Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bear Sought In Attack On Los Alamos Man

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers are searching for an adult black bear involved in the attack of a 56-year-old Los Alamos man Wednesday evening on a hiking trail near Los Alamos. The man suffered deep flesh wounds and scratches to his head, chest and hands and was being treated at Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe. Conservation officers using dogs are searshing for the bear today with assistance from Los Alamos police and Los Alamos National Laboratory personnel. If found, the bear will be tested for rabies. Rabies in bears is rare but it is a nearly 100 percent fatal disease, so every precaution will be taken. The trail where the attack occurred, the Canyon de Valle trail north of Los Alamos, is closed until further notice. According to officer reports, the victim said he was running on the trail at about 7 p.m. when he encountered a female bear and its cub on the trail. The cub ran up a tree. The victim tried to scare the female bear away by making noise, but the bear charged, knocking him into a stream bed, and then started biting and clawing at his head. When the bear stopped attacking and the victim tried to stand up, the bear attacked again and then walked away. The victim was able to walk 2.5 miles back to his car, where he retrieved his personal identification and flagged down a passing motorist, who took him to Los Alamos Medical Center. The victim was treated for his wounds before being transported to Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe. Bear hair samples were collected from the victim and his clothes to help identify the bear involved in the attack. The incident was the third this year in which a bear attack resulted in injuries to a human. In early July, a bear bit a Raton girl while she was sleeping in a tent outside her house. In early June, a bear attacked and scratched a man who was hunting antlers in Lincoln County...more

In second attack this week, bear scares hunter up tree near Wagon Mound

State Game and Fish Department officers are searching for a black bear that attacked a 60-year-old man from Missouri who was elk hunting west of Wagon Mound, the second bear attack on a person in two days in Northern New Mexico, officials said Friday. The hunter received bite injuries to his foot through his boot as he climbed a tree to try to escape the bear. He was taken to Alta Vista Hospital in Las Vegas, N.M., where he was treated and released. The attack, which occurred Thursday near the tiny village of Ocate, marked the seventh time a black bear has attacked a human in the state this year, the highest number in the past 16 years, according to Lance Cherry, a spokesman for the Game and Fish Department. It was the fourth attack this year resulting in an injury. None of the attacks was fatal...more

Friday, September 11, 2015

As big wildfires become routine, communities face cascading consequences

...The stories were different in Southwest Idaho’s Owyhee County, where the Soda Fire incinerated cattle and rangeland. Fires in Idaho and Clearwater counties left Riggins and other tourism areas covered in smoke, closed public lands and destroyed homes and state and private timber. These are only the immediate effects on the people, the economy and the institutions of Idaho. More effects will be felt in the months and years ahead. Already Idaho County estimates it has lost more than $6 million in assessed value on its tax rolls because of the more than 50 homes that burned, said Commissioner Skip Brandt. Many of the people who lost homes, rangeland or crucial weeks of tourism-related business will suffer such deep financial costs they may be forced to leave. Ranchers in Owyhee County will wait two years or more — depending on how the land recovers — before they can put their cattle back on the public rangeland. Ranchers whose range burned in the Pony Fire south of Boise in 2013 won’t get cows back out there until 2016. This winter or spring, denuded slopes will erode away, and the resulting slides and floods will wreck roads and add more costs to counties, the state and federal governments. “We call these the cascading consequences of fire,” said Crystal Kolden, a University of Idaho geography professor and fire ecologist...more 

The size of these fires and the heat at which they burn is a direct result of management and you see the results on rural economies and families.  Is it any wonder they are calling for a change in either management or ownership?

Report From the New Mexico Border

 By Crystal Foreman Brown

I grew up and live on the border in New Mexico.  I knew Rob Krentz, the rancher in southeast Arizona, famously murdered by a Mexican national while out on his own property.  The day before the murder he helped the Border Patrol to recover a fairly large amount of marijuana hidden on his property -- the BP did not chase down or arrest the drug carriers involved, telling Rob that merely taking their drugs would be punishment enough when the unsuccessful smugglers returned to Mexico and faced their bosses’ wrath.  One of those who got away came back and killed Rob the next day. 

Drug smugglers still inhabit the mountains all around this area, even in public campgrounds on a close-by national forest. Local and state law enforcement is prevented by federal authority to arrest or enforce law concerning these matters -- they have simply erected signs to warn those who come to visit, and washed their hands of the responsibility of action.  All authority is given over to “Homeland Security.”  This is an example of federally mandated “policy” being implemented as if it were law, which it is not.  Especially since 9/11, it has been S.O.P. for both parties to practice this “new” kind of governance.

I am witness to the southern border area becoming a vast, lawless and ungovernable area, much like the “Frontera” of Mexico just across the line where more than 50,000 people have been murdered in the last few years.  This is ongoing, but I suspect the average American does not know it, and has not thought about how simple, or how sacrosanct and important a border is.  Property that has no edges or limits cannot be governed.   Imagine trying to protect your home if the walls and yard fences were questionable as “your area.”

I risk the lives of friends and family if I write specific instances that I know of, where there have been threats and coercion by individuals and by cartel sponsored smugglers and even by federal authorities. 

Someone forced a friend, while her family was taken hostage, to take a woman in labor to a local hospital to give birth to a new “American,” a precious and innocent infant, planted to make illegal activities easier. 

Others were openly threatened if they reported suspicious activity.  Murdered, headless bodies discovered near homes and family.  A father murdered in the presence of his family because he would not give his farm equipment to the cartel locals -- on this side of the border. 

Businesses closing, ranches and farms going under, schools losing students and funding to the point of dysfunction, property values plummeting -- I am affected by these things daily. 

And here you see the impact of the War on Drugs on rural families and economies.  Through the eighties and early 90s "the main smuggling route was via the Caribbean into Florida."  We couldn't have those beaches fouled so federal interdiction made this route problematic for the cartels, who then started using Mexico as their gateway.  The Border Patrol then began a program to divert the illegal crossers from urban areas to the most remote and rural areas.  Above you see the results of the War on Drugs, and the way its being waged, on our rural citizens and resources.  What's happening is no accident.

Man arrested in alleged hunting scam on three NM ranches

An Old Snowmass resident turned himself in Wednesday on an arrest warrant stemming from him selling elk-hunting licenses for thousands of dollars online and allegedly failing to provide them. Joshua Meacham, 27, who faces two counts of felony theft, sparred with Pitkin County sheriff’s investigator Brad Gibson about whether his alleged actions were a criminal or civil matter, the arrest affidavit says. His arrest followed a nearly year-long investigation. An alleged victim contacted Aspen police in November, and the agency turned the case over to Gibson shortly afterward. This person told Gibson that in March 2014 she learned about a hunting tag good for private property in New Mexico that was for sale on eBay. Using a friend’s computer and eBay account, she said she bid $3,625 on the tag, enough to win the auction. She used PayPal to pay Meacham for the tag. “I tried to call him a number of times and never had any luck getting a hold of him,” the alleged victim told Gibson in an email. “I started getting a very bad feeling toward this deal as I had received all the rest of my landowner tags, and I still wasn’t getting anything from Josh. … I called PayPal, and since 45 days had run out, I ran out of time to dispute the charge for $3,625.” Gibson said he learned during his investigation that the state of New Mexico allows private landowners in the state to sell wild-game licenses to anyone. People can buy private land tags and then try sell them at a profit. “I later contacted representatives of these ranches,” Gibson wrote. “No one had ever heard of Meacham.” The alleged victim told Gibson of three ranches in New Mexico for which Meacham said he had tags, the affidavit says...more

New Mexico AG calls on feds to address natural gas waste

New Mexico's attorney general is calling on the federal government to move quickly in adopting new rules to curb the waste of natural gas and the resulting loss of millions of dollars in royalties that could benefit education and other public programs. Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this week, saying New Mexico has lost nearly $43 million in royalties since 2009 because of leaks and the venting and flaring of gas wells on federal lands. Cost-effective technology is available to address the problem, and both industry and states stand to benefit, Balderas said. "As attorney general of one of the states most affected by the venting and flaring rule, I respectfully urge the Department of the Interior to move forward swiftly with a rule to help the people of New Mexico," he wrote. Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said producers throughout New Mexico already have made tremendous progress in capturing more gas. Economic benefits, rather than regulation, have driven the changes, he said. "To put a bunch of proscriptive regulations on things that add a lot of cost with little or no incremental savings of methane emissions, that's just bad news for the industry," he said. "The rules need to be based on sound science and data, not innuendoes."...more

Apparently Mr. Balderas, like Gary King before him, will do the bidding of the enviros.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1486

Today's selection is Eddy Arnold's 1951 recording of I Wanna Play House With You

Thursday, September 10, 2015

House chairman: EPA actions in mine spill ‘inexcusable’

The chairman of the House Science Committee said Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions in causing a toxic mine spill that fouled rivers in three Western states were “inexcusable.” Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, vowed to hold the agency accountable for its “negligence” in causing the Aug. 5 spill near Silverton, Colorado, and for its “lack of transparency” afterward. The spill tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with heavy metals. Smith says the EPA took more than 24 hours to inform the public about the seriousness of the spill and initially underestimated the amount of rust-colored sludge released from the inactive Gold King Mine. A cleanup team doing excavation work triggered the release of 3 million gallons of poisoned water that affected drinking water in the three states and the Navajo Nation, as well as fishing, boating and other recreational activities. The spill also crippled tourism in the area. Smith said he was disappointed that EPA chief Gina McCarthy declined to attend a hearing Wednesday on the spill, saying: “Perhaps she doesn’t have good answers.” Donald Benn, executive director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, said the federal agency has created “a culture of distrust” with the Navajo in the weeks following the accident. From the beginning, EPA “has sought to quiet our legitimate concerns, and has made repeated missteps in their response efforts relating to the incident triggered by their own actions,” Benn said. EPA officials appear more concerned about mitigating losses and minimizing damage than in finding out how the accident occurred, Benn said, calling the EPA’s investigation of the incident inherently flawed. “No other environmental bad actor would be given this same amount of leeway to investigate itself and determine to what extent it will be held accountable,” Benn said...more

Attorney in Steinle Case Blames Gun: It ‘Has No Safety’ (a BLM gun)

Last week Matt Gonzalez–attorney of alleged gunman Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez–agreed with testimony that Lopez-Sanchez allegedly shot Kathryn Steinle but argued that it was the gun’s fault. He suggested the gun went off without the trigger being pulled because it “has no safety.” Steinle was shot and killed with a stolen handgun on July 1 while walking on San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father. According to the Associated Press, Lopez-Sanchez’s defense to this point has been that he shot Steinle accidentally. The defense argued that Lopez-Sanchez found the gun wrapped in a t-shirt. He picked it up and it went off. Prosecutor Diane Garcia countered this by suggesting that even if that were the case, Lopez-Sanchez “could have fired the gun anywhere, but he fired at Kate Steinle.” She accused him of “[playing] his own version of Russian roulette” with Steinle’s life. Gonzalez responded by blaming the gun, a .40 caliber Sig Sauer that had been stolen from a federal agent who works for the Bureau of Land Management. He says the gun “has no safety” and claims “there is no evidence that [Lopez-Sanchez] put his finger in the trigger...more

This raises even more questions about the gun, the BLM ranger who lost it, and how it wound up in the hands of a killer.  See this and this.

Rancher overwhelmed by grizzly bear attacks on cattle

Both cow carcasses had been reduced to bone piles by the time Brian Mays returned Sept. 5 to the kill site, hidden among thick brush within a boggy, 300-acre private pasture he leases about 2 miles southwest of Henry’s Lake, near Yellowstone National Park. “So this is where 1537 met her demise,” Mays said, studying an ear tag among the remains.Mays has no doubt as to who — or what — the culprits were. He estimates grizzly bears have killed at least 14 of his cows during the past four years, including four this season. He’s been frustrated, however, that wildlife managers haven’t proactively helped to keep his herd safe from the federally protected predators — or set traps to remove bears immediately following confirmed livestock kills. He considers the conflicts on his ranch evidence that grizzly bears have met their Endangered Species Act recovery goals, and it’s past time to take the Greater Yellowstone area population off the list of protected species.“We need to have methods to protect our livestock,” said Mays, who also raises forage in Howe, Idaho, and trucks cattle and agricultural commodities. “This is my livelihood.” Mays discovered four missing bred heifers on Aug. 28. That same day, he found two fresh carcasses, which Idaho Wildlife Services staff quickly confirmed as grizzly kills...more

A Plague on the Klamath River

Nearly one year ago, Mike Belchik, a senior biologist for the Yurok Tribe, was overseeing an emergency laboratory on a remote gravel bar in the Klamath River on the tribe's Northern California reservation. That morning, crews had netted two dozen salmon from a 20-mile stretch of the lower river. Now they were inspecting their catch for a parasite dubbed "the Ebola of Klamath salmon." Working quickly, the men snipped a layer of glistening gill tissue from each fish and slid it under a microscope. The parasite—a protozoan named Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, or simply Ich—is salt-colored and less than a millimeter wide, with a fringe of madly fluttering hairs. Belchik and his crew had monitored for it all summer, but only that weekend had infected fish begun appearing in their nets. In 2002, Ich killed some 70,000 king salmon in the Klamath—the largest such die-off ever recorded on the West Coast. Afterward, the parasite population declined below detection, but it is native to the river, and there was reason to fear its resurgence. Last September, California was already three years into perhaps its worst drought in more than a millennium, and the Klamath was low and warm. In slow water thick with fish, Ich can reproduce rapidly. Thousands might feast on a single salmon. Once engorged with blood, they drop off and anchor to the river bottom. Then each one bursts open, releasing up to 1,000 offspring. The cycle can take as little as a week. "It felt like a catastrophe was looming," Belchik says. The Yurok crews were trying to determine whether water should be released from reservoirs upstream in an attempt to disrupt the parasite's life cycle...more

21,995,000 to 12,329,000: Government Employees Outnumber Manufacturing Employees 1.8 to 1

Those employed by government in the United States in August of this year outnumbered those employed in the manufacturing sector by almost 1.8 to 1, according to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 21,995,000 employed by federal, state and local government in the United States in August, according to BLS. By contrast, there were only 12,329,000 employed in the manufacturing sector. The BLS has published seasonally-adjusted month-by-month employment numbers for both government and manufacturing going back to 1939. In the first 50 years of the 76-year span since then, manufacturing out-employed government. But in August 1989, government overtook manufacturing as a U.S. employer. That month, government employed 17,989,000 and manufacturing employed 17,964,000. Since then, government employment has increased 4,006,000 and manufacturing employment has declined 5,635,000...more

A pair of court decisions bring good news for FOIA users

As the Freedom of Information Act approaches its 50th birthday next year, a major advocacy effort continues to push important reforms in Congress. But Capitol Hill isn’t the only place where FOIA’s future is being forged. Two federal appeals courts recently handed down opinions that clarify and affirm the rights of requestors and the responsibilities of agencies—one of them with particular importance for groups that plan to release publicly the information they gather.  That case comes from the DC Circuit, which in late August handed down an opinion that has big implications for advocacy groups and nontraditional publishers, increasing their chances of successfully claiming FOIA fee waivers. The case arose after Cause of Action, a conservative nonprofit organization, submitted three FOIA requests to the Federal Trade Commission, which denied the nonprofit’s fee-waiver claims. The FOIA permits agencies to charge reasonable fees for “document search, duplication, and review, when records are requested for commercial use.” Depending on the request, these fees can be substantial. But certain types of requests and requesters are entitled to fee waivers, and two were at issue in this case. First, agencies must waive or reduce fees “if disclosure of the [requested] information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.” Second, agencies may charge only for duplication costs “when [the requested] records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by … a representative of the news media.” Cause of Action claimed fee waivers under both categories, and ultimately the circuit court clarified what requesters must do to claim each one...more

Theater Renames ‘Snow White’ Because the Word ‘Dwarf’ Is Too Offensive

De Monfort Hall in Leicester, England, has announced that there will be no dwarves in its Snow White Christmas pantomime because the word “dwarf” is too offensive. The production will be called “Snow White and her Seven Friends” and feature child actors as the “friends,” according to an article in the Leicester Mercury. Despite the fact that that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been around for approximately 9 million years, a spokeswoman for the theater insisted to the Mercury that the word “dwarf” is “generally not a word that people feel comfortable with” and that the play had to be changed. But Warwick Davis, a dwarf actor who has appeared in movies including Harry Potter and Star Wars, told the Mercury that he’s suspicious of that explanation: “The profit margins for pantos are not very big and it’s obviously much cheaper to involve schoolchildren than it is to pay lots of professional short actors,” he said. Davis also said that, as a dwarf, he found the decision to eliminate dwarfs to be far more offensive than the word could ever be...more

 The real dwarfs are these pc idiots who are banning words, flags, types of food and everything else their pitiful little selves find offensive.

Boston Bans Chewing Tobacco at Fenway

The city of Boston has banned chewing tobacco at all baseball stadiums, including Fenway Park, and will slap players with a $250 fine if they violate the ban.  Boston becomes the second city after San Francisco to approve such a ban. Los Angeles also is weighing a prohibition on smokeless tobacco, commonly called dip, chew or snuff.  The ban prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco on all ball fields where professional, collegiate, high school or amateur sports are played. Violators will face a $250 fine. Aside from the fine, Fenway will be riddled with no dipping signs as a result of the ban. Signs will be posted in “dugouts, bullpens, training rooms, locker rooms, press boxes, television and radio broadcast booths, and bathrooms throughout the sports venues.”...more

No dipping signs?  That's got to be unconstitutional.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1485

Merle Haggard & Mac Wiseman teamed up this year to record a CD for Cracker Barrel named Timeless.  It's chock full of country and bluegrass classics, such as the one we bring you today:  If Teardrops Were Pennies.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Agents say just 40 percent of border under control; 20 percent of those caught have criminal records

Less than half of the U.S.-Mexico border is under “operational control” at this point, the chief of the Border Patrol agents testified to Congress Thursday, detailing the porous situation and violent conditions in the southwest. Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, also said one out of every five illegal immigrants agents caught along the border in 2014 had a criminal record, which helps explain some of the violence that occurs. All told, 91,000 criminal aliens caught by the Border Patrol were deported last year, compared to about 486,000 total illegal immigrants caught. Nearly half of the criminal aliens deported had aggravated felonies on their records, Mr. Judd testified to the House Oversight Committee. “This is the challenge we are facing at the border today. There are those who will point to lower apprehension rates and tell you the border is secure. Border Patrol agents, however, throughout this nation will tell you the border is not secure and the southwest border certainly is not safe.” Asked by Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, how much of the border is under “operational control,” meaning the government is poised to deter or apprehend illegal entries, Robert L. Harris, director of Customs and Border Protection’s joint task force in charge of combating border violence, said he couldn’t answer. Washington Times

Gold King spill stirs concerns about New Mexico’s old mines

The ongoing fallout in New Mexico from last month’s Colorado mine spill is a stark reminder that the “Land of Enchantment” has its own dangerous mines. While public officials continue to measure the damage wrought by the Gold King Mine spill, some say it’s a wake-up call to the staggering number of abandoned mines in New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management so far has identified more than 13,000 abandoned mines in or around public land in the state, according to bureau records. Nearly 9,000 of them need to be analyzed, federal officials said. Bill Auby, the head of the abandoned mines program for the BLM in New Mexico, said it will take a great deal of time to track these sites. “It’s going to be a long process to get to all the mining districts and wander the hills and find these things and identify them,” Auby said. An analysis of BLM data by the Santa Fe New Mexican found that 90 percent of the mines identified in New Mexico – or 11,750 – have not been remediated. According to the agency’s reports, BLM officials found waste rock and tailings in 260 mines, including 20 in the Cerrillos Hills Mining District. The highest concentrated number of mines was found in the Hillsboro Mining District. Some officials, however, say the state’s arid environment lessens the possibility of pressurized water pushing out old mining waste like it did in the Colorado spill Aug. 5...more

EPA accused at hearing of doctoring video from Gold King Mine spill

The Environmental Protection Agency was accused Wednesday of doctoring footage from the Gold King Mine spill, removing the audio of a worker saying, “What do we do now?” During a House committee hearing on the accident, Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican, showed what he said was an original on-site video taken the day of the Aug. 5 spill, which includes the audio, and then the same video posted on the EPA’s website that beeps out the audio. “The last few seconds of the audio has been removed to prevent the viewers from hearing the team on the ground saying, ‘What do we do now?’” said Mr. Johnson during the House Science, Space, and Technology hearing. He quizzed Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, about the apparent removal of the audio. The EPA posted a disclaimer on its website saying that profanity from its videos had been removed and license plates blurred, but that otherwise the agency “did not edit the videos.”...more

New Mexico - Drilling boom means more harmful waste spills

CROSSROADS, N.M. (AP) — Carl Johnson and son Justin are third- and fourth-generation ranchers who for decades have battled oilfield companies that left a patchwork of barren earth where the men graze cattle in the high plains of New Mexico. Blunt and profane, they stroll across a 1 1/2-acre patch of sandy soil — lifeless, save for a scattering of stunted weeds. Five years ago, a broken pipe soaked the land with as much as 420,000 gallons of oilfield wastewater — a salty and potentially toxic drilling byproduct that can quickly turn fertile land into a dead zone. The leaked brine killed every sprig of grama and bluestem grasses and shinnery shrubs it touched. For the Johnsons, the spill is among dozens that have taken a heavy toll: a landscape pockmarked with spots where livestock can no longer graze, legal fees running into the tens of thousands and worries about the safety of the area's underground aquifer. "If we lose our water, that ruins our ranch," Justin Johnson said. "That's the end of the story." Their plight illustrates a largely overlooked side effect of oil and gas production that has worsened with the past decade's drilling boom: spills of wastewater that foul the land, kill wildlife and threaten freshwater supplies. An Associated Press analysis of data from leading oil- and gas-producing states found more than 175 million gallons of wastewater spilled from 2009 to 2014 in incidents involving ruptured pipes, overflowing storage tanks and other mishaps or even deliberate dumping. There were some 21,651 individual spills. And these numbers are incomplete because many releases go unreported. Though oil spills tend to get more attention, wastewater spills can be more damaging. And in seven of the 11 states the AP examined, the amount of wastewater released was at least twice that of oil discharged...more

Carl Lane Johnson and his son Justin are a major part of this AP video report:

Debate rages about how to manage New Mexico’s wild horses

Sebedeo Chacon loves horses. He’s got a pair of racing horses in the stalls out back for sport. He’s got a saddle horse in the corral for shepherding his cattle in the Carson National Forest, and he has at least a dozen framed photographs of horses inside his doublewide homestead just outside the town of Ojo Caliente in Northern New Mexico. It’s safe to say that Chacon, whose family has been in the ranching business for centuries, has a soft spot for horses, provided they’re properly managed and maintained. They’re an integral part of his life, important assets whose upkeep can cost dearly but are well worth the price. Then there are those other horses, the wild ones up on the Jarita Mesa, about 150 of them at last count. Some of them are sleek Spanish mustangs, others the descendants of domesticated stock let loose on US Forest Service land during the last half of the 20th century. Mention them, and Chacon’s blood begins to boil. They reduce the shrubs to nubs, devour the flowers in hours and graze the grasses until they are no more, leave their calling cards underfoot. They feed off the very forage his cattle need during the summer, indirectly affecting the health of the calves and lowering their price at auction. “A man’s got to make a living. I’m getting too old for this,” Chacon, 74, says in a recent SFR interview inside his home, wearing cowboy hat, blue jeans and prerequisite boots. “I don’t mind the horses, but when they’re not managed, they can hurt my business. There aren’t any fences up there on the mesa, so they drift from one allotment to the next, then to the next, and they eat till their heart’s content.”...more

UN climate change body suffers mammoth European carbon fraud

The United Nations body that oversees greenhouse gas reductions is reeling from another cap-and-trade scandal that may have put 600 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere -- roughly speaking, the annual CO2 output of Canada or Britain -- while the emissions were ostensibly suppressed, according to an independent study. In the process, the fraudsters, largely in Russia and Ukraine, were likely able to transfer credits for more than 400 million tons of their apparently bogus greenhouse savings by April 2015 into Europe’s commercial carbon trading system -- the largest in the world --thereby undermining that continent’s ambitious carbon reduction achievements. Perhaps significantly, the vast bulk of the assumed fraud took place in countries that are -- or were, in the case of Ukraine -- notorious for their kleptocratic leadership under the regimes of Vladimir Putin and ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled his country in 2014. In Russia, much of the contract work for carbon project approval was carried out by state-owned Sberbank, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the European Union as part of the Western response to the Ukraine crisis. The bulk of the fraud occurred under the battered Kyoto Protocol for greenhouse gas emissions, but researchers who detailed the scandal warned that without tough international policing and clear definitions of what every country involved in the climate deal aims to achieve, something similar could happen in the global climate change deal that world leaders are expected to endorse in Paris in December and that is intended to start up in 2020...more

Erin Brockovich accuses feds of lying about mine waste spill

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous from the Oscar-winning movie bearing her name, on Tuesday accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled from a Colorado mine and fouled rivers in three Western states. Her allegation came during a visit to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, where she saw the damage and met with Navajo Nation leaders and farmers affected by last month’s spill, which was triggered by an EPA crew during excavation work. Brockovich said she was shocked by the agency’s actions leading up to the release of waste tainted with heavy metals and its response afterward. “They did not tell the truth about the amount. There were millions and millions of gallons,” she said while speaking to a crowd of high school students in Shiprock, New Mexico. The EPA did not immediately respond to email and telephone requests for comment Tuesday. The agency initially pegged the spill at 1 million gallons but later said it was likely three times that amount given the readings of stream gauges that recorded a spike in river flows. The revision only added to the suspicion of local officials that were criticizing the agency for failing to notify them sooner that the contaminated plume was headed downstream...more

Congressmen Request Gold King Mine Spill Data

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, recently joined two other lawmakers in sending a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell demanding more details on the Gold Kind Mine spill. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who is vice chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also signed the letter, which calls for Jewell to release data and documents about the lead up to the event, which was triggered by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection actions on Aug. 5. “Furthermore, at some point after the spill, EPA chose the Department of the Interior to conduct an ‘independent review’ of the disaster," the letter said. “The decision to assign that job to another Executive Branch agency raises concerns that the reviewers are not sufficiently independent, and therefore susceptible to political influence or liable to limit the scope of the review. Moreover, the spill raises serious questions about the steps [the Department of Interior] has taken to protect its natural resource and trust interests.” A similar letter was also sent to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last week.  Press release

Judge blocks lower Yellowstone dam over 125 fish

A federal judge has blocked construction of a dam planned along the Yellowstone River near the Montana-North Dakota border over worries that it could harm an endangered fish population. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to do adequate environmental studies before deciding to move ahead with the $59 million irrigation project northeast of Glendive. Pallid sturgeon was listed as an endangered species in 1990. Believed to date to the days when Tyrannosaurus Rex walked the Earth, the fish has declined sharply during the past century as dams were built along the Missouri River system. Corps officials had argued a bypass channel around the proposed dam near Glendive would allow sturgeon to access upstream spawning grounds that they have not been able to reach for decades. The dam would replace an existing rock weir used to divert water for an irrigation system that serves almost 400 farms totaling more than 50,000 acres of cropland in Montana and North Dakota. Preliminary work was slated to start this month. But two environmental groups — Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council — sued to halt construction. An estimated 125 wild sturgeon are believed to survive in the lower Yellowstone...more

Polar bears to humans: Relax, we've got this

With polar bears' icy homes melting due to climate change, scientists worried about mass polar bear starvation -- but a new study suggests the bears' diets may be flexible enough to cope. Polar bears currently rely on sea ice for food foraging, especially for hunting seal pups, so scientists had predicted that polar bears would starve by 2068 when "annual ice breakup is expected to separate the bears from their sea-ice hunting grounds for a consecutive 180 days each year," reports the American Museum of Natural History, "creating ice-free seasons that will last two months longer than those in the 1980s." But those studies failed to account for dietary flexibility, say scientists at the AMNH, in a new paper published in PLOS-ONE. "Polar bears are opportunists," says AMNH researcher Robert Rockwell, that "have been documented consuming various types and combinations of land-based food since the earliest natural history records." Dr. Rockwell and Linda Gormezano focused on terrestrial food sources to determine if they offer enough energy to sustain adult male polar bears during long summer, when they can’t rely on ice-hunting to build up fat reserves. Prey such as caribou, snow geese, and snow goose eggs provide plenty of calories, they calculated, well more than the bears burn in hunting them...more

Drought, wildfires among Western issues facing Congress

Land and Water Conservation Fund
Status: Authorization for the fund, created 50 years ago, expires at the end of the month. The fund has been the primary source of money for acquiring land by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Almost $17 billion has been spent during the half century, with $10.4 billion used to buy 5 million acres of land, mostly in the West. The fund also has provided grants for more than 41,000 state and local park projects. Revenue comes from royalties from offshore gas and oil drilling. Opponents argue the federal government should not be buying more land when it can’t take care of the land it already has. They want the fund to focus on upkeep. What’s happening in Congress: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an energy bill that includes permanent reauthorization of the fund in its current form. That vote was made more significant by the fact that Murkowski, the committee chairwoman, had favored revising the fund to focus on maintenance. The House has yet to hold a hearing on a similar bill. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and has 142 co-sponsors, mostly Democrats. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has said he would unveil his proposal for reforming the LWCF when Congress returns. Advocates say it is too late for a stand-alone bill to pass before the fund expires. They are hoping to attach the language to a must-pass bill, such as one to fund the government into the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1...more

The article provides similar information on wildfires, drought and the sage grouse.

Pesticide pollution actually creates toxin-tolerant frogs—to a point

Tequila is rarely touted for playing a role in good decision-making, but a wacky idea Jessica Hua hit on over margaritas a few years back turned out to be a stroke of genius. At the time, Hua was a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, working with Rick Relyea, a biologist who has extensively studied amphibians and pesticides (the toxins are often implicated in the decline of amphibian populations worldwide). When it comes to pests, resistance to the chemicals intended to kill them is a well-known problem. But it’s not just weeds and insects that are able to withstand the poisons—Relyea’s work had shown that lethal doses of pesticides didn’t always kill all frogs, either. The standard explanation would be that over many, many generations, some hoppers had developed the ability to tolerate the toxin, and their offspring were born with immunity. But that night, Hua had a different thought: What if exposure to a little bit of pesticide at a young age made the creatures better able to withstand doses of the toxic stuff later in life? In other words, what if any frog could become pesticide-resistant? Her lab mate encouraged her to pitch the idea to Relyea, so she did—later, in the light of day. “I said, ‘That’s crazy,’ ” laughs Relyea, who is now at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “I’d never heard of any animal that could induce tolerance. But she came right back and said there was one example: a mosquito.” With that, Relyea gave her the go-ahead, so Hua’s very first step was to collect eggs from wild frogs as soon as they were laid...more

'Sigh of relief' in NW Colorado after feds beat deadline to keep Colowyo mine open

For Lori Gillam, word that the Colowyo coal mine had dodged the threat of a shutdown ended months of nail-biting. Gillam, who owns Stockmen’s Liquor in Craig, said she was thrilled after learning last week the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining beat a federal court deadline Friday that will keep the mine open. “We’re all breathing a sigh of relief,” said Gillam. She and other locals were able to exhale after the agency issued a “finding of no significant impact” on a 2007 expansion permit, then filed Friday a “notice of compliance” with the federal court just days before the Sept. 6 deadline. U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson ordered the department in May to redo an environmental assessment on the permit in response to a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians but gave federal officials just 120 days to do so. His decision raised the specter of a mine closure and sent ripples of alarm through northwest Colorado. The Colowyo, owned by Tri-State Generation and Transmission, employs 220 workers and serves as an economic engine for the region. “A lot of people worked very hard and cooperated extremely well to make this happen,” said Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid. Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement he was grateful for the OSM’s “hard and rapid work” in completing the environmental assessment by the deadline...more

Negative reactions pour in after federal ruling preventing King Cove road

King Cove tribal and community leaders announced in a press release that they plan on continuing their efforts to build a nine-mile road that would connect the isolated community to Cold Bay Airport. The road would be a life-line for a community where people have to be airlifted in order to get any kind of emergency medical attention. "While the King Cove Group is disappointed with the District Court decision, we always knew this would be difficult," King Cove leaders wrote in a press release. "We are studying the decision and will consult with our partner in this case, the State of Alaska, before reaching any decision regarding our next steps in court. Our efforts to obtain legislative relief remain unabated." Officials with the Department of Law echoed the sentiments of the King Cove community leaders. "We are disappointed the judge didn't make Secretary Jewell go back and take into account public health and safety concerns," Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills wrote in an email to Channel 2 News. "Ultimately, the Secretary's decision failed to address the emergency medical needs that this road would fulfill." Gov. Walker spoke out in support of the road in a statement to the press. "A road from King Cove to the Cold Bay airport is absolutely critical in ensuring the health and safety of King Cove residents in the face of an emergency. This is a message I reiterated to President Obama last week, and one that I will continue to address with federal officials until we find a solution to this important issue."...more

Obama’s unsustainable energy decrees


“That’s not the American way. That’s not progress. That’s not innovation. That’s rent-seeking and trying to protect old ways of doing business, and standing in the way of the future.”  

That wasn’t the Wall Street Journal lambasting the mandate- and subsidy-dependent renewable energy consortium. It was President Obama demonizing critics of his plans to replace carbon-based energy with wind, solar and biofuels, stymie the hydraulic fracturing revolution that’s given the United States another century of oil and gas – and “fundamentally transform” and downsize the US and global economies. 

The president thinks this legacy will offset the Iran, Iraq, Islamic State and other policy debacles he will bequeath to his successors. His presidential library exhibits won’t likely mention those foreign policy fiascoes or the ways his energy policies mostly benefit the richest 1 percent of Americans, especially political cronies and campaign contributors – while crippling the economy and pummeling millions of families and businesses that depend on reliable, affordable oil, gas and coal energy for their income and welfare.  

Mr. Obama and his regulators have already imposed enormous financial, labor, ozone, water, climate, power generation and other burdens on our economy – mostly with benefits that exist only in computer models, White House press releases, and rosy reports from advocacy groups that receive billions of dollars from his Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and other agencies. On August 24, he announced another billion-dollar program to force America to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030: mostly wind and solar, plus a little more geothermal and biomass.  

Those sources now provide less than 8 percent of all electricity, so this is a monumental increase. If the president wants to take credit for any alleged benefits, he must also accept blame for the abysmal failures. 


Stetson Looks to Hipsters to Move Beyond the Cowboy Hat

On the 10th floor of a building in New York’s Garment District, above fabric shops that peddle rolls of silk and Spandex, Izumi Kajimoto is looking at a wall of 40 hats that make up her company's current offerings. The designs run the spectrum from straw Panama to cloth newsboy. To Kajimoto's right, dozens of hat boxes are stacked to the ceiling. Across the room are even more hats, vintage pieces that span 150 years and are displayed on individual stands that line the loft's industrial windows. Among them sits the one Kajimoto’s company is known for around the world: the cowboy hat. Kajimoto is chief executive officer of Stetson Worldwide, the scrappy remainder of a hat kingdom that once served as both a paragon of American manufacturing and the frontier culture represented by such movie stars as John Wayne and Roy Rogers. Those days are long gone: As cattle jobs faded, Western shows vanished, and fashion trends changed, Stetson has struggled to survive. While the privately held company doesn't release revenue numbers, it acknowledges the need to diversify its clientele to stay relevant. Under Kajimoto, who took over in 2012, the company is trying to attract a new kind of customer — more hipster than rancher. Her plan is to hook young, fashionable buyers by offering an eclectic, trendy mix of hats; everything from nylon boonies to satin-lined trilbys with tattoo designs is now part of the Stetson repertoire. "We're a lot of things that seem to be eclipsed by our overwhelming identity as Western," Kajimoto says across a long, wooden table inside Stetson's modest headquarters. "We must be at the forefront of haberdashery and fashion. I don't want the urban contemporary, city, international guy to think, 'I have nothing in common with Stetson.'"...Stetson was founded in 1865 by John Batterson Stetson, who started making the company's signature hat out of a small rented space in Philadelphia. He didn’t invent the tall, brown, wide-brim headpiece, but Stetson made better ones than his competitors. The right people took notice. For ranchers and cattlemen, hats were as important as boots and a saddle, serving as a shield from scorching sun and pouring rain. Stetson's hardy wares became a necessity and a status symbol among workmen, says Don Reeves, a curator and chair of cowboy culture at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma. “If you had this kind of hat, it says: 'I’ve made it.'" By the early 1900s, the company's Philadelphia plant had grown into the world’s largest hat factory. At the time, most men wore hats, and Stetson thrived by selling all kinds of fashionable, everyday chapeaus alongside practical Western ones. The company endured the Great Depression and both world wars, when it made thousands of hats for the U.S. military. It then benefited from the popularity of Western TV shows and movies. “There was a romance of the Old West that they could play up in advertising,” says Sonya Abrego, a fashion historian at the Pratt Institute. "It started as functional and became fashionable." In 1947, sales of Stetson hats peaked at $29 million, the equivalent of more than $300 million today. Soon after, the company started to flounder. Fewer people were working as cowboys and ranchers, and hats went out of style among city dwellers. Stetson's sales plunged to around $8 million in 1970, a more than 70 percent slide from the company's heyday. A year later, Stetson shut down production at its Philadelphia factory, later donating the land to the city and divesting its manufacturing operations. A company called Hatco now makes Stetson's emblematic cowboy hats at a factory in Garland, Tex. Stetson has survived as a licensing company. Whereas its bustling factory once employed more than 5,000 workers, fewer than 10 people, mostly in the New York office, now oversee Stetson's licenses and evangelize for the brand...more 

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1484

Our selection today, Rex Griffin - I Love You Nellie, was recorded in Chicago on January 14, 1944.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

4 more Mexican officials held in 'El Chapo' prison escape

A federal judge in Mexico has started proceedings against four officials accused of aiding the escape of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman from a maximum security prison. The federal judicial council said in a statement Monday that two of those charged are members of the Mexican intelligence service who worked at the prison and two were prison employees in the control room. Guzman escaped through a tunnel dug to his cell on July 11. The four are accused of helping a prisoner escape and not following protocol in sounding the alarm. They are being held in the same prison where they previously worked. Proceedings already began against three others, including the person in charge of the control room and two guards. Guzman had already escaped another prison in 2001.  AP

Independent group rejects Mexican gov't case on 43 missing

An independent report presented Sunday dismantles the Mexican government's investigation into the disappearance of 43 teachers' college students, saying the prosecutor's contention that they were incinerated in a giant pyre never happened and fueling the anger of parents who nearly a year later still don't know what happened to their sons. Attorney General Arely Gomez, who was not in office during the initial investigation, said that in light of the report she would call for a new forensic review of the municipal garbage dump where the initial probe concluded the 43 were burned to ash beyond identification. And parents of the students demanded a meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose reputation and popularity has been undermined by the case. "We will not accept another lie from the government," said Blanca Nava Velez, mother of student Jorge Alvarez Nava. The government said the Sept. 26 attack was a case of mistaken identity. But the group of experts assembled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded in its report that it was violent and coordinated reaction to the students, who were hijacking buses for transportation to a demonstration and may have unknowingly interfered with a drug shipment on one of the buses. Iguala, the city in southern Guerrero state where that attacks took place, is known as a transport hub for heroin going to the United States, particularly Chicago, some of it by bus, the report said...more

El Paso Border Patrol apprehensions rise

The U.S. Border Patrol reported an 8.2 percent increase for fiscal year 2015 in overall apprehensions of undocumented immigrants along the El Paso sector, as well as spikes in the apprehensions of families and unaccompanied children, statistics indicate. Border Patrol-El Paso sector spokesman Doug Mosier said agents in the sector apprehended 11,254 unauthorized immigrants between Sept. 1, 2014, and July 31, 2015, compared with 10,397 for the same period in fiscal year 2014. During the 2015 fiscal year, the Border Patrol-El Paso sector reported a 68 percent increase in family apprehensions over fiscal year 2014. The El Paso Border Patrol detained 826 family units in fiscal year 2015 compared with 491 in fiscal year 2014. El Paso's Border Patrol also detained 1,261 unaccompanied minors in fiscal year 2015 compared with 875 in fiscal year 2014. (All figures are for Sept. 1 through July 31.)...more

U.S. judge upholds Arizona's 'show your papers' immigration law

A federal judge has upheld part of Arizona's contentious immigration law, rejecting claims that the so-called "show your papers" section of the law discriminated against Hispanics. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton on Friday was on the last of seven challenges to the 2010 law. The section being upheld allows police in Arizona to check the immigration status of anyone they stop. Bolton ruled that immigration rights activists failed to show that police would enforce the law differently for Hispanics than other people. The section is sometimes called the "show your papers" provision. The judge also upheld a section that let police check to see if a detainee is in the United States illegally...more

Migrant Dollars More Valuable than Black Gold

For the first time in 15 years, dollars sent home by Mexicans working in the United States have surpassed the value of Mexico’s oil exports. According to the central Bank of Mexico, the flow of migrant remittances from the U.S. reached $14.3 billion from January to July of this year. In contrast, money earned from oil exports came to about $12.2 billion during the same time period, according to the Pemex national oil company. Alfredo Salgado Torres and Juan Jose Li Ng, analysts for the BBVA-Bancomer bank, attributed a spike in remittances to better conditions in the U.S. economy, exemplified by improved employment in states with large immigrant populations like Texas and California, as well as the ongoing peso devaluation that provides greater incentives for migrants to send money to their loved ones back home. The average remittance received in Mexico for the January-July time frame totaled $296, an amount slightly higher than for the comparable period in 2014. However, dollars buy more in Mexico this year than they did last year...more

Ranchers criticize forest management, firefighting tactics

This is a longer than usual excerpt from a long, but thorough article by Dan Wheat and Sean Ellis for Capital Press, but published here in the Daily Astorian:

The 105,000-acre Canyon Creek Complex fire south of John Day has burned a massive swath through grazing allotments in the Malheur National Forest, leaving ranchers worried about how they will find enough grazing land and hay to make it through the fast-approaching fall and winter. It’s the main concern of ranchers around the West who are reeling from wildfires. “It’s burned right through the heart of quite a few allotments,” said Seneca rancher Alec Oliver, president of the Grant County Stockgrowers. The fire — the largest in Oregon this year — tore through the Canyon Creek area, where it burned at least 43 homes and blackened grazing land. “A lot of hay was lost up through that area,” Oliver said. “There are a lot of (grazing) permittees up there and … a lot of summer ground was lost this year. (They) are going to have to find somewhere else to go next year.” As large wildfires become more the norm in Western states, ranchers who are forced to watch their livelihoods go up in smoke argue that mismanagement of federal and state lands is an underlying cause and that it’s time for government policies to change. A little over 2.8 million acres have burned in 122 fires in Oregon, Washington state, Idaho and California this season, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Fuel loads add up At the Haeberle Ranch, between the towns of Okanogan and Conconully in north central Washington state, Rod Haeberle, 66, and his daughter, Nicole Kuchenbuch, 36, and son-in-law Casey Kuchenbuch, 36, voiced concerns about “mismanagement” of government lands. Their comments mirrored those of ranchers in southeastern Oregon after the massive 582,313-acre Long Draw and 430,000-acre Holloway fires of 2012. “These fires are not a surprise for those of us who live and work in eastern Washington. We’ve been warning about the potential disastrous effects of federal and state management policies for many years,” said Nicole Kuchenbuch. Agencies have allowed forests to become overgrown and unhealthy, consumed by underbrush that’s fuel for fires, she said. “Agencies tell us to keep our cattle out of creek bottoms, but there’s no grass elsewhere because they don’t thin forests,” she said. Sod was so thick in Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife grasslands from 20 years of no cattle grazing that it took bulldozers two and three passes to cut fire lines to soil, she said, adding that sod can be a fuel that’s almost impossible for firefighters to extinguish. While ranchers have lobbied for change, nothing happens because of the political strength of environmentalists and the Endangered Species Act, the Kuchenbuchs said. Haeberle calls them “asphalites — born on asphalt, raised on concrete and living in a world of plastic flowers.” Stark difference About 370 miles to the south, near John Day, retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management forester Bob Vidourek, pointed out the difference in the way federal forests were formerly managed and how they are managed today. He oversaw projects from 2003 to 2007 that thinned some of the 2,500 acres of BLM land that abuts U.S. Forest Service and private land on Little Creek Mountain. The projects included a timber sale, thinning stands and clearing out a large amount of slash. On Aug. 28, the Canyon Creek fire roared through Forest Service land and crested Little Creek Mountain. Vidourek’s home was put on a Level 3 “leave immediately” evacuation order but he wasn’t worried. The BLM land that had been thinned and cleaned up several years earlier was separating the blaze from his home. “I was never really worried,” he said. “I knew if it got into that stand, it wouldn’t burn too hot.” The fire did burn some of the BLM land but slowed considerably and stopped 1,000 feet from Vidourek’s house. Vidourek said he faced many hurdles when he tried to get the forest management projects going, but was eventually able to overcome them. “I’m confident that the work we did probably saved some of these houses,” he said, pointing to other nearby homes. The fire “killed everything on the other side of the mountain. I’m confident the work we did slowed the fire down.”

Our future lies "on the other side of the mountain" unless laws are changed to bring reasonable management back to federal lands, or those lands are transferred out of federal ownership so that type management can be applied.

Fire History Repeats Itself as Idaho's Citizens and Natural Resources Suffer

...Analysis of wildfire history over the last several decades tells us federal land management efforts are ineffective in preventing large catastrophic fires. In fact, our experience in Idaho shows BLM management is aggravating the situation. BLM needs to change their biased and ineffective practices in dealing with fine fuel loads and employ all available options in fine fuel load management on Idaho’s rangelands.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the BLM began arbitrarily capping Temporary Non- Renewable (TNR) grazing in eastern Owyhee and Twin Falls county grazing allotments. This allowed large amounts of fuel to accumulate. In 2007, the Murphy Complex Fire burned an estimated 652,016 acres. By acreage, it was the third largest wildfire in the United States between 1997 and 2009. The fire affected Owyhee and Twin Falls counties in Idaho, and Elko County, Nev. Total reclamation costs of tax payer dollars were estimated at well over $11 million taxpayer dollars during fiscal years 2007–2010, with full recovery of the natural systems taking several additional years. 

When the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area was established, the BLM began reducing springtime grazing allowing fine fuels to accumulate. The result was that thousands of acres of the Birds of Prey NCA’s big sagebrush and salt desert shrub habitat have burned and is now replaced with exotic annual grasses (cheatgrass) and weeds. As these wildfires continue in southern Idaho at such large scales, research indicates a significant negative trend in other Idaho natural resources due to wildfires. The number of Golden Eagle pairs in the NCA, have had a 30 percent decline between 1971 and 2009, according to Michael Kochert, scientist emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise.

According to Kochert, “Although various human uses have affected raptor populations, the loss of native plant communities, spread of annual weeds and the escalating fire cycle have probably had the most significant and profound influences” (U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management website).

Now the public land users in Idaho have to face the aftermath of the Soda Fire in Owyhee County which burned approximately 284,000 acres. Some of the most productive sagegrouse habitat is now burned and blackened as a result of inadequate fine fuel load management. Despite the warning signs, BLM continued to dismiss the issue of high fuel loads on the public lands. BLM’s own data showed excessive fuel loads and these same federal land managers received warnings of catastrophic fire events from state agencies.

...One of many examples is the final grazing decision issued on the Sands Basin Allotment (part of the Soda fire) which has now burned. BLM documents show that utilization of a key grass species, Bluebunch wheatgrass changed from an average 47% grazing use prior to 1996 to an average of 11.67 percent grazed in 2011 in pasture 3. On this same allotment in pasture 4, Bluebunch wheatgrass was an average of 50 percent grazed prior to 1996 but reduced to an average of 12.9 percent grazed in 2011. Yet in a final grazing decision issued to ranchers in recent years, BLM’s management prescription, for an allotment which was noted to contain large amounts of very flammable exotic plants, further decreased the livestock grazing in the allotment. These types of management decisions will continue to allow for fine fuel loads to increase over time.

The BLM noted in their NEPA documents that a number of private, public and State Agencies asked them to consider using grazing to reduce fine fuel loads to limit wildfires. Yet when the BLM issued the grazing decision, the BLM Manager decided the “resource cost” was too great and grazing was reduced. The result of that decision, and dozens of like decisions over the years, is a blackened and charred landscape with no recreation value, no wildlife/sage grouse habitat value, and no grazing value.

Academic research and the science tells us that “livestock grazing is one management technique that has been shown to decrease fine fuel loading and subsequent wildfire severity (Archibald et al., 2005; Davies et al., 2010). Ungulate grazing reduces the standing herbaceous plant material available for burning; this in turn can potentially reduce the frequency, extent and intensity of fires in grass, shrub, and forest understory fuel types (Vale, 1974; Zimmerman & Neuenschwander, 1984; Tausch et al., 1994; Hobbs, 1996; Belsky & Blumenthal, 1997; Blackmore & Vitousek, 2000). In absence of livestock grazing, cheat grass will likely increase to its ecological potential for the site Journal of Range land Applications—Volume 1, 2014; pp. 35-57; ISSN: 2331-5512—Livestock Grazing Effects on Fuel Loads for Wildland Fire in Sagebrush Dominated Ecosystems Eva K. Strand 1, Karen L. Launchbaugh 2, Ryan Limb 3, and L. Allen Torell 4).

...The Soda Fire’s now burned and blackened 284,000 acres will have negative impacts for recreationist, ranchers, endangered species, and the Owyhee County economy for many years to come not to mention the extremely high cost of suppression and rehabilitation that tax payers will now pay. The Soda Fire burned 52,000 acres of priority sage-grouse habitat, 194,000 acres of important sage grouse habitat, and 36,000 acres of general sage-grouse habitat. It has still far-reaching and yet to be calculated impact to the livelihood of many ranches and the families who make their living on the range. Recreationalist will not be able to use the lands for many years. Wild horse herds will be displaced. All of this, simply because of a BLM institutional bias against using livestock for fine fuels management...

History clearly shows us that BLM management practices have been a complete failure. Rather than preventing catastrophic fire, BLM’s actions have ensured they will occur with regularity...

 Joe Merrick is chairman of the Owyhee County Commission. Jerry L. Hoagl and Kelly Aberasturi are commissioners.

Lawsuit targets fever tick quarantine program

BROWNSVILLE — A Cameron County cattle rancher says he and other ranchers “are mad” about the management of the fever tick quarantine program. Daniel “Danny” E. Davis of the Cascabel Cattle Co. says the application of regulations in the program in CameronCounty is arbitrary. He says cattle owners have been subjected to threats of criminal charges and alleges misuse of tick insecticide and illegal dumping of hazardous waste. He also says nilgai antelope have been needlessly slaughtered and operation of the program has hampered the sale of cattle despite no ticks. These challenges to the joint federal and state management of the program by the Texas Animal Health Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are contained in a federal lawsuit Davis filed in Brownsville this past week...In a 90-page complaint, Davis outlines a nightmare in dealing with the state and federal agencies and what he says are damages received at their hands. He says laws and constitutional rights are being violated. “This lawsuit is about the rule of law, and private rights under the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit states. “Specifically, USDA and TAHC are utilizing memorandums, guidances, and directives as if they were laws.” Davis alleges federal and state agencies and officials violated their duties under the law and tried to insulate themselves from legal challenges from those who suffered negative effects...more

NEW Photo Contest: Celebrating America’s cattle producers

Labor Day began on Sept. 5, 1882 and celebrates the social and economic achievements of American workers. This holiday is an annual national tribute that offers a nod to the contributions workers have made in making our nation strong and prosperous. As many enjoy a day’s vacation for Labor Day, American ranchers will still tend to their cattle, just as they do every other day of the year. When I think about hard-working Americans, I think ranchers rank at the top of the list. Agriculturalists face many challenges in their labor — calculated risks, unpredictable weather conditions and volatile markets can make the cattle business a challenging career choice. As a salute to the men and women who comprise this great cattle industry of ours, BEEF has teamed up with Greeley Hat Works to sponsor a photo contest. Below are the details you need to know to enter...more

Free-range descent

KETCHUM, Idaho - The atmosphere is festive, but tension is in the air. The main street of this tiny mountain village, where Ernest Hemingway's spirit still lives, is lined with throngs of visitors. Basque dancers in traditional costumes prance and pirouette to an ancient tune, followed by a mule-drawn gypsy-style caravan. The main event is soon at hand, heralded by the sound of thundering hooves echoing off walls and the unmistakable baaaa of . . . sheep?

It might be Pamplona, Spain, at the Running of the Bulls, the heart-pounding stampede of hooves and feet that Hemingway immortalized in The Sun Also Rises. But it's not. This is Ketchum, adjacent to the ski resort of Sun Valley, where "Papa" spent many of his later years, where he died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head in 1961 and was laid to rest.

Apart from its literary claim to fame, though, Ketchum has the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, celebrating the annual autumnal migration of the woolly creatures as they descend from higher altitudes to winter in the valley. The four-day festival - this year's iteration is Oct. 7-11 - is not just an excuse for a parade down Main Street. It is an acknowledgment of the legacy of sheep ranching in the Northwestern United States, a deep heritage that encompasses the very essence of the American dream.

Sheep first came to this part of the country in the 1860s, when livestock-laden ships from the Hudson Bay Co. docked at Astoria, Ore., at the mouth of the Columbia River. From there, herders moved eastward along the Columbia River Gorge, settling in the mountains and valleys of what would become eastern Oregon, northern Nevada, and southern Idaho. No coincidence that the famous Pendleton Woolen Mills started here.

By that time, the mining frenzy that had taken the West by storm a decade earlier was on the wane, and the sheep industry ambled into the void. The wide-open spaces and varying elevations are ideal for these naturally free-range animals. During a year, they traverse more than 100 linear miles and one mile in elevation, moving every four to five days as they seek temperatures suited to their fleecy coats.

"I didn't know what misery was until I started herding sheep," quipped Hank Volger, addressing the Friday-night audience at last year's festival. The Nevada sheep rancher and humorist typically leads a discussion with other ranchers about this unique - and uniquely American - way of life.

Last of the Cowboys: One rancher preserves history

Pamela Doiron opened the gate to her Cuyama Valley ranch for the first time, and the land was singing to her. With its barren hills and sweltering heat, El Rancho Espanol de Cuyama No. 1 is among the oldest vestiges of the Santa Barbara County cattle industry. Pristine grazing land stretches to the horizon as it did more than a century ago; before rural communities succumbed to urban sprawl, before grazing lost ground to higher value agricultural products, and before cattle became a nostalgic footnote in a landscape of changing economics. Doiron recalls looking back at her husband that day in 1998. The ranch's adobe home, charred in a fire decades before, needed remodeling. The wooden corrals were rotting. The bridge crossing Cuyama River would need to be rebuilt, and the cattle operation brought back to life. “This is where I belong,” she told him. “This is where we’re going to build our home.” A history of cattle The property is one-sixth of a 22,000-acre Mexican land grant that has served as a cattle ranch since 1843. Doiron’s 5,600 acres include the original adobe homestead built by Gaspar Orena, a prominent Spanish settler whose family owned thousands of acres of grazing land on the Central Coast. For 20 years following the Mexican-American War, when California was a territory of the United States and Spanish land grants were deemed void, Maria Antonia de la Guerra y Lataillade battled the U.S. government to keep the property. She lost half her land in the struggle, sacrificing it to pay legal fees. Now Doiron, an anomaly in her field, is preserving what she can of the historic property. Few get into the cattle business mid-life, and fewer see Santa Barbara County as a viable place for a cattle start-up...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1483

Let's have Swingin' Tuesday with the Midnight Cattle Callers performing Sometimes You're Lucky (Sometimes You're Not). The tune is on their 2011 self-titled CD.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Burning Man 2015: The man burns and Burners break camp

Black Rock City erupted in cheering as the gigantic wooden man burned on Saturday night at Burning Man. Following fireworks and fire dancing, the man exploded in a ball of flame and collapsed into ashes after about 45 minutes. The vibration of music lasted through the night and well into the early morning. By sunrise, however, it was quite a different story. While some Burners had left earlier in the week due to high winds throughout the event, the bulk of 70,000 attendees were getting ready to leave by Sunday. Traffic on Pyramid Highway and Intersate I-80 was expected to be heavy Sunday and Monday, with varying degrees of backed-up traffic. “Today’s mission is to find a way back home,” said Bastian Ernst, who lives in San Francisco...more

A psychedelic send-off for 'the godfather of LSD': Susan Sarandon at Burning Man

Susan Sarandon led a very belated funeral procession for her dear friend, the 'godfather of LSD' Timothy Leary, at Burning Man on Saturday. Clutching his ashes on the march into a makeshift church, the 67-year-old actress - who was wearing a bridal gown - said she had wanted to lay Leary to rest where he would be surrounded by revelers who had taken the psychedelic drug to honor his memory. 'I think he'd be so happy,' Sarandon said of Leary, who died and was cremated in 1996. 'I think he would have loved the chaos. He would have loved it. And all these people honoring him with LSD.' Sarandon led a march to bring his ashes into the 'church', which was built as an art installation at the festival, according to USA Today. The church was set alight on Saturday after the Burning Man statue was burned. Sarandon told USA Today that the festival struck her as the perfect resting place for Leary when she visited it in 2014. This year she returned with her share of his ashes to ceremoniously say goodbye, as she camped with a collection of artists and helped build a 'Totem Of Confessions' with California photographer Michael Garlington. Most of Leary's ashes were sent into outer space in 1997, but Sarandon kept some...more

At Burning Man, you'll see lots of crazy driving: cupcake cars, an octopus, even a mobile phone

In the early years of Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert that celebrates what it calls "dreamers and doers," there were Art Cars: automobiles so baroquely decorated that the only rational reaction was to stop and gape. When the event migrated from a San Francisco beach to the Nevada desert in 1990, there were but a dozen such conveyances. The most iconic was “Oh My God!” -- a vintage VW festooned with knick-knacks. It was the brainchild of Harrod Blank, who later made the film "Wild Wheels." If the policy of letting people doll up their passenger cars had continued, the event, which began Tuesday and continues through Monday, would be inundated with customized Fords and Toyotas. As attendance grew, the dangers of that route became evident. So in the late 1990s, the Burning Man organization revised the rules. Art Cars were out; Mutant Vehicles were in. “A Mutant Vehicle,” Burning Man says, “is a unique, motorized creation that shows little or no resemblance to [its] original form, or to any standard street vehicle.” Burning Man does more than define what a Mutant Vehicle is. There are immutable rules governing every MV’s lighting, safety and sound. They must also be interactive (not just for the builders) and truly mutated: There must be a “wow factor.”...more

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The last straw

 by Julie Carter

John Wayne taught about every cowboy I know how to be fearless. It’s the movies, but they believe it anyway.

They will fight to get on a horse that clearly has blood in his eye and rope wild cattle that would love nothing better than run a horn through them or their horses. They will climb windmill towers in a blizzard wind and track cougars through the snow, fly crop dusters like a wild man, and generally undertake most any dangerous activity they can dream up.

On occasion, they will even go so far as to order their wives around.

When not endangering themselves, they love nothing better than to help their pards out along those same lines.

Butch was running a big working crew and had already put in a full day. With great concentration, sitting astride his cowpony, he was counting cattle out the gate.

“Butch,” came a voice from behind him. Butch went on counting; ignoring the idiot that would dare interrupt.

“Butch,” came the voice again and getting the same response as before.

This continued but Butch just kept counting. When the last cow got through the gate, Butch turned and said, “What do you want, Frank?”

Frank tossed a big rattlesnake onto Butch’s lap and the wreck was on.

When the horse was back under control, the snake shaken off and his heart rate back below the critical stage, Butch rode over to Frank. He gave him a mean squinty-eyed look and said, “I might not could whup you, but I could surely hit you up side the head with this saddle gun I have.”

Frank took this statement under thoughtful consideration.

The next week Frank was horseback counting cattle while Butch was slowly driving the feed truck along and putting out feed. Frank tossed another big snake in the front seat of the truck. Butch bailed out the other side, the truck continued on, and Frank beat a cowboy retreat for parts afar.

During the rather colorful discussion that followed somewhat later, it was determined that Frank would not give Butch any more snakes, no matter the circumstances.

At the next cattle working, Butch seemed to have misplaced his gloves. Nobody would admit to anything, even with Butch’s threats about what he’d do if he found out someone assisted the gloves in going missing.

At the break, Frank brought out a Banty rooster he had brought from home and carefully put him in the large cardboard box full of ear tags.

When they started working again, he fessed up to Butch about his gloves and told him they were in the ear tag box. The flapping sqawking rooster moment that followed when the box was opened was not nearly as good as the rattlesnake chaos, but it would do.

The next day Butch told Frank to saddle up the new bay colt and put some miles on him. He specifically told him to ride across the tank dam and show the colt how to do that, get him used to it. 

Frank rode the skittish, scared colt onto the dam -- fence on one side, water on the other-- when a big Canadian goose whose nest was disturbed by this intruder, raised up, flapped her wings and hissed loudly at Frank.

You can break a colt to tolerate a lot of things, but a mad momma goose on the fight is not one of them.

It had taken awhile, but it was in this moment, Frank had an epiphany. He was thinking maybe it was time to give Butch a break.

Julie can be reached for comment at