Saturday, October 15, 2016

Malheur Occupier David Fry: I Should Have Been At Fatal Traffic Stop

On the stand Friday, David Fry, the last man standing in the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, described in detail the rising fear he felt in the Oregon standoff’s final days. In his testimony, Fry appeared to try to set himself apart from the other occupiers. He explained why he came to Harney County, his desire to leave the refuge and why he ultimately stayed. Fry and his six co-defendants all face a charge of conspiring to impede federal workers, but on the stand Fry discussed how little he knew about the people at the refuge and why they were there in the first place. "I never met these people — ever," Fry said. Fry drove across the country from the Cincinnati suburb of Blanchester, Ohio, to take part in the occupation in early January. He testified he saw the refuge as a place people were watching — somewhere he could express his views on things like the Fukushima nuclear disaster and abortion. The protest appeared non-violent to him, which was appealing, he said. "I thought it was a sit-in," Fry testified. "A sit-in?" his attorney Per Olsen asked. "Yes, a Martin Luther -style thing," Fry replied. Unlike other occupiers, Fry said he was not driven to the refuge because of public land issues. In Ohio, where Fry lives, public land battles are all but nonexistent. He was unfamiliar with the concept of adverse possession, which many occupiers cite in defense of the refuge takeover"It's more of a Western thing," Fry said. Fry's testimony detailed his initial link to the occupation, which was an online relationship he developed with Arizona rancher Robert "LaVoy" Finicum. Fry said he bought Finicum's book and the two exchanged messages on Finicum's YouTube channel. "I like the way portrayed himself. He was a good speaker," Fry testified. He added, "I was really interested in meeting him."...more

Endangered gray wolf shot, killed; $15,000 reward offered

A female gray wolf was shot Oct in central southern Oregon on Oct. 6. Federal officials have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and a conservation nonprofit has added $10,000 to the reward. The wolf, known as OR-28, had been collared with a traceable radio, and she was found in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near Summer Lake, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release. The shooting of the gray wolf, considered an endangered species in the western two-thirds of Oregon, is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Oregon State Police and the wildlife service are investigating...more

Wolf killed by poacher in Oregon has ties to California

As tensions rise in Oregon and Northern California over reports of wolves attacking livestock, a $15,000 reward has been issued for information that would lead investigators to the poacher who killed a mother wolf in southern Oregon. On Oct. 6, investigators found a radio-collared female gray wolf known as OR28 dead in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near Summer Lake, Ore. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman declined Friday to say how the wolf was killed, citing an ongoing investigation. OR28 originated with the Mount Emily pack in northeastern Oregon, but in November 2015, left the pack and traveled to southern Oregon, said Michelle Dennehy, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. There, she bred with OR3, a male from the Imnaha Pack, and gave birth to at least one pup. Dennehy said OR28’s pack is confirmed to have attacked a calf in the area in late September. The calf recovered, she said. OR28’s family has ties to California’s first wolf family, dubbed the Shasta pack: two adults with five pups that settled in Siskiyou County last year. DNA tests showed the adults were born in the Imnaha pack. Also hailing from the Imnaha pack is OR7, the famous wandering wolf that became the first to live in California in modern history and prompted the state to declare wolves an endangered species. OR7 since has returned to Oregon and started his own family, called the Rogue pack. Oregon officials say the Rogue pack also has been linked to livestock killings in southern Oregon in recent weeks...more

Federal appeals court in Denver dismisses lawsuit calling for wild horse roundup in Wyoming

A federal appeals court in Denver on Tuesday rejected an effort by the state of Wyoming to remove wild horses from public lands across the state. Wyoming filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the government’s free-roaming wild horse program. The state claimed the BLM failed to keep the horse population in seven so-called herd management areas within a range that would prevent range land damage. In December 2014, the state filed suit, saying the BLM had made a decision “not to manage wild horses in Wyoming according to their mandatory, non-discretionary obligations under the Act,” according to a court document. “The state’s arguments, however are contrary to the plain language,” of the law, according to the opinion issued Tuesday by a three-member panel of the appeals court. The act directs the BLM to maintain an inventory of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands, saying the inventory’s purpose is in part to determine whether an overpopulation exists and whether action should be taken to remove excess animals, the opinion said. The second statutory requirement hasn’t been met, the opinion said, because “the BLM has not determined that action is necessary to remove the excess animals …. the BLM is under no statutory duty to remove animals from the seven HMAs at issue.”...more

Final report details destructive New Mexico wildfire

Investigators have determined a wildfire that destroyed a dozen homes as it raced through part of the Manzano Mountains earlier this year started after a wood-chipping machine struck a rock and sent sparks flying into brush and forest debris. It took just minutes for a small patch of flames to erupt into a blaze that would burn for weeks and end up costing more than $10 million to put out. Details of the fire’s cause and the response by firefighters are outlined in a report released this week by forest officials. The Dog Head Fire charred about 28 square miles after it started in June. Residents in several communities along the eastern side of the central New Mexico mountain range were forced to gather their belongings and round up their livestock before fleeing their homes as the fire ballooned. The three-person crew that was using the machine to thin the area in hopes of preventing such a fire was armed with a shovel, an axe and one fire extinguisher. The report states the crew did not fight the flames because they were too intense. AP


The Albq. journal has a more complete article here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bundy Will Have to Pay for His New Attorney

Cliven Bundy will have a new attorney representing him against 16 felony charges stemming from his armed standoff with law enforcement in 2014, but he will have to pay for it. Bundy, 70, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen Thursday morning and again in the afternoon, asking to have Las Vegas attorney Bret Whipple confirmed as his legal counsel to replace Joel Hansen. Hansen last week told Leen he needs spinal fusion surgery on his neck and back and will spend up to 12 weeks recuperating, which will make it impossible for him to continue representing Bundy. On Thursday, Bundy told Leen he didn't know if he could afford to hire Whipple, but said, "I'd like to pay my own bill." Whipple told Leen that Bundy had paid him a $1,000 retainer, and Bundy on Thursday filed paperwork to have Whipple appointed via the Criminal Justice Act — which Leen denied, as Bundy has more than $300,000 in assets available. Leen expressed concern Bundy might try to manipulate the system by changing his legal representation again, and said she wants continuity in his legal representation. Leen gave Bundy until Oct. 20 to reach a deal with Whipple, who is with the Justice Law Center law firm in Las Vegas. Whipple formerly worked three years with the Clark County Public Defender office and three years as the county's Special Public Defender office, which specializes in murder and death penalty cases...more

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument may expand

Oregon’s Democratic U.S. senators have proposed a near-doubling of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as a way to better protect the biodiversity and habitats in the face of climate change. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have proposed expanding the 16-year-old monument by more than 66,500 acres inside a new, more than 100,000-acre footprint that stretches northwest past Dead Indian Memorial Road, west to Emigrant Lake, east into Klamath County and south into California near Iron Gate Reservoir. The 90,328 acres proposed for expansion within Oregon includes 56,245 acres of Bureau of Land Management land, including Hyatt Lake and land surrounding Howard Prairie Lake, as well as chunks of the upper watersheds of Jenny Creek tributaries whose lower reaches are now part of the monument. The current monument covers about 66,000 acres within an 85,000-acre boundary inside Jackson County east of Ashland. Like the roughly 19,000 acres of private land already inside the monument, the 34,095 acres of private land inside the proposed new boundary would remain private and not part of the monument. Merkley will be in Ashland today with Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor for a public meeting to gather comment on the proposal. The meeting will start at 2 p.m. at Southern Oregon University’s Stevenson Union. Supporters hope the input will lead Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to urge President Obama to use the same powers under the Antiquities Act to expand the monument that President Bill Clinton used to create it in 2000...more

Tribe seeks to build casino in Vallejo

An Indian tribe from the Clear Lake area has set its sights on building a casino in Vallejo, much to the chagrin of local officials. The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians is targeting a parcel off of Admiral Callaghan Lane and Columbus Parkway near Interstate 80. But, a casino won’t be built there without a fight. In a July letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior, City Attorney Claudia Quintana said that such a casino would “significantly affect” Vallejo by limiting the city’s authority to regulate and tax the land. “Approval of a tribal casino would also unquestionably cause significant impacts to the natural and human environment in and around the city of Vallejo,” Quintana wrote. “Such a casino would entail biological impacts, water impacts, impacts on traffic and noise to the neighboring area, among others.” The city contends the tribe failed to prove a connection to the land, since its ancestral area is located 60 miles away from Vallejo. In a letter dated Aug. 23, Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan wrote that the board had learned about the proposed casino almost eight months after the Scotts Valley Band asked the federal government to determine if the property would support a casino. Neither the tribe nor the federal government contacted the county, Hannigan wrote. She also suggested the tribe may be “reservation shopping,” based on the distance between Vallejo and the tribe’s ancestral territory and current headquarters, and the evidence that the Vallejo area is actually the ancestral territory of other tribes like the Patwin. “This ‘reservation shopping’ by the Scotts Valley Band takes away economic opportunity from tribes that actually have historic ties to the lands encompassed by Solano County,” she wrote. Federal officials, along with nearby tribes, have also expressed concern about the lack of notice and transparency this process has taken compared with how these things have been done in the past, as well as the lack of interest in local input and the unusual speed with which it all seems to be happening...more

More Thatn 500K Acres Of Land Returned To Tribes

Federal officials say more than 500,000 acres have been returned to the control of tribes under the Obama administration, which made restoring tribal homelands a key part of its Indian Country policy. The Obama administration says it surpassed the half-million acre benchmark last week with the transfer of a 71,000-acre swath of federal land to tribal control in Nevada. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says the administration's goal of returning 500,000 acres, or roughly 780 square miles, of land represented a shift from federal policy that historically resulted in U.S. tribes losing millions of acres of land over hundreds of years...more

Sounds great until you read the last paragraph:

The government's move to place land into trust for tribes essentiallly ensures the tracts can't be taken from them or sold because only a congressional vote can remove the land from tribal ownership or jurisdiction.

The lands aren't being returned to the tribe's at all.  The federal designation on these lands have changed, but the tribe's will have no more say in their management than they did before.  

First shots fired over EPA's new plant rule

The states and companies challenging EPA’s 111(b) regulation opened fire last night on the rule, which sets carbon dioxide limits for new coal and gas power plants. The new plant rule was finalized in August 2015 at the same time as the Clean Power Plan, the companion rule covering existing plants. But the CPP legal challenge was put on a fast track (high-profile oral arguments were held last month) while this case is taking a more typical route through the courts. The Clean Air Act’s wording means that if the 111(b) rule is struck down, the Clean Power Plan is out as well. Two dozen state challengers charged EPA with having an “agenda to eliminate coal-fired power plants ... by virtue of an impossibly high technology standard.” The limit for new coal plants requires using technologies that are not all used together at any commercial plant in the world, they argue. “Much like the griffin, which combines parts of the bodies of different animals into one mythical creature, EPA’s BSER does not exist in the integrated form mandated by the agency anywhere in the world, and the closest analogues are either small-scale plants or plants that receive significant government funding.” In their own brief, the non-state challengers — including coal producer Murray Energy, a swath of utility and co-op groups and the United Mine Workers of America — reiterate those arguments...more

Lawsuit targets grazing in Sawtooth National Recreation Area

A conservation group has filed a lawsuit contending the U.S. Forest Service is violating environmental laws by issuing grazing permits to central Idaho livestock growers with a long history of violating permit restrictions. Western Watersheds Project said in the lawsuit, filed Oct. 12, that the Forest Service is issuing the permits despite knowing cattle grazers in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area are not following guidelines. The area also includes the newly formed White Clouds Wilderness federally protected area. The environmental group said the cattle grazing violations harm recreational values in the popular destination, prevent plants from recovering and damage streams with federally protected salmon, steelhead and bull trout. “The Forest Service itself has documented repeated overgrazing and cattle trespass into unauthorized areas that degrades the streams on these allotments, with violations escalating in recent years” Laurie Rule, senior attorney with Advocates for the West, said in a statement. “The agency’s perpetual authorization of grazing in the face of such widespread problems violates the law and pushes these imperiled fish closer to extinction.” The group is asking a federal judge to reject the Forest Service’s recent approval of the grazing permits. Forest Service spokeswoman Carol Brown said Oct. 13 that the agency did not have an immediate comment. The lawsuit focuses on grazing allotments for four ranchers at locations along the Salmon River’s upper east and lower east forks. Rancher Syd Dowton has the upper allotment and said he uses it for grazing 145 to 160 cow-calf pairs, meaning one cow and its calf, each summer. That’s about half the number of cows he used to graze, and Dowton said the grazing provides a benefit because the cows eat grass that could burn and cause wildfires. “Anytime you’ve got a use you’ve got an impact, but I don’t think they’re causing any damage,” he said. The cattle do sometimes wander into restricted areas because elk in the area break through fences, leaving openings for cattle, Dowton said...more

Oregon standoff defendant Shawna Cox takes stand, plays her video of arrest

Oregon standoff defendant Shawna Cox testified Thursday that she didn't emerge immediately from Robert "LaVoy" Finicum's truck when police stopped them Jan. 26 on U.S. 395 because she was afraid of getting shot. Cox, the fourth of seven defendants to take the stand in the federal conspiracy trial, became emotional as her standby lawyer Tiffany Harris played the video that Cox took of the felony traffic stop as she sat in the back seat. Harris showed the footage after the judge cautioned that it could be "quite prejudicial'' to both Cox and co-defendant Ryan Bundy with the risk of "underscoring to the jury that the defendants pick and choose which laws they want to follow.'' The video captured Cox telling Finicum to "gun it, gun it'' as he sped away from officers at the initial stop. That day, authorities tried to stop Finicum's truck and a Jeep with Ammon Bundy as they headed away from their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns to a community meeting in John Day. Ammon Bundy surrendered immediately along with his bodyguard, Brian Cavalier. Ryan Payne, another organizer of the occupation who was in the front passenger seat of Finicum's truck, got out before Finicum drove off. Finicum, the refuge takeover's spokesman, ended up crashing into a snowbank at a roadblock up the highway and was fatally shot by state police after he got out. Police said Fincium reached three times for the inside of his jacket, where he had a loaded 9mm handgun. Just before they were first stopped, Cox said she noticed a line of unmarked cars to the right as they were driving north on the highway and then saw flashing lights. She said she heard Payne remark, "It's a setup'' and Finicum say, "It's an ambush.'' Once Finicum stopped the truck, she said, Payne rolled down his window and thrust both of his hands out, his palms showing. Suddenly, she testified, she saw a red laser and heard a shot. "He jumped back in. That freaked us out. It was very frightening,'' Cox said. "It made no sense to me.'' Payne eventually stepped out of the truck and yelled there were women inside. Officers at the scene said the women should come out, Cox testified. Asked by her standby lawyer why she didn't leave then, Cox said she asked Victoria Sharp, who was sitting next to her in the back seat, what she wanted to do. "She said, 'I'm not getting out. They just shot at us.' I'm not going out either,'' Cox testified. "I have a lot of children and my maternal instinct is to protect them. I wasn't about to leave her in that vehicle.'' Cox said she was perplexed why no officers approached Finicum's driver's window and asked for his license or explained the reason for the stop. Harris asked, "Have you ever before in your life contemplated driving away from an officer?'' "Never,'' Cox responded. Of Finicum's truck, Cox said, "That was our secure spot. We were afraid to get out. ... We felt like we were pinned down. We felt like we were going to all be killed. In fact, we were sure we were all in a death trap.'' Co-defendant Kenneth Medenbach stood to ask Cox a question but was quickly shut down by U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown. He began: "Are you aware the jury has power to weigh ...'' "Stop!'' the judge demanded. "I'm not going to let a defendant ask any questions about jury nullification.'' "And the corruption continues,'' Medenbach added. The judge asked if he had any other questions to ask, and he didn't. During a brief cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel stopped the video that Cox took and showed a screenshot of Ryan Bundy, who was in the back left side passenger seat of Finicum's truck, holding a revolver in his right hand as he hunkered down. Gabriel asked Cox if her video was a fair and accurate representation of what took place. She said yes. And, in fact, Ryan Bundy had a revolver, Gabriel pointed out. "I have no idea,'' Cox said. "I never saw a gun.''...more

Texas cattlemen reserve excitement as China opens to U.S. beef market

Saginaw rancher Pete Bonds remembers the Holstein that came down with mad cow disease in December 2003 unaffectionately as the “cow who stole Christmas.” Within hours of the Christmas Eve finding, Japan, which accounted for a third of U.S. beef exports, had banned the product for fear of the spread of the deadly brain-wasting disease. From there, the markets dropped like dominoes: Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and China shut their doors. U.S. beef exports fell from $3.2 billion in 2003 to $631 million in 2004. Thirteen years later, mad cow disease long since has been ruled out as a threat and those markets largely have reopened. The World Trade Organization in 2007 dubbed the U.S. a “controlled risk,” meaning beef from the country could be safely traded. U.S. beef producers in 2015 did a brisk $5.8 billion in trade to 112 different countries. But aside from accepting some byproducts like beef tallow, China, the world’s fastest-growing beef market, has been a holdout, repeatedly dashing producers’ hopes with contentions it still wasn’t convinced U.S. beef was safe. The recent news that China at long last would — and for real, this time — accept U.S. beef is a potential game changer for ranchers struggling with low prices spurred by a post-drought oversupply of cattle...more

‘The Wall Is a Fantasy’


...Now the border loomed again, bristling with guards and cameras. This time, if caught, he faced six months in detention. He didn’t care. “I’ll go back and try again,” he said. Nothing could stop him, he said. Not even a new wall.

Across the globe, walls are going up. In Europe, columns of refugees snaking over borders have sent leaders scrambling for solutions in concrete and razor wire. Hungary has erected a 108-mile-long fence to keep out Syrians; at the French port of Calais, Britain is funding a barrier to prevent Afghans and Africans slipping into the channel tunnel. Public sympathy for immigrants, once kindled by images of drowned infants washing up on European shores, has been curdled by terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris and Nice. The defensive mood has spread to Africa, where Kenya plans to build a 440-mile-long wall along its frontier with Somalia to keep out the Shabab militia.

As a reporter based in the Middle East, I’ve mostly been on the other side of those walls, in places that might be described as the underbelly of globalization. This spring, in a scruffy Egyptian fishing village at the mouth of the Nile, I met restless teenagers who, drawn by images of Western glamour on Facebook, yearned to board the smugglers’ boats. In the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo, I had breakfast with a surgeon who, as bombs exploded outside, spoke of dispatching his family to Canada. In Tripoli, Libya, a young Nigerian migrant named Oke peeked through a church door, mulling his chances of surviving the fraught voyage across the Mediterranean.\

...America, the land of migrants, never seemed to need walls. It had water — vast oceans, east and west — and, since 2001, a formidable visa program. And yet this year, the drem of a grand protective barrier across the 2,000-mile frontier with Mexico catapulted Mr. Trump’s presidential bid into stunning viability. “Build that wall!” chanted candidate and crowd in unison at rallies this year.

And yet, the closer you get to the border, the fewer people think that it might work — even among Trump supporters and law enforcement officials. “The wall is a fantasy,” said Tony Estrada, the sheriff of Santa Cruz County, Ariz., a border district that is one of the busiest corridors of drugs and people smuggling in America. “I don’t care how big, how high or how long it is — it’s not going to solve the problem.”

He sighed. “But people are eating it up,’’ he said. “I can’t believe it.”

Mr. Estrada, who is 73, knows better than most that borders are more than lines on a map. Born in Mexico, he arrived in America at the age of 1. Until the 1970s, he said, the border had an organic quality. During the Cinco de Mayo fiesta, dancers paraded from Mexico into America then back again; beauty queens from both countries sat together on a platform that straddled the border; white tourists crossed into Mexico for the bullfights, the night life and the “rum runs” — cheap alcohol.
Then the drug wars exploded, and in 1995, a fence started to rise. Crime fell sharply, but the drop exacted a cost. Tourism withered, the curio shops closed and there was a painful tear in the cross-border culture. “The dynamic changed,” he said.

...The fence itself is a formidable sight, spanning about one-third of the 2,000-mile frontier from California to Texas, and patrolled by about 20,000 agents. One of the most tightly guarded stretches is around the city of Nogales, which straddles the border. Here, the first world abuts the third. American Nogales, orderly and somniferous, pushes up against Mexican Nogales, an unruly metropolis of 300,000 souls where the Sinaloa cartel looms large.

John Lawson, a border patrol officer born in Pennsylvania, took us on a tour of the fence, a slatted metal barrier, 18 to 30 feet high, that undulates along the hills on either side of Nogales. It was built at a cost of $4 million per mile, which includes an array of military-style fortifications. We passed pole-mounted cameras, radars, vibration sensors and, in the dip of valley, a line of World War II-style Normandy barriers meant to stop any Mexican vehicle from crashing through America’s front gate. The border patrol reaches into the air, too, with a fleet of drones, balloons and Blackhawk helicopters.
And yet, the “migrantes” and the “traficantes” still slip through.

...To modern-day cowboys and ranchers, Mexican migrants are the new foe. Ranching families thronged to the Cochise County Fair, outside the border town of Douglas, for an archetypal show of rural Americana. Children screamed with delight at the turkey race as their parents went to the rodeo; neon-lit stalls sold corn dogs, Confederate flags and gun paraphernalia.

Tony Fraze, a rancher and Trump supporter, paused to chat. Migrants were the scourge of the area, he said. They damaged fences, vandalized water systems and left trash that killed livestock. “You can’t leave your door open or your keys in your truck,” he said. “If you do, they might take them and kill you, too.” He mentioned Rob Krentz, a local rancher shot in 2010 in a traumatic case that briefly made the national news.

...Dark clouds scudded the sky as we drove 30 miles east to to see Ed Ashurst, a cowboy of craggy temperament. He is the author of three books on ranching and one on the migrant problem, titled “Alligators in the Moat.” “Immigration is a multikazillion dollar industry,” he declared. “They have scouts on every mountain and an intelligence operation better than the C.I.A.”

The night before, he found a migrant snoozing in his saddle house, and promptly turned him over to the border patrol. He hates President Obama (“not a patriot”) and likes Mr. Trump, but dismissed talk of a border wall as a “farce.” His solution was to deploy Navy SEALs along the border, arm them with AR-15 rifles, and give them orders to shoot anyone who crossed.

Later, on a walk through a field, Mr. Ashurst pointed to the detritus left by migrants — food tins in Spanish, plastic bags. I asked if he felt any compassion for the migrants’ plight. His voice rose sharply. “I’ve helped more Mexicans than these activist types,” he said. “But just because I’m a Republican, and I want a closed border, I’m a sorry son of a bitch.”


video - Car flies over three trains and lands on tracks in Belen

It was an incredible scene, and even more incredible the driver is still alive. Workers at the rail yard couldn’t believe their eyes when a car came flying out of nowhere — over three different trains. The car came flying down Baca which is a dead-end at 1st Street in Belen. Police said the driver hit this small embankment and landed on the other aside of those trains. They said the driver was doing almost 100 miles per hour down Baca Thursday morning. Police said there were no skid marks or indication of braking or slowing down, and the owner of the towing company said the damage to the car is one of the worst she has ever seen. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t see how this person is still alive, it’s a miracle, I hope he does make it, so he can tell his story on how he can clear all those train tracks,” said Christine Martinez, owner Curbside Towing. When officers arrived the driver was breathing but unconscious. He was airlifted to UNM Hospital in serious condition. Police say the car flew at least 20 feet off the ground and it landed about 150 feet away from where it took off, crumpling on impact...more

Here is the KRQE report:

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1721

One of my favorite bluegrass bands - Blue Highway - is out with a new CD, Original Traditional, from which I've selected the haunting tune Wilkes County Clay. Some great fiddlin' too.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Federal PILT could be on the chopping block

It’s the same battle every congressional budget cycle: States and counties depend on lawmakers to come up with a long-term answer to fund the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, while Congress stalls on legislation that at best offers only short-term solutions. Although Congress passed stop-gap funding late last month to keep government agencies and programs running through Dec. 9, PILT may once again be on the legislative chopping block as lawmakers consider ways to shrink federal spending. This uncertainty has Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson worried. In June, Arizona received slightly more than $35 million with Mohave, Gila and Yuma counties at the top of the pack, each receiving $3.5 million, and Santa Cruz and Greenlee counties at the bottom with $900,000 each. The Arizona funding was part of nearly $452 million paid to 1,900 local governments by the Interior Department under the PILT program, which has been compensating counties and local governments since 1977 for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions. PILT program eligibility is reserved for local governments — mostly rural counties — that contain non-taxable federal lands and provide vital services, such as public safety, housing, social services and transportation. The Interior Department collects more than $11 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. Since PILT payments began in 1977, DOI has distributed more than $7.5 billion to states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands...more

Cliven Bundy wants publicly funded lawyer in Bunkerville standoff case

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has spent years challenging the federal government’s authority, is now seeking a court-appointed lawyer to defend him in the Bunkerville standoff case. At a brief hearing Thursday morning, Bundy told U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen that he wanted to hire longtime Las Vegas defense attorney Bret Whipple but could not afford to pay him. Leen postponed the hearing until 3 p.m. and instructed Bundy, who is in federal custody, to fill out an application to see wheter he qualifies for a publicly funded lawyer. He must disclose his assets and cash flow in the sworn application. The judge said she likely would appoint Whipple if Bundy meets the threshold for assistance. Whipple entered the case temporarily this week to help Bundy’s current lawyer, Joel Hansen, meet a deadline to file pretrial motions. Leen has allowed Hansen to withdraw from the case by the end of the month. Hansen told Leen that he is preparing to have back surgery later this year and would be unable to participate in the criminal trial, which is set to begin Feb. 6.Earlier this year, Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro refused to let conservative Washington, D.C., lawyer Larry Klayman join Bundy’s defense. Navarro said she will not allow Klayman into the high-profile criminal case until he can give her proof that “ethical disciplinary proceedings” against him in Washington have been resolved in his favor. Klayman has challenged Navarro’s order at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco...more

Potsdam rancher to sign copies of his book on spending time with Native American medicine men, spirit guides

In “The Buffalo Spirit” (Lexingford, 2016), North Country author Dale Healey tells the true story of his 17 years in the close company and confidence of Native American medicine men and spiritual guides. Healey, a well-known Potsdam buffalo rancher until his retirement, describes the otherwise hidden world of sweat lodges, peyote and datura sacred ceremonies, and many other aspects of Native American wisdom and cultural practices. Healey’s book, subtitled “A Memoir of the Road Less Traveled By,” traces the author’s wandering path as a young man from Potsdam to the American West, where he was befriended by the Chumash healer and teacher, Grandfather Semu. Much of the book is devoted to what Healey learned from this unforgettable Native American figure...more

Flesh-Eating Screwworms are Back in Florida

Just when you thought you'd figured out all the ways Florida could kill you, our creepy state decides to add another! The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed earlier this month the presence of New World screwworms in Key deer living at the National Key Deer Refuge in the Florida Keys, which doesn't sound that terrifying until you learn why they're called screwworms. Adult screwworms, which look like regular flies, lay their eggs in the open wounds of warm-blooded creatures (including humans, though cases are rare). When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow and corkscrew their way into the host's flesh, eating it as they go. The screwworm infestation in the Key deer is the first local infestation in the U.S. in more than 30 years. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared an agricultural state of emergency because of the infestation in Key deer and a few pets in the Big Pine Key and No Name Key area. The Miami Herald reported earlier in October that more than 40 of the nearly 1,000 endangered Key deer have been euthanized due to screwworms. "The screwworm is a potentially devastating animal disease that sends shivers down every rancher's spine," Putnam says in a statement. "It's been more than five decades since the screwworm last infested Florida, and I've grown up hearing the horror stories from the last occurrence. This foreign animal disease poses a grave threat to wildlife, livestock and domestic pets in Florida." State and federal officials are working to address the issue through fly trapping to determine how bad the current infestation is and by releasing sterile male flies to eliminate the population. Florida agriculture officials also established an animal health-check zone in the Florida Keys that screens all animals traveling north of Mile Marker 106...more 

Old-time Florida cattle ranchers remember and fear the flesh-eating screwworm

Cattle ranchers can tell you all about the screwworm. They'll recall how their fathers and grandfathers spent their days wrangling newborn calves in the woods of Pasco and Polk counties, "doctoring" their open navels with pine tar before the flesh-eating maggots killed them. Earlow Costine, 69, of Lakeland, is one of the few cattlemen still in the business who remembers dealing with the screwworm. "People today don't know how bad it was," Costine said at the Lakeland auction this week. He remembered as a 10 year-old boy going out into the woods and restraining the calves as his father scraped out the maggots and treated the wound. "The navel was the worst place, though they'd get the teeth and the eyes," he said. "If you didn't get them out of the baby it was dead."...more

As a youngster that's how I saw my first dead calf.  We always had screwworm medicine in our saddlebags. On this day we saw a cow with a full bag come into water and we followed her back to her calf. The little fellow had just died and it was a terrible sight, with worms coming out of its eyes and mouth. I don't remember how old I was, but I eventually had to leave my bunk that night and spend the rest of the night with Uncle Archie and Aunt Geraldine.

ND ranchers fed up with pipeline protesters

North Dakota's Agriculture Department has set up a hotline to try to help farmers and ranchers south of Bismarck-Mandan affected by protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring says many producers need to finish seasonal work before winter sets in, and they're having problems trying to find willing truck drivers and custom silage-chopping services. Protesters say their activities are peaceful, but some producers in the area say they've been harassed. Goehring says the free hotline is aimed at helping producers and those looking for work to connect with one another. The Farm/Ranch Emergency Assistance Hotline number is 701-425-8454. Doug Hille ranches about six thousand acres north of Flasher in Morton County. The Dakota Access Pipeline cuts across much of the land Doug Hille counts on to provide grazing and water for his hundreds of head of cattle. KXMC reports he's said he’s pretty much fed up with the delays in the project caused by the protests. "It does nothing but cost us money and make life miserable for us," said Hille. There are no protesters on his land - but he says the work shutdowns caused by the protests have cost him plenty. "I've gone past $20,000 so fast it's making my head spin." That's in things like having to move calves and cattle closer to his home earlier than usual, being unable to move equipment in to finish chopping this corn field to provide feed, making arrangements to get water to cattle, and over grazing of some land because cattle are trapped in one area. "And it'll hurt us through most of next year." Add to that strangers snapping photos of him and his family, people shaking fists at him as they drive by, and he says it's gotten uncomfortable to live his life. But don't think he's only angered with the protesters. "I by no stretch of the imagination support the Dakota Access Pipeline company. They treated the landowners and the tenants up here like crap and I rank those people no higher than the protesters themselves,” said Hille. “On the flipside, the actual people building the pipeline are second to none I've ever worked with."...more

Reflective ear tags aim to prevent cow vs car collisions

Cows are typically not something people are scared of, but, if one suddenly shows up in the road at night, it can be terrifying. “We have quite a bit of open range roads in Utah, so you always have to look out for those cows,” said Sgt. Todd Royce with Utah Highway Patrol. On October 6 in Sanpete County, two people were flown to the hospital after their Jeep ran into a group of cows crossing the road. On February 5 in Millard County, a man was killed after he and his family hit a cow wandering on SR-257. Despite signs, tragedies like this continue to happen in areas where cows roam, and sometimes in places where cows simply escape their fenced-in area. “A few years ago I had some employees in an incident with a truck-cow collision, and it killed my employees,” said Ryan Fiala. Ryan Fiala is the owner of Key Ranch Solutions. He says he desperately wanted to find a solution and stop these crashes from happening. “After dealing with such a horrific incident, and then trying to explain to their family that, you know, they didn't do anything wrong,” Fiala said. He searched and found out about reflective ear tags for livestock. He now imports them from South Africa and sells them to ranchers and farmers nationwide. “To improve highway safety, to protect those people on the roadways, to give them a chance, a chance to react,” Fiala said of the tags. The reflective tags work just like the tags ranchers already use to track their cattle, but the new tags are more durable and can reflect light from up to 1,500 feet away, protecting the investment of farmers, and, more importantly, the lives of people. “Generally ranchers put one on each ear," Fiala said. "You just never know which way a cow is going to be standing on the roadway." Fiala's company has only been selling the product for three years, but he says he is getting feedback from ranchers that say the tags are working. "...They have not lost cows or had a car-cow collision since they've started using the product,” Fiala said...more

Oregon standoff defendant Ryan Payne wants to withdraw guilty plea

Ryan Payne, one of the 26 people indicted on a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, wants to withdraw his guilty plea in the case, according to his lawyer. Payne, who also faces a federal indictment in Nevada stemming from the 2014 standoff with federal officers near the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, had entered a guilty plea in the Oregon case in July, based on a global offer that was pending in the Nevada case. But his assistant federal public defender said an agreement in the Nevada case hasn't been reached. As a result, Payne, 33, wishes to withdraw his guilty plea in the Oregon case and seek a jury trial, according to new court filings. "As of the date of this filing, no agreement has been reached and there is no plea offer still available to Mr. Payne in Nevada,'' wrote attorney Rich Federico in a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. He filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Portland late Tuesday. Prosecutors said Payne made ultimatums to Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward in November, seeking to prevent Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond from returning to federal prison on arson convictions, and led tactical training during the occupation of the Malheur refuge. In Nevada, he's accused of organizing "armed protection'' in the 2014 standoff over the impounding of rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle. According to court records, the government is opposed to Payne withdrawing his guilty plea in the Malheur case...more

Gun safety advocates pump money into New Mexico

Fall legislative elections are thrusting New Mexico into the national political tussle over access to firearms and whether current restrictions and background checks are sufficient to stem violence. New campaign finance disclosures with state regulators show the group Everytown for Gun Safety made a $100,000 contribution to the Patriot Majority New Mexico political committee that is affiliated with Democratic causes. Smaller donations have been made to several other Democrat-aligned political committees, and both the Democratic Senate and Republican House majority leaders. National and local advocates for limited new firearms restrictions regard New Mexico as fertile ground for bipartisan reforms and want to see a loophole closed on background checks for firearms transactions at gun shows and online. The National Rifle Association has contributions to a long list of Republican lawmakers. AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1720

Red Foley tells us all about his problems with that new invention, Television.  The tune was recorded in Nashville on Dec. 18,1947. Jerry Byrd is the steel player and don't miss his cute little ending.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Water war continues despite court “settlement”

When environmentalists and Wyoming ranchers agreed on Aug. 11 to end their two-year legal fight over whether a field worker trespassed when measuring water pollution on public grazing allotments, both sides proclaimed victory. “Trespassing to stop under settlement,” the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association trumpeted in a press release supporting the rancher plaintiffs. “Frivolous Wyoming trespass lawsuit finally dropped,” announced the defendant – Western Watersheds Project. In fact, the “settlement” between the 17 Wyoming ranchers who brought the lawsuit and Western Watersheds, the Idaho-based environmental watchdog, is like a ceasefire in Syria — more posturing than fact — rather than an actual end to hostilities. Indeed, the fight over water quality in Wyoming continues, perhaps with the rules of engagement slightly better defined as the result of the settlement: Ranchers can now easily seek a court fine — $2,500 for the first trespass and $5,000 for subsequent ones. The sides agreed which roads through certain private properties have easements allowing Western Watersheds to pass. The state DEQ has meanwhile rolled out its revised plan for reclassifying — some say downgrading — waterways after the federal government said the state’s first attempt lacked public notice and a proper record of public involvement. Wyoming now seeks to list for higher protection about 5,000 more miles of streams and creeks than originally planned — partly due to accepting a federal request to maintain protection under two different labels for key pristine streams. But the real conflict, both sides agree, was never really as much about “trespassing” as it was about who was trespassing. Most ranchers, plaintiff’s attorney Karen Budd-Falen said, are tolerant when it comes to recreational visitors and even hunters crossing their property to get to public land. The ranchers she represents, said Budd-Falen, “generally are fine with the general public crossing their property.” But when someone shows up with a water testing kit that could possibly affect their grazing business they draw the line. “We brought the case because Western Watersheds abused the system,” she said. Western Watersheds says abuse comes from stock growers, heaped on the public-lands environment to the detriment of wildlife...more

Cowboys of Canada among ‘the whispered messages of the wild’

For every Douglas Lake, Waldron, or McIntyre Ranch — vast holdings the size of small nations — there are dozens of family ranches in the Canadian West struggling to make it. Their challenge is oil and gas, an industry that is, ironically, both the key to their survival and the cause of their demise. The eastern foothills of the Canadian Rockies and the prairies, running away a thousand miles to the east, remained virtually roadless in 1905, when the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan came into being. A single ribbon of steel, the Canadian Pacific Railway, bound the new nation together. With its vast land grants, the railroad sold the dream of the west to tens of thousands of immigrants, settlers without whom the tracks would have nothing to carry. The great ranches of the west were staked by horse and wagon or on foot, and the pioneers lived through winters so cold that elk grazed on willow branches thick as a man’s thumb. All that was to be heard were the whispered messages of the wild. Today there is virtually no field or meadow in all of Alberta outside of the national parks that has not been crossed and crossed again by pipelines, seismic lines, and roads servicing the tens of thousands of oil and gas wells that now litter the landscape. Ranchers have little choice but to welcome such activity on their lands. Theirs is a marginal existence. Most ranches are heavily mortgaged. Equipment costs are high, with previous spread a combine alone running close to half a million dollars. Factor in drought, devastating winters, the volatility of prices for cattle and grain, and you have all the makings of a financially precarious way of life, despite its rugged appeal. the long-term social and ecological consequences of oil and gas development may ultimately mean the end of Canadian cowboy culture. Access roads bring a host of challenges—range fires caused by exhaust sparks or the careless disposal of cigarettes; disruption to the habitat of wolves and bears, driving these predators toward domestic herds; and most serious of all, the introduction of invasive species of weeds and soil contaminants that threaten the ecological integrity of the grasslands upon which the entire ranching economy depends. Biosecurity is not an exotic term but rather a constant topic of conversation on the ranches and farms of the Canadian West...more

Why Bundy convictions are no slam dunk: unpredictable juries

by Jeremy P. Jacobs

Despite reams of evidence — thousands of social media posts and videos, photos of men with large guns, and the testimony of threatened federal employees — legal experts say jurors still may not convict the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Attorneys who have experience trying cases in Western states have found juries notoriously unpredictable and hard to read in trials involving public lands and property rights.

Westerners generally have greater skepticism of the federal government because of its vast land management responsibilities.

And that, said attorney Karen Budd-Falen, can translate to the jury pool.

"If what you are asking me is if people who live in the West have a different mindset toward the federal government by virtue of the amount of land they have — and they are your landlords — the answer is absolutely yes," said Budd-Falen, a Cheyenne, Wyo.-based attorney who has represented numerous ranchers in cases against the government.

...While relatively little is known about the jury, there are some hints that there may be one or two jurors who could be sympathetic to Bundy's anti-government views. It takes only one holdout to hang a jury, essentially creating a mistrial. And there is the rare possibility that the jury could side with Bundy and his co-defendants even if jurors agree the defendants broke the law — a result known as jury nullification.

In the West, federal prosecutors have a mixed record in these types of trials...

The article also explores the role of race and religion, the importance of the judge's instructions to the jury, and speculates on what may occur in the jury room, including jury nullification.

Ryan Bundy questions wife at Oregon standoff trial

Ryan Bundy called his wife Angela to the stand as the defense resumed its case in the Oregon standoff trial. Acting as his own lawyer, Bundy broke down Tuesday before posing his first question, finally composing himself to ask: "You're my wife, right?" Angela Bundy testified her husband arrived in Burns on Jan. 2, and planned to return home after a rally for two ranchers who were returning to prison to complete a sentence the protesters felt was unjust. Angela Bundy said she packed Ryan one change of clothes and expected him home no later than Jan. 4. Ryan Bundy was trying to establish he did not come to Oregon with plans to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He's charged with engaging in a conspiracy with his brother Ammon and others to impede federal workers from doing their jobs at the refuge.  AP

Ken Medenbach testifies that the Bundys are his 'heroes,' and he's exactly where he wants to be

Ken Medenbach, the lone Oregon resident on trial on a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told jurors Tuesday he's exactly where he wants to be, preaching about his views on land rights in a federal courtroom. He called the Bundys his "heroes'' for the "bold move'' they made in the 2014 standoff with federal officers near patriarch Cliven Bundy's ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada. Medenbach noted that he's been fighting "the same things they were fighting.'' "The federal government doesn't have authority to own land in the states,'' Medenbach said. And like Ammon Bundy, Medenbach added, "I've been called by a higher power to do what I'm doing.'' Medenbach, 63, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use threats, intimidation or force to prevent federal employees from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Bureau of Land Management employees from doing their work during the occupation of the federal bird sanctuary in eastern Oregon. He's also pleaded not guilty to theft of government property: a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pickup truck that he admitted on the stand to driving to pick up groceries at the Safeway in Burns on Jan. 15, before his arrest. "It didn't matter to me being arrested because I'm where I want to be right now,'' Medenbach said. "I've been waiting 21 years to be where I'm at right now.'' His standby counsel Matthew Schindler led Medenbach through his long history of challenging the government's control of land, starting with his 1988 construction of some cabins and an outhouse on five acres of land he bought for $700 northeast of Crescent, without obtaining any permits from Klamath County. Earlier Tuesday, one of Ammon Bundy's defense lawyers called a cousin of Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward in an attempt to impeach the sheriff's earlier testimony. Rodney Glen Cooper, of Veneta, Oregon, testified that he visited the sheriff twice in January "to find out what is going on out there.'' Ward's grandmother and Cooper's father are siblings, he told The Oregonian/OregonLive after court. On his first visit with Ward on Jan. 18, he said he inquired about the concept of being a "constitutional sheriff.'' After that visit, Cooper said he visited the refuge, and met Ryan Bundy. During a second visit with Ward, Cooper said the sheriff shared with him his feelings about Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy. Cooper characterized Ward's position like this: "He said he was about 90 percent with what they were doing, and if they could have been on different circumstances, they could have been good friends.'' "On Jan. 25, did Sheriff Ward tell you he did not feel threatened by the Bundys?'' defense attorney J. Morgan Philpot asked. "Yes, he did,'' Cooper answered. Ward had previously testified during the government's case that Ammon Bundy had made repeated ultimatums to him that if he didn't prevent the Hammond ranchers from returning to federal prison, there would be extreme civil unrest in his county...more

Young sheep ranchers swap stories

At the 2014 Trailing of the Sheep Festival, tales of the “visionaries”—the first generations to establish sheep ranches in the American West—were heard and honored. Then in 2015, the “survivors”—second- and third-generation sheep ranchers who steered their family operations through the farm depression of the 1980s told their stories. At this year’s festival, on Friday, Oct. 7, at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum, it was the next generation’s turn, at an event called the Sheep Tales Gathering. These are some of their stories. For Dominique Etcheverry, of Etcheverry Sheep Co. in Rupert, Idaho, growing up on the family ranch and learning the trade was a unique learning experience. “To be raised that way, it’s like your family are your mentors but also your peers,” she said. Though she now works as a graphic designer, she remains involved with the family operation by helping her father at the ranch and educating people about the benefits of sheep, lamb and wool. Some of that education started early. Etcheverry recounted that when she was a youth on the ranch, during sheep trailings the local highway would often be shut down, aggravating motorists. “I would run up and down the highway and hand out cookies to people to calm them down and explain what was going on,” Etcheverry said. One of her and her sister’s jobs growing up on the ranch was checking on all the sheep to make sure they were doing OK. “One interesting thing about sheep is that they love to die,” she joked. She said they’d be lying on their sides and wouldn’t realize they’re well until she and her sister propped them up again. She mentioned that one day her grandfather—who had begun the operation after moving to the U.S. from the French Basque country in 1929—complimented them on their work. “That was always huge—he didn’t give compliments out easily,” she said...more

Restrictions on medicated feeds coming to farms

By the end of this year, hundreds of antimicrobial applications for livestock will change to add veterinarian oversight and remove approval for growth and efficiency uses. Dr. William T. Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the change is a substantial departure from the way antimicrobials have been used in U.S. agriculture for decades. “It’s a big country, and there’s a lot of farms and ranches out there to get this information to,” he said. “And that was a key reason why we set out a three-year timeline to put these changes into place.” Agency officials announced in December 2013 that pharmaceutical companies would have three years to consent to drug approval changes that would remove permission for livestock production use, in feed or water, of any drugs that are in the same antimicrobial classes used in human medicine and remove over-the-counter access to those drugs. They warned that companies could face administrative action if they failed to comply, and by June 2014, all affected companies had agreed to make the changes, planned for late this year. Specific dates were unavailable at press time...more


Presentation of the DuBois Awards to the All-Around Cowgirl and Cowboy will take place at the luncheon.

Everyone is invited.  Come and support the rodeo program, and have some great fun and memories.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1719

Johnny Bond recorded Cimarron on several occasions. This version, by Bond and Dick Reinhardt, was recorded in Hollywood on  Dec, 10, 1947,  for Columbia.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Montana Anti-Trapping Initiative Bad for Wildlife

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation strongly opposes Initiative 177, a measure on Montana's November ballot that would immediately ban trapping on all public lands in the state. If passed it would severely cripple scientifically sound management practices that maintain healthy wildlife populations across Montana.

"Removing trapping as a management tool flies in the face of the science-based North American Wildlife Conservation Model which is the foundation of maintaining the healthiest and most successful wildlife populations in the world. And managing wildlife at the ballot box is extremely dangerous for our wildlife and should remain in the hands of state wildlife agencies," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. "A trapping ban would lead to an immediate jump in the wolf population of at least 15 percent and likely greater than that, which would trigger an even greater detrimental impact on the overall size and health of our elk, moose and deer populations."

Trapping is a highly regulated and effective means of harvest with controlled seasons. It is used for a variety of reasons including wildlife management, research, food, hunting, public health and safety, and pest control.

Issues of concern:

Wildlife management—Trapping is a key tool for wildlife managers. I-177 would negatively affect science-based wildlife management which has been successfully used to establish, restore and sustain wildlife populations in North America.

Increased costs/lost revenue—I-177 will cost taxpayers at least $422,000 annually for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to pay for new staffers, radio collars and other equipment, predator and pest control, monitoring, investigations, property damage and implementing alternative methods to trapping in place of what trappers already pay to do.

In addition, towns, cities, parks, schools and universities will also be forced to pay for alternative pest and predator control efforts to manage disease-carrying species, driving the total taxpayer burden for I-177 into the millions of dollars.

Elk vs. wolf numbers—Trapping is vital in helping to manage ballooning wolf populations which are already 400 percent above minimum recovery goals. Thirty-nine percent or 338 of the 871 wolves taken during Montana's wolf hunting seasons since 2012 were taken via trapping. Montana currently has an estimated population of 536-734 wolves. Without trapping efforts the past four years, the population would number well above 1,000.

Poison—Removing trapping could lead to wildlife managers using other means for predator control such as more pesticides, which are much more dangerous for wildlife, humans and pets due to their indiscriminate nature.

Public Access—Public lands should be available for all. I-177 dictates a group of Montanans (trappers) involved in a sustainable management practice for decades are no longer welcome on Montana's publicly-owned lands which cover a third of the state's 94-million-acre landscape.

Other Factors—Montana's Constitution protects a citizen's right to harvest wild fish and game. I-177 was formulated and backed by the leaders of a group who grew up outside the state of Montana.

"We encourage RMEF members in Montana and every state across the nation to get educated and informed about local, state and national issues and candidates as they go to the polls. The future of conservation, elk, elk country and our hunting heritage depends on it," added Allen.

- RMEF (

In their own words: Wives of Cliven Bundy, LaVoy Finicum speak out at Utah town gathering

More than 200 people gathered recently in the tiny town of Veyo, north of St. George, in a stoic show of support for the extended families of Cliven Bundy and Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. This year, both men and their kin paid a terrible price for mounting what they fervently believed were Constitutionally justified, right-to-bear-arms responses to bullying and overreach by the U.S. government in its management of public lands. While hundreds of Bundy and Finicum family supporters were served a Dutch oven dinner of beef, chicken and bacon-infused potatoes in Veyo’s sun-splashed city park, Bundy, age 70, dined on commissary food in a tiny jail cell in Pahrump, Nevada, 150 miles to the west. That is where he awaits trial on federal conspiracy charges in the armed standoff against the Bureau of Land Management outside his Bunkerville, Nevada, ranch in 2014. His sons, Mel and Dave Bundy, are in the same lockup facing similar charges...The finding that Finicum was “alone” in creating the circumstances leading to his death has been called into question by a revelation in open court that Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with Finicum, Shawna Cox and two others, had caravanned to the ambush site with an armed government informant behind the wheel of one of the vehicles. News of the informant’s role in leading occupiers to the police ambush site didn’t go down easy with those in attendance at the Bundy family benefit. “We realized that night, when he (McConnell) was allowed to go free after LaVoy was killed, that he was an informant,” Carol Bundy, Cliven Bundy’s wife, told Gephardt Daily. “We further realized it when he took to social media that night and lied about what happened. He talked about things he was in no position to see,” she said. “People got all excited,” she said. “They said, ‘Carol, you just can’t trust anybody anymore,’ and I said, my story stays the same. I don’t really care if the FBI paid informants or not. We have nothing to hide. I have nothing to hide. We’ve done nothing wrong. We didn’t hurt anybody. If anybody was hurt, it was done by their hand, the federal government’s hand. “Cliven Bundy’s never hurt anybody,” Bundy said. “He hurts. His heart hurts to know that his sons and a lot of other young men that are in there are there because they stood with him, and they’re not home with their babies and their families and their wives. And he carries that burden. It’s very hard.” Jeanette Finicum, LaVoy’s widow, knows about burden.
In the eight months since her husband’s death, she’s been forced to assume management of the couple’s ranch in Cane Beds, Arizona. It’s a tough job, in an often hostile and unforgiving landscape, its harshness matched only by its high-desert beauty. “Do I talk to him? Sometimes,” Finicum told Gephardt Daily. “Sometimes it’s, ‘I miss you and I love you and I can’t wait to be with you again,’ and other times it’s like, ‘What the heck did you think you were doing?’ “But I know he’s proud. I know he’s proud the American people are waking up and taking a stand. “And yes, my husband’s life was worth it. Was worth freedom. And the liberties we are losing in this country. It was worth it. I would hate to think it was not worth it, because his life would have been for nothing.” Finicum paused, her eyes narrowing. “They didn’t have to do what they did,” she said. “But they planned it. They had orchestrated it. They knew somebody was going to die that day. I don’t know how it will work out, but I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t try to hold them accountable for the murder of my husband.”...more

Sage Grouse Management Plans Based on Inaccurate Science

One year after the announcement by the Department of Interior that a listing under the Endangered Species Act was not warranted for the greater sage grouse and the implementation of restrictive resource management plans for the species, the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association submitted a report to the agencies citing concerns with the methodology used.
Ethan Lane, PLC executive director and NCBA executive director of federal lands, notes that recent studies have shown little or no correlation between sage grouse nest success and the requirements set out by the agencies.

“The threats to sage grouse habitat remain wildfire and land development, both of which are mitigated by proper livestock grazing,” said Lane. “One of the most restrictive and burdensome requirements set out by the agencies through the sage grouse Resource Management Plans is the arbitrary stubble height requirement. To say that grass height alone can predict whether or not a sage grouse nest will be successful is not accurate and based on flawed methodology.”

The report points to recent studies showing that the assessments of stubble height required by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are incorrect. These studies show that the timing of grass height measurements in relation to nest predation are fundamentally flawed and not indicative of nesting success.

“Grass height measurements for successful nests are usually conducted in late spring when the eggs have successfully hatched and the grass is taller,” said Lane. “Contrarily, predation of nests often happens closer to the time the eggs are laid in early spring when the grasses are still growing. Grass height alone has little impact on the success or failure of sage grouse nesting, yet these requirements put intense pressure on grazing rotation and the long term health of the range.”

Repeated studies clearly show that grasses respond best to intensively-managed grazing that focuses heavily on timing and recovery. A managed grazing rotation means that a pasture will be grazed early in the season in some years and later in others to ensure optimal recovery and rangeland health.

“The Resource Management Plans make stubble height the driving factor in grazing decisions and impede improving rangeland conditions,” said Lane. “This is counter-productive to sage grouse habitat, as we know healthy rangelands are the largest factor in the success of the species. Moreover, by prioritizing individual data points like grass height over long-term range health, these plans also detract from the conservation of public lands and result in deteriorated rangelands.”

The Public Lands Council is calling on BLM, USFS and USFWS to provide clear instruction at the field level that livestock grazing is not a significant threat, livestock grazing should not be held to a standard that is not ecologically possible in some sites, and that reducing numbers and utilization of public lands will only increase the fuel load.

Press Release

EPA Proposes New Tactic for Adding Ethanol Blends at Fueling Stations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a different tactic to increasing ethanol blends available at fueling stations. A new EPA proposal would reclassify ethanol blends above E15 as “ethanol flex fuels,” potentially opening the door to wider use of these blends, according to Hemmings Motor News and reported by Green Car Reports. The proposal would place fuels with 16 to 50 percent ethanol in the same category as E85. Reclassifying ethanol blends would make more biofuels available to owners of flex-fuel vehicles. The EPA thinks its proposal could encourage more interest in flex-fuel vehicles and the “blender pumps” needed at fueling stations to add greater amounts of ethanol to gasoline. Drivers would have the option of deciding how much ethanol would be blended into their gasoline during the fueling...more

After decade of work, Montanans will consider banning trapping on public lands

A call to the phone number for Footloose Montana, the organization behind the initiative to ban trapping on Montana’s public lands, yields only an automated voice requesting you state your name for the party’s approval. Only if Footloose accepts your call will you be directed to organizer Chris Justice. The system was implemented after a series of anonymous death threats. The phone security is one of the first hints of the intensity of the debate over the initiative, I-177. It’s also a fight that has been going on since a couple founded Footloose in 2007. The group has mounted two failed attempts to get I-177 on the ballot. This year, after nearly a decade, Justice and the group gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Although a central argument against trapping is the negative effect on protected and endangered species, Footloose’s campaign has focused less on wild animals, and more on domesticated ones. Just how big of a threat traps pose to pets is a point of contention between the two sides, but many proponents of the issue are people who have had their own pets injured in traps. Betsy Brandborg, who investigates complaints against lawyers for the Montana State Bar Association, is one of those advocates. Brandborg’s Airdale, Polly, had her trapped by leg-hold snares on three separate occasions near Helena. The first time was what sparked her interest in the issue. The second was what solidified it...more

Cultural identity, courtesy of Rocky Mountain Oysters

A guy who covers agriculture in the West who’s never put a skinned, sliced, battered, deep-fried bull testicle into a cup of cocktail sauce and then into his mouth? I couldn’t let it stand. They’re known by many names: lamb fries, bull fries, Montana tenders, huevos de toro, cowboy caviar. In my corner of Colorado, they’re Rocky Mountain oysters and I somehow coaxed myself into thinking I needed to try them to be more a part of the place I live, to be a true blue Coloradan. Bruce’s Bar is the place to try Rocky Mountain Oysters; a place that’s been built on the novelty of eating testicles since 1957. An institution in the small town of Severance, Colorado, Bruce’s has enough sway in town to merit inclusion on its welcome sign, which reads: “The Town Of Severance: Where The Geese Fly And The Bulls Cry.” The bar’s exterior is plastered in cartoon bulls, some with their legs crossed. Another is popping a wheelie on a motorcycle, holding a sign that says: “Still Got Mine.” Few other places revere the Rocky Mountain oyster like Severance, save for towns like Deerfield, Michigan; Olean, Missouri; Tiro, Ohio; Huntley, Illinois; or Clinton, Montana, which throw annual testicle festivals. Each year Bruce’s acts as a starting point for a “Nut Run,” a motorcycle rally with the tagline: “No Bull, Just Balls,” where visitors wolf down upwards of 1,000 pounds of Rocky Mountain oysters in one afternoon. And of course there’s the name of the town: Severance. It literally means, “the state of being separated or cut off.”  That’s why I decided to consult an expert, someone to bring me back to reality, and explain that yes, these are just testicles, and any meaning you load them with is purely your own. I found that perspective in Bruce’s no-nonsense kitchen manager Dennis Guffy. He’s been at Bruce’s for more than 40 years. Guffy has prepared tons -- actual tons -- of oysters in his career. “I’ve worked with these things for 40 years and I still like them,” Guffy says while skinning a bull testicle the size of large avocado. “For as many as I’ve handled and cooked, I still like them. I think they’re awesome.”  After slicing, dicing, breading, and deep-frying Guffy brings out the basket with a side of cocktail sauce. It’s a sampler: bison, lamb and beef oysters. I go with the more exotic bison oyster as my first taste...more