Friday, November 18, 2016

On its way out, Obama administration moves to slam the door shut on Arctic drilling

The Obama administration on Friday banned offshore drilling in the Arctic, setting a likely collision course with President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to “unleash” new energy production in the United States by rolling back restrictions on oil and gas companies. The move by the Interior Department, part of a new five-year plan for energy development in federal waters, would put a temporary end to exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the Alaskan coast. It also dropped plans to allow companies to drill for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean off of four southeastern states, including Virginia. Even if the economics of Arctic drilling improve and a Trump administration wants to reopen the area to exploration, both oil company officials and environmental groups say, Trump would be unable to toss out the five-year plan immediately. To undo the Obama administration’s ban, a new administration would have to prepare a supplemental report, which could take as long as two years, depending on whether it needs to prepare a new environmental impact statement. After that, the federal government would have to organize a lease sale for companies interested in drilling there...more

The Facts About the Dakota Access Pipeline That Protesters Don’t Want You to Know

Rep. Kevin Cramer 

For more than three months, thousands of protesters, most of them from out of state, have illegally camped on federal land in Morton County, North Dakota, to oppose the construction of a legally permitted oil pipeline project that is 85 percent complete.

The celebrities, political activists, and anti-oil extremists who are blocking the pipeline’s progress are doing so based on highly charged emotions rather than actual facts on the ground.

This 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline will deliver as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from northwestern North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to connect to existing pipelines in Illinois. It will do this job far more safely than the current method of transporting it by 750 rail cars a day.

The protesters say they object to the pipeline’s being close to the water intake of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. However, this should be of no concern as it will sit approximately 92 feet below the riverbed, with increased pipe thickness and control valves at both ends of the crossing to reduce the risk of an incident, which is already low.

Just like the companies that run the 10 other fossil-fuel pipelines crossing the Missouri River upstream of Standing Rock, Energy Transfer Partners—the primary funder of this pipeline—is taking all necessary precautions to ensure that the pipeline does not leak.

...From the outset of this process, Standing Rock Sioux leaders have refused to sit down and meet with either the Army Corps of Engineers or the pipeline company.

The Army Corps consulted with 55 Native American tribes at least 389 times, after which they proposed 140 variations of the route to avoid culturally sensitive areas in North Dakota. The logical time for Standing Rock tribal leaders to share their concerns would have been at these meetings, not now when construction is already near completion.

...Though these protesters claim to be gathered for peaceful prayer and meditation, law enforcement has been forced to arrest more than 400 in response to several unlawful incidents, including trespassing on and damaging private land, chaining themselves to equipment, burning tires and fields, damaging cars and a bridge, harassing residents of nearby farms and ranches, and killing and butchering livestock. There was even at least one reported incident where gun shots were fired at police.

The recent vandalization of graves in a Bismarck cemetery and the unconscionable graffiti marking on the North Dakota column at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., are examples of how the protesters’ actions do not match their claims of peaceful demonstration.


"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
-- Benjamin Franklin
(1706-1790) US Founding Father

"Without general elections, without unrestrained freedom of press and assembly,
without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution…
in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element."
-- Rosa Luxemburg

Dead deer in Walmart shopping cart surprises shoppers

After this story was published Wednesday, at least two readers have contacted the Richmond Times-Dispatch by email stating that they saw a dead deer with antlers on the side of the road Tuesday evening, near the Walmart in Short Pump. Both readers speculate that the road kill was carted into the nearby Walmart. Others have speculated that the unidentified culprit, or culprits, tried to take the deer to a check-in station (as required by state law) and mistook Walmart for a deer check-in station. Previous: A customer of the Walmart in Short Pump said she was surprised Tuesday evening when she saw a man drinking what appeared to be liquor inside the store — but that surprise turned to bewilderment when she also spotted a dead deer in a shopping cart. Denise Collier-Bailey said she and her teenage daughter were at the Walmart about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, returning an item to the store, when they spotted the bloody deer carcass in a shopping cart as two men sat nearby at the entrance of the store, casually talking and laughing. Collier-Bailey’s daughter took photos of the peculiar sight. “It’s just one of those crazy Walmart pictures,” Collier-Bailey said. “If I hadn’t been there to witness it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.” A spokesman with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said that while he can only speculate about why anyone would bring a dead deer into a Walmart, he said it’s possible they were trying to check the deer in, which is required by state law...more

Pesky peacocks pose problems for Wayne Newton's neighbors in Vegas

Feathers are flying in the neighborhood around Wayne Newton's estate, where residents are complaining that peafowl like the ones on the Las Vegas showman's 40-acre ranch have become roosting, roaming pests. Residents who live near Casa de Shenandoah claim peafowl from the ranch wander the neighborhood – squawking, scratching family cars and creating a traffic hazard. “We heard something on our roof that scared us to death,” April Juelke told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We thought a burglar was breaking in, but it was a bunch of peacocks.” Newton's lawyer, Jay Brown, said the birds aren't Newton's. “We've never bought a peacock. We've never brought in a peacock,” Brown said. Sure, peacocks and hens were among the exotic menagerie the iconic “Mr. Las Vegas” headliner kept when he lived at the ranch southeast of the Las Vegas Strip. Among them were Arabian horses, penguins, a Capuchin monkey named Boo, and wallabies. Brown said peafowl were already at the ranch when Newton bought the property in the '60s. Neighbor Bart Donovan, a member of a local advisory board, sees it differently. “These things were born on the Newton property, they live there, they roost there at night,” he said. “As far as I'm concerned, they're their birds.”...more

I was on Newton's place around 1970. Some friends took me there to see the steer wrestling horse "Little 8".  I remember at the time that was the fanciest horse barn I had ever seen. It was at night though, so no peacocks.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1733

This is Bill Clifton's pretty,1960 recording of a Carter Family tune called Dixie Darling.  The Westerner

Thursday, November 17, 2016

DuBois column

Fire preventers start a forest fire and no Constitution or Scripture allowed in Bundy trial

Dog Head Fire

The Forest Service recently published their official report on the 17,912-acre Dog Head Fire in the Cibola National Forest.  The fire was initially reported on June 14 of this year, declared contained on July 13, controlled on August 10 and out on September 12. Along the way, 12 single residences and 44 other structures were destroyed along with habitat for the Goshawk and the Spotted Owl.

The official cause of the fire, says the report, was human-caused and originated from a masticator, “a machine that shreds brush and trees into mulch to reduce forest fuels.” It was all part of the Isleta Collaborative Landscape Restoration Project to reduce the threat of wildfire.

So we have poor management, caused by a myriad of environmental laws which hamstring the agencies and drastically increase the chances of wildfire. Given the current political environment all the feds can do is fund these piddling little projects which, in this case, actually started the fire. We should be allowing commercial harvests, which are effective and provide for little or no cost to the taxpayer. When will Congress take action? Until they do, fires like this will continue to occur across the West, multiplying the loss of lives, resources and property, and the consumption of taxpayer dinero.

Bundy Trial

Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants are charged with conspiring to impede U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Bureau of Land Management employees from doing their work at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the 41-day occupation.

So far, the judge has been ruling consistently for the feds.  She has denied Ryan Bundy’s motion to ditch his standby counsel, and sided with the U.S. Marshall to deny Ammon Bundy’s request to wear his cowboy boots in court. The judge has denied Ryan Bundy’s (who is representing himself) request to hand each juror a pocket-sized version of the Constitution. She has ruled the ownership of the Wildlife Refuge and the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Robert LaVoy Finicum by FBI agents are not to be mentioned and has threatened to fine Ammon Bundy’s attorney for referring to those issues. She has ruled for the U.S. Marshall to end the ability of Ammon to meet with his attorney and his brother Ryan, and that Ammon can only meet with his attorney through a screened window. Why? Because Ammon sent a message to his wife on his attorney’s computer and then showed “disrespect” when ordered to stop.

When Ammon Bundy took the stand, he testified his plan was to stake claim to the refuge property through the adverse possession principle because he didn't believe the federal government had authority to control it, citing the enclave clause of the U.S. Constitution. If anything, he expected federal officials to cite occupiers for trespass or issue an eviction, and send the matter to a civil court to address who has control over the land. "This is the issue,'' he testified. "This is the reason why we went into the refuge and did what we did.” He was also adamant that what they had done was "completely legal.''

The prosecutor objected to Bundy stating his view of the law.  The judge agreed, instructing the jury that what they heard was Bundy's opinion of the law and not to regard it as factual. The judge also instructed Bundy that he was not to read from the Constitution in his shirt pocket.

In explaining his actions, Bundy read from The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, telling the jurors that among the church teachings is the following: "It is our duty to go to the judge. It is our duty to go to the representative. It is our duty to go to the president and plead with them to stand up for what is wrong,'' he said. "It's our duty to give each of the officials the opportunity to do what's right." "We are not to act until that has been done,'' he said.

The prosecutor objected to the relevancy of the testimony.  The judge agreed and warned Bundy not to read scriptural passages to jurors.

No Constitution, no Scripture. 

And now you see the power of the U.S. Attorney’s office.  They pick what the charges are, which then determines which issues can be discussed in court. No wonder they have a conviction rate of 93 percent.  The trial also disclosed the FBI had 15 informants, including Mark McConnell, who was driving the vehicle in which Ammon Bundy was arrested.

There were a few light-hearted moments.

While cross-examining an FBI agent, defendant Ryan Bundy asked if pocket Constitutions depicted in a photo of one of the rooms in the refuge bunkhouse were seized as evidence. The agent said he didn't take them. "So you did not find anything of value in there?'' Bundy queried.

Things turned tumultuous though, when after closing arguments had been given and the jury had convened for three days, the jurors sent two hand-written questions to the judge.  One of the questions was, ““Can a juror, a former employee of the Bureau of Land Management, who opens their remarks in deliberations by stating ‘I am very biased …’ be considered an impartial judge in this case?”

The defendants’ attorneys argued a biased juror would violate the defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury and thus a fair trial.  Judge Brown interviewed the juror in question and initially ruled the juror would stay.  The next day, however, she reversed her opinion and removed the juror. An alternate juror has been selected, but that means the jury deliberations must start over. "You need to start over with that alternate juror,'' the judge told the remaining jurors. The judge said they must "set aside the conclusions'' they've drawn and destroy any verdict forms they were given. "It's a new jury, a new day, a new start,” she said.

As it turned out - in spite of the feds having 15 informants, a friendly judge and such a high conviction rate - the jury found the Bundy brothers and the other five defendants not guilty.  It was Ammon Bundy’s 10 hours of testimony that likely won over jurors according to Lewis & Clark law professor Tung Yin. “It gave Ammon a chance to explain his side,” Yin said. “And apparently the jury seemed to agree. I think it’s really hard to see this as anything other than jury nullification.”

During his three days on the stand Ammon Bundy explained his views on the federal government and the Constitution.  He said their occupation of the refuge was a protest against federal control of millions of acres in the West and of their grievance against how the Hammonds were unfairly treated in their arson case. “This is much bigger than the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy told the court. “Everything comes from the Earth and if [the government] can get control of the resources, they can get control of the people,” he said.  Bundy also described federal government officials as modern day Roman emperors attempting to rule over their subjects by restricting access to resource-rich territories.

Speaking of the jurors, Professor Yin said, “The fact that they acquitted on everything must be representative of some kind of mistrust of the government or a symbolic protest, or anger at the government.”

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

This article originally appeared in the November issue of The New Mexico Stockman and the November issue of The Livestock Market Digest.

NOTE: As I'm sure you've noticed this article was written while the Bundy trial was proceeding. Caren Cowan had kindly moved the deadline back several times. A final due date was given and luckily, that was the same day the jury issued a verdict.

Blogger wants new trial in dispute over BLM public lands

An attorney for a blogger convicted of illegal use of an ATV for taking part in a ride through a federally protected canyon in Utah told a federal appeals court on Thursday that his client deserves a new trial. Attorney Michelle Mumford said the trial of Monte Wells was tainted because the judge was friends with a conservation group lawyer. Wells took part in a ride in 2014 through parts of Recapture Canyon closed to motor vehicles because of ruins that are nearly 2,000 years old. The ride was organized to challenge federal management of Western public lands. Attorneys for the federal government told the appeals court that even though the judge knew the lawyer for the conservation group, it had no influence on his decisions during the trial. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby oversaw the 2015 trial. Attorneys for co-defendant Utah county commissioner Phil Lyman accused the judge of bias based on his close friendship with the conservation group. Federal prosecutors defended Shelby, saying judges commonly have connections to law offices where they used to work or have friends and professional colleagues. Shelby recused himself after the trial, handing the case over to another federal judge for sentencing...more

‘Frivolous’ lawsuit costs Oregon rancher $13,700, judge rules

An Oregon livestock producer must pay $13,700 to the Oregon Department of Agriculture for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit against the agency, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta found that ODA is entitled to collect attorney fees from William Holdner, a rancher in Columbia County who filed a complaint claiming he’s not subject to state water quality regulations. Before his problems with water quality regulations began, Holdner raised about 500 cow-calf pairs on his property. Holdner was repeatedly cited by ODA for pollution violations on his property. He was found guilty of felony water pollution charges in 2012 and sentenced to five days in jail and $300,000 in penalties. In response, he claimed to be exempt from state and federal water regulations, arguing that ODA had abused its power in regulating his operation under the Clean Water Act. In 2009, 2012 and 2015, Holdner filed lawsuits arguing that his “land patent” prohibited the enforcement of water regulations on his property, but those claims were all rejected by federal judges...more

Sally Jewell to announce Thompson Divide decision at Capitol

DENVER — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is visiting Colorado to make an announcement about the future of oil and gas drilling in the Thompson Divide. Jewell and the director of the Bureau of Land Management, Neil Kornze, are scheduled to join Gov. John Hickenlooper at the state Capitol Thursday morning to release her decision concerning the land southwest of Aspen in the White River National Forest. Whether or not to allow drilling there has the subject of aggressive lobbying by groups and municipalities that depend on the outdoor recreation industry. In July, the BLM recommended canceling 25 leases there that haven’t been developed yet. Under the proposal, leases in the forest that are developed but not currently producing oil and gas would get new stipulations and leases that are already producing wouldn’t see any changes. AP

Land values: They’re likely to get worse before they get better

“Things will get worse before they get better.” That’s the opening warning shot by Damona Doye in her ag land management perspective presentation prepared for the recent OSU Rural Economic Outlook Conference. Doye, Oklahoma State University Regents Professor and Rainbolt Chair in Agriculture Finance, was unable to deliver her talk at the conference due to a family emergency, but she was kind enough to share her thoughts later with Southwest Farm Press. Land values have not fared well across the U.S. compared to a year ago, she says, including significant decreases in some Midwest states. Values in Southern Plains states (Oklahoma and Texas) held up better because rates were not bid up as fast as they were in the Midwest, partly because “the Southern Plains had multiple years of drought, and land values are influenced more by beef prices and income, which until recently were faring better than corn and soybean-focused enterprises. “Southern Plains land values have held up better, and as of the first of this year, had not yet registered declines. However, more recent evidence shows a softening in land values.” Even with some stability, Doye says land value increases are relatively small compared to recent years of double-digit increases. Oklahoma cropland value increased by 3.1 percent; Texas is up 2.75 percent; New Mexico increased 0.7 percent; and Louisiana is up 4.8 percent compared to 2015. A similar trend is apparent in pastureland values, with few states showing an increase. Oklahoma pastureland value improved by 2.8 percent; Texas remained flat; Louisiana was up a slim 0.4 percent; and New Mexico recorded a 2.9 percent increase over 2015. By late in the year, land values were softening in some of the most productive wheat areas in north central Oklahoma, Doye says. “On average, pastureland prices were increasing at a faster rate than cropland in the most recent year — 5.1 percent compared to 4.7 percent.”...more

Calves Dragged and Face-Branded for Leather Car Interiors - PETA video

What is the true price of leather? A PETA video exposé featuring investigative footage from the nongovernmental organization Repórter Brasil of several cattle ranches in Brazil supplying JBS S.A.—the largest leather processor in the world—reveals that gentle cows and bulls were branded on the face, electroshocked, and beaten before finally being slaughtered to be made into the leather interiors offered by the world’s largest car companies. It takes an average of three cows’ hides to cover the interior of a standard car. Here’s a look at what you could be supporting if you buy a GM, Toyota, or Volkswagen car among others with seats, steering wheels, and gearshifts covered with leather...more

Blackfeet Water Compact Sails Through Key Committee

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, moving one step closer toward full congressional approval of the historic compact, which has been awaiting ratification since 2010. Negotiations between the Blackfeet Tribe, local communities and state and federal governments began more than 30 years ago to establish water rights in and around the reservation. The compact will also help rehabilitate the Four Horns Dam and long-neglected, century-old Blackfeet Irrigation Project; give the tribe the ability to use, lease or exchange water on tribal land; and protect the rights of non-Indian water users and members of the Fort Belknap Indian Community. It also includes provisions that protect off-reservation farmers and ranchers that rely upon the water for irrigation purposes. The water compact with the Blackfeet Tribe still has not received congressional approval, despite passing the Montana Legislature in 2009 and having earned the support of Montana’s entire congressional delegation. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, has introduced the Blackfeet measure four times...more

Deer crashes college cross-country race, topples runner - video

A deer sprinting across a Pennsylvania field knocked over a cross-country runner at an NCAA regional race, but the runner got up and finished the race at DeSales University. Saturday's episode during the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Cross Country Championships in Center Valley was captured on video. Gwynedd Mercy University senior Justin DeLuzio was competing in the 8K race when someone yelled, “Watch out for the deer!” A deer struck him in the stomach and he fell to the ground as more deer ran across the course. A teammate helped DeLuzio to his feet and he finished the race. The team says the Limerick resident was bruised, but otherwise fine. WPXI.COM

Here is the video report:

Pearce’s hold on district strengthens

While all three of New Mexico’s incumbent representatives in the U.S. House easily defeated their opponents in last week’s election, Republican Rep. Steve Pearce racked up the largest margin of victory in his southern New Mexico district in 22 years. Pearce won 18 of the 19 counties and received 63 percent of the votes in the district, compared with 37 percent for Merrie Lee Soules, a Democrat from Las Cruces, en route to his seventh term in the office. The only county Pearce lost in his 26-point victory was Doña Ana County, the densely populated area that includes Las Cruces, the state’s second-largest city, where Soules is from. In an interview this week, Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff noted that Pearce has “solidified his support” in the 2nd District, as evidenced by his 20 percentage point margin of victory in Guadalupe County, which is 80 percent Hispanic and typically votes Democratic. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Guadalupe County’s presidential race by 20 points, making Republican Pearce’s identical margin of victory all the more impressive. The sprawling district – stretching from the Mexican border to the oil and gas fields of the southeast, north to Cibola, Valencia and Guadalupe counties – has long appeared to be fertile political ground to national Democratic strategists because the Democratic Party outnumbers Republicans in voter registration. It is nearly 54 percent Hispanic, according to U.S. Census data, but the Pew Research Center reports that just 40 percent of all eligible voters in the district are Hispanic...more

Thanksgiving meal to cost more

The TFB survey price tag is $19.52 for a 16-pound frozen turkey. Wednesday's Abilene Reporter-News H-E-B ad listed a Butterball turkey for 97 cents per pound with an additional $10 purchase, or a free RiverSide turkey with the purchase of a ham. The ad for United Supermarkets and Market Street listed Traditions or Signature Farms turkeys for 77 cents per pound and HoneySuckle White turkeys for 97 cents per pound. “Reasonable feed prices have helped keep egg and poultry prices lower than last year,” said Craig Coufal, poultry specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “The industry has also rebounded from outbreaks of avian flu that led to millions of chicken and other poultry losses, especially in egg production houses. Maro Ibarbaru, Egg Industry Center’s business analyst at Ames, Iowa, said a dozen large white eggs in the southern region cost $1.52 this September compared to $3.02 in September 2015. Avian influenza was the main reason for high prices last year, but prices have dipped even further due to other market conditions, such as lower costs for producers, more eggs in storage, and a decline in exports. Coufal said demand for whole turkeys and eggs for baking typically peak around the holidays; however prices haven’t been this low since 2009...more

KVOA Investigators - Arizona rancher pushing for border change - video

A 4-foot barbed wire fence is the only barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border for a stretch of about 25 miles in Southern Arizona. The illegal activity rancher Jim Chilton regularly witnesses on his property is no laughing matter. ”The Sinaloa Cartel controls this area,” Chilton said. “As they move drug packers through the country, they know where the border patrol is at all times." The Sinaloa Cartel's infamous leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was captured in January, still the U.S. Intelligence Community considers the cartel to be the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. Currently, the border patrol uses what they call "a defense-in-depth strategy" in rural areas along the border. This means they don't apprehend smugglers immediately as they cross. It can be hours, and sometimes days, if it all before smugglers are caught. Chilton believes this strategy is ineffective, particularly because the Tucson Border Patrol is only responsible for 24 miles along the border. “I advocate it's easier to man a line rather than 4,000 square miles,” Chilton said. The Chilton Ranch is located in the small town of Arivaca, just over an hour from Tucson. Chilton owns thousands of acres extending another 20 miles to the border, but due to the rugged terrain, the trip from his ranch house to the line takes two hours. "What's needed is a wall, what's needed are roads and we need forward operating bases with the border patrol being out here rather than in Tucson,” Chilton said. President of the local border patrol union, Art Del Cueto agrees that change along the border is much needed. “We've heard about the catch and release program, we've heard about some individuals that have been caught within the United States that have been here illegally for many years but we don't detain them,” Del Cueto said. Setting up motion activated cameras throughout his property Chilton has captured hundreds of images of illegal crossing and drug smuggling.


KVOA | | Tucson, Arizona

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1732

Ranch Radio always strives to bring you the most uptown, sophisticated, urbane, refined and elegant forms of country music. After all, who else says "expectorate." Here's Zeb Turner with his 1951recording of Chew Tobacco Rag.  /

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Commissioner Dunn Grants Right-of-Entry to Sunzia

Santa Fe, NM (November 16, 2016) – New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced that he has granted a right-of-entry for the Sunzia Transmission Project. The project is slated to cross 89 miles of New Mexico State Trust Land. Sunzia contains close to 515 miles of two single-circuit 500 kV transmission lines that will traverse New Mexico and Arizona. It is designed to connect and deliver electricity generated in Arizona and New Mexico to population centers in the Desert Southwest. The electricity distributed by SunZia is meant to help meet the nation's demand for renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels for power generation.

The right-of-entry will allow Sunzia to complete all surveys along the proposed route – including cultural, environmental and cadastral. The right-of-entry is an important precursor in order to grant a right-of-way easement for construction and operation of the power line. The Land Office does not intend to issue a right-of-way for the project if any portion of the transmission line on State Trust Land is located within close proximity of any residence without the written consent of the property owner.

Commissioner Dunn has implemented a new transmission line policy reflecting a more current market value for corridors involving transmission lines over 115 kV. The current right-of-way valuation system for lines like Sunzia is $165 per acre per year.

“It is my fiduciary responsibility to receive fair market value for any use of State Trust Lands. Following a thorough review, we developed a more accurate valuation policy to ensure that New Mexico’s public schoolchildren and other beneficiaries receive their fair share based on the possible impacts of larger scale projects, like Sunzia, to State Trust Lands,” said Commissioner Dunn. “Over a forty-year easement with the Land Office, the Sunzia line is estimated to generate $32 million for the beneficiaries of the trust – mainly the public schoolchildren of New Mexico. I am happy to see this project move forward as it will expand New Mexico’s renewable energy portfolio, create construction jobs as well as permanent jobs and generate revenue for the trust.”

The State Land Office is responsible for administering 9 million acres of surface and 13 million acres of subsurface estate for the beneficiaries of the state land trust, which includes schools, universities, hospitals and other important public institutions.

Interior cancels 15 more oil-gas leases in Badger-Two Medicine

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the cancellation of 15 oil and gas lease in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine area Wednesday in a ceremony in Washington that included Blackfeet Nation leaders and the head of Devon Energy Corp., the oil and gas company that relinquished its leases. “It is both spectacular, but more important a sacred site and very important to the culture and the values and the story of the Blackfeet Nation and its people going back since time immemorial,” Jewell said. “It should not have been leased to begin with.” Jewell made the announcement with Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, and Dave Hager, CEO of Devon Energy Corp., which owned the leases and voluntarily gave them up. The Interior secretary called the Badger-Two Medicine a place where people can renew their souls. In the future, she added, development proposals should be looked at on a landscape level. And all voices, she said, should be heard up front “not at the end of the day...more

USDA invests $1.7 billion to protect agricultural lands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue nearly $1.7 billion in payments to more than a half-million Americans who have contracts with the government to protect sensitive agricultural lands. The investment, part of the voluntary USDA Conservation Reserve Program, will allow producers to protect almost 24 million acres of wetlands, grasslands and wildlife habitat in 2016. CRP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who remove environmentally sensitive land from production to be planted with certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency, provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Landowners enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years. More than 1.3 million acres were newly enrolled in CRP in fiscal year 2016 using the continuous enrollment authority, triple the pace of the previous year. In fiscal year 2016, Farm Service Agency also accepted 411,000 acres through its general enrollment authority, plus 101,000 acres in the new CRP-Grasslands program, which balances conservation with working lands...more

America’s Great Plains Lost More Habitat in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon

In 2014 the Great Plains lost more acres of grasslands than the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation, according to a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Fifty-three million acres of America’s Great Plains have been lost each year since, threatening important and iconic species like grasslands songbirds, the monarch butterfly, and native bumble bees. “America’s Great Plains are being plowed under at an alarming rate,” said Martha Kauffman, WWF’s managing director of the Northern Great Plains program. “Centuries old, critical prairie habitat that’s home to amazing wildlife and strong ranching and tribal communities is rapidly being converted to cropland and most people don’t even realize it.” The staggering rate of conversion also jeopardizes the ecological services the Great Plains provide, like filtering trillions of gallons of water, recharging our groundwater supplies and storing climate-changing carbon dioxide. According to the report, 3.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions were released into the atmosphere due to plowing of grasslands between 2009 and 2015— the equivalent of 670 million extra cars on the road. The 2016 Plowprint Report is the first-of-its-kind annual analysis tracking losses of the grasslands forming the ecological foundation of America’s Great Plains. In 2015 alone, 3.7 million acres of the Great Plains were converted to cropland. Grassland loss is also contributing to declines of pollinators like bees and monarch butterflies. In fact, the report cites that one of every four species of North American bumble bee is at risk of extinction, with some species declining as much as 87 percent in the past 15 years alone...more

What Does Trump Mean for America's Lands and Waters?

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States last Tuesday fell like a lightning bolt on the American environmental community. But it has left many environmentalists energized for battle—albeit against an adversary whose positions are in part still ill-defined. “The next few years will bring some big fights and also some unpredictable fluidity,” Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp wrote on his organization’s website. “We will ferociously defend America’s bedrock environmental protections.“ “If President-Elect Trump and his allies think the results of this election give them a mandate to roll back this progress they are sorely mistaken,” says League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski in a statement. “To the contrary, polls demonstrate bipartisan support for action on climate change and protections for clean air and clean water, and we urge Donald Trump to respect that support.” The most consequential battleground is likely to be over the new administration’s climate policy. During the campaign Trump promised to “cancel” the Paris Agreement on climate change and to revoke the Obama Administration’s regulations designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants—the centerpiece of the U.S. effort to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement. (Read more about Trump’s stance on climate change.) But climate is not the only issue on which Trump may depart from the Obama Administration’s environmental policy. Here are three others. Which Public Lands Should Be Preserved As National Monuments? More than any president before him, President Barack Obama has used his executive authority under the U.S. Antiquities Act to protect federal lands as national monuments. In his time in office, Obama has designated 23 national monuments across the country. His selections have preserved landscapes and seascapes of ecological significance, as well as cultural touchstones such as New York City’s Stonewall Inn—a gay rights landmark—and the home and final resting place of Latino activist César Chávez. It is unclear that the incoming Trump Administration would have the legal authority or appetite to revoke any of President Obama’s national monuments, absent an act of Congress. “It would be unprecedented for President Trump to attempt to revoke a national monument designation—and any attempt to do so would likely be invalidated by the courts,” writes John Ruple, an associate research professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney School of Law and expert on public land management, in an emailed statement. “The Antiquities Act gives the president the power to designate national monuments, but not the power to revoke prior monument designations, and two prior U.S. Attorneys General have opined that absent express delegation, the president would be without the power of revocation,” he adds. “If President Trump attempts to revoke a national monument designation, that effort will almost certainly be embroiled in litigation, and the revocation would likely fail.” Presidents can modify existing national monuments, however. Obama used this power to more than quadruple the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, established by President George W. Bush in the biologically vibrant waters around Hawaii’s uninhabited northwestern islands. The expanded monument is now 582,578 square miles—larger than all U.S. national parks combined. (Read more about the historic marine preserve.) Could President Trump downsize that monument or another? Ruple says that there is no precedent for that either. He also notes that Congress has moved only rarely to revoke the status of a national monument. Notable examples include the Shoshone Cavern near Cody, Wyoming, and Castle Pinckney, a small fort off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina...more

’Daddy’s Hands’ singer Holly Dunn dead at 59

Country singer Holly Dunn, a San Antonio native who had a hit in 1986 with “Daddy’s Hands,” about her minister father, has died. She was 59. Dunn died Monday in hospice care in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to June Keys, the manager at the Pena-Dunn Gallery in Santa Fe, where Dunn’s paintings were displayed. Dunn announced earlier this year she was battling ovarian cancer. The Grammy-nominated Dunn was the Academy of Country Music’s top new female vocalist in 1986 and was named most promising newcomer by the Country Music Association the following year. She wrote “Daddy’s Hands” for her father, a Church of Christ preacher, as a Father’s Day present and it became a favorite on country radio. The song also earned her two Grammy nominations. By her third album, she was producing her own records and writing songs with her brother, Chris Waters Dunn. She had No. 1 country hits with “Are You Ever Gonna Love Me” and “You Really Had Me Going.” She teamed with Michael Martin Murphey on the duet “A Face in the Crowd,” which earned them a Grammy nomination. She also recorded the duet “Maybe” with Kenny Rogers and sung on albums with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. In a 1990 interview with The Associated Press, she offered these reasons why she had so much success early on in her career: “It was a miracle. Divine guidance.” But she said she was more than just a singer. “I’m the only one, as far as I know on the female side, who writes, produces and sings the material,” she said in 1990. “I think this gives me a real legitimacy, a genuineness. I’m not just up there standing where they tell me to stand, singing what they tell me to sing.”...more

Trump ag committee outlines pro-farmer agenda in talking points

If the 64 members of Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee hold any sway, the New York City billionaire heads into his presidency with a pro-farmer agenda near and dear to many in the flyover states that elected him, according to campaign talking points obtained by the San Antonio Express-News. “You will have the government off your back and out of your pocket,” the document reads. “You will have a voice in how agricultural issues are addressed and you will have allies in the White House and the agencies that have influence on your business.” High on the group’s wish list are Supreme Court justices who will defend private property, water and mineral rights. The advisory panel also wants an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who understands “the complexity of agriculture and rural issues” as well as a farm bill “written by those who are thankful for our remarkable food system in this country,” according to the document. Exit polls show rural voters came out strong for Trump, whose appearances in heavy agricultural areas drew long lines of supporters. Sixty-two percent of rural voters turned out at the polls for the Republican last week, compared with 53 percent in 2008. The Trump appeal was most dramatic among rural voters in tiny communities far from urban centers, where 71 percent went for Trump, compared with 40 percent of voters in cities with a million or more people...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1731

Here is Charlie Gore's 1954 recording of a song he co-wrote, Absolutely Free.  The tune is on his British Archives of Country Music CD by the same name, or on King Hillbilly Vol. 2 on the Cactus label.

FOX 7 rides with U.S. Border Patrol to see what struggles they face

During the month of September, authorities arrested two undocumented immigrants in the Austin area for crimes including murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping. Both of them had previously been deported more than twice. We wanted to see how it was possible for them to enter the United States illegally so many times, so we rode with the Rio Grande valley sector border patrol to find out. Border patrol agents must secure 1,254 miles in Texas every single day. “McAllen station is actually the busiest station in the whole country for illegal entries,” said Supervisor Border Patrol Agent Marlene Castro. During fiscal year 2016, which ended September 30, border patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector apprehended about 500 undocumented immigrants per day. “It's been a group, and then five minutes later another group, and then half an hour later you'll see another one,” Castro said. A lot of families coming from Central America are paying smugglers in Mexico to help them get across the Rio Grande River on a raft, but families said they're not coming to the U.S. to hide from border patrol. In fact, they want to get caught It's about a five minute hike through heavy brush from the road to the riverbank. Trails, formed by the thousands of people coming through each week, make the trip easy to navigate. “The smuggler usually brings the raft up. He'll be sitting there with a raft and people are gathering and as soon as he has enough people, he'll bring them across, go back, wait for another group, and bring them across,” said Castro. Most of the unaccompanied children and families are traveling from Honduras which has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Because they are seeking asylum, they walk right up to federal authorities and willingly pack into transport vehicles...more

Sister of 23-year-old who dissolved in scalding Yellowstone spring reveals she filmed him falling into the pool as they searched for a place to 'hot pot'

The sister of a 23-year-old man who dissolved in a scalding pool in Yellowstone National Park has revealed she filmed the horrific accident with her cell phone as the pair searched for a place to soak. Colin Scott, of Portand, Oregon, had been looking for a place to ‘hot pot’ – a term for soaking in the park’s natural thermal features – this summer. His sister Sable Scott told investigators that she and her brother left the boardwalk near Pork Chop Geyser on June 7, a report on the incident says. While she filmed video with her phone, her brother reached down to check the water temperature but accidentally ‘slipped and fell’ into the scalding pool, she said. Search and rescue rangers spotted his body in the pool on the day of the accident, but a lightning storm prevented their rescue efforts. By the following day, workers were unable to find any remains...more