Friday, April 29, 2005

NEWS ROUNDUP

Western drought shrinking Big Muddy The "Big Muddy" is in big trouble. The Missouri River, the nation's longest, is struggling in the dry clutches of a multiyear drought. For six years, the river's three giant reservoirs on the northern Plains have dropped slowly and alarmingly, curbing recreation, hydropower generation and commercial navigation downstream. While the drought's effects are not irreversible, river managers say it will take years for the waterway and its many users to recover. "We're kind of in uncharted territory here," says Rose Hargrave, Missouri River program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the river's six dams and the lakes behind them. "Reservoir levels have never been so low. The Plains snow pack is almost non-existent. It's not looking good." From its roaring headwaters in the Rocky Mountains to its slow, wide confluence with the Mississippi River, the Missouri is a 2,540-mile ribbon of frontier history, world-class fishing, billions of dollars of commerce and drinking water for millions. But years of sparse snowfall at the river's source have so reduced its flow that disruptions ripple all the way to the Mississippi....
Bull trout test case to be tried here In what shapes up as a landmark case in Western land rights, eastern Idaho ranchers and environmentalists are readying to square off in Pocatello to talk about fish. Verl Jones, whose family has ranched for years in the Salmon area, has become the icon of ranchers statewide who struggle to comply with the Endangered Species Act. In his case, the current question is how much protection should be extended to bull trout. Jones recently came out on top in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that mandated a trial be held to determine whether his irrigation practices are legal....
Trout hatchery threatened by whirling illness Fish pathologists this week detected whirling disease at the Springville State Fish Hatchery, a discovery that likely will lead to the destruction of 80,000 pounds of trout that would have been stocked in Utah waters. The find will reduce the number of fish available this year to Utah anglers by 21 percent, said Tim Miles of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Stocking cuts will occur statewide. "It is not the end of the world because we still have fish in the system and a good water year," he said. "But anglers will not have as many catchables as they have had in the past." In addition, Chris Wilson of the DWR will meet today with U.S. Forest Service officials in northeastern Utah to discuss the discovery of the disease in brook trout in a creek that feeds Flaming Gorge Reservoir....
Nacogdoches artist presents painting to Bush President Bush today will be presented with a product of Texas talent in the form of a painting created by a Nacogdoches forester who was commissioned to paint a commemorative piece in honor of the U.S. Forest Service's centennial celebration. Bruce Lyndon Cunningham produces botanically correct herbaceous portraits: The wood frames are always the same as the painting's subject. The original painting being presented today includes the president's portrait and the likeness of the White House, he said. And the frame is made out of 80-year-old American chestnut. During a commemorative ceremony at the White House today, the U.S. Forest Service chief forester and assistant chief forester will present Cunningham's painting to the president....
Risking Life to Save Limbs t is an understatement to say that the smoke jumpers from Redding, Calif., stuck out like a very green thumb in Central Park, scaling with the fluid motion of inch worms into the highest reaches of the maples, elms, ash, birch, willows, poplars and horse chestnuts in the park. Tethered to thick ropes and harnesses, they shinnied like monkeys from one branch to the next, carefully inspecting limbs. Leaves rustled in their wake. "One police officer said, 'Now you're just part of the Central Park freak show,' " said one of the smoke jumpers, Adam Lauber, 34. On a recent afternoon, he carried an oversize slingshot to launch a throw line into the canopy of a 75-foot London plane at the south side of the Sheep Meadow. "You get some people upset because we're in the trees," he said. Mr. Lauber is one of five smoke jumpers who are surveying the park as part of the federal government's program to eradicate the Asian long-horned beetle. Here the smoke jumpers will not need the global positioning systems and compasses that help them get their bearings when they parachute into remote wildernesses to fight fires in California, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. In New York, subway maps will do just fine....
Aspens' ongoing disappearance biggest forest concern The decline of Arizona's aspens, tall, distinctively white-barked trees, has become the most pressing problem in the state's forests, experts say. The trees are disappearing at an alarming rate, in part because elk are eating saplings and because a 1999 freeze left the trees susceptible to problems like fungus. "The biggest problem we have is what's going on with the aspen clones," said Tom DeGomez, a forest-health specialist for the University of Arizona extension service, referring to the tree saplings. "In many areas, it looks like there is no hope for them unless they are fenced off." Officials who examine the state's forests have expressed concern for years about the decline. U.S. Forest Service studies in the 1990s concluded that the number of acres of aspens in Arizona and New Mexico had declined from 486,000 in 1962 to 263,000 in 1986. The most recent forest analysis, released three years ago, said that only 147,000 acres of aspens remained in the two states as of early 1999. Aspens were the dominant trees on nearly two-thirds of a million acres historically in the two states, according to the Forest Service studies. Herds of elk have often been cited as the main culprit in keeping aspens from reaching maturity....
Holding company challenges county over zoning change A holding company that owns nearly 55 acres near Aspen Mountain is suing Pitkin County in district court after the property was rezoned last month. Before the rezoning, the land owned by Imago LLC was part of the county's agricultural/residential/forestry (AFR-10) zone district in which homes of up to 15,000 square feet were allowed. Larger homes were permitted with special review. On March 23, the county rezoned the land into its rural and remote district, meaning homes on the property are now limited to 1,000 square feet. The lawsuit points to a possible motive. It says that another property included in the rezoning is a mining claim called the Kitty B Lode. "The county owns an undivided interest in the Kitty B Lode. The county acquired this interest by a tax deed," according to the court papers. "By rezoning the [mining claim] to the rural/remote zone district, [the county] has made the Kitty B Lode (and potentially other mining claims owned by the county) eligible for the creation of a valuable transferable development right. "[The county] had an undisclosed motive in enacting the [rezoning] ordinance for the purpose of stripping the transferable development right from the county-owned property and other neighboring properties and then arranging for these properties to be donated to the U.S. Forest Service."....
Cloned horse offers hope Researchers at Texas A&M University believe cloning animals like horses will help preserve the genetics of prized animals and possibly lead to cures for diseases. That's the hope of Katrin Hinrichs, the lead scientist on a project at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences that Thursday announced the cloning of a horse, possibly the first in North America. The privately owned colt named Paris Texas -- to signify collaboration with a French reproductive sciences laboratory -- was born March 13 in College Station. The 179-pound colt has gained weight rapidly, showing it's doing well....
Zebra Gives Birth to Foal Sired by Donkey It's male. But what is it? A zonkey? A deebra? That's the debate in Barbados since a zebra gave birth to a foal sired by a donkey. Alex was born April 21, a milk-chocolate brown creature with the black stripes of a zebra on his ears and legs. His face looks more like a horse, with a distinctive black "V" patch on the forehead. "It's really funny and a little bit freaky," said Natalie Harvey, a 29-year-old waitress. "I was stunned to hear about such a weird thing happening here." While zebra hybrids are not uncommon, most Barbadians have never seen anything like Alex....

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Vesicular Stomatitis in Horses/New Mexico

Emergency Management Warning 1:
Positive Case of Vesicular
Stomatitis in Horses in the State of New Mexico

On April 27, 2005, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, IA, confirmed the finding of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) in horses at one premises in Grant County, New Mexico. This is the first confirmed case of vesicular stomatitis in the United States in 2005.

Vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease which primarily affects horses, cattle, and swine. The agent that causes vesicular stomatitis, VSV, has a wide host range and can occasionally infect sheep and goats. In affected livestock, VSV causes blister-like lesions to form in the mouth and on the dental pad, tongue, lips, nostrils, hooves, and teats. These blisters swell and break, leaving raw tissue that is so painful that infected animals generally refuse to eat and drink and show signs of lameness. Severe weight loss usually follows, and in dairy cows a severe drop in milk production commonly occurs. Affected dairy cattle can appear to be normal and will continue to eat about half of their feed intake.

The affected premises has 6 horses and approximately 110 head of cattle. Only two horses are known to have clinical signs and none of the cattle are showing clinical signs. All animals susceptible to vesicular stomatitis are being held on the premises.

Laboratory results showed that both ill horses were positive on the complement fixation (CF) test and virus isolation was achieved from one horse. The isolate is the New Jersey strain of VSV.

The last case of vesicular stomatitis in the United States was confirmed in the State of Colorado in December 2004.

APHIS Veterinary Services and the New Mexico Livestock Board will continue to monitor the situation and conduct response activities in an effort to minimize trade restrictions.

Please forward this information to your federal, State, and industry counterparts as necessary.

For additional information on vesicular stomatitis please refer to the following APHIS webpage. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/issues/vs/vs.html
If you have any questions about this situation, please feel free to call the Emergency Management Staff at 301-734-8073.

Thanks to Caren Cowan for supplying this EMW.

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Suit seeks to halt grazing Get ready for a Western showdown. An environmental group recently stirred the debate over public lands use when it filed a lawsuit that could impact one of the nation's largest livestock producers. Litigation over Bureau of Land Management's decision to allow new grazing in the Jarbidge area could pit two well-known Western figures against each other. "The BLM is failing to protect values other than livestock grazing," said Jon Marvel, whose Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project levied the lawsuit. Western Watersheds seeks to put a halt to grazing on roughly 800,000 acres of BLM land. A good portion of those acres are used by J.R. Simplot for his cattle grazing operation -- one of the largest in the country. While Simplot could not be reached for comment, another well-known rancher said he believes he knows Western Watersheds' real motives. "Their agenda is to remove livestock from the range," said Bert Brackett, whose family has run cattle in the region for generations. Western Watersheds' suit would impact a substantial portion of Brackett's ranching operation....
Feds propose restrictions for wolf program over ranchers' concerns The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed new restrictions on releasing Mexican gray wolves into the wild after hearing the concerns of ranchers and other opponents of the reintroduction program. The agency has suggested a one-year moratorium on some releases. No captive-bred wolves without experience in the wild would be let loose, and wolves that had killed livestock wouldn't be moved from one state or Indian reservation to another under the proposal. The draft proposal, announced Friday at a meeting in Arizona, allows for the moratorium to be lifted if something happens to bring the number of breeding pairs in the wild below six, Morgart said. The proposal is open for public comments and a final decision will made in June....
Reforestation effort lagging The U.S. Forest Service is lagging behind in efforts to reforest thousands of acres of land, leaving the nation's national forests increasingly prone to devastating wildfires, a federal report released Wednesday concludes. A General Accountability Office study found the amount of land needing reforestation has increased since 2000, and the Forest Service now has a backlog of 900,000 acres. Fire damage, insect infestation and disease -- and not timber harvesting -- are increasing the need to replant trees in the nation's forests, the report found. But the Forest Service lacks the data and funding to effectively address the backlog and must do a better job establishing priorities among reforestation projects, the report found....
Forest Service official sues for documents related to pesticide use The Forest Service is being sued by one of its own officials for failing to release documents on the approval of pesticide use in several national forests across the Southwest. Doug Parker, pesticide coordinator and assistant director of forestry and forest health for the agency's Southwestern Region, has been seeking the documents since December, when he claims his supervisor rejected a request he made under the Freedom of Information Act. Parker's attorney, Dennis Montoya of Albuquerque, said his client is seeking information on all pesticide projects in the region's 11 forests since January 2002, including proof that certified employees reviewed and signed off on the plans and documentation that workers who applied the chemicals or supervised the projects had proper training....
Biologists begin hunting for elusive pallid sturgeon This week marked the beginning of the annual "pallid sturgeon hunt" on the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. This "hunt" is where fisheries biologists and pallid sturgeon researchers from multiple agencies come together to capture adult pallid sturgeon. Then the adults are taken to the hatchery, spawned, and the young produced are raised, then released back to the wild. Since this endangered species is having trouble reproducing and recruiting on its own under existing habitat conditions, pallid sturgeon need the stocking program in order to replenish their population until habitat conditions are improved....
Conservationists, federal agencies spar over salmon Conservationists and the federal government argued in court Wednesday over whether the federal government is responsible for the threatened and endangered salmon that die making their way past hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. A coalition of environmentalists, sports fishermen and American Indian tribes argued that the latest federal program for operating the dams under the Endangered Species Act treats the manmade structures as part of the landscape and fails to take responsibility for irreparable harm to the fish. In their rebuttal in U.S. District Court in Portland, the U.S. Justice Department argued that the federal agencies which control the 14 dams dissecting the Columbia and Snake Rivers cannot be held responsible for the existence of the dams, which predate the passage of the Endangered Species Act. They can only be held responsible for the extra mortality caused by how the dams are operated, not the mortality based on the existence of the dams, said attorney Fred Disheroon, representing NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for restoring salmon runs in danger of extinction....
Agency estimates cost of protecting endangered bird The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates a price tag of $29.2 million to $39.5 million a year to protect the endangered Southwestern willow flycatcher. Last fall, the agency proposed, for the second time, designating 1,556 miles along the Rio Grande and other rivers in New Mexico, Arizona and five other states with habitat considered critical to the 6-inch-tall bird. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2001 that an earlier economic analysis was not adequate. Public hearings on the proposal are set for next month. Comments will be accepted until May 31....
Woodpecker 'rediscovery' sets birders all atwitter For nearly 60 years, bird lovers have slogged through the swampwaters of the Deep South, along the bayous and rivers feeding the Mississippi River, searching in vain for a spectacular bird long thought to be extinct - the ivory-billed woodpecker. In news bound to electrify bird lovers worldwide, scientists are expected to announce today the "rediscovery" of the ivory-bill in a remote swampy area of northeast Arkansas known as the Big Woods. At least one male ivory-bill has been found alive and well in the deep forest of bottomland hardwoods between Little Rock and Memphis. It is the first confirmed sighting of the long-sought bird since World War II....
Government moves to raise royalties on some oil production now that prices are up With oil prices rising, the Interior Department wants more royalties on energy production. The department's Bureau of Land Management gave notice Wednesday that it plans to suspend its policy of offering discounted royalties for producers of heavy crude oil, starting in November. There are 19 such companies operating on 39 leased properties nationally. The discounted rates, which have helped prop up the industry since 1996 when prices were lower, would return when oil prices fall below $24 a barrel for six consecutive months. Heavy oil operators pay a customary royalty rate of 12.5 percent per barrel, but under the royalty relief program that rate has ranged from 3.9 percent to 11.6 percent per barrel, said Patrick Etchart, spokesman for Interior's Minerals Management Service in Denver. The bureau also is looking at dropping its discount royalties for more than 400,000 "stripper" wells, which produce 15 or fewer barrels a day, but has yet to make a decision, spokeswoman Celia Boddington said....
Bush Gives Energy Plan Amid High Prices President Bush today called for major new construction of nuclear power plants, oil refineries and other facilities to help reverse America's growing dependence on foreign energy sources. Bush said the higher cost of gasoline is a problem that has been "years in the making" and that amounts to a steadily rising "foreign tax on the American people." Bush called for increasing domestic production from existing energy resources, notably nuclear power, which now meets 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs. Bush also pointed out that no new oil refineries have been built in the United States since 1976, and he said U.S. oil refining capacity needs to be expanded to reduce dependence on imports....
Lawmakers pull together diverse coalition to stop horse slaughter A coalition of celebrities, race track leaders and others have called in from across the country hoping their voices push forward legislation that would end or limit the slaughter of wild horses. Lawmakers have been pushing for years to stop horses from being killed at three U.S. slaughterhouses that send the meat overseas for consumption. The effort picked up steam after Congress last year replaced a 34-year-old ban on selling wild mustangs and burros with a provision that allows the sale of older, unwanted horses. Supporters of two proposed measures -- one that would stop the commercial sale of wild horses and burros and one that would ban horse slaughter in the United States -- are trying to pull together as many people as possible to back their cause. So far, they have pulled together stars ranging from country music singers to a "Desperate Housewives" actress....
Feral hogs making a mess of Texas Wild hogs are mangling fields and pastures with their razor-sharp tusks. They're wrecking ecosystems by wallowing in streambeds. They're even killing and eating smaller animals. In short, the nation's largest feral hog population is making a mess of Texas. Farmers and ranchers - who sustain an estimated $52 million annually in damage at the snouts of the rapidly growing wild hog population - are asking the Legislature and hunters for help controlling the estimated 2 million animals. "Bring an AK-47, because that's what you'll need," Canton cattle rancher Don Metch said. The nocturnal, omnivorous hogs can grow to 400 pounds and have four fierce-looking tusks that can extend five inches from their top and bottom jaws. They're more bristly and muscular than domestic pigs, and they can be ill-tempered when cornered. Feral hogs are found in 230 of the state's 254 counties, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates. Nationwide, hogs number 4 million in 42 states, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates....
Column: Environmentalism is alive and well and adapting When a passionate cause becomes a mainstream value, has the cause died, or lost its way? That's what some environmental ``doom and gloomers'' are saying about our movement. That's just wrong. Today, because of proposals made by ardent environmentalists -- and embraced by politicians who have ranged from reluctant to enthusiastic -- America's air is healthier and its waterways less polluted. Hazardous wastes are handled with greater care. We have brought a few species back from the brink of extinction. All without impeding economic growth. Still, environmental groups face greater challenges than could have been imagined when we began. As we enter the 21st century, a historic shift has occurred in the balance of strength between nature and humankind. We have passed from a world where the overall stability of the earth's environment could be taken for granted to a world where major, possibly irreversible human alterations of the environment are under way. Chief among these is global warming....
Bay Area environmentalists increasingly targeting Pombo The meeting was about protecting the Farallon Islands. But at a mid-April town hall event in San Francisco, a San Francisco Board of Supervisors member got up in front of an audience of 60 and voiced what seemed to be on the minds of many. "The strategy has got to change toward knocking out people like Mr. Pombo," Jake McGoldrick said. His words were met with a tremendous round of applause. Last fall, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, easily won a seventh term. But the congressman's recent work to rewrite environmental laws has earned him the notice of environmentalists and politicians in the nearby Bay Area. Increasingly, there seems to be a Bay Area movement growing to unseat Tracy's powerful local congressman. For some, getting rid of Pombo seems to have become a top priority....
Water rights group appeals refuge permit A water rights advocacy group last week filed an appeal contesting an off-season water right granted by the state to a federal agency for use on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Water For Life Executive Director Emilie Wolff said the water right application did not comport with Oregon water law’s standards on beneficial use and over-appropriation and sets an unsettling precedent. Among the claims advanced in the appeal, Water For Life claims that the state relaxed water permit standards when it granted the 820.4 cubic feet per second water right in the Donner und Blitzen River Basin and stripped the state of its ability to allocate for future uses in the basin. “They took an off-season right for every drop of water that will ever run through that basin,” Wolff said. “Eight-hundred and twenty cfs is a gigantic amount of water. It’s a basin at full capacity of flood stage.” Wolff said water permit applicants typically explain in detail what they plan to do with their water. In this case, however, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stipulated only that they would use the right for wildlife refuge management. “They’ve given the agency a right in a way they would never give to a rancher,” she said. “It’s definitely precedent-setting. We definitely think that the department is overstepping its statutory bounds.”....
Column: The Fight to Save the Cache River Swamps The Cache River wetlands in extreme Southern Illinois are amazing to see - even after having large areas drained a century ago. This was done by reversing the flow of Post creek that once went into the Cache, enriching it and helping keep it wet. Instead, Post Creek became a disastrously eroded drainage ditch that drained the swamps into the Ohio River. Even after being badly exploited by the timber industry in the early 1900s, and after being devastated by row crop and livestock farming along it in the past several decades, what’s left is a strikingly beautiful and unique environment. In this wetland, particularly in the National Natural Landmark “Buttonland Swamp,” are some of the oldest trees in the U.S. This wetland, which is located in the “lower Cache,” escaped the drainage district and the loggers and contains cypress trees that are up to a 1,000 years old, and have hundreds of “knees,” some of which are taller than a person. Even the National Geographic, in a 1992 story several years ago, referred to the Cache wetlands as “internationally significant.” It now is primarily owned by either Illinois, (The Illinois Dept. Of Natural Resources) the federal government, (The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) or the Nature Conservancy, although there are still key private inholdings. These three agencies refer to themselves as “The Partnership.” The decades long process of recognizing the significance of the swamp, and taking steps to both protect and acquire the swamp has been touted as one of great environmental successes in the nation. But looks can be deceiving. In spite of the all of the publicity about the area in the last decade, the ecosystem is in trouble....
River runs full for first time in 10 years The Rio Grande is living up to its name as the spring runoff is filling the river and moving into the bosque. "An average stream flow forecast of 152 percent at Otowi Bridge near Española and recent warm weather have produced early and bountiful spring runoff conditions this year," State Engineer John D'Antonio said, "which is great news for farmers and recreational enthusiasts." For the first time since 1995, the river is filled to its banks and a larger volume is expected before the peak of the snow-melt runoff occurs in May. "We are expecting the volume of water to pass the gauge at Otowi Bridge to be 150 percent of average until the end of July," said Dan Murray, water supply specialist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which monitors the snow pack in the Rio Grande Basin. "This is the ninth highest flow since 1958. Last year, the actual flow was 60 percent of normal."....
La Plata River overwhelms Bureau of Rec improvements A section of the La Plata River that was realigned to be more environmentally functional was designed to handle heavy runoff - but the test just came too soon, a Bureau of Reclamation biologist said Tuesday. Michael Francis was explaining why snowmelt runoff in the past two weeks has torn through two sections of an S-shaped channel that was created as part of a $1.2 million reconfigured riparian area two miles south of here. The redesign eliminated a 1,700-foot unobstructed channel that was causing environmental problems downstream. Two southwest La Plata County residents think the S-shaped channel was too shallow. "People around here said from the beginning 'It's not going to hold.' It wasn't deep enough," said Sharon Daniel, a former school-bus driver and ditch rider in western La Plata County. "A river does what it's going to do. And this wasn't Mother Nature's best work."....
Plowing a niche Hiking boots aside, Kent Connor looks the part of a western rancher from central casting, black cowboy hat, denim and all. At age 66, Connor runs a small cow-calf operation with his wife near Corvallis, Mont., using teams of horses to do much of the labor. It is a lifestyle steeped in tradition. "My wife's family and my family go back to about 1865," says Connor. "When I was 10, 11 years old I drove a team of horses and raked hay." When you watch him harness a team of his Belgian draft horses, each one weighing about 1,500 to 2,200s pounds, in his small red barn it feels like it could still be 1865. For the Connors and many like them in the West, the farm life will soon be a relic of memories and movies. This should come as news to no one since the West's prime farmland has been the sacrificial lamb to suburban expansion for decades now. As a profession, farming has never been easy, and thus never less attractive to younger generations than it is now in this age of convenience....
Bull rider's win proves costly Former bull riding world champion Cody Hancock had just returned to competition from a torn abdominal muscle he suffered at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December. So he wasn't about to allow a severed ear slow him down last weekend at the Clovis (Calif.) Rodeo. Hancock drew Russell Rodeo's Boogie Ray in the first round, but he received a re-ride on a bull named Wino when Boogie Ray didn't perform up to par. Hancock scored only 72 points on Wino, but then it got even worse. While scrambling to get to the fence, the bull ran over him, grazing his right earlobe and tearing it. Officials called a brief timeout while fellow cowboys looked for the missing piece of his ear. No one was able to locate it at the time, but a 11-year-old boy found it after the rodeo. Despite the pain, Hancock returned the next night with a bandage over his ear and took on a Growney Brothers bull named Mudslide. Amazingly, he marked 89 points on the bull and won the round. On Sunday, he scored 83 points on a bull named Ugly, another Growney Brothers bull. That effort gave him second place in the championship round, but it gave him his first aggregate title of the season with 244 points on three bulls....
Chuck wagons roll into Logan It looked like the cast of Lonesome Dove had set up camp Saturday at Ute Lake. Five groups with five old-fashioned chuck wagons were on hand as part of the Logan/Ute Lake Chamber of Commerce’s Chuck Wagon Cook Off. The smell of apple cobbler baking in Dutch ovens, biscuits browning in iron pans over coal fires, and bacon and beans boiling in huge stock pots had those attending the event buying ten-dollar tickets to sample the culinary delights. Members of the American Chuck Wagon Association take their old west ways seriously. Sam Howell and his friend Paul Geesling, dressed in cowboy garb, brought their wagon from Odessa to relive the old days alongside shimmering Ute Lake. “This wagon is about 105 years old,” Howell said as he stirred a big pot of beans and hard, cured bacon. “The secret to the beans is the herbs and spices, but I’m not saying which ones.” Each wagon was judged on the quality of food, the wagon and the campsite. The cooking competition is what gets mouths to watering and creative juices flowing....

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

KIT LANEY GETTING OUT OF JAIL PARTY

Come Celebrate With Kit!!!!!!
At His Getting Out Of Jail Party

6:00 pm on May 7
@ The Civic Center
T or C, NM

Meat and Drinks furnished
Pot Luck for Everything Else

BYOB

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GAO

Report

Forest Service: Better Data Are Needed to Identify and Prioritize Reforestation and Timber Stand Improvement Needs. GAO-05-374, April 15. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-374
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05374high.pdf

Testimony

Forest Service: Better Data and Clear Priorities Are Needed to Address Increasing Reforestation and Timber Stand Improvement Needs, by Robin M. Nazzaro, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, House Committee on Resources. GAO-05-586T, April 27. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-586T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05586thigh.pdf


GAO: Forest Service Not Well Positioned to Address Reforestation Needs

For Immediate Release
April 27, 2005
Contact Matt Streit at (202) 226-9019

Washington, DC – Today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the backlog and growing acreage of lands needing reforestation or timber stand improvements. The report, Forest Service: Better Data and Clear Priorities Are Needed to Address Increasing Reforestation and Timber Stand Improvement Needs, came at the request of Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). The subcommittee is holding a hearing on the report Today at 2:00 pm in 1324 Longworth HOB.

“The enormous wildfires we’ve seen throughout the West in the last few years have put the Forest Service behind in trying to stay caught up with reforestation and timber stand improvement efforts; but when they aren’t able keep pace, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and timber value become compromised. Beyond that, treatments costs increase each year we fall behind,” said Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “A lot of work needs to be done and the committee is going to be looking at this issue very carefully. We have a responsibility to be the best possible stewards when it comes to managing these forests not only for today’s needs, but for those of future generations as well.”

The report examined the growing number of acres needing reforestation, identified the contributing factors and outlined the potential effects of inaction. GAO’s findings supported the subcommittee’s belief that reforestation and timber stand improvements need to be central in order for the Forest Service to continue meeting its forest management objectives and to maintain healthy, vibrant forests.

“It’s no secret that the sharp increase of wildland fires has contributed to a large number of forest lands needing replanting,” said Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). “There is certainly a consensus in Congress that replanting after catastrophic fire, disease and insect infestation is good policy. We need to work toward getting a plan in place that will help the Forest Service to do just that.”

GAO cited Forest Service reports that detail the recent spike in natural disasters. In 2000, wildland fires burned over 8 million acres, compared to the 2.3 million acres burned in 1998. Similarly, insects and disease damaged over 12 million acres in 2003 compared to the less than 2 million acres in 1999.

Historically the Forest Service funded reforestation and timber stand improvement needs with revenue generated from timber harvests. However, due to the sharp decline in timber harvests and an equally sharp rise in catastrophic events, reforestation projects have been increasingly accumulating.

Without future restoration and timber stand improvements, wildlife habitat will suffer, the cost of treatments will rise for controlling competing vegetation and forests will become increasingly prone to wildland fires and insect infestation.

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Livestock operators subject to EPA scrutiny The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is turning its attention from factory emissions to farmers and ranchers. A two-year study begun earlier this year aims to determine just how badly livestock operations pollute the environment. When the study is complete, the EPA will start cracking down on livestock production emissions such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and dust - the same factory pollutants the EPA now regulates. While swine, poultry and dairy farmers will face the most EPA inspections, Bob Thaler, South Dakota State University Extension swine specialist, said that all large farms and ranches need to be aware of the regulations. Farmers and ranchers can protect themselves from liability as far back as 2002 by signing the voluntary Air Quality Compliance Agreement. The agreement's cost - a one-time fee of $200 to $500 - will pay for the EPA's farm pollution study. Livestock producers have until June 1 to sign the agreement. Signing is not an admission of guilt for prior violations....
Activists attack 'federal tyranny' A livestock group and state's rights activists long at odds with federal land managers are going after the Bureau of Land Management with a billboard condemning "Federal Tyranny." The Nevada Livestock Association and Nevada Committee for Full Statehood are taking aim at a BLM proposal to expand its law enforcement powers. Their new billboard, along Interstate 80 some 200 miles northeast of Reno, shows a photograph of a BLM agent holding a protester at gunpoint. It refers passers-by to a Web site, www.byebyeblm.org. "We're trying to get the word out to the public to just say 'No' to federal BLM law enforcement," said Jean Voigts of Genoa, a member of the livestock association....
Activists Must Prove Harm to Species, Not Just Allege It, to Invoke Endangered Species Act In an important victory for western property owners, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled for Pacific Legal Foundation, and Idaho rancher Verl Jones’ family, in a closely watched case that addresses the standard by which injunctions can be issued under the Endangered Species Act. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling clarifies—for the first time—that environmental plaintiffs must present actual evidence that a species is likely to be harmed before an injunction can be issued against a property owner, and that a lack of evidence of past harm is indicative of the likelihood of future harm. For years, environmental plaintiffs have been able to get injunctions ordering private property owners to cease legal activity on their land on the basis of mere allegations alone. PLF has long argued, as it did in the Joneses’ case, that there must be an evidentiary showing of real harm to a species before a court can issue an injunction that would result in serious economic harm to the property owner. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. “The court said environmentalists have to prove their case, not just allege it,” said Russ Brooks, managing attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation’s Pacific Northwest Center. “The court’s decision means that environmental activists can no longer use the Endangered Species Act as a weapon against property owners without a shred of evidence that any species is actually being harmed.”....
Are aging air tankers heading back too soon? As fire season approaches, there are worries about the future of the nation's air tanker fleet, especially after an aging fire fighting plane crashed in California just last week. Critics say pressure by the U.S. Forest Service may have helped push the planes back in the air too soon after they were grounded. Ever since a C-130 crashed three years ago killing the three people on board, the old tanker fleet has been grounded time and time again as experts try to determine if the planes are airworthy....
Forest Service may acquire more tankers like one in Calif crash Despite a fatal air tanker crash in Northern California last week, the government may seek to acquire more of the same kind of tanker to bolster its firefighting capability, the director of U.S. forest policy said Tuesday. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey said the plan to acquire more P-3 Orions would be re-evaluated in light of the crash that killed three pilots April 20 in the Lassen National Forest. But he said there was no indication the plane suffered structural failure in flight. He said it would take a couple months to make a final decision. And he reiterated that the government's longer-term plan is to assemble a firefighting fleet dependent more on helicopters and less on the large fixed-wing tankers that can drop huge amounts of fire retardant on blazes. Rey told lawmakers that whatever the decision about acquiring more P-3s, the government would have adequate resources for the 2005 fire season. Above-average fire activity is possible in the northwest and northern Rocky Mountain states later this summer while significant fire activity is expected in the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico, Rey said....
Wyoming Range reopens to drilling A portion of the Wyoming Range west of Pinedale that was at the center of a leasing controversy last fall will be eligible for energy development, Bridger-Teton National Forest officials announced Tuesday. The eligible area covers 44,600 acres in 38 parcels, a number scaled down considerably from the 175,000 acres and 99 parcels previous eyed for development. Among the acres eliminated in the latest round are roadless areas. Last September, members of the public criticized forest officials for their plan to lease the entire 175,000-acre area that included popular recreation spots and elk habitat. U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., called the area "inappropriate for drilling" because of its proximity to Grand Teton National Park and the heavily developed Upper Green River area. Gov. Dave Freudenthal said leasing needs to occur in a "deliberate fashion that takes into account all the impact it brings."....
Editorial - ATV Explosion: Teach riders to respect Mother Nature A lone mounted figure rides into the sunset, silhouetted against a jagged horizon and an endless sky. It's a John Wayne moment in the West. But these days, the rider is more likely to be saddled atop an ATV than a horse. The explosion of all-terrain vehicles in Utah has left managers of the public lands scrambling to keep up with the stampede. They're trailing badly, and that pleases neither the riders nor the environmentalists who warn of the damage that off-highway joyrides inflict upon the land. The solution seems simple enough. Designate trails, then persuade riders to stay on them. Enforce the law against those who don't. But, as usual, it's not that simple....
Michigan to cull UP's growing wolf population The state Department of Natural Resources announced plans Tuesday to trap and kill as many as 20 of the Upper Peninsula's burgeoning population of gray wolves this summer in an attempt to limit attacks on domestic livestock and pets. DNR officials said their goal is to assure a healthy future for wolves in Michigan, which might otherwise be threatened by public backlash against wolves in backyards and farm fields. Todd Hogrefe, DNR endangered species coordinator, said wolves have attacked three dogs in recent weeks, including one chained up in its yard near Pelkie, near the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula....
Game, Fish panel votes on grizzlies The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Tuesday voted to revise the state's grizzly bear management plan to establish a population goal and clarify that grizzlies will be discouraged from inhabiting areas with significant human populations. The commission's unanimous vote came after staff assurances that the proposed changes were offered after consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which holds jurisdiction over the estimated 600 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, most of which are in Wyoming. The service is proposing removal of federal protection for Yellowstone-area grizzlies and turning management over to wildlife officials in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Barring lawsuits, that plan could come to fruition by the end of the year....
Wolves den on lambing ground Members of the Thoman Ranch family, with headquarters just below Fontenelle Dam north of Kemmerer, know what it's like to have large, federally protected predators preying on their domestic sheep flocks. The Thoman sheep are trucked to the Upper Green River region in July and graze the mountains through September before moving back to lower elevation rangelands for the remainder of the year. The Thomans have had both grizzly bears and gray wolves kill their sheep while on the Bridger-Teton National Forest grazing allotments in recent years. This time, it appears the wolves are coming out to meet the flocks, months ahead of any anticipated confrontation. A pair of wolves is expected to begin denning in the middle of a domestic sheep lambing ground northeast of Farson any day now, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are three migratory sheep outfits that use the area for lambing, which begins in early May in western Wyoming....
FWS conducting status review of four springsnail species The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting an in-depth review of the status of four springsnail species, including the endangered Idaho springsnail (Pyrgulopsis idahoensis), a species that occurs in Idaho's Snake River near the CJ Strike Reservoir upstream to Bancroft Springs, Idaho. The Service said it will also review the status of the Harney Lake springsnail from eastern Oregon, the Jackson Lake springsnail from western Wyoming, and the Columbia springsnail from the lower Columbia River, to determine whether they should be listed as threatened or endangered. The review was prompted by two separate petitions concerning the four springsnail species. On June 28, 2004, the Service was petitioned by the Idaho Governor's Office of Species Conservation and Idaho Power Company to delist the Idaho springsnail. The petition was supported by the Bureau of Reclamation. The petition included a peer-reviewed report by Dr. Robert Hershler that suggests the taxonomic status of the Idaho springsnail should be revised. The suggested taxonomic revision would place the four springsnails into one species, Pyrgulopsis robusta....
Kane County, BLM land dispute heats up The Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday gave Kane County two weeks to take down signs it has posted designating roads through federal lands or face legal action, marking an escalating response to the county's continued defiance. Kane County began posting signs in February designating off-road-vehicle (OHV) routes across BLM-administered land, and last month designated a new route through an area northeast of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park that is being studied for potential wilderness designation. Most recently, BLM officials say, the county has posted an estimated 60 to 80 signs inside the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument along the Hole in the Rock road and its vicinity, directing OHV users into areas that the BLM had previously closed to off-road use, including national historical areas such as the Hole in the Rock trail itself....
Prospect of a Mine Near a Salmon Fishery Stirs Worry in Alaska The Bristol Bay watershed, an intricate system of lakes, streams and rivers that are home to some of the world's greatest salmon runs, is remarkably unchanged by human activity. With only sparse trees, it has not been logged. There are no significant dams and few roads. The only way to get here is by air or boat. "So it's not quite as God made it, but pretty close," said Dr. Thomas Quinn, a fish biologist at the University of Washington who has studied the region for almost 20 years. But Bristol Bay is also an economically depressed region that is home to rich mineral deposits. And prospectors are spending tens of millions of dollars on plans for mining operations across the headwaters of the salmon fishery, which could change the region forever....
Feds to map river plan Seven Western states failed to reach agreement Tuesday on how to manage the mighty Colorado River in times of drought, an impasse that means the federal government will begin crafting its own plan May 1. "We've tried to come to a consensus, but it hasn't been possible for us to do that," said Larry Anderson, director of the Utah Division of Water Resources. Anderson and more than 40 other water officials met in Las Vegas in a last-ditch effort to meet an April 30 deadline imposed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. Norton wanted the states to come up with at least the rudiments of a drought- management plan for the river and its two main reservoirs - Lake Powell and Lake Mead. A key issue has been the request by Colorado and three other states to hold more water in Lake Powell this year to help it recover from the drought....
Klamath water--70 percent Farmers in California's Klamath Basin will receive 70 percent of their normal federal water allocation this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In addition, the bureau has asked growers to cut their total water use by 15 percent, even though they had donated 100,000 acre-feet of water to the water bank. The reduced allocation is a component of this year's U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operations plan for the Klamath Reclamation Project, which delivers water to Klamath Basin farmers. "It is going to be another challenging year and I think there are some comparisons to 2001, although as of right now it is not going to be a repeat of 2001," said Tulelake Growers Association President Marty Macy, a member of the Modoc County Farm Bureau. "The bottom line is when you have 100,000 acre-feet of water under a management plan that is not well managed, everybody gets hurt, whether it is agriculture, habitat or whatever. We have stepped up as a project and are going to make it work." The bureau's plan is based upon current and expected hydrologic conditions derived from the April 1 inflow forecast by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. It is consistent with the biological opinions issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration....
Environmentalists Seek to Garner Christian Vote When Christians think of "values" issues, they typically think of topics like abortion and marriage. But maybe the environment is starting to creep in as well. The National Association of Evangelicals has come out with its "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," and it emphasizes how it is every Christian's duty to care for the planet and safeguard the environment. And so, both evangelicals and environmentalists acknowledge a changing political landscape. For example, the issues of global warming, clean air, and stricter environmental regulations -- all issues that have been championed by the "radical left" and more mainstream environmentalists in the past -- are now being embraced, to a certain extent, by some in the Christian community....
Riders donate $1,000 for monument JohnD Winters will be 96 years old next month but he didn’t let his age stop him from donning a cowboy hat and boots and joining in the festivities Monday in front of the Nevada State Museum on Carson Street. Winters, a longtime Dayton rancher, was one of the original riders during the Pony Express ride reenactment in 1960. He is the oldest remaining rider from that historic event. Forty-five years later, he says it means a great deal to him that the Pony Express Club of Nevada has donated $1,000 toward refurbishing the ride’s commemorative plaque and monument in Carson City. Bill Goni, 89, of Carson City, reminisced with Winters as the two stood side-by-side at the monument Monday morning. “I brought the stone for this monument all the way from my sheep camp at Tahoe Meadows,” Goni said. “It sort of makes me sad to see how many names have been marked off.” After the reenactment was completed, the Nevada riders decided to form a club to keep the history alive and to increase national interest in the Pony Express, Nevada State Museum spokesman Bob Harmon said....

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

GAO

REPORTS

Technology Assessment: Protecting Structures and Improving Communications during Wildland Fires. GAO-05-380, April 26. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-380
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05380high.pdf

TESTIMONIES

Wildland Fire Management: Progress and Future Challenges, Protecting Structures, and Improving Communications, by Robin M. Nazzaro, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. GAO-05-627T, April 26. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-627T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05627thigh.pdf

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GAO Endangered Species Report: Little Reason to Expect Poor Recovery Record To Improve

House Committee On Resources
For Immediate Release
April 26, 2005
Contact: Brian Kennedy (202) 226-9019

Washington, DC - Because only a handful of domestic species, 10 of more than 1200, have ever been recovered and removed from the endangered species list, House Committee on Resources Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) engaged the Government Accounting Office (GAO) in reviewing how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) allocates funds to recovery efforts. The report released today noted that not a single plant or animal with the highest recovery priority was among the 20 species receiving the most recovery dollars.

The report compared federal expenditures on listed endangered species to FWS recovery-priority rankings between Fiscal Years 2001 and 2003. Results noted that while the Service spent its recovery budget in accordance with priority guidelines, 92 percent of all species were ranked in the upper-half of the priority system.

"The GAO's numbers show that the Service's priority system is not efficient," Pombo said. "In practice, it is like having a huge 'TO DO' list and putting a star next to every item because it's the most important. The priority becomes everything, but nothing gets done."

"It shouldn't be a surprise less than 1 percent of listed species have recovered if we can't establish meaningful priorities," Pombo continued. "Congress bears just as much responsibility for the poor track record as the agencies implementing the law. This is just another symptom of a law that desperately needs updating."

FWS assigns a recovery priority on a scale of one to18 for each endangered animal or plant. The priority system considers several factors and ranks animals and plants higher when they face greater threats, have a greater potential for recovery or possess genetic distinctiveness.

---Not a single plant or animal with the highest recovery priority (1) was among the 20 species receiving the most FWS recovery dollars and about half of the top twenty were not in the highest group of recovery priority species.
---GAO found that FWS generally spends its funds on higher priority species. However these expenditures may not mean much upon examination of the priority ranking system. GAO found that FWS ranked 92 percent of animals and plants in the upper half of the priority system, a strong sign that the assigned priorities are not efficient.
---Despite the fact that a "species' " genetic distinctiveness ranks higher than a "subspecies'," GAO found subspecies got more than twice the funding species received.
---GAO also found funding decisions were based to a "significant extent" on factors other than recovery priority and that each regional office allocated funding differently, "but in no case was priority the driving factor." Further, GAO found that FWS had no system of monitoring the different regional offices funding practices to assess if funds were being directed at higher priority species.

The recovery program's poor record of bringing species to a point at which they may be taken off the list has been plagued by the program's skewed assessment of recovery priorities, the disproportionate expenditures on subspecies and the lack of a uniform system to ensure recovery dollars go to the highest priority species.

"This is not encouraging," said Pombo. "There is little reason to believe focused conservation efforts will improve the current meager rate of species recovery under the ESA".

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Column: Safe oil, gas drilling overdue It took 35 years of debate and pondering, but legislation to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has passed the House and may pass the Senate. If that happens, it will be good news for America's farmers and ranchers. Exploration and development of energy resources in what is known as the "1002 Area" was agreed upon by Congress when the ANWR was established in 1980. By refusing to proceed as originally planned, we are now looking at the first barrel of oil not being pumped for about another decade. From the perspective of America's farmers, the ANWR energy development is long overdue as part of balancing our country's national energy policy agenda with the goal of providing a more reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy supply for America's growing economy. Farmers and ranchers are paying dearly for restrictions on domestic energy sources. During the 2003 and 2004 growing seasons, the U.S. agricultural industry paid an additional $6 billion in energy-related production expenses....
Disabled man wants ATV access in Sand Creek area of Black Hills A disabled man is asking the U.S. Forest Service to allow ATVs in the Sand Creek area of the Black Hills National Forest, saying it's the only way he can access the area. James Fogleman, a retired coal miner from Gillette, said he has visited the Sand Creek area, about 15 miles east of Sundance, for decades, but can no longer walk great distances. Without using an ATV, he said, he has no way to hunt or fish. "I don't want to sit around the rest of my life," Fogleman said. "I'm going to need to ride something. We're doing what we can." Fogleman has put out petitions at several local businesses and said he would present them to the Forest Service and to Vice President Dick Cheney, a Wyoming native....
Forest Service accused of improper pesticide use Forest Service managers ignored agency rules and environmental laws in spraying pesticides and weed-killing chemicals on several national forests in the Southwest, according to a federal official who advises the agency on pesticide use. Skirting those rules and laws has resulted in "potentially serious public safety and environmental threats," said Doug Parker in a federal whistleblower complaint obtained by The Associated Press. The complaint, filed in March with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and related documents were obtained by the AP from Parker's attorney, Dennis Montoya of Albuquerque. Parker, the pesticide coordinator and assistant director of forestry and forest health for the Forest Service's Southwestern Region, said he is under an order from his supervisor not to speak publicly about the matter, and declined to talk with the AP....
US Forest Service Sued Over Logging in Oregon A group of US Forest Service employees has filed a lawsuit against the federal agency because the workers say it is allowing lumber companies to log forests recovering from wildfires in violation of environmental laws. At issue in the lawsuit is part of the 5,839 acres (2,360 hectares) of ponderosa pine, larch, Douglas and white fir burned in July 2002 in a fire in the Malheur National Forest. The Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, "has decided to log 'dying trees' in the Easy Fire Recovery Project that are, in fact alive and well," said a lawsuit filed on Friday in US District Court for Oregon by the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. The Forest Service declined comment on the lawsuit....
Injured Skier Rescued After 8 Days Outside An injured backcountry skier was found alive near Steamboat Springs Monday morning after spending more than a week in the mountains with little food or water. Authorities said Charles Horton, 55, of Steamboat Springs, had a broken leg. He was found on a snow-covered U.S. Forest Service road near Chapman Reservoir, according to the Steamboat Pilot newspaper. Mazzola said Horton is an experienced outdoorsman and had the right skills and clothing to survive the ordeal. Horton built at least two shelters and a fire during his eight nights alone, rescue personnel said. "This is the stuff books are written about," said Mazzola. "The human spirit, the will to live -- that's what amazes me."....
Airport pays millions to buy snake habitat Federal regulators have put Sacramento International Airport in the reptile-housing business, and it's costing millions. After years of improperly filling wetlands at the airport, county officials now are competing with commercial developers to acquire land as habitat for giant garter snakes. In the end, the snafu could wind up costing the airport system more than $11 million, with some of the cost passed along to the airlines that pay landing fees here....
Birds are the fall guys of green power--But wind farms may preserve crucial habitat After much trial and error, a modern wind power industry was spawned in the 1980s in places such as Altamont Pass, a godforsaken stretch of bald hills whose only previous claim to fame was a lethal Rolling Stones concert in 1969. During the past decade and a half, wind power emerged as the fastest growing electricity source in the world -- although solar power has recently eclipsed wind power in this regard. Total worldwide capacity now stands at more than 40,000 megawatts, enough green power to supply 40 million U.S. homes. The total U.S. capacity is expected to grow to almost 9,000 megawatts by year's end....
35 more wild horses slaughtered in West The Interior Department abruptly halted delivery of mustangs to buyers while it investigates the slaughter of 41 wild horses in the West this month. By enlisting last-minute financial help Monday from Ford Motor Co. - makers of the Mustang sports car - the agency saved the lives of 52 other mustangs. The latest horses killed came from a broker who obtained them from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. The tribe traded 87 of the 105 aging horses it bought from the government for younger ones. Interior officials said they would review whether a federal contract had been violated. Tribal officials were unavailable for comment. "I don't think it's fair to say they violated the agreement," Kathleen Clarke, director of Interior's Bureau of Land Management, told The Associated Press. "They were not traded to the animal processing facility. They were trading to a private individual." The Sioux tribe had to sign an agreement with BLM that it would "provide humane care" to each of the animals, documents show. Clarke said Interior's top lawyer was investigating that arrangement....
BLM will appraise impact of grazing An Idaho group has forced the Bureau of Land Management to do a significant environmental study of the impact of grazing on public lands in northern Utah. The settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Hailey, Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project also requires the BLM to identity lands that are not to be used for future grazing. "We're trying to get accountability into the process so that wildlife habitant is measured, and so that it is restored if it's degraded," said John Carter, Western Watersheds Utah director. "So much of degradation of soil and other natural habitats are attributable to livestock grazing. We need to get things in balance." The settlement also requires BLM to prepare a land-use plan for 3.5 million acres under the jurisdiction of the agency's Salt Lake City office....
Ute Mountain protected under private-public effort Ute Mountain on the New Mexico-Colorado border is now permanently protected under an effort by a national conservation group and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Trust for Public Land and the BLM said Monday they successfully wrapped up nearly three decades of efforts to protect the 14,344-acre property when the Trust for Public Land conveyed the final 6,420 acres, valued at $2.7 million, to the BLM. In 2003, the nonprofit group had purchased 7,924 acres of the mountain and conveyed it to the BLM. The area within the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River corridor in northern Taos County will be managed by the BLM to protect its open space, wildlife habitat and value for recreation, the two groups said in a news release....
Colo. says feds underestimate drilling effects A draft federal report on gas drilling on a prized 3,000-foot high plateau underestimates the potential impact on wildlife, ignores science and lacks enough details to make predictions, state wildlife managers say. The state Division of Wildlife comments, obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request, also accuses the Bureau of Land Management of downplaying the economic benefits of hunting and recreation on the Roan Plateau. "It does not describe the irreplaceable losses or the regional impacts which is required information," the division said of the BLM report. The rich tableland, about 200 miles west of Denver, is prized for its wildlife, rugged terrain and abundant natural gas. Industry representatives say the nation urgently needs the natural gas locked in the plateau and in deposits across northwestern Colorado....
"Fee-For-Science" Plan Dropped By Interior The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that it was ending a system that based performance evaluations for its scientists in part on how much money the scientists raise to support their research projects. The sudden turnaround came in response to media inquiries following the revelation earlier this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) of explicit agency fundraising quotas as part of scientist ratings used for promotions and raises. Under the now former Bureau of Reclamation system that was put in place only this past March, scientists were tasked with finding private, state and other federal sponsors to buy the scientists' time. Fundraising quotas increased with the scientist's pay grade. Thus, a scientist at the GS-11 pay level or higher had to solicit a minimum of $110,000 to avoid an "unsatisfactory" rating and a minimum of more than $500,000 to earn an "exceptional" performance rating....
Grand Ole Opry celebrates 80th year Like a classic country song, the Grand Ole Opry has endured despite changes in technology, musical tastes, ownership and location. It's the longest continuously running radio show in the country, and though at times it's been derided as stale and antiquated, there's a certain charm when the house band begins to play and the burgundy curtain rises. The feeling is one of seeing something authentic, down to the vintage microphone stands, live advertisements and corny jokes. The homespun feel, however, belies the elaborate production. The show is marketed nationwide, streamed over Internet and satellite radio, shown on cable TV, broadcast on regular radio and reaches more than 2 million people a week. The hayseed image has always been there, since Dr. Humphrey Bate, a physician, donned overalls and led his band, the Possum Hunters. Later, comedian Sarah Cannon recreated herself as Minnie Pearl - a character from the mythical small town of Grinder's Switch who wore a straw hat with the price tag dangling. But most credit the Opry's longevity to the music. Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe and Elvis Presley are among the thousands who have performed and become stars there....
It's All Trew: Early-day couples had their 'hang ups,' too Horror stories about hanging wallpaper are handed down from generation to generation. My mother and father were gentle, compatible people who never argued. However, each time they hung wallpaper my brother and I fled to the barn afraid to stay in the house. When a mistake was made my father would say, "Hang a picture over it." That slogan has been used in our family whenever a goof is made. A classic old-time ranching story tells of two cowboys destined to spend the coming winter in a poorly built line shack. In an effort to keep the cold north wind out they mixed flour paste and covered the walls and ceiling with newspapers. A long winter with continuing blizzards kept the pair confined and bored for days at a time. Spring finally arrived with both suffering neck and back problems from standing on chairs and the table trying to read the newsprint pasted on the walls and ceiling of the humble abode....

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Monday, April 25, 2005

GAO REPORTS

Endangered Species: Fish and Wildlife Service Generally Focuses Recovery Funding on High-Priority Species, but Needs to Periodically Assess Its Funding Decisions GAO-05-211, April 6. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-211
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05211high.pdf

International Trade: U.S. Agencies Need Greater Focus to Support Mexico's Successful Transition to Liberalized Agricultural Trade Under NAFTA. GAO-05-272, March 25. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-272
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05272high.pdf

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NEWS ROUNDUP

Hungry geese a peck of trouble for Humboldt Bay ranchers Honk if you're glad the geese are gone. Humboldt Bay ranchers are overjoyed that hungry hordes of the messy fowl are finally on their way north to nest. Ravenous Aleutian cackling geese have been eating up their pasture. The Aleutian geese, once an endangered species, now number at least 60,000 and many like to feast on the sweet spring grasses of the Humboldt Bay bottomlands. They'll nest in the wind-chilled Aleutian Islands — then eventually head back to the land of the worried ranchers to fortify themselves again. A survey last month found 10,000 of the chubby birds grazing on a 1/8240-acre ranch near Arcata. The rancher, Peter Bussman, estimates he lost up to 60 percent of the grasses he needs to feed his livestock for the three to four months the birds were there. In some pastures the birds chomped 10-inch-high grasses down to a mere two inches — then tackled the tender new shoots. "Once they get short grass, they keep hitting it," Bussman said. An analysis of 5,000 acres of pasture land in the Mad River bottoms found the geese were responsible for up to $450,000 in lost grazing....
Mary Dann Found Dead on Ranch One of two Indian sisters who brought worldwide attention to the land rights of Shoshone Indians has been found dead on her Nevada ranch. Mary Dann and her sister Carrie battled the federal government for decades over grazing practices. They claim the tribe owns much of the land in Nevada and Utah because of the 1863 "Treaty of Ruby Valley". Congress authorized a buyout of Shoshone land rights, but the Dann sisters refused to accept it. On Friday night Carrie Dan found her older sister Mary under an overturned ATV. It's believed Mary died suddenly of natural causes and then rolled the ATV....
BLM says it has 'no legal recourse' to stop wild horse slaughter Animal activists criticized the Bureau of Land Management on Friday for allowing six previously protected wild horses to be slaughtered for meat, and said it proves federal safeguards repealed last year need to be reinstated. The BLM is investigating how the mustangs ended up at an Illinois slaughterhouse, but the government has "no legal recourse" to prevent such slaughters since a 34-year-old law was changed in December, agency spokeswoman Celia Boddington said. The BLM sold the six horses that had been rounded up in Wyoming to a private owner in Oklahoma earlier this month, the agency said. The sale was authorized under the change in law in December. The amendment by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., directs the agency offer for sale any excess mustangs that are older than age 10 or were unsuccessfully offered to the public three times under a separate, long-running adoption program. "Although it was six wild horses whose blood was spilled, it could easily have been 60 or 200," said Trina Bellak, president of the American Horse Defense Fund....
Road war all too real for actor Rick Schroder has played a cowboy on television; now he’s a real rancher involved in a land squabble as old as the West. Schroder, owner of the Mesa Mood Ranch high on the Uncompahgre Plateau overlooking the Gunnison River and Grand Valley, was sued two years ago by a neighboring landowner who complained that Schroder and his manager were trespassing on a private road to reach parts of Mesa Mood Ranch. The original two-page lawsuit has since exploded into a three-volume set of legal wrangling involving the previous owners of the Schroder property and a federal agency. The owners of an adjoining ranch — Ronald E. Tipping, Rodney C. Power and William R. Patterson — filed suit against Schroder on Nov. 12, 2003, alleging Schroder was trespassing by using a road through their property, including cutting the lock of the gate at one point. Schroder said he was suspicious of the timing of the lawsuit, noting that it came soon after a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to move ahead on a proposed land swap with him instead of with his neighbors....
Wheels vs. Wilderness In a time when the popularity of other forms of motorized recreation - such as boats and snowmobiles - has essentially fallen flat, registrations in Utah for ATVs, dirt bikes, specialty four-wheel drive vehicles and new generation "rock crawlers" have skyrocketed in the past seven years and are now pushing the 200,000 mark. The kicker? State officials and off-road organizations suspect that may represent just half of the total number of OHVs in the state. And that's a problem. The sheer number of OHVs now venturing out onto Utah's backroads and trails is taking an environmental toll around the state - the vast majority on federal land - and in many instances has overwhelmed the ability of the budget-challenged Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to regulate it....
Widows file suit over tankers Self-described "tanker widows" filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court that accuses the Forest Service and five other U.S. agencies of allowing a contractor to fly a faulty military-surplus firefighting plane that crashed and killed their loved ones, including a Southern California resident. Relatives of the most recent victims in a series of U.S. air tanker crashes - crashes that threaten to ground the remainder of the aging fleet essential to protecting arid Southern California - are among those expected to join in the lawsuit or file their own....
Tanker crash will likely ground fleet Officials conceded Friday the crash of another federal firefighting plane will likely leave the U.S. Forest Service without an air-tanker fleet to fight western wildfires, broadening calls to accept Russia's offer to lend unique jet super-tankers as replacements. Federal officials told the Oakland Tribune that if the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Wednesday evening crash, finds it was due to a flaw common to all other P-3 Orions, the remaining six federally owned tankers would be grounded. California owns a fleet of
small, turboprop tankers that may be trimmed due to budget cuts. But the state's tankers can carry only 1,200 gallons to fight wildfires that ravage the state during the dry summer season. The P-3 was one of only seven Orions left that can carry about 3,000 gallons of fire retardant, out of a worn-out federal military-surplus fleet....
U.S. may get fire aid from Russia Some congressmen, governors and state government emergency officials are calling for the U.S. to accept Russia's offer to loan the biggest and only jet firefighting tankers in the world so they can prove themselves. Russia only now is unwrapping the last mysteries surrounding the Ilyushin-76 Waterbomber because it wants to — you guessed it — sell the planes to America. In photographs taken by NATO and others, it's a behemoth when you're standing close. It's as huge as a 747 U.S. commercial airliner or a U.S.military C-5 cargo plane with a belly meant to carry full-sized battle tanks. From far away, when dropping water on a fire, the Waterbomber looks merely big. It's so big, enthusiasts say, the 11,000-gallon torrent of water it drops is breathtaking, even from a distance. It covers an area the size of 21 football fields with one 10-second drop, said Tom Robinson of the Virginia Offices of Fire Programs and Emergency Services in Richmond, Va. "It puts a fireline down 300 feet wide and 3,900 feet long."....
States tell Congress to repeal federal recreation fee Rich Vaughn says paying the U.S. Forest Service a daily fee so he can take his boat onto the Salmon River in Idaho, where he used to play for free, hurts his sense of fairness more than it hurts his wallet. "It's public land that's held in trust for the American people, and to charge a fee to access that land is wrong," Vaughn said. The Montana and Colorado legislatures agree, and the Oregon Legislature may soon join them. Montana and Colorado recently passed resolutions demanding Congress repeal the fees required for recreational use of certain federal lands. Oregon legislators have been advancing a similar measure worded a bit more gently - Congress is "respectfully urged" to undo the fees - but have not cast a final vote....
Editorial: U.S. PILT cash holds local taxes down The Bush administration has proposed cutting payments to counties that serve tax-exempt federal lands. Congress should reject this false economy. It's an obscure acronym, but we are cheered to see that Colorado's congressional delegation is making a bipartisan effort to secure adequate funding for the embattled Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. We wish them well, because PILT is one of those rare federal programs that actually holds down local taxes. It follows, therefore, that a 12 percent cut in the program proposed by the Bush administration would likewise translate into tax increases or reduced services for Colorado taxpayers....
Forest Service Plans Land Selloff Looking for a sweet home in Sweet Home? The Forest Service may have just the answer. Three houses in Sweet Home, a former logging town in Oregon's Willamette Valley, are for sale for $52,500, $69,000 and $78,000. The properties, built in the 1950s for workers in the Willamette National Forest, are no longer needed -- and frankly, the Forest Service could use the money. Squeezed by record deficits, the decline of the timber industry and the revenue that produced, as well as demands of the new "healthy forests" law, the agency is looking to close some recreation sites and sell offices and ranger stations that bustled during the logging heyday decades ago but now sit idle....
Oregon: Public may use banks of many rivers A sweeping state legal opinion released Thursday says the public has the right to fish and go ashore along any of Oregon's floatable rivers up to the high-water mark, no matter who owns the riverfront property. In many respects, the findings by Attorney General Hardy Myers treat the banks of rivers like the state's Pacific Ocean beaches, which are open to the public. The opinion — requested by the State Land Board — may negate the need for the politically charged, river-by-river process of determining whether the state owns river beds and banks. That's because most of those conflicts, which pit landowners versus river users, rise from disagreements over public access....
A Native American Medicine Man To his neighbors and coworkers in Carlin, Nevada he's John Pope, a veteran brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad. But his family, friends, and tribal brothers and sisters—as well as the hundreds of people who've witnessed demonstrations of his remarkable healing power—know him as Rolling Thunder, a native American Indian and heir to a traditional role among his people: that of intertribal medicine man. In the manner of most such healers, Rolling Thunder deals more in matters of the spirit than of the flesh and—although he doesn't "do anything for show"—evidences of his ability have been said to astound the most skeptical of observers....
Llamas on guard protecting growing numbers of grazing sheep Jackson the guard llama perked up his fuzzy white ears and let out a quiet, guttural whine. With strange dogs nearby, Jackson was on the lookout for any threat to the small flock of sheep inside his pen. "See how he is right now? He's guarding," said Stephanie Arceneaux, who owns Jackson and the sheep. "He's doing his job quite well." Arceneaux is one of a growing number of livestock owners using llamas as guards against dogs and coyotes. Arceneaux can hear coyotes howling every night around her four-acre property northwest of Redmond. But since she bought Jackson four years ago, she hasn't lost a single one of her prized Jacob sheep to predators. "If I did not have him I would have lost a lot of lambs," she said. "He's been perfect." Every year, hundreds of thousands of sheep are killed or injured by coyotes and dogs at an annual cost to farmers and ranchers of more than $16 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture....
Little rider leaves an impression at Mexican rodeo Edmund Rios is the biggest little charro of San Antonio. Even though he is only 8, Edmund is well on his way to mastering all the horseback maneuvers performed at a charreada, or Mexican rodeo. On Sunday, the San Antonio third-grader was among dozens of charros who exhibited their precision drill maneuvers to the generous applause of spectators at Fiesta's "A Day in Old Mexico and Mexican Charreada." Unlike at an American rodeo, a charro, which means loud or flashy, isn't tested on speed, but on his skill and style. Edmund was the youngest performing member of the Asociación de Charro de San Antonio, which is dedicated to preserving a revered Mexican tradition dating back to the 16th century, when the Spaniards taught Mexican ranchers the art of horsemanship....
On The Edge Of Common Sense: The best advice is sometimes unwelcome And I, too, have had unwanted observations come clear as years go by. I remember the first time I was on the "Ralph Emery Show" in Nashville. It was the result of some of my country music friends recommending me. I told a few poems and was a hit. After the show my friends took me out to dinner. I was on cloud nine. They could tell. "Is there anything else you'd like?" they asked, smiling. "Well," I said, "I'd like somebody famous to cut one of the songs I wrote." My friend exclaimed, "I don't believe it! Every poet I know thinks he's a songwriter! Every songwriter thinks he's a singer. Every singer thinks he's an actor, and every actor thinks he's a poet! Why can't you be satisfied with what yer good at?"....

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE WESTERNER

Why isn’t anyone discussing Senate Bill 3?

By Pat Carlson

When I read that Senate Bill 3 was the “beginning of the implementation phase of the state’s 50-year water plan,” I immediately took notice. I probably won’t be around 50 years from now but my children and grandchildren and by then, great-grandchildren will be and I want to know what they can expect. The author of the bill, Senator Armbrister went on to say, “the importance of healthy bay systems in Texas is critical to the environment and to the state’s economic growth. A healthy Texas coast has a multibillion-dollar impact on our economy.” SB 3 may be good for the waterways of Texas but what about the citizens of Texas?

I admit I am not an expert on water management but I am a voter, a property owner, and a consumer of water and SB 3 raised red flags in my mind in all of these areas. It creates two new bureaucracies while at the same time giving additional authority to three existing bureaucracies – the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. (TPWD), the Texas Water Department Board (TWDB), and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The bill deals with equity by creating a new tax on those who use the largest amounts of water. The environmental language in the bill will bring a smile to the faces of radical tree huggers like the Sierra Club and at the same time make property rights advocates bolt their doors and dust off their firearms.

NEW BUREAUCRACIES

SB3 creates a new bureaucracy with four tiers called the Environmental Flows Commission. This commission will have 9 appointed members - 3 state senators, 3 state representatives, and 3 members appointed by the governor from the TWDB, TPWD, and TCEQ. The commission “may adopt rules, procedures, and policies….. to ensure the ecological soundness of….. systems and adopt appropriate methods by which…….existing water rights may be converted temporarily or permanently for environment flow protection.”

The second tier of the bureaucracy will have 5 to 9 members appointed by the Flows Commission and called the Texas Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee (TEFSAC). The TEFSAC “shall appoint a basin and bay area stakeholders committee” which in turn “shall establish a basin and bay expert science team.” The expert science team has to make recommendations for a “flow regime” and “environmental flow standards” for the stakeholders committee to submit to the commission but delivered by the TEFSAC. The TEFSAC will have as much or as little power as the Flows Commission deems it. The TEFSAC is basically the “go-to guy” carrying the water (no pun intended) for the commission.

The problem with this whole bureaucratic structure is the lack of accountability to area voters. Only the Flows Commission has elected officials serving and only two thirds at that. Also, creating bureaucracies gives opportunity for every special interest radical group to be appointed. It is all about who knows whom and who has given the most money to whom. The proposed statute states, “the flows commission may accept gifts and grants from any source.” It will be a breeding ground for conflicts of interest and corruption.

Additionally, the stakeholder committees are mandated to “operate on a consensus basis.” Operating on a consensus basis means a facilitator will have a pre-determined result the committee must be convinced they have collectively formed. What is wrong with the individual vote with the majority deciding the outcome?

Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCD) that have elected boards now exist in 50% of the state managing about 80% of the state’s groundwater, but the SB 3 would create a new Groundwater Management Area Council. The presiding officer of the GCD’s or that person’s designee would serve on the council and report to the Texas Water Department Board. The council will setup monitoring networks and adopt a statement that describes the desired future condition of each aquifer in the management area. Again, accountability is being taken away from area voters. Why do we need bureaucrats managing an elected body?

The bill would restrict operation of high-capacity wells outside the boundaries of a water conservation district, effectively changing the rule of capture, the basis for Texas water law for the past century. It would also require a license for the export of water from such high-capacity wells to other parts of the state.

ENVIRONMENT AND PRIVATE PROPERTY

The authors of the bill claim that the human factor has been included by stating flows may be temporarily suspended “to meet essential human needs during emergencies.” The next question is who will determine what is an “essential human need?” This may satisfy the necessities for human needs but what about ownership of private property? The bill also states “it is the public policy of the state to provide for the conservation and development of the state’s natural resources, including the stewardship of public and private land to benefit waters of the state.”

In case you are wondering, the bill defines land stewardship as “the practice of managing land to conserve or enhance suitable landscapes and the ecosystem values of the land.” Most people are not sure what an ecosystem is much less what values are affixed to it.

Believe it or not, there is a set of “intrinsic ecosystem values.” The term “active-use value” applies to goods and services used in some activity like recreational fishing, skiing, or camping. The “existence values” are things people appreciate without actually using them or even intending to use them (like a distant wilderness or an endangered plant or animal.) “Bequest values” are things people want to remain available for others (such as their descendents) to use and appreciate. Also, the definition of an ecosystem is “a dynamic complex of plant, animal, fungal, and micro-organism communities and their associated non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.”

Does the Texas legislature really believe that Texas property owners want their rights decided based on an abstract fluffy set of values that only a microscopic organism could appreciate? I don’t think so.

There is a new paradigm taking place in SB 3 when legislation is written based on a condition that is applied to the environment but one which truly only applies to living breathing creatures and that is biological health. The bill says that a “strong public policy imperative …exists recognizing that environmental flows are important to the biological health of public and private lands, streams and rivers, and bay and estuary systems…” D. J. Rapport in Ecosystem Health states “……an ecosystem health focus sets the stage for a new environmental ethic…” To most proponents of ecosystem health, the alluring feature of the human health metaphor is that people have an inherent understanding of personal health. Most people envision instinctively a “healthy” ecosystem as being pristine or at least appearing to be minimally altered by human action. Thus, the general public, policy officials, and scientists intuitively grasp ecosystem health.

Someone, usually a bureaucrat, must decide based on their own set of values and preferences what ecosystem condition or function is good. Ecosystems have no preference about their states, so preferred states or benchmarks must come from the individuals doing the evaluation. Because “health” conveys a positive political connotation, the common practice in policy debates is to capture the high ground by labeling your policy choices as being necessary for health and those of your opponents as leading to sickness or ecosystem degradation. Laws should never be written or passed based on these false assumptions.

EQUITY

SB 3 establishes a new tax for Texans who use the most water. The tax is called the Water Conservation and Development Fee. Any resident of a single-family home that uses more than 5,000 gallons of water a month will be taxed three cents on every additional 1,000 gallons. This new tax will go in the state coffers in an account called the Water Infrastructure Fund and one of the many things that this new money will be used for is statewide assistance to economically distressed areas for water supply and sewer projects. This is also known as redistribution of wealth or equity or our government at work taking from the rich to give to the poor.

EDUCATION

SB3 will establish a public awareness program encouraging Texans to conserve their use of water. This program is estimated to cost $135,000 a year for additional staff for the TWDB and contractor services estimates for the purchase of media advertising and the development of materials range from $9.9 million in fiscal year 2006 to $58 million in fiscal year 2010.

The comptroller’s office projects that if SB 3 is implemented the state will net $43,000,000 in 2006 to $39,000,000 in 2010. These projections are based on the income of a new tax revenue.

CONCLUSION

It is my opinion that if SB3 is passed into law in its present form, Texas will not be a better place for future generations. Property rights will be taken over by the state for the health of the environment and voters will be disenfranchised and powerless to hold anyone accountable. Also, if Texas lawmakers continue to pass their elected relegated duties to bureaucrats their very existence will be irrelevant. They will serve in title only.

Whether or not there is a need for Texas waterways to be increasingly managed by the state remains to be seen. But if this is the case, let’s manage our water through elected bodies with laws written in a language everyone understands.

Pat Carlson is Chairman of the Tarrance Co. Republican Party and can be reached at PCarlsonTCGOP@aol.com

© Pat Carlson 2005


The curse of the gal-leg spurs

By Julie Carter

It was August in DeLeon, Texas. The annual Peach and Melon Festival Parade was about to begin.

Following the usual train of thought for the state of the union mentioned, this was the best darn parade to precede the best darn peach and melon festival in the best darn part of central Texas.

Garland and his brother Jerry were sitting on their horses watching the parade and waiting for their turn to get in line at the end. The cowboys had come to town to be in a parade. No one ever really knew why.

Jerry was riding his good roping horse and Garland was on a fairly green colt. For you pilgrims, green wasn’t his color but his level of experience.

Garland owned a pair of gal-leg spurs he was right proud of and wanted to wear in honor of the occasion. Gal-leg spurs are called such because the shank on the spur, the part that sticks out from the boot to hold the rowel, is shaped and engraved to mimic a saloon girl’s leg. The design dates back to early spur makers in the late l800’s.

While Garland’s spurs had never been on a boot prior to parade day and they wouldn’t stay in place, he wanted to share this piece of history with the pilgrims of DeLeon. Occasionally he’d have to reach down and put his spurs back into proper position on his boot heel.

The parade was pretty long and the colt Garland was riding got progressively more nervous. Once in a while Garland would walk him off and then ride him back to the waiting spot, trying to settle him down.

After a time of watching the parade, the colt’s nerves were knotted up tight. Garland reached down to adjust his gal-leg spur and the colt came completely untrained. He crow hopped (an unserious form of bucking) around in a circle.

Ever vigilant, Jerry reached over as the colt bucked by him and grabbed the cheek strap of the colt’s bridle. Garland had landed somewhere behind the colt, somewhat ironed out on the pavement.

A lady from the crowd, not realizing Jerry had the colt caught, came running toward him in an attempt to help. As she got closer and closer, the colt started backing up without actually moving his feet. The colt knew Garland was behind him so his attempt to avoid the lady turned into a stretched out squat.

Finally, as the lady got right up close, the colt just sat right down on Garland’s chest.

Nearby paramedics were there in a flash and began an immediate assessment of the situation. They asked Garland if he had any pain.

A strained reply from Garland was, “You darn right and I know exactly what this horse weighs. Get him off me!”

The area was cleared and medics ascertained that Garland had a slow heart rate. A lady opened his shirt and started rubbing him down with ice.

The paramedics told Garland that this was a public function and by law he was required to go to the hospital as a precautionary measure. The seven block ride to the hospital would cost $580.

Jerry asked Garland if he was okay and Garland said he was although he knew he’d be a little sore tomorrow.

“Well then,” said Jerry. “Get the heck up and let’s go home.”

They were not invited back the next year to ride in the DeLeon Peach and Melon Festival parade.

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net

© Julie Carter 2005

I welcome submissions for this feature of The Westerner

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