Friday, December 16, 2016

How the Trump Administration Could Change the American Landscape, Literally

Get ready for a rush to plunder our public lands.

By Zoë Carpenter

 In the red-rock country of southern Utah, not far from Bryce Canyon National Park, the state’s only strip coal mine occupies several hundred acres of private property. For over a decade Alton Coal Development, the company behind the Coal Hollow mine, has tried to expand its footprint onto an adjacent parcel of public land containing some 50 million tons of federally owned coal. The expansion could disturb thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, raise air pollution, and send 300 trucks rumbling down the area’s two-lane highways each day. Standing in the way is a moratorium on the troubled federal coal-leasing program that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell enacted earlier this year. With the election of Donald Trump, the management of America’s public lands could shift, altering the landscape in southern Utah and across the Western United States. Extractive projects like the Coal Hollow expansion that have stalled or been rejected under the Obama administration could be given new life. They include drilling in the Arctic, in the North Atlantic, in the forests of Colorado, and around Glacier National Park; uranium mining at the edges of the Grand Canyon; and ramped-up logging in the national forests of the Pacific Northwest. Trump and his pick to lead the Interior Department, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, have invoked Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation legacy, and made mention of a desire to protect natural resources. (Zinke has not said yet whether he’ll accept the post.) But Trump also campaigned on a promise to “unleash” domestic energy production, and his team in Washington is stacked with oil, gas, and coal interests who have long sought greater access to public lands. On Tuesday, Trump promised to “cancel the restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean beautiful coal.” The moratorium on the federal coal leases will probably be one of the first things to go...more

A left-wing rag, but an interesting list of executive actions they fear and some roadblocks faced by the Trump administration. And probably a good preview of future enviro fundraising campaigns

And EcoWatch provides the following:

In his first term as a Congressman he has voted to:
  • Weaken controls on air and water pollution in national parks
  • Lift the federal ban on crude oil exports
  • De-fund efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay
  • Weaken the Antiquities Act by limiting the president's ability to designate new national monuments
In 2015 the League of Conservation Voters gave Zinke a bottom-of-the-barrel 3 percent score for his environmental record. He would have scored zero but for his one positive vote against cutting off funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Unfortunately, this Washington Post column may be the most accurate:

The names on Trump’s shortlist for interior secretary were downright frightening to those in the conservation community: former Alaska governor Sara Palin, Texas oil tycoon Forrest Lucas, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, and two of Congress’s leading anti-public-lands zealots, Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). But this week’s surprise announcement that Rep. Ryan Zinke, a first-term Montana Republican, has been tapped for the position is reason for many in the conservation community to break out the champagne... Zinke’s record on public lands puts him out of step with the GOP’s ideological warriors. During his time in the Montana legislature, he was known as a moderate and enjoyed a good working relationship with Democrats on issues such as land banking, a conservation strategy of swapping hard- or impossible-to-access public land with areas that are easier to reach. He also played a key role in a local conservation effort in his home town. In Congress, Zinke supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and repeatedly opposed efforts to sell off public land. He also resigned as a delegate at Republican National Convention over the party platform’s call for transferring land to the states. Regardless of what may be expressed in news releases, behind the scenes, many environmentalists recognize that Zinke — as a supporter of public land and a mainstream Republican on fossil fuels — is the best they could reasonably hope for under the incoming administration. That Zinke’s nomination is what passes for good news these days may be an indication of how far right the Republican Party has moved on public lands. But it also reflects that the probable interior secretary is someone many conservationists see as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, who understands the sacred value many Westerners place on public lands and who, above all, was perhaps the only acceptable option on a disturbing shortlist of candidates.

Herbert and Utah’s Congressmen Circle the Wagons Over Bear’s Ears

Due to persistent rumours that native tribal leaders have been in final negotiations with President Barack Obama during the last few weeks of his presidency, on Thursday Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s monthly press conference was extended to include Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz. All were on hand to condemn the possible use of the Antiquities Act by President Barack Obama to protect BLM land in the state’s San Juan County as another National Monument. Quick to condemn that kind of executive action on authority given by congress 110 years before, all three of Utah’s statesmen assembled at the press event said that Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), introduced after months of negotiations with local stakeholders, was still their preference for protection, even though the bill has not been introduced to the (current) 114th congress which will adjourn in less than a week, resuming briefly before Inauguration Day. Governor Herbert indicated that he had spoken with the President’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, on Monday, December 12, and was assured that the Beehive State’s concerns were being considered and that there was no national monument designation immediately planned by the White House. Credible rumors had resurfaced, prompting the expanded press conference at KUED studios in Salt Lake City. Herbert stressed to reporters his preference that if BLM land needs further protection it should be done legislatively, such as using the provisions outlined and discussed in Bishop’s PLI – a draft of which was announced this past summer...more

Wild Horse Advocates Ponder Zinke Nomination

In the wake of President-Elect Donald Trump's Dec. 15 nomination of U.S. House Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as Secretary of the Interior, some wild horse advocates are considering how the Montana Congressman might influence the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its management of wild horses and burros. The BLM is an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act federally protects wild horses and burros residing in Western states and places them under BLM jurisdiction. Zinke is Montana's sole representative to the U.S. House. He served 23 years in the U.S. Navy and, in 2014, became the first Nary SEAL veteran elected to the House. In 2009 while serving in the Montana State Senate, Zinke voted in support of a bill that would have legalized horse processing plant development in that state. Shortly after Zinke's nomination was announced, some horse advocates questioned whether the Congressman would protect the wild herds under his department's jurisdiction. Long-time horse advocate Jerry Finch, president and founder of Habitat for Horses, in Hitchcock, Texas, believes Zinke's appointment could be dangerous wild horses and burros...more

Ely copper mine project may be dead without access to federal lands

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service on Thursday rescinded federal mineral leases from Twin Metals Minnesota in a move that, if it stands, could kill the copper-nickel mine proposed near Ely. Officials of the agencies said the massive underground mine proposed along the Kawishiwi River is simply too close to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The project is within the BWCAW watershed that flows north into Canada, and critics have said that any polluted runoff from rock high in sulfur could taint the 1.1 million acre, lake-studded wilderness. “Not this mine, not in this place, not next to this wilderness,” Leslie Jones, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in an interview. The Department of Agriculture oversees the Forest Service while the Interior Department oversees the BLM. Supporters say the nearly $3 billion project would employ 850 people and pump millions of dollars into the regional economy hard hit by the cyclical nature of the iron ore industry. The company responded Thursday that it will take legal action to overturn the agency decision, and mining supporters predicted that the incoming Trump administration will overturn the 11th hour move by the Obama administration...more

Tribes, federal agency claim same land in eastern Idaho

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes has recently asserted their claim of ownership of the City Creek Trailhead. However, there is some confusion over who actually owns the land. According to a press release issued by the Tribes on Tuesday, a railroad right of way was granted by the Tribes in 1888. The right of way included land in the City Creek area because it provided water for steam engines that the railroad needed to operate. Back then, the current Pocatello area was part of the Fort Hall Reservation. A condition the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the U.S. Congress and the railroad company agreed upon at the time was that the land would be returned to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes once it was no longer being used for railroad purposes. According to the Tribes, the City Creek property in question, which is estimated at approximately 100 acres in size along Pocatello’s West Bench, reverted back to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes once steam engines were replaced with internal combustion engines in the early 1900s...more

Coyote Catalog Available for Hunters, Landowners

The Coyote Catalog, a statewide effort designed to connect coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who are dealing with coyotes in their areas, is open for the winter. A partnership between the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the Coyote Catalog can be a good way for hunters and trappers to locate new places to go, according to Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring encourages landowners, especially farmers and ranchers who have problems with coyotes, to sign up for the Coyote Catalog. “Hunting and trapping are some of the many tools available to mitigate predator risk,” Goehring said...more

That Bison Burger Just Got Pricier Thanks to Canada Ranchers

That pricey bison burger just got more expensive. Ground-bison prices have climbed to record highs as ranchers in Canada are holding back more animals to expand their herds and take advantage of a growing appetite for the grass-fed meat. The cost stayed at an all-time high of C$23.93 ($17.94) per kilogram in November, after reaching the peak a month earlier. Prices were up 41 percent from a year earlier and almost double the price of a kilogram of ground beef, according to Canada’s agriculture ministry. “With current prices, retention will continue and that will certainly aggravate the supply problem,” said Terry Kremeniuk, executive director of the Regina, Saskatchewan-based Canadian Bison Association. Bison prices have been rallying as demand for the niche product is rising among U.S. consumers amid a favorable exchange rate and as more people seek out organic foods and healthy alternative proteins. The grass-fed meat has fewer calories, less cholesterol and fat than beef, and the animals are raised without hormones or antibiotics. As demand gains, Canada’s ranchers are becoming more reluctant to send animals to slaughter, and instead are holding them back in favor of herd expansion. As a result, fewer bison are being exported for processing in the U.S., Canada’s biggest market, and domestic production probably fell 25 percent in 2016 from a year earlier to 10,500 animals, Kremeniuk said...more

Heitkamp law passes, Forest Service must consult localities about prescribed burns

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law Wednesday night that would require the U.S. Forest Service to consult local officials before initiating a prescribed burn on USFS lands when there is an extreme fire danger. U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Thune, R-S.D., passed Senate bill 3395, the Prescribed Burn Approval Act of 2016. The two senators introduced the legislation after the Pautre fire in 2013, which was a prescribed burn aiming to cover about 100 acres in northwestern South Dakota before escalating into a 16,000-acre uncontrolled fire that burned for several days destroying millions of dollars worth of property in North Dakota and South Dakota, according to Heitkamp's press release. "The Forest Service needs to listen when ranchers and first responders say conditions are unsafe for a burn — and this bill will help guarantee that happens," said Heitkamp, according to the press release. "The Pautre wildfire was completely preventable, making it obvious that the Forest Service hasn't done enough to listen to local communities in North Dakota and beyond. Our bipartisan bill will help prevent what happened in 2013 from happening again, which will help protect our ranchers, their property, and valuable grasslands."...  more

For those interested in the coordination issue I've embedded S. 3395 below. It basically bans prescribed burns when extreme fire conditions exist with one exception, and that is if they coordinate with state and local officials.

Deaths along Arizona border uncounted by Border Patrol

Between 2014 and 2015, fewer migrant deaths occurred between the US and Mexico, according to the US Border Patrol. At face value, this may seem good. However, the numbers do not hold up to state reporting that finds the numbers growing. Each year, thousands of migrants take a risk and cross the southwestern US border, navigating difficult terrain in extreme temperatures and often relying on unscrupulous human traffickers. It’s a danger difficult to calculate, particularly when there is a major discrepancy between the reported deaths from federal officials and Arizona state officials.In 2014, federal officials reported that 110 people died crossing the border into Arizona. That same year, Arizona officials reported 127 deaths. While the federal numbers are based on the reports of Border Patrol, state officials base their reports on the numbers from the medical examiner’s office in Pima County, which counts the totals from the four counties that are on the US-Mexico border, the Los Angeles Times reported...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1752

Its been awhile since we played some bluegrass. To remedy that here is a pretty instrumental, Pitching Wedge, by Adam Steffey. Some fine pickin' here. The tune is on his 2016 CD Here to Stay

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The EPA went rogue and Trump's pick will rein it in

Any parent who has ever disciplined children knows that no matter how hard it might be, it's for their own good. The Environmental Protection Agency could use some discipline right about now. During the Obama administration, the EPA became a lawless organ of federal power, divorced from the Congressional statutes that were meant to constrain it. If it is to be reformed, it will need the steady hand of someone who understands just how thoroughly it has gone astray. Enter Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a man who has spent the last six years pushing back on the EPA's most egregious overreaches. Given Pruitt's recent role as EPA antagonizer-in-chief, it's little wonder that some on the left have responded with howling rage to his nomination. How, they ask, can a man who has repeatedly sued the EPA now be tapped to lead it? But even a cursory review of some of the EPA's actions over the last few years shows that only someone who thoroughly understands why the EPA is broken can hope to fix it. Consider the EPA's Waters of the United States rule, a power grab that would have allowed the EPA to regulate nearly every stream and dry river bed in the country. The rule was so expansive that the EPA felt it necessary to specifically exclude from its jurisdiction the puddles that form in your front yard after a rainstorm. Subpoenaed internal documents revealed the Army Corps of Engineers warned the EPA that the rule had "serious flaws" that rendered it "legally vulnerable, difficult to defend in court, difficult for the Corps to explain or justify, and challenging for the Corps to implement." Not only did the EPA promulgate the rule despite these warnings, it spent taxpayer dollars on what the Government Accountability Office would later call an illegal "covert propaganda" effort to sell the rule to the public. But the EPA's water rule was small potatoes compared to the regulation that was to be the Obama administration's crowning environmental achievement — the Clean Power Plan. When President Obama ran for office in 2008, he vowed to implement a cap-and-trade system that would bankrupt anyone who dared to build a coal-fired power plant in the United States, a move that would lead inexorably to the end of the coal industry as a whole...Given the weak case against him, it is imperative that Republicans in the Senate rally to Pruitt's cause. They cannot allow his nomination to be scuttled because of his adherence to the rule of law and his assertion that free people in a free country should be able to challenge climate change dogma without fear of prosecution...more

Illegal migration hits new high in November as families surge across border

More than 15,000 illegal immigrants traveling as families were nabbed at the U.S.-Mexico border in November — a massive increase that marks the worst November on record, and the second-worst overall, according to new statistics released Thursday by Homeland Security. The number of children traveling without parents also ticked up, topping 7,000 for the month, but it’s the surge of families that’s straining the Border Patrol and testing the Obama administration’s resolve. Combined, the children and families fleeing Central America for the U.S. have reshaped the challenges of the illegal migration problem, sending the overall level of illegal immigration back to levels that haven’t been seen in years. November’s 47,214 illegal immigrants caught is 44 percent than the level in 2015, and is the worst November in years. Obama officials blame conditions in Central America, saying poverty and violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are forcing people to make the trip north. But the Border Patrol’s chief told Congress that U.S. policy is inviting the surge because migrants, coached by the smugglers they’re paying, have learned to gain the system...more

Parish ‘green teams’ grew in 2016

Only eight months after the Archdiocese of San Francisco launched a major “Laudato Si’” initiative on April 23 at the urging of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, several parishes have taken steps to heed what Pope Francis called in his encyclical “the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor.” “We are beginning to find local actions that respond to Pope Francis’ call,” said Stephen Miller, chair of the St. Teresa of Avila Parish “green team” and a member of the archdiocese’s Care for Creation Council. Catholic San Francisco reached out to members of each parish “green team” with a letter on Dec. 1 asking for detailed reports of their progress this year. Following is a summary of the efforts available to the paper as we went to press on Dec. 12...more

Conservatives seek ally in Trump in Western land disputes

Conservatives who have long complained about the government’s control of vast Western lands hope they will have a new ally in Donald Trump, who has sent mixed signals about how he might manage land and whether he would relinquish federal authority over millions of acres. moratorium on new coal production and canceled dozens of oil and gas leases. Despite their shared preference for local control, activists do not have a single plan for accomplishing it. Much will depend on Trump, who told Field & Stream magazine in January that he opposed transferring federal lands to the states. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump said. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble?” Yet he endorsed state control in a guest column for a Nevada newspaper, a position the Republican platform strongly backs. A transition team spokesman did not return email messages seeking comment. Zinke, Trump’s choice for interior secretary, has walked a tightrope in Montana, where opinions about federal dominion are more divided than in some Western states. During his re-election campaign, Democrats accused him of signing a pledge in 2012 declaring Montana’s lands as sovereign and not subject to federal control. He said he did not remember doing so and resigned as a GOP convention delegate over the platform’s stance. Yet he has criticized federal land management and voted for demonstration projects allowing states to manage portions of national forests. Republican Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee plans to re-introduce a measure that failed this year authorizing states to administer energy leasing and permitting on federal lands. Another bill that could be offered again would allow the transfer of 2 million acres of national forests to the states. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, has sought to reduce the portion of land under federal control in his state from more than 80 percent to about 75 percent. Skeptics consider federal land transfer a fringe issue, and industry groups tend to avoid it. The National Mining Association has no formal position, focusing instead on specific battles such as a government proposal to ban mineral development on 10 million acres to protect the imperiled sage grouse. Even a Trump administration and a GOP-controlled Congress probably will not bring any “radical” change in public land management, said Travis Joseph, president of the American Forest Resource Council. Similar predictions arose when Bush was elected, he noted. The logging industry, he explained, is more concerned about shortages of money and agency personnel that prevent timber harvests allowed under existing federal policies. “We accept reality,” Joseph said, “and are trying to make reality work as best we can.”...more 

 Senator Heinrich will be leading the opposition to any transfer:

Environmentalists and their supporters in Congress are gearing up for a fight, saying strong federal regulation is needed to protect water and wildlife habitat. “Any admin that tries to reverse 100-year history of #PublicLands that belong to every American is going to have to do it over my dead body,” Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted after Trump’s election. The Democrat from New Mexico later told The Associated Press that cash-strapped states would probably sell at least some lands to help cover fire suppression and other management costs. “No trespassing” signs would pop up in places where public access has been taken for granted, he said, raising the ire of outdoor sports enthusiasts.  “I think you will see a real populist uprising when you start taking away access to people’s local fishing hole,” Heinrich said.

Rumors and rumblings over Bears Ears monument run rampant

Members of Utah's congressional delegation and Gov. Gary Herbert took to social media Wednesday and will participate in an extended news conference Thursday over rampant rumors a Bears Ears monument designation is imminent. "We’re hearing today that President (Barack) Obama may well be moving forward with a monument designation, possibly designating a monument in the Bears Ears area as early as next week," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Wednesday. The designation could come as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, noted Lee's office, based on "rumblings" from the U.S. Department of the Interior. "I want to make clear, if heaven forbid this does happen, I will work tirelessly with the incoming Trump administration to make sure that this national monument never gets off the ground; to make sure it is undone, that is defunded, unwritten, rewritten, repealed, whatever it is that we have to do to undo it," Lee said in a video he posted on Facebook and YouTube...more

Colorado to try killing bears, lions to improve deer numbers

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved an experiment to see if killing mountain lions and bears will boost the state’s declining mule deer population. The plan approved Wednesday will test whether removing some lions and bears, which prey on deer, will result in higher deer survival rates. Up to 10 lions and 25 black bears would be killed each year for three years in one area near Rifle. About 60 lions would be killed over three years in another area near Salida, although that study will last nine years. Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Lauren Truitt says licensed or contracted hunters will be used.  AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1751

Time for some Tex-Mex, and here is one of my favorites:  Augie Meyers - My Freeholies Ain't Free Anymore

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trump’s choice for interior gets mixed reviews

By picking Representative Ryan Zinke (R–MT) to be secretary of the Department of the Interior, as the media have widely reported, President-elect Donald Trump is tapping into two common, and sometimes conflicting, attitudes toward federal lands in the rural West. A hunter raised in northwestern Montana, not far from the peaks of Glacier National Park, Zinke (pronounced “zeenkee”) has won plaudits from some conservation groups for pushing to keep federal lands in federal control and protect access for hunting and recreation. At the same time, he’s an ally of the fossil fuel industry who has railed against limits set by the Obama administration on coal mining and oil and gas drilling on those same federal holdings. Zinke has also questioned the science behind climate change. Zinke’s mix of positions makes him a less ideologically rigid Cabinet pick than several others expected to play a significant role in environmental issues, says Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.–based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. He contrasts Zinke with the choice of former Texas Governor Rick Perry as energy secretary and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. “This guy is not doctrinaire or antithetical to the continued existence of his agency,” Ruch says. “So this is significant.” The Trump transition team hasn’t formally announced the job offer, and Zinke has yet to make any official statement. In Congress, Zinke has allied himself with conservation groups on some issues related to protecting federal lands. He supported permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses royalties from offshore oil drilling to fund conservation programs. And he has split with some of his fellow Western state conservatives by resisting calls to turn federal lands over to state and local control. In July, he resigned from the Republican platform committee because the platform called for turning over some federal lands to the states. “Quite frankly, most Republicans don't agree with it and most Montanans don't agree with it,” Zinke told the Billings Gazette at the time. “What we do agree on is better management.” That stance has won praise from conservation groups ranging from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other hunting advocates to the Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF). “He’s certainly broken with some of the ideological doctrine on those issue, and I think he’s done a better job reflecting the interests of people in Montana to keep these lands managed by the federal government,” says Dave Chadwick, MWF’s executive director in Helena. But Zinke has clashed with the Obama administration on policies related to the energy industry. He has criticized BLM regulations to revive sage grouse populations in the West, arguing the states should have control instead. Sage grouse habitat overlaps with oil and gas fields, raising concerns that protections will restrict drilling. He has opposed Interior Department rules finalized in mid-November that clamp down on methane releases from oil and gas operations, and pushed legislation easing a moratorium on federal coal mining leases. He has also spoken in favor of the recently rejected Keystone XL pipeline...more

Trump’s Interior Pick Supports Federal Ownership Of Western Land

by Chris White

Trump’s choice to run the Department of the Interior, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, opposes one of the Republican Party’s major planks: transferring public land ownership back to the states. In fact, Zinke resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Committee earlier this summer because of the GOP’s position on federal land ownership. The Montana Republican pushed back against efforts by Utah Republican Sen. Rob Bishop, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to transfer millions of acres of public land from the U.S. Forest Service to the state. Bishop’s committee oversees the Department of the Interior. Conservation groups are concerned Zinke will fold under pressure and sell off public land, despite his public opposition to land transfers. Zinke’s position on climate change could also propose a problem for the former Navy Seal commander. He believes the Trump administration needs to carefully balance coal and natural gas production with that of preserving public lands. Climate change should also be factored into that balance, Zinke told reporters last year. “You know, if you go up to Glacier Park and you have your lunch on one of the glaciers, you will see the glacier recede while you eat lunch. So you know I have seen the change in my lifetime,” he said...more

To Drain the Swamp, Trump Must Reform Agricultural Policy

by Daren Bakst

There’s real hope that the Trump administration will shake things up in Washington, D.C. This includes getting rid of the cronyism and the status quo that helps special interests at the expense of everybody else. This change is needed, and it’s especially needed when it comes to agriculture. Imagine an industry in which taxpayers provide handouts to multimillion-dollar businesses when they don’t generate as much revenue as they hoped. Or imagine the government intentionally driving up food prices to help special interests at the expense of consumers, particularly hurting the poor. Then imagine an industry enjoying record high prices, but federal taxpayers being forced to bail it out when prices come down from these record highs. It doesn’t require much imagination because this is current agricultural policy. Cronyism and massive federal intervention are the norm, not the exception to the rule. We don’t have a “safety net” anymore, but a system that uses the pretext of a safety net to insulate many agricultural producers from competing in the market. Federal policymakers need to free up farmers. They need to free farmers and ranchers from crushing federal regulations. They also need to allow farmers to freely compete in the marketplace, and reap the financial reward of being more efficient and better managed than their competitors. In other words, they should be allowed to operate just like any other business...more

Changes coming to West as wildlife refuge occupiers await trial

Seven protesters involved in the widely publicized, armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge will face federal trial next year despite acquittals won by their leaders and a new administration in Washington that might warm to loosening the reins on land use in the vast expanses of the West. Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who with five others were acquitted in October of conspiracy and weapons charges, led the group of self-described patriots who seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2. Bundy and many ranchers say tough restrictions on grazing and other uses of federal land threaten their way of life. The standoff focused a national spotlight on the long-running dispute over control of federal lands. "The election of Donald Trump does throw a huge wrench into the works," Notre Dame law professor Bruce Huber said. "To the extent that Trump prevailed among rural voters, it's entirely possible that we see policy more sympathetic to the occupiers."Undeterred, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Portland filed court papers this week saying prosecutors remain committed to putting seven more defendants on trial, adding that misdemeanor counts will be added to the felony charges the first group also faced. The acquittals make it clear that felony convictions won't be easy, Huber said. The misdemeanor counts would provide a jury with a compromise option between conviction on felony counts and acquittal. "Still, I would think the prosecution would still take it as a loss if all they get are misdemeanor convictions," Huber said. The political climate may now be improving for the group, he said...more

Judge sides with independent beef producers in checkoff case

A U.S. magistrate judge is siding with independent beef producers in their challenge over the way beef is marketed in Montana. Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America — or R-CALF USA — challenged the fact that half of the $1-per-head federal tax on cattle sales collected in Montana is used by the privately incorporated Montana Beef Council. The Montana Beef Council collects the checkoff dollars and sends half the money to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, a national promotional group. Public Justice attorney David Muraskin, who represented R-CALF in its complaint against the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, argued independent producers were being forced to subsidize the council’s promotions, which do not distinguish between domestic and foreign beef. U.S. Magistrate John Johnston on Monday recommended that U.S. District Judge Brian Morris grant a preliminary injunction to prevent the Montana Beef Council from keeping checkoff money without prior consent from individual ranchers. R-CALF USA argued its producers comply with the United States’ rigorous safety and quality standards, but have no standing to encourage the Montana Beef Council to market beef raised in the U.S. separately. The group includes cattle ranchers and feedlot operators in 42 states. R-CALF USA has 375 voting members in Montana. Johnston’s recommendation protects ranchers’ First Amendment rights, Muraskin said. “It allows them to ensure their money actually supports domestic operations rather than these multinational organizations that have taken over the beef checkoff in Montana,” he said...more

Washington lawmakers torn over beef industry rift

by Don Jenkins

A Washington lawmaker vetting a proposal to raise the beef checkoff by $1 says he’s not sure what to do about the contentious issue. Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, has been meeting with segments of the beef industry for seven months on whether to hike the per head tax on cattle sales to $2.50 from $1.50. He said Tuesday that the industry remains divided. “I don’t know if I’m taking a position at this time,” Dent said. The beef checkoff emerged as an issue in the 2016 Legislature. At $1.50, the fee raises about $500,000 annually for the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board and another $1 million for the Washington Beef Commission, a state agency funded entirely by the checkoff. The Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Washington Cattle Feeders Association supported raising the fee, doubling the state’s commission yearly budget to about $2 million. The Cattle Producers of Washington, however, rallied enough opposition from ranchers to stop the proposal. Dent volunteered to examine the intra-industry rift and report back to fellow lawmakers in time for the 2017 session. “It’s been an interesting ride for the last seven months,” he said. “These meetings could sometimes be contentious, but they were passionate, and I love that. It’s what makes America great.”...more

Trump Administration Could Overturn National Monument Designations

President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to designate 27 National Monuments, more than any other President. Now, Congressman Rob Bishop, a Republican from Utah wants President-Elect Trump to overturn those designations, including one for Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Las Cruces. Coffee Blends, Cupcakes, and Tour Businesses have all been created in Las Cruces since the designation of Organ Mountain- Desert Peaks National Monument. Carrie Hamblen, President and CEO of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, says the community has come together to embrace the monument. “What we’ve seen is really just a unique situation that is serving as an example for places across the country,” Hamblen said. “Of businesses, of health and wellness providers, community organizers, groups, non-profits, who are coming together and saying this is my monument, and I want to protect it, and I want to make sure it continues for generations to come.” In a statement, Congressman Steve Pearce says he would support a review of the Organ Mountains designation by President Trump, saying he introduced legislation that would have protected 60,000 acres, instead of the almost 500,000 acres preserved now. “By doing do, I am confident his Administration will ultimately reduce the Obama footprint to an acreage supported by existing federal law…. Additionally Congress should work with President Trump in the years to come on changing the designation process - so that no future President may unilaterally restrict lands from the people.” Pearce says these decisions should be made by congress. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell highlighted the monument designations made by the Obama administration during a hike at Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks and says protecting public lands has benefits for the community as a whole. “Outdoor recreation and tourism drives a quality of life that draws businesses to a community like Las Cruces,” Jewell said. “I think any administration would be crazy to undo the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks National Monument for the reasons that will become very clear as the community speaks out about it’s important.” Jewell says community members can take steps to prevent that. “You know we live in a representative democracy,” Jewell said. “And that means the voices of citizens in this country matter, so my recommendation is people need to make their voices known. Make sure that your elected officials, Congressman Pearce, Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich know how important it is to you, and I think that’s true across the country for places that people feel are special.”...more

Trump chooses congressman, former SEAL Zinke as interior secretary

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen first-term Republican U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, a former Navy SEAL commander, as his interior secretary, a senior transition official said on Tuesday. Zinke, 55, will be nominated to head the Interior Department, which employs more than 70,000 people across the United States and oversees more than 20 percent of federal land, including national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Zinke's choice was something of a surprise since some Republican officials wanted him to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana in the 2018 elections. Zinke emerged after Trump had toyed with the idea of nominating U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state for the position. He is a proponent of keeping public lands under federal ownership, putting him at odds with some in his Republican Party who are more favorable to privatization or placing them under the control of states...Zinke, a member of the House of Representatives subcommittee on natural resources, has voted for legislation that would weaken environmental safeguards on public land. But, unlike other candidates who were on the short list for the interior secretary job, Zinke opposes the transfer of public lands to the states, a position that echoes Trump's. Trump has said he does not think public land should be turned over to the states and should be protected. "I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do," Trump said in an interview with Field & Stream magazine in January.  In July, Zinke resigned as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention because the party platform called for transferring public lands to the states. "What I saw was a platform that was more divisive than uniting," Zinke told the Billings Gazette. "At this point, I think it's better to show leadership." Public land comprises more than 30 percent of Montana, according to the Montana Wilderness Association. The League of Conservation Voters, which ranks lawmakers on their environmental record, gave Zinke an extremely low lifetime score of 3 percent. The Wilderness Society, a leading conservation group, said it was concerned by Zinke's support for logging, drilling and mining on public lands...more

Disappointing pick.  Will explain my initial thoughts later.

Members of Congress Accuse the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of Not Protecting Red Wolves

The nine members of Congress who penned a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell say they blame the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the state of the endangered red wolf population that calls eastern North Carolina home, citing specific examples of how bad decisions have pushed the species to the brink of extinction. Representatives Raul Grijalva, Debbie Dingell, Jim Langevin, Mark Pocan, Donald Beyer Jr., Alan Lowenthal, Peter DeFazio, Jared Polis, and Betty McCollum—all Democrats, none from North Carolina—say the government has failed the "iconic animal" by abandoning its responsibility to protect the wolves under the Endangered Species Act. They argued that the USFWS's ruling this fall on the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, one the feds painted as a victory for the species, would actually all but ensure the wild wolf population would end up in captivity. "Over the last three years, the [USFWS] has failed to follow the best available science, has ignored the management recommendations made by independent analyses, and has undermined the recovery of the red wolf, causing the population to fall by 50 percent," the letter reads. "The [USFWS] has now proposed to abandon management of red wolves in the wild, and shift focus away from 'trying to establish a self-sustaining population.' This is troubling."...more

Obama official urges researchers to raise the alarm if Trump skews science

Scientists must confront climate change deniers and speak up if U.S. President-elect Donald Trump tries to sideline climate research, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is due to say on Wednesday. “If you see science being ignored or compromised, speak up,” Jewell will tell a meeting of earth and space scientists in San Francisco, according to a draft of the speech seen by Reuters. Trump has called climate change a hoax and sought to fill his cabinet with oil industry allies like Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Energy Department nominee. Last week, the Trump team asked the U.S. Department of Energy to supply names of officials who took part in international climate talks – a request that the agency has rejected. The scientific fact of climate change cannot be ignored no matter who is in the White House, Jewell will say. And she will urge climate experts to publicly defend their work. “Think about where to raise your voice and then do it,” Jewell will tell a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) – a global association of researchers. “The American people must be able to trust science.” As President Barack Obama’s top steward for public lands, Jewell has helped manage terrain that holds vast reserves of oil, gas and coal. But over nearly four years in office, Jewell has also warned that burning fossil fuels will irreparably harm the planet. Jewell will say that national historic sites that she now manages – like the 17th century colonial outpost, Jamestown – could eventually be swallowed by rising seas. Policymakers must confront climate change realities, Jewell said...more

Ranch Radio Song of the #1750

I'm ready for some harmonica this morning so here is Wayne Raney and his 1948 hit Lost John Boogie.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Local Governments Sue to Stop BLM’s New Resource Planning Rules

Today, counties in six western states and a soil and water conservation district filed suit in federal district court in Utah challenging new resource planning rules adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The group maintains these new rules will severely impair their ability to work with the BLM on future planning and management issues, while changing the way public lands are managed to the detriment of their citizens.

The petitioners in the suit are Kane County, Utah, Big Horn County, Wyoming, Chaves County, New Mexico, Custer County, Idaho, Garfield County, Colorado, Modoc County, California and the Dona Ana Soil and Water Conservation District in New Mexico. 

The BLM’s new rules were published in the Federal register today, and will govern how resource management plans will be prepared and implemented for more than 175 million acres of public lands in 11 western states (excluding Alaska).  These plans determine the level of resource use, including grazing, mineral exploration and development, rights-of-way, timber production, and outdoor recreation.  They also designate areas for special restrictions and control access to the public lands. 

The impetus for the BLM’s new resource planning rules are two Obama administration programs, the Climate Change Adaptation Program and the Landscape-scale Mitigation Program.  These programs were created by secretarial order and directed the BLM and other Interior Department agencies to change the way they manage federal lands.  The suit also alleges that these programs were adopted and are being implemented in violation of federal law.

One of the primary reasons for the lawsuit is the new rules violate the coordination requirements imposed in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).  This law requires the BLM to coordinate with local governments on land use inventory, planning, and management activities and to consider and resolve inconsistencies with local land use plans.  The public lands are the backbone of many rural economies in the West, which is why Congress mandated that the BLM to coordinate with local governments during the resource planning process.

Most counties in the West have more than 50% of their land base owned by the federal government.  For example, 97% of Custer County, Idaho, is owned by state and federal governments. FLPMA ensures that local governments are involved in the planning for and management of these lands, protecting local citizens and ensuring strong western economies.  Coordination with local governments is essential to ensure that the people most affected by the BLM’s management decisions have the strongest voice.

The BLM’s new rules, however, allow only limited local government involvement, effectively treating western counties and districts like members of the public.  There is no coordination process for local governments that would allow them to effectively discuss and, if necessary, challenge the BLM’s plans in an open forum.  By contrast, there are specific coordination requirements for states as well as government-to-government consultation with Indian tribes.  What is missing is the statutorily required coordination process for local governments.

Additionally, counties and other local governments have state-delegated land use planning and management authority.  For example, most counties have adopted comprehensive land use plans that consider not only the BLM’s plans, but also those of cities, fire, school and hospital districts, state lands, and police and emergency services.  The BLM’s plans are only one part of a larger, comprehensive land use program that must work in a coordinated fashion.  Congress requires coordination to ensure that local plans are carefully considered and incorporated into federal planning efforts to ensure consistency and protect the people most affected by the BLM’s planning and management activities.

“The new rules fail to recognize that we are authorized by law to represent the public in our County,” commented Commissioner Tom Jankovsky from Garfield County, Colorado.  “We are charged with protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people in our community.  We should not be relegated to commenting on BLM plans or asked to violate open meeting laws and have discussions about planning conflicts behind closed doors. The public should be allowed to hear our concerns and the BLM should not be afraid to answer our questions and defend its position in the public view.”

The BLM has taken the position that they will coordinate with local governments during the cooperating agency process under a different federal law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the effects on the human environment in making decisions.  However, the NEPA process is not intended to resolve conflicts with local land use plans and programs.  Moreover, the rules governing NEAP require that the local governments sign agreements with the BLM and keep all discussions and materials confidential. 

Section 202(c)(9) of FLPMA, in contrast, places specific requirements on the BLM to resolve conflicts with local plans during its inventory, planning and management activities.  It also requires the BLM’s land use plans be consistent with local plans to the extent practical as necessary to comply with federal law.  While the new rules recognize this responsibility, they fail to provide a path for meaningful coordination throughout the process.  The rules place the responsibility on local governments to identify the inconsistencies between plans at the end of the process, instead of considering local needs and planning constraints at the beginning of the process.

Commissioner Jim Matson of Kane County, Utah, explained: “While we recognize the BLM is charged with managing the public lands, we are charged with protecting the people and the resources within our county.  We have the institutional knowledge of how the resources should be managed and what our communities need, which often times means we are the agency’s strongest critic.  It is easier for them to plan if they can keep local governments on the sidelines where we are unable to hold them accountable.”

The group is also concerned with other parts of the new rules, which shift decision-making authority to Washington, D.C., and eliminate the requirement that the impact on local economies be considered during the planning process.  The new rules also emphasize controversial concepts such as “ecosystem management,” “areas of ecological importance” and “ecosystem services,” while downplaying the principal public land uses identified in FLPMA.

The BLM’s new planning rules have been adopted to implement the Department of Interior’s Climate Change Adaptation and Landscape-scale Mitigation Programs.  The Climate Change Adaptation Program was created by a secretarial order that directed Interior Department bureaus and agencies, including the BLM, to develop landscape-scale strategies for responding to future climate change.  The Landscape-scale Mitigation Program was also created by secretarial order, and requires that “landscape-scale approaches” be incorporated into all facets of development and conservation planning.  These new programs, which were not authorized by Congress, will dramatically change how the public lands are managed.

Despite the significance of these resource planning and management changes, the BLM made no effort to comply with NEPA.  It did not prepare an environmental impact statement or even an environmental assessment, which would have delayed the adoption of the new rules.  Instead, the BLM declared the new rules to be “categorically exempt” from NEPA.  In contrast, the BLM’s sister agency, the U.S. Forest Service, issued a programmatic environmental impact statement prior to adopting its current planning rules for the National Forest System in 2012. 

“The BLM requires that a 300-plus page EIS be prepared to renew a livestock grazing permit, but then exempt itself from the same level of scrutiny when making sweeping changes to the planning process on 175 million acres of America’s land,” commented Chairman Robert Corn with Chaves County, New Mexico.

The lawsuit also points out that the Interior Department’s Climate Change Adaptation Program and the Landscape-scale Mitigation Program were not subject to an environmental analysis as required by NEPA, nor were these programs subject to public review and comment.  If the lawsuit is successful, these programs may also be revoked. 

The coalition of local governments is represented by Norman James of Fennemore Craig in Phoenix and Shawn Welch of Holland and Hart in Salt Lake City.

The American Stewards of Liberty, a private property rights organization that trains and helps local governments coordinate with federal agencies, is managing the litigation effort.

For more information go to

-- end --

Property rights, access and neighborliness


The U.S. Forest Service recently decided to reroute a road in the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman rather than engage in a costly court battle with a landowner to obtain a prescriptive easement across his property. For many access advocates, that rational agreement represents a slippery slope.

The decision to negotiate rather than litigate stands in stark contrast to an access dispute between a small landowner on Indian Creek south of Ennis and the USFS. In October, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon issued an opinion in which the USFS prevailed with a finding that it has a prescriptive easement for a trail running through the front yard of the 80-acre property. Unfortunately, the landowner spent over a million dollars of their own money, and the USFS spent millions of taxpayer dollars on the litigation. This is the slippery slope that we should all be concerned about.

Consider the fact that the USFS had a letter of agreement from the landowner giving the USFS an easement across the property not by prescription, but by a grant from the landowner. The letter of agreement established a new trail location and required the landowner to pay for construction of the new trail and two new bridges. According to Madison District Ranger Mark Petroni (Feb. 10, 2006), “They (the landowner) have offered to partner with us to acquire an easement across their property, assist with acquisition of an easement across their neighbor, the CB Ranch, and help fund NEPA (environmental review) and construction of a new trail location that avoids their lawn. This potential partnership is too good to pass up.”

Despite the fact that the landowner maintained the trail and existing bridge, never once denied access to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, and never suggested that access would be denied in the future, the USFS ended its good neighbor policy on Sept. 1, 2011, and pursued a prescriptive easement instead. It filed a statement of interest stating that, “The United States of America states that it has and claims an easement for the Indian Creek trail 328 over and across” the private land. Based on that statement of interest, the landowner sought to clarify or “quiet” its title.

Establishing a prescriptive easement requires that the USFS must show open, notorious, exclusive, adverse, continuous and uninterrupted use by the public on private land without permission from the landowner. Historically that has been a high bar, but the judge lowered that bar in the Indian Creek case granting the prescriptive easement based on a USFS Trail Registers from 1969 and from 1970 showing only 30 users per year. Moreover, the Indian Creek landowner posted signs notifying trail users that they were crossing private property with “gratuitous permission.”

The message to all landowners is clear: If you allow even a few people to cross your property to access public land, you may find yourself in court spending millions on lawyers and losing control of your property. With that message, it is reasonable to expect that many landowners will stop allowing access.

 To see how far the USFS is willing to push its interest in access across private property, consider the advice from District Ranger Alex Sienkiewicz (Yellowstone Ranger District) posted on July 7, 2016, on the Facebook page of the Public Land/Water Access Association: “NEVER ask permission to access the National Forest Service through a traditional route shown on our maps EVEN if that route crosses private land. NEVER ASK PERMISSION; NEVER SIGN IN (concerns —c ome see me)… Whatever past (district rangers) or colleagues have said, I am making it clear, DO NOT ASK permission and DO NOT ADVISE public to ask permission… By asking permission, one undermines public access rights and plays into their lawyers’ trap of establishing a history of permissive access.” Landowners beware!

Terry L. Anderson is a senior fellow at PERC (Property and Environment Research Center) in Bozeman and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. 

And Smokey Bear sez: 

“NEVER ask permission"


"DO NOT ADVISE public to ask permission"

What happened to "collaboration"? 

The quotes above provide  a concise explanation of the feds' opinion of property owners and the general public; is one example of the controversy created by federal control of the majority of land in the West; and serves as a warning to any property owner dealing with the feds.

Fate uncertain for federal lands under Trump presidency

It’s almost certain that Donald Trump’s presidency will refuel a “drill, baby, drill” policy on federal lands in the West. The president-elect has also vowed to scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal-fired power plants and other rules aimed at curbing global warming. Environmentalists are less certain what to expect from the Trump White House on a simmering backburner attempt to “transfer” federal lands into the hands of the states that want them. Conservative politicians and activists contend that the people who live near the federal lands are best equipped to determine how they should be used. An organization called the American Lands Council is a leader of the transfer movement. The nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council drafts bills for interested legislators. Several Western states, including Colorado’s neighbors to the north and west, have passed legislation to study the transfers. Such a bill passed the Republic-controlled state Senate in Colorado last session, but it died in the Democrat-controlled House... ENVIRONMENTALISTS PERFORM TRIAGE Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop, the area’s oldest homegrown environmental advocacy group, said the conservation community is “performing triage” on issues as Trump prepares to take the White House. “The most imminent threat is ‘drill, baby, drill,’ ‘lease before you look,’” Shoemaker said. Trump wants to increase domestic production of fossil fuels. Conservation groups fear lands that deserve protection will be leased for oil and gas exploration without thorough study. The fight like the one waged over the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale will become common throughout the West. Meanwhile, there is nothing imminent on the transfer of public lands, Shoemaker noted. “So for us, it’s like a slow-burn crisis,” he said. The problem is, if the transfer gains steam, it might be too late to stop it since the Republican Party has a monopoly on the three branches of government Shoemaker said...COUNTER INITIATIVE ON LAND While conservative activists and politicians have pushed for transfers, there’s been a counter effort at the local level in Colorado. High Country News reported in a July 2015 article that seven Colorado counties, including Eagle and Pitkin, have passed resolutions opposing transferring federal public lands to the states. At the time, Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards labeled the transfer a real threat because of the control of Congress. After the Nov. 8 election, she warned people they better not bury their heads in the sand on environmental issues after Trump prevailed. Among her concerns are that the lands will be transferred to the states for their “useful disposal.” “It’s just clearly unleashed,” Richards said of the conservative agenda. “I think anything’s on the table.” But opponents of transfers might have an ace in the hole. Studies by Utah and Wyoming concluded transfers would be costly for the states, perhaps prohibitively costly...more

Company: Equipment didn't detect North Dakota oil leak

Electronic monitoring equipment failed to detect a pipeline rupture that spewed more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek, the pipeline's operator said Monday. It's not yet clear why the monitoring equipment didn't detect the leak, Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for Casper, Wyoming-based True Cos., which operates the Belle Fourche Pipeline, said. A landowner discovered the spill near Belfield on Dec. 5, according to Bill Suess, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Health Department. Suess said the spill migrated about almost 6 miles from the spill site along Ash Coulee Creek, and it fouled an unknown amount of private and U.S. Forest Service land along the waterway. The creek feeds into the Little Missouri River, but Seuss said it appears no oil got that far and that no drinking water sources were threatened. The creek was free-flowing when the spill occurred but has since frozen over. The potential for a pipeline leak that might taint drinking water is at the core of the disputed four-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, where thousands of people have been protesting its construction in southern North Dakota. That pipeline would cross the Missouri River. Dallas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners says the Dakota Access pipeline would include safeguards such as leak detection equipment and that workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas could close valves within three minutes if a breach is detected...more

Dakota Access Pipeline Opponents Threaten, Harass Local Businesses, Ranchers, and Farmers

Since his heart attack 10 years ago, Jeff Hinz had tended as carefully to his health as he had to his ACE hardware store. Both had flourished. But as the three phones in his Bismarck store rang off the hook, as opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline vowed to boycott his shop and screamed death threats in his ear, Hinz’s chest began to tighten, his heart palpitating in a sickly familiar way. On Nov. 29, a rumor hit the Internet falsely claiming that Hinz and his ACE hardware stores refused to sell propane and other equipment to the Standing Rock protestors. The fake story spread fast, appearing on Jezebel as well as several other leftie blogs, spawning a hashtag calling for a boycott of Hinz’s store. “You go from the top of the world to the bottom in about two minutes,” Hinz said. “And scared—very scared. Your life is one thing, but everything you’ve built with your life? I’ve been in this town since ’87. I’m 56. You don’t go start over somewhere. This is my life’s work, and it’s essentially gone in a day. … For a little hardware store to get thrust into that kind of hate across the country, that’s not fun.” As the Standing Rock protests have continued, they’ve drawn thousands of out-of-state activists, sowing bitter divisions in the small North Dakota communities. Several local businesses have experienced similar turmoil and threats, with local farmers and ranchers also complaining protestors have trespassed on their land, damaging or stealing their property and harassing them and their families. These local accounts belie the claims of pipeline opponents, often repeated in the national media, that the protests have been “peaceful and prayerful.” Representatives for the Standing Rock Sioux did not respond to Heat Street’s two emailed queries, sent over several days, about allegations of harassment and intimidation. Hinz said the onslaught on his hardware store was especially heart-wrenching because he’s had a great relationship with the Standing Rock Sioux for decades. When his business was fledgling, he said, the tribe supported him, buying supplies for their housing entity, for their school. “They’re good, good people,” he said. Since the Standing Rock protests began, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department has arrested more than 565 people—and nine out of ten of those charged with a crime have come from out-of-state, a sheriff’s department spokeswoman said.,,more

Malheur refuge defendant seeks to withdraw guilty plea

An Arizona man is the latest Oregon standoff figure to ask for his guilty plea to be withdrawn.
Joseph O'Shaughnessy pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge nearly three months before a jury acquitted seven of his co-defendants, including standoff leaders Ammon Bundy. O'Shaughnessy is awaiting a February trial on accusations stemming from a 2014 standoff with federal agents at a Nevada ranch owned by Ammon Bundy's father, Cliven Bundy, Defense attorney Tony Schwartz said O'Shaughnessy had a plea deal in Nevada, but it was contingent on him pleading guilty in Oregon.  Because the Nevada plea offer fell apart, his client should be able to withdraw his Oregon plea. "As the idiom goes: what is good for the goose is good for the gander," Schwartz wrote in a motion filed Sunday. "If the Nevada prosecutors can press forward with trial, then Mr. O'Shaughnessy should be allowed to defend his Oregon case in trial." When he pleaded guilty Aug. 1 in Portland, O'Shaughnessy said he didn't participate in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but felt a duty to provide security for those protesting federal control of public lands and the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers...more

Feds buy Grand Teton land from state for $46 million, ending concerns over development

A 640-acre piece of land nestled inside Grand Teton National Park became part of the National Park system on Monday, after years of worry by some that it could be commercially developed. The state of Wyoming sold the parcel, called Antelope Flats, to the federal government for $46 million. “Its sale provides Wyoming a greater return on the land and allows the people of Wyoming and visitors from elsewhere greater opportunities to enjoy the wonders of the park,” Gov. Matt Mead said in a news release. “The state will receive the benefit of $46 million for our schools, and the park will have another 640 acres for people to appreciate.” The Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the National Park Foundation raised $23 million in private donations to combine with $23 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund...more

Arapaho, Shoshone fight at Standing Rock

MyKennah Lott, a 19-year-old Arapaho from the Wind River Indian Reservation, looks like a normal teenager, complete with a ring piercing on her lower lip and a glint that hints at a bit of spunk. But prosecutors in Morton County allege in court documents that the slight young woman is in fact a riotous trespasser who committed two misdemeanors Oct. 10 at the Dakota Access Pipeline,. On Columbus Day, celebrated by Lott as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the teenager engaged in “tumultuous and violent conduct,” that created a “grave danger of damage or injury,” prosecutors allege. For her alleged miscreant activities, she should face up to 60 days in jail and $3,000 in fines, the State of North Dakota contends. Lott, who goes by the name Little Wind, gives a different account of her arrest. She had been placing prayer bundles of tobacco on DAPL pipes at the controversial construction site. She then escorted an elder, a “grandmother,” to a tipi set up nearby. With 15 others inside, she celebrated the unity of the condor and the eagle, a religious rite that seeks to preserve native land and culture. She was not “engaging in a riot,” as she has been charged, Little Wind said. “We were praying,” she said. She has pleaded not guilty and is free awaiting a trial. The two conflicting views of the same event are emblematic of the standoff just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Some 5,000 people were camped in a North Dakota blizzard last week in an ongoing fight to stop construction of the $3.7 billion Bakken crude oil pipeline. Builders — Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics — say they’ve met all regulatory requirements, that their pipeline will be safe, and that the most recent permitting delay by the Obama administration ignores law and curries favor “with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”...more

“This Is the Right Thing to Do”: Energy CEO on Ending Leases to Drill Near Blackfeet Nation

Tatsey was just a teenager when the Reagan administration issued 47 oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, a 130,000-acre region named for the Badger Creek and South Fork Two Medicine River drainages that is sandwiched between Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and the Blackfeet Nation. Like the Standing Rock Sioux, the Blackfeet protested the leases because of the area’s cultural value and because it was not consulted before the leases were issued. For 30 years the tribe fought for their cancellation, but as of 2013, 18 leases remained. That year, Solenex, LLC, a Louisiana-based company, sued the Interior Department for preventing it from developing its lease due to a moratorium established in 1997. With the fight reignited, the tribe partnered with several local, regional, and national environmental organizations. The goodwill fostered by this collaboration garnered national media attention as well as support from state and federal politicians and convinced the Interior Department to cancel Solenex’s lease earlier this spring. As the Blackfeet’s saga has progressed, the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline, which also stemmed from a failed consultation process, escalated over the course of the summer and fall. In spite of the Army Corps of Engineers’ recent decision to deny the final permit allowing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River and reopen the environmental review process, the election of the likely pro-development Trump administration has emboldened the pipeline’s proponents. Solenex, meanwhile, has said it will lobby the new administration to reinstate its lease, but when Devon Energy, the largest lease holder in the Badger, voluntarily relinquished its remaining 15 claims in mid-November, the Blackfeet and its partners scored an unexpected victory...more

How the Park Service is failing women

In January 2016, the Department of the Interior released a report revealing that female employees of the River District of the Grand Canyon had been sexually harassed for years, and that park and regional administrators had known and failed to stop it. Since then, women working in parks, monuments and historic sites across the country have come forward alleging on-the-job sexual harassment, assault and gender discrimination. Many of them, like Olivia, are worried about retaliation and have asked to remain anonymous. This year, over 60 current and former Park Service employees contacted High Country News, describing their experiences. I have interviewed many of them and others, in total at least 50 people — from park rangers and scientists, to superintendents and a former Park Service director — ranging in age from 23 to 70. Their testimony reveals an agency that has failed to protect its workers from sexual misconduct. Several factors contribute to this: a murky internal process for reporting and investigating complaints; a longstanding culture of machismo that dates to the agency’s foundation; and a history of retaliation against those who speak out...more

Secretary Sally Jewell Visits Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Las Cruces and the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks National Monument as part of a nationwide tour highlighting the Interior Department’s efforts during the Obama Administration. U.S. Secretary of the Interior started her day in Las Cruces with a morning hike at the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks National Monument listening to highlights from the area since the monument designation. “The trail that we walked up was worked on by Youth Conservation Corps Crews from surrounding areas all the way from Northern New Mexico that came to work on this trail,” Jewell said. “You’re engaging the girl scouts with a merit badge for exploring the Organ Mountains- Desert Peaks. You’re discovering new paleontological features and archaeological features. Engaging the Isleta Del Sur Pueblo, and other Native groups and really recognizing just what a treasure lies here.” Secretary Jewell says she is also using the trip to look at the economic benefits of protecting public lands. “This area that we’re in now the Organ Montains- Desert Peaks National Monument,” Jewell said. “Was declared a National Monument by President Obama just two years ago. And they’ve already seen a dramatic increase in tourism, and recreation and visibility for this beautiful area. That’s helping drive the businesses here in Las Cruces. So, I’m here to meet with members of the business community, to talk with folks from BLM and the friends group and the supporting network that care so deeply about this place and is just beginning to unlock it’s secrets.”...more