Friday, May 27, 2016

Federal judge refuses to get off Bundy case, denies bail

Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said Wednesday she will not remove herself from the criminal case stemming from the 2014 armed standoff with law enforcement near Bunkerville. Lawyers for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, one of 19 defendants charged in the alleged conspiracy to assault federal officers, had sought her disqualification on several grounds, including a claim that she is part of a conspiracy with President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to deny Bundy a fair trial. In a six-page order detailing her decision to stay on the case, Navarro said the government “aptly explains” in court papers why the defense conspiracy theory “displays a lack of respect and/or complete ignorance of the independent role of the judiciary.” She said the “spurious allegations raise very serious concerns” about whether Bundy is being represented effectively in the complex criminal case.  Navarro on Wednesday also denied another request by Bundy to be released from federal custody. She said from the bench that Bundy was a serious risk of flight and a danger to the community and that there were no conditions she could set that would guarantee his presence at future court dates. Afterward, one of Bundy’s lawyers, Larry Klayman, called Navarro’s actions an    “outrageous miscarriage of justice” and said they would be appealed. “This is one of the most egregious displays of misconduct I’ve seen in my 40 years as a lawyer,” Klayman said. “Her order openly seeks to protect Harry Reid.”...more

Utah lawmaker says Bundy attorney barking up wrong money tree

A Utah state lawmaker who is leading the push to transfer federal lands to states signaled yesterday he has no plans to raise cash for Cliven Bundy's legal defense stemming from the rancher's 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over trespassing cattle. State Rep. Ken Ivory (R) added in an interview that his nonprofit American Lands Council (ALC) has not received "a penny" from the billionaire Koch brothers or their charities. Bundy's defense attorney Joel Hansen on March 11 sent Ivory an email asking whether he would help raise money to cover the rancher's legal fees. "I cannot represent Cliven for free," Hansen said in the email obtained by a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting through a public records request and released this week. Ivory said as far as he knows, the email was real. But he never read it, and his office has sent no official response. The implication that the Kochs are funding ALC, which supports legislation and litigation to force the United States to relinquish its vast Western landholdings, is false, Ivory said. "We have not received a penny from the Koch anybodies," Ivory said. "I don't know the Koch brothers."...more

Bar Dismisses Complaint Against Ammon Bundy's Lawyers

The Oregon State Bar has dismissed a complaint against Mike Arnold and Lissa Casey, the attorneys for Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation leader Ammon Bundy. The complaint alleged that Bundy’s lawyers violated the state bar’s professional conduct rules about trial publicity. Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis filed the complaint, pointing to press conferences and reporter interviews given by Arnold and Casey. Mike Arnold says the bar’s decision about Marquis’ complaint was as he expected. “There’s nothing wrong with American citizens speaking up against the government, And I understand that sometimes that makes government officials like him uncomfortable. And that’s good.” Marquis is appealing the dismissal to a higher counsel within the bar. According to the Oregon State Bar, two of three complaints against Arnold’s firm regarding Bundy’s case have been dismissed. The remaining complaint is under review...more

Feds Ignored Wind Farm's Impact on Sage Grouse, 9th Circuit Rules

Federal regulators did not adequately address whether a proposed wind-turbine project in southeastern Oregon would adversely impact the area's greater sage grouse population, the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday. After the Bureau of Land Management approved the proposed construction of the Echanis Wind Energy Project on the state's Steens Mountain in Harney County, the environmental group Oregon Natural Desert Association sued the government in Federal Court under the National Environmental Policy Act. The BLM's approval of the project failed to account for the turbines' effects on the mountain's population of sage grouse, a bird listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the environmentalists claimed. Writing for the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon said that the BLM conducted no surveys to determine whether sage grouse were present at the project's proposed site during the winter months and relied on data from surveys conducted at lower elevations. "A fundamental flaw infects this reasoning," Berzon said...more

Feds refuse to delist Snake River fall chinook

The first attempt to delist one of the 13 species of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species Act has been denied by federal authorities. The decision made public Thursday by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries cites concerns Snake River fall chinook wouldn’t remain viable without continued protections. Scott Rumsey, NOAA’s branch chief for the protected resources division, said the agency wasn’t surprised that the first petition to delist came for what he called one of the healthiest of the listed stocks in the basin. “We’re encouraged that we’re getting close, but in this determination we’re saying we’re not quite there yet,” he said. An Alaska commercial fishing advocacy group called Chinook Futures Coalition requested the delisting in January 2015. The group is concerned that protected Snake River fall chinook limit quotas of king salmon because of incidental catching of the protected Snake River fish that travel to waters off Alaska. The group was hoping to get the species delisted ahead of Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiations between the U.S. and Canada. The current treaty runs through 2018...more

National heritage group adds pasture land to 'endangered places' list

Vast tracks of Saskatchewan land used primarily for cattle grazing have been added to a national heritage group's list of endangered places. The National Trust for Canada, an organization that highlights the value of historic places and hopes to save them, added community pastures in Saskatchewan to its list, according to an announcement Thursday. A provincial group that has been raising concerns about the future of pasture land welcomed the move. "These are worth conserving and we need to take steps ... to provide conservation," Trevor Herriot, from the advocacy group Public Pastures - Public Interest, said. Herriot explained how a 2012 move by the federal government to end its stewardship of pasture land, through the PFRA, put thousands of acres of Crown land into the hands of the provincial government which has invited users of the land (primarily cattle ranchers) to purchase the land. According to Herriot, the ecological value of the largely undisturbed land has been overlooked or ignored...more

Rare Acoma war shield to be auctioned off in France, despite pueblo’s objections

A Paris auction house plans to sell a rare Acoma Pueblo war shield on Monday over the objections of the New Mexico tribe and U.S. political leaders. It is illegal to sell such ceremonial Native American items in the U.S., but it is allowed in France. The shield went up for auction in Paris last year but did not sell. Acoma had been unable to prevent that auction from going ahead, and it also was unable to stop a subsequent sale by a different auction house of other pieces of Indian cultural patrimony. “The Pueblo of Acoma and Hopi Tribe were rebuffed and forced to watch as dozens of their items of cultural patrimony were sold away,” wrote Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley in a May 13 letter to the secretary of the Interior Department, the secretary of state and the attorney general of the United States. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Thursday she is troubled by the auction and called on the French government to find a way toward repatriating items that she said “are at the heart of Native American heritage and identity.” She directed the department to work with tribes and other agencies to review how tribal cultural patrimony is making its way into foreign markets. While the Southwestern tribes have tried to stop such sales, Riley said in a footnote that the tribes are often required to pay essentially a ransom to get their items back. The shield, made of leather, pigments, feathers and cotton, according to the auction house catalog, is 52 centimeters in diameter. It is painted with a round face, half yellow, half black, separated by a green nasal ridge. The mouth is depicted by a black ripple on white with red lips. The price at auction is estimated at between 5,000 and 7,000 euros (about $5,600 to more than $7,800)...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1620

If you are gonna sing about being lonely, then please do it up pretty like Moon Mullican in Everyone Knows That I'm Lonely.  The tune was recorded in Ft. Worth in October of 1946 and that's Cotton Thompson and Ralph Lamp on the fiddles.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Even With Bundy Behind Bars, 'Range War' Lives On For Some Ranchers

Stanton Gleave hardly fits the stereotype of a modest, keep-to-himself Western rancher. Standing in a collection of muddy pens taking a break from shearing sheep near his home in tiny Kingston, Utah, Gleave gives an earful about his frustrations with the Bureau of Land Management and environmental groups. "That's who we're actually fighting with," says Gleave. "They've indoctrinated and got into this BLM and Forest Service 'til a lot of 'em are right up in the head positions now."  Gleave is like your typical Western rancher in one important way: He doesn't own much land himself. There's no room to run livestock in this sliver of a valley. So he leases huge tracts of federal land that surround his place — namely Mount Dutton. This was an arrangement that for the most part worked out pretty well for generations of ranching families like his. The federal government was there to help, maintaining and building roads so ranchers could access their stock. It helped with irrigation projects, building fences. That was before the timber mills closed, and most of the mines too. Then President Clinton designated the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. And that forced the BLM to focus a lot more on the environment and recreation, not just cows. "If you read the Constitution, that's the last thing our Founding Fathers wanted was for a federal government to be out here in our business," Gleave says. "They're supposed to be out there in Washington protecting that border down there." It's true the amount of public land available for grazing has been cut a lot since the 1980s, even more since Gleave was a kid in the 1950s. "What would you do if you was losing everything you got, would you stand and fight or would you roll over and play dead?" he asks. This is the kind of talk that's typical of a small, tight-knit group of ranchers mainly clustered in the remote Southwest. Most are conservative and refer to themselves as devout Mormons. They believe the Constitution doesn't allow for the federal government to control Western land...more 

HT:  Marvin Frisbey

Meet the advisers driving Obama's monuments agenda

With the flick of a pen, President Obama could secure permanent protections for millions more acres of the West. The Antiquities Act gives the president nearly limitless power to designate national monuments banning future mineral development, logging or road building on federal lands. While Obama used the act sparingly in his first term, he's now using it with gusto. He's protected roughly 4 million acres of land, putting him within reach of President Clinton's mark of 5.7 million acres preserved -- second only to President Carter's 56 million acres. Obama could protect much more in his final eight months in office. More than 6.5 million acres are in play, including ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in southeast Utah, old-growth ponderosa pine forests around the Grand Canyon and Mojave Desert lands surrounding Cliven Bundy's southern Nevada ranch. In deciding what to protect, Obama likely will turn to a small group of trusted advisers. There are obvious players such as Obama's senior adviser Brian Deese and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who are both close enough to the Oval Office to bend the president's ear. But much of the monuments legwork is delegated to high-level staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Interior. The president's national monuments team includes Christy Goldfuss, managing director at CEQ, and her associate director Michael Degnan, who spent a decade at conservation nonprofits advocating for public lands. At Interior, Jewell's Deputy Chief of Staff Nikki Buffa is playing a key role vetting lands for permanent protections. And at the Bureau of Land Management, Laurie Sedlmayr-Cumming, a part-time adviser to Director Neil Kornze, has an important behind-the-scenes part in Obama's monuments agenda. Bruce Babbitt, Clinton's Interior secretary, said Antiquities Act decisions depend in large part on who is in key offices. John Podesta, Obama's previous top environmental adviser, "was a monuments guy" and took personal ownership of the issue, Babbitt said. Monuments leadership is now more diffuse, he said. Conservationists feel they have a dream team at CEQ with Goldfuss, a former National Park Service official and public lands advocate for the Center for American Progress (a project of Podesta's), and Degnan, who maintains close ties to green groups. "The team that's there now is very strong," said Athan Manuel, director of land conservation at Sierra Club and Degnan's former boss...more

Taxpayer-funded solar plant lights birds on fire

Energy Department officials provided $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to finance a solar thermal field that "set itself on fire last week," according to a Republican senator. "[T]he Obama administration gave $1.5 billion of American taxpayers' money for a solar field of death that kills thousands of birds, doesn't produce much energy and sets itself on fire," Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said on the Senate floor on Thursday. Coats was talking about a solar field known as "Ivanpah." It works by using solar mirrors to direct sunlight at boiler towers "in order to boil water within the towers, which then creates energy through a conventional steam turbine," his office explained. Coats derided the plan as a "waste of the week," saying that the money would have been better-used on defense or infrastructure spending. The Obama administration has provided numerous subsidies to green energy companies, but Coats mocked the lack of testing when he noted that the plant has produced about one-third of the energy that experts predicted. "If they had tested it out before they put the millions of mirrors in, they would have learned some things," he said. "Nobody seemed to factor in that the sun doesn't always shine in the desert because sometimes there are clouds." Even so, the plant generates enough heat to cause birds that fly overhead to "ignite in midair," according to his office. "The heat has killed over 3,500 birds each year," Coats said."They fry to death because there is so much heat reflected from those mirrors ... by the time you get into this field, it's like going into a deep-fat fryer." And when some of the panels were placed at the wrong angle, they directed sunlight "at electric cables, which caused the cables to catch fire and ultimately scorched and melted metal pipes," Coats said. "You just can't make this stuff up." link

Trump outlines ‘America First’ energy plan

Donald Trump outlined an energy plan he’s calling “America First” on Thursday, using a speech in North Dakota to promote oil, natural gas and coal for the country’s future. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee's plan, which shares its name with his foreign policy platform, is as much about helping the fossil fuel sector as it is about fighting what he called “job-killing” policies from the Obama administration, which he says Democrat Hillary Clinton would only further as president. It aligns closely with longstanding priorities of Republican policymakers and avoids forgoing GOP orthodoxy like the candidate has done in other policy areas. “American energy dominance will be declared a strategic, economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” Trump said in the speech at a petroleum conference in Bismarck, N.D. “It’s about time.” He said the country needs to better use its fossil fuel stores, resources he said President Obama has locked away. He said he’d allow far more oil, gas and coal extraction on federal land and offshore...more

And the enviros aren't happy: 

“Trump's divisive language has made him a shocking candidate, but today he just pandered to the fossil fuel industry with a carbon-copy energy plan that could have been lifted directly from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” David Willett, spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “As Big Polluters’ new best friend, Trump’s 'plan' is pro-drilling, anti-EPA and is dangerous to our clean air and water. It does nothing to arrest our rapidly changing climate and the extreme weather already impacting Americans,” he added. “Today's speech from Donald Trump reads like a love letter to big corporate polluters and a Dear John letter to our future,” said Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist and Democratic donor.

Trump demands share of profits in exchange for Keystone approval

Donald Trump says he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline project as president as long as the United States receives a large chunk of oil revenue in exchange. Trump said Thursday at a press conference before an energy speech in North Dakota that he would “absolutely approve [Keystone] 100 percent, but I want a better deal." The presumptive GOP presidential nominee said that the U.S. would be doing more for the oil pipeline project, a proposal from Canadian energy firm TransCanada, than just approving it. Because it would run along American land, Trump said, the U.S. deserves “a piece of the profits, because we’re making it happen.”...more

SLO vs CBP - Battle over easement fees

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it wants to pay to repair roads in New Mexico’s borderlands but wants the state Land Office to first waive what could amount to about $400,000 in easement fees – a request the land commissioner opposes. CBP is requesting rights of way on 27 miles of mostly dirt-and-gravel roadways that cut through state trust lands in Hidalgo and Luna counties. Most of the roads – so bumpy, gutted and overgrown they require a four-wheel drive vehicle – are in a corner of the Bootheel where the Mexican border lies to the east. Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says he thinks the federal government should pay for access, given that the easement fees go to a trust fund supporting public education in the state. “I have an obligation to the schoolchildren of New Mexico,” Dunn said. “They haven’t said they don’t have the funds. If the funds are available, I think they should pay for the right of way.” It’s not clear how much CBP would invest in maintenance and repairs in New Mexico annually; the agency did not respond to a request for comment. CBP has paid the $175 application fee but is requesting that the Land Office waive other fees. The Land Office calculates the $400,000 in fees – a rough estimate – based on the 60-foot right-of-way easement requested by CBP across 27 miles. In its April application to the Land Office, CBP argues that the fees should be waived because the agency intends to repair the roads “for the sole purpose of enhancing the safety, security and efficiency of law enforcement personnel,” which “will reduce waste and trespass and enhance the safety and security of the general public.” It is seeking rights of way for 35 years. The disagreement could have implications for border security in a sprawling, rugged borderland where roads are few and far between and many are poorly maintained. Drug running and illegal immigration from Mexico remain intractable problems in the area...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1619

From their new CD Long I Ride, here is the bluegrass group Special Consensus with Baby I'm Blue

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Congressman calls on New Mexico to help with water dispute

New Mexico’s only Republican member of Congress has joined the fight between ranchers and the federal government over access to water on national forest lands, saying the state can do more to protect the private property and water rights of its citizens. The U.S. Forest Service has fenced streams, springs and other watering holes to protect the habitat of an endangered mouse. The agency has repeatedly defended its actions, saying it has responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act to ensure the survival of the rodent. The congressman, whose district covers most of the southern half of the state, said the federal government is trampling on property and water rights in New Mexico as it has in other Western states. Fifty state lawmakers have written to New Mexico’s top water manager, voicing concerns that the federal government has overstepped its authority. State Engineer Tom Blaine said in April that he was concerned about the federal mismanagement of public lands and that his office was investigating complaints from locals about recent federal actions. Gov. Susana Martinez’s office has yet to weigh in...more

In the press conference this morning Pearce was critical of the State Engineer's lack of action to protect NM water rights. Here we have a situation where NM citizens have a water right recognized by the State Engineer, but a structure imposed by a federal agency is preventing those New Mexicans from exercising that right. And the State Engineer does nothing? Pearce does see an inconsistency here:

Arguing that water is a state issue, Pearce said New Mexico needs to stand up to the federal government, like it has with lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over pollution from a Colorado mine spill and the fight over plans by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release more Mexican gray wolves into the wild. 

Pearce did say he felt if Governor Martinez was properly briefed on the issue he was confident she would support the ranchers and state water law. Pearce may be correct on the Governor, but I'm not so sure. She steadfastly refused to get involved on the Wilderness/National Monument issue here in Dona Ana County.  She wouldn't even meet with the groups who were in opposition. The Governor jumped right in on the U.S.D.A licensing a horse slaughter plant, but has been silent on land and water issues that affect so many New Mexicans.  What is her position  on the pending bills to take more lands out of multiple-use in New Mexico? Her silence plays to the benefit of the enviro lobbyists, Senators Udall and Heinrich, and the Obama administration.  And more importantly, she's not helping the rural citizens of our state.

Farm & Ranch Museum: NM weavers on display

A beautiful new exhibit at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces showcasing historical and contemporary weaving opened on May 21. “Weaving in New Mexico: The Ancestral Puebloan and Rio Grande Traditions,” is in the museum’s Traditions Gallery. Discover the ancient textile creations of the Ancestral Puebloans and the jewels of Rio Grande weaving from 1850 to the present. The exhibit includes 48 artifacts – everything from rugs to looms and tools. When most people think of southwestern weaving, they think of the finely-woven textiles of the Navajo. Few are aware of the rich weaving traditions developed by Ancestral Puebloans more than 3,000 years ago, and the Hispanic weaving tradition introduced by the early Spanish settlers in New Mexico. Ancestral Puebloans dressed in well-made woven textiles, and they used their weaving skills to make utilitarian items that made life easier. Weaving required an expertise and an understanding of the natural resources available in the environment and how to use them. The story of Pueblo weaving is a long and complex one, as a continuous thread from the past joins contemporary weavers. Today, Pueblo weaving, as a dynamic art form, continues as a vital part of Pueblo ceremonialism. Hispanic weaving in New Mexico can trace its roots to Spain and the weaving influences introduced during the 800-year occupation by the Moors. The beauty of Hispanic weaving increased over the years because of cross-cultural exchanges that occurred among the Puebloan, Navajo and Hispanic weaving traditions...more

Forged Federal Document Complicates A Growing Fight Over National Monument Designation In Utah

Advocates of a contentious national monument designation for Utah’s Bears Ears area are concerned that local residents will be misled about the designation dispute after forged federal documents and deceptive flyers addressing it were distributed in public spaces nearby. Cynthia Wilson, community outreach coordinator for Native American pro-monument group Utah Diné Bikéyah, found the misleading documents at a U.S. post office in Bluff and multiple gas stations in San Juan County in the past week. They include a falsified letter purporting to be from Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell that claims President Barack Obama is preparing to reduce the Navajo Nation by 4.15 million acres. The letter claims the Navajo no longer need their land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and thus it will be opened up for grazing and commercial purposes. “This was not sent out from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs or from the U.S. Department of Interior,” a Department of Interior spokesperson said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “President Obama has no intentions of reducing the size of the Navajo Reservation.”  Wilson also found a flyer purporting to be from Utah Diné Bikéyah and announcing a party to celebrate the creation of the Bears Ears monument. But the flyer warned some Native Americans to stay away: “Everyone is invited except Utah Navajos,” it read. In an email to HuffPost, Utah Diné Bikéyah characterized the document as racist, and executive director Gavin Noyes said he didn’t know why it was written.  A forged letter that purported to be from Albert Holiday, vice president of the Navajo Nation’s Oljato Chapter and a supporter of a monument, claimed that the Bears Ears proposal would bar Native Americans from using the land for cultural and sacred activities. In fact, the plan would actually allow for such uses. “I couldn’t believe it,” Holiday told HuffPost. “My people are all for the monument.” The dispute over Bears Ears has grown increasingly charged as summer nears. State lawmakers are uneasy over what they see as federal overreach similar to Bill Clinton’s use of the Antiquities Act in 1996 to create Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Utah State Rep. Mike Noel (R) and other lawmakers called on the state’s attorney general to “ferret out” environmental groups he believes have funded and co-opted the tribal coalition so the land can be designated without the say of state local leaders...more

'The Last Ranch' gives ample justice to a historical wrong

In 1996, with his first book “Tularosa” in hand, Michael McGarrity drove into Alamogordo from Santa Fe and went knocking on doors seeking media interviews. Twenty years later, readers around the world now eagerly await each new McGarrity novel. His books have been printed in such countries as Japan, France, Germany, Croatia, England and Norway. Four years ago McGarrity published “Hard Country,” the first in a trilogy that featured Kerney’s grandfather Patrick, and father Matthew. “Back Lands” followed and now, in “The Last Ranch,” Matthew returns from World War II to resettle into life on the family’s New Mexico spread. Readers in Otero and Lincoln counties are quite familiar not just with locations where McGarrity sets his action, but with historical characters such as Eugene Manlove Rhodes and John Prather who once walked Alamogordo’s streets. More than any other author who melds fiction with historical events, McGarrity adeptly portrays the United States government’s grab of the land that became White Sands Proving Ground (now Missile Range). In “The Last Ranch,” the Kerneys are affected, and McGarrity’s inclusion of the struggle does ample justice to a historical wrong. In early 1942, as a result of Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, the government seized the land. Hard-working men and women lost private property, their water and mineral rights, and were forced to herd cattle in the dead of winter to new grazing areas. They not only had to pay for new living accommodations, but also were responsible for keeping mortgages current on the land the government now occupied. McGarrity moves his characters through World War II, the first Atomic Bomb test, the demise of the once-prosperous cattle community of Engle, into nearby Hot Springs a.k.a. Truth of Consequences, and on through the Vietnam War in which Kevin Kerney serves. Closing the book after the final page of the saga may invoke emotions of losing a good friend. For the past four years McGarrity fans have been there through the Kerneys’ struggles and triumphs, the victories and injustices, and the successes and heartaches. It can be kind of tough saying adios to fellow New Mexicans that have lived and loved, thanks to the life the skilled storyteller McGarrity has breathed into them...more

McGarrity will also sign his book at COAS Books in Las Cruces, 317 N. Main St., May 28, at noon and Las Cruces' Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, 200 E. Picacho Ave., May 28, at 1 p.m. At Alamogordo's Hastings, 805 N. White Sands Blvd., at 1 p.m. May 29 and Ruidoso's Books Etc., 2340 Sudderth Drive, at 4:30 p.m. May 29.

Mars probe to be used by agriculture

It was designed for use on Mars, but researchers at Scotland's University of Strathclyde, working in conjunction with the UK Space Agency's International Partnerships Space Programme (IPSP), have altered design and purpose of the space technology for a more down-to-earth application, a new mobile platform tool to be used as an agricultural monitoring system in the field. The newly-named AgRover, a tracked robotic system, carries a soil sensing instrument that can test the quality of soil in any field. Using a robotic arm and sensing probe, data collected is transmitted using an integrated, force feedback-controlled robotic system on the ground during the ongoing research project. Researchers say it has the potential of reducing the environmental impact of farming. "Robotic technology will be a key technological enabler for precision farming, and this project is a combination of frontier research programs in space robotic technologies. It focuses on a unique soil sensing technology, developed and built with UK capability; it's also based on space instrumentation and the deployment of a UK-developed, intuitive master robotic control system," Yan said...more

Bayer bids $62 billion for Monsanto

Bayer AG offered $62 billion to buy Monsanto Co., deepening investor concern that it’s stretching its finances to become the world’s biggest seller of seeds and farm chemicals. The May 10 written proposal to Monsanto offered $122 a share in cash, the Leverkusen, Germany-based company said in a statement on Monday. Bayer’s stock dropped as much as 4.1%, extending losses since the potential deal was first revealed. Monsanto shares posted muted gains, rising 6% to $107.67 in New York trading, signaling that investors remain skeptical about the deal. Buying St. Louis-based Monsanto would allow Bayer to tap growing demand at a time when farmers must boost productivity to feed an estimated 10 billion people globally by 2050. Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann is hoping that rationale will win over skeptical investors -- and overcome a public backlash at home against Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds -- as he seeks to pull off the biggest corporate takeover ever by a German company after less than a month at the helm. “The agriculture industry is at the heart of one of the greatest challenges of our time: How to feed an additional 3 billion people by 2050. The number represents about six times the population of Europe today,” Baumann said in a Monday conference call...more

Planners seek to transform border town into destination

Trucks race along a winding road in the arid New Mexico desert. As they travel through Santa Teresa, a border-crossing port of entry and unincorporated town, they pass millions of square feet of warehouses that store steel coil, wind turbine blades and specialty glass. It’s a town that state officials say has pumped millions into New Mexico’s economy. But missing in this industrial enclave are shops, cafes, gas stations and residents. No one lives here. Now the nonprofit group that operates Santa Teresa is working to transform the area from a place where people work into one where they might put down roots. Officials are drafting plans that call for the building of a plaza on an upslope, surrounded by Mediterranean-style housing and international restaurants. Such developments also could include hotels, retail stores and entertainment attractions that would turn this industrial park into a new hot spot just a stone’s throw away from the U.S.-Mexico border...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1618

Bobby Helm's 1957 recording Just A Little Lonesome is our selection today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

EPA, Army Corps of Engineers Violate Law, Oppress Farmers in California and Elsewhere, Farm Bureau Tells Congress

    WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2016 - The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have violated their own regulations and effectively invented new ones in enforcing the Clean Water Act, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today.
    Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations at AFBF, told the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife that the Army Corps' novel interpretations of environmental law are threatening the very livelihoods of ordinary, middle-class Americans who happen to farm for a living.
    "Based on what we see in California, it is clear that the expansions in jurisdiction over land and water features on the farm are already happening," Parrish told the subcommittee. "Most ordinary farming activities conducted in areas under jurisdiction will require permits if and when the Corps chooses to demand them. And when they demand permits, delays and costs will mount until most farmers simply give up. Congress needs to step in and give farmers some real certainty so they can plan their farming operations and protect the environment at the same time."
    Parrish's testimony also included a detailed analysis of recent Army Corps actions by Jody Gallaway, an environmental scientist and California Farm Bureau member who has consulted on numerous discussions between local farmers and the Corps. The Army Corps interprets and executes environmental regulations that are largely determined by the EPA.
    Parrish cited numerous examples of EPA and Army Corps mismanagement:
  • The Corps has made jurisdictional determinations and tracked farming activities based on classified aerial photographs and LIDAR imagery that is not publicly available, even to farmers under investigation
  • Army Corps officials have forced farmers to sign non-disclosure agreements - gag orders, in effect - as part of their enforcement actions.
  • One California farmer invested tens of thousands of dollars to map his private property to ensure his farming activity would avoid polluting local watersheds. The Corps, in response, threatened enforcement proceedings over construction of roads and ponds completed years before the farmer owned the property.
  • In the Army Corps' Sacramento district, any plowing through a wetland requires permits that typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineering fees, even though the Clean Water Act exempts plowing from permitting.
  • The Army Corps has issued menacing letters to farmers who have changed from alfalfa hay farming to cattle grazing and back, despite the absence of any law to support their objections.
  • The Corps has told farmers to stop working when it merely suspected they were plowing too deep or changing land use. The Corps' selective enforcement of this interpretation means it can now tell farmers where they may and may not farm, and what they may grow.
  • The five-year drought has forced many farmers to temporarily fallow land or change crops based on changes in irrigation and market conditions. Oblivious to such obvious economic distress, the Corps has repeatedly required permits for ordinary plowing necessary to prepare the ground to change crops, further compounding the economic dislocation farmers have felt in the Central Valley.
    Parrish's testimony can be found here:
    Editor's note: Jody Gallaway is the name of the California Farm Bureau member who prepared the analysis cited in Parrish's testimony.

Press Release

National Park Service Chief Misled Inspector General Investigators, Lied to Interior Secretary and Promoted Other Agency Violators

Elise Daniel (202) 226-9019
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held an oversight hearing on the “Culture of Corruption” at the Department of the Interior (DOI). During the hearing, Mary Kendall, DOI Deputy Inspector General (IG), acknowledged that Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, purposely lied to the Secretary of the Interior about a book deal he improperly obtained for himself, and that Director Jarvis attempted to mislead her team of federal investigators as they looked into the matter.
In a handwritten note to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell, Director Jarvis assured her that he wrote the book at the request of the publisher and on his own time with no ethics issues.
Do you know why he did not consult with the ethics folks first?Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked.  
I believe he told the investigators that he intentionally chose not to consult the ethics office because he was afraid it would either slow down or thwart his efforts to write the book,Kendall responded.
In February, the IG released a report about Director Jarvis’ intentional violation of ethics rules to secure the book deal, and the lies that he constructed in an attempt to get away with his unethical behavior.
Ed Keable, DOI’s Deputy Solicitor for General Law, told the Committee that Director Jarvis was “disciplined” via a letter of reprimand, and that he would be required to attend ethics classes. His book remains on sale.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) then pointed out that Director Jarvis not only fails to act ethically himself, but he actively rewards those employees who violate rules and break the law like Dave Uberuaga. In the past, Uberuaga was found to have abused his position as Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park after he improperly sold his house for over three times the market value to a park concessionaire in 2002. Following that illegal incident, Director Jarvis promoted Uberuaga to one of the most prestigious positions in the National Park Service—Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.  
Uberuaga announced his retirement last week following a federal investigation that revealed sexual abuse occurred in the Grand Canyon’s River District under his leadership. Rather than holding his employee accountable for his actions, Director Jarvis had asked him to come work at headquarters in D.C. instead of retire.
Other disturbing examples include the Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, who used his position to hire his girlfriend and niece—violating federal law in the process—  and Timothy Reid, Chief Ranger at Yellowstone National Park, who improperly used his NPS apartment in an international home exchange related to his family’s bed and breakfast. Reid was then promoted to serve as the Superintendent of Devils National Monument by Director Jarvis himself.
In Kendall’s prepared testimony she wrote, “DOI does not do well in holding accountable those employees who violate laws, rules, and regulations. We see too few examples of senior leaders making the difficult decision to impose meaningful corrective action and hold their employees accountable. Often, management avoids discipline altogether and attempts to address misconduct by transferring the employee to other duties or to simply counsel the employee. The failure to take appropriate action is viewed by other employees as condoning misbehavior.”
Click HERE to view full witness testimony.

Herbert says Sec. Jewell offered assurances on monument: 'We are not the Clinton administration'

Gov. Gary Herbert said he spoke this month with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who assured him that "we are not the Clinton administration," he said, and a national monument will not be designated in Utah without local input. The focus of that and future meetings with Jewell, Herbert said, is inviting her and President Barack Obama to visit Utah and see the state's conservation efforts already going "over and above" the Bears Ears. "We are trying to be good stewards of the Earth, and I believe that we are, in fact, very responsible citizens of Utah," Herbert told the editorial board for the Deseret News and KSL on Monday. But Jewell has stopped short of saying what the president intends for Bears Ears, a 1.9 million-acre landscape in San Juan County held in historical and religious significance for Native American communities. The site has been the subject of speculation and debate, with some calling for its preservation under the Antiquities Act and others wanting to protect it without prescriptive mandates from the White House. Herbert last week signed a resolution that he asked the Utah Legislature to consider during a special legislative session, challenging the president's authority to create a monument and calling for the state to take "all legal options" to avoid such a designation...more

New Rules Expected to Curtail Gulf Oil Production

The Obama administration finalized new rules it says will improve drilling safety in the Gulf of Mexico, but some experts are saying the regulations will undermine safety. The Interior Department, which is responsible for licensing and regulating oil and gas production on the U.S. outer-continental shelf, unveiled the sweeping new regulations on April 14, 2016. The centerpiece of the new regulations is a plan to monitor the safety of offshore wells. Under the regulations, monitoring of well safety would shift from being located on-site—at the offshore drilling platform—to being stationed at onshore electronic observation centers. The regulations also strictly control the types and amounts of fluids pumped into wells, require redundant safety devices, increase the frequency of inspections of critical emergency equipment—known as blowout preventers—and require offshore operators to take steps to center pipes inside wells when pumping cement into them...more

U.S. Interior Secretary in Idaho to Announce Millions for Fire Suppression

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is in Boise today to announce $10 million in funding for projects to help Western landscapes bounce back after a wildfire. The projects include about $500,000 for the Bureau of Land Management to remove invasive juniper trees that have grown after past years' major fires in the Bruneau-Owyhee area of Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon. Jonathan Oppenheimer, senior conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League, explained the idea is to protect the fragile sage grouse. "The conifer trees can pose a risk to sage grouse in particular, because raptors and other birds of prey can roost in those trees and then kill the sage grouse," he said. "So, a lot of this is really targeted around restoration of sage-grouse habitat." Secretary Jewell is also touring the Soda Mountain Fire Rehabilitation site, where 280,000 acres of sage-grouse habitat burned in a wildfire last year. The new influx of money will fund the second year of fire resilience efforts in ten locations, mostly in Western states. Oppenheimer stressed that climate change means Idaho has to be prepared to fight more fires on public lands...more


"The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are."
-- H. L. Mencken

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1617

Bill Carlisle & The Carlisles - Tain't Nice was recorded in Nashville in August of 1953 for the Mercury label.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Europe’s CO2 Emissions INCREASE While America’s Fall

The European Union’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose in 2015 while American emissions fell, despite Europe’s environmentally conscious and progressive image, analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation has found. The EU’s 2015 CO2 emissions increased by 0.7 percent relative to 2014, while U.S. emissions fell to its lowest level in two decades. The EU has spent an estimated $1.2 trillion financially supporting wind, solar and bio-energy and an incalculable amount on a cap-and-trade scheme to specifically lower CO2 emissions. TheDCNF analyzed the increased CO2 emissions data from the the European Commission through Eurostat and CO2 emissions from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the last full year of state-level data. The use of older U.S. data predates much of the fracking boom, meaning an updated result would likely be even more significant...more

BLM sends RJ handful of new details, lots of redacted pages in 2014 Bundy standoff

Federal employees talked about the “crazies” from across the United States who were coming to Bunkerville to support rancher Cliven Bundy. After corralling Bundy’s free-roaming “trespass” cattle from the Gold Butte range in 2014, agents were bracing for a violent confrontation. Some employees feared for their lives as suggestive threats surfaced and were circulated among Interior Department and law enforcement officials, according to emails obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. After more than two years of gathering, redacting and delaying release of the documents, the Bureau of Land Management this week provided the newspaper with more than 400 pages of blacked-out emails and reports. The newspaper contends so much requested information is missing that the BLM response lacks the transparency required by the act. “ ‘Better late than never’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to the release of public records,” Review-Journal Editor Keith Moyer said. “But it’s especially intolerable when the government takes years to provide documents that can’t be read because they’re so heavily redacted. The Interior Department’s response in no way satisfies our FOIA request and leaves far too many questions about the 2014 Bunkerville standoff unanswered.”  Review-Journal attorney Maggie McLetchie said, “FOIA was designed to ensure openness in government. We are studying the BLM’s response and considering future options.” The documents show the BLM was not only worried about 2,000 self-styled militia descending on a corral near Bunkerville, where about 350 head of Bundy’s cattle were impounded along the Virgin River, but bureau and National Park Service public affairs staff also were preparing now-censored scripts to deal with the media if something tragic happened...more

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was also seeking info on the cost of the operation:

 The newspaper sought emails that were copied to BLM District Manager Tim Smith, BLM Director Neil Kornze and then-Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie. The FOIA request, which consolidated two previous requests received by the BLM on April 13, 2014, hours after the standoff ended, also sought documents about the cost of the failed $1 million effort to remove Bundy’s cattle from the range and sell them at auction. Those documents show the BLM reduced a fraction of the $966,000 contract for a helicopter-roundup outfit because the detail to impound and truck the Gold Butte range cattle north to Utah had been cut short “for safety reasons.” Not counting personnel costs or costs racked up by the FBI and other participating federal agencies, nearly $1 million was spent on the helicopter roundup and impoundment of Bundy’s cattle, including an invoice for more than $16,000 for command post trailers provided by Modular Space Corp. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. The newspaper had sought credit card records, money transfer records and other charges that were paid through BLM and Interior Department accounts, but none were provided in the documents released by the BLM. An order for a helicopter company was placed Feb. 7, 2014, by the BLM’s Las Vegas Field Office. It called for a cost that “shall not exceed $966,000” based on a rate of $700 per head, or $770,000 for a possible 1,100 head; feed and care at $8 per head for $44,000; and transportation at $4.50 per mile.  After the armed standoff ended April 12, 2014, when BLM agents allowed Bundy’s supporters to release all the cattle from the corral, the contract was partially terminated “for convenience … due to unsafe site conditions and …” The end of that sentence was blacked out.  As a result, the order’s amount was reduced by about $126,767 to $839,233.

The remainder of this lengthy article has more info and a time line of the standoff.