Friday, October 16, 2015

118 properties affected by livestock disease across Wyoming

More than 100 premises in nine Wyoming counties have been affected by a virus that can cause painful sores in infected animals this year. The Ranger of Riverton reports that officials from the Wyoming Livestock Board fielded questions about vesicular stomatitis at a public meeting at Central Wyoming College. There are more than 50 confirmed and suspected cases of the virus in Fremont County. The Livestock Board has ordered some individual premises quarantined to help control the outbreak. The board cannot disclose the exact locations of the quarantines unless there is a need to protect the vicinity. All Wyoming ranchers may have limited ability to move and sell their livestock due to the outbreak. Most public comments and questions expressed concern about the situation during the public meeting Tuesday. "I want you to be aware that this is not the end of the world," state veterinarian Jim Logan said, "although it may seem like it for a little bit." The disease, which is thought to be spread by insects that migrate along river valleys, can cause blisters, sores, sloughing of skin and lameness in animals. There is no vaccine for the disease and there isn't any other type of medication that can be applied to the lesions. "We have to rely on the animal's immune system to get this cleared up," Logan said...more

Armed ranchers confront firefighters on Tepee Springs fire

The Forest Service is investigating a report by a firefighter that he and others fighting the Tepee Springs Fire near Riggins were harassed and threatened with guns by landowners. The unidentified firefighter said the landowners were unhappy that firefighters were not directly fighting the fire that was burning in a steep watershed that drained into the Salmon River. Fire managers had decided to use an indirect strategy to fight the fire because of safety concerns. The report, filed on the National Interagency Fire Center’s SAFENET page, is designed to give firefighters a voice in safety decisions and to direct managers to safety concerns. The report was published in the online firefighter’s web magazine Wildfire Today, along with a response from the landowners of Mountain View Elk Ranch on the West Fork of Lake Creek, three miles east of Riggins. “The landowners, on multiple occasions, expressed frustration towards firefighters (for) their suppression actions, which ranged from verbal threats to aggressive posturing. Law enforcement officers were called on multiple occasions and the incident eventually resulted in two of the landowners verbally accosting a BLM employee while armed with a weapon,” the firefighter said in the report. “The landowners made multiple unsafe demands to firefighters, such as downhill line construction in extremely rugged terrain with fire below them; attempting burnouts on mid-slope (bull)dozer lines with no escape routes or safety zones, and to drop water from helicopters with (the landowners) in the work zone. Brad and Sarah Walters, the son and daughter-in-law of the elk ranch owners, published a detailed response to the firefighter’s filing on Wildfire Today. I spoke with Sarah Walters Tuesday; she said she was a firefighter for five years, and her family didn’t want firefighters to take any action that risked lives. She denied that the ranchers made any threats, started any fires or did anything wrong. She did acknowledge family members carried sidearms when federal law enforcement officers arrived on the ranch. “They brought the federal agents on our ground first,” Walters said. “We never threatened anybody with anything.” Walters said they carry sidearms on the ranch 90 percent of the time. “We said there was no reason for federal officers to be there,” she added. “We were just trying to save what was left of our animals and our ranch.”...more

Incident commander loses post after firefighter-rancher confrontation

The incident commander of a team of firefighters who left a line because of their fear of unhappy local landowners has lost his post. Chris Ourada has been taken off the Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team, one of 15 elite units brought in to manage large fires and other national emergencies, such as hurricanes. Ourada, of Idaho Falls, remains in his post with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, but will not serve as an incident management team commander. Ourada declined to comment, but in an email obtained by the Statesman confirmed that he lost the post. “This is going to be hard so I will just say it. Today my Type 1 qualifications were revoked so I will no longer be a part of Great Basin Team 2,” he wrote to colleagues. “If you have questions, you can probably contact your section chiefs and they can fill you in.” The move came after a regional Forest Service board reviewed his handling of an incident during the Tepee Fire near Riggins in early September. A Hotshot crew had walked off the line after landowners and federal law enforcement officers had faced off with pistols on their hips. Ourada and other fire managers later met with the landowners and agreed to dig a “check line” to keep the fire from burning onto the private land. But the Hotshots who had originally said they felt threatened by the landowners refused to do the work, despite Ourada’s direct order. Another crew built the line, but one of the original Hotshot members filed the report saying that Ourada had ordered them into an unsafe situation...more

The Regulator-Moderator War


Texas’ Regulator-Moderator War was one of the worst feuds ever.  Dozens of folks died in the east Texas conflict between 1839 and 1844.  But bad feelings and deeds continued after that point.

In 1847, a Moderator partisan named Wilkerson had a wedding party for his adopted daughter.  He invited a number of Regulators to the festivities, then poisoned the refreshments (warning the bride, groom and other relatives not to eat or drink anything).  Sixty people got sick, and somewhere around 10 died.

Wilkerson was later lynched.

Feds may release more wolves in New Mexico, despite state opposition

Are we still a state?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to continue its wolf reintroduction program despite state opposition has provoked praise from advocates and condemnation from critics. The service said Thursday it may release Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico in further efforts to recover the species, despite the state Game and Fish Department having refused the federal government permits to do so. Last month, the Game Commission upheld the department’s decision to deny the permits. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to continue its wolf reintroduction program despite state opposition has provoked praise from advocates and condemnation from critics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to continue its wolf reintroduction program despite state opposition has provoked praise from advocates and condemnation from critics. “Our preference is always to work collaboratively with states and we ask New Mexico to re-engage with us in these efforts,” the federal agency said in a statement. Game and Fish criticized the agency for seeking to expand its efforts without providing an updated recovery plan for the Mexican wolf. Both friends and foes of the Mexican wolf recovery program have been urging Fish and Wildlife to update its current plan, which dates to 1982 and is widely considered outdated. The service has failed to do so despite several efforts to convene stakeholders over the years. In its permitting process, the state Game and Fish Department said it is required to evaluate whether wolf releases conflict with other wildlife conservation efforts, adding in a statement that “the director was unable to make this determination without the aid of a current Mexican wolf recovery plan.” “We want to know what is going to happen when wolves reach a certain number,” said Bill Montoya, vice chairman of the Game Commission and a former director of Game and Fish. “How big a range are they going to be included in? Where are they going to be released? That is something in a management scheme you need to know.”...more

And thus ends the facade that the feds "collaborate" with the state.  Notice the ability of a state to manage it's wildlife is subject to the preference of a single federal agency.   A State's ability to protect the health and welfare of it's citizens can be waived by one person.  The director of the Fish & Wildlife Service has more authority than the Governor of our state.  Laura Schneberger has it right:

“It’s not at all a surprise,” said Laura Schneberger, a Sierra County rancher and president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association. “They haven’t paid any attention to impacts the wolves have had. The state wanted to slow them down. They are going to continue to run roughshod over the state.”

All we have is a letter from the USFWS wherein they claim this authority and that genetic diversity is sufficient rationale to invoke it.   

What remains to be seen is whether Governor Martinez agrees with the above, or will she take responsible action to protect our state.  Is the protection of our citizens and the role of the state her top priority, or will she cave to the almighty federal dollar?  Will our Governor assert her authority to govern or not?

Tribal leaders to Obama: Name a new monument in Utah to protect our lands

A group of tribal leaders stood two blocks from the White House on Thursday to call on President Barack Obama to name a new national monument in southeastern Utah, arguing that they've felt ignored in their requests to Congress and that the window to designate a monument is closing. The leaders, from five American Indian tribes, say that a 1.9 million-acre area known as Bears Ears must be protected for cultural and religious reasons and saved for future generations from development. The tribal leaders had sought congressional action to preserve the area, but they say they are frustrated with the process and felt largely excluded by Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, both Republicans, who have been drafting a major plan to protect some lands in exchange for developing others. While offering the Utah congressmen a second chance to help, the coalition says it has so far felt shut out. In a joint statement, Bishop and Chaffetz, along with Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, said many American Indians who live in Utah oppose the coalition's proposal, but that the tribes' input and recommendations are welcomed. "Our offices have now received over 65 detailed proposals from various stakeholder groups regarding land management in eastern Utah," the four representatives said. "We remain committed to reviewing each proposal and producing a final PLI bill that is balanced and broadly supported."...more

Here is another example of where one person has more authority than the Governor, and in this case, the entire Congressional Delegation.  Another distortion of the Founding Fathers view of a proper government.  Will Congress continue to hunker down and accept this abuse or will they revoke this authority they granted to one person?

James Madison Quotes

"It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would be more proper to say that the necessity of any Government is a misfortune. This necessity however exists; and the problem to be solved is, not what form of Government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect."
-- James Madison
(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself."
-- James Madison

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions."
-- James Madison

Wolf shot in Blue Mountains; wolves injure calf in Stevens County

Three incidents involving gray wolves are being investigated this week by Washington wildlife officers, according to Donny Martorello, Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf program leader. On Oct. 6, a dead wolf pup was documented in the Profanity Peak Pack area northeast of Republic; the cause of death is listed as unknown. On Oct. 11, WDFW received a report of a lone wolf shot in the Blue Mountains area, reportedly involved in a wolf-dog incident. On Oct. 14, a wolf-caused injury to a calf was confirmed on private property in Stevens County; the area is in the territory of the Smackout Pack. Although the injured calf is the first livestock depredation officially attributed to the Smackout Pack this year, four cattle where confirmed killed by wolves in July in the Dirty Shirt Pack territory farther south...more

Child advocacy group lines up against Gila diversion

The next major water project in New Mexico could be diverting the last free-flowing river in New Mexico, the Gila River. Middle Fork of the Gila River.  New Mexico Voices for Children became the latest group to criticize the diversion, saying the amount of money spent on it could better be spent in other ways in the state, citing a potential $1 billion cost. The cost of a diversion plan are highly debated. Some say that it would cost $330 million, others that it would cost $1 billion. “Water is a precious resource, but there are better, smarter and more cost-effective ways of meeting the state’s water needs,” Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of the child advocacy group, said in a statement on Thursday. “Our children are also a precious resource, but we continue to allow them to rank at the bottom of the nation in well-being. That is unacceptable.”...more

Goodnight Barn restoration gets a lift from Western artists

"Rabbit Racer" by Kim Mackey

It’s an opportunity to contribute toward the preservation of an important piece of Pueblo’s past. In the process, people can take home work by some distinguished Western artists. The second Goodnight Trail Western Art Auction and Sale will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at El Pueblo History Museum, 301 N. Union Ave. It’s free and open to the public; cheese and wine will be served. Twenty-eight invited artists will be featured. The centerpiece of the event will be the auction of pieces by Kim Mackey, Veryl Goodnight, Nathan Solano, Jan Mapes and Michael Untiedt. “The response has been fabulous,” said Laurel Campbell, chairwoman of the Goodnight Barn Preservation Committee. All money raised will go toward preservation of the historic barn. Built by rancher Charles Goodnight in 1871, it has been designated a national landmark. Work already has started on the long-range project; the current phase is stabilization of the building. “We see it as a challenge forever because once we get it finished, we have to maintain it,” said Campbell...more

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2016 ERA TOUR - Team roping and steer wrestling rosters announced ANNOUNCED

The ERA is excited to announce the 2016 Steer Wrestling and Team Roping Tour Rosters. The rosters were filled by peer draft, which was made up of founding ERA members who are considered to be the best athletes in the world.  They based their decision on a variety of criteria, some of which included: history in the sport, world championship appearances, fan appeal, ability, and they even identified talented up and comers who will be the sports future stars. The 2016 ERA roster is the most decorated group of professional rodeo contestants and has more world champions among them than any other rodeo organization in the world, making each event a must watch for rodeo fans. Athletes desiring to make the ERA Tour will have the opportunity to earn their way onto the 2017 tour through the qualification system.To read how these athletes were selected, click here:

Walking in ancient hoof prints

Such an animal has not been seen on Czech territory for hundreds of years. A Dutch breeding program has recreated massive bovines closely related to aurochs, once the heaviest European land mammal and the wild ancestor of today’s cattle that became extinct in the 17th century. It is believed they disappeared from what is now the Czech Republic in the 12th or 13th century. On Tuesday, a small herd was introduced to a Czech sanctuary as part of a project to use big-hoofed animals to maintain the steppe character of the former Milovice military base, 22 miles northeast of Prague. The beasts joined a herd of 15 wild horses from Britain’s Exmoor National Park that were moved here in January with a task to stop the spread of aggressive and evasive grasses and bushes, delicacies to the animals. The invasive plants began to grow after Soviet troops withdrew from the base in 1991, threatening the area’s original plants and animals. After a nine-hour drive and few more minutes of hesitation, five cows and a bull — all calves— jumped out of a truck at dawn to take the first look at their new home. The Dutch Taurus Foundation joined forces with the University of Wageningen and some other groups in the Tauros program, as the new animal is called, in 2008. With knowledge of the aurochs’ DNA, the scientists analyzed some existing primitive cattle breeds that are similar to their extinct ancestors. They included Pajuna, Sayaguesa and Limia from Spain, Maremmana from Italy and Highlander from Scotland. Through cross-breeding, they have been working on reconstructing the original aurochs with the goal to have “the presence of the Tauros as a self-sufficient wild bovine grazer in herds of at least 150 animals each in several rewilding areas in Europe,” Rewilding Europe, another organization involved, said on its Web site. “In a few generations, we should be able to get an animal that looks like the aurochs and also has the same impact on the environment,” Dostal said...more

Investigation Into Wolf Deaths In Wallowa County Called Off

Oregon State Police has suspended its investigation into the deaths of two wolves in Wallowa County. The agency said Wednesday there was too much decay to determine what caused the deaths. Last month, the agency said it suspected a person or people had killed the wolves. The bodies were found 50 yards apart in August. One of the wolves was collared and its collar emitted a mortality signal, leading to the discovery. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the pair had become officially established in the Sled Springs area in January. ODFW said there was one reported wolf predation in the area in June, when a rancher found a partially consumed calf and the state determined it was killed by a wolf.  AP

Ranchers, enviros spar over grazing’s impact on Soda fire

Idaho ranchers claim that better grazing management would have reduced the size and severity of the Soda fire that scorched 279,000 acres of land in Owyhee County and part of Eastern Oregon in August. Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project, however, claims that livestock grazing contributed to the severity of the Soda fire and other wildfires that burned millions of acres of land across the West this year. Ranchers affected by the Soda fire, which impacted 41 Bureau of Land Management grazing allotments, reacted incredulously to WWP’s claim. “I don’t know how they can even say anything like that and I don’t know how anyone can be stupid enough to believe it,” said Marsing area rancher Ed Wilsey, who lost 70 head of cattle in the fire and all of his summer and spring range. Wilsey said several of his neighbors also lost all their summer and spring range and some larger cattle operations have had to travel as far as Wyoming to find suitable pasture. “It burned so hot it burned (the range) down to nothing. There are no fences. It’s just dirt now,” said sheep rancher Kim Mackenzie. In an editorial that appeared in the Times-News, WWP Executive Director Travis Bruner said livestock grazing in southwestern Idaho and across the West “contributed significantly to intensity, severity and enormity of fires this summer. Despite the livestock industry’s claims to the contrary, the Idaho fires are burning hotter and faster because of the impacts of cows and sheep on our arid Western lands.” Bruner said livestock removed the “native grasses that burn at a lower intensity than fire-prone invasive species that dominate many areas of Owyhee County.” “Combined with drought, high winds and low humidity, the impacts of livestock grazing are a root cause of the West’s intense wildfires,” Bruner stated. Idaho Cattle Association executive vice president Wyatt Prescott said wildfires require three things: Heat (lightning), fuel and oxygen (wind). “You can’t control the ignition and you can’t control the wind but what you can control is the fuel,” he said...more

Billy the Kid Experts Weigh in on the Croquet Photo


The juggernaut of publicity for the National Geographic Channel show airing on Sunday, October 18, is nothing short of phenomenal. We started getting e-mail requests last week about the alleged new photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid, which we first discussed in our special Billy the Kid issue (June 2015).  Readers begged for our input and verdict on the so-called “croquet photo.” They all wanted to know one thing: “Do you think it’s really Billy?” Short answer: We think the publicity is genius, but no one in our office thinks this photo is of the Kid.

We polled some of our writers and researchers who have spent a good part of their lives studying the Kid. These are the guys we trust and respect. Here are their responses:

“…that photo described as ‘Billy the Kid playing croquet’ [was] supposedly found in a Fresno, California, ‘junk shop’ by a certain Randy Guijarro—who paid ‘a couple of bucks’ for it ( some accounts state he paid 67 cents ). These accounts go on to say that this junk shop photo is ‘now worth $5 million.’ I guess I’ll have to see how many millions I can make by selling the photo I found in a dumpster in East Overshoe, which shows Belle Starr and Calamity Jane playing hopscotch on the Brooklyn Bridge.”
—Jack DeMattos, author of “The Search for Billy the Kid’s Roots is Over,” Real West, January 1980

“Without a solid provenance linking a historic photograph to the Kid, it can never be anything more than simply a photo of a goofy-looking juvenile who bears a  resemblance to one William H. Bonney.  Such images are hardly rare—unfortunately.”
—Mark Lee Gardner, author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett

“Aside from lacking any provenance, this photo is from such a long distance that it’s impossible to discern physical attributes, much less facial features. This is simply another of the long chain of want-it-to-be-the-Kid pictures. This one poses even less credibility than its predecessors. We so-called experts have been showered with a flood of Billy pictures that their owners were sure were Billy because they looked like  Billy.”
—Bob Utley, author of Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

“When I first saw it two years ago, the owner only thought the one was Billy the Kid because he had a sweater on, and he thought the hat looks like the one in the authentic photo.  But the promoters he was somehow able to get involved are leaving money on the table at $5 million because they failed to identify Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok who are also obviously in the photo.”
—Robert G. McCubbin, world-famous collector of historical Old West photographs

“Bob  McCubbin and I told the owner two years ago it is not a photo of Billy the Kid. He refused to believe us and kept dragging it around to various auctioneers, trying to convince them it was real.  Finally, he got Don Kagin to accept it.  Bob and I have explained in detail to everyone involved why the image has no value. This photo has no more provenance than any of the scores of alleged Billy the Kid images which have appeared on ebay the past 15 years. And don’t talk to me about facial recognition software. When it comes to two-dimensional historic images, it just doesn’t work.”
—John Boessenecker, California outlaw historian

“Regardless of what is said by paid ‘experts,’ their conclusions are CONJECTURE, not FACT.  No matter how sophisticated the hype that accompanies them, it’s still hype and nothing else. The ‘proof’ they offer is nothing more than wishful thinking, and the historical value of the image is zero.”
—Frederick Nolan, author of The West of Billy the Kid

New Mexico town under pressure to nix Nativity scene

BELEN, N.M. -- For nearly a quarter of a century, a year-round Nativity scene made of metal has rested in the little town of Belen, New Mexico. Now Belen - Spanish for Bethlehem - is fighting to keep the Nativity scene on city property and officials may even sell the land to a private owner in order to preserve the iconic art. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wants Belen to remove the images and is threatening legal action if it's not removed from public land. "The position of the city is that the Nativity scene will stay right where it is. Period," Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova told The Associated Press. "I know within the city itself almost everyone supports the Nativity scene." Still, Cordova said the city has weighed options like selling the property to moving it to another location. Cordova said those who oppose the Nativity scene are "outsiders" who don't understand the history and culture of New Mexico - a former Spanish territory with deep Hispanic and spiritual Catholic ties. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said Belen is violating the U.S. Constitution by having the religious art on city property and the city is discriminating against nonbelievers who likely won't speak out. "It's absurd to say because the town's name is Belen they should be allowed to have a Nativity scene," Gaylor said. "There's a Mecca, California. So what?" She says if Belen puts the property up for sale, her foundation will make sure the city follows state bidding law. The foundation may even bid on the property and would replace the art with a monument to nonbelievers, Gaylor said. The artwork honors a late artist who used to erect a Nativity scene on the site each year...more

GoPro camera falls into pit of Rattlesnakes - video

About 20 years ago, Michael Delaney, then a barefoot 12-year-old, stepped on a rattlesnake in the yard of his family’s cattle ranch northeast of Grass Range. A lot has changed about his approach to the deadly reptiles since then. For starters, Delaney wears shoes now. And he’s got a camera. Delaney, 33, is becoming famous for his visually striking, cringe-inducing rattlesnake videos. A recent clip of a rattlesnake den shot using a GoPro camera has racked up almost a million views on Facebook, with thousands more on Delaney's YouTube channel. In the video, Delaney approaches the den, which is about a half-mile from the family ranch, through tall grass and brush. The sounds of the serpents' signature rattle get increasingly louder. As he lowers the GoPro, attached to a hockey stick using a special mount, the snakes, tongues flicking, move from curious to threatened and begin striking the camera. The camera and mount eventually fall into the den, providing viewers with an even more intimate look at a pit full of venomous snakes...more

Here's the video.

Massive wildfire rehabilitation underway in Idaho, Oregon

A federal plan to rehabilitate 436 square miles of scorched rangeland in southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon containing important sage grouse habitat and grazing land for ranchers calls for spending about $67 million over five years. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management released the 71-page plan late last week that includes massive plantings of grasses, several types of flowering plants known as forbs, and shrubs, with more than $26 million being spent on seeds and seed planting. The effort follows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision last month that sage grouse don’t need protection under the Endangered Species Act because of conservation efforts taking place in multiple states. Beth Corbin, a botanist with the bureau who worked on the plan and is taking part in the rehabilitation, said a main challenge will be trying to establish native plants as well as preferred non-native plants before fire-prone cheatgrass and other invasive plants can move in and take over. “We’re doing our best to reseed the area to restore perennials that may not recover otherwise,” Corbin said. She said the plan includes planting the species of sagebrush in the areas where it was present before the fire, a key component as the different types of sagebrush thrive under somewhat different conditions, and sage grouse themselves prefer certain types of sage brush...more

 The federal formula would appear to be something like this:

agency mismanagement = large, hot fire(s) = more dollars for the agency

BLM manager’s spouse behind cancellation of 5th grader’s patriotic concert

Following the abrupt decision last month by officials in Utah’s Iron County School District (ICSD) to cancel a patriotic musical performance by 5th grade students at the upcoming Western Freedom Festival (WFF) because of alleged parental complaints, Watchdog Arena has discovered that the decision resulted from a single complaint from one parent—a former National Park Service administrator of ten years—whose wife is the Bureau of Land Management’s regional manager of the district where ICSD is located. Documents obtained by Watchdog Arena through an open records request made Oct. 2 to the ICSD show that a southern Utah environmentalist Chris Zinda, who is married to the state BLM’s Color Country District Manager Heather Whitman, is the lone voice who submitted “negative feedback” that led to the cancellation of the children’s performance of “Hope of America.” An ICSD official was able to confirm to Watchdog Arena that no other parents logged complaints about the WFF, and that the concerns of Stephen Allen arose from the email Zinda sent to him. A scanned document provided by ICSD also shows the only phone call to the district regarding the district’s involved with the WFF was from Zinda.  The American Lands Council, a 501(c)(4) non-profit of individuals, counties, businesses, and organizations that was founded by county commissioners in 2012 and headed by state Rep. Kenneth Ivory (R-Salt Lake County), has been a leader in the effort to transfer the authority of public lands from federal agencies like the BLM to state and local control. The ALC and the “public lands transfer” measures its supports, undermine federal agents and the environmentalist movement. Following the Salt Lake Tribune’s initial report about the WFF controversy, Zinda wrote a letter to the editor castigating the newspaper for not taking a harder line against organizers of the event. Zinda has a history of denouncing efforts by local governments which try to address economic issues through resource development in their areas...more

Presidential candidates should state position on federal lands


As Presidential candidates make their way to Nevada, the economy will undoubtedly be among their talking points, and in the West, the future of the economy has much to do with land.

The issue of land ownership is perhaps nowhere more important than in Nevada, which is overwhelmingly hogtied by the federal government. Holding title to over 81 percent of Nevada land, the federal government controls a greater percentage of Nevada than of any other state in the union.

And that’s a problem — both for Nevada’s economy and taxpayers in other states.

So long as the federal government occupies Nevada lands, individuals and private enterprise are unable to generate prosperity throughout most of the state. Restricted to less than 20 percent of its own land, the state’s ability to diversify its economy is constricted, and its capacity to likewise maintain employment during economic downturns is crippled. During the most recent recession, America’s energy sector grew by 40 percent, strongly suggesting that the Silver State would have seen less economic devastation had it controlled its own land and resources.

By gaining title to even a portion of the over 56 million acres the federal government currently occupies within its borders, Nevada could easily generate over $1 billion in revenue through sales of leases of the land. During the 2013-2015 legislative interim, Nevada’s Land Management Task Force produced a conservative analysis that determined local jurisdictions could easily reap an additional $205.8 million annually by managing just 7.2 million acres land currently controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. With control of 45 million acres, state and local governments could see revenues of $1.3 billion per year.

Those who want to see Western state lands held in perpetuity by the federal government claim states would be unable to bear the financial burden of managing the land, particularly when it comes to fighting wildfires. However, those large wildfires have increased on the federal government’s watch and are widely recognized, including by the Congressional Research Service, to frequently stem from federal mismanagement. Conversely, many states — with an inherently greater incentive to protect those lands — have identified many ways to reduce both the number of fires and the costs of fighting them.

States’ abilities to more nimbly manage the land within their borders means such a transfer would be fiscally responsible for both states and the federal government. According to the Property and Environment Research Center, for every dollar the federal government spends managing land, it loses 27 cents. Conversely, states create an average of $14.51 for each dollar they spend on such efforts.

Transferring the land would also give states like Nevada access to natural resources, opening up opportunities to procure critical elements at home rather than abroad while also spurring economic development. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Nevada could be home to some of the most energy-rich lands in the world. Yet much of that land is untouchable, under the thumb of a recalcitrant federal government.

Chantal Lovell is the Communications Director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank.

SCOTUS declines to hear Utah’s appeal over who owns rural roads

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear Utah's appeal on a test case over rights-of-way across public land, letting stand a lower court ruling that could undermine counties' legal claims to many of these disputed routes. The underlying case involved just a handful of roads in Kane County, but the ruling the state appealed affects its fight to gain title to many roads using the frontier-era law known as RS 2477. Last year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals explored the question whether "the United States either explicitly or implicitly disputed the [state's] title" to the roads. In its ruling released last December, a three-judge panel concluded that it had not. Routes deemed open in the Bureau of Land Management's travel management plans lack sufficient controversy for the courts to determine who owns them under the federal Quiet Title Act. This reasoning was affirmed Tuesday when the high court rejected the state's and Kane County's petitions to review the lower court's decision. "The majority of the state's 12,000 claims would fall into this box of no disputed title. If the route is open, why is there this fight?" said Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "It's important that the federal government should regulate these roads. It comes down to who's going to manage the public estate. The feds take a longer and broader view than the parochial view of the counties." But lawyers for the state and the county argued the 10th Circuit's "constricted and unprecedented" interpretation undermines the goal of the old road statute, which was to encourage development of remote Western lands by ensuring local jurisdictions held rights to routes pioneers carved across the public domain. States today can prevail on RS 2477 claims if they can a demonstrate 10 years of continuous public use on a particular road prior to the law's repeal in 1976. The routes at stake in the appeal are not particularly controversial because they are improved roads that do not enter wilderness quality lands and see regular vehicular traffic...more

Nuisance charge against Bundy dropped in Cedar City

The Iron County Attorney’s Office has dropped charges in a case involving Ryan Bundy — a 2013 nuisance charge stemming from a non-registered dump truck on his property in Cedar City. Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett confirmed his office dropping the charges due to Bundy coming into compliance with the matter. Bundy said he received word from his attorney the charges have been dropped. “But I haven’t seen anything official,” Bundy said. “I moved it from one side of the lot to the other and got it out of the way. It makes me upset it was a problem to begin with. What is private property? So what if you own it if the government can tell you what you can have on your land?” Bundy said he realizes there are some in the county who have “salvage yards” on their properties but said that was not the case with his. Garrett said charges against Bundy for resisting arrest are still pending. That charge stemmed from an incident earlier this year when Bundy appeared in court for the nuisance charge...more

Independent review sought of Colorado River management

The federal government’s research of the over-tapped Colorado River may well have overstated how much water the river will have and how much people will demand from it, says a group of 23 scientists, including three University of Arizona researchers. Those concerns and others have led the researchers to call for an independent review by the National Academy of Sciences of how the federal government is researching the river’s problems, issues and management needs. In a letter this week to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the scientists say federal research neglects a wide range of concerns about the Colorado River ecosystem and the massive population that depends on it. Those concerns include water quality, impacts on groundwater supplies from river use, climate change, flood management, survival of native fish and other issues. A poorly researched and managed river will lead to more vulnerabilities and expenses, they say. The letter underscores the broad dissatisfaction that researchers and conservationists in general have with how the feds are overseeing the river, whose reservoirs — including Lake Powell and Lake Mead — have steadily dropped during a 15-year drought...more

Climate Negotiators Give Up On Enforceable Paris Deal

For all their efforts to get 200 governments to commit to the toughest possible cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, climate negotiators have all but given up on creating a way to penalise those who fall short. The overwhelming view of member states, says Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, is that any agreement "has to be much more collaborative than punitive" - if it is to happen at all. "Even if you do have a punitive system, that doesn't guarantee that it is going to be imposed or would lead to any better action," Figueres said. To critics, the absence of a legal stick to enforce compliance is a deep - if not fatal - flaw in the Paris process, especially after all countries agreed in 2011 that an agreement would have some form of "legal force". They warn that a deal already built upon sometimes vague promises from member states could end up as a toothless addition to the stack of more than 500 global and regional environmental treaties...more

The late, great James Santini

When James David Santini died Sept. 22 at age 78 after a short illness, an era came to an end. The last congressman for all of Nevada — the Silver State now boasts four representatives rather than one at-large seat — Santini was elected in 1974 when a Democratic class swept into office following Richard Nixon’s Watergate downfall. In 1981, he welcomed President Ronald Reagan to Washington, was one of scores of Blue Dog Democrats who supported Reagan tax cuts, increased military spending and deregulation. He became a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, but remained in Washington serving Nevada interests.

Born, raised and educated in Reno — except for law school in San Francisco — Santini served as an Army judge advocate general officer at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., then returned to Las Vegas as a Clark County deputy district attorney, public defender and District Court judge prior to his election to Congress. In his spare time, he searched the Nevada desert for arrowheads and American Indian artifacts (his basket collection was museum quality), but bridled that the federal government owns 85 percent of Nevada. Thus, when that ownership impinged on growing Las Vegas, he teamed with cantankerous but powerful Democratic Rep. Phil Burton of California to craft rare legislation that sold U.S. Bureau of Land Management acreage in Clark County in exchange for environmentally sensitive lands around Lake Tahoe for inclusion in a national forest.

Willing to lead on big battles, he fought Carter’s plan to pave over Nevada for MX missile hangers and racetracks. I cautioned him about entering a national defense fray but he was steadfast. “It’s wrong, and I plan to defeat it.” He did.

William Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation and is author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle with Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today” (Regnery, 2013).

Founder of Utah’s Great Old Broads for Wilderness dies at 73

Susan Tixier, a tireless voice for conserving wilderness in Utah, has reached the end of her trail after many decades exploring the West's desert wildlands and explaining why those places matter. Tixier, who died Thursday at age 73, is best remembered as a founder of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, the irreverent advocacy group now based in Durango, Colo. At the time, Tixier was a lawyer and associate executive director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Timed with the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 1989, the Broads launched in Escalante to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch's assertion that the wilderness designations in southern Utah would harm the elderly by denying them access to unroaded backcountry. "Several of us took umbrage and decided the honorable senator from Utah, as well as others in Congress, should hear from some Great Old Broads for Wilderness about how we felt about roads in wild places," Tixier wrote in a 2001 blog post. "We started the organization without any thought to its becoming a nationally known, professionally staffed organization with about 3,000 members." Tixier, who had lived in New Mexico the past several years, was active in other organizations including the founding of the New Mexico Environmental Legal Center, the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies (now Western Lands Advocates), and Forest Guardians (now WildEarth Guardians). She also directed the Colorado Environmental Coalition (now Conservation Colorado)...more

Some will remember Tixier's pre-Utah activities in NM, along with her boyfriend Brant Calkin, who Bill Humphries defeated in the general election for Land Commissioner.

Sheepherders Are Set to Get a Raise

DENVER—The U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday said foreign-born sheepherders must earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, roughly doubling their pay. For decades, these sheepherders have led a rugged existence across the West, driving thousands of sheep along desolate stretches of rangeland year-round. Such conditions, combined with their low pay—as little as $3.93 an hour, according to federal data—have drawn criticism from workers’ rights groups. Under the new rule, ranchers must boost the minimum hourly pay to $7.25 over the next two to three years, and the hourly wage would be adjusted annually based on the employment cost index. The Labor Department had initially proposed tripling the minimum pay of sheepherders, but it decided on a lower wage rate after opposition from the American Sheep Industry Association, which said such an increase would have wiped out nearly 40% of its industry. “This is a significant wage adjustment, but it offers the farm and ranch families an opportunity to sustain their operations,” said Peter Orwick, executive director of the sheep association, which represents nearly 80,000 sheep producers. Sheepherders in the U.S., mostly from Latin America, work under H-2A temporary visas and had been exempt from federal minimum-wage law. Under the H-2A program, foreign agricultural workers can be hired on a temporary basis if the federal government determines they won’t hurt American jobs. The Labor Department has historically set a minimum salary for sheepherders in more than a dozen states based on the prevailing wages being paid by ranchers there...more

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BLM computer used to impersonate former employee, disparage two ranchers

Mateusz Perkowski Capital Press

A U.S. Bureau of Land Management computer was apparently used to impersonate a former agency employee and disparage two Oregon ranchers recently sentenced to prison for arson.

The incident occurred after the Capital Press posted an online article about the five-year prison terms received by Dwight Lincoln Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, for fires set on BLM property near Diamond, Ore., in 2001 and 2006.

A person who identified as Greg Allum posted three comments on the article, calling the ranchers “clowns” who endangered firefighters and other people in the area while burning valuable rangeland.

Greg Allum, a retired BLM heavy equipment operator, soon called Capital Press to complain that he had not made those comments and request that they be taken down from the website. Capital Press has since removed the comments.

A search of the Internet Protocol address associated with the comments revealed it is owned by the BLM’s office in Denver, Colo.

Allum, who continues to build livestock watering systems in Eastern Oregon, said he is friends with the Hammonds and was alerted to the comments by neighbors who know he wouldn’t have written them.

“I feel bad for them. They lost a lot and they’re going to lose more,” Allum said of the ranchers.
He said employees of the BLM in the area have long had a contentious relationship with the Hammonds.

“They’re not terrorists. There’s this hatred in the BLM for them, and I don’t get it,” Allum said.

Allum said he wants any BLM employees involved in the incident punished not because they impersonated him, but because they wasted government resources during work hours.

Grijalva pushes creation of monument in far northern Arizona

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva is reviving a push to designate a large swath of northern Arizona as a national monument. Grijalva, a Democrat, said he would introduce legislation next week to create Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument while acknowledging it likely won't get even a hearing in Congress. The goal is to have a template ready that President Barack Obama could consider signing as a proclamation for a new monument, he said. The proposed 1.7 million-acre monument is a mix of towering cliffs and canyons, grasslands, forest and desert that is popular with hunters, hikers, ranchers and other recreationists. It also includes 1 million acres rich in uranium ore that is temporarily banned from the filing of new mining claims. Grijalva, environmentalists and tribes want to make that ban permanent but have faced stiff opposition from Republicans and the mining industry. Tribal leaders who joined Grijalva on Monday in a news conference said the creation of a monument would protect the area's water, sacred sites and other cultural resources. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the tribe has struggled with the effects of uranium mining decades after it ceased on the reservation. He said he'd like to see Obama proclaim the area a national monument, using his authority under the Antiquities Act and further strengthen his commitment to American Indians. "We believe this falls right side his agenda," Begaye said...more

Haven't seen a map of the proposal, but I'm curious:  How much of the monument falls within the Navajo Nation?  Since President Begaye is so fond of the designation and the Antiquities Act, I'm sure he wants large areas in the Navajo Nation to be so designated. 

BLM Puts 'Off Limits' Sign on 233,000 Acres in Utah

Following last month's milestone decision to keep the beleaguered greater sage grouse off the endangered species listing, federal agencies in Utah have temporarily closed more than 233,000 acres of public and national forest lands for up to two years while they determine if the lands' importance to the ground-based bird habitat is such that they should be made off limits for a longer period. The temporary closure would not affect existing permitted activities on the lands with the shutdown only applying prospectively, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said. The federal agencies are taking comments on the proposal through Dec. 23. The effort is "consistent with the unprecedented effort to conserve the greater sage grouse and its habitat," a BLM Utah spokesperson said. An interactive map of the areas included in the closure is available on the BLM Utah website. During the temporary segregation period, the BLM and USFS will complete environmental analyses to determine if the lands should be formally withdrawn to protect the sage grouse habitat. "The process will invite participation by the public, tribes, environmental groups, industry, state and local government, as well as other stakeholders," the spokesperson said. The federal agencies said neither the temporary closure or a permanent one would stop ongoing or future mineral exploration or extraction operations for operators with "valid pre-existing mining claims." Other pre-authorized activities similarly could take place. Under the federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Interior Secretary can withdraw the lands for a maximum of 20 years, and that can be extended...more

As Valles Caldera moves to Park Service, pueblo’s claim to land lingers

A fog slowly lifted over the Valles Caldera National Preserve on Saturday morning as officials prepared for a dedication ceremony to mark the transition of 89,000 acres of land atop a dormant volcano to a national park. But despite Saturday’s sunny celebration of the transition — attended by high-ranking U.S. government officials and tribal elders — the matter o The pueblo’s website is soliciting contributions to the Jemez Pueblo Natural Resources Department to “help fund the final archaeological and ethnographic research to support the land claim” and to “help support litigation.” Jemez Pueblo members still consider the land sacred and use it not only for spiritual purposes, but for practical ones, too, according to an order by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the summer that allowed the pueblo to take its claims of ownership over the property back to U.S. District Court in Albuquerque. f who actually owns the land is still foggy. The fight in Washington, D.C., to bring the pristine Jemez Mountains property into the National Park Service has ended. But meanwhile, another fight about whether the United States owns the land or the Pueblo of Jemez, whose ancestors roamed this area as long as 800 years ago, is reviving in U.S. District Court. The Jemez Pueblo, fueled by a U.S. Court of Appeals decision over the summer, is engaged with the federal government in an ongoing legal dispute about its claim to the property...more

Here's hoping the Pueblo of Jemez proves their claim.  I'll bet they can make the unit pay for itself.  Could see a hunting cabins-ranch headquarters-casino combination that makes the public happy and the tribe wealthy!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Otero County appealing forest lawsuit

County Commissioners have decided to appeal a federal ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on a resolution authorizing them to remove trees from the Lincoln National Forest in an executive session at their regular meeting Thursday morning. According to Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo, removing trees from the Lincoln National Forest without their consent is unconstitutional because it violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution County Commission Chairman Ronny Rardin said the fight on who has jurisdiction on forest lands has been an ongoing issue since he’s been elected into office in 1992 and believes the County has every right to manage those lands. “I’ve been quiet for the last year because this case has been in front of the federal courts. The judge finally ruled, which we have every reason to believe that she would vote against us, so our next step is to take this to the next level,” Rardin said. “What she said in her summary judgement is that the federal government as a whole has the authority of an exclusive legislative jurisdiction, which they don’t. If they have an enclave like Holloman Air Force Base does, they have exclusive legislative jurisdiction. Congress makes the rules, they follow the laws and they have police powers. The forest and BLM only have proprietary jurisdiction, which means that our sheriff is the law.” He said the County followed state law and has faith that the Supreme Court will rule in their favor because they follow the constitution. “We followed state law, Senate Bill 1 said we could do this, they came to sue us on that level. They’re going to have to prove to the courts that our state doesn’t have the authority to make law,” Rardin said. “Now that we have Lisa Jenkins, our new County Attorney, we’re going to go through her and we’re going to work this out and appeal it. I’m going to predict that we’re going to lose the appeal because they’re a very liberal court. The next appeal will go quickly to the United States Supreme Court and we believe that the Supreme Court, being a liberal court as well, will follow the constitution because they have in so many cases before.” Forest Supervisor Travis Moseley said that the ruling came as bittersweet but it was very important to the Forest Service as it reaffirmed their authority and jurisdiction of forest lands...more

The French Connection

Valerie Cranston, Special to the Current-Argus

The Casabonne, Cauhape and Cantou families living in Hope were referred to as the area’s French connection by Dr. Jerry Cox in his book ”Ghosts of the Guadalupes.”

They were among a group of young men from Lescun, France, who migrated to the United States in the late 1800s, but not the first to make their mark in the area.

The first three Frenchmen to arrive in Hope were Frank Pru, his brother, Jack Pru and Frank Garisere. The Prus and Garisere grazed livestock between Hope and Alto. Eventually the Pru brothers moved south of Albuquerque in the 1930s.

John Pete Cauhape came to the U.S. in 1903 and first settled in Montana. He later came to Hope and filed on a homestead along the Penasco River in 1910.

Arriving in Hope in 1906 was Paul Casabonne. He had worked for the Pru brothers and John Pete Cauhape. Three years later, Casabonne died of appendicitis.

Then Felix Cauhape, brother to John Pete, came to the Hope area with his close friend Jean Pierre Cantou. They both went to work for John Pete Cauhape.

Valentin Cauhape came in 1912 and he, too, went to work for his brother John Pete. Thus began one of the largest and most successful family businesses in the area.

John Pete could read and write in English, so he handled all the business and financial aspects of the Cauhape brothers's land holdings and sheep business. John Pete married Frances Guthrie and they had two girls, Jeanne Guthrie and Marie Louise, and a boy, Johnny Cauhape.

John Pete Cauhape died in 1943 and was one of the most successful and well-known sheep producers in New Mexico. His son, Johnny, had to work for five years for his two uncles, Felix and Valentin, before he could inherit his father’s portion.

After Johnny Cauhape fulfilled his five year obligation through his father’s will, he requested the ranch be divided so he could receive his father’s portion. To keep peace in the family, he settled with his uncles on the less desirable portion of the land.

Johnny married Gloria Hess and they lived near Lewis Peak on the north end of the Guadalupes.
Felix Cauhape began corresponding with Marie Rose Cantou in France. In 1924, he mailed a marriage proposal to her. They met and she accepted the proposal. They had a son, Felix Valentin, a.k.a. Little Felix, and a daughter, Marie Elizabeth.

Both Felix and Marie Rose felt a sense of pride when they became U.S. citizens; he in 1921 and she in 1935.

During the 1940s, Felix and Marie Rose intended to visit their homeland of France. However, World War II broke out and they never got to visit their birth land. In 1970, the couple received word that their son, Little Felix, who had married Madlyn Kincaid, had died from burns and injuries sustained in a butane explosion.

Felix died in 1975 at the age of 90. By that time had lived in Hope for 65 years.

Valentin Cauhape never married and he almost never conversed with a female outside of the family. He died at the age of 69 in 1957.

Jean Pierre Cantou stayed in Hope for a few years working for John Pete Cauhape before moving to Riverton, Wyoming, with fellow countryman John Casabonne.

Four Casabonne brothers had migrated to Hope in 1906 and 1907: John; Paul, who died in 1907; Jack; and Jean Pierre “Pete.” They all began working for John Pete Cauhape but eventually made their own way.

Pete Casabonne traveled through Carlsbad on July 4, 1904. He couldn’t speak English and thought there was a revolution going on with all the gunfire and fireworks. He hid in his hotel room until the next day, when he continued on to Hope. He learned Spanish from the Hispanic sheepherders and later took a job herding between Capitan and Vaughn to learn English from those herders.

John and Jack Casabonne learned to read and write in English in France before coming to the U.S. in 1907. In 1915, John and Jack moved to Wyoming. Jack later returned to Hope and he and Pete along with two other men purchased the Big 4 Ranch. Jack was drafted and stationed in California.

Pete Casabonne met and married Blanche Michelet in Hope. Jack met her sister, Rose, when he came back from California and they were married.

Pete and Jack later dissolved their relationship with the two other men and bought their own ranch.
Pete and Blanche Casabonne had four children, Johnny, Marie, Paul and Helen. Jack and Rose Casabonne had one son, George Michelet Casabonne.

Pete and John worked their 80 or more sections of land southwest of Hope for many years before a disagreement had the two parting ways and holdings. The disagreement was over Pete, the eldest, trying to dominate Jack. Although they didn’t have much to do with each other after the land and stock was separated, their families continued to get along and stayed close.

The Cauhape, Casabonne and Cantou families were hardworking and industrious. They left quite a legacy for future generations.

Socialism for Dummies

NM ranch to let more film shoots despite ‘Maze Runner’ flap

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – The manager of a private New Mexico ranch says he will continue to let movie productions film at the site despite a recent flap over American Indian artifacts. Diamond Tail Ranch manager Roch Hart told The Associated Press he’s happy a 20th Century Fox investigation found that cast from “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” didn’t take any ancient items from the ranch as originally claimed. Twentieth Century Fox said last week a studio probe concluded no items were removed from the ranch just south of San Felipe Pueblo, despite remarks from the film’s star, Dylan O’Brien. Hart says actors did not leave designated areas and the ranch isn’t missing any artifacts. But he says the case has convinced the ranch to impose stricter guidelines for future productions.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Newly Discovered Billy the Kid Photograph Authenticated

Western Americana and Rare Coin experts, Kagin’s, Inc., announced that the firm has authenticated and will be the exclusive seller of a newly discovered photograph featuring several of the Lincoln County Regulators, including legendary gunman, Billy the Kid. The photograph was purchased for $2 as a part of a miscellaneous lot at a Fresno junk shop in 2010, and will be the subject of a two-hour documentary airing Sunday, October 18th at 9/8c on National Geographic Channel. “I love handling great treasure finds!” exclaimed Dr. Donald Kagin, president of Kagin’s, Inc. “This iconic, lively and fun artifact is history in your hand—a snapshot of the life style of one of the most notorious figures of the Wild West.” The 4x5 inch tintype not only depicts Billy the Kid, but several members of his gang, The Regulators, playing a leisurely game of croquet alongside friends, family, and lovers in the late summer of 1878. Taken just one month after the tumultuous Lincoln County War came to an end, it is a window into the lives of these gunmen as they were still fighting the injustices of a lawless land. It’s a carefree moment after an important life event - a wedding - which is rich in content, movement and texture. “When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical - an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” remarked Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy. “We had to be certain that we could answer and verify where, when, how and why this photograph was taken. Simple resemblance is not enough in a case like this - a team of experts had to be assembled to address each and every detail in the photo to insure that nothing was out of place. After more than a year of methodical study including my own inspection of the site, there is now overwhelming evidence of the image’s authenticity.” The only other known photograph of Billy the Kid is a portrait of the outlaw taken in Fort Sumner, NM in 1880. That 2x3 inch tintype brought $2.3 million in 2010. Kevin Costner will narrate and produce the two-hour documentary for National Geographic Channel, covering Western Americana enthusiast Randy Guijarro’ s odyssey to authenticate this unique photograph. The program which airs October 18th will follow Randy’s journey, as well as the events surrounding the day that the photograph was taken in 1878. The documentary will also feature extensive interviews with a variety of experts in digital facial recognition, antique photography, geographic positioning, and - believe it or not - vintage croquet sets!...more

Massive El Niño is now 'too big to fail,' scientist says

Satellite images comparing Oct. 1, 2015, and Oct. 2, 1997, show large areas of white, which indicate high sea levels -- a reflection of high sea temperatures. The images show how this year's El Nino could be as powerful as the one in 1997, the strongest El Nino on record.
(NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
An El Niño that is among the strongest on record is gaining strength in the Pacific Ocean, and climate scientists say California is likely to face a wet winter. “There’s no longer a possibility that El Niño wimps out at this point. It’s too big to fail,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “And the winter over North America is definitely not going to be normal,” he said. Just three weeks ago, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center raised the odds of California getting doused with a wetter-than-average winter. Southern California now has more than a 60% chance of a wet winter, a 33% chance of a normal winter and less than a 7% chance of a dry winter. cientists know that El Niño is getting stronger because of rising sea-level ocean temperatures in the Pacific west of Peru, and a change in directions of the wind along the equator that allow warm waters to surge toward the Americas. “The trade winds are weakening yet again. That should strengthen this El Niño,” Patzert said. Those factors can cause a dramatic change of patterns in the atmosphere, and can take winter storms that normally pour rain on the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America and move them over California and the southern United States...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

History in the leaves of gold

 by Julie Carter

A single cottonwood tree, gone bright yellow in the season, its leaves and branches framing a deep blue sky, looms above the gently waving prairie grass trimmed in muted shades of beige and rust.
The scene is timeless both in reality and symbolically. The cottonwood tree is woven into the fabric of our lives, our history and better yet, our memories.

Whether you played in a schoolyard lined with them like sentries, or as a youth you laid in your bed on a summer night and listened to rustle of their leaves in the breeze through an open window, for most of us the cottonwood trees serve as reminder of the distant past.
And so it is with our country. 

In 1718, Franciscan monks and Indian converts built San Antonio de Valero, later to be named the "Alamo," the Spanish word for cottonwood, and referring to the stand of cottonwoods that line the nearby river.

Lewis and Clark stopped along the Yellowstone River on their return trip in the summer of 1806, "to make two canoes" out of cottonwood trees. A reference in their journal to the towering cottonwoods later gave name to the town of Big Timber, Montana.

Historically, travelers making their way across the vast and deserted plains scanned the horizon for the sight of cottonwoods, indicating a water source and possibly civilization.

The virgin forest of cottonwoods that once formed a rounded grove, the Bosque Redondo, was cut in the 1860s to build Fort Sumner, New Mexico. They served as fuel for the fires for hundreds of soldiers and civilians who lived at the fort, as well as the 9,000 nomadic Native Americans who were forced to live on the surrounding reservation.

In three years, the groves were completely harvested causing a fuel shortage and severe soil erosion in the surrounding farm grounds. A year later the fort commander ordered 5,000 trees to be planted to line the ditch banks and all bordering roadways.

America has a dozen or so towns named after the tree including Cottonwood, Arizona, a town birthed in 1874 and famous for bootlegging, feeding the miners and later, filming movies.

New Mexico had at least 12 towns named Cottonwood, none of which exist today. Alamogordo, was named for its "fat cottonwood trees" that grow in Cottonwood Park near the railroad. Southern Pacific Railroad had those very trees brought from El Paso by wagon in 1901 to create a rest stop for passengers.

Southeast of Abilene is Cottonwood, Texas, founded about 1875 by J.W. Love, who didn't think his name lent itself to town-naming, so the local abundance of cottonwood trees directed a second choice.

A reported rash of shootings with fatal results during the town's embryo period provided for a brief but colorful history. However, Cottonwood, Texas came only close to a real claim to fame in the Wild West. The Newton Brothers, train and bank robbers from Uvalde, Texas, used to live near Cottonwood.

In 1937, Kansas officials adopted the cottonwood at the official state tree, most of which were planted by early pioneers.

My own history with cottonwoods is that of those friendly giants in our yard on the ranch in Colorado as well as the endless number of them lining miles of creek banks and hay meadows. 

In the fall, as children we played in the leaves, and in the spring, we endured the beaded strings of "cotton" that brought a season of sneezing. That perhaps was offset by the right-of-passage in learning how to fold a cottonwood leaf and make a whistle. 

They provided shade in the summer, wore a tire swing in perpetual motion, endured makeshift ladder rungs nailed to a trunk, and gave way to endless hours for countless years of kids climbing up, down and around. They canopied a magical playground limited only by our imaginations as we built forts and had secret hideouts in the groves of the living as well as the dead trees. 

As a teen, my daydreams were brought to life when I became Velvet Brown, the girl who rode her horse to victory in the Grand National steeplechase. I would select a path through the fallen trees that allowed my horse to gather enough speed and momentum to jump over the larger deadfall. I soared in my dreams as I soared in the saddle.

I still love to lean against the trunk of a grand old cottonwood, slide my back down the rough bark to sit very still and quiet on the ground. I know the secrets of the past are whispered in the rustle of the leaves.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Outhouses, eh?

Saving Posteriors
Outhouses, eh?
Dig ‘em deep
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Paterson squatted on the side of the excavation in his best Robert Duvall pose.
            He was overseeing the digging of yet another government accommodation … an outhouse pit for the visitors who opted to avoid the improved restroom facilities within the campgrounds. The crew was a group of ‘casuals’ brought in on a fire bust. The duty was to keep them busy until they were needed for fire crew relief.
            “What are you fellows doing?” a lady asked merrily on her morning nature walk along the river with her young daughter.
            “We’re digging a shi … er … an outdoor hygiene pit, ma’am,” he responded.
            “It certainly is deep,” she gasped as she peered down into the depths.
            “Yes, ma’am, we need to get it down at least to running water,” he added before barking another order to the motley crew.
            “Hey, you boys,” he began. “I want to see rear ends and elbows down there ‘cause if we have to shoot one of you I don’t want the skunks digging you up!”
            “You have guns?” the lady asked with an immediate hint of alarm.
            “We are all packing, ma’am,” Paterson smoothly remarked. “These men are all hardened criminals and we can’t take any chances.”
            “Dangerous criminals?” the now concerned lady gulped.
            “Yes, ma’am,” was the monotone answer. “For example, that man right there … he’s a serial rapist, ma’am, and, that man, he …” but, the lady was already leaving with her child firmly in tow glancing back in wild eyed alarm.
            “Hey, knock off those smiles down there!” he immediately commanded. “Remember, I’m packing!”
            Pine-Sol and high pressure water
            The morning had started with yet another Duvall moment when John had reentered an improved restroom for final inspection after a high pressure hosing and a thorough cleaning.
            “I just love the smell of Pine-Sol in the morning!” he reflected.
            Our duty was campground patrol from the Cliff Dwellings to the Grapevine. Our transportation was the ’63 Ford one ton pickup that rattled your teeth, had no radio, and got about four miles per gallon. It was a step side beast that topped out less than 50 miles an hour, but sounded good speed shifting.
Paterson was riding shotgun sneering with authority while mouthing a stubby, unlit cigar.
            The ‘crew’ was riding in the back or hanging on to the side of the behemoth in the style of those days without being hardwired into big brother OSHA. We made the decision that moving as many outhouses as possible was the order of the day. Our tactic was time proven. We would dig to running water and, with muscle, move the outhouse over the stabilized cavern.
            Paterson was the expert on placement.
            “Right here, boys,” he would announce pointing to the ground after careful assessment.
            While the boys were digging, John would invariably make the rounds through the nearby campers commiserating with the masses and spreading good will. It was always with aplomb and belied the indignity of the job description. We made cleaning outhouses the duty of the fortunate and we cleaned them with proud confidence. When we walked away from a dirty crapper, it was gleaming.
            “Yes, sir,” he would conclude. “There is nothing like the smell of Pine-Sol in the morning!”
            The real thing
            Freddie McCauley and Mel Tillis have the best outhouse stories.
            Of the Tillis stories, two stand out with sheer greatness. The first was the story of the uptown lady who invariably trotted up the rise to the gas station outhouse while her car was being graced with full service. She would tippy toe up there and return to her automobile ready and waiting to speed her on her way. The outhouse was a two seater.
            One of the hoodlums working with Mel was a radio whiz and the boys worked a deal up whereby they mounted a speaker under the side by side seats. Miss Uptown rolled in, gave the order to “fill her up and wash the windows”, and trotted up the rise to do her business. The boys gave her enough time to settle in and Mel got on the mike.
            “M-m-m-mz Smith, c-c-c-c-could y-y-y-you m-m-m-move o-o-o-over to the o-o-other seat,” he stuttered. “W-w-we are trying to work down here!”
            The lady burst forth from the outhouse, rushed to the car, and left in great haste.
            The second story was similar, but this time it was the fat girl who got stuck on the seat. She was just immense. She waddled up the rise and the next thing the boys knew she was screaming for help.
            Things went from embarrassment to dilemma when they opened the door to see her. She had spread a crack in the seat enough to get a crease of skin down in it and it closed on her when she attempted to lift her bulk.
            She was trapped!
            All modesty was gone and she was wailing for assistance to pry her off the seat. The boys combined couldn’t budge her. They finally called for a crane. They dismantled the outhouse enough to get a cable down to her. She really squealed when they eventually broke her loose.
            Many people witnessed the event including the fire chief and crew, the sheriff, the mayor, at least six customers, the crane operator, a vagrant, and the gas station crew. It was the latter that helped the whimpering victim off the hill to push her great corpulence into an ambulance to take her to the hospital to determine the seriousness of her violated derriere.
            The outhouse was out of commission for a few days.
            Freddie’s story was at the old Wood’s place at Redrock. They were down there working cattle and he was cooking supper. It was in December and near sundown. From the kitchen, he noticed the Mexican cowboy enter the outhouse. He was then drawn to a commotion as the vaquero burst through the outhouse door with his pants still down and screaming “beboda (rattlesnake)!”
            Perplexed about the whole thing, Freddie took his apron off, grabbed his flashlight and went to investigate. Something wasn’t adding up. It was too cold for a rattlesnake, but there was surely an enraged snake sound coming from the now dark outhouse. He approached the open door with caution and could definitely hear a buzz.
            He became convinced it was a snake.
            His search revealed the sound was coming from the pit. He eased up there, and, sure enough, at the bottom of the six foot pit was a mad rattlesnake coiled and ready to fight all comers.
            “Don’t you think you should help me before I die?” the vaquero pleaded in Spanish.
            Had the snake been on the seat, bit him, and then fallen into the pit?
            The search continued, but light went shed when he found red threads hung on a twisted wire that held the seat cover against the wall of the outhouse. Aha! The vaquero had indeed disturbed the snake lying in the bottom of the pit when he unloaded on him, but the “bite” occurred when he jumped up and impaled himself on the “wire fangs”. He wasn’t bitten at all! Freddie chuckled and headed back to the house to tend to his supper still on the stove.
 “Aren’t you going to help me?” the vaquero wailed.
            “Naw, snakebites on the back like that are always fatal no matter what you do to them,” he told him as he strode away.
            Bell Canyon
            For years, Nana and Boppy maintained their old outhouse even after they had indoor plumbing. It was behind the chicken house. The Monkie Ward catalogue was there for nostalgia and entertainment as was a corn cob hung on a wire. The toilet paper hung on a roller just like in town.
            I spent enough time there to generate lasting memories. On lazy summer afternoons, I’d sit there looking at the catalogue listening to the drone of a few resident flies. In the winter, the visits were briefer.
            It wasn’t an unpleasant experience at all. The place never smelled like the commercial outhouses of today. In fact, the noticeable smell was the mothballs used to keep black widows and snakes away. It was where nobody bothered you and lots of thinking could get done. It was swept and clean like the rest of Nana’s world. It was convenient. You never had to go to the house to get trapped into doing something useful. It was hugely practical and nearly maintenance free.
The concrete form that provided the cavity frame and the seat base is still there. Perhaps that will be my special inheritance bequeathment. I could move it and build a modern day counterpart at our Howard Pens … which sounds like a plan to me.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Have you ever thought what the conversation must be like while sitting side by side in a two seater?”