Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dona Ana County Commission supports keeping OMDP intact

Diana Alba Soular 

As President Donald Trump's administration is carrying out a review of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and other monuments across the country, Doña Ana County commissioners reiterated support for the public lands designation Tuesday. After five hours of debate, the County Commission, in a 4-1 vote, passed a measure expressing continued support for the three-year-old monument and opposing any reductions in its size. County Commissioner Ben Rawson was the dissenting vote. The measure and a second monument-related item drew roughly 300 people, one of the largest crowds at a County Commission meeting in the past decade. County Commissioner Billy Garrett proposed the measure that passed. "To me, it's a clear statement of support for where we are with the monument," he said after the meeting. "It's been designated by a president. The way forward is through the management plan. We really don't want to go backward." Most of Tuesday's attendees were supporters, for wide-ranging reasons, of the national monument and backed Garrett's resolution. A contingent of opponents to Garrett's resolution mostly expressed support for a second monument-related item proposed by Rawson. Representatives from U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both D-N.M., stated support for Garrett's proposal. A representative for U.S.Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., reiterated support for a much-smaller national monument that would cover the Organ Mountains only, not four other mountain ranges now included in the boundaries. Tuesday, the second monument-related item, proposed by Rawson, sought for the Interior Department to also review private lands that are surrounded by monument territory for possible effects to them. That measure died for lack of a second to Rawson's motion. Several ranchers, including 39-year-old Wes Eaton, who have grazing allotments on public lands in the monument and own private acreage, addressed county commissioners. Eaton said he has a parcel of private land that's enveloped by national monument land in the south county. The heart of his concern is that the national monument — though it does allow for existing rights-of-way — doesn't allow for new ones. So, if he wanted to extend electrical utilities to his private parcel from the nearest El Paso Electric Co. line, he wouldn't be able to get the right-of-way approved. "We don't have any way to get utilities to it anymore," he said. Eaton said he's not opposed to a national monument, but prefers that it cover the Organ Mountains only. And he backs the federal review of the monument "to look at it from a different set of eyes."...more

NM ranchers seek to shrink new monument

Desert ranchers in New Mexico are hoping the new GOP administration in Washington will dramatically shrink a recently designated national monument in the south of the state where outlaw Billy the Kid and Apache leader Geronimo once sought refuge. The review is rekindling a fierce debate about oversight of lands marked by ancient petroglyphs and towering mountain spires. President Barack Obama designated the monument in 2014, emphasizing the need to preserve the area’s unique past, and ensure opportunities for outdoor recreation and hunting. Cattle-grazing has continued undiminished within the monument boundaries, but many ranchers fear that gradual limitations might eventually drive them out, said Tom Mobley, who operates a ranch with about 150 cattle under a federal grazing permit within the monument. A leading voice in a coalition that resisted the monument designation, Mobley believes Obama failed to comply with the federal Antiquities Act by focusing on an overarching area rather than specific objects of historical and scientific interest. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce has called the monument on the outskirts of Las Cruces just one example of federal interference with a struggling rural economy. While mulling a possible run for governor in 2018, Pearce has jumped back into a yearslong effort to limit any new wilderness or monument designation at the jagged Organ Mountains and nearby lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. “The local population said protect, but also don’t overreach,” said Pearce, the lone Republican lawmaker among New Mexico’s five-member delegation to Washington. “The economy in our rural western states is just choked down by the federal government.” Pearce last week urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reduce the outline of the monument from 775 square miles to about 95 square miles and hopes to accompany Zinke on a promised visit to New Mexico in coming weeks...more

FBI agent indicted for alleged false statements in LaVoy Finicum shooting - video

An FBI agent has been indicted on federal accusations that he lied about firing at Robert "LaVoy" Finicum last year as police arrested the leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. The agent will face allegations of making a false statement with intent to obstruct justice, according to sources familiar with the case. The indictment stems from a more than year-long investigation by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Justice. The agent will be identified when he's summoned to appear in U.S. District Court in Portland at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Investigators said a member of the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team fired at Finicum as his 2015 Dodge pickup truck crashed into a snow bank at a roadblock on U.S. 395. Finicum had just sped away from a surprise traffic stop on the rural highway as the occupation leaders traveled off the refuge to a community meeting Jan. 26, 2016. The agent's bullets didn't hit Finicum, 54, an Arizona rancher who was the spokesman for the armed takeover of the federal sanctuary near Burns in Harney County. Moments later, state police troopers shot Finicum three times after he emerged from his white truck and reached for his inner jacket pocket, where police said he had a loaded 9mm handgun. One bullet pierced his heart, an autopsy found...more

Here is the slo-mo video of the shot

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1876

Craving some flatpickin', so here's my favorite flatpicker, Doc Watson with his son Merle on Black Mountain Rag. The tune is on their 1972 Guitar album.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Upper Missouri Breaks will keep its national monument status, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says

Cutting off public campaigns by proponents and opponents, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday he plans to recommend the Upper Missouri Breaks retain its status as a national monument, effectively taking it off the list of monuments nationwide that could lose their status. “My likely recommendation will be to leave the Missouri Breaks as is,'' Zinke said. "I think it’s settled to a degree that I would rather not open up a wound that has been healed.'' Zinke made his remarks at a press conference following his appearance at the Western Governors’ Association meeting. The announcement shocked people on both sides of the issue. Nicolle Fugere, owner of Missouri River Outfitters in Fort Benton, was featured in one of four billboards erected in Flathead County, by a group called Hold Our Ground, which opposes the review. "I honestly did not think it would go in this direction, so it was a bit of a shock," she said. A recent Headwaters Economics report was cited by Hold Our Ground, which found that communities around the monument saw a "23 percent increase of real per capita income from 2001 to 2015." Chuck Denowh, who represents the United Property Owners of Montana in the Legislature, said the monument has had a "terrible impact" on the area's economy, not a benefit. "Especially for those many Montanans with property inside those boundaries," Denowh said. "That's 81,000 acres of private land." Denowh called Zinke's announcement "deeply disappointing," but he and Fugere aren't completely sure that the review has been dropped given Zinke's phrasing in the announcement that he would "likely" recommend leaving the monument as it is now..more

Zinke calls for fewer barriers to development on public land

Removing bureaucratic obstacles to development on federal land can create jobs and offer hope to nearby communities, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday in hinting at long-term changes in store for federal agencies, including the Interior Department. Promising reorganization “on a scale of 100 years” but without offering specifics, Zinke said the Interior Department and other land management agencies need to better cooperate. Right now, agencies that evaluate the same project often end up providing conflicting opinions, he said at the Western Governors’ Association annual meeting in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. “Jobs matter. There’s a social cost of not having jobs. And we love environmental regulations fair and equitable, but it takes wealth to make sure that we can maintain those regulations and improve,” Zinke said. The Interior Department has begun reviewing its practice of requiring developers to offset the harm of their projects by paying for conservation elsewhere, he said. “Some people would call it extortion. I call it un-American,” Zinke said of that policy. ..more 

One hopes this will also bring a halt to BLM''s occasional practice of requiring ranchers to share water or grant easements across their property as a condition of receiving a permit to graze. You won't find a better example of extortion than that. Not only should it be stopped, it should be expunged from any existing permits.  

Trump administration to propose repealing rule giving EPA broad authority over water pollution

President Trump’s administration will revoke a rule that gives the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority over regulating the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday. Testifying before Congress, Pruitt — who earlier said he would recuse himself from working on active litigation related to the rule — said that the agency would “provide clarity” by “withdrawing” the rule and reverting standards to those adopted in 2008. Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, had sued EPA over the regulation, saying it “usurps” state authority, “unlawfully broadens” the definition of waters of the United States and imposes “numerous and costly obligations” on landowners. A withdrawal was expected, based on the executive order Trump signed in February targeting the rule. But this is the first clear signal of how the EPA will act on the president’s order...more

Supreme Court Limits Rights Of Property Owners

 Kevin Daley

The Supreme Court constrained the rights of property owners Friday, establishing a test that favors government officials in assessing the loss of property value caused by government regulations. Writing for a 5-3 court, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that state and local officials can combine separate parcels of land in assessing whether local government has effectively seized private property through regulation, requiring compensation. Kennedy’s opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a fiery dissent, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The case concerned a Wisconsin family called the Murrs, who argued that the government has unconstitutionally taken their land by refusing to allow them to sell it. “This is an unfortunate decision for the Murrs, and all property owners,” said John Groen, general counsel and vice president of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest group that represented the family. “We are disappointed that the Court did not recognize the fundamental unfairness to the Murrs of having their separate properties combined, simply to avoid the protection of the takings clause.” The Murr family owns two pieces of property on the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. They attempted to sell one of their waterfront lots (called “Lot E”) to finance improvements to a cabin they own on the second plot (called “Lot F”). The value of Lot E had been assessed at $400,000. Environmental officials blocked the sale for violating conservation rules. A county board further declared that state law required the two lots be merged into a single piece of property that could not be broken up and sold in smaller parcels. In effect, the Murr family argues, the government-mandated merger of their properties stripped them of nearly half a million dollars, as they are now unable sell Lot E. They claim that this constitutes a violation of the Constitution’s takings clause, which prohibits the government from seizing private property for public use without “just compensation.”...more

Three artists will portray national monument in their own way

...When she does, Southworth will present this little piece of internal irony to the external world as the monument’s inaugural artist-in-residence employs her artistic eye and steady hand to tell the story of what it’s like to look into, and out of, monument lands. The retired Southern Oregon University botanist and Ashland resident is in the midst of a two-week stint. She’s the first of three artists selected this summer to interpret the monument’s raw essence in their own media. In July, Mabrie Ormes of Ashland plans to create a series of paintings for what she sees along the Grizzly Peak Trail, which is part of the monument’s January expansion to 113,013 acres within a 137,500-acre footprint. In August, photographer Matt Witt of Talent plans to capture images of the wild lands and biodiversity in the monument created in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to protect its “spectacular biological diversity.” They were chosen among applicants from as far away as the United Kingdom to turn creative eyes toward the monument during a summer in which it faces Trump Administration review and two federal lawsuits looking at whether the expansion by President Barrack Obama under the federal Antiquities Act was valid. Artists stay at a trailer parked at the Bureau of Land Management’s Hyatt Lake Recreation Area campground for easy access to the monument. When completed, they each will hold at least one public exhibit of the art they produced during their unpaid term...more

Aw, look at the pretty lady, sitting among the wildflowers, and painting a scene for the BLM.

Not familiar with the BLM's artist-in-residence program? I've previously written about it here and here and their website is here.

I do believe, though, this is the first one I've seen where the artists are being brought in to lobby against the President and the Secretary. True, this program was started in March, while the President's EO on monument review wasn't signed until April. But they must have known something was up, and besides, the lawsuit challenging the expansion of the monument was filed in February.

A judge has put the lawsuit on hold, pending the outcome of the monument review.  Seems to me BLM should put this program on hold...permanently. Okay, at least until the monument review is completed.

Some welcome review of the Cascade-Siskiyou expansion

By Blair Moody

Many of us in Southern Oregon welcome the Interior Department's review of selected national monuments established under the Antiquities Act. The review includes the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and its expansion under President Obama. For those of us who were shut out of the process, including our own locally elected officials, the review gives our leaders and citizens an opportunity to voice concerns that were previously ignored. The Antiquities Act gives any president the ability to make major federal land use decisions with the stroke of a pen. It does not require public participation. A national monument is often established without analyzing how it would impact local economies, nor does it consider how access and use of public lands will be affected in the future. Such is the case of the Cascade-Siskiyou expansion. It's a political product, put together by special interest groups and Washington D.C. insiders, and driven by our U.S. Senators who are supposed to represent all Oregonians. There continues to be legitimate concerns about how the expansion might affect access and private property rights inside, and adjacent to, the monument. It's unclear how the larger monument affects our ranchers. It's also unclear what the expansion means for future management of Southern Oregon's dry, fire-prone forests that are administered by the Bureau of Land Management...more

Oregon ranch claims grazing prohibition encourages juniper, wildfire

Mateusz Perkowski

An Oregon ranch is challenging the federal government’s decision to eliminate grazing on more than 8,000 acres of public land to study vegetation. Cahill Ranches of Adel, Ore., has filed a complaint alleging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decision will encourage juniper encroachment and wildfires while harming sage grouse populations. “Eliminating grazing is not necessary to prevent irreparable damage to sage grouse or sage grouse habitat and the best available science shows that eliminating management will increase the risk of loss of habitat from rapidly spreading and intense wildfire and juniper expansion,” the lawsuit said. A representative of BLM said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Rangeland conditions within the 8,282-acre Sucker Creek pasture have been determined to be in good health by the BLM, whose decision to re-authorize grazing in the area for 10 years drew no objections from environmental groups, the complaint said. The agency has also already conducted a juniper research project in the area, the complaint said. Cahill Ranches postponed juniper removal on its property between 2007 and 2014, providing the BLM with a “control area” for comparison with areas where the invasive trees were removed. After the conclusion of the study, which determined sage grouse reproduction and survival improved in areas treated for juniper, Cahill Ranches resumed removing the trees from its property. The BLM’s decision to halt grazing in the pasture to study the natural development of vegetation is thus unnecessary, particularly since it is near two federal refuges where grazing is already prohibited, according to the plaintiffs...more

Ranchers Pay Price for JBS Graft as Giant Buying Less

On the flat green pastures of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, ranchers are witnessing firsthand what happens when the biggest cattle buyer stumbles. JBS SA, the nation’s meat-producing powerhouse, used to buy almost half of the Mato Grosso cattle headed for slaughterhouses. But since the company’s owners admitted taking part in a sweeping corruption scheme, its finances have been squeezed and purchases have plunged. Even worse, JBS no longer offers cash upon delivery of animals and instead asks to pay ranchers as much as 30 days later. Producers say they fear not getting paid for the cattle delivered to JBS, especially with banks asking ranchers for additional guarantees on loans made against expected sales to the company. Still, no payment delays by JBS have been reported so far, ranchers say. JBS also is seeking to refinance part of its debt with lenders in Brazil amid tighter credit conditions. “If the banks aren’t providing credit to JBS, why should we?” said Alexandre Caiado, 30, a second-generation rancher in Juina, Mato Grosso. “A lot of producers are only making punctual sales, just enough to pay the bills.”...more

Police Stop Self Driving Amish Buggy

Apple Creek, Ohio – Officers with the Apple Creek Police Department and Wooster Ohio State Patrol had to make a very unusual traffic stop when they noticed a runaway horse and buggy with no person inside. The horse and buggy were headed down State Route 250. Knowing that the runaway buggy posed an immediate threat to both human and property, Sgt Smith leaped onto the buggy and managed to pull the horse to a stop. His act of bravery is exceptional for, as one local worded it, “a city boy.” Once stopped, the horse collapsed from exhaustion and laid on the ground while officers searched for its owner. Once the owner was located, he took control of his horse and drove the buggy away. No information is available on the condition of the horse. LINK

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Here's Merle Travis with his November 25, 1947 recording of Get Along Blues.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Judge places Oregon refuge occupier Geoffrey Stanek on home detention, 2 years probation

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Oregon refuge occupier Geoffrey Stanek, described as one of the more minor players indicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to two years of probation, including six months of home detention. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown said the home detention was warranted, partly to ensure Stanek doesn't respond again to a "call to arms'' from Facebook acquaintances on behalf of "We the People." Geoffrey Stanek "You're free to think what you choose, but your conduct crossed the line,'' the judge said. "I need to be sure you won't take it upon yourself to answer that type of call again. ... You need to put this chapter behind you. You need to respect the law, whether you agree with it or not.'' The judge said she considered that Stanek entered a guilty plea early to a federal conspiracy charge last year and that he didn't withdraw his plea after occupation leaders who went to trial were acquitted last fall. The fact that he heeded the FBI's request that he and others leave the refuge the night of Jan. 26, 2016, after the arrests of Ammon Bundy and others leaders, also worked in his favor, the judge said. "On the other hand, you were part of the problem,'' Brown told Stanek. Stanek, 27, brought an AR-15 rifle and a body armor vest to the refuge on Jan. 7, 2016, after learning of the takeover on Facebook. There, he performed armed guard duty in the watchtower and at the refuge entrances. He also blocked a refuge entrance with an ATV belonging to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service...more

Road to King Cove approved for survey by Department of Interior

The long-debated proposed road between Cold Bay and King Cove could be seeing real progress, according to Alaska Governor Bill Walker. In a news release issued Monday, a spokesperson for Walker said that the "initial steps to building a life-saving road" between the two communities was green lit in a call from Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Secretary Ryan Zinke called this morning to let me know the Interior Department has granted the State permission to begin looking at the least impactful route between King Cove and Cold Bay,” Governor Walker said in the statement. This, after a proposal for the road was introduced by Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan in January...more

Advocates outraged over reassignment of Forest Service ranger

Conservation and public lands access advocates are outraged over the reassignment of a Forest Service district ranger who had tangled with landowners over public access in the Crazy Mountains. Alex Sienkiewicz was removed from his position as the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s Yellowstone District Ranger last week and reassigned to lead the team analyzing a potential mineral withdrawal in the Absaroka Mountains south of Livingston. He also faces an internal review. The move came after years of trail disputes with landowners in the Crazy Mountains, which fell under his jurisdiction. One such dispute resulted in a hunter being cited for trespassing. The hunter settled the case last week. Marna Daley, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service, said Sienkiewicz is filling a void the forest had been unable to fill by taking over the mineral withdrawal team. She didn’t offer any more detail on the review or its origins, other than to confirm that landowner concerns had been raised with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and that removing Sienkiewicz is meant to distance him from the issues involved in the internal review...more

Drones continue to cause problems for wildfire crews

Unauthorized drones continued to vex crews battling wildfires, with another spotted on Sunday that temporarily halted aerial efforts to put out a fire northwest of Flagstaff. It was the second drone that has been observed at the fire, known as the Boundary Fire, said Dennis Godfrey, a public information officer with the Bureau of Land Management. It was unknown how long efforts were stopped due to the drone, Godfrey said. The fire, started by lightning on June 1, was 88 percent contained, officials said. Firefighters were unable to recover the drone or identify the operator. Since drones became popular among hobbyists, wildfire officials have warned against their use. "I think it's happening all over," he said. "And it's a problem if people don't abide by restrictions."...more

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinkle Visits Montana

Interior Department secretary Ryan Zinkle will be in Montana, this week. But it may not be the homecoming he was expecting. Zinkle, who was our Congressman, was picked by President Trump to serve as the new Interior secretary. It is because of that we had a special election and now Greg Gianforte is our congressman. The problem is Environmental groups are trying crash Zinkle’s homecoming. The Tree Hugers, oh I’m sorry I meant to say, the Montana environmental groups, are upset that Zinkle is reviewing and possibly scale back or even eliminate funding for certain national monuments. Dozens of monuments are under the new Interior secretary control. The groups are also worried about how he will deal with the Upper Missouri River Breaks. Zinke, who is in town to speak at Western Governors Association, will be met with protests. Billboards demanding he not touch the Upper Missouri River Breaks are going up. “Don’t touch the national monuments!” is the chant he may be hearing instead of the “Welcome Home Ryan Zinke” chant he may have been expecting...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1875

It may be Swingin’ Monday, but Billy Mata & Texas Tradition are Bluer Than Blue. The tune is on their 2008 CD This is Tommy Duncan, Vol. 1.