Friday, December 04, 2015

NM tries to collect back taxes on sales of elk-hunting permits by ranchers and landowners

State officials who have been focusing their efforts on collecting delinquent gross receipts taxes have a new target in their sights: ranchers and other landowners who are issued elk-hunting permits by the state and then sell them. The Taxation and Revenue Department says it has sent hundreds of letters this fall to landowners notifying them they may owe back taxes on the transferable license authorizations they received from the state Department of Game and Fish. More letters are expected to go out. The collection effort has some landowners in an uproar. “There has been a great deal of confusion. … It’s turned the landowner industry on its head,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. The tax department over the past couple of years has been trying to identify and collect gross receipts taxes in a variety of areas that it says should have been paid and weren’t. Landowners in the Department of Game and Fish’s program called E-PLUS – for Elk Private Lands Use System – are given authorizations in recognition of their efforts in managing elk and their habitat, according to the department. They can ignore the authorizations, use them, give them away or sell them – to individual hunters, for example, or to outfitting companies or to brokers – at whatever price they can get. The authorizations are converted to actual hunting licenses. The tax agency’s letters to landowners say that granting a right to hunt “is a license to use the real property,” and that the receipts from the sale of that license are subject to gross receipts tax. Cowan said that was “shocking” news to some ranchers, who likely have been paying income tax on the income from the sales of authorizations but now find they may owe thousands of dollars in back gross receipts taxes. The state can go back six or seven years to collect, depending on whether the taxpayer had ever filed a gross receipts tax return, according to the department. “Unfortunately, since no one knew about the rule, the landowners are being asked for records they didn’t keep on taxes they didn’t know they were supposed to pay,” said Dalene Hodnett, communications director for the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau...more

House passes bill to address abuse of EAJA

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council applaud the House passage of H.R. 3279 Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), requires oversight and transparency of funds awarded under EAJA. Philip Ellis, NCBA president and Wyoming rancher, said the bill is critical to leveling the playing field between private citizens, for which the law was intended, and the vast resources of groups who repeatedly abuse the system. “The lack of oversight and accountability has led to rampant abuse by well-funded radical environmental groups who use EAJA to advance their agendas,” said Ellis. “The simple fact that millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have been awarded, with virtually no accounting of who received the payments is unacceptable.” EAJA was originally passed in 1980 to allow plaintiffs to recover legal fees when they prevail against the federal government in court. However, it has repeatedly been exploited by environmental activist groups which target federal-lands agencies, and ultimately the ranching families who use the lands, at the expense of the taxpayer. From 2001 to 2011, environmental activist groups, some worth in excess of $50 million, have been awarded an estimated $37 million. During the same time period, more than 3,300 cases have been filed by just 12 groups, many of which were frivolous or filed on technicalities...more

 So we'll get more accurate and timely reports on how they are screwing us?  I'll have more to say later, but this does nothing to solve the root problem, and it's a problem the Congress doesn't want to admit exists.

Does imperiled Mexican gray wolf belong in Utah? No way, 4 states say

Federal wildlife officials are set to convene yet another effort to craft a recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf after three failed attempts over the past three decades. But leaders in Utah and three other states are now attacking the credibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's science, alleging it is rigged to improperly include the Four Corners region in the recovery zone for this critically imperiled wolf subspecies. The Utah Wildlife Board on Wednesday piled on when it finalized a letter to FWS insisting the agency reconstitute the recovery team with members who are more "neutral" than the biologists currently assigned to the task. VIDEOS Rescuers race to reach victims of deadly India floods AFP Cops investigate video showing toddler smoking 'joint' NY Daily News California mass shooting: Attackers murder 14 at San Bernardino social services centre Press Association Attackers Had More Than 1,600 Bullets With Them AP Carter Orders All Combat Jobs Open to Women AP Is the Future of Gun Control State-to-State? Bloomberg Rescuers race to reach victims of deadly India floods AFP Cops investigate video showing toddler smoking 'joint' NY Daily News More videos: Carter Orders All Combat Jobs Open to Women Is the Future of Gun Control State-to-State? Rescuers race to reach victims of deadly India floods Cops investigate video showing toddler smoking 'joint' California mass shooting: Attackers murder 14 at San Bernardino social services centre Attackers Had More Than 1,600 Bullets With Them Carter Orders All Combat Jobs Open to Women Is the Future of Gun Control State-to-State? Rescuers race to reach victims of deadly India floods Cops investigate video showing toddler smoking 'joint' California mass shooting: Attackers murder 14 at San Bernardino social services centre Attackers Had More Than 1,600 Bullets With Them TOP JOBS Top Jobs Check out all the Trib TopJobs The team is scheduled to begin meeting next week at the COD Ranch outside Tucson, Ariz. Utah also objects to this venue, because it is has hosted meetings of conservation groups. The states also insist on a major ground rule for the Mexican wolf recovery planning process: No consideration should be given to terrain north of Interstate 40, the freeway that cuts across Arizona and New Mexico about 130 miles south of the Utah state line. That was the sentiment two months ago when the Utah Wildlife Board first authorized Assistant Utah Attorney General Martin Bushman to draft the letter to FWS and the Department of the Interior. A final draft was approved Wednesday, claiming the Mexican wolf's historic range lies south of Arizona's Mogollon Rim forming the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The complaints raised in this letter closely align with a Nov. 13 letter to FWS director Dan Ashe signed by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and three other governors. The four states — Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona as well as Utah — are "seriously troubled" by FWS' selection of "non-neutral" scientists bent on establishing the Mexican wolf outside its historic range. "The panel as presently constituted will be driven as much or more by personal agenda than by science. This is unacceptable," the letter states. "Given that 90 percent of the subspecies' historical range is in Mexico, any serious recovery planning effort must headline a Mexico-centric approach rather than the translocation of the subspecies out of its historical range into new, previously uninhabited ranges of northern Arizona / New Mexico and southern Utah / Colorado." FWS spokesman Jeff Humphrey said the agency has yet to decide how it will respond to the governors' concerns. The letters do not name the allegedly biased scientists or identify who the states do want on the team...more

Another NM County opposes wolf release

Lincoln County commissioners back Socorro County's opposition to the proposed release of Mexican gray wolves in an expanded territory, as part of a federal reintroduction program. They understand Socorro County's opposition to the use of sites within its borders and believe if the releases move forward, Lincoln County will be next on the list, they stated in a resolution adopted last week. The resolution asks members of Congress to call for an investigation into the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service's "disregard of the positions of the local and state government, and to defund the wolf recovery program." In January 2015, Fish and Wildlife Service officials finalized changes to the Mexico Wolf Experimental Population Rule in Arizona and New Mexico, enlarging the recovery area from Interstate 10 to the Mexican border. That increased the territory tenfold in which the wolves can be released initially from captivity, County Manager Nita Taylor said. On Sept. 29, 2015, the director of New Mexico Game and Fish Department denied the federal agency's request to release additional wolves in New Mexico, citing a lack of specifics about how many or where the wolves would be released, Taylor said. The state Game Commission unanimously upheld that denial. On Oct. 1, federal agency officials proposed numerous potential wolf release sites in Socorro County. That county adopted a resolution opposing the release and Lincoln County now joins in that opposition by passing resolution 2015-22, she said. The resolution read in part that the expanded areas offer "abundant open space for cover, water and a smorgasbord of commercial animals for a food source, and the county is concerned that the wolves would remain in the vicinity of the ready supply of food and water unless actions were taken to prevent or control the dispersion." Commissioners contended in the resolution that Fish and Wildlife Service officials did not sufficiently consider the impacts on the county's customs, culture and the economy in the Environment Impact Statement. "Despite the Fish and Wildlife Service's belief that it has developed a program that will compensate counties for losses that counties incur from the Mexican wolf, it is outrageous to think that compensation is even quantifiable when it has taken years for the ungulate population to develop as a result f the dedicated efforts of sportsmen, ranchers, county agencies and the state Game and Fish," the resolution states. The county "stands in stark opposition of the newly released record of decision and final rule," the resolution states. Commissioners maintain the decision is a "blatant violation of the National Environmental Protection Act requirements."...more

Ranchers denied the drought while collecting drought subsidies

It was an anti-government rebellion in the Nevada sagebrush – with hefty taxpayer subsidies for the rebels. In June, tough-talking ranchers in remote Battle Mountain, Nevada, defied the federal government, herding cattle onto public rangeland that had been closed to grazing to protect it during the West’s scorching drought. That act of defiance capped two years of protest against grazing restrictions imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which manages thousands of square miles of arid federal land in Nevada. In the end, the federal government backed down from the confrontation in Battle Mountain. The BLM canceled the drought closures and opened the range, just as the cattlemen wanted. By denying the severity of the drought – and by claiming that “rogue” federal bureaucrats threatened them with economic ruin – the ranchers won the day. But even as the conflict played out, some of these same ranchers were collecting drought subsidies from the federal government. On one hand, they denied the drought. On the other hand, they embraced it. According to records obtained by Reveal, two ranching families at the center of the Battle Mountain protests received $2.2 million from a federal drought disaster relief program. Dan Filippini, the protest leader who turned hundreds of cattle loose on the closed range, was paid $338,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program in 2014, records show. Another $750,000 federal payout went to a trust and corporation associated with the Filippini family, which long has been active in ranching in Nevada. Meanwhile, significant payments also went to the family of Battle Mountain cattleman Peter Tomera, who with his wife and sons rode on the Grass March Cowboy Express, a 2014 horseback ride to Washington, D.C., to protest the government drought restrictions. The records show that the government paid $250,000 to a Tomera family trust and another $360,000 to a family corporation. An additional $540,000 was paid to other members of the extended Tomera family and to a related corporation, records show. The subsidy program compensates ranchers who claim financial losses because a drought disaster has driven up the cost of feed for livestock...more

With Klamath bill uncertain, dam relicensing moves ahead

The process to relicense the hydroelectric dam system on the Klamath River will likely move forward if Congress fails to act by the end of the year on historic settlement agreements to remove four of the dams. The Klamath River basin, which straddles Oregon and California, has long been the site of intense political fights over the sharing of scarce water between farms and fish. The agreements to remove the dams, hammered out by farmers, tribes, environmentalists and states, were a compromise to restore the river for imperiled salmon and steelhead and give farmers greater certainty about irrigation water. Congress must pass legislation to implement the agreements, but House Republicans have blocked it for years, fearing it would set a precedent for dam removal. In October, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden — a staunch dam-removal opponent whose Oregon district includes one of the dams — said he was close to drafting a bill in the House. He has not released any details. His office this week said the lawmaker would convene a meeting today with key Congressional leaders to discuss “a way forward” on Klamath Basin water issues. If there’s no legislation by the end of the year, when the agreements expire, several parties indicated they might abandon the settlement. “It’s not that we don’t believe in the deal, it’s that we’ve tried for years … and have not been able to get support in Congress,” said Craig Tucker, Klamath coordinator with the Karuk Tribe, one of four federally recognized tribes that support the agreements. “If we can get tribal leaders and ranchers to come to an agreement to share water, it’s shocking that we can’t bring our Congressmen along with us.” Relicensing of the Klamath dams with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses hydropower projects for 30 to 50 years, has been on hold for several years while groups negotiated for a federal bill...more

Feds try new strategy in wildfire rehab in southwest Idaho

The federal government has a long history of failure when it comes to restoring sagebrush rangeland scorched by wildfires. Scientists and land managers aim to change that by using the knowledge gained in those setbacks to restore a giant swath of sagebrush steppe destroyed by a wildfire last summer in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon. “It’s well known that there hasn’t been much success despite the millions of dollars being invested,” said Matt Germino, a United States Geological Survey research ecologist based in Boise who specializes in sagebrush steppe ecosystems. He decided to find out why. He looked at 25 historic sagebrush reseedings following wildfires in the Snake River Plain from 1987 to 2010 involving tens of thousands of acres. He discovered that, on average, seeds came from 300 miles away and moved downward in elevation about 2,500 feet. Of the 25 seedings, nine resulted in no sagebrush. But five restoration seedings did produce good results. “The most successful seedings,” Germino said, “got their seeds from areas that had almost the identical winter temperatures as the seeding site.” The poorest restoration results, though, involved seeds that came from areas that on average were about 5.5 degrees colder in winter than where they were planted. Though vast expanses of sagebrush often look similar, there are actually three subspecies of big sagebrush. Germino said that variability is part of the reason sagebrush are among the most successful and widely-spread plants in North America. The most abundant subspecies is Wyoming big sagebrush. Basin big sagebrush is the most drought-tolerant. Mountain big sagebrush, meanwhile, is typically found at higher elevations. Within those three subspecies, Germino said, are genetic variations making groups of sagebrush best adapted for particular areas. In examining past restoration efforts, he found that burned areas typically contained Wyoming big sagebrush, but the seeds to replant those areas often came from mountain big sagebrush, resulting in failure...more

Judge Puts Lawsuit Over Badger-Two Medicine Energy Lease on Sacred Land on hold

BILLINGS — A federal judge put a lawsuit over a disputed energy lease near Glacier National Park on hold Thursday until early January, after attorneys for the government and leaseholder said they were seeking to resolve the case outside court. The Interior Department last month said it plans to cancel the 6,200-acre lease in northwestern Montana that’s owned by Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The lease was granted in 1982 in the Badger-Two Medicine area just south of Glacier — land considered sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of the U.S. and Canada. Drilling has been held up by repeated bureaucratic delays, prompting Solenex to sue the government in 2013. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said in Thursday’s order that the case would be stayed until Jan. 8. He asked the two sides to come back on or before that date with recommendations on how the case should proceed or whether more time would be needed for negotiations. Neither side would disclose what issues are being discussed. Solenex’s attorneys have said previously that if the leases are cancelled, their clients would be entitled to compensation. Attorneys for the government have said the lease was improperly issued, in part because an environmental study did not consider the impact on the tribes of drilling. The lease is on the site of the creation story for the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and the Blackfeet Nation of Montana. It’s located just west of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Dozens more oil and gas leases were initially sold in the area, but over the years, most were retired or surrendered by their owners...more

Highway bill Congress passed restores crop insurance cuts

U.S. senators from the Dakotas say a transportation bill Congress passed on Thursday restores $3 billion in cuts to crop insurance made in the budget agreement completed in October, and also helps some agricultural fuel haulers. The Senate and House overwhelmingly approved the five-year, $305 billion bill, sending it to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement that crop insurance "is a lifeline for jobs and families across rural America," and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said it gives farmers "the certainty of knowing there is a safety net in place." Farm-state lawmakers and agricultural groups were angered by the budget deal, saying the cut to crop insurance would hurt farmers and possibly increase the need for emergency disaster aid. They also said it would undermine improvements in the 2014 farm bill to crop insurance, which costs more than $9 billion annually...more

What Killed the Mammoths of Waco?


For two decades, a circus tent stood on the outskirts of Waco, Texas, not far from the point where the Bosque and Brazos rivers converge. But the real elephant attraction was below: Columbian mammoths, still preserved in their death pose, more than 60,000 years after floodwaters left them buried in mud.

The Waco Mammoth National Monument, its circus digs now replaced with a climate-controlled shelter and visitor center, became one of the country’s newest national monuments in July. The first hints of the Ice Age graveyard were discovered by accident in 1978, when two 19-year-olds looking for arrowheads along a dry riverbed found mammoth bones instead. They alerted paleontologists at Baylor University, sparking an excavation that yielded surprisingly rich finds. Within a decade, 16 Columbian mammoths were uncovered and lifted out of the ground in plaster jackets. A second phase revealed six more mammoths, a camel and the tooth of a saber-tooth cat.

The deposit is unique because it preserves a nursery herd—at least six adult females and ten juveniles—that died together in a single event. Unlike the Hot Springs Mammoth Site in South Dakota, where over 60 juvenile and adolescent male Columbian mammoths plummeted to their deaths over the course of many years, the Waco site bears witness to a single, catastrophic event. And the absence of arrowheads and other archaeological remains suggests that the bones aren’t a heap of Paleo-Indian leftovers—this was a mass grave from a natural disaster.

How—and when—did the animals die? New research found a likely answer within the sediments that entombed the creatures. The paper, which was recently published in Quaternary Research, concludes that the original 16 mammoths from the herd were likely standing in the wet, sandy sediment near the confluence of the two rivers when a storm hit. As floodwaters rose, the animals might have been trapped between the river and the ravine’s walls. At 12-to-14 feet tall and weighing seven to eight tons, Columbian mammoths weren’t exactly agile. Perhaps they couldn’t climb the steep slopes to escape in time. Some might have even been trapped in a mudslide. Other mammoths seem to have died in a similar storm while visiting the same area years later.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1531

Ranch Radio will close out the week with a tune about our old cartoon buddy Snuffy Smith.  That's Johnny Acton doing the singing and you'll find the tune on Vol. One of the High On The Hog series by Cactus Records.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Greens push Obama to seek bigger climate deal

More than 150 environmental groups are asking President Obama to go even further on global warming than what he has proposed as part of an international climate change pact. In a letter sent Tuesday, the groups pushed Obama to increase the amount of carbon pollution the U.S. will cut as part of a climate agreement. They also said he should commit to stopping development of untapped fossil fuels on federal land while working toward a transition to 100 clean energy around the globe by 2050. “You have the capability to negotiate a climate agreement in Paris that will mark the turning point in the world’s efforts to avert catastrophic climate damage and thus protect the human rights of present and future generations,” the coalition, which includes the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace USA among others, wrote. The proposals are aggressive and likely won’t catch on as part of an international climate change agreement. Obama has worked to solidify his climate change platform ahead of the on-going talks in Paris, saying the U.S. will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 while cracking down on power sector pollution. He has said more fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground if climate change is to be addressed. But his administration has dismissed green groups’ plea that it completely stop fossil fuel development on federal land...more

NPS releases report on actions to combat climate change in parks

The National Park Service yesterday released a report detailing actions underway to address climate change threats to infrastructure, recreation, and natural and cultural resources. The report follows a recent study that revealed sea-level rise caused by climate change could pose a risk to more than $40 billion worth of national park assets and resources. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell highlighted the report during a meeting in Paris with representatives from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, where the delegates discussed shared challenges in protecting World Heritage sites in the face of a changing climate...more

U.S. Government and Companies Reiterate Commitment to Forest and Climate Programs

At COP21 in Paris, France, leading companies announced that they intend to prioritize their sourcing of commodities in regions implementing large-scale forest and climate programs. The U.S. welcomes this innovative new approach from Marks & Spencer and Unilever, and the expectation that other companies will join in this approach. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell attended the announcement in Paris and noted the importance of this public-private approach. This move to source from jurisdictions combatting deforestation will bring together the power of global agricultural supply chains with strong government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the announcement, areas with existing initiatives that meet certain criteria will be the first priority for supply chain sourcing, so long as quality and volume mandates can be fulfilled. The criteria include: a strategy to reduce emissions from forests and other lands; a system to measure and monitor net reductions in emissions; performance below an ambitious and decreasing emissions baseline; monitoring of social and environmental safeguards; stakeholder engagement; high-level political support; and a national U.N. Climate Change Convention contribution (INDC) that includes forests and land use...more

Obama environmentalists favor birds over business

By William Perry Pendley

...Immediately, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and the Idaho State Legislature filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C.; they were joined days ago by a 105-year-old mining association. Meanwhile, Nevada’s Elko County, which stands to lose $31 million annually in agriculture, mining and energy development activity, and Eureka County along with two small mining companies, sued in federal district court in Reno. A month after filing, they were joined by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Recently, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association sued in federal district court in Cheyenne, contesting the planned limits on grazing.

It is not only western governors’ efforts to balance sage-grouse conservation with the need for economic activity that are being mocked by Obama officials. Decades ago, Congress, fed up with various presidents’ usurpation of its constitutional role in managing federal lands, sharply limited the executive branch’s authority to withdraw public lands, limits that the sage-grouse orders boldly ignore. Westerners are fighting back, but if the past is any indication, Congress will remain feckless, impotent and uninvolved in the face of Obama administration lawlessness.

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

Park's crumbling water system tests cash-strapped NPS

Grand Canyon National Park's water pipeline was among the Interior Department's most ambitious projects in the 1960s. The 16-mile aluminum pipeline captures water gushing from a cave thousands of feet below the North Rim, snakes to the canyon floor, then surges up the arid South Rim to quench the thirst of 4.8 million park visitors every year. It's still the park's only source of drinking water, but the pipeline is decades past its anticipated service life. Its frequent breakdowns -- as many as 30 a year -- keep park plumbers busy. "We're patching it as it breaks," said Robin Martin, the park's chief of planning and compliance. But with each service call costing $25,000, the pipeline repairs are straining the park's finances and the patience of hikers and campers who occasionally are asked to bring their own water or filter from the creeks. In rare circumstances, breakdowns have forced the evacuation of guests. And so the park is planning an ambitious project to replace it. Park managers are studying the hydrology of the North Rim springs and by early next year will ask the public to weigh in on an environmental impact statement to explore alternatives for a new pipeline. Estimated replacement cost: $150 million, a staggering sum for a park whose annual budget is roughly $20 million. It's a reflection of broader fiscal strain at the National Park Service as it prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. Systemwide, the agency faces an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog -- everything from crumbling roads and unsafe bridges to leaky bathrooms and eroding trails...more

They can't take care of what they've got, yet keep adding additional units.  Transfer Forest Service, BLM and similar lands to the states and spend federal resources on bringing our National Parks back up to par.

California wasting water due to fish and inefficiency

It’s quite astounding that California’s water officials weren’t better prepared for the four-year long drought they are currently in. The Golden State is well-known for being dry, and scientists familiar with the region’s history will tell you that over the past 1,000 years the area that is now California has faced several hundred-year long “megadroughts.” Despite the well-documented reality of California’s climate, every year, even in drought years, state officials waste millions of gallons of precious water to protect a fish and they prevent markets from efficiently allocating one of California’s most desired and vital resources. Wtate officials waste millions of gallons of precious water to protect a fish and they prevent markets from efficiently allocating one of California’s most desired and vital resources. California’s drought has been devastating to the state’s environment, economy and its residents. This year, it will cost California about $2.7 billion and over 10,000 agricultural jobs. Nearly 600,000 acres of farmland in the state lay fallow because of the drought. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is responsible for one-third of California’s water supply, is also at record-low levels...more

George P. Bush joins 'land grab' suit against feds

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Tuesday joined several North Texas land owners and officials in a lawsuit against the federal government over long-disputed property rights. In intervening court documents filed against the federal Bureau of Land Management, Bush proclaimed to challenge "the federal government's unconstitutional and arbitrary seizure" of land along the Red River, which he said belongs to Texas.  Bush's intervention is the latest chapter in a months-long dispute over the borders of federally-held public land along the Texas-Oklahoma line. In October, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote a letter to the BLM denouncing an "unconscionable land grab." Twelve other parties are challenging the federal agency, including three Texas counties, one sheriff and eight private landowners, who the BLM has reportedly said should never have been given the deeds to parts of their plots of land. Bush got involved because Texas General Land Office, which he heads, owns the mineral rights beneath approximately 113 acres of the contested land, which he said in a statement belongs to the Texas Permanent School Fund...more

Cows, Capitalism and the Future of Cuba

Every time Gator ejaculated, Dan Marvel grossed 10 grand. At the time of his death last year, the bull was a ton and a half of genetic perfection—or as close to it as has ever been recorded for his breed (Red Brangus, a dewlapped, humpbacked strain, three-eighths Brahman, five-eighths Angus and usually russet in hue, hence the name). And he was prolific: Marvel, his owner, says with pride that Gator once produced more than 400 “straws”—a half-cubic-centimeter swizzle stick of bull semen being the standard measure—from a single ejaculation. Gator's semen was white gold because, drop for drop, the seed of a prize-winning bull is worth more than gasoline, penicillin and human blood combined. It's not the most valuable liquid in existence (that distinction goes to scorpion venom, which has medicinal properties), but it's close. Five years ago, Marvel received an intriguing phone call from John Parke Wright, a wealthy investor from Naples, Florida. Wright knew someone who wanted to create a beef cattle herd, and his client needed a hefty amount of Gator's semen: thousands of straws. The deal would earn Marvel and his wife, Sandra, $50,000, a huge haul for them. The only catch: They had to make it happen in one of the least business-friendly places on earth: the communist island of Cuba. Six months after that chat, the Marvels were in Havana. They met Wright at a nondescript office building in Miramar, the city's diplomatic quarter, which serves as the headquarters of the National Enterprise for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, the Cuban equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency. A receptionist led them to a small conference room with a dark wood table and chairs, the walls lined with portraits of the Castros and other Cuban leaders. As they sipped espresso and bottled water, an elderly Cuban official walked into the room and greeted them. He kissed both of Sandra's cheeks—“the Latin kind of kiss,” as she describes it. His name was Guillermo García Frías, a comandante in the Cuban army who fought alongside the Castros during the revolution, a former vice president and current head of the environmental agency. García, who reportedly saved Fidel Castro’s life during the revolution, is Cuba’s canniest cattleman, Wright says. He had a new ranch called El Macho, he told the Marvels, and he wanted to turn it into the first large-scale, high-quality beef production operation on the island in more than five decades. He had the land: 150,000 acres in Camagüey. What he didn’t have: cows or capital...more

Conservationists push to protect Chaco

A coalition of conservationists has launched a campaign to raise awareness over oil and gas operations near Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Paul Reed, a Chaco scholar and a preservation archaeologist with Tucson-based Archaeology Southwest, has been working on protecting the Chaco landscape for more than two years with other conservationists. He has just launched a new campaign, the Coalition to Protect the Greater Chaco Landscape. "Our main goal is the protection of the fragile and irreplaceable landscape associated with Chaco Canyon and the area well beyond Chaco," Reed said. The group also just rolled out a website,, to help raise awareness over the World Heritage Site and surrounding area...more

Motorized users sue Kootenai Forest for more access to proposed wilderness areas

Conservation groups are miffed by a new court challenge to the 2015 federal recommendations for wilderness on the Kootenai National Forest. Snowmobile clubs and advocacy groups from Montana and Idaho are suing the U.S. Forest Service and its plan that bars motorized access in certain protected areas of the 2.2 million acre forest in northwestern Montana. Officials recommended a total of 86,800 acres for additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System under the forests’ 2015 Land Management Plan, which was completed in January. Only Congress can officially designate a wilderness area, but areas recommended by the managing agency usually are protected by wilderness rules until Congress acts one way or the other. Wilderness rules prohibit use of mechanized and motorized vehicles and equipment. The lawsuit filed in federal court on Nov. 12 alleges the plan fails to follow Forest Service guidelines for recommended wilderness areas. The lawsuit says forest officials did not allow enough public comment before deciding on the recommended wilderness area designations. The suit also questions how Kootenai officials proposed additions to the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system...more

2016 Conservation Easement Applications due January 15

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is now accepting applications for both Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) and Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Created in the 2014 Farm Bill, the program encompasses protection of farms and ranches through ALE and protection and restoration of wetlands through WRE. Applications for available funding are due no later than January 15, 2016. ALE funds are available to land trusts, non-governmental organizations, local and state governments, and tribes that have existing programs to purchase conservation easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of privately owned land. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland are all eligible land uses. Approved agricultural easements would prevent productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses and maximize protection of land devoted to food production...more

Wyoming livestock industry awaits word on brucellosis spread

State livestock officials are encouraging ranchers to keep their cattle away from elk to avoid getting brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause cows to abort their calves. But abundant elk might make separation difficult in parts of northwest Wyoming where the disease keeps reappearing in cattle, State Veterinarian Jim Logan said. Wyoming went four years without a case of brucellosis in cattle until laboratory tests confirmed the disease in a cow in Park County in November. Test results on a second suspected case in Sublette County are pending and should come back later this week or early next week, Logan said. Analysis is underway at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie and the federal National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1530

Give a listen to some classic bluegrass with Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys and their 1958 recording of Sophronie.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

House votes to overturn Obama’s climate rule

The House voted Tuesday to overturn President Obama’s sweeping climate change regulations for power plants in a largely symbolic move. The mostly party-line 242-180 vote came on the second day of a two-week climate change conference in Paris. The legislation would permanently block the main pillar of Obama’s climate agenda and of his pledge to the international community for the accord world leaders are writing in Paris. Tuesday’s vote sends the measure to Obama’s desk, following the Senate’s November vote to pass the legislation. Obama has promised a veto to protect his climate priorities. Lawmakers also voted 235-188 to block a parallel EPA regulation setting limits on carbon emissions from newly built power plants that use coal or natural gas. That rule would require technology on coal plants to significant curtail carbon output, which the industry says would all but prevent new plants. Both votes are a piece of the GOP’s attempts to undermine the Paris climate talks by showing that his emissions cuts do not enjoy support at home from Congress or the American public. Earlier Tuesday, Obama sought to reassure leaders that the Republicans’ actions against his climate agenda do not effect his pledges. “My expectation is that we will absolutely be able to meet our commitments,” he told reporters in Paris shortly before leaving the conference...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1529

Today's selection is Cowboy's Dance Song by the Sons Of The Pioneers.  The tune was recorded in Los Angeles in August of 1934 for the Standard Transcription Company.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Obama Predicts ‘Submerged Countries. Abandoned Cities. Fields That No Longer Grow’

Speaking today at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, President Barack Obama predicted that, unless the nations of the world acted now to combat climate change, countries would be submerged, cities would be abandoned, fields would no longer grown, and there would be new conflicts and floods of refugees.

Here is a key excerpt from the president’s speech, which is available in full at the White House website:
This summer, I saw the effects of climate change firsthand in our northernmost state, Alaska, where the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times.  And it was a preview of one possible future -- a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it.  Submerged countries.  Abandoned cities.  Fields that no longer grow.  Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.

Pope Francis The world is near ‘suicide’ on climate change; ‘it’s now or never’

Environmental negotiators meeting in Paris should strike a climate change deal to save a world "at the limits of suicide," Pope Francis said on Monday. "I am not sure, but I can say to you 'now or never'," he told a group of reporters aboard the papal plane, en route home from Africa, according to Reuters. "Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide." The comments come at the start of a United Nations-sponsored environmental summit in Paris, which nearly 150 world leaders are expected to attend. Politicians have generally "done little" to deal with the growing problem, Francis said, according to the National Catholic Reporter. "I am sure they have the good will to do it. And I wish that it will be so, and I pray for this," he said. The urgent call is nothing new for Francis. In June, he laid out the case, in a 192-page paper, for a collaboration between science and religion to combat climate change...more

German Scientist Accused NASA of ‘Massive’ Temperature Alteration

A German professor has confirmed what skeptics from Britain to the US have long suspected: that NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies has largely invented “global warming” by tampering with the raw temperature data records. Professor Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert is a retired geologist and data computation expert. He has painstakingly examined and tabulated all NASA GISS’s temperature data series, taken from 1153 stations and going back to 1881. His conclusion: that if you look at the raw data, as opposed to NASA’s revisions, you’ll find that since 1940 the planet has been cooling, not warming. According to Günter Ederer, the German journalist who has reported on Ewert’s findings: From the publicly available data, Ewert made an unbelievable discovery: Between the years 2010 and 2012 the data measured since 1881 were altered so that they showed a significant warming, especially after 1950. […] A comparison of the data from 2010 with the data of 2012 shows that NASA-GISS had altered its own datasets so that especially after WWII a clear warming appears – although it never existed. Apart from Australia, the planet has in fact been on a cooling trend: Using the NASA data from 2010 the surface temperature globally from 1940 until today has fallen by 1.110°C, and since 2000 it has fallen 0.4223°C […]. The cooling has hit every continent except for Australia, which warmed by 0.6339°C since 2000. The figures for Europe: From 1940 to 2010, using the data from 2010, there was a cooling of 0.5465°C and a cooling of 0.3739°C since 2000. But the activist scientists at NASA GISS – initially led by James Hansen (pictured above), later by Gavin Schmidt – wanted the records they are in charge of maintaining to show warming not cooling, so they began systematically adjusting the data for various spurious reasons using ten different methods...more

The cost of climate change: Cold, hard cash sought for support of Obama’s deal

Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa was explicit earlier this year when asked what it would take for developing countries to sign up for the emerging U.S.-led climate deal: “Money.” His candor was recounted in an April email between two of the Obama administration’s top global warming officials, who called the succinct wisdom from Mr. Kutesa — at the time the president of the U.N. General Assembly — the “best answer of [the] night.” Indeed, as Todd Stern, the State Department’s top climate official, and Brian Deese, President Obama’s top climate adviser, are trying to rally a deal ahead of a major meeting in Paris that kicks off Monday, it’s becoming clear that any diplomatic breakthrough will be far less about converting hearts and minds than it will be about finding enough money to seal the agreement. That payoff will come in the form of the Green Climate Fund, the U.N.’s green bank, to which the world’s rich countries are supposed to donate $100 billion a year beginning in 2020, with the money going to the developing world, where it is supposed to be split between converting economies to green energy and helping mitigate the worst effects of changing temperatures. “It’s not about climate. It never was,” said Christopher Horner, a researcher who obtained the Obama administration email detailing Mr. Kutesa’s stance. “All they want is wealth transfers, for the poor in rich countries to pay the rich in poor countries.”...more

Skeptical Climate Documentary Set to Rock UN Climate Summit – ‘Climate Hustle’ To Have Red Carpet Premiere in Paris

(Sorbonne, Paris) CFACT will hold the world premiere of its long-awaited Climate Hustle skeptical documentary film at an invitation-only red carpet event in Paris during the UN’s COP 21 international summit on climate change. Featuring interviews and comments from more than 30 renowned scientists and climate experts, Climate Hustle lays out compelling evidence that devastates the global warming scare.  Film host Marc Morano, founder and publisher of CFACT’s award-winning Climate Depot news and information service, leads viewers on a fact-finding and often times hilarious journey through the propaganda-laced world of “climate change” claims. The film is the first climate documentary to profile scientists who have reversed their views from supporting the so-called “consensus” position to a conversion to skepticism. The film also profiles politically left scientists who have now declared themselves skeptics of man-made global warming and United Nations scientists who have now turned against the UN for “distorting” climate science. David Rothbard, CFACT president and executive producer of the film says, “Climate Hustle is the most important climate documentary since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.  Gore’s film kicked off a decade of scaremongering junk science.  CFACT’s film debunks the scare and clears the way for a return to sound science and rational debate.”...more

Deputies named in Oregon rancher's shooting

The Adams County Sheriff's Office has released the names of the deputies involved in the fatal shooting of Council rancher Jack Yantis on Nov. 1. The two deputies were identified Monday afternoon as Cody Rolland and Brian Wood. The sheriff's office said Rolland has been employed as full-time deputy by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office since July 2015 but has been an Idaho certified peace officer since 2000. Wood has been employed by the sheriff's office since June 2013. “Out of concern for the safety of the two deputies involved in this incident and the desire for a fair and impartial investigation to be conducted, I have been hesitant to release the names. I still have concerns about threats made against the deputies but, at this time I believe that it is the right thing to do,” Zollman said in the news release that named the deputies. “I sincerely hope that our deputies and their families will be safe and that the citizens here in Adams County and others throughout the country will reserve judgment in this incident until the investigation is finished.” Meanwhile, attorney Paul Winward told KTVB he talked with members of the Yantis family who said the release of the names is the first step toward accountability and the first step toward justice...more

First large-scale exercise set in military air training area

Military airplanes are taking to the skies this week for the first large-scale exercise in a training area over the Northern Plains. The exercise in the 35,000-square-mile Powder River Training Complex is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Bombers, fighter jets and refueling tankers will be practicing maneuvers in the airspace over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming, including Campbell County. After years of consideration, the Federal Aviation Administration in March approved quadrupling the training airspace, making it the largest terrestrial training space over the continental United States. Advocates say it will boost military training while reducing costs, but some people in the region worry about disruptions to towns, ranches and civilian flights. The training area expanded from 7,000 square miles to 35,000 square miles, stretching roughly 300 miles between Billings, Montana and Bismarck, North Dakota. It includes portions of northwest South Dakota, northeast Wyoming and much of southwestern North Dakota. The majority of the space would be over southeastern Montana. The expansion fueled a lot of controversy early on, especially among ranchers in both South Dakota and Wyoming who were concerned about the effect the loud noises from the jets would have on their ability to use personal planes to check on herds and spray crops. “We treasure our peace and quiet,” said Marvin Kammerer in 2010, who ranches near Ellsworth Air Force Base in southwest South Dakota. “If it’s so safe, then why don’t they just fly over Rapid City at midnight and let them hear the sound of freedom?” Another factor that people in the area worried about the effect were those in the aviation business. Some worried that those traveling for business would be required to wait a few extra hours at times when the Air Force would redirect their flights if they conflicted with training times...more

Meet the ‘water bear,’ the world’s toughest animal

Everything about tardigrades sounds like a riddle: What creature can survive both freezing and boiling temperatures; you can’t see it, but it’s everywhere; it can survive outer space; and after being dried up for years, it can reanimate in water within a few minutes? The answer is just as puzzling: tardigrades, which are also called “water bears” or “moss piglets,” are aquatic, microscopic invertebrates that have recently captivated evolutionary biologists and science enthusiasts alike for their unique ability to withstand extreme conditions. There is photographic evidence too that tardigrades are adorable. Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found another reason to love the tardigrade—it’s a genetic marvel. After sequencing the tardigrade’s genome, the team discovered that a whopping 17.5 per cent is composed of foreign DNA. By comparison, the previous record-holder was a microscopic animal called the rotifier, which has half as much foreign DNA; most animals have less than one per cent. The research, which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is significant because it demonstrates the potential prowess of “horizontal gene transfer”—the process by which genetic material is traded between unrelated species rather than through parental inheritance. The tardigrade’s genome includes DNA from plants, fungi and single-celled micro-organisms called Archaea. The biologists suspect that when a tardigrade encounters a harsh environment, such as severe dryness, its DNA breaks into pieces; when the cell rehydrates, its membrane and nucleus become “leaky” and DNA from other species can enter it. As tardigrades fix their own DNA, they can incorporate foreign material too. “Animals that can survive extreme stresses may be particularly prone to acquiring foreign genes,” says Thomas Boothby, the study’s first author. Tardigrades may keep the best ones to enhance their survival. As horizontal gene transfer becomes more understood, researchers are beginning to rethink the proverbial “tree of life” metaphor for how genes are swapped “vertically” from mother and father to child. “Instead we can think about the web of life and genetic material crossing from branch to branch,” says Boothby. “So it’s exciting. We’re just beginning to adjust our understanding of how evolution works.” And tardigrades are proving to be the perfect specimen...more

Saga of the world's most famous grizzly

In June 2007, Dennis VanDenbos, a high school science teacher from Lander, Wyo., was attending an education conference at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Mr. VanDenbos set out walking one morning and, unbeknown to him, he spooked a mother grizzly bear and three cubs that were feeding on an elk calf they had just killed. Acting in defense of her offspring, the mother sprang from cover and set upon the human intruder. In a single freeze-frame moment of clarity, VanDenbos saw the angry mother, her neck fur standing on end, and beside her three smaller bear shapes. Backpedaling, he yelled and waved his arms to try to make himself look bigger. Unfortunately, in retreat, he stumbled. As VanDenbos tried to stand up, he was eye level with the parent. “I dove straight down and pulled my arms over my head,” he said later, and braced for the worst. “She came and bit me in the back as I played dead. I don’t know why, but I had the sense it was just a warning.” The sharp nip was followed by a more powerful clamping of teeth into his backside. VanDenbos, now pinned to the ground, felt a bear paw on his left calf, and then he was stung by another bite in his left rump. A moment later, he heard a loud human voice. The weight of the paw that had been resting on his body suddenly lifted. As it turned out, a cook and a wrangler who guides horseback rides had spied the huddle of bears. When they yelled, the mother and cubs ambled away...more

Read Before Riding: Horses Have Consciousness

Horses were domesticated more than 5,000 years ago and have been deeply connected to humans ever since. In The Horse: The Epic History Of Our Noble Companion, Wendy Williams harnesses a lifetime in the saddle to explore our ancient relationship with the horse, from the cave paintings of Chauvet to the steppes of Eurasia, and the dude ranches of the American West to a laboratory in Texas where behavioural scientists are plumbing the depths of equine consciousness. Talking from her home on Cape Cod, she explains why we are having to rethink our preconceptions about animal consciousness; how a mathematical horse fooled humans; and why missing that second cup of coffee to go and muck out the barn can bring rich rewards. Tell us about how the horse, Clever Hans, was actually cleverer than humans thought - and what he teaches us about horse intelligence? Clever Hans was a horse that worked closely with his owner, and the owner believed that Hans could actually do math, and do it very well! [Laughs] This was about 100 years ago. His owner would ask Clever Hans to do addition or subtraction tables and Hans would always come up with the right answer. He became very famous but many people were skeptical, so there were a lot of tests.  At first Hans succeeded in all the tests and showed that he could indeed do mathematical computations. What happened is that Hans would stand there with the person doing the questioning. When it was the trainer, Hans was always right. Then they put other people up against Hans and said, “Ask Hans to do a calculation.” Hans would do an addition or subtraction problem and still get it right. Then someone had the idea of putting the person asking the question behind a barrier, so that Hans couldn’t see the person. As soon as that happened, Hans could no longer do the math...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1528

Today we have an instrumental by Roy Acuff & The Smoky Mountain Boys: Smoky Mountain Rag.  The tune was recorded in Nashville on Jan. 15, 1949.  That's Tommy Magness on fiddle and Beecher "Bashful Brother Oswald" Kirby on banjo.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Old West...

Obama eyes legacy-defining climate pact

President Obama heads to Paris Monday seeking to clinch an international climate pact that would help define his legacy. But major obstacles stand in the way of that goal, including the dispute over whether the document will be legally binding for all the countries participating or whether political pressure would be the main enforcement mechanism. Obama is also facing pressure at home from Republicans who oppose his executive actions on climate change and want to derail the global deal organized under the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change. For a president who has made climate change a top priority of his second term — and has become the first commander in chief to take significant action to counter global warming — the Paris meeting presents a rare opportunity to make significant headway in fighting climate change. While domestic climate policies, like Obama’s carbon dioxide limits for power plants, can only have a marginal impact on global temperatures, getting the rest of the world on board can make a real difference. “Obama 2.0 looks very different from Obama 1.0 on climate change,” said Timmons Roberts, an environmental studies professor at Brown University and fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Obama has staked a lot on Paris being a success, as can be seen by the effort his White House has put into these bilateral agreements and commitments,” Roberts said, referring to recent high-profile agreements on climate change that Obama has made with the leaders of China, Brazil, Mexico and other nations...more

The New ‘Consensus’: 97 Percent Of Americans Aren’t Worried About Global Warming

While 97 percent of scientists may agree mankind is driving global warming, 97 percent of Americans don’t seem to care about the issue when stacked up against other concerns such as terrorism or the economy, according to a recent Fox News poll. A November Fox News poll of more than 1,000 registered voters found that only 3 percent listed “climate change” as the most important issue facing the country today, down from 5 percent in August. Americans were much more worried about terrorism, the economy and immigration than global warming.  Even among Democrats concern for global warming was low. The Fox poll found only 6 percent of Democrats listed global warming as their top concern, compared to 1 percent of Republicans...more

Solyndra II: Energy Company Busts on Eve of Climate Summit

As President Barack Obama departed for the climate summit in Paris, he faces a new “Solyndra” scandal as Spain’s Abengoa SA, which received $3 billion in administration sustainable energy loans and Export-Import Bank guarantees, announced that it has started bankruptcy proceeding and may soon default on its debt.  The Obama administration tucked $90 billion of stimulus money for energy projects into a huge corner of the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed with no Republican votes barely a month into Obama’s presidency.  The money was supposedly allocated to fund “strategic clean energy investments intended to promote job creation and promote deployment of low-carbon technologies,” but much of it was squandered. The General Accounting Office in April warned that of the 38 sustainable loans and guarantees, “the total expected net cost over the life of the loans” was “to be $2.21 billion, including $807 million for loans that have defaulted.” Until now, the most infamous of the Department of Energy renewable energy projects was Solyndra, whose bankruptcy cost the U.S. taxpayers $535 million. But with $2.7 billion in Department of Energy loan guarantees and $225 million since 2010, Abengoa SA just began insolvency proceedings in a Spanish court on November 25 as a technical first step toward a possible bankruptcy, according to the Washington Times...more

Ex-CIA chief: Fear for environment stays US hand on ISIS oil wells

A former CIA director says concerns about environmental impact have prevented the White House from bombing oil wells that finance the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “We didn’t go after oil wells, actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls, because we didn’t want to do environmental damage, and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure,” Michael Morell said Tuesday on PBS’s “Charlie Rose.” Morell cautioned that he does not “sit in the room anymore” where strategic decisions are made, but said prior to the Paris terrorist attack earlier this month, “There seemed to have been a judgment that, look, we don’t want to destroy these oil tankers because that’s infrastructure that’s going to be necessary to support the people when ISIS isn’t there anymore, and it’s going to create environmental damage.” Since the attack on Paris, the U.S. has tried to cut off the terrorist organization’s revenue stream by bombing oil trucks. “So now we’re hitting oil trucks,” Morell said. “And maybe you get to the point where you say, we also have to hit oil wells...more

Space mining is now part of American law

The Commercial Space Launch Act of 2015, recently passed by both the House and Senate, is unique because the legislation covers a subject that is not directly related to space launches and was once the stuff of science fiction. An entire title of the bill covers the subject of mining resources from asteroids and other celestial bodies.  The crucial paragraph in the title concerning space resources states:  “A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.” The language of the act is a clever way of getting around a provision of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which states, in Article II, “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” In general, property rights are secured by a state for its citizens by the exercise of national sovereignty. A mining operation in the United States owns the minerals it unearths because the government grants it the right of ownership by exercising its power of sovereignty. The language of the act by implication acknowledges the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty. The United States is not going to claim the moon or an asteroid as its national territory. But it is granting the right of American citizens to own minerals that they extract from celestial bodies...more

Coyote enters Laguna Beach home and snatches pet Chihuahua, owners say

A coyote snatched a small dog from inside a Laguna Beach home Monday night, the dog's owners said. John Fischer, who lives in the 500 block of Oak Street with his wife, said the couple's three Chihuahuas started barking about 7:45 p.m. Fischer, who was in the kitchen, didn't think much of the noise. The dogs were in the bedroom with his week-old granddaughter, and he assumed they were reacting to a visitor they were expecting. But as he left the kitchen, Fischer glimpsed something running out of the bedroom and into the yard. It was a coyote, and it was carrying something. "I could see the white in his mouth," Fischer. "They're very fast. He was gone like a shot." Fischer had enough time to see the animal had seized Eloise, an 8-year-old Chihuahua. "The dog was screaming," he said. "It was awful." Fischer searched for the coyote, hoping he could scared it enough to drop the dog, but he found nothing...more

A little more of those coyotes capturing carne del chihuahua or guts del gato and we're likely to see predator control from drones and helicopters.

The Nude Duel that Will Not Die


August 24, 1877

A wild picnic is in progress just outside the city limits of Denver, Colorado. Notorious brothel owner Mattie Silks is among the party crowd. She is with her “kept man,” Corteze Thomson, a handsome, fleet-footed gambler.

After numerous rounds of drinking games and bawdy fun, Silks notices a voluptuous business rival, Katie Fulton, displaying an extreme amount of affection toward her man. Words are exchanged, and threats are made. Neither soiled dove backs down.

A duel is suggested and agreed to, with Thomson acting as Silks’s second and Sam Thatcher as a second for Fulton. Pistols are produced. To facilitate better aim, both women strip to the waist. In classic dueling fashion, the two women step off the required paces, turn and fire.

In the twilight, a cry is heard, and a body falls to the ground. Everyone rushes forward through the billowing gunsmoke to see which queen of the demimonde is still standing. To the crowd’s surprise, both prostitutes are still on their feet. Thomson, however, writhes on the ground with a bullet in his neck.

Great story, except for one problem: It didn’t happen.

Here’s the real story...


Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1527

Its Swingin' Monday and here is Kevin Fowler performing Get Along.  The Tune is on his 2004 CD titled Loose, Loud & Crazy

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A ‘wilderness’ pack trip

The living link
A ‘wilderness’ pack trip
Our Water
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I just finished building a fire in the shop wood stove and remain agitated.
            My woodpile is wet from the Thanksgiving rain, but anybody should be able to build a fire out of wet wood. It is the “safety matches” that have stirred my ire. Remember safety matches that could be struck by stropping them across the side of your Levi’s? “Safety” was the ability to actually strike them when conditions were real and dangerous. Safety has now entered the realm of “saving” some idiot by some grander idiot writing regulations from his or her west wing office. It is infuriating to attempt to strike a single lit match from five or six toys that break or fail to strike without holding your mouth right, your left foot in the air, and reading from the instructions of demands imposed on once grand old match company, Diamond!
            They even have a politically correct name, Greenlight. That’s right, and the light is so dim you have to put reading glasses on to see it. Greenlight, my … No, let’s make the best of this situation and saddle a horse and a mule and throw a diamond to make it somewhat realistic.
            The Greenlighters will likely stumble over the implications of throwing a diamond. On second thought, let’s throw a squaw. That’ll give ‘em hiccups.
            Saddling in the dark
            Since we saddled just a horse and a single mule, we were already rimming out from the Shaw Place before sunup. Sunup had us looking into the ridgeline of the Robledos on our backtrack. The sound of hooves on rocks was timeless. The mule was traveling easily and the horse, new to leading a mule in such proximity, had already been warned with a rowel raked across his right flank not to try to kick his traveling companion again. His lesson in good behavior was brief but lasting.
            The first opportunity for water was a drinker on the pipeline extension from Faulkner Well, but nobody was interested. It was by now light enough “to shoot” as it is described in ranchland vernacular.
            As we left the drinker, it occurred to me that every point of water should be named. This trough was nameless and that had to be remedied.
            The ride up the basin toward McCall Reservoir was easy going. The traffic from town keeps the two track beaten out and the gravelly clay bottom muffled most equine footfalls. Named for its concrete damn and spillway construction, McCall Reservoir was as full as sedimentation allowed. It needed cleaning, but the wet bottom has not allowed it. Using a dragline came to mind, but there is no such availability in this area.
            The climb out of the McCall Basin was halted twice to let the animals blow. They controlled the climb as long as they didn’t take advantage of the trust extended on them. That is an earned empowerment offered ranch horses. It is a silent respect of which most folks have no concept.
            Topping out and looking into the Coyote drainage was met with the first vehicle encounter of the morning. It was a Jeep replete with a lift kit, rock grabber tires, and a Yeti cooler likely filled with cold lubricants. The ride into the canyon detoured into the drainage that empties into Coyote Tank. Chris had walked the Cat up there to clean the tank and repair a breach on the northeast corner. I wanted to look at it.
            For many years, that tank was the only water in that reach of Coyote. The alternative was for cattle to walk to the Kimble Well miles down the canyon. Several years ago Leonard and I installed a pipeline from Kimble, a storage, and two drinkers at a point across the canyon. It was there the animals were again offered water. The horse played in it, but didn’t drink. The mule wasn’t interested.
            I got off to check cinches. A motor cycle came down the creek. I couldn’t see it from that vantage point because of the mesquite, but I could hear it. I had no interest in “looking” at it.
            Our continued ride was westward rather than down the canyon to Kimble. I had seen enough of Kimble in the days and weeks previous as we rebuilt pens for working cattle. The well there was now pumped by a solar system, and, even in the heat of summer, it has kept up with the cattle (and wildlife) demands. It is a critical, permanent water source.
            Our route took up upslope through the Coyote Pasture which has the capacity to carry the ranch’s entire cow herd for a month as long as enough water can be supplied through the infrastructure installed by the ranch. I like this pasture and like it more by the abundance of grass that has come in the aftermath of a brush treatment project applied the same year we installed the twin drinkers. Riding up the canyon west from the storage was purposely quiet and made quieter by intent to look, smell, and study the landscape. The brush treatment was sensational. We were beyond the necessary rest periods following the treatment which precluded cattle during the growing season, but that protocol would be continued because of rotation limitations. We don’t yet have enough water there to support large numbers of cattle in the heat of the summer.
            The next water was the Hackberry Tank that splits the Coyote and Hersey Pasture fence where the two track tops the ridge from the Hersey Basin. Our route now equated to only seven air miles from the morning’s start, but at least nine miles of actual travel. Every point of water encountered was there because of ranch efforts. It was at Hackberry, a tank that doesn’t hold water well, both the horse and the mule finally drank.
            Our route continued higher as we began the climb in earnest toward the top of the Las Uvas ridgeline and Magdalena Peak. We stopped and glassed the broad hillsides of Bell and Tailholt Mountains. On one of the two state trust sections in the basin below us, another permanent water source, a well, is desperately needed. Part of the binocular inspection was to conceptualize locations and routes of pipeline installation. That water is needed to bolster benefits to livestock and wildlife in summer months that can reach 105°.
            The remainder of the day crisscrossed a mosaic of infrastructure investments all designed around manmade water developments. Modern traffic traversed the canyon bottoms while the realm of only the horseman extended to the ridgelines with an increasing sense of wonder that all sides of the wilderness debate try to describe.
            It was there on the high points and ridges the essence of Aldo Leopold writings rang in truest form. “It is difficult for this generation to understand this aristocracy of space based on transport,” he wrote of his experiences in Arizona’s White Mountains and similar places where all other sources of transportation ceased and mounted horsemen emerged alone and “always found the frontier.” In this passage from the mindset of Escudilla and Mogollon, a true relationship of “wilderness” places the horsemen in full partnership, not separation, with the concept.
            “It (wilderness) was too big for foot travel …” he said.
            The ride could have taken in a swath of country dotted with an even dozen more points of water on the ranch all there solely because of livestock. In this story, I choose finally to reach the point of rocks on the mesa jutting off from Magdalena Peak and its massive FAA radar facility, south from Sugar Loaf, and upon the highest points of the massive watershed that eventually emerges as Apache Flats on our Butterfield Trail Ranch another seven air miles to the southwest.
            It was on the point I tied the mule and hobbled my mare bound gelding. They would each receive a ration of grain from the panniers and I would gather enough juniper wood to start a fire with my old style safety match. I’d listen to it crackle before it settled enough to set my folding wire grill to braise the cut of meat wrapped around a cold pack and stuffed into a little tea pot. A tortilla and a slice of cheese would complete my meal.
            Reclining in my sleeping bag from that vantage, lights on I10 would be visible throughout the night of relative sleeplessness. I never sleep well the first night away from home in any circumstance, but I would savor the surroundings and being there with only the horse and the mule. Tomorrow, we would ride another 18 miles to the Butterfield headquarters, and we would study the country through these rancher eyes that know this existence is actually part of the system that exists in permanence.
            Any disruptions, therein … have profound implications.
            La ultima
            This chronicle is fictitious.
            This ride was made not in a single event, but in a series of ongoing days of ranch life. The ride, though, is perhaps important for people who need to understand the complexity of our lives on this land that is now designated National Monument by executive order.
            We simply do not know what our future holds.
            If we are not extended the courtesy of the importance of an inescapable historic tenure, perhaps we should be granted the importance of our role in 99.9% of the available water that now exists in this setting. We are the water on our ranches and the water is us. We are absolutely surrounded by infrastructure that doesn’t exist in a void. We are the resident stewards and even science will eventually disclose the importance of our role in this modern setting.
            Is there interest in such a ride? We could make it two hours, a half day, two days or a full week. The outcome might just change some lives and beliefs.

                Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Proponents suggested this area has wilderness characteristics. It is ironic that in the words of their gate keeper ranchers are the living link to the concept.”

I just can't get that image of Wilmeth striking those greenlight matches out of my mind.  I'm bettin' he turned loose with more carbon dioxide than a whole case of those damn things would save.

Baxter Black - The national insect

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection. Warm memories, overstuffed afternoons and family. Yet rising from this cornucopia of good feelings, like a rubber chicken from a shopping cart full of cut-up fryers, is that runner-up for national bird... The Turkey.

Despite its cinder block-like intelligence, gurgling vocals and dangling snood, there is nothing absurd about the turkey being nominated as our national bird. After all, a group of entomologists has tried to convince Congress to name a national insect. Their suggestion was the monarch butterfly.

I have always assumed that the turkey was passed over for the bald eagle for obvious reasons; beauty, grace, majesty, strength and inspiration. But after watching Congress consider the monarch butterfly, I realized how it is simply a matter of which special interest group presents the most convincing case.

There was considerable rancor stirred amongst the feminist groups when they pressed their case for a national insect to represent them. They were divided between the ladybug and the queen bee. 

Organized religion sprang forth to submit their nominees. The Catholics liked the idea of a preying mantis on the 50-cent piece. The Methodists suggested the water skipper while the Baptists chose the lobster.

The legal profession marshaled its considerable influence behind the scorpion. Civil service employees thought the humble, diligent ant would be a good choice. Roto Rooter placed the tumblebug into consideration.

Suggestions for the national insect came pouring in from special interest groups: Pork Producers — the sow bug, carpenters — termites, insomniacs — bed bug, librarians — book lice, Nike — millipede, Republicans —the Sherman tank, Adams County bowling team — bowl weevils, uncle wanted aunts, the A’s wanted the B’s, Volkswagen wanted the beetles, honky — tonkers wanted night crawlers, and the Texans thought the oil derrick would make a nice national insect!