Saturday, September 05, 2015

Feds Spend $236,517 for Cellphone Game to Teach 11-Year-Old Kenyans How to Use Condoms

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending over $200,000 to create a mobile game that will teach young teens in Kenya to use condoms. The game also seeks to “educate very young adolescents” about HIV and “harmful gender norms.” “The overall goal of the proposed project is to contribute to reductions in HIV incidence among youth in sub- Saharan Africa,” according to the NIH grant. “The objective of our proposed study is to advance that goal by developing, building and pilot-testing an interactive electronic game for preadolescents that will be informed by socio-behavioral and pedagogical theories, evidence-based practice, and unique formative research on youth sexual culture in sub- Saharan Africa.” The primary goal of the project is to “design and develop a mobile phone game for young Kenyans ages 11-14 focused on increasing age at sexual debut and condom use at first sex.”...more

Sexual debut?  That's not what I called it and I'm pretty sure there wasn't any pedagogical theory to explain it.

I know the gov't is inefficient, but $200,000 for phone sex?  

11 Year Old Thwarts Home Invasion With A Gun, Cops Criticize Mother

An 11-year-old boy shoots an almost 17-year-old who had broken into his home, saving his 4-year-old sister and scaring away another burglar. The burglars repeatedly tried to break into the home, finally succeeding on their third attempt. The mother apparently purchased the handgun because of several previous attempted break-ins of her home. One can only imagine the relief that the mother had that her children were safe. Yet, the reaction from police and authorities was to question why the gun was so easily accessible. Police Sargent Brian Schellman told KTVI in St. Louis: “Just seems at this point that any one can pull the trigger on a weapon. Its very scary.” Missouri is a state with a so-called “safe storage law,” one that imposes criminal liability when a minor under 18 gains access to a negligently stored firearm. But no one seems to ask what would have happened if the children hadn’t been able to protect themselves...more

Justice Department to Require Warrants for Cell Phone Tracking Technology

The Justice De­part­ment said Thursday it will re­quire its law-en­force­ment agents to get a war­rant be­fore us­ing tech­no­logy that tracks the loc­a­tion of cell phone users by pos­ing as cell­phone towers. The cell phone-track­ing tech­no­logy, which sweeps up identi­fy­ing in­form­a­tion from every mo­bile device with­in range in or­der to find a tar­get device’s loc­a­tion, has been met with cri­ti­cism from pri­vacy ad­voc­ates who have raised con­cerns about the wide­spread data col­lec­tion it makes pos­sible. Some­times called Stin­grays after a pop­u­lar mod­el used by law en­force­ment, the cell-site sim­u­lat­ors op­er­ate by mim­ick­ing a cell­phone tower and es­tab­lish­ing con­nec­tions with nearby devices search­ing for a cell sig­nal. When devices con­nect to the sim­u­lat­or, they trans­mit identi­fy­ing in­form­a­tion. Po­lice can single out a device and use the dir­ec­tion and strength of the sig­nal to ac­quire its loc­a­tion. The Justice De­part­ment has his­tor­ic­ally re­mained highly se­cret­ive about the tech­no­logy, of­ten push­ing state and loc­al po­lice to stay si­lent about their us­age of the sim­u­lat­ors. Stin­grays do not re­ceive GPS in­form­a­tion, and may not be used to in­ter­cept com­mu­nic­a­tion to and from mo­bile devices, or the data stored on them, ac­cord­ing to the Justice De­part­ment. In ad­di­tion to re­quir­ing war­rants, the de­part­ment also set data-re­ten­tion and de­le­tion stand­ards, stip­u­lat­ing that all data must be de­leted once the tar­get of the cel­lu­lar sur­veil­lance has been iden­ti­fied and set­ting up audit­ing pro­grams to make sure the de­le­tion stand­ards are fol­lowed. The policy ap­plies to Justice De­part­ment law en­force­ment only, and does not ex­tend to state and loc­al po­lice. Ac­cord­ing to re­cords ob­tained by the Amer­ic­an Civil Liber­ties Uni­on, 53 agen­cies in 21 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia own and op­er­ate Stin­grays...more

Friday, September 04, 2015

Arizona files motion to intervene in lawsuit over wolf shootings

The state has filed a motion to involve itself in a lawsuit in which environmental groups allege that the U.S. Department of Justice is failing to prosecute those who illegally kill endangered Mexican gray wolves. The motion, filed in a case brought by WildEarth Guardians and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, declares Arizona as a party with an interest in the case. “The Mexican wolf issue is going better than it ever has,” said Mike Robby, who oversees the wolf recovery program for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The challenges do not have to do as much with biology, rather the social pressures coming from environmental groups and cattle farmers alike.” The groups sued in July, saying a Justice Department policy that the agency can only prosecute those who kill wolves if officials can prove the person intended to kill an endangered species. That makes it easy for those who kill wolves to claim they thought a Mexican gray wolf was a coyote, the groups contend. The lawsuit said 48 wolves have been illegally killed since the reintroduction began...more

Forest Service spent record $243M last week on wildfires

The U.S. Forest Service spent a record $243 million last week battling forest fires around the country, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday. The agency has spent all the money Congress provided for fighting wildfires in the 12-month budget period, forcing it to borrow money from forest restoration work designed to reduce the risk of fires. That's happened in six of the past 10 years, Vilsack said. Vilsack said further transfers are likely and the agency expects to continue spending about $200 million per week on fire suppression during the coming weeks. The administration is pushing Congress to change how the government pays for fighting wildfires. It wants to treat some fires as federal disasters. The new disaster account would cover the cost of fighting the most damaging fires, which would reduce the pressure on other parts of the Forest Service budget. Republicans are working on proposals that would end the transfers, but they also want to make changes in federal law designed to speed up the pace of thinning projects on federal lands...more

FBI admits to spying on Burning Man

Federal agents spied on Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert in 2010, citing the need to collect intelligence and prevent terrorism, newly released documents reveal. However, they found no threats apart from festival-goers using 'illegal drugs.' Internal documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were provided to investigative journalist Inkoo Kang in February 2013, but were just made public as the 29th annual festival got under way. Some 70,000 people were expected in attendance at Black Rock City, a temporary camp in the remote desert of Nevada. An August 19, 2010 memo from the FBI to all field offices says the Bureau would work with the local authorities to “aid in the prevention of terrorist activities and intelligence collection.” Another memo, a week later, says the Bureau was contacted by a security company hired by Burning Man to do a threat assessment. The FBI said it had “no intelligence indicating any outside threats, domestic or international,” to the event. To the Bureau’s knowledge, the greatest threats during the festival were “crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants.” Even so, the Bureau’s Las Vegas office sent an unspecified number of agents to attend Burning Man, citing the “ongoing war on terrorism and potential for additional acts of terrorism” in the US. The agents filed a report on September 27, noting that the festival passed “with no adverse threats or actions.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued almost 300 citations and arrested 8 people at the 2010 event, attended by more than 50,000 ‘Burners’...more

FBI admits to spying on Burning Man

Federal agents spied on Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert in 2010, citing the need to collect intelligence and prevent terrorism, newly released documents reveal. However, they found no threats apart from festival-goers using 'illegal drugs.' Internal documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were provided to investigative journalist Inkoo Kang in February 2013, but were just made public as the 29th annual festival got under way. Some 70,000 people were expected in attendance at Black Rock City, a temporary camp in the remote desert of Nevada. An August 19, 2010 memo from the FBI to all field offices says the Bureau would work with the local authorities to “aid in the prevention of terrorist activities and intelligence collection.” Another memo, a week later, says the Bureau was contacted by a security company hired by Burning Man to do a threat assessment. The FBI said it had “no intelligence indicating any outside threats, domestic or international,” to the event. To the Bureau’s knowledge, the greatest threats during the festival were “crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants.” Even so, the Bureau’s Las Vegas office sent an unspecified number of agents to attend Burning Man, citing the “ongoing war on terrorism and potential for additional acts of terrorism” in the US. The agents filed a report on September 27, noting that the festival passed “with no adverse threats or actions.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued almost 300 citations and arrested 8 people at the 2010 event, attended by more than 50,000 ‘Burners’...more

What’s Really Melting: Obama’s Alaskan Lies

President Obama’s hike up the rapidly melting Exit Glacier today has run into some unfortunate buzzkill: reality. The hike is supposed to be the high point of this week’s trip to Alaska, undertaken for the purpose of dramatizing global warming. The media pitch is that Exit Glacier has been rapidly retreating for decades because of global warming. Sadly for the President’s play acting, though, the National Park Service  previously reported that Exit Glacier has been exiting since at least the early 1800s — before the Industrial Revolution even got underway...more

Mount McKinley has new name and 10 feet less

The recently renamed mountain, Denali, is 10 feet shorter according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), although it keeps being the highest mountain in the US. Formerly known as Mount McKinley, the mountain now measures 20,310 feet at its highest point. As a part of the USGS program to update the elevations of the mountains in Alaska and elsewhere, the team of the agency collected data from Denali through actual ground measurements. Since June 15 one climber from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and three climbers from the private survey company CompassData Inc., spent 14 days examining the structure using Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment...more

More grazing wouldn’t have stopped Soda Fire, BLM says, but it can be a tool to reduce fuels

Ranchers repeatedly said that the Soda Fire would not have been so large had they been allowed to have their cattle graze more of the grasses that had grown thick with spring rains. “We’ll never stop all wildfires, but if we can utilize that grass before it becomes fuel, then we can stop those fires before they get catastrophic,” said Wyatt Prescott, executive director of the Idaho Cattle Association. “That’s why we say graze it, don’t blaze it.” Now ranchers will have to wait years to return their herds to the public land, and sage grouse might have to wait decades before the sagebrush ecosystem is recovered. But ranchers consistently overstate the potential to stop wildfires with more grazing, Bureau of Land Management leaders insist. They and firefighters said that extreme winds and other weather factors overwhelmed the fuel conditions on the 279,000-acre Soda Fire.  Studies conducted by the University of Idaho and others support the BLM’s argument, most notably studies done after the 2007 Murphy Springs Fire that burned more than 600,000 acres. The multiagency study team, headed by Karen Launchbaugh, of the University of Idaho, said the extreme conditions on that fire, similar to the Soda Fire, overwhelmed all else. “The team found that much of the Murphy Wildland Fire Complex burned under extreme fuel and weather conditions that likely overshadowed livestock grazing as a factor influencing fire extent and fuel consumption in many areas where these fires burned,” the team’s report said...more

Read more here:

French 'ranchers' kidnap park official to protest wolf attacks in Alps

Around 50 angry farmers have kidnapped the chief of a national park in the Alps, demanding he take action against repeated wolf attacks on their livestock. Farmers in France have grown exasperated in recent years after seeing their sheep repeatedly slaughtered by the rising wolf population in certain parts of the country. While the government has authorised for wolves to be killed in certain areas where attacks have taken place, farmers have grown frustrated that not enough is being done. On Tuesday evening a group of around 50 farmers took the extreme step of kidnapping the president of the National Park of Vanoise in the Alps along with the park’s director. They made the move to hold Guy Chaumereuil and Emmanuel Michau hostage against their will following a pubic meeting on the park's new charter. According to farmers there have been 130 deadly attacks against livestock this summer compared to 105 last year...more

Cattle raising, deforestation and ongoing tensions between conservation and development in the Amazon

Anthropologist Jeffrey Hoelle is as great an advocate of the Amazonian rainforest as the most ardent environmentalist. However, he argues, understanding the issues related to deforestation—or development, depending on how you look at it—requires a broad view that takes into account not only political and economic factors, but also the culture of the area. "Deforestation is a byproduct of a lot of other factors," explained Hoelle, an assistant professor of anthropology at UC Santa Barbara who conducts research in the remote state of Acre in Brazil. "But the principal reason people cut down the forest there is to prepare the land for cattle. To understand that, we have to understand the policies and economics, as well as the sensibilities of the people involved and how they are shared within the region." In his new book, "Rainforest Cowboys: The Rise of Ranching and Cattle Culture in Western Amazonia" (University of Texas Press, 2015), Hoelle examines the complex social and cultural forces driving the expansion of cattle raising in the Amazon. Through research featuring a complex and contradictory host of characters he describes as "carnivorous" environmentalists, vilified ranchers and urbanites with no land or cattle, he shows that cattle raising is about much more than beef production or deforestation. As Hoelle notes in his book, the opening of the Amazon to colonization in the 1970s brought cattle, land conflict and widespread deforestation. In Acre, rubber tappers fought against migrant ranchers to preserve the forest they relied on and, in the process, these "forest guardians" showed the world that it was possible to unite forest livelihoods and environmental preservation. Nowadays, many rubber tappers and their children are turning away from the forest-based lifestyle they once sought to protect and becoming cattle-raisers or even "caubois" (cowboys). According to Hoelle, culture is as common a driver of deforestation as politics and economics. "Our understanding in the U.S. of what it means to own cattle, and the desire of wealthy professionals to reconnect with the countryside or to buy a ranch or a farm—all these things are linked even in the Amazon," he said. "People are raising cattle there because it's worth more than the forest, but you can't separate that from what it means to be someone who—especially in the forest—is able to control or cultivate that," Hoelle continued. "It acquires an even greater significance in terms of masculinity and nature control." With "Rainforest Cowboys," he looks to show how the cowboy sensibility drives land changes and deforestation. "If you don't clear your land, it looks like you aren't using it and others can claim it," he said. "But also important is the idea that clearing your land shows you're a masculine person; you're developed; you're progressive compared to the Indians living in the forest. These ideas of nature connect with cowboy popular culture and music, and the frontier experiences of landowners to create a context in which raising cattle—and cutting down the forest—makes sense."...more

New Land Ownership Data Add Value to Many Policy and Research Questions

Whether they farm the land themselves or rent it out to others to farm, those who own agricultural land are taking measures to keep the land in their families. This is good news for those who worry about the United States losing agricultural land to competing pressures. At USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, we just released the findings from a survey of agricultural landowners conducted earlier this year. It confirmed some things we know already and generated lots of new information that farmers, policymakers, businesses and others will use to understand more about who owns farmland, who has and will have access to farmland in the future, what kinds of conservation and production decision landowners are making, and lots more. This is the first time this much information about agricultural landownership is available since NASS conducted a similar survey in 1999. We know from the Census of Agriculture that the United States has more than 900 million acres of farmland – two fifths of all our land.  The new survey, called the 2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey, tells us a lot about the 39 percent of farmland – some 354 million acres – that landowners rent out for agricultural purposes. An important set of information to come from this new survey relates to landowners’ future plans. TOTAL asked landowners what they plan to do with all their land, not just the land they rent out. Out of all U.S. farmland, about 10 percent, or 91.5 million acres, is expected to transfer to new ownership in the next five years, with the Northeast, Plains, and West regions transferring larger shares than the U.S. average or other regions. Almost half of the land transfer will take place through trust arrangements...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1481

Here's one for A-10, another one of those High Culture renditions that he is so fond of:  Jimmie Ballard - Chicken Plucker.  The tune is on the Movin' On CD put out by Collector Records.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Will Government Officials Be Held Accountable for Kate Steinle’s Death?

In an attempt to hold government officials accountable for the shooting death of their 32-year-old daughter Kate, the Steinle family filed a lawsuit against three government agencies. The suit alleges that those agencies are in part responsible for Steinle’s death, but experts say the family has little chance at prevailing. “Unfortunately, prior lawsuits against cities over their sanctuary policies that were directly responsible for the murder of American citizens have been unsuccessful due to sovereign immunity,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.  Steinle was fatally shot in San Francisco on July 1 by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. Lopez-Sanchez is an illegal immigrant who had seven prior felony convictions in the U.S. and was deported to Mexico five separate times. He was released from a San Francisco jail in April under a city law barring the jail’s deputies from informing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of his release, despite the agency’s previous notification request. The Steinles filed the lawsuit in hopes that San Francisco and the other 200-some sanctuary cities will reform their policies, which the family claims are illegal, so that no one else will experience what happened to their daughter. The Steinles’ lawsuit alleges that the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—and San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi—directly contributed to Kate’s death by neglecting to oversee different aspects that led to her being shot. Their claim against the Bureau of Land Management is that the agency didn’t follow regulations in properly securing the gun Lopez-Sanchez stole and used to kill their daughter Mirkarimi, the sheriff implicated in the lawsuit, is accused of failing to detain Lopez-Sanchez. In a statement, Mirkarimi voiced sympathy for the family but says he was only following city policy. The lawsuit accuses Immigration and Customs Enforcement of being aware that Mirkarimi had no plans to detain Lopez-Sanchez unless they obtained a court warrant, but the agency neglected to do so...more

In Trashing Land, the EPA Has Nothing on the Forest Service

by William Perry Pendley

Americans now comprehend fully the disdain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has for truth-telling, the rights of others, and the environment.  Forget the last six spiteful years; the Colorado mine disaster suffices.  The EPA’s wanton malfeasance—experts warned of a catastrophic blowout—unleashed three million gallons of orange arsenic-, cadmium-, and lead-laden wastewater into an Animas River tributary trashing public, private, and tribal lands and waters in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation.  Even so, the EPA has nothing on the U.S. Forest Service.  
In documents filed days ago in a federal district court in Arkansas, the agency and its lawyers demand dismissal of a $5 million lawsuit against the United States for decades of tortious use and abuse of a Scot-Irish family’s farmland settled one hundred years before the Ozark National Forest’s creation made the Forest Service the family’s neighbor.  Worse yet, Conner Eldridge, the United States Attorney for Arkansas, argues that, because the Forest Service trespassed upon Matthew McIlroy’s farm for years, the government owns the land!  The assertion, which has no factual or legal support, is asinine, absurd, and in conflict with an admonition of the Supreme Court of the United States. 

In 1808, Mr. McIlroy’s family left Tennessee, crossed the Mississippi River, and homesteaded south of the Ozark Plateau’s Boston Mountains and north of the Arkansas River at Fly Gap, Beech Grove, and Cass.  Arkansas Territory was established in 1819; Arkansas won statehood in 1836; and the million-acre Ozark National Forest, which surrounded the McIlroy farmland, was proclaimed in 1908.  

In 1933, Congress created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and put a camp in the Ozark National Forest near Cass.  After World War II, the CCC was discontinued, but in 1964 the newly created Job Corps took over the site.  Soon, Mr. McIlroy’s grandfather, W.C. McIlroy, discovered Job Corps students trespassing on and littering his property, damaging his fences, and destroying his hay; his objections went unanswered.  In 1971, W.L. McIlroy took over the farm and noticed the Forest Service had drilled a well on his property.  He protested, but agency officials said the well was on federal land, a lie repeated for decades.

In 1973, unbeknownst to W.L. McIlroy, the Job Corps used heavy equipment to tear down a 100-year old levee built upstream of the farm at the confluence of Mulberry River and Fane’s Creek to protect the farm and the Jobs Corps site.  The result was flooding and erosion downstream, alteration of the bed of Mulberry River due to silting and deposits of eroded rock, and destruction of 10 acres of farmland.  The Forest Service’s “mitigation” exacerbated the damage, widening the channel across the farm.

In 1998, when Mr. McIlroy took over the farm, he discovered a section of fence had been flattened and a sewage effluent line installed over it and across 50-60 yards of farmland to discharge waste into Mulberry River.  Then he found out the agency:  put a “temporary,” quarter-mile water line across his land that blocked entry to his farm; used the water well—even though a federal survey proved it was on the farm; brought heavy equipment onto the farm to blade dirt and drag drainage ditches; built a service road across the farm to access the well and the sewage effluent line and poured concrete on the road when it eroded; used the farmland for heavy equipment training—digging down to creek rock, causing serious erosion, destroying fences, and loosening livestock; and, dumped concrete and construction waste on its property near the farm, effluent from which washed onto the farm.

The Forest Service documented its “encroachment” but took no action.  In 2013, Mr. McIlroy filed a claim that the United States ignored, so in October of 2014, he sued.  As his case makes its way through the courts, he wonders whether his clansmen in William Wallace’s days ever saw greater abuses by “the King’s men.”

For more information: McIlroy v. United States of America

Caltrans proposes wildlife overpass on 101 Freeway

Mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife would have less chance of becoming roadkill if the state adopts a plan to build a landscaped bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, supporters of the proposal said Wednesday. State agencies, elected officials and wildlife advocates urged the state to provide the much-needed link in an area where rampant development and highways have fragmented once-continuous habitat. The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass near Liberty Canyon Road would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. Building the nation’s largest wildlife overpass would be ambitious, said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. At the proposed site, the highway has 10 lanes of pavement, including exit lanes. “I don’t know anywhere where people have tried to put such a large wildlife crossing over such a busy highway in such an urban landscape,” said Riley, who has led the mountain lion study. Scientists long ago identified Liberty Canyon as the optimal location to build a wildlife passage because of the large swaths of protected public land on either side of the freeway. On Wednesday, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority released a long-awaited study by Caltrans concluding that a wildlife overpass was feasible. The projected cost would be $33 million to $38 million, according to the report. Proponents said they plan to seek most of the money from public coffers...more

I've previously posted on a Toad Road, a Bee Highway, Prairie Dog Peanut Butter, and Birdy Birth Control.  To those we can now add a Bobcat Bridge.

Green energy company fights for life after getting billions from feds

Abengoa, a renewable energy multinational company headquartered in Spain, has been a favorite of the Obama administration in getting federal tax money for clean energy projects. Since 2009, Abengoa and its subsidiaries, according to estimates, have received $2.9 billion in grants and loan guarantees through the Department of Energy to undertake solar projects in California and Arizona — as well as the construction of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas. But in the space of less than a year, Abengoa’s financial health has become critical, leading investors to worry whether the company can survive. The company’s stock price on NASDAQ has swooned — from $29.32 on Sept. 2, 2014 to $5.62 on Tuesday...At last week’s close, Abengoa’s high-yield bondholders were scrambling amid concerns over company covenants. This came after news of Abengoa’s plans to increase capital. BloombergBusiness described Abengoa SA as “distressed,” and the company’s troubles are fueling speculation bankruptcy may be in the offing.  The investment management website recently listed Abengoa’s probability for bankruptcy at 76.9 percent...more

Three trillion trees - Study finds there are 7.5 times more trees than previously believed

A new Yale-led study estimates that there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, about seven and a half times more than some previous estimates. But the total number of trees has plummeted by roughly 46 percent since the start of human civilization, the study estimates. Using a combination of satellite imagery, forest inventories, and supercomputer technologies, the international team of researchers was able to map tree populations worldwide at the square-kilometer level. Their results, published in the journal Nature, provide the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever produced and offer new insights into a class of organism that helps shape most terrestrial biomes. The new insights can improve the modeling of many large-scale systems, from carbon cycling and climate change models to the distribution of animal and plant species, say the researchers. "Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on Earth, yet we are only recently beginning to comprehend their global extent and distribution," said Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study. "They store huge amounts of carbon, are essential for the cycling of nutrients, for water and air quality, and for countless human services," he added. "Yet you ask people to estimate, within an order of magnitude, how many trees there are and they don't know where to begin. I don't know what I would have guessed, but I was certainly surprised to find that we were talking about trillions."...more

Officials say no plans to rename Mount Rainier as Mount Tacoma

Since President Barack Obama decided to rename Mount McKinley, why not also restore the Native American name of Mount Rainier, the iconic Washington state peak named for a British admiral who fought the Americans during the Revolutionary War? That’s what advocates in the long battle to rename Mount Rainier as Mount Tacoma or Tahoma want to know. “It’s a much more compelling argument to rename the mountain here than in Alaska,” said Bill Baarsma, former mayor of the city of Tacoma and president of the Tacoma Historical Society. “Why are we continuing to name this mountain after a British admiral that slayed Americans in the Revolutionary War?” Federal officials, though, say there are no plans to rename Mount Rainier and that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s order changing Mount McKinley to its Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali was unique. “This was maybe a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Lou Yost, executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which normally approves such renaming...more

SHOCK: As Americans Bought 170 Million Guns, Violent Crime Fell 51%

On August 28, the NRA presented ATF and FBI data showing Americans have purchased “170 million new guns” since 1991, and violent crime has fallen “51 percent.” This information squares with the findings of a Congressional Research Service (CRS) study covering the slightly shorter period of time from 1994 to 2009. For those years, CRS found that Americans purchased approximately 118 million firearms, and the 1993 “firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide” rate of 6.6 per 100,000 fell to 3.6 per 100,000 by the year 2000. It eventually fell all the way to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2011.  That is more than a 50 percent reduction in “firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide.” Then, in 2009—the year the CRS study ended—Obama took office and gun sales began their climb to record levels, which made covering the gap between the 118 million guns that had been purchased by 2009 and the “170 million new guns” that Americans would own by 2015 an easy gap to bridge...more

Lawsuit: Western sheep operators colluded against workers

Two former shepherds from Peru are accusing key players in the sheep industry in the western U.S. of conspiring to keep wages low for foreign workers. Rodolfo Llacua and Esliper Huaman, represented by a Denver law firm called Towards Justice, are seeking to have their lawsuit treated as a class-action case seeking damages for current and former shepherds across the West. The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District court in Denver, targets the Salt Lake City-based Western Range Association and Casper, Wyoming-based Mountain Plains Agricultural Service. The companies place foreign workers with sheep operations.  "The amount they paid us never seemed right," Huaman said in a statement released by his lawyers. "Many fellow shepherds are still suffering under these low wages, and I hope that I can help benefit them through this complaint." Llacua and Huaman say in their lawsuit that the Western Range Association and Mountain Plains Agricultural Service, as well as ranchers who hire foreign workers through them, violated anti-trust laws by colluding to keep wages at the minimum levels required by the federal government. "We think that people working as shepherds should be fairly compensated, pursuant to regular market forces," said Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice. Huaman is now working in Utah, while Llacua is in Colorado, she said. Stung into action recently by an earlier lawsuit brought by U.S. sheepherders who claimed the foreign worker program was keeping wages artificially low, the U.S. Department of Labor early this year proposed a new rule that would ramp up pay for the herders up to $2,400 a month by 2020...more

BACK IN TIME: Questions still linger about Roswell

By Bill Modisett

ROSWELL, N.M. On July 8, 1947, Lt. Walter Haut, public information officer at the Roswell Army Air Field, issued a press release that stated the air field was in possession of a “flying disc” it had gained through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers.

Thus began one of the most intriguing, perplexing incidents in the history of the West Texas-Southeastern New Mexico region. To this day, 68 years later, what really occurred near Corona, N.M., in 1947 has never been satisfactorily explained.

Haut’s news release, issued on the direct orders of Roswell base commander Col. William Blanchard, read as follows:

 “The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County.

 “The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.

 “Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.”

The somewhat earth-shattering announcement that an actual “flying disc” had been located came as a not quite so surprising correction of sorts. About three hours after the first story was released, another story was issued that explained the “flying disc” was nothing more than the radar reflector from a wandering weather balloon that had been misidentified by the first people to see it.

Soon thereafter, Brigadier Gen. Roger Ramey went on a Fort Worth radio station to explain what, he said, had actually happened. A weather balloon, he said, had crashed on the ranch. It was nothing more. So the public’s concern about the “flying disc” that had crashed in New Mexico was supposedly resolved.

Or was it?

According to the story told by rancher William “Mac” Brazel, whatever crashed on his ranch that night occurred during a violent rainstorm, but the sound of the crash was not that of the typical thunder in the Roswell area. It was significantly different. As a result, the next morning Brazel and a young neighbor, 7-year-old Dee Proctor, went out checking for possible damage to fences or windmills.

 “No damage to fences or windmills could be found, but something quite unexpected arrested their attention: a field full of bits of pieces of shiny material unlike anything the veteran rancher had ever seen,” stated the book “Crash at Corona: The U.S. Military Retrieval and Cover-Up of a UFO” by Don Berliner and Stanton T. Friedman.

 “According to newspaper reports at the time, Mac gathered some of it up and hid it under a bush or in a shed. He kept a few pieces, one of which he took with him when he drove Dee the few miles back to the home of his parents, Floyd and Loretta Proctor, his nearest neighbors.”

During the next few decades, the military stuck to their official explanation for the crash although very few people apparently accepted it. Brazel had found weather balloons before and he knew and said that the debris on his ranch was not from a weather balloon.

Unhurried in Hachita

To appreciate Hatchita, a small town of about 30 people at the entrance to the bootheel of southwestern New Mexico, you must first appreciate the landscape that surrounds it. The two are entwined, one dependent on the other, like the towering yuccas that populate this land and the delicate yucca moths that pollinate them. Here is New Mexico in all its subtle beauty. Olive-green mesquite bushes, yucca blossoms the color of white smoke, brushy broomweed plants, and the occasional wildflower—all leaning slightly sideways from the steady nudge of the westerly wind, scattered across a valley whose reach is only halted by the Mexican border. To the south rise the Big Hatchet Mountains, crooked and imposing; to the west, the Little Hatchet, from which the town of Hachita derived its name...

There are more houses in Hachita today than people, and to understand why requires understanding the origins of Hachita, which in turn requires a trip out to the Little Hatchet Mountains.
Scattered among the low foothills are the sun-baked ruins of an old mining town. This was the first location to be called Hachita, sometime in the 1870s as part of the Eureka mining district. Miners here dropped into the earth and returned with silver, copper, and turquoise. An old headframe still stands, as do the walls of hardscrabble buildings, including a main house, a dance hall, and two powder magazines, double-walled to force an explosion to blow upward out the roof.

When the railroad arrived in the valley around 1901, bringing the possibilities of new economies, residents of Hachita built houses closer to the rails. This became “New Hachita,” while the mining camp was referred to as “Old Hachita.” As mining profits declined over the subsequent years, only the hardiest souls remained in the mountains—one old-timer lived here until the 1970s.

New Hachita did well enough to drop the “New.” A grade school and high school opened, and a two-story hotel, a giant mercantile store, and other businesses arose along Railroad Avenue, now Highway 9. (Today the yuccas follow suit, crowding against the highway as if waiting for the light to change.)

Proximity to the railroad and shipping pens made Hachita an important headquarters for area ranches. Those ranches are still around: the Hatchet Ranch, the Hurt Ranch, the Diamond A.

Lawrence Hurt is one of the owners of Hurt Cattle Company. He invites me to view a roundup, something I’ve not seen before. I arrive early that morning at a corral on his ranch; I know I’m in the right place when I see the pickup trucks, their windshields reflecting the spinning fan of the Aermotor windmill by the water tank. As the morning sun lifts itself over the Big Hatchet Mountains and the last vestiges of the night disappear in a red glow on the western horizon, Lawrence and the other men ride off on their horses into the rugged, raging beauty of the desert at dawn.

In the distance, I watch as a blue and white object maneuvers back and forth in the sky, gliding, then angling right, then left again: a Robinson R22 Beta II helicopter.

Hank Hays is at the controls. Hank has been working at the Hurt Ranch for 16 years now as, in the words of his tongue-in-cheek business card, a “Bovine Pursuit Specialist.” Hank previously flew helicopters in the US Border Patrol and cowboyed in his youth, so he came into this job familiar with both the terrain and the duties. During spring and fall roundups, he herds cattle from above—careful not to separate the calves from their mothers—letting them move safely to the corral. The helicopter saves time and money. What once took two dozen men three days can now be done by only a few in a matter of hours.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Judge blocks Endangered Species Act listing of lesser prairie chicken

The Western District Court of Texas vacated a 2014 “threatened” listing of the lesser prairie chicken Tuesday on the grounds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) incorrectly determined that voluntary conservation action wouldn't be enough to protect the bird. The lesser prairie chicken was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act last March after FWS determined conservation efforts on the part of landowners and industry would not assuage the bird's population decline. According to the agency, the species' population has fallen 84 percent in the last 15 years due to habitat degradation and drought.  Permian Basin Petroleum Association, an oil and gas trade group, challenged the listing in court along with four New Mexico counties, claiming that the voluntary support was sufficient. Several other energy sector companies have come out in strong opposition of regulatory protections for the bird as well, claiming that land use restrictions throughout the bird's five-state Great Plains range would unduly burden energy exploration and extraction.  In his opinion, District Judge Robert Junell agreed with PBPA. “The Court finds FWS did conduct an analysis” of stakeholder participation, “however this analysis was neither ‘rigorous' nor valid as FWS failed to consider important questions and material information necessary to make a proper … evaluation,” Junell wrote in his decision...more

Texas judge halts 'threatened' listing of lesser prairie chicken 

...In a 29-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell found the Fish and Wildlife Service did not follow their own rule for evaluating conservation efforts when making listing decisions about the lesser prairie chicken. “This caused FWS to arbitrarily and capriciously list the LPC as a threatened species,” Junell wrote. The plaintiffs in the case were the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four New Mexico counties. Defendants were the Fish and Wildlife Service, FWS Director Daniel Ashe, the Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The plaintiffs challenged whether the FWS followed its own rules, properly explained its decision and responded to the plaintiffs’ concerns. While the judge sided with the plaintiffs on the first claim, he ruled in favor of the defendants in the other two claims. The Fish and Wildlife Service has said the “threatened” listing last year was the result of a steep decline in the bird’s population in recent years. Five states are home to the lesser prairie chicken: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. However, a recent aerial survey by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Association found an estimated 29,162 lesser prairie chickens, an increase from 19,643 in 2013 and 23,363 in 2014...

Sen. Lisa Murkowski fights for King Cove access road as Obama visits Alaska

As President Obama treks across Alaska this week, leading Republicans in Washington say they will continue to fight the administration over its refusal to approve a potentially lifesaving road in a remote corner of the state. The Interior Department in late 2013 rejected a plan to build a road to provide direct land access to King Cove, an Alaskan community of fewer than 1,000 people accessible only by air and water. The administration — which continues to defend its decision to block the road — and other opponents argue that construction would disturb pristine areas of the protected Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Supporters say Mr. Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other officials are putting lives in danger because residents of King Cove now must rely on air transport in the case of medical emergency. Two dozen residents have been transported off the island via medevac since Ms. Jewell rejected the 11-mile road plan, according to the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican. Ms. Murkowski now is trying to force the issue by including in Interior Department appropriations legislation provisions to build the road. Her bill would facilitate a land swap between Alaska and the federal government, setting aside other parts of the state as protected wilderness and removing barriers to the construction of the King Cove road. It’s unclear whether the provisions will survive budget negotiations. The push for the road has been renewed as Mr. Obama spends three days in Anchorage and tours other parts of the state...more

“King Cove is the perfect opportunity for conservationists to say, ‘You know what, there are times when we have to make allowances and put people first.’ It would really earn a lot of good will,” said Robert Dillon, spokesman for Ms. Murkowski.

Wilderness is the exact opposite, as it puts people on the bottom of the totem pole and is by legislative definition roadless.  Put a road through a Wilderness area? Don't expect the enviros to "put people first" because of the precedent it would set.

Obama asks Congress to mark National Park Service centennial

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass a bill recognizing the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service (NPS) next year. Obama will ask Congress to fund infrastructure improvements at NPS facilities and establish an endowment fund for future upgrades and projects at the parks. The bill, which Obama will formally announce and send to Congress after he visits a national park in Alaska on Tuesday, would look to increase funding for an NPS volunteer program and expand eligibility for a fund that hires young workers. It would also strengthen education programs at parks and allow the NPS to provide new services for visitors, such as lodging and dining, according to the Interior Department. The National Parks Service will mark its centennial next August, and administration officials say Congress should pass legislation expanding and improving the NPS to mark the occasion...more

The World’s First Clean Oil Sands Project: An Interview With Dr. Gerald Bailey

After decades of exhaustive attempts to overcome the dirty reputation of oil sands, we finally have an environmentally-friendly and low cost method to tap into these vast resources in the state of Utah—good news both for Mother Nature and all oil and gas investors. MCW Energy Group’s CEO, former Exxon President of the Arabian Gulf region, Dr. R. Gerald Bailey, tells in an exclusive interview that his hunt for an innovative technology that simultaneously makes money and cleans up the environment is over. The race to capitalize on Utah’s vast oil sands resources is on, and only the ‘clean’—both financially and environmentally—will survive. Coming hot off of the successful launch of clean oil sands operations in Utah, while other oil sands projects are under fire from protesters, Dr. Bailey discusses:
The difference between Utah and Alberta when it comes to oil sands resources.
How new technology can—and is—extracting oil sands without harming the environment.
Why the new technology is as much about remediation as it is about extraction
How to create new revenue streams and use the resulting clean sand for other purposes.
Why it’s finally possible to make money extracting oil from oil sands cleanly—despite the current world’s depressed oil prices...more

'Jurassic National Monument' proposal gets local support

A proposal from two congressmen to convert a central Utah dinosaur fossil quarry rich in Jurassic-period bones into a national monument gained a key endorsement Tuesday from county officials. The Emery County public lands council voted unanimously to back a plan that would elevate the Cleveland-Lloyd dinosaur fossil quarry to what could be known as the "Jurassic National Monument," said Randy Johnson, Emery County's public lands adviser. The Emery County commission is also expected to back the idea. The quarry was designated a national natural landmark in 1966, and it is a mecca for paleontologists who have been coming since the 1920s to dig in what the Bureau of Land Management says is the densest concentration of Jurassic-period bones in the world. More than 12,000 fossils have been discovered. "It's a great idea. It's a national treasure out there, and it's unexploited," Johnson said. "Nobody knows about it, and it gets very little use. It deserves to be enhanced and protected." Making the site into a national monument would require Congressional approval. The idea is being promoted by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz as part of a broad eastern Utah land deal the congressman has been working on with Rep. Rob Bishop. They plan to introduce it later this year. Ethan Migliori, chair of the Emery County Commission, said he has heard only minimal opposition, and that most of it came from ranchers worried about losing cattle-grazing rights in the monument's boundaries. Migliori said they have been assured that won't happen, clearing the way for widespread support...more

You would expect Bishop and Chaffetz to have strong grazing language in their legislation.  We'll be watching to see.

The EPA Assaults the Private Sector – and the Environment

by Seton Motley

...In 2009, the federal government had at least 2,748,978 employees – and 97.6% of civilian federal employees were in the executive branch (and do you think that tally has ticked up a bit during the Barack Obama Administration?) These are the departments, agencies, commissions and boards populated by people who do very little but promulgate and impose regulations – and enforce them.

But government doesn’t even enforce their own rules well. Because in addition to being boorish and overbearing, unilateral and tyrannical – government is unavoidably, inherently incompetent. Because of (at least) two immutable rules of human nature – the Wallet Rule and the Yellow Pages Rule.

The Wallet Rule: “You go out on a Friday night with your wallet. You go out the following Friday night with my wallet. On which Friday night are you going to have more fun?” Obviously you will have more fun with my wallet than yours – because at the end of the revelry you care what your wallet looks like. My wallet? You don’t care quite so much. Government is always using other peoples’ wallets – and the Friday night party never, ever ends.

The Wallet Rule is a key component of the Yellow Pages Rule: “If you can find it in the Yellow Pages (or on – the government shouldn’t be doing it.” Private businesses are operating on their own wallets – so they will do everything better, more wisely and more prudentially than government. Including monitoring their own adherence to governments’ ridiculous regulations.

To wit: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In early August, the EPA begrudgingly admitted they spilled three million gallons of toxic bright orange mess into Colorado’s Animas River. Why was there such a huge accumulated reserve of such nastiness for the EPA to spill? Because the EPA mandates it be collected – and the mining company was in successful compliance. If the mining company had committed the spill, they would be fined – by the EPA. Likely to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. Is the EPA subject to similar fines? Of course not.

 But that was a one time assault on the environment – an accidental one-off. The EPA is usually much more careful, right? Of course not.

I like that Yellow Pages rule.  We might just employ it here from time to time.

Orphaned deer, bear attack highlights California drought's role in wildlife-human encounters

The scarcity of food in the wild has been blamed for unusual animal activity during California's drought including a recent bear attack, mountain lion sightings and an uptick in orphaned animals. Diane Nicholas believes a dearth of water and fresh vegetation in the Sierra Foothills is behind what's been the busiest year for her fawn rescue in Loomis, California, near Sacramento. For nine years, the Kindred Spirits Fawn rescue has cared for hundreds of fawns found injured on roads or caught in fences, near dead mothers in the wild or alone on suburban lawns. Nicholas, a 63-year-old interior designer, says she received more baby deer in April than in any other year and is on track to rehabilitate a record 200. Some were found stuck in nearby canals where they had gone in search of water. Five fawns came to her weighing less than 2 pounds, the first she's ever seen them so small. Others were found near underweight mothers that apparently died in childbirth. "These does have been in such poor health that when they give birth it takes it all out of them," Nicholas said. "We have to assume it's a lack of food and water." Marc Kenyon, who oversees the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's human conflict program, says rangers are also seeing an uptick in orphaned mountain lion kittens and bear cubs. He says officials need years of data before determining a drought link because unusual trends may also be driven by climate change, disease or genetics. Meanwhile, Nicholas isn't only worried about deer in the drought. A bear wandered on her property for the first time. Unusual bear activity around the state has raised alarms. An increased number of bears — in new areas — have been spotted in Bakersfield in Southern California. Statewide, there has been an uptick in black bear-human encounters, including a recent non-fatal attack on a man who lives near Yosemite National Park. Wildlife officials say it's indisputable that some bears are expanding their search for food, but populations have been thriving...more

California board drops planned grazing rule

After hearing from ranchers across the state about their different grazing practices and the numerous environmental benefits of grazing, the State Water Resources Control Board has decided to scrap efforts to regulate grazing on a statewide basis to address potential water-quality impacts. Instead, the board has proposed using a regional approach by having the state's nine regional water quality control boards pursue their own regulatory or nonregulatory strategies. The state board will consider adopting a resolution on this proposal on Sept. 16 and is seeking public comments until Sept. 3. The draft resolution comes after the state water board held public listening sessions around the state earlier this year to solicit feedback on its Grazing Regulatory Action Project, or GRAP, which the board proposed late last year. The project raised serious concerns among ranchers, who feared the new rules could limit their food-production activities while yielding little environmental benefits. Many ranchers attended the listening sessions to express their concerns about the proposed project...more

Gray wolf filmed in Black Hills

A gray wolf has appeared where he isn't supposed to be: the Black Hills. The proof of his presence looks like a clip from a nature documentary, a video that shows a lean, long and powerful gray wolf trotting up a forest hillside and stopping at a distance of about 70 yards. The wolf gives an intense stare back toward the camera for only a moment before scurrying into the safety and seclusion of the aspen- and pine-filled forest. The scene wasn't filmed in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, or Minnesota, the wolf's usual habitat. It was shot less than a week ago in a favorite elk-hunting spot by rural Hot Springs resident Lance Verhulst, who is keeping quiet about the exact location, saying only that it is north of Jewel Cave. Verhulst, 47, and a friend were driving along bumpy U.S. Forest Service roads scouting for elk at about 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14 when they saw the animal. Verhulst recorded the whole thing on video

Fish and Wildlife faulted in red wolf shootings

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act twice in the past two years when it gave private landowners permission to kill endangered red wolves near the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina, conservationists said Tuesday in a letter to the agency. The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing three wildlife conservation groups, filed notice of its intent to sue the agency in federal court. In a 13-page letter, the attorneys said Fish and Wildlife officials allowed wolves to be killed on private land without first making an effort, required by law, to trap them alive. “Red wolves are endangered because they need protection and effective management to thrive,” Jason Rylander, an attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a news release. “Allowing the killing of a breeding female wolf is the exact opposite of managing red wolves for recovery.”  Fish and Wildlife has struggled to manage the only existing wild population of red wolves, whose numbers have plunged in recent years from a peak of around 130 in 2006 to an estimated 50 to 75 animals this summer. Nearly two dozen wolves have died from gunshot in recent years, and biologists have counted fewer pups born each year – 19 last year, down from 30 to 50 in previous years. In June the agency said it would stop reintroducing wolves into the wild and will decide by the end of the year whether to improve or abandon its 28-year-old Red Wolf Recovery Program in five counties on the Albemarle Peninsula.  The effort has been marked by years of conflict between Fish and Wildlife and private landowners, and hostile relations with hunters and the state Wildlife Resources Commission. Conservationists have said that the agency is failing to meet its responsibility to protect the endangered wolves...more

 All of the problems and conflicts mentioned in the article have also happened with the Mexican wolf.  But here, the FWS has chosen to expand the recovery, whereas in NC they are may abandon the program.  A great demonstration of the difference between public and private land states.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Groups Fight to Save Rare Weasel in California, Oregon

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to protect the coastal marten, a secretive member of the weasel family, under the Endangered Species Act. The groups, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, petitioned in 2010 for federal protection of the rare carnivore, then known as the Humboldt marten, but the Service issued a decision denying protection earlier this year. A small carnivore related to minks and otters, the coastal marten is found only in old-growth forest and dense coastal shrub in Northern California and southern and central coastal Oregon. Once extensively trapped for their fur, the cat-like animals were once common, but now fewer than 100 of them survive in California, while an unknown, but very small, number are still found in Oregon. These martens’ historic range extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. In Oregon the marten lives in the Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests...more

Survey aims to understand consumer attitudes on farming, sustainability

About 56% of people responding to a recent survey on agriculture and sustainability agree that "farmers and ranchers use new technologies and innovations to protect the environment." But only 47% say "The way that most of today's farming and ranching operations in the U.S. grow and raise food meets the standards of sustainability."  When presented with the statement regarding sustainability of most farming operations, the survey revealed that women are less likely than men to agree that farming and ranching practices are sustainable – 37% of women versus 59% of men responding they are in agreement. USFRA says the survey results will help farmers engage with consumers. Among additional findings:
Consumers are interested in learning more about what farmers and ranchers touch most. The survey revealed a need to frame stories about sustainability around water, soil, air and habitat.
Consumers are interested in the human impact of sustainability. Respondents shared interest in the actions farmers and ranchers are taking to improve human health through access to safe, nutritious food and the impact they are making on the local community, specifically improvements to the social and economic well-being of agriculture communities.
Consumers are interested in how agriculture is focused on the future, versus defining past successes. When discussing sustainability, respondents want to hear about future commitments to the environment versus stories about a farming operations' multi-generational history. Consumers are also interested in learning how farmers and ranchers are doing more with fewer resources and impact, while preserving the land for the next generation...more

 Learn more about the survey on the USFRA website.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1480

This tune goes out to Bobby Jones, who is home and healing.  The song is Clarinet Polka, but its done up fiddle style by Hank Singer.  I understand Bobby can't quite dance to this number yet, but we'll see in a week or so.  The tune is on Singer's 2013 CD Play Fiddle Play

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Twelfth man dies in bull run fiesta after being gored through the heart

A man in his 60s died on Sunday after being gored in a bull run in Spain, bringing the total number of deaths to 12 this year, the deadliest in 15 years.  The man who was visiting from the Basque town of Errenteria died on the spot when he was charged in the chest by a bull at the start of the run in the central town of CuĂ©llar. As usual someone captured the footage of the fatal goring and posted it on YouTube. The horrific footage shows the man being charged by the bull and dragged several meters. He was already dead by the time emergency medical staff reached him...more

Obama on Climate Change: Act Now or Condemn World to a Nightmare

President Barack Obama challenged fellow world leaders in unusually blunt language Monday to act boldly on climate change or "condemn our children to a world they will no longer have the capacity to repair." In a forceful address, Obama opened the "GLACIER" conference in Anchorage, Alaska, by declaring: "We are not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough." That includes the U.S., which Obama said "recognizes our role in creating this problem and embraces our role in solving it." Obama is using the three-day GLACIER conference — it stands for Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience — as a way both to highlight the perils of global warming and to cement his environmental legacy. He directly attacked politicians who argue that climate change isn't real, saying they "are on their own shrinking island." "The time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past," the president said. Unless the world acts more aggressively and more quickly, he said, "entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems: More drought. More floods. Rising sea levels. Greater migration. More refugees. More scarcity. More conflict."...more

Obama’s green pressure tactics exposed: Governors, climate activists help sell agenda

The Obama administration, top climate change crusaders and governors from across the country have engaged in a highly coordinated effort to publicly sell the president’s green agenda and put private pressure on opponents, according to newly released emails and other records obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The striking report from the Energy and Environment Legal Institute’s Christopher Horner — who first revealed Lisa P. Jackson’s use of private email accounts and aliases while at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency — sheds new light on the level of cooperation among top White House officials, billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and other backers of Mr. Obama’s global warming regulations, including restrictions on carbon pollution from power plants. The documents show frequent communication and meetings among Democratic officials at the state and federal levels and, among other environmental groups, representatives of NextGen Climate, a leading climate change advocacy group led by Mr. Steyer. The emails show Rohan Patel, a special assistant to the president and the White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, as a liaison between the administration and state officials and a key figure in developing the broader plan to sell Mr. Obama’s climate proposals...more

E.O. Wilson’s Wants Us to Leave Half of the Earth Alone—Here's Why

At 86, Edward Osborne Wilson, Harvard University research professor emeritus of comparative zoology, is among the most famous scientists of our time. Only Jane Goodall and Stephen Hawking can draw a larger crowd. Over the decades he’s made his mark on evolutionary biology, entomology, environmentalism, and literature. In all there have been 31 books, two of which, On Human Nature and The Ants, received the Pulitzer Prize.  My visit coincides with the completion of Brookhaven book No. 13, tentatively titled Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Scheduled to be published in March 2016, Half-Earth is centered on the unfolding extinction crisis. “Everywhere, you see it,” Wilson laments. “In New Guinea, forests are cut wholesale. In Central America, trying to find the forests, you have to go such long distances. The extinction is accelerating. The conservation organizations, they’ve only saved 20 percent of the endangered species. It’s far below what’s needed.” Half-Earth is his answer to the disaster at hand: a reimagined world in which humans retreat to areas comprising one half of the planet’s landmass. The rest is to be left to the 10 million species inhabiting Earth in a kind of giant national park. In human-free zones, Wilson believes, many endangered species would recover and their extinction would, most likely, be averted. In many ways this respected scholar is risking his reputation of a lifetime with such a radical idea. But then, frankly, he doesn’t think he is the radical. He’s shocked at how inured we’ve all become to habitat destruction.  Supporters say he will be largely respected for his opinions in Half-Earth, even if they are somewhat harsh. Elizabeth Kolbert, who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for The Sixth Extinction, her own investigation into species decline, believes that anything Wilson writes will get a serious hearing. “I think Ed Wilson has influenced everyone working in the field of conservation today,” she told me, “and certainly he has influenced everyone writing about it. Partly this is owing to his pioneering work out in the field, partly to his wonderful books, and partly to his synthesizing intelligence. He has managed to confront the world with some pretty bleak facts without ever losing his sense of wonder.”...more

A Town Without Water

As California faces its fourth year in a drought, the farming region of Tulare County, located three hours north of Los Angeles, is at the epicenter of the crisis. To date, 5,433 residents in this rural region twice the size of Delaware are without water. Most live in East Porterville. Many homes in Tulare County, unlike other drought-afflicted areas, are not connected to a water system; they rely on private wells supplied by groundwater. And for the past 18 months, these wells have been drying up. Over the past year, Office of Emergency Services (OES), a county agency responsible with responding to large-scale disasters, implemented a bottled drinking water program, a mobile shower unit and a 2,500-gallon potable water tanks that are placed outside a home and connected directly to each home’s plumbing system. Despite the county’s efforts, it can take up to six months for a family to receive emergency assistance. Tired of waiting, many families are moving to neighboring towns and out-of-state...more

Appeals Court rules 'Big Mountain Jesus' can stay on Forest Service land

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a statue of Jesus Christ located on a mountaintop memorial to World War II veterans is constitutional. In a Monday decision,the judges upheld a district court ruling that allowed for "Big Mountain Jesus" to remain at Flathead National Forest near Kalispell, Montana.  The judges concluded that while the 60-year-old statue did have a religious appearance, the display has some purposes that are secular in nature. "The government identified secular rationales for its continued authorization including the statue's cultural and historical significance for veterans, Montanans, and tourists; the statue's inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places; and the government's intent to preserve the site 'as a historic part of the resort', read the decision. "Although the dissent focuses on the monument's appearance, that the statue is of a religious figure, and that some of the initial impetus for the statue's placement was religiously motivated, does not end the matter." In 1953, a Knights of Columbus chapter built a monument at Big Mountain to commemorate the sacrifices of World War II American soldiers. It had a statue of Jesus with arms outstretched. The monument also had a plaque dedicated to WWII soldiers and was privately maintained. Every 10 years the permit for the monument was renewed with the Flathead National Forest. In 2010, The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded that the Forest Service not renew the permit. While the Service initially agreed, public outcry led them to reconsider...more

Shock Therapy is Saving Endangered California Condors

North America’s largest bird is on the verge of extinction, and scientists are using shock therapy to give them a fighting chance. The California condor’s wings stretch nearly 10 feet across to help them glide atop air currents while they search for a meal to scavenge. Power lines are a formidable foe for these birds because their large size makes it easier for them to be electrocuted. Now, with fewer than 500 California condors remaining, researchers are administering gentle shocks to teach the birds to avoid these dangerous obstacles. It’s common to see birds sitting atop power lines unharmed. That’s because it’s safe to touch a single line, but touching two at a time can be fatal. California condors’ large size means they are much more likely to strike two lines at a time. So scientists at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are hoping to increase California condors’ power line awareness by constructing faux power lines in training pens that gently shock the birds to instill an aversion to power lines.
Researchers started placing training power lines in condor sanctuaries at the zoo, and the birds learned to avoid the cables after receiving a few zaps. According to a study published in Biological Conservation, 66 percent of untrained condors released from the sanctuary died of electrocution, but that number dropped to 18 percent with training by 2011. “Utility lines are not a significant problem anymore,” Bruce Rideout, one of the study’s authors, told New Scientist...more

Parents of SF pier murder victim to file legal claim

SAN FRANCISCO — The parents of a San Francisco woman shot to death by a man being sought for deportation plan to file legal claims against San Francisco and federal officials in connection with her killing. Kathryn Steinle's parents, Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan, will reveal details Tuesday of their claim against San Francisco's Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold them accountable for the woman's death. Kathryn Steinle was shot to death on Pier 14 on July 1 as she walked with her father. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a 45-year-old Mexican immigrant who was facing possible deportation, has pleaded not guilty to her murder. Her slaying touched off a national conversation about immigration policy and so-called "sanctuary cities."  AP

Maybe now we'll find out how the killer wound up with a BLM Ranger's gun.  See: Press Remarkably Incurious About BLM Agent Behind Stolen Gun Used in SF Slaying

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1479

This is Johnny Horton's 1951, undubbed recording of Done Rovin'

Monday, August 31, 2015

A discussion on the federal lands livestock industry and it's future

I recently posted an excerpt from an excellent Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal by Andy Rieber, but took exception to one small part. My comments were the following:

Unfortunately, the author then goes on to say AMPs would have resolved all this:

 Some BLM districts write “allotment management plans” with grazing permittees for precisely this purpose—to develop sustainable grazing systems and clarify standards so ranchers can be knowledgeable participants in the management of the range. But not at the BLM’s Battle Mountain District. Not only has staff there never bothered to develop an allotment management plan for Argenta and North Buffalo, they have categorically failed to form a working partnership with ranchers. Instead they chose to leave ranchers to muddle along without a sustainable grazing system or necessary range improvements, and then shut them down when (surprise) unmanaged grazing affects delicate stream banks. This BLM district was effectively setting the ranchers up to fail, instead of helping them to succeed.

Can't help but notice the condescending attitude towards ranchers. They can't be "knowledgeable participants" without an AMP and are just left to "muddle along" without a government plan aimed at "helping them to succeed." Ranchers are apparently incapable of designing a "sustainable grazing system" without direction from the government. 

Horse puckey.

Do you think its just a miracle that over 528 million acres of private land are successfully grazed by livestock?  Of course not.  We need less gov't planning, not more. 

I then received this interesting reply from Ms. Rieber:

Sorry Frank, you are miles off base. There is nothing in this piece that is remotely "condescending" to ranchers. I have basically devoted my career to working for this industry for a reason—namely the deep respect I have for the people in it and for the agricultural endeavor of raising cattle on the western ranges. If I thought ranchers were idiots, I would not be contracting with the Public Lands Council, State Cattlemen's affiliate organizations, and individual ranchers to keep them out on the public land. Nor, as you imply, do I anywhere state that AMPs are the be-all-end-all solution to the problems ranchers face with the BLM. In many ways, the BLM is a profoundly broken agency. It has come adrift from its mission as a "multiple use" agency, and is now largely staffed with wildlife biologists and ecologists who know nothing (and care nothing) for range management. Much must be done to bring this agency back into line with the mission that it was originally intended to serve. That said, cooperatively writing effective AMPs is one small but critical piece of this process. Why? Several reasons. First, AMPS (when done correctly) empower ranchers to work together with the agency to develop a plan that works equally well for land and cattle. Since ranchers are leasing from the federal government, it is inevitable that the government will have requirements and standards. So, either the ranchers can be locked out of the management process (as they were in Battle Mountain), or, as it should be, they can jointly develop a plan with the BLM that accommodates all needs. Both sides have important information to bring to the table. But if the ranchers don't know what the BLM's ecological goals and objectives are, they are powerless to apply the most effective management practices. Then they get kicked off. That's what we're trying to avoid here.

Of course, you claim that "we need less government planning, not more," I suppose implying that if the BLM just leaves ranchers alone, all will be well. There are two problems with you view. First, it is wildly unrealistic. Public lands ranchers lease from the federal government. Barring a highly unlikely victory for the states seeking transfer of federal lands to state ownership, this situation will not change. As you well know, FLPMA and other laws require the BLM to set rangeland health standards and to manage the land for ecological health as well as natural resource use. Do you honestly think that by wishing this away, it will be so? Hardly. We must work within the existing laws, or, if you like, seek to change those laws. (If you begin a campaign to repeal FLPMA, let me know how that goes.) One of the most disturbing problems is that the laws and regulations in place often support fair, cooperative management between the BLM and permittees, but the agency has made a practice of ignoring the law. If Battle Mountain had been following the grazing regs, they would never had been able to steamroll the ranchers. What we should be doing, therefore, is to insist that the agencies follow the laws that govern them (by litigating, if necessary), and make sure that they write regulations that do not overstep the agencies' authority. By contrast, demanding "less government planning" will do nothing to help ranchers. Worse, in the end, such vague and unrealistic demands will make the very valid complaints of ranchers cease to be taken seriously.

Second, you need to do a reality check with your implied claim that all ranchers are great stewards, and therefore don't need to change or improve what they're doing. Look, I work with a lot of ranchers that are outstanding stewards. These ranchers understand deferred rest-rotation, monitoring, riparian grazing, and many other grazing techniques that have developed over that last several decades. The land they manage, both public and private, is showcase material. I have also seen some allotments that are pretty well hammered (not just my opinion, but the opinion of other ranchers). I strongly believe that many ranchers are, or would like to be, good stewards. But if we're going to be honest with ourselves, Frank, we're going to have to acknowledge that some ranchers need some help improving. Hiding from this fact is a gross disservice to ranchers—the ones who know least about good stewardship practices are going to be the first ones to be driven out of business. I want these people to stay in business. Now, if the system weren't broken, the BLM would be able to collaborate with ranchers to help develop grazing systems that would serve both the agency and the ranchers. But of course, they're not doing this, at least not without first precipitating a crisis like the one the Battle Mountain ranchers went through. One of the points of my Op-Ed was to bring to light the fact that the BLM is abrogating this very important duty.

It may be interesting for you to note that this Op-Ed was hugely appreciated throughout the public lands ranching community: from the Battle Mountain ranch families, to the Nevada Cattlemen's Association, to the Public Lands Council, to the Humboldt County Commission. No one remotely detected the "condescension" you found. Through fighting many battles with the public agencies, these people and organizations also understand that being effective requires making realistic, legally defensible demands, not vague fist-shaking. While I sincerely appreciate your passion for defending ranchers and the industry, as well as your frustration with the BLM, I am convinced that your prescription is not the way forward.

Sincere regards,

Andy Rieber

First, anyone who reads this blog knows my preference is for private property and free markets, not federal property and a command-and-control regulatory structure.  My comments on gov't planning were aimed in that sense and had nothing to do with individual producers.  I would encourage everyone to read The Best Laid Plans by Randal O'Toole for a tour de force of government planning.

The WSJ described Ms. Rieber as a "writer in Oregon" so I was unaware of her involvement with industry, which clarifies a lot for me, plus she raises some really interesting issues that are worth pondering by the federal lands livestock industry.

I understand and appreciate where Ms. Rieber is coming from because I spent many years (30+) in the exact same position she is in:  right in the middle between the federal alltoment owners and the federal agencies, trying to maintain credibility in both camps and working within the existing statutes and regs to bring about reasonable solutions.

And Ms. Rieber is correct that she did not say AMPs would have resolved all this, although it was the first and primary solution she brought forward.

Many will recall that AMPs did not apply to private land until FLPMA passed in 1976.  That upset many and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Pete Domenici I worked with industry and others to successfully amend FLPMA in 1978 to include the "consultation, cooperation and coordination with the lessees, permittees, and landowners involved" language.  I then worked with the State Director of BLM and the Regional Forester to have each sign an MOU laying out how they would comply with that section of the law.  Then as the NM Secretary of Agiculture I worked with both agencies in implementing those MOUs.

So I know all about AMPs and Ms. Rieber is correct in that they can be a shield for the allotment owner.  However, we now find they can also be a signed contract that is a trap leading to their demise.

Ms. Rieber raised the question about the way forward.  I do that by first reviewing the past.  And there I find that after all those years of working with ranchers, the federal agencies, colleagues in other states and other interested parties, all within the confines of existing statutes and regs, there are fewer ranching families and a lesser number of livestock today than when I and my colleagues started.  The trend downward was slower in some administrations than others, but still downward.  Every time there was a new land use or resource management plan ranching would suffer.  Or a new endangered species would be found, critical habitat designated and livestock grazing would take a hit.  A new Wilderness Area or Wild & Scenic River would be designated by Congress, or the President would designate a National Monument, all to the detriment of the ranching community.  The list is almost endless.

Given the above, I must say I see that is our future too, or lack thereof, if we limit ourselves to working within the confines of existing statutes and regs.  Why would anything change? As long as these lands are nationalized, they are under political rule and we've all seen where that has led.  And that politicized management will continue until these lands are transferred out of federal ownership.  

I see a need for both approaches.  In the interim allotment owners must work with folks like Rieber to survive through the short-run.  Let's get as many of those permits renewed as possible.  In the long-run, let's all recognize that continued nationalization of these lands will be to the detriment of the people and the environment.  Visit the American Lands Council to see how change can be brought about.

I support both approaches, and hope that Ms. Rieber will also come to see the value in both.