Saturday, September 17, 2016

Court halts construction of another section of pipeline

A federal appeals court has ordered a halt to construction of another section of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a ruling late Friday that it needs more time to consider the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request for an emergency injunction. It said it will issue another order setting a date for oral arguments on the motion. The order "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the panel said. The ruling stops construction within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe. The federal government on Sept. 9 ordered a halt to construction on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land under and around the lake after a U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected the tribe's request for a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the $3.8 billion four-state pipeline. That led the tribe to ask for an emergency injunction...more

Appeal could complicate plan to move wild horses to Butte County

The federal government's planned release of 1,000 wild horses onto private land near Belle Fourche was made more complicated Friday after a formal appeal was filed, challenging the environmental assessment of the horse relocation. The federal Bureau of Land Management plan is to move the wild horses from a grazing lease at a ranch near Ft. Pierre to a similar lease on a private ranch in southeast Butte County. The move is part of a larger effort to save America's wild horses. The appeal was received on the deadline day on Friday by the federal BLM station in Belle Fourche. Chip Kimball, South Dakota field manager for the bureau, said Friday that the appeal came in the 30-day time period following her signing of the environmental assessment for the project. The BLM had planned to move the horses around the end of September. Kimball would not comment on how the appeal might affect the project timeline. But earlier, she indicated the appeal will require more evaluation...more

Earthworm invaders alter northern forests

Earthworms are welcomed in gardens around the world; they aerate the soil and consume dead vegetation to form worm castings that enrich the soil and help plants grow. But it’s a different story in the forests of northern North America where a non-native species of earthworm from Europe, brought by early settlers, are creating conditions that decrease the diversity of native plants, according to a new study published September 3, 2016 in the journal Global Change Biology. The impact of non-native earthworms has been previously documented on a site-by-site basis. The study led by Dylan Craven of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research takes a broader view. He said, in a statement: The earthworm invasion has altered the biodiversity and possibly functioning of the forest ecosystems, because it affects the entire food web as well as water and nutrient cycles. How are earthworms affecting forest ecosystems that evolved without them? At the top soil layer, earthworms convert fallen leaves to humus. That’s a good thing if you’re growing a garden, but, in a natural forest, it causes a fast-tracking of the release of nutrients instead of allowing the leaf litter to break down more slowly, as it would without the earthworms. Also, as they burrow through the ground, earthworms disrupt the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants. Some deep-burrowing worm species change the pH of upper soil layers by mixing in alkaline soil from deeper in the ground. Burrows carved out by earthworms also speed up the drainage of rainwater, drying the soil faster...more

Friday, September 16, 2016

‘They are absolutely huge:’ Wolves attack in Northern Saskatchewan as animals lose fear of humans

From the dining hall, it sounded like a fight — a midnight scuffle between feuding workers at the Cigar Lake uranium mine. A security guard hopped into her vehicle to break it up, and for a split second, her headlights illuminated a scene that was anything but a fist fight: a wolf with its jaws around the neck of a 26-year-old kitchen worker. The truck’s arrival spooked the wolf away and the security guard, who has declined media interviews, sprang out to provide first aid. An adult gray wolf can easily bite through even the thickest moose bones; a fleshy human neck provides little obstacle. A few more seconds and the worker likely would have been dead instead of recuperating in hospital. “A single wolf basically pounced on him,” was what a mine representative told the press. Wolf attacks aren’t supposed to happen this way, but wolves don’t exactly act as expected in Northern Saskatchewan. On the very rare occasion that a North American wolf bites a human, the animal is usually rabid or surprised; a hiker startling a wolf feeding on a moose carcass, for instance. But this wolf had apparently lain in wait for the young mining camp worker. The average Canadian hunter can spend their entire lives in the wilderness without spotting a wolf. That’s why nature writers usually describe the animals with such adjectives as “elusive,” “shy” or “secretive.” But at Cigar Lake, Facebook posts have documented wolves following hikers, wolves making themselves “visible.” Several workers have reported having wolves tail their work crews and keep watch on them from distant ridge lines. “They are absolutely huge … they have no fear of man and come into the job sites often at night,” said former Cigar Lake worker S.J. Rowe in a message to the National Post...more

Utah Senators Introduce Antiquities Act Amendment to Stop Bears Ears

Utah Senator Mike Lee along with Senator Orrin Hatch, have introduced a senate bill they refer to as the “Utah National Monument Parity Act.” The bill is the latest effort by Utah to derail what some consider the imminent declaration of another National Monument within the Beehive State. This latest move would provide a legislative roadblock to future efforts similar to another designation currently under consideration by the Obama administration. The most recent request for antiquities protection was made by a Native American tribal coalition which has petitioned the White House for the designation of the Bears Ears area in Utah’s San Juan County. The Antiquities Act, originally made law by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, has been revised twice since its enactment as a remedy for similar looting and public vandalism at Mesa Verde in Colorado, less than 75 miles away from the proposed Utah site. Lee has been instrumentally involved with the state’s opposition to a monument declaration and seeks a reduction in power of the Antiquities Act similar to that issued for Wyoming in 1950. At that time, following the incorporation of Jackson Hole into the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming secured an amendment requiring Congressional consent for any future creation or enlargement of National Monuments there. The Lee amendment would prohibit the further declaration of National Monuments in Utah without congressional approval in a similar manner...more

Police arrest 13 at Interior Department oil, gas lease protest

WASHINGTON—Police arrested 13 activists on Thursday, Sept. 15, who were protesting oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands at the U.S. Department of the Interior, the agency responsible for auctioning rights to drill. The protesters from groups including Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network and Native American communities are part of a wide ranging "Keep It in the Ground" network. The network has grown after a report published in the journal Nature in early 2015 saying 80 percent of the world's remaining oil, gas and coal has to be left in the ground if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided. "We don't want any more lease sales in Alaska offshore," said Faith Gemmill from Arctic Village, Alaska, a place of about 150 Gwich'in Native Americans. "We see the impacts of climate change every day. The ground in Alaska is literally melting beneath our feet, communities are crumbling into the ocean and need to be relocated," she said. The protesters had aimed to deliver to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a petition to stop lease sales that they say was signed by 1 million people...more

Beef Checkoff battle heats up in federal court

Billings, Mont. - A flurry of motions were filed recently in the lawsuit filed by R-CALF USA against the national beef checkoff program (Beef Checkoff). The group's lawsuit was filed May 2 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The initial complaint alleges the government, represented by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is operating the Beef Checkoff in violation of the U.S. Constitution by compelling cattle producers to subsidize the private speech of private state beef councils, notably the Montana Beef Council. Members of R-CALF USA, the complaint alleges, object to the Montana Beef Council's speech because it advocates that all beef is the same regardless of where or how it was produced. In July the government requested an extension of time for which to answer the complaint and R-CALF USA did not object. But, rather than provide a typical answer, the government filed a motion in early August to dismiss or stay the group's lawsuit. R-CALF USA fired back with its own cross-motion in late August asking the court to award summary judgement and immediately end the checkoff program's unconstitutional taxation of ranchers. The group claims it is entitled to summary judgement because the government, in its motion to dismiss or stay, essentially acknowledged that the Beef Checkoff is improperly authorizing federal taxes to be used to fund private speech. The government's reply to R-CALF USA's opposition to the motion to dismiss or stay was due September 7 and its opposition to R-CALF USA's cross-motion for summary judgment would have been due September 14. But the government again requested a delay until nearly the end of September and the court granted its request. On September 12, the same day the court granted the deadline extension for the government, R-CALF USA filed a new motion , this one for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which is an emergency action to prevent the infliction of irreparable injury. In this case, the group seeks a TRO to stop the government from continuing to use tax monies paid by cattle producers to fund the private speech of the Montana Beef Council until the court can act on the group's cross-motion for summary judgment or a preliminary injunction...more

See Corb Lund’s Moving Hymn for the Modern Rancher, ‘S Lazy H’

Ranchers face several challenges in the modern era, but one of the most common has to do with family ties and real estate. Urbanization is rapidly spreading to the regions of the West that were once untamed. With that growth, ranches and family farms that have been around for generations are getting sold off to developers and large-scale cattle operations. More often than not, it’s the family’s in-laws who orchestrate the sale. After their spouse inherits the land, they work a deal to sell the property with the hopes of making a quick profit. That all too common tragedy is the subject of Corb Lund’s “S Lazy H,” a track featured on the Canadian singer’s latest album, Things That Can’t Be Undone. “This is one of the most personally meaningful songs I’ve written in quite a few years,” Lund says. “It’s not literally a true story, but it’s an amalgam of a handful of authentic agricultural family estate/succession disasters I’m aware of from people close to me. It’s a very common theme in the West, and shows no signs of slowing down.” The tune has taken on the life of a hymn of sorts at Lund’s live shows. “There are always a couple of cowboys, silent with hats off anytime I play it west of the Pecos,” he says. “I’m glad it’s reaching people, but I wish it wasn’t a necessary topic.”...more

Jury hears from the accidental occupier

A Burns resident and sympathizer of the activists at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge testified yesterday in court that he accidentally became one of the first occupiers. Called to the stand by federal prosecutors, Walter "Butch" Eaton told the jury that he initially supported Ammon Bundy and others' efforts to keep local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond from serving five-year prison sentences for setting fire to public lands. On Jan. 2, Eaton, 46, marched in a peaceful protest in Burns. He recalled that the Hammond case was "very important to me. Still is." At the protest, a leader of the effort, Ryan Payne, approached him. "Ryan Payne came up to me and said, 'Are you ready to go?'" Eaton said. (Payne has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.) Eaton, a retired carpenter who is bald, with a long beard and glasses, hopped into a car with some of the activists, thinking they were heading to the courthouse as part of the protest parade. Soon, he realized they were heading elsewhere. During a 30-mile drive, the others asked Eaton if he was armed. He wasn't, and they offered him a gun. There was an assault rifle on the seat next to him. It was then, Eaton said, that he began thinking, "What's really going on?" he said. Quickly, Eaton found himself at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as part of the first convoy of occupiers. Clearly nervous on the witness stand, Eaton said that once they were at the refuge, the other activists moved quickly, in an organized fashion and "with a purpose" to secure all the buildings on the refuge. There was also a trailer in the convoy that contained camping gear and generators. Eight of the 10 people were also clearly armed, Eaton said. Ryan Bundy, he said, was carrying a "beautiful piece," meaning gun. A horn was blown to give an "all clear" after the buildings were secured, and they all returned to the visitor center. And everyone was instructed to take an oath: "Don't fire until fired upon," Eaton said. Eaton's testimony is important to the government's prosecution. The seven defendants on trial are charged with conspiring to impede federal officials through intimidation, threats or force during the 41-day occupation, which ended Feb. 11. To succeed, the government must convince the jury that there was an agreement among the conspirators to do something unlawful and that they acted on it. The precision and planning Eaton described appeared designed to establish that a plan had been hatched and put into motion...more

Future of Wolves Discussed at Wolf Summit

But the saying doesn’t stand for some ranchers, farmers, and politicians, when the dogs are the biggest ones in the canine family, and threaten the livelihood of some people. "It’s not just that they kill a calf or a cow or something like that it’s that they run them through these fences," said Senator Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin. Advocates for state management of wolves held the Great Lakes Wolf Summit in Cumberland, Wisconsin, to urge U.S. Congress to remove wolves from the endangered species list so that they can be hunted. They want to shift power to manage the wolf population from the Federal government to the states. "We have a very extreme predator on the top of the food chain that are now in numbers where we no longer have room for them," said Mark Liebaert, Director of Wisconsin's Farmer's Unit. "There has to be a balance, and that’s what we’re shooting for, is just to have a balance where, there should be some wolves, but they shouldn’t be everywhere," said Senator Tiffany. The lives of many people in the crowd had been directly affected by Wolves...more

These Are the Forgotten Victims of the West's Drought

Yomba Indian Reservation, NevadaLast summer Nevada was so dry that rancher Darryl Brady grabbed a shovel and hacked into a dusty pit, once a lush spring that gurgled onto fields thick with wild hay. The snows hadn’t come to the mountains and the river was dry, so Brady was desperately trying to tap into the earth’s watery veins to save his herd of about 85 cattle. But it was a failure; the earth had no water to give. “I remember when I was a kid it would rain and we used to have puddles out here,” Brady said wistfully. “These underground frogs would pop up. Shlurp, shlurp, shlurp, frogs everywhere. Now look at it, it’s all dead, there’s nothing here. The drought is killing everything.” Thanks to hefty snowfall last winter, the water is back this summer. Still Darryl Brady, a Native American rancher on the tiny Yomba Indian Reservation, located in a remote river valley between Reno and Las Vegas, faces tremendous challenges. Much of the world thinks that only California has been devastated by the West’s record-breaking drought. But in Nevada, the nation’s driest state, a much less-publicized but equally devastating water crisis has been playing out over the last five years. Nevada rivers such as the Carson and the Humboldt have dwindled. Massive lakes, such as Walker Lake, at the edge of the Walker River Indian Reservation in western Nevada, have nearly disappeared. Levels of reservoirs such as Rye Patch in northern Nevada have plummeted. Lake Mead, the water source for Las Vegas, dropped to an elevation of 1,073 feet above sea level, the lowest level since the lake was formed by the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. This has forced the desert city’s water supplier to buy up land and groundwater rights in eastern Nevada’s fertile valleys...more

Oregon standoff: Ammon Bundy chooses to wear jail scrubs in trial

Ammon Bundy surprised the court Thursday when he showed up for trial wearing blue jail scrubs, with a pocket Constitution in left shirt pocket. "Mr. Bundy desires to appear as he is, a political prisoner not free to dress as if presumed innocent,'' attorney J. Morgan Philpot said, reading his client's statement. "He would prefer to drop the facade and appear as the political prisoner he has been made.'' Bundy also bemoaned how he has been "shuffled around in chains," "molested like an animal," and not given the "utensils'' he needs to prepare for trial. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown asked Bundy to stand. She inquired whether it was his choice to appear in jail attire, and if anyone took his suit away. "Your honor, I have no comment," he replied. The judge told him she must know if his decision was voluntary. "I have no comment," he repeated. Philpot interjected, "Mr. Bundy feels he really has no choice — that that's been taken from him." The judge allowed Ammon Bundy to remain in the standard jail scrubs — blue shirt over pink T-shirt and blue pants. She did, though, alert jurors to the change. "You are not to draw any inference of any kind from his attire today or any day," Brown said...more

DHS accused of sitting on damning border report as immigration issue drives presidential race

Federal lawmakers seeking to pinpoint the number of illegal immigrants who successfully sneak across the southern border ordered up a report from the Department of Homeland Security, but the agency refuses to release it and instead cites a misleading statistic that overstates the number who are nabbed, sources told Fox News. DHS denied it is holding back the report, but sources say it was completed in November and that it shows roughly half of adults who attempt to cross the border make it - approximately 250,000 in total. But that number is at odds with DHS’ official estimates. The agency claims authorities catch 80 percent of adults trying to sneak in, but critics say the figure is padded to make it appear border security is more effective than it really is. "The Obama administration knows that the number of illegal aliens successfully getting across the Mexican border is 158 percent higher than they are telling people," said John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, who assessed the statistics for Fox News. "The administration has made fraudulent changes in the numbers to hide this." If released by the Obama administration, the true numbers could have major implications in the current presidential race, in which illegal immigration and border security have become a key issue, say observers. One source familiar with the report told Fox News that DHS is suppressing the report for "political reasons . . . because it would 'look bad' and 'help elect Donald Trump.” The study was written by analysts from DHS and the outside firm Institute for Defense Analyses, and is the most extensive survey of illegal activity and U.S. enforcement at the southwest border to date. Researchers went to the southwest border three times over 9 months and conducted independent surveys of Mexican migrants caught by the Border Patrol. They also reviewed Border Patrol intelligence, internal DHS records, apprehensions at ports of entry and detention records. The report was peer reviewed by a number of experts...more

Legend of Western music to play sold-out show in Steamboat

Michael Martin Murphey comes from what he’s named the campfire theory — “If it doesn’t sound good with only one guitar, it might not be a good song.” Murphey’s first job was working as a camp counselor, often writing and playing campfire music for the kids. Now, half a century, 40-some albums and multiple Grammy nominations later, he feels his career has come full circle. “When I do my acoustic shows, I’m back around a campfire, telling stories,” he said. Murphey will play his sold-out, solo acoustic show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the Chief Theater. It’s part of a tour he does twice per year. He’ll play mostly guitar and mountain-style banjo. Murphey is often called the leading voice and number-one selling artist of American cowboy music, but his material ranges from country to pop to bluegrass to Western to soft rock — he’s even done albums of Christmas songs. The singer-songwriter is similarly adaptable in his musicianship. Besides guitar and banjo, he plays ukulele, piano, mandolin and harmonica and is self-taught on them all. Murphey’s 1990 release of “Cowboy Songs” sold shockingly well, earning Gold status — despite the genre of cowboy music’s having faded from the mainstream two decades prior. He’s earned a place in Texas, Colorado and Nebraska’s country music halls of fame. He played on the David Letterman Show and at John Wayne’s 100th birthday celebration...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1699

We'll close out Tex Week with Tex Fletcher & His Lonely Cowboys performing Yodel Lady.  The tune was recorded on October 8, 1937 and is available on his British Archives of Country Music CD The Lonely Cowboy.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Southern Arizona residents take border security issues to Congress

Two southern Arizona residents told a House panel Tuesday that their communities have grown more dangerous due to what they see as a lack of security at the Arizona-Mexico border. Border Patrol agents, contrary to their name, can set up checkpoints up to 100 miles inland from the border under a strategy called “Defense in Depth.” Peggy Davis and Gary Brasher told a House Homeland Security subcommittee that they believe inland checkpoint operations have opened up miles of rural land to violent trespassers, giving them what Brasher called “free run” of the 25-mile area that Border Patrol does not staff. “The unfortunate thing for those of us that live there is that that’s where we live,” said Brasher, a Tubac resident. “That’s where we work, that’s where our children go to school.” But Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan said checkpoints are an effective use of scarce resources when there is a low ratio of agents to miles of border. The hearing before the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security was called to examine shortcomings of the Defense in Depth strategy, which proponents argue lets agents drive illegal activity from urban areas into rural communities, where they are more easily uncovered. Morgan said this approach maximizes available resources to “improve our comprehensive understanding of the threat environment, to increase our ability to rapidly respond to threats, and to strengthen enforcement.”...more

Myles remembers Reagan

 A lot of Americans do not remember Ronald Reagan. Well, I do. 

I remember coming out of the defeatist malaise of the 70's to a vision of once again being the "city on a hill." 

I remember coming out of what we thought would be a perpetual communist threat and witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

I remember digging out of what we thought would be a perpetual inflationary economy with its choking 20% prime rates. 

I remember a speech about "The Boys of Point Du Hoc" and many others. 

I remember optimism, confidence, hope (the real kind), and patriotism (the real kind); I remember the F-111s making a believer out of Qaddafi. 

I remember a President who earned and kept the respect of congress. 

I remember a President who walked into the hospital with a bullet in him. 

I remember believing this country is going to make it. 

I'm sorry for those who do not remember.

Myles Culbertson grew up in the ranching and cattle business in New Mexico.  In his varied career, he has been engaged in agriculture, banking, and international trade and is the former Executive Director of the New Mexico Livestock Board.

Obama Locks up Waters, Threatens Livelihoods

Washington, D.C. (September 15th, 2016) –Today, President Obama announced his unilateral creation of a 4,900 square mile ocean monument. These waters in the newly created Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the Atlantic coast have been a primary source of livelihood for New England fishermen.

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At large) issued the following statement in response:

“Within just a matter of weeks, President Obama has overruled local voices in Maine with a new designation and dismissed public input in Hawaii by unilaterally expanding a marine monument off the state’s coast. Now, the president has designated a 4,900 square mile monument off our Atlantic coast with just a stroke of his pen. This monument threatens the livelihoods of local fishermen and American families. We need to reform the Antiquities Act to prevent this blatant abuse by legacy shopping presidents and ensure that local voices have a seat at the table.”

Since July:
·         August 24, Maine—87,500 acres
·         September 15, Atlantic Coast—4,900 square miles


Obama sets aside 10 million acres in California for renewable energy and conservation

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell approved Wednesday a plan to set aside 10.8 million acres of public land in the California desert for mostly conservation — with a dash of renewable energy. Nearly a decade in the making, phase one of the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan, or DRECP, provides a blueprint to help meet ambitious state and national climate goals and to site new solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects. The plan sets aside less than 388,000 acres for renewable energy development — on land that has been found to have the least possible conflict with conservation priorities. The plan will also streamline the permitting process for clean energy development, such as wind and solar projects, because environmental surveying has already been conducted in these zones. Under the DRECP, this land has the potential to generate up to 27,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, enough to power 8 million homes — three times the amount of solar energy that has been produced on public lands to date...more

Bundy trial: Oregon sheriff says he was threatened with ultimatum by militia

Oregon sheriff David Ward said Ammon Bundy and his armed supporters repeatedly threatened “to overthrow” him and tore apart his small rural community, in the first testimony in the high-profile militia standoff case. Ward’s town is still recovering from the impact of the Malheur national wildlife refuge occupation, the sheriff told a packed federal courtroom in Portland on the second day of the trial. “We’re still dealing with a lot of the fallout,” he said. The Bundys and their followers have long argued that federal authorities have no right to own or regulate public lands, and the activists traveled to Burns, a small town in eastern Oregon, to support two ranchers facing prison time. Father and son Dwight and Steve Hammond were convicted of federal arson charges in a case that for some ranchers and rural communities in the west symbolized government overreach. The Bundys had hoped that Ward, as the top county law enforcement leader, would take a stand against the federal government and defend the Hammonds from imprisonment. Ward testified that Ammon and another protester, Ryan Payne, met with him last November and threatened “civil unrest” if the sheriff didn’t intervene in the Hammonds’ case. “I was told that my responsibility was to prevent them from going to prison,” Ward said. “If I didn’t do those things, they would bring thousands of people to town to do my job.” Ward said the ultimatum was concerning and that the men told him: “We can’t control what they may or may not do.” The sheriff further testified that he had read about the Bundys’ 2014 fight with the government and was frightened: “The thought of that happening in my community scared the hell out of me.” The prosecution also presented 2015 emails from defendant Neil Wampler to Ward, including one that said if the sheriff did not support the Hammonds, the county would be “invaded by some of the most determined and organized – and armed – citizens alive in this country today”. In another message, Wampler wrote: “WE AIN’T PLAYIN.” Brian Needham, a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, also testified that one of the occupation leaders, Ryan Payne, told him in a meeting that he should consider killing Ward, his boss, and replacing him. Payne allegedly told him he “should use any means necessary [to remove Ward] ... including death”. Judge Anna Brown said she wanted to make it clear to the jury that the sentencing of the Hammonds was final – and that the sheriff had no legal mechanism to fight it. “The Hammonds had their process … A sheriff does not have the authority to change that.” During cross-examination, Marcus Mumford, Ammon’s attorney, repeatedly asked Ward if he believed the federal government had the authority to regulate public land in Oregon. At one point, the seemingly exasperated sheriff responded: “I’m not understanding your question. Did I investigate the federal government? … There’s 200 years of case law that shows that they can own … land.” Ward also clarified that he did not feel physically threatened by Ammon and never saw him carry a gun. A small crowd of flag-waving activists supporting the defendants gathered across the street from the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, carrying signs that said “Ranchers lives matter” and “Release the Malheur protesters”. A lone protester opposing the Bundys held up a poster that read: “No guns ... or explosions in our wildlife refuge.” Before the hearing, Lisa Bundy, Ammon’s wife, told the Guardian that the family has been repeatedly disappointed by Ward’s actions. “He has more power than any federal official did, and he put all the power in their hands, which made me think he didn’t want to deal with it,” she said. “So why is he in that office?” She added: “I would love for him to speak the truth … and not what he was told to say.”...more

Ryan Bundy says occupiers came to help in Oregon

An attorney for one of the leaders of the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon this year says his client did not conspire to impede U.S. government workers. That's the charge Ammon Bundy faces in a trial that began Tuesday in Portland for him, his brother Ryan and five other defendants. Ammon Bundy's lawyer, Marcus Mumford, told jurors during his opening statement, that the 41-day occupation was a legitimate attempt to take possession of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Mumford also told the U.S. District Court jury that only one side of the standoff shot anybody — a reference to the FBI's fatal shooting of armed protester Robert "LaVoy" Finicum during a traffic stop. Ryan Bundy, the brother of group leader Ammon Bundy, is acting as his own attorney. He told the court in opening statements Tuesday that he and others went to Burns, Oregon, to protest against the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires. The group's members have said they were protesting federal land use policy and wanted locals to control the area...more

Bear attacks bow hunter in Teton County

A bow hunter was attacked by a bear Tuesday in Teton County. Sheriff’s officials say the bear attacked the man from behind in the Skull Creek area northeast of Jackson. The man suffered bites to his arm and a scalp injury. Another hunter took the victim to a waiting ambulance in Jackson. The man’s condition wasn’t immediately available. Sheriff’s Lt. Slade Ross said the victim was alert and breathing. Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Gocke said investigators are on the scene looking for tracks and other evidence. It was not immediately known if the bear was a black bear or a grizzly. [link]

HT: Marvin Frisbey

Santa Cruz County residents call for local meeting on national monument

Farmers and loggers are not always on the same page, but they agree on this: Whoever writes the proclamation to include the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property as part of a national monument stretching along the California Coast better assure it’s not a burden on local fire and rescue services and potential traffic hazards are addressed. Both David Van Lennep, Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau president, and Bob Berlage, of Big Creek Lumber, urged Santa Cruz County supervisors to ask federal officials for a local meeting on the national monument. If that request is denied, then hold your own public meeting and invite those officials, said Lennep. Others spoke of trash left by an influx of visitors, resources needed for policing and protecting animal migration. “These things need to be addressed in a realistic way so we don’t ruin the North Coast,” said Doug Rowe, who lives in Davenport. Clay Peters, a Bonny Doon resident who worked for the National Park Service and the House Interior Committee, said it’s too late for Congressional action but “something could happen with a presidential proclamation.” He said he handed a letter detailing the local issues to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell six weeks ago. “Try to get a response to that letter,” Peters said...more

Cattlemen fund monument fight

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has invested $5,000.00 in a campaign led by Malheur County families to oppose a national monument designation that would restrict access to public lands, hurting Oregon’s economy by curtailing ranching in the state’s No. 1 cattle producing region. It seemed only fitting that during a class on locally born and bred cattle at the Malheur County Fair, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association presented to the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition $5,000.00 from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s Oregon Public Lands Council in front of over a hundred spectators. In an ongoing battle to create awareness to the possibility of the United States President locking up 2.5 million acres in an Owyhee Canyon National Monument Designation, the Oregon Public Lands Council made a physical and financial gesture in showing their support for the work of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition. An executive power such as this is set in the Antiquities Act of 1906, whose original creation was to provide general protection for any kind of cultural or natural resource. “History has proven that soon after such designation, grazing on public lands are diminished or eliminated int its entirety. One has only to look at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, signed into law 20 years ago by President Clinton in his last days of office,” said Matt McElligott President of the Oregon Public Lands Council...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1698

Since the previous songs this week were with Tex Williams and T. Texas Tyler, let's just make it a Tex Week with Tex Ritter and his 1945 recording of Bad Brahma Bull

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Behind the Monsanto Deal, Doubts About the GMO Revolution

Behind a wave of multibillion-dollar mergers in the agriculture business is a moment of change in American farming. The dominance of genetically modified crops is under threat. Since their introduction to U.S. farms 20 years ago, genetically engineered seeds have become like mobile phones—multifunctional and ubiquitous. Scientists inserted genes to make crops repel insects, survive amid powerful herbicides, survive on less water and yield oils with less saturated fat, in turn eliminating farmers’ amateur chemistry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates this year that 94% of soybean acres were planted with biotech varieties, and 92% of corn acres. Today, farmers are finding it harder to justify the high and often rising prices for modified, or GMO, seed, given the measly returns of the current farm economy. Spending on crop seeds has nearly quadrupled since 1996, when Monsanto Co. became the first of the companies to launch biotech varieties. Yet major crop prices have skidded lower for three years, and this year, many farmers stand to lose money. Biotech farming has also shown limitations, given how certain weeds are evolving to resist sprays, forcing farmers to fork out for a broader array of chemicals. Some are starting to seek out old-fashioned seed, citing diminished returns from biotech bells and whistles. Those pressures have touched off a frenzy of deal making among the world’s top seed and pesticide suppliers. Bayer AG on Wednesday said it agreed to buy Monsanto for $57 billion, creating one of the world’s largest agrochemical firms. DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. are pursuing a merger that would eventually spin off a combined agricultural business, along with two other units. Syngenta AG agreed in February to a $43 billion sale to China National Chemical Corp., after turning down a takeover proposal from Monsanto. Agrochemical groups are aiming to slash costs and build scale in response to the decline in crop prices, which has forced makers of seeds, crop chemicals, fertilizers and tractors to cut prices and lay off staff...more

Land made for you and me

IN GENERAL, any law that presidents mostly use in their second terms has unusual power to cause rows. Take the American Antiquities Act of 1906, giving presidents the right to protect landmarks and landscapes by declaring them national monuments—in the process bypassing Congress, which must approve new national parks and formal “wilderness” reserves. Safely past his last election, Barack Obama has been using the act with a will in recent weeks, creating a new national monument in the woods of Maine and more than quadrupling the size of a marine monument north-west of Hawaii, itself declared by George W. Bush during his second term. In all, Mr Obama has created more than two dozen national monuments, protecting more square miles of land and sea than any predecessor.

If these actions delight some, they alarm others—notably folk who run cattle, mine, log or otherwise exploit nature’s bounty in picturesque bits of America. One such place is the Owyhee basin of eastern Oregon, a remote landscape of wild rivers and vertiginous cliffs, and high desert edged with red and pink rocks. Before Mr Obama steps down, environmentalists, outdoor-leisure companies (including Keen, an Oregon-based shoe-maker) and some Democratic politicians want him to create an Owyhee Canyonlands National Monument covering as much as 2.5m acres.

Lots of monument-backers say that their main concern is possible oil and mineral extraction on what are today federally owned rangelands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), not grazing cattle. But ranchers are deeply wary. Bob Skinner, whose family reached the Owyhee basin in 1863, is so alarmed that, one morning earlier this summer, he took Lexington up in his own light aircraft on an endearingly transparent mission: to badmouth a landscape that, deep down, he clearly loves. That’s lava from an eruption 600 years ago, Mr Skinner shouts over the Cessna’s engine, pointing to an otherworldly expanse of crusted black rock. Terrible, razor-sharp lava, he scowls: “Will cripple a dog in ten minutes.” A deep canyon is “pretty”, he concedes. But as he putters 100 feet above flat, sagebrush-scented steppes that lie beyond it, he demands: “Once you’ve seen one mile of it, what’s more of it?” He is echoed by Larry Wilson, an elected commissioner for the surrounding region, Malheur County, also along for the ride. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees down there, says Mr Wilson: “This isn’t the kind of stuff that draws tourists.” Should any hikers try their luck, Mr Wilson adds doomily, the county has a tiny search-and-rescue budget. As the steppes roll on below, the men point out dirt roads that they fear might be barred to motor vehicles in a national monument, or creek-crossings that might be closed, forcing ranchers on 60-mile detours. Perhaps most of all, ranchers fear that a monument will open the door to endless lawsuits by environmental groups.

Sage grouse chicks are dying in droves, and humans and drought are to blame

For nine years, a team of researchers studied greater sage grouse hens in Nevada and basically watched their chicks die. “They just disappear,” said Dan Gibson who led a study of sage grouse that was released Wednesday. The researchers caught females, put tracking collars on them, followed them to the areas where they built nests and checked on them nearly every week for observations that ended in 2012. “You see a female and her brood and she’ll have seven chicks with her. A week later, she’ll have five. Then three. Until slowly it goes to zero.” This is the state of play in much of the vast sage brush sea that covers 11 Western states where sage grouse live. Once there were millions of them in Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. Now the federal government estimates that there are about 400,000. Gibson’s study, published in the Condor: Ornithological Applications journal, is one of a few that details how the demise is happening. Long story short, rampant energy excavation and large gold mining operations have torn up the bird’s natural habitat, and hens haven’t adjusted well in their search for nests. The researchers tracked the birds’ collars to 411 nests in eastern Nevada. Subtracting abandoned nests, they counted 350 with activity. Slightly more than a third were successful. They counted 862 chicks from about 100 hens. About 700 of the chicks died less than two months after hatching...more

Thune amendment seeks tighter control of prescribed burns

Tighter controls on prescribed burns by federal agencies were proposed Tuesday as an amendment to congressional wildfire and forest-management legislation. The amendment was offered by U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and adopted by unanimous consent during a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee. If enacted into law with the broader legislation, the amendment would require federal agencies to coordinate with state and local fire officials before authorizing a controlled burn when the National Fire Danger Rating System indicates an extreme fire danger. The amendment would also require the chief of the U.S. Forest Service to submit an annual report to Congress detailing the prescribed burns conducted during the preceding year. “We’ve seen in South Dakota federal agencies initiate prescribed burns in the past three years that have burned out of control,” Thune said Tuesday to the Senate Ag Committee. The prime example is the 2013 Pautre Fire, which Thune said began as a planned 100-acre prescribed burn on federal grassland in northwestern South Dakota but escaped to become a 16,000-acre wildfire. Numerous landowners suffered property damage in the fire, and some are involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the federal government...more

For the first time, U.S. and Mexico take stock of the underground water they share

An unknown number of aquifers dot the border along the U.S. and Mexico, groundwater both sides use for agriculture, irrigation, and cities. Likewise, how much border communities rely on them and the ways they are managed by either country remain largely unclear. For a decade, researchers have attempted to study these transboundary aquifers, but limited funding from the U.S. government and a dearth of information have hampered their efforts. Now, though, the first leg of research is wrapping up on two major water systems: the San Pedro and Santa Cruz aquifers along the Arizona-Sonora border. Researchers can now present a more unified picture of groundwater systems and collaborate on their management – an increasingly pressing challenge in the age of climate change, shifting precipitation patterns and extended drought. In 2006, the two countries signed the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act, which allowed for assessment of major aquifers along the borders of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico: the Hueco Bolson and Mesilla Basin aquifers below El Paso and Ciudad Juárez and Arizona’s San Pedro and Santa Cruz aquifers. Congress authorized $50 million from 2007 to 2016 for the project, but ended up providing only a fraction of that. Despite the limited budget, the research team from the U.S. Geological Survey, Mexico’s National Water Commission, the University of Arizona and the University of Sonora in Mexico finished a report about the San Pedro Aquifer. The San Pedro study, a preliminary version of which was released in January, focused on land ownership, water and soil quality, and precipitation. It marked the first time the two countries collaborated aquifer research. The complete version will be published later this year, and a similar study on the Santa Cruz Aquifer is expected early next year...more

Arizonans to House committee: Border strategy creates 'no man’s lands'

Rep. Martha McSally used the border subcommittee she now chairs as well as witnesses from rural Arizona on Tuesday to call attention to a Border Patrol strategy that they say devastates their land and puts lives at risk. The Border Patrol strategy, called “defense-in-depth,” focuses resources on urban areas along the border but moves checkpoints in rural areas to miles inside the border. That, the Tucson Republican said, has pushed illegal crossings to rural areas like the southern border of her congressional district. “On a routine basis, our fellow citizens are exposed to illicit activity that crosses the border, trespasses on their land, destroys their property and puts their lives at risk,” McSally said at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee. She said the policy hurts small businesses and tourism and needs to be re-examined. Peggy Davis’ family ranch is 12 miles southeast of Tombstone and 25 miles north of the Mexican border. She said illegal immigrants have “cut fences, drained water tanks, killed animals, robbed our home, slept in our barn, stole a vehicle, trampled the grass for our cattle, and left literally tons of trash.” Davis said she told the head of the Border Patrol who came up with the defense-in-depth strategy it was “the dumbest idea I had ever heard.” “This failed strategy has forced illegal aliens into the rural areas of Arizona where ranchers and other rural residents have become the first line of defense because the majority of the Border Patrol agents are north of where we live,” she said. Davis said her husband found the body of a drug runner on their ranch in July 2012. And she said her son was robbed by drug traffickers who even pried up the boards on the floor of his house and used his electric clippers to cut their hair. They left their hair on the floor, the county sheriff told Davis, as a sign that they could come and go as they pleased...more

Day 1: Refuge occupiers argue their actions were a protest

The armed occupiers who seized a remote bird sanctuary in Oregon early this year are being tried because their actions intimidated and threatened federal employees, not because they challenged the government’s land policies, a prosecutor said Tuesday as a trial began for seven people accused in the standoff. During his opening statement, Geoffrey Barrow dismissed claims by group leader Ammon Bundy and others that the takeover was a legitimate protest of federal land management. Bundy and his brother Ryan, who’s also on trial, are part of a Nevada ranching family embroiled in a long-running dispute over land use. “Everyone in this great nation has a right to his or her beliefs. We are not prosecuting the defendants because we don’t like what they think or said,” Barrow told jurors. “We are prosecuting them because of what they did.” Barrow said he will detail how the occupiers were divided into squads and drilled in hand-to-hand combat. He also said one of the participants in the standoff will testify against his former allies. Marcus Mumford, the defense attorney for Ammon Bundy, said in his opening statement that the occupation had nothing to do with impeding federal employees. Ammon Bundy “did what he did to demand accountability from the federal government,” Mumford said. “He demanded the federal government obey the law — the nerve.” Bundy grew up the son of a rancher, Mumford said, and became a “reluctant activist” on matters involving government overreach and Western lands. Mumford repeatedly asserted that Bundy was trying to legally take the refuge land by a practice known as adverse possession, which is a way to gain title to land by occupying it for a period of time. U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown stepped in to tell jurors that the concept of adverse possession is not being litigated. Mumford ended his statement by noting that Bundy and his followers never aimed a gun at anyone. Referencing the fatal shooting by police of occupation spokesman Robert “Lavoy” Finicum, he said only one side of the standoff shot someone. “And it wasn’t Mr. Bundy.” Ryan Bundy, who is acting as his own attorney, told the court he came to help another ranching family he felt was being abused by the government. “I felt we were not there to break the law but to enforce the law,” Ryan Bundy said, referring to the U.S. Constitution. “I am very in favor of government, as long as it’s done correctly.” Before lunch, the judge rejected his request to hand each juror a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution...more

Maine monument’s creation concerns Malheur County ranchers

The president’s recent creation of a national monument in Maine, despite local opposition, has Malheur County residents concerned. Ranchers and other Malheur County residents formed the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition this year to fight a proposed 2.5-million acre national monument in an area of the county known as the Owyhee Canyonlands. Malheur County residents voted 9-1 earlier this year in opposition to the proposal, which is being pushed by the Oregon Natural Desert Association, an environmental group in Bend, and Portland’s Keen Footwear. Monument opponents believe supporters will ask President Barack Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to create the Malheur County monument. On Aug 24, Obama declared 87,500 acres of land in northeast Maine as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Residents who live near that site also opposed that plan, as did the state’s governor, legislature and congressional delegation, according to the Washington Post. “It does heighten the concern he’s going to do it,” Jordan Valley rancher Mark Mackenzie said about the Maine declaration...more

“Wall’ talk creates more questions along busy U.S., Mexico border

With international trade rhetoric ramping up in this election year farmers on both sides of the border, U.S. and Mexican trade officials, and academics and political analysts are wondering what the future holds for agricultural trade with our southern neighbor? The issue points to growing problems that currently exist at border land ports that are now shadowed by political controversy, which could potentially create additional adversity in the years ahead. In spite of election-year negatives and cross-border trade challenges, a special research team sanctioned by the USDA’s Economic Research Service has recently conducted an extensive study to determine how the process of moving agricultural products across the border can be enhanced and improved. A team of nine researchers from both the U.S. and Mexico were charged with evaluating and recommending how to streamline the import/export of goods across the border, especially at busy land ports, in both a more efficient and secure manner in an effort to facilitate the increasing volumes of food and commodity products passing between the two nations...more

Should BLM euthanize wild horses? Advisory panel says yes

The Bureau of Land Management's decision last week to cancel a research project testing surgical sterilization methods for wild mares has once again ignited a fierce debate over how best to deal with growing herds of wild horses and burros that critics say are damaging Western rangelands. BLM announced Friday it was canceling the research partnership with Oregon State University to study the "safety and effectiveness" of three fertility control methods on wild mares in the face of several federal lawsuits from wild horse advocate groups. Those groups challenged the research as "inhumane". Now BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is recommending the agency take aggressive steps to sell the more than 40,000 wild horses it has rounded up and is caring for in corrals — and euthanize those horses it cannot sell or adopt. The advisory board's resolution approved at a meeting Friday in Elko, Nev., says BLM should take aggressive steps to comply with the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 "by offering all suitable animals in long- and short-term holding being unadoptable for sale without limitation or humane euthanasia." "Those animals deemed unsuitable for sale," the resolution states, "should then be destroyed in the most humane manner possible." The proposal has sparked heated debate on both sides of the issue. But there are currently an estimated 67,027 wild horses and burros on federal rangeland — nearly three times the 26,715 horses and burros that BLM says the rangelands can sustain. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires BLM to remove the excess 40,312 wild horses and burros in order to protect native wildlife and other rangeland resources. But the agency is already holding more than 46,000 horses and burros in off-range corrals and pastures, and it does not have the resources to round up and hold all the excess animals. Nor does it have the resources to care for the 46,000 horses and burros over the life of the animals, the agency says...more

The Big Drive (Bidegain)

Each fall, the T4 Ranch in New Mexico trails about 600 cow-calf pairs from the top of its Mesa Rica down to its corrals below, where the calves are weaned. The trip covers about 20 miles and includes a narrow, winding road that drops 1,000 feet off the mesa. In Montana, the CA Ranch organizes two drives each year. It moves 2,000 head more than 40 miles, taking the cows and their young calves to mountain pasture in the spring and returning just the cows to the lowlands for winter. Both ranches rely on seasoned horseback cowboys who under-stand the art of directing large bovine masses to a specific destination. It’s a complex task, especially when calves are involved. “The size of the calves will dictate the speed you’re going,” says Phil Bidegain, whose family owns and operates the T4. “The little ones are taking smaller steps, and they tend to fall into the drags. So you have to slow down and really keep an eye on the drags, make sure one of them doesn’t escape back to where he saw his mama last. Sometimes you have to stop and let them mate up again. “The calves we move are older and ready to be weaned, so it’s not as difficult.” The T4 trails half of its herd on the mesa to the corrals one day, weans the following day and returns the mama cows the third day. Then the same process is repeated for the remaining half. It helps that most of the cows are familiar with the annual trip, but that doesn’t make it automatic, especially when navigating the steep, switchbacked road. “Coming down, you have a couple of cowboys up front so everything doesn’t start rolling too fast,” Bide-gain says. “And you have guys on the sides keeping the cows on the road. Going up is more difficult than down. We take the cows in three or four groups up the road to the top. You don’t need anyone in front for that.”...more


Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1697

Why slow things down when we have T. Texas Tyler swingin' away with Much More Than The Rest.  The tune is on most of his collections including the Collector records Boppin' Hillbilly series.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Obama Administration Temporarily Blocks the Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the hundreds of Native protestors who have joined them in rural North Dakota won a huge but provisional victory in their quest to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, as the U.S. government announced late on Friday afternoon that it was voluntarily halting work on the project. The triumph tasted all the sweeter because it had followed so closely after a seemingly immense defeat. Mere minutes after a federal judge declined the Tribe’s request for an injunction to stop construction on the pipeline, the Obama administration made a surprise announcement that it would not permit the project to continue for now. “Construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time,” said a joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Army. “We request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.” The Army will now move to “reconsider any of its previous decisions” regarding whether the pipeline respects federal law, especially the National Environmental Policy Act, the statement said...more

Business, labor groups urge Arctic offshore oil lease sales

Business and labor groups launched a campaign Monday to include Arctic waters in the next federal five-year offshore oil leasing plan. The 20 groups, mostly based in Alaska, want the Obama administration to retain a Beaufort Sea lease sale in 2020 and a Chukchi Sea lease sale in 2022 within the five-year plan, which covers 2017-2022. A decision by the Interior Department is expected before the end of the year. Organized as the Arctic Coalition, the groups purchased a full-page ad in the Washington Post and plans a broadcast and social media campaign, said Lucas Frances, a spokesman for the Arctic Energy Center, one of the coalition groups. "It's a six-figure ad buy," Frances said. "It's focused, of course, to bring attention to the importance of keeping the Arctic leases in." Lease sales and Arctic offshore drilling is strongly supported by Alaska elected officials seeking new sources of oil to fill the trans-Alaska pipeline, now running at about one-quarter capacity. Arctic offshore drilling faces strong opposition by environmental groups. They say industrial activity will harm wildlife in a region already hit hard by climate warming and that petroleum companies have not demonstrated they can clean up spills in ice-choked waters. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in October cancelled Beaufort and Chukchi lease sales in the current five-year plan, citing market conditions and low industry interest...more

Russian Meteorologists Are Trapped By Polar Bears 2,800 Miles From Moscow

Sometimes you can't get out of the office because your email inbox is overflowing. Sometimes it's because there's a pack of deadly polar bears outside the door. Five meteorologists posted on a remote Russian island have been trapped for nearly two weeks by polar bears who've swarmed the area. Their weather station is on one of the Izvestiy TSIK Islands in the high Arctic — 2,800 miles from Moscow and closer to northern Canada than the Russian capital. Polar bears are not uncommon in the area, which is surrounded by pack ice in the winter, but the local population has more than doubled this year to around a dozen. And the stranded meteorologists have run out of the flares they use to scare off the beasts. "The bears live in the Arctic, you know — we can't ban them from hanging around," station supervisor Vasily Shevchenko told NBC News by telephone from the northern city of Arkhangelsk. "Worst case, the station chief has a gun." Some of the bears have taken to sleeping right outside the windows of the remote outpost, according to Russian news agency TASS, which spoke to some of the meteorologists via satellite phone. Since going outside amidst the animals is out of the question, the meteorologists have had to abandon some of their work...more

Tolerance News

DOE, DOI: New US offshore wind strategy could create 86 GW market by 2050

  • Ernest Moniz, the Secretary of Energy, and Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, have announced the publication of a collaborative strategic plan aimed at accelerating the development of offshore wind energy in the United States.
  • Moniz and Jewell said the new National Offshore Wind Strategy could help enable the development of 86 GW of offshore wind by 2050.
  • The Department of the Interior has already awarded 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support up to 14.6 GW of capacity.
Government officials chose the completion of the first U.S. offshore wind project to announce a strategic plan aimed at encouraging more offshore development. Last month Deepwater Wind completed construction of its 30-MW Block Island wind project in Rhode Island. The company is trying to build on that success with a proposed 90 MW wind farm off the southeast end of Long Island that is designed to be the first phase of the company’s much larger Deepwater One project. That plan envisions as much as 1,000 MW of offshore wind power in the waters between Montauk, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Despite successes in Europe and potential along the U.S. coasts, offshore wind power has been slow to get off the ground in the United States. A joint Department of Energy-Department of the Interior plan aims to address that situation. The plan targets three key challenges: reducing technical costs and risks, supporting effective stewardship, and improving market conditions for investment in offshore wind project...more

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell expected to OK desert plan

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will be in Palm Desert on Wednesday, where she is expected to approve the first phase of a renewable energy and conservation plan for California’s deserts. Jewell will attend a signing ceremony for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan at the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument visitor center in Palm Desert, according to a press advisory. The sweeping plan covers 10 million acres of public lands in the deserts of seven California counties, including Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles. It strives to speed up approvals for solar, wind and geothermal projects creating energy development zones in locations where such projects would do the least amount of harm to wildlife habitat and other natural and cultural resources. The final plan has not been released, but it’s expected to give new protections to some of the most sensitive and pristine wildlife habitats left in the nation. The plan has been in the works for eight years...more

Malheur trial: Judge rules Facebook evidence stays in

On the eve of opening statements in the trial of 7 people facing charges in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Judge Anna J. Brown denied a motion to suppress information found on their Facebook pages. The attorney for David Fry argued the federal government failed to make sure certain material separated from the evidence was not sealed or destroyed. Though Judge Brown denied the motion to suppress the Facebook evidence, she did admonish “the government for its lack of diligence in failing to ensure” that data was sealed or destroyed...more

Oklahoma State Lawmakers Write to California Ranchers- Inviting Them to Move Their Operations to Oklahoma

Oklahoma State Representative Scott Biggs, R- Chickasha, was among a group of Representatives today that saw an opportunity to help Oklahoma grow and expand its economic base. These Representatives today started sending out invitations to farmers and ranchers in California to consider relocating to Oklahoma. This is due to recent legislation in California that will push family farms out of business by unnecessary statutes and agency rules. “The passing of SB1383 by the California legislature will require a 40 percent reduction in methane gas production by cattle ranchers by 2030. This is just the latest in legislation that will drive the small family farms out of business and force them off the farm. We wanted to make it clear to California cattle ranchers and farmers, that they have another option. They can consider moving to a state that values what they do and supports them in their way of life,” said Rep. Biggs...more

California Farmworkers to Get Overtime Pay After 8 Hours Under New Law

California agricultural workers will become the first in the U.S. to receive overtime pay if they work more than eight hours a day, under a law signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The law means that farmworkers in the state will be treated like employees in other industries, where overtime generally is paid after a standard eight-hour day. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established a national minimum wage, overtime and the 40-hour workweek among work standards, exempted farmworkers. Before the law was signed, farmworkers here made overtime pay if they worked more than 10 hours a day or 60 hours a week. Only California and three other states—Hawaii, Maryland and Minnesota—offered any overtime pay for farmworkers, according to the office of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat who authored the law...more

Rancher gets probation for castrating neighbor's horses

An Iron County rancher accused of castrating a neighbor’s horses has been sentenced to 18 months of probation. The Salt Lake Tribune reports 79-year-old Marvin Jay Hunt was also ordered Wednesday to write a letter of apology and pay over $2,000 in fines and restitution. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor count of wanton destruction of livestock. Hunt and his 41-year-old son, Colby, had gotten into an argument with neighbor Allen Bailey about the breeding of their horses on private land near the Nevada border. Bailey says the Hunts castrated his animal after it started mating with their mares. A status hearing for Colby Hunt’s case is set for Sept. 20. The Hunts have also filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county over their arrests.   AP

Descendants of Utah massacre victims see likely gravesites

 ST. GEORGE, Utah — Nearly 160 years after the massacre of a wagon train in southern Utah, the pioneers' descendants got their first glimpse of what is believed to be their gravesites. The Spectrum of St. George reports that descendants of the Mountain Meadows Massacre victims gathered Saturday about 35 miles southwest of Cedar City. In August 2014, California archaeologist Everett Bassett found what appeared to be two gravesites on a rancher's land. Bassett led the descendants, some of whom came from across the country, around the site. The Baker-Fancher wagon train from Arkansas was heading to California when it stopped in the meadows on Sept. 11, 1857. That is when a Mormon militia shot and killed 120 men, women and children. The site was dedicated as a national historic landmark in 2011.  AP

Historic Mora County raspberry farm sold to Texas rancher

The historic Salman Raspberry Ranch in Mora County, a scenic outpost and tourist stop that has been owned and operated by a prominent northern New Mexico family for decades, has been sold to a Texas-based rancher whose firm is one of the biggest property owners in the United States. The property transfer of 2,229 acres, including the six-acre berry farm, to G. Hughes Abell of Austin was recorded July 21 at the Mora County Clerk’s Office. Abell, who about 16 years ago purchased an adjacent, 30,000-plus acres of the Salman family’s holdings, said he plans no changes to the store, cafe and raspberry patch located in the La Cueva community between Mora and Las Vegas, other than a few minor upgrades. Rumors that visitors will no longer be able to pick their own berries aren’t true, he said. “Just tell people to come pick raspberries, buy something at the store and eat at the café,” he said in a phone interview. “We’ll try to make it the same experience it’s always been.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1636

We always start the week swingin', so here's Spade Cooley & Tex Williams - Crazy 'Cause I Love You.  The tune reached #4 on the 1947 charts and is available on the CD Spadella!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Top EPA Official Slams ‘Dickheads’ At White House For Not Regulating Fracking

A former senior EPA official known for coordinating with environmentalists slammed the White House for pushing back on agency plans to regulate hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas, text messages show. Michael Goo, EPA’s policy chief at the time, texted Sierra Club lobbyist John Coequyt that if environmentalists “want any hope of regulation of fracking then give us more time to try and remove the gun from our head and talk sense into OMB dickheads.” “If you want the oil and gas nsps to give fracking a free pass, as OMB would like then don’t give us the extension,” Goo texted Coequyt, referring to proposed EPA New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for oil and gas fracking, according to The Washington Free Beacon. OMB refers to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget...more

Man cleared in Oregon standoff expected charge to be dropped

A man who had been charged in connection with the occupation of a national wildlife refuge says he holds no ill will against prosecutors and that he knew he would not be found guilty. Peter Santilli tells the Oregonian/OregonLive ( ) that he knew his charge of conspiracy would not stick. Prosecutors filed a motion last week to dismiss the charge. When the government floated the idea of a plea agreement, Santilli was not having it. "I would rather spend a year fighting to get my cases dismissed or a deal for time served," Santilli said. "I'm not going to be strong-armed into pleading guilty to something I didn't do." The 50-year-old is an independent broadcaster from Cincinnati, Ohio, who live-streamed the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which began Jan. 2 and lasted for 41 days. He contends he covered the protest as a journalist and stayed at the Silver Spur Motel rather than the refuge. Eleven of 26 defendants indicted in the refuge takeover case entered guilty pleas. Seven are in trial. Seven others are set for trial in February. Santilli said he didn't support the takeover of the refuge and instead had supported Ammon only in the Jan. 2 protest in Burns where they demonstrated against the return to federal prison of two Harney County ranchers convicted of setting fire to federal land. Bundy and supporters went from there to the refuge...more

Twin Metals sues federal government over right to mine near BWCA Wilderness

Twin Metals Minnesota fired back against the federal government Monday with a lawsuit saying regulators lack the authority to deny it access to copper ore deposits next the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The federal government is considering whether or not to renew Twin Metals' mineral leases for a fiercely contested proposed copper-nickel mine on the Kawishiwi River on the edge of the Boundary Waters. In February, federal regulators announced they would not automatically renew the leases as they have before — a step that echoed concerns of Gov. Mark Dayton and could prove fatal to the mining plan. Instead, they took the unusual step of asking for public comment on whether mining is in the best interest of the Superior National Forest. In the coming months it is expected to announce a decision on whether it will renew the leases or launch a longer environmental review. In a statement released Monday, Twin Metals, a subsidiary of the international mining conglomerate Antofagasta, said, "An essential component of Twin Metals' mineral rights is its entitlement to non-discretionary renewal of these leases. The government has long recognized this renewal right."...more

Ranchers fear drug cartels more than immigrants at US-Mexico border

On a sweltering summer evening in southern Arizona, dozens of carpet-soled moccasins lie along the portico of a ranch 20 miles from Mexico, serving as a reminder of one of the biggest problems on the border: not illegal immigration, but drug trafficking. Interrupted only by the cicadas, Jim Chilton, a fifth-generation rancher, and his wife Sue explain that Mexican drug mules, who routinely traverse their 50,000 acres of land, cover the soles of the moccasins — which are then worn over shoes — with carpet to avoid leaving tracks that US border agents could follow. Mr Chilton, whose ranch stretches back to a simple barbed wire fence that separates the US from Mexico, was speaking the day before Donald Trump hardened his stance on illegal immigrants in a speech in Phoenix. The rancher says he backs the mogul and his plan to build a wall on the border because it would reduce the influence of the Mexican cartels. “We live in an area controlled by the Sinaloa cartel,” says Mr Chilton who has installed motion-sensor cameras on his land to capture video of the drug mules. “We have a mountain back here, Sinaloa cartel scouts resided on it. [On] all of the mountains back here, we’ve seen cartel scouts … In fact, they may be watching us now.” While Mr Trump’s wall has resonated from Iowa to Ohio, as well as with Mr Chilton, many border residents in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California are not concerned about illegal immigrants. A recent poll by Cronkite News, Univision News and The Dallas Morning News found that 72 per cent of Americans in border cities opposed the wall, although there has been no comparable study for rural areas, where the population is less Hispanic and where drug traffickers tend to have an easier time getting into the US than at the official border ports...more

Canada funding ‘revolutionary’ development of drones to turn cattle ranching from art into science

The federal government is investing in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles that will sweep down into fields, use sophisticated cameras to scope landscapes and radio frequencies to track their targets — but the commands will be in the hands of cattle ranchers. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council awarded Thompson Rivers University in B.C. a grant of $663,940 over the next three years to fund the development of UAVs for precision cattle ranching, or individually monitoring each cow for maximum yield. John Church, an associate professor of natural resource science at Thompson Rivers University is leading what he calls “revolutionary” research into cattle farming. “(Cattle ranching) is done by guess and by golly; it’s more of an art than a science,” Church, who is a fourth-generation cattle rancher himself, said. “When UAVs are not being used for killing people, they have unlimited potential to transform this industry.” In partnership with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Church and a team of researchers will modify existing UAVs to monitor plant growth and water quality on pastures using near-infrared, multi-spectrum cameras attached to the drones. Higher-quality feed in the pastures will lead to higher-quality beef. Thermal cameras in the drones can also spot cattle from the air — even hidden beneath a forest canopy, he said. In the future, Church envisions drones being able to target individual weeds and spray a treatment targeting each one, not an entire pasture. The drones can also used be to herd cattle, Church said, but the process hasn’t been perfected and drones are better used for monitoring. “The cattle are afraid of the drone and want to run away… but if you don’t chase them with it, they learn to tolerate the UAVs exceptionally well,” Church said. “I’ve been within eight metres. As soon as they feel the wind from the propellers, they’ll move.” Church will also look into building specialized antennas to the UAVs that would allow them to detect radio frequencies from unique tags attached to each cow’s ear. Since the mad cow disease scare, Church said, each cow is required to have a radio tag.By using the drone to follow the signals to a location near its bovine target, ranchers could then use the antenna attached to it to find cattle from 12 metres away.  Ranchers can then use the UAV’s GPS system to get the precise location of cattle...more

Defendants' intent the central question in Oregon standoff trial

Ammon Bundy, his brother and co-defendants transformed the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge into a ramshackle camp this winter, manned the perimeter with military-style armed patrols and warned of violence against anyone who attempted to remove them while declaring the refuge a "base place for patriots from all over the country,'' prosecutors will argue this week. What a jury must decide is whether their actions and intent amounted to a crime. The trial pits the federal government against a group of self-described patriots who fervently believe public lands are in the wrong hands. The case will help to further establish when political protest protected by the First Amendment crosses the line into words and deeds that will send you to prison, and what the legal limitations are to constitutional guarantees of free speech, assembly and the right to bear arms. Seven defendants have pleaded not guilty to the federal charge of conspiring to impede U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers from conducting their work at the refuge through intimidation, threats or force. Five of the seven are also charged with possession of firearms in a federal facility. Two face an additional count of government property theft. Margaret L. "Margie" Paris, a law professor and former University of Oregon School of Law dean, said much is at stake. "The prosecutors must put to bed the crazy constitutional notions that the defendants have,'' Paris said. "They have to be able to get a conviction here and meaningful sentences because there are people waiting to repeat this activity. It'll be an important deterrent.'' The highly anticipated trial in Portland's downtown federal courthouse is expected to last more than two months and will revisit in detail the politically and emotionally charged 41-day refuge occupation that drew national and international attention to Oregon...more