Saturday, February 18, 2017

‘California is a nation, not a state’: A fringe movement wants a break from the U.S.

Bolstered by the election of President Trump, the group, Yes California, is collecting the 585,407 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Its goal is to have California become its own country, separate and apart from the United States. The group is advertising at protests and hosting meetups throughout California. Its leaders say the organization has ballooned to 53 chapters, each of which has meetings like the one here to plot out strategy and recruit volunteers. “Basically, what we’re witnessing is the birth of a nation,” said Tim Vollmer, 57, an academic consultant from San Francisco. “We can lead what’s left of the free world.” Their recruiting pitch goes something like this: California — the most populous state, with nearly 40 million residents — subsidizes other states at a loss, is burdened by a national trade system, doesn’t get a fair say in presidential elections, is diverse and disagrees with much of the rest of the country on immigration, is far ahead of other states on environmental policy and, for the most part, is diametrically opposed to Trump’s positions. Therefore, the argument goes, conditions are perfect for the Golden State to secede. The group’s biggest effort is focused on collecting signatures for the initiative. It will ask voters if they want to repeal a section of the state constitution declaring that California is an “inseparable part of the United States of America” and hold a referendum on independence on March 5, 2019. The group started collecting signatures in late January and has six months to complete the task...more

Chaffetz Calls for Wider Probe of BLM Agent Key in Standoff

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah has called for a wider probe of a federal Bureau of Land Management agent who played a key role in the standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy before coming under investigation for his activities at Burning Man. The chair of the House Oversight Committee said in a letter that the allegations against Salt Lake City supervisor Daniel Love could undermine trust in the agency and should be probed by Department of Interior inspectors. The department's Office of Inspector General did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter released on Friday. Chaffetz pointed to reports that Love asked employees to "scrub" emails before responding to a congressional records request and delete documents from a shared server. He was also accused of coaching an employee on what to say before during an interview with government investigators, according to the letter dated Feb. 14. Love, who oversaw the Bundy cattle roundup in 2014, is expected to be an important witness for the prosecution during a trial unfolding in Las Vegas for six men accused of illegally wielding weapons during the standoff. Defense attorneys pushing for the case to be dismissed say they should have previously been informed about the allegations against Love. He was also the target of a federal lawsuit from the family of a southern Utah doctor, James Redd, who killed himself after he was arrested in a 2009 artifact looting investigation that marked an early skirmish in the struggle for control of public lands. The family said the Bureau of Land Management agents led by Love used excessive force when they arrested Redd at gunpoint. That case was dismissed by an appeals court Monday after judges found the presence of agents in SWAT-like gear wasn't unreasonable given the large volume of evidence and longstanding local opposition to federal control of public lands...more

Judge dismisses 1 of 3 charges against Bundy attorney and orders bench trial

A federal judge Thursday dropped one of three criminal charges against Marcus Mumford, Ammon Bundy's lawyer, and ruled he'll issue a verdict on the other two charges, not a jury. U.S District Judge John C. Coughenour dismissed a charge that accused Mumford of creating a disturbance by impeding the official duties of government officers because it encompassed the same conduct alleged in the second count, failing to comply with official signs that prohibit the disruption of federal officers' official work. Coughenour declined to grant Mumford a jury trial, as requested, or his motion to dismiss all the charges. Mumford's lawyer Michael Levine has argued that the deputy U.S. marshals engaged in "outrageous'' government misconduct and lacked authority to wrestle Mumford to the ground and stun him with a Taser gun while he was arguing on behalf of Bundy in a federal courtroom last fall. The scuffle occurred after Bundy was acquitted of all charges on Oct. 27, 2016, at the end of a five-week trial stemming from the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. "Here, the transcript and video footage do not support such a finding,'' the judge wrote. "The U.S. marshals' conduct does not rise to a level that 'shocks the conscience.' '' Coughenour said in his ruling: "It appears from the transcript and the courtroom video that defendant interfered with the marshals taking his client into custody.'' The judge wasn't swayed by Levine's arguments that the marshals didn't have authority to act against Mumford while he was advocating for his client in court or that the charges against him are vague. Coughenour held that Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to establish regulations with criminal penalties relating to the protection of federal property similar to powers it has granted to the National Park Service, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. "Defendant was not charged with violating the regulations for making arguments in the courtroom,'' the judge wrote. "At the heart of the allegations is that defendant interfered with the U.S. marshals taking custody of his client. A person of ordinary intelligence would understand that interfering with a U.S. marshal removing a defendant who was in their custody following the completion of court constitutes a disruption of the performance of a marshal's duties.''...more

Coughenour's rulings are here and here

DOJ subpoenas former OPB reporter in Malheur Refuge trial

Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena Thursday for former Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado to testify in the second trial of the occupiers who took control of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Sepulvado must appear and testify in Oregon U.S. District Court Tuesday, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by Current. Sepulvado now hosts The California Report for KQED in San Francisco. OPB GM Steve Bass declined to comment on how Sepulvado and the station will respond to the subpoena, citing the ongoing legal issue. Sepulvado did not respond to a request for comment. The organization’s general policy “is that reporters’ notes are private documents; they’re not subject to subpoena,” said Morgan Holm, OPB’s senior VP and chief content officer, in an OPB news story about the subpoena. “We would try to prevent those from getting out because they’re work product.” The story added that Sepulvado may have been singled out because federal prosecutors have previously said in court that they believe an interview Sepulvado conducted with occupier Ryan Bundy provides evidence that’s relevant to the case...more

Bureau of Land Management agent testifies Bundy ranch standoff sniper aimed at him

A federal agent testified that he saw a "sniper" on a freeway overpass pointing a military-style weapon at him while a crowd of protesters in a dry river bed called for the government to release Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle in April 2014. Trial resumed Wednesday in Las Vegas with Bureau of Land Management Special Agent Michael Johnson telling a federal court jury he "absolutely" felt his life was in danger. Johnson testified he took cover for more than an hour behind a portable generator trailer, and never raised his AR-15 rifle at the overpass or at men, women and children in the wash below...more

Friday, February 17, 2017

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Bills To Establish Wilderness Areas Within Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich reintroduced legislation to protect wilderness within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.
"The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and the Río Grande del Norte national monuments are stunning landscapes, rich with culture and history, that are creating jobs by driving visitors to New Mexico from around the world," Udall said. "We will always work closely with Southern New Mexico communities to ensure we both secure our border and protect treasured landscapes in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act. And by designating wilderness in the most rugged areas within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in Northern New Mexico, we will take the final step toward ensuring its many treasures will remain protected for generations to come, while preserving traditional practices and keeping the land accessible for hunting, fishing and recreation. Designating these study areas as wilderness will enhance these monuments, further boosting tourism and creating jobs and ensuring our children and grandchildren can enjoy the rich history, outdoor recreation and many traditional uses of the land."
"Both of New Mexico's newest community-driven monuments permanently protected iconic landscapes that have long been revered. This legislation will further complete the vision of the diverse coalitions and stakeholders who fought so hard to protect these two stunning parts of our state," Heinrich said. "In the case of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, management changes in this bill will create additional flexibility for the Border Patrol and improve security at our nation's southern border. For both monuments, this legislation will preserve traditional practices, increase recreational access, and help New Mexico's outdoor recreation economy create new jobs. By designating the most rugged and unique areas in Río​ Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks as wilderness, we can protect New Mexico's natural heritage for our children and for generations to come."
Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act
The Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Act establishes two new wilderness areas, the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness, comprised of 21,420 acres within the 242,500-acre Río Grande del Norte National Monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.
The legislation passed in the Senate last year as an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act but was not taken up in the House of Representatives. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also approved a previous version of this legislation in 2013.
Río Grande del Norte boasts incredible wildlands and waters that sustain the surrounding communities, and is home to elk, deer, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, sandhill cranes, and other wildlife. The area is one of the most stunning and ecologically significant in the state and a destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Río Grande del Norte National Monument is widely supported by Taos and Rio Arriba county residents, who have seen major economic activity since designation in 2013.  A year after the national monument was designated, it was reported that the town of Taos lodgers' tax revenue increased by 21 percent in the second half of 2013, compared with the same time period in 2012. In addition, gross-receipts revenue to businesses in Taos County in the accommodations and food service sector rose 8.3 percent in the second half of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, representing an increase of $3.7 million.
A map of the proposed wilderness areas is available here.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act completes the community's vision for the permanent protection of wilderness opportunities within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (OMDP) National Monument. A broad coalition of Hispanic leaders, veterans, Native Americans, sportsmen, small business owners, faith leaders, conservationists, local elected officials and others have worked for over a decade to protect wilderness in Doña Ana and Luna Counties.
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has helped grow Doña Ana County's economy. The new monument put southern New Mexico on the map in national tourism publications like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor as a prime destination for outdoor recreation, history, and cultural tourists.
The number of visitors to the monument more than doubled in its second year, bringing increased tax revenue to the community and more tourism dollars to local businesses. A number of local businesses have capitalized on this trend by creating tailored products named for the monument.
President Obama based the 2014 national monument designation on legislation introduced by Udall and Heinrich, but only Congress has authority to create wilderness. This final step will ensure full protection for land within OMDP and the unconfined opportunities for recreation that wilderness offers.  It will provide protection for the wildest places within the national monument - including the Organ, Potrillo, Uvas and Robledo Mountains, as well as Aden Lava Flow and Broad Canyon.
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act will preserve New Mexico's outdoor heritage by ensuring that these public lands will remain open to hunting, recreation and grazing. And by removing the current wilderness study area designation along the U.S.-Mexico border, the bill will help strengthen border security.
In a letter to Udall and Heinrich,U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicated that the provisions of the bill would "significantly enhance the flexibility of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to operate in this border area."The bill also directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to identify opportunities for watershed management throughout the national monument.  Further, it directs the BLM to work with the New Mexico State Land Office toward a mutually beneficial exchange of lands to reduce or eliminate state inholdings in the monument.
This legislation reflects feedback from many individuals and groups over the years, including grazing permittees and private landowners within the proposed areas; electric, natural gas, and pipeline utilities; local governments and community leaders; local law enforcement agencies; sportsmen, heritage, veteran, conservation, and archaeological organizations; flood control and irrigation authorities; airport authorities; the New Mexico State Land Office; and federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Army.
A fact sheet on the legislation is available here. Bill text is available here. Map of the Organ Mountains Complex is available here, Desert Peaks Complex is available here, and Potrillo Mountains Complex is available here.

Scott Pruitt, longtime adversary of EPA, confirmed to lead the agency

Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the agency’s next administrator. Pruitt cleared the Senate by a vote of 52-46, winning support from two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted against him, saying he had “fundamentally different” views than she about the EPA’s role. The vote came after Democrats held the Senate floor for hours overnight and through the morning to criticize Pruitt as a pawn of the fossil-fuel industry and to push for a last-minute delay of his confirmation. Part of their argument was an Oklahoma judge’s ruling late Thursday that Pruitt’s office must turn over thousands of emails related to his communication with oil, gas and coal companies. The judge set a Tuesday deadline for the release of the emails, which a nonprofit group had been seeking for more than two years. Republicans pressed forward with the afternoon vote, saying Pruitt had been thoroughly vetted in recent months and calling on Democrats to end what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called “a historic level of obstruction” in holding up Trump administration nominees. Pruitt’s confirmation marked a serious defeat for environmental advocacy groups, which wrote letters, waged a furious social media campaign, lobbied members of Congress, paid for television ads and sponsored a series of public protests to keep the Oklahoman from taking the reins of EPA...more

California Schools Cut Meat, Cheese From Lunches To Fight Global Warming

Oakland schools partnered with the environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) to fight global warming by making student lunches climate-friendly. FOE gave kids a lunch menu designed to eliminate foods it says are “unsustainable for our planet.” The new menu features far less meat and more plant-based food. Any meat or cheese the school did use came from “pastured, organic dairy cows.” The student’s lunch menu went from beef hot dogs and pepperoni pizza to vegan stir fry tofu and vegan tostadas. The new FOE-approved menu served meat and cheese-less frequently and reduced the portion sizes. “This is a landmark moment for school food,” Jennifer LeBarre, head of nutrition services for Oakland Unified School District, said in a FOE press statement. “We were so excited to see how the data showed that we could reduce our carbon and water footprint by serving healthy, delicious food –– like the vegetarian tostadas with fresh made in-house salsa, that kids absolutely love –– all while saving money.” FOE says it partnered with the school to provide a “roadmap for change” to encourage other schools to fight global warming via student lunches. The green group hopes Oakland’s example will encourage numerous other school districts to switch to a similar menu...more

60% of Refugee Arrivals Since Judge Halted Trump’s Order Come From 5 Terror-Prone Countries

Sixty percent of the refugees admitted into the United States since a federal judge halted President Trump’s executive order designed to prevent “foreign terrorist entry into the United States” originate from five of the seven countries identified by the administration and its predecessor as most risky. Of the total 2,576 refugees resettled in the U.S. from around the world since U.S. District Judge James Robart’s February 3 restraining order, 1,549 (60.1 percent) are from Syria (532), Iraq (472), Somalia (363), Iran (117), and Sudan (65). No refugees have arrived from the other two applicable countries, Yemen and Libya. Of the 2,576 refugees to have arrived since Feb. 3, 1,424 (55.3 percent) are Muslims – 817 Sunnis, 132 Shi’ites, and 475 refugees self-identified simply as Muslims, according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data. Of the refugees hailing from the specified countries of terrorist concern, Muslims accounted for the overwhelming majority of those admitted in all cases except for Iran. Muslims comprised 99.6 percent of the admissions from Syria; 73.5 percent of those from Iraq; 99.7 percent of those from Somalia; and 93.8 percent of those from Sudan. Of the Iranian refugees admitted, by contrast, only 9.4 percent were Muslims, while just under 60 percent were Christians of various denominations. Trump’s Jan. 27 order barred entry to the U.S. of all refugees for 120 days; prohibited entry to refugees from Syria indefinitely; and blocked all entry – immigrant and non-immigrant – by nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen for 90 days...more

The first casualties of Trump's trade wars are Texas cattle ranchers

If the first casualty of war is truth, then the first casualties of trade war are the working man and woman. And first among them is about to be the iconic Texas rancher. Here in the rolling pastures of bright, green spring grass at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, the handful of large spreads prosper from a wet winter. The short-horned charlois breed, imported from France via Mexico, grow thick and wide, their white coats bright in the sunshine of impending spring. The charlois makes for some of the finest grass-fed beef in the world. Now that a years-long drought has broken, ranchers can count on trucking in less of that expensive coastal grass they require in the dry months. But the Texas cattle rancher now faces a new threat: the Trump administration's blundering, blustering trade policy. By threatening a trade war with Mexico within days of inauguration, the president helped trigger a slide in cattle futures. Mexico is a major export market. By sinking the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the new administration cut off long-sought access to the Japanese market. Now banks have raised the conditions for collateral for loans for ranchers. Texas ranchers, though, will not be alone for long. Beef producers from Nebraska to the Dakotas face the same problems. So do grain farmers in Kansas and the snow-covered corn fields of Iowa, just like tomato farmers in California and Florida and autoworkers in Michigan, longshoremen, truckers and railway workers in Miami and Houston and Long Beach. These will be the first casualties of a trade war. Trump fired his opening salvo right after his inauguration by threatening a 20 percent tax on Mexican goods coming into the United States, the funds would ostensibly fund the border wall. That led to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a summit with the new American president. Trump's was an artillery shell delivered for effect. Peña Nieto answered in kind. Within days, both beat a hasty retreat though, putting their diplomats behind closed doors with the Canadians to work out a new trade agreement. By then, however, the collateral damage was done. It was clear that the Trump administration would at least re-write trade agreements if not scuttle them. The first to go down was the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And re-writing the rest means, at the very least, injecting uncertainty into what the new rules of trade look like. At the worst, it means that the trade wars will resume in earnest. No state in the country has more exposure to economic damage in each scenario than Texas.  Now all that is at varying forms of risk. Sinking the Trans-Pacific Partnership may have been popular with Trump's supporters, but it was not popular with cattle ranchers. They have been building herds for years and anticipated shipping beef products -- some of which are not exactly popular among American consumers -- to Japan as tariffs fell from 38.5 percent to just over 9 percent. Now that opportunity is gone. Instead, other cattle-producing nations like Australia will try to seize the Japanese market on a bilateral basis.
Last week, Texas ranchers shipped 1,430 cattle to Mexico, most to slaughter and to market. On an annual basis that's 74,000 head, part of a brisk two-way business that sees hundreds of thousands of Mexican cattle coming north to be fattened in Midwestern feed lots. But in the event of a trade war, all bets are off. A tariff here means retaliation by the Mexican government there, and the last time that happened, it was the United States that surrendered...more

Cartels’ roots run deep in NM

By Mike Gallagher 
...You don’t have to look south across the border to see the Mexican drug cartels in operation. They are operating right next door.
Heroin rings and methamphetamine dealers with direct connections to international drug traffickers based in Mexico have operated out of stash houses in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, horse ranches in Valencia County, communities on the Navajo Nation and small towns a stone’s throw from the Mexican border.
And while we in New Mexico focus on drug-fueled property crimes such as auto theft and horrific violence such as the murders of 10-year-old Victoria Martens and Rio Rancho police officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner, our state is much more than a local market. It is a primary corridor for the cartels to ship drugs nationwide.
Federal law enforcement estimates the Sinaloa Cartel alone controls somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of illegal drugs used in the United States. It supplies dealers in cities and states including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, New England, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.
The Juárez Cartel supplies heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana dealers in North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, Minnesota, New Mexico and parts of Texas.
There is plenty of proof of Mexican cartel operations in New Mexico, as evidenced by some of the operations taken down by law enforcement. For example:
• In May 2012, Luis Rangel and his brother, Miguel, set up shop in Shiprock, on the Navajo reservation. Their business: selling methamphetamine obtained from the Sinaloa Cartel in Phoenix to their Navajo neighbors and in the nearby community of Kirtland, just off the reservation.
• Since the 1990s, members of Ivan Romero’s family have run a tight-knit distribution network that cornered the heroin market in Taos County, serving addicts in the villages and towns of northern New Mexico with heroin imported through Albuquerque from Mexico.
• In Albuquerque, Jesus Munoz Lechuga ran an auto body shop in the far South Valley, receiving cocaine, marijuana and heroin from La Linea faction of the Juárez Cartel and then shipping it to Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois and Alabama.
• Homero Varela ran a racehorse business in Valencia County when federal law enforcement broke up the Sinaloa Cartel associate’s $15 million cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana business.
• At the time of his arrest in July 2015 in Roswell, Joseph Mendiola and his associates were caught by federal and local agents holding 16 pounds of methamphetamine, most of it coming from the Phoenix area and delivered by Francisco Aguilar-Larios. The methamphetamine was destined for sale across the southeastern part of the state.
• From his home in Socorro, Carlos Tafoya Jr. turned out to be one of three suppliers of highly pure methamphetamine to dealers for $800 to $1,200 an ounce who then sold it in smaller amounts on the Mescalero Apache Reservation.
• In the past year, federal agents have broken up two methamphetamine and heroin rings operating in and around Sunland Park, often following the drugs as couriers crossed the bridges in El Paso and made their deliveries in the small New Mexico city.
Big business
...Will Glaspy, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge of the El Paso division, is responsible for an area that extends from the Big Bend area in Texas to the New Mexico-Arizona line.
“If you look at that entire area, we’re still seeing marijuana, we’re seeing cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine,” Glaspy said. “If you look at the last four, five years of seizure data, cocaine is the only seizure stat that I have that is going down. Marijuana, meth and heroin are all going up.
“Seizures may be going down in some corridors, but not in our corridor.”...
Drug crime
It is accepted law enforcement wisdom that illegal drugs drive crime in communities.
“Most violent and property crime ties back to drugs,” said Deputy APD Chief Eric Garcia. “Both heroin and methamphetamine are extremely addictive,” he said. “We’re finding more polydrug users. Meth users take heroin to come down from their high. As a result, we’re seeing more polydrug dealers on the street.”
Last year, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and APD ran an undercover operation in Albuquerque expecting to make gun and drug deals with up to 50 career criminals.
They made 104 cases in four months, almost overwhelming the ability of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to handle.
While heroin overdose deaths caught the attention of health officials, law enforcement usually ranks methamphetamine abuse as a greater threat to public safety than heroin addiction.
“The crimes with meth tend to be more heinous, more shocking,” Garcia said.
And New Mexico is no stranger to the horrific crimes linked to both drugs.
Among them:...

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1784

For the weekend warriors out there:  Johnny Russell - Red Necks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer. The tune is on his 1973 album by the same name.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Arizona ranchers want border wall, worry about more Border Patrol agents on their land

John Ladd stepped out of his rusted, red pickup truck to lead a herd of cattle through a gate on his 16,000-acre ranch which borders border, chain and padlock swinging from his hand. “There’s an open gate right there; that’s what I was talking about,” Ladd said. “Border Patrol doesn’t like closing gates.” The gate Ladd referred to is designed to keep cattle separated. Leaving a gate open can have dire consequences for a rancher. The gate also borders a ravine he said is commonly used by undocumented immigrants and smugglers who cross through his ranch. “It used to take five days to get the ranch rounded up; it takes me seven weeks now and it’s because anybody coming through illegally cuts through fences and border patrol doesn’t know how to shut a gate,” Ladd said. Both Border Patrol and Ladd have keys to locks on his gates, but he said agents often leave the gates open. Despite Ladd’s disagreements with Border Patrol, he supports President Donald Trump’s executive order to build a wall and authorize Border Patrol to hire 5,000 more agents. “It used to be a lot of immigrants coming over and now it’s mostly drug mules they catch here,” Ladd said. “They just go right over (the fence).” Ladd said he and agents have found 14 bodies on his ranch since the Border Patrol started patrolling back in the 1980s. Ladd’s family has owned the ranch since 1896. He said before the 1980s he rarely had issues with people crossing the border illegally. In the past he helped immigrants who worked his land, including Mexican cowboys become U.S. citizens. However, others living near the border don’t share the the ranchers concerns. “It reminds me of buying a house next to an airport and complaining about the noise,” said Ronald Oertle, mayor of neighboring Bisbee. Tom Wheeler, a former Bisbee mayor and resident for 35 years said most immigrants crossing the border are not malicious and that it is an issue that is oversold by politicians and border ranchers. Fred Davis, a rancher whose property is 17 miles north of the the border, said he has encountered problems with border crossers on his land. He said townspeople don’t understand the difficulties he faces. “You go into Sierra Vista and ask them how many problems we have and they won’t have a clue, they will say they have no problems,” Davis said. “It’s all relative till it’s your relative.” He said although he has not had as many encounters with Border Patrol agents, he is still critical of their strategies and that “John Ladd’s ranch is the greatest example of the Border Patrol failure.” The death of fellow rancher in 2010 changed how Davis and Ladd they feel about dealing with migrants. Robert Krentz and his dog were shot and killed on his ranch while checking on someone who appeared to be injured. Investigators found footprints leading to Mexico but have not arrested any suspects for the crime. “Sure, it is frightening,” Davis said. “He was a good friend of mine since high school … Rob was a very careful man and a very compassionate guy.”

Smokey Bear lobby designed to stir young imaginations - Forest Service staff is proud of new entrance, gift shop and lobby

When children visit the Smokey Bear Ranger District office of the Lincoln National Forest, they come out smiling and carrying a few free momentoes of their time at the U.S. Forest Service station in Ruidoso, along with whatever toys, books and clothing their parents may buy in the lobby gift shop. But just a few years ago, the situation was different. As Customer Service Representative George Garnett recalled Wednesday, there was a time when the stop might have been a little boring for children. He wants the public to know that today it is worth their time to come inside. “According to Larry Cordova (district wildlife biologist), it all started back in the mid-2000s,” Garnett said. “He noticed that young people would come to the Smokey Bear Ranger District and he saw how excited they were when they came out of the car. But they would run into the ranger station and there really wasn’t anything exciting in there. All we had for them was maybe a comic book and a few little gifts. We didn’t have a gift shop or anything exciting inside to see.” When Cordova was assigned to a district office in the state of Washington, it had a gift shop and he saw many others when visiting forests across the country. So he brought up the possibility of created a shop at the Cedar Creek Drive station office during a leadership meeting in Carlsbad about eight years ago, pointing out that the Smokey Bear District was where the famous bear icon actually was found during a forest fire. Of all places, the district should create a memorable experience, he argued, so that when people came inside, they were just as excited as when they got out of the car. “They started developing plans with our U.S. Forest Service engineers to turn a meeting room (toward the front entrance of the station) into a gift center and larger lobby,” Garnett said. “We had a really small entrance before and we needed more room.” nside the lobby, gifts from the Public Land Interpretive Association are displayed on shelves along one wall with all different sizes of Smokey Bear toys from large stuffed animals to keychains, Garnett said. “We have caps, T-shirts, scarves, backpack, binoculars, puzzles, lots of books, calendars and stuffed animals of every orientation,” Garnett said...more

I know this may sound like an old Scrooge, but I wonder how much this entire renovation cost?

The forest reserves were created to "improve and protect" the forests "for the purpose of securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States." I'm not sure how we got from there to making little kids happy.

The overall management of the forests is now controlled by the courts and the enviro law firms, so maybe the employees need something they can actually manage, like a gift shop.

And now Smokey Bear has been adopted as the mascot of anti-Trump resistance.

Endangered Species Act attacked at Senate hearing

A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs. The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News. In opening remarks, Barrasso declared that the act “is not working today,” adding that “states, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders” have made that clear in complaints about how it impedes land management plans, housing development and cattle grazing, particularly in western states. At least one Republican has vowed to wage an effort to repeal the Endangered Species Act. “It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said, according to an Associated Press report. “It’s been used to control the land. We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.” In a comment to a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director who testified at the hearing, Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., repeated a point made by Barrasso that of more than 1,600 species listed as threatened or endangered since the act’s inception, fewer than 50 have been removed. That’s about 3 percent of the total, the chairman said. “As a doctor, if I admit 100 patients to the hospital and only three recover enough to be discharged, I would deserve to lose my medical license,” Inhofe said...more

Hunting guides charged in connection to Presidio County ranch shooting

A Presidio County grand jury has indicted two men involved in the recent shooting incident at the Circle Dug Ranch near Candelaria. Arrest warrants have been issued for Michael Bryant and Walker Daugherty. The two men are hunting guides from New Mexico and were part of a group staying at the south Presidio County ranch in early January. Bryan and Daugherty are charged with using deadly conduct by discharging firearms in the direction of others, according to Presidio County Chief Deputy Sheriff Joel Nuñez. The indictments were based on information provided by witnesses in their statements to law enforcement agents conducting the investigation, Nuñez said...more

Bundy Lawyer Mumford Seeks Charge Dismissal, Jury Trial

Ammon Bundy’s former lawyer Marcus Mumford was in court in Portland Wednesday, where he faces misdemeanor charges for failing to comply with and impeding federal police last fall. U.S. marshals tackled and used a stun gun on Mumford at the conclusion of the first Malheur occupation trial. Mumford’s lawyer, Michael Levine, argues Mumford was “merely engaging in zealous advocacy,” before he was tackled, “which is what he’s supposed to do.” Mumford was arguing that Bundy should be set free after his acquittal, despite federal orders to detain him. “I hope to convince the court to dismiss the charges outright,” said Levine, “or if that’s not going to happen then to acquit my client after a trial.” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Ohms responded to the defense’s claims by saying, “There are disputed facts,” and that the charges should not be dismissed. They argue Mumford was physically trying to block marshals from taking his client back into custody...more

Buffalo Soldiers played key role in settling New Mexico

They were known as pioneers for African American civil rights, but many do not know that they were pioneers in settling the west. In that role, the Buffalo Soldiers were instrumental in establishing the territory which would later become New Mexico. During the 1860’s, it seems there were battles everywhere in the future Land of Enchantment. From conflicts during and after the Civil War, to fighting between Native Americans and settlers. It wasn’t until August 1866 when eight black companies of the 125th Infantry marched to New Mexico that it seemed some sense of order and peace might be restored to the area. “You can’t underestimate their importance, and they did this in the face of hostility from a lot of high ranking officers who didn’t think that they could kind of pull their weight, but they did,” said Paul Hutton, Distinguished Professor from the University of New Mexico History Department. Hutton said the men, who were said to have been nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers by the Native Americans because of appearance and much fortitude, demonstrated their resilience in every job they were tasked with doing. “Much of the infrastructure in New Mexico was dependent upon military spending,” added Hutton. “Because it was the Buffalo Soldiers who came west in 1866 who built a string of forts. Especially throughout southern New Mexico that were going to guard the roads, and you had of course the Camino Real that came up the Rio Grande, and this of course was a major route of trade, and then you had the Santa Fe Trail and all of these routes had to be protected, not just from Native Americans, but also from outlaws. New Mexico was simply overrun with outlawry in the 1870’s.”...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1783

Recorded in Nashville on May 9, 1962 here is Stranger by the great Lefty Frizzell.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here’s what Ryan Bundy told a BLM agent before the Bunkerville standoff in 2014

...prosecutors on Tuesday played recorded phone conversations between a Bureau of Land Management agent and one of Bundy’s sons.

The call occurred roughly a month before the armed standoff in Bunkerville in April 2014. Here are some of the notable quotes from Ryan Bundy during his conversation with BLM Special Agent Michael Johnson:
  • On a federal court order that authorized the BLM to seize cattle from a federal grazing allotment: “It should go before a state court.”
  • On whether Bundy and his family would recognize the BLM’s authority to impound cattle: “You don’t have authority to recognize.”
  • In response to the agent’s question about whether a conflict could be avoided: “There is one way. … You don’t come to gather our cattle.”
  • On grazing issues: “We don’t claim ownership to land. We claim ownership to the grazing rights. … Those are our rights, and you are violating them.”
  • On the impending impoundment operation: “You will not take one single cow that belongs to us”
  • On how the Bundys would respond: “I will do whatever it takes, and I will have several hundred supporters with me to help.”
  • On the BLM agent’s career: “You might want to get a new job … working for a foreign service, being out in the hills. I can see that being enjoyable but not honorable.”
  • On municipal, state, and federal agencies: “They don’t have power. … They only have power that the people give to them.”
  • On the cattle roundup: “You’re trying to harm us by stealing from us. … You’re trying to harm us by damaging our life and our liberty.”
  • On public attention to the case: “The people of America, the people of the world are watching. … Why is the world interested in this subject of a couple little cows on the range in the Nevada desert? It’s not an issue between Cliven Bundy and a few cows and the BLM. It’s an issue of how … our rights and freedoms are going to be handled.”...more

BLM agent tells Las Vegas jury that Bundy supporters posed threat

Supporters of Cliven Bundy posed a significant threat to federal authorities who tried to impound the rancher’s cattle, a Bureau of Land Management agent testified Tuesday in the trial of six men charged in the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville. “In my opinion, their emotions were high, and they were using strong language to challenge our authority,” BLM special agent Rand Stover testified. The agent was answering a question about the threat of violence in the hours leading up to the standoff. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre on Tuesday drew hours of testimony from Stover about the menacing nature of Bundy’s supporters. Myhre asked him about specific details, such as the presence of a gas mask attached to one protester’s belt, in an effort to convince the jury that law enforcement officers felt threatened and feared for their lives...Defense lawyers portrayed the interactions between protesters and the government in a different light when it was their turn to cross-examine Stover on Tuesday. In questioning the witness, they played videos to support their claims that law enforcement authorities were the aggressors against a peaceful group of protesters exercising their constitutional rights. One of the videos depicted law enforcement officers using a stun gun and a police dog in detaining one of Bundy’s sons several days before the standoff. Defense attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents O. Scott Drexler, grilled Stover with a pointed line of questioning in an apparent attempt to reveal misconduct by the witness’ supervisor, special agent in charge Dan Love, who oversaw the impoundment operation at Bundy’s ranch in 2014. Previous court filings have revealed that defense attorneys suspect him to be the same person who was accused of misconduct in a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General. The report slammed an unnamed BLM agent for bullying his subordinates and for using his position to obtain sold-out Burning Man tickets. Leventhal recently obtained an unredacted version of the investigative report and said this week that it references up to six government witnesses who are involved in the Bunkerville case. The defense attorney’s cross-examination Tuesday suggested that Stover was one of them...more

Oregon Counties Sue Federal Government Over Cascade-Siskiyou Expansion

In his last days in office, President Obama expanded the Cascade-Siskiyou National monument on the Oregon-California border. Now, a group of counties that gets revenue from logging lands within the monument boundaries is suing the federal government. Tim Freeman is the president of the Association of O&C Counties. He said the lost revenue will lead to fewer county services "like public health and mental health and libraries and museums and law enforcement and really creating important livability for communities around the state.” Freeman said it’s unclear if the Trump Administration could eliminate the monument entirely, but he hopes the administration could shrink it. Dave Willis is the chair of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council. He helped push for the original monument, and the expansion. He said the lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer money and calls the monument a "gift."...more

4 Major Environmental Rules That the GOP Congress Is Overturning in Massive Gift to Polluters

In the 24 days since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Republican-controlled Congress has already moved to overturn four major rules that the oil, gas, and coal industries spent millions of dollars fighting during the Obama administration. First, Congress eliminated the Stream Protection Rule, which would prevent toxic mine waste from being dumped in streams. Then Congress voted to get rid of a rule that limited bribery and corruption in oil operations around the world. And in the coming days, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote to overturn a rule that limits methane pollution when oil and gas companies drill on public lands and to eliminate a rule that increases public input in public lands management decisions. Congress’s vulnerability to financial influence under the CRA is rooted in the law’s obscure procedure for overturning regulations. Since its passage in 1996, the CRA has given Congress the power to overturn any regulation within 60 legislative days of it being issued by an executive branch agency. To successfully overturn a rule, both chambers of Congress must pass, by majority vote, a resolution of disapproval and then have the president sign it. On a practical level, however, it is only after a change of administration—and only if the new president and a new Congress both wish to undo actions taken by the previous administration—that CRA resolutions become likely to pass. Before this year, Congress had only used the CRA successfully to overturn a single regulation: a Clinton administration rule to establish ergonomics standards in the workplace. For Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker Paul Ryan, the CRA provides opportunities and limitations that are different than other types of legislation. Notably, the CRA gives the new Congress only 60 legislative days to overturn rules issued by the Obama administration, and those rules must have been finalized within 60 legislative days of the end of the last Congress. According to the Congressional Research Service61 “major” rules and regulations—the U.S. government defines major rules as those that would have an annual effect on the economy of at least $100 million—that the Obama administration finalized after June 13, 2016, are eligible to be overturned by Congress using the CRA. The CRA, however, can be used to overturn any rule—regardless of the scale of its economic benefits or costs—that was finalized in this period. By one lobbying firm’s count, more than 2,300 rules are currently eligible to be overturned under the CRA...more


The trade war comes to the prairie

Doyle Lentz has grown barley, wheat, soybeans and canola for decades on his land in North Dakota, a farm that has been in the family for generations. Just outside of Rolla, North Dakota, a town of about 1,300 people west of the Red River Valley, his rolling, fertile land might seem a world away from coastal ports, international business deals and the very idea of "globalism." But when he sells his barley, it’s not a local proposition: About two-thirds of his crop is shipped some 2,000 miles to brewers in Mexico. The deal with his Mexican customers – he contracts with them directly, and has it malted in Minnesota along the way – is a chance to make a little more money from a commodity crop. That’s been especially important to his bottom line over the past few years, as world commodity prices have hit seven-year lows. Heartland American farmers like Lentz are among globalism's prime beneficiaries. Agriculture is North Dakota’s top industry, and it gets a significant boost from the $4 billion in farm goods, including wheat, soybeans, barley and sorghum, sent across borders every year. And they often travel much farther than Mexico: More than 90 percent of the state’s soybeans are exported, mainly to China. The vast quantity of agricultural products that North Dakota exports is a story shared by farm states across the country. American agriculture sent $129 billion worth of goods abroad in fiscal 2016 – more than 20 percent of all the food grown in the United States. That number has more than doubled over the past decade, making agriculture a rare bright spot in the U.S. trade accounts. When President Donald Trump and free-trade critics fret about the United States’ $500 billion trade deficit, it’s often lost that American farmers run a large and growing surplus, and have been since the 1960s. Last year the surplus was $16.6 billion. The USDA projects it will rise to $21.5 billion this year. The Trump administration has come out of the gate seemingly gearing up for a trade war -- withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, threatening to pull out of NAFTA and rattling relations with Mexican President Peña Nieto with talk of paying for a wall along the southern border by imposing taxes on imports. The goal is to restore U.S. manufacturing jobs in languishing industries like steel, and help the Rust Belt factory workers who turned out to vote Trump. But farmers and ranchers have a lot to lose, and they’re are starting to worry their entire industry will be collateral damage in Trump’s trade experiment. Lentz already lost $200,000 in new malted barley business he was expecting this year after one of his customers in Mexico cancelled plans to expand their brewery due to escalating tension between the countries. A coalition of more than 130 U.S. agricultural groups has anxiously sent letters to President Trump expressing eagerness to work on modernizing NAFTA, but in a way that protects the United States’ $38.6 billion in farm exports to Canada and Mexico – its largest trading partners...more

Threat of Mexican ban on U.S. corn sharpens focus on trade

A Mexican lawmaker’s threat to ban the importation of U.S. corn would mean lower prices for South Dakota corn farmers at a time when prices are already low. Although South Dakota corn exports go primarily to Asia, lower corn prices nationally would hurt an industry already staggering from low commodity prices, said Lisa Richardson, the executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. Mexico is the largest importer of U.S. corn. But a Mexican senator says he will bring legislation to ban U.S. corn imports in favor of corn from Brazil and Argentina in response to President Trump’s proposals to tax Mexican exports to the United States and to block manufacturing jobs from moving to Mexico. Mexico can’t unilaterally block U.S. corn exports without running afoul of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Richardson said, but Trump has also indicated that he wants to renegotiate the treaty, which adds uncertainty to the market. “Trade is critical to agriculture. Period,” Richardson said. “I will also say that Donald Trump was elected by the bread basket of the world – 71 percent of this region.”...more

Oroville Dam evacuation order disrupts farming in affected area

Evacuation of a large swath of land downstream from Oroville Dam during the weekend caused logistical headaches for farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses within the affected area, while Department of Water Resources crews worked to head off a feared failure of the emergency spillway at the dam. Officials ordered evacuation of low-lying areas near the Feather River on Sunday, after water in the reservoir eroded the emergency spillway. The evacuation order was lifted Tuesday. Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation first vice president who grows olives near Oroville, said local officials acted quickly. "You kind of see the power of the water behind the dam should there be a catastrophic failure as they were describing it (Sunday) around 5 o'clock," he said. "I can't tell you how important local officials become." Colleen Cecil, executive director of the Butte County Farm Bureau, said flooding was nothing out of the ordinary so far. "There hasn't been extreme flooding," she said. "I think it's normal flooding along the Feather River that folks are experiencing right now." Cecil said it was too early to assess damage. "Right now, there's standing water in orchards," she said. "Almond bloom has started. It's in the very early stages. These sunny days in between these rainstorms get bees really happy, and we're going to see almond bloom here much sooner rather than later. Hopefully, pollination won't be impacted, but that is definitely an area that we're watching." Crops that could potentially be affected if the situation worsens include cling peaches, prunes, walnuts, almonds, olives, kiwifruit and possibly rice...more

Sportsmen’s Alliance Sues Department of Interior Due to Refuge System Overreach

The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and APHA believe the rules are an overreach of the federal government into the traditional state role of game management, and this action in Alaska sets a dangerous precedent that puts hunting at risk on hundreds of millions of acres of public land nationwide. The enacted rule changes commonly accepted hunting methods, including the extension of wolf and coyote seasons to summer months suitable for hunting in the colder Alaska climate, and use of bait while hunting bears. “These changes even go so far as to completely outlaw normal wildlife management practices involving seasons, bag limits, and methods and means, even when that is the only feasible way to restore other wildlife species such as moose, caribou or deer,” continued Heusinkveld...more

Zinke confirmation likely not until March

The U.S. Senate vote on whether to confirm Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as U.S. Interior secretary probably won’t occur until the end of this month or next month, MTN News has learned. Zinke’s confirmation vote is now in the queue behind at least two other cabinet nominees, Senate Republican leadership has said. However, they’ve also said Senate Democrats may force up to 30 hours of debate on those other nominees, pushing Zinke’s confirmation vote past this week. The U.S. Senate goes on a week-long break starting this weekend, so a vote on Zinke’s nomination likely won’t occur until the Senate returns, the week of Feb. 27. Two cabinet nominees whose confirmation votes are in front of Zinke are Mick Mulvaney for budget director and Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency...more

Border Patrol Agents Find Drug Catapult at US-Mexico Border

Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona say they've seized two bundles of marijuana that were catapulted across the border from Mexico. While patrolling an area east of the Douglas Port of Entry last Friday, agents noticed several people running from the border fence as they approached. They reported finding a catapult system attached to the south side of the fence and two bundles of marijuana, weighing more than 47 pounds combined. Agents dismantled the catapult, which was seized by Mexican authorities. Federal authorities say in recent years, smugglers have thrown drug bundles over the border or shot them over with devices such as air-powered cannons and catapults. Smugglers also have placed vehicle ramps next to the border fence or wall and using ultralight aircraft to drop shipments in the desert.  AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1782

Today Ranch Radio brings you Gov. Jimmie Davis' 1949  recording  of No Good For Nothin'

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Walden bill would soften law used in Hammond case

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, is sponsoring a bill that would soften the federal statute used to convict the Harney County ranchers whose imprisonment was central to last year’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff. The bill would exempt from prosecution people who violate the law under circumstances similar to the Hammonds’. In 2012, Dwight Hammond and son Steven Hammond were convicted of setting fires on their ranch in 2001 and 2006 that spread to federal land. The Hammonds maintain the earlier fire was set to control invasive plants, while prosecutors maintained it was to cover up illegal hunting. Walden’s bill defines the circumstances under which the law would not apply, carving out exemptions that would likely have spared the Hammonds had they been in place at the time. Provided a fire was set on an individual’s private land for the purpose of protecting that property or as part of farming-, ranching- or timber-related vegetation management — and does not pose a serious threat of injury or damage to any individual or federal property — that individual would not be prosecuted...more

As a refresher on the Hammond's case, here is what I wrote in my November 2015 column:

Ranchers as Terrorists

After a two-week trial in July of 2012, Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, were found guilty of setting fires that caused damage to federal property.  One fire burned 139 acres of federal land, the other only 1 acre.  The Hammonds claimed the fires were for range management purposes, the federal prosecutors said they were set for more nefarious reasons.  Now-retired U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan sentenced Steven Hammond to one year and a day in prison for setting intentional fires in 2001 and 2006, and ordered Dwight Hammond to spend three months behind bars for his involvement in the 2001 blaze.

That should have been the end of the story.  But it wasn’t.

The feds appealed claiming the ranchers should have received mandatory sentences of five years.  They had charged the ranchers with violation of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.  

That’s right, the feds were using a law aimed at terrorists to prosecute the ranchers and that law required the mandatory sentences. Judge Hogan had ruled that 5-year sentences would “shock the conscience”, would be grossly disproportionate to the offenses committed and violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the feds, however, and returned the case for sentencing. On October 7 of this year, both Hammonds received the mandatory minimum sentence of five years for deliberately setting fires that spread from their property onto federal land.  For comparison, other federal laws that carry five-year minimum sentences are for treason, child pornography, using a gun while committing a violent crime or importing drugs.

That should have been the end of this sad story.  But it wasn’t.

 Capital Press posted an online article about the five year sentences and a person who identified himself as Greg Allum posted three comments on the article, calling the ranchers “clowns” who endangered firefighters and other people in the area while burning valuable rangeland.  The real Greg Allum, a retired BLM heavy equipment operator, called Capital Press and complained he hadn’t posted those comments.  “They’re not terrorists. There’s this hatred in the BLM for them, and I don’t get it,” Allum said.

The publication undertook a search of the Internet Protocol address associated with the comments and discovered the computer was owned by one of BLM’s offices in Denver, Colo.

Treat ranchers as terrorists and then use a government computer to publicly disparage them.  One is an injustice and the other is an abuse of federal equipment to ridicule private citizens.

Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue says this “is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.  Today’s verdict is also hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to public and private grazing lands, which goes without consequence.”  Bushue continued, “This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers, foresters, and others who rely on federal allotments and permits.”
Collaboration anyone?

Las Vegas jury hears opening statements in first Bunkerville standoff trial

Cattle rancher Cliven Bundy’s armed stand against the federal government was either an assault on law enforcement by self-described militiamen or a freedom festival led by cowboys at home on the range, depending on who was addressing jurors Thursday in a crowded Las Vegas courtroom. The April 2014 standoff in Bunkerville followed a five-word order the 70-year-old rancher gave to hundreds of protesters at a morning rally: “Cowboys, go get ‘er done.” What happened after those remarks was the subject of much contention when the trial of six people charged as Bundy’s co-conspirators opened Thursday in federal court. In a dramatic opening statement, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre gave the jury a vivid description of how the six people on trial complied with Bundy’s request. He said the gunmen assumed tactical positions — on a highway overpass or the high banks of a dried-up wash — in preparation for battle against Bureau of Land Management agents stationed in the sandy ditch below them. The terrain acted like a funnel, and federal officers who were executing a court order to seize Bundy’s cattle were at the bottom of it, Myrhe said. He showed jurors pictures of the six defendants, armed and wearing tactical gear. He described the BLM agents as cornered and afraid, with nothing but a flimsy metal gate separating them from an angry mob of hundreds of people, dozens of horses and “too many guns to count.” Protesters did not listen to verbal instructions, and authorities could not use pepper spray for fear of starting a gunfight, Myhre told jurors. Outgunned and outnumbered, the federal officers had no choice but to release the cattle and head home, he said. “He got what he wanted, and he got it at the end of a rifle barrel,” Myrhe said. “These defendants knowingly and willingly supplied the barrel.” Defense attorneys countered the government’s description of a planned assault with claims that the standoff resulted from a miscommunication and excessively forceful federal agents. Bundy’s instructions to protesters — to go retrieve his cattle and “get ‘er done” — came after the local sheriff announced that BLM agents had left town, defense teams argued. They said protesters traveled 5 miles from the rally site to the impoundment site for a ceremonious release of the cattle. “It was festive. It was flags and cowboys,” defendant Todd Engel, an Idaho resident who is representing himself, said in his opening statement. “It doesn’t get more down home than that.” Jurors’ attention was locked on Engel, who was dressed in a plaid, button-down shirt and spoke in a calm, even tone. Engel said he and others arrived on the Interstate 15 overpass and realized federal authorities were not only still assembled in the ditch, but had their rifles raised and aimed at protesters.
Defense attorneys showed the jury a photo and two videos that were widely shared online in the days before the standoff. They said online postings, rather than a call from Bundy for militiamen, were the reason their clients traveled to Bunkerville. The first was a “First Amendment corral in the middle of the desert,” Leventhal said, pointing to a photo of the plastic orange fencing that cordoned off the area limiting where people could protest. Defense attorneys also showed videos of BLM authorities using a stun gun on Bundy’s son and knocking a middle-aged grandmother to the ground. Engel was photographed in a prone position, pointing a rifle through a crack in the jersey barrier. He said he was down in that position for about 10 minutes to rest his back following a recent surgery. Defense attorney Terrence Jackson, representing Gregory Burleson, said authorities shouted a “mumble jumble” of inaudible instructions at protesters when they arrived. Protesters filled the bridge and also streamed into the low-lying wash near the impoundment site. “If you ever think of how ants communicated, that’s what happened at this point,” said defense attorney Todd Leventhal, who represents Idaho resident Scott Drexler. “There was no conspiracy. There was no planning. There was no organization at all.”...more

Cowgirls' glory days on exhibit

A glimpse into the showy, skilled and high-risk lives of cowgirls of the early 1900s is highlighted in a display featured at Green Valley's historic Canoa Ranch beginning Feb. 18. “When Bronc Riders Wore Lipstick” runs in tandem with La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo, and ends on Heritage Day at Canoa Ranch. The display includes rare items from Western enthusiast and preservationist Cheri Raftery, who calls her collection “very personal,” and says she's proud to be retaining a small piece of forgotten history. Raftery and her husband Scott lease the equestrian part of Canoa Ranch for their cutting horse business. Authentic cowgirl dress, historic photos and original artwork of them riding in rodeos and exhibitions put the items in context, said Valerie Samoy of Pima County's Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department. The county has owned the ranch since 2001. Included are cowgirl skirts, bronc belts, hats, cuffs, spurs, riding boots, saddles, gear and more. “Together, they graphically illustrate the history of the cowgirl and bring to life her glory days as an unsung hero and genuine icon of the American West,” Samoy said...more

McConnell Lines Up Slew of Cabinet Nominee Votes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid the groundwork for another procedural slog on the Senate floor that could stretch into the early part of March. First up after a previously scheduled vote Tuesday morning on Linda McMahon’s nomination to helm the Small Business Administration will be the Office of Management and Budget director nominee, Rep. Mick Mulvaney. The South Carolina Republican will receive a vote this week after what’s expected to be a blistering debate likely focused on his tea party past, including his past opposition to increased defense spending. The Senate will then turn to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be EPA administrator. Democrats have been girding for that fight, given Pruitt’s record as a legal thorn in the side of the EPA during the Obama administration. As a practical matter, that might be all the Senate does before the week-long Presidents Day break, even though McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, moved to limit debate Monday night on a half-dozen of President Donald Trump’s nominees. “Those we can’t do this week, we’ll finish when we come back,” Majority Whip John Cornyn said. “Pruitt and Mulvaney I think will be this week.” After Pruitt, the terrain could conceivably be less rocky for McConnell and the various remaining Trump nominees. Under the chamber’s rules, they would be taken up in the order that the majority leader filed the paperwork. That means after dispensing with Pruitt, the next votes would be on Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to be Interior secretary, Ben Carson as Housing and Urban Development secretary and finally, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to slot in as Energy secretary...more

The National Park Service Goes Rogue

Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the official National Park Service (NPS) Twitter account was caught retweeting crowd size photos that poked fun at Trump’s poorly attended ceremony. Hours later, the Badlands National Park in western South Dakota began tweeting out facts about human-induced climate change. Then the Death Valley National Park posted tweets about the park’s history as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. The subsequent days brought more rumblings of dissent. Hundreds of “alternative” NPS social media accounts began to appear, run by anonymous NPS employees upset at the Trump administration’s attempt to obstruct evidence of human-caused climate change. A Rogue EPA popped up, followed by a Rogue NASA, USDA, Forest Service, and so on. Some tweeted climate facts relevant to their particular agency or park. Others took it a step further, highlighting the catastrophic ecological impacts of Trump’s border wall and approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. Last weekend, in a front-page article, the New York Times reported that its interviews with dozens of current and recently departed federal employees “reveal a federal workforce that is more fundamentally shaken than usual by the uncertainties that follow a presidential transition from one party to another.” The subhead inside put it even more starkly: “‘Sense of Dread’ Among Civil Servants Stirs Talk of Resistance to Trump.” Ideologically fractured, divided, and contested, government agencies in the age of Trump present themselves not just as sites of struggle but as opportunities for real left advances — especially against a president with little knowledge about the workings of the federal bureaucracy...

Read about these rogue agencies at JACOBIN, which bills itself as "a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture." The post covers several topics, including how Smokey Bear "has recently been taken up as a mascot of anti-Trump resistance." But about these federal agencies they conclude:

 Over 1.4 million people now follow the most popular Rogue NPS page. The page advocates resistance to border walls, privatization of public lands, and suppression of science. Stealing the NPS name and enlisting it in the growing resistance to privatization, resource extraction, climate denial, and racism, the Rogue NPS models a National Park Service that stands up for a concept of nature as common. The Rogue NPS movement is more than cute memes captured in the circuits of communicative capitalism. It marks a symbolic strike against the Trump administration. It bites the hand that feeds it, refusing the power of the powerful. It also tells us that there are people within government agencies who are eager to fight Trump. For the Left, the rogue agencies challenge us to rethink our tactics in this convulsive era. They remind us that the people who staff the NPS, EPA, NPS, NOAA, and other public institutions are not merely state functionaries. They are also producers of common knowledge, even potential agents of subversion.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1781

We have a Rockabilly tune today that goes out to J.R. Absher, who blogs and edits all things about hunting and wildlife and once told me he enjoys the rare and hard to find numbers occasionally found here. This tune fits both: Duck Call Boogie by Gene Price. And if you just have to have this tune you'll find it on the CD Rural Rockin' Hicks.  Of course, some may wish we never found it at all.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump admin. - Just like Obama - wants Gold King Mine spill case dismissed

The Trump administration is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by New Mexico and the Navajo Nation over a 2015 mine-waste spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Justice Department filed a brief Monday arguing that the EPA, as a government agency, has sovereign immunity because its workers and contractors were trying to clean up the abandoned Gold King Mine when it caused the spill in Colorado. The government is continuing the same argument of the Obama administration, which concluded in January that the EPA was legally barred from paying out the $1.2 billion in claims from people, businesses, governments and others who said they were harmed by the spill. Republicans and government representatives near the spill site slammed the Obama administration for that decision, saying its response to the incident was inadequate.“These claims against EPA ignore well-settled law that [the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act] does not waive EPA’s sovereign immunity to suit when its sole connection to the site at issue arises from exercising its authority under CERCLA to respond to other entities’ legacy contamination,” the Justice Department wrote to the federal court in New Mexico...more

As you can see, it doesn't matter who is elected President, the government always protects the government.

One Lawmaker’s Plan to Reform the EPA

by Katie Tubb

Americans, or at least those on the left, have become so accustomed to a heavy-handed Environmental Protection Agency that any adjustment not in the direction of even greater expansion seems to them “revolutionary.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that Texas Rep. Sam Johnson’s efforts to bring sanity back to an expansive EPA are being drubbed as a hateful attempt to wipe out the entire agency.
Johnson recently reintroduced the Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act to the new Congress. The bill would end a number of EPA programs, including:
  • Greenhouse gas regulations, and a bevy of greenhouse gas reporting programs, funds, and initiatives.
  • A premature and excessively conservative ground-level ozone standard.
  • Programs that are priorities for only certain localities like the National Clean Diesel Campaign and environmental justice programs.
  • Regional EPA offices.
  • Grant programs that are mainly used to compensate for the excessive regulatory burden the EPA puts on states and localities.
This bill would save Americans billions of dollars. More importantly, it would restore freedom and responsibility to steward the environment back to states and individuals.

A Special Treat on Swingin' Monday

We recently lost two great ones, and here they are together! George Jones & Johnny Gimble - Take Me Back To Tulsa. Ranch Radio thanks When The Cowboy Sings for this and other great country music.