Friday, April 30, 2004


Fire Threat Grows in California Forest Five suspected arson fires this week rekindled fears among residents and forest officials already working feverishly to avoid a repeat of last fall's deadly wildfires near this mountain resort. They have good reason to worry: The risk is even greater this year. Bark beetles preying on drought-weakened pine trees have devastated hundreds of thousands of trees in the sprawling San Bernardino National Forest, killing nearly half the trees in some areas. Huge sections of the forest are ripe for another catastrophic blaze.... JUDGE ORDERS NOAA TO COMPLETE LISTINGS REVIEW WITHIN 30 DAYS A Spokane-based U.S. District Court judge this week ordered the federal government to deliver its judgment within 30 days on whether eight stocks of West Coast salmon and steelhead still merit listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Wednesday order also says the government must pay the legal fees of the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, the Columbia-Snake Irrigators Association and the Skagit County Cattlemen's Association. Those are the groups that filed two petitions in October 2001 asking that nine salmon and steelhead stocks be delisted. They argued that if NOAA counted the hatchery fish, numerous stocks would have to be delisted.... Feds ask for extension on salmon plan A federal agency that is rewriting a salmon recovery plan for the Pacific Northwest has asked for a six-month extension that would delay a final decision until after the presidential election. A federal judge ordered NOAA Fisheries to rewrite its recovery plan, known as a biological opinion, last May, after ruling that the existing blueprint violates the Endangered Species Act. U.S. District Judge James Redden set a June 2 deadline for the new plan.... PLF Calls Speculation Over Bush Administration Policy on Salmon Nothing But a Political Ploy in an Election Year Pacific Legal Foundation today welcomed reports that the Bush administration has decided to comply with court rulings and count hatchery-spawned salmon when deciding whether to list salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but expressed reservations over the lack of details of the policy that has yet to be officially released. PLF also warned of efforts by environmental activists who are attempting to derail the issuance of the new salmon policy by putting political pressure on the administration. The anticipated policy change, reported in The Washington Post yesterday, is in response to PLF's landmark 2001 court victory in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans. In that case, a federal court ruled that the government was illegally excluding hatchery salmon from fish counts in order to qualify naturally spawned salmon for ESA protections. In February, PLF successfully defeated environmental activists' appeal of the decision at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.... Column: Hatchery Salmon Bombshell THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION has decided that a hatchery fish is just as good as a wild one, and that a concrete raceway is just as good as a cool-running stream. In a policy bombshell measured in megatons, the federal government has decided that the hundreds of millions of salmon produced in fish hatcheries will be counted when determining if salmon deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is estimated that only 10 percent of the salmon returning to the Columbia river system are born in the wild. Four out of every five salmon found in West Coast fivers are hatchery fish, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.... Fish in danger as reservoir drains Pity the pike and perch of Peck. It looks like they won’t even get tumbleweeds for habitat this year. Unrelenting drought has left Fort Peck Reservoir with just the last remaining bits of shallow-water spawning habitat and cover for young fish. It’s down to tumbleweeds that have blown into the lake. But with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boosting outflows through Fort Peck Dam to 11,000 cubic feet per second this week, water levels will continue to drop, and even the tumbleweeds are expected to go high, dry and dusty in the weeks ahead.... Column: Environmental Activists And Their Editorialist Allies Boo-Hooing About Hatchery Salmon Policy It was inevitable. Radical environmentalists made the ridiculous claim that hatchery salmon are different than wild salmon. They tried to make it stick by pursuing lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act. They lost. Now, they and their allies in the media are crying the blues. Poor babies. The enviros' concept that a hatchery fish of the same species is biologically, or culturally, different than the wild fish that provided the eggs and sperm for the hatchery fish hatchling...has always been asinine. Asinine?...yes. Expensive?...very. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured down the proverbial rat-hole as a result of lawsuits brought by the wild fish gang.... Tribe rejects funds, upset with UA An Apache tribe has declined money offered by the UA in an attempt to show the UA its disapproval of the Mount Graham telescopes. Last month, the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council rejected the "Northern Tribes Initiative" proposed by the UA, the University of Minnesota and the University of Virginia, which are the university's Mount Graham Observatory partners. UA law professors Robert Williams and Robert Hershey-Lear, and Indian Law Clinic Coordinator Don Nichols presented the initiative, which offered the San Carlos Tribe $120,000 for developmental programs such as educational outreach, agricultural improvement, summer camps and a cultural advisory process.... Developers decry cost of saving mouse The news that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse's place on the threatened-species list is in question delighted developers, but they also lamented that tens of millions of dollars already have been devoted by developers, builders and taxpayers to protect the animal. "It is amazing the cost spent to deal with this issue, with everything from highway construction to houses, and it was all based on junk science," said Bob Moody, executive director of the local chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, a trade group for developers.... Secrecy shrouds last known crop of star cactus Here, in the nation's poorest county - where the illegal smuggling of people and drugs across the Mexican border is common - the world's supply of wild star cactus grows. There are only 2,000 or so of the pin cushion-like plants in the wild, nearly all in the county coincidentally named Starr. Although they grow readily in nurseries, cactiphiles around the world will pay $1,000 or more for the cachet of owning one that is grown in the wild, said Dan Bach, owner of the Bach Cactus Nursery in Tucson, Ariz.... Bear-scaring dogs used in state for first time State Fish and Wildlife officers used a team of specially trained dogs Friday to chase away a bear released in a southeast King County park. It was the first time that Karelian bear dogs had been used in Washington state. The dogs, a breed from Finland, are trained to bark ferociously and chase and run after bears as a way of teaching them they're not welcome in campgrounds, backyards and other places where people want to be without ursine companions.... Parasite Affects Trout in Yellowstone A parasite that causes trout to swim in circles has prompted Yellowstone National Park to prohibit fishing in a drainage that empties into Yellowstone Lake. The angling season for the Pelican Creek drainage, a 50-square-mile area on the north end of Yellowstone Lake, was scheduled to begin May 29. It is unknown when fishing might resume in the drainage, Chief Fisheries Biologist Todd Koel said Wednesday. Not that anglers would have much luck, anyway. Because of whirling disease, few fish are left in the creek.... Bill gives Natives more say on fish and wildlife Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, has proposed legislation that would tell federal land managers they must enter agreements with tribes or other Alaska Native organizations to co-manage fish and wildlife and to administer agency programs that affect fish and wildlife. At a Senate Indian Affairs committee hearing Thursday, tribal representatives from Alaska and elsewhere praised Inouye, the ranking Democrat on the committee, for introducing the Native American Fish and Wildlife Resources Management Act of 2004. The senator said his bill is not intended to expand or diminish the powers of tribes, but rather to recognize their status as separate governments that deserve a voice in fish and wildlife management decisions.... Inouye's bill is S. 2301. To see the bill, go here and type in the bill number.... Anxious wildlife experts fear more animals will become ill, die Biologists are worried that a pipeline rupture Tuesday that poured toxic diesel fuel into San Francisco Bay's largest marsh may kill or sicken birds and other wildlife even though for now the death toll is small. The spill of some 60,000 gallons has contaminated 20 to 25 acres of the 55,000-acre Suisun Marsh, a spot on the Pacific Flyway for 1.5 million ducks and geese that either live there or stop over during migrations to Alaska or the Great Plains.... Column: Art leaves a positive stamp on the Earth In the movie Fargo, the police officer's husband was an enthusiastic wildlife painter whose goal was to win recognition in an annual stamp contest. But a similar contest — and the art — make for far more than quirky Cohn brothers film fodder. In fact, the law that established the tradition is now being celebrated for its 70th year of promoting effective wetlands conservation for the benefit of waterfowl and other migratory birds.... Yellowstone wolves kill calf staked out in front of house A young calf on the edge of Yellowstone National Park has been killed by wolves. The dead animal was 3 to 4 weeks old, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The calf had been put out, alone and at night, in an area famous for abundant predators. Its owner discovered the kill at 4 a.m. Thursday, Bangs said Friday. "The calf was dead and wolves were on it," Bangs said. The owner had the calf "staked out on a picket about 100 yards from the house.".... Column: Wolves may be the education of us Carter Niemeyer raises a gun to his shoulder and squeezes the trigger. An instant later, a rubber bullet bounces off a cardboard target. Niemeyer, Idaho's coordinator for wolf recovery, is demonstrating non-lethal means of stopping wolves from preying on livestock. His audience is 200 Westerners at a meeting of the North American Interagency Wolf Conference. "Does it work if you don't hit the wolf?" asks a woman.... Unique pronghorn are a sight to behold One reason they're so special is they are only found in North America. For evolutionists, the pronghorn is the sole surviving member of the family Antilocapridae that evolved during the Miocene Epoch 23.8 million years ago. Although biologists named it Antilocapra Americana which means "American antelope-goat," it is not an antelope like the African oryx or impala, nor is it a goat. In fact, scientists believe it might be a distant relative of the deer family. Writer Joe Eaton said the pronghorn evolved in the North American savannas during the Miocene Epoch.... Park services battle wild hogs in mountains Among the hollows and ridges of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, out of sight of 9 million visitors a year, the team stalks its prey with silencer-equipped rifles, night-vision goggles, infrared cameras and special clothes that absorb their scent. Most tourists will never encounter the combatants in this half-million acres of wilderness straddling the North Carolina-Tennessee border. The goal of the human hunters is to snuff out wild hogs, a non-native species that vacuums up native plants, nuts and other animals.... Deal may save Luke The threat of residential encroachment on Luke Air Force Base could be virtually eliminated if two real estate groups pull off major land trades around the base and its Auxiliary Airfield 1. The groups' plans hinge on obtaining private land in high-noise zones and trading it for some federal Bureau of Land Management property. The groups could then reap profits by developing those BLM tracts.... Board members sought for burro, wild horse board The Bureau of Land Management is seeking nominations to fill three vacancies on the national Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. The categories are burro advocacy, veterinary medicine and public-at-large.... New federal ozone standard prompts state action A state plan to reduce summer ozone pollution along the Front Range to within federal limits has received unanimous support of both the state Senate and House, health officials said. Gov. Bill Owens is expected to sign the plan, which is designed to reduce ozone levels to meet a tough, new federal standard by 2007, a top aide said. Most of the gains will come from controls on the natural-gas industry - particularly so-called flash emissions of volatile chemicals from tanks that store liquid byproducts of gas wells.... Search warrants in SUV arson case unsealed Investigators discovered hair fibers at the scene of last summer's SUV arson spree that they hoped to link to hair provided by jailed Caltech graduate student Bill Cottrell, according to search warrants unsealed Friday. A federal judge ordered the release of 48 search warrants connected to the investigation of the arsons -- an act claimed by the Earth Liberation Front --revealing new details of the arrests of Cottrell and of Pomona activist Josh Connole.... Bill Backs Energy Dept. in Atomic-Waste Battle A Senate committee is preparing to take up an Energy Department proposal that would leave millions of gallons of highly radioactive sludge in underground tanks in three states. The legislation, which Senate aides say has wide support, is an effort to overturn a federal judge's ruling last year that the department's plan violates a law governing radioactive waste. At issue in the debate, to be taken up by the Senate Armed Services Committee next week, are hundreds of underground tanks at three nuclear-bomb-making plants, in South Carolina, Idaho and Washington State.... Developer may get jail time after wetlands battle John A. Rapanos has spent more than $1 million on attorneys, consultants and fines while tussling with regulators for some 15 years over accusations of illegal wetland destruction. Now the Midland subdivision developer appears headed for prison in a case highlighting the nationwide debate over the extent of government power to protect privately owned wetlands.... Hollywood Action Movie Held Up by Aussie Greens An Australian state government is appealing a court decision barring a U.S. company from filming scenes for a Hollywood action movie in a protected wilderness area, following complaints from environmentalists. New South Wales premier Bob Carr said Thursday's court ruling sent the worst possible message at a time when Australia was marketing itself as a premier location for filmmakers. He said if the court decision was not overturned on appeal next week, he would introduce special legislation to parliament to overturn the ruling.... Water crisis as Mexico City sinks faster than Venice Mexico City's underlying aquifer is now collapsing at a staggering rate beneath the streets. While Venice slips into the Adriatic at a fraction of an inch each year, Mexico City is lurching downwards by as much as a foot a year in some areas. Over the past century, it has dropped 30ft. Chugging the equivalent of one Olympic-sized swimming pool full of water every minute, the city's strained aquifers are dragging much of the capital's rich heritage down with them, while the 20 million residents face problems that include water-borne diseases, power outages and the threat of riots.... Water study: No easy fix For the past 11 months, the state has been collecting data in each of Colorado's eight major river basins, looking at how much water each basin has available, how much demand is likely to grow by 2030 and how that new thirst can be quenched. The study, whose final results will be published in November, is being watched closely in part because it is the first time a statewide analysis of each river basin has been conducted. It also comes at a time when the drought and population growth have strained existing supplies and jump-started a massive effort by Colorado's urban areas to find new water sources. But even as the study moves forward, there is deep skepticism statewide of the entire process.... Remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Martin of Canada in a Press Availability Q Mr. President, you're a rancher. Is there any hope -- what hope can you offer your fellow ranchers in Canada about when the border might be open to live Canadian cattle? PRESIDENT BUSH: As soon as possible. My administration is committed to a policy of free trade when it comes to beef. And we had a discussion about that today with -- that subject today, with our respective agricultural ministers -- or secretaries, as we call them here. And I assured the Prime Minister, I want to get this solution -- this issue solved as quickly as possible. And it's in our nations' interests that live beef be moving back and forth. It's also in the interest to make sure we make decisions based upon sound science, which he fully understands.... Statement by R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard on President Bush's Meeting Today With Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin We know how difficult this issue is for the two nations and for the ranchers in Canada, but the safety of the U.S. food supply and the health of American consumers must be the paramount concern for the U.S. government. We are calling on President Bush not to relax the safety standards that protect U.S. consumers and the U.S. cattle herd against mad cow disease.... Cattle industry takes heart from offer by Bush With more than $1-billion in losses to the mad-cow crisis, and a summer of potential drought on the horizon, Alberta's cattle industry was looking for action yesterday. What it got was encouraging words. An offer of help from U.S. President George W. Bush to reopen the border was praised by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and many cattle producers. But they warned that they will need much more to get through the coming months.... Judge's ruling causes beef trade confusion Confusion over a Montana judge's ruling on Canadian beef has severely limited shipments to the United States and blocked exports to Mexico, ranchers say. "Nothing is crossing (the U.S.) to Mexico and virtually nothing was allowed into the United States (Thursday)," said Ted Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation. "If trade in beef trimmings is not re-established quickly, we are facing a new crisis in our industry." Haney said much hangs on an expected clarification of U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull's order earlier in the week in Billings restraining the U.S. Department of Agriculture from expanding beef imports from Canada. The judge's ruling led to different interpretations by two branches of the department, Haney said.... Rodeo star’s story crosses into film A documentary on rodeo entertainer John Payne will be one of the films shown today during the Desert Reel Film Festival in Odessa. Payne, known in the rodeo industry as The One Arm Bandit, trains horses and bulls to climb to the top of his horse trailer and bow to the audience. He has been named the Specialty Act of the Year eight years by the pro Rodeo Cowboys Assocation. The documentary, “Cowboy Up! John Payne, The One Arm Bandit,” is scheduled to be shown at 1:15 p.m. today at the Ector Theater, 500 N. Texas Ave. Officials with GoodFight Productions said this is a one-time West Texas showing.... Hand-Tooled for the Texas Elite, These Boots Were Made in Stir Who shod the sheriff? A good guess would be Arnold Darby, bootmaker to the stars, or at least to the men and women who wear the stars. Mr. Darby makes cowboy boots to order for some of the elitest feet of Texas: F.B.I. agents, police officers and state senators and representatives. He makes them for criminal justice officials, the governor's aides and other state employees. He makes them with personalized stitching and initialing and patriotic images, and sells them at hard-to-beat prices: as low as $120 a pair. (Sorry, no out-of-state orders.) What's more, he makes them from behind the grim red turrets and barbed wire of Texas' oldest prison, the Walls Unit, home of the death house, in East Texas some 65 miles north of Houston....

Thursday, April 29, 2004


Groups file suit to block timber sale near Helena A timber sale in the Helena National Forest south and west of here is challenged in a lawsuit filed by three environmental groups. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Native Ecosystems Council and the Ecology Center recently filed a complaint in U.S. District Court at Missoula. The groups want to block Forest Service plans for logging 2.3 million board feet of timber on 1,300 acres in what's known as the Clancy-Unionville sale. Much of the logging would be in mature forest areas that support lynx, grizzly bears and other species, the environmental groups said.... Historic Land Conservation Effort Begins with Permanent Protection of 140,000 Acres of Valuable Watershed Lands The California Public Utilities Commission and Pacific Gas and Electric Company today sponsored the inaugural meeting of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council. The Stewardship Council was established to develop and implement a plan for the protection of 140,000 aces of PG&E's Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain watershed lands and Carizzo Plains for the benefit of current and future generations of Californians. The effort also includes a $70 million fund to support environmental enhancements that may be proposed for the lands.... Old stump moved out of North Dakota Badlands A 60-million-year-old petrified tree stump weighing 12 1/2 tons has been moved out of the North Dakota Badlands to a visitor's center here. "It looks beautiful," said Gene Veeder, the McKenzie County tourism director, after the petrified stump arrived late Wednesday afternoon at the new Long X Visitor Center. The stump is about 9 feet in diameter at the base, about 6 feet at the top, and about 8 feet high. The stump was lifted with a crane from a Badlands butte about 30 miles southeast of Watford City, then put on a county gravel truck for the trip, protected by a steel cradle.... Gorge panel votes to permit weddings, commercial events Owners of Columbia River Gorge wineries, bed and breakfast inns and other businesses in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area have won the right to host weddings and other commercial events. The Columbia River Gorge Commission, persuaded by last-minute appeals from gorge counties, reversed itself Tuesday and agreed to allow such celebrations on most private land throughout the scenic area.... Congress Mulls Sale Of Forest Land A House subcommittee is considering a bill that would allow the U.S. Forest Service to sell or exchange 23 properties in Arkansas and Oklahoma and reinvest profits in the states. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, introduced a bill requested by the Forest Service that would authorize the disposal of property valued at about $3.375 million in the Ozark-St. Francis and Ouachita national forests. The Forest Service would use the funds to buy, build or improve administrative buildings and invest in forest additions.... Dead trees pose danger to hikers More than 180 dead trees pose a danger to hikers along one of the southern Sierra Nevada's most popular trails, and will be cut down, U.S. Forest Service officials said. The Trail of 100 Giants in Giant Sequoia National Monument leads visitors on a half-mile walk through a grove of ancient giant sequoia trees. None of the dead trees along the Trail of 100 Giants is a giant sequoia.... Family Of Kit Foxes Killed When Den Filled An entire family of an endangered species was found dead and investigators are trying to figure out if it was intentional act, KERO reported. Two adult and four baby kit foxes were killed when the den in which they lived was filled. A federal investigation continues into who filled in the den and why.... Bush Administration Poised to Strip Federal Protections from Pacific Salmon StocksCalling it the latest in a series of administration failures to protect imperiled stocks of Pacific salmon and steelhead, conservation and fishing business groups and scientists today condemned a new and as yet unreleased Bush administration policy that could remove federal protection for many, if not most, of the 27 listed salmon and steelhead stocks from the northwest tip of Washington down to southern California and inland to central Idaho.... House panel hails Bush moves on Species Act The efforts of Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) and the House Committee on Resources to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were boosted this week by Bush Administration's announcements that will help focus the broken law on species recovery. Specifically, the administration announced new regulations for endangered species conservation agreements that will enhance cooperative recovery efforts on private lands. In addition, it has decided to put more emphasis on science and innovation under the ESA by including hatchey-bred fish in population assessments.... Plan seeks to limit 'critical habitat' cases The Bush administration issued new guidance Wednesday seeking to limit the cases in which it will designate "critical habitat" meant to preserve endangered animals but which often infuriates Western landowners. Under the letter sent to Fish and Wildlife field offices, the restrictions associated with critical habitat will be imposed only when they are supported by sound science and economic analysis and will be used only in limited areas that are vital to species conservation. The new guidelines also instruct the field offices not to designate critical habitat if other conservation steps already are in place.... Threatened mouse may be same as other species The scientist who first classified the Preble's meadow jumping mouse as a distinct subspecies now believes the mouse is no different from a species found widely in North America, according to Gov. Dave Freudenthal's office. Wyoming has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its 1998 decision to list the mouse as a threatened species. In a March 31 e-mail to Rob Roy Ramey, who conducted the new study, Krutzsch said the research clearly invalidates his own findings of almost 50 years ago. He called Ramey's methods "cutting edge" and his analysis "in-depth and reproducible." Ramey testified in Washington, D.C., before the House Resources Committee on Wednesday on a bill involving designations of critical wildlife habitat under the Endangered Species Act. He used Krutzsch's endorsement of the new study to call for using better scientific information and methods in making Endangered Species Act decisions.... Bush switch on salmon protection stirs outcry Sweeping changes in how salmon and their habitat are protected could result from a Bush administration proposal that would gauge the health of Northwest salmon by counting, for the first time, hundreds of millions of hatchery fish along with those born in the wild. Critics immediately denounced the plan for ignoring scientific realities and potentially stripping away crucial protections now granted under the Endangered Species Act. Carried out to its fullest, fishery experts said, it could result in some salmon stocks' being taken off the endangered species list after years and billions of dollars spent to restore dwindling populations....Zion shuts areas to protect falcons Zion National Park officials are monitoring access to popular climbing routes to protect nesting peregrine falcons. Recent decisions are based on biologists' observations of the cliffs chosen this season as nesting sites by the returning peregrines. The Northeast Buttress of Angels Landing is newly closed because of recent peregrine breeding activity. Mountain of the Sun, Twin Brothers, Cable Mountain and Great White Throne have been reopened to climbing. Park biologists will continue to monitor nesting activity of peregrine falcons in the park throughout the 2004 breeding period.... 13 endangered gray wolves killed last year U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records show 13 endangered Mexican gray wolves were killed in Arizona and New Mexico last year. The records show six of those animals were shot to death; four others were hit by vehicles. Another one was too badly decomposed by the time it was found to determine a cause of death. One wolf death is still under investigation. And one of the wolves was killed by people working to reintroduce the wolves to the wild because the animal had a habit of killing cattle.... BLM boosts wild horse budget A Bureau of Land Management plan to significantly increase the amount of money spent on wild horse and burro management -- which takes money from a host of other programs the agency oversees -- is drawing a skeptical second look from some lawmakers. "Instead of just getting more money, they need to change the program," Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., said. "It's time they took some initiative and did something with how they dispose of the critters." Western Republican lawmakers and BLM officials say the number of wild horses and burros on public rangelands need to be decreased. Environmental groups counter that the agency should reduce the number of domestic livestock that graze on those lands.... “Time Out” Requested on Western Arctic Drilling Plan The headlong rush to open the Northwest Planning Area of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, located in America’s western Arctic, to oil and gas drilling has resulted in leasing plans that fail to protect key wildlife habitat, according to scientists and conservation advocates. In response, seven conservation groups today asked a federal court to declare a temporary "time out" to give the court time to review their challenge to the US Interior Department’s leasing plans before holding a lease sale, now scheduled for June. The request for preliminary injunction comes as part of a lawsuit filed in February that challenges the government’s failure to meet the law’s requirement to consider reasonable middle ground alternatives that would allow for oil development while protecting wildlife.... Environmentalists protest Colo. energy leases Environmental groups criticized the Bush administration today, saying the upcoming sale of oil and gas leases on nearly 74,000 acres in Colorado shows government has put energy development ahead of other important values. The leases will be offered by the Bureau of Land Management on May 13. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said she was "concerned and dismayed" the sale includes the same land she has been trying to designate as wilderness for six years.... The Lost Sierra Club Earth Day came and went as usual this year, with the renewed hope that our elected politicians and conservationists are indeed concerned with the environmental welfare of our planet. George W. Bush boastfully exclaimed that his administration, if re-selected, “will expand the wetlands of America.” And his presidential opponent John Kerry, claiming to be greener than Bush, declared that if victorious in November he, unlike GW, will not allow environmental legislation to be “written by polluters in exchange for campaign contributions.” This may all sound satisfying, but in reality Earth Day has turned into the Valentine’s Day of the corporate environmental movement -- where April 22nd has become the token feel good holiday for oily politicians and corporate conservationists to tout their commitment and love for the natural environment.... Renzi wants to remove AZ from the Ninth Circuit Congressmen Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) and Jon Porter (R-Nev.) introduced legislation to remove Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Montana from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. House Resolution 4247 proposes the removal of Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Montana from the Ninth Circuit and move them to a new 12th Circuit Court. Renzi favors the legislation because he feels the opinions of the majority of residents in these four states are not represented fairly.... US Decision on Canada Cattle Unlikely Until Summer The U.S. Agriculture Department's decision on whether to allow live cattle imports from Canada, as well as lifting all restrictions on beef shipments, is not likely to be made until sometime this summer, U.S. industry officials said on Thursday. "I think it's going to take them (USDA) at least two months" to wade through the more than 3,000 comments submitted by industry, consumer groups and ranchers, said a meat industry official.... US vows to fight WTO challenge The government's fight to protect farm subsidies against a World Trade Organization challenge may go on for years, and the subsidies will be safe in the meantime, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said yesterday. Unless the preliminary report itself is changed, "you can be 100 percent sure we are going to appeal" the finding by a three-person panel that US cotton subsidies were unfair to Brazil, Zoellick said. The appeals through the litigation process "could last months or possibly a year or years," Zoellick told a House Agriculture Committee hearing.... Canada's Martin Asks U.S. to End Protectionism Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin on Thursday urged the United States to abandon protectionism at the start of a two-day visit to Washington to repair strained ties. "Frankly we are continually astonished at how quickly the border can be closed when pressures erupt in the United States," Martin said in a speech. "We have to recognize that ours is a North American economy. Canada is the largest export market for 37 of your states. You are our largest export market. Protectionism benefits no one.".... Cook-off serves up good grub Around 250 people turned out at Ute Lake Saturday to sample homemade fixings cooked in late 1800’s- style cookware over wood coals. The Logan/Ute Lake Chamber of Commerce held the chuck wagon cook-off to raise funds for chamber activities. Members of the American Chuck Wagon Association, based near Amarillo, provided the meals. There were six authentic chuck wagon ‘camps’ available for people to explore. Members of the chuck wagon association were dressed in cowhand clothing, and they answered the onlookers’ questions about life on a 19th century cattle drive....

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Feds speed up salvage Saws could be buzzing soon in the burn area of the Toolbox fire near Silver Lake. The U.S. Forest Service has declared an economic emergency exists concerning salvageable timber on public land scorched in July 2002. The agency is using new regulations that allow it to skip the appeals process in order to expedite timber sales.... Groups reach agreement on recommendations for motor vehicle management After nearly two years of negotiations, a coalition of outdoor enthusiasts and conservation groups has approved recommendations for managing public lands in portions of the Little Belt and Big Snowy mountains. The coalition, which includes the Montana Wilderness Association and various ski and snowmobile clubs, signed an accord Tuesday that recommends protecting motorized travel in some areas, while setting other areas aside for non-motorized uses. The plan includes recommendations for winter travel restrictions in much of the Jefferson Division of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. "This really is the first time we've sat down and tried to resolve problems between us rather than go to court," said Alan Brown, legal affairs director and past president of the Montana Snowmobile Association. "It's an agreement we can all live with.".... Hatchery salmon to count as wildlife The Bush administration has decided to count hatchery-bred fish, which are pumped into West Coast rivers by the hundreds of millions yearly, when it decides whether stream-bred wild salmon are entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. This represents a major change in the federal government's approach to protecting Pacific salmon -- a $700 million-a-year effort that it has described as the most expensive and complicated of all attempts to enforce the Endangered Species Act. The decision, contained in a draft document and confirmed Wednesday by federal officials, means that the health of spawning wild salmon will no longer be the sole gauge of whether a salmon species is judged by the federal government to be on the brink of extinction. Four of five salmon found in major West Coast rivers, including the Columbia, are already bred in hatcheries, and some will now be counted as the federal government tries to determine what salmon species are endangered.... Federal proposal for Calif toad would cut habitat by 40,000 acres Federal officials want to remove more than 40,000 acres of California land from the critical-habitat list for the arroyo toad but the plan would have little impact on the survival of the endangered species, a biologist said Wednesday. The proposal won't provide "any dramatic change" to the toad's survival, said Creed Clayton, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Much of it is based on more precise mapping of the 23 areas where they live to exclude urban regions where the toads don't breed anyway, he said.... New study supports science behind Platte River recovery plan A much-anticipated study released Wednesday bolsters a plan to improve habitat for the whooping crane and three other threatened or endangered species in the three-state Platte River Basin. The National Academy of Sciences report concluded that the plan was based on scientifically valid data. It also found that a critical habitat designation is warranted for the whooping crane and the piping plover along areas of the Platte in Nebraska. The Department of the Interior was awaiting this report and one other before making a recommendation on the plan, which would affect Colorado and Wyoming along with Nebraska. The other report, not yet finished, is an assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on whether the plan will comply with the Endangered Species Act.... Cougar Convention Gets Underway For the true believer, spotting a cougar in the eastern United States is like seeing a UFO: Convincing the rest of the world can become an obsession. At a three-day conference in West Virginia, those believers may find the tools to prove what they know. Scientists and amateurs alike will hear national experts and authors make the case that cougars are returning to native lands in the East.... Species may leave critical list Reps. Richard Pombo and Dennis Cardoza, a Republican and Democrat from neighboring districts, are working to change the way habitats for endangered plants and animals are designated. Pombo, the House Resources Committee chairman, has long championed property rights and has sought to make changes to the Endangered Species Act. He has scheduled a hearing today on a bill by Cardoza, D-Merced, to give the Interior Department more leeway in designating habitats critical to the survival of endangered or threatened species. The bill is H.R. 2933. Now, critical habitat is supposed to be designated when a species is listed as endangered or threatened, though that often is delayed. Cardoza's bill would prevent the government from designating habitat until a species recovery plan is developed, and only then if it's "practicable, economically feasible and determinable.".... Fire-break bill killed by committee A bill that would have let property owners ignore environmental laws and clear their land of trees and brush up to 300 feet in all directions of homes and buildings was shot down this week by a key state Senate committee. Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, whose 36th district encompasses portions of San Diego and Southwest Riverside counties, said he pushed the bill to let property owners protect themselves from wildfires such as those that destroyed more than 2,400 San Diego County homes in October. Most land clearing in the county is subject to environmental review to avoid ruining protected habitat. Hollingsworth's bill would have exempted homeowners from such review when clearing their properties.... Ethical Questions Persist Concerning Bush Administration Environmental Policies and Public Lands Management There is growing concern that the current Administration has become comfortable operating within a pattern of deception and spin to circumvent laws and environmental protections and exploit the natural resources found on public lands. From keeping confidential files on public meetings, misleading the public through misnamed programs, ignoring scientific and economic facts, to granting sweetheart out-of-court settlements to friends in industry, Administration officials have become increasingly brazen in their intentions toward public lands.... Ensign, Reid back LV air tour operators on Lake Mead issue The biggest worry Southern Nevada's air tour operators had when they learned that a new set of air tour rules was being established for Lake Mead National Recreation Area was whether the new regulations would somehow affect existing flights to the Grand Canyon. In a letter co-signed by Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign on Tuesday to Marion Blakey, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and Fran Minella, director of the National Park Service, tour operators were assured that they could fly over Lake Mead on their way to the Grand Canyon without having to comply with whatever new restrictions emerge on Lake Mead.... BLM closes public land in Nevada to protect fossils The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is closing 2,340 acres of public land in the Pine Nut Range to motorized off-road vehicles in an effort to protect ancient vertebrate fossils. "Soil erosion from expanding off-highway vehicle use, originating mostly from residents in new housing developments adjacent to the Pine Nut Mountains, is causing these fossils to be uncovered, and in many cases destroyed or illegally collected," Chuck Pope, the BLM's assistant director for non-renewable resources, said Tuesday.... Walker's wild idea for Washington County Gov. Olene Walker is bringing together long-feuding parties in a bid to resolve a decades-old dispute over Utah wilderness. Walker soon will announce the formation of a working group consisting of environmental groups, county commissioners, ranchers and off-highway-vehicle users to negotiate a compromise on wilderness areas and multiple-use lands in rapidly growing Washington County. Details are still being finalized by Walker and Lt. Gov. Gayle McKeachnie. They have declined to comment on the matter until her announcement, expected Monday.... Many have tried to resolve Utah's wilderness debate The hinterlands of Utah are littered with creative, well-intentioned ideas for resolving the Balkanized wilderness debate. County commissioners, several members of Utah's congressional delegation and former Gov. Mike Leavitt have tried to free the logjam over how much of Utah's desert and redrock country should be protected from development and motor vehicles under the Wilderness Preservation Act. All attempts have failed, mainly because the Utah Wilderness Coalition has refused to budge from its original bill for 5.7 million acres of wilderness on public lands administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. That bill since has grown to 9.1 million acres.... UN Event Will Attract 600 Children from 100 Countries to Connecticut in July Ten young environmentalists from around the world have been selected to serve on a board that is integral in planning the 2004 Tunza International Children's Conference on the Environment. A signature event of the United Nations Environment Programme, the prestigious Conference will attract 600 children ages 10-13 from 100 countries to Connecticut in July. The Junior Board consists of four representatives from the United States and one each from Iran, Kenya, Ghana, Colombia, Australia, and Canada. The next generation of environmental leaders is helping to plan everything from the conference's workshop to dinner menus.... High court hands loss to environmentalists in Calif. smog case The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Southern California agency may have gone too far in imposing its own antismog rules for city buses, airport shuttles and other vehicles. Justices, on a 8-1 vote, sided with oil companies and diesel engine manufacturers who claimed that local pollution rules conflict with national standards. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the tougher local rules, but the decision was voided by the high court. The Supreme Court sent the case back to California to consider the issues.... Water allegedly diverted from Phoenix An Arizona utility is seeking a court order to block what it says is the illegal diversion of Verde River water that should be going to Phoenix. The Arizona Republic said Wednesday a Maricopa County judge is considering a request from the Salt River Project for a court order blocking the allegedly illegal taking of water by a dozen major landowners in the Verde Valley.... 1.3 Million acres of hunting land closed: Ranchers are tired of being Ignored A long–time contentious battle between ranchers and the Game, Fish and Park Commission heats up again. The issue of debate concerns whether conservation officers should be allowed to enforce hunting regulations on private land without permission. In an effort to get their point across, ranchers are locking down their land. As of today, more than 1.3 million acres of hunting land is closed. It's the response of angry ranchers to the state senate's decision not to pass the open fields bill....

Laney trial postponed

Kit Laney's trial has been postponed from May 3 until June 15, at the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

Federal Judge John Conway of the U.S. District Court in Las Cruces approved the delay during a Tuesday hearing attended by the Catron County rancher.

Laney's lawyer requested the continuance, and prosecutors did not oppose it, according to a court clerk.

One of the reasons for the delay is that Laney recently replaced a public defender with a private attorney, who needs time to prepare a case, the clerk said....

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Wildfires contained Six small forest fires near this resort community were quickly doused Monday and authorities looked for an arsonist who may have set at least one of the blazes. Arson was also blamed for October's weeklong Old Fire that killed four people, burned 91,281 acres and destroyed 993 homes. On Monday, some 120 firefighters responded to the 9:30 a.m. alarms near State Highway 189 west of Lake Arrowhead near the small town of Twin Peaks. The series of fires were each between a quarter-to a half-acre in size, U.S. Forest Service fire information officer Maria Daniels said.... Forest watch group launches at FWA meeting Last Friday, fire crews from the Bitterroot National Forest headed up Smith Creek, west of Stevensville, to begin a prescribed fire. They had been there the day before, laying fire hoses around the containment lines and getting prepared for the morning burn. But someone shot up their plans, literally. When fire crews got to the unit, there were bullet holes in one of the hoses and a wye on the bottom of the unit, said Kayla Jaquith, a Forest Service law enforcement officer on the Bitterroot National Forest. Crews had to replace the piece of hose and fitting and then check the rest of the hose on the unit to make sure no other pieces were vandalized, she said.... Column: A 10-Step Program for the U.S. Biologists have a term for species whose habitats or gene pools are so diminished that extinction is only a matter of time: "the living dead." The Bush Administration has banished many of our most important environmental protections to this limbo. The Clean Air Act is still on the books but is not being enforced. The national forests that Teddy Roosevelt mapped out still show in green on the map, but on the ground chainsaws are converting them into clearcuts and tree farms. Superfund, bankrupt, is a shadow of itself; polluters no longer fear it. The Clean Water Act still calls for swimmable streams and fishable rivers, but its jurisdiction no longer includes the huge factory feedlots or some 60 percent of the nation's wetland habitat. What we have not lost is love for the land – the same love that runs in a powerful undercurrent throughout US history. Here are ten steps to reverse the Bush initiatives and transform the nation.... Boy fends off brown bear with his fists A 15-year-old boy on a Southeast Alaska wilderness expedition for emotionally troubled youths woke up to find a 400-pound brown bear with a bad attitude sitting at his feet. The Barrow boy thought at first it was a camp counselor rustling around at the foot of his tent Saturday morning on Deer Island between Wrangell and Ketchikan. But when he figured out it was a bear, the young man - keeping his wits about him - tried to quietly slip away. The bear would have none of it.... National forests try to simplify paper chase The Forest Service has to account for growing demands on national forests, but that should not translate to more complicated red tape in the agency, Regional Forester Gail Kimbell said. Under the leadership of Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, the agency has made it easier to pursue forest management projects, and that trend will continue, Kimbell told the Inter Lake's editorial board this week. The Forest Service has recently approved "categorical exclusion" rules that allow projects of limited size to proceed without the formulaic and often detailed documentation required under the National Environmental Policy Act. And there's been a gradual shift in the mind-set of top agency officials to be constantly cognizant of the amount of paperwork required by new policies, Kimbell said.... 'Earth To L.A.!' - A Star Studded Sold Out Benefit for Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC's (Natural Resources Defense Council) biennial fundraiser "Earth to L.A.! - The Greatest Show on the Earth," featuring Tom Hanks as host and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as keynote speaker, has emerged as the hottest ticket in town. The irreverent evening of music, message and comedy, to be held on Thursday, May 6 at the Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles, sold out in record time. It has also already exceeded NRDC's financial goal by raising over $2.5 million to advance the environmental organization's mission to safeguard the Earth's natural resources; far surpassing previous benchmarks. The live show will include standup comedy, musical performances and sharp-edged commentary and appearances by Jack Black, Sheryl Crow, Larry David, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Ferrell, Diane Keaton, Stephen Colbert, Eric Idle, Willie Nelson and Meg Ryan. The night also features a "green carpet" celebrity arrival event with some of Hollywood's top talent who are NRDC supporters, including: Toby Maguire, Ben Stiller, Pierce Brosnan, Albert Brooks, Carole King, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tom Ford, Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson, Martin Short, and Mark Burnett.... Endangered Species Act Will Be 'Modernized' The House Resources Committee will begin a hearing on the Endangered Species Act on Wednesday, 30 years after President Richard Nixon signed the controversial measure into law. "On its 30th anniversary, it is now more clear than ever that the Endangered Species Act has failed," said Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) in a press release. "Unintended consequences have rendered this a broken law," Pombo said, noting that while species continually are added to the list, they are rarely removed. "Congress has a responsibility to improve the ESA to focus our efforts on...species recovery.".... Chairman Pombo Issues ESA Report House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) issued a report on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) today titled, The ESA at 30: A Mandate for Modernization. View the report at The full committee will begin its efforts to improve the Act with a hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, April 28, at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.... Grazing battle Driving out of Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, Jerry Rodriguez worried Tuesday that the refuge would soon resemble the grassless Bureau of Land Mangement tracts nearby. "This is biological desert," Rodriguez said. "No wildlife comes here, except some elk and deer, and they just pass through." The grass is gone, eaten by cows from Vermillion Ranch, Rodriguez said. Sagebrush remains, but there is no forage for deer or elk or nesting coverage for birds. The Dickinson family, which owns Vermillion Ranch, leases the land from the BLM. The Dickinsons also lease Hoy Draw, one of two State Land Board parcels traditionally leased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and treated as part of the wildlife refuge. The Dickinson family has a 90-day lease on Hoy Draw. Cattle grazing on another BLM lease south of the refuge cross the draw to get access to the Green River.... 9th Circuit Court of Appeals court orders more flows down Trinity It's going to be a wet summer on the Trinity River. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday ordered that flows in the Trinity - a major tributary of the lower Klamath River - be increased by nearly 50 percent more than had been scheduled for this summer. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had planned to release about 453,000 acre-feet of water from reservoirs, but the appeals court ordered an increase to more than 650,000 acre-feet.... Settlement Will Protect Sensitive Ecosystems From Air Pollution The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to adopt rules protecting vital ecosystems across the U.S. from harmful air pollution levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The settlement between EPA and Environmental Defense will aid in protecting premier ecosystems that are hard hit by excessive NOx pollution, including the Adirondacks, the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Rocky Mountains. The parties to the settlement were notified late Monday that the settlement has been approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. In January, the National Academy of Sciences issued a well-publicized report finding that the protection of ecosystems from airborne contaminants “has not received appropriate attention” and calling for enhanced safeguards.... BLM plan to restrict ORV travel Off-road vehicles in the rugged badlands of the McCullough Peaks will be limited to "designated roads and trails" this summer, as set out by the McCullough Peaks Travel Plan released Tuesday by the Bureau of Land Management. According to the document, ORV use in the area is increasing, and managing the traffic is necessary to protect resources, promote safety and strike a balance between the recreation, ranching and utility interests that use the land.... Gas reserves held hostage? A lawsuit seeking to stop seismic testing near Utah's Nine Mile Canyon is holding hostage vast reserves of natural gas that could help ease a volatile market, according to representatives of Denver-based Bill Barrett Corp. Officials from the energy exploration company say as much as 400 billion cubic feet of natural gas may lie beneath an 85-square-mile area in the southern Uinta Basin, located roughly 30 miles east of Price. That's enough natural gas to heat all the homes in Utah for nearly five years. But the property also is adjacent to thousands of prehistoric rock art formations that environmentalists worry could be irreparably damaged if testing and drilling is allowed.... Environmentalists revisit grassroots to oust Bush Environmentalists who want President Bush pushed out of the White House in 2004 are getting back to their roots: their grassroots. The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club say they believe an old-fashioned, door-to-door campaign can tip the November election in John Kerry's favor, especially in combination with cutting-edge marketing technologies to identify pro-environment voters, talk with them, and get them to vote for the Democratic candidate.... Pollution rules confuse Calif. farmers Thousands of confused California growers have failed to comply with new state regulations monitoring water pollution from farms. Regulators, however, are unsure of how to enforce the rules, which environmentalists consider too lax and are challenging them in court. Between 25,000 and 80,000 growers who have irrigation water or stormwater running off their lands had until April 1 to report what they grow, what pesticides or fertilizers they use and how they will test canals and creeks that eventually empty into the Central Valley's rivers.... Hearst offers green deal The Hearst Corp. is offering California a way to permanently preserve the property surrounding Hearst Castle, a stunning stretch of land ranging from rugged beaches to thriving ranchland. For $80 million in cash and $15 million in tax incentives, the company will sell the state 1.8 square miles of coastal land between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and place another 128 square miles of ranchland east of Highway 1 under a conservation easement that would bar most development.... U.S. may cut water to state: Southwest drought slashes Colorado River flows The Bush administration is threatening to impose unilateral water cutbacks on California, Arizona and Nevada if the three states can't come up with a plan to deal with a historic drought on the Colorado River. Following five years of dry weather, the two largest reservoirs on the Colorado are roughly half-empty and dropping fast, and Interior Department officials are urging water agencies to work together on a contingency plan or have one imposed on them.... Trout Unlimited, landowners reach unique water lease deal A landowner along the North Fork of the Blackfoot River has agreed to lease a portion of his water rights to Trout Unlimited to help retain critical habitat for native bull trout and cutthroat trout. The agreement announced Tuesday is expected to leave as much as 18.5 cubic feet of water per second in a portion of the river that has run so low in at least one previous year that bull trout have become stranded and unable to migrate.... Column: The West's Lost Working Class A specter is haunting the mountain resorts of the West, not the specter of a working-class revolt against the owning class, but the specter of no working class at all. In western Colorado in recent years, some restaurants and shops have had to cut business hours due to a lack of workers to fill their shifts. And many employers complain about the quality of the worker pool available. The problem has been exacerbated by the booming second-home construction industry, where grunt laborers get wages much higher than restaurants, shops and hotels can afford. Large resort employers now import planeloads of seasonal workers from Mexico, Africa and Europe to fill the gap, but small businesses lack that option.... Veneman Announces Framework and Funding for National Animal Identification System Veneman also announced that $18.8 million would be transferred from the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to provide initial funding for the program during FY 2004. The implementation of a NAIS will be conducted in three main phases. Under Phase I, USDA would evaluate current federally funded animal identification systems and determine which system(s) should be used for a NAIS, begin the process of communicating with and educating producers and other stakeholders on the operation of a NAIS, identify staffing needs and develop any regulatory and legislative proposals needed for implementing the system. Phase II would involve the implementation of the selected animal identification system at regional levels for one or more selected species, continuation of the communication and education effort, addressing regulatory needs and working with Congress on any needed legislation. In Phase III, the selected animal identification system(s) would be scaled up to the national level.... Feds pick A&M to help fight terrorism The federal government picked Texas A&M University on Tuesday to figure out ways to keep terrorists from spreading diseases through America's livestock. The university will negotiate with the Department of Homeland Security on how to spend up to $18 million on blocking bioterrorists from inflicting foot-and-mouth disease and other ailments on livestock; such an attack would damage the agriculture industry and in turn the national economy, officials said.... Cow drug kills Rockham man A Rockham man has died after accidentally injecting himself with a livestock drug. Terry Ehrich, 50, died Saturday evening after injecting himself with Micotil, according to Brandon Leslie, who works with the Brown County Coroner's Office. Ehrich was trying to give pneumonia medication to a head of cattle at his Rockham ranch when the animal moved and the syringe went into Ehrich. The Micotil likely caused Ehrich's heart to start beating faster than his body could handle, Leslie said.... U.S. Farmers Get a Lesson In Global Trade It took Texas cotton farmer George Hoelscher a few minutes yesterday to get his mind around the news that a panel of judges sitting in Geneva, Switzerland -- one from Poland, one from Chile and one from Australia -- had issued a ruling that threatened his livelihood. But upon learning that the judges were with the World Trade Organization, and that they had ruled U.S. cotton subsidies to be in violation of international trade rules, Hoelscher began to perceive some dark truths. Hoelscher and the rest of the nation's 25,000 cotton farmers are getting a rude introduction to the rules of the global trading system, courtesy of the decision issued Monday by the Geneva-based WTO in a case brought by Brazil against the United States. The WTO panel, in a potentially major blow against the farm-subsidy programs run by rich nations, found that federal payments to cotton farmers unfairly depress world cotton prices.... FDA: Most Cos. Honor Mad Cow Regulations Fewer than 100 of about 14,000 livestock companies have violated regulations meant to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, federal regulators say. The Food and Drug Administration inspected 14,037 businesses in the last five months and found 12 that warranted its most serious action, according to its online database. Another 80 firms had minor violations and were recommended for voluntary action; two were referred to state regulators, records show....

Monday, April 26, 2004


Editorial: Preventing Forest Fires Since the bill was signed into law last fall, some of those fears have come to pass. True, more money is being spent: This year, about $230 million is earmarked for hazardous fuel reduction, and the budget proposal for next year -- at $266 million -- contains slightly more still. But of the 1.6 million acres of land designated to be "treated" by the U.S. Forest Service this year, only 1 million, or just over 60 percent, will be close to homes and communities, where fire prevention is most important and effective. Next year, the percentage is projected to be slightly lower -- while money targeted at projects on state and private lands is scheduled to drop. Although the Forest Service denies it, environmentalists say that other logging projects are being justified in part for their "hazardous fuel reduction" value, when in fact they are simply intended for cutting large trees. At least two projects in California, for example, have been held up by lawsuits alleging that logging of large trees is increasing the risks of fire, and controversy has swirled around projects in Oregon as well.... Activists Targeting Jewelers, Miners Those gleaming necklaces, rings and watches in the jewelry case may cost a lot more than you think, environmentalists say. In a new public relations campaign, environmentalists groups are scolding jewelers for the damage caused by mining for gold, silver and other precious metals, and are putting pressure on jewelry retailers to reject minerals from big polluters.... Firefighting Credentials Suspended The U-S Forest Service has suspended firefighting credentials for employees involved in last summer's deadly Cramer fire. Citing privacy issues, officials refuse to release the number of credentials that will be suspended. Suspensions will be held until the Forest Service completes an investigation into potential misconduct in the July 22nd fire that killed 24-year-old Jeff Allen and 22-year-old Shane Heath. Earlier reports by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Forest Service, conclude the Forest Service violated safety standards. A spokeswoman says the names or penalties of firefighters who will be disciplined after the investigations will not be public information.... Governors Call for Endangered Species Act Reform On the 30-year anniversary of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), the nation's governors came together in a bipartisan effort to urge more state participation in federal endangered species programs. Gathering at the National Governors Association's (NGA) Winter Meeting on February 22, the nation's governors issued a joint statement expressing concern over several facets and implementation strategies of the ESA, and encouraging more grassroots participation to make the act more effective and citizen-friendly. Colorado Governor Bill Owens, chairperson of the NGA's endangered species committee, spearheaded the discussion and personally proposed many of the statement's provisions.... Animal rights boycott of Alaska not working Facing a new Alaska program to hunt wolves from airplanes, the animal-rights group Friends of Animals is trying to revive its successful pressure tactic of a decade ago and persuade vacationers to boycott the state this summer. But tourism officials say this time the plea seems to be falling mostly on deaf ears. "It seems for once Outsiders don't care how we do it in Alaska," said Eric Downey, vice president of marketing for Denali Lodges.... Wolves galore State agents in Montana and Idaho could kill wolves that are significantly impacting big game, under rules proposed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other rules would let owners shoot wolves attacking their pets and let ranchers shoot wolves harassing their livestock. They would apply to private property. Current regulations do not include pets and require livestock be under attack by wolves. Altering those rules represents a loosening of the restrictions..... Friends of Oceano Dunes Demands Bush Investigate USFW Abuse Friends of Oceano Dunes, a non-profit organization striving to protect camping and recreation at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (ODSVRA), is demanding that the Bush administration review recent United States Fish and Wildlife (USFW) actions -- actions which have severely reduced the public's access to camp at the waters edge at one of California's most popular state parks. Oceano Dunes is the last 5 miles of legislatively permitted recreation vehicle beach access and camping. 1.4 million visitors each year share in the exhilarating experience of driving on the beach. Recently, after three years of incrementally eliminating RV camping for bird habitat, USFW again demanded more in 2004, culminating in a total camping area reduction of over 50%.... USDA Releases $7.3 Mil. For Klamath Basin Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman released an additional $7.3 million to assist producers in the Klamath Basin in Oregon and California. This funding is in addition to the $11.7 million released in January. The assistance is part of a $50 million fund for the Klamath Basin made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill.... Editorial: Sierra Club Back to Basics Sierra Club members were quite clear in their vote to conserve the original mission of their organization: They would not mix their message of environmentalism with an anti-immigrant agenda. The results of the weeks-long mail-in election for board of directors can only be good for the venerable club's ongoing work. The worry that the anti-immigrant slate would gain a majority on the board shook awake its complacent membership. About 22% of members voted, almost three times the level of the last election and a greater percentage than at any time in the last three decades.... Conservationists Sue Over Utah Gas Survey Conservation groups filed suit Monday to stop a natural gas survey alongside an eastern Utah canyon that contains a wealth of ancient Indian art and dwellings. The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, in a lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., claim heavy trucks and blast holes used to look for gas reserves could damage one of the nation's greatest concentrations of ancient sites.... BLM hopes to turn desert ranch into learning center The federal Bureau of Land Management and allies are rolling out plans for an environmental educational center in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The center could serve thousands of students from Las Vegas and Southern California. The plan for the 320-acre Oliver Ranch in the conservation area has the backing of local educators, the BLM and the Outside Las Vegas Foundation.... BLM is asked to restrict motor vehicles on trails A citizens group is asking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to restrict motorized use of public lands in southeastern Utah. And, says the Red Rock Heritage Coalition, the BLM should limit resource exploration to areas already approved for development. BLM offices across the state are currently revising their resource-management plans, and as part of the public comment process, the Red Rock Heritage Coalition has submitted a proposal the group hopes will influence future management of public lands in Grand and San Juan counties..... Group Names Property Rights Champions The League of Private Property Voters (LPPV) has named 192 U.S. Representatives and 35 U.S. Senators "Champions" for property rights issues. The group especially applauded Democratic Representatives Rodney Alexander (Louisiana), Chris John (Louisiana), Collin Peterson (Minnesota), and Charles Stenholm (Texas) for joining a majority of Republicans in the Champions category. LPPV also identified Representatives Jim Leach (Iowa) and Christopher Shays (Connecticut) as the only two Republicans to earn its "Enemies of Property Rights" label. In total, 165 Enemies were identified in the House and 35 in the Senate.... Company buries dead in manmade reefs off Lauderdale shore The prospect of death is bad enough. But for some people -- scuba divers, fishing enthusiasts, retired Navy sailors -- what's really chilling is the idea of spending eternity on land. One alternative: burial at sea in an artificial reef. An Atlanta company, Eternal Reefs Inc., takes cremated remains, mixes them with concrete and forms them into balls that resemble igloos with holes. Designed to last 500 years, these structures support marine life by providing hiding places for fish and offering hard surfaces for sponges, coral and other marine creatures.... How the Global Warming Treaty Fell Victim to Science and Economics The Kyoto Protocol is a treaty intended to ration the use of energy to address the concerns of those who believe we face a global warming catastrophe. These worriers include not only environmental groups and anti-capitalist radicals, but also a surprising number of mainstream technocrats throughout the West. But the facts have always made it clear Kyoto would be outrageously costly and completely ineffective as designed, and it would not noticeably influence the climate. More importantly, in light of recent developments, the treaty is essentially defunct. Now may be the ideal moment to reexamine the origins and shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol, and to learn its lessons before future global warming treaties repeat its mistakes.... Congress, courts, regulators grapple with which wetlands deserve protection Ecologically valuable wetland, or plain old puddle? Time and again across the nation, landowners and developers clash with regulators over which wetlands are eligible for protection under state and federal clean-water laws. They often wind up in court. The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped the debate this month, declining to review three cases that raised questions about the extent of government jurisdiction over wetlands. Among them: the matter of Michigan developer John Rapanos. That leaves Congress and the federal agencies that oversee wetlands -- the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency -- to wrestle with the jurisdictional issues, while activists in the pro-development and pro-conservation camps watch nervously.... Wild pigs damage crops in northeastern New Mexico Northeastern New Mexico has a pig problem. Roving bands of feral pigs are plowing through fences, eating crops and ripping up the rangeland. One Clayton-area rancher who has hunted hogs for more than a decade says they’re showing up in larger numbers and in places they’ve never been before. Union County extension agent David Graham says if nothing is done, ranchers and farmers could be in for even more hassles. Graham predicts that when combined with the continuing drought, pig problems this planting season could hit hard.... Judge temporarily blocks decision to allow more Canada beef products A federal judge in Montana on Monday cut off a plan quietly implemented last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow imports of bone-in beef products such as T-bones and rib roasts from Canada. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, based in Billings, Mont., accused the USDA of acting without public comment in its April 19 decision and went to federal court in Billings last week for a temporary restraining order, which Judge Richard Cebull granted Monday. Cebull agreed with R-CALF that a mistake could be deadly.... Mexico to keep partial U.S. beef ban Mexico will maintain its partial ban on U.S. beef imports because it is not convinced U.S. meat plants have taken sufficient measures to combat mad cow disease, the agriculture ministry said today. Javier Trujillo, the ministry's animal and plant health chief, said Mexican officials who visited U.S. plants in March were unhappy at methods used for de-boning beef. "This means that some of the meat that used to be sent here continues to be blocked," he told Reuters.... Experts: Texas cattle producers should explore ID program Agriculture experts are encouraging Texas cattle producers not to wait for a federal program to begin labeling and tracking livestock to improve production and assure the quality of beef. Federal officials have been developing a standardized identification system for more than a year, an effort hastened by the detection of mad cow disease in Washington state in December. Jason Cleere, a Texas Cooperative Extension beef cattle specialist, said such a system will help producers keep accurate immunization records and chart which cows produce the best offspring.... Finesse not speed admired trait of precision ropers Swinging giant lasso loops slowly over their heads, three cowboys waited quietly on horseback for the right moment to toss. "This is an art form," said rancher David Joost, 54, of Adin. "It's an old California tradition." About 36 adults competed in this weekend's two-day event, held at the Tehama District Fair grounds. Most of them rope animals every day as part of their ranching jobs. But to earn the most points in the Californios, they've got to show finesse, keep the animals calm and avoid choking them. Judges reward patience and humane treatment over speed, Joost said. "It's slow, and they miss some of these shots, but any one of them could gather these calves up in no time. They don't want to. They're doing it as an art form," he said. Competitors came from as far as Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and central California, and included six children in the age 7-to-14 category, Californios director Gwynn Turnbull Weaver said.... Ernest Borgnine saddles up to film Western for television Ernest Borgnine recalled when he needed a ladder to get on a horse. It was several years ago on this same dusty street in a piece of the Old West that lies about a half-hour north of Los Angeles. "I need a little help at my age," Borgnine, 87, said about "The Last Great Ride," filmed here in the late '90s for the USA network. Wearing a cowboy hat, boots, vest and specs, Borgnine had just filmed scenes for a new Western, "The Trail to Hope Rose.".... Column: Understanding us hicks Sometimes cultures collide. Sometimes there’s a deal of clashing, clanking and readjusting of perspectives as newfangled and oldfangled learn how to live and let live. Twenty years ago, I wrote a book, “The Greenhorn’s Guide to the Woolly West.” In it you can find observations on life Out West including an essay on “How To Understand Us Hicks.”....

Legendary Cowboy Singer-Songwriter To Headline Laney Benefit Concert

Delk Band Joins In For Historic Night Of Music

Contact: Joe Delk 1-505-644-3082

(Las Cruces, N.M. 4/26/04) The nation’s leading cowboy singer, Michael Martin Murphey, will bring his special musical show to Truth or Consequences May 22, 2004 in an effort to raise funds for the "Kit and Sherry Laney Legal Defense Fund." The Laney’s have been battling to maintain their Diamond Bar Ranch in the Gila Forest for two decades and Kit Laney is now facing federal charges resulting from an alleged incident during the confiscation of his cattle by the government. The original ranching unit was established in the 1880's.

The event is being sponsored by the Paragon Foundation, an organization of individuals and groups who use the court system to protect the private property, water and constitutional rights of agricultural producers.

Also slated for the show is the legendary Delk Band, a recording and dance hall act that has 70 years of family musical tradition in New Mexico and across the West.

"Michael Martin Murphey is doing more to protect our western way of life than anyone in this nation. He is the leading advocate for the protection of property rights and he uses his prominent position in the entertainment world to further the causes of the ranchers and farmers of America," said G.B. Oliver, Executive Director of the Paragon Foundation.

The concert and dance will begin at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, May 22 at the Civic Center in Truth or Consequences. Murphey will open the show and following his performance the Delk Band will play for an old fashioned country dance. Murphey will be on hand following the concert for a "meet and greet" with fans and the media.

Tickets will be available at the door or through the Paragon Foundation. The toll free number is 877-847-3443. The minimum contribution for the concert is $25 per person, $50 per family (three or more) and $15 per person ages 15 through 20. All proceeds above minimum expenses will go to the Laney Legal Defense Fund.

During his career Murphey has received numerous "gold" records and is currently the best selling singer of cowboy music in the world. He also has many pop hits including the standards Wildfire and Carolina In The Pines.

Murphey is one of the founders of the country music "Outlaw" movement out of Austin, Texas along with friends Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Jeff Walker.

Following a string of hit songs in the 1980's and 1990's Murphey single handedly revived the genre of western music in the vein of classic trail songs, and the music styles made famous by singers like Roy Rogers and Marty Robbins.

His now gold "Cowboy Songs" album resulted in five awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and his annual music and culture gathering "Westfest" has been called the best festival in the U.S.

The concert also marks the first time two New Mexico music legends will play on the same stage as Murphey and the Delks team up to raise funds and awareness about the current plight of ranchers in the American West.

Singer Lyle Lovett says, "Michael Martin Murphey is one of the main influences on my career. He is among America’s best songwriters."

"This will be a historic night of music and fellowship in the tradition of a barn raising," Oliver said. "This show will be a landmark in our efforts to protect our rights. Noting the issues involved and the players on stage this will be an event folks will want to be a part of against the backdrop of the story of New Mexico and the West."


Sunday, April 25, 2004


Federal forest project would burn wood for heat in schools The North Dakota Forest Service would like to see wood from the Turtle Mountains turned into a heat source for schools in the area. The agency says the plan could reduce heating costs, improve the health of wooded areas and boost jobs. The U.S. Forest Service is offering grants and technical help for converting heating systems to burn wood through its "Fuels for Schools" program. North Dakota is part of a pilot project that includes Nevada, Montana, Idaho and Utah.... Rural school districts turn charter in bid to save themselves from extinction Mark Jeffery went to Salem that day looking for a last-ditch miracle – and now, two years later, with his school richer by $350,000 in federal funding, he believes he's found one. Paisley saved its school by turning it into a charter school, bringing in federal money earmarked to get these new institutions off the ground. It's an increasingly common option among the small, rural schools in the West as they struggle to survive budget cuts, declining enrollment and forced consolidation with other schools.... Daring scientists find trees' upper limit -- 425 feet It's the kind of stumper a chronically curious kid might pester a parent with: Daddy, how tall can a tree grow? Now, in a daredevil field study one researcher describes as "breathtaking," a team of U.S. scientists gingerly hauled themselves and more than $30,000 worth of sensitive instruments to the tops of the planet's tallest living organisms -- 2,000-year-old California redwoods -- and came back with a tentative answer to the height riddle. Redwoods, and perhaps all trees, can grow no higher than 425 feet into the sky.... West Braces for Intense Fire Season All over the mountain West, foresters, farmers, and water engineers have pronounced themselves downright scared this spring as the Rocky Mountain region faces another year of drought. With many reservoirs at record lows and the mountain snowpack -- nature's water tank -- at half-normal levels in most places, the experts are looking ahead to a summer that could mean major forest fires and reduced farm production. For farmers, the outlook is dusty. The Department of Agriculture reports a state of "extreme drought" for much of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, and even worse conditions -- "exceptional drought" -- for southern Idaho and Montana. The Pacific Coast states are in somewhat better shape. The fire forecast, meanwhile, is frightening. In its estimate for 2004, issued last week, the federal government's Interagency Fire Center in Boise predicted "above normal fire danger" this summer for Southern California, the Four Corners states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, and the Intermountain region east of the Cascade Mountains across Idaho and western Montana.... Bush, Udall give opposing takes on environmental policy In a radio address geared to Earth Day, President Bush Saturday touted his environmental record and trumpeted a wetlands initiative to restore "at least 3 million acres over the next five years." In the Democratic response, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado stated that "under President Bush, we have basically sold out our environment for the profit of the special interests.".... Protest over road restrictions draws large crowd Hundreds rallied Saturday at a U.S. Forest Service office against proposed road restrictions in south-central Montana's Beartooth and Pryor mountains. "We're tired of being shut out of our public lands," Bryan Cook told the cheering crowd in the parking lot of the Custer National Forest's headquarters. Cook said environmental groups' efforts to close off land will keep the elderly, young children and the disabled from enjoying wilderness areas. He said such concerns have helped bring 4,000 members into the ranks of the rally's organizing group, Families for Outdoor Recreation, in its first two months of existence.... Agency faults tanker planes' safety Poor maintenance and inadequate oversight have led to severe safety lapses for the large tanker planes that fight wildfires, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded. The NTSB said these problems caused three crashes in 1994 and 2002 that killed eight people. The agency called for the government to create tougher rules for inspection of planes that dump water and chemicals on fires. It said "no effective mechanism currently exists" to oversee the flights.... Protecting the Parks Along the Border The government's most ambitious plan yet to seal the Arizona-Mexico border is drawing criticism from environmentalists who say granting the U.S. Border Patrol greater access to federally protected lands will only trample the landscape and do nothing to solve immigrant and drug smuggling in the region. The portion of the plan at the center of the controversy is the Border Patrol's request to use off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles on known smuggling routes and footpaths within designated wilderness corridors.... Shoot-Out at the West Nile Corral are shaking off the winter cold in the West, promising another season of the West Nile virus, the mosquito-borne killer that has infected thousands of people -- killing 564 of them -- since the first domestic case turned up in New York in 1999. For two-thirds of the country, the crisis has largely passed. But in the West, health officials are drawing up battle plans from the apple orchards of western Colorado to the California coast. Carried by birds bitten by infected mosquitoes, the incurable virus hasn't yet hit the West hard, except in Colorado. But few states are waiting.... Interior chief brings news of conservation pact U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced Saturday a voluntary conservation agreement the federal government has signed to help preserve part of a sprawling Eastern Oregon farm. The conservation agreement she announced Saturday involves Threemile Canyon Farms and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It puts 23,000 grassland acres under the management of the Nature Conservancy to help save four species native to northeastern Oregon: the Washington ground squirrel, the loggerhead shrike, the ferruginous hawk and the sage sparrow. The animals are imperiled but not yet listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Portland General Electric, which owns acreage adjoining the farm, also signed on, along with the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife.... Canadian coal mine proposal causes stir A plan to mine Canadian coal near the northern edge of Glacier National Park might be in violation of international law, and has sparked a flurry of activity from Montana all the way to Washington, D.C. "I really don't know what all the fuss is about," said Kenneth Bates, president and CEO of Cline Mining Co. "We do a very good job at what we do, and we run a very environmentally sensitive operation." That might not matter, however, if a previous international study of coal mining in the region is found to be binding. "Clearly, the Boundary Waters Treaty between the United States and Canada is binding," said Rich Moy, who served on the international team of scientists that rejected a similar mining proposal 15 years ago. "Treaties are, in effect, international law, and that's as binding as it gets.".... Extinct List for Species Says Hawaii Had the Most Nearly half of the 114 species that have become extinct in the first 20 years of the federal Endangered Species Act were in Hawaii, according to a new report by an advocacy group. "The number is shocking and indicates a grave failure in federal management of the nation's most powerful environmental law," said the report, by the Center for Biological Diversity. Kieran Suckling, the center's executive director, said that with so many unique species, Hawaii faced the worst problem in the country.... Many interests thirst for Klamath Basin water It's a problem endemic to the elaborately engineered river systems of the arid West. In the Klamath River Basin, too many interests are chasing after too little water, with politicians posturing, farmers protesting, Native Americans suing, environmentalists pouting and judges laying down arcane operating rules that bureaucrats struggle to enforce and the public struggles to understand. Lack of water in the wetland has helped shrink the annual migration here from more than 7 million birds to fewer than 2 million, according to Dave Mauser, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Not even counting waterfowl in need of water, the oversubscribed plumbing system that is the Klamath Basin has a knack for generating national outrage.... Community seeks aid in park battle The city's plans to build a sports park have clashed with federal efforts to protect an endangered species and now, in a last-ditch effort, Redlands is seeking help from a powerful congressman. City officials say they plan to secure Rep. Jerry Lewis' influence, because they say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is uncooperative. Redlands officials say the agency has continually rejected or changed its mind about city proposals to accommodate the San Bernardino kangaroo rat and allow construction of an approximately 100-acre soccer and softball complex.... Gray Wolves Headed For Silver City The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to release two packs of Mexican gray wolves in the Gila Wilderness this summer, as part of a wolf reintroduction program. The group includes pups born in captivity. It will be the first direct release of wolves that have never been free into the wild in New Mexico. One of the rules governing the program forbids the direct release of wolves into New Mexico unless they've first been released and recaptured in Arizona. That rule dates back to the beginning of the program.... New Museum Revives Painful Memories for Internees Beneath the snowcapped Inyo Mountains, hundreds of voices proudly recited the Pledge of Allegiance to a country that rounded up thousands of people of Japanese descent and confined them behind barbed-wire fences in the months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. With that, the National Park Service officially lay bare an embarrassing piece of U.S. history for all to see as it opened a $5.1 million interpretative center at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in an attempt to explain what happened here and why.... Yucca Mtn. Rail Line: Residents oppose route Across an expanse of rocky peaks and sage-filled valleys, ranchers and others who thrive on this remote landscape fear the day when the much-ballyhooed, radioactive "glow train," as they call it, comes rumbling over the ridge. It's a day that state officials who are battling the federal decision to build a 319-mile-long railroad to haul nuclear waste from the outskirts of Caliente to a yet-to-be-built repository at Yucca Mountain say might never happen. They say the Department of Energy has underestimated the construction task, failed to do necessary field work on the environmental impact and miscalculated the cost by $1 billion, more than double DOE's estimate.... Nevada Indian cave looter loses appeal over $2.5 million fine An Oregon man has lost a bid to overturn a $2.5 million fine for what federal officials say is the worst case of American Indian cave looting in Nevada history. A civil penalty handed down to Jack Lee Harelson, 63, of Grants Pass in December 2002 by an Interior Department administrative law judge was upheld on appeal. Justice Department lawyers plan to seek Harelson's assets, including a house, to settle the penalty -- the fourth largest ever assessed for archaeological theft. Federal officials acknowledge the former securities agent probably will be unable to pay most of the fine because he awaits trial in Oregon on charges of conspiring to kill a judge, a state police investigator and others involved in the looting case.... Bush to Push High-Speed Internet Access Agenda President Bush on Monday will call for making high-speed Internet access more affordable and stepping up hydrogen fuel cell research. On Monday, Bush will sign an order directing federal agencies to make it easier for broadband companies to use federal lands to broaden the nation's broadband infrastructure, the White House said.... Column: In defense of the cowboy and his cows I have lost patience with ranchers who abuse the land they make a living from, but I'm careful not to paint all ranchers with the same broad stroke. If someone tried to tell me that rancher Heidi Redd didn't understand the heart of the American West, I'd punch them in the nose. She has lived most of a life at Dugout Ranch in San Juan County, Utah, and I'm glad she's there. I've been reminded that the Cowboy Myth is just that, but then I wonder, isn't that what we need more of these days? What is it with this cynical 21st century culture of ours that makes us want to tear our myths and heroes apart?.... Towns revisit growth curbs A decade ago, Colorado politicians alarmed by what was shaping up to be a 31 percent increase in the state's population began throwing up roadblocks to unchecked growth. But since the state's economic slowdown, communities small and large have chipped away at those restrictions, a retreat largely prompted by concerns about a stagnant or shrinking tax base. This month, voters in Erie tossed out a mayor who had championed growth controls. Voters there also endorsed a plan to make it easier for officials to approve certain types of growth. And farther north in Windsor, a recent effort to place a moratorium on the development of large retail stores such as Kmart and Wal-Mart failed. This marks the third year in which some Colorado communities have either beaten back growth plans or reworked the ones they have on the books that discouraged growth.... BP, Shell: Are they green or greedy? Some of the world's biggest energy companies -- BP and Shell, as well as the late, unlamented Enron -- have been pushing an environmental agenda that could cost the United States economy tens of billions of dollars over the coming decades. The centerpiece of that agenda is the Kyoto "global warming" Treaty, signed by then-Vice President Al Gore in 1997. That treaty, if enacted, might or might not help ameliorate "climate change," but it would surely cripple American industry. Enron was the most flagrant example of a company's playing Green while pursuing greenbacks. Before it went bankrupt in December 2001, the Houston-based firm had moved into energy trading; its executives figured that the Kyoto Treaty would open up a whole new market for trading in carbon dioxide "emissions permits." That is, American companies that actually made things would have to buy the right to emit CO2, and Enron would make money middle-manning these transactions.... Air tour operators fear effect of new sightseeing rules Air tour operators are expressing fear that new federal restrictions on sightseeing flights over Lake Mead will affect flights to the Grand Canyon. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Park Service are planning a meeting Tuesday in Henderson to discuss whether to restrict helicopter and airplane tours over the lake and Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Brian Armstrong, an FAA manager, called it "an opportunity to explain what we're doing and provide the public with an opportunity to have input." Congress enacted a law in 2000 directing the FAA and Park Service to develop air tour management plans for 113 parks across the country, not including the Grand Canyon, which has its own rules.... High-tech on the range The old cowboys never had it so good. Stick a computer-chipped, radio frequency identification tag into a cow's ear, give a ranchhand a wireless, handheld personal digital assistant and with the wave of a bright-blue wand, Wyoming's 21st Century cowboy can tell you everything you want to know about that particular animal. These days, Wyoming cowboys can keep track of their cattle in a whole new way under a new program being offered by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.... On Coyote Ridge, cows come to rescue of butterflies We now raise the curtain on a drama where cows protect rare and endangered butterflies from certain death by automobile, with a dramatis personae of native wildflowers and exotic grasses playing supporting roles. Enter the cows, stage right: Coyote Ridge is privately owned by Castle & Cook, a national real estate development concern. Prevented from building here by San Jose's Greenline ordinance limiting urban sprawl, C&C instead leases the land to a cattle rancher, who uses it for pasture. Cows wander among the butterflies and eat Italian ryegrass -- when given the choice between it and any native bunchgrass, the cows go Italian every time. What accounts for taste? Something in the tiny bovine brain learns that the Italian ryegrass is high in nitrogen, which of course is healthy for the cow. By eating the exotic weeds, the cow gives a Darwinistic boost to the low- growing (and low-nitrogen) native plants, which in turn sustain the endangered butterflies.... Mexican wolf recovery is going slowly But unlike the northern gray wolf of the Yellowstone region, where recovery goals have exceeded expectations, the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort is under- achieving. The Fish and Wildlife Service had projected that by this year, however, the Mexican wolf population would total 55, including 11 packs and 10 breeding pairs. At last count, there were only a handful of breeding pairs, eight packs and an estimated 40 wolves, most of them in Arizona.... Japan Still Wants U.S. Mad Cow Checks After Accord Japan is sticking to its demand that the United States check all slaughtered cattle for mad cow disease following this weekend's agreement to work to solve the trade dispute, a senior farm ministry official said on Monday. On Saturday the two countries agreed to aim for a solution by the middle of the year to Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports, imposed in December after an outbreak of mad cow disease in the U.S., and to set up a formal working group by mid-may.... Great soya gamble drives out the gaucho FOR generations they have symbolised life on the vast plains of Argentina’s cattle ranches, tough cowboys who have supplied the world with the country’s famous beef. But now, in a move likely to horrify red-blooded Latin American males, many of the country’s famous gauchos are being threatened by a new breed of farmer which is covering the vast pampas lands with the favourite crop of vegetarians, the soya bean. And not only has this shift been a cultural one, but a move which has left the embattled Argentinian economy more reliant than ever before on one product, a move experts believe could spell disaster in the same way coffee beans have done for previous generations.... On The Edge Of Common Sense: Magazines with horse centerfolds? Cowboy magazines flourish! Who would have thought there would be a day when you could purchase Western Horseman, American Cowboy, Cowboy Magazine, Cowboys and Indians, Horse & Rider or even Equus in the Chicago airport gift shop? Amazing. We've come a long way. Now we're through the hard part. If I were to publish a horse or cowboy magazine, each month I would feature a magnificent equine on the cover, full frontal wearing nothing but a breast collar. A palomino one month, a black the next, a buckskin, even a paint with asymmetrical coloration....