Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas to...

...all who are foolish enough to read this blog.

Add reindeer, Bigfoot to Endangered Species

After reviewing the report released on Wednesday by the Endangered Species Coalition, entitled “Removing the Walls to Recovery: Top 10 Species Priorities for a New Administration,” the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association announced today several additional species overlooked by the report.  Since a gaping lack of scientific evidence does not appear to be a barrier to entry on this particular list, nor does a dearth of hard data, PLC and NCBA propose adding two additional imperiled and overlooked species: the Western Sasquatch and the flying North Pole (Santa’s) reindeer. The Western Sasquatch is of great concern to enthusiasts and reality television viewers throughout the country, yet is altogether ignored by conservationists. Lovers of the Sasquatch are reduced to searching for footprints and other trace evidence of the great creature or waiting for new updates to the Netflix library.  Similarly, it is believed that only nine of Santa’s reindeer exist today, and warming temperatures increase the impending threat to their habitat. The extinction of these flying reindeer, all of whom have been affectionately named, would be a great loss for children and elves alike. The reindeer are truly a beloved part of our country’s great history, and their exclusion from the Endangered Species Coalition’s list is tantamount to a war on release

Funny Christmas carols - Larry The Cable Guy

U.S. Trade Representative schedules hearing regarding EU beef ban

Acting on the request of the U.S. beef industry, the U.S. Trade Representative has scheduled a public hearing and is seeking public comments in connection with the European Union’s ban on most U.S. beef products. The EU’s ban on U.S. beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers, and producers. If the trade action resumes, the United States would reinstate industry-supported tariffs on a list of EU products imported into the United States. USTR is particularly interested in comments addressed to the possible effects of reinstatement on U.S. consumers and small- or medium-sized businesses. "The WTO determined that the European Union's ban on U.S. beef imports violates its international trade obligations," said Ambassador Michael Froman. "The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it's now time to take action. Today's action holds the EU accountable and is an important step in encouraging the Commission to come back to the table to ensure that American ranchers have access to Europe's market and that European consumers have better access to high-quality U.S. beef." In 1998, the EU lost a case at the WTO for banning American beef. In 2009, the U.S. negotiated an agreement to allow a modest degree of market access for specially-produced beef that meets the EU's standards, but that agreement has not worked as intended. The European Commission had argued that this issue should be resolved through T-TIP. However, given that the EU stated in September that they did not view the completion of T-TIP this year to be possible, it is now time to take action...more

Family of bears likely killed from eating poisonous plant

Game commission officials say a poisonous ornamental shrub likely killed a black bear and her three cubs found dead on a church parking lot in northeastern Pennsylvania. The bears were found on the lot of St. Monica’s church in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 6. The Pennsylvania Game Commission says the bears ate the leaves and seeds of an English yew plant before they died. The plant is highly toxic to people and most animals if ingested. Game Commission veterinarian Justin Brown says he’s not aware of another case of black bear deaths from yew poisoning. Officials say the 300-pound sow and her cubs were known to frequent populated areas, where yew typically grow, and the bears were likely foraging for food. They say the bears likely died suddenly.  AP

A black bear boom has townfolk wondering how they'd get along with grizzlies

THREE RIVERS, Calif.  It was two years back, toward the end of summer, that the bears came. Families of them. Droves of them. More of them than most residents of this small Tulare County town of 2,500 ever had the pleasure of watching frolic in the Kaweah River or the frustration of seeing topple trash cans and break into chicken coops. Last year, though, the bear hoedown ended, leaving people here to wonder where so many of the creatures had gone.  Some who live here on the western edge of Sequoia National Park say that question amounts to an ursine murder mystery — that unnamed villains illegally killed dozens of these relatively docile black bears. And that widespread but unsubstantiated allegation has added intensity to an ongoing debate about whether the time is ripe to reintroduce bigger and more aggressive California Grizzly bears into the wilds of the Sierra Nevada, including areas in and around Sequoia—a possibility simultaneously under study by UC Santa Barbara geographer Peter Alagona and the Center for Biological Diversity...An oak grove in Greg Dixon’s backyard, for example, became an impromptu outdoor theater. Visitors yanked out lawn chairs, cameras and cold beers and watched up to seven bears at a time lounge on tree limbs, splash in the river and stuff their faces with fallen acorns, spitting out the shells. “People went goo-goo over all the bears hanging out at my house,” Dixon said. “We all took hundreds of pictures.” But bears also broke into cabins and vehicles around town, ripped up roof tiles to get at acorns stashed by woodpeckers, threatened livestock and charged people who got too close. Today, more than 25,000 black bears — with narrow heads and small ears and weighing up to 350 pounds -- roam wild in California, state wildlife authorities say. But there hasn’t been a wild grizzly in California in almost 100 years...more

Agriculture tells the history of the Rio Grande Valley

WESLACO — As the 1800s rolled into the 1900s, agriculture in the Lower Rio Grande Valley was in the midst of a major makeover, according to local historians and agricultural experts. It was changing from a livestock economy to one of irrigated farming that would eventually fuel unprecedented growth in South Texas, said Dr. Luís Ribera, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economist in College Station. “The height of the Spanish colonial livestock economy in the Valley lasted roughly from 1770 to 1900,” Ribera said. “It was too dry to grow crops in large quantities, so the economy was based on selling standing cattle and cattle by-products to Mexico.” Ranches sprouted and flourished in the mid-1700s because of Jose de Escandón, a Spaniard sent to the area by Spanish authorities in Mexico City. He and his followers, the Valley’s pioneers, mapped and settled the fertile region on both sides of the Rio Grande, then known as Seno Mexicano, said Karen Fort, a local historian and co-author of "Images of America: Hidalgo County, Texas." “Escandón succeeded in his task far beyond expectations in this rugged country and renamed it Nuevo Santander after his native Santander Province in Spain,” she said. “Six thousand Spaniards answered the call to settle the land here, and within five years, Escandón had established 24 villages, 15 missions and 20 ranches, complete with almost 90,000 head of cattle.” That laid the foundation for the settlement of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the ranching empire that would dominate the land for the next 150 years, Fort said.

Lessons Zinke can learn from Interior secretaries’ successes and failures

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke awaits the chance to tell the senators who will consider his nomination why President-elect Donald Trump made a good call picking him to lead the Department of the Interior.

I hope he reaches out to former secretaries from both parties for advice. I have been lucky enough to have interviewed all but one of the Interior leaders since former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus held the job in the 1970s.

Zinke can learn from their experiences, good and bad. He says he will govern in the tradition of President Theodore Roosevelt, who advanced both preservation and wise use of our resources.
Idaho’s Andrus led in that very tradition.

When Andrus told President Jimmy Carter to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to set aside 56 million acres of Alaska as national monuments, the president was incredulous. “Can I do that?” Carter asked.
“You have the authority, sir,” answered Andrus, according to his memoir.

“Let’s do it,” Carter said.

The monuments forced Alaska’s congressional delegation to cut a deal on the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, setting aside 103 million acres as national parks, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness areas.

The Andrus lesson: Have the ear of the president, work with Congress, but also be bold.

Barker also presents lessons from Watt, Lujan and Babbitt.

Notice too the leverage the Antiquities Act gives the Executive Branch.  In the example given the act was used to "force" Congress to set-aside 103 million acres. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was a tool granted to the Executive Branch by the Congress. Imagine that you loaned a tool to an associate and this associate would on a regular basis knock you in the head with the borrowed tool. Rather than taking a beating every four years or so wouldn't you call in the loan and put an end to the violence? And for the same reason, why hasn't Congress revoked this authority? What a foolish situation.

Wyden, Merkley Push For Oregon Counties To Receive Federal Timber Payments

US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on Thursday urged federal officials to make much-needed federal timber sales payments as quickly as possible to Oregon counties in need of funding for schools, roads and law enforcement. In letters to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the senators noted that congressional failure to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding puts a premium on ensuring the federal timber payments are sent in a timely fashion to Oregon counties. Counties no longer receiving an SRS payment as of Jan. 1 will instead receive payment under a federal act that provides them 25 percent of the federal timber sale revenue from national forestlands generated in each county, th  e senators wrote Vilsack. In 2015 when SRS was not reauthorized until after the 25-percent payments were made, the 25-percent payment was $50 million nationwide compared to about $300 million from SRS the previous year. “Without the certainty of SRS payments, schools, libraries and jails close, roads go unpaved and become unsafe, mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended and fewer and fewer law enforcement officers patrol larger and larger areas,’’ Wyden and Merkley wrote. “We have talked to counties in Oregon experiencing these hardships, which will be made even worse if the remaining 25 percent payments are delayed.”...more

And some want to depend on the feds for the long term  growth and health of their community. They make a grand and reliable business partner, don't they. 

All that collaboration can result in "schools, libraries and jails close, roads go unpaved and become unsafe, mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended and fewer and fewer law enforcement officers patrol larger and larger areas.’’

What ever the feds giveth, they can taketh, and over time they taketh a helluva lot more than they giveth.

In the case above it was determined by their business partner that a subspecies of owl was more important than all those schools, libraries, roads and jails, and that the health of the owl subspecies took precedence over the health and safety of the citizenry. 

Live by executive action, die by executive action

By Robert Romano

Whatever can be done with executive action can be undone by executive action.

That was one of the messages outgoing President Barack Obama had for his successor, President-elect Donald Trump in an interview with NPR, where Obama said, correctly, that “If he wants to reverse some of those rules, that’s part of the democratic process. That’s, you know, why I tell people to vote — because it turns out elections mean something.”

So, suddenly, upon assuming office, Trump could start immediately rescinding controversial executive actions, whether Obama’s executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children, or his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

In total, Obama has issued 260 executive orders. Those could all be rescinded on day one, as there is no legal requirement they be retained.

There’s also a bevy of regulations, including the 2009 Carbon Endangerment Finding by the Environmental Protection Agency and its corollaries, the new and existing power plant rules, that constituted the agency’s expansive war on coal electricity.

...Those could be rescinded by the agencies that issued them, through the process under the Administrative Procedures Act, which could take a couple of years. Best to get started right away.
There is also the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives Congress the power to roll back with simple majorities regulations within 60 legislative days of being implemented. That goes back to June, and according to the Heritage Foundation, includes “many dozens of major rules [that] could be vulnerable to a CRA challenge. These include, among others: Rules under the Dodd–Frank financial regulation law, Sick leave for federal contractors, Offshore drilling rules, and Energy mandates for home appliances.”

...Then there is Obama’s executive action to indefinitely seal off much of the outer continental shelf in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans from oil and gas drilling. Obama officials are bragging that this is one action that cannot be undone by executive action, although there is a clear process under the law for issuing new offshore drilling leases.

But even if an attempt to undo Obama’s action to block drilling via executive action got caught up in federal court, Congress could always just defund it or pass new legislation repealing the provision he invoked.

Speaking of which, Congress could always defund, or prohibit the use of funds to implement regulations and any other executive action. So, where all else fails — if for example litigants manage to preserve certain regulations and other actions via federal court mandates — there is always the budget and the power of the purse where Congress can intervene.

With that in mind, Congress could act preemptively, and defund what it can in the April continuing resolution, particularly controversial items the left is likely to sue over, to strengthen the President’s hand.


Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

From their album A Western Swing Christmas here are the Original Texas Playboys with Cowboy Christmas Song.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Zinke's nomination in peril?

Robin Bravender, E&E News reporter

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is accused of committing travel fraud during his time as a Navy SEAL. Photo courtesy of C-SPAN. Will Ryan Zinke become the first nomination casualty of the incoming Trump administration? In the wake of reports that Zinke — a Montana Republican congressman and President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Interior Department — committed travel fraud while serving as a Navy SEAL, energy and environmental insiders are speculating that Zinke's nomination could be short-lived. Typically, "if something like this comes tumbling out," nominees will withdraw their names, said Don Barry, a former longtime Interior official who served as assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks during the Clinton administration. "You don't want to put your president-elect through this." The Trump transition team and Zinke's office aren't commenting publicly on the reports, which allege that Zinke defrauded the government to pay for personal trips during his career as a Navy SEAL (Greenwire, Dec. 21). But it's an issue that's certain to be hounded by Trump's critics on Capitol Hill and the environmental community, and could pose problems for Zinke during Senate confirmation hearings. Senate Republicans need only a simple majority to confirm the nominee, but allegations of fraud could potentially cause some GOP lawmakers to peel off. "Senators will need to get access to all the findings and documents from the Navy's investigation and get to the bottom of what actually happened," said Matt Lee-Ashley, a former Obama Interior official who's now at the Center for American Progress. "Were there violations that would disqualify a person from any other job in the federal government? President-elect Trump's Cabinet nominees should have to meet the same standards, play by the same rules and follow the same laws as every other citizen who is seeking a job in public service," Lee-Ashley said. Democratic senators are already scrutinizing Trump's nominees, and the confirmation process early next year is certain to be highly politicized...Zinke's allies say the allegations, dating back to the 1990s, were already aired during the freshman congressman's run for the House in 2014. Zinke was a Navy SEAL, including stints on the elite SEAL Team 6. He admitted during his 2014 run for Congress that he had reimbursed the Navy $211 for a plane trip from Virginia to Montana in the 1990s. He said he had been searching for SEAL training sites on a trip that wasn't approved. "Was I perfect? No. Was it embarrassing to me to have nine years of travel claims formally reviewed and audited? Yes. You know what, if I were to do it again, I would have done things differently. I learned a valuable lesson. My lesson learned is you're accountable," Zinke said, according to the Missoula, Mont., Missoulian. The publication The Intercept reported this week that Zinke was caught submitting travel vouchers to the Navy for trips back to Montana to renovate his home, citing anonymous former unit leaders and a military consultant...more (subscription)

While Some Singers Dodge the Trump Inauguration, Country Music Is Really Stepping Up for America

Questions have been swirling around who will be performing for President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration. At times, it's been difficult to tell if the chatter's been more about rumors being silenced or critics being appeased. Over the past couple of weeks, once a name gets leaked, angry people respond, and a denial then then issued. Classical tenor, Andrea Bocelli, experienced the backlash himself when #BoycottBocelli began after his name surfaced as a possible inauguration performer: The denial part began when Page Six reported:
“Andrea Bocelli will not perform at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, Page Six has exclusively learned — because of backlash over the gig.”
When asked if he would perform for Trump's inauguration ceremony, legendary Garth Brooks avoided answering with a firm yes or no, telling TMZ, “I don't know. I haven't been asked." But he did give Trump fans — and fans of country music — a little hope when he admitted his mind was open. Brooks might not be officially slated to perform during the president-elect's inauguration, but other artists from the country music world have proudly stepped up and will join in for the swearing-in festivities. Country Music Nation reported that superstar duo Big & Rich will be showing their support for Trump as headliners for an Inauguration Night charity event. The Randy Rogers Band will take the stage January 19th, the day before the Inauguration, for a performance at the 2017 Black Tie and Boot Presidential Inaugural Ball. Big & Rich member John Rich heads into his presidential performance with a bond already established with Trump. The two worked together on Trump's hit TV show “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2011. That season, Rich walked away from Trump's series as the winner, where he raised $1.5 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital...more

Supporters celebrate new Teton park land

The accolades Friday afternoon went to the movers, shakers and donors — 5,421 of them, from all 50 states — who helped bring a 640-acre swath of Antelope Flats into the fold of Grand Teton National Park. Speaking before a room packed with supporters munching on above-average hors d’oeuvres, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell singled out Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson. “It’s not easy to raise $23 million in eight months, unless you’re Leslie Mattson,” said Jewell, whose days on the job as an Obama administration appointee are numbered. “Leslie’s a force of nature equal to the Tetons.” The donors and philanthropic organizations in the room that contributed to the acquisition — $46 million split down the middle with the federal government — also earned the praise of the interior secretary. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela and Mattson also spoke. Mattson thanked everyone in the room, including her board members, who hesitantly took on the challenge of the largest fundraising drive in the history of the nonprofit foundation. The Grand Teton Foundation collaborated with the nationwide National Park Foundation on the project. The fundraising was so fast-tracked that a $9.5 million loan from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation was needed to cover money dedicated but not yet in hand at the closing date...more

Son of national monument visionary exploring next steps for Katahdin-area site

Hanging on the wall of his office in Portland’s West End is a photo of a smiling Lucas St. Clair canoeing with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in August. The photo was taken on the East Branch of the Penobscot River a few days after 87,000 acres in northern Maine were designated a national monument by President Obama. The decision came after a battle over whether the land, purchased by St. Clair’s mother, Roxanne Quimby, should be set aside as a tourist destination in an area that was once the heart of Maine’s logging and papermaking industry. Three months later, St. Clair is still smiling. His role in soothing tensions among local residents helped pave the way for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. And he’s not worried about speculation that President-elect Donald Trump may dismantle some of the more than two dozen national monuments that Obama has designated under the federal Antiquities Act of 1906. Having just returned from a tour of national parks and monuments with his wife and children, St. Clair, 38, is optimistic about the future of Maine’s national monument, the Katahdin region and the next step for Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the nonprofit foundation set up by his mother to conserve land in hopes of creating a national park...more

 How quaint.

I did, however, find this part of the article interesting:

Congress has the power to dismantle the national monument, said Robert Fischman, a public land scholar and law professor in the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University. What’s unclear, Fischman said, is whether a president does.

“The first thing to keep in mind is that, because no president has ever sought to revoke a national monument designation, we’re in uncharted territory,” said Fischman, a board member at the Conservation Law Center. “And there has been a lively debate about whether the legislation that gives the president the power to establish a national monument also provides a kind of implied power to revoke the executive order that established the national monument. …

“On his first day in office, Trump, among his executive orders, could sign one that revokes Obama’s executive order and dis-establishes the monument. Whether a court would uphold that action is unclear,” Fischman said.
 I've written about revoking or revising a National Monument designation here.

Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s Pick for Interior Secretary, and the Rising American Land Movements


...Those wells are mostly on one side of a sharp political and economic divide. In this year’s election, Hillary Clinton won just under five hundred of America’s roughly three thousand counties. But those five-hundred-odd counties were populous enough that she received the most votes cast for President; even more striking, as the Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley found, those few Clinton counties are responsible for more than two-thirds of national G.D.P. The news from rural America, shrouded by the opiate crisis, has been almost unstintingly bleak. Still, squint at those drilling rigs and you can imagine a future. The American economy is now mostly arranged around people, but in rural places hopes for prosperity are often vested in the land. This week, President-elect Donald Trump announced that his nominee for Interior Secretary will be Ryan Zinke, a fifty-five-year-old congressman from Montana. Zinke, who was a football player and geology major at the University of Oregon, spent nearly a quarter century as a Navy SEAL, before entering the Montana Senate, in 2009, and the U.S. House, last year. As a politician, Zinke has played up his military record, with some swagger: his official Twitter feed has referred to him as Commander Zinke, and, as Dan Brooks pointed out in the Times Magazine, he has preferred to punctuate exchanges with figures such as Wolf Blitzer with the naval salutation “bravo zulu.” Now, if confirmed by the Senate, Zinke stands to oversee the management and use of roughly a fifth of the land in the United States. Zinke’s perspective on public lands has been moderate, at least for the post-Tea Party era. He does not favor selling them off (though he would like to see more extraction). He is convinced that the climate is changing (though he has been more equivocal about the degree of human culpability). “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,” Zinke said last year. For generations, the Interior Department has worked amid the tension between the promise of preservation and the promise of jobs, emphasizing conservation during Democratic Administrations and extraction during Republican ones. But those pressures are more poignant now, when the bleakness of rural places has deepened, when the shale towns provide examples of how a boom can grip a desolate place, and the land is the vector for hope. During the past year, two prophetic movements have swept the American West, ideologically distinct but with a common focus on the government’s use of Western land. In January, Ammon Bundy led a right-wing armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in eastern Oregon. “While we’re here,” he said, “what we’re going to be doing is freeing these lands up and getting the ranchers back to ranching, and getting the miners back to mining, getting the loggers back to logging.” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard led the left-wing resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, which began in the spring, arguing that government-approved development would poison and desecrate sacred lands. “It is the U.S. Army Corps that is allowing these sites to be destroyed,” Allard wrote in September. The two movements shared a spiritual investment in the land, and a conviction that the federal government both misunderstood its proper uses and was diverting its worth to distant people. One of the stranger details from the long saga of Standing Rock is that Cliven Bundy’s wife and children once tried to join the protest...more

1 year after refuge takeover, quieter land battle unfolds

On a recent wintry evening, members of the Grant County Public Forest Commission walked into the warmth of a rustic diner and took seats at their customary table for their bimonthly meeting. They voiced anger and frustration. At this meeting, they were officially a non-entity. A judge this fall dissolved the commission at the behest of a former county supervisor who worried it was becoming a risk, citing the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in a neighboring county. While the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge grabbed the world's attention, a quieter struggle over federal lands is being waged by those trying to use elections and the levers of government. Their grandparents and great-grandparents wrested a living from the West's rugged landscape. But now, the forest commissioners say, the government is tightening access to the same natural resources by closing roads and curtailing logging and other industries that allowed previous generations to be self-sufficient. The commissioners feel they lost, by the stroke of a judge's pen, a tool voters gave them to fight back. Created by voters in a ballot measure 14 years ago, the forest commission was tasked with determining the fate of public lands, which comprise 66 percent of the county's 4,529 square miles...more

Idaho state regulators shut down illegal gold mine south of Boise

Atlanta Gold continues to dump arsenic into a tributary of the Boise River and now has been forced to shut down another mining operation in an historic gold-mining area south of Boise because it has no permit. The Idaho Department of Lands issued a cease-and-desist order in September after inspecting the site off Blacks Creek Road, where it found mining going on without a reclamation plan or a bond, a direct violation of the Idaho Surface Mining Act. “If (Atlanta Gold) does not immediately stop operations, this matter will be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office,” Derek Kraft, senior Department of Lands Resource specialist, wrote Sept. 22. The company had reported in its annual report that it dug up 8,000 tons of gold-bearing ore in 2015. Atlanta filed a notice of exploration in July 2015, but Kraft said in his letter that digging so much material was mining, not exploration. The Boise company stopped operations in September and has not moved any ore off the site, said Atlanta Gold CEO Ernie Simmons. He said he provided the state with the information it required for the reclamation plan, showing how acid rock mined on the site would not pollute water in the area. Such rock, when in contact with water, can leach heavy metals...more

Read more here:

Read more here:“If (Atlanta Gold) does not immediately stop operations, this matter will be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office,” Derek Kraft, senior Department of Lands Resource specialist, wrote Sept. 22.
The company had reported in its annual report that it dug up 8,000 tons of gold-bearing ore in 2015. Atlanta filed a notice of exploration in July 2015, but Kraft said in his letter that digging so much material was mining, not exploration.
The Boise company stopped operations in September and has not moved any ore off the site, said Atlanta Gold CEO Ernie Simmons. He said he provided the state with the information it required for the reclamation plan, showing how acid rock mined on the site would not pollute water in the area. Such rock, when in contact with water, can leach heavy metals.

Read more here:

San Carlos Apache Tribe, environmentalists battle Oak Flat copper mine bid

Oak Flat, a desert landscape and 90-minute drive from Phoenix, lies in the midst of an environmental and economic controversy. Members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe revere the federally owned land as sacred. Environmentalists consider it a sanctuary for wildlife and vegetation. Climbers, hikers and campers gravitate to Oak Flat for outdoor recreation. And Resolution Copper Co. covets the rich veins of copper running below the surface of Oak Flat. In December 2014, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorized Resolution, a Phoenix-based affiliate of foreign mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, to perform mining operations in Oak Flat in exchange for other land in Arizona. In addition to a mining operation, Resolution proposed a land exchange. The company will give land it currently owns to public land managers, like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, in exchange for the land that rests above the copper stores. The Resolution parcels are scattered across the state near places like Payson, Cave Creek and Mammoth and total about 5,300 acres. After the swap, Resolution would get about 2,400 acres of land, including Oak Flat, according to the forest service...more

Colorado roadless rule exception reinstated

On Monday, the U.S. Forest Service reinstated an exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule that allows for mining related activities in parts of the roadless area. The rule becomes effective on February 17, and opens the door for Arch Coal’s West Elk Mine to mine beneath 1,700 acres of roadless forest on the west side of Kebler Pass. The exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule was recently reevaluated through a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) after a federal judge ruled that the Forest Service had failed to fully quantify and analyze carbon emissions. By reinstating the exception, the Forest Service is allowing for the temporary construction of roads for coal exploration, the collection and transport of coal mine methane and other coal-related surface activities. Arch Coal is the only mine to have a pending application in the area in question, which would include building six miles of road and 48 drilling pads adjacent to the West Elk wilderness near Paonia. According to a press release from High Country Conservation Advocates and WildEarth Guardians, the Forest Service could approve the leases within weeks...more

Forest Service worker gets prison for ID theft

A former U.S. Forest Service worker who went AWOL from the Milwaukee office early this year has been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing co-workers' identities and running up nearly $100,000 in credit card debt. In a letter to the judge, Michael K. Hanan said the money all went to slot machines at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. He said what started as an escape from stress "very quickly grew into a severe gambling addiction." After that led to financial ruin, he said, he turned to ID theft and fraud. Hanan, a 15-year veteran of the Forest Service, worked in the human resources office where he had access to past and current employees personal information, which he used to obtain cards from Meijer, Sears, Kmart and other retailers. He used those to buy prepaid gift cards, then used those to reload debit cards, which he used to get cash...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day

Here's one we always get requests for this time of the year:  Bob Wills - Christmas On The Range

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Think 2016 was the first time federal employees faced threats? Think again.

...Threats to public servants in the performance of their duties is nothing new, however. What’s surprising is that one of the earliest cases of credible threats to federal employees in the West came not from the radical right, but from the lunatic left. Ask Oregon’s Jerry Grover, an affable, gregarious retired fish hatchery manager. Grover knows what it’s like to survive an assassination “hit list.” As do a dozen or more other refuge and hatchery workers throughout the Pacific Northwest, and extending into the Intermountain West and points east. Their nemesis was not a posse of range-riding Marlboro Men seeking occupation, but wan, waif-like Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, seeking revenge. The tale dates to the dark, waning years of the Age of Aquarius, when western public servants found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the infamous Manson family and its camp followers — a story that’s kicked around the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as “urban legend” for decades, unreported but entirely true. Fromme, 27, was one in a motley cadre of hippie-chicks cavorting in Charles Manson’s cult commune in southern California in the late 1960s. Their antics degenerated into the chilling blood-fest in the Los Angeles hills known as the Tate-Labianca murders in 1969. By 1975, against the sensational backdrop of the Patricia Hearst kidnapping, Fromme pulled a .45-caliber Colt semi-automatic on President Gerald Ford as he strolled to the California state capitol in Sacramento. “Environmental justice” was Fromme’s newest hobby. Fromme went to prison for her stunt. Uncovered in her apartment was the “hit list” she and roommate Sandra Good had compiled for their “International People’s Court of Retribution.” Estimated from a few dozen to as many as 300, Fromme’s list fingered refuge managers, predator control agents, and office bureaucrats. Grover, 80, made the list, as did nine Fish and Wildlife Service employees in New Mexico, a Corvallis academic, a backcountry condor researcher, a Bellingham law enforcement agent, the manager of Oklahoma’s Washita National Wildlife Refuge, and a fish lab supervisor at New York’s Cornell University...more

No Surprises Expected at Bundy Trial

The indictment against Cliven Bundy and 16 other defendants for their armed standoff with the federal government sufficiently informs them of the charges against them, a federal judge ruled. Steven A. Stewart, 28, of Hailey, Idaho, is among 17 defendants charged with up to 16 felonies apiece for their involvement in an April 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management near Bunkerville, Nev. The BLM tried to confiscate about 400 head of cattle that Cliven Bundy had been grazing on federal land for years, without paying grazing fees. Bundy and his followers held off the federal agents at gunpoint. The agents eventually gave up for fear of violence. The BLM says Bundy owes about $3 million in grazing fees. Bundy and his followers insist the federal government has no right to own or control the land. A three-phase trial is slated to start Feb. 6. Stewart faces 11 felony counts and with several other defendants filed a motion for a bill of particulars, including 25 requests for facts and particulars of the indictment against him. U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen on Aug. 18 denied Stewart’s motion for bill of particulars, saying the federal indictment “sufficiently informs defendants of the nature of the charges to allow them to prepare a defense, avoid any unfair surprise at trial and plead double jeopardy in any subsequent prosecution.”...more

Editorial - Secretary of Federal Imperialism

Donald Trump’s Administration is shaping up to be as unorthodox as his campaign. Further evidence is his choice of Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke for secretary of Interior. Mr. Zinke’s history of deference to Washington landlords isn’t Trumpian.

The Interior Department is responsible for managing 640 million acres of federal land—28% of the U.S. More than half of Nevada (85%), Utah (65%), Idaho (62%), Alaska (61%) and Oregon (53%) belong to Washington. Interior’s canopy covers the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These are distinct fiefdoms but are required to coordinate on permitting decisions.

These layers of bureaucracy increase taxpayer costs and delay decision-making. According to the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), federal land agencies lose $2 billion a year. User fees—i.e., permits—are unconnected to the cost of services, and federal agencies have no incentive to restrain spending, which is determined annually by Congress.

By contrast, state natural resources agencies are funded almost entirely by user fees. Between 2009 and 2013, the Forest Service (part of the Agriculture Department) raised on average only 28 cents for every dollar spent on recreation, compared with Montana’s $6.31. PERC estimates that state-managed lands generate 10 times more revenue per full-time employee than those operated by Uncle Sam. About one-fifth of BLM grazing allotments aren’t meeting the agency’s own standards, and the National Park Service has a $12 billion maintenance backlog.

Once upon a time, environmental groups would purchase land for conservation. Now they conscript government to seize it. In 2011 the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to consider the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition to list 757 species under the Endangered Species Act, which could result in hundreds of millions of acres being withdrawn from private use.

An Interior rule-making this year expands the definition of “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act, and BLM’s plan to protect the greater sage grouse will inhibit mining, grazing and drilling on 60 million acres in 11 states. A rule finalized by BLM this month reduces state influence in future land-use plans. States and private landholders have sued to block several of Interior’s land grabs.

Mr. Zinke could use consent decrees with litigants to roll back the land grabs. He could also work with Congress to transfer federal lands to states, as legislators in Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Alaska have petitioned. Yet he voted against Speaker Paul Ryan’s budget this year because of an amendment that allowed the sale of federal lands and he opposes transfers to states. He has also supported permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Interior uses to buy up even more private property.

Hunting and outdoor groups fear that private developers will pave national parks to put up shopping malls. Yet states have a better track record than Washington of maintaining public resources. They also issue permits in a fraction of the time. Mr. Zinke has opposed the Obama Administration’s regulations on fracking and methane flares on public lands, but his support for imperial federal land managers deserves Senate scrutiny.

U.S. Providing Just 3.5 Percent of What's Needed to Recover Endangered Species

The amount of money appropriated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recovery of endangered species is just 3.5 percent of what is needed, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity. The federal agency currently receives roughly $82 million per year for endangered species recovery, but based on the Center’s analysis of federal recovery plans for listed species, $2.3 billion per year, or 28 times current funding, is needed if species are going to be fully recovered. Aside from calling for a dramatic increase in congressional funding for endangered species, today’s report also urges a $125 million infusion into emergency “extinction prevention programs” for Hawaiian plants and snails, butterflies, mussels in the Southeast and fish in the release

Tidwell appears poised to stay on with Forest Service

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has not announced any intention to retire with the coming change of presidential administrations, which is another way of saying he appears to intend to continue in the job he’s got. “We can’t speculate on the chief’s intentions,” Forest Service spokesman Byron James said on Monday. “He is a career employee, not a political appointee. There is no need to reapply for the position when an administration changes. As a career employee, he will continue to serve.” Tidwell was Region 1 Forester headquartered in Missoula before taking the job of chief of the Forest Service in 2009. That position reports to the undersecretary of Agriculture, which reports to the Secretary of Agriculture – a member of the president’s cabinet. Both the secretary and undersecretary positions are appointed positions that receive Senate confirmation. “Once the secretary and undersecretary are appointed, if they want to make a change, they do. And in most cases, the chief decides to retire,” said Dale Bosworth, himself both a former Forest Service chief and Region 1 forester. The incoming administration can put them in a different job, and who wants to do that?...more