Saturday, October 10, 2015

EPA spends millions on military-style weapons, watchdog group reports

The Environmental Protection Agency has spent millions of dollars over the last decade on military-style weapons to arm its 200 “special agents” to fight environmental crime. Among the weapons purchased are guns, body armor, camouflage equipment, unmanned aircraft, amphibious assault ships, radar and night-vision gear and other military-style weaponry and surveillance activities, according to a new report by the watchdog group Open the Books. “Protecting the environment just got real. With millions of dollars spent on military style weaponry, the EPA is now literally ensconced with all institutional force,” said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open the Books and the author of the report. “Our report discovered that when the EPA comes knocking they are armed with a thousand lawyers, arrest/criminal data, credit, business and property histories, plus a ‘Special Agent’ with the latest in weaponry and technology,” Mr. Andrzejewski added. The agency spends nearly $75 million each year for criminal enforcement, including money for a small militia of 200 “special agents” charged with fighting environmental crime. Congress granted police powers to the EPA in 1988, during the Reagan administration. The special agent “enforces the nation’s laws by investigating cases, collecting evidence, conducting forensic analyses and providing legal guidance to assist in the prosecution of criminal conduct that threatens people’s health and the environment,” according to the EPA’s website. The EPA estimates that each Special Agent costs taxpayers $216,000 per year in salary, travel, equipment, training and other expenses, according to the report...more

Does EPA Need Guns, Ammo And Armor To Protect The Environment?

...The report raises questions about why EPA's enforcement division employs well-armed "special agents" who appear to be conducting SWAT-type operations on American businesses and households it suspects of wrongdoing. The audit discovered hundreds of millions of dollars of questionable expenses, including high-end luxury furnishings, sports equipment and "environmental justice" grants to raise awareness of global warming. It also revealed that seven of 10 EPA workers make more than $100,000 a year and that more than 12,000 of its nearly 16,000 employees were given bonuses last year despite agency budgets that were supposed to be constrained by budget caps and sequester cuts. EPA's $8 billion budget also found room for more than 1,000 attorneys, which would make the agency one of the largest law firms in the nation. And more than $50 million of EPA funds since 2000 went to international organizations — dollars that flowed to countries such as China and Mexico. These activities appear to have little or no connection to the EPA mandate of safeguarding the air and water here in the U.S. But the eye-grabber in the report is the agency's ongoing military-type purchases. Some $75 million is authorized each year for criminal enforcement, including money for a small militia of 200 "special agents" that appear to be snooping on industry and preparing to use deadly force to enforce EPA edicts. "We were shocked ourselves to find these kind of pervasive expenditures at an agency that is supposed to be involved in clean air and clean water," said Open the Books' founder, Adam Andrzejewski. "Some of these weapons are for full-scale military operations."...more

Friday, October 09, 2015

EPA Water Rule Blocked Nationwide By Sixth Circuit

The Sixth Circuit today stayed the effect of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new “Clean Water Rule” nationwide, while the Court of Appeals considers whether it has original jurisdiction to hear challenges to the regulation or whether those challenges should proceed first in the federal district courts. Among other reasons, the court said staying the Rule would remove uncertainty and confusion by restoring a uniform definition of “waters of the United States” nationwide. Before today, the prior regulatory definition of waters of the United States was in effect in 13 states where the federal district court for North Dakota had enjoined the new Clean Water Rule; the new Rule’s definition applied in the rest of the country. In granting the stay, the Sixth Circuit found that petitioners had a “substantial possibility” of succeeding on the merits of their challenge, for both substantive and procedural reasons. Substantively, the court questioned whether the Clean Water Rule’s provisions limiting jurisdiction over certain types of waters to those located within a specified distance from a navigable waterway are consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006). Procedurally, the court found the rulemaking process by which the distance limitations were established was “facially suspect” because respondents have not shown those provisions were a “logical outgrowth” of the proposed regulations or that the public had “reasonably specific notice” the distance limitations were among the range of alternatives being considered. As one member of the three-judge panel noted in dissent, the majority’s ruling is unusual in that the court enjoined implementation of the Clean Water Rule while it is still considering whether it even has jurisdiction to hear the challenges to the Rule...more

The $1 billion project lost to Las Cruces because of the Monument - video

In the arid plains of the southern New Mexico desert, between the site of the first atomic bomb test and the U.S.-Mexico border, a new city is rising from the sand. Planned for a population of 35,000, the city will showcase a modern business district downtown, and neat rows of terraced housing in the suburbs. It will be supplied with pristine streets, parks, malls and a church. But no one will ever call it home. The CITE (Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation) project is a full-scale model of an ordinary American town. Yet it will be used as a petri dish to develop new technologies that will shape the future of the urban environment. The $1 billion scheme, led by telecommunications and tech firm Pegasus Global Holdings, will see 15-square-miles dedicated to ambitious experiments in fields such as transport, construction, communication and security. CITE will include specialized zones for developing new forms of agriculture, energy, and water treatment. An underground data collection network will provide detailed, real-time feedback. "The vision is an environment where new products, services and technologies can be demonstrated and tested without disrupting everyday life," says Pegasus Managing Director Robert Brumley. Without a human population to worry about, the possibilities are endless. Driverless vehicles could be used on responsive roads, monitored from above by traffic drones. Homes could be designed to survive natural disasters, and fitted with robotic features. Alternative energy sources such as Thorium power could be tested at scale. "You can bring new things to have them stressed, break them, and find out the laws of unintended consequences," says Brumley. "This should become like a magnet where people with ideas and technologies come, and not just test but interact." The director describes CITE as an "intermediary step" between lab testing a technology and it reaching the public. He believes the process will deliver more market-ready products and address the 'Valley of Death' -- the shortfall that exists between investment in research and development, and the revenues this generates. After first being proposed in 2011, CITE struggled to find suitable land and the project was shelved for two years. One site close to the Organ Mountains was nixed when President Obama declared it part of a National Monument. But a new location has been chosen, and pending the release of commercial licenses, work can begin. Builders will be on site this year, and the city could be operational as early as 2018. Pegasus has support from the state of New Mexico, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging its commitment to the project...more

Actually, it was the mere threat of the 500,000 acre National Monument that drove the project leaders to seek another site. 

If our city and county officials had endorsed the proposed monument for the Organ Mountains alone, the project would have been ours.  But no, they endorsed the enviros plan of shoehorning the public's support for protecting the Organs (50,000 acres) into a huge monument 10 times larger than the mountain complex.

We'll never know what future projects this will cost us.  This one alone has cost us thousands of jobs and a big boost to our tax base.  

Congratulations to Deming and Luna County, where the progressive/enviro combo has limited influence, for snaring this forward-looking project.

Here's a video/animation on CNN's website that shows the layout of the project.

Groups urge feds to release more Mexican wolves in New Mexico

More than three dozen environmental groups asked the federal government Thursday to release at least five packs of Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico to bolster the genetics of the endangered predators. The groups sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe. The request came after New Mexico wildlife officials declined to issue permits to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for releases earlier this year in Gila National Forest. The agency also was denied a permit that would’ve cleared the way for more cross-fostering of captive pups by pairs in the wild. The groups asked for federal officials to consult with independent scientists as well as state and local government entities to come up with a multi-year schedule for releasing wolves to address inbreeding within the wild population. “Scientists warn that the lack of timely releases of wolves to the wild jeopardizes the recovery of this unique subspecies of the gray wolf and may doom it to extinction through inbreeding depression,” the letter states...more

The CBD release is here and the letter is here.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The EPA Spilled Again in Colorado and Failed to Tell

Washington, D.C. (October 8th, 2015) – Reports are in that yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caused a spill of 2,000 gallons while working on a cleanup site at the Standard Mine in central western Colorado. The EPA failed to notify federal officials including Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) and has yet to comment on the spill. Information from local officials indicates that roughly 2,000 gallons of gray wastewater was released from the site. Work had recently resumed from a temporary halt after the August 5 blowout at Gold King Mine.

In August, EPA contractors released over 3 million gallons of toxic mine water from the Gold King mine cleanup site into the Animas river. Officials in areas all along the river were forced to get their information from other sources and backchannels. The EPA failed to contact local, tribal, and federal officials in a timely manner.

Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-at large) and Vice Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03) issued the following statements in response to the Standard Mine spill:

“I don’t understand how, after all the trouble the EPA is in for the catastrophic Animas River spill, they could fail yet again to inform officials when they make another potentially dangerous mistake,” said Chairman Lummis. “While not the same magnitude of Animus, the EPA has caused another spill and failed to inform all concerned officials in a timely manner. The EPA has broken trust with the American people. Moving forward we need a more trustworthy process to clean up these sites and that solution lies in empowering and cooperating closely with local communities.”

“Another spill caused by the actions of the EPA—at a Superfund site no less—calls further into question this agency’s ability to adequately execute these types of projects. It is troubling and frustrating that the spill occurred yesterday and once again the EPA did not notify our office, despite repeated assurances from EPA after the Gold King blowout that communication would improve. Apparently nothing has changed at EPA,” said Vice Chairman Tipton. “These sites need to be cleaned up, and I believe there is a better way to go about it than the current EPA status-quo. That is why I continue to work with my colleagues and with local stakeholders to put the power and funding to address these problems in the hands of the folks on the ground who have been working to solve them for years. ”

Commissioners: No to Owyhee Canyonlands Monument effort

Wednesday morning, Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist, John Lindsey and Will Tucker signed a letter destined for Oregon’s elected officials, opposing plans by the federal government to designate 2.5 million acres in Malheur County — known as the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument — as wilderness and national monument areas.

Proponents of the plan say it will protect 2.5 million acres of land that is rich in geography, has numerous archaeological treasures and would ensure activities such as fishing, boating, hunting and hiking could continue.

“We do not support a federal designation of public lands without the concurrence of affected local governments or local public participation,” the letter read in part. “A special federal land designation, such as a monument, will have a negative economic impact to those living in the area. Ranching operations throughout southeastern Oregon will be reduced as the majority of ranchers are tied to federal grazing.”

The commissioners’ resolution opposed the federal proposal due to the following concerns:

• All mining and natural gas exploration efforts will cease.
• MalheurCounty will lose its number one ranking in cattle production in the state.
• Hunting and fishing will be severely limited due to no motorized access.
• The cost of search and rescue operations will increase due to limited access.
• The county will lose property tax revenue to the county and state.
• Rural school numbers will decrease.
• Loss of direct and ancillary ag jobs in an already economically depressed area.
• Wildfire dangers could increase due to more dry vegetation and local of best management practices in rangelands.
• Decreased wildlife.

Are Ranchers Terrorists?

It’s a prime example of why ranchers and the BLM don’t get along. Eastern Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond served three months and one year in federal prison, respectively, after a fire they started on their property spread to BLM land. The fire, set to control juniper trees and sagebrush, burned less than 140 acres of public land. A jury convicted the father and son in 2012, and a U.S. District Judge handed down the sentence. Should have been case closed, except the feds weren’t satisfied. They appealed the sentence because it didn’t meet mandatory guidelines stipulated in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which Congress passed following the Oklahoma City bombing. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken re-sentenced the men to five years in federal prison. Oregon Farm Bureau president Barry Bushue said, “This is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.  link

Statement by Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue on sentencing of Steve and Dwight Hammond to five years in federal prison

“Today two Oregon ranchers were sentenced to five years in federal prison under terrorism statutes for setting preventative fires on their own land. We are gravely disappointed at this outcome.

Elderly Harney County rancher Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, a former OFB Board member and Harney County Farm Bureau president, have already served time in federal prison for their mistakes and paid their debt to society for the less-than-140 acres of BLM land that was accidentally impacted by the fires.

This is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.

Today’s verdict is also hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to public and private grazing lands, which goes without consequence. It is unjust. OFB worked on this case quietly behind the scenes with BLM through the spring and summer. That diligent diplomatic effort was fruitless.

This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers, foresters, and others who rely on federal allotments and permits. It will harm the positive relationship many ranchers and organizations have worked to forge with the BLM, and undermine the cooperative spirit most ranchers have brought to the bureau in helping the health of the range.

Please join Farm Bureau and declare your support for Steve and Dwight Hammond. Join over 2,600 other citizens from across the country and show BLM that this extreme abuse of power will not go unnoticed and is shameful. Sign the petition at This must never happen again.

OFB will continue to work to bring public and policymaker attention to this case.”

See my previous post here.

Editorial - ‘Wolf-friendly beef’ idea patronizing to ranchers

There isn’t anyone who hasn’t said something that sounded better in their head than it did when they said it out loud.

That’s what we thought when we heard that conservation groups in Washington participating on the state’s wolf advisory panel suggested helping ranchers by creating a premium label for “wolf-friendly beef” for producers who employ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf protection measures.

Dan Paul, state director of The Humane Society of the United States, said as with cage-free eggs, some consumers would be willing to pay more for beef raised with wolf protection measures.


First, we’d point out that all beef raised on grazing land in wolf country is “wolf-friendly.” It all can fall prey. Ranchers in Washington and Oregon can’t legally shoot a wolf, as they are protected either by state or federal law. In fact, we would argue beef protected by extensive measures championed by the panel is less friendly to wolves. If the measures work — and producers say the results are mixed at best — wolves have to work harder for their meal.

Second, we think the number of people who would pay more for beef in order to somehow help wolves would be small.

Though we don’t necessarily think it’s true, people who buy cage-free eggs believe they’re getting a better quality product because of the way hens are treated. The reasoning goes that cage-free hens are exposed to less disease and stress, therefore their eggs are better.

But there is no corresponding perceived quality enhancement for “wolf-friendly” beef. The benefits from such measures go exclusively to the wolves and their champions.

Ranchers are quick to point out that to recoup the cost of the suggested counter-measures, “wolf-friendly” products would have to be priced 50 percent more than comparable conventional (wolf hostile?) products.

We’ll give the wolf advocates the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere in their desire to help ranchers cope with wolves on the range. But a new marketing ploy is not a substitute for a viable management plan that includes a full range of control options, including lethal measures for problem wolves.

Gosar cheers removal of Sonoran desert tortoise from Endangered Species candidate list

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) released a statement this week commending the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove the Sonoran desert tortoise from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) candidate list, calling it a win for common sense. “For far too long, unnecessary and misguided species listings, not based on science, have resulted in endless new regulations that harm our economic prosperity,” Gosar said. Gosar’s statement acknowledged the likelihood of an appeal from environmental groups, but an accompanying release highlighted the reasons why the decision stands to benefit Arizonans, one of which is that listing the tortoise would impact State Trust land revenues, which help fund K-12 education. “Local conservation efforts continue to yield positive results for threatened species like the Sonoran desert tortoise and incentivize local property owners, ranchers and developers to work with federal and state wildlife management agencies,” Gosar said...more

For decades, the government steered millions away from whole milk. Was that wrong?

U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk, and for decades, Americans have obeyed. Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed. “Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease. Whether this massive shift in eating habits has made anyone healthier is an open question among scientists, however. In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk. Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease. By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the United States is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”  This shift in understanding has led to accusations that the Dietary Guidelines harmed those people who for years avoided fats -- as instructed -- and loaded up excessively on the carbohydrates in foods such as breads, cookies and cakes that were marketed as "low fat." It also has raised questions about the scientific foundations of the government’s diet advice: To what extent did the federal government, and the diet scientists they relied upon, go wrong? When the evidence is incomplete on a dietary question, should the government refrain from making recommendations?...more

About the Washington Post article above, John Merlin writes:

The story goes on to note that the government's push for Americans to eat a high-carb diet "provokes a number of heart disease risk factors." As the Harvard School of Public Health's Walter Willett put it, the "campaign to reduce fat in the diet has had some pretty disastrous consequences." The Post goes on to note that this "has raised questions about the scientific foundations of the government's diet advice." It should. Based on flimsy evidence, the USDA first started urging people to eat low-fat diets in 1977. As evidence grew that this advice was misguided — at best — it steadfastly refused to change course. So what we have here is the U.S. government using its power and might to push Americans — quite successfully — to change their eating habits in ways that likely killed many of them. If a private enterprise had done this, it would face massive class action lawsuits, its executives would be in jail, and its reputation permanently ruined.

Reminds me of what I posted yesterday about government-set fires, i.e., there is no accountability. Bottom line: the feds are mismanaging one out of every three acres in the U.S., and you best keep them out of your kitchen too. 

Got Incompetence?  Oh yes, we are surrounded by it.  

Federal judge returns ranchers to prison in fire case

An Eastern Oregon rancher and his adult son on Wednesday finally got the prison sentences they deserve — according to the law — for deliberately setting fires that spread from their property onto federal land. Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, were each sentenced to mandatory minimum sentences of five years, in proceedings scheduled after a federal appeals court ruled that a judge in Eugene had disregarded the law and let the ranchers off too lightly during their original sentencing hearing three years ago. Now-retired U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan in 2012 sentenced Steven Hammond to one year and a day in prison for setting intentional fires in 2001 and 2006, and ordered Dwight Hammond to spend three months behind bars for his involvement in the 2001 blaze, which burned in the Steens Mountain federal management and protection area. Hogan, who retired the day after the hearing, said at the time that the mandatory minimum five-year sentences represented “grossly disproportionate” punishment for the crimes. The government appealed Hogan’s decision, and a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Hogan had illegally sentenced the Hammonds to terms below the mandatory minimum. The Harney County ranchers already have served the sentences imposed by Hogan, and will receive credit for that time when they return to prison. Nearly 20 friends and relatives of the Hammonds attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Eugene. District Judge Ann Aiken imposed the mandatory minimum sentences and explained to those in attendance that the hearing was required after the appeals court “sent it back for the (district) court to follow the law.” A federal jury in Pendleton found the Hammond ranchers guilty of using fire to damage and destroy federal property, after a two-week trial in June 2012...more

For more background on this case, see this and this.

Surely then, when the federales set burns on federal property that damages private lands, they will go to jail too, right?

WildEarth Guardians seek support for grazing buyout legislation

It’s long past time to give America’s endangered wolves more room to roam on our public lands and simultaneously give ranchers the ability to permanently retire their grazing permits.  We’ve got just the tool to help both wolves and ranchers: it’s called grazing permit retirement. But we need Congress to pass legislation to allow this to happen across the western landscape.  Join us in telling Congress to pass legislation that will allow us to work with more and more ranchers to retire livestock grazing from our most sensitive and valuable public lands in the west. Lets give them an exit strategy that will be fair and equitable to everyone.  On public land across the West, millions of livestock remove and trample vegetation, damage soil, spread invasive weeds, despoil water, deprive native wildlife of forage and shelter, accelerate desertification, and even contribute to global warming.  Raising cattle generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation. On federal public lands alone livestock account for annual emissions equivalent of 705,342 passenger vehicles. Now there is proposed legislation that would provide an equitable solution. The Rural Economic Vitalization Act (H.R. 3410) would begin to alleviate these problems by providing public lands ranchers the option to relinquish their grazing permits in exchange for market-based compensation paid by private release 

Keep in mind that similar legislation targeted to specific Wilderness areas and surrounding allotments, championed by Idaho Republican Mike Simpson in the House and agreed to by both Republican Idaho Senators, has passed Congress and been signed into law this year.  See this.

Sheep wars rage on in southwest Montana

by Ben Goldfarb

Last month, on a remote, snow-dusted rise high in Montana’s Gravelly Mountains, I found myself beset by an army of livestock.

The sheep came over the hill in martial lines, a fleecy platoon framed by the teeth of the Madison Range, guard dogs nipping at their cloven heels like irate sergeants. The four-legged troops quickly captured our knoll, and my companions and I retreated to our car to watch the flock tug at the brown grass. Eventually a solitary horseman appeared along the ridgeline and began coaxing the sheep toward lower ground. It was mid-September, and the mountain grazing season had reached its end — for the final time, if conservationists get their way. I had, perhaps, witnessed the last hurrah of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge flock.

From Wayne Hage to Cliven Bundy, Westerners have been clashing over livestock since Gus McCrae and Captain Call first drove cattle into Montana. Even within that proud tradition, however, the current tussle over the Helle & Rebish/Konen flock stands out. Together, the families graze around 8,000 sheep from July to September on seven allotments in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, a gentle but wild swell overlooking the plains of the Madison Valley. The sheep live on private land the rest of the year.
...Grazing also impedes the recovery of bighorn sheep, which are susceptible to contracting pneumonia from their domestic brethren. To avoid devastating outbreaks, wildlife managers strive to prevent wild and domestic sheep from mingling on the range, effectively precluding bighorns from vast swaths of public land. In Montana, the standoff has proved disastrous to bighorn recovery. 

Though the state vowed in 2010 to create five new bighorn herds over a decade, there’s nowhere to stick the ungulates that wouldn’t expose them to disease. The situation has gotten so bad that some officials say Montana would be better off shipping its sheep to South Dakota.

Though bighorn sheep were reintroduced near the Gravelly Mountains in 2002, that herd comprises only 35 animals, far below the 125 that Montana deems a viable unit. Nearby herds are hardly faring better. According to conservationists, that’s because grazing’s giant hoofprint has kept bighorn herds too small and isolated to thrive.

“The question is, are we really going to allocate all this public land to domestic sheep influence?” demands Glenn Hockett, president of the Gallatin Wildlife Association.

Service Proposes to List the Headwater Chub and Roundtail Chub as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to list two minnows, the headwater chub and a distinct population segment (DPS) of the roundtail chub in the Lower Colorado River Basin (Arizona and New Mexico), as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The headwater chub (Gila nigra) grows to about eight inches in length, is dark gray to brown with silvery sides, and lives in the upper and middle reaches of moderately sized streams. Headwater chub historically occur in a number of tributaries of the Verde River, most of the Tonto Creek drainage, much of the San Carlos River drainage, and parts of the upper Gila River in New Mexico. Today, they occur in the same drainages, but have a smaller distribution. The nine- to 14-inch roundtail chub (Gila robusta, also known as the Verde trout) is an olive-gray to silver minnow with a lighter belly. The species was historically considered common in deep pools and eddies of large streams throughout its range in the Upper and Lower Colorado River basins in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Today the roundtail chub occupies about 18 percent of its historical range in the Lower Colorado River Basin and is limited to Arizona’s Little Colorado, Bill Williams, Salt, San Carlos and Verde River drainages, Eagle and Aravaipa creeks, and New Mexico’s upper Gila River...Press Release

Return of the water wars revisited: an opinionated book review

Colorado speculative fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi’s new book, The Water Knife (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, $25.95), has caught on...I’m a trained historian and journalist. We assemble facts and try to make sense of them. Fiction writers do what we cannot: let us inside the thoughts and hearts of those we write about. Fiction writers are not bound to the provable; they can use informed imagination to show us what if….and that’s what Bacigalupi does. The novel is set in a near-future Las Vegas and Phoenix, with the Southwest overheated and dry due to climate change. Mexico is now run on the state level by drug cartels, and California remains the promised land. States have legislated sovereignty and use the National Guard to patrol their borders to keep migrants — mostly from drought-destroyed Texas — out. Water is the most precious resource, and the wealthy have water-rich “arcologies” with waterfalls and ponds using recycled wastewater. The poor scramble for Chinese yuan to buy drinking water daily. Legal battles combine with helicopter raids, blowing up dams and cutting Arizona’s CAP canal line. The rich cluster in Las Vegas while squatters occupy what’s left of Phoenix. “The CAP is Arizona’s IV drip,” a character says. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming threaten to hold back the shrinking supply of Colorado River water, as they are, in fact, trying to do. Aquifers have been pumped nearly dry and dust storms are so common people routinely wear dust masks from REI. Urine is recycled into drinking water. Swimming pools are dry and collect dead bodies. Farmers disappear overnight when they won’t sell their water rights...more

California poised to be 1st state to outlaw human antibiotics in livestock

This has been the year of antibiotics awareness in the food industry. Giant food corporations like McDonald’s, Tyson, Foster Farms and Costco all announced plans to phase out meat raised with antibiotics. But these efforts pale in comparison to pending California legislation that aims to strictly limit antibiotic use in agriculture and, according to public health experts, could reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by drug-resistant bacteria. With the passage of SB27, which Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign by Sunday, California would be the first state in the nation to outlaw the routine use of human antibiotics in livestock. Supporters say it could have a wide-ranging influence. “California is a big agricultural state, and it often is a bellwether for the nation. We often see the FDA following suit or other states following suit,” said Elisa Odabashian of Consumers Union, a supporter of the bill, speaking of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sales of medically important antibiotics to livestock producers went up 20 percent from 2009 to 2013, according to the FDA, just as Americans have become increasingly concerned by their use. According to research conducted for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, 48 percent of consumers are “uncomfortable” with antibiotic use in animal production, and 53 percent of consumers frequently wonder if the food they buy is safe. Currently, livestock producers across the country can purchase over-the-counter antibiotics in the form of feed, injections and pills. In what’s called subtherapeutic antibiotic use, low daily or routine doses of antibiotics can be used to promote growth, which reduces feed costs. Antibiotics can also be routinely added to feed or water to help prevent disease or to directly treat an infection...more

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

More than 200 hundred new species discovered

A sneezing monkey, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are just some of a biological treasure trove of over 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years, according to a new report by WWF. The report, Hidden Himalayas: Asia’s Wonderland released on World Habitat Day maps out scores of new species found by scientists from various organizations including 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird and one mammal. The volume and diversity of discoveries, 211 in total between 2009 and 2014, highlight the region as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth; the discoveries listed equating to an average of 34 new species discovered annually for the past six years...more

AFBF, NCBA, other ag groups support trade deal

The American Farm Bureau said, “We hope the agreement will bring a more level playing field for farmers and ranchers by reducing tariffs and removing non-science based barriers to trade. We expect to see increased access for our agricultural products, particularly some meats.” While he reserved final judgment on the agreement until he is able to read it, Wade Cowan, president of the American Soybean Association, said, “The agreement will eliminate tariffs and other market access barriers in most markets and substantially increase access in remaining markets. We are optimistic that soybeans, soybean products and the livestock products produced by our customers all will fare well in the TPP agreement when specific details are revealed.” And by the way, soybeans are the top U.S. farm export when measured by value. Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers, said, "We are hopeful that this agreement continues the tradition of past free trade agreements, which have had a positive impact for America's farmers and ranchers. In the coming weeks, we will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of America's corn farmers." U.S. Grains Council CEO Tom Sleight said the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is expected to increase the output of all U.S. grain exports by 11 percent. The National Cattlemen’s’ Beef Association said, “Congress should ratify the TPP, we can’t afford to pass this off to other countries. We’re the biggest economy in this agreement and it’s time for the U.S. to really take the lead.” The National Pork Producers Council said, “The Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement will help ensure that exports of U.S. pork products remain competitive in Asian markets. There’s nothing at this point that gives us any pause.”...more

Western States Fighting for Control of Federal Lands

by Ann Purvis

A new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) highlights a growing rift between Western states and the national government over what the states argue is gross mismanagement of the federal lands within their borders.

According to ALEC, more than 50 bills to transfer public lands from the federal government to state control were offered in or adopted by state legislatures in 2015.

On average, the national government controls more than 50 percent of the land within the borders of the 12 most western states, including 81 percent of Nevada and 66 percent of Utah. The national government controls just 4 percent of land in the 38 non-western states. Utah and its western neighbors are increasingly calling for the same treatment, with some Western lawmakers contending states could better manage the resources. 

Federal Land Mismanagement

ALEC calculates taxpayers lose $2 billion annually due to federal mismanagement of public lands. Federal land management agencies also face large maintenance backlogs, the study found. The National Park Service alone had a backlog of more than $11 billion of work, as of 2014.

The report highlights research from the Property and Environment Research Center showing every dollar spent by the federal government managing lands in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico returned just 73 cents to the federal treasury, whereas every dollar spent by those state governments on their public lands earned a return of $14.51.

Karla Jones, director of the ALEC Task Force on International Relations and Federalism and author of the federal lands report, says the disparity between federal and state management largely comes down to bureaucracy, with the federal government’s “use it or lose it budgeting” giving federal agencies no incentive to cut costs. 

Wildfire Concerns

Advocates of transferring federal land to the states contend states would be better stewards of the environment on public lands, as well as managing them more economically.

From 1980–89, during the Reagan administration, the number of large wildfires on federal lands averaged 140 per year. Because the amount of logging declined by 80 percent and hundreds of forest roads were closed since 1989, the number of large wildfires has risen substantially, topping 250 large fires annually from 2000–09. The U.S. Forest Service reports more than half the agency’s budget will go toward dealing with wildfires in 2015, up from just 16 percent in 1995.

Although critics of plans to transfer federal lands to the states question whether states can assume the growing costs of fighting wildfires, proponents argue federal mismanagement has exacerbated the wildfire problem.

“Of course the states cannot afford to manage fires and forests the way the federal government does,” said Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory (R-Salt Lake County).

Ivory says reducing the fuel loads—trees and other combustible material—in these areas would reduce the problem.

Jones suggests states could create additional road access to “give firefighters greater ability to get to fires while they’re still small.”

The ALEC report is here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


It's a busy week and things aren't running real smooth for the kid.  Posts are spotty and will probably stay that way for awhile.

Wolf attack alarms ranchers

By Oregon Cattlemen’s Association

On August 25, 2015 Oregon Cattlemen’s Association members, Buck and Chelsea Matthews, dealt with the unexpected. The ranchers woke to discover one of their dogs laying on the porch with what appeared to be wolf’s teeth marks on his neck. “Scooter, was laying by the front door when I headed out in the morning,” owner Buck Matthews said. “I thought he was dead. He was laying on his side obviously injured and bleeding from his back and front legs.”

The couple lives in Troy Oregon, an hour and a half from the nearest town. They loaded the dog up and rushed him to a veterinary office in Enterprise. Dr. Randy Greenshields of Double Arrow vet clinic was the vet on duty that received Scooter. “It was pretty gruesome,” Greenshields said.

“Scooter had both front legs punctured with torn muscle and bruising on the back of his neck.” He said the skin was not only torn loose, but that it was lifted off of the muscle. His hind legs were also bruised.

It was several hours later when Buck and Chelsea realized that Scooter wasn’t the only dog that had been hurt. Tom, a dog that typically tags along with their children during the daytime hours, had been attacked too. Buck Matthews said Tom had jumped in the truck to head to work in the morning and didn’t start moving slow until later that day. “After looking closer, we saw he had lacerations behind his ear and hind legs and was bruised really bad on his belly/underside.” Wolf bites

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was called to examine the dogs. According to an official ODFW report, “ODFW examined both live dogs and found multiple bite marks indicating attack by large predator or domestic dog. The location and appearance of the bite wounds noted above are similar to those ODFW biologists have observed on other depredations by wolves.” The injuries were evidence enough for ODFW to label the attack “wolf probable.”

...The attack on their dogs was close enough to the house that it has raised some concern for the Matthews, especially since they had no idea wolves were coming so close to the house before the attack occurred. “We’ve seen a wolf twice since the attack. Both times it was less than a mile from our house,” Buck Matthews said.

Chelsea Matthews said the family is now taking extra precautions, both with their dogs and young children. “We lock all the dogs up at night and the kids have to stay where I can see them (when playing outside),” she said. “It’s not worth the risk of me sending them out of sight knowing that there are wolves around.” Matthews said it is frustrating to not be able to let her children explore and play outside without constant worry. “Our kids should get to experience all the joys of being country kids.”

UN releases draft agreement on climate change

The United Nations on Monday released a first draft of the negotiating text for the major conference on climate taking place in Paris in December. The document is a step forward for the talks, slimming down the text from more than 90 pages earlier this year to just 20. Negotiators from 195 countries are to gather for a new session of talks Oct. 19-23 in Bonn, Germany. A large number of proposals in the text are in parentheses, meaning they are still to be negotiated. The document notably includes a long-term goal for reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, but details and deadline remain to be discussed. The Paris conference on climate is aiming for an ambitious deal to keep the rise in worldwide temperatures since pre-industrial times below 2 degrees Celsius. Scientists fear going beyond that point could lead to widespread drought, stronger hurricanes as well as more rampant wildfires. Financing is considered key to an agreement, with poor countries expecting some assistance from rich ones to help them cut carbon emissions while developing their economies. The text mentions that financing could be more than the $100 billion per year already promised by 2020, coming from both public and private sources...more

In Canada, Miniature Heavy-Oil Sites Overcome Slump in Crude Prices

EDAM, Saskatchewan—In a muddy field where rows of canola stood just three months ago, a miniature oil-sands plant is rapidly being assembled by a small crew of workers. What’s unusual about this project is the speed with which it is being built—in a matter of months—and its compact, football field-size. Oil-sands sites typically take years to build and require hundreds or thousands of acres of land. At a time when slumping crude-oil prices have shelved most new oil-sands projects in neighboring Alberta and halted drilling for all but the most productive shale oil wells in the Bakken formation on both sides of the border, pint-size sites are proliferating in Saskatchewan’s oil patch. About a mile away from the construction site, down a rural highway in western Saskatchewan, three other similarly size heavy-oil projects are rising on a landscape filled with cattle pastures and duck ponds. The miniboom along Highway 26 is upending the long-standing logic that this type of extraction needs to maximize economies of scale to provide the best return on capital. While Saskatchewan’s oil reserves are a fraction of those in neighboring Alberta, companies developing small-scale sites in the province say they are profitable, even with crude prices at six-year lows. That is due to advances in modular construction, ample rail and pipeline takeaway capacity and an attractive regulatory environment. Like their larger oil-sands brethren in Alberta—home to the majority of Canada’s oil production—these newer sites in Saskatchewan extract crude by drilling horizontal wells and then pumping in steam from natural gas-fired generators to loosen up the thick oil deposits. Typical steam-powered oil-sands plants produce from 30,000 to 100,000 barrels a day, but smaller-scale thermal heavy oil facilities produce as few as 2,000 barrels a day. Both use a technology called steam-assisted gravity drainage, or SAGD, to tap subterranean deposits of molasses-like crude oil. Smaller operations benefit from lower construction and operating costs, faster production ramp-ups and higher prices for their crude than traditional supersize oil-sands projects. That means they can make money below the roughly $65 a barrel needed for most new larger-scale projects to break even. “Oil at $40 a barrel doesn’t scare us the way it scares oil-sands producers,” said Chad Harris, the founder and chief executive of startup firm Serafina Energy Ltd., which expects to produce 6,000 barrels a day starting in the first half of next year at its roughly 180 million-Canadian-dollar (US$134 million) plant in Edam...more (subscription)

BLM plans spark debate over grazing permits

Federal land managers are proposing to reduce livestock grazing within parts of Washington County’s designated conservation areas, citing a need to restore native vegetation and provide habitat for the federally protected Mojave Desert Tortoise but drawing heavy criticism from local leadership. The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comments on its proposed “Resource Management Plan” for two separate parts of the county that Congress designated as National Conservation Areas in 2009. The draft plans, available on the BLM’s website, recommend steps such as a limits on the number and type of grazing allotments available within the conservation areas and the automatic retirement of grazing permits as ranchers give them up.  Grazing creates food competition with species like the tortoise and complicates already difficult efforts to restore the native desert shrublands typical of the two conservation areas, according to documents attached to the BLM’s draft plans. In written comments distributed last week among county leadership and major stakeholders, officials argue the BLM’s proposals come without any substantive scientific evidence and fails to account for the potential harm, such as overgrown grasses that create fire hazards. Wildfires in 2005, 2006 and 2012 wiped out large numbers of tortoises. “The county would urge the BLM to use proper grazing management as a tool to reduce fine fuels,” according to the document. Some local leaders also feel the RMPs represent broken promises. County Commissioner Alan Gardner saying Friday he saw the proposals as a backdoor attempt to violate compromises that were reached after years of negotiation leading up to the 2009 lands bill. “The County’s position was that if there was to be any consideration of reducing grazing, the Lands Bill would not be introduced,” Gardner writes in some of his prepared commentary on the draft RMP. “We were told that the language used in the bill was the standard language and would allow grazing to continue at current levels. We assured the grazers that their grazing rights were safe.”...more

Will do some research on this, but they probably  fell for the language saying grazing is allowed to continue "to the extent it occurred" prior to the designation and subject to the "reasonable regulation" of the Secretary.  


A Shifting Approach to Saving Endangered Species

Traditional approaches to species conservation have focused on saving individual animals or plants in specific locations, with the goal of restoring as much land as possible to its former pristine condition. Conservation efforts — walling off areas to preserve habitat, for example — have been structured around a particular species’ needs, with little or no attempt to reconcile those protections with the larger needs of human society. And regulatory solutions have taken precedence over financial or other incentive-based tactics, with landowners and companies often viewed as hostile actors. But a growing number of conservationists argue that this view is far too narrow, especially in an era of climate change and rapid population growth. By the end of the century, according to projections, as many as 10 billion humans will be competing with other species for available space. And changes in climate are already forcing species to move into new terrains, migrations that will increase in the future. For conservation to succeed, some environmentalists argue, it must work on a larger scale, focusing not on preserving single species in small islands of wilderness but on large landscapes and entire ecosystems, and the benefits that nature provides to humans. The remaining sagebrush in the West, for example, is home not only to the greater sage grouse but also to many other mammals, birds, invertebrates and plants: Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that made the grouse decision, said the government’s conservation plan would protect more than 350 other species that share the landscape. And preserving such habitats means that important natural processes continue, like pollination and the storage in vegetation of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “It’s not about setting aside places for wild species anymore,” said Frank Davis, the director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s about figuring ways to coexist with them in a highly uncertain future.” Conservation efforts, according to this view, will be more effective if they accept humans as a part of nature and come to terms with the fact that they have irrevocably altered the landscape...more

Researcher Finds Way to Fight Cheatgrass, a Western Scourge

Cheatgrass could vie for the title of the most successful invasive species in North America. The weed lives in every state, and is the dominant plant on more than 154,000 square miles of the West, by one estimate. When it turns green in the spring, “you can actually see it from space,” said Bethany Bradley, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who studies biogeography, the spatial distribution of species. The sins of cheatgrass are many. Its tenacious seeds lodge in the eyes and gums of livestock (not to mention the ears of pets and the socks of hikers). Even a moderate infestation in a wheat field can reduce yields by up to half. Its profusion is a big reason today’s Western fires burn more land, more frequently and with more ferocity than in the past, scientists say. Unlike well-spaced native bunchgrasses, cheatgrass — its scientific name is Bromus tectorum, or downy brome — crowds tightly together and then dies early each summer to form dense mats of tinder. After fires, cheatgrass thrives even as native flora struggle to return. After more than a half-century of largely failed efforts to thwart the Sherman’s march of cheatgrass, a researcher may have a powerful new weapon against it. Ann Kennedy, a soil scientist with the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, has discovered naturally occurring soil bacteria that inhibit the growth of the weed’s deep root system, its competitive advantage, even as those bacteria leave native plants untouched...more

Monday, October 05, 2015

Drunk squirrel thrown from bar after causing hundreds of dollars worth of damage

A private members club secretary went nuts after he opened up his bar to find hundreds of pounds worth of damage had been caused - by a drunk squirrel. Sam Boulter, 62, originally thought the premises had been ransacked by burglars after he opened up at 8pm on Sunday evening. But he was stunned when a sozzled squirrel emerged from behind a box of crisps "staggering around" - having managed to empty an entire barrel of beer onto the floor. As well as flooding the place with Caffreys ale, the critter had knocked glasses and bottles from the shelves as well as straws, beer mats and money off the bar. Sam and two customers spent an hour trying to capture the squirrel as he gave them the runaround at the Honeybourne Railyway Club, near Evesham, Worcestershire. Eventually Sam managed to corner the animal after it dashed into the gents toilet - where he caught it inside a waste paper bin before throwing it out a toilet window. Yesterday the branch secretary of the club said the rodent had caused around £300 worth of damage. "It's safe to say he is now barred from the club for life."...more

Two Illegal Aliens Found Guilty of Murdering Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry

After hours of deliberation, jurors found two illegal aliens guilty on all counts in connection with the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The guilty verdict confirms that Ivan Soto Barraza and Jesus Leonel Sanchez Mesa, two men who had entered the country illegally as part of a crew of gunmen bent on robbing drug cartel smugglers, killed Terry during a shootout. Defense attorneys tried to claim that the men were not there to commit a robbery and that the shooting was done in self-defense. Terry was a member of the elite BORTAC team that had been working in the area known as Mesquite Seep. The agents had moved to arrest the gunmen and yelled out “policia,” however, the gunmen pointed their weapons at them prompting the agents to fire. Trial testimony revealed that the agents fired their less-lethal ammunition or bean bags as per agency policy but the rip crew fired with bullets, one of which ricocheted and killed Terry. As reported by Breitbart Texas, the weapons used in that trial proved controversial since two them came from the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious...more

DOJ: Mexican Cartel Used Middle Eastern Honor System to Launder U.S. Currency

Court documents filed in federal court claim that a suspected drug traffickers linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel used a Middle Eastern honor system to launder drug proceeds. Known as a Hawala, members of the conspiracy would be hired by cartel members in Canada and Mexico to move drug proceeds through the honor system that does not leave a paper trail as couriers move the money between countries. “Drug traffickers in Canada would generate drug proceeds from multi-kilogram and multi-pound sales and distribution of drugs provided by Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa Cartel,” court records obtained by Breitbart Texas revealed. A Hawala need two brokers who would transfer the money between each other on a trust basis thus not leaving behind any promissory notes or legally binding documents for authorities to seize...more

Juárez Mayor Forgets City’s Violent History in Absurd ‘Sicario’ Film Lawsuit Plans

As Breitbart Texas recently reported, Enrique Serrano Escobar, the mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico (just south of El Paso, Texas) stated he aims to sue the makers of the fiction film “Sicario” in a U.S. court for “moral damages” to the city. Escobar said the movie depicts violent incidents that don’t currently reflect the city, telling Mexico’s El Norte newspaper, “It hurts the image of Juarenses.” However, Escobar seems to have forgotten that Cuidad Juárez is still host to two major drug cartels and over 400 street gangs. Starting in 2007, the annual murder rate in Ciudad Juárez began to skyrocket in parallel with a war between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, a.k.a. the Juárez cartel. The war peaked in 2010, when Juárez earned the nickname “Murder City” for its death toll of over 3,600, per New Mexico State University researcher Molly Molloy. In the years since, the nature of the violence in Ciudad Juárez has evolved. Federation kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán began employing local gangs in the city, along with police forces, to do the dirty work for him in forcing the Juárez cartel into submission. Homicides no longer solely involved cartel members; it slowly changed into a dangerous mix of cartel activity and local gang warfare. As the Federation’s strategy began to succeed, the murder rate began dropping, reaching 434 deaths in 2014 according to the US State Department. However, those numbers are still higher than the homicides in Detroit (300), Chicago (390), and New York City (328) during the same year. The source and manner of homicides that do occur in Cuidad Juárez is also very similar to those in Mexican cities with higher death tolls, and some doubt that Ciudad Juárez is really “back.” Luis Chapparo wrote an article for VICE in June 2014 in which he stated, “The ‘rebirth’ of Ciudad Juárez might just be a temporary phenomenon. Some believe that before the year is up, the war will return.” Scott Stewart, vice president of Stratfor—a US-based intelligence and analysis firm—told VICE he agreed with this assessment. “The border corridor of drugs between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas, is returning to the hands of the Juarez Cartel, after a weakening of their rivals in Mexico,” Stewart said...more

Mexican Heroin Flows North in Pellets, Planes

He practiced with baby carrots, swallowing them whole, easing them down his throat with yogurt. Later came the heroin pellets, each loaded with 14 grams of powder, machine-wrapped in wax paper and thick latex. Long gone were the days of swallowing hand-knotted, drug-filled condoms. The Mexican drug trafficking organizations were always perfecting their craft. On this trip, Gerardo Vargas would swallow 71 pellets — a full kilo, just over two pounds, enough for as many as 30,000 hits at $10 a pop on American streets. And so before he set off on his 3,900-mile journey from Uruapan, Mexico, Vargas was given the rules: No soda, because it could erode the pellets’ wrapping. No orange juice, either. Drink only water. He was told which airports to avoid, which places to go, his every move orchestrated by his handler in Mexico. And don’t eat anything, he was told, until reaching the final destination: Dayton, Ohio, one of the new frontiers of the American heroin epidemic. A sophisticated farm-to-arm supply chain is fueling America’s surging heroin appetite, causing heroin to surpass cocaine and meth to become the nation’s No. 1 drug threat for the first time. As demand has grown, the flow of heroin — a once-taboo drug now easier to score in some cities than crack or pot — has changed, too. Mexican cartels have overtaken the U.S. heroin trade, imposing an almost corporate discipline. They grow and process the drug themselves, increasingly replacing their traditional black tar with an innovative high-quality powder with mass market appeal: It can be smoked or snorted by newcomers as well as shot up by hard-core addicts...more

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Testing the boundaries of marital bliss

by Julie Carter

The term “marital bliss” used during any moment of working cattle at the ranch is said only with the greatest sarcasm. It denotes an impressive amount of verbal restraint indicating the likelihood of an explosive flood of expletives building behind a failing dam of good sense.

Husband and wife ranchers represent the best and the worst of wedded teamwork in sustaining their livelihood in remote locations that come with their own kind of difficulties. If they weren’t speaking to each other before the work happens, they wisely will refrain from it during and after, if only to save on the accident insurance.

A cowboy husband usually has high expectations of his only help, the little missus, when it comes to bailing him out of a bind that he won’t admit he probably shouldn’t have gotten into in the first place. Those expectations don’t lessen with the increase of age –his or his bride’s.

Cell phones have made it ever so much easier for him to get some help when he’s roped himself into a place of needing a second set of hands. The sound of that “ring ring” brings with it both dread and aggravation because it means drop whatever you are doing and come running.

“Bring a rope, a tie down string, pliers and the pickup. I’ve got a heifer down. Now!”

This is coming from a cowboy with a bit of gray around the ears and a few skeletal parts that have been surgically replaced, so the days of roping, tripping and doctoring alone are a thing of the painful past. Add to that a green and very fresh young horse, and yes, probably wasn’t the best recipe at this time for the project, but it happened.

The wife in her mucking-out-the-house wardrobe of cut off pants and a t-shirt takes a minute to throw on socks and shoes, races around to gather up the ordered items and drives off across the pasture not knowing quite sure where he is exactly. Sure enough, “ring ring.” “I’m over here, your drove right past me,” he says with not-so-veiled aggravation.

She gets turned around on a rough two-track road, drives back across the pasture and finds him with a yearling heifer he has tripped, lying at the end of the rope dallied to the saddle horn. The wife takes the tie string, ties up the two hind feet, puts another rope on the front feet and hands him the rope. He switches ropes, stretches the heifer out and the wife gets the pliers and begins pulling porcupine quills from the less-than-happy heifer’s nose.

The cowboy bride has thoughts of “I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff” as the heifer thrashes and fights her restraints. She gets the job done with a measurable amount of huffing and puffing and for reasons known only to him, the cowboy is a tad testy when it’s all over. She doesn’t ask why, or really care at this point. She gets the ropes off the bovine who jumps up and takes off at a run.

Insuring the beloved feeling of the moment now that the crisis was over, he says to her, not “thanks” or “appreciate the help” but a surefire gunpowder moment of  “Sure wish I had a camera to get a picture of you in your Walmart shopping clothes.”

And, as they say, that’s when the fight started.

Julie can be reached for comment, if you dare, at


Dead or Alive
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Aging has many complications. Quite frankly, there are things that get harder and harder.
            No, these issues don’t necessarily reflect declining physical ability. These issues happen to relate to the mental anguish demonstrated through the witness of societal deportment and behavior. Ongoing atrocities are particularly distressing, but parallel factors of what I can and can’t control have a way of manifesting themselves. The best example in my world is baby calves, especially those calves that are orphaned, or, in our parlance, dogied. Nothing causes me more grief than to see a baby calf trying to hang onto life without any maternal assistance. Without a doubt, it is the most difficult thing for me to face as a rancher. I am a total wuss and I admit it.
            Short of that good mother, the next best thing is a nurse cow and that usually means a milk cow. There are also some rare individuals who have learned to care for these little guys that have lost the window of opportunity to nurse and find themselves in dire straights. There is a fellow in our neck of the woods, Gary Harper, who fits that calling. Gary and I have worked a deal and he has filled the role of life giver if and when we find ourselves in that predicament. I respect his skill immensely. Perhaps more than that, I respect his desire to undertake the responsibility. He creates a positive out of a negative and fills a hopeless void with humor and hope.
            The world needs more of his kind of stewardship.
            AMENDEMENT XIV
            Yes, there it is.
            Proposed on June 13, 1866 and ratified July 9, 1868, the Amendment’s Section 1 reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
            That is the constitutional premise our government uses to obligate us and future generations to the unfunded liabilities and entitlements to babies born to foreigners on American soil. It doesn’t matter that the amendment dealt specifically with solidification of rights of citizenship to slaves after the Civil War. The current application has nothing to do with slavery much less the fact most of those newly vested babies will never live in the state of his or her birth. It has only to do with what now must be considered a long standing growth industry. As such, we have no choice but to label it the propagation of American constitutional rights for foreigners. It is the phenomenon of pass goal and drop (baby). It is the game being played whereby the pregnant foreigner coordinates her delivery date with a dash through customs at American portals of entry only to appear at the emergency room of a convenient birthing center. The new babies automatically become human tokens of value to be redeemed in the myriad of welfare programs that become available. They are citizens with every right of every legitimate citizen that ever walked.
That had to be what the ratifying states envisioned back in 1868, right?
Indeed, after the slaves were given full rights, the next phase of the program was intended to spread the richness of America to every corner of the world. The vectors would become the pregnant world citizens who could squeeze themselves through to the concourse turnstiles of arriving international flights or waddle across the foot bridge crossings on the Rio Grande. It is all there is black and white. Even O’Reilly has studied the verbiage and declares those babies … Americans.
            Following delivery, the welfare program experts walking the birthing floors in the hospitals in places like El Paso, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Francisco can visit with the new mother and explain to her the programs her baby made available. Most are government representatives, but private enterprise is also in on the action. Last Sunday, The Westerner ran an article on the budding birth tourism industry of California. In the Bay Area for example, third trimester foreigners can check themselves into birthing cottages at the modest rate of $4K per month and wait for their next little American to appear. If they have planned correctly and nature takes its natural course, they have been prepped to make their menu driven program selections. If things get a bit dicey and lucky baby decides to arrive early, the selection process will have to be done during the recovery phase of the great experience.
            In either case, the birthing of foreign additions to the rolls of American programs represents big money. That applies to the revenue exhaustion of the process itself as well as summation of the unfunded liabilities for the next 80 years. The supporters of all this extra-constitutionality suggest America is a bastion of moral authority. Meanwhile, the American tax payer must be reminded his fiscal incarceration in this matter is promulgated by the genius and the vision of the authors … of the XIV Amendment.
            The kill plants
            My state, New Mexico, has taken the progressive low road and decided kill plants for horses are dastardly things. That position, which includes the stance of Governor Susana Martinez, parallels the position of the USDA which is maneuvering to eliminate any chance of the humane killing of horses by refusing to provide inspectors. Without the inspectors, meat plants cannot operate. No laws have been passed, but regulatory fiat by the agency has created the law banning horse slaughter. The combination must suggest that no civilized society should kill horses for any reason. By acclamation, there is no longer any right time to kill a horse in the United States even if it comes to that point it is the best thing for the animal.
            The alternative, of course, will be the continuation of the caravans of trucks headed south into Mexico where the horses will be hung on hooks only to have their throats cut.
            At the same time of such low road morality, the baby kill shops in this country are performing abortions at a rate faster than one every 90 seconds. If the killing of those babies isn’t bad enough, the revelation that the kill shops (including those of the largest service provider, Planned Parenthood) are harvesting and selling the organs and pieces of those babies is just unfathomable. In America, a simple fact has been highlighted.
Horses have more rights than unborn babies.
Furthermore, American enterprise cannot kill horses, but they can proceed with the business of killing babies. After all, it is government mega business. Planned Parenthood sucks off at least $528M annually and the political implications of that are immense.
Despite the outrage …despite the horror, this government will likely continue the funding. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch (Foghorn) McConnell has coerced a vote that will fund the government through December 11. That necessarily implies that this is a continued done deal. Foghorn and his lackeys will earn the plaudits from the Washington elites by, once again, avoiding any hint of the distasteful political government shut down, but they will also demonstrate that having a majority in Congress means nothing when there is no will or inclination to lead.
McConnell will also sanction something much more sinister. He needs to be exposed and held accountable. It is the matter of his priorities and dirty money concerns. It is scandalous and historic. It is diabolical and unthinkable. It is inconceivable and ruthless. It is the unconscionable notion that, in America under his leadership, babies are indeed wanted … dead or alive.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “I find myself heart sick over this spectacle of my government. Even if this stops … we are now in jeopardy of eternal judgment.”

Baxter Black - Horses I Have Known

My first horse was named Maggie. I was in the third grade. Father gave me an old cavalry saddle, split down the middle, light enough I could lift it. It was so uncomfortable I rode bareback. I went to a one-room schoolhouse with six grades. I was the only kid in the third grade! Our house was on one side of the horse pasture and the schoolhouse was on the other. I rode Maggie to school and walked home.

When we moved from Texas to New Mexico, my new horse was named Buck. He was a good horse to grow up on. In the ensuing years in Colorado, I’ve had Cricket, who went with the divorce; Coyote, who raised my daughter; Bay, who had ring bone; Leo, a rope horse who wore a bikini top over his right eye to keep him from turning out; one with a King Ranch brand who tore down my tack room; Reven Bubba, a colt; then Sonny, a left-handed heeling horse. Not to mention several I just bought and sold.

In Arizona, we made Sonny a ranch horse. Various others followed. They all do ranch work.
In my life of traveling, I’ve ridden many borrowed horses on trail rides, at ropings and on parades, but one deserves my highest praise. I was participating in a celebrity roping event in Guthrie, Okla. Red Steagall lent me his ambidextrous white horse named Toby. I drew up with Fred Whitfield, eight times world championship roper. I saw Fred during the afternoon practice. It was a little intimidating. I was horseless, afoot and ranked low in skill. He rode over to me and said, looking down from his throne, “You just go out there and rope him if you can, and if by some chance you do, I’ll rope the heels.”

I stammered, “Uh … I’m left-handed.”

He looked at me like I’d just pooped on the carpet, turned his horse and rode away.

That evening, he said, “OK, I’ll rope him and try to drag him real slow so you might be able to catch at least one foot.” I said, “Fred, rope him as fast as you can and turn him hard.” He gave me the eagle eye. I could imagine him thinking, “He ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”