Sunday, November 30, 2003


Glacier burst floods creek High in the Wind River Mountain Range, just north of Wyoming's highest peak, is a natural trench that runs like a hallway straight through a glacier to where a lake used to be. On Sept. 6, Mother Nature uncorked the lake, releasing 600 million gallons of water through the trough, surging down into Dinwoody Creek...Officials Welcome 'Healthy Forest' Act But David Caine of the Arrowhead Communities Fire Safe Council said lawsuits by environmental extremists have hamstrung the Forest Service in a misguided attempt to protect federal lands from all logging -- even selective thinning -- and human encroachment. "The Healthy Forest Act will relax some environmental code sections that were more of an obstacle than a benefit" to the forests, Caine said. "They were encumbered with environmental reporting and surveys ... in a prolonged process that actually obstructed forest management." Caine said prudent forest management is especially critical in an "intermixed" environment, where wildlands coexist intimately with human dwellings...Environmentalists doubt safety of fire retardant As fires raged in the West this fall, air tanker pilots flew low above rugged terrain and treetops spraying red mists of chemicals to slow the advancing flames. Some are concerned those millions of gallons of chemical fire retardant that helped firefighters protect lives and property could in the long run harm the environment or firefighters' health. A group of former U.S. Forest Service workers and environmentalists has filed a complaint saying the government has never done extensive reviews to determine if the fertilizer-based fire retardants pose risks to wildlife or humans. Until the environmental impact studies are done, they want the court to limit use of the chemicals...Editorial: Saving a mountain treasure Southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico have been punctured by more than 20,000 oil and gas wells, including some that bore into coal seams to extract methane. Another 12,000 wells are planned in the area south of Durango and near Aztec and Farmington, N.M. Few national forests and other federal land in the San Juan Basin haven't yet sprouted drill rigs, roads and pipelines. One of the few remaining undisturbed spots is the HD Mountains area, a patch of rugged canyons and steep hills covered by old-growth forests. The ecosystem, with its endangered species habitat and 300-year-old trees, should stay off-limits to new roads and unnatural surface disturbance. Happily, a compromise is possible that would protect the heart of the natural area while still letting oil and gas companies extract most of the energy resources...Fire industry worth billions of dollars At least 125 for-profit companies, mostly in the Western United States, earn all or part of their income providing fire engines or crews to the federal government, according to Debbie Miley, executive director of the National Wildlife Suppression Association, a trade association for private firefighters. Fire engines and hand crews are only part of the business. Modern firefighting requires caterers and bulldozer drivers, portable toilet and shower providers, bus drivers and mechanics and electricians. It employs meteorologists, biologists, fire-behavior specialists, public affairs officers, accountants, supply officers, medics, administrators of all stripes and a whole bunch of pilots and air crews...Rancher finds plan to protect mouse gives him some security When Livermore rancher Al Johnson learned biologists had trapped a federally protected species of mouse near a stream that cut through his 2,000-acre ranch, he couldn't help a feeling of dread. Even though the Preble's meadow jumping mouse had not been found on his property, the mice had been trapped on both sides of his ranch. So federal biologists declared his three streams mouse habitat and told him that he would have to tailor his ranching operation to minimize damage to the little critter's habitat...At 30, Endangered Species Act still breeds controversy But as the Endangered Species Act marks its 30th anniversary in December, the country's most powerful environmental law finds itself under attack from all sides. Politicians say the law has been hijacked by environmentalists and turned into an anti-growth tool. Conservation groups accuse the Bush administration of trying to ignore the law. Meanwhile, officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service struggle with programs that are hundreds of millions of dollars in the red. The agency routinely fails to make timely decisions, and nearly every decision it does make generates a lawsuit. As a result, court orders dictate many of the agency's actions...Organ Pipe barrier expected to keep drugs, entrants out A new $17 million vehicle barrier at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument promises to help keep out loads of illegal drugs and immigrants along one of the U.S. border's most popular smuggling routes. The barrier, old railroad rails buried five feet deep and welded into a ribbon of steel, will do nothing to stop foot traffic and is designed only to deter cars and trucks and the damage they do when they tear across protected plants and carve rutted paths in fragile desert soil. But agencies that manage border lands are eager to get similar barriers for their own property, in part because the fences they have now are no more than a hodgepodge of broken barbed wire, power poles and abandoned cars shoved into the gaps. The new barriers are popular for another reason, too: Agencies fear the new Organ Pipe fence will actually work, pushing smugglers' vehicles onto their lands...Sides agree energy bill will return Faced with steadfast opposition, Senate leaders had no choice last month but to turn out the lights on a sweeping energy policy, including provisions aimed at expanding energy production in the Rocky Mountain West. But both sides recognized that blockage in the Senate was a time out rather than a decisive victory...Long-lasting health effects of wildfires unknown As wildfires raged out of control throughout Southern California at the end of October, most residents heeded the medical advice of doctors and stayed indoors. They avoided physical activity and ran their air conditioners rather than open windows. But what happens now that the smoke has cleared and county health officials issue periodic warnings of hazardous air when the wind blows and ash once again briefly fills the sky?...Pacific Northwest salmon farms breed concerns Not only Norway is swarming with escaped Atlantic salmon. They are also swimming free in Oregon's back yard. Many of the same risks -- disease and threat to native stocks -- follow them. And U.S. and Canadian government agencies, caught flatfooted by the salmon farming boom, have acted slowly...Utah Joins States Supporting Looser EPA Clean-Air Rules Utah will join eight other states that approve the federal Environmental Protection Agency's decision to loosen the Clean Air Act's regulations to allow older power plants, refineries, and factories to modernize without having to install expensive pollution controls. The Utah Attorney General's office this week intervened in the lawsuit, making Utah among nine states coming to the defense of the EPA's relaxed air-quality regulations...Column: Turning Northeast Wyoming Upside Down in the Hunt for Coal-Bed Methane In the Powder River Basin, it's hard to miss the fresh dirt roads that crawl along the draws and up over the saddles in the hills. But those roads are a sign that the surface no longer means much in this part of Wyoming. What the eye can't see is that the real owners of the land own what lies beneath. Those who own the surface are just squatters. The Powder River Basin is the most active region of coal-bed methane drilling in the nation, a place where in the next few years more than 50,000 wells will have been drilled to obtain, at most, a year's supply of natural gas. There has always been plenty to divide one neighbor from another in the area. But the coal-bed methane push, which began, innocuously enough, with a tax credit in the late 1980's, has caused a bitterness that may never be repaired...Fight on to Save Plains Water Source An estimated 5 billion gallons is pumped from the Ogallala aquifer annually with the majority of it going to irrigate farm fields in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming. Farmers tap into the Ogallala to help them grow corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans and other crops, which become food products or fatten livestock. Estimates of the aquifer's long-term sustainability vary according to geography, with some areas of the underground water supply still showing another 250 years of capacity or more. But many areas spread through the different states have far less time - maybe 60 more years of capacity, some experts say...Anger at disruption to live sheep export Activists allegedly broke into a feedlot, slipping what is believed to be shredded ham into the food and water of sheep in a bid to stop the animals being exported to the middle east. The 70,000 sheep, destined for Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, will remain at Portland until tests are completed. Member for Wannon, David Hawker, said the action was "nothing short of economic terrorism"...Bison market on rise A four-year slump blamed on oversupply of bison and lack of demand is ending, with prices spiking at the same time beef cattle are selling at record high prices, officials say. Reduced herds and campaigns to build a consumer base for bison meat are bringing the higher prices, according to the National Bison Association...U.S.-EU trade woes test relations The American-European trade and investment relationship is the largest in the world, with about $1 billion in transactions a day. The bulk of trans-Atlantic commerce goes smoothly, but divergent rules and regulations on corporate takeovers, chemicals, agriculture and food labeling are threatening to stifle some trade...Ranchers keep afloat by pitching high-priced deer hunts on Web But perhaps even more unusual was the way the hunt was marketed: on the Internet. Increasingly, the traditional deer hunt -- which last year accounted for almost $1 billion in retail sales in Texas -- is going 21st-century high tech, with ranchers who eschew the word "kill" for "harvest," using computers to market and sell hunting rights on their land. Months before last year's high-stakes hunt, Vela photographed available bucks on the ranch, posting a photo gallery of them on the Internet -- a practice that allows him to book dozens of hunts...Vanishing life Babe Hogan fires up the tractor, a relic dating back to 1941 but still raring to go. Cattle grazing deep in the valley rush -- as fast as hefty pregnant heifers can -- toward the cantankerous purr of the engine. The cattle rancher chugs out to pasture towing barrels full of corn and oat pellet cake. Hogan drives in a slow, wide circle; the herd falls behind. The smell of wet hay from the night's rainfall and the rising mist of a cool January morning re-create a timeless moment in a southeastern field in Boulder County...Cowboy Soul I learned long ago that being a real cowboy is not a matter of wearing a silver belt buckle and a big hat. It isn't even bullriding, rodeos, or having cattle or horses. Nor does being a cowboy have to do with whether or not you were born in Texas, Colorado or Montana. Some of the greatest cowboys who ever lived have come from places like Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Some have even come from as far away as Ireland, Scotland, England and France. Many were metis, half-breed French-Cree-Canadians living on the Red River of the North. The Red River of cowboy song fame is in fact the Red River between Minnesota and Canada, and not the one that runs in Texas. Cowboys also roamed the mountains and meadows of Alberta...
New laws target increase in acts of ecoterrorism

A rise in ecoterrorism is prompting federal and state lawmakers to craft laws aimed specifically at radical environmental and animal-rights activists.

For those wanting to crack down on people who use arson and threats of personal violence to force better treatment of animals and nature, tougher legal penalties are logical. But to civil libertarians, and especially to law-abiding activists, this trend is an attempt to stifle legitimate political dissent, including peaceful civil disobedience. That it comes at a time of political stress over the war in Iraq, sometimes rough protests against international trade agreements, and calls to patriotism is not lost on either side.

Initially, acts of "monkey wrenching" amounted to little more than vandalism aimed at such targets as logging equipment and mink farms. In the 1990s, that escalated to major arson and bombings. Meanwhile, the range of targets in recent months has expanded to include biotechnology firms, SUV dealers, housing developments, Wal-Mart stores, and a bottled water plant.

According to the FBI, there have been some 600 acts of ecoterrorism in the United States with property losses totaling nearly $50 million. Speaking of recent attacks on biotech firms, Phil Celestini, head of the FBI's domestic terrorism unit in Washington, told the Associated Press, "We've seen a drastic escalation in the use of violent tactics in the past year."

So far, groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) seem to have carefully avoided human injury or killing. Operating in small, unconnected groups with no central command, they've almost always avoided capture and prosecution as well.

But in September, when a group calling itself the "Revolutionary Cells Animal Liberation Brigade" set off a bomb at a California beauty products company with links to another company that uses animals for research, it warned that "all customers and their families are considered legitimate targets." And in a personal message to the head of a biotech company that had been attacked earlier this year, the group wrote: "You never know when your house, your car even, might go boom."....
Spring man raided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Three days before Halloween, George Norris, 24407 Pine Canyon Drive, Spring, got a visit from a U.S. agency that proved scarier than any spook or goblin.
He is still recovering from the encounter.
Norris, 65, and his wife, Kathy, own Spring Orchid Specialties.
"I import orchids from all around the world and have been doing it more than 25 years," he said.
A small greenhouse is located in the back of their home.
The income supplements his Social Security check.
He suffers from diabetes, arthritis and heart problems and is unable to work, he said.
At 10 a.m. Oct. 28, he said, three pick-up trucks pulled into his driveway and six people, five men and one woman, got out.
All of the men were wearing body armor and carrying sidearms.
Four of them came to the front door and two went to the back. When he answered the front door, one of the men identified himself as a special agent with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"They serve me with a search warrant, they sit me in a chair in my kitchen, tell me not to move out of the chair. They read me my Miranda Rights, then tell me I'm not under arrest, but I can't leave that chair," Norris said.
"They wouldn't even permit me to get my glasses to read documents they were showing me. They had to send somebody to get my glasses for me."
The agents had a search warrant issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy in Houston, empowering them to search for a certain type of orchid imported from Peru without required United States import permits.
According to FWS, Norris represented the plants as lawfully imported and sold them via electronic mail. The importation and selling of the orchids is a violation of the Lacey Act and is a felony.
The agents proceeded to rummage the entire house and greenhouse for nearly four hours, he said.
"They went through our dresser drawers, they went through my wife's underwear drawer; they went through my sock drawer; they went through our closets; they went through all the rooms in the house.
"They tore up everything, particularly my office. They took 20-something boxes of documents; they took my computer; they took my customer list; they took invoices; they took everything. They even took floppy disks that had fishing pictures on them."
Norris said he tried in vain to explain to the agents he was in compliance with U.S. and international laws allowing the sale of the type of orchid for which they were searching, phragmipedium, which grows in Peru.
Two types of classifications, Appendix One and Appendix Two, exist for some orchids, Norris said.
Appendix One orchids are endangered and Appendix Two are threatened. Appendix One applies to a limited quantity of plants considered seriously endangered in the wild.
All the rest of the plants are Appendix Two, which are considered threatened but legal for trade.
"I imported some Appendix One type plants from Peru in August, but they were artificially propagated. Any of the Appendix One plants that are artificially propagated, they don't come from the wild. They are either grown from seeds or divisions of plants that have been in greenhouses for a long time or something other than wild collected. They're no longer subject to Appendix One; they become automatically Appendix Two if the grower can certify that they are artificially propagated," he said.
Though the FSW agents listened, he said, they didn't seem to understand the explanation.
"They don't understand the differences. These are people that mostly make raids on folks with illegal parents, people trading in rhinoceros horns, tiger products, things of mostly animal nature," he said.
Norris said he believes his troubles may stem from FSW's use of CARNIVORE, a government system that can tap into computer e-mails.
"They showed me page 3 of a 5-page e-mail from several years ago where I was being offered smuggled plants. They did not show me pages 4 and 5 which were my answer to this fellow telling him we would not buy any such plants that were undocumented. This was so old that I don't even remember this e-mail," he said.
"Well, they went down and convinced the judge to give them a search warrant because they had an old copy of my CITES document from Peru showing these plants on there which they generally regard as Appendix One plants.
"But I imported them on my permits which allow me to import artificially propagated Appendix One plants," he said.
About four years ago, the FWS conducted a similar investigation of his premises and concluded he was in compliance with all laws, he said. "And this search was done without a search warrant by only asking me to cooperate, which I did."
Terry Thiebeault, the FWS supervisor of the agency's latest search of the Norris premises, declined to comment Monday on the case.
Norris has not been arrested or charged.
Norris said he will ask Judge Milloy to rescind the search warrant order and to instruct the FSW to return all the material they confiscated.
"For now, I am out of business and prevented from conducting my business," he said. I am getting checks coming in for payments of bills, but I do not have any of those records to make the payments to."

The FBI's Carnivore spy system was implemented during the Clinton Administration and the justification was the OKC bombing and domestic can see how it is actually being used.

Saturday, November 29, 2003


Bison make a home where they roam On a mountain ridge at the north end of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a herd of runaway bison spent part of last summer and this fall munching grass and startling visitors. Their presence underscored a continuing headache for private landowners and public land managers across Eastern Oregon: Bison increasingly are roaming where they don't belong. Bob Stangel, an Enterprise rancher who is president of the Northwest Bison Association, estimates that Oregon ranchers are raising about 2,000 bison. But no one knows how many have gotten loose or how many are running loose now...Column: Creating Healthy Forests Takes Comprehensive Approach America's forest ecosystems are being decimated at an alarming rate by large-scale catastrophic wildfire and massive outbreaks of disease, insect infestation and invasive species. Federal foresters estimate that an astounding 190 million acres of federal land are at risk to catastrophic wildfire. Of that, over 70 million acres are at extreme risk to catastrophic wildfire in the immediate future. Because of a decades-long build up of forest fuel, woody biomass and dense underbrush our forests are only a lightning strike or escaped camp fire away from exploding into a massive conflagration. In many areas, tree density has increased from 50 trees per acre to as many as 500 trees per acre, according to the Forest Service and fire ecologists. These unnaturally dense forests are a small spark away from a large-scale wildfire...Fighting fire with better hires The two words don't belong together: "firefighter arson." According to a government report titled "Firefighter Arson," firefighters around the country - the vast majority of whom are willing to die to protect the public - are being forced to confront the idea of ultimate betrayal. "The problem may be increasing, or maybe is just now capturing the attention of the media, but the number of cases that have recently come to light indicates the need for better screening and adequate arson-awareness training programs for firefighters," according to the report, released earlier this year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency...Environmentalists, landowners disagree on fire prevention strategy The October firestorm is fueling a fierce debate over whether decades of poor planning or a century of putting out fires is to blame for the destructive breadth of the Cedar and Paradise blazes. Landowners and local public officials say the disaster is the result of forests and brushland choked with overgrown vegetation. They say the way to prevent another disaster is to thin plants with ax and flame, and to emphasize constructing backcountry homes with fire-resistant materials. Environmentalists and "smart growth" advocates flatly disagree with the focus on clearing. They say the enormous loss of life and property painfully illustrated that urban sprawl puts people in harm's way and must be halted to prevent another disaster...Taxpayers group blasts county habitat plan A taxpayers advocacy group is blasting a county habitat plan in a letter received by Lake Elsinore residents in recent days, roiling the waters on an already contentious issue. The letter from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association urges residents to pressure City Council members to vote no on joining the county's proposal for a multimillion-dollar habitat-protection project. The proposal asks 14 cities in Western Riverside County to support the project, known as the Multiple Species Habitat Protection Plan... Column: Activists drop the carrot, use threat of litigation as a stick Their latest maneuver is an Oct. 30 motion filed with a federal judge in Portland, Ore. In it, environmentalists demand the entire Columbia and Snake river system, from the Pacific to Wyoming's Jackson Lake, be included in a revised biological opinion detailing what federal regulators must do for salmon and steelhead recovery. That means they want all the water in the Snake River Basin made available for saving wild fish runs. The motion asks U.S. District Judge James Redden to require the government to "employ a definition of the action area in its revised opinion that recognizes the full extent of the direct and indirect effects on the listed species of hydrosystem operations." That might be just so much legalese to most people. But to water users -- and that's all of us -- it doesn't get much scarier. It's a direct and imminent threat to our state sovereignty and the livelihoods and property rights of hundreds of thousands of individual Idahoans...State wants to use endangered fish to fight West Nile virus Arizona wants to use endangered fish in its fight against West Nile virus. State wildlife officials are finalizing an agreement to allow rare topminnow and pupfish to be used for mosquito control in ponds and wetlands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must approve it and hopes to sign off this spring. The four species - the Gila topminnow, Yaqui topminnow, desert pupfish and Quitobaquito pupfish - have all been pushed toward extinction by habitat loss...139 cruise ships, whales to share Alaska waters The National Park Service has decided to maintain the status quo on how many cruise ships will be allowed to enter the whale-filled waters of Glacier Bay National Park. The decision means that 139 ships will be allowed into Glacier Bay during the summer season, officials said, or one or two ships a day from May to September...Not all fun and games Unruly off-roaders clashed with paintball gun-wielding Bureau of Land Management rangers Friday night, putting on a show for thousands of spectators near the sand drags area of the dunes. "What had happened ... people were starting to get unruly, throwing beer cans at the officers," said BLM spokesman Gary Taylor. To disperse the crowd gathered near the sand drags area off of Gecko Road, the rangers fired pellets filled with a chili powder-type substance from paintball guns...US trade deal talks near endgame (Australia) Australian and American negotiators begin the final round of talks for a free trade deal with several key sticking points set to dominate. There will also be debate over America's push for changes to quotas on local content in film, television and radio and on future media. But Australia will be pushing hard for its key demands in agriculture. Australia is looking for major improvements in access to America's dairy, beef and sugar markets, as well as in other farm commodities...The cowboy image embraced by U.S. presidents hasn't always been one of chivalrous bravado In point of fact, the term "cowboy" has had a rather up-and-down history. The term goes all the way back to the American Revolution when it was used to describe members of pro-British guerilla bands that operated between American and British lines near New York City. But that usage died out, so that hardly anybody remembers the word in that context. The word was resuscitated in Texas in the aftermath of the Mexican War (1846-1848), when it had quite unsavory meanings. Mainly it meant a ruffian or a bandit, somebody who lived on the open range, outside the law. The word began to acquire a host of meanings, though still largely negative, during the cattle drive era of the 1870s. Joseph McCoy, the entrepreneur responsible for building up Abilene, Kan., as a destination and shipping point for cattle trailed up from Texas, devoted several pages of his 1874 book, "Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest," to cowboys...Photos of life on the ranch help preserve a rugged culture that's fading into memory There's a lot of dirt, grit and sweat in Janell Kleberg's new photography book, "Waiting for Daylight." But that's only natural, since most of these pictures are of people and horses working outdoors for long hours, "before daylight to dark" - working cattle in dust, heat and rain. "It was," Kleberg says, "tough, dangerous and a great adventure." As intimated by the subtitle, "King Ranch: Images from the Past," Kleberg's lens looks back to a storied time now gone. That was before cattlemen kept their ranch's stock records on computer disk, before cowboys herded steers by helicopter...For generations of ranch workers, the land is their life "On my other side, my grandfather and my father came to the King Ranch in 1909 from Mexico," Rudolfo says. "My grandfather's name was Hipolito Silguero. My father was Emiterio Silguero. He was 9 years old at the time. He started working for the ranch when he was 10. He worked here until he was 73. Their graves are over on the Laureles division." Santa Gertrudis and Laureles are the northern divisions of the King Ranch, oldest and most famous of the great Texas cattle baronies. Silguero and all those ancestors and his descendants are Kinenos. King's men, King's people...Apaches pack premier of 'The Missing' Director Ron Howard's latest film,"The Missing," was screened in Alamogordo at the White Sands Mall with a "special Apache Premier" to a packed house of Chiricahua and Mescalero Apaches Tuesday. Producer Daniel Ostroff, Jay Tavare, who plays Kayitah, an Apache medicine man and Tommy Lee Jones' sidekick, and Yolanda Nez, who played a captive girl in the film, were on hand for the screening...On The Edge Of Common Sense: Nothing's quite like the wild ride of a hurricane 'Thousands flee" I couldn't flee. I was trapped in a five star hotel in Richmond, Va, Sept. 16, with Hurricane Isabel bearing down on us like 200 elephants on the last peanut on earth...Rodeo defends its name to PETA An advisory board bucked in unison Wednesday at a proposal by an animal rights group to change the town's name to Unity to protest animal cruelty. The anticlimactic 8-0 vote by the Rodeo Municipal Advisory Council followed a monthlong outpouring of indignation and humor over the idea, advanced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- while San Francisco hosted the Grand National Rodeo. On Oct. 20, Norfolk, Va.-based PETA faxed Contra Costa County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema a letter urging Rodeo to shed its name because "it conjures up visions of a violent 'sport.'"...No Bull: Canadian Animals Barred from Top Rodeo A U.S. ban on Canadian cattle, spurred by a lone case of mad cow disease, has had an unintended consequence -- bulls bred north of the border to toss cowboys around for eight seconds at a time have been shut out of rodeo's biggest event. The 10-day Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas runs Dec. 5 to 14, with nearly $5 million in prize money up for grabs among the world's best professional cowboys, and up to 125 bulls are chosen for the gritty bull-riding event...

Who owns 'public' land?

Nearly 100 ranchers gathered in Farmington, N.M., last weekend to listen to Wayne Hage and his wife, former Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage, explain how the "public" land on which their cattle graze may not be "public" at all. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims found, in Hage v. United States, that the ranchers, not the federal government, may be the true owners of the property referred to as "public" land.

Environmental organizations, and agencies of the federal government, have been trying to rid the West of cattle for decades. The Hage decision demonstrates that the "ownership" of the forage, water and migration routes, may actually belong to the ranchers, and not to the government.

The doctrine of "prior appropriation" governed land and water acquisition in the West long before there was a United States. This doctrine means that the first person to find water, and put it to beneficial use, had the exclusive right to use the water and the adjacent land and forage sufficient to maintain the livestock the water would support.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, decided the boundary between Mexico and the United States. Article Eight of this treaty declares that citizens living within the area assigned to the United States, would "retain all the property they possess without their being subjected, on this account, to any contribution, tax or charge whatever."

Virtually every land law enacted since this treaty contains language that protects the existing rights of those who "possess property" as the new laws enter into force.

For half a century, there was no thought or question about whether the federal government owned the land on which the ranchers grazed their cattle. The feds got involved to help resolve conflicts among the ranchers who claimed grazing rights on the same land. Since grazing rights flowed from the prior appropriation of water rights, access to water became the basis for establishing the extent of grazing rights.

In the late 1800s, the federal government established a mechanism for adjudicating these conflicts. Based on established and recorded rights to water, the adjudicators developed a way to measure the forage that would be required to support the cattle that could be supported by the available water. This measure was called AUM – Animal Units per Month. An AUM represents the forage required by a cow and a calf for one month. Conflicts among the ranchers were resolved by the federal adjudicators, who awarded an appropriate number of AUMs to each rancher involved in the dispute, and surveyed and defined the geography in which the cows could graze.

These AUMs and the defined territory became the "allotments" attached to the water rights of the ranchers. Both the right to the water and to the forage, and access (rights of way) to the forage, were already owned by the ranchers. The allotments were simply the adjudicated division of pre-existing rights of the ranchers. The ranchers were required to pay a fee to the government, for the cost of this adjudication.

This simple process of adjudicating the existing rights of ranchers evolved to enlarge the fee to cover not only the adjudication costs, but to also provide a portion to local government, and to create a "range improvement fund," which could be used by the ranchers to help defray the cost of capital improvements to the range.

Environmentalists, and in recent years, the federal government have ignored these historical facts, and have held that the land and water in the West belong to the federal government, and may be used by the ranchers only with the permission of the government, expressed through the allotment of AUMs for which the ranchers pay.

This new interpretation of the ownership of "public" land was imposed on Wayne Hage a decade ago, when his cattle were taken by the government and sold, because Wayne did not have the permits the government said were necessary. The government has gone on a rampage, in recent years, to remove cattle from the West using the same assumptions and techniques against ranchers whom the feds say are "trespassing" on federal land.

The Hage case may pull the rug, floor and foundation from the government's efforts to exercise control of land that it may not own, after all. In his ruling in the Hage case, Judge Loren A. Smith said, " ... the Court is not of the Opinion that the lack of a grazing permit that prevents access to federal lands can eliminate Plaintiff's vested water rights ... that predate the creation of the permit system."

Ranchers who can demonstrate a clear chain of title to water rights and the adjacent forage may well, in fact, own the "public" land which the federal government claims.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization and chairman of Sovereignty International.

Lawmakers say Sierra overgrown, ask for "common sense" management Citing the recent California wildfires, Republicans and a few Democrats representing the state in Congress warned this week that the Sierra Nevada is dangerously overgrown and urged "common sense" revisions to a management plan for the forest. The lawmakers' letter to Regional Forester Jack Blackwell, the top U.S. Forest Service official for California, comes as he prepares to finalize controversial revisions to the management plan for 11.5 million acres in the southern and northern Sierra. The proposed revisions would allow more logging in the Sierra's national forests by increasing the size of trees that could be cut, from maximums of 12 inches or 20 inches in diameter in most areas under the existing plan, up to 30 inches in diameter...Fire retardant dispute heats up It steers wildfires away from homes, yet it can kill fish, too. That's been a tradeoff the U.S. Forest Service has gone along with for decades in its heavy reliance on fire retardant. But for one retardant company, the tradeoff is coming to an end in 2005, when its products will be banned by the Forest Service. Faced with the prospect of going out of business, Phoenix-based Fire-Trol has sued the Forest Service. The lawsuit, filed with U.S. District Court in Phoenix Oct. 21, says two Forest Service policy changes will put the company out of business, leaving the agency to rely on a single retardant supplier...Environmentalists oppose extended drilling in winter range Some environmental groups are upset by the number of extended drilling permits the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has granted in key winter range corridors. The BLM has approved 31 of 39 requests so far this season, and last year granted 286 of 311 requests by energy companies to keep operating in big game migration areas such as the Pinedale Resource Area past a Nov. 15 cutoff point...Newest residents of suburbs? Wolves With wolf packs predicted to expand into many states, possibly coast to coast, some say it is time to take another look at laws protecting wolves and other large predators. There is growing concern about conflicts with wolves in Minnesota, where packs are moving deeper into farming areas and killing livestock, approaching city suburbs and making more contact with humans...Program chronicles 100 years of wildlife conservation in America Sometime during this holiday weekend, conservationists may consider giving thanks to Theodore Roosevelt. They may praise the foresight and conviction he exercised as president when he signed an executive order on March 14, 1903, creating America's first national bird reservation on Florida's Pelican Island. Because of Roosevelt's vision and ethos, wildlife conservation is very much alive and well a century later. That rich century-long legacy of the National Wildlife Refuge system is being chronicled on ESPN2 this fall, including this Sunday morning at 8:25 ET, as "A Century of Conservation" airs on the Deuce...Food for fertile debate: cloud seeding is back Whether Mother Nature is in the mood or not, Durango weather wizard Larry Hjermstad is firing up his cloud-seeding generators all the same. Hjermstad, manager of Western Weather Consultants LLC, recently signed a contract with the Denver Water Board for another season of seeding to boost the city's water supplies and will continue a long-running program for Vail and Beaver Creek. This winter, with the help of some slick Colorado State University computer models, Hjermstad hopes the operation can be fine-tuned in real time - and that could mean even more snow for the Colorado mountains, upping the all-important powder quotient for Eagle County ski areas...New Zealand mud snails invade: Tiny mollusks threaten area trout streams The New Zealand mud snail is as unprepossessing as its name: A tiny mollusk that seldom exceeds 5 millimeters in length, with a color like ripe compost. But this seeming nebbish is actually the Conan the Destroyer of gastropods, a fecund and voracious grazer that can strip entire river systems of algae. Sometimes reaching concentrations of 700,000 per square meter, they displace virtually all other bottom-dwelling species...Ranchers worry proposed bills could end grazing Ranching is all Calvin Crandall has ever known. He grew up with it and learned the business from his father. "That's all I've ever done," the Springville rancher said. He doesn't think much of a proposal that would allow ranchers to sell their federal public land grazing permits back to the government. He opposes the proposal because it aims to take cattle off the public lands, he said. Campaign president Andy Kerr this month sent a letter to more than 25,000 individuals and groups that hold livestock grazing permits on federal public lands, explaining and urging support for the two bills...Efforts save home of 1889 Derby winner Mining entrepreneur Noah Armstrong built the barn in the 1880s. Armstrong made his fortune mining silver in the Pioneer Mountains near the ghost town of Glendale, according to a history compiled by Byron Bayers of Twin Bridges, whose family once owned the land where the barn sits. Armstrong had a passion for race horses and he believed that horses raised in the thin air of Montana might have an edge on the racetrack. He purchased the ranch just outside of Twin Bridges in 1882 and renamed it Doncaster Ranch after a favorite horse. And then he went to work having a barn built worthy of his dreams. The ground floor of the three-story Round Barn contained horse stalls, offices and sleeping quarters for the employees. In the center of the circular structure were harness closets, two hospital stalls, a grain elevator and a spiral stairway to the second floor. In one of the hospital stalls, a horse later named Spokane was born in 1886. It went on to win the Kentucky Derby in 1889...Arrest for catching mouse?: California law pushed by animal group requires trapping license A California law requires a trapping license in order to kill mice. The Animal Protection Institute of Sacramento pushed the bill, which mandates anyone who takes furbearing mammals or non-game animals must purchase a trapping license by passing a complex test and paying a fee of $78.50, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Fish and Game Code 4005 defines non-game animals as including mice, rats, gophers and moles, the paper noted...Horses ordered to diaper-up for parade An ordinance to keep horse manure from littering the streets during a Christmas parade caused such a stink in Lucedale that it won't be enforced. The city's jewel, the annual Christmas parade is scheduled for Dec. 6. The parade turns the town of 2,458 residents into an overflow crowd of 10,000 people spilling into the streets to see dozens of floats, several bands and 200 horses. At one point, horse riders threatened to boycott the parade because of the new town ordinance requiring horses to wear a "bun bag", a "diaper" of sorts...

Friday, November 28, 2003

Not So Smart Growth(subscription)

Excerpted from an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal.

...Smart growth's objectives sound sensible enough; proponents work to promote mass transit, slow the development of farmland and rebuild inner cities. In practice, however, smart growth often turns out to be pretty dumb. In many communities, it drives up housing prices with costly regulations and limits on new construction. Zoning restrictions and local development plans effectively dictate what can be done with private property. Once-valuable land becomes locked into outmoded uses.

Mr. Schwarzenegger might take a look at what smart growth is threatening to do in South Carolina, where local greens are engaged in a particularly nasty battle against a collection of mostly African-American landowners. The fight is over control of private property adjoining the 22,000-acre Congaree Swamp. The swamp -- home to some of the tallest trees in the East and more than a gator or two -- was just named a national park. Environmental extremists now wish to extend control over tens of thousands of acres of nearby private property in Richland County.

Richland's smart-growth agenda includes a land-use plan that raises minimum lot sizes, prevents clustering homes on rurally zoned land and could impose 50-foot buffer zones around all bodies of water, including dry stream beds. County regulations would also steer new development into three categories of "villages" to be built at rural crossroads. Many of these are zoned for high-density, low-income housing but not for manufacturers or other high-paying employers. Critics call them nonemployment villages.

Richland's biggest smart-growth proponents live in the wealthier northern part of the county, where residents tend to make their living in the state capital of Columbia. Lower Richland, however, is rural and predominantly African-American. Smart growth hits these landowners particularly hard because they are often only a few steps away from poverty. They depend on farming, harvesting trees and opening small businesses on their land. Sometimes they sell off several acres to developers or borrow money using their land as collateral. Parents typically set aside land for their children to build homes nearby, but now such family compounds will be prohibited...

Many of Richland's families have made their living off this land since their forefathers purchased it after being freed from slavery by the Civil War. They've had to fight for it through Jim Crow, segregation and now, apparently, through smart growth.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Feds OK climbing on landmark The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to stay a ban on rock climbing at a Lake Tahoe landmark pending the outcome of an expected lawsuit challenging the administrative ruling. Rex Norman, a Forest Service spokesman for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said it makes sense to wait and see how the court case turns out. The Access Fund, a climbing advocacy group based in Boulder, Colo., said it will challenge the constitutionality of the ban at Cave Rock announced in July and upheld in an administrative appeal earlier this month...9th Circuit Court asked to review Lolo salvage ruling Spurned in U.S. District Court, leaders of a Missoula environmental group are taking their lawsuit against the Lolo National Forest's post-wildfire logging plan to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. District Judge Don Molloy set a "dangerous precedent" by deferring to the "expertise of the agency" in evaluating the effects of logging on 4,600 acres burned during the 2000 wildfire season, the environmentalists said Tuesday...Varmint Hunt Fundraiser Declared Off-Limits on Forest Land About a fourth of Utah's Wayne County ... today, was ruled off- limits ... for the controversial varmint hunt, this Friday and Saturday. The county sheriff organized the hunt ... to raise funds for a Christmas charity ... AND, to reduce the multitudes of predators ... which threaten livestock, in the county. But, the proposed hunt for the "varmints" ... such as racoons, foxes, skunks and coyotes ... has stirred outrage, among animal activists. The Humane Society labels it ... "an insult to human intelligence." The Forest Service, says ... a Special- Use Permit is required... and, no one applied for one...Ranchers worry about wandering Crow bison More than 500 bison have wandered off the Crow Reservation and onto private and public land in Wyoming over the last several weeks, prompting concerns among ranchers and a recovery effort by land and air. As of Monday, all but a few stragglers had been pushed back onto the reservation by snowmobiles and helicopters, according to Leroy Stewart, director of the buffalo program at Crow Agency. The bison, part of the reservation's herd of about 1,200, apparently left the reservation earlier this month, crossed the Montana-Wyoming border northeast of Lovell and wandered onto private ranch land and land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and Bighorn National Forest...Oregon earns 'B' in invasive species battle Oregon has received a letter grade of "B" for 2003 in its ongoing battle against invasive species that threaten the state as a new list of the 100 most dangerous species from the plant and animal kingdom has been developed. The grade and list come courtesy of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, which has been coordinating efforts to protect the state from these nasty invaders the past couple of years. This year's report card shows an improvement over last year's grade of C-plus...Landowners eye fire plan with suspicion The Washington County Board of Commissioners spent the last hour of its weekly meeting Monday attempting to assuage the fears of several landowners that the Washington County Fire Mitigation Plan will infringe on their property rights. Ron Pound, Esther Smith, Loraine Carr, and two other local landowners requested the meeting to air their concerns that the plan would lead to more government regulation and control over how their land is used. They all accused the commissioners of instituting the plan by stealth...GROOMING AN ELF: How Tre Arrow turned Jake Sherman into an "eco-terrorist." It seemed a simple plan. They would collect a bunch of empty milk jugs, slice off the tops, fill them three-quarters full of gasoline, stuff the tops with cellophane, push a punk into the top for a fuse, light them off, then run like hell--sort of a moo-lotov cocktail. But the fires set by Jake Sherman, Angie Cesario and Jeremy Rosenbloom in the early-morning hours of June 1, 2001, had more consequences than some burned-up logging equipment near Eagle Creek...Senate OKs hunting camp reprieve As the U.S. Senate moved toward adjourning for the Thanksgiving holiday, it voted to reverse a federal court order for dismantling permanent hunting camps at three sites in central Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo said Tuesday that the action, which still must be ratified by the House, reasserts the original intention of the 1980 law creating the wilderness area...Women ordered to forsake tree-sitting, anti-logging protests Two tree-sitters who perched 80 feet off the ground in a spring protest at the Klamath National Forest were sent to jail Tuesday after pleading no contest to being in an area that was closed by the U.S. Forest Service. Amelia Vasquez and Kristi Sanchez, both in their early 20s, were handcuffed and led away by Forest Service law enforcement officers after they entered the pleas in federal court in Redding...Timber Trade-Offs. Plans to increase harvest has ramifications The state forests that help pay for Idaho's schools have avoided the timber wars that sharply reduced harvests across the West during the last decade. Now an Idaho Department of Lands proposal to increase the harvest of some of its biggest, oldest trees has sparked a debate about old-growth forests, endangered species and sustainability...Editorial: Good riddance, energy bill The Bush administration's energy bill died from an overdose of pork in the Senate earlier this week. Blatant attempts to buy its passage by injecting huge special-interest subsidies and tax breaks instead caused the legislation's demise. The original reasons for having energy legislation, a crying need to craft a sane national energy policy, remain. In January, Congress should try again to write meaningful energy legislation. But next time, congressional leaders must curb lawmakers' urge to decorate the bill with political favors...Study: California eagles may be put to death To control a bizarre gathering of eagles, pigs and foxes on the California channel islands, federal wildlife officials may have to kill a protected species in order to save an endangered one. Attracted by a plentiful supply of feral pigs rooting around the islands, a community of Golden Eagles settled in about 10 years go to prey on piglets. But they also found that the island foxes, an endangered group of subspecies, also made good meals. The population of pigs, which reproduce year around, were little affected by the winged predators, but the foxes were decimated...Going to the birds: Wild turkeys turning up around New York City Alex Calota saw it strutting near his hot dog cart about five months ago. It was a wild turkey -- in Manhattan. Calota is among the increasing number of New Yorkers reporting strange encounters with the wild birds best known this time of year as a main course...Endangered wildcat cloned Researchers at the Audubon Institute have become the first to succeed in repeating the cloning of a single cat - in this case an endangered African wildcat. The latest two births occurred on Nov. 15 but were not announced until Tuesday. There has been no other reported instance of a cloning procedure being successfully repeated from a single member of any feline species, wild or domestic, Audubon scientists said...COURTS STOP WATERING DOWN CLEAN WATER ACT A federal court for the District of Columbia this week rejected industry attempts to weaken nationwide dredge-and-fill permits for development projects, mining and other environmentally-damaging activities. Nationwide permits already cause substantial harm to wetlands and streams, according to the environmental groups who opposed the industry arguments, and weakening them would have increased the damage to the environment and economy. "This decision sends a message to industry: you cannot have free rein to destroy our nation's streams and wetlands," said Earthjustice attorney Howard Fox, who intervened in the industry suit on behalf of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and Sierra Club. "Everyone who cares about protecting our nation's waters can give thanks today for this decision."...Curator at museum admits collecting fossils illegally A key leader in building the extensive fossil collection at the University of Washington's Burke Museum has agreed to retire after admitting he took fossils illegally from the Hanford Reach National Monument. Rensberger led geology students on a field trip to an area near Savage Island, adjacent to the Columbia River in the Hanford Reach, where they collected fossils of fish and a few rodents over two days in May 2002. It's a federal misdemeanor to take fossils from the 193,000-acre monument, said Mike Ritter, deputy project leader with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Hanford Reach. Ritter said a federal investigation is ongoing. He would not say whether the professor would be charged with a crime. Three years ago, President Clinton designated the national monument, which includes a 51-mile stretch of the Columbia River next to the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland. That change gave greater protection to fossils and other artifacts at the site. Rensberger said he did not know the rules had changed...Copter pilot accused of pestering birds Salinas helicopter pilot Jim Cheatham stands accused by the federal government of buzzing bevies of beleaguered birds at Big Sur with his whirlybird. Cheatham says he was helping film the 18th annual Big Sur International Marathon, a four-event extravaganza that draws 10,000 athletes. His helicopter was used to televise the race and to spot injured runners along Highway 1. But federal prosecutors aren't giving in. Earlier this month, they filed three misdemeanor counts of "airborne harassment of birds" against Cheatham, who has been flying for 43 years after a stint in the U.S. Army...State ready for bison to leave park Workers are building a trap in preparation for the annual winter migration of bison from Yellowstone National Park. The herd is at or above record levels, but how many cross into Montana in search of food depends on what kind of weather the winter brings. "That's the driver" in bison management, said Rick Wallen, a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service. A recent count estimated the herd at 4,250 animals. A summer 1994 count found 4,100 animals, but might have missed some bison, Wallen said...Fund for Animals Denounces 'Management by Hysteria' in Slaughter of Yellowstone Buffalo; Highlights Need for Sound Science, Preservation Act The Fund for Animals, on behalf of its over 200,000 members and supporters nationwide, condemned the Montana Department of Livestock and the National Park Service for shooting a bull buffalo just outside Yellowstone National Park yesterday. The buffalo was killed despite the fact that bull buffalo pose no risk of transmitting the disease brucellosis to livestock. The lone bull buffalo had crossed the invisible boundaries of Yellowstone National Park to forage, and was harassed and hazed back toward the park. He was shot five times before dying, just 50 yards from the park boundaries, by Montana agents with the assistance of Yellowstone rangers. The ongoing hazing and slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo is allegedly done to protect the few hundred cattle who graze outside the park from the threat of brucellosis, despite the fact that there has never been a documented case in the wild of transmission of the disease from buffalo to cattle...Yellowstone snowmobile rules still not set When Yellowstone National Park opens for business this winter, new rules dictate that 80 percent of visitors on snowmobiles will have to be accompanied by a commercial guide. But with the season set to start three weeks from today, potential guides are still waiting to hear whether they'll be doing business in the park. For the first time, the National Park Service is putting broad limitations on snowmobiling, including capping the number of machines that can come through each gate and allowing only newer machines that meet "cleaner and quieter" standards. The new plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, pursued by the Bush administration, overturns a previous ban on snowmobiles enacted by the Clinton administration...Land-Rights Dispute Continues in Alaska: Man Who Bulldozed Road Is Still at Odds With Park Service The curious case of Papa Pilgrim and the bulldozer he drove inside the largest U.S. national park continues to lurch across the legal and environmental landscape of Alaska. The judge ruled Nov. 18 against Pilgrim and in favor of the National Park Service. If Pilgrim wants to run a bulldozer on the derelict road, the judge said, he must first get a permit from the Park Service. Pilgrim drove the bulldozer last year without applying for one. Russell C. Brooks of the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a motion for reconsideration yesterday with the federal court in Anchorage. Brooks said last week that he will appeal the federal court ruling in Anchorage because the judge did not address two fundamental legal questions about private access across federal land. The first involves federal land in Alaska, but the second affects access to federal land across the United States...Salmon Harbor land transfer clears Senate The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would transfer title to 69 acres of federal land located just south of the Umpqua River in Winchester Bay to Douglas County. The legislation from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Gordon Smith would allow the county to use the property, now managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, as a staging area for off-road vehicles. Having use of the property would allow the county to eliminate the current danger from vehicles that are unloaded on Salmon Harbor Drive and ridden on the paved road to the dunes...For those interested the bill is S.714, and you can view the legislation by entering the bill number here......Turkey tracks, The gobblers have been passing through Utah since Anasazi times Long before the famous pilgrim feast of 1621, residents of what would later be called southern Utah gathered in redrock canyons and ate their own turkey dinner. And while historians say turkeys were not on the menu of the first Thanksgiving celebration, archaeologists have physical evidence that Meleagris gallopavo merriami was part of the Anasazi diet as far back as 700. No word on side dishes of the time...Interior denies motion to stop CBM leasing A long legal battle continues over whether the Bureau of Land Management should lease federal minerals to coalbed methane gas developers under resource management plans that do not include analysis specific to coalbed methane development. Last week, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) denied a motion by the Wyoming Outdoor Council for a stay on coalbed methane leasing in the BLM's Rawlins Field Office area. That means the BLM can continue to lease minerals to coalbed methane developers in the area...Officials say cedars were cut to stop forest fire Officials on the Nez Perce National Forest are defending tactics used to fight the Slim's fire last summer. They say that cutting old-growth cedar trees along Meadow Creek was necessary to keep firefighters safe and from spreading to Elk City in north-central Idaho. But environmental groups and the Nez Perce Tribe says cutting the 100 trees and carving a 30-foot-wide fire line around a portion of the fire was unnecessary. They say it destroyed habitat and the aesthetics along a popular hiking trail...Wasatch Overland race back on track Utah's oldest overland ski race has been granted a reprieve. The 27th annual edition of the Wasatch Overland will be held Jan. 24, said Charlie Sturgis of White Pine Touring Center, a race co-sponsor. The 7-mile race between Brighton and Park City was declared dead last month after a private landowner told organizers the family would no longer allow the race to pass through its property at the base of Thaynes Canyon. The landowner has since changed his mind, said Sturgis. The race had increased the number of cross country skiers, snowshoers and mountain bikers crossing the property...Column: This Land Is Your Land The West, Thomas Jefferson believed, was the key to the nation's democratic promise and its economic prowess. Its lands would nurture civic engagement and a prosperous citizenry for centuries. It's an alluring vision, one that drew me westward from the Midwest to the Rockies. It's a vision I practiced when I joined neighbors in Sheridan, Wyo., to build a historical park. It's a vision of democracy and conservation that Americans are reinvigorating and putting into practice on the BLM's public lands...Group protests Sawtooth grazing plan Groups against cattle grazing on public lands have appealed a decision by the Sawtooth National Forest to reduce grazing on two allotments. They say the agency's plan to reduce grazing on 100,000 acres by only one third isn't enough. Jon Marvel is founder of the Western Watersheds Project. He says the original management plan called for a reduction of nearly 50 percent in grazing...Overruns, delays plague Four Corners water project In a report full of self-blame, federal officials said Wednesday that inexperience, poor reviews and a lack of competition among bidders were behind $162 million in cost overruns on the Animas-La Plata water project in Colorado and New Mexico. The project was designed to supply water to the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes to settle century-old water disputes in the Four Corners region. Congress in 2000 authorized a $338 million project that originally was supposed to be completed in 2007. But the cost of the project has ballooned to $500 million, with taxpayers picking up most of the tab. And officials said it could take at least another year to complete...Pickens' water plan is getting attention Nearly five years after Boone Pickens proposed shipping groundwater from northern Panhandle counties to thirsty Texas cities, the legendary Texas oilman still hasn't found a buyer. That could change soon, says an aide to Pickens. "I think we're within three to 12 months of a deal," says Bobby Stillwell, general counsel of Pickens' Mesa Water Co. After spending $29 million to buy water rights and study the economic, geological and environmental issues that the groundwater pumping proposal raised, Stillwell says Pickens and Mesa are more confident than ever about the plan...Farmers protest water compact A Carlsbad couple says they object to a proposed settlement of a lawsuit over water on the Pecos River. Carlsbad farmers Louise and Francis Tracy filed notice last week of their intent to object to the proposed agreement. The deal would settle a longstanding water rights adjudication lawsuit known as the Lewis case. The dispute has been in court since 1956. The settlement would establish the Carlsbad district's right to divert up to 125,200 acre-feet from the Pecos and Black rivers and require the Interstate Stream Commission to buy the land with water rights in the Pecos River Basin...NCBA, Industry Groups to Develop Alternative Labeling Program After considering possible damages the mandatory country-of-origin labeling law could have on producers and small businesses, Congress decided late last week to delay implementation for two years until October 2006. The current mandatory country-of-origin labeling law, included in the 2002 Farm Bill, is being discussed during formulation of the FY2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. “Many producers were concerned that these mandatory regulations could have a negative impact on their bottom line,” says National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President and Idaho cattle producer Eric Davis. “This action puts more control of the industry in the hands of producers, and is one of the key steps that our NCBA Board voted overwhelmingly to authorize.” The delay frees U.S. cattlemen from imminent implementation of the controversial mandatory law and sets the stage for the next steps in a national labeling program. Producer-members of NCBA will use this time to develop a voluntary program that promotes U.S. beef and enhances profitability for American cattle producers...The Most Famous Turkey in Texas Ruby Begonia, the most famous turkey in Texas, knows when to run and she knows when to hide. The running is done in early October during this town's annual Turkeyfest, a weekend of fun and games to revisit the days when DeWitt County's turkey ranches raised tens of thousands of toms and hens each year. Ruby is matched up in a block-long sprint against a rival bird called Paycheck - as in, "Nothing goes faster than a paycheck" - from Worthington, Minn. The prize for the winning town is the right to boast that it's the Turkey Capital of the World, at least until the next race...



Wednesday, November 26, 2003


American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973
E-mail: or
Web Address:
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-210-2357 – Fax: 202-543-7126 – E-mail:

15,000 Cabins In Jeopardy – Fire Terminations

Forest Service Testing New Cabin Elimination Fire Plan

If they are successful, the Forest Service will use fire to get rid of ranchers, miners, forestry and recreation users and all kinds of other people who use the forests for various purposes. This must not be allowed to happen.

Friday, November 28th is the Deadline for comments.

Don’t Allow Forest Service To Use Fire As A Tool For Removal Of Your Use

Your Calls and Comments Are Needed NOW!!

Call and fax Congressman David Drier immediately as well as Mark Rey, Under Secretary of Agriculture. Call and fax the others listed below. Drier must call Mr. Rey to ask for a 60 day extension to the comment period on the Angeles National Forest regarding the termination of the burned cabin permits as well as those that survived the fires.

The cabins that survived are being terminated too. These fires were on the North Fork San Gabriel Tract and San Dimas Canyon Tract in the Angeles National Forest where the Curve and William’s fires occurred in 2002. A lot more areas are in danger from fire terminations caused by the fires in 2003.

If the Forest Service is successful canceling these permits, thousands of other cabins, ranchers, miners and many other users nationwide will be in jeopardy. Please do your part today. Call today, Friday and every day next week.

The Forest Service is counting on the ranchers not supporting the cabinowners. Recreation users not supporting miners. People who want access not supporting other types of recreation users.

But everyone’s use of the National Forests is in jeopardy of this Cabin Elimination Fire Plan is allowed to go forward.

This must be an all for one and one for all effort.

*****Here’s what you must do now – you do not have much time.

-----1. CRITICAL – Send a one page or more letter stating your opposition to this plan as your official comments to: Marty Dumpis, District Ranger, San Gabriel River Ranger District, 110 N. Wabash Ave, Glendora, CA 91741. You may also send your comments by email to: Finally, you can fax your comments to: (626) 914-3790. If you wish to read the Environmental Assessment, go to: Send a copy of your comments to your Congressman and Congressman Drier at: Honorable _____, US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.

-----2. Call the local Congressman, David Drier, to ask him to request a 60 day extension to the comment period from the Forest Service. This will extend it beyond the holidays. ****A request by the local congressman for a comment period extension is almost always honored by the Forest Service. You can call any Congressman at (202) 225-3121 -- the Capitol Switchboard. There is a temporary Free Number of (800) 648-3516.

The Capitol Switchboard will answer. Ask for Congressman Drier’s office. Then ask for the person who handles National Forests and cabin issues. If you are asked whether you are a constituent, tell him the truth, but tell him that what the Forest Service is doing will affect all cabinowners nationwide. Drier’s personal office number is (202) 225-2305. His fax number is (202) 225-7018. His local office in California can be called at (626) -852-26216. He can be faxed there at (626) 963-9842. Ask for Mark Harmsen.

Call all his numbers.

Ask for a commitment that Congressman Drier will request, in writing, a 60 day extension to the comment period from the Forest Service in Washington, DC. Permittees have no chance at the local level. They’ve already made up their minds. (The 30 day comment period ended November 28th, but do not worry about that. They are often extended.)

(A Note) The Forest Service is telling Congressman Drier’s staff that there is a new rule and they cannot extend the comment period. That is absolute nonsense. The Forest Service is not telling the truth. A request for a comment period extension from the local Congressman for is virtually always honored.

-----3. Call Mark Rey, Under Secretary for Natural Resources for the Department of Agriculture. His number is (202) 720-7173. He is where the buck stops on Forest Service issues.

-----4. Call your local Congressman at the above numbers. Ask him to request a 60 day extension from the Forest Service to the comment period for the Angeles National Forest in California.

-----5. Call and fax Senator Diane Feinstein at (202) 224-3841 or send her a fax at (202) 228-3954. These calls must be made immediately. Make the same request as above.

More background:

The Angeles National Forest plans a wholesale removal of forest homes and recreation residences in a national test to see if the US Forest Service can get away with eliminating cabins in every national forest using fire as the tool.

Every user in every National Forest should take action on this issue. It will ultimately affect you. Besides cabins, they’ll use fire as an excuse to close roads, terminate grazing permits, stop forestry activity, cut off access, prevent construction of phone lines, microwave towers and all terminate all kinds of other special use permits and uses.

Every forest user must rise up immediately to stop this attempt to rid the whole country of forest cabins. This is a test. If they get away with it, your use will surely be in jeopardy. The Forest Service is using sleight-of-hand tactics in the process.

In 2002 – 110 -- Recreation Residence cabins burned in the North Fork San Gabriel Tract and San Dimas Canyon Tract in the Curve and William’s fires in the Angeles National Forest outside of Los Angeles.

Since these cabins burned, many more have been lost to other fires in California and other states in 2003. The Forest Service announced in February, 2003, in their initial scoping letter, “the San Gabriel River Ranger District was considering rebuilding and re-permitting the destroyed and existing cabins.

At the time, the agency knew the cabins and their access roads were located in riparian zones. But they ignored that and got all the cabinowners to relax and let down their guard. As a result, in the first comment period, very few cabinowners responded to the poorly written and distributed notice. We believe the Forest Service deliberately wrote the notice make the permittees believe they had nothing to worry about.

Now the Forest Service has decided not to allow any of these cabinowners to rebuild and will terminate the cabins that survived the fire. The terminated cabins will be phased out over ten years. No in-lieu lots were found appropriate. As a result of receiving only a few comments, the Forest Service decided to get rid of all the cabins.

The Environmental Assessment said that both tracts had riparian zone issues. The Forest Service says this is in conflict with the Forest Plan. We believe the agency knew this before they even did the initial assessment. The agency made no attempt to mitigate the riparian issues as they have in numerous other forests. They made little or no effort to fully inform the cabin owners they were in jeopardy.

Because of Thanksgiving, it is more important than ever to make your calls and write your letter. Some people are traveling and others are distracted. So please do your part.

Send that one page letter opposing the removal of the cabins. Make that call to your Congressman and Congressman Drier as well as Under Secretary Rey. This is a big deal that will affect all users of the forests. Don’t let it happen.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Please forward this message as widely as possible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


Videotapes shed light on Terry Barton, Hayman Fire A pair of videotapes offer a never-before publicly seen look into the mind of one of the state's most infamous criminals. Terry Barton is currently serving time in a federal prison for starting the largest forest fire ever in Colorado. The former Forest Service worker is not expected out for at least another six to nine years. The videotapes were made shortly after the start of the Hayman Fire and feature Barton's story about how the fire started, in her own words...Forest chief sees new bill as chance to win public trust The Healthy Forests bill awaiting President Bush's signature is the Forest Service's "opportunity to build trust" with an ever-skeptical public, Chief Dale Bosworth said Monday. "If we are prudent in how we use the flexibility this legislation gives us, I think we can build more support for more work on the ground," Bosworth said in a telephone interview from his Washington, D.C., office...Offroading added to land battle list They came on four wheels and on two, hunting or just tooling around. They came to ride on roads and trails through vast swaths of public land in the West. And, unfortunately, some of them rode anywhere they wanted. The explosive popularity of "off-highway" vehicles - everything from four-wheelers to trail-bikes and souped-up jeeps - has left federal land managers scrambling to put new rules in place to protect natural resources...Column: Bush agenda is assault on Arizona wilderness Nearly 100 years ago, a Republican president - famous for his blustery speaking style and wire-rimmed spectacles - used the Antiquities Act to proclaim 18 culturally and naturally significant areas of the United States as national monuments. Many of these areas have been folded into the National Park System. In early October, the Supreme Court agreed with Theodore Roosevelt, that it is within the president's authority to use the Antiquities Act to save what remains of our great national heritage, and that President Clinton was within his power to proclaim five national monuments in Arizona...Editorial: A half-step to healthy forests The compromise forest-health legislation that emerged from the U.S. Senate last week won't stop future wildfires from threatening the West. But the final package is much more palatable than the original, one-sided measure Republicans railroaded through the House. The House had rejected amendments from Rep. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat, to require the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to concentrate on preventing huge fires in the wildland-urban interface. But the Senate embraced that idea and others that make the bill acceptable...Lawmakers approve $225 million for Calif. fire-related projects Lawmakers approved $225 million Tuesday for Southern California counties devastated by last month's wildfires. The money will go to prevent mudslides, remove trees killed by bark beetles and help farmers whose crops were destroyed in the flames...AUDUBON APPLAUDS BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO PROTECT AMERICA'S WATER Audubon today praised the 218 members of Congress from both parties who announced a broad-based effort to safeguard longstanding Clean Water Act protections from regulatory proposals to weaken this law. "Today's action by an unprecedented number of Members of Congress sends a strong message to the President and those in his administration seeking to weaken the laws protecting America's clean water that they will not allow this to happen," said Bob Perciasepe, Audubon chief operating officer. "Through a letter delivered to the White House today, our representatives, inspired by their constituents, have let the President know that Americans will not stand for any weakening of the Clean Water Act." A recently leaked draft rewrite of Clean Water Act rules reveals that federal agencies are actually considering a proposal to eliminate federal protections for many streams, wetlands, and other waters across the country - a move that would represent the most dramatic change in national clean water policy in 30 years...Refugium exceeds goal in raising endangered fish They are breeding hope in the waters of the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow Refugium. In less than a year, the breeding and rearing facility at the Albuquerque Biological Park has exceeded its first-year goal in growing the endangered minnows, from captured eggs, to be reintroduced to the river. The facility, which opened in June, estimates 10 times the expected number of minnows were bred - up to a half-million of the tiny fish...Rep. Pombo ruffles feathers While Pombo, a fourth-generation rancher from Tracy, has yet to leave the same kind of mark as previous chairmen of the House Resources Committee, he appears to be on his way as he concludes his first year in the seat. A leader of the anti-regulatory property rights movement that resonates so well on the farms and ranches of the interior West, Pombo once called for a "revolution" against environmental regulations, to place "ownership over servitude and freedom over slavery." For him, the chairmanship is the right place to be, and he's there at the right time...Column: Crimes Against Nature George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country's air, water, public lands and wildlife. Cloaked in meticulously crafted language designed to deceive the public, the administration intends to eliminate the nation's most important environmental laws by the end of the year. Under the guidance of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the Bush White House has actively hidden its anti-environmental program behind deceptive rhetoric, telegenic spokespeople, secrecy and the intimidation of scientists and bureaucrats. The Bush attack was not entirely unexpected...Federal listing could endanger sage grouse The federal government should be required to draft a recovery plan for potentially endangered or threatened species before placing them on the endangered species list, a state natural resources official said Monday. Greg Walcher, Colorado Department of Natural Resources director, said he's been in contact with federal officials and legislators about adjusting the Endangered Species Act. "Make them publish recovery goals before they put them on the list," Walcher said...Environmental limits on military training reduced President Bush signed a bill Monday that gives the Pentagon more leeway to sidestep wildlife-protection laws that military planners see as impediments to training. The changes allow the Navy to test sonar systems that may injure whales, dolphins and other protected marine mammals. They also give the Department of Defense more flexibility to run practice operations that may harm the habitat of endangered animals and plants on military installations. The environmental provisions of the bill represent a compromise in a long-running dispute over whether the Pentagon should have to abide by environmental laws at bases and training sites across the USA and in coastal waters...Second of eight wolves found dead was killed by automobile Necropsy results have been announced regarding the second of eight Mexican gray wolves found dead this year. The body of a wolf classified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as Male 857 was found Sept. 19 in the middle of a road near Willow Creek, in the northern part of the Gila National Forest. "He was confirmed to have been hit by a car," said Colleen Buchanan of the service's wolf-recovery program. "There were rumors he was shot, but it turns out that wasn't true."...Potential for Wind Energy on Federal Lands Nearly half of the 48 million acres of federal land in Nevada managed by the Bureau of Land Management shows potential for commercial wind production, Interior Department officials said. "Nevada has a huge potential for wind energy as well as the geothermal production that has already begun here," Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson said during a stop in Nevada last week. The Interior Department's BLM has launched a national review of the potential environmental effects of power-generating wind turbines so states can plan for potential operations. About 46 percent of BLM's land in Nevada show some potential for commercial wind energy, Watson said...Land law sparks concern More than 5,500 miles of back roads across national parks and other federal lands in California could be in peril if ownership is granted to counties and individuals under an obscure law, an environmental group said. The majority of those roads, according to a survey released today by the California Wilderness Coalition, are in San Bernardino County. They crisscross areas like the Mojave National Park, including 700 miles of congressionally designated wilderness areas that ban motorized vehicles. "This could essentially invalidate the protection of a national preserve," said Byron Kahr, a spokesman for the Davis-based coalition...Also see Off-road organizations, San Bernardino County, petition to own areas for more info...Wandering bull bison killed near Yellowstone A bull bison was shot and killed Tuesday outside Yellowstone National Park when government agents were unable to capture it or force it to stay within the park's boundaries. The bull had wandered out of Yellowstone at least a dozen times this fall, said Karen Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Livestock. "The bison would not stay within the park boundary," Cooper said...Editorial: Don't the feds have enough power? Tucked deep into this 1,100-page bill is a short provision granting the federal government sweeping new power to condemn private property. It's there at the request of Montana's Republican Sen. Conrad Burns. The provision allows the use of eminent domain to acquire rights of way for new powerlines. The ability to force landowners to accommodate powerlines already exists under state law, but the new provision means any landowner wishing to defend his rights will have to counter the indefatigable strength of the federal government. Lots of luck. The inspiration for this provision comes from plans to mine and burn coal from Montana's Otter Creek coal deposits, which the state acquired in a land exchange last year. Montana can't begin to use the amount of power that could be generated by all that coal, so prospective mining and power production hinges entirely on the ability to send electricity elsewhere via powerlines. Obviously, someone doubts the enthusiasm with which southeastern Montana ranchers will surrender land for powerlines serving people in distant cities. This is one of those little legislative gems you hear about all the time - something inserted into a bill, with little discussion, for a specific purpose, only to emerge as a big issue years later when bureaucrats decide to put their new powers to broader use...Editorial: Next time, guard our lands The just-deceased energy bill would have run roughshod over federal lands and ecosystems in the intermountain West. The fight about how and where to drill for oil and natural gas in the Rockies will be similar next year if new energy legislation is introduced, as congressional leaders have promised to do. On the vast majority of other federal lands that are available for energy development, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management should have clear authority to require sensible environmental protection. It is not unreasonable to tell oil companies they can't drill on elk calving grounds when the animals are bearing their young, for example. It is perfectly legitimate to require the companies to follow strict rules preventing water and air pollution. Yet the recent energy bill would have eliminated many common-sense restrictions. Among other things, it would have ordered federal agencies to make energy production the top priority over all other public values. It further would have forced the agencies to cannibalize their wildlife and recreation staffs and budgets to fund a new, overarching mandate to speed up drilling permits. The bill also would have, in essence, eroded any real clout federal agencies have to make energy companies use slant, directional or horizontal drilling to protect sensitive areas. The technique involves putting drill rigs on areas where the land can be disturbed without environmental harm, then drilling under the surface at an angle to reach oil or gas that may underlie delicate ecosystems. The practice protects the environment while accessing energy reserves, and should be strongly encouraged...Ag groups upset by labeling delay Most - but not all - South Dakota agricultural groups are unhappy about a congressional agreement to delay country of origin labeling for meat and other food for two years. They say American exports of beef, particularly to Japan, could be imperiled unless country of origin labeling, or COOL, is allowed to go forward as required in the 2002 farm bill passed by Congress...90-year-old Texas rancher 'thankful' for still 'being able' When singer/songwriter Donnie Blanz wrote "You Just Can't See Him from the Road," he could easily have been talking about 90 year-old Texas rancher Elmer L. Maben. A Fayette County resident, Blanz wrote the song about "real" cowboys ... the ones who worked the land to make a living and weren't worried about "wearing designer jeans" or new boots, or having people watch and applaud his every move. Maben, an old-time cowboy, still wears his tight jeans, western shirts and boots ... and, always, his cowboy hat. His idea of a cowboy is just like Blanz's words that describe a "real" cowboy. Maben said he is thankful he is still able to be a part of his ranch, and as he works his cows, he doesn't need a cheering crowd, and you "just can't see him from the road," either...Horses, snakes and other wild tales The Native Americans have their legends kept down through the generations by story tellers. It's the job of a gifted tribe member to be the keeper of the stories and to pass them on to the next generation from the many generations that came before. Cowboys do much the same thing. Where the Native American storyteller will have a name like Grandmother Two Bears or Old Father Story Teller, the cowboy will simply be named Ben, Joe or Charlie. But if they were to be in a tribe somewhere, they might be named something like Cowboy Who Walks like Penguin. Old cowboys tend to be shorter than they were in their youth, a bit bowlegged and they waddle when they walk .The days of that long legged strolling stride left when arthritis set in every bone they ever bunged up in their lives. What they don't have left in athletic ability, they have maintained in humor and the passing of the legends...

America's New Dark Ages

Today's environmental movement has little to do with protecting the environment and everything to do with imposing a radical agenda to derail human progress, destroy free enterprise, and diminish individual liberty.

"Nuts," you say? Maybe you're not paying attention.

Item: A recent issue of The DeWeese Report shows a photo of a team of oxen. The Associated Press photo was taken at a demonstration to show the "ecological advantages of animal-driven farm equipment." Incredibly, the enviro-wackos seek to turn back human progress to the days of Daniel Boone by eliminating modern farm equipment such as tractors and return to days of the oxen cart. Just some fringe nuts with no credibility, you say? This demonstration was held at an AG Expo at Michigan State University with your tax dollars...


This fall Western environmental groups expected Vladimir Putin to give their cause its biggest victory in over a decade. Last month they looked forward to the Russian President’s announcement that Russia would soon sign the international agreement on global warming known as the Kyoto Protocol. It was therefore a shock when participants attending the World Climate Change Conference in Moscow heard Putin and his advisors denounce the agreement and marshal scientific and economic arguments against it. The environmentalists’ comeuppance in Moscow is the latest sign that their movement is in big trouble.

Kyoto is the movement’s Holy Grail. The agreement, signed by over 100 nations in Japan in 1997, requires industrialized countries to implement policies reducing so-called greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a model for U.N. bureaucrats and foundation-funded activists who want to regulate energy use on a global scale. However, to be legally binding, the treaty must be signed by at least 55 nations that account for at least 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. So far the 100 signatory nations account for only 44 percent. Because the Bush Administration rejects the treaty, that leaves Russia. With 14 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, its endorsement is critical...

The Air Up There - Is It Hotter?

If human activities are having a dramatic effect on globally-averaged temperature, then the temperature in the low atmosphere would be rising at a rate faster than at the Earth's surface. A flurry of recent studies continues to round out the picture and suggests that alarmism about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is more hype than scientific fact.

The best analysis of air temperature over the last 25 years is based on measurements made from satellites and checked with information from weather balloons. That work, conducted by J. Christy and R. Spencer at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), shows a small global warming trend. Even if the small trend were entirely human-caused -- an unlikely possibility because temperature exhibits many naturally-caused changes -- it contradicts the forecasts of extreme, human-made global warming...

Shenanigans at Greenpeace—And the Media Yawns

After a year in which financial improprieties gobbled up headlines like never before, it would stand to reason that a brewing scandal involving a major international organization, millions of dollars, and alleged tax evasion would receive similar treatment. But if that major international organization is famed environmental group Greenpeace, the media goes mute.

Two months ago, nonprofit watchdog Public Interest Watch (PIW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that Greenpeace has engaged in massive transfers of money between its many subgroups in order to skirt U.S. tax laws. PIW simultaneously issued a companion report, called “Green Peace, Dirty Money: Tax Violations in the World of Non-Profits,” which details how the environmental group transferred $24 million in tax-exempt contributions over a three-period to fund non-tax-exempt activities...

Killing Millions to 'Save' the Earth

...So, when I received a copy of Paul Driessen's book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power ~ Black Death , the first thing I noticed was the familiar image on its cover. "In 2000, say World Health Organization and other studies, malaria infected over 300 million people. It killed nearly 2,000,000-most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Over half of the victims are children, who die at the rate of two per minute or 3,000 per day."

In his introduction to Driessen's book, Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality, says, "This book should have been written years ago." He's right, but it has taken years for the full picture of the evil perpetrated by those claiming they want to "save the Earth" to emerge.

Many of us who have struggled to demonstrate the moral depravity and corruption of the environmental movement have concentrated on various elements of it. Driessen's triumph has been to present the full picture.

Capturing the theme of Driessen's book, Innis says, "The movement imposes the views of mostly wealthy, comfortable Americans and Europeans on mostly poor, desperate Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. It violates these people's most basic human rights, denying them economic opportunities, the chance for better lives, the right to rid their countries of diseases that were vanquished long ago in Europe and the United States."...