker of wire and posts, has reappeared with a special report in the summer, 2015 edition of Range Magazine. Savory should have started the narrative with a later quote.
I used to detest domestic livestock because I was trained to believe they caused desertification and it was after all ‘so obvious’.
His hatred, however, was reversed in the ‘60s when he realized there was no option other than to use the cow to reverse the desertification process. His critical thinking had been altered. The science was clear. Cattle numbers didn’t cause overgrazing. Time and exposure and re-exposure to grazing resulted in overgrazing. In fact, like the cumulative affects of the historic great herds, large cattle numbers are necessary, beneficial, and crucial for maintaining turf health. Only in that course of action can desertification be reversed.
Proper and timely management had to become the new focus, and Savory was the flamboyant emissary to carry the message.
The guidelines to land health had to start with the halting of non-effective rainfall and the stepwise reduction of exposed soil surface. Partial rest was found to be non-effective and an agent of desertification. Not a single example in semiarid lands anywhere can found to halt desertification if the rest, unto itself, is the only tool applied. Herd action must accompany managed rest.
Savory correctly points out that the general public believes that western rangelands are deteriorating because of cattle, riparian areas are being demolished because of cattle, and cattle factories are inhumane, lead to excessive water and antibiotic use, pollute, and rob cereal grains from the human population. Those beliefs are not coming from science nor are they coming from local communities being negatively affected. They are coming from the universities, agencies, and NGOs that control the communication lines and provide policy recommendations to the governing bodies.
The outcome of current management will be a continuing assault on rural communities and further deterioration of the grasslands. It also promotes cultural cleansing. Savory summarized his view of the looming prospect:
The ultimate tragedy will occur when science prevails over beliefs and government agencies eventually have to run millions more cattle on these lands to reverse the desertification process. To prevent such tragedy we need to collaborate based on science and common desire now.
The suggestion that any agency is capable of running millions more cattle is ludicrous, but, like conservationist Aldo Leopold before him, we must be somewhat tolerant of Savory for his misguided belief in the practical capability of his institutional colleagues.
   We will accept and applaud his insight of the real science, and we will engage and seek real and substantive support from any unbiased colleagues, but we must turn to the agent that can make the real changes. From Leopold’s somewhat condescending words, we will identify that individual as the land steward “too poor to pay for his sport”.
That, of course, is the … American rancher and his cattle.
The path forward
As stewards, we must recognize and embrace the most simplistic of Savory’s observations. The matter of biological decay as opposed to material oxidation in sunlight leading to expanding bare soil exposure is a premise we can accept. We can also understand and herald the need to counter conditions that lead to noneffective rainfall. In parlance that makes sense to us, we can agree that the rain that falls on our lands must be managed on the basis of enhancing retention and eliminating runoff.
Concentrated emphasis must be placed on decreasing bare soil exposure and eliminating noneffective rainfall.
We must also have altered cooperative partnership thinking. The removal of grazers does not reverse desertification. The presence of the grazers is critical, and, in most cases, the reduction of grazers unto itself doesn’t correct problems. Grasslands evolved relying on grazers to remove dead and decaying overstory to expose sunlight to growth points, to trample for the purposes of reseeding and asexual propagation, for dunging with its natural fertilization, and for urinating which sets the natural fertility cycle for subsequent growth sequences. These actions cannot be sporadic or localized. Understocking can negate the entire process.
The complexity of grazing is another factor. When an engine is overhauled, an entire tool kit is necessary for the job. Managing grasslands is no different. The management of natural systems with only one grazer, the cow, that is expected to be grazer, browser, forbs and weed eater, noxious weed eliminator, brush removal agent and all-the-while absent from sight for day hike excursions is tomfoolery. Accusation of failure is unfair and it is contradictory to the greater model. If the cow exists alone, and, if there is disallowance for promoting and incorporating other specialized ungulates for system health, mechanical and or chemical alternatives must be added to accomplish the actions that complexity of grazing would manifest.
Finally, there is the matter of the land steward.
Current law sets forth that lands will be managed for multiple values including that of historic and, where appropriate, will protect lands in their natural condition and provide food habitat for wildlife and livestock. Those lands will also provide for human occupancy and use. When science does prevail over misinterpreted beliefs, it will not be the agencies that are capable or equipped to manage the facilitator of turf. It will be the rancher. The integrity of his existence including the vast array of infrastructure he has in place must be maintained inviolate. His water sources alone must be protected and enhanced in order to support the only grazer that is deployed in numbers adequate to deal with the more aggressive future management of our grasslands.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “This is the second essay mapping the importance of the History Value. The socio-political impacts will appear in the third installment.”

ICYMI, part one is here.

DuBois column

Topics this month are the unreliable and inefficient management of federal property, the elite setting aside land for the elite, and hogs going wild over Michelle’s menu


You will often see figures like the federal government owns 650 million acres or the feds claim ownership of 29 percent of the land mass in the U.S.

The truth is, the feds have no idea how much property they own, nor do they know the exact location of all of those lands for which they claim ownership.  Believe me, I know this from personal experience.

In 1982 President Reagan created the Asset Management Program, whose purpose was to identify surplus, unneeded or hard to manage federal property and to dispose of it.   By Presidential Order, the program was to be managed by a Property Review Board, a cabinet-level entity to be run out of the White House.  That same year, the Property Review Board ordered an inventory of all lands owned by the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the Corps of Engineers.

That’s where Yours Truly comes in, as I staffed this program for Secretary Watt at Interior.  To complete the survey I had to meet with all the land management agencies and bureaus within Interior.  This meant working with the BLM, Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Mines and Bureau of Indian Affairs to discuss the inventory and methods of determining whether particular properties should be retained or put up for disposal.  Two things became immediately clear:  1) Overnight I became the most unpopular person at Interior, and 2) There was no consistent method of identifying and tracking federal property.   Those annual reports were estimates.  Guesstimates would be a more accurate description.

Politically, the program was unpopular and died over time.

Things aren’t any better today.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found the feds waste $2 billion a year managing 77,000 unneeded federal buildings.  Another report says the BLM has identified 3.4 million acres for disposal as a result of their land use planning process, but the lands are still being retained.  Other reports have shown the Department of Interior has 26 different financial systems and over 100 different property tracking systems and the Department of Defense has over 300 different property management systems.  You get the picture.

To remedy this, Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced S. 1225, the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act.  This legislation would establish, once and for all, a “single, multi-purpose and uniform” computer data base to track these properties.  Murkowski says with such a list of lands each agency can look at its inventory, dispose of unneeded property and identify and eliminate waste and duplication of activities.  The Act specifically authorizes the Secretary to designate “any parcels…that can be better managed by ownership through a non-Federal entity, including a state, local, or tribal government, nonprofit organization, or the private sector.”  Let’s hope she gets it done.

Valles Caldera

Recall that Senator Heinrich got these 89,000 acres transferred from the Santa Fe National Forest to the Park Service as part of a political deal in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. 

The Park Service is now holding public hearings on management of the area, and we are beginning to see what the native folks and traditional users are up against –  limited access in general and a slow phasing out of most hunting and grazing.  Yes, I know the legislation says there "shall" be grazing, but it also says,"at levels and locations determined by the Secretary to be appropriate."  Read Park Service policy on its website and you'll find this:  "The Service will phase out the commercial grazing of livestock whenever possible and manage recreational and administrative uses of livestock to prevent those uses from unacceptably impacting park resources."  Apply the general policy to the legislative language, and if you are seeking "commercial" livestock grazing, forget it.  The whole thing is being set up to allow grazing for the "interpretation of the ranching history of the Preserve", and that will probably mean Park Service cows managed by Park Service employeesSimilar limitations are placed upon hunting and trapping.

Does anyone consider the NPS to be pro-hunting?  Pro-grazing?  Not exactly.

Members of the group Caldera Action have spent years advocating for National Park Service management because, their spokesmen says, the Park Service will police “wayward cattle”, they didn’t want it “treated like a piece of multiple-use land where you have…cows and litter”, but that “hiking and cross-country skiing” are less destructive.

A huge preserve has been set aside for the elite to camp, hike and convene with nature.  The traditional uses made by the folks native to the area will be eliminated over time.  That, I'm afraid, will be the final outcome of this Udall/Heinrich legislation.

Twitter Battle

I’ve written before that school kids, unhappy with their lunches under the new guidelines, have been posting pictures of the unappetizing lunches to Twitter, with the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.  Many of these have gone viral and apparently Michelle’s minions aren’t happy about it.

Pushing back, Deborah Kane, director of the USDA Farm to School Program, posted a photo of a school lunch from a charter school and saying, “Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country.”  Kane then added, “I am certain there’s no end to the great photos we could share with one another,” she said. “Post a photo of what your school is doing on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook or Tumblr using #farmtoschool or #realschoolfood.”

I’m afraid it didn’t work.  Kane is learning what ordinary folks already knew:   Never take on a teenager in a Twitter contest.

Michelle O, broccoli bugs, hogs

Students in Conroe, Texas may never eat vegetables again.

Sorry, Michelle O, but as they started to bite down on their broccoli they discovered something else was there – bugs.

Falyn Evans and her friend were served the bug-infested broccoli for lunch and the two almost ate the insects before they realized they were there.  Food inspectors showed up the next day and found more bugs.  That was it for Falyn’s mom.  “She will be taking lunches,” Evans told Click2Houston. “She will not be eating it anymore, at all.”

You see, it’s the pigs, not kids, who are going hog wild over Michelle O’s new school lunch nutrition standards.

In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, so many fruits and vegetables are being dumped by the students that Galloping Grace Youth Ranch is making daily pickups at several elementary schools.  Their weekly haul is FIVE TONS!   The ranch manager says it’s like a fresh salad bar each day and the hogs “love it.”

Put another way, the hogs are eating the First Lady’s lunch.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship

A version of this column appeared in the June issue of the NM Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest


Twin Peaks – Twin Lies

by Paul Driessen

A recent NOAA article is just what Doctor Doom ordered. It claims the 18-year “hiatus” in rising planetary temperatures isn’t really happening. (The “pause” followed a 20-year modest temperature increase, which followed a prolonged cooling period.)

Published in Science magazine to ensure extensive news coverage before critics could expose its flaws, the report was indeed featured prominently in the national print, television and electronic media.

It’s part of the twin peaks thesis: Peaking carbon dioxide levels will cause peaking temperatures, which will lead to catastrophic climate and weather. Unfortunately for alarmists, the chaos isn’t happening.

No category 3-5 hurricane has hit the United States for a record 9-1/2 years. Tornadoes, droughts, polar bears, polar ice, sea levels and wildfires are all in line with (or improvements on) historic patterns and trends. The Sahel is green again, thanks to that extra CO2. And the newly invented disasters they want to attribute to fossil fuel-driven climate change – allergies, asthma, ISIS and Boko Haram – don’t even pass the laugh test.

The NOAA report appears to have been another salvo in the White House’s attempt to regain the offensive, ahead of the Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Climate Conference. However, a growing number of prominent analysts have uncovered serious biases, errors and questions in the report.

Climatologists Pat Michaels, Dick Lindzen, and Chip Knappenberger point out that the NOAA team adjusted sea-surface temperature (SST) data from buoys upward by 0.12 degrees Celsius, to make them “homogenous” with lengthier records from engine intake systems in ships. However, engine intake data are “clearly contaminated by heat conduction” from the ships, and the data were never intended for scientific use – whereas the global buoy network was designed for environmental monitoring.

So why not adjust the ship data downward, to “homogenize” them with buoy data, and account for the contamination? Perhaps because, as Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry observed, this latest NOAA analysis “will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration.” However, it will not be “particularly useful” for improving our understanding of what is happening in Earth’s climate system.

Dr. Curry and the previously mentioned scientists also note that the buoy network has covered an increasingly wide area over the past couple decades, collecting high quality data. So again, why did NOAA resort to shipboard data? The ARGO buoys and satellite network (both omitted in this new analysis) do not show a warming trend – whereas the NOAA methodology injects a clear warming trend.

Britain’s Global Warming Policy Forum succinctly concludes: “This is a highly speculative and slight paper that produces a statistically marginal result by cherry-picking time intervals, resulting in a global temperature graph that is at odds with those produced by the UK Met Office and NASA,” as well as by other exhaustive data monitoring reports over the past four decades.

Green Encyclical Likely to be Worse Than Anticipated

Judging from one of the three designated presenters at the rollout of the Green Encyclical on June 18, the Encyclical appears likely to be worse than critics feared.  Rorate Caeli gives us the details:

Metropolitan John, 84 years old, is the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s leading figure in ecumenical discussions and has long been close to the Catholic ecumenical establishment. However this is the first time that an Orthodox metropolitan would be officially co-presenting a papal Encyclical. There are reports that the Encyclical will draw upon the teaching of Patriarch Bartholomew (whose interest in environmental issues is well known) and that there was even a proposal — which proved to be “not possible” — that the Encyclical be jointly promulgated by both the Pope and the Patriarch. 
Perhaps of far greater interest to most of our readership would be the presence of Prof. Schellnhuber on the panel. The father of the “two-degree target” to stave off global warming, he is the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany (which is funded by the German government), Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was one of the experts (alongside Jeffrey Sachs) tapped by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to write their joint statement on climate change published in April of this year, titled “Climate change and the common good: a statement of the problem and the demand for transformative solutions”. A description of the final document’s call for a “zero-carbon world” can be found here; the final published version seems to have been removed from the official website Pontifical Academy of Sciences, but to our knowledge has never been retracted.

In the words of the New York Times, Schellnhuber is “known for his aggressive stance on climate policy” and famously declared in 2009 that the “carrying capacity” of the Earth is less than one billion people...


California Cuts Farmers’ Share of Scant Water

LOS ANGELES — Farmers with rights to California water dating back more than a century will face sharp cutbacks, the first reduction in their water use since 1977, state officials announced Friday. The officials said that rights dating to 1903 would be restricted, and that such restrictions would grow as the summer months go on, with the state facing a prolonged drought that shows few signs of easing. “Demand in our key rivers systems are outstripping supply,” said Caren Trgovcich, the State Water Resources Control Board’s chief deputy director. “Other cuts may be imminent.” It is too early to know the practical impact of the cuts, which prohibit farmers from taking surface water. State officials have warned of such curtailments for months, and many farmers and agricultural water districts prepared for them by increasing their reserves or digging new wells for groundwater. Still, the dramatic move is a sign of how dire the drought has become, as the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range — which normally supplies water to the state through the summer months, as it melts — is at a historic low. Only once before in the state’s history have the most senior water rights been curtailed. But now, with the drought persisting into a fourth year, state officials say that more reductions for so-called senior water rights holders are nearly certain, and the need for additional cuts will be evaluated weekly...more