Saturday, October 08, 2016

Feds Thinking About Killing 31,000 Mining Jobs To Protect A Chicken

by Andrew Follett

A new report has government officials considering setting 10 million acres of across six states in the American west off limits to mining and development to protect the chicken-like Greater Sage Grouse, which is not an endangered species.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report found that much of the Sage Grouse’s habitat sits on top of extremely valuable deposits of minerals including gold, copper, lithium, silver, uranium and many others. The USGS report means that the government’s most restrictive grouse protection plan could kill even more than 31,000 jobs and lead to more than $5.6 billion in reduced annual economic output, estimated by a Western Energy Alliance report.

Federal agencies have already frozen new mining claims across the 10 million acres while they do another environmental impact study.

The Sage Grouse is not listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said the grouse doesn’t need federal protections under the Act for at least the next 4 years. Research from the Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies published in 2015 found that the species’ population had increased by 63 percent over the last two years to a total breeding population of 424,645.

Federal officials previously told state governments to create plans to protect the grouse, but are now going back on their own word to force federal grouse conservation plans which would slow or stop development.

U.S. marshals end Ammon Bundy's contact visits with lawyers in courthouse over 'disrespect'

A dust-up between Ammon Bundy and a deputy U.S. marshal late Thursday while defendants and their lawyers were allowed to remain in a federal courtroom to confer after the conspiracy trial had adjourned for the day has resulted in reduced privileges for Bundy. Bundy got onto an online chat room using his defense lawyer's computer in Courtroom 9A to send a message to his wife, and the deputy told him to stop and get off the computer, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Bundy was "very disrespectful'' and declared he wasn't going to follow the deputy's directions, saying: "I'm not going to do what you want,'' Deputy U.S. Marshal Troy Gangwisch told U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones in a brief status hearing Friday afternoon. Bundy's defense lawyer, Marcus Mumford, told the court that he was about 10 to 15 feet away when the dispute occurred. Mumford said his client just wanted to send his wife a message, telling her that he loved her. "All I heard was the aftermath,'' Mumford said. "The marshal and Mr. Bundy exchanged words.'' As a result, the U.S. Marshals Service moved to end the special accommodations the court had made for Bundy to meet together with his lawyers, as well as brother Ryan Bundy, a co-defendant in the trial, in a locked room in the courthouse as they've done about 20 times to help them prepare and work on their defense. Instead, the marshals are allowing Bundy to meet with his lawyer in one of the courthouse interview rooms, where the defendant is separated from the lawyer by a see-through screen. Mumford urged the court to allow the earlier accommodation. "We would still want to meet with Mr. Bundy in a contact setting'' to review evidence that is still expected to be presented in the ongoing case, he said. "This is an episode we could put as water under the bridge, perhaps,'' Mumford offered. But Jones said he would maintain the restrictions...more

Ammon Bundy Gets Continuance in Nevada

Because he's tied up defending himself in Oregon, Ammon Bundy will get an extra week to file pretrial motions in the federal case against him in Nevada. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen on Friday granted Bundy's unopposed motion to extend until Oct. 10 the deadline for filing Rule 12 pretrial motions. Federal prosecutors have until Nov. 9 to file replies, and Bundy until Nov. 16 to reply to those. Bundy said in his motion that he had to prepared to testify in the Oregon trial, and his attorney Daniel Hill, with Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin, had no opportunity to discuss updates in discovery or pretrial motions with him for the past month. Hill filed the motion for continuation on Thursday...more

Public Lands an issue in Presidential Race

It was just 4 1/2 years ago that Utah Representative Ken Ivory passed HB148 The Transfer of Public Lands Act with overwhelming support in the Utah Legislature. What was then laughed at by opponents has found its way all the way to the top political debates in the nation...the race for the United States President.
Hillary_and_Trump.jpegAs was reported in The Idaho Stateman both Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton have been persuaded to make public statements about their intentions concerning the public lands of the West as this issue has been brought to the attention of the public through The American Lands Council and other like-minded groups.
"Trump Jr., 38, said his father would 'keep public lands public and accessible,' when he spoke in Grand Junction, Colo., Sept. 22.
“'We can have grazing, we can have energy, we can have hunting and fishing on the same lands.,' he said to an audience of hunters, oil-patch workers, ranchers and their families. 'We can multipurpose these lands, and we can do it in a way that’s smart and preserves the land and everybody wins, and we can see some of that prosperity come back to this country.”"
Clinton's position on public lands appears to continue in the direction of Democrat presidents before her. "Clinton policy director Jake Sullivan [said] Clinton would invest billions in programs to expand renewable energy — solar, wind, geothermal — by tenfold on public lands and expand spending through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which makes grants for park and open space purchases."
Any way you look at it, the push to bring the public lands issue to the forefront of the American consciousness has been a tremendous success as individuals, counties and states have made their voices heard. Have you made your voice heard? 
Please make yourself familiar with the Public Policy Statement of the American Lands Council, which was unanimously ratified by representatives from 14 states and know the rights of your state. Make your voice heard in your community by educating others and sharing the resources available.
 We thank you for being a part of the American Lands Council and this great movement!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Why Was a 26-Year-Old Computer Whiz from Ohio the Last Man Standing at Malheur?

When the time came for David Fry to come out with his hands up, he huddled inside a tent of blue and white tarps and flicked a lighter at an unlit cigarette. He held a cellphone at his ear. On the other end, thousands of people listened. “OK, David,” said a voice on a bullhorn outside the tent. Fry paused and inhaled, then screamed out into the clear morning cold, “Unless my grievances are heard, I will not come out!” Outside, federal agents had surrounded him 15 hours before. It was February 11, just before 10:40 a.m. There were armored vehicles, agents in flak jackets, negotiators. A state representative arrived, pleading with Fry to come out. An evangelical preacher, too. A nearby roadblock stopped reporters and television cameras from getting any closer to the shoddy camp, situated on the muddy western edge of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in southeastern Oregon, where Fry now sat alone. For 41 days, the middle-of-nowhere 187,000-acre bird refuge had been controlled by a group of armed men and women who believe that, according to the Constitution, public land belongs not to the federal government but to the people who live there. And they wouldn’t leave until it was given back. “I have to stand my ground. It’s liberty or death,” Fry said into his phone. More than 2,000 miles away, in an Ohio suburb, Fry’s father, Bill, tuned in to hear his son square off with federal agents. He turned up the volume on his speakers in the cluttered computer room of the family home. When the livestream began the night before, it was too much for his wife, Sachiyo. As federal agents closed in, the last remaining occupiers screamed at them to leave, cried to the livestream that they would die here, and taunted FBI agents, yelling, “Kill us and get it over with!” Sachiyo ran upstairs to bed, unable to bear the thought that she might, at any second, hear her son be killed. He was an unlikely holdout: a 27-year-old, rail-thin, long-haired, half-Japanese computer whiz who left his cozy upstairs bedroom in his parents’ house in Blanchester, Ohio, and drove a beat-up 1988 silver Lincoln Town Car across seven states in the dead of winter to join the ranks of cowboys, militiamen, ranchers, anti-Muslim activists, sovereign citizens, and veterans staging what some hoped would become a violent standoff with federal officers. Against the pleas of people on the phone, against the goading of an FBI negotiator, just after 11:30 a.m., Fry lay down on his sleeping bag and put a gun to his head. “I’m a free man,” he said. “I will die a free man.” Across the country, Bill Fry listened carefully...more

Prosecutor Cross-Examines Ammon Bundy For 15 Minutes

A federal prosecutor spent little more than 15 minutes cross-examining Ammon Bundy, who for the last three days has been testifying in his defense in the trial of seven people accused of occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In a series of rapid-fire questions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight asked Bundy about his leadership of the occupation, his views on public lands and the presence of firearms on the refuge. Knight began by asking if Bundy was the leader of the occupation. When Bundy said no, Knight pointed to earlier testimony in which Bundy referred to himself as “sort of” the leader. Bundy then clarified by saying he teaches the people principles and then lets them govern themselves. Knight also asked Bundy if he had a $530,000 federal loan back by the Small Business Administration to support his fleet management business. Regarding the loan, Bundy responded “I’m not sure that’s not allowed by the Constitution.” During cross-examination, Bundy acknowledged he hoped to take over the refuge through adverse possession — a common law principle that allows a person to occupy and manage property as a way to transfer ownership. Knight asked Bundy if he made changes to the refuge. Bundy said he had made changes to refuge signs but denied building a road or accessing government computers. Earlier in the day during direct testimony and then questioning by the defense, Ammon Bundy said that he ate at a local Chinese restaurant, got a haircut and visited his home in Idaho three times — all while the occupation was going on. Bundy testified he was never arrested as he went about everyday business during the midst of the takeover. But that isn’t to say he didn’t notice a police presence around the refuge. “You couldn’t go through Burns without seeing law enforcement,” Bundy told the court...more

Oregon Standoff Trial: Ammon Bundy Thought Takeover Was "Win-Win-Win" Going In

"We felt it was a win, win, win situation going into the refuge," Ammon Bundy said on the stand Thursday, capping a third day of testimony in federal court in Portland. Bundy is one of seven people on trial on charges stemming from the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. "I knew there was a risk, of course, but I felt the entire time it was worth it." Bundy, led through testimony by his lawyer, Marcus Mumford, told jurors about life during the occupation - focusing on some of the more mundane moments such as going into Burns for a haircut and Chinese food, meeting with ranchers, leading prayer sessions, and giving talks on property rights. And there were the not-so mundane moments such as January 26th when he and others were arrested as they were headed to a meeting with Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer. Bundy talked about the stop, the fear he felt, about what would happen if he even moved. "They were constantly threatening to open fire," he told jurors. "I had red dots all over me. "I believed my life was in extreme danger if I moved in any way. I didn't even reach to pick up my hat in the seat next to me because I was afraid I'd get shot.'" Bundy's associate, LaVoy Finicum - who sometimes acted as the occupation spokesman - was killed that day when he ran from the traffic stop and reached for a gun. Bundy described learning that Finicum had been shot when, under arrest, he encountered two associates who had been traveling with Finicum. "Victoria Sharp and Shawna Cox were in the van. Ryan and LaVoy were not,'' he said. "They very emotionally told me LaVoy had been shot.'' Assistant United States Attorney Ethan Knight objected. Judge Anna Brown reminded lawyers - not for the first time in the trial - that the only thing to be brought up about Finicum's death are when and where he was shot...more

Ammon Bundy: Guns allowed Oregon refuge occupiers to express First Amendment rights

And so the cross-examination went, with the prosecutor highlighting key testimony that Bundy offered earlier in his federal conspiracy trial that seemed to bolster the government's case against him: There was a "unified purpose'' to the occupation, guns played a role in helping carry out the refuge takeover, that Bundy knew federal employees worked at the site and Bundy and others used parts of the refuge as their own. Knight's quick questions in a combative tone were striking in contrast to the soft-spoken questions that Bundy's lawyer Marcus Mumford asked during about 10 hours of direct examination. The prosecutor asked if it were true that Bundy testified earlier Thursday that "We were all there for a unified purpose.'' Bundy said he didn't remember. Knight pointed out that Bundy had testified that he gave Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward no ultimatums or threats. "But you told him unless he agreed with your demands, there would be extreme civil unrest?'' Knight asked. "I don't believe I said that,'' Bundy responded. Knight referred to Bundy's testimony that he used a GPS to find the Malheur refuge when he went there on Jan. 2, the start of the occupation. "You had to use GPS to get there even though you planned to control it until 2036?'' Knight asked incredulously, referring to Bundy's contention that he was trying to stake claim to the property through adverse possession. Bundy's lawyer Marcus Mumford objected to the form of the question. "My question is you went to a location you've never been before for that purpose?'' Knight continued. "You're assuming I'm acknowledging it's a federal property,'' Bundy replied. "We were there disputing it was a federal property.'' "So you're saying the property you went to was not, in your belief, a federal property?'' "No,'' Bundy said. "Yet you were trying to adversely possess it ... isn't that correct?'' Knight questioned. "Yes,'' Bundy replied. Knight pounced on Bundy's direct testimony earlier in the day about a maroon pouch, which had been locked in a refuge filing cabinet but was found later in one of the defendant's cars. It contained cash, refuge gas cards, credit cards and a refuge employee ID card, according to earlier testimony. Bundy said during direct testimony that someone had brought the pouch to him during the occupation and it contained cash. He said he placed it in the loft of refuge biologist Linda Beck's office, where he was staying, to keep it secured. "It wasn't ours. We didn't have a right to use it,'' Bundy testified. Knight reminded Bundy of his statements and asked, "Yet you felt differently about the rest of the refuge, isn't that right?'' Bundy said the pouch was "clearly separate from the refuge'' as it contained receipts from the nonprofit Friends of the Malheur Refuge, which supports the sanctuary. "We could see receipts and we knew the money was not ours,'' Bundy testified. "And that property was different than all the other property at the refuge?'' Knight pressed. "It needed to be secured, yes,'' Bundy replied. Bundy added that the gas and credit cards were placed in the pouch by people occupying the refuge. Knight questioned Bundy whether he knew federal employees worked at the refuge. In response to further questions, Bundy said yes, the signs were changed and the kitchen was used, but he testified that he hadn't accessed any computers or built any new roads, as Knight suggested. "I assumed they did,'' Bundy answered. Knight asked if he made changes to the property? Bundy asked what he meant by "changes.''In response to further questions, Bundy said yes, the signs were changed and the kitchen was used, but he testified that he hadn't accessed any computers or built any new roads, as Knight suggested. Knight said guns were brought to "keep the federal government away," right? "No,'' Bundy responded. Yet Knight reminded him of his testimony that if the occupiers hadn't brought firearms to the refuge, they likely would have been hauled off in zip ties and handcuffs in a paddy wagon. "So the presence of guns prolonged your presence?'' Knight asked. "It protected us from being detained,'' Bundy said. "I would say they allowed us to express our First Amendment rights.''...more

These are the places Obama may protect by January

Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Obama has created or expanded 28 national monuments, using his power under the century-old Antiquities Act. In the last two months alone, he quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, set aside 87,000 acres in Maine as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and created the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

Most environmentalists think he's not done. Some predict Obama will create three or four more monuments before his term ends.

But which ones?

Under the Antiquities Act, Obama is able to unilaterally set aside federal land. He doesn't have to hold public hearings, get local support or ask Congress.

Obama's willingness to use the act — and the approaching end of his presidency — has also resulted in a steady stream of pitches by conservationists, including for a former artillery range in Texas and seamounts off California's shores.

So far, however, Obama has generally stuck to a pattern before announcing a monument. It usually begins with a proposal from an advocacy group, gains steam in a local public meeting with an administration official and takes shape in legislation from local lawmakers that the White House can build upon.

After a few tweaks, Obama rolls out the announcement with all the attending fanfare. Here are some of the more likely candidates:

Trailing of the Sheep: 1,500 sheep parade highlights Ketchum festival

Sheep shearer John Balderson spends 300 days a year on the road, shearing 30,000 sheep a year. He gets $4 a sheep, but black sheep are not worth even the bag their fleece is bagged in. “Their fleece is coarse and ranchers don’t like having their black hairs mingling with the white, although there is some use for it in insulation,” he said. “Black sheep are outcasts. That’s where the term ‘black sheep of the family’ comes from.” Balderson is just one attraction among many in a five-day festival that celebrates a way of life that is still going on as sheepherders move their flocks from summer pastures in the mountains to ranches in the Magic Valley and Carey areas. A 20th anniversary Celebration and Sheepherder’s Ball on Saturday night will honor the founders of the festival, while serving up hors d’oeuvres, musical performances and a Sheepherder’s Ball featuring Hot Club of Cowtown of Austin, Texas. The culmination, as always, is the Trailing of the Sheep Parade at noon Sunday where 1,500 of Gooding rancher John Faulkner’s sheep will follow Basque dancers, Scottish bagpipers and others through town in front of thousands of cheering people...more

How did Baby Head get its name?

The men raced toward the large hill, knowing a child’s life lay in the balance. The men, settlers from north of Llano, pursued a group of raiding Indians. The Indians, thought to be Comanche, had taken the little girl during the raid. Native Americans often kidnapped white children, keeping them as their own and raising them as part of their tribe. The men raced along, hoping to rescue the girl. Up ahead, the party of Indians, some on foot and some on horseback, tried to outdistance the settlers. They climbed a hill north of Llano but realized that, at the pace they were going, they probably wouldn't escape their pursuers. Somewhere on the rocky hill among the trees and outcroppings, the Indians realized the child was holding them back. So, according to oral histories, they did the unthinkable: They murdered the girl and left her head on a pole leaning against a rock for the settlers to find. Imagine the horror of the men as they climbed that hill and saw the macabre scene. While not necessarily a ghostly haunt, that hill — referred to as Baby Head Mountain — and the nearby community of Baby Head conjure up the terrifying event from the 1800s that's part of the Highland Lakes' haunted past. But this is just one account of how the Baby Head community, located about 15 miles north of Llano, got its name. Though most of the details are similar, the year and the people involved are a bit different in each telling. In one account, the perpetrators are very different than the ones in the accepted narrative. Most, if not all, of the accounts behind the name come from oral stories. According to the historical marker placed at Baby Head Cemetery, the above incident happened in the 1850s, with one account putting it in 1855. And it’s been pretty much accepted for years. Then, in 1983, John E. Conner’s memoir, “A Great While Ago,” came out. Conner, who was about 98 when he finished his memoirs and spent his boyhood in Llano County, recounted a different take on the Baby Head name genesis. According to Conner, the incident actually occurred in 1873, and it might have involved the group of Indians who fought settlers south of Llano on Packsaddle Mountain. In his account, Conner said the Indians raided the area and kidnapped Bill Buster’s daughter. The Indians raced off with the child, who — depending on the version — was an infant or as old as 4. The settlers pursued the Indians, but it was a few days later, after possibly being alerted by circling vultures, that they recovered the child’s remains with only her head distinguishable...more

BLM chooses transmission line routes that avoid private land, sage grouse habitat

The Bureau of Land Management choose routes Thursday for the Gateway West high-power transmission line that avoid private land, sage-grouse habitat and the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. The routes have been a source of controversy with residents critical of previous plans that sought primary to avoid the Birds of Prey area. Idaho State BLM director Tim Murphy said the agency had to ensure the area received “a heightened level of protection and care.” “Another important effort we’ve undertaken is working with the state and other essential partners to protect high-quality sage grouse habitat throughout Southern Idaho,” Murphy said. “The routes we have selected honor both of these priorities while also providing a path forward for this important project.”...more

Read more here:

Feds weigh mineral mining ban on 10M acres to protect sage grouse

The federal government is using a new assessment of mineral resources on 10 million acres in six Western states to decide whether to ban potential mining on the land to protect an imperiled bird. Scientists completed the 800-page review that looked at areas with high numbers of sage grouse and high-quality habitat for the bird. The review, requested by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, was released Tuesday. The BLM says the study will help it evaluate the economic and environmental trade-offs of withdrawing the public lands from mining in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming for 20 years. "The report is critical to give us an idea of what the potential is for development," said BLM spokesman Mark Mackiewicz. The agency plans to release a draft environmental impact statement in December outlining possible alternatives. The proposed withdrawal of the lands — subject to an 1872 mining law meant to encourage development of Western land — is part of new U.S. policies announced in late 2015. At the same time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said sage grouse didn't need federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, a decision that will be reviewed in about four years. Under the 1872 mining law, federal officials don't have the discretion to deny mining claims. Withdrawing the 10 million acres from being subject to that law would allow BLM officials to block mining claims. The 10 million acres are already under a temporary freeze from new mining claims while the BLM prepares the environmental impact statement. The freeze doesn't affect mining claims already in place...more

Grazing to continue as before at Craters of the Moon

In a document released this week, the BLM expressed plans to continue livestock grazing on its portion of Craters of the Moon National Monument without any major changes. Most of the 1,100-square-mile monument east of Carey is managed by the National Park Service, and no grazing is allowed on that portion, which includes extensive areas of lava rock. But about 430 square miles of sagebrush and grass ecosystem there are managed by the BLM, which has issued grazing permits to 16 ranchers. On Oct. 3, the BLM released a 400-page draft environmental impact statement and amendment to its 2007 management plan, which remains in effect. The new document was completed in response to a 2011 court ruling ordering the agency to consider no-grazing and less-grazing alternatives. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2008 by Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project. According to the EIS, loss and fragmentation of sagebrush habitat due to wildfire is a primary cause of the decline of sage-grouse populations. “While historic grazing practices were a factor contributing to the decline of sage grouse habitat, grazing management on BLM lands has changed and rangeland health has steadily improved in recent decades,” the EIS noted. All entities involved agree that the incidence and severity of wildfire has been increased by the spread of non-native cheatgrass, which dries out in midsummer and becomes very flammable. Disagreement exists, however, over how to restore that degraded environment to one dominated by native species of plants. Western Watersheds Project and other conservationists contend that the effort will be futile as long as cattle and sheep continue to trample the soil and disturb native plant communities, while the BLM insists that properly managed grazing is needed to induce regrowth of the desired species. The BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative C) would make similar lands available to livestock grazing as does the existing plan, but would slightly reduce the number of livestock permitted and include new direction for grazing management for the benefit of sage grouse. Alternative C also requires analysis of season or timing of use. “The Preferred Alternative offers opportunities to provide for sustainable livestock grazing while protecting Monument values and sage-grouse habitat,” the BLM stated in the new document. The agency says the preferred alternative would give land managers the ability to use livestock grazing as a tool to attain restoration objectives. The BLM dismissed adopting an alternative that would eliminate grazing on the grounds that it fails to meet a goal in the 2007 management plan “to provide livestock forage on a sustainable basis for the life of the plan.” The EIS also states that eliminating grazing alone would not benefit the sagebrush ecosystem that sage grouse depend on. The agency acknowledged that if grazing were eliminated, native forbs and grasses could increase. “However,” the document states, “removing livestock grazing could hasten habitat degradation if ungrazed fuel loads in communities comprised of dense sagebrush and an understory of annual grasses result in wildfires that burn uniformly and kill sagebrush over a large area. … [G]razing exclusion could also promote exotic annual grass invasion in some situations. [A study] determined that long-term grazing exclusion followed by fire typically resulted in exotic annual grass invasion, while fire following moderate levels of grazing did not promote invasion.”...more

Idaho hunters learn Texas billionaires are locking them out at the last minute

Steve Wolfinger was planning to go on what was his first Idaho elk hunt starting Saturday in Adams and Valley counties. But a week before he was planning to get on a jet to fly from his home in Arkansas, the 70-year-old got a letter from Regan Berkley, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game wildlife manager from McCall. She told him that private land recently owned by Potlatch Corp. that covers much of the unit where he planned to hunt is now closed. DF Development, the new owners of the 172,000 acres of timberland and a vast road system in Adams, Valley and Boise counties, informed Fish and Game that the land will no longer be open to hunting. Wolfinger and 304 other hunters had controlled-hunt tags for units where 30 percent of the land is owned by the Cisco, Texas, company. Berkley told those hunters they could trade their controlled-hunt tag for a general elk tag if they wanted. Hunters go through a lottery to get controlled-hunt tags for units where they have higher odds of bagging an animal. But that won’t work for Wolfinger: He has time to hunt this week, but the general season hasn’t started yet. “I hope you spread the word,” his son, Bradley Wolfinger, told the Statesman via email. “Outrageous.” I first reported in August that Farris and Dan Wilks had purchased the land owned for decades by Boise Cascade. The two Texas billionaires have been buying up land all over the West, and closing off much of the access to those lands. The Wilks brothers, who made their fortune in the oil well services business, visited their new domain earlier this month for two days, said Valley County Commissioner Elting Hasbrouck. They toured the area with their forester, Colin Chambers, of McCall. Hasbrouck, a rancher who owns a big chuck of real estate himself, said the Wilkses may find it hard to keep hunters out when there is so much game in the forests they own. Hasbrouck had problems with trespassing for years until he told hunters that anyone who helped him brand his calves could come hunt in the fall. He’s had a hard-core group help him annually...more 

And there is this concerning the transfer of federal lands: 

The story about the Wilkes’ purchase has taken on a life of its own. Opponents to the transfer or sale of public lands are using the closures as Exhibit A of what can happen if lands that are traditionally open to the public go into private hands. But it’s the way the story affects snowmobilers, four-wheelers, loggers and hunters such as Wolfinger that has given this story legs, as well as the Wilkses’ unwillingness to talk to anyone about their actions or their plans.

Read more here:

As I have mentioned before, for instance here, there is a solution to this:
These lands can be transferred to the states with a guarantee the public will always have access for hunting and other forms of recreation.

How's that?  Its called a reverter clause.  You find these in federal land transfers all the time.  For instance see the disposal of federal lands under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act.  All of these contain a reverter clause which states if the lands no longer are serving the purposes for which it was transferred the lands then revert back to the federal government.

You would simply need language in the transfer legislation requiring they remain open for hunting  and recreation and that would be binding on the state or any subsequent owner.  Violations would result in the lands reverting to the feds.

So if public access is the only objection to the transfer of these lands, that is easily handled...
And here:
The only transfer issue brought up in this column is these lands might wind up in private hands.  Personally, I would like to see a clean transfer to the states, where the local needs and concerns can influence the highest and best use of the resource.  However, if there is a legitimate concern for maintaining public access to certain parcels or areas, you simply place a reverter clause in the transfer instrument.  If the state or private owner doesn't, in this case, maintain public access, the land reverts back to the feds.  Reverter clauses already exist in law, such as the Recreation & Public Purposes Act, so that language could be easily adapted for public access.  In other words, the one issue they raise can be easily resolved.
Some just don't believe me, or refuse to discuss a reverter clause. For those here is the language from the Recreation & Public Purposes Act.

The Secretary of the Interior upon application filed by a duly qualified applicant under section 869–1 of this title may, in the manner prescribed by sections 869 to 869–4 of this title, dispose of any public lands to a State, Territory, county, municipality, or other State, Territorial, or Federal instrumentality or political subdivision for any public purposes, or to a nonprofit corporation or nonprofit association for any recreational or any public purpose consistent with its articles of incorporation or other creating authority. Before the land may be disposed of under sections 869 to 869–4 of this title it must be shown to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the land is to be used for an established or definitely proposed project, that the land involved is not of national significance nor more than is reasonably necessary for the proposed use, and that for proposals of over 640 acres comprehensive land use plans and zoning regulations applicable to the area in which the public lands to be disposed of are located have been adopted by the appropriate State or local authority. 

The Airplane and Airport Act grants similar legislative disposal authority to the FAA and a reverter clause under that Act is defined by the GSA as:

Right of Reverter. The instrument of conveyance from the federal government must
specify the right to have property interest revert to a federal agency and title revest in the United
States. This right extends only to the title, right of possession, or other rights vested in the United
States at the time the federal government transferred the property described in the instrument to
the grantee. The right may be exercised only at the option of the United States – with or without
the cooperation of a grantee – against all or part of the property in question.

So if their are special parcels where public access should be allowed, that is easily accomplished with a reverter clause.

One other observation. Look again at the language in the Recreation & Public Purposes Act and notice all the steps the non-federal entity must go through, one of which is having a local plan adopted before the transfer.  And compare that to the Antiquities Act, where the President can transfer millions of acres from multiple-use to restricted-use, with no hearings or notice, and the feds adopt a plan after the transfer.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1716

We'll close out the week with this big hit for the Delmore Brothers, HillBilly Boogie. The tune was recorded in Hollywood in January of 1946 for the King label.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Defense lawyers concerned about secret jailhouse recordings in Bunkerville standoff case

Lawyers for one of the defendants in the Bunkerville standoff case say they are concerned that private phone conversations with their client are being secretly recorded at the federal detention center in Pahrump and turned over to prosecutors. In court papers filed late Monday, Ryan Payne’s public defenders say they were told that the unlawful practice occurred in an unrelated criminal case involving an inmate at the Nevada Southern Detention Center in Pahrump, and they want to know whether it happened in their case and others. “Denying Mr. Payne the ability to speak confidentially with counsel threatens a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel,” the lawyers wrote. The Nevada U.S. attorney’s office turned over to the defense in the unrelated case “several audio recordings” of jailhouse calls between attorneys and their client, according to Assistant Federal Public Defenders William Carrico, Ryan Norwood and Brenda Weksler. And that warrants a look into whether prosecutors have obtained similar recordings in the Bunkerville standoff case, the public defenders argued. The lawyers want a federal judge to order the government to turn over any recordings of privileged phone conversations between them and Payne and instruct the company that runs the detention center, Corrections Corporation of America, to stop the practice...more

And in this article another attorney raises the same issue in a different case:
A defense lawyer has stepped forward to allege the federal detention center in Pahrump secretly recorded her confidential phone conversations with a client and then turned over the recordings to prosecutors in the case. Kathleen Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor, cited the alleged attorney-client breaches this week in a motion to dismiss a robbery case against her client, Robert Kincade, because of government misconduct.  In her motion, Bliss said prosecutors in June turned over hundreds of recordings of Kincade at the detention center, including some with her. “Not only does this conduct violate established professional and ethical rules of conduct, it is a clear violation of Kincade’s Sixth Amendment rights,” Bliss wrote. “To vindicate that fair trial right, a defendant must be able to freely and privately communicate with his attorney.” Prosecutors will get a chance to respond to Bliss in writing. Bliss said in her motion that the recorded calls occurred from April 2014 to April 2015, but she added there is “no indication that the government voluntarily ceased obtaining such communications.”

Endangered Key Deer Face Threat Straight out of a Horror Movie

Let’s face it: Key deer, a slightly smaller, stockier subspecies of the common white-tailed deer, have plenty of problems. Only about 800 of them survive, confined to a few small islands in the Florida Keys. You could whip through their entire habitat in about 10 minutes on Route 1, and plenty of motorists do, incidentally killing about 150 of the deer every year. They’re on the endangered species list. Sound bad? Early this week, it got much worse. Staff at the National Key Deer Refuge found deer infested with maggots of the New World screwworm fly, an invasive species that hasn’t been seen in this country in half a century. The flies have a nasty habit of laying their eggs on open wounds, and when they hatch, the maggots feed by digging corkscrew holes into the flesh of the host animal. “They’re in as gory of a condition as you can imagine,” Dan Clark, the refuge manager, told a reporter. He wasn’t exaggerating: One photo showed a deer waiting stoically as the writhing maggots seemed to be peeling the skin off the back of its head. U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff charged with protecting the deer began euthanizing the victims instead, by firing a spring-loaded bolt into their skulls. Then they collected the maggots to prevent them from spreading. So far about 40 of the infested deer have died. Other government officials weren’t fretting so much about the endangered deer. They worried instead about cattle, another invasive species. Mention of screwworm flies “sends shivers down every rancher’s spine,” said Adam H. Putnam, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture. He declared a state of emergency, noting that Florida’s livestock industry “generates $2.78 billion in annual economic impact and supports more than 41,000 jobs.” The state has established an “animal health check point” to spot screwworm-infested pets in vehicles leaving the quarantined zone...more

Ranchers fearful of mountain lion attacks

Wendell Phillips and Murray Sumner live about a half-mile apart on ranches in the Santa Monica Mountains. They share a passion for raising goats, alpacas, sheep and other livestock on their properties. But now the men are worried about mountain lion attacks on their livestock. The pair addressed a recent Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation meeting about the threat to their property and the difficulty in finding a solution. “My father-in-law lived on this ranch for 50 years and there were no threats,” he said. “That changed in late 2015. We need a solution so we aren’t living in fear.” Sumner said late last year a mountain lion killed all of his sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas during an attack. Phillips said the same mountain lion, a large cougar called P-45, attacked and killed alpacas and goats on his ranch. Phillips believes a separate mountain lion attacked his horse, but the incident was not confirmed. Phillips took action against the big cat. He said on March 14 he shot P-45 in the head and injured the animal. Under the law, he is allowed to open fire if a cougar poses a threat to his animals. The cat escaped and survived. Another mountain lion also has been stalking the two properties, albeit a younger, lighter animal that has since been identified as P-19. The National Park Service has collared and named about 50 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains to study their eating and breeding habits. Phillips said once mountain lions get a taste for livestock, they find the easy kills irresistible and will often come back for more. He said research shows more than 40 pets and livestock animals have been killed by mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains since December 2015. Phillips and his wife, Mary Dee, are animal lovers and operate an animal rescue on their 10-acre ranch. The couple rescues horses, dogs, cats and sometimes exotic animals. He said he didn’t want to shoot the P-45, but had no choice...more

More info on Ammon Bundy testimoney

Here are some things that weren't covered in the earlier article posted this morning:

 Ammon Bundy testified Wednesday that he went through proper channels before leading an occupation of a national wildlife refuge, and that he wasn't involved in a conspiracy when he arrived in Oregon. Prosecutors contend the conspiracy began two months before the occupation, when Bundy met an Oregon sheriff on Nov. 5 to discuss the plight of two ranchers heading to prison. Bundy said that was "absolutely not" true. Bundy said a sheriff protected his family during a 2014 standoff with federal agents at their Nevada ranch, and he figured Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward would do the same for ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond. But the discussion with Ward got no results, and neither did his efforts to contact elected officials. Much of Wednesday morning's action happened outside the presence of the jury, with lawyers battling over what videos and testimony would be allowed in front of the panel. U.S. District Judge Anna Brown allowed only limited testimony of what Bundy said he was told by Dwight Hammond last fall, when the Hammond family distanced itself from Bundy. Hammond, according to Bundy, said he was warned that if did not stop talking to Bundy he would have to report to prison early and be placed in a less desirable facility. Hammond also was "worried about getting shot in the back of the head and the same thing happening to me," Bundy said from the stand, in a rehearsal of what he would testify. The judge agreed with prosecutors that it was hearsay evidence and not allowable. The decision angered Bundy's attorney, Marcus Mumford. "Mr. Mumford, please calm down and don't yell at me," the judge said...After the jury left for its lunch break, Bundy co-defendant Neil Wampler stood to applaud: "We all love you, Ammon. Thank you so much for what you're doing."...more


And this article had:

In the afternoon Wednesday, Bundy was asked by his lawyer to identify who was at the Jan. 2 meeting at Ye Old Castle restaurant in Burns, where Bundy proposed his plan to occupy the refuge. As Bundy listed his brother Ryan Bundy, Brian Cavalier, Jason Patrick, Jon Ritzheimer, Ryan Payne and others, he added "I hope I'm not making a list for the government's next indictment.'' His remark drew laughter in the courtroom. "This is serious,'' Judge Brown told Bundy. "I know it's serious,'' Bundy replied. "I do apologize, your honor.'' The judge told jurors to disregard their exchange...Nevada lawmaker Michele Fiore testified briefly for the defense Wednesday afternoon. She started, as all witnesses are asked to do, by spelling out her full name. When she got to her last name, she said, "F as in flower,'' before continuing on with each letter. She repeatedly attempted to offer testimony that during a meeting that members of the Coalition of Western States, or COWS, had in Oregon with Harney County, state and FBI representatives on Jan. 9, that it was verified that the refuge occupiers hadn't broken any Oregon state laws. Prosecutor Knight objected multiple times to Fiore's characterization. The judge turned to the witness. "Excuse me, Ms. Fiore,'' the judge said. "Stop making statements about the law.'' If anyone questioned where Fiore stood in this case, she made it clear when she answered Mumford's question about how long she intended to be at the refuge on Feb. 11, the day the last four holdouts surrendered, ending the 41-day occupation. "As long as it took the Bearcat to get our fabulous four out,'' she said. As Fiore left the witness stand, she waved to jurors and mouthed, "Thank you.''

UN makes power play against Trump

International governments have made a power play against Donald Trump by ratifying an international climate deal earlier than expected, effectively preventing him from “canceling” the deal as he has promised to do. The European Union’s Tuesday decision to join the Paris climate deal will push the deal over the threshold for ratification; it will formally take effect in 30 days. That means Trump, should he be elected president in November, could not “cancel” or renegotiate the terms of the agreement. President Obama committed the United States to reduce its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 as part of the deal. The agreement is nonbinding, so Trump would be free to ignore it if he wins the White House. Some say Trump’s rhetoric about the deal helped speed up ratification. Most officials expected the climate deal, negotiated in December in Paris, to take effect no earlier than next year. A similar international climate accord, the Kyoto Protocol, wasn’t ratified for five years. But the specter of a Trump presidency appears to have spurred the deal along. “His threat stimulated this rapid series of ratifications — China, the USA, Europe, and many others,” Robert Stavins, the director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, wrote in an email...more

Ammon Bundy testifies how Bunkerville shaped his views in Harney County

Just as the local sheriff intervened to protect his family's ranch and cattle at Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014, Ammon Bundy said he wanted Harney County's sheriff to stand with the family of two Oregon ranchers facing longer prison time for lighting federal land on fire. Bundy described how local law enforcement's help brokering a deal in the Bunkerville standoff was "significant'' for him. It allowed Bundy's father to reclaim his cattle while federal U.S. Bureau of Land Management agents backed off the property, he said. "I was able to see rights restored,'' Bundy testified Wednesday, his second day on the witness stand in his federal conspiracy trial stemming from the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. "I was able to see our local government stand up for the people and restore their rights and protect them.'' That experience, as well as his faith, prompted him to do what he could to help the Hammonds, he said. The father and son ranchers were convicted in 2012 of arson and served short sentences before they were ordered to return to prison Jan. 4 to finish out five-year mandatory minimum terms. But when it became clear that Harney County officials, the county sheriff and state leaders had repeatedly "ignored'' his weeks of pressing them to halt the Hammonds' return to prison and "stand up against the abuses'' by investigating the case, Bundy said he received divine intervention to pursue another course of action. "It was so important that we do something, that we act rather than be acted upon all the time,'' Bundy said in a videotaped message from his Idaho home on Jan. 1. "I then began to feel and understand what we were supposed to do. I had a hard time at first because it was a very strong stand. ... I was to call all these people together and we were to create a defense for the people of Harney County so they could begin to use their lands and their resources again.'' Bundy testified that when he spoke of a "strong stand'' on that video, "I meant going into the refuge.'' He said he didn't share his plan with anyone until a meeting Jan. 2 with about 30 people in the back rooms of Ye Old Castle "I want to be clear,'' he said. "I proposed to them we go into the refuge and basically take possession of it and take these lands back to the people.'' Other steps were suggested, including holding prescribed burns in the county without government permits. About half of those present supported the refuge idea, Bundy said. He is one of seven defendants charged with conspiring to impede federal workers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from carrying out their work through intimidation, threats or force. He spoke calmly throughout his nearly four hours of testimony Wednesday, often looking directly at jurors. Bundy vigorously denied that he ever intended to prevent federal employees from doing their work at the federal bird sanctuary. He said he never issued any "threats'' or "ultimatums'' to the local sheriff, as Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward had testified at trial. Instead, Bundy said his plan was to stake claim to the refuge property through the adverse possession principle because he didn't believe the federal government had authority to control it, citing the enclave clause of the U.S. Constitution. If anything, he said he would have expected federal officials to cite occupiers for trespass or issue an eviction, and send the matter to a civil court to address who has control over the land. "This is the issue,'' he testified. "This is the reason why we went into the refuge and did what we did.''If the refuge occupiers hadn't been armed, Bundy said, they likely wouldn't have been taken seriously and garnered the widespread attention they received. Authorities would have "hauled us off'' in a paddy wagon and the protest would have been shut down quickly, he said. "This is so much bigger than even me or the defendants or the employees of the refuge or the BLM,'' he said, referring to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. "This is so much bigger than the refuge itself.'' Bundy said he believed, and still does believe, that what he and supporters did was "completely legal.''

 And the judge rules:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight jumped up, objecting to Bundy stating his view of the law. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown instructed jurors that what they heard was Bundy's opinion of the law and not to regard it as factual. Bundy's lawyer, Marcus Mumford, wasn't pleased. "Your honor is not attempting to instruct the jury that Mr. Bundy's view of the law is in error?'' "Take a seat,'' the judge told Mumford. "The ruling stands.'' Gesturing to the table behind him where three prosecutors were seated, Mumford continued, "They don't tell us what the law is, that's my point.'' "Counsel, move on,'' the judge demanded. Nearly rising from the bench, Brown raised her voice and again demanded, "Move on!'' "Take a seat,'' the judge told Mumford. "The ruling stands.'' Gesturing to the table behind him where three prosecutors were seated, Mumford continued, "They don't tell us what the law is, that's my point.'' "Counsel, move on,'' the judge demanded. Nearly rising from the bench, Brown raised her voice and again demanded, "Move on!''

No Constitution, no Scripture

During Bundy's testimony, the judge also had to instruct Bundy not to read from the pocket Constitution in the left pocket of his jail shirt or to recite Scripture. Flipping through The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints with him on the stand, Bundy explained to jurors that among the church teachings is this: "It is our duty to go to the judge. It is our duty to go to the representative. It is our duty to go to the president and plead with them to stand up for what is wrong,'' he said. "It's our duty to give each of the officials the opportunity to do what's right." "We are not to act until that has been done,'' he added. Knight, the prosecutor, quickly stood and told the judge, "I'm objecting because I'm perplexed. This is not relevant.'' The judge agreed and warned Bundy not to read scriptural passages to jurors after Bundy's lawyer asked him to turn to a particular one.

The Enclave Clause

Legal scholars have said Bundy isn't only misinterpreting the Constitution's enclave clause but overlooking the Constitution's property clause, which says Congress has authority over federal land.
While Bundy argues that the federal government can't control land without a state's ceding it to the government under the enclave clause, legal experts say the clause actually protects federal land.

(I wrote my current view of the Enclave Clause in my June column and invited substantive comment.  So far none have been received)

Young bull moose visits downtown Bismarck and state Capitol

A young bull moose has been taking in the sights of North Dakota's capital city, visiting a mall, several backyards and even wandering in the grounds of the state Capitol. Bismarck Animal Control officials estimate the animal, which was first spotted in Bismarck on Tuesday, is around a year old. The moose has drawn crowds wherever he goes, but police are warning onlookers to keep their distance because the wild animal is likely to be stressed and volatile. City Animal Warden Ed Woodcock says it's the time of year when moose mothers kick out their young. He says the animal likely wandered into the city from the nearby unincorporated communities of Baldwin or McKenzie. link

NM - Historic El Fidel Hotel up for sale

A storied downtown Las Vegas landmark where a prominent newspaperman shot a judge and a State Highway Department official during the 1920s is being sold in an online auction. Opening bid for the El Fidel Hotel is $300,000. The auction will begin on Oct. 27 and end on Nov. 1. The Douglas Avenue property, currently owned by the Wolff family, features 34 renovated hotel rooms and apartments, a restaurant with beer and wine license, offices, retail spaces, lobby and coffee bar. It also comes with an adjacent warehouse and an additional parking lot. The stately structure, designed by architect Henry C. Trost, is an example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. It has been on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties since 1976 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Originally named The Meadows, El Fidel was a community project initiated by the Commercial Club of Las Vegas in 1920. The community wanted to capitalize on U.S. Highway 84, — now Interstate 25 — which had just opened. The hotel opened in June 1923. “In the lobby, business men traded gossip and smoked cigars from the newsstand,” the hotel’s website states. “Families in their finest dress gathered for Sunday dinner in the formal dining room...” Prohibition was in full swing when the hotel opened, but that didn’t stop the hotel from selling liquor. Individuals wanting adult beverages would enter through the alley “as a nod to respectability,” the hotel website notes. Two years after it opened, the hotel made headlines as the site of a shooting involving then-Las Vegas Judge David Leahy and Carl Magee, founder of the now-defunct Albuquerque Tribune. Magee was relentless in his coverage of political corruption. His reporting helped Democrats unseat most Republicans for state office in the 1922 elections. That infuriated Republican leaders in San Miguel County, including Judge Leahy, who ordered Magee to stand trial on a trumped-up charge of publishing a libelous statement. Magee was convicted, but then-Democratic Gov. James F. Hinkle pardoned him and set aside his conviction and sentence. Leahy then found Magee in contempt of court for calling him corrupt and ordered Magee to serve a year in prison. Gov. Hinkle again pardoned Magee. The two men crossed paths again in 1925 in the lobby of what is now the El Fidel Hotel. Magee was being interviewed by the Las Vegas Optic when Leahy entered and attacked Magee, knocking him down, kicking him and breaking several of his ribs, according to a history of the Albuquerque Tribune. Magee drew a revolver from his pocket and fired two shots at the judge. Leahy was wounded in the arm. John B. Lassater, a State Highway Department official, was caught in the crossfire and died. Magee was acquitted of manslaughter...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1715

Here are the Texas Playboys, with Lew Walker on vocal, performing It's The Bottle Talkin'. The tune was recorded in Nashville on November 12, 1956 and you can find it on their CD Sing Cindy Walker, Vol.3.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Don't miss the Invitational Fiddling Contest Sunday

The Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium is conducting an inaugural $500 invitational fiddle contest to be held at noon Sunday on the Ray Reed Stage. “Yes, there is prize money,” music director Dave Alexander said. “But to hold the title of winning a fiddling contest at the most prestigious western swing music venue in the World is what these young fiddlers are competing for. It’s going to be something to see.” Alexander operates a summer music school in Texas and has invited several of his top students to perform in the contest, which will be judged by professional fiddle players. Sunday admission to the Cowboy Symposium is free.

Senators push wildfire legislation in energy bill negotiations

Two western senators urged members of the conference committee negotiating a comprehensive energy package to move quickly because their states have been devastated by this year's wildfire season. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Steve Daines, D-Mont., sent a letter Tuesday to the top lawmakers on the energy bill conference committee to include changes to the way wildfires are fought by the federal government. Reforms to the U.S. Forest Service's management of wildfires are included in the legislation. Lawmakers want to end the Forest Service's practice of fire borrowing, or taking money from other parts of the agency's budget to fight wildfires. About half of the Forest Service's budget is now spent on fighting wildfires. Daines and Feinstein co-sponsored legislation to allow the federal government to declare wildfires natural disasters, which would open new streams of funding. According to the letter, more than 630,000 acres of California and 100,000 acres of Montana have been burned in wildfires this year. Millions more acres are considered in danger of burning. The senators also pushed for several other provisions in the legislation that would allow for more reform of the wildfire fighting process, including additional fire-risk mapping and moving forward with projects that would reduce hazardous fuels, such as fallen trees...more

2,000 people hiked three miles for a free beer. Is this the “new normal” for the Forest Service?

U.S. Forest Service officials last week revealed a “cultural shift” in the way recreational special-user permits are issued, promising to modernize the application process to improve access for younger visitors, groups, non-profits and schools seeking to explore public lands. The new approach was to be piloted in the White River National Forest, which logs the highest number of special-use recreation permits in the country. Two days later, about 2,000 thirsty hikers climbed a White River National Forest Service trail out of the Ski Cooper parking lot near Leadville to a remote 10th Mountain Division hut where Upslope Brewing was hosting its second annual “backcountry tap room.” It was a quintessential contemporary Colorado scene. The line for a free craft beer at the privately owned Vance’s Cabin stretched half a mile. The mostly young visitors — many seemingly hailing from the Front Range — waited happily for an hour. They lounged on downed timber and stumps charred by a long-ago wildfire, sipping cans of Boulder-based Upslope’s pale ale, lager and saison beers. Hundreds of happy hounds joined their people mountainside on the sunny Saturday. Was that the fastest trickle-down of a Washington, D.C., verdict ever? Are backcountry beer festivals the new normal for the Forest Service as it cultivates the next generation of public lands advocates?...more

Ghost forests

In the Clarks Fork area of the Shoshone National Forest, towering evergreen trees stand like skeletons, naked and needleless. The greenery is gone, transformed to what Kurt Allen, an entomologist with the Forest Service, describes as a gray, “ghost forest.” The trees, some dead, and some still struggling to survive without needles, are victims of what Allen calls “the most bizarre” spruce budworm epidemic he’s ever seen. Spruce budworms, despite their name, mainly attack Douglas-fir trees. The insect, which eventually transforms to a gray moth, is native to Wyoming and about every 20 years appears in epidemic proportions.The last big outbreak on the Shoshone was in the mid-1980s. So Allen wasn’t concerned when about four years ago he saw small stands of needleless trees. Spruce budworm winter in the trees and emerge in the spring and feast on tree needles. A tree’s needles catch the sun, which allows it to make the sugars that feed the roots and keep it alive, Allen said. In Wyoming, in particular, May, June and July are prime food-making months. It’s also when spruce budworms are most active. The trees go into survival mode when they lose needles, Allen said. A tree can rebound from one year without needles, even two years. The problem with this epidemic, Allen said, is that has lasted more than three years, much longer than normal. “Trees are living critters, too,” he said. ”They do need food and water at some point.”...more

BLM’s plan for 65 illegal leases on White River National Forest woefully out of balance

The Obama administration wants a federal judge to uphold its decision to block oil and gas drilling on land considered sacred to some tribes in the U.S. and Canada, as industry groups warn the government's move sets a precedent against energy development. Justice Department attorneys urged the judge in court documents filed Monday to reject a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate a 6,200-acre energy lease in Montana that was canceled by the Obama administration in March. The cancellation of the lease near Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation has been assailed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Petroleum Association of Montana. Federal officials contend the lease was improperly issued by the government in 1982, in part because environmental studies by the U.S. Forest Service did not consider the effects of drilling on the tribes. The lease is within a 165,000-acre area deemed by the government to be a traditional cultural district of the Blackfoot tribes. It's the site of the creation story for the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and the Blackfeet Nation of Montana...more

Audit: Forest Service wildfire reduction poorly planned

As wildfires continue to burn large swaths of California, an audit faults the U.S. Forest Service’s hazardous fuels reduction program for failing to prioritize or accurately account for efforts aimed at minimizing fire intensity. The report, released last week by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says priorities for reducing ground fuel aren’t being made based on risk. The report was based on visits to three of nine regional offices and conversations with officials in Redding, Vallejo and San Bernardino, among others. The National Forest Service has identified just under 100 million acres of agency land with at least moderate potential to burn, including 58 million acres at high risk in areas known as the wildland-urban interface where population and forests overlap. Because the Forest Service has limited funding – more than half its money goes for preparing for or fighting fires – the agency can treat only about 2.9 million acres a year. About 1.5 million of those acres are in the urban interfaces. The inspector general’s office also found that some projects’ acreage was counted twice or three times, depending on what procedures were used to mitigate fuel loads on the same land. “The overall objective of the hazardous fuels reduction project is to reduce the risk of wildfire to the landscape and surrounding communities by removing hazardous fuels,” the report said. “This inaccurate reporting caused (the Forest Service) to over-report its hazardous fuels reduction accomplishments in … 2012-2014 by 103,459 acres out of 3,703,848, or a difference of 2.8 percent.” The 34-page audit said the Forest Service overstated the number of acres it treated for hazardous fuels reduction within “high-priority (wildland-urban interface) areas.” It said the inaccurate figures found their way into annual reports to Congress that are used to make funding decisions...more

Forest Service dealing with Trail of Tears damage fallout

Trail of Tears documents released by the U.S. Forest Service implicate a former district ranger as the one who authorized the work leading to a million dollars in damage to the historic site. The documents entitled, a "Narrative of Events" surrounding the damage and another entitled a "Timeline of Events to Date," put the blame on the Tellico district ranger who was in charge in 2014 when a portion of the Trail of Tears was ripped up by a bulldozer. While those documents do not name the individual, a ranking Forest Service official told The Advocate & Democrat in Sweetwater that the district ranger responsible for authorizing the work was Katherine Foster, 63, a veteran employee with the department. Foster, who had close to 40 years employment with the Forest Service, retired in February of 2015, a year after trenches, or "tank traps" were cut into the Trail of Tears and two nearby streams were altered. She was reportedly promoted to a supervisory position and placed in charge of "strategic planning" before retiring in Madisonville...more

Bozeman man survives double sow bear attack

A 50-year-old Bozeman man was scouting hunting locations about 3 miles up the North Fork Bear Creek outside of Cameron on Saturday morning when he spotted a sow grizzly bear with cubs. “He yelled to make his presence known to the bear and it charged him from about 80 yards away,” according to Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson. “He deployed his bear spray as it got closer, but the bear did not stop.” According to Thompson, the bear mauled, bit and stomped on the man, who did not fight back. After the bear wandered away, the man started to hike out. “He got about 1/2 mile away when the bear attacked him again, biting and stomping on him again,” Thompson said. “He played dead and the bear left.” Bleeding and injured, the man hiked out to his car and drove himself to the Madison Valley Medical Center, 17 miles away. “He suffered lacerations to his head, neck, back and right shoulder, and has a broken left forearm,” Thompson said. “(The Forest Service) has posted the North Fork Bear Creek as closed until further notice so (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks) can assess the situation.” This Bear Creek bear encounter is not the first this year. On Saturday, Sept. 24, an archery hunter in the Cabin Creek area north of Hebgen Lake received minor injuries after encountering a “presumed grizzly while calling for elk,” according to a press release from FWP. “Then, Sunday morning, another man hunting elk with his bow on the north side of the Tom Miner basin north of Gardiner was mauled by what his hunting party believes was a female grizzly with two cubs,” the release continued. “He suffered bite injuries.”...more

Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium runs through Sunday at Ruidoso Downs

The award-winning and supremely popular Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium began for the 27th time on Thursday at Ruidoso Downs Racetrack with a sensational lineup for the opening concert. For full information — that there is plenty of information — go to Click on the link to the 2016 Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium to view the full program. The Symposium began Thursday when Dave Alexander and Floyd Domino hit the stage and the Time Jumpers, featuring Vince Gill followed. The full-day action picks up on Friday. The Friday night concert lineup brings out Coby Carter at 7 p.m.; Moe Bandy and Janie Frickie at 8:30 p.m.; and concludes with Billy Mata and The Texas Tradition at 10:p.m. The Saturday Night Dance is always fun. Saturday’s performers are Tawnya Reynolds at 7 p.m., Johnny Rodriguez at 8:30 p.m. and concludes with Jody Nix and The Texas Cowboys at 10 p.m. True West Magazine named the Chuck Wagon Cookoff the best Chuck Wagon Contest in 2012 and 2013. It is the world’s richest chuck wagon cookoff with total awards of $13,000. These incredible competitors are judged on their food and the authenticity of their wagons and attire. They will be set up for Saturday lunch and Sunday breakfast...more

North Dakota Sheriff Claims Oil Pipeline Protesters Are ‘Armed’ And ‘Hostile’

Dakota oil pipeline protesters are “armed, hostile, and engaged in training exercises” meant to “promote violence,” a North Dakota law enforcement official warned federal agencies Monday. Protesters and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are illegally occupying vast stretches of private property in and around Dakota Access Pipeline construction cites, Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen wrote in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Federal officials are refusing to evict those hunkered down at an anti-pipeline encampment near the highly controversial, $3.8 billion project. Officialsbelieve booting the protesters would harm free speech rights, despite the fact that the land is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ranchers like Matthew Rebenitsch, who owns a farm near one of the encampments, told reporters he and his neighbors are worried about speaking out publicly for fear that they could be met with reprisals. “To be honest, no one around here wants to say anything because we’re afraid they will come and threaten us,” he said. “I’ll say this, every rancher around here is packing and people are locking their doors — and no one has ever locked a door in their entire life.” The refusal to evict comes on the heels of a spat of violent uprisings among several areas housing protesters. Morton County Sheriff’s Office said on Sept. 9 that four security guards not affiliated with law enforcement and two guard dogs were injured as several hundred protesters living in the Standing Rock Sioux reservation confronted pipeline workers at the site...more 

Ammon Bundy says he tried to resist father's push to rally around Oregon ranchers

Ammon Bundy carried a worn Bible to the witness stand Tuesday and portrayed himself as a weak underdog pitted against a powerful federal government that has tried to crush his family. Asked where he lived, Bundy said, "At the Multnomah County jail ... just across the street. I've been there eight and a half months.'' Bundy became emotional on the stand several times, his voice quivering as he described how "useless'' it seems fighting against federal authorities who have put his father, his brothers and him behind bars. Ammon Bundy told jurors that his family has grazed cattle at their ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, since they homesteaded in the 1870s. But he didn't mention anything about his father owing the government more than $1 million in grazing fees. His father stopped paying after the Bureau of Land Management ordered him to restrict the periods when his herd roamed as part of an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise. Bundy said his family faced a "tremendous amount of abuse'' for trying "to protect these grazing rights that we own.'' The Bunkerville standoff, he said, "certainly affected'' his views about the federal land management agency. Since the 2014 confrontation, he said he was driven to find ways to protect his family's grazing rights and other ranchers' property rights, calling it their "life blood.'' "This is the dangerous point the federal government doesn't want anyone to know ... we do have rights to these lands,'' Bundy told jurors. "In my belief, there has been a strategic effort by the federal government in taking these rights.'' His voice choking with emotion, Bundy said it's been nearly impossible to challenge the federal government. "We can't do it against these people. They're too smart. They're too strong. We can't fight them. Now they're prosecuting us. ... My dad and brothers are all in jail right now, every single one of them. It's wrong,'' Bundy said, tears filling his eyes. Ammon Bundy testified that he initially resisted his father's push in the summer and fall of 2015 to get involved in the case of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, he said. As a child, he noted, his father took his children "with him wherever he went.'' Bundy said he didn't know anything about the Hammonds' case, but his father kept bringing it up. The father-and-son ranchers were convicted in June 2012 of arson on federal land and resentenced last year to spend more time in prison. In October, he said his father asked him again what he knew about the Hammonds' sentencing. "He said, 'I'm afraid what's happening ...,'' Ammon Bundy said, pausing mid-sentence as he fought back tears, unable to get more words out. Struggling to compose himself, he continued, trying to complete what his father had told him: "He said, 'I'm afraid what's happening is the same thing that happened to us.''' "At that time I said I can't fight another battle. We're doing the best we can to keep our family from going to prison,'' Bundy testified, a pocket Constitution in the left front pocket of his blue jail scrubs. Ammon Bundy said he told his father that he couldn't get involved and that's what partly led him to move his family from Arizona to Emmett, Idaho, in fall 2015. Bundy told jurors he's a married man with six children. His wife, Lisa Bundy, sat in the public gallery. But less than a month later, Ammon Bundy said he had a change of heart. While in bed on the evening of Nov. 2, he said he picked up someone's message on his phone and clicked on a story about the re-sentencing of the Hammonds. He said he still tried to resist "this overwhelming feeling that it was my duty to get involved, and try to protect this family.'' "I had to suppress that feeling a little bit and say no, that was not my responsibility until I couldn't any longer,'' Bundy testified. Ammon Bundy said he then decided to travel to Oregon to meet with the Harney County ranchers to "understand who they were.'' Ammon Bundy said he met with Steven Hammond first. Steven Hammond gave him a ride in the back of his pickup to his ranch, about 30 miles away. Of his visit with Steven Hammond, Bundy said, "I began to understand he was pretty tired of fighting and he was pretty much broken emotionally. ... He was just going to take what was given.'' Bundy's lawyer, Marcus Mumford, asked his client how he responded to Steven Hammond's position. "I didn't understand until I spent 8 ½ months in prison, how he felt,'' Bundy said. As he remained on the witness stand, Bundy's attorney played for jurors clips of video from the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville. They captured a woman Ammon Bundy identified as his "Aunt Margaret'' getting thrown to the ground by a federal officer after she stood briefly in front of a government vehicle and then Ammon Bundy getting shot with a stun gun three times after he parked his four-wheeler in front of a government dump truck. Bundy said his goal was to find out what the dump truck was hauling away, as he and others suspected it was his father's dead cattle. "I truly believed they didn't have a right to be there, and my family had a right to be there,'' Bundy testified. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight earlier had objected to the videos being presented to jurors, arguing they only revealed a limited slice of what went on at Bunkerville...more