Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Steady stream of joggers, hikers return to reopened Sabino Canyon Sabino Canyon reopened at 6 this morning and soon had a steady stream of walkers and joggers enjoying the spring bloom. There was a short line of cars waiting at the entrance when the canyon opened. The popular destination in the Santa Catalinas had been closed since March 9 because Forest Service and state game officials said up to four mountain lions threatened to maul visitors.... Editorial: Lion debate still needs resolution The most disturbing footnote to this contentious story is that a mountain lion was spotted on nearby school grounds the same day Game & Fish called off the hunt. The Tucson Citizen was among those calling upon Game & Fish to seek an alternative to killing the lions. Relegating them to captive lives in a sanctuary would not have been our choice - but neither is ignoring what appears to be a real threat. Dangerous wild animals who lose their fear of humans often are a few steps away from mauling or killing one. We hope that doesn't happen near Sabino Canyon. Despite environmentalists' claims that the mountain lions are exhibiting natural behavior, last year's Aspen Fire altered their environment in a way that is far from natural. They have less territory to roam and less food. While we don't advocate killing or caging the mountain lions, it would be irresponsible of the U.S. Forest Service and Arizona Game & Fish to simply throw up their hands and do nothing beyond educating the public to be careful. That's a crucial element of what must be done.... Grad students, postdocs oppose Bush’s use of scientific research In an effort to expose what it describes as the U.S. presidential administration’s misrepresentation of scientific research, a group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have created an online petition to bring the issue to the public’s attention. The group is urging environmental scientists nationwide to sign the petition. The petition — located at — is similar to the statements released by the Union of Concerned Scientists last month. Fourteen Stanford students initiated the petition last spring and launched the Web site in December. Since then, they have collected 1491 signatures, including 290 professors, 133 postdoctoral fellows, 708 graduate students, as well as 41 government scientists from agencies ranging from the National Forest Service to the U.S. Geological Survey.... Some Homes Had Shields to Ward Off Wildfires Amid the ashes of the most costly wildfires in California's history lies evidence of a crucial lesson: Fire-resistant construction and vigilant removal of flammable vegetation significantly improved the odds of a home's survival, according to a Times analysis of fire records from more than 2,300 destroyed structures.... Military, Environmentalists Strike Deal An environmental group and the military reached a settlement Wednesday on plans for live-fire training in a valley many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. Under the agreement filed in federal court, the Marines would be limited in their use of mortars, rockets and other weapons that could start a wildfire in Makua Valley on the island of Oahu. The agreement restricts the use of the weapons to times when there is low fire risk, and says all training will stop if there is a fire or if a mortar or rocket lands outside the firebreak road, the environmental group Earthjustice said.... Federal government asks tribes to ID wildlife at risk The federal government wants Indian tribes to identify wildlife on their land that might be at risk. The government also wants tribes to propose conservation and recovery methods. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a request for proposals under two tribal grant programs. One of them has nearly $3 million in grants to protect, restore and manage the habitat of threatened and endangered species.... Summit Bids to Save Endangered Species Experts from around the globe came together today to try to save some of the world’s most endangered animals. Scientists said they had made “significant” moves in devising ways to help species facing extinction. At the meeting of the Scientific Council of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) experts from almost 50 countries heard that numbers of more than 30 species of animals are in rapid decline. Various species of turtle, the snow leopard and the slender billed curlew – which is found in Britain – are all facing extinction. Now the 70 experts will discuss ways of combating the factors contributing to population decline.... Column: Judges Flip-Flop on Western Issues Liberals have had their runs at dominating the federal court system, now it's the Republicans' turn. It’s not a sport, but it has some spectacular gyrations: Call it judicial flip-flopping. Judges decide countless issues related to all the federal land -- rulings that affect not only the environment but also local economies, recreation, the trademark scenery and wildlife, the whole feel of the region. Even as they try to rule based on the intricacies of law and facts, judges are bound to show personal leanings, based on their own experiences and beliefs.... Government To Study Sex Lives of Snowy Plover Following several petitions and a lawsuit, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said last week it would re-examine the status of the western snowy plover population - paying special attention the birds' sex lives. Over the next 12 months, the USFWS will conduct a review of scientific evidence suggesting that the coastal snowy plover, a large population of which resides near the West Campus of UCSB at Coal Oil Point, is genetically identical to the population of inland snowy plovers. However, UCSB experts maintain that the majority of research shows the two plover populations are separate and distinct species.... Protection is sought for Utah prairie dog The Utah prairie dog, a rodent found only in the Beehive State, is in decline and needs more federal protection, according to a coalition of environmental groups. On Monday, the groups told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service they intend to file a lawsuit to force the agency to change the critter's legal status from "threatened" to "endangered.".... Lewis and Clark journey begins Two hundred years of American history converged in this river town near St. Louis on Wednesday morning. At a replica of Camp Dubois near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1803-04, 22 young recruits from Missouri and Illinois were enlisted into the Army National Guard. Although their formal enlistments already had taken place in their home states, they were ceremonially sworn in Wednesday to commemorate the 21 men enlisted by Capt. Meriwether Lewis six weeks before the expedition began pushing up the Missouri River.... Oil and gas leases on hold whileprotests reviewed Oil and gas leases that could have seen wells drilled next to the Dinosaur National Monument headquarters building and elsewhere around the popular park have been put on hold to review environmental protests. The protests affected almost 82,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land offered in February mineral lease auctions in Colorado and Utah. More than 50 parcels were included in the protests. BLM officials informed all bidders that the agency had received protests and would withhold issuance of the leases.... BLM wins suit over two mines U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben has ruled in favor of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in a lawsuit over two Newmont Mining Corp. projects on the Carlin Trend. Great Basin Mine Watch and Mineral Policy Center filed the lawsuit against BLM's records of decision approving the Leeville underground mine project and Gold Quarry expansion.... Editorial: All-terrain hunting Hunting of game animals necessarily involves stealth. It seems obvious, then, that hunters who roar into a wildlife habitat on a noisy all-terrain vehicle would probably ruin the hunt for everybody. Even the animals, who might have a better chance to escape being shot because of the warning din, also feel the negative effects when the places they live are scarred by the heavy-tired vehicles and the solitude they require is shattered by the engine noise. ATV hunters probably aren't quite John Wayne in "True Grit" mode. Still, hunters who go after animals and birds in the traditional ways -- on foot or on horseback -- complain that their ATV-riding brethren are causing problems in the field by scaring prey and damaging the terrain by riding off established trails and roads.... Column, Muddy Waters: Why Both Sides Are Declaring Victory After a Supreme Court Clean Water Act Decision On March 23, 2004, the Supreme Court issued its 8-1 decision in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe, a closely-watched Everglades dispute. Bosh sides immediately declared victory. Environmentalists applauded the Court's rejection of one insidious anti-environmental argument that had been raised by the SFWMD. On the other hand, the Court also vacated a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in favor of the Tribe and remanded for further proceedings. In so doing, it left the door open to another contention that could be disastrous for water quality protection.... Favor salmon over farmers, panel says Farmers should not be given permission to withdraw more water from the Columbia River in the hot summer months unless the flow can be cut off during droughts, because salmon already are under assault by water that is too warm. That was the conclusion of a long-awaited National Academy of Sciences study released yesterday to the praise of environmentalists and the scorn of farmers. Instead, conservation and purchases from those who hold long-standing water rights should help lessen the effects of droughts on farmers, the panel of the congressionally chartered academy said.... Environmentalists calls for end to grizzly hunt With the spring grizzly hunt starting Thursday, environmentalists are increasing pressure on the province to end the practice. Activists gathered in downtown Calgary Wednesday to gather signatures and encouarge people to phone Premier Ralph Klein to express their opposition to the hunt.... Court hears arguments on beef fee; Ranchers hope to get checkoff declared unconstitutional Attorneys for a Montana ranching couple and the government squared off in federal appeals court Wednesday, arguing the constitutionality of forcing ranchers to pay a $1-per-head fee on cattle to help support beef marketing. In oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for the Charters argued that the checkoff violates their clients' right to free speech. Attorneys for the government countered that the program doesn't restrict individual ranchers from saying what they want to about their beef or restrict how they market it.... New West code for city folk: No whining With longtime ranchers, generally resistant to change, increasingly coming into contact with na├»ve newcomers disgruntled about the unexpected lifestyle changes that awaited them in the rural West, social tensions haven't been as high in the region since its original settlers in the 19th century were trying to decide whether the farmer and the cowboy could be friends. And with a farm-and-ranch economy threatened by everything from the North American Free Trade Agreement to mad cow disease, the last thing your average rancher wants to contend with is the clueless city slicker who bought the mini-ranch down the road. This has led many counties in Montana, Idaho and Colorado to promote something called the "Code of the New West," a pamphlet intended to acquaint newcomers with the realities of ranch-country life.... Cowboy singers, fans head for Cody The songs that calmed a herd of cattle are still packing 'em in, 120 years after cowboys on horseback first sang them. Human listeners may have fewer legs, but the cowboy songs and range ballads still hold them rapt with the words and rhythms of the Old West. "Cowboy music isn't country, but it's about country. It's the western part in country and western. Not the beer-drinking, cheating part, but the heartfelt, home-grown side of life," said Leslie Keltner of Cody. "It's music about who we are, at least, who I am." Keltner, a singer of classic cowboy tunes and composer of songs and cowboy poetry, is tuning up her guitar for the 22nd Annual Cowboy Songs and Range Ballads Festival this weekend, a four day, 75-performer bonanza of music and workshops at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center....
For an interesting flash movie on ANWR, go here. It will take awhile to download, but I believe you will find it informative.

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

March 31, 2004, Wednesday

Gila ranching pair lose bid for injunction against cattle removal

By CHRIS ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer

Ranchers whose cattle are being removed from public land in the Gila National Forest lost a bid Wednesday for an injunction they hoped would ultimately stop the roundup.

The petition sought to void a memorandum of understanding signed by the New Mexico Livestock Board's executive director and the U.S. Forest Service, which had outlined procedures for removing and selling cattle owned by rancher Kit Laney and his former wife, Sherry Farr.

They have been grazing cattle on Forest Service land without the required grazing permits. The federal roundup began in early March.

State District Judge Frank Wilson declined to grant an injunction against the roundup, saying the attorney for Laney and Farr and the Paragon Foundation of Alamogordo did not show the memorandum "either creates or affects anyone's substantial rights under New Mexico law."

"You're asking the court to intervene to put an official stamp of approval or disapproval on a document that is essentially unofficial and not binding on anybody," Wilson said.

Wilson characterized it as livestock board executive director Daniel Manzanares' opinion.

"All it does is make sure New Mexico state statutes are complied with," Manzanares said late Wednesday in a telephone interview. "We could not disobey this federal court order" to remove the cattle.

Paul Kienzle, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, argued that the memorandum should have been created in a public meeting by the entire board.

"It's a real miscarriage of justice for an awful lot of reasons," said Bob Jones, president of Paragon Foundation Inc. "Every livestock organization in the state of New Mexico is supporting our position."

The memorandum of understanding, he said, "sets a precedent that overrides state law. It's going to be very difficult to prevent this kind of thing from happening again."

Jones said the main problem with the memorandum was that it allowed the Forest Service to take ownership of the cattle without going through proper legal procedures.

"That was the whole point (of the memorandum) to give the Forest Service cover when they weren't in compliance in the first place," Kienzle said.

Manzanares said the roundup has been done in compliance with all the appropriate New Mexico livestock laws.

Farr said the livestock have been shipped through New Mexico without notification and she doesn't know where most of the cattle are.

Kienzle told the judge that Laney and Farr have a right to ensure the cattle are receiving the best treatment. If the animals lose weight or die, it means the pair will have to pay more when the Forest Service charges them for the roundup, he said.

Laney and Farr are to be charged for any cost not covered by the sale of their livestock. Forest Service officials have said they are taking good care of the livestock. They have estimated the cost of the roundup at more than $300,000.

Joe Delk, a New Mexico Livestock Board member, said he was notified of the memorandum by mail after it was signed. He thinks the issue should have been dealt with in a public meeting.

"Some may consider it a daily activity of the executive director, but I certainly don't," Delk said of the memorandum. "There's nobody out there holding (the Forest Service) accountable and that's where the livestock board should be more involved."

Manzanares said the action was within his administrative powers and added that a majority of the board supports his position.

Kienzle said he will have to talk to his clients to determine what the next step will be.

"It may be just a matter of seeing how things play out with the impoundment," he said.

March 31, 2004

Phyllis K. Fong
Inspector General
Office of Inspector General
United States Department of Agriculture
Room 9–E Jamie Whitten Bldg.
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Ms. Fong:

A matter has come to my attention that I believe merits an investigation by your office concerning the actions by the Forest Service towards constituents in my Congressional District.

Kit and Sherry Laney formerly held a grazing permit for the Diamond Bar allotment on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. They currently do not hold a permit for the allotment, but decided to graze about 400 head of cattle on their former allotment. They were found in contempt of court by a federal judge, which ordered their cattle to be removed from Forest Service lands.

In the course of the removal of the cattle there have been many allegations of misconduct and harassment by Forest Service personnel and their hired contractor.

One allegation that needs investigation is that the private contractor hired to do the roundup actually removed 14 head of horses from private deeded lands that neither Forest Service personnel nor the contractor had permission to enter. Forest Service personnel have demanded $650 per horse to return them to the rightful owners. This allegation is troubling enough in its own right, but the fact that there have been numerous other complaints, including harassment of Laney relatives and other ranchers, questionable or illegal road closures and requirement of permits for individuals to enter private property adds to the perception that a concerted effort is being made to drive law abiding New Mexicans from their homes and livelihoods.

Another troubling aspect of this case that merits your investigation is the costs associated with rounding up the Laney cattle. I would like your office to give me a complete accounting of the costs, and the necessity of every item charged to the roundup.

I am asking you to conduct a thorough investigation into the stated allegations, but also into the general conduct of Forest Service personnel and the private contractor involved in this matter. Your investigation should include conversations with not only Forest Service personnel, but Catron County Commissioners, the Catron County Sheriff and other law enforcement personnel, ranchers and local business owners. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office at (202) 225-2365. I look forward to getting your results in a timely manner.



Member of Congress

cc: Secretary Ann Veneman
Undersecretary Mark Rey
Ranchers lose ground to drought, regulations

Gila County is a natural resource base that generates a lot of wealth. That is, if residents are allowed to tap into that resource base, says the president of the Gila County Cattle Growers.

"If the grass, timber, water and minerals are used properly, they are practically inexhaustible," said Terry Wheeler, a range management specialist with more than 40 years of experience. "That's my profession so I know what I'm talking about. What we don't have here is private property. We're stymied by the Forest Service."

According to Wheeler, Gila County lost a $30 million industry when ranchers were forced to remove their cattle off allotments on Tonto National Forest. "That has an economic impact of approximately $200 million in full-service communities like Globe and Payson," he said, "because every dollar spent has a six or seven times spin-off."

In 2000, 27 ranchers were asked to take approximately 19,000 head of cattle off Forest Service land. The remaining 73 cattle ranchers in Gila County followed suit in 2002, selling another 20,000 head.

Prior to establishment of the Forest Service, there was overlapping of grazing areas on the land. After the Forest Service was created, the ranchers were asked to pay to survey the land to establish boundaries, then fence their allotments and provide water sources. That is how the permit system started. However, according to Wheeler, the permit system has no authorization in Congress.

"When the cattle were kept in smaller areas for longer periods of time, they began to overgraze, a process of time and not numbers. Because of this the Forest Service systematically began to reduce the number of cattle allowed on the allotments," he said.

"By law, the Forest Service has authority to cut numbers due to drought so they used drought to eliminate cattle in 2000 and 2002," he said. "Forest Service policy guidelines state that less than 100 pounds of feed per acre will not support grazing. However, the Forest Service denied grazing on allotments where forage production exceeded 1,500 pounds per acre.

"In the late 1960s, reports show Gila County ranchers ran about 60,000 head of cattle. The present situation was developing on the Tonto between 1994 and 1999. In 1996, we lost about 4,000 to 5,000 head in the Young area, then the big hits in 2000 and 2002. Now we're at a point where we don't have cattle and can't afford to restock," Wheeler said.

"I sold my cattle for 60 cents on the dollar. Those cattle were acclimated to the land. I would have to pay twice what they sold for to restock and it would take five years to get them acclimated and to calve regularly because of the diversity of feed, land slope, and topography of the land. It's the same for all Gila County ranchers," said Wheeler.

He said he sold his bred cows for about $500 a head and cow/calf pairs for $750. He estimates it would cost $900 per head or $950 for cow/calf pairs if he could restock. "But it's been dry every place and cattle acclimated to this area just aren't available," he said. (A March 18 market report from Marana Stockyards shows bred cows selling for $785-$800 per head.)

Wheeler said we're talking about people, a culture and industry that's been virtually destroyed by Forest Service personnel misusing environmental policy to over regulate the cattle industry on the Tonto Forest to serve hidden agendas. "The Forest Service has no care about sustainability of people or the culture," said Wheeler. "It's an agency that's completely out of control.

There was a hearing today in Alamogordo, on Paragon and the ranching industries request for a temporary restraining order against the MOU the Livestock Board signed with the Forest Service. The judge did not issue the TRO, so the MOU still stands and the issue will go to trial.


Hi there, Here are my observations and notes from Kit's appeal hearing.

First let me say that I liked Judge, John Conway, he was no nonsense but he also made Kit, Sherry and their Civil case attorney answer some questions and get a take on who they were and what they were doing. He didn't just take the JD word for everything.

Basically it seemed to me that he was checking on their attitudes and trying to do what was the most reasonable plan for everyone in the courtroom not just the convenience of the agency or the federal attorneys.

JD attorney, Cruise, was not there. His assistant was. Basically he told the Judge they didn't want Kit out of jail since he thumbs his nose at federal judges even going so far as to say he has never obeyed a court ruling. Of course this is not at all true. Kit has had three rulings against him in court and several from the agencies and obeyed each one until the contempt ruling. Jane Greek, his attorney for the criminal trial clarified this and pointed out he only disobeyed the civil contempt ruling and it should have no bearing on the criminal court.

Justice Department stated that he denied he had a social security number and denied citizenship and considered himself not to be a US Citizen. Kit's attorney stated that he does have a social security number he just didn't know it off hand and didn't have his wallet at the time of arrest. That he had never denied citizenship.

JD said he was a danger to the community it was a powderkeg situation and they didn't want him out at all until trial. Jane Greek came back with the fact that he has had access to a phone for two weeks in jail if he wanted to cause problems he could have. So far, no one has done anything illegal and nothing has happened. There is no powderkeg situation, just a lot of people really concerned about what is happening and those people have been behaving properly and Kit has done nothing to incite a riot.

The Judge then set a May 3 trial date in Albuquerque he will precede. He asked if that was all right with the JD attorneys, who had tried to roll the criminal trial into the contempt ruling and take it to the same judge that gave the contempt ruling. They said that it was fine with them if he kept the case. ( I'll bet they change their minds)

Judge Conway asked about how much time Kit was looking at and the JD told him "it was negligible" about 40-50 months. Judge Conway nearly snorted at the (negligible) comment seemed to decide to let Kit out for the month prior to the trial.

He then spoke with Bob Jones about releasing Kit to him and what he would do to keep him corralled. Bob answered several questions and asked several of his own about what Kit should be allowed to do and what he shouldn't. Basically he can hang out in the house with his monitor on, he can't go to town or ride. No access to firearms, the JD was upset about that so the judge said Mr. Jones, just lock up whatever guns you might have. ( funny about that, Kit locked up all the guns on the Diamond Bar after the LEO's chased his brother and nephew down the road. I told him he should and he said he just did it)

The judge than asked Sherry to come up and speak with him about her situation and see if she was in desperate enough straits that perhaps Kit might be tempted to violate an order to go help her. He asked how many head of livestock she was taking care of she said 32 horses three milk cows a heifer and two calves. He asked if she was doing all that herself and she said no she had plenty of help that she was trying to get her horses farmed out and moved to where there was pasture.

He then asked her didn't she have fee interest pasture that she could put her stock on? She said yes they believed they did but that it was the fee interest that the USFS were removing their livestock from and she had to keep her horses out of the way of the impoundment, so she was removing them from the ranch. (I thought this question was calculated to see how much she was willing to comply. Her answer seemed to satisfy him and he stated that that part was a civil matter. Who knows what he was thinking.

Paul Kienzel, Paragon's attorney tried to get permission for Kit to attend the hearing today but the judge denied that asked what it was about and Paul told him it was to put a stay on the transport of the cattle until state law was followed. The Judge asked him, You mean the USFS can't just load up livestock and travel where they want to with them? Keinzel said we would prefer to have them follow state law. Again it was my impression that the judge was baiting the JD to jump in and it worked, the JD stated it was not likely the hearing would result in stopping the shipment. (I don't have much info right now but the Judge in that hearing this morning did not stop the shipment. I don't think the whole case against the MOU was heard but I am a bit out of the loop right now)

JD then said they would need 2 days to try the case since they had 5 or 6 witnesses and the judge said no only one day would be needed. The JD urged the court to keep Kit in jail until the cattle were gathered and the contractors were gone. Afraid he will not obey a court order. Judge Conway said maybe he wouldn't, but he trusted Bob Jones to call the US Marshals if Kit took off. JD attorney said that was not a full proof method to ensure the safety of the USFS employees and the judge agreed to keep Kit in jail until the 8th then release him the morning of the 8th with a electronic monitoring device among other stipulations. It was more about negotiating terms than believing Kit was a real threat.

The JD then asked for a 10,000 dollar bond and Kit's attorney stated he was not a flight risk and not a danger to anyone. The judge said no there was no need for a bond. The danger to the community claim by the JD was "Pretty Shaky" he didn't even understand why this man was in chains in the courtroom.

He than asked Kit several questions, the first of the hearings that allowed Kit to say anything.

Q. where he was being held, Kit told him DABDC

Q. was being treated all right, Kit said yes they were being decent to him. (even though they haven't let him have access his cantina fund or given him any mail) ( he is being allowed more visitors than most of the prisoners and he said to my daughter that the guards are kind to him)

Q. asked about the food, Kit said he wasn't very picky and it was all right.

Q. Asked if he would abide by the order and Kit said I give you my word I will not disobey the order. The judge was satisfied with the answer.

Told him it would be bad if he did violate the order to stay at Bob Jones's house did he realize that and Kit said yes he did, he would comply. At least there is light at the end of the tunnel and he should see some daylight soon. His attorney said it would be Ok that he is still in jail for another week since she can prepare for trial better if he is in town. He will be seeing a lot of her this week and hopefully it will keep him busy and pass the time. Once he is out at crow flats, she will have a harder time working on the defense.

Matt and I are planning on trying to go visit Kit when he is released, The Jones's said it would be all right when we have details on what might be convenient for the Jones's we will make some plans.

Laura Schneberger
USFS will end temporary closure of Diamond Bar (And Kills Two Cows)

The Forest Service has announced it will end its temporary closure of the Diamond Bar allotment in the Gila National Forest at 8 a.m. Thursday.

The area was closed to the public while personnel hired by the agency impounded cattle being grazed illegally on the allotment.

"We now have 415 livestock gathered, and anticipate we may very well be finished with the removal (and) impoundment within the next couple of weeks," Wilderness District Ranger Annette Chavez said in a news release.

"A few stragglers may remain in canyons, ridges and the outer reaches of the allotment," she added. "These will be gathered and impounded by Forest Service personnel."

The Forest Service's Me Own fire base and Beaverhead facility, where impounded cattle and horses are being held, will continue to be closed to the public for an indefinite period.

"Visitors traveling along Forest Road 150, between Beaverhead and the Mimbres Valley, are cautioned to drive defensively, as ... horse trailers, water trucks and feed trucks may be encountered along the road," the release stated. "Livestock may also be encountered crossing or trailing along the road."

The termination order allows public entry to the forest along Forest Road 150 below private land at Wall Lake, south to the south rim of Rocky Canyon, and all the area within the 147,000-acre allotment.

Forest trails in the area will be reopened Thursday morning, as well.

The Forest Service also reported today that, during the roundup, two cows died. About two weeks ago, a heifer suffered a broken leg while penned at Me Own Mesa and "was disposed of humanely," the release said.

Another cow died last weekend while being taken from portable corrals west of Forest Road 225 to corrals in Beaverhead.

"Although we had hoped there would be no losses of livestock, we also knew that livestock operations unfortunately sometimes include a few losses," Chavez said. "I have been in communcations with my district staff and emphasized that the removal (and) impoundment continue to be conducted in the most humane manner possible."

Forest Service plans will reduce sheep grazing The U.S. Forest Service plans to reduce the number of acres available for sheep grazing in the Sawtooth National Forest, according to a draft environmental impact statement. Ranchers said they are just beginning to review the 320-page document, which would also change the management of four sheep grazing allotments on the land. The grazing allotments, which cover 147,200 acres, include habitat for mountain goats, threatened bull trout and federally reintroduced wolves. Three ranchers are allowed to graze up to 7,500 ewes and lambs on the land, and they must pay $1.35 for every five ewes that graze there.... Giving a Major Lift to Denver's Winter Park Resort Two hours out of Denver, the so-called Ski Train emerges from a 6.2-mile tunnel that travels under the Continental Divide, revealing a ski area that has long occupied a special niche in its industry. As the largest municipally owned ski area in the country, Winter Park has belonged to the City of Denver since it opened in 1940. Denver area skiers consider it their local mountain. In recent years, however, the buildings at Winter Park deteriorated, and the ski area struggled as many of its competitors were bought by large corporations with more resources.... Forest Service to enforce new food storage rules in Wyoming With mountain snows melting and grizzlies emerging from hibernation, rangers in northwest Wyoming's national forests are preparing for what could be a contentious first season with stricter rules aimed at keeping human food away from bears. But they have drawn sharp criticism from outfitters and several Wyoming counties and prompted threats of lawsuits and disobedience. Officials in conservative Fremont County threatened to sue the U.S. Forest Service over the rules and wrote Vice President Dick Cheney in hopes of a last-minute intervention.... Energy panel denies bid to remove Soda Springs Dam Removing Soda Springs Dam is still not an option for the North Umpqua Hydroproject's renewed license, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ruled. The decision may pave the way for a lawsuit over renewing the project's license. The energy commission on Friday denied conservationists' request to reconsider removing the dam, the lowest in the eight-dam system located about 50 miles east of Roseburg and within 3,000 acres of the Umpqua National Forest.... Homeless men evicted from cave home Two homeless men have been evicted from the cave that they made into a home in the Coconino National Forest. Randall Guerrero and Vaughn George, both 43, were told Monday that they had two days to remove their belongings so that no sign of their occupation remained. Failure to do so could result in arrest, U.S. Forest Service officials said.... State could be liable if lion attacks Sabino Canyon is being reopened after a failed hunt for mountain lions said to be behaving in ways that could indicate a threat to humans. So who's on the hook legally if that threat pans out? That question might have been answered fairly easily had not legislators a month ago discarded a bill to immunize the state against lawsuits over damage by wildlife, managed by the Game and Fish Department on behalf of the public. The bill (SB1347) was introduced in the wake of a recent court decision upholding a $3 million jury award for a motorist whose car struck an elk on Interstate 40 near Flagstaff. Before that, a girl mauled by a bear on Mount Lemmon won a $2.5 million settlement from the state.... Court requires BLM consultation to protect fish A federal judge has thrown out Bureau of Land Management policies that irrigation diversions initiated under the Mining Act of 1866 are not subject to its oversight and therefore don't require assessment for harm to endangered species. In a 13-page order issued last week, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that modifications to the 1866 law during the following 110 years left the BLM with control over the diversions. That control, Winmill wrote, requires that those irrigation diversions and ditches across federal land be evaluated with federal fish and wildlife managers to ensure they will not further threaten species protected under the Endangered Species Act.... Green Groups Seek Protections for Alaska Loon A coalition of U.S. and Russian environmental groups petitioned the U.S. federal government on Tuesday for new protections for a species of loon that breeds in an area of Alaska targeted for new oil development. The groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, want an Endangered Species Act listing for the yellow-billed loon, a type of waterfowl with a global population that they say is only about 16,650, the smallest of any loon species.... Tribe creates plan to help fish adapt better to wild In an old rhubarb field tucked behind a farmhouse, a smiling man in rain gear stands between two massive holes in the ground. One is lined with concrete. The other is covered in fist-sized rocks and cedar stumps hauled in by earth movers. Symbolically at least, Puyallup Indian Tribe fisheries biologist Blake Smith is positioned between the past and the future of salmon hatcheries.... Father of 'Green Revolution' Derides Organic Movement NPR's Robert Siegel talks with biologist Norman Borlaug, who turned 90 years old this week, about the "Green Revolution" in agriculture his research helped to spark. Borlaug promoted inorganic fertilizers to create higher yields crops -- and for his efforts at curbing world hunger, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. But today, many environmentalists are challenging the "Green Revolution" and urge a shift back to organic fertilizers. Borlaug says the theories of who he calls "extreme greenies" would be inadequate to feed the world.... Group seeking changes to Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the federal government to change its Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program, according to a report by The Associated Press. The environmental group officially petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday, the sixth anniversary of the first release of endangered wolves into the wild of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.... Wolves making trek back to Utah Gray wolves have been considered extirpated from Utah since 1929, but they're coming back. At 175 pounds, a full-grown male is a formidable enemy in the woods. That's if he is alone. But wolves are pack animals, hunting and living together. Packs can be as small as three animals or as large as 27. No one is bringing them to Utah. They are finding their way from a wolf population started in Wyoming in 1995.... NWC suspends wolf program The increasingly volatile climate about wolves has caused the suspension of a tracking program at Northwest College. But NWC officials value the program and hope the suspension is temporary. Hitchcock coordinates the wolf-tracking program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and agent Mike Jimenez, who faces allegations of trespassing on a Meeteetse ranch. "It'll blow over, for sure," Hitchcock said.... U.S. Justices debate their role in land-use issue The U.S. Supreme Court doesn't want to see a judge in the driver's seat of the Bureau of Land Management's off-road-vehicle program in Utah. But, several justices wondered during oral arguments Monday, at what point does the agency's approach to protecting potential wilderness areas from damage caused by motorized recreation require judicial intervention? "I'm not willing to accept it's the role of the courts to make sure agencies toe the line," Justice Antonin Scalia told an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), which asked the court to uphold a 10th Circuit ruling compelling BLM to consider prohibiting all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) use on public lands being studied for possible wilderness designation. A decision in the case, not expected for several months, could dramatically affect the amount of undeveloped backcountry across the West available for Congress to consider for wilderness protection.... Moab couple, OHVs on collision course The 5,000 or so off-road vehicle enthusiasts expected to descend on Moab over the weekend are looking for rough roads. But they could run into some unexpected bumps. A popular trail known as Strike Ravine near the headwaters of Kane Springs Canyon is locked in a bitter dispute between San Juan County and a Moab couple who claim ownership of the road and want to keep the rumble of Jeeps off their land.... Smith pushes land for tribe A plan to return a large swath of federal land to one of Oregon's poorest Indian tribes requires a leap of faith, Sen. Gordon Smith says. But potential payoffs justify that, the Oregon Republican said Tuesday at a Senate hearing on his plan to transfer nearly 63,000 acres of the Siuslaw National Forest near Florence to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, to hold in trust for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.... Demos set to block judicial nominee President Bush's controversial nomination of William Myers to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appears headed for action on Thursday. Environmental groups and Indian tribes oppose the nomination of the former cattle industry lawyer and aide to retired Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson. Myers' nomination is expected to be approved by the committee on a party line vote with all 10 Republicans voting for him and nine Democrats against. He likely will face a tougher test by the full Senate. Democrats are expected to try to block the nomination, requiring Republicans to gather 60 votes rather than a simple majority of 51.... Environmentalists sue over approval of Columbia River dredging Environmentalists went to court Tuesday to try to block a $136 million government project to deepen the Columbia River shipping channel, saying the dredging could harm salmon and other wildlife. In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Northwest Environmental Advocates argued that dredging three feet from the 100-mile channel along the Washington-Oregon line would devastate salmon habitat and worsen erosion.... Bush Mining Regulatory Change Is Denounced Tales of floods and flattened peaks and of homes swept away or devalued in central Appalachia were laid out Tuesday by opponents to the Bush administration's plan to ease a buffer-zone regulation protecting streams from coal mining operations.... 'Pharm crop' debate takes root in California An experimental new form of rice, engineered to produce commercial quantities of prescription drugs, is placing California in the middle of a raging international dispute over the use of genetically modified crops. Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience is seeking state approval to grow rice that can make two human proteins, normally found in breast milk and tears, for use in treating human illnesses.... Editorial: The road to ANWR The environmentalists are fooling around with a triple-edged sword these days, though most wouldn't recognize it. In the interests of clean air, particularly in California and especially in Southern California, the enviros have been pushing for ways to mandate both less consumption of gasoline and cleaner burning gasoline for decades now. Among their favorite solutions to cleaner air are mixing gasoline with ethanol, a corn-based additive that supposedly burns cleaner than regular gasoline (though that's disputed) and opposing "suburban sprawl", the free market's solution to overcrowding and high real estate prices. So what are the real results of such solutions? Come with us now to the land of unintended consequences, a land populated by an overabundance of people who know what's good for the rest of us, and thus impose — through litigation and activist judges, mostly — solutions that more often than not don't solve the problem at hand, but result in conditions 180 degrees out from what was intended.... Wells Are Going Dry All Over Eastern Idaho Water woes are starting early this year! The low water table is just getting lower and wells are going dry all over eastern Idaho. An upper valley well company says it's getting 2 to 3 calls a day from people who are going dry. “Sunday when I went to take a shower the water just really wasn't there. So that's when we first realized something's wrong with the well,” says Rick Bell, well going dry. Come to find out Rick Bell's next-door neighbor’s well has been totally dry since Friday and the four houses in his neighborhood have the same problem.... Wool contract details fuzzy The federal agency that is ordering wool berets for Iraqi security forces disputes a news report that the bid specifications call for the use of Australian wool. But the Washington Post reporter who two weeks ago wrote about the beret order stands by his story. "There is no specification for Australian wool, absolutely none," said Jonathan Thompson, a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA, the temporary governing authority in Iraq.... Three Grunts for the Queen Every April, the good people of Sopchoppy, Florida, honor their local practice of worm grunting. This form of bait harvest involves driving a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing a bar across it to create vibrations that force worms to the surface. ON April 10th, the fourth annual Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival will draw an estimated 5,000 attendees for a day that will include the Worm Grunting Competition, worm Grunter’s 5k Race, and end with the star-lit Worm Grunter’s Ball. But the true jewel of the day’s events is the crowning of the Worm Gruntin’ Queen....

Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Judge orders Laney released to third party custodian

A judge ordered a dissident rancher to be released from custody April 8 as Gila National Forest contract cowboys finish impounding Kit Laney's cattle from the Diamond Bar allotment.

Laney, 43, had been held without bond based on a federal magistrate's concern he might return to his 121-year-old ranch, where forest officials alleged he assaulted them during the roundup and impoundment of Laney's herd. The U.S. Forest Service alleged the cattle were grazing illegally.

On Tuesday, Senior U.S. District Judge John E. Conway said Laney could be released to fellow rancher Bob Jones up on Otero Mesa as long as Laney promised to steer clear of the Diamond Bar.

"Why is this man in chains?" the judge asked.

Laney was arrested March 14 after allegedly riding his horse toward Forest Service officials and trying to tear down a corral holding some of his cattle.

Indicted by a grand jury on two counts of obstruction of justice, five counts of assaulting and interfering with federal officers and employees and one count of interfering with a court order, U.S. Magistrate Karen Molzen initially denied bail.

A large crowd of supporters from some of the oldest ranching families in the state were present in court as Conway ordered Laney freed next month.

Laney and his ex-wife and ranching partner, Sherry Farr, no longer hold permits to graze on the Diamond Bar allotment but jointly own private land adjacent to forest land. They have contended in lawsuits that they have grazing rights based on historical use of the land.

Courts have ruled against them several times since the mid-1990s. A federal judge had ordered the cattle removed from the Diamond Bar allotment because Laney and Farr did not have a grazing permit. Laney was later found in contempt of court.

The Forest Service is now advertising its intent to sell 251 of Laney's cattle.

Earlier Tuesday, the Forest Service announced the Diamond Bar allotment will reopen to the public Thursday.

The allotment was closed Feb. 28 for the roundup of Laney cattle.

"We now have 415 livestock gathered and anticipate we may well be finished with the removal-impoundment within the next couple of weeks," District Ranger Annette Chavez said in a statement.

Stragglers may remain in canyons and other areas but eventually will be rounded up, Chavez said.

More than half the impounded cattle have been shipped to an auction barn.

Allotment to reopen to public Thursday

A Gila National Forest grazing allotment that has been closed a month while a dissident rancher's cattle were rounded up and impounded will reopen to the public Thursday, forest officials said.

The Diamond Bar allotment was closed Feb. 28 for the roundup of cattle belonging to Kit Laney and his ex-wife and ranching partner, Sherry Farr.

"We now have 415 livestock gathered and anticipate we may well be finished with the removal/impoundment within the next couple of weeks," District Ranger Annette Chavez said in a statement.

Stragglers may remain in canyons and other areas but eventually will be rounded up, Chavez said.

More than half the impounded cattle have been shipped to an auction barn.

Visitors traveling along Forest Road 150 between Beaverhead and Mimbres Valley are urged to be cautious because large horse trailers, water trucks or feed trucks may be encountered, and livestock themselves may stray onto the road, forest officials said Tuesday.

Trail No. 40 in Diamond Creek will also be open from Forest Road 150 to Continental Divide Trail No. 74, and the divide trail will reopen as well, as will several other trails.

It has just been reported to me that Kit Laney will stay in jail till April 8th. Judge Conway went with the US Attorney's request that they have till that date to gather the cattle, and then they will set bond for Kit....stay tuned.

Monday, March 29, 2004


Judge Orders FBI-Wanted Fugitive Detained A Canadian judge ordered a radical environmentalist wanted by the FBI detained Monday, after the American was caught allegedly trying to steal bolt cutters from a tire store. U.S. officials are working with the Canadian government to extradite Michael Scarpitti, a suspected member of the Earth Liberation Front group, a Canadian government spokesman said. The FBI, which considers ELF a terrorist organization, has offered a $25,000 reward for his capture.... Forest Service drops 385 sites from controversial fee program Hikers, birders, and picnickers will no longer have to buy a Northwest Forest Pass to visit 385 sites in Oregon and Washington, starting May 1. The U.S. Forest Service will drop that many trailheads and other areas from the fee program, reducing the total number of day-use sites that require a fee payment to 679 in the two states.... Column: End Game for Northwest Forests During the dark days of the Reagan and Bush I regimes, grassroots forest activists forced the DC politicians and the big green DC groups to take notice of what was happening to the precious Ancient Forest ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. They elevated the fate of these forests to a national concern, despite being told it couldn't be done. As irreplaceable forests fell to the saws, the consistent word from DC was that in order to end Ancient Forest logging, "you have to elect Democrats to power." So, come 1993, the issue was "ripe." An Injunction against logging was in place (gained in 1991 during Bush I; issued by courageous Reagan-appointee Judge William Dwyer, the Northern spotted owl was on the cover of TIME and Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.... National Media Campaign to Protect Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtles Launched The San Francisco office of DDB Worldwide has helped launch a cutting edge national multi-media campaign to raise awareness about the looming extinction of the Pacific leatherback sea turtle for the San Francisco Bay Area-based environmental organization Sea Turtle Restoration Project and its international Save the Leatherback Campaign.... Salvage logging from Biscuit Fire could clear the way for jobs boon The trees charred in the 2002 Biscuit Fire look to Doug Robertson like jobs for the picking - but you've got to know where he's coming from. He's a six-term county commissioner from Douglas County, a region with double-digit unemployment, the highest rate in Oregon. He's flown over blackened hillsides with harvestable fire-killed trees as far as the eye can see. He instigated a study last year that found fire-killed trees deteriorate and lose economic value if they aren't logged right away.... Management Plan for California Desert Protection, Development Limps Forward The West Mojave Plan, a sweeping blueprint for the management of 9 million acres of public and private land, is limping toward completion, estimated for mid-2004. The plan, created by the Bureau of Land Management, has a twofold intent: To protect endangered species and their habitats, and to streamline the permitting process for developers and the counties. The plan has drawn criticism from everyone. Miners, off-highway enthusiasts, ranchers, county officials and environmentalists have all assailed the plan for different reasons.... Wal-Mart takes on pink-lipped bats A Wal-Mart store in Ohio could have its planned expansion blocked by an innocuous and endangered species of pink-lipped bat. The store has applied to double its retail space onto neighboring wetlands, but at a public hearing March 15 sponsored by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, residents said the project would displace yellow spotted salamanders, frogs, turtles, crayfish and other wildlife, including the 3-inch pink-lipped Indiana bat.... Column: Down for the Hatchery Count We talked awhile about how the entire ecological underpinnings of the Northwest had adapted over time to the nutrients that salmon gathered out in the ocean, stored in their fat bodies, then deposited on the gravel and in the streams of their home watershed after they spawned. All sorts of things -- from insects to bears and even trees -- had evolved to depend on the nutrients provided by the salmon carcasses. In this way, salmon sacrificed their bodies to nourish the watershed community, a community that in turn would ensure the success of salmon's offspring. Of course, the decline in wild salmon spawning resulted in a plunge in the available nutrients to all the critters in the home watershed. More than a 94 percent decline, as salmon researchers calculated. That means the watersheds and ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest are malnourished from lack of salmon.... Feds Offer Voluntary Wetlands Reserve Program to Farmers More than a year after federal officials gave up on a wildlife refuge proposal along northwestern Indiana's Kankakee River, they've found a more politically palatable way to recreate wetlands along the waterway. They're offering landowners a chance to take part in the Wetland Reserve Program, a voluntary program in which the government leases land from private owners. Agriculture officials say that near areas of the Kankakee River that flood, enough Indiana farmers have signed up to cause a waiting list for approval.... Cruelty at Padre Island includes 'coyote fishing' Some pelicans, deer and other creatures at Padre Island National Seashore must flee for their lives from threats that include poaching, target practice and cruelty from human visitors, park rangers say. For the six rangers who patrol about 133,000 acres, some of the worst animal cruelty involves so-called "coyote fishing," where the predators are baited with food attached to a fishing line, then dragged and tortured. Several people were arrested for killing a coyote they caught with a hot dog on fishing line strung down the beach.... Column: Park Service Follies But that's just the stupid part. Here's the outrageous part. It turns out that one reason the Park Service is short of money is that Park Service officials have been doing a lot of traveling. They spent $44 million on official travel at home and abroad just last year. And that includes stops in such exotic locales as China, South America, France and Italy. Park Director Fran Manella was hauled before Congressman Charles Taylor and Norm Dick's House committee last week and ordered to cut the travel and keep the parks open. She promised to comply. From now on, she said, no more overseas trips. Well, that is a start, but it is just the latest chapter in a tale of Park Service mismanagement in which multimillion-dollar projects have been launched without congressional approval and authorization and the Park Service police chief was fired for revealing she didn't have enough police officers to guard the national monuments.... Cross land swap begins The early stages of the land swap designed to save the Mojave Cross have started. The federal government has started doing the required land surveying and may be done with it in a couple weeks, National Park Service spokeswoman Holly Bundock said last week. After the land exchange is complete, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post at the Veterans Home of California-Barstow will acquire ownership of the disputed cross and the acre of land it's on, in the Mojave National Preserve. A federal court in 2002 found the cross unconstitutional because it is on federal land.... Parachute wildflower threatened Conservation groups and botanists filed Monday for endangered species protection for the Parachute penstemon, as gas drilling creeps closer to the plant's habitat. Discovered in 1986, botanists have found the rare desert wildflower in only five spots, including two spots on the Roan Plateau. The Bush administration is pushing to open the plateau for gas drilling and environmentalists say drilling threatens the plant with extinction.... Project Aims for One-Stop Online Shopping for Federal Rules Where there are many, there will be one. Under an ambitious plan recently approved by Bush administration officials, by early 2006 the average citizen will be able to go to a single federal regulatory Web site and dive into an electronic rulemaking repository that will show proposals, final rules, comments, supporting documents such as cost-benefit analyses and just about anything that goes along with the regulatory process. Currently, there exists a simple portal called, where users can see proposed rules and comment on them. But for anything more elaborate, they must go to individual agencies.... Supreme Court wades into Western land dispute Supreme Court justices seemed unsympathetic Monday to a lawsuit that accused the federal government of doing too little to protect undeveloped land in Utah's back country from off-road vehicles. The court is considering whether a judge can force federal Bureau of Land Management to more aggressively safeguard the land which is being considered for wilderness designation. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said she was disturbed by photographs of damage to the areas - a landscape that includes sand dunes and ancient stands of ponderosa pines. At the same time, O'Connor said critics of land managers seemed to be trying to use a legal shortcut to force changes.... Future of Wilderness Weighed Before Supreme Court: Bush Admin Seeks Immunity from Public Challenge to Land Management Decisions Attorneys general from 14 states, every living former head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and its General Counsel, a coalition of 38 law professors, a veterans' advocacy group, and numerous conservation groups asked the nation's highest court today to retain a central check and balance that protects America's environment. The groups asked the court to reject a Bush administration effort to usurp the right of average American's to bring environmental enforcement cases to protect America's natural resources. The case before the court centers on undeveloped public lands in the west. The federal government is required by law to maintain the wild character of these lands. When off-road vehicle drivers damaged the lands with their vehicles, the federal government refused to take protective action until citizen groups initiated legal enforcement action. Although the government admitted that it was breaking the law by not adequately protecting these pristine and wild areas, it has offered a radical new legal theory in the Supreme Court under which the public would be helpless to enforce this and other legal duties.... Column: Where the Wild Things Are I mention all this because today's Supreme Court case ostensibly concerns the effects of off-road vehicles on potential wilderness areas. Which sounds like it might make for some glorious, wind-blows-through-your-hair oral argument. But this case is ultimately just about statutory construction, and the only thing blowing through your hair at the high court today is the sound of Justice Antonin Scalia's infinite follow-up questions. I also mention all this because—try as I may—I can't understand the appeal of buzzing around the wilderness in an ATV, digging up the fragile cryptobiotic crust, eroding the delicate soil, and polluting the rivers. But someone will enlighten me, I am sure.... BLM Web site is back online after being shut down for two weeks The Bureau of Land Management's Web site is up and running after being shut down since March 15. An appeals court Wednesday blocked a judge's ruling that ordered most of the Interior Department's computers disconnected from the Internet.... Sabino will reopen with restrictions Wednesday While Sabino Canyon reopens Wednesday and a state hunt has ended there, authorities will still chase down mountain lions reported to be frequenting Foothills neighborhoods. If authorities catch a lion that's considered to be a safety threat in the residential areas, they will ship it by vehicle to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Scottsdale, said Gerry Perry, the Game and Fish Department's regional supervisor.... For an Environmentalist, Victory Toasts Are Rare BARBARA L. LAWRENCE, like the mythic Celtic king who waded into the surf to command the waves to stop, has been fighting the tide of what she calls "environmentally irresponsible" development for most of her adult life. Statistics, if they are the measure of success, would seem to indicate colossal failure. But for Ms. Lawrence, a self-described child of the 60's, the campaign for smart growth, the struggle against suburban sprawl, is a movement. And the movement, she believes, is slowly fostering a consciousness and a push for legislation to stop what will be, if left unchecked, self-immolation.... Student pleads innocent in SUV vandalism, firebombing spree in Southern California A college student with alleged connections to a radical environmentalist group pleaded innocent Monday to charges he took part in a vandalism spree that damaged or destroyed 125 sport utility vehicles. Billy Cottrell, 23, a graduate physics student at the California Institute of Technology, entered the plea in federal court. Trial was set for May 11.... Tearing limbs from limbs Tree-sitters and their supporters view Schatz as Enemy No. 2, just behind the company, Pacific Lumber, that hires him to forcibly extract redwood squatters. His arrival with harness and rope incites the final chaotic scene in a standoff that the activists rarely win. Once Schatz and his crew clear out the sitters, loggers with chain saws go to work de-limbing or topping or felling giant trees. Yet the 46-year-old climber, who developed a passion for trees early and still spends much of his life deep in the woods, takes no great pleasure in a job well done.... Public parks grazing divides officials and environmentalists In the dappled light of a pleasant day, the Sunol Regional Wilderness seems an unlikely place for the center of controversy. But it is. Over cows. Some environmentalists want them out of this and other East Bay parks because, they say, cattle destroy habitat for fish, amphibians and birds, they sully waterways and they detract from the parks' aesthetics. But East Bay parks officials are steadfast in their support for grazing. They say cattle reduce fire danger and enhance park ecosystems -- claims that are hotly contested by anti-grazing activists and contradicted by at least some scientific evidence. They have another supporting reason, too, although park officials do not normally use it to defend their grazing program. They acknowledge that part of their support for ranching has to do with their long-term plans for open space. Some day, they would like to buy neighboring ranches. And allowing grazing in the East Bay's public park system in the meantime allows the park district to preserve good relationships with ranching families. It also makes it easier for ranchers to stay in business, which in turn makes them less likely to sell their property to developers.... The Beast in the Garden: A Modern Parable of Man and Nature(Book Review) Weaving together deep research, meticulous reporting, vivid characterization, disciplined prose, informative political and historical asides, lucid science, incisive wit, and narrative pacing as smooth and suspenseful as a stalking mountain lion, Baron has created a wily page-turner out of an arcane concept -- "habituation," or the behavioral adaptation of predators to people -- that, frankly, does not excite many environmentalists, much less anyone else. Much of Baron's success results from using Lancaster's death to explore a deeper story of human folly and from telling that story through impeccably executed narrative journalism. Baron traces a series of lion sightings and focuses on the tireless crusade of Boulder, Colo., researchers Michael Sanders and Jim Halfpenny to persuade the city, county, and state that Colorado has a lion problem.... Air pollution panel accused of industry tilt Several members of a panel formed by the National Academy of Sciences to study the regulation of air pollution from coal-burning power plants are too biased against the regulation to serve, according to a group of environmentalists. The regulation, known as "New Source Review," would allow old, coal-fired power plants to upgrade equipment without having to install pollution controls. In a letter Friday to Bruce Alberts, president of the academy, four environmentalists argued that the chairman and one member should be removed from the proposed panel and replaced by scientists whose views might offset those of still other members, who have consulted for the electric power industry....Anschutz aims to quench Texas thirst Denver financier Philip Anschutz, a veteran investor in energy, telecommunications and entertainment, is launching a foray into a more basic commodity: water. Anschutz and other west Texas farm owners are negotiating to supply water to the city of El Paso in a deal that could be worth nearly $100 million a year. Anschutz, in partnership with El Paso developer Woody Hunt and other landowners, agreed earlier this month to a 90-day exclusive negotiation period with El Paso Water Utilities. If a deal comes out of the negotiations, the water-rights owners could send 70,000 acre-feet of water to El Paso, enough to accommodate the city's growth for decades.... State demanding activist return records on official After conservative Houston activist Mary Williams received documents confirming that Gov. Rick Perry's head of Texas-Mexico relations is a Mexican citizen, she shared the information with some of her political friends. That apparently prompted an anonymous letter sent to farmers and ranchers claiming Mexico isn't paying its water debt to the United States because Helena Colyandro, a resident alien, is negotiating on Texas' behalf. Now, the Texas secretary of state's office is demanding Williams return all the documents she received, citing the inadvertent release of confidential information. The letter also demanded a list from Williams of everyone with whom she had shared the Colyandro documents.... FDA Failed to Inspect Nearly Half of California Animal-Feed Handlers in 2003 Nearly half of California companies that handle feed were not inspected by the government last year, despite regulations calling for annual checks – a key brick in the U.S. firewall against mad cow disease. Scientists think feed made from cows and other ruminant animals infected with mad cow and similar diseases is the main way mad cow disease is spread. Federal law prohibits making cattle feed from cows and other ruminant animals, such as sheep, elk and deer.... It's All Trew: Locking ourselves away is progress? About three years ago, we began locking all doors and gates here at the ranch for the first time in more than fifty years. Theft by a friend of a friend of a friend took advantage of open access and brought to a close our habit of trusting everyone. My father often advised, "trust everyone but don't tempt anyone." I can now testify from experience this old adage will prove true more times than not. Remember hearing the saying, "the latchstring is always out?" To all you young whippersnappers that means that way-back-when crude frontier doors were often made without door knobs. A bar device, just inside the door held it shut for secure protection. If all was well, a leather thong that lifted the bar was thrust through a hole in the door to hang outside. To open the door, merely pull the latchstring to lift the bar. For privacy, pull the thong inside and you were protected....

Sunday, March 28, 2004


Some hunters push state to restrict ATVs The group of hunting purists is behind a push to get the Nevada Wildlife Commission to restrict hunter use of ATVs — a move the board acknowledges might be necessary to protect wildlife and public lands. Traditional sportsmen accuse the mechanized hunters of disturbing their hunts, engaging in unfair chases for game and carving out more and more new roads in the remote regions of Nevada every year.... Ex-Forest Service chief: Spare old growth trees Former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck told a group of environmental law students in Portland that President Bush could burnish his legacy by protecting old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Dombeck, delivering the keynote address of the National Center of Environmental Law Societies conference at Lewis & Clark College, addressed the lingering controversy over cutting old growth in the so-called spotted owl forests of Western Washington, Oregon and Northern California.... Problems as deep as a river Put your finger on the town of Three Forks, Mont., just west of Bozeman, on your map, and your digit will be covering up the headwaters of the Missouri River. Trace the river's meandering route, and 2,341 miles later, and you'll note the river empties into the Mississippi River in the vicinity of St. Louis. From beginning to end, the "Big Muddy," as it's nicknamed, flows through, or touches, seven states. Its flow is regulated by six dams. Its uses are grouped into six categories: flood control, water supply and water quality control, irrigation, navigation, power and -- finally -- recreation, fish and wildlife.... Snowy plover runs up against beach economy He has never seen the snowy plover — a bird so small it can fit into a child's cupped hands — but a state proposal for protecting it is now threatening his livelihood, he said. "This is the spotted owl on the beach," said Olson, 58, referring to the threatened owl that years ago brought logging to a halt on vast reaches of federal forests in Oregon. The state has proposed closing 57 miles — or about 25 percent — of Oregon's northern coast to dogs, kites, vehicles and campfires during the birds' six-month mating season in an effort to restore nesting areas for the threatened snowy plover. The concept of trading in a part of their beach for a bird most people here have never seen has infuriated residents — even though environmentalists statewide say the protections are necessary.... Column: Addicted to chasing wolves Hi, my name is Amy, and I'm a wolfaholic. I know there are others like me out there. They're driving cars with bumper stickers saying "Little Red Riding Hood Lied." Their walls display dreamy paintings of wolves that look gentler than Gandhi. My wolfaholism manifests itself in a different way: I'm addicted to watching wolves.... Speculator's deals turn sensitive land into cash A land speculator who earned more than $40 million selling pristine oceanfront properties to conservationists after announcing plans to develop them is poised to cash in again in Southern California's Santa Monica Mountains. Using a complicated series of business partnerships, Manhattan Beach-based Brian Sweeney has made a specialty in California of buying land in environmentally sensitive areas, threatening to build homes on it and then selling the land to conservation groups that pay for it with state and donated money.... Deadly ending The mauling deaths of Californian Timothy Treadwell and girlfriend Amie Huguenard at Alaska's Kaflia Bay in October may have begun with something as simple as the celebrity bear-man leaving his lunch to shoo away a wandering grizzly. After more than a decade of summers spent hanging out among the bears of the Katmai coast, Treadwell considered himself a friend and companion of these bears. But Alaska State Troopers and other people who have reviewed evidence gathered after the couple died believe Huguenard was becoming increasingly nervous about life among the bears. Newly released reports from troopers hint the two may have been arguing about the danger. Nearly 70 pages of troopers memos, on-the-scene reports from National Park Service rangers, property records and maps were obtained by the Daily News in response to several Freedom of Information Act requests over a span of almost six months.... Fund to aid wild habitat proposed Harm to habitat and wildlife from oil and gas development in Wyoming could be made up for by setting aside a penny for every million cubic feet of natural gas produced in the state, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said. "I don't intend to preside over the end of wildlife in this state," he told a Conservation Congress gathering Saturday. "The moneys could be used to focus on securing more habitat and wildlife resources," he said. "We would treat that fund separately from assistance for towns and counties … I believe community impacts should be funded out of the general revenue of the state.".... Editorial: Pristine Wilderness, in Court The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on one of the most important federal land cases to come before it in years. The legal issue is whether the courts can require a recalcitrant federal agency to enforce a specific Congressional mandate — in this case, a mandate to protect America's wilderness. The larger issue is whether wilderness will be managed in ways that ensure its survival for future generations. The case involves thousands of acres in Utah set aside as "wilderness study areas" by the Bureau of Land Management. Under law, such areas are to be protected against "impairment" from commercial or recreational activity until Congress decides whether to designate them as permanently protected wilderness.... Greens, ORVs toe to toe over 'feet vs. fuel' in U.S. top court To hear opposing sides tell it, the U.S. Supreme Court must decide between a flood of lawsuits paralyzing federal agencies or swarms of dirt bikes and four-wheelers trashing pristine public lands after it hears oral arguments in a Utah case Monday. The Bush administration is asking the high court to overturn a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a 1999 lawsuit brought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) against Interior Secretary Gale Norton. In August 2002, the Denver-based appeals court reversed the decision of a Utah federal judge and found the Bureau of Land Management can be legally forced to consider limiting off-road-vehicle (ORV) use on public lands under study as future wilderness areas until Congress determines their status.... Drilling surges in state Soaring national demand for gas and oil has triggered the biggest energy boom in Colorado history, with drilling permits for wells in this state expected to hit an all-time high of 2,500 this year. But the increased rate of drilling - and a push by the Bush administration to expedite energy production in the Rockies - is not enough, experts say, for producers to catch up to two realities: Production in the Gulf of Mexico is rapidly dwindling, and the nation is increasingly using natural gas to fuel generation of electricity. The Energy Information Administration predicts that the United States will need between 29 percent and 51 percent more natural gas by 2025. But U.S. production has flat-lined despite ambitious exploration and innovative extraction technologies. These shifts in supply and demand caused the National Petroleum Council recently to predict that prices will be high and volatile.... Editorial: Wild about Mount Hood Sen. Ron Wyden has started a debate that should end with more protected wilderness around Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. The Oregon Democrat released a draft plan Thursday to give wilderness protection to another 160,000 acres of forest around Mount Hood, nearly doubling the existing wilderness areas. For now, Wyden's plan is just lines on a map, drawn in pencil, likely to be changed by political give and take. Yet one thing is certain: This state is overdue for more wilderness. It's been 20 years since Congress approved any broad-scale addition to Oregon wilderness. In that time, the state's population has exploded, especially in the counties surrounding Mount Hood.... Editorial: How does this protect nature? "Seems to me," the senator said, "rather than tell people they are going to be restricted from using our public lands, the solution lies in providing more opportunities for them to enjoy our great places." Exactly right. But how does the designation of additional wilderness serve that purpose? According to the 1964 law that created the designation, wilderness is supposed to be "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man." In such areas there are to be no improvements -- no roads, no motors, no mechanical transport such as bikes, and no structure or installation such as outhouses at popular and often overrun camping sites. So, within easy reach of the metropolitan area, where hundreds of thousands of people can be expected to flock to the woods over the next 50 years, trampling through the brush, leaving their trash, polluting the ground -- how does it make sense to preclude a type of forest management that tries to prepare for and cope with such an influx? On the surface, faced with hordes of people, prudent forest management -- with trails, working toilets, other facilities for visitors -- might help nature more than declaring more acres to be wild.... Sabino hunt for mountain lions ends indefinitely After five days of failed attempts to trap mountain lions in Sabino Canyon, a controversial state hunt for the animals has been called off indefinitely. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, which has been concerned that the lions will attack humans, said it will release more information about the decision at a press conference with officials from the Coronado National Forest today. Sabino Canyon, a popular recreation area, remains closed to the public.... Cheers, jeers sound for Delta dam plans Water officials looking into increasing the dam holding the San Joaquin River back believe a bigger barrier could help bring the river back to life -- but environmentalists are already protesting the idea, even as farmers cheer the possibility of getting more water for their land. "We have a goal of helping the river by capturing more floodwaters that would otherwise be lost," said Jason Phillips, project manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.... Animas-LaPlata pushed back two years Bureau of Reclamation officials have moved back the completion date of the Animas-La Plata Project from April 2008 to July 2010. The news was presented to the project's Construction Coordination Committee on Friday by Rick Ehat, A-LP project engineer and chairman of the coordination committee....Whose water? As Albert Miller stands next to a stock tank on his ranch outside this far West Texas town, he can't help but feel a vague sense of unease. The tank still holds water from a recent rain, and the springs that seep out of the nearby mountains and canyons continue to feed the ranch its much-needed water supply. But in a region that views water as a precious resource, especially in the midst of a decadelong drought, Miller and his neighbors say they are worried that the next threat could come not from Mother Nature but from the state of Texas.... Appeals court to hear challenge Nearly seven years after Steve and Jeanne Charter first refused to pay a $1-per-head fee on cattle they sold, a federal appeals court is set this week to hear the Montana ranchers' challenge to the national beef checkoff. Oral arguments are set for Wednesday in Seattle before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... The new pioneers of sprawl Sprawl, of course, is hardly a new issue for Colorado, a state whose population is growing faster than that of Bangladesh. But the focus is usually on dense subdivisions and the endless expanse of malls that creep over hills along the interstates. Now, as more and more of the West's open space is carved up and converted into 35-acre "ranchettes" - the lower limit for avoiding subdivision restrictions in Colorado - some worry that the trend of exurban growth, while more subtle, could cause lasting damage to a countryside and culture that's already disappearing. "This is the unknown threat to Colorado's landscape," says Will Coyne, a land-use expert at the Environment Colorado. "The focus on growth has been around urban and suburban growth, while we're watching millions of acres be consumed by ranchettes.".... Fourth-generation cattlewoman strives to continue her forebears' longtime way of making a living Micaela King McGibbon can stand on the spot her great-grandfather homesteaded in 1895 and lean on the corrals he built more than a century ago. On a nearby hillside overlooking the breadth of the Kings' sprawling Anvil Ranch near Three Points, a small cemetery cradles the bones of her grandpa and grandma. Behind the main ranch house is the old adobe building used as a schoolhouse when her dad was a young boy. McGibbon, a fourth-generation rancher, is as much a part of this landscape as the cactus that serve as fodder for cattle in times of drought.... On The Edge Of Common Sense: I write for readers who need a Baxter break Who reads this column? That I can't answer, but I do know who I write for. I write for the guy (or lady or kid) with his feet in the stirrups, seat on the tractor, arm in the cow, and squint in the eye. For the one who's been hangin' on so long, not because he's afraid of fallin', but just for the pure sake of bein' there. One who still takes pride in a well-set post, plowed furrow, or a perfect brand....

PLF Hopeful That Supreme Court Clean Water Act Ruling Will Lead to Local Control

Pacific Legal Foundation today expressed hope over the U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukkee Tribe of Indians.

“While we’re disappointed that the Court sent this case back to the lower court for further consideration, we are relieved that the Court is not anxious to put the control of local water use under the thumb of the federal government,” said PLF Principal Attorney Rob Rivett. “Water management issues have for hundreds of years been the responsibility of state and local governments and should remain so.”

“This ruling is especially important for western states, which are short on water,” added Rivett. “Federal permits to distribute local water would place a serious layer of bureaucratic red tape in front of local water districts that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in delays and mitigation costs. We think the Court wants to avert such a disaster.”....

Government Condemns Property for Private Development

A study by the Institute for Justice reports that government takings of private land has increased over the last five years and shows no sign of slowing down. This process, typically referred to as "eminent domain," is constitutionally constrained to projects for "public use" and then only with just compensation. While public use is commonly understood to mean things like highways and police stations, the courts have interpreted the term much more broadly.

The result, researchers say, has been a boon for private developers. With government empowered to condemn property for the development of casinos, condominiums and shopping malls, private companies have been quick to cozy up to local bureaucrats in order to secure land cheaply without the hassles of negotiating with individual owners. Similarly, government uses expanded eminent domain powers to trumpet exciting projects to the electorate, promising new jobs and more government revenue.

The study found that between 1998 and 2002 governments across the United States have condemned 10,000 homes, businesses, churches, and private land for private business development....

PETA's New Low

"This is a sickening trivialization of the suffering of Holocaust victims," said an elderly Holocaust survivor. "It is disgusting that people would stoop so low as to use the Holocaust as an advertising gimmick." Such is the reaction to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals taking their "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign -- which equates Jewish Holocaust victims with barnyard animals in an attempt to shame people toward vegetarianism -- to Germany, of all places.

The ad campaign has sparked disgust and anger from many in Germany. That nation's Central Council of Jews announced plans this week to sue PETA in order to have the offensive display removed....

OPEC Is No Friend of Ours

Is the OPEC cartel a good thing for consumers? Its raison d'etre, after all, is to radically restrain production in order to jack up oil prices. Given the political and economic angst sparked by the recent spike in gasoline prices, you'd think that the answer would be rather obvious. You would, however, be wrong. Rather than come up with a plan to bust up the cartel, most Washington politicos and policy mavens are content to leave the cartel alone and, in fact, defend OPEC against those who want to tear it down.

OPEC apologists contend that the cartel assists in stabilizing oil prices. The record, however, suggests otherwise.

In the period between World War II and the formation of OPEC, the inflation-adjusted price of oil fluctuated little. Oil prices indeed jumped during the Middle East crises of 1956 and 1967, but they fell back quickly. In fact, the inflation-adjusted price of oil -- indexed by GDP -- fell by about two-thirds from 1945 to 1970.

From 1970-1980, however, the real price of oil rose by about 1,300 percent. Between 1980 and 1986, it dropped by about two-thirds. It was fairly steady between 1986-1997, fell farther in 1997-1998, and then nearly quadrupled after February 1999. This is stability?....

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Have you got a match?

The following dialogue is something to think about when you visit the Black Hills or any of our national forests.

Lawyer: You are the Chief of the Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. Is that correct?
Chief: That is correct.
Lawyer: As Chief, is it your duty to protect and preserve the forests?
Chief: That is one of my duties, yes.
Lawyer: Is it also your duty to manage the forests in such a manner that they will produce an infinite and continuous supply of timber by harvesting the trees on a sustained yield basis?
Chief: I don’t know if I would phrase it exactly like that, but we are mandated to manage on a sustained yield basis, which in theory could, I suppose, continue indefinitely.
Lawyer: Tell me Chief, how much timber grows on the national forests each year.
Chief: It varies from time to time but I think the last I knew we are growing about twenty billion board feet a year.
(At this point the lawyer opened a box of wooden matches and counted out twenty of them and placed them in the Chief’s hands.)
Lawyer: Out of that twenty billion, how much is lost each year due to natural processes like storms, hail, mud slides and the like?
Chief: I think it is a little over one billion but less than two billion.
Lawyer: OK. Let’s remove two of those. (He took two matches from the Chief’s pile.) Now, how many are removed by commercial timber harvest?
Chief: It used to be four or five, but now it’s only about two. (The lawyer removed two more matches.)
Lawyer: OK, Chief. Other than fire, is there anything else that removes significant amounts of this timber each year?
Chief: Not really. I would guess that maybe another billion is removed from various causes. (The lawyer removed one more match.)
Lawyer: Alright. Chief, tell me how many matches are in your hand.
Chief: Fifteen.
Lawyer: And how many years has the service been managing the forest in this way?
Chief: At least twenty. (The lawyer added another three hundred matches to the pile in the Chief’s hands.)
Lawyer: What do you plan to do with those matches Chief?
Chief: Nothing. I’m just waiting for your little demonstration to end.
Lawyer: Well don’t worry because it is about to end. (The lawyer strode toward the witness while pulling a single wooden strike anywhere match from his coat pocket and expertly held it up and struck it with his thumbnail like only an old farmer or rancher can do.)
Tell me Chief, do you believe in lightning?

This of course is not a true story, at least not yet.

And in defense of the Forest Service, their ability to properly manage the forest has been hamstrung by lawsuits filed by fringe environmental groups who believe the forest should not be managed by man.

Whatever the reason, the result could be catastrophic.

Larry Gabriel, Secretary
South Dakota Deptartment of Agriculture