Friday, November 04, 2016

DuBois Award recipients

The DuBois Award is a Curtis Fort original bronze presented to the all-around cowboy and all-around cowgirl at NMSU each year.  Recipients are determined by NIRA points won in more than one event.

We had had no rodeo coach in the Fall of 2015 so there was no bronc riding & calf roping event and no awards were presented at that time.  We made up for that at the awards luncheon this year and had the recipients for the 2014-2015 season and the 2015-2016 season present.

Here is some info and pics of the recipients, plus I would like to add my appreciation to each of these outstanding student-athletes and thank them for being part of the NMSU rodeo program. We raise money for scholarships each year so we can attract this type of individual to NMSU.

DuBois Award 2015

Nicole SweazeaReceived degree in Animal Science, currently a graduate student in Education. Competed in BW, GT & TR and a two-time winner of the DuBois Award.

Tyke Kipp -  Sr. majoring in Business Mgt, competed in SW, SB & TR.  Reserve National Champion Steer Wrestler and a two-time winner of the DuBois Award.

 DuBois Award 2016

Anna Barker - Jr. majoring in Animal Science and competes in GT, BW, BR.

Josh Davison -  Sr. majoring in Ag Business and scored NIRA points in every event except SW. 

Monday marks closure for many Yellowstone National Park roads and entrances

This weekend marks the last chance for visitors to drive to many iconic locations in Yellowstone National Park. The West, South, and East Entrances and all roads, with one exception, will close to vehicle travel at 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 7, so the park can prepare them for the winter season and snowmobile and snowcoach travel, which will begin Tuesday, Dec. 15. The one exception is the road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana through Mammoth Hot Springs to the park’s Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana. This road is open all year, weather permitting...more

Forest Service concerned with crowds, damage in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

The secret is out. Many Colorado wilderness areas are experiencing record crowds, and forest rangers are concerned with the damage left behind. One of the most unspoiled spots in the state is the Conundrum Hot Springs in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. However, overnight visitation to the area has increased 115 percent since 2007. And forest rangers say that those visitors are becoming increasingly less respectful to their surroundings. “We have been monitoring and collecting visitor use data in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness for many years,” stated Kay Hopkins, recreation planner for the White River National Forest, in a news release. “Every year visitation is record setting and every year we are seeing more resource damage and in general a lack of ethical behavior from visitors.” The crowds have prompted a need for a management plan, the Forest Service announced Thursday, and they are asking the public for help. The Forest Service says that the impacts from increased overnight visitation effect the landscape, the visitor experience and land managers’ ability to effectively keep up with the use. Rangers are seeing increased trash, tree cutting/fire scars, human waste and proliferation...more

Prosecutors confirm FBI agents posed as film crew in Bunkerville standoff investigation

Federal prosecutors confirmed late Wednesday that undercover FBI agents posed as a documentary film crew to gather evidence during their investigation of the April 2014 standoff near Bunkerville. In court papers, the four prosecutors handling the case, including First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, did not identify the company used in the ruse. But defense lawyers who have seen FBI reports of the undercover operation have previously said in court documents that the company’s name was Longbow Productions. Several of the 19 defendants charged in the Bunkerville case — including Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders of the alleged assault on Bureau of Land Management officers — were tricked into doing interviews with the undercover agents before they were charged. Prosecutors revealed the undercover sting in a written response to court papers filed by another defendant, Gregory Burleson, who accused FBI agents of misconduct for giving him liquor during his October 2014 interview at a Phoenix hotel room. Burleson’s defense lawyer, Terrence Jackson, has asked a federal judge to toss out the evidence obtained against Burleson by an undercover Longbow crew, arguing that plying him with alcohol induced him to make incriminating admissions. But in their court papers Wednesday, prosecutors defended the undercover operation and said Jackson has no evidence of government misconduct...more

Prosecutors confirm FBI agents posed as film crew in Bunkerville standoff investigation

Federal prosecutors confirmed late Wednesday that undercover FBI agents posed as a documentary film crew to gather evidence during their investigation of the April 2014 standoff near Bunkerville. In court papers, the four prosecutors handling the case, including First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, did not identify the company used in the ruse. But defense lawyers who have seen FBI reports of the undercover operation have previously said in court documents that the company’s name was Longbow Productions. Several of the 19 defendants charged in the Bunkerville case — including Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders of the alleged assault on Bureau of Land Management officers — were tricked into doing interviews with the undercover agents before they were charged. Prosecutors revealed the undercover sting in a written response to court papers filed by another defendant, Gregory Burleson, who accused FBI agents of misconduct for giving him liquor during his October 2014 interview at a Phoenix hotel room. Burleson’s defense lawyer, Terrence Jackson, has asked a federal judge to toss out the evidence obtained against Burleson by an undercover Longbow crew, arguing that plying him with alcohol induced him to make incriminating admissions. But in their court papers Wednesday, prosecutors defended the undercover operation and said Jackson has no evidence of government misconduct...more

Alaska Senator Calls Obama’s Interior Secretary ‘A Horrible Disappointment’

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the current Secretary of the Interior has been a “horrible disappointment” that will thankfully be leaving office soon. “Sally Jewell has been a horrible disappointment and is one vote I regret,” Murkowski said in an interview with an Alaska radio station Tuesday, according to Politico. “She will be gone soon and that will be good for Alaska,” Murkowski said...more

HIT Tax will Hit Farmers Hard

The federal government is about to raise your taxes and increase your cost of health insurance. Beginning in 2018, farmers and small businesses will have to start paying the Health Insurance Tax. The tax was created by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for the legislation. Congress voted last year to impose a one-year delay of the tax until 2018. AFBF tax specialist Pat Wolff says the tax would increase the cost of insurance for farmers and ranchers, “Farmers have two issues with health insurance: one is how much it costs, and the other is, is it available in rural areas? The HIT tax comes straight to how much does insurance cost. It raises the cost of health insurance and it makes it harder for people who have to buy their own insurance to pay for insurance or to upgrade and get higher quality coverage.” Wolff says the tax is imposed on insurance companies based on the premiums they collect, but the companies pass the cost along to their customers, “The insurance companies just pass this along to people who have to buy their own health insurance to the tune of about $500 per family per year, and that’s a lot of money for farmers and ranchers.”...more

Quarantine of southeast Alberta ranches could last months, say CFIA officials

The quarantine of some 30 southeast Alberta ranches after a cow tested positive for bovine tuberculosis in the United States could last for several months, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) officials said this week. The disease was detected in a cow after it was processed at a plant in the U.S. and traced back to Alberta. The quarantined ranches are located in the Buffalo Atlee and Suffield Block community pastures. CFIA officials are working with provincial agriculture and health authorities to determine where the animal originated. Affected ranchers could be compensated, said Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, Canada's chief veterinary officer. "The CFIA will pay compensation to producers as quickly as possible for any animals ordered destroyed," he said in a video statement...more

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Campaign Donations Link Ski Industry Leaders to Climate Change Deniers


 The future of skiing can be summed up like this: The planet is warming; snow melts when it is warm. And state and federal climate change legislation—that keeps billions of tons of carbon in the ground instead of up in the air—is the best, perhaps only, way to save snow.

So it is surprising that in 2016, ski resorts, trade groups, and industry leaders—who work in one of the most susceptible regions to warming in the world—are actively supporting Congressional candidates responsible for blocking climate change legislation.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “Vail Resorts PAC” sent thousands of dollars to the campaigns of stalwart climate change deniers Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Col.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Scott Tipton (R-Col.), and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz donated $10,000 to the PAC in 2015 and 2016. Former CEO John Redmond, Executive Vice President David T. Shapiro, and several other high-level executives donated as well. Vail Resorts owns Whistler-Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Park City, among many other properties around the globe.

Another Vail PAC, called “Vail Resorts Employee,” sent notorious climate denier, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) $5,000. The Park Record reported in July that Vail Resorts Management Company got involved in local Utah politics, sending $3,000 to help re-elect Gov. Gary Herbert—who claims the science of climate change “is not necessarily conclusive” and is blocking President Obama’s plan to clean up Utah’s coal-fired power plants. Herbert also received donations from Deer Valley Resort Company, Solitude Mountain Resort, Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, and Brighton Ski Resort. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) even got in on the action, donating $2,000 through its PAC in 2012 to Bishop and Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Barrasso built his platform around defeating climate change legislation in the Senate and tried last fall to block Congressional funds promised to the historic Paris Agreement Green Fund.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has long claimed to be a champion of the fight against climate change, often citing the fact that president Jerry Blann initiated the NSAA’s first environmental efforts in the early 2000s. Yet in 2016, Blann sent checks to the pro-oil, pro-coal, pro-gas Republican National Committee and Leland Christensen—a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives who is laying the groundwork for a massive coal port on the lower Snake River that would transport millions of tons of Powder River Basin coal to Asia. Between 2013-2014, Blann also supported pro-fossil fuel Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Barrasso.

Interior Secretary Jewell, Director Jarvis Announce 10 New National Historic Landmarks

November 3, 2016.  U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis yesterday announced the designation of 10 new national historic landmarks, including properties that honor LGBT and civil rights history. The designation recognizes the properties as places that possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. The National Historic Landmarks Program recognizes historic properties of exceptional value to the nation and promotes the preservation efforts of federal, state and local agencies and Native American tribes, as well as those of private organizations and individuals. The program is one of more than a dozen administered by the National Park Service that provide states and local communities technical assistance, recognition and funding to help preserve our nation’s shared history and create close-to-home recreation release


Donald Trump’s Border Wall Would Have Wild Victims


If pronghorns, ocelots, and jaguars could vote, Hillary Clinton would get an additional boost in Arizona and Texas. That’s because, aside from questions of feasibility and political impacts, the Great Wall of Guadalupe Hidalgo that Donald Trump promises to build would have a devastating impact on these and other four-legged border jumpers.

Likewise the endangered subspecies of black bear that inhabits the borderlands along the Rio Grande. These bears, which have been nearly extirpated in Texas but hang on in the Mexican states of Coahuila and Chihuahua, are much rarer and shyer than their prolific northern cousins—hardly cut out for a world of helicopters, searchlights, and high-powered rifles.

The region’s next-largest carnivore, on the other hand, has shown a remarkable determination to keep coming north against all odds. Jaguars, the third-largest of the big cats, aren’t just jungle cats. They once ranged widely across the Southwest and Southeast. But what was thought to be the last wild jaguar in the United States—a female—was shot in 1963. Over the past two decades, however, one after another male tigre has been spotted or recorded by trap cameras wandering north in a vain search for mates.

Federal officials, picking their battles amidst vehement resistance from ranchers, have declined to import female jaguars or designate critical jaguar habitat. But biologists suspect that climate change is already driving not just jaguars but ocelots, coatis, javelinas, brown-nosed opossums and hog-nosed skunks northward. As warming continues, refuges north of the border will become increasingly important for many Mexican species—if fences and walls don’t hold them back.

President Obama on DAPL: "A Challenging Situation"; Considers Rerouting Pipeline

President Obama is looking into the possibilities of rerouting the pipeline. But local authorities are worried about the protests escalating. Obama says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is actively trying to figure out if the pipeline can be rerouted in southern North Dakota. They want to alleviate the concerns by Native Americans over threats to drinking water and sacred land. Obama told NowThis, an online news outlet, that his administration is watching the Pipeline conflict closely, but will, "let it play out for several more weeks." Governor Jack Dalrymple encourages the Obama administration to help resolve the situation rather than "let it play out," citing public safety for area farmers and ranchers as the top priority. We spoke with Chase Iron Eyes, democratic nominee for North Dakota U.S. House of Representatives. He says he understands the need for the pipeline, but wants a resolution which fits the needs of Native Americans. "I think we should be protecting our water resources," he explained. "I'm not against pipelines. I'm not. But we should not put water at risk. That's the foundation of all our economic future, our economic potential is based on that." Morton County chairman Cody Schulz says by letting it "play out," Obama is putting lives in danger citing a recent escalation in violence by protesters...more

Administration watches as Dakota Pipeline protesters wreak havoc

By Tracy Brunner and Dave Eliason

As the nation watches protests over the Dakota Access pipeline escalate and turn violent, Americans are beginning to ask questions.

As cases of theft, trespassing, vandalism and dead and mutilated livestock in the area continue to mount, why is the federal government standing by and allowing this chaos to unfold; and why are they so unconcerned with the impact the protesters are having on local ranchers and their livestock?

The latter question is easy to answer. After successfully navigating the exhaustive federal environmental review process known as NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, the Dakota Access pipeline was approved and moving forward, only to run into the buzzsaw of offensive environmental litigation.

That litigation effort proved unsuccessful, and the approval was upheld in federal court a few months ago. Almost immediately following that decision, the Obama administration reversed its own decision — and defied the federal bench — by unilaterally halting the project.

Unfortunately for local landowners and ranchers, North Dakota has been turned into a war zone of violent out-of-state protests and activists. Protesters that are wreaking havoc on private property and threatening local farmers and ranchers while the administration stands idly by.

Now the administration is setting a new low, crossing constitutional boundaries between the executive and judiciary and upsetting long held standards of fair play. After following the appropriate administrative and regulatory process and overcoming legal challenges, President Obama stepped over his constitutional authority to unilaterally overturn a court ruling that was in favor of the pipeline.

Brunner is the president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and 4th generation on his family cattle operation located in Ramona, Kan. Eliason is Public Lands Council president and a 4th generation rancher from Utah.

'Too Damn Much Land': Debate Over Public Land Ownership Comes To The Northwest

More than a quarter of the lands in Washington state and more than half of Oregon’s acreage are owned by the U.S. government. It’s land that makes up national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. So what would it mean if the federal government did what many have been asking for, and transferred those lands to states? Shortly after a jury acquitted seven defendants of conspiracy in the occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, defendant Shawna Cox told Oregon Public Broadcasting the group’s legal fight over federal lands isn’t over. “We have a lawsuit against the federal government to prove that that land does not belong to the federal government,” Cox said. “It actually belongs to the citizens of Harney County. That’s a state issue. That is not anything to do with the federal.” Congressman Rob Bishop, a Republican from Utah, agrees. “They own a third of America and that’s just too damn much land to manage efficiently and effectively,” Bishop said. He chairs the House Natural Resources Committee and argues the federal government is neither a worthy steward nor an ideal landlord. “And that’s why if you can chop it up into smaller areas and allow states and counties who do have the expertise and are there on the ground to make that determination, it can be much, much better,” Bishop said. ‘Not an appropriate argument’ Bishop was recently in Wenatchee alongside Washington Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse. About 100 people — including ranchers, horsemen and members of the NRA — came to talk about federal land management, and options to transfer ownership. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said congressmen like Newhouse and Bishop haven’t accounted for the costs associated with federal lands. “They are not inexpensive to manage and state budgets are not robust,” Jewell said. “That to suggest states could do a better job of managing them is not an appropriate argument.”...The state of the Northwest’s forests came up during a debate between Oregon’s incumbent Gov. Kate Brown and challenger Bud Pierce in September. Brown told the audience she’s found an option that doesn’t involve transferring ownership. “Most recently, I signed what’s called a good neighbor agreement with the Forest Service that we will work collaboratively to do the thinning and fire prevention work that needs to happen on our federal lands,” Brown said. “It’s a win because it puts Oregonians back to work in our woods and it also creates healthy forests.” A report this year from attorneys general from 10 Western states casts further doubt about whether a change in ownership even has legal precedent...more

Teens hunt coyotes

Fictional coyotes may chase cartoon road runners, but who chases real coyotes? Hillsboro High School graduates Aaron Bina and Dylan Delk do. They work together to hunt coyotes for ranchers and farmers. The idea came to Bina after he did some hunting of his own. “(Coyotes) would run through the wheat and corn, so I started calling coyotes,” Bina said. “People started hearing about it and asking for our help.” Bina said working with Delk just “kind of happened.” “We’ve been hanging together since fifth grade,” Bina said. Bina does the calling of the coyotes, and when they come running, Delk shoots them. The duo, who also hunt raccoons and trap, stay within the property owned by the farmers who hired them...more

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ammon and Ryan Bundy transferred to NV jail

The expected arrival in custody in Nevada of two of rancher Cliven Bundy’s sons following their acquittal on federal charges in Oregon is spurring behind-the-scenes activity ahead of a scheduled February trial stemming from an April 2014 standoff with U.S. authorities outside Las Vegas. Ammon Bundy’s attorney in Las Vegas, Daniel Hill, said Wednesday he understands his client and his brother Ryan Bundy are in transit from Portland, Oregon. U.S. marshals in Nevada aren’t commenting. Meanwhile, Cliven Bundy has a new lawyer – local attorney and rancher Bret Whipple – after losing a federal appeals court ruling on Friday. And the attorney for New Hampshire defendant Gerald “Jerry” DeLemus (de-LAY’-mus) says he’s seeking to withdraw from the case so his client can ask a judge to let him undo his guilty plea. AP

Group still seeking justice one year after rancher killed by deputies

The 4-foot-high, 8-foot-wide sign is impossible for drivers on U.S. 95 north of Council to miss. Its three words in white letters are set against a bright red background and planted on the hillside of the Yantis family ranch: Justice for Jack. Almost immediately after rancher Jack Yantis was shot and killed by two Adams County sheriff’s deputies last Nov. 1, divisions arose in the rural county in west-central Idaho. Some people defended the deputies. Others called the killing of Yantis murder. The shooting received national attention at a time when police-involved shootings have divided communities around the country. Idaho State Police investigated the death for seven months before state and federal prosecutors announced in July that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge either deputy. That settled the criminal investigation but not the controversy.A citizen group that formed shortly after the shooting to support the family, Justice for Jack, was stunned by the July announcement, though members contend the truth about the shooting will eventually emerge and with it, justice. As news of the shooting and the subsequent investigation spread across the country, Justice for Jack’s membership grew, most of it through social media. Today it claims more than 3,400 members in Idaho, the nation and abroad — about equal to the population of Adams County. It was already dark shortly before 7 p.m. that Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, when deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland shot Yantis on U.S. 95. A car driven by a Nampa couple had struck one of Yantis’ bulls. County dispatchers had called Yantis, 62, at home to tell him to take care of the injured animal. He went to the road with his rifle to euthanize it. The deputies said Yantis held his rifle in a threatening manner and refused commands to lower it. They shot him 12 times...more

Read more here:

A New Breed: Women Ranchers

In the old West, around the turn of the century, a few ranchers’ daughters – a brazen few – decided to shake up the establishment a little bit, rock the boat and rattle a few cages. They put on shocking divided skirts or even pants borrowed from fathers or brothers. They abandoned their ridiculous sidesaddles and dared to get on their horses astride. Then they happily rode off, leaving their ladylike images in the dust; they hunted coyotes, rode the range, homesteaded, roped steers and branded mavericks. They married or didn’t – they inherited or homesteaded or bought ranches. In the very Western and very male world of cattle ranching, they became bonafide ranchers – America’s very first women ranchers: a new breed. Early-day women ranchers were truly a rarity but Western Colorado claimed a few of them and the following is a brief look at five women – motivated by either necessity or an appetite for a way of life – who showed that they were equal to the difficult task of ranching...more

Montana Trapping Ban Faces Long Odds at Polls

After two attempts, an animal advocacy group has finally succeeded in getting an anti-trapping initiative on the Montana ballot. There are 20 other states with varying trapping prohibitions, but it may take several more tries before such a ban passes in this rural state. The Montana Trap-Free Public Lands Initiative, I-177, qualified for the state ballot in June after supporters gathered signatures from more than 5 percent of Montana's 681,000 registered voters. The initiative would ban recreational and commercial trapping on all public land in the state, although Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks employees could still trap or give approval for citizens to trap problem animals if nonlethal methods are not effective. Nonlethal methods include hazing, eliminating livestock carcass dumps and the use of range riders. I-177 backers, including Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands spokeswoman Connie Poten, say a driving factor behind the initiative is the number of family pets that get caught in snares and traps while their owners recreate on public land. More than 60 veterinarians have endorsed the initiative. But the Montana Trappers Association continues to push back, dubbing I-177 as "ballot box biology." Trappers argue that pets wouldn't be injured if responsible owners kept them on a leash and -- after more than a decade of fighting -- the two sides are sworn enemies...more

A mountain of meat looms - production increases by 4 billion lbs.

U.S. livestock producers have shown the world how efficient they’ve become. Over the past two years, total red meat and poultry production in the U.S. has increased an estimated 4 billion pounds. That increase has dramatically changed profitability from the fall of 2014, when livestock producers experienced a windfall of profits driven by tight supplies. Today, live-stock producers are witnessing the opposite, with prices withering under the pressure of ever-increasing meat supplies—and the pain is most evident in the cattle industry. “After falling to 202 lb. per person in 2014, per capita supplies of red meat and poultry are racing higher,” says John Nalivka, president of Sterling Marketing, Vale, Ore. “I project per capita red meat and poultry sup-plies will reach 215 lb. this year.” The result has been significant price declines for both lean hogs and fed cattle. Negotiated lean hog carcass prices were trading $17 to $18 per cwt lower in late September than the same time a year ago. Cash fed cattle traded in the $104 range the last week of September 2016, $25 per cwt lower than the same time in 2015, and $10 to $12 per cwt lower than what was the anticipated “summer low” of eight weeks earlier...more

NCBA, Farm Bureau among groups filing brief in WOTUS challenge

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, along with other industry and municipal stakeholders, filed their opening brief Tuesday in a lawsuit asking that the controversial “waters of the U.S. rule” be invalidated. In a joint release, NCBA and the PLC said the brief details how the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers disregarded the statutory and constitutional limits of federal authority, lobbied on their own rule-making, and failed to craft a rule that meets the rigors of the law. “Cattlemen and women have long asked for clarity in the Clean Water Act, yet this rule adds subjectivity,” NCBA President Tracy Brunner said in the release. “By violating fundamental tenets of administrative law and expanding jurisdiction well beyond the text and structure of the Clean Water Act, it is very clear the WOTUS rulemaking was flawed from start.” Other groups signing the brief, which was filed with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a long list of farm and commodity groups...more

Biologists find jumping mouse in three NM forests

Biologists who spent weeks in three New Mexico national forests searching for signs of an elusive, endangered mouse that looks somewhat like a tiny kangaroo have found what they call irrefutable evidence that it still lives in the state for which it is named. The biologists trapped New Mexico meadow jumping mice and collected fur and fecal samples during summertime surveys in the southern Lincoln National Forest, the northern Santa Fe National Forest and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests along the New Mexico-Arizona border, Beth Humphrey, a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, said Tuesday. With a tail that makes up for most of its length, the rodent is called a jumping mouse because it can leap more than 2 feet into the air when frightened. Super-long tails help the mice keep their balance, especially when they scale plant stems to reach ripening seeds, one their main food sources. The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse was listed as an endangered species in 2014, prompting the U.S. Forest Service to fence off streams and watering holes in the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests to protect habitat thought to be ideal. That spurred criticism from ranchers and others that the federal government was trampling private access to public lands in New Mexico. But last summer’s surveys turned up the first hard evidence that they still live in areas where they had not been spotted in years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in an emailed statement.

Rangeland fire plan unveiled to protect vast swath of Western US sagebrush

Federal officials released an ambitious wildfire-fighting and restoration plan Oct. 31 to protect a wide swath of sagebrush country in much of the West that supports cattle ranching and is home to an imperiled bird. The 139-page plan is a how-to guide that follows Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s five-page secretarial order in early 2015 calling for a “science-based” approach to safeguard the greater sage grouse bird while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin. The Interior Department plan also identifies knowledge gaps as scientists try to find the best approach to restore and protect some 500,000 square miles of sagebrush steppe. Sage grouse numbers have plummeted in recent decades and the federal government has been working to protect key habitat to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the bird’s status within five years. The plan is “a Moon shot for the sagebrush steppe ecosystem in terms of getting as much science done quickly enough to have an impact,” said John Freemuth, a public lands policy expert and Boise State University professor. “This is the biggest systemic effort to learn more about those ecosystems than we’ve ever seen.” Jewell’s 2015 order is generally considered by public lands experts, outdoor enthusiasts and scientists as one of the most significant federal land policy changes in some 80 years. The plan, called The Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan, has what it calls 37 priority science needs to fill knowledge gaps. Those are put in five groups that include fire, invasive plants, restoration, sagebrush and greater sage-grouse, and climate and weather. The plan is being led jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service...more

The plan can be viewed here.

Alaskan 'Ice Monster' Sparks Imaginations Online

Alaska's Bureau of Land Management regularly posts photos and videos of flying squirrels, scampering porcupines, majestic moose or dramatic landscapes. But the video that went up last week was different. It was ominous. It was mysterious. It was ... the Chena River Ice Monster, as captured by a baffled BLM employee. The video shows a strange, undulating icy shape appearing to move through the water. The video has a dramatic soundtrack and an overlay of a camcorder, but BLM insisted the footage itself was unedited. BLM Alaska posted an update on Halloween, saying the enthusiastic responses online "show how captivating the mysteries of the natural world can be!"...more

Also see Alaska  Daily News coverage.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Goals of Public Land Transfer Reaffirmed at National Conference

Don’t we all we want healthy air, water and wildlife, abundant outdoor recreation, and safe, vibrant communities? Wouldn’t it be good to manage our public lands with these priorities at the forefront of every decision?

That’s why elected officials and resource experts from numerous states gathered Oct 19-21 in Salt Lake City for the Annual Conference of the American Lands Council (ALC). This year, leaders from around the nation once again unanimously reaffirmed support of ALC’s Public Policy Statement which “urges timely and orderly transfer of federal public lands to willing states for local control that will provide better public access, better environmental health, and better economic productivity”.Unfortunately, Washington DC’s out-of-touch style is increasingly blocking public access, allowing devastating pests and wildfires to ravage our environment, and killing rural economies.

The ALC Policy specifically calls for keeping public lands public -- NOT selling them as defenders of federal control like to repeat over and over. In fact, our extremely debt-ridden federal government can sell public lands now, and they often do. Defenders of federal control tend to avoid that stubborn fact. Opponents also forget to mention that ALC seeks legislative action to transfer ordinary public lands to States, NOT National Parks, Wilderness, Indian Reservations, or Military Installations. Our efforts are focused on improving conditions on lands that are supposed to be managed for multiple uses, but increasingly aren't.

HOW WOULD IT WORK? We are pursuing concepts for a federal bill that would provide a simple mechanism allowing States to apply for specific tracts of federally controlled land as they are willing and ready to care for these areas responsibly. Under this framework, States could apply for small-scale pilot project areas first and, if successful, seek additional tracts in the future. Safeguards would be put in place to preserve existing public access routes and ensure that valid existing rights such as mineral claims, grazing rights, and water rights are honored. And transferred lands would be administered in a manner consistent with each county's resource management plan. Such requirements would protect public access while allowing State and local citizens to have a meaningful role in balancing use and conservation priorities.

Finally, an equitable revenue-sharing arrangement between the State and any counties containing transferred land would require a large portion of use fees such as mineral royalties, timber receipts, and grazing fees to stay with the county to help fund things like local roads, crime control, ambulance, fire departments, and other public services. The State’s portion of the proceeds could be used to support schools, highways, healthcare or other public programs anywhere in the State.

Economically, socially, and environmentally this could be a big win-win.

Of course, disbursement of proceeds would be calculated after management costs are factored in, including setting adequate funds aside for a firefighting reserve account. Based on historic evidence, states operate millions of acres of existing State public lands more efficiently than the federal government operates theirs, and states typically generate land management revenues that meet or exceed management costs. So YES, States can afford it. It is the federal government that struggles to stay out of the red.

The key is, States would not necessarily have to raise use fees to cover management costs. There are plenty of efficiency improvements that could be made once federal bureaucracy is lifted. One of the biggest cost-saving advantages of shifting from federal to State-based public land management would be a sharp reduction in frivolous lawsuits that have obstructed federal land managers for decades. For example, under State law, State foresters are able to efficiently implement selective logging projects to generate revenue and reduce wildfire risks. States are able to go in quickly and put wildfires out when they are still small. Federal land managers, on the other hand, are increasingly hamstrung by a growing myriad of federal policies and distant bureaucracies that prevent cost-effective management and result in massively expensive wildfires every year. That type of nonsense has got to change.  

Real corrections in how our public lands are managed are possible. Reducing federal control and avoiding Washington DC gridlock politics will enable States to implement better public land management to benefit our communities and environment. And despite opposition rhetoric to the contrary, it is exactly that simple.

State management would open a lot of doors for badly needed jobs, while increasing revenues for local governments, keeping public access open, implementing sensible conservation practices, and stopping pests and wildfires BEFORE they erupt into multi-million dollar disasters.

We can have a healthy environment, abundant recreation, & safe, vibrant communities.

All we need is people of all political stripes to begin working together to #FreeTheLands from distant, unaccountable federal bureaucracies so we can #RestoreBalance and tend our public lands more wisely for the betterment of our communities, our environment, our States, and ultimately our nation as a whole. 

Want to help? Sign the Petition Here and contact your local, state, and national elected officials to let them know it’s time for Congress to #HonorThePromise of Statehood so we can #RestoreBalance and manage our public lands with common sense for better access, health, and productivity. Become an official member of ALC -- or if you are already a member upgrade your membership today! And visit to learn more and TAKE ACTION!

The entire ALC Public Policy Statement as ratified at National conference can be viewed at



Buffalo Stampede Threatens World’s Biggest Live Cattle Trade

Indonesians’ growing appetite for red meat needed to make rendang curries and to flavor noodle soups is putting the world’s biggest seaborne cattle trade at risk. For the first time, Indian frozen buffalo meat is legally available in the world’s fourth-most populous nation. The sales, which started last month, are already causing anxiety on the sprawling Australian ranches that supply Indonesia with more than half a million live cattle a year. The threat to Australia’s market share “is very real and we’d be foolish to think otherwise,” Tracey Hayes, chief executive of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, said from Darwin, where the bulk of Australia’s live cattle exports are shipped to Indonesia. Indian buffalo “is a much cheaper product,” she said. Australia relies on Indonesia to buy more than half its live cattle exports -- earning A$549 million ($417 million) from the live trade last year. Australia has sought to repair its reputation as a reliable supplier after abruptly banning live shipments in 2011 due to allegations of cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs. Indian buffalo meat sells for as little as the state-food agency set price of 65,000 rupiah ($5) a kilogram in so-called wet markets in Jakarta, compared with about 115,000 rupiah a kilogram for beef from Australia in more upscale farmers’ markets. It’s becoming increasingly popular in Asia, and India is now a major supplier to Vietnam and Malaysia -- two countries that are also significant buyers of Australian live cattle...more

Owen Washburn reflects on his bull riding career as he prepares to be honored

It takes a special combo of talent and swagger to conquer some of the rankest bulls in the PBR, and 1996 World Champion Owen Washburn put both of those on full display seven years after he won his only gold buckle. It was in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 2003 when Washburn became the first rider to conquer the unridden Hammer, who was 23-0 at the time, by riding Tony Sharp’s bovine athlete during a bonus round matchup. If that wasn’t enough, the 30-year-old made it two in a row aboard Hammer by riding him again for 92.5 points to earn a then PBR record $125,210 in one event. “Most guys that ride bulls need money, just like everybody does,” Washburn said. “That is what I did for a living and I loved getting on rank bulls. Washburn’s first ride was away from his left-riding hand, and his final ride aboard Hammer went into his hand. The New Mexico native understood his first successful 8 seconds would be viewed as a fluke if he failed to ride Hammer the second night. “Whenever I drew him the next night, I thought everybody would say, ‘Yeah he got lucky last night and Hammer came back tonight and bucked a lot harder.’ I knew that time I had to ride him just to keep everybody quiet.” Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said, “That was a bull that gave a lot of people fits. He just rode him dead easy. Owen would do that on a regular basis.” Washburn said that you could argue the two-month stretch he had around his Hammer ride was the best run of his career. “That was as good a stretch of bull riding that I ever had,” he said. “I would make the short go and there wasn’t one I didn’t want. What I always think about bull riding is some people never get in the zone in life and I am thankful and grateful I got in the zone. “There is nothing like that feeling.” Washburn was certainly “in the zone” when he won the third World Championship in PBR history in 1996. He is one of only 15 bull riders in the world that can say they are a PBR World Champion.  Murray said that Washburn had a couple of seasons where he “epitomized swagger and confidence.”...more

1 Dead in Colonial Gas Pipeline Explosion in Alabama

One person was killed and five others were injured in explosion along the Colonial pipeline Colonial Pipeline in rural Alabama Monday, not far where it burst last month, authorities said. Colonial pipeline said in a written statement Monday night that a contract crew working along a gasoline pipeline in Shelby County "experienced an incident when the trackhoe it was using hit the line." "Gasoline was ignited and caused a fire, which continues to burn," the statement said. Five were taken to Birmingham-area hospitals, the company said. "Our deepest condolences go out tonight to the family and friends of the person who was lost today, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured," the company said. The explosion shortly after 3 p.m. sent flames soaring over the forest about a mile west of where the pipeline burst in September, Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. That rupture led to gasoline shortages across the South. People within 3 miles of the blast site were being evacuated, the governor said. It was earlier reported that seven injured workers were taken to hospitals for treatment...more

Jaguar scat study suggests restricted movement in areas of conservation importance in Mesoamerica

A research group led by the American Museum of Natural History and global wild cat conservation organization Panthera has published the largest gene-based survey of its kind on wild jaguar populations in Mesoamerica. The analysis, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, is based on nearly 450 jaguar scat samples collected in Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. This work identifies areas of conservation concern for Mesoamerican jaguars and underscores the importance of large-scale genetic monitoring efforts when prioritizing conservation and management efforts for this near-threatened, and elusive, carnivore species. "Mesoamerica has one of the highest deforestation rates worldwide, potentially limiting movement and genetic connectivity in forest-dependent jaguars across this fragmented landscape. Large-scale conservation genetics studies on wild jaguars spanning across several range countries assessing these threats are rare and suffer from low sample sizes for this region," said Claudia Wultsch, the lead author of the paper, a scientist in the Museum's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, and a conservation research fellow at Panthera. "Over the last 100 years, jaguars in Mesoamerica have been pushed out from more than 77 percent of their historic range." To get a better idea of the genetic health and connectivity of jaguar populations in this area and the effectiveness of the existing wildlife corridors (i.e., stretches of habitat that facilitate movement between local populations), the researchers turned to DNA obtained from field-collected jaguar scat...more

Paris withdraws plans for carbon tax on coal

Pressure from the miners’ and energy workers’ union CGT forced the French government to back down on extending the carbon tax to coal-fired power stations. EurActiv’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports. French governments have always struggled to tax emissions from coal. In 2009, François Fillon had to abandon the idea after his plans were struck down by the Constitutional Council. This time, the plan has been sunk by the country’s biggest union of miners and energy workers. On 25 April, President François Hollande announced the introduction of a minimum quota price for greenhouse gas emissions from combustion power stations. “This price will give more visibility to investors and promote the use of gas over coal for the electricity sector,” Hollande said. After an aggressive lobbying campaign by the energy company Engie, the measure was restricted to the country’s four remaining coal-fired power stations. Two are operated by EDF, in Le Havre and Cordemais, and two by Uniper (formerly E.ON), in Gardanne and Saint-Avold. The tax was supposed to be introduced as part of France’s 2017 budget. Gérard Mestrallet, the former boss of Engie, is a member of the committee tasked with working on the carbon price. But this will not happen as planned. Overnight from Thursday to Friday (20-21 October) the Secretary of State for the Budget, Christian Eckert, removed the amendment to introduce the carbon tax, which had already been approved by the French parliament’s sustainable development committee...more

Monday, October 31, 2016

41 Days And 8 Months Later: Dissecting The Oregon Standoff Trial


In the shadow of trees covering Chapman Square park in downtown Portland, four of seven defendants acquitted of conspiracy in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge posed for pictures.

David Fry smiled as he flashed a peace sign. He slung his arms around co-defendants Neil Wampler — clutching a hotdog from the victory barbecue and a stack of newspapers with his face on them — and Shawna Cox. Jeff Banta stood to the far right. An alternate juror named Sarah Foultner stood between them while a supporter cycled through phones to capture the moment for everyone.

The prosecution didn’t picture the trial ending like this.

“Disappointing,” said U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams of the not guilty verdicts. “Bitterly so.”

Just as quickly as the defense proclaimed a victory for rural America, occupation opponents dubbed the result an embarrassing loss for the prosecution. And supporters of other movements — #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL to name two — wondered aloud about the meaning of justice.
But 41 days and eight months later, the leaders of the armed occupation in eastern Oregon were found not guilty by a jury of peers.

Still, questions remain: How did it happen? And what happens next?

The article continues with sections titled The Charges, The Prosecution, The Defense, The Verdict, The Celebrations, The Implications.  

Whew! Big Weekend

Cowboy Reunion, Frank DuBois BR & CR, Delk Band Dance, plus kinfolks visiting.  Hope to post items later.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Will a ‘frozen zoo’ save the Mexican wolf?

Endangered Mexican wolves roam the wilds of New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico. They also live in captivity. But their future may lie in a “frozen zoo.” That’s the term of endearment scientists use for the bank of frozen wolf sperm and ovaries housed at the St. Louis Zoo in Missouri and Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City – two cryogenic vaults where some of the most precious genes of the species are being held for future reproductive use. Even as New Mexico continues to fight with the federal government over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s troubled program to reintroduce Mexican wolves to the wild, the scientists charged with breeding the species back into greater numbers are pushing on with the complex work of preserving the genetic diversity of a captive population that began with just seven wolves. “Right now, our mandate is to preserve genes,” said Cheryl Asa, a reproductive physiologist who led the research program at the St. Louis Zoo for 30 years and now serves as a consultant. “This is looking into the future so that, as animals die who are genetically important to the species, their genes live on.” Since 2007, the quest to preserve Mexican gray wolf genes has included “vitrifying” the ovarian tissue of female wolves that are past reproductive age in hopes of one day being able to impregnate younger females through in vitro fertilization – although the technology does not yet exist to perform this technique in dogs or wolves. But researchers are getting close, Asa said. “The ‘frozen zoo’ is what some of us call it,” said Maggie Dwire, assistant Mexican wolf recovery coordinator with the service. “We aren’t going to find new founders. We need to be very careful about retaining the genetic diversity we do have.” Just before breeding season, during the last two weeks of January, when the wolves’ eggs are close to ovulation, they are spayed like a domestic dog would be spayed – an operation that might happen at one of the 51 institutions that hold captive wolves. The wolf ovaries are wrapped in gauze, kept warm in a saline solution, packed in a container and immediately shipped in the cargo hold of the next passenger plane headed to St. Louis, Asa said. In the St. Louis Zoo lab, scientists use a needle to draw out egg cells from each follicle; the remaining tissue is vitrified and banked, “kept in liquid nitrogen forever, or until they might be used,” she said...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Nothing was there

Julie Carter

Like a best horse, favorite dog or a rattlesnake story, every cowboy’s got a ghost story and usually several. Since it’s the season, I’ll share a few with you. Most of the story tellers aren’t very definitive about actually “seeing” anything. It’s more what they didn’t see and what they can’t explain.

Two cowboys were headed out of town back to the ranch about 3 a.m. making pretty good time by cowboy standards. A full moon lit the desert landscape up with an other-worldly kind of luminescence that went unnoticed by the duo. The two were jamming to familiar music and jawing about whatever when a car came out of nowhere, flying low, and passed them.

Not too much further down the road, the car suddenly pulled over and stopped just ahead of the cowboys. They slowed and rolled on up next to the car. The windows were down but no one was inside that they could see. They got out of their pickup, looked in the car. No one. Looked under the car. No one.

They knew there was no way for whoever was driving that car to get out and get gone before they got there. They also knew they would have seen it happen in the moonlight. The rest of the ride to the ranch was somber and reflective.

But the experience wasn’t foreign to one of the cowboys. He talks of a road that goes north from ranch headquarters out into reservation country. Often when headed down that road, he would start feeling like someone was riding in the back of the pickup. Said he’d even stopped and looked in the back a time or two. Nothing.

Big country and long empty miles don’t offer much in the way of security in the dark when the spirits decide to move. As the dirt road curves around a set of remote shipping pens, one can see headlights coming at you. You pull over, and they never come on by you. Investigation by daylight reveals no reason for the lights. Nothing reflective, no explanation.

Breaking glass

The old house that served as ranch headquarters was once a stage coach stop. The thick adobe and rock walls made it a fortress that shut out the sounds of the night.

The cowboy had spent the evening reading and was ready to call it a day. He turned the light off and just as he did, another light about 2-inches in diameter appeared and started moving across the ceiling. It traveled down the wall, across the floor and over to his bunk. He watched it move back up the wall and to the place on the ceiling where it had begun. Then it disappeared. 

In that same room was a window about 2-feet wide and 4-feet tall. He was alone at the ranch. Not another soul around. It was a dark night with no light coming from the outside. There was no explanation for what he’d just seen.

He went on to bed but some hours later he was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. He grabbed his pistol and headed to the door. Stepping out on the porch in the dark, there was still nothing. Nothing, including no broken glass anywhere.

While it was a little spooky, the visiting “light” went right along with the regular incidents at the saddle house. The lights would be off and as soon as he got over to the washroom, the lights would be back on. He’d walk back to the saddle house and pull the string on the light fixture to turn them off, all the while feeling that someone was in there watching. The unusually cold temperature of the saddle room remained winter and summer.

Ghost horse
There’s a natural spring and a set of corrals near the Ladron Mountains that is the watering hole for a horse that cannot be caught. Cowboys that have camped at that spring say a hobbled horse comes in, drinks and leaves. When a trigger was set on the gate to close it if anything came through, it worked as planned. The cowboy that set the trap heard it trip in the night, heard the horse. And yet the next morning, the gate was closed but there was no horse in the corrals.

Turn out the light. No promises it will stay that way.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Wilderness, Wolves, and Wets

The Case of Grant County
Wilderness, Wolves, and Wets
Rancher, Miner, Lumberman
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

        Thank you Grant County Farm Bureau for asking me to speak tonight.
You need to know I am not enamored with public speaking, how undesirable a talent it normally is to possess, and how little good it generally does. Like your namesake, General Grant, I will suggest that most of our public men and women should follow the good example which I have always set by not speaking.
            I do appreciate the honor of returning to the place of my birth. It has been a big circle, many things have changed, and not for the better. Having been a few places I will say that Grant County of the ‘60s and before was not just a good place it was a grand place. I will also say that the Cliff Valley with its backdrop of the Mogollon Mountains is one of the great places on Earth.
            It was here in Grant County one of the great American tragedies occurred and hastened the loss of what could have been, what should have been, and what may be impossible to recover.
To describe it, lets’ start in the Mississippi watershed.
            There is a book out by Miriam Horn entitled Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman. Miriam spent several years researching the book starting in Montana on a cattle ranch. She dropped south into Kansas and studied a heartland farm. She then boarded a river boat on the Mississippi and gained understanding of the significance of what that waterway, that grand farm to market road, means to the nation. She finished her journey in Louisiana learning what it took to be a shrimper and a deeper water gulf coast fisherman.
            Her journey chronicled the history of people and the land and the water they call home. None of her five subjects would likely call themselves conservationists, but they certainly are dedicating their lives to protecting their way of life and their resources.
            Horn does her best to elevate the notion that traditional, conservative Americans are hostile to environmental issues. She makes the case by the interaction of her subjects and how they finally understood and took proactive approaches to social and environmental constraints waged against them. In Montana, it was how to live with legislation protecting 300,000 acres of public lands much like we now face in Dona Ana County. In Kansas it was how to deal with declining water supplies and what is viewed as harsher chemicals including nicotine derived pesticides. In Louisiana, it was the success of grassroots leadership that helped shape and revise fishery policies.
            The upshot is that the elitist buzz word, sustainability, is not limited to hardcore greens and environmentalists. On the contrary, the stewards out horseback, on their tractors, and on their boats and barges understand it better than anybody.  Moreover we, the people with dirty hands, understand our survival is a mosaic of constant change in partnership with our resources.
            We aren’t stupid, but we live in a world that is highly suspicious of us left unsupervised with the stewardship of those resources, God given resources, that can make us free and independent people.
            Grant County is a best example of that fundamental problem. You are not free and independent men and women and it appears it will only get worse.
            Your county has largely become a managed, landscape scale system driven by formula and theoretical paradigms. That has been magnified since 1970 when ecosystem became the buzz word. What you have been robbed of is that ecosystems, by their very nature, are complex, and must be addressed by diverse practices not landscape scale land use policies. That is the role of the land steward and that is the conflict between our dominant and growing federal system and what should remain the focus of our system … you, the cornerstone of the constitutional model.
            Rancher, Miner, Lumberman
            For a land so rich in resources, Grant County and southwestern New Mexico is measured at high risk by social standards. In fact, your neighbor, Luna County, makes the nation’s top 20 list of most at risk counties because it meets a population threshold. If Hidalgo and Catron Counties had more people, they would rank even higher. That ranking considers such things as job opportunities for youth, polarization of age within the demographics, and wages.
            Thomas Jefferson threw a fit when his Declaration of Independence committee colleagues John Adams and Benjamin Franklin suggested changes to his draft. He objected to the suggestion of changing Property as in Life, Liberty and Property to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. His objection should be similar to ours.
What is Pursuit of Happiness in the context of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to our Constitution?  How can we define Pursuit of Happiness in what should be a purely objective document? It can’t be done.
            Jefferson knew what Property was but he was one of the few. I have become convinced there were only two or three of the Founders and Framers who understood the significance of what Property meant in constitutional context. It is so important that its absence from our system today has elevated the possibility of our collapse. This presidential race is but one indicator.
I believe Property, as in private property as in LAND is THE insurance policy in the defense of the return of King George style tyranny. I also believe the erosion of our property rights had its roots right here in Grant County like no other place in this nation.
The story started in 1884, when Peter McKindree and Emily Jane Shelley, arrived on Mogollon Creek at the end of their long journey overland from Texas. When they arrived that fall, they bedded their cattle on the unfenced bench above the creek and tied their horses to trees because there was nothing else there. Not a shed, not broken down corral, and certainly not a house greeted their arrival. There had never been a permanent resident on that bench above the creek. They were the first.
They lived in a tent. That was replaced by a dugout, which was replaced by a single room log cabin. Peter built a little three room frame house for Emily and their four children in 1887. From her son, Tom’s memoirs, she thought she had moved into a mansion.
The log cabin and the frame house are still there preserved by the modern day 916 steward, Terrell Shelley, Peter and Emily’s great-grandson. Terrell and his wife Charlene now represent 132 years of Shelley stewardship on Mogollon Creek, and, if that doesn’t equate to sustainability, nothing does.
The time line now becomes important.
From 1884 through 1898, the Shelleys created basic infrastructure, contended with Indians, fought drought, reacted to markets, raised children to adulthood, and made Mogollon Creek home. The lands they lived on, especially the lands north of what they called the “high ridge” which was the upper Mogollon and Turkey Creek watersheds in their entirety, became known to the family as “the wilderness”. That was the parlance they adopted. It was remote requiring pack strings and extended stays. What they didn’t know was they were on the cusp of the dominance of a new landlord, the federal government.
In 1899, legislation was enacted that created the Gila Forest Reserve. That legislation captured the majority of Shelley country which probably did not qualify as Article X lands of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but, rather, unclaimed lands of the New Mexico Territory. In either case, title to them prior to statehood remained a function of the Territorial Government and was administered out of the General Claims Office. Records indicate that gaining title to lands was an exercise in futility. It took up to 50 years to gain title to such lands outside of the inner workings of the government.
Remember, that was pre-statehood. There was still no elected representation when the Forest Reserve was transferred to the USDA in 1905 and the land became known as the Gila National Forest. The Shelleys were simply swept along. There was no recourse. There was no matter of public comment or certainly no opportunity of objection without representation or means to fight the action.
So, after 21 years of commitment laced together with sheer guts and sweat, the family had a new landlord.
In 1906, grazing records were started and the hand of the great white father in Washington was placed upon their backs. From 1899 through 1922, Peter Shelley continued to expand his operations adding cattle numbers as he created infrastructure. At the beginning of the second decade of that span, the Forest Service started controlling fires with their policy of full suppression following the devastating fires of the northern tier states in the 1910 when many people were killed in monster fires. Leading up to the 1916 Stock Grazing Act, pressure was applied to Congress to allow administrative fencing on ranches that were operating under the thumb of the federal landlord.
Here is a point of great importance and you must remember it when you are confronted with the reminder that the Gila was overgrazed by cattlemen.
The population of feral cattle in the Gila at the turn of the century was fairly substantial. Those cattle arrived variously, but the promotion by the federal government to support various war efforts and to establish Indian reservations created an economic vacuum for beef. The Texans responded and brought cattle to New Mexico in numbers that mixed with existing feral cattle from the Spanish and Mexican occupation. The only markets for cattle during that period were adult steers that could make the long walks to market. Look at where New Mexico was to national markets. There was no market for cows, bulls, and calves. Without being able to build fences by Forest Service policy, the management of mixed ownership of cattle became a nightmare. It also contributed to the erroneous environmental declaration that ranchers systematically overgrazed the land. Ranchers who managed their operations weren’t going to kill unbranded or unclaimed cattle because of civilized range standards. Under those conditions, overgrazing occurred in walking distances from scarce waters especially in times of drought. Where water didn’t exist there were no cattle which adds insult to ignorance surrounding the claim that ranchers overgrazed the land.
From famed Gila forester Henry Woodrow’s diary, we now know that even though there was congressional approval for fencing since 1916, the Gila ranchers weren’t allowed to begin until 1922. The tardy federal landlord, like the tardy General Claims Office which effectively disallowed earlier title transfers, was claiming they didn’t have enough help to get fencing permitted. They didn’t have enough staff. Their desks were too full of paper.
Land stewardship suffered.
The decade of the ‘20s sewed the seeds of major destruction. Many will say the crash of 1928 was the biggest debacle, but history will demonstrate that wasn’t the case for the Gila. The year of pending destruction was 1922, the year Aldo Leopold arrived. He thought it a wondrous place. He even got to fight fire along side Supervisor Wynn, Mr. Woodrow, and colorful “local cowboys” that included the Shelley boys. He ate their camp prepared meals. He heard their discussions and their love for “the wilderness”. There is no evidence he stayed on any fire long enough to declare it out, but his summer on the Gila gave rise to a watershed event much bigger than the Indians, drought, and markets since 1884.
Through a regional administrative action, not federal legislation, Leopold crafted the document creating “wilderness”. In 1924, the Gila was the first national forest to have such a designated area. The effects of the designation wouldn’t be felt for several years, but when it came it was catastrophic.
The impact to the 916 and the Shelley family leading up to chaos of the Depression began with the drought of the late ‘20s. That, of course, elevated the impact of the market crash which affected the entire economy. Peter Shelley was carrying ranch debt, but he had also incurred debt on the purchase and development of farms at Cliff and the establishment of a hardware and grocery business. It was the latter that really put him in a bind in that he carried a large segment of the community who couldn’t pay their bills during the Depression.
In response to banks calling loans, he sold cattle. He sold a big portion of his herd “north of the high ridge”, his wilderness cattle. The first five years of the Depression era resulted in terribly hard times. To make it work, Peter’s sons and grandsons worked without a paycheck. That was followed by Peter’s death in 1935 when executor, Tom Shelley, stripped the rest of the cattle off the wilderness and sold farms to settle the estate.
That was followed by the onset of World War II and the Shelleys signaling to the Forest Service they were finally to a point they could start restocking their Mogollon Creek Allotment, the wilderness. In a blow that defied war time logic and civilized behavior, the Forest Service denied the reinstatement. From a letter Terrell Shelley found in the families archives, the Forest Service declared the absence of Depression era improvements on lands they were allowed to keep as rationale for denial of restocking. More than 5½ Townships of country occupied by the family for 60 years starting 16 years before the turn of the century was taken. They were incredulous. They were devastated. The tragedies of the ‘30s had been bridged, beef was in high demand, and the Forest Service denied reinstatement of livestock on federal lands on the premise that lands outside of the eviction were left unimproved through the Depression.
Let’s think about that.
We can say it was an abuse of power. We can say that was a precursor to elevating federal regulations over legislation, or we could shelve the niceties and describe Forest Service management for what it has always been, but, let’s describe it for what it was and remains an American tragedy of huge proportions.
The First family of Wilderness, the very folks that coined the name in the modern use, was evicted without recourse, without warning, and without cause from country they had occupied 15 years before the national forest reserve, and 21 years before the Forest Service existed.
What happened thereafter, the rest of the story, needs someday to be revealed.
Modern Wilderness
             In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed and the nation’s first wilderness area, the Gila Wilderness, was officialized. That was 20 years after the Forest Service, in what can only be described as the environmental propensity that has no constitutional or market corrective oversight, evicted Grant County and the nations’ first family of Wilderness. It was interesting to note that, during a congressional field hearing held in New Mexico in the run up to its passage, New Mexican wildlife manager, Elliot S. Barker, arose and asked New Mexico Senator Clinton P. Anderson how many more ranching families he expected to run off the land. The senator disavowed any such intention, but, if you are familiar with the legislation, you will know that under special provisions (5) one of the two exceptions was inserted noting that “where established prior to September 3, 1964, (the grazing of livestock) shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable regulations as are deemed necessary by the Secretary of Agriculture”. That is in the law because of the Shelley incident and the Barker reminder. The Forest Service wasn’t going to right a wrong. They got what they wanted. They eliminated the Mogollon Creek Allotment in a letter dated May 18, 1944. Without an active allotment on file, neither they nor Anderson were about to allow the First Family of American Wilderness to return to their historic range.
            As to the promise not to run more families off the wilderness, Anderson’s promise rings hollow. In his research, NMSU’s John Fowler found there were 24 active allotments in the original wilderness core in 1960. By 2000, half of those were gone and cattle stripped from that historic range. Moreover, the other 12 allotments suffered a whopping 87% reduction in cattle numbers. Fowler could not find any trends of reduction caused by drought or market conditions. His conclusion was that Forest Service management alone was the reason.
            What that demonstrates is that the Wilderness syndrome, once introduced and allowed to take root, destroys heritage industries. It isn’t just cattle that face the consequences. The timber industry faces the same thing. So does mining, and, those three industries, livestock, mining, and timber, formed the nucleus of the heritage industries that set the foundation for southwestern New Mexico prosperity.
            Moreover, your future, the future of this quadrant of the state, is a primary target for more wilderness designations. You might have hugely interesting mineral and rare earth deposits along with forests languishing between despair and smoke, but you have no legal right to them or a claim to what was once unique customs and culture. You live in a federal protectorate state that is going to battle you at an ever increasing rate. Your existence isn’t equal to the original colonies, or, for that matter, any state eastward from here because Wilderness, that abstract condition of liberal bliss, has us cornered.
Its influence is much greater than anyone heretofore has comprehended except families that face its wrath. Under another name it claimed the lands of the Tularosa Basin during and since World War II. The same argument can be made for hundreds of other national monuments, national parks, Indian Reservations, and military reserves.
            It has us without protection and we will only drop deeper into the depths of despair by relying on federal handouts. Just look at the state budget woes if proof is needed. This state depends on the largesse of the federal government for nearly 40% of its budget. We aren’t independent. We stand in a welfare line that is only getting longer.
            One of the symptoms of the tradeoff of being chronically attached to the federal teat is living with wolves.
            In lieu of self sufficiency and the political clout to make our own decisions, we long ago traded off our right to self governance. Actually, I don’t believe New Mexico ever had equal footing with other states, but that isn’t just this state. It is every state west of that 98th Meridian where government land ownership dominates, but we are actually lucky in that regard. Only half of this state is owned by one form of government or another. States like Nevada and Alaska run over 90%, but the point is we became vulnerable to what must now be termed the great passion laws, the environmental laws, that gave rise to the Endangered Species Act and the arrival of the wolves. It doesn’t matter these are wolf/ dog hybrids and the act doesn’t cover them. They are here. It doesn’t matter they are disruptors of customs and culture. They are here. It doesn’t matter that the management of the hybrid is corrupt and unconstitutional. They are here.
            They are here for the same reason the Shelleys were evicted. They are here for the same reason you can’t freely manage your God given and abundant resources.
            Standing in stark juxtaposition to the Gila Wilderness tragedy have long been several local private land ranches. Let’s use the H-Y as the example. The Means family are land stewards of long standing. When Jupe was alive, I spent a fair amount of time around him. He was a mentor and a most welcome cheerleader for me in my agricultural career in California. I would hear from him and he would drop timely, appreciated suggestions. What stood out more than his personality, though, was the quality of his ranch. I heard the cat calls and the sniping about he had the best ranch to start with, but I have come to believe that is nonsense. Best ranches exist in every corner of the land. Best ranches are a function and commitment to stewardship. They exist by life long devotion to a mission with money and effort piled back into them for productive gains. The efficiency of placing that money came from a deep and abiding loyalty to the ranch itself. Remember, already tonight we have established that ecosystems, by their very nature, are complex and must be addressed by diverse not standard practices.
            The H-Y remains the epitome of an ecosystem, and it and other similar private lands ranches are the true paradigms of what wilderness can be not the imposter named Gila Wilderness.
            But to carry this point further in this journey into Grant County history, Jupe, like Peter Shelley and his descendents, also knew the true value of Wets. Now, I know that too many of you in this audience grew up around wets and recognize that the use of the term today may have uncouth derogatory implications, but you also know how important wets were and remain to the economy of Grant County. Before redistribution, trusts, retirement pensions and welfare became the largest provider of funding in your county, wets and copper were the economic drivers.
If there weren’t enough wets each year, the economy suffered. If there were abundant wets, improvements could be made, a few guarded, extras could be bought or exchanged. Fences could be built, staves could be cut, and, generally, everybody benefited.
            There aren’t, though, as many wets today. In their absence, the very unique customs and culture of old Grant County face continued decline. I find great despair in that because I think what wets create in a man is as important as what they do for the economy and the ecosystem.
            We have discussed John Fowler’s research demonstrating the precipitous decline of wets across the Gila since 1960. Their decline is piled upon you and this county by the same forces that brought you the wolf, and future and more numerous wilderness areas, a world in which you won’t be welcomed.
            More wets are always preferred to less, and if you get too many of them you can always knock one in the head and put it in the freezer, or, if they are ugly you can ship a load along with the rest of your dries. The point is you don’t have enough cattle in this county. You are being systematically diminished along with the declining health of landscape scale forest system and public lands and we don’t have alternatives. If this election goes south, it will only get worse. We’ll be fighting each other as we seem to be doing more and more.
            I used to think it was only where wilderness, the government, environmental groups and ranchers converged that ranchers were the ultimate losers. I know now that you can substitute any productive citizen in the place of rancher in that algorithm and it will be similar. Productive citizenry, like the ranchers, miners, and lumbermen of Grant County’s past, have demonstrated a very high extinction rate when they come under the rule of government.
            Heck, I am now a national monument rancher, probably a walking dead man, just like my great-great-grandparents and too many other Grant County families that came here under supremely hard conditions and spent life times trying to create something that existed theretofore only in their dreams. They were never wealthy or privileged people. They were simply courageous people.
            But, if you did get to take back the Gila, the most important tool in your arsenal would be those wets and dries, yes those cattle, that will make the best engineered paths to water and feed, give a lot more than they get, and demonstrate real measures of ecosystem health. Jupe consistently got over 90% calf crop. I read in Tom Paterson’s testimony the other day in Washington his wolf presence doesn’t allow those numbers. The spread is the profit for the ranch.
            Which ecosystem is healthier? There would be no comparison when truth and science converge and free and independent men are trusted to govern their own actions. A Grant County free of corrupted wilderness doctrine, wolves allowed to exist only on their economic merit, and more wets could contribute to a fascinating place … maybe better than 1960.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Thank you, for letting me be here tonight for this reminder of your world, Grant County, and its story of Wilderness, Wolves, and Wets.

 Given to Grant County Farm Bureau banquet, Silver City, Thursday, October 27, 2016