Friday, August 28, 2015

Santa Fe climate group seeking fee to reduce greenhouse gases

A local non-profit group looking to reduce greenhouse gases has started a petition drive aimed at swaying the city and county of Santa Fe to impose a $2 per month impact fee to fund initiatives to reduce carbon and methane emissions. Robb Hirsch, founder and executive director of Santa Fe’s Climate Change Leadership Institute, says more than 1,000 people have already signed the online petition that calls for the city and county “to adopt a reasonable environmental impact fee to support green community empowerment initiatives.” “It’s important to work with the community to make sure this is wanted, which it is, and make sure this is coming as a groundswell of support from the community,” said Hirsch, who hopes to present the petition to the City Council in October. Asked how the impact fee might be imposed, Hirsch said probably the most practical way would be a flat fee on water utility bills, coupled with an additional amount based on water usage as part of an effort to reduce water consumption. Another method of imposing the fee might be through property taxes, basing it on a sliding scale so higher valued properties would pay more, but that could be harder to achieve, he said. Money generated from the impact fee could be used to fund initiatives to help offset the effects of climate change. Those could include solar installations, community gardens, home weatherization programs, low energy loans to help residents transition to renewable energy, and education programs informing people how they can reduce their carbon footprint...more

EPA imposes water rule in all states except those that sued

A defiant Environmental Protection Agency on Friday put into effect controversial new water regulations, despite a federal judge's decision to place a temporary hold on the rule for fear it would harm states. The EPA says it is interpreting Thursday's injunction as applying only to the states that sued in the North Dakota district court, according to a spokeswoman. The Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule, goes into effect Friday as planned, except in the 13 states that filed the North Dakota lawsuit. "The Clean Water Rule is fundamental to protecting and restoring the nation's water resources that are vital for our health, environment and economy," said Melissa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the agency. She says the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers "have been preparing to implement the rule on the effective date of Aug. 28." The rule increases EPA jurisdiction over ditches, tributaries and other small waterways, making farmers, ranchers and other land developers subject to federal enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act. The circuit court's temporary hold on implementation of the water rule applies only in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, according to the EPA. All remaining 37 states will become subject to the new rule Friday. "In all other respects, the rule is effective on Aug. 28," Harrison says...more

President must experience 'real' Alaska through its people


Alaska has benefited from many Presidential visits, and it’s always good to have the national spotlight shine on us. President Ronald Reagan’s visits were particularly memorable, given his keen appreciation for Alaska’s vast natural resources and understanding of the federal government’s history of locking up those resources by taking Alaska lands.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” President Reagan said in a 1979 campaign stop, bemoaning federal land-grabs. “It’s gotten to the point where a tourist who comes up here won’t even be able to see this land.” In 1983 while serving as President, he spoke stirringly of the importance of Alaska’s natural resources during a visit.

“Your state is a treasure trove of resources vital to our economy and to the well-being of every American,” he said.

President Reagan, a former western governor, understood Alaska.

I know that President Obama — whose upcoming visit is important for us all — is from a different party and has vastly different beliefs about how to grow the economy and the role of the federal government in our lives.

And I believe that many of his administration’s actions — including the consistent usurpation of Congress’ powers through issuing executive orders and locking up huge swaths of energy-rich Alaska land — are very detrimental to our country’s and Alaska’s economy.

However, there’s something I’m reminded of every day while representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate: Most Alaskans’ hopes and dreams transcend political ideologies. We all want what’s best for our families and communities now and for generations to come. We all want to live in a country that is teeming with opportunity, available to us all.

But in Alaska, a land of extraordinary potential, we face a unique problem, one that I hope President Obama recognizes during his visit. In order to make full use of our opportunities, we need to be seen not as symbols or abstractions, but as individuals. With real problems, real needs, real hopes and wishes, living in real cities and towns and rural communities — real people living in a real state.
For too long and by too many Outside, Alaska hasn’t been treated as a place in and of its own. It’s been a battleground and a playground, over-romanticized and underappreciated.

When the President visits, I hope that he is able to see Alaska not as a snow globe — something to put on a shelf and shaken for a feel-good moment — but as a place described by the drafters of our Constitution as “a homeland filled with opportunities for living, a land where you can worship and pray, a country where ambitions will be bright and real, an Alaska that will grow with you as you grow.”

Dan Sullivan is a Republican representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate.

Good luck with that Senator.

Your state is about to be used as a prop for Obama's global warming/climate change agenda. His eyes are on Paris, not Anchorage.

EPA releases more docs - Sediment a "long term" concern in Colorado mine spill's wake

Environmental officials said Thursday their long-term concern after the 3 million-gallon Gold King Mine spill centers around the metallic sediment left in its wake. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency says it is worried about the potential stirring up of sediment during "high-water events" and the sludge's effect on people who are continually recreating for long periods — several weeks — of time. The EPA mentioned the concerns as part of a data release accompanying 77 pages of documents chronicling the minutes and hours before and after the agency-triggered spill. The Aug. 5 disaster sent yellow-orange sludge through three states and two American Indian tribes, prompting emergency declarations and leaving communities along hundreds of river miles angry.  The EPA says data, collected over the past two weeks, shows surface water metal levels at 24 sampling locations along the watershed below the spill are "trending toward pre-event conditions." Metal levels in the sediment, the EPA says, are below the agency's recreational screening level. However, the EPA says it is not certain there are no health risks from the sediment. "Risks to humans from metals in the sediments are based upon the total exposure a person may have over a given period of time," David Gray, an EPA spokesman, said. "Exposure from sediments would be from hand-to-mouth exposures. We want to ensure that the concentration of metals in the sediments are sufficiently low enough to ensure that a recreational person will not be exposed to harmful levels of metals."...more

EPA: Waste pressure evidently never checked before Colorado mine spill

Dangerously high levels of water pressure behind the collapsed opening of the Gold King Mine were never checked by the Environmental Protection Agency, in part because of cost and time concerns. The revelations came Wednesday as the EPA released an internal review of a massive Aug. 5 blowout at the mine above Silverton. The report called an underestimation of the pressure the most significant factor leading to the spill. According to the report, had crews drilled into the mine's collapsed opening, as they had done at a nearby site, they "may have been able to discover the pressurized conditions that turned out to cause the blowout." According to the review, drilling into the collapsed opening would have been "quite costly" and taken more time because of soil and rock conditions at the site. The review says crews believed that because water was leaking from the Gold King and based on seep levels above its opening, a buildup of pressure was "less likely." Because of those signs, officials say, drilling appeared to be unnecessary. EPA supervisor Hays Griswold, who was at the scene of the blowout Aug. 5, told The Denver Post in an interview this month that conditions in the mine were worse than anticipated. "Nobody expected (the acid water backed up in the mine) to be that high," he said. The report says, however, that decreased wastewater flows from the mine, which had been leaching for years, could have offered a clue to the pressurization. Also, a June 2014 task order about work at the mine said "conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages." The inability to obtain an actual measurement of the mine water pressure behind the mine's blocked opening "seems to be a primary issue," according to the review. It went on to say that if the pressure information had been obtained, other steps could have been considered. It did not elaborate on what those steps could have been...more

Editorial - Wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Last week, a new era of uncertainty was ushered in along the Fort Lyon Canal when 14,600 acres of farmland was sold to Arkansas River Farms LLC.

The $45 million purchase has Southeastern Colorado agricultural and conservation interests on edge. Arkansas River Farms is an affiliate of C&A Companies and Resource Land Holdings. Water speculator and developer Karl Nyquist is a principal with C&A Companies, the parent company of GP Water, which has resources on the Lamar Canal and in 2011 announced plans to move water to various Front Range communities. While Arkansas River Farms apparently has indicated it will continue to use the Fort Lyon Canal water for agricultural purposes, the company bears watching.

Farming is a profitable business right now, so it makes financial sense for Arkansas River Farms to use the available water for farming and ranching. But the agricultural markets can be fickle, as prices and input costs rise and fall on a regular basis. If farming and ranching becomes less profitable down the road, there’s no telling what will happen with the valuable Fort Lyon Canal water.

The Fort Lyon Canal water has been targeted for moving northward since 2006, when Pure Cycle purchased the local land and proposed a pipeline to developments near Aurora. Nothing has come of the transfer idea yet, but the recent sale intensifies the threat to Arkansas Valley water resources because of the deep pockets of Nyquist and his affiliated real estate and development companies. 

It’s reasonable to assume that the long-term intentions of Arkansas River Farms may be to dry up land and move water. But the exportation of this critical agricultural water would be nothing short of devastating to the entire region. 

USDA spending another $211 million to protect sage grouse

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday unveiled the government’s plan to spend $211 million over the next four years to protect the sage grouse and its habitat. Under what officials are calling the Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, ranchers will receive additional financial assistance to improve conservation efforts on their land to benefit the bird and their agricultural operations, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In a statement, Vilsack said these “efforts are also good for cattle, good for ranching operations, and good for America’s rural economy.” The government, along with private groups, have been working on conserving land to protect sage grouse since 2010. They have conserved 4.4 million acres, an area that's twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. Between 2010 and last year, the government spent $296.5 million on those projects. By the end of 2018, the USDA expects it will have spent $760 million along with private partners...more

Our enemies haven't been as successful as our leaders


Calling forest fires, the rising temperatures and our drought “an atmospheric fact of life” from one side of his mouth while ridiculing from the other side of his mouth those who propose dams and water storage is perhaps the most questionable thing I’ve personally heard California’s governor say.

Except for that little part where he thought policing agriculture more might be “good advice.”

...Equally unbelievable are state and federal regulators who continue to hide in their ivory cathedrals behind court documents and bureaucratic excuses while they flush trillions of gallons of water down rivers to the benefit of a handful of fish and the detriment of human beings.

The latest example of experimenting with fish flows during an historic drought comes out of Trinity County and the move by the Bureau of Reclamation to ostensibly help sick salmon in the Klamath River by draining Trinity Reservoir. This comes after tens of thousands of acre feet of water was flushed down the Stanislaus River to coax less than a dozen fish back to the Delta where they were likely consumed by predatory bass.


When fires turn extreme, get out of the way

By Rocky Barker

The past two weeks covering the Soda Fire in Southwest Idaho and the fires in North Idaho has given me renewed respect for the firefighters who protect our lives and national treasure.

Everyone appreciates how firefighters risk their lives, often working 24 hours straight or more to contain blazes that come earlier, last longer and burn hotter than ever. But fewer appreciate the tough decisions they and their bosses are forced to make when fire is burning across the landscape.

The loss of three firefighters in Washington shows once again how hard it is to escape fire in extreme conditions, when high winds create firestorms whose ferocity becomes unpredictable. Nonetheless, hundreds of people line up to volunteer to join the fight and to put their lives at risk.

Many of the people volunteering are frustrated that federal fire officials don’t just let them go out and get on the fire lines to protect the places they care about. Oregon ranchers expressed those views during the heat of the Soda Fire.

They wanted the flexibility to use their equipment and their own strategies to fight the blaze. Idaho ranchers, who joined rangeland fire protection associations under the auspices of the Idaho Department of Lands, don’t have that problem.

They work in concert with the Bureau of Land Management and other fire teams as a part of the larger effort and fire managers praised their efforts across Southern Idaho. They have been certified and trained; fire bosses know they can depend on these ranchers to follow orders and make good personal decisions to protect their lives and the lives of others.

Read more here:

Editorial - Incremental attacks on agriculture continue

A look at the predicament faced by some Yakima Valley, Wash., dairies should give pause to dairy operators across the nation.

More importantly, all farmers and ranchers would do well to closely monitor the emerging picture of how environmental special interests use the legal system to attack agriculture.

Last week, we commented on how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shrugged off transgressions in which it participates. The 3 million gallons of mine waste that EPA contractors dumped into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah was met with the comment that it’s really not that big a deal and that it’ll clear itself up.

Contrast that with the Yakima Valley, where five dairies have followed state-approved nutrient management plans only to be dragged into court by EPA-allied environmental groups to test a new legal theory. Under this theory, manure from cattle is industrial waste and, as such, it falls under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

These groups got a judge to fall for that argument — the first time since Congress passed the law nearly 40 years ago.

Should his ruling stand, all forms of havoc could be aimed at agriculture. If manure is industrial waste, it might follow under this warped interpretation that all sorts of byproducts could be similarly identified.

This is another example of incremental environmentalism, in which activists will never, ever say that enough is enough. They will always want more. This cycle will continue until the targeted business finds it impossible to continue.

This tactic was explained to us many years ago, and ever since we have seen it used against businesses, farmers, ranchers, developers, miners, the timber industry — any group unfortunate enough to find itself in the environmentalists’ cross hairs.

They also specialize in suing federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which seem to spend as much time and money on defending themselves against lawsuits as they do managing federal lands and taking care of other important jobs, including fighting wildfires.

Armed with poorly written laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the RCRA, environmental groups march into court seeking more and more and more.

If they lose, they appeal, hoping to eventually find a judge who will go along with them. If they win, they pop open the champagne, collect a check from the government — if a federal agency was sued — and send out pleas for more money to help them continue their fight to “save” the environment.

They will never give up...

Government intrusion at its worst


My husband and I have been ranching in South Texas for many years, and we have worked hard to care for the land my family lives on today. This same testament holds true for millions of other ranchers and landowners across the country.

Sadly, it seems like every time we turn around the federal government finds another way to try claiming the land and resources that constitutionally belong to us.

One issue that has raged for years is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) claim that it owns 30,000 acres of land along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River on the Texas-Oklahoma border. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) has heard from members along the Red River who are worried about the federal government taking control of their land, and TSCRA shares their concern.

The federal government claims this property has been under its control since the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Ironically, the federal government has surveyed only about 6,500 acres of the land, and the results are highly questionable. The survey method they used differs greatly from the accepted gradient boundary survey method established by the Supreme Court in the 1920s.

TSCRA and affected citizens believe the BLM’s claim to this property is completely bogus. Those who live and own agricultural operations on this stretch of land hold the deeds and continue paying the property taxes. As a landowner myself, the thought of the government taking away property many of these citizens have worked tirelessly and sacrificed to own is unfathomable.

While one of the many Red River land disputes was recently resolved, much work needs to be done to put the entire issue to rest.

Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry and Sen. John Cornyn introduced H.R. 2130/S. 1153, the Red River Private Property Protection Act, to protect private landowners along the Red River from federal ownership claims.

This legislation includes several key provisions to accomplish its intended goal. It commissions a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the river using gradient boundary survey methods backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. This survey must be paid for by the federal government and conducted by licensed state land surveyors chosen by the Texas General Land Office.

Additionally, the legislation provides legal certainty for citizens holding the deed to their property by allowing them to appeal any further public domain claims by BLM through an administrative law judge...

 Leslie Kinsel and her husband Dan operate ranches in Central and South Texas and are active members of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. 
Her email address is


NM continues to cut its water use

Water managers across New Mexico aren’t giving up on their push for residents to conserve water even though severe drought has disappeared from the state. For the first time in more than four years, federal maps show the worst levels of drought are now gone from the state, and only abnormally dry to moderate conditions exist in the western half of the state. A healthy monsoon season is to thank, and more moisture is on the way this week for parts of central and western New Mexico, forecasters with the National Weather Service said. However, watering restrictions in Albuquerque will not end soon, said Katherine Yuhas, the conservation officer for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. “Just because it rained doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the fact that we live in a desert has changed. The conservation message remains in effect,” she said. The good news: New Mexico’s largest city is on track to curb its water use again this year. As of mid-August, residents and businesses had used 1.1 billion gallons less than last year. Water use has been going down steadily in Albuquerque since 1995, Yuhas said, and the trends are no different in Santa Fe and Las Cruces...more

Hillary's ethanol flip-flop reveals a Democratic sclerosis on cronyism

Hillary Clinton once opposed the ethanol mandate, which harms drivers, consumers, ranchers, the environment and the economy.  Now, as she runs for president, Clinton supports the mandate, which benefits the state of Iowa — and in exchange, presumably, she's earned the endorsement of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, an ethanol-subsidy aficionado. During the 2002 debate over an energy bill that included an ethanol mandate, Clinton took to the Senate floor to say that while she believed ethanol had potential, she couldn't support "an astonishing new anti-consumer government mandate — that every US refiner must use an ever-increasing volume of ethanol." Earlier this year, Clinton wrote in a local Iowa paper that Iowans "deserve to be able to get ahead and stay ahead. To make that possible," she supports the ethanol mandate. Hillary's flip-flop, and the utter lack of principle or shame behind it, shocks nobody who has paid attention to Mrs. Clinton's political career. But Clinton is one of a long line of erstwhile ethanol opponents who converted on the road to Des Moines...more

New approach examined at Seven Cabins Spring in Lincoln County

A source protection plan for Seven Cabins Spring on the Lincoln National Forest will be revamped after a meeting with interested adjacent landowners concerned about water being fenced off from livestock and wildlife. Lincoln County Manager Nita Taylor said at the June and July county commission meetings, commissioners were told about the potential fencing of the Seven Cabins Spring by the Smokey Bear Ranger District staff. District wildlife biologist Larry Cordova explained the purpose of the limited fencing and how accommodations for livestock and wildlife were part of the design. But on Aug. 8, District Ranger Dave Warnack, who returned from temporary duty heading the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico, along with Cordova and George Douds of the district met Taylor and interested landowners and ranchers at the site to discuss the proposal being funded by revenues from the state Habitat Stamp program. Seventeen people attended, including Taylor and Commission Chairman Preston Stone, a rancher. Seven Cabins Trail 66 is located in the Capitan Mountains Wilderness and is accessed from U.S. 380. Fencing water sources on the national forest developed into a contentious issue in neighboring Otero County and the Sacramento Ranger District of the national forest.  "The initial plan was to fence to protect the spring source and associated wetlands to restore habitat and the water source," Taylor said. "After lengthy discussion, (Warnack) agreed to abandon the initial plan and to begin the process to change the scope of work for the already approved project, and to begin the implementation of an alternative corrective action." The concept is for a two-year project of placing pipeline and water storage to capture the entire water production of the spring, Taylor said. "The excess water that caused the marshland would be placed in use, rather than running unused on the terrain," she said. "(Warnack) was receptive to the interactive process leading to the decision, but he advised at some point and under certain circumstances, the fencing off of an area may be the appropriate solution. At that point, ranchers and owners will work with the Forest Service for a solution."...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1476

Jimmie Davis is telling us he's just Fifteen Miles From Dallas.  The tune is on his Cowgirlboy LP album by the same name.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Judge blocks WOTUS rule one day before scheduled implementation

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule from going into effect on Friday, a sizable victory for agricultural interests who brought lawsuits to halt the rule. In his opinion, Judge Ralph Erickson, a District Court judge for the District of North Dakota, said it appears the EPA “has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue.” He went on to say that the states who brought the lawsuit - North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and two state agencies in New Mexico - “have demonstrated that they will face irreparable harm” if the rule were to go into effect Aug. 28.  Many in the agricultural community saw the Clean Water Rule - also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS - as an expansion of EPA authority over new bodies of water, such as smaller waterways and wetlands, that are not currently subject to Clean Water Act protections...more

From the decision: 

                                                             SUMMARY OF DECISION

Original jurisdiction is vested in this court and not the court of appeals because the “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States,” jointly  promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has at best only an attenuated connection to any permitting process. If the exceptionally expansive view advocated by the government is adopted, it would encompass virtually all EPA actions under the Clean Water Act, something precisely contrary to Section 1369(b)(1)(F)’s grant of jurisdiction.

The court finds that under either standard – “substantial likelihood of success on the merits” or “fair chance of success” – the States are likely to succeed on their claim because (1) it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue, and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with APA requirements when promulgating the Rule. Additionally, the court finds the other factors relevant to the inquiry weigh in favor of an injunction.

New Mexico Game Commission approves proposal to expand hunt limits on bears, cougars

The New Mexico Game Commission on Thursday approved new rules that will clear the way for expanded hunting and trapping of bears and cougars around the state. The commission's vote was unanimous despite passionate pleas from wildlife advocates and other critics who questioned the population data the state Game and Fish Department used to justify the new hunting limits. Some of those packed into the meeting room shouted at commissioners following the vote, saying they should be ashamed. They were also upset because public comment was limited to an hour. The Game and Fish Department has argued that new population data for the two species warranted an update of the hunting limits, and the livestock industry has urged state wildlife managers to keep predator populations in check as a means of limiting threats to cattle and sheep. The new rules will allow for more black bear hunting in all but two of the state's game management districts as well as the doubling of cougar hunting limits. The trapping and snaring of cougars on private land and state trust land will also be allowed without special permits. Critics argued that more hunting will have negative long-term effects on animal populations and that clearing the way for trapping on state trust land could endanger the public and other wildlife for which the traps are not meant. Game officials told the commission that existing harvest limits for cougars are not met in 85 percent of the state's management zones. In some of those areas, less than three cougars are killed each season, representing just a fraction of the sustainable harvest limit. They also said the density of black bears in the northern Sangre de Cristo and Sandia mountain ranges is substantially higher than the estimates used by the Game and Fish Department to establish previous hunting limits. They did note that the density of the species is lower in the southern Sacramento Mountains...more

New Mexico Game Commission delays decision on federal appeal of Mexican wolf permits

The New Mexico Game Commission has delayed a decision on an appeal filed by federal officials who are seeking to release endangered Mexican gray wolves as part of recovery efforts in the Southwest. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially sought three permits, including one to release a pair of wolves and their pups onto federal land in New Mexico and another allowing for up to 10 captive pups to be raised by foster wolves in the wild. The requests were denied in June by the state game and fish director. The Fish and Wildlife Service's regional deputy director, Joy Nicholopoulos, told commissioners during a meeting Thursday in Santa Fe that delaying releases could compromise the genetics of the wild population in New Mexico and Arizona. The commission is expected to take up the matter again next month.  AP

Clinton lays out four-part plan for rural America

With USDA forecasting a 36 percent drop in net farm income, Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa today to announce her policies to strengthen agriculture and support rural communities. With a John Deere tractor in the background, she was introduced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who endorsed her candidacy for president on Tuesday. Clinton told the crowd her focus is on four key areas: energy, investment, agriculture and assets to help families to succeed. Clinton proposed strengthening the Renewable Fuels Standard “so that it drives the development of advanced cellulosic and other advanced biofuels, protects consumers, improves access to E15, E85 and biodiesel blends, and provides investment certainty.” She also said her goal is to have more than a half a billion solar panels installed in this country by the end of her first term and produce enough clean renewable energy to power every home in American within 10 years of taking office. Clinton proposed expanding access to equity capital for small businesses by increasing the number of Rural Business Investment Companies, which could make equity investments in small rural businesses. She would create a national infrastructure bank and invest in infrastructure to support rural transportation, water and broadband access. Specifically, she would focus on increasing and adoption of high-speed broadband access “so rural small businesses can better connect to the global economy, farmers and ranchers can benefit from agricultural technology and students can benefit from distance learning.” Clinton said she would support the next generation of farmers by doubling funding for the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development program. She would also double funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Programs to expand food hubs, farmers markets, give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients' access to fresh food, and encourage direct sales to local schools, hospitals, retailers and wholesalers...more 

Other than the usual sop to the corn growers for ethanol,  there's not much there.  Unless, of course, you're young and need a government loan to market organic tomatoes to your local food stamp recipients (sorry, I mean the partakers of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

PLF sues over EPA’s attack on a Wyoming farmer and his stock pond

Cheyenne, Wyoming;  August 27, 2015:  U.S. Clean Water Act regulators are violating federal law by telling Andy Johnson, owner of a small farm in Fort Bridger, Wyoming, that he did not have the right to create a stock pond on his land, and by threatening him with millions of dollars in fines if he does not bow to their demands and destroy the environmentally beneficial pond.

So contends a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed today by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, representing Johnson.  Donor-supported PLF is a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and balanced environmental regulations, in courts nationwide.  PLF represents Johnson without charge.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, PLF’s lawsuit points out that Congress expressly exempted stock ponds from Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.  In violation of this provision, EPA bureaucrats have issued a “compliance order” demanding that Andy Johnson’s property be returned, under federal oversight, to its condition before the stock pond was created.  This decree carries astronomical financial penalties:  The fine for not acceding to a CWA compliance order is $37,500 per day; during the 14 months that he has tried to explain to EPA its error, his potential liability has already grown to over $16 million.

 “We are challenging an outrageous example of EPA overreach against a private citizen who has done nothing wrong,” said PLF Staff Attorney Jonathan Wood.  “Andy Johnson constructed a pond for his livestock by damming a stream on his private property with no connection to any navigable water.  Under the plain terms of the Clean Water Act, he was entirely within his rights, and didn’t need federal bureaucrats’ permission.

“In addition to providing water for his livestock, the pond has been an environmental boon,” said Ray Kagel, a former Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer and environmental consultant.  “It created wetlands where there had previously been none.  It provides habitat for fish and wildlife, including migratory waterfowl, passerine birds, a bald eagle, and moose.  And it improves water quality by providing a place for sediment and other suspended solids to settle.

“According to tests by an independent lab, the water flowing out of Andy’s pond is three times cleaner than the water entering his pond,” Kagel noted.  “And the suspended solids in the nearest navigable waterway — the Green River — are 41 times greater than in Andy’s pond, which means that Andy’s pond is significantly cleaner than the downstream river that’s allegedly affected.”

The case is Johnson vs. EPA.  More information, including the complaint, a video, and a podcast, may be found at PLF’s website:

This is an edited version of a PLF press release which was embargoed until today. 

Wolves’ Arrival in California Spurs Calls for Management

Photographic evidence of a pack of gray wolves in Northern California has ranchers concerned that the predators are becoming established in California, and that the state lacks a plan to allow ranchers to protect their livestock against wolf predation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released multiple photos last week showing what it has named the "Shasta Pack": a group of two gray-wolf adults and five pups in Siskiyou County. It is the first confirmed sighting of gray wolves in the state since a lone wolf, OR7, entered California in late 2011; that wolf has not been in the state for more than a year. It is also the state's first wolf pack since the species' extirpation more than 90 years ago. Announcement of the wolf discovery comes more than a year after the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list the gray wolf under the state Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, kill or attempt any of those actions in California. The gray wolf is also protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Ranchers said they were disappointed in the state ESA listing and remain concerned about the impact wolves would have on their livestock should they become established in the state. The wolves' arrival has led DFW to delay release of a draft management plan that ranchers hope would outline tools they could use to protect their livestock. The department said the plan—which has been in development for more than three years and involved input from a wide range of stakeholders—will need to be revised to include reference to wolf presence in California. Siskiyou County rancher Jeff Fowle called delay of the wolf plan "unacceptable," saying ranchers need to know what's in it "to see if it's something we can live with." "It's got to be a plan that actually manages (wolves) and doesn't just look the other way," he said. "Pardon the pun, but it needs to have some teeth in it." Ranchers say the state ESA leaves them few options on how to protect their livestock. Some interpretations of the law, Fowle said, also make unclear the legality of certain methods once thought to be acceptable...more

Did Glaciers Lure Wolves Back into California?

...The CDFW press releases place the animals within 10 or 15 miles of the summit of Mt. Shasta. Since wolf pack territories in the western US average 200-500 square miles in area, they are likely to travel to the extensive slopes of Mt. Shasta. Are the glaciers on Mt. Shasta one of the reasons that the adults, ranging south from Oregon, chose this specific location? Until there is a full database of sightings and tracks, and perhaps radio collar recordings, the precise movement of these animals will not be known. But two lines of evidence suggest an association of the Shasta Pack and Mt. Shasta’s glaciers, the most extensive in the state. Recent conditions might make a glacier peak attractive. In the spring and summer of 2015, Oregon has been in drought conditions characterized as severe or extreme. Drought is commonly associated with reduced populations of key prey species for wolves. And mule deer and elk populations in Oregon are currently low. In this context, predators might be attracted to the relatively green vegetation on Mt. Shasta, supported by the peak’s abundant snowmelt in spring and early summer, and glacier meltwater in late summer. In a telephone interview, the ranger at McCloud Ranger Station in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the station closest to Mt. Shasta, said that local wildlife densities are “more favorable than other parts” of the national forest. He added that he was “speaking as a hunter” who is familiar with the region and in contact with other hunters. He added that additional scientific information will be available when CDFW completes the studies of deer populations that it is currently conducting. Historical patterns in other western states also show that the arrival of wolves has been associated with glaciers. Wolf packs were eliminated in Montana by the 1930s, though individual animals occasionally strayed across the state’s long border with Canada in the following decades. The first new pack in the state was established in 1979 near Glacier National Park. In Oregon, where the last wolf bounty was paid out in 1947, the first wolf pack in recent times was seen in 2006 in a range with glaciers– the Wallowa Mountains, OR-7’s home area. After the extermination of Washington State’s last wolf pack in the 1930s, the first pack in recent years in the state was recorded—also with a trail camera—in 2008 at Lookout Peak, in the glacier-rich North Cascades...more

New Sheriff Overseeing Burning Man to Crack Down on Naked Rule-Breakers

A new Nevada sheriff tasked with overseeing the upcoming Burning Man festival plans to crack down on the annual desert debauchery. Jerry Allen, 39, who was elected Pershing County Sheriff in January, said he plans to tighten law enforcement for the tens of thousands of festival-goers journeying to the remote Black Rock Desert next week for the annual event, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported on Tuesday. In recent years, many attendees at the weeklong event — where nudity is the norm, drugs flow as if on tap and orgies litter the desert — have not been charged for crimes like marijuana possession, according to federal reports on the event, but the new sheriff in town said he has a tougher police protocol in mind. “We don’t have the personnel to issue citations to 70,000 naked people on the playa, but we will be upholding the law to the best of our ability,” Allen said. He added that Burning Man “brings nothing … except for heartache” to the conservative, rural county...more

Burning Man lures techies with siren song of going unplugged

It may be an irony of modern life: Partying with 70,000 others in Burning Man's desert dust may be the best chance many go-go professionals have to truly unplug. First they have to get there. This week, tens of thousands of people are flocking toward the remote Nevada desert for the freewheeling Burning Man festival, some hitchhiking cross country to live in wind-whipped tents. Others arrive via private jet and pay handsomely for a week of air-conditioned RV-ing with concierge service. For a week starting Sunday, tens of thousands of attendees will create what will temporarily be the state's sixth-largest city as they immerse themselves in nudity, DIY art and an anything-goes attitude. The experience, drug-enhanced or not, is cherished as a week free from the high-tech shackles of modern life, or what some attendees term the "Default World." A massive topless bicycle parade is among the event's longest-running traditions, and there's a dust-controlled orgy dome that's exactly what you think it is. Things will be set on fire...more

Albuquerque mayor urges Forest Service to withdraw Wilderness proposal

The mayor of New Mexico’s largest city is urging the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw consideration of a potential wilderness designation that he says would limit the public’s access to a popular recreation area bordering Albuquerque. Mayor Richard Berry sent a letter to the supervisor of the Cibola National Forest on Monday. He says the way the plan stands now would completely dismantle existing trails for outdoor enthusiasts. The mayor says the mountain biking and hiking trails in the foothills area encourage residents to lead a healthy lifestyle and are part of a natural attraction that helps to set the city apart. As part of an effort to revise its outdated forest plan, federal policy requires the Cibola Forest to identify and evaluate lands and determine whether to recommend any areas for wilderness designation.  AP

Finally, local officials are seeing Wilderness for what it is and what it does.

Solyndra Misrepresented Facts to Get Loan Guarantee

A four-year investigation has concluded that officials of the solar company Solyndra misrepresented facts and omitted key information in their efforts to get a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government. Solyndra was the first company to get federal loan guarantees under a program that was created in 2005 and expanded by President Barack Obama's 2009 economic stimulus package. The company's failure soon after receiving the loan guarantee likely will cost taxpayers more than $500 million. Republicans and other critics cite it as an example of wasteful spending under the stimulus program. The report by the Energy Department's inspector general was released Wednesday. It's designed to provide federal officials with lessons learned as it proceeds to grant billions of dollars in additional loan guarantees. The inspector general found fault with the department, describing its due diligence work as "less than fully effective." The report also said department employees felt tremendous pressure to process loan guarantee applications...more

Homeland Security Spent $20 Million on Conferences Last Fiscal Year

The Department of Homeland Security ran up more than $20 million in conference-related expenses in 2014, according to a recently released government audit. The Office of Inspector General report, which looked at conferences either hosted or attended by the department or its employees from October 1, 2013, to December 31, 2014, found that the the department—which handles issues related to terrorism, border security, and cybersecurity—was involved with a total of 1,883 conferences in fiscal year 2014 that amounted to $20.3 million in expenses.  In total last year, the department hosted 490 conferences that cost $13.14 million and attended an additional 1,393 conferences at an expense of $7.16 million. However, the department did not report all conferences required by the inspector general, giving information for only a fraction of its conference-related costs...more

First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops

North Dakota police will be free to fire ‘less than lethal’ weapons from the air thanks to the influence of Big Drone. It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist. With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it. The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones. Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones. Drones have been in use for decades by the military, but their high prices have prevented police departments from obtaining them until recently. Money’s no problem for the the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department, though: A California manufacturer loaned them two drones...more

What in Tarnation? Cattle Rustling Is Making a Comeback

Cattle raiding, or rustling, is a crime most people know from film westerns and history books, not from modern times. As ranchers moved away from open range grazing by building fences in the late 19th century, the crime — once a capital offense punishable by hanging in many areas –mostly disappeared. But according to a report from NPR, cattle rustling is a big problem once again, particularly in Texas and Oklahoma.  Encouraged by booming beef prices—calves can now sell for up to $1,300 at auction, up from $800 a few years ago—around 4,000 animals have gone missing so far this year, setting a pace that should easily top thefts in 2014. Calves in particular are targeted for theft because they’re smaller and lighter than full-grown cows. What’s more, it’s simpler for rustlers to flip the animals to buyers because they often have no brands or tags yet. In a typical heist, thieves load a handful of animals into a truck under the cover of night, but some thefts have been massive operations. One farm in Texas lost 1,100 animals...more

The Canine Crew

Nestled between the rolling high-desert hills of northeastern Wyoming, 40 miles down a gravel road and even farther from the nearest grocery store, is the Forks Division of the Padlock Ranch. Jerry Howard, who has been a cowboy at the Forks for four years, leads his horse in from pasture and into an old timber-framed barn. As he saddles up for the work ahead, his most reliable employees scurry around in excitement, eagerly awaiting their orders. They show up to work the same way every day, and don’t quit until the job is done. These hard workers are stock dogs, specifically the Kelpie breed that originated in Australia. Howard and his wife, Marion, raise them under the name JMH Kelpies. Though the dogs are cared for and treated like pets, their main purpose is to work cattle. Howard grew up in northeastern Texas, where baying dogs, such as Catahoulas and Black Mouth Curs, are the breeds of choice to gather cattle in dense forest that is carpeted with underbrush and marshes. “They use their noses to track cattle, and then they bay and circle them up,” Howard explains. “When you got there, the dogs were usually in front of the cattle and you would drive the cattle toward them.” At age 19, Howard went to work for the Russell Ranch in Eureka, Nevada. The cowboss at the time, Darrell Betsinger, used Kelpies to work cattle. They were black and tan, long and tall, and could keep up with the cowboys all day.  “It was nothing for us to trot 20 to 25 miles before daylight each morning,” Howard says. “I’d watch [Darrell] send those dogs out miles ahead of us, and they’d go round up the cattle and bring them back to us while we were riding down the trail with another bunch. It just seemed efficient and made sense to me.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1475

Today we have the fiddler Wade Ray and his 1954 recording of Call Me Up.  The tune is on his Bear Family CD titled Idaho Red

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Public-lands proposal seeks to create new national monument in Utah before Obama does

It has critics on the left and right. The counties involved could back out. Congress could let it die a slow death. And, in the end, President Barack Obama could name a new national monument in Utah. Or ... The public-lands compromise that has been three years in the making actually could pass. What might that mean? That's what Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wanted to talk about Monday when he met with The Salt Lake Tribune's editorial board. He said the proposal would result in: • Granting roughly 3.9 million acres of eastern Utah new federal protections in exchange for opening 365,000 acres in the Uinta Basin for oil and gas drilling. • Expanding Arches National Park by 50,000 acres to include land adjacent to Delicate Arch that the federal government once tried to lease for oil development. • Upgrading Dinosaur National Monument to a national park. • Turning the Cleveland-Lloyd dinosaur-fossil quarry, the biggest concentration of Jurassic bones on the planet, into the "Jurassic National Monument." But only if Emery County agrees in votes expected to take place in early September. Those are among the highlights in a massive seven-county proposal that Chaffetz and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, have negotiated with county commissioners, environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts, ranchers and oil companies. They intend to unveil their proposal in the coming weeks and envision a "kumbaya" moment in which Democrats join with Republicans to quickly pass their legislation.  Often called the "grand bargain," though Bishop and Chaffetz refer to it as the "public-lands initiative," they see it as a chance to end decades of feuding in these rural counties. The key, according to Chaffetz, is that if passed, no president could unilaterally create a national monument in these counties again. That guarantee would be written into the legislation. Without it, he said, the counties wouldn't go along with designating roughly 2 million acres of new wilderness and adding protection to another 1.9 million acres. He knows that limiting the power of future presidents may give the president "heartburn," but there's an incentive for the White House to play ball...more

California sinking faster than thought, aquifers could permanently shrink

California is sinking even faster than scientists had thought, new NASA satellite imagery shows. Some areas of the Golden State are sinking more than 2 inches per month, the imagery reveals.  Though the sinking, called subsidence, has long been a problem in California, the rate is accelerating because the state's extreme drought is fueling voracious groundwater pumping. "Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows — up to 100 feet (30 meters) lower than previous records," Mark Cowin, director of California's Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. "As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly, and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage."  What's more, this furious groundwater pumping could have long-term consequences. If the land shrinks too much, and for too long, it can permanently lose its ability to store groundwater, the researchers said. The state's sinking isn't new: California has long suffered from subsidence, and some parts are now a few dozen feet lower than they were in 1925, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But the state's worst drought on record — 97 percent of the state is facing moderate to exceptional drought — has only accelerated the trend...more

Author Naomi Klein admits global warming is not about science but destroying capitalism

The Heartland Institute published a very revealing article about Leftist shock jock Naomi Klein who just published a new anti-capitalst screed entitled This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Essentially, Ms. Klein admits that the issue of climate change (formerly known as global warming) is not about science but really about overthrowing capitalism.

“Our economic model is at war with the Earth,” writes Klein. “We cannot change the laws of nature. But we can change our economy. Climate change is our best chance to demand and build a better world.”

The Heartland article goes on to say:

For the author, this completely boring, run-of-the-mill flight delay became a flight of fancy, inspiring her new work. This flight delay, she reasoned, was evidence of climate change. Who cares, she added, if we know that the solar cycles impact the planet, even more than CO2 emissions ever could. Science is not the point, but it makes for a great alibi. “The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better,” she writes.

Frantic cattle roundup in front of Grizzly Bear Fire

As the Grizzly Bear Complex fire roared across Grouse Flats north of Troy, the ranchers at Anchor Bar, their friends and their neighbors fought with everything they had to preserve the barns and homes on their ranch. The ranch is spread out widely, so in fighting that fire, the cowboys slowed the fire down and may have played a large part in saving the little community of Grouse Flats. Ranch managers Buck and Chelsea Matthews were scrambling to round up cattle and haul them to safety as the Grizzly Bear Complex turned for Eden Bench Monday morning. “Buck hasn’t had three hours sleep in three days,” said Chelsea Matthews. Her concern Monday was a rumor that the Forest Service was going to backburn Eden Bench. “We still have 300 cows there,” she said. “We’re trying pretty hard to get word to the Forest Service that we would really like the opportunity to get them out.” The cattle on Eden Bench were on a grazing allotment on Forest Service land. Because of the remoteness and size of the ranch, the roundup was being coordinated by radio. Cell phones don’t work...more

Foes: Cougar plan failed once before

SANTA FE – Opponents of the expanded cougar hunting being considered by the state Game Commission say it’s an end run around a proposal that failed during the legislative session. The commission on Thursday is expected to vote on whether to allow licensed hunters to trap or snare cougars on private land – and, for the first time, on nearly 9 million acres of state trust lands – without special permits. That could be done every November through March, under the recommendation from the state Department of Game and Fish. The department also recommends increasing from two to four the number of cougars an individual hunter could kill in most areas of the state during the year-round season for hunting with guns. The changes are supported by the livestock industry as a means of predator control. “It allows us a tool to protect the food supply we’re providing for the citizens of this state and this country,” Chad Smith, CEO of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, said Tuesday. But critics say the changes aren’t science-based and don’t have the support of the broader public. Traps are cruel and inhumane, will catch other wildlife as well, and will be hazardous for humans and their dogs on public lands, they contend...more

Consumer Reports study confuses serious safety issues, potentially misleading consumers about beef safety

A Consumer Reports study released yesterday includes misleading information that could increase consumer confusion about food safety heading into the Labor Day weekend, say beef safety experts. “I have relied on Consumer Reports when purchasing cars and electronics but unfortunately this report will not help consumers when purchasing safe ground beef. The good news is the bacteria found in the Consumer Reports tests are not the type of bacteria commonly associated with foodborne illness in ground beef,” says Mandy Carr-Johnson, Ph.D., senior executive director, Science and Product Solutions, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. “As an industry, our number one priority is producing the safest beef possible. Ground beef is the safest it has ever been with greater than 90 percent reductions in bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and significant reductions in salmonella in recent years. The beef community continues to invest millions of dollars in developing new safety technologies with the goal of eliminating foodborne illness.” Carr-Johnson says the only helpful takeaway from the report for consumers is that all ground beef should be cooked to and internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and confirmed with an instant-read meat thermometer, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other food safety experts are concerned the Consumer Reports article and subsequent media coverage misleads consumers into thinking that organic and/or grass-fed beef is safer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “organic” and “grass-fed” labels do not imply any additional safety factor. “Our concern is that leading consumers to believe organic and grass-fed beef are safer could make them think they do not need to cook those products to 160 ºF, creating a food safety concern,” says Dr. Mindy Brashears, professor, food microbiology and food microbiology, Texas Tech University. “It is important to note that bacteria was also found in the organic and grass-fed samples. The bottom-line is that no matter what the label says ground beef should be cooked to 160 ºF as a final step to ensure safety.” The good news is the Consumer Reports study did not find pathogenic bacteria like shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STECs) in any of the samples, including conventional beef. Controlling pathogenic bacteria is the key in terms of ensuring safety. Unfortunately, the Consumer Reports study confuses that issue with the finding of generic E. coli and other bacteria that are not commonly associated with illnesses from consuming undercooked ground beef. “Both S. aureus and C. perfringens found in the Consumer Reports study are toxin-producing bacteria that are typically associated with picnic-type food poisoning cases where food has been left out for long periods of time at the incorrect temperature, not undercooked ground beef,” says Brashears. Also, use of the term “sustainable” in the Consumer Reports article is incorrect and misleading. “Organic” and “grass-fed” are marketing terms that are not an accurate indicator of either sustainability or safety. Research has found that the efficiencies created by conventional methods of raising beef have led to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, water use and resource consumption and energy use. “All beef production models can be sustainable,” says Dr. Kim Stackhouse, executive director of sustainability for NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff...more

Captial Farm Credit Ready to Finance Sale of Historic W.T. Waggoner Ranch

Capital Farm Credit today announced its selection to underwrite and finance the famous W.T. Waggoner Estate Ranch in the upcoming and contemplated sale of the giant and iconic Texas property. As one of the most storied ranches in Texas heads toward the finality of sale and enters a new era of ownership, the question of where a prospective buyer might source funding for such a record breaking acquisition as the $725 million dollar icon is answered today in part at least as Capital Farm Credit announces their selection as lender within the sales team. "We have been working with brokers Sam Middleton and Bernard Uechtritz for some months now in order to be in a position to completely underwrite and lend on this incredible ranch and historic opportunity," states Capital Farm Credit CEO Ben Novosad. "We are now in a position to offer a qualified buyer, joint venture or entity non-contingent financing and a fast close when purchase and sale contracts are submitted."...more

1948 - Fascinating photographs of Wyoming dude ranch

Saddle up and prepare to be taken back to the world of dude ranches in this series of nostalgic snapshots from 1948. Escaping the stresses of early 20th century city life, 'dudes' would journey from the hustle and bustle in search of a Western retreat. Cattle ranchers in places such as Jackson Hole saw the opportunity to open up watering-hole saloons and accommodation for these wannabe cowboys. As the lure of fresh air, horseback riding and fishing pulled in vast numbers, many ranchers gave up their cattle livelihood completely to focus on offering ranch activities and accommodation for tourists. By 1940, 25,000 visitors would flock to ranches such as Jackson Hole in Wyoming, to witness the spectacular mountains and meadows. And not only this, handsome college kids were employed by the ranches in order to bring the gallant cowboy feel alive for paying visitors...more 

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1474

Our selection today is Jean Shepard's 1952 recording of Twice The Lovin' (In Half The Time).  The tune is on her 5 CD Bear Family Collection titled The Melody Ranch Girl.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to School: Feds Tell Teachers To Push Renewable Energy in Class -- Kids Can ‘Save the Planet’

Teachers heading back to the classroom will be adding renewable energy to the curriculum to mold future “energy leaders to save the planet,” thanks to a summer training program run by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers. “By teaching the teacher, events like this one make a powerful impact on public understanding of America’s energy needs,” states a back-to-school announcement posted on the DOE website earlier this month. “This year’s academy has just graduated a pool of motivated teachers, ready to arm the next generation of energy leaders to save the planet!” said the DOE...more

Obama's new climate change call: Yes we can

Now “yes we can” is about fighting climate change too. President Barack Obama wielded his campaign slogan to hail the green energy revolution here on Monday — and to bash the critics who he said were desperately clinging to the past as a renewable energy future approaches. Monday’s speech kicked off a two-week global warming messaging sprint by Obama that will take him from the Las Vegas event to New Orleans on Thursday for a Hurricane Katrina commemoration tour to a glacier in north Alaska next week. Throughout, he’ll be using the devastating prospects of extreme weather and other climate changes in an effort to galvanize support for the executive actions he’s already taken — such as the first-ever greenhouse gas rules for power plants released earlier this month — as he lays out the groundwork for the major international climate change agreement he’s hoping will emerge from the global climate summit in Paris in December. If successful, that international agreement could stand as one of the defining accomplishments of Obama’s presidency. It would also be an important reset for Obama after his failure to secure a significant international climate deal at the 2009 conference in Copenhagen during his first term, despite rushing there in person at the last minute to plead for progress...more

Obama renews attack on fossil fuels, Koch brothers at Nevada clean energy event

President Obama accused critics of his energy policies of trying to restrict consumers from accessing solar power, wind power and other alternative energy sources at a green energy conference in Las Vegas Monday night. The president specifically singled out billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who are major donors to Republican political candidates. He accused them, along with "big fossil fuel interests" and "conservative think tanks", of ideological inconsistency, saying that they champion free market solutions except when the free market boosts renewable energy. "It's one thing if you're consistent in being free market," Obama said. "It's another thing when you're free market until it's solar that's working and people want to buy and suddenly you're not for it anymore. That's a problem." The annual energy conference was hosted by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who frequently targets the Koch brothers. Reid's speeches depict them as self-serving oil barons who pay huge sums to try to buy elections and advance their agenda of low taxes and less regulation at the expense of average Americans...more

Obama to traditional energy producers: Get with the program

President Obama challenged energy utilities, fossil fuel producers and their allies in Congress on Monday to get on board with his push for clean energy or risk backlash from American consumers and companies. Speaking at a clean energy summit in Las Vegas, Obama dismissed energy interests that oppose his push to green the energy sector as “naysayers” who are “backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers." He encouraged supporters to fight back against them and their push to influence American energy policy. Obama’s speech — and his confrontational tone toward the fossil fuel sector and it supporters — comes as he pushes to overhaul the American electricity sector, both by encouraging more renewable energy around the U.S. and instituting regulations to crack down on carbon emissions. Earlier this month, Obama announced his climate rule for power plants, something that has triggered lawsuit threats from both state attorneys generals and energy producers. A Senate panel has passed a bill to block the rule, and congressional Republicans have grown increasingly hostile toward it. Obama defended the climate rule on Monday, calling it the “single most important step Americans have ever taken to tackle climate change.” He vowed to spend the rest of his presidency pursuing ways to cut emissions from the American electricity sector by investing in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. “As long as I’m president the federal government is going to do its part, beyond the investments that we’ve already made, to promote this issue,” he said...more

Judge says ‘no’ to motorized vehicles for juniper removal in wilderness study area

A federal judge has ruled that it’s unlawful to use motorized vehicles to remove juniper from nearly 80,000 acres in the vicinity of Oregon’s Steens Mountain. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is cutting juniper from roughly 336,000 acres in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area because the trees are crowding out native vegetation. Juniper removal is important to ranchers because it’s expected to prevent further population declines of the sage grouse, a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. If the bird is listed as threatened or endangered, ranchers fear further restrictions on cattle grazing in its habitat. U.S. District Judge Garr King has now ruled that using motorized vehicles within “wilderness study areas” is prohibited by a federal law that governs management of the Steens Mountain area. The BLM argued that there’s an exception to the vehicle ban for “administrative purposes” — including juniper removal — but King sided with the Oregon Natural Desert Association, which filed a lawsuit against the practice. The judge said that BLM was interpreting the “administrative purposes” language too broadly. “The BLM’s interpretation places no limit on what falls in the category of ‘administrative,’” he said. “BLM — as the agency charged with implementing Congress’ enactments — could call any activity ‘administrative’ since its job is to ‘administer’ the laws.” Supporters of juniper removal worry that the ruling will complicate activities within the 79,600 acres designated as “wilderness study areas” inside the project’s boundaries...more

In search of a solution for protecting lands: What Utah can learn from Idaho and Nevada

Public lands in eastern Utah are at a crossroads. Ahead lies a field of options that range from oil and gas development to wilderness designation, the highest level of land preservation afforded by U.S. law. Just weeks ago, similar situations existed for lands in Idaho and Nevada that ended with completely different outcomes — one played out in the public eye, the other quietly and ending in sudden bewilderment for those nearby. And if there's anything the experience of Utah's neighbors can tell, it's that either outcome could unfold for the places Utahns want to protect. Eventually, the state will join others in shouldering the consequences — good or bad — of what is decided in Washington, D.C. "That's what makes the West's public lands issues interesting is you have three sovereign powers: You've got tribes, states and the federal government. And getting them all aligned in their interests or negotiating between all those interests is not without its difficulties," said Joanna Endter-Wada, professor and program director for the National Environmental Policy Act graduate certificate program at Utah State University. "It all has a history," she said. In the next few weeks, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, plans to finish drafting his public lands initiative and bring it to the House floor. It's a bill that represents three years of negotiation for a monument designation, wilderness, conservation areas and sites for oil and gas development. At the same time, tribal leaders from the area are calling on federal executives to enact a higher protection for an area in San Juan County known as the Bears Ears, about 1.9 million acres of what they say are culturally "sacred" lands deserving of a national monument designation under the Antiquities Act. Those tribes say they've had little or no opportunity to weigh in on the public lands initiative, but Bishop said the "threat" of a monument designation by President Barack Obama could unravel the larger plan for the preservation and use of millions of acres in other areas. It's a threat Utah isn't alone in facing...more

Senator Feinstein asks Obama to bypass Congress to create three desert monuments

Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she has asked President Obama to bypass Congress and create three new national monuments in California, giving federal protection to more than 1 million acres of mountain ranges, sandy expanses and forests lying roughly between Palm Springs and the Nevada border. The terrain encompasses overlapping biological zones that provide habitat for mountain lions, the California desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards and more than 250 species of birds. Two bills introduced by Feinstein over the past six years languished in Congress amid conflicts among off-roaders, hunters, environmentalists, and mining and renewable-energy interests. Unable to gain momentum on her California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act again this year, Feinstein decided to ask Obama to act unilaterally by invoking the Antiquities Act to create the monuments.  Feinstein was encouraged to seek presidential action by conservation groups including The Wildlands Conservancy, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Mojave Desert Lands Trust and Friends of the Desert Mountains...more

Forest Service says Burnt Mtn ski cabin is off limits

A cabin that’s been used as a backcountry getaway on Burnt Mountain for at least 30 years has been taken out of commission by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency had a contractor remove a portion of the roof earlier this month after asbestos was discovered, according to Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer. The rest of the cabin could be demolished as early as next year. The Forest Service has notified some users of the cabin not to replace the roof. A tarp was placed over the part of the roof that was removed to prevent rain from getting in. That will buy time for people to remove personal belongings. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District will conduct a review this winter on demolishing the cabin and other structures the agency believes were illegally constructed on public land. A list of the other properties being studied for demolition wasn’t immediately available. One regular visitor to the cabin objected to the way the Forest Service pursued the demolition. Removing the roof under the guise of asbestos removal “pre-empted” any legitimate public debate about keeping the cabin, the person said. The elements will eat away at the cabin during the Forest Service’s review, the person said, so the agency will determine the rest of the structure must be demolished. The cabin user requested anonymity because of the ongoing effort to try to reverse the Forest Service’s direction. A person who helped build the cabin previously told The Aspen Times that skiers on Burnt Mountain in the early 1980s decided they needed a humble warming hut...more

Yes, the feds are great landlords.  Just ask any rancher.

NM Land Commissioner's proposal could end hunting dispute

New Mexico's land commissioner is proposing a resolution to the long-running battle between sportsmen and ranchers over access to a popular hunting ground called White Peak. Commissioner Aubrey Dunn sent a letter last week to the state Department of Game and Fish, asking them to consider purchasing 10,000 acres around the Las Vegas, New Mexico, hunting ground owned by rancher David Stanley, reported The Santa Fe New Mexican. In exchange for deeding the property to the State Land Office, hunters and anglers would have unrestricted access to all state trust lands for 20 years. "If it could happen, it would be a good thing for sportsmen," said Max Trujillo, a longtime hunter from the White Peak area. But he has a lot of doubts that Game and Fish will approve the plan. The White Peak area has been surrounded by debate for decades. Ranchers say hunters have trespassed on private property to reach state trust lands, while some sportsmen say the ranchers' claims are exaggerated. The property that would be traded under the agreement costs $27 million, according to a copy of the letter from Game and Fish...more

Mules pack water to fire in Manzano Mountains

TORRANCE COUNTY, N.M. —The U.S. Forest Service had some four-legged help this past weekend while fighting a fire in the Manzano Mountain Wilderness. Right now, fighting wildfires in the state is tricky because so many resources are on the West Coast, battling other blazes. Arlene Perea with the Cibola National Forest said the image of several pack mules climbing a mountain might be thought of as a page from the history books. "It's old school, but it works," she said. The Ojito Fire, which started Friday, only burned about 1 acre, but Perea said it was burning in the worst possible spot. "It started in a really, really remote, really rugged area," Perea said. Crews had to hike into the fire since a truck couldn't be driven in. The firefighters weren't from the Forest Service. They came from the Isleta Pueblo and the Valencia County Fire Department. No hot shot crews or Forest Service equipment are in the state. "We've shipped a bunch of them off and they are helping with fires out west," Perea said. So the Forest Service had to come up with a way to get water and supplies to the crews fighting the Ojito Fire. "Because we were working in the wilderness, we thought let's go a little old school and let's bring in some pack strings," Perea said. Seven pack mules and three horses made two trips every day up to the fire and the firefighters working it. Perea said they packed along lots of water...more

This should be obvious to most - its a wilderness area and the Forest Service had no choice. No mechanical vehicles or equipment are allowed in wilderness.