Friday, March 18, 2016

Cliven Bundy loses bid for release ahead of federal trial in Vegas

Nevada rancher and anti-authority figure Cliven Bundy lost a renewed bid Thursday for release from jail ahead of trial on federal conspiracy and assault charges stemming from an armed standoff against government agents two years ago. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman pointed to the violence alleged in an indictment accusing Bundy of inciting the impasse to stop a roundup of cattle from public land near his ranch in April 2014, and to a history of Bundy ignoring federal court orders. "You say you'll continue to do 'whatever it takes,'" Hoffman said in a Las Vegas courtroom where some Bundy backers wore brown T-shirts emblazoned with the three-word slogan. "I do not believe, Mr. Bundy, that you will comply with my court orders any more than you have complied with previous court orders," the judge said. Bundy and four of his adult sons are among 19 people now facing federal charges that could put them in prison for the standoff for the rest of their lives. The scene pitted a self-styled militia perched on an Interstate 15 overpass, pointing military-style AR-15 and AK-47 weapons at federal Bureau of Land Management agents and contract cowboys herding cattle toward a corral. Dozens were in the possible crossfire, but no shots were fired and no one was injured. The cattle were freed. Bundy's defense lawyer, Joel Hansen, said his client simply won't acknowledge that federal law applies. That consistent denial led Bundy last week to decline to enter a plea to charges including conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal officer, obstruction and firearms offenses. Hoffman entered a not-guilty plea at that time on Bundy's behalf. Hansen characterizes the 69-year-old Bundy as a political prisoner being held illegally for challenging authority. Bundy insists he has property rights dating back more than a century, to when his Mormon ancestors settled along the Virgin River, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas...more

Ryan Bundy becomes second defendant in Oregon standoff case to waive right to an attorney

Ryan Bundy, facing four federal charges in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, formally waived his right to an attorney Friday, telling the court he prefers to speak on his own behalf. "I need to be able to speak when the time is right,'' Bundy said, addressing U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown. Bundy, 43, said he was disturbed during a previous hearing when the judge told his younger brother, Ammon Bundy, not to address the court and let his lawyers do the talking. "I feel it very important that I need not be silenced when I need to be able to speak,'' Bundy said. Brown cautioned him that he's placing himself at serious risk because of his lack of legal training and made sure he understood the charges and the potential sentences he could face. "The stakes here are extremely high,'' Brown said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow explained the four charges Bundy faces: conspiring to impede federal officers from doing their work at the refuge, possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in a federal facility, the use and carrying of firearms in relation to a crime of violence and theft of government property. Ryan Bundy could face between five years and life in prison if convicted of the charges. The use and carrying of firearms charge brings a maximum sentence of life in prison to a mandatory minimum mandatory sentence of five years. Bundy, who has pleaded not guilty, actually corrected Barrow after the prosecutor mistakenly cited 10 years as the maximum sentence for the firearms possession charge. "The defendant is correct. It is a five-year maximum,'' Barrow acknowledged. Bundy was respectful throughout the hearing, consistently addressing Brown as "Your honor'' and thanking her for her advice and instructions. He had a folder of papers open before him on the defense counsel's table. The judge inquired if Bundy has had prior experience in courtrooms. He said he has represented himself in the past on minor cases, including the alleged theft of a water meter, a resisting arrest case and a traffic citation....more

‘We think they got the message’

After ranchers came out in force last week to voice concerns about border security, New Mexico’s political representatives in Washington say they are pushing for changes in strategy on everything from patrols to hiring, and deploying more boots on the border. About 600 people, residents and ranchers, packed a school meeting room in Animas last Thursday to express their concerns about the lack of security at the border. The New Mexico delegation is proposing, by turn, changes in hiring procedure that could attract more locals to Border Patrol ranks; hardship pay for agents who agree to work the remote region; more horses to get mounted agents into rugged terrain beyond the reach of pickups and ATVs; and putting more agents on the borderline, not dozens of miles inland. One proposal would also shift more National Guard drug interdiction resources to the New Mexico border. “We think they got the message,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. “I think the jury is still out on how we move forward. I think we stirred some attention, but it is way too soon to see if we will get what we need.” The U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico’s Bootheel runs east from the Arizona state line, then turns north – 86 miles of border and hundreds of square miles of inhospitable, mountainous desert country where drug traffickers have lately found a profitable route north...more

The article quotes Tom Udall as saying the Border Patrol needs "more staff and resources – including incentives to help retain agents at the Lordsburg station and additional horses, ATVs and other equipment appropriate for patrolling in very remote, rugged territory.”  Udall sits on the Appropriations Committee, so we'll be watching to see if he does, indeed, make it a priority.

Heinrich is quoted "...we need to invest more in retention incentives and specialty units in order to forward deploy more agents" and uses the occasion for a partisan shot, saying the failed 2013 immigration reform bill would have provided "$8 billion for additional fencing and $30 billion to add 20,000 Border Patrol agents and more than double the force."

Well, that's not what I heard from the participants.  They did ask why the BP was getting cuts while the endangered species act was seeing an increase.  It wasn't about incentives, retention or more agents.  The presenters were unanimous in requesting the existing BP officers be deployed on the border, not many miles north of the borderline.   The only pol who addressed this was Pearce.

From the article:

Pearce said agents need to be better deployed closer to the borderline, one of the ranchers’ key demands. “You must get the boots down on the border,” he said. “This idea of patrolling 60 to 70 miles off the border is one that simply says that if you live between where we put our vehicles and the border, then you are expendable. We had to contend with the Bush administration on this, as much as the Obama administration. That is an ongoing, long battle that we are in.”

Also hanging over these folks and law enforcement are the seven proposed Wilderness Areas totaling 145,000 acres right there in the boot heel or close by on the border.  Udall & Heinrich have introduced legislation to designate border Wilderness in Dona Ana County. When that legislation failed to move they successfully pushed Obama to designate a huge National Monument. Will they do the same in Luna & Hidalgo Counties, further hamstringing the BP and other law enforcement?  Or will they instead support Pearce's H.R. 3478, the Luna and Hidalgo Counties Wilderness Study Area Release Act of 2015, returning these lands to multiple use and therefore providing reasonable access to the Border Patrol?

For an excellent way to understand why this meeting was organized and what it is like to ranch on the border, listen to this KQTH interview with Erica Valdez.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1580

Today we bring you a legendary tale of the Old West:  Jim Stafford - Cow Patti.  The tune is on his 1995 collection Greatest Hits

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The largest U.S. coal company may go out of business

Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal producer, warned early Wednesday it may go out of business, the latest sign of the brutal conditions in the battered industry. In a regulatory filing the company said that ongoing losses and its decision to miss certain interest payments means it may not have enough cash to "sustain operations and continue as a going concern." The company has 7,600 employees at its ongoing operations. Peabody reported a loss of $2 billion last year, up from a $787 million slide the previous year. Revenue tumbled 17% to $5.6 billion as the average price and amount of coal that it sold fell. It warned of further declines this year due to reduced use of coal by U.S. utilities along with lower demand from overseas markets.  The coal industry has faced a myriad of problems in recent years, including proposed regulation from the Obama administration to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's coal-burning power plants. The industry refers to those regulations as Obama's "war on coal."...more

Widespread Blackouts Loom As Venezuela’s Dams Run out of Water

Although the Venezuelan government blamed the decrease in size of the Guri dam — the fourth largest artificial lake in the world — on El Niño, engineers said recently that the crisis was actually caused by mismanagement of resources, thermal system malfunction and drought. The Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant, second in the world for electricity production, recently saw its water levels decrease to just 3.56 meters above total collapse. “The waters in Guri have not reached the floodgates,” said Luis Motta Domínguez, head of Venezuela’s Electricity Ministry, during a press conference on Monday. “We are working to manage the vital fluid.” But some energy specialists said they believe the country was at the brink of a national blackout. In addition, they said Venezuela has failed to make the necessary investments in thermal-generation plant systems for more than 15 years.
The thermoelectric power system is at 247 meters above sea level, said member of the National Electricity Commission Joel Carrillo. Turbines shut down at 244 meters, which would result in increased electricity rations for more of the population...more

Finally, I actually found a government that mismanages it's resources! lol

If there is one thing the government is good at its making things scarce, even water.

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand. Milton Friedman

Chicago Cubs skipper, players disagree with city's ban of chewing tobacco at ballparks

There was a time that chewing tobacco was as much a part of baseball as Louisville Slugger, Rawlings and Gatorade. Not anymore. This summer, Chicago will become the fourth American city to ban smokeless chewing tobacco at sports venues -- including Major League Baseball ballparks Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field. That means not only can't fans use the substance, but players and managers can't, either. And it's a law that has some members of the Chicago Cubs less than thrilled. Chicago follows Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston in implementing the ban at sporting venues. The entire state of California will follow in 2017, and New York will vote on a similar measure Tuesday, ESPN reported. "I'm into personal freedoms," Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a former tobacco chewer, said Wednesday. Maddon, who was named the National League's Manager of the Year last season, said it doesn't make sense to him that fans and players can be barred from using a legal substance...more

Six Tiny Robots Team Up to Pull Massive Car

Size doesn’t matter if you work together as a team. No, that’s not advice from a sex columnist. It’s the philosophy of robot designers who developed microbots patterned after ants and programmed six of them to work together to pull a full-sized car. The robots are called microTugs and they’re the creations of scientists at Stanford University’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory who have been working for some time on tiny-yet-strong robots. In 2015, they unveiled one weighing less than half an ounce that can pull up to 52 pounds. Another one weighing 9 grams uses its super-strength plus gecko-like sticky feet to pull a 2-pound object up a wall...more

Carl's Jr. CEO Wants to Open a Robot Restaurant Free of Human Workers

As minimum wages across the country rise and restaurants face increased labor costs, one fast food CEO is thinking about replacing human workers with robots. Carl's Jr. head honcho Andy Puzder wants to open a new restaurant concept that's "employee-free," reports Business Insider. Puzder was inspired by a visit to Eatsa, the futuristic San Francisco-born restaurant where patrons order via tablet and retrieve their food from automated cubbies. He believes the idea of a restaurant free of social interaction could be especially appealing to millennials, noting that young people seem particularly fond of ordering from kiosks over humans. For businesses that view their employees as simply obstacles to their profits rather than living, breathing people, clearly the benefits of robot workers are many: "They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," Puzder tells Business Insider. Robot restaurants have already infiltrated other parts of the world: China has restaurants staffed with robot chefs and robot waiters, and there are even robot bartenders on cruise ships now...more

Appeals Court Ruling Could Threaten the Second Amendment Rights of American Citizens

By Andrew Kloster

On August 20, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision in United States v. Mariano A. Meza-Rodriguez.[1] This case addresses two interesting questions:
  • Do non-citizens have Second Amendment rights?
  • Even if they do have such rights, can the government criminalize the possession of guns by illegal aliens?
The Seventh Circuit held that although illegal aliens are covered by the Second Amendment, the government nevertheless can constitutionally prohibit them from owning firearms and ammunition. Instead of applying a bright-line test, however, the court applied a balancing test that could threaten Second Amendment rights in other contexts. 

...In the wake of Heller, the Second Amendment has become an area of significant litigation, but there are still many unsettled areas of the law. For example:
  • Can use or possession of so-called assault weapons be prohibited in all circumstances?
  • Can handguns be prohibited in student housing on public university campuses?
  • Can the government prohibit or impose burdensome regulations on the manufacture and sale of certain or all firearms?
  • How difficult can state and local government make it for individuals to license their firearms before the regulatory regime becomes unconstitutional?
  • Can government bar illegal aliens from possessing firearms?
Four different U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have answered this last question in the affirmative. The first three decisions reached this result by concluding that illegal aliens were not among “the people” covered by the Second Amendment. The fourth and most recent decision, Meza-Rodriguez, handed down in August 2015, concluded that illegal aliens were among “the people” but that they nevertheless could be barred from gun ownership consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

124 Criminal Aliens Released By Obama Policies Charged with Homicide Since 2010

In response to congressional inquiries, ICE has released information on some of the criminal aliens who have been released by the agency since 2010. Specifically, ICE provided information on aliens who were charged with homicides after being released and aliens who were released multiple times by ICE. The criminal aliens released by ICE in these years — who had already been convicted of thousands of crimes — are responsible for a significant crime spree in American communities, including 124 aliens charged with 135 new homicides. Inexplicably, ICE is choosing to release some criminal aliens multiple times. Only a tiny percentage of the released criminals have been removed — most receive the most generous forms of due process available, and are allowed to remain at large, without supervision, while they await drawn-out immigration hearings. They are permitted to take advantage of this inefficient processing even though they are more likely to re-offend than they are to be granted legal status. There is a human cost to the Obama administration’s careless catch and release policies for criminal aliens, euphemistically known as “prioritization”. These policies have led to 124 new homicides since 2010, and thousands of other crimes that harm citizens and degrade the quality of life in American communities...more

Mind-boggling incompetence at DHS sends permanent residency green cards to people who didn’t apply for them

By Thomas Lifson

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General John Roth has issued a report that, in any private sector company, would have people fired, but in government will probably only see budgets increased. You see, the people in charge of keeping out terrorists who have proclaimed their intention to infiltrate us and destroy us with weapons of mass destruction have been sending permanent residency cards out to the wrong addresses. Even to people who have filed change-of-address forms. And the inauguration of a new computer system to handle the process in 2012 made the problem worse. 
Joe Davidson of the Washington Post’s Federal Insider column, is appropriately outraged:
...when the government sends cards to the wrong address, it’s a big problem for those who should have them but don’t and for government officials who wince at the thought of the cards in the wrong hands.
Now comes word that since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) installed its Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) in 2012, the number of cards going to the wrong places has only increased.
By how much, no one seems to know.
In this age of terror, this can be more serious than an employee working without proper papers.
And officials are not exactly on top of the problem:
…officials acknowledge there is “no accurate means of identifying the exact number of potentially hundreds of cards sent to incorrect addresses for cases processed in ELIS.”
As seems to be the case repeatedly in government lately, the blame goes to the computer systems, as if they are beyond the control of chief information officers.

Bullet casings disappear from LaVoy Finicum shooting scene, sources say

Two bullet casings that might have proven an FBI agent shot at Robert "LaVoy" Finicum apparently disappeared from the scene shortly after the Jan. 26 highway confrontation turned deadly, according to law enforcement sources and newly released police reports. Five FBI agents assigned to the traffic stop told investigators that none of them fired at Finicum's Dodge pickup after it crashed at their roadblock. Oregon investigators, however, concluded that one agent fired twice at the truck, hitting it once in the roof and missing on the second shot. A state trooper later described to investigators seeing two rifle casings in the area where the agents were posted. Detectives tasked with collecting evidence didn't find the casings, police reports indicate. FBI aerial surveillance video shows that before the detectives could get there, the FBI agents searched the area with flashlights and then huddled, according to law enforcement sources who have seen the video. The group then broke and one agent appeared to bend over twice and pick up something near where the two shots likely were taken, the sources told The Oregonian/OregonLive. The findings fill gaps left by authorities last week when they released the results of their investigation into Finicum's death. Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson and Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris, who supervised the investigation, said two state troopers were justified in using deadly force to stop Finicum, one of the leaders of the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They also announced they had evidence that an FBI agent fired at Finicum's truck but didn't disclose the shots. The agent and four of his colleagues then took "specific actions" afterward, they said, but offered no other details. Nelson and Norris alerted federal officials to their findings. The FBI agents now are under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general...more

Bill sets out how Idaho would manage federal lands

A bill introduced in the Idaho Legislature March 9 spells out how Idaho would manage any federal lands it receives in the future. A separate bill introduced a day later would require the federal government to receive legislative approval before buying or acquiring any additional land in Idaho. Both were introduced by Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale who supports efforts by Utah and Idaho to compel the federal government to return control of most public lands to western states. If that happens, House Bill 582 sets the parameters for how Idaho would manage those lands. Titled the “Idaho Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act,” the bill requires the state to manage those lands for multiple uses. The bill blunts criticism that Idaho would just sell those lands to the highest bidder, Boyle said. “They are for true multiple use, so it’s everything. We’re talking about recreation, wildlife, the environment, grazing, mining, logging,” she said. “That reassures people we’re not going to sell all these land ... They’re gong to be managed for multiple use for the best of Idaho.” The bill says the transfer of federally held public lands to the state would fulfill the promise made in the U.S. and Idaho constitutions as well as the Idaho admissions act... “that any new state enter the union with all the same rights as the original 13 states.” The federal government promised all new states it would extinguish the title to public lands in a timely fashion and it has honored that promise for all states east of Colorado, say supporters of the effort to transfer control of federal lands. It’s time for the federal government to keep that same promise to Idaho and other western states, Boyle said...more

No Claim to Fed Land under 'Equal-footing' Theory, Idaho AG Says

The attorney general’s office has issued a scathing review of a legal theory behind a challenge to federal land ownership being discussed in Utah. The office was asked to review a bill by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, which starts by laying out a belief that federal ownership of so much of Idaho’s land is unconstitutional and that a transfer of lands to the state would “fulfill the promise made in the U.S. Constitution, the Idaho Constitution, the Idaho Admissions Act and congressional acts under the equal footing doctrine.” This philosophy mirrors the legal theory of lawyer George Wentz, who is leading a planned legal challenge in Utah and who came to the Idaho Statehouse earlier this session. Federal ownership of so much Western land, Wentz says, is against the equal-footing doctrine that all states need to be treated equally. Judging by an opinion on Boyle’s bill requested by Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office doesn’t agree. “This premise has no support in law,” Deputy Attorney Steven Strack wrote of the equal-footing theory. He went on to cite a 1911 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that explicitly rejected the idea that federal lands are held in trust for the state, and other rulings, including a federal circuit court ruling from Washington state in 1997 that said federal ownership of so much of that state did not violate the equal-footing doctrine. Strack wrote that Congress has the power to dispose of federal lands as it chooses...more

GOP Politicians Planned And Participated In Key Aspects Of Refuge Occupation


On a cold January morning, a posse led by a former Army company commander named Matt Shea rolled into the Harney County Courthouse and wanted to speak to the sheriff.

But this wasn’t a group of militants, or outlaws. They were state lawmakers from four western states, including Oregon. Most of them were members of a group called the Coalition of Western States, or COWS.

They were hoping to talk directly with Sheriff David Ward and convince him to support the armed militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, COWS members would meet that day with a Harney County deputy and a sheriff from another county, an FBI agent and other local officials.

The out-of-town visitors presented themselves as wanting to help understand and, if possible, end the armed occupation at the refuge.

“I’m just looking at peaceful resolve,” said Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a COWS member who was patched into the meeting by phone.

“That’s our intent,” agreed Shea, a state representative from Washington. “If there’s any opportunity to save life and prevent any further escalation of anything, I think we all agree we should take those opportunities.”

Oregon Republican State Rep. Dallas Heard also attended the meeting, however he says he is not a member of COWS.

The 90-minute conversation was recorded by participants at the Jan. 9 meeting and given to OPB.
On the recording, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty thanks the group for their concern, but asks them to stay away from the refuge. Grasty said the militants were showing signs of fatigue and defeat, and worried that a visit from lawmakers would reinvigorate Ammon Bundy and the rest of the occupiers.

“If we’re getting close (to a resolution), and you embolden Bundy by your presence, and this runs on for weeks and months, it will be awful in this community,” Grasty said.

The FBI agent also asked the lawmakers not to visit the refuge.

Those pleas fell on deaf ears. And Grasty’s prediction came true.

How an East Coast think tank is fueling the land transfer movement

Lyndsey Gilpin

Recently, Idaho senators met to vote on a new bill that would let county sheriffs, commissioners, and mayors decide if an area of federal land is at risk of wildfire, and demand that the federal government fix it. If the feds - usually Bureau of Land Management or US Forest Service - don't respond, local officials could coordinate with the state to take legal action.

But the bill didn't come to a vote - it was met with contention from the Idaho Senate largely because it was aligned with the effort to transfer federal lands to state control. The law is also an example of a larger trend of legislation in Western states being derived from model bills created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC - not to be confused with the Utah-based American Lands Council (ALC) - is a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 by conservative activist Paul Weyrich that works to push principles of free-market enterprise, limited federal control, and more power for state governments. The conservative policy group based in Arlington, Virginia, whose corporate advisory board includes Exxon Mobil and tobacco giant Altria, is funded largely by the Koch family and is becoming increasingly involved in the land transfer movement by providing bill templates, research and public support to Western legislators.

 The Idaho bill illustrates a pattern that seems to be developing in the West, says Center for Western Priorities policy director Greg Zimmerman. "Utah comes up with these ideas, passes them into law through their legislature, and through the ALEC network, [legislators] try and pass them in other states," he says.

...As the land transfer movement gains traction in the West, the links between ALEC and Western lawmakers become more clear. For instance, the Federal Lands Action Group, a relatively new organization started by US Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop from Utah, held a forum in Washington, DC, to introduce land transfer legislation to interested politicians earlier this month. The first speaker at the forum was Karla Jones, an ALEC staffer. Stewart said ALEC was chosen to present because its views on public lands "aligned well" with the Federal Lands Action Group. Jones talked about ALEC's model policies, urged a timely transfer of federal lands to states, and showcased ALEC's available resources to help states successfully transition to state-based land ownership.

...ALEC has played a role in public lands debates as far back as 1995, when it drafted the “Sagebrush Rebellion Act,” to establish mechanisms for public land transfer to state control, though the act never passed. The Center for Western Priorities estimates that up to six of ALEC’s model policies advocate public lands transfer.

Group asks Attorney General to investigate Ivory

An organization that unsuccessfully sought criminal prosecution of Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, last year for alleged fraud in three states is once again seeking a probe of Ivory — this time accusing him of misusing state resources and lying to investigators. The Campaign for Accountability filed the complaint with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes on Wednesday, citing an alleged string of emails from Ivory's public legislative account conducting business on behalf of the private organization he once led as president, the American Lands Council. The Campaign for Accountability organization, which bills itself as a private, nonprofit and nonpartisan watchdog group, includes advisory board member Louis Mayberg, who co-founded the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., or CREW. Its director is Anne Weismann, who served as chief legal counsel for CREW for a decade and its communications manager, Dan Stevens, CREW's one-time senior researcher. In a news release, the Campaign for Accountability asserts Ivory lied to investigators about not using his state email account to promote the platform of the American Lands Council. The council was founded by rural county commissioners in 2012 — the same year Ivory ran and got passed the Transfer of Public Lands Act by the Utah Legislature. That law, which has since led to bevy of other public lands action in Utah, sets up the framework for a fight against the U.S. government over ownership of some 30 million acres of national forest and Bureau of Land Management lands within the state's borders...more

I hope you see the pattern here.  Attack Republicans, attack COWS, attack ALEC, attack Ken Ivory and ALC.  Defame all institutions and individuals who favor some type of land transfer.  Accomplish this and you won't have to do the really tough part -- debate the issue.

In Houston, meet the boot maker to the stars: Rocky Carroll has a passion for cowboy boots

Rocky Carroll has flown in Air Force One and rubbed shoulders with presidents and Hollywood stars. Mostly he is interested in their feet, however. Carroll’s handmade cowboy boots are as good as they get, which explains why the 78-year-old’s business card reads “The President’s Boot Maker” and “Boot Maker to the Stars.” His list of presidential customers covers more than four decades with Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all customers. Russian presidents Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Gorbachev also wore his boots. Not to mention a few Chinese leaders. “I don’t even advertise,” Carroll said. He has made cowboy boots for the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Clint Black, Rogers Clemens, Kenny Chesney and Dolly Parton, to name a few. Liz Taylor’s cowboy boots, with nine carats of diamonds, cost US$40,000. Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space, has a pair — complete with the NASA logo and Maple Leaf. “He was still shaking being five days out of space,” Carroll recalled. One of his biggest projects involved making boots for members of the NFL Denver Broncos. “They wore size 15 to 19s,” he said...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1579

Most know of Les Paul, inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, hit-maker of the '50s with wife Mary Ford, and who influenced many rock guitarists of the modern era.  However, before all that, he recorded and performed as Rhubarb Red.  I know of only four sides that he recorded, all in Chicago in 1936.  However, he and his group, The Rubes, made radio transcriptions for both American and Canadian companies.  It is from those transcriptions that Bronco Buster records assembled a 22 track CD titled Rhubarb Red & His Rubes - Les Paul's Country Roots.  With a little cowboy magic I've spliced together three for you: In The Blue Hills Of Virginia,  The Old Spinning Wheel, and Firecracker Rag.  The first shows you how he was backing up vocals, and the last two, both instrumentals, how he was backing up the fiddle.  All three were signs of things to come.

El Niño: Preparing now for disasters later

For much of this year, some of the world’s most vulnerable people have found themselves in the grip of El Niño, a profound and confounding natural disaster that brings with it severe floods, severe drought and, potentially, more intense and more frequent cyclones. Arriving every three to seven years to warm parts of the Pacific – in turn affecting weather systems around the globe – El Niño is anything but benign, as it builds on an already changing climate and strains the ability of millions of people to cope. This time, it has been cited as one of the strongest El Niños the world has seen in nearly a century. The result – severe floods in some parts of the world and drastic droughts in others – has hit many millions hard. In the Horn of Africa, about 20 million people are at risk of starvation or hunger as drought takes hold. Floods in parts of southern Africa and Latin America have also been devastating. Some countries, like Angola, have actually seen droughts and floods at the same time within their borders. While El Niño has started to decline in strength, the danger is not over. El Niño will continue to have a strong impact, and, even when that has passed, the world may witness La Niña – another potentially devastating weather event that frequently follows El Niño. Together, they may continue to exert their grip for as long as two years...more

To Scientists' Surprise, Even Nonvenomous Snakes Can Strike at Ridiculous Speeds

When a snake strikes, it literally moves faster than the blink of an eye, whipping its head forward so quickly that it can experience accelerations of more than 20 Gs. Such stats come from studies of how a snake lunges, bites and kills, which have focused mostly on vipers, in part because these snakes rely so heavily on their venomous chomps. Not so fast: When Penning and his colleagues compared strike speeds in three types of snakes, they found that at least one nonvenomous species was just as quick as the vipers. The results hint that serpents' need for speed may be much more widespread than thought, which raises questions about snake evolution and physiology. So the team set out to compare three species: the western cottonmouth and the western diamond-backed rattlesnake, which are both vipers, and the nonvenomous Texas rat snake. They put each snake inside a container and inserted a stuffed glove on the end of a stick. They waved the glove around until the animal struck, recording the whole thing with a high-speed camera. The team tested 14 rat snakes, 6 cottonmouths and 12 rattlesnakes, recording several strikes for each individual. All the snakes turned out to be speed demons, the team reports this week in Biology Letters. The rattlesnake scored the highest measured acceleration, at 279 meters per second squared. But to their surprise, the nonvenomous rat snake came in a close second at 274 meters per second squared. That's lightning-quick, considering that a Formula One race car accelerates at less than 27 meters per second squared to go from 0 to 60 in just one second. "I was really surprised, because this comparison hadn't been made before," Clark says. "It's not that the vipers are slow, it's that this very high-speed striking ability is something that seems common to a lot of snake species—or a wider array than people might've expected."...more

Rifle found at El Chapo hideout tied to Fast and Furious

One of the guns that Mexican officials say was found at the hideout of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera has been found to be associated with Fast and Furious, a failed “gun-walking” operation, according to the Justice Department. The department said in a letter to members of Congress that a .50-caliber rifle that Mexican officials sent for tracing after Guzman’s arrest in January has been connected to Fast and Furious. Officials say the weapon was one of 19 firearms that Mexican authorities said were recovered from the hideout and was the only one determined to be associated with the botched sting operation, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed gun runners to buy weapons in hopes of tracking them and disrupting gun smuggling rungs...more

Fast and Furious Weapon Traced to Murder of Three Mexican Police Officers

One of the weapons used in a deadly Mexican shootout last year was traced to the U.S. government's disastrous Fast and Furious operation. Three Mexican police officers were killed in the shootout.
A Justice Department summary provided to two Republican congressional committee chairmen Tuesday found that a WASR-10 rifle, purchased six years before in the U.S., was one of three rifles fired in the July 27 assault in the town of Valle de Zaragoza. It was not immediately known which weapon caused the officers’ fatal wounds.Nevertheless, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives officials traced the WASR rifle to a Nov. 12, 2009, transaction that was part of the flawed federal gun trafficking operation, known as “Operation Fast and Furious.”
“ATF and the (Justice) Department deeply regret that firearms associated with Operation Fast and Furious have been used by criminals in the commission of violent crimes, particularly crimes resulting the death of civilians and law enforcement officers,’’ Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah...more

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Feds to set aside land in Western states for rare mouse

The federal government is setting aside nearly 22 square miles across three western states as critical habitat for a rare mouse that has already pitted ranchers against the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that areas in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona will be covered by the designation for the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The management of vegetation along 170 miles of streams throughout the region will be affected. The designation stems from an agreement with environmental groups that had pushed for the federal government to do more to protect the mouse and dozens of other species. Federal biologists say 29 populations of the mouse have been documented in the three states since 2005, and all are small and isolated. Nearly a dozen of the populations have been affected by drought, wildfire, flooding and grazing. The meadow jumping mouse — which depends on tall grass along streams and in other riparian areas — was first recognized as being in need of federal protection in 1985. It was placed on the waiting list in 1991 and again in 2007 and then listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2014...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1578

A nice fiddle breakdown for you:  Jimmie Revard & Oklahoma Playboys - Playboy's Breakdown.  The tune was recorded in San Antonio on February 26, 1937 and is on their British Archives of Country Music CD titled Naughty, Naughty. That's Emil "Bash" Hofner on the fiddle.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Utah Governor Backs Lawsuit Over Federal Land Management

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) said he supports efforts to mount a legal challenge seeking to allow the state to manage 30 million acres of federal lands within its boundaries. Herbert told Bloomberg BNA March 10 in an interview the state is considering a lawsuit as part of a three-pronged strategy to resolve Utah's ongoing dispute with the federal government over the administration of Bureau of Land Management and other federal lands within the state. “Negotiation, litigation, and legislation—we'll use all three,” Herbert said. In his 2016 State of the State address Jan. 27, Herbert said he is an “enthusiastic supporter of the Public Lands Initiative of Congressman Rob Bishop, Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Senator Mike Lee.” The initiative is one of the “critical steps to help resolve this longstanding conflict and improve our self reliance,” he said. Utah officials have expressed a desire to assert control over public lands—including BLM and other lands currently managed by the federal government—within the state. Part of the conflict over public lands management stems from Utah's displeasure with apparent unilateral decisions by federal government agencies to grant wilderness designation to areas previously under multiple-use designation, resulting in the end of or reduction in industrial, recreational and other uses. “We would need to be very strategic with a lawsuit” attempting to assert state control, Herbert told Bloomberg BNA. “The threat of litigation may be leverage to get a federal bill.” Herbert said he prefers to see Congress act on the Public Lands Initiative sponsored by members of the state's delegation. “Things need to happen in a certain order,” he said. “There's some potential for a win-win here.” The resolution passed by the Legislature “strongly encourages” appropriate executive branch agencies to pursue all legislative and legal efforts “to secure the transfer and control of public lands within” the state to Utah's control under the 2012 Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act. Should those efforts fail, the resolution said, the Legislature and the governor should file an original action in the Supreme Court, the jurisdiction for conflicts between a state and the federal government, no later than Dec. 1, 2017...more

Trump’s take on public land bucks conservative trend

Alaska issues don’t come up much in presidential debates, but Donald Trump did face a public lands question, and his answer struck a nerve among Western conservatives. A reporter for the magazine Field & Stream did an interview with Trump in late January in Las Vegas. “Seventy percent of hunters in the West hunt on public lands managed by the federal government. Right now there’s a lot discussion about the federal government transferring those lands to states, divesting them of that land. Is that something that you would support as president?” the reporter asked. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great,” Trump said. “And you don’t know what the states are going to do with them. Are they going to sell as soon as they get in a little bit of a trouble? I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.” Wrong answer, at least according to U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan “Mr. Trump looks obviously uninformed,” the Alaska senator said. Moving more land out federal control is one of Sullivan’s top goals. Collectively, Alaska’s all-Republican delegation has sponsored dozens of bills over the years to do that. Many transfer small parcels, like surplus property from an old Coast Guard Loran station in Tok. Or larger chunks, including some 2,000 acres at Point Spencer, near Nome, to the Bering Straits Native Corp and the state, for possible development as a port. And then there’s the decadeslong effort to reopen the Native allotment process for veterans who missed out during the Vietnam War. Alaska’s sole House member, Don Young, has a bill that would require the Forest Service to convey up to 2 million acres to each state. Young, at a hearing on the bill, said the states can do a better job. “The worst managed lands, by our government, is the Forest Service lands,” he said...more

Public lands bills come to head in Idaho Legislature

The joint meeting between the House and Senate resource committees was the beginning of a series of hearings on a host of bills and initiatives before the Legislature this session aimed at changing management on the 60 percent of Idaho managed by the federal government. Hearings on two bills are scheduled Tuesday that support the legal views of conservative lawmakers that the state would manage the federal lands better. The first bill, authored by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, would change Idaho laws that now say the state relinquished claims to federal lands and would set a management framework of “sustained yield.” HB 582 also would declare the state has no intent to sell federal land it obtains. The second, using a constitutional argument struck down repeatedly since the 1840s and promoted by those occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this winter, would withdraw past consent for all sales of land to the federal government. Supporters of land transfers have repeatedly said they don’t want to sell off the public lands once the state gets them. Lava Hot Springs Republican Rep. Ken Andrus even suggests a constitutional amendment that would prevent such sales. But Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz undercut such assurances when he told Idaho reporters that he supports selling off the public land and cited his home state of Texas, which has 2 percent of its land public, as his model. A third bill, sponsored by Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, would allow county sheriffs and executives to declare federal lands a public nuisance if not logged to their approval. That bill is expected to get final approval by the House this week. The bill offers no new powers, but would allow counties to send a message that they are unsatisfied with federal management, Nuxoll said...more

Court Alternatives Considered In Lands-Transfer Fight

State lawmakers added money to Utah’s budget last week for suing the federal government over public lands. The question is whether they’ll use it. Utah leaders are determined to get the federal government to transfer to the state control of 31 million acres of public land. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert says it’s “wise and prudent” for lawmakers to budget $4.5 for the lawsuit. But he also points to other options, like Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative bill. “Sometimes the litigation threat is leveraged to make us sit down around the table and negotiate and maybe legislate,” he says. Lawmakers are also talking about alternative strategies to a suit that could eventually cost $14 million dollars. Sen. David Hinkins is an Emery County Republican whose district includes the heart of Utah coal country and two national parks. He’s also hopeful about the public lands initiative, since U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died and left the high court one vote shy of a conservative majority. “One of the things we’re talking about now is to not go to the courts, especially with the loss of the court justice the way it’s set up right now,” he says. “We’re kind of in limbo right now. So, we’re looking at all avenues.”...more

Does Ted speak for Raul RE: fed lands?

In Sunday's editorial, Opinion Editor Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune comments:
Congressman Raul Labrador was Idaho's highest ranking supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz, who cleaned up in the state's GOP presidential primary Tuesday - on a night when Donald Trump won everywhere else. But Cruz tied Labrador to a presidential campaign that would liquidate Idaho's federal lands. Speaking in Boise last weekend, Cruz said: "Too much land in this country, particularly in the West, is owned by the federal government. It's not right. It doesn't make sense. So we need to transfer that land back to the states - or even better, back to the people."
Apparently, Cruz thinks divestiture will save the federal government money because he expects the proceeds to be plowed back into maintaining the national parks. But the feds will benefit at Idaho's expense. At Congressman Mike Simpson's request, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service looked into it and concluded the state would lose at least $392 million a year managing those federal lands - and that's not counting another $101 million fighting fires. More here.

End of the trail for Yellowstone bison


 A bison calf lunges into the mechanical livestock squeeze chute, bucking and kicking, its lashing hooves and horns clattering against the metal frame.
It struggles for half a minute, huffing, sometimes bleating in its alien enclosure. At the right instant, a Yellowstone National Park worker thrusts a lever and the “Silencer” squeeze chute closes its jaws, encasing the animal in a corset of metal bars and collars.

With the bison immobilized, a biologist notes the animal’s age and condition and collects a blood sample. The Silencer weighs the animal and after a few minutes releases it to bolt down a maze of alleys in Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek corral complex.

The calf gallops into a holding pen separated from its mother for what may be the first time. It has torn its sensitive horns off and bleeds from both sides of its head. Green feces smear its face. It wears a sticker on its rump — a number that links it to its vital statistics. This is the end of one bison’s trail in the northwest corner of the world’s first national park. Most wild bison trapped here are shipped to slaughter.

...Hunters just outside the park’s northern boundary have killed an estimated 410 bison so far this winter. Dozens of wounded animals escaped back to Yellowstone. And as the Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary year, it contributes to the cull by capturing 150 bison in its own roundup.

...A park agreement with the State of Montana calls for killing 600 to 900 of the estimated 4,900 bison in Yellowstone this winter. Yellowstone began its trapping when the Montana hunting season ended Feb. 15. The park operation ends today.

“Many people are uncomfortable with the practice of culling bison, including the National Park Service,” Wenk said in a statement. “The park would gladly reduce the frequency and magnitude of these operations if migrating bison had access to more habitat outside the park or there was a way to transfer live bison elsewhere.” 

While the park works to revise its plan with Montana, however, it rounds up buffalo and ships them to slaughterhouses. As bison amble north along the Yellowstone River to migrate to lower elevations and food outside the park, a drift fence directs some of them toward the capture pens at Stephens Creek. When enough congregate in a large pasture, workers close the gates. Later, Park Service cowboys cut large bulls from the herd and set them free; the 2,000-pound beasts would destroy the sprawling complex of corrals, processing chutes and pens.

The processing scene unfolds just after sunrise. Four mounted park rangers charge at 75 pastured bison, yelling, yipping and waving as they spur their mounts to gallop across the half-acre pen. An SUV helps the horsemen provoke the rush. In seconds the startled herd stampedes toward the pen’s far end where the enclosure narrows into a long, eight-foot-high plywood-lined alley.


Is the Malheur occupation over?

by Terry Noonkester

Is the Malheur occupation over? Absolutely not.

Although the protesters have been taken away, the divisions between the protesters and the governmental agencies has deepened. LaVoy Finicum has become a martyr. The use of hundreds of FBI, Oregon State Police, county sheriffs, and other law enforcement personnel has created the impression of a police state. Arrests of occupiers and associated journalists has added suspicion of civil rights violations. American citizens see the iron-fisted approach the government and court system adopted in the Stephen and Dwight Hammond court cases. Sympathy is spreading for those jailed.

For those not raised on a ranch, the issues regarding the ranchers’ eroding property rights are not easily understood. Therefore, I will start with an analogy for those of us raised in more urban environments. Let’s say that you purchase a home that costs $ 200,000 to build. However, this home has additional property rights because there is additional land use available to the owner in the form of an exclusive golf course, fish pond, and swimming pools. Because of these extra property rights, the price of the home is increased to a million dollars.

After a few years, the homeowners association starts changing the rules. First they raise the association fees to cover the cost of more intensive management practices. Then they decide the golf course is being overused so the homeowner is now restricted to playing golf just one day a week and the golfer must pay for each use. Years later they decide the golf course should not be used at all in the winter months because the ground is too wet and the foot traffic is damaging the soil. Then the swimming pools were drained and closed because there wasn’t enough water for the fish pond. The following year the golf course was closed permanently from the 7th to 11th holes because an endangered tortoise was found on the 9th hole. The membership in the homeowners association expires every 15 years, so it is necessary to file a new application if you want the remaining rights to the golf course complex. If you have caused problems for the association, your application can be rejected.

This is the type of bureaucracy the ranchers and farmers are subjected to through BLM, the Forest Service, Fish and Game and an assortment of other agencies. The property value of the home on the golf course would definitely be reduce and the homeowner may very well have the right to sue an out-of-control homeowners association. The impact of government policies that erode property rights of a ranch or farm are harder to fight. The federal government made the laws and policies and owns the courts.

Border residents want Washington to listen

More than 500 people attended a meeting Thursday evening in tiny Animas, N.M., located about 45 miles from the border of New and old Mexico. Sue Krentz and her son, Frank Krentz, who have lived on the Krentz Ranch East of Douglas since 1977, spoke on the murder of husband and father Rob Krentz. Rob was killed March 27, 2010 by an illegal immigrant who was crossing his ranch. Rob was out checking a motor on the ranch, saw someone and went to see if he could help him in any way, Sue said.“Fifteen-hundred people have been killed by illegal immigrants since Rob was killed,” she said. “My message is we need to secure the border. We don't need to create new laws, we need to enforce the ones we have.”Frank explained that their family used to help groups of immigrants crossing their ranch. “We approached them as Christians, even after we had our house broken into, our vehicles and things stolen, our waterline broken. But after losing my father, all that has changed. We don't put ourselves in situations where we risk getting hurt.” Lawrence Hurt, a longtime rancher at Hurt Cattle Co. on the New Mexico border with Mexico, said he has “ranched here for 32-plus years and had 200 head of cattle stolen and taken across the border, his house broken into, guns stolen and his brother has been accosted by Mexican police. He wasn't killed, but we've seen the very real possibility.” “Border Patrol does a good job, but they need to work more closely with us. They need to be on the border, not 15 to 20 miles inside trying to catch them after they're already in. If we stop them on the line, there are less incidents,” he said to the crowd's applause. Tricia Elbrock spoke on the border's economic impact on businesses. Elbrock's family owns a water system and septic service company that serves ranchers, farmers and homeowners and a mercantile that supplies feed and materials in Luna and Hidalgo counties in New Mexico and Cochise County in Arizona. “We have 20 employees. On Dec. 7, one of our employees was kidnapped by illegal immigrants,” she said. At the time it was reported by the Cochise County Sheriff's Office that a ranch hand from the Animas area was on his employer's ranch when he observed a parked vehicle with two men inside. The ranch hand reported that he stopped to see what was going on, when the men said their vehicle was broken down and they then forced him to drive them to Willcox in his vehicle. The ranch hand was let go in Willcox and told not to report the incident. Elbrock said, “OSHA says we are to provide a safe environment for our employees. But how can we do that here? In a radio interview, they told me that Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) thinks the border is safe. I invite him to visit the border and see what happens here.” She added that due to the kidnapping, the business lost the truck and $10,000 worth of tools that were dumped, and will likely face higher workman’s comp costs and insurance premiums...more

Water Woes Forecasted for the West

Spring and summer water supply estimates could spell trouble for farmers and ranchers in the West. According to data from the USDA's National Resource Conservation Service, the snowpack growth we saw from record snowfall earlier this winter is now declining due to changing weather conditions. Snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability and forecasts of snowpack impact decisions made by individual producers and irrigation districts. “December snows got us off to a strong start,” NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy said. “But snowpack increases stalled in recent weeks throughout much of the West due to warm temperatures combined with lower precipitation.” While snowpack levels in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and parts of California are now showing near normal levels, the hope for additional snow this season is ending. Less snowpack means less streamflow and forecasters say streamflow is down by double-digits in some areas. "The most dramatic decrease is in the Southwest,” said McCarthy. “The streamflow forecast for the upper Colorado River basin fell by 20 percent since last month.” That means trouble for Nevada, Arizona and California that are downriver and depend on the Colorado River for their water supply...more

Obama pulls plans to allow oil drilling off southern Atlantic coast

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is dropping its year-old plan to allow companies to search and drill for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean off of four southeastern states. Department of Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that objections from the Pentagon and strong opposition from nearly a hundred coastal communities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia factored into the decision to not offer leases to companies starting in 2017. Other aspects of the president five-year energy plan, which has already undergone several rounds of public hearings, will move forward, such as an expansion of exploration and possible drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the prospect of limited drilling in the Alaskan Arctic...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1577

Our selection today is Jimmie Davis and his 1941 recording of My Mary

Monday, March 14, 2016

Leader of Western governors: Change endangered species plan

The nation needs to change the way it protects endangered species because the current practice is bogged down in lawsuits and weakened by mistrust, the head of the Western Governors Association said last Wednesday. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said Wednesday the problem is nationwide and that he hopes to build bipartisan support for changes in the federal Endangered Species Act, the primary tool for protecting species on the brink of extinction. He stopped short of suggesting specific changes but said yearslong legal battles frustrate landowners, local governments and industry and eat up resources that could be used to protect other other species. Mead, a Republican serving a one-year term as chairman of the Western Governors Association, said the problem is partly in the law itself and partly in the way it's put into practice. Deciding whether to protect a species is nearly always a long, contentious struggle because federal intervention can result in rules that limit oil and gas drilling, mining, agriculture and other land uses. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, agreed that decisions about protecting individual species drag on too long with no definitive conclusion. "There's got to be a point ... where we can declare victory," he said. Hickenlooper, who also spoke at Wednesday's gathering, declined to say whether the law needs major or minor changes...more

When it comes to amending the ESA, Gov. Mead "stopped short" of specific changes and Gov. Hickenlooper "declined to say" whether the law needed major or minor changes.  What great leaders we elect out West!

Got to give Mead credit, though, for making this the issue for his one-year term.

Conifer die-off increases threat of wildfire

by Laura Paskus, New Mexico In Depth 

In the past few years, New Mexico has experienced huge, record-breaking fires in both the Jemez Mountains and the Gila National Forest. Big fires haven’t hit the Sandia district of the Cibola National Forest to the east of Albuquerque. But thousands of acres of dead conifer trees pose a hazard. That’s because after the trees die and dry out, they provide fuel for wildfires.

Silviculturists like the Sandia District’s Shawn Martin practice a specialty within forestry, managing forest health by paying attention to everything from tree sizes to insect types.

Insect outbreaks are a massive problem in southwestern forests, where drought and overgrowth have weakened millions of acres of trees. Two years ago, the Forest Service conducted aerial surveys over 21 million acres, and while the number of acres affected by new insect-related dieoffs was down from the previous year, it’s still high: Ponderosa-type bark beetles defoliated 70,110 acres in New Mexico; mixed conifer-type bark beetles, 66,620 acres; spruce-fir type bark beetles, 21,550 acres; and western spruce budworms killed more than 300,000 acres.

Such a challenge requires vigilance, which is why on a cloudy morning last October, Martin headed up the west face of the Sandia Mountains. About 10 miles above the Village of Placitas, he stopped to check an insect trap hanging from a tree alongside the gravel road. Bugs fill the sticky interior of the cardboard triangle; it’s part of an early warning system for Douglas fir tussock moths.

Over the past five years, those moths and fir engraver beetles have hit the higher elevations, while the piñon ips beetle infested lower elevation trees.

All told, there are about 9,000 acres of dead conifers in the Sandias.

According to Andy Graves, the district’s entomologist, these native insects did what comes naturally in an overly dense forest that hasn’t seen fire in decades and is experiencing drought: They took advantage of stressed and weakened trees.

While the insect infestations have declined with wetter conditions, the dead trees and overgrown brush still pose problems.

That’s obvious when Martin tries to hike toward some of the largest stands of dead trees. New Mexico locus, oaks, and chokecherries, along with miscellaneous prickly and stickery plants block the way. Chickadees and Northern flickers call from the thickets.

Had the forest been thinned, he says, or natural fires burned here over the past century, the trees would have been more resilient when the drought crept in beginning in the late 1990s.

Let states manage, not sell

By Jim Gerber

At a Feb. 24 House of Appropriations Committee meeting on the Forest Service budget, Congressman Tom Cole, R-OK suggested there might be some merit to selling off the federal public lands. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson pointed out that the people of Idaho love their public lands because they use them for a wide variety of uses. They would not like to see them auctioned off.

There is a better solution then to sell off federal lands. Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador has a bill that would create experimental areas of 200,000 to 400,000 acres in several states to see if state management of the federal lands is feasible. Labrador’s bill could be worded to prevent the states from selling off the federal public lands.

Selling off the public lands is not the main issue however. The bigger issue is that the federal lands are being mismanaged by the federal agencies to the extent we are in danger of losing their sustainability and biological diversity.

As forests get older they become susceptible to insects and disease. When they die, trees fall to the ground and fuel accumulates. These dead trees feed large catastrophic fires that burn intensively as crown fires. We saw these intense fires on our televisions in the summer, accompanied by words like “unprecedented” and “catastrophic.”

U.S. Rep. Labrador’s point, I believe, is that since the federal agencies are not actively managing the public lands, let’s give the states an opportunity to try. By creating holes in the mature canopy, active forest management can create a mosaic of different species and age classes of vegetation on the landscape. The wildlife species that use those various species and age classes of vegetation will find and occupy it, and biological diversity will be maintained. We need to do little else.

Gerber is a retired Forest Service staff member and is active in natural resources organizations.

Budget talk could lead to accusations over climate emails

The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will come face to face this week with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who has waged a monthslong effort to force the agency to hand over scientists' emails. NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan will testify about her agency's fiscal 2017 budget request in front of the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment. Smith, who heads the full committee, will attend and will likely mention "NOAA climate oversight," according to the panel. Smith, a climate change doubter, began pressuring NOAA last year to hand over internal emails discussing a study that disputed the global warming "pause." The agency refused to hand over scientists' emails but did provide the panel with emails from other employees that referred to the study (E&E Daily, Dec. 17, 2015). In a letter last month, Smith accused the agency of possibly withholding some emails because it asked employees to search their own emails. He asked for NOAA to submit all emails from employees within certain offices that included various keywords, including "climate" or "change." "The search terms selected by NOAA officials appear to be unnecessarily narrow and the Committee fears that they may not accurately capture the breadth and scope of documents responsive to the Committee's subpoena," Smith wrote in the letter. "Moreover, the speed with which NOAA has conducted these searches and produced documents creates the perception that the Agency is deliberately attempting to impede and hinder the Committee's oversight."...more

US-Canada Climate Change Agreement Signals Potential Hurdles for Offshore Atlantic Drilling

The new US-Canadian environmental agreement is aimed largely at cutting methane emissions and preserving the Arctic, but it could have repercussions on the other end of the continent. In the next few weeks, the Obama administration is expected to announce a revised plan for offshore oil and gas exploration that might open much of the Atlantic coast for the first time in decades. A draft released in early 2015 has drawn intense opposition in towns up and down the coast, though governors of most of the affected states have come out in support of the plans. But the deal that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out last Thursday at the White House signals new hurdles for companies interested in the far North. The question the Southeast is now asking is whether that means tougher rules for would-be drillers there — or whether it will only increase pressure on Obama to allow Atlantic exploration...more

Let’s appreciate what farmers, ranchers put on our plates – and into our communities

by Jeff Witte

Milk, beef, chile, pecans…Cheese, lettuce, spinach, grapes…Alfalfa, cotton, corn, onions and more -- what's not to get excited about as spring approaches?  Agriculture is alive and well in New Mexico, and the food and crops mentioned here are just a sample of the diverse culture of production that makes New Mexico special.

On March 15, we celebrate National Agriculture Day across America.  In New Mexico, I’m asking you to stretch the occasion out for the full week.  Ag Day/Week asks us to recognize the important contributions farmers and ranchers make to our dinner plates and local communities.  The food on your plate doesn’t just happen.  After many months of care and nurturing by people who truly care about our health and safety, the crops grown become our breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and don’t forget snacks).  Additionally, our communities thrive from the stable economic impact of agricultural production, as well as the green space it creates.

Agriculture in our state is as diverse as our people.  Our rich agricultural history begins with corn, which was harvested in New Mexico by 4000 B.C.  Squash and beans were being harvested by 3000 B.C.  The Mogollon Indians developed primitive irrigation systems by 2300 B.C.  Today we continue to utilize traditional acequia systems, as well as highly sophisticated satellite-controlled irrigation networks.  Our cultivation of traditional native crops is as important as the cultivation and harvest of new varieties in our quest to feed people both here in New Mexico and elsewhere.

This week, take a look at your plate and try to visualize the people who produced the food on it.  Fill your glass with some of the highest-quality milk produced in the nation, and if you’re of age, raise a glass of New Mexico’s award-winning wine or beer in a toast to the people who produce the things we love to eat and drink.  As President Thomas Jefferson once said, “agriculture is our wisest pursuit…and cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizen”.

Happy Agriculture Week, New Mexico! Enjoy all it has to offer.

Witte is the NM Secretary of Agriculture

Ammon Bundy comes to aid of embattled Grant County sheriff

Ammon E. Bundy, the jailed leader of the national wildlife refuge takeover in eastern Oregon, is urging people to rally behind Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer as he faces state investigation. Bundy said in a recorded statement posted Sunday to Facebook that Palmer was the only sheriff in Oregon who did not "get caught up in the deception" that occupiers put people at risk in Harney County. The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which certifies police officers, has asked the state Justice Department to investigate nine complaints against Palmer. Among those filing complaints were the John Day police chief and the manager of the local dispatch center, who claim Palmer's apparent alliance with militants put the community in danger. "I encourage all people who love freedom to stand with Sheriff Palmer," Bundy said...more

The End of Agriculture at Point Reyes National Seashore: The Jarvis Playbook

by Corey S. Goodman

What makes a national park? Some were fashioned, by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, out of what was romanticized as the Wild West. Others were created in partnership with those who have been the historic stewards of the land. The Point Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco, is the latter: a national seashore created out of historic farm and ranch land, preserved by its farmers and ranchers for more than a century, to protect and promote the farming and ranching heritage of the land, and to keep it from turning into urban sprawl, golf courses, and gated communities.

But the seashore is under dire threat. A few weeks ago, the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups sued the National Park Service with the intent to clear the eleven remaining ranches out of Point Reyes National Seashore (of the nineteen that existed when PRNS was created), with clear implications for the eight remaining ranches in adjoining Golden Gate National Recreation Area (of the fifteen that existed when GGNRA was created).

The ranchers have a right to feel their days are numbered. After all, the continuation of their ranches was part of the deal when these parks were created. The basic problem for these ranchers, however, is that the director of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis, agrees with these environmental groups that agriculture does not belong in a national park.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1576

It's Swingin' Monday and here is Banjomania with their version of Alabama Jubilee.  The tune is on their 1994 CD Pick Yourself Up

Forest Service Bulletin On Adrian Sewell

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Heavy Metals

For most of human history, the infrastructure of civilization—technology, in a word—was constructed with just a handful of elements. Trees provided wood (largely carbon and hydrogen) for shelter, ships, and fuel. The Earth provided stone and clay (largely silicon) for housing and pottery. Then came copper and tin (which, combined, make bronze, hence Bronze Age). Then iron, and a new Age. Additions trickled in over ensuing millennia: The Romans mined lead to plumb their baths and sewers; the Industrial Revolution put petroleum (like wood, a hydrocarbon) and aluminum on the list of industrial necessities. But well into the 20th century, as the eminent Yale University materials scientist Thomas Graedel has written, nearly every technology that society required comprised fewer than 20 chemical elements. In a largely unremarked-upon development, that number skyrocketed in the last 30 years as digital and green technology became increasingly important. Were one to vaporize an iPhone or Prius in a mass spectrometer, the readout would display a bewildering array of unfamiliar and often unpronounceable elements: yttrium, lanthanum, praseodymium. A vaporized computer screen would reveal the presence of europium and terbium. A jet engine would reveal rhenium. Even a simple steel truck chassis would reveal niobium. None of these elements is used in large quantities, but without them, microchips and hybrid cars would be less efficient; LEDs and LCDs less bright; steel inherently weaker. And there are many other elements that today play a similar, singular role. Graedel and his colleagues have identified no fewer than 62 of these "energy-critical elements," as they call them—others call them "technology metals" or "minor metals"—without which much modern technology would work markedly less well, if it worked at all. Our now-common reliance on these obscure materials has had enormous social, economic, and environmental consequences. These are the subject of David S. Abraham's extraordinary new book, The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age...more

Defending Champ Leading in Alaska's Iditarod

Defending champion Dallas Seavey is leading in Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, gunning for his fourth win in the nearly 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) contest, with his father the closest rival. The younger Seavey left the checkpoint at the coastal village of Shaktoolik, 171 miles (275.19 kilometers) from the Nome finish line, mid-Sunday morning. As of late morning, his father, Mitch Seavey, was the only other musher to reach the village. Meanwhile, a 26-year-old man was set to appear in court Sunday afternoon following his arrest Saturday on allegations he intentionally drove a snowmobile into the teams of two other top mushers, killing one dog and injuring at least two other dogs. Arnold Demoski of the checkpoint village of Nulato (noo-LAH-toh) has said he was returning home from a night of drinking when he struck the teams...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Roper of all trades

by Julie Carter

"There's just one thing that keeps him from being the best cowboy ever - he's worthless." That quote from John Erikson covers a lot of things, not just cowboys. However, as usual, my story heads down that trail.

Troy is cowboy, a roper, a contractor, husband, father, grandfather and a horse trader.

The trader qualities likely negate the credibility of the others and the stated order is probably not in proper priority according to Troy. However, the story will set that straight.

This week Troy has four good rope horses. They come and go. Sometimes he's afoot and has to borrow horses to rope on.

When he will finally, actually, buy a horse for his own use, some fool will come along and offer him big bucks and it's gone.

He is the quirky kind of roper/horseman -- one that can make any plug look like a winner. People buy his horses because they think that the horse will make them as good a roper as Troy.

When Troy is afoot and needy for a horse to rope on, he gets pitifully melancholy.

He'd been to a benefit roping over the weekend and it set his mind to thinking perhaps he needed such a roping for himself.

The roper benefiting from the roping had an appendectomy. He was a truck driver, working for a big company and had health insurance, but was having trouble meeting the $500 deductible because he had to save his money for entry fees.

He also needed some time off to recuperate. He was running out of sick leave and didn't want to use any of his vacation days. He needed those for ropings come summer. The "benefit" package of such a roping was looking good to Troy.

His personal pity party included the recall of all his most recent woes. He'd spent a couple days sitting around a distant hospital waiting on a grandbaby's arrival. Once that happened, his wife gave him permission to go home.

He hit the ranch gate in full anticipation of fun. He went directly to gather up his horses, get them saddled and head over to this local benefit roping. As he led the horses to the trailer, he noticed one of them was limping. A close examination revealed he needed to call the horseshoer.

So he headed back to the house to use the phone and simultaneously remembered he was supposed to be watching his other two grandchildren who had been dropped off just as he arrived. He called his father-in-law to come get the kids, called the horseshoer and then went back out to the barn.

When he got there, his hired hand yelled at him that water was "coming out of the house."

He remembered that he had to gather clothes for the kids anyway, so he went back to the house. He found massive amounts of water gushing out of a wall. Quickly taking the siding and the insulation off, he found that the pipes that had been frozen earlier in the week, were now thawing and broken.
Recognizing that the repair was going to be a major job, he shut off all the water to the house. After all, the wife was still off with the new grandbaby business, what did he need water for?

Eventually, the father-in-law showed up and Troy had to shortcut him from going into the house. He got the clothes gathered up for the kids, the horseshoer arrived and did his thing and finally, Troy left for the roping.

There was a nice big buckle to be won and Troy took it as part of his plunder for the day. He roped all day long, rode down his two good horses and came out only $16 in the hole. Success is relative.

What sealed the deal for his desire for a personal benefit roping was when Troy greeted another roper he knew.

"Hey man, haven't seen you in a while. Where have you been?"

"Aw, I've been working three days a week," was the pitiful reply from the accomplished #8 roper.
"Three days? How's that working for you?" Troy asked.

"Well, had to go to three, two didn't work out, I couldn't pay my bills."

Julie, who knows a few ropers like this, can be reached for comment at