Friday, September 22, 2017

BLM offers livestock operators increased flexibility through Outcome-Based Grazing Authorizations

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management announced a new initiative today to provide grazing permit holders an unprecedented level of flexibility in the management of livestock while also protecting the public lands.  This effort emphasizes the Trump Administration’s goal of promoting shared conservation stewardship of public lands while supporting uses such as grazing.
“Farmers and ranchers know the wildlife and the land they work better than anyone; it only makes sense that we would enlist them in conservation efforts,” said Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.  “One of my top goals is for the government to be a better neighbor, land manager, and partner.  I think it’s a great step in that direction.  I applaud the team at BLM for coming up with this innovative program.”
Under the demonstration program, the BLM will work with grazing permittees and other stakeholders in identifying 6 to 12 “Outcome-Based Grazing Authorizations” in its first year.  Grazing authorizations typically emphasize process and prescription.  The new authorizations will instead emphasize ecological outcomes, allowing livestock operators more flexibility to make adjustments in response to changing conditions such as drought or wildland fire.  This innovative concept is intended to develop and determine the effectiveness of these permits to manage livestock grazing on public lands in order to meet both natural resource and operational objectives.
“This initiative is in line with the Administration's priority promoting shared stewardship of public lands and giving local stakeholders a say in how these lands are managed,” said Michael D. Nedd, acting BLM Director.  “This demonstration project will allow permittees and the BLM to work together more efficiently and effectively to support sustainable grazing operations.”
The new authorizations will emphasize conservation performance, ecological outcomes and cooperative management of public lands that will also provide greater opportunity for an operator to manage ranching operations that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Through this new demonstration program, the BLM plans to work with permit holders and other stakeholders to show that livestock grazing on the public lands can operate under a more flexible framework than is commonly used in order to better reach agreed upon habitat or vegetation goals.  The BLM and its partners in the grazing community will share experiences and best practices that will determine if additional authorizations can be successful in the future.
The BLM administers nearly 18,000 permits and leases held by ranchers who graze their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) on more than 21,000 allotments.  Livestock grazing occurs on 155 million acres of public lands.
The BLM will solicit project proposals through its state offices with a deadline of  Oct. 27, 2017

This is definitely the way to go, but is hardly as "innovative" as the Secretary seems to think.  After all, the Experimental Stewardship Program was started in 1978 as a result of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act. Various forms of "outcome based" programs have ensued since then, but none have stuck. 

Let's hope the BLM successfully pursues this approach, but also realize this should not divert us from large-scale regulatory reform as called for in Trump's executive orders. 


Cliven Bundy wants to fire attorney just before trial

Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy wants to fire his lawyer less than a month before he is to stand trial on charges related to a 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. Defense attorney Bret Whipple, whom Bundy retained, filed court papers Thursday asking for a hearing as soon as possible. “Defendant has decided to terminate his contract for representation at this time,” Whipple wrote. “The attorney-client relationship has been disrupted.” Bundy “no longer consents to undersigned counsel’s representation of him in this matter or at trial,” the document reads. With a trial set to begin Oct. 10, Whipple said in the filing that Bundy would have to either represent himself or find another lawyer. Reached by phone, Whipple said he is not opposed to U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro presiding over a public hearing “as soon as the court will allow it.” Whipple wrote that he did not know whether Bundy wished to represent himself. One of the rancher’s sons, Ryan Bundy, who also is a defendant in the case, already represents himself. Angela Dows, his standby attorney, also has asked to withdraw from the case, citing a “repugnant” correspondence from Ryan Bundy and a “fundamental disagreement” between the two. The judge decided not to rule on that request after a hearing Thursday morning. Along with the Bundys, five others are scheduled for trial next month...more

Global Warming: Who Are The Deniers Now?

Global warming is "settled science," we hear all the time. Those who reject that idea are "deniers." But as new evidence trickles out from peer-reviewed science studies, the legs beneath the climate change hypothesis — that the earth was doing just fine until carbon-dioxide spewing human beings came along — is increasingly wobbly. A new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience purports to support action by global governments to reduce carbon dioxide output in order to lower potential global warming over the next 100 years or so. But what it really does is undercut virtually every modern argument for taking radical action against warming. Why? The study admits that the 12 major university and government models that have been used to predict climate warming are faulty. "We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models," said Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at Oxford and one of the authors of the study. "We haven't seen that in the observations." And, of course, he's quite right. As we've noted here numerous times, the much-feared "global warming" trend seems to have halted somewhere around 1998. We know this is true because satellite temperature readings — the most accurate temperature gauge since it takes in the entire atmosphere, not just parts of it — show there's been virtually no change. Based on the U.N.'s models, temperatures should have been shooting up sharply starting in about 1995. By this year, model temperatures show we should have had just under a 1.0 degree centigrade rise in temperature, a significant temperature spike in what is, in geological time, an extremely short period. It was those models that were used to sell the world on the idea that we needed a drastic reordering of our global economic priorities immedialy. The reality: virtually no change in temperature. Put simply, the models are wrong...more

EPA Pulls Agents Off Probes For Pruitt’s 24/7, 18-Member Security Detail

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has an unprecedented round-the-clock security detail that now includes 18 people, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed people briefed on the situation. Pruitt’s request for such a large security detail has required the EPA to pull special agents who typically investigate environmental crimes onto his detail, according to the Washington Post and CNN. The EPA administrator reportedly requested a 24/7 security detail of 10 agents when he first assumed his post earlier this year. These latest stories confirm that Pruitt has had a round-the-clock security detail, a first for an EPA administrator. The agency’s inspector general told the Washington Post and CNN that the EPA has seen an uptick in threats this year, many of them directed at Pruitt himself. “We have at least four times — four to five times the number of threats against Mr. Pruitt than we had against Ms. [Gina] McCarthy,” Patrick Sullivan, the EPA’s assistant inspector general for investigations, told CNN.

Mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases could invade 75% of America, warns US government

Mosquitoes capable of spreading serious and potentially deadly diseases such as Zika, dengue and yellow fever could invade about three-quarters of mainland United States, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have warned. The CDC, a US federal agency, has previously warned that climate change could affect human health in many ways including increasing the number of “disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks”.In a paper published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, it revealed maps showing areas where the habitat was suitable for two particular species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus to survive. A study found 71 per cent of counties in the 48 contiguous states were suitable for aegypti and 75 per cent could support albopictus.
The paper said the dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses in particular represented a “growing public health threat in parts of the United States where they are established”.
“We anticipate that Aedes aegypti and albopictus will be found more commonly in counties classified as suitable,” it said.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

TGIFF! Its Fiddle Friday. Yesterday we had a Canadian singer, and today we have a fiddler from Nova Scotia. Here's Natalie MacMaster with what is becoming my favorite version of Beaumont Rag.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ryan Zinke installs 'Big Buck Hunter' video game in Interior Department cafeteria

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke installed the video game "Big Buck Hunter" in the department's cafeteria Tuesday to make a point about conservation. "To highlight #sportsmen contributions 2 conservation I installed Big Buck Hunter in the employee cafeteria. Get excited for #hunting season!" he tweeted. Zinke was referring to an executive order he signed last week to open up national parks and monument areas to more hunting and fishing. See for yourself if the game lives up to his intended expectations. Zinke posted the tweet with a photo of him standing by the 17-year-old arcade-style video game...more

If Trump Doesn’t Revoke ‘Illegal’ Ocean National Monument Created By Obama, The Courts Might

Michael Bastach

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommended President Donald Trump change the boundaries or management of 10 national monuments, including ocean monuments created by the Obama administration. Zinke asked Trump to allow commercial fishing at Obama-designated ocean monuments in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but five of those monuments the Department of the Interior reviewed could be declared unlawful. Earlier this year, the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed suit against the Trump administration on behalf of New England fisherman opposed to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument off the New England coast. PLF’s lawsuit doesn’t just argue against the offshore monument’s prohibition against fishing and crabbing above 3.1 million acres of underwater canyons, the group has also claimed the Antiquities Act is limited to creating national monuments on federally-controlled “lands,” not waters. Should PLF prevail, the Atlantic Ocean monument would be void...more

Oregon House passes bill to shield officer who shot ‘LaVoy’ Finicum

The Oregon House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would shield the identity of the officer who shot and killed Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, and potentially others, despite cross-ideological opposition from both Finicum supporters and Black Lives Matter. The 55-3 House vote came in response to threats against the Oregon State Police officer, whose name has yet to be released pending an investigation. “This bill is deadly serious,” said Democratic state Rep. Jeff Barker during Wednesday’s floor debate as reported by the Oregonian. “This isn’t to protect a wrongdoer. It isn’t to protect a police department that screwed up.” Some supporters of Mr. Finicum have insisted that he was “assassinated” or “murdered” after his vehicle was stopped Jan. 26 at an FBI roadblock on Highway 395. Mr. Barker, who amended the bill last week in committee, said he worried about “whack jobs” who were “demanding to know the name of the officer that killed LaVoy.” The bill would allow a judge to withhold for 90 days the identity of an officer involved in the use of deadly force in the event of a “credible threat of danger.” Mr. Finicum’s allies at the Facebook page Oregon Wide Open said the bill would set a troubling precedent and reduce police transparency...more

15 states now defy Trump by upholding the Paris climate accord

The state-based movement to continue meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change following President Trump’s choice to withdraw is making headway. The U.S. Climate Alliance, as the group is called, said Wednesday that it is on track to meet and possibly surpass its portion of the Paris Agreement’s targets of a 24% to 29% reduction in greenhouse gas emission rates from 2005 levels by 2025. The Paris Agreement, which was adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, aims to reduce emissions in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The bipartisan coalition of states was created by three Democratic governors — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — after President Trump announced in June his plan to withdraw the U.S. from the international accord. North Carolina became the latest and 15th state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, which also includes Puerto Rico. Additionally, two states with Republican governors, Massachusetts and Vermont, are part of the alliance. “Either we end this problem or this problem will end us,” Cuomo said during a press conference in New York, which was also attended by Brown, Inslee and former Secretary of State John Kerry...more

Don’t let fake narrative block Monuments review


...Yet we hear over and over again that the Trump administration has some secret plan to sell lands currently in National Monuments. It’s a fake narrative designed to avoid having a real conversation about the impact monuments have had in Montana and other states. One of the red flags that prompted the Monument review by Secretary Zinke was the sheer scope of land that has been encompassed using the Antiquities Act, which has included hundreds of thousands of acres of private land. It’s clear from the language of the Antiquities Acts itself that it was never intended to be the vehicle for a government land grab. The Antiquities Act also requires that monuments be limited to things like “historic landmarks, and “historic or prehistoric structures”. The Act also limits designations to Federal lands and requires that the size of the monument be “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects.” It is obvious these statutory limitations have been flagrantly ignored over the last twenty years. Since 1996, presidents have used the Act to create 26 monuments larger than 100,000 acres. These 26 monuments aren’t restricted to existing Federal lands—in all cases private lands have been swept up in these massive monument designations. A skewed conception of monuments has developed. The Antiquities Act was intended to protect things like archaeological sites and geological formations. It was never intended to encompass vast swathes of land. The most notorious example is the Missouri Breaks Monument, which sweeps around and isolates over 80,000 acres of private land. The Breaks monument designation didn’t provide any new protections for the Missouri River, which was already protected with a Wild and Scenic River designation—this designation was simply a flagrant land grab. Farmers and ranchers who’ve had their property engulfed by Presidential decree have seen new restrictions that negatively affect their property and offensive intrusions by federal regulators. These landowners live with the ominous knowledge that the federal government has its sights set on one day acquiring their land that lies within the Monument boundaries. Hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationalists have seen a reduction in access to public land with monument designations. Claims that there is somehow an uptick in tourism after a monument designation are also fake—the public land was already there, now it’s just harder to get to. Over 200 miles of public roads have been closed in the Missouri Breaks monument alone...more

As Secretary Zinke Proves...

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Today we bring you the Canadian singer Smiley Bates performing The Legend of the Snow White Dove. The tune is on his 1995 CD The Soul of Country Music.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Trump Bypasses Congress to Open Up World Markets to U.S. Gun Makers

President Trump is ready to shift rules to allow American gun makers more leeway in selling arms and ammunition to foreign buyers. This would mean expanded markets for AR-15s and American made 5.56 and .223 ammunition. According to Reuters, aides to President Trump are finalizing “a plan to shift oversight of international non-military firearms sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department.” And the shift in rules governing sales to foreign buyers can be accomplished without Congressional approval. Moving oversight from the State Dept. to Commerce places things in the hands of a department more interested in upping trade numbers than restricting firearm sales. This provides broadened opportunities for manufacturers like Bushmaster, Daniel Defense, Battle-Tested Equipment, Smith & Wesson (American Outdoor), Sturm, Ruger, and Co., and other American companies. An administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said, “There will be more leeway to do arms sales. You could really turn the spigot on if you do it the right way.” News of the administration’s shift in arms sale policy lifted Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor stock value upwards of 18 percent. The surge is because a shifting oversight of arms sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department “could increase sales by 15-20 percent annually.”...more

Preserving an American tradition: Maintaining access and increasing opportunities on our public lands

Sportsmen are the heart and soul of conservation policy in the United States. In the spirit of the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, our nation values the “wise use of the Earth and its resources for the lasting good of men” through responsible resource management, conservation and recreation. However, to ensure conservation and economic growth can be created by our federal lands, it is important to have access to outdoor activities on America’s public lands, and to have secure Second and Tenth Amendment rights. That is why Congress should pass the “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act.” Many of our nation’s sportsmen enjoy access to our public lands, which also makes possible many jobs in the outdoor recreation industry sector. Maintaining access and increasing opportunities on our public lands will help ensure our natural resources are conserved in perpetuity, and helps sustain good, family supporting jobs for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, federal agencies like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management continue to restrict access to public lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. For many Americans, our public lands are where they have practiced these activities for decades, and remain some of the only locations where they can recreate safely and affordably. Reliable public access to these areas must remain a priority. The SHARE Act safeguards access to our public lands, and features provisions designed to ensure that federal agencies actively work to sustain and expand these opportunities for Americans...more

California suing Trump over border wall, escalating battle with White House

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra plans to announce Wednesday that the state will sue the Trump administration over one of President Trump’s paramount campaign promises—the border wall. Becerra’s lawsuit, expected to target planned projects in San Diego and Imperial counties, marks the latest shot in California's legal and legislative war against Trump. The state essentially has emerged as the heart of the Trump "resistance," pumping out lawsuits against his immigration policies and even passing a resolution Friday in the Assembly censuring Trump for his comments on the violence stemming from white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va. The forthcoming lawsuit comes as Trump works with Congress to try and secure funding for a border wall -- though the specifics of the project itself remain unclear. The president issued an executive order in January calling for securing the “southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking and acts of terrorism.” Last month, the administration awarded contracts to four companies to begin construction. The president tweeted last week that “the WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.”...more

More specifics and a link tu the suit from the LA Times 

Becerra is scheduled to travel to Border Field State Park near San Diego to announce that a lawsuit is being filed in federal court over construction of border wall projects in San Diego and Imperial counties. The lawsuit, which includes the California Coastal Commission as a plaintiff, states its purpose is "to protect the State of California’s residents, natural resources, economic interests, procedural rights, and sovereignty from violations of the United States Constitution" and federal law. It adds that the wall would have a chilling effect on tourism to the United States from Mexico. The state's lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration has failed to comply with federal and state environmental laws and relied on federal statutes that don't authorize the proposed projects. The brief alleges the federal government violated the U.S. Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine "by vesting in the Executive Branch the power to waive state and local laws, including state criminal law.". The lawsuit also says the Department of Homeland Security decided to build the walls without complying with the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. As a result, the lawsuit alleges, the federal government lacks proper environmental analysis of the impact of 400-foot prototypes of the wall currently planned, as well as the 2,000-mile-long final wall.

Border ranchers, in a world without a wall

Dennis Wagner | | USA TODAY NETWORK

Across hundreds of miles, cattle ranchers tell remarkably similar stories, from flowing grasslands of the San Rafael Valley to gnarly peaks of the Atascosa Mountains to saguaro-studded desert. Ranching is a heritage of land, a family legacy, a lifestyle. It’s a cycle of fence mending, cactus dodging and calf branding, measured by sweat and blisters. Most families have been at it more than a century, isolated in wild, lonely, peaceful country with only the buzzing of flies and the bawling of calves. These operations today run about 150,000 head of cattle in southern Arizona, an $18 million economic driver in Cochise County alone. Ranches and grazing leases account for much of the land area, and lifestyle. The Ladd family's San Jose Ranch started up when Pancho Villa’s revolutionaries marauded along the border. More than 120 years later, John Ladd runs cattle there, along 10 miles of border in Cochise County. He recalls a time when nearly all of the locals employed Mexican cowboys. “We had Loreto,” he says. “My dad sponsored him for citizenship, and always kidded that he was my brother.” At a ranch near Nogales, Robert Noon offers a similar memory: “You had your wetbacks coming across,” he says, seemingly unaware that, for some, the word cuts like barbed wire. “They were actually looking for a job — not a handout. We’d give ’em a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they were on their way.” During the 1980s, perhaps 300 border crossers would pass through a ranch each month. They were meek and respectful, begging for water before heading north.

And then the borderland slowly turned to hell. In the ’90s, Ladd says, 300 migrants were crossing his land daily. By the early 2000s, a boom was underway. More migrants, more border patrol, more fences. Under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, the U.S. Border Patrol nearly doubled the number of agents working on the southwestern border to over 17,000. The Border Patrol budget has more than tripled, from $1 billion in 2000 to $3.6 billion last year. Beginning in 2006 under the Secure Fence Act of 2006, the government also built about 700 miles of pedestrian and vehicle barriers. Obama’s administration also added millions of dollars worth of motion sensors, trail cameras, flood lights and other technology collectively described as a “virtual fence.” But, because agents mostly patrolled many miles north of the Mexican boundary, ranches remained a no-man’s land where rival cartels and banditos waged war. On his ranch near Rio Rico, David Lowell drew a “Map of Atrocities” to keep track of where shootouts occurred and bodies were found. Then came the atrocities of 2010. To the east, past Ladd’s spread, a rancher named Robert Krentz was killed. Authorities followed tracks from the murder site to the border, where they lost the trail. Officially, the killer has never been identified. And to the west, in the backcountry of Lowell’s ranch, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was cut down in a gunfight with bandits. Today, there’s a monument to Terry in the remote, tangled canyon where he died. It is, in essence, a private memorial — almost impossible to find or access. Like so many pieces of the border story, it remains unseen.

Deputy Mike Magoffin heads east out of Douglas, Arizona, his head on a swivel. Magoffin stops to inspect footprints across the border road. The tracks are a day old, so he moves on. Magoffin’s a deer hunter, and tracking smugglers or immigrants involves the same skill set and adrenaline. “It’s OK,” he adds, “as long as it doesn’t extrapolate into pulling the trigger.” The radio picks up occasional chatter among Border Patrol agents. No word of immigrants or drug runners. Magoffin pulls out binoculars and points to a boulder-strewn bluff on the Mexican side — a smuggler’s lookout post. “I’m 100 percent certain we’re being watched right now by someone affiliated with the cartel,” he says. He just can’t see them.Magoffin is on ranch patrol. When things got bad on the border, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office created a team of deputies to help cattle growers deal with the immigrants, smugglers and Border Patrol. For 25 miles, fencing is variable. Some areas are guarded by an 18-foot bollard-style barricade; others have only Normandy vehicle barriers. Magoffin steps up to the more imposing fence, scales it in a matter of seconds, then jumps back to earth. The road ends atop a hill near the Mafioso Trail. From that point for 20 miles, the United States and Mexico are separated only by barbed wire.

Magoffin says this is probably the hottest smuggling zone. He dramatically peers in all directions, seeing no one. “It’s because of all the Border Patrol presence,” he says, sarcastically. Agents are rarely spotted. “We haven’t seen one since the Slaughter Ranch, about 40 minutes ago.” Reminded that the number of agents roughly doubled during the past decade, Magoffin nods. “There may be more back at the station,” he allows, “but out here? It doesn’t look like it.” Ranchers down here will tell you they despised the Obama administration, and helped vote Donald Trump into the White House. Yet a funny thing happens when you ask them about the president’s famous promise of a “tall, powerful, beautiful” border wall. Almost unanimously, they think it’s bad idea. Ladd, a cowboy who looks like the Marlboro man and runs cattle along 10 miles of border in Cochise County: “Enforce our immigration laws first. Put Border Patrol agents in sight of one another (along the international line). If you have line of sight, you don’t need a wall.” Manuel Solomon, a 71-year-old caballero, who has just finished castrating and branding calves near Rio Rico: “It won’t really matter. They (immigrants) will still come here. They’ll still climb it or go around it to find jobs.” Noon, who works a couple cow-calf operations outside Nogales: “A wall is a wall. It’s going to stop some traffic, but they’ll find a way around it. … In the long term? It’s a major waste of money. And it’s kind of ludicrous to think Mexicans will pay for it.”

David Lowell, a rancher who also has a degree in mine engineering, estimates that a three-story concrete wall might eliminate 80 percent of the illegal traffic, adding, “That would be all to the good as far as we’re concerned.” On the other hand, Lowell says, a barrier like the communist regime erected in East Berlin might work much better: “It would be two, sturdy, razor-wire fences with electrical currents and a road between them.” “The wall without the agents won’t do anything,” Magoffin says. “If you tell me, ‘Everything you want is on the other side of the wall and I won’t look,’ I’m going over that wall.” Ladd concedes that today’s rancher outrage is aimed mostly at how things used to be, not how they are. Ladd has not seen migrants on the property since Christmas. No smugglers’ vehicles have come through in 18 months. In fact, illegal immigration has been plummeting for years. Border Patrol data show 54,891 people were apprehended in southern Arizona’s Tucson Sector in 2016 — about one-tenth the number captured in 2000. An even sharper decline this year has been attributed, at least in part, to prospective immigrant fears after President Donald Trump took office and signed executive orders to start planning for the wall. Overall apprehensions dropped by two-thirds in April. Drive the border anywhere in this region and the story is the same. Rancher frustration is still real, palpable, even now that few crossers are around to be seen.

Ladd hops in an old, red pickup truck and churns a 3-mile trail of dust to newly installed border fence. Thick metal slats, 18 feet high, are emblazoned with the words “Korean Steel.” “This is probably 90 percent effective,” Ladd says. “It’s the best I’ve seen as far as design.” A brisk wind blows from Sonora, making a “shwoooo” sound as it crosses through fencing and into the United States. “That’s a wonderful sound,” Ladd says, smiling.

Up Against the Border Wall

On a quiet, late-spring morning in northern Sonora, Mexico, a beaver putters across a pond the size of a football field. A sinuous dam, 5 feet high, forms the pond’s southern edge. Frogs croak amid gnawed stumps, and the air is alive with birds and flying insects. “This is all new; this wasn’t here last week,” says Daniel Toyo, an agricultural technician with Naturalia, a Mexican environmental nonprofit. “It takes them three days to build something like this.” Naturalia manages the Rancho Los Fresnos, a 39-square-kilometer (9,577-acre) property that was once a working cattle ranch. Now, it’s a demonstration site for sustainable ranching techniques and conservation education. Los Fresnos encompasses the largest remaining group of ciénegas, or desert springs, in the watershed of the San Pedro River, which flows north into Arizona and joins the Gila River east of Phoenix. Most of the region’s desert wetlands have been degraded or destroyed by farms, ranches, and urban development. The beaver (Castor canadensis) stops to nibble on a floating branch. Then it heads for a den dug into the near bank, leaving a wake that spreads across the surface and disappears. The only sound is the breeze rustling the leaves of cottonwood trees, and the occasional bird song. Taking in this placid scene, it’s hard to believe that it could be so close to one of the most controversial international boundaries in the Americas. The Arizona border is just a 5-minute dirt-road drive north. Gerardo Carreón, Naturalia’s conservation director, walks a short distance upstream and points out rusty cans, socks, and pieces of burlap wedged among the rocks. “Border crossers often leave trash,” he says. “Drug smugglers wrap their feet in burlap sacks to hide their footprints. Sometimes word goes out: ‘Don’t be out on the property after dark.’” He points out flashes of light in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains just across the border: the windshields of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) trucks glinting in the sunlight. What appears as a tiny white oval hanging high above the vehicles is the CBP’s 200-foot-long helium-filled blimp with a radar system that can detect low-flying, drug-smuggling aircraft from 200 miles away. “I don’t think they’ve ever caught anything,” in part because smugglers have shifted their operations to the ground, Carreón says. Amid all this, the beavers most likely waddled or paddled south from Arizona, where their forebears were reintroduced in 1999; after all, much of the ranch’s northern boundary is nothing more than a barbed-wire fence. But that would change if President Trump follows through on his campaign promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” between the U.S. and Mexico...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Ranch Radio likes to recognize modern artists who keep the traditional sound in their music. That’s what we have in Kevin Anthony & G-Town and a tune from the 2017 CD Jump The Fence titled Meet Me In The Valley.