Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Jury: Rancher shortchanged for SH 130 land A Travis County jury ruled last week that the state underpaid an Austin cattle rancher almost $5 million when it condemned his land last year to make way for the new State Highway 130. The jury awarded Austin rancher Sam Harrell almost $7 million last week in his fight against the Texas Department of Transportation for taking 174 acres of his 290-acre organic cattle ranch located about four miles north of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. In July 2005, TxDOT offered Harrell's Harrell Ranch Ltd. about $2 million for the land. Harrell rejected the offer and the Travis County Special Commissioners' Panel then offered a little more -- $2.1 million. But Harrell's lawyer, Kevin Maguire with the Dallas office of Strasburger & Price LLP, says Harrell's ranch is no ordinary piece of ground. "It was a very unique property," he says. In fact, its one of the few ranches in the country certified to raise prized Japanese Kobe beef, which dines on beer and enjoys massages. So Harrell appealed the panel's award to trial before a Travis County jury....
Pombo in a tight contest Richard Pombo, clad in a beige polo shirt and jeans, is leaning back in a folding chair, his trademark ostrich-skin boots under a table. He's bantering with a reporter and an aide, and appears at peace. But he really isn't. Pombo, a seven-term Republican congressman, is in the tightest race he has seen in more than a decade to hold on to his once-safe seat -- and he knows it. Despite the comments of his Democratic opponent, Jerry McNerney, and the accumulated evidence of national voter surveys, Pombo thinks his troubles have nothing to do with Iraq, ethics or the general state of the nation. "I don't think it has anything to do with that," Pombo explained in his cluttered campaign office here. "I think it has to do with the millions of dollars that they've spent trashing me."....
Country, city clash over prairie dog problem Prairie dogs might be the most divisive rodents in America. To tourists and city folk, they are cute enough to send back home on a postcard. To drought-stricken western South Dakota, they are pasture-wrecking vermin worthy only of poisoning. The conflict is intensifying, especially in the Conata Basin, south of Wall, a devastated piece of cattle country that also is home to a crucial colony of black-footed ferrets. Ferrets eat prairie dogs and often are called the country's most endangered mammal. A conservation group will hold a fundraiser in Denver on Wednesday to help South Dakota's ferrets. At the same time, ranching groups are pushing political leaders to change how the federal government manages ferrets and prairie dogs. Even government agencies can't agree. Some want to poison more prairie dogs, but others are using insecticides and even vaccine to protect them from a very different threat: plague. For most of the ongoing drought, the Conata Basin has looked like a wasteland, stripped bare of grass by prairie dogs. "The grass is being overgrazed by prairie dogs to the point that the grass is being killed, and will result in soil erosion - wind and water erosion - that should be intolerable to the rest of us, the citizens of South Dakota," said state Secretary of Agriculture Larry Gabriel in Pierre....
Global Warming: What about water? Charles Holmgren says it's the little things that he notices. The Box Elder County farmer, who grows a variety of crops on 1,200 acres near here, has seen the spring runoff come down the Corrine Canal from the Bear River flows sooner than it used to. After nearly a lifetime of getting three cuts a season out of his alfalfa crop, Holmgren notes that he's now regularly getting four. And he and fellow members of the irrigation company that feeds the area's farms are paying out more in attorneys fees than they ever have before to settle water rights disputes. Holmgren can't specifically point to climate change as the culprit; it's all anecdotal at this point. But he does sense that things are different now. And he can't help but wonder what lies ahead. "It's a two-edged sword," he says. "If you have livestock, you like the warmer, drier winters. But when crop time comes around in June and July, you really need that water. It doesn't help when it comes down in February or March. Once it goes down the river, it's gone." More than any other aspect of global warming, water will likely be what defines the issue in Utah and the rest of the Intermountain West in the coming decades. The nation's most arid and sparsely populated region has been transformed by explosive growth and development in recent decades, growth that has been based largely on an ability to manage scarce and vitally important water....
Calif. wildfire fully corralled, investigation steps up An arson wildfire that killed four firefighters and charred more than 60 square miles of brushland was fully corralled as the investigation into who set it moved into high gear. Two people were brought into a sheriff's station Monday for questioning and released, according to James Crowell, assistant special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle cautioned investigators would be interviewing a number of people in the case. No arrests have been made and the reward for information topped $500,000. "We're trying to work through the leads that we have, and going through the process," Doyle said in a telephone interview. Before firefighters contained it Monday evening, the fire scorched 40,200 acres - or about 63 square miles - and destroyed 34 homes. It erupted Thursday as fierce Santa Ana winds blew through the region....
Tribes, Forest Service agree on plant gathering rights Four American Indian tribes have reached an agreement with the federal government over gathering plants in two national forests. The tribes and the U-S Forest Service held a ceremony in Traverse City today to seal the agreement, which covers the Huron-Manistee National Forests and the Hiawatha National Forest. Both forests are within territory the tribes ceded to the United States under an 1836 treaty....
Supreme Court hears arguments on legal immunity for feds The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday about the extent of federal employees' immunity from on-the-job lawsuits. Under the 1988 Westfall Act, federal employees are immune from suits so long as the Attorney General certifies that they were doing their job when the incident in question occurred. The government then substitutes itself as the defendant. In the case argued Monday, Osborn v. Haley, the high court must decide whether the Attorney General can certify an act as job-related simply by denying that the incident ever occurred. If an employee is sued for an act clearly not in his or her job description, can the government defend the employee anyway if they believe in the employee's innocence?....
Landowners, access group in dispute over road to BLM land Members of a land access group say two landowners in Blaine County have no authority to limit access on a road that crosses their property to reach thousands of acres of rugged public land. At issue is the route known as the Bullwhacker Road, which provides access to 50,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Public Lands Access Association Inc., a small group based in Billings, claims the Bullwhacker Road is a public route under a law enacted in 1866. But the road travels through an island of 3.8 miles of private land owned by Bill and Ronnie Robinson of Lloyd. They have controlled access to the road in the past by requiring verbal or written permission to cross their land. Right now, there's a sign-in box near the gate where people must fill in permission slips to access the Robinsons' property. A note in the box denies access when the road is wet....
Ah Nei critic presses new lawsuit A Shepherd-area resident is again suing the Bureau of Land Management over its popular off-road vehicle site near his home. Brian Biggs, who lives next to the Shepherd Ah Nei Off-Highway Vehicle Area, alleges that the BLM's environmental study and decision allowing all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles to use the site violate federal law. Since Ah Nei reopened under the BLM's decision about a year ago, Biggs contends the noise and damage to public lands and his property have increased....
Horse roundup is taking the heat for deaths, injuries During a roundup of the Sulphur Herd this year, however, Nield said she witnessed a callous disregard for the horses during a roundup conducted by a BLM national contractor. "It was the first time I've seen a bad gather," she said. "The whole way the contractor did things bothered me." Nield said two mares and a foal were killed during the roundup, which was conducted in July. One mare suffered neck injuries after being roped and later died, while another mare died after running into a horse panel, breaking its neck. Another horse kicked the foal after it was rounded up with the adult horses, killing it. Gus Warr, who heads up Utah's Wild Horse and Burro Program for the BLM, said several "unavoidable accidents" occurred during the July roundup....
La Llorona haunts barrios, waterways of Yuma If you've ever been walking by the Colorado River at night, or any of the canals that run through Yuma, you might have heard her. The moans, faint at first, become more audible, then followed by sobs and intense wailing of: "Mis hijos, mis hijos," or, "my children, my children." La Llorona, or the "Weeping Woman," has been walking the banks of waterways in the Southwest and Latin America for a long time, lamenting the children she drowned to get revenge on her wayward husband. Mary Larona, a descendent of one of Yuma's founding fathers, can remember a much smaller Yuma and a time when sounds carried throughout the city. Sounds from the river. There are different versions of the legend. A popular one is that there was a mother with a wayward husband who took up with another woman. Distraught, the mother takes their two children to the river and drowns them in an insane act of revenge. Almost immediately she regrets her decision, but it's too late. The children are swept away. She is doomed forever to walk the banks of waterways, wailing and sobbing, in search of her children. The story goes even further back to pre-Colombian times, and different places in Latin America have similar versions.Miguel Leon-Portilla's book "The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico" talks of a series of omens that foretold the arrival of the Spaniards into Mexico. One of the omens is a weeping woman the people heard night after night.n Honduras, an apparition called "La Sucia," or the dirty one, wanders the river washing her clothes and lures wayward men walking late at night....
It's all Trew: Old gardeners avoided 'feast or famine' route My personal gardening experiences always seemed to take “the feast or famine” route where I suffered failure or had to give the surplus away before it ruined. The old-timers were smarter than I, and planted at intervals about two weeks apart, so that produce continued to grow and ripen on a regular basis. Not only did they plant at intervals, but they double-cropped things like turnips, which filled their root cellars just before frost. Some crops like corn furnished early roasting ears for eating then made hard grain later for grinding. Turnips furnished delicious top greens and hardy below-ground vegetables later in the fall. The better and more detailed the planting, the more produce provided and preserved. Few rural families went hungry unless the ravages of weather destroyed their gardens. During the early days of frontier settlement, most meat was derived from hunting wild game. If you needed meat, go hunting. Since most game was small pounds in edible meat, the carcass was consumed before spoilage occurred....

Monday, October 30, 2006


Blogger.com was experiencing problems this a.m. which prevented me from publishing The Westerner.

Private lands needed for wildlife habitat
Animals generally don't respond to those pesky boundaries placed by human society - they pretty much move among private, state, federal and tribal lands across Wyoming. But ask a wildlife biologist, rancher or farmer, and they'll all say the same thing: Private lands play a big role with Wyoming's wildlife, mostly by providing seasonal range for big game. A recent University of Wyoming-sponsored report, "Open Spaces Initiative," showed that private lands are crucial to herd size and viability for Wyoming's six major big-game species - elk, moose, antelope, bighorn sheep, mule deer and white-tailed deer. "Clearly, something in the neighborhood of 70 percent of the wildlife in this state spend part or all of their time on private lands," said Bob Budd, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust board. "Development tends to break that landscape up, and when you do, that has an impact on a lot of species."....
Researchers study how thinning helps stand of old-growth trees About 75 years later, a forest researcher named Steve Arno found his way in among this island of old-growth trees. His mission was to chart the fire history and characteristics of the stand. Using tree rings as his guide, Arno determined that fire had been a frequent visitor to the site as far back as the 16th century - right through the mid-1880s. Between 1885 and the fire of 1919, not much happened. From 1919 on, fires were squelched and the stand began to change. In that 75-year span, the stand missed three or four fire cycles. Small trees that normally would have succumbed to the flames got a foothold. The stand started to fill in. By the time Arno came on the scene, there were between 500 and 600 trees on every acre. Other than the ancient larch and ponderosa pine, most of the newcomers were shade-tolerant species such as Douglas and grand fir. Competition was fierce for water and nutrients. In many cases, the old-growth trees were suffering. On top of that, the potential for fire was tremendous in the thickly stocked stand....
'Cut carbon emissions now or face economic calamity later' A STARK warning of the economic costs and damage to the world that could result from global warming will be set out today in a report to be submitted to the Government. Sir Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist at the World Bank, will advise that the costs of confronting climate change are far outweighed by those of failing to act in time. His 700-word report forecasts floods, famine, mass movement of people and the destruction of species if the Earth’s temperature continues to rise. Gordon Brown, who commissioned the report, will accept its main recommendation for a global carbon-trading scheme to enforce limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The Chancellor will also announce that Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, is to advise him on environmental policy. Sir Nicholas’s report, hailed as the most comprehensive study of the economics of climate change yet, makes the case for early action to avoid a calamitous recession later. Acting now to cut carbon emissions would cost 1 per cent of global GDP a year; by doing nothing, the costs at the time would be a minimum of 5 per cent and as high as 20 per cent of GDP a year, he concludes....
Column - Wolves, cowboys and the truth John Wayne, the most iconic cowboy of our time, once said, "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday." Wise words, indeed. When it comes to wolves, the cowboys running Wyoming's government apparently believe the wisdom of yesterday is best gained by acting as if it still is yesterday - or, more precisely, that it is 1906, not 2006. Recently, Wyoming sued the federal government over the government's rejection of Wyoming's plan to allow unregulated killing of wolves outside of the state's two national parks. Notably, the federal government still protects wolves as an endangered species, meaning that the territory outside of the national parks is integral to wolf recovery. Undeterred by such legal logic, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal clicked his spurs together and said of the decision to sue, "We'd been kicked around the barroom enough, and now it's time to fight back." Unfortunately, Wyoming's tantrum drags the taxpaying public into a frivolous and prohibitively expensive legal quagmire where nobody but the lawyers survive - and to what end? Well, Wyoming officials insist that their wolf management plan will protect wolves (granting them safe haven inside the national parks) while also protecting the state's livestock industry, by allowing anyone with a gun to kill wolves that roam into other areas of the state. The state's livestock lobby insists that anything less would allow wolves to eat them out of house and home. Moreover, they contend that coyotes, mountain lions and bears already threaten to drive ranchers out of business in the Cowboy State. In the spirit of learning from yesterday, it's worth looking at some of the evidence that supports (or refutes) the fear of wild carnivores that grips Wyoming's cowboy caucus. Particularly useful is data gathered by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) regarding livestock killed by various wild carnivores. For cattle, data from 2005 indicate that wild carnivores and dogs killed 0.18 percent of the nation's cows, while 4 percent were lost to other causes including disease, birthing problems, weather and theft. Notably, of the cattle lost to wild carnivores in 2005, wolves killed only 0.02 percent....
Turf wars in Idaho's wilderness Wolf researcher Jim Akenson is riding a mule on an icy mountain trail in central Idaho when he comes upon a dead cougar. Suddenly, a pack of wolves materializes and begins howling. For one terrifying moment, the 48-year-old biologist thinks his startled mules are going to stampede and carry him off a 200-foot cliff into Big Creek. "We could not turn around," says Akenson, describing that tense winter episode four years ago in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. "It is the most precarious condition you can imagine, with wolves howling around you." The crisis ends quickly. Akenson's saddle mule, Daisy, gives the carcass an indifferent sniff, steps over it and proceeds down the trail. Cricket and Rocky, his pack mules, follow, paying the wolves no heed. Akenson shrugs it off as part of life in the Idaho wilderness. "There are circumstances when you could be in trouble with wolves," he muses. "But I think they are very rare." Akenson and his biologist wife, Holly, 48, are in the ninth year of a University of Idaho-sponsored research project on wolf and cougar interaction. They live and work at the Taylor Ranch Field Station, deep inside the largest block of contiguous wilderness in the lower 48 states....
Nebraska gov to sign Platte deal Gov. Dave Heineman on Friday said he will sign a three-state agreement that could improve and protect one of Nebraska's most vital resources, the Platte River, but that groundwater irrigators say might eventually cripple portions of the rural economy. "It provides regulatory certainty; it protects our state's farmers and ranchers from potential federal actions that could be detrimental," Heineman said about his decision to sign the Platte River Cooperative Agreement. He said he possibly spent more time on the issue than any other since becoming governor. "This is a difficult decision," he said. "There's no question the state is divided." Besides Nebraska, the cooperative agreement includes Wyoming, Colorado and the U.S. Department of Interior. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed the agreement Friday and Wyoming is expected to sign. The river recovery plan called for in the agreement includes acquiring land for wildlife habitat in Nebraska and increasing river flows at key times. It will cost about $317 million, with $157 million coming from the Interior Department and the rest from the three states in cash, land and water. Federal dollars have not yet received final approval....
With Hands and Hounds, Stalking Feral Hogs in Texas On a moonless October night, with the Milky Way staining the West Texas sky, a burly man in overalls turned off the engine of his mud-caked white Toyota truck. Yelps from coyotes and an owl’s hoot occasionally broke the silence. Then, from an open field, Bob Richardson heard the noise he had been awaiting. Four of his short-haired scent hounds, which had been released earlier, began to bark from the darkness. Mr. Richardson jumped out of the truck and freed a black pit bull from a cage on the truck’s flatbed. He chased after his pit bull into the darkness toward the barking hounds. He tripped in a wet ditch but kept running through the milo stalks. When he got to the baying dogs, the light on his miner’s hat revealed that the pit bull, trained for just this purpose, had clamped onto the face of a feral hog. As he had done thousands of times before, Mr. Richardson, 58, pounced on the snorting beast and tied its feet together, immobilizing it. Within minutes, he had loaded the animal barehanded into a cage. A lot of people in rural Texas catch wild hogs, which can grow to several hundred pounds, and Mr. Richardson traps them like most others. But there is sometimes a twist to Mr. Richardson’s hunts — he spends a few nights a week cruising the dirt roads of Stonewall County, a place with more hogs than people, to run down the wild animals using only his dogs and his bare hands. “It’s for fun,” he said. It has also become lucrative as Europeans and an increasing number of Americans clamor for wild boar. Mr. Richardson said he made $28,000 last year selling live feral hogs....
Profit in the Pumpkin Patch Two semitruck loads of pumpkins recently traveled from a Canyonville farm to Southern California. Those pumpkins likely ended up at a produce vendor’s stand. From there, to a family’s home. Eventually, many will probably be carved with a funky face, stuffed with a candle and put on a windowsill or porch for display leading up to Halloween. More than 150,000 pounds of pumpkins came from Mary’s Garden in Canyonville. Owner Mary Laurance sells pumpkins wholesale. She gets 10 cents a pound, on average. “It is a pretty good business,” she said. “This year, I just had an exceptionally good crop of pumpkins.” Laurance has been growing and selling pumpkins for 15 years. While she grows “everything,” she said pumpkins are the winter’s top seller....
Column - Give me a home where the buffalo roam Who would not want a home where the buffalo roam? In Southern Missouri, we are home to a great variety of family ranches and many value-added livestock operations. These ranches are part of our history and our heritage, and they are also an important part of our economy. When the federal government suggested a national animal identification system, I was skeptical. When they actually put forth a plan to make the system mandatory, I was disappointed. And when I discovered what that plan would do to our Southern Missouri ranching operations, I was furious. The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a national animal identification system (NAIS) that would require ranches to register their premises, tag their animals, and regularly report the movement of their animals to a government agency. Worse, if one of these animals were to get sick, at any point in the journey from field to sale barn to stockyard to slaughter, the trace-back mechanisms in this program would point a finger at the rancher, regardless of what happened in between. The monetary burdens of the mandatory program, and the liability for sick animals, would undoubtedly fall at the feet of the rancher, who is sure to assume the costs of implementing the NAIS. Those costs would be passed along each level in the supply chain, reflected only when the rancher sells his or her cattle and when the consumer goes to the supermarket to buy a steak. The middlemen look to get off scot-free. Finally, USDA proposed that this program be made mandatory by 2009, meaning every rancher in America would be forced to comply with these rules. At that point I, and the ranchers I represent, have had enough. I introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to stop the mandatory NAIS, and our U.S. Senator from Missouri, Jim Talent, introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Rather than crush our ranchers beneath the wheel of big government, I want a sound, but completely voluntary program to let ranchers who wish to track their cattle do so....
Old cattle crime rears its head again Some of the nation's largest beef-producing states are fighting a resurgence in a centuries-old crime: cattle rustling. The thefts, including one high-profile case involving the ranch of baseball legend Nolan Ryan, are directly related to the rising cost of beef, said Larry Gray, enforcement chief with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). The TSCRA, which draws its members from Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, reported $6.2 million in livestock thefts — mostly cattle — in 2005, up from $4 million in 2004. In the past three to four years, John McBride, a spokesman for the Livestock Marketing Association, said cattle prices have approached all-time highs. "As the cattle industry has escalated, so have the number of thefts," said Joyce English, vice president of the association's Livestock Board of Trade. "Everything follows the money." Last fall, a flurry of calls from more than a dozen victims, including the foreman of Ryan's Texas ranch, reported 17 cows and 14 calves were missing. A couple of weeks later, an additional 16 calves were stolen from Ryan's spread. The reports led two investigators with the TSCRA to charge a 27-year-old suspect with running an old-time rustling enterprise valued at more than $250,000 after being in operation a little less than a year. Gray said the suspect allegedly used the livestock, most of which was branded, to bolster his own herd and sold off the calves as they were born. The break in the case came, Gray said, when one of the stolen animals was brought for sale....
Paying homage to heritage When John B. Dawson bought several homestead sites in 1903 and formed the Dawson ranch east of Hayden, he surely appreciated the beauty of the Yampa River Valley, lush with cottonwood trees lining the river and wildlife roaming the grass valley floor. The Dawson Ranch, purchased by Farrington Carpenter and known as the Carpenter Ranch since 1945, is just one of the ranches of this region that Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage and Tourism is promoting as a local gem for tourists to explore. "This place is going to be here from now on," said Geoff Blakeslee, project director for the Nature Conservancy, which purchased the ranch in 1996. "This barn was built in 1903 out of cottonwood trees from near the river." A tour of Routt County ranches was conducted Saturday for the Cultural Heritage Tourism quarterly workshop. Thirty-five members toured the Carpenter Ranch, Morgan Bottom, and the Delaney Ranch to experience a small fraction of what the organization hopes will draw tourists to Northwest Colorado....
The bucking starts here — Drummond breeding business raises bulls for rodeo circuit On the east end of town, you could drive across the tracks and under a gate post framed by the silhouettes of two vertical bucking bulls — And under most radars in this home of World Famous Bullshippers. ‘‘Most of the ranchers know what we’re doing because we’re in the cattle business,’’ Rod Conat said as he slogged through a bull pen behind the C&G Rodeo Livestock arena. ‘‘But as far as the majority of the people in town, you ask them what we’re doing over here, they’d say, ‘I don’t really know.’’’ The region is long known for its Hereford and Angus cattle, and for the railroad docks where those animals are loaded and sent off to become choice prime ribs and steak. Now Conat, his wife, Bonnie, and partner Steven Graveley of Helmville are quietly building a breeding business that puts Drummond on the map for a different kind of bull — the one that bucks. Sequestered in a pen apart from the 100 or so bulls on the muddy grounds are Spitfire, Aces High and Zipper Twister. The Conats and Graveley, who’ve hauled bulls some 60,000 miles this year to faraway stops on the Professional Bull Riders tour, are gearing up to take the three to Las Vegas next week....
New Show Aims To Find Match For Bachelor Farmer Move over Eva Gabor. Your Green Acres rerun days as city-girl-turned-farmer's-wife appear to be numbered. On Sunday, farmers and ranchers from around Texas came for the first of four open casting calls across the country for a new reality show from the producers of "American Idol" and "The Price is Right." In "The Farmer Wants a Wife," city girls and others will vie for a chance to become a farmer's wife. Micah Keeney didn't come in a cowboy hat or boots from nearby Shallowater, preferring his typical "comfy" farmer look. He lives alone in a small, old farmhouse on his more than 3,700 acres of cotton, cattle and hay. Though he doesn't date, the 24-year-old blond said he thought he'd come see if he could find a single woman willing to come live on the land with him. The show will air next year on one of the four major networks, said Billy Kemp, the head of casting for Fremantle Media....

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The Dust Police

by Larry Gabriel

Normally, the season of brisk nights, cool days and long shadows was Harry’s favorite time of year, but the corn harvest was not good this year.

Despite the comfort of his combine cab and a welcome day of sunshine, harvest was not fun. The yield was poor and the condition not much better due to prolonged drought.

Harry estimated the corn would bring in about twice the costs of harvesting it, but only half his total production costs. “That’s better than nothing,” he thought to himself as he watched a shiny, new, black Suburban pull up to the end of his field.

Even before two men in suits got out, Harry knew the visitors were city boys. They parked on the down-wind side of where the combine would come out. After the combine stopped and the dust settled, Harry climbed down from the cab to greet them.

“What can I do for you boys,” he asked.

“Well sir, we are from the federal government,” one said.

“What’s your business out here?” Harry replied.

“We are here to check out your dust,” the short one said. “We are with the United States Environmental Protection Agency,” the tall one added.

“What’s wrong with my dust,” Harry asked.

“Well sir, there is simply too much of it. A properly functioning combine should not emit as much dust as is coming from yours. We could see it for two miles and we are here to take some measurements to determine exactly how much above the permitted amount you are emitting,” the little one explained.

Harry raised the brim of his hat up and scratched his forehead with three dirty fingers and shook his head in disbelief. After a moment he said, “Now look here boys. You seem to be a little confused about the reality of things. You do know, don’t you, that combines don’t make dirt? They just blow around what God put on the crop. I don’t make dirt. I just move it around for a living.”

“Be that as it may sir, you are polluting the air we all breathe and it’s illegal,” the small guy said.

“So what’s your point,” Harry asked.

“The point is that you could receive a citation and possibly be forced to pay a fine if our readings support our observations,” the taller one explained.

“OK. Tell me this. Would you be willing to issue the same citation to any piece of equipment making a similar dust cloud in this county,” asked Harry.

“Absolutely, you just point him out and I will write him up right now,” the little one said.

“I’m mighty glad to hear that. Give that ticket to your partner here because I saw you fellows coming for three miles down that dirt road kicking up a cloud of dust while producing absolutely nothing. I will feel much better about my ticket, knowing that at least it was for something. I help produce the food you boys eat and, even if I stir a little dust, it’s worth doing,” Harry said.

Harry got on his combine, turned its tail into the nose of that shiny new vehicle and put the thresher and header in gear. The boys in the dirty tan Suburban left.

Not all stories worth telling are true.

Larry is the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture

The siren’s song of the West

By Julie Carter

It is a song not audible and yet it pierces the heart of men in every walk of life.

Like the music of the mythological being, the siren's song of the West pulls, tugs and creates within men an unexplainable desire.

It calls them to a way of life in place where renewed hope springs eternal and they believe for a better life in a less cluttered world.

The sirens of Greek mythology lived on a rocky island in the middle of the sea and sang melodies so beautiful that sailors passing by could not resist getting closer to them.

Following the sound of the music, the sailors would steer their boats towards them or jump in the water to get closer - both ending in disaster on the rocks.

Horace Greeley, has been credited for popularizing, 150 years ago, the idea of "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." Today, the West is still a magnet to men and women of all ages.

A study of Western culture revealed three out of five men and nearly half of women would like to be cowboys for at least a day. Many have opted for complete lifestyle changes.

In droves, they have packed up their lives and moved to the West, finding a place in the open spaces much like the 100 years of homesteaders.

The 2000 census showed eight of the ten fastest growing states are in the West, led by Nevada.

Two weeks ago, 1,200 Michigan residents stood in long lines eager to head for Wyoming's rugged, cold terrain answering a call to a job fair.

The sheer numbers dictate that not everybody can be a cowboy. But a good number will take on the trappings of the trade, buy a 40-acre ranchette, and put a rocking chair on the wrap-around porch to watch the sun set over a small barn that houses two horses, a 4-wheeler and a couple of llamas.

It is a new West and is clearly an amalgamation of the many phases of an evolving genre.

While the West does not own the cowboy, it is the cowboy that epitomizes the West in the minds of those that seek him.

Some men are born to ride and some men were born to sit in traffic. Some come to live in the West as it is now with a more modern version of the cowboy wearing sponsorship tags on his shirt and making a few hundred thousand dollars a year riding bulls or roping calves in the rodeos.

It is a West where cattle are still king and four door pickups and aluminum trailers ferry the cowboy crew miles across ranches, counties and states - a West where ranchers hang on to an ever-changing way of life necessitating better practices in order to stay on the land.

There are those who come to feed their soul from the history created by those who came west to grow with a new country.

These were men who rode hard, shot straight and died young. Their ghosts walk the boardwalks of old towns in western territories and call to a breed of modern man who find themselves living a century past their time.

While the siren of the West may not lure man to disaster, the man that heeds the call will find today's cowboy life is not in the clothes he wears or the substance of his dreams.

To this day I have not ever seen the visiting pilgrim come to the ranch, dressed out in his version of cowboy clothes, begging the boss to let him drive the feed pickup.

Now there is a sign of a complete lack of understanding about how the West is really won in this new millennium.

© Julie Carter 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

There was really no way to summarize this...an important aricle which needs to be read. Thanks to Keeler Ranch for the link.



Exposing Anti-Livestock Bias in Federal Culture

Brave Souls Refuting the "Dark Dehumanizing Dream"

The truth is, long term livestock removal in the West is usually an environmental disaster. What else could you call something that wipes out most plants and most wildlife?

By Steve Rich

Do cows really eat adult fish? Do they eat fish eggs? Do they eat juvenile fish? I have personally replied (on behalf of clients) to multiple Draft Biological Opinions regarding two National Forests where U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists made these claims. They also claimed that cows destroyed the nests (redds) of fish species that don't build nests, stepped on fish, muddied the water of fish that spawn only in muddy water (and spawn every time it gets muddy for a few days), and designated dry washes as critical habitat for endangered species of fish.

When consultant Mary Darling asked several other fisheries biologists about the truth of these claims, no one agreed with them. They were astonished at their silliness. One university professor summed them up as "deliriously incompetent" and wondered how anyone could achieve a state of delusion deep enough to make such statements in a professional context.

I see anti-livestock claims which are just as imaginative and unsubstantiated as those above in government documents all the time. This one was an obvious attempt to claim "direct take" of an endangered species and trigger draconian anti-livestock actions.

Dr. John Rinne of Rocky Mountain Research (operated by the U.S. Forest Service) became so concerned about false beliefs and statements and their terrible effects on policy and endangered species recovery that he wrote a paper entitled "Fish and Grazing Relationships: The Facts and Some Pleas." He asked for better, more scientifically valid study designs and methodologies.

He asked fisheries biologists to realize that most publications (80 percent) on fish and grazing relationships are not peer reviewed and that most of their data is suspect. He asked them to remember that dams and other human alterations have changed the habitat. He reminded them that cyprinids (like spike dace, loach minnows, chubs, etc…) are not trout or salmon and have different requirements. He said that many trout studies are skewed by governments stocking fish in study areas. He pointed out that in addition to all this, governments have introduced so many nonnative aquatic organisms (sport fish like bass, green sunfish, and catfish, plus several crayfish species, shiners, mosquito fish, bullfrogs, etc…) that eat endangered cyprinids and their eggs and out-compete them for habitat that grazing has little to do with their problems which began when governments actively poisoned these native fishes and purposefully replaced them with the above non-natives.

Dr. Rinne wrote this from a background of his own research and wide exposure to the facts. He personally was aware that the forced removal of livestock had led to the extinction of endangered cyprinids on vast reaches of Arizona rivers and that their highest populations tended to be in flood blasted, warm, shallow, braided channel refugia and at places where vehicles splashed through streams, inside corrals (through which streams flowed), and in river channels within mine sites which are regularly bulldozed. He asked biologists to be more accurate and rigorous and stop projecting their (alien and Eurocentric) anti-livestock prejudices.

The last paragraph of this peer reviewed paper reads as follows: "I finish with two thoughts pertinent to the subject of monitoring and research on fishes and grazing relationships in the Southwest or Region 3 of the Forest Service. The first is that little new data are being collected and there is a continuing reiteration of what is in the [extremely deficient] literature about fish and grazing relationships. Selective rather than objective comprehension by individuals has dictated management alternatives for the last several decades [emphasis added]. We as environmental groups, managers, and researchers need to stop expressing opinions, disputing and constantly litigating or threatening to and start collecting data from well-designed, defensible research and monitoring activities. Second, as the saying goes, 'without [valid] data, one is just another person with an opinion.'"

Other responsible scientists support Rinne's position. The 143 page UC Berkley Rangeland Science Team's report (March 1999) stated: "Unfortunately, testing of hypothesis is not done before people leap directly from observation to the conclusion that grazing is the primary source of resource degradation."

Rinne's calm, reasoned and moderate request for science and at least "…to pursue" the truth drew furious response from the clique practicing "selective comprehension" (an elegant term for messing with the truth) including the "cows eat fish" claimants. These Dr. Rinne calmly, reasonably and moderated squashed under a comprehensive and well selected load of facts. They were furious because, among other offenses which "affronted" them, he asked that they "remove [them]selves from promoting and sustaining the litany" of anti-grazing factoids and act like scientists.

When I read the above to Dr. Rinne he agreed that it is an accurate summary of the facts. He then favored me with a quote (from memory) which he got from a federal manager: "When the search for truth is confused by political (or any kind of) advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to a quest for power."

The anti-livestock groups are jealous of the power they have created by reiterating their litany of generally spurious information. One BLM biologist, also responding to Rinne's article, who, though representing a more reasonable sounding view, nevertheless revealed his bias (and by his tone, his awareness that his bias is widely held in government) stating: "Unfortunately, pro-grazing interests will undoubtedly use [Rinne's] article to contest the science behind the claims of resource managers." Never mind, apparently, that these claims may be built on false assumptions without support in fact.

Such statements are justified in the minds of radicalized persons by their highly imaginative and often very sincere apocalyptic visions of pillaging bovines raping every riparian system in the West. These visions along with squeamishness about animal dung drive the rhetoric and actions of anti-livestock activists in and out of government. I have personally heard versions of this "cows (or sheep, or goats, or something... [supply favorite evil agricultural animal here]) will destroy the world" rant from dozens of federal officials.

Biologist and Attorney Dennis Parker loves wildlife and is a passionate advocate of good management. He is therefore passionate about the distortions that bias creates in dealing with wildlife issues.

"There is an entrenched culture in Federal land and resource management agencies based on socio-political philosophy rather than scientific inquiry" Dennis said. "For example, Region 3 of the Forest Service has created 'grazing guidance criteria' for endangered species consultations which are notorious among responsible scientists for institutionalizing speculation and assumption as if such were scientific fact while ignoring excellent research by its own (Rocky Mountain Research Station) scientists of which the agency was fully aware" Parker exclaimed.

"For its part the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also notorious for uncritically accepting speculation and assumption posited as biological fact by N.G.O.'s (environmental groups) petitions to list various species under the Endangered Species Act. The result is that both the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service vie with one another to institutionalize bias at the expense of livestock grazing permittees and at the great injury of species these agencies are alleging to protect by doing so."

"It goes on and on, flycatchers, the owls, cyprinid fishes, it's endless. The Mearn's Quail are another example. Study after study by respected people proves that conservative to moderate grazing is good for Mearn's Quail. But if Mearn's Quail are found, cattle numbers are cut below those thresholds. I've got chapter and verse on all of this, the studies and many of the "Cut the Cows" decisions. It makes no sense!" Parker concluded.

Dr. Jerry Holechek (who is a widely respected and much quoted by government, researcher and professor of range science at New Mexico State University) shakes his head sadly when asked about anti-livestock group-think in governmental agencies. "In a sane environment we'd be paying ranchers for the ecosystem services they provide. Dr. Rick Knight says ranchers get paid for ¼ of what they do for society. In my book that's just about right (Bob Budd, Dick Richardson and the others concur). Look, this obsession with overgrazing is a disastrous waste of time and energy. It's well known that I'm firmly against overgrazing. Well, so are the vast majority of ranchers. Tremendous improvements have occurred just in the last ten years. I've got good science on that. Overgrazing, now, is a non-issue. It's not even a one on a ten scale."

"The West really is in terrible danger, but people won't face it because they're part of it. The real threat is the loss of rangeland to urban and ranchette development. Persecuting good ranchers is like shooting firemen because you see them whenever there's a fire. Driving ranchers off the land is feeding the monster that's eating the West."

We went over the shameful persecution of Jim and Sue Chilton, a situation with which we are both familiar (they own the Montana Allotment). As has been done elsewhere in the West, an ephemeral stream, California Gulch, which is dry most of most years, was designated a critical habitat for an allegedly endangered fish, the Sonora chub, another hardy cyprinid fish (though not hardy enough to get along well on dry land). In their Mexican home rivers, the banks and watersheds of which are widely overgrazed and degraded, there are millions of these flood and muddy water-loving fish. All southwest fisheries biologists know this. To call them endangered is an egregious, preposterous whopper of a lie.

Now, the ones that swim the few miles up California Gulch in floods are in trouble because bass, catfish and green sunfish get washed out of the town reservoir upstream from the Chiltons and they love to eat chubs. Then, of course, the stream dries up in time and bears, fish-eating birds, coyotes, coati mundi, raccoons and foxes clean them out of the shrinking pools.

This is no big thing biologically because as stated before, there are millions of them; but this ridiculous charade has cost the Chiltons a great deal of money and time and injured their health. They put together a document with over 100 pages of expert testimony to beat off this threat, an effort far beyond the resources of most ranchers. Anti-livestock activists count on breaking ranchers' bank accounts, their will and finally their hearts (I'm aware of deaths caused by this). They get paid to tell lies and it costs big money and many years to disprove them in the present climate, where livestock operators are guilty until proven innocent. Many federal scientists (not named to spare them reprisals) frequently complain that politically radical officials freely throw irresponsible claims into Biological Opinions, allotment reviews and Environmental Assessments all the time. Once they are on the legal record it takes years and millions of dollars to return policy and endangered species recovery efforts to the path of sanity and success.

Dr. Holechek and I, in the company of Dr. Galt and Sue Chilton spent a day on the Montana Allotment while I interviewed the Chiltons and the two good Doctors on video for an upcoming piece to be narrated by U.S. Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. The allotment is wonderfully beautiful and healthy. Waist high grass and over-grazing sensitive plants and wildlife abound, as do hunters, birdwatchers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Both Dr. Holechek and Dr. Galt agreed that this place is one of the most important and best documented successes of rangeland and riparian recovery due to managed grazing in the Southwest. But the persecution continues. An "environmental" group has them targeted on the internet as one of the "10 most overgrazed allotments in the West." Nothing could be more obviously false, but what does that matter? The illogic of these endangered fish and bird recovery plans can reach inspired levels. Miles wide riparian livestock exclusion zones are created for "protection." Forest Plans reveal, however, that watersheds deemed too fragile for livestock use are scheduled for burning in massive areas. This, of course, will expose any endangered fish to potentially lethal ash flows, documented by Federal scientists to be a grave danger to all aquatic organisms. It will also expose the riparian system to scouring floods which will destroy all vegetation for bird use along with any nestlings.

A few further examples include:

The Infamous Desert Tortoise Scam:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists claimed widespread destruction of tortoises by cows which they claimed stepped on tortoises and crushed their burrows (no cows have been documented to step on a tortoise and only one accidentally trampled burrow has been found), deprived them of food (this one is really ironic. Any desert rancher, desert dweller or competent desert reptile biologist will know that tortoises cluster around corrals to get fresh cow dung to eat. They need it for moisture, B vitamins, and easy nutrition. It greatly increases their health, active period and egg production. Also the desert annuals and other herbaceous plants tortoises depend on greatly decrease when livestock removal stops nutrient cycling and soil disturbance). All this and more was raised in the E.I.S. but the bias won out (locals report fewer tortoises, scientists report increases in tortoise diseases).
The Infamous Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Scam: Beginning with biologist Dennis Parker, private, university and federal biologists have documented the largest (by far, half of the subspecies) and most successful concentration of Southwest willow flycatchers on earth in New Mexico's Gila Cliff Valley. They are nesting in predominantly manmade second-growth box elder-dominated woodland (not willows, they avoid the willows) on irrigation ditches and returns, eating bees, wasps, and yellowjackets by preference (not flies or mosquitoes). This population refuses to occupy gallery forests on streams lined by willows-the kind of habitat federal endangered species documents insist they want-adjacent, upstream and downstream from the Gila Cliff Valley. They experience the lowest rate of cowbird parasitism of any population in the U.S. living among the highest and most diverse population of riparian non-colonial birds in North America. Some of the highest cowbird parasitism rates are in Grand Canyon National Park, where there are no cows. The Gila Cliff Valley has the highest concentration of livestock in Southwestern New Mexico. Despite this and much more, thousands of cattle have been removed allegedly to protect flycatchers. Right now in Arizona (Rock House) the feds are building mosquito ponds lined with willows for flycatchers. This is a West Nile Virus hot spot. These birds have no immunity.
The Infamous Mexican Spotted Owl Scam: According to Bent's "Life History of North American Birds" there were none of these in the U.S. before 1929 or until large scale logging began. These owls prefer steep, deep, dry, cool canyons. They dine by preference on wood rats (packrats) and other rodents. Most actual Mexican spotted owl habitat is inaccessible by livestock, but livestock are removed because they threaten the owls through exposing wood rats to avian predation. (You mean like by Mexican Spotted Owls? Avian still includes owls last I checked.)
The Infamous Lesser Long Nosed Bat Scam: This organism has millions of acres of protected habitat on federal land. It has been used to reduce livestock numbers and de-stock ranges. In fact, its numbers are limited only by lack of roosting and nursery habitat in caves. The Forest Service has closed over 200 abandoned mine entrances which could have served this need. More are being closed.
The Infamous "Arizona Agave" Scam: This flowering Yucca-like plant was recently found to be a hybrid, not a separatesubspecies. Ranchers have been impacted by the "need" to protect what is really a rarely produced cross of two common agave varieties.
The Infamous Pima Pineapple Cactus Scam: Most common on disturbed areas like golf course roughs, this plant is probably a hybrid or site-adapted version of other common pineapple cacti. It has cost ranchers, homeowners and others a great deal. It is being studied for delisting.
The Infamous Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Scam: Ranchers have been de-stocked by 90 percent over this bird, a Meso-American commonplace abundant in Mexico. Its listing as an endangered species was recently ruled by the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco as "arbitrary and capricious." Politics have prevented the lower court from ordering its delisting.
The Infamous Masked Bobwhite Quail Scam: Millions were spent buying land to "protect" these birds (whose core habitat is really in, yep you guessed it, Mexico). The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge was created. The cattle were removed, the tame, pen raised quail usually get eaten by coyotes, etc within a week, so the escapees left and went to nearby ranches. This is a very common outcome.

These are just a few of a very big list of examples. The anti-grazers passionately believe in the validity of all of them. We should not forget the activists' propensity for planting evidence (remember the bogus lynx hairs). The Tucson Star on May 16, 2004 published a similar story about a former refuge manager planting Chiricahua leopard frogs, apparently to create continued reasons for the Buenos Aires Refuge.

In Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, cows under federal grazing prescriptions have also been alleged to create "dung fire" risk to underground artifacts, to rub petroglyphs off cliff walls, to endanger a historic structure (a corral), endanger native grasses and forbs (read on, we deal with this later), endanger native wildlife (ditto), to cause floods, erosion, water quality degradation, widespread public outrage, lost tourism revenues, juniper invasions (all not true), and destroy some recreationists' experience of the outdoors by their mere presence (what does this say about the biases of the recreationists?). All this was found, along with the flycatchers and the spotted owls in one federal document.

Why do anti-grazers in government act as they do? Hundreds of conversations with anti-grazing activists inside the federal government have outlined their reasons and motives clearly. They see themselves as principled, heroic figures performing civil disobedience to save nature from industry. Some view themselves as "monkey wrenchers" (from Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang") who do violence to the legal and scientific records rather than fences, wells, pipelines, barns or livestock. One activist in a BLM office sported a "Heyduke Lives" bumper sticker on his private car. They hold fellow workers who defend scientific grazing in disdain as having "sold out to the Man." They know that ranchers experience their deliberate trouble making as a form of domestic terrorism, but they feel that the end justifies the means.

That explains the activists who act in full knowledge that they use falsehoods as weapons. Even more pervasive, but just as damaging are those who simply and uncritically believe the body of false information passed on to them from authoritative sources. This tragic multiplier of dangerous (to nature) beliefs operates in the media as well, who then spread bias to the public. It all speaks to the huge disconnect between urban people and the truth about nature.

Thom Harrison is a well known and respected private psychotherapist, author, former faculty member at the University of Utah School of Medicine and instructor of Mediation and Conflict Resolution at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University.

"Bias operates at several levels," he said. "At the group level it functions through both fear-based and reward-based enforcement systems. A culture which develops a group bias can be ruthless with nonconformists. It will sanction and encourage actions such as marginalizing those who don't agree, slandering and libeling them, threatening their careers, withholding employment and advancement opportunities. It rewards conformity with opportunities deprived from those who won't support the bias. If the bias is directed against another group it plays the same game of intimidation and the rewards to complicit individuals in the persecuted group are provisional and shame laden. It's very complex. The dynamics of racists and African-Americans in the Old South are a perfect example. So are the things that went on in Nazi Germany and the occupied countries."

He agreed that anti-livestock/anti-rancher bias in the face of recent science and numerous landscape scale successes in achieving miracles of healing far in excess of "no grazing" through solid, prescribed and monitored livestock and range management operates at the same intellectual level and through the same mental pathways as racism, sexism, and other biases.

"It's a delusional process," he said. "Their belief is 'only what I think can exist and no one is allowed to see it differently.' Their own social, financial, and professional survival is at stake at very intense, emotional levels." Thom laughed when I shared Dr. Rinne's term "selective rather than objective comprehension."

"Perfect," he chuckled, "there's also a selective distribution of information. Facts which refute the bias are not perceived or remembered in efficiencies anything like those for pro-bias data. Anti-bias information is also suppressed in various ways. When several societal power groups, and especially when the media are involved, become allies in projecting prejudice, the cognitive distortions reach hallucinatory thresholds."

"It takes a brave soul to face all that. When informed that a group of researchers and activists were seeking funds to sue the federal government under N.E.P.A. to force examination of the environmentally destructive effects of removing managed livestock from public lands in any NEPA action, Dr. Jimmie Richardson, internationally connected soil scientist from North Dakota State University replied, "I'll be their first expert witness."

I know a lot of others who have similar guts and integrity. Dr. Jerry Holechek recently published a monumental survey of worldwide grazing literature which states in the summary, "There is strong scientific evidence that managed livestock perform important ecological services." The evidence, in journals, papers, and elsewhere shows that wildlife prefer properly grazed areas. Prescribed grazing supports riparian healing and watershed stability, soil health, and much higher biodiversity than no-grazing, higher soil (and overall) biomass, and higher reproductive and survival rates for native plants and animals.

The summary to "Controlled Grazing Versus Grazing Exclusion Impacts on Rangeland Ecosystems: What We Have Learned" continues, "The idea that managed livestock grazing is not ecologically sustainable in arid and semi-arid areas is refuted." That is what the research clearly demonstrates. Dr. Richardson's (along with Paul and Ann Nyren, Dr. Bob Patton and others at NDSU and NDSU's Central Grasslands Research Center) studies of grassland soils showed root zones averaging five inches for un-grazed grassland versus an average of 40 inches for prescription grazed areas. Native biodiversity was vastly greater as well, averaging one or two native plant species under non-native domination for un-grazed soils versus over 100 natives predominating on prescription grazed rangeland. Water infiltration and absorption capacity was over 10 times greater on the prescription grazed lands as well. These "prescribed, managed grazing is ten times better than no grazing" findings are not uncommon in the literature historically and in long observed often documented, landscape scale comparisons. So where do anti-grazing groups get the studies to convince judges to rule against ranchers?

"That's what drives me nuts," Dr. Holechek said. "It's an unethical and unscientific process. They use studies which document the effects of unmanaged livestock. That's not an honest comparison at all. You see the same set of studies quoted over and over, whenever they attempt to close allotments. Which is very ironic, since most of those findings were eliminated from our review because of bad study designs and unscientific methodologies. When you add that to the fact that they're not relevant at all unless the federally created grazing systems mandate unregulated livestock, it's a pretty sordid business."

Dr. Holechek agreed with the other scholars and experts I interviewed [Dr. Jimmy Richardson (NDSU), Dr. Roy Roath (CSU), Dr. Dick Richardson (UTAustin), Dr. Pat Richardson (UTAustin), Dr. Rick Knight (CSU), Dr. Bob Patton (NDSU Central Grasslands Research), Dr. Jim Bowns (Southern Utah University), Paul Nyren (Director, NDSU Central Grasslands Research), Ann Nyren (NDSU Central Grasslands Research), Mary Darling (Darling Consulting), Eric Schwennesen (Resource Management International), Tommie Martin (Ecorestore), Bob Budd (The Nature Conservancy, Red Canyon Ranch, Immediate Past President of the Society for Range Management), Dr. Jim Sprinkle (UofA), and Dennis Parker] that anti-livestock bias has its origin in the widespread abusive (European culture based) grazing practices of the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. "Rural people are now often blamed for things they didn't do," Ann Nyren told me in her sympathetic Irish accent.

"Abusive grazing is much less common now," Dr. Dick Richardson said. "But it continues in places. The trouble is that causation is complex. Symptoms like plant death or morbidity or the lack of herbaceous understory can have multiple causes. Any negative outcome will generally be blamed on overgrazing and that explanation will be believed. It's very convenient. Nobody has to be careful, follow a good scientific process, or think."

The experts I interviewed also agreed that most people, even the majority of those with range science degrees, have little or no ability to distinguish between the effects of drought, overgrazing followed by long term livestock removal, those of long term livestock removal, and those of continuing long term livestock overgrazing after a few months rest. Destructive fire effects are also often confused with those of overgrazing. All negatives are assumed to be livestock caused.

"Undergraduate education, especially, is failing resource management students all over the country," Dr. Rick Knight told me. "Of all the groups of people who live on and manage the land, ranchers, agency personnel, and ranchette dwellers, the ranchers are generally the best informed and have the fullest complement of tools to see that the land is more native than invasive, more covered ground than bare ground, more healthy than unhealthy." He added "Natural science students such as those in wildlife disciplines spend their time stuck to computer screens. They rarely see daylight."

She smiled tolerantly: "When they start out, anything positive on any ranch is seen by them as an endangered natural treasure that the cows just haven't managed to kill yet! They're usually wonderful, sensitive, well-meaning people. They're very learned in Latin taxonomy and methodologies. The thing is they've been conditioned to go along and not put their butts on the line. As for experience and the things eyes-open experience as naturalists do for people, you'd think some of them were raised in a closet."

She tells them all this to their faces. In her classes she explains to such folks in a humorous tone that she classifies them as "educated idiots." The other side of the problem is the bunch she calls "tunnel vision ranchers" who focus mostly on their animals. Tommie and I were both present when the president of one of the cattlemen's groups admitted proudly that he couldn't tell an annual from a perennial. He explained that he "hired consultants for that." He is not typical of ranchers, but that attitude does exist.

Tommie then tells them that if they put their assets of rancher experience and educated expertise together, they'll be very effective. All the interviewed experts gratefully agreed that science already has benefited greatly from ranchers keen, questioning, year-in-year-out observations. If scholars then use the fundamentalist science (where rancher/scientist teams conclusions are drawn from long term, real world scale data, not inferred by brief observations) that Dr. Rinne and other responsible scientists call for, breakthroughs occur and the resource benefits. They all warned against jumping to conclusions.

Eric Schwennesen frequently instructs government officials in Africa and other Third World locations. Their governments and people have sacrificed greatly for their elegant educations from the best universities in the world. They feel the responsibility keenly. When he sends them out on the land to make observations, they always come back with notebooks full of conclusions. It often takes repeated efforts before they grasp the difference. The experience leaves them shaken and angry.

"I was sent by my people, who exist always at risk of starvation, to be educated, not to be indoctrinated," one Malian extension service official told Eric. "Now I see that the evidence of the land contradicts much of what I was taught. I am bitterly disappointed in my university training, but I am now much relieved that I will not formulate disastrous policies out of certainty that is misguided. For my countrymen, who depend on their animals to survive, this could have caused added poverty, suffering and death."

"I really agree with Eric, Dr. Knight, Tommie Martin, Dr. Holechek and others who are deeply concerned about this issue," Dr. Dick Richardson said. "Bias is an inherent property of the standard method of instructing, evaluating, and awarding grades to students. It begins with the assumption that teachers know the answers in very young disciplines like ecology and range science. Students are given a standardized set of answers and a standardized set of indicators, or cognitive cues; that can only lead straight to those conclusions. That constitutes a classic circular logic trap."

"In my conservation biology courses, liberal arts students initially make better observations than the natural sciences students because they observe more generally and ask questions. They haven't been subjected to the punishment/reward/mental conditioning and the sensory deprivation that comes from being limited to a single one day or half day field trip per course per semester. Many of the indicating features are ephemeral and misleading. A single visit to a study site reveals almost nothing compared to repeated observations over an extended time period." "Instructors have the best of intentions, but many are third generation sufferers of the same abuse themselves. They really don't know better. Limited resources and rigid, formulaic methodologies are not up to the task of assisting students' minds to deal with vast interconnected complexities which are constantly changing over time."

Western National Parks (un-grazed for decades), act as time machines to reveal landscape scale consequences of livestock removal. If the anti-ranching crowd had been correct, these places should, after decades of rest, be beautiful examples of native biodiversity and optimum ecological functioning. Instead, in Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Zion, Lake Powell Recreation Area, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and other rangeland elevation parks, most of the native perennial grass and flowers are gone.

"That's a natural process of biological succession," said Dr. Jim Bowns of Southern Utah University, a respected expert, researcher and educator. "Without disturbance [from management activities that are part of ranching and prescribed grazing], the canopy cover of sagebrush and the other woody plants increases until the herbaceous [grass and flower] understory is purged and you have just shrubs, trees and bare ground. That's bad watershed, it's bad habitat for wild animals like birds, deer, etc., that need those herbaceous plants, which most do, and if it burns, you get erosion and nonnative cheat grass."

And Dr. Holechek's opinion on this topic: "The visions of healthy land people have regarding livestock removal are more fantasy than reality. The outcome is rarely very good ecologically. In various range sites the response is different. You may end up with tall coarse, low nutrient grass which acts in some ways like bushes. The ground between these big grey bunchgrasses is usually bare. Cactus may take over, salt desert shrub, mesquite and chaparral species also most often purge the understory without disturbance. So do juniper stands and piƱon/juniper woodland. I have good studies on all of this."

When I shared the above with Dr. Bowns he replied: "Oh yes, of course, we've known all that for years. These depauperate [un-biodiverse] unproductive states can go on and on into any reasonable, foreseeable future. Like I said, the most likely natural pathway out of them is fire, but more often than not the energy and seed source of the site has degraded and you get cheatgrass or the equivalent, not the native perennials. What we need is proactive management that prevents these outcomes before the damage gets so severe. This damage happens in National Parks, in areas that are inaccessible to big animals and similar areas. There are now millions of acres of this type of thing."

Drs. Rasmussen and Keyes of Utah State University proved that concentrating livestock briefly in sagebrush steppe reverses the herbaceous losses. Native herbaceous perennials increased 500 percent from 200 kg/hectare to 1000 kg/hectare. Brave federal range managers teamed with environmentalists and ranchers have produced this restorative effect from Texas to Nevada, Arizona, Utah, etc…

All the experts agreed that the health of grasses is severely impacted if they are not properly grazed or otherwise defoliated periodically. Choking, old, dead material shades out living tissues until death is the result. The average grass plant loses 80 to 95 percent of living biomass in a few years. Many die entirely. This phenomenon is also pandemic in National Parks, so grasslands are not safe from the effects of over-rest.

Neither are riparian areas. I sat in a conference where Drs. Dan Neary and Al Medina and others explained that "wildlife critical native grass-sedge meadows are maintained by grazing. These are quickly shaded out, usually by non-native tamarisk and Russian olive trees in southern Utah, southern Nevada, and parts of California, southern Colorado and the lowland Southwest in general. Native willows are also very vulnerable to being shaded and killed or greatly reduced." They also said that these sedge meadows are far more stable and protective of streamside soils than woody plants. "Floods that tear out trees and soils pass harmlessly over massively rooted sedges and the ancient soils they stabilize." In the areas stated above, the destabilizing takeover of many riparian areas by non-native trees in Park Service administered lands and others where livestock are removed is as predictable as sunrise.

All these facts, manifested on millions of long-rested acres, are ignored by biased managers and scientists who call them "natural" changes or blame them on prior livestock damage. These denial mechanisms are refuted by the rapid healing intelligently prescribed and monitored grazing and management creates. Dr. Dick Richardson spoke forcefully about the problem, "Responsible scientists are primarily concerned for the survival of the natural world and humanity. Rushing to judgment puts these in peril. We must make use of all the available evidence. I challenge the federal agencies to take official scientific notice of what has happened in national parks and other livestock exclusion areas and to record and publish the data widely. These facts should affect policy. I challenge these agencies to perform their duty to inform the courts at all levels about the whole body of research, not just anti-grazing papers." (Dr. Holechek's bibliography from his recent paper has made some of that very easy.) "This is not about politics or perks or power or eminence or jobs after a federal career." "

I further challenge environmental groups to emerge from what Tommie Martin calls 'terminal certainty' about grazing issues. I challenge any uninformed ranchers and landowners to become the excellent naturalists many have been since childhood. I challenge everyone to stop fighting. The world has enough polemics and more than enough rhetoric. Lastly, I challenge the federal land management agencies to remove the climate of repression in the workplace and policy implementation that so distorts the process of science and good governance."

My experience is that when we get people out on the land together, they soon change their minds about many things. Extremists soften their views as the evidence piles up in the presence of other people. Learned professors learn even more. Tommie Martin and I have witnessed hard cases from both sides hugging each other when they saw they had exactly the same feelings and goals for the land.

"Bias is all about fear, repression, distortions, lies, lost integrity and tyranny," Thom Harrison told me. "It's like a dark dehumanizing dream. When people wake up to a wider more realistic view of existence, they feel clean, free and grateful. One can only hope the process of awakening is not too painful or too long."
Laura Schneberger

Hi everyone, I know you are all tired of this but I have again changed a web address.

The GLGA website has it's own domain now it has been hosted at a NM based server http://www.fatcow.com/ It just spoke to me and appears to be easy enough to use so here is the association address to ad to your favorites page.


Hopefully I can use some of the same space to host the wolf crossings page when my subscription runs out and get it it's own domain as well. It was a reasonable buy and I like the site much better. So if you have any rancher / federal lands / property rights research pages you would like to have accessible on the webpage please send them on over.

Also here is the new GLGA email address. I know laugh it up, I still like it.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Calif. Fire Started by Arsonist Kills 4 A wind-whipped wildfire started by an arsonist killed four firefighters Thursday and stranded up to 400 people in an RV park when flames burned to the edge of the only road out, officials said. "Everybody is hunkered down here. They're fighting the fire around us. It's across the street from us," said Charles Van Brunt, a ranger at the station at the entrance to Silent Valley Club, the recreational vehicle park near Palm Springs. The residents were in no immediate danger, he said. Authorities asked people in the RV park to stay put to leave roads clear for firefighters. Hundreds of others in the area were forced from their homes. Fire officials said the blaze was deliberately set around 1 a.m. and had blackened 10,000 acres within 12 hours. Fire Chief John Hawkins said the arson "constitutes murder."....
TXU surprises homeowners with rail survey Some eastern McLennan County landowners are on edge as TXU scopes out a route for more than 20 miles of rail to serve its proposed coal-fired power plants. TXU has not yet won state permits to build new plants at Tradinghouse Lake and Lake Creek Lake, but it has sent letters to landowners along the proposed rail route, seeking access for environmental surveys. TXU says the final route has not been chosen for the railroad, which will carry three 150-car trains a day of Wyoming coal to the power plants. But many landowners along the proposed route are concerned that the railroad and its traffic will split their land and spoil their rural lifestyles. “It’s going to have an impact on real estate values,” said Fred Swaner Jr., an information services manager who lives near Axtell along the proposed route. “If you want to live in the country, are you going to want to go to a place with railroad traffic?” Robert Cervenka, a Riesel rancher who heads a local group that is fighting the proposed coal plants, said his land also is along the proposed route. “People are more upset about the railroads than the power plants,” said Cervenka, whose group is called Texans Protecting our Water, Environment and Resources. “We all assumed they were going to use existing railroad lines. We never dreamed they would be building all these new tracks.”....
On the Trail of Wisconsin’s Icy Past GREAT white sheets of glacial ice commandeering land is the perpetual and age-old story of the North. The comings and goings of recent ice ages — the last one retreating from mid-North America 10,000 years ago — were rapid-fire Pleistocene calamities in the creaking eons of geologic time. Today, the aftereffects of all that drifting ice are revealed in landscapes from Montana to Maine, a ubiquitous mishmash of moraines, tussled stone, talus, deep valleys, lakes, rushing rivers, ridgelines and bedrock scraped bare. But in few places is the power of global climate change celebrated as it is in Wisconsin, where the Ice Age National Scenic Trail was established by Congress in 1980 to tell the story of the recent icy past via the educational medium of a hiking trail. When completed, the Ice Age Trail will snake more than 1,000 miles through the state, winding in and out of deep woods, tracking glacial features and connecting hundreds of trailheads from the shores of the Green Bay to the Minnesota border....
These Lands Are Your Lands This is the 15th anniversary of the publication of Free Market Environmentalism by Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal, the magnum opus for those who view property rights, local initiative, and economic incentives as friends, not enemies, of the natural world. Max Borders of TCSDaily has said that this is "the book that changed the way many people look at environmental issues." It is "the book that defined a generation of newer environmentalists, a generation that is friendly to markets, to green values, and to the idea that these are not mutually exclusive." For Anderson and Leal, "At the heart of free market environmentalism is a system of well-specified property rights to natural resources." "Whether these rights are held by individuals, corporations, non-profit environmental groups, or communal groups, a discipline is imposed on resource users because the wealth of the owner of the property right is at stake if bad decisions are made," argued Anderson and Leal, who are part of PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center, in Bozeman, Montana, which is in the vanguard of free market environmentalism....
How collaborative really is “cooperative conservation”? "Cooperative conservation" has been touted as the future-is-now approach to solving public lands and natural resource issues in the West. Conservation groups support it; government and agencies like it; even the Western Governors Association (PDF) and the Bush administration are behind it. In fact, it has become somewhat of a mantra for the Interior Department and Department of Agriculture. Loosely defined, cooperative (or collaborative) conservation is a process by which a diverse group of stakeholders are brought together to first define an issue and then collectively create a path to solving it. The process acknowledges that there may be more sides to an issue than just a “pro” and a “con”; it gives a voice to people not in a position of power or significant influence; and it plays into the idea of the wisdom of the crowd — the notion that the collective mind is better at solving problems than individual ones, even expert ones. Much of the discussion about cooperative conservation involves what it should be used for and how we make it work. For example, should it be used to guide the restoration of a major Western watershed that is now a Superfund site, and if so, how do we plug the right people into the process? The resounding answer to the first part of that question is “yes” and the second answer was part of the theme behind the University of Montana’s Public Lands Law Conference, which was the subject of a recent column on Headwaters News, by Sarah Van de Wetering. Though challenges still exist in the restoration and remediation process for the upper Clark Fork River watershed, which was damaged by a century of hard rock mining in its headwaters, many who were part of the collaborative process say the incredible amount of work already completed to outline a restoration and a remediation program should be a model to others around the country for how such a large-scale issue can be addressed....

Thursday, October 26, 2006

3 firefighters killed in Calif. blaze

A wildfire driven by hot Santa Ana winds killed three firefighters trapped in their engine, critically injured two others and droves hundreds of people from homes Thursday as it swept through the desert hills northwest of Palm Springs, the U.S. Forest Service said. The firefighters were trying to protect a house from then 4,000-acre wildfire when the flames engulfed the engine, said Pat Boss, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. "The engine was in the area, and with the wind conditions like they were, the fire just overtakes and burns the entire engine," Boss said. He said the Forest Service pulled all its personnel off the fire after the deaths so they could "gather their thoughts, say their prayers." The fire quickly blackened more than six square miles and destroyed at least three homes. The weather service had issued a "red flag" warning for extreme fire danger in the region due to high winds _ 25 mph or more _ and dry conditions. The cause of the wildfire wasn't immediately clear....
USDA Needs Tighter Oversight On Bovine Tuberculosis –Audit Federal officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture needs to pay closer attention to state surveillance reports on bovine tuberculosis in order to achieve success in wiping out the a contagious cattle disease, according to an audit performed by USDA's Office of the Inspector General. OIG auditors said USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or Aphis, "was not using its oversight tools timely or effectively" during a review conducted in 2004. State agriculture officials, OIG said, routinely document surveillance efforts for the disease, but "monthly reports were not being reviewed by the national or regional offices." Aphis Administrator Ron DeHaven, in an official response to the audit, pledged to set up new procedures to review state surveillance reports by the end of 2006. USDA's federal inspectors also often miss finding infections by concentrating on spotting the disease at slaughterhouses but not tracking the disease back to herds the cattle came from....
Brazil Beef Wants US Model For Foot-Mouth Fight The president of the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association, Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Moraes, said Brazil can only fight foot-and-mouth disease in partnership with neighboring countries, business daily Valor Economica reported Wednesday. Moraes was speaking Tuesday to the European press at the SIAL 2006 food exhibition in Paris. "The idea is to adopt the same model the U.S. used to control foot-and-mouth disease on their border with Mexico," Moraes told Valor. "It's no use for us to maintain rigid control in Brazil if we risk getting our herds contaminated by herds in neighboring countries," he said. The last major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease occurred on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. Dozens of cattle herds in Mato Grosso do Sul state, located on the Paraguay border, had full-blown symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease. Fifty-six nations soon banned beef from Mato Grosso do Sul and other states as a result....
AAEP Task Force Issues Guidelines for Equine Infectious Disease Outbreaks The Infectious Disease Task Force of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has developed guidelines for the control of contagious infectious disease within the horse population. Recommendations are provided for the control of suspected cases of infectious respiratory, neurologic, diarrheal, and vesicular disease. The symptom-based guidelines provide a detailed action plan for veterinarians as they address a possible infectious disease outbreak. From the point at which a case of infectious disease is suspected, the guidelines offer measures to control the spread of infection, diagnostic testing options and communication considerations. Highlights of "Equine Infectious Disease Outbreak: AAEP Control Guidelines" include: Biosecurity instructions in English and Spanish for grooms and other horse caretakers; Recommendations for the implementation of a management plan before an outbreak occurs; and Guidelines for specific diseases, such as equine herpesvirus and Strep. equi infection, which can be employed after a diagnosis has been made. The task force stresses that the veterinarian on scene is the most qualified person to initiate the outbreak control plan, and is critical to effective outbreak management. Each infectious disease outbreak is unique and an existing plan may require modification for specific situations....
USDA's Knight promises to make animal ID more appealing to producers Bruce Knight, who moved up from Chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to become USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs in August, is promising to make the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) more appealing to the nation's livestock producers. And Knight told Brownfield he's closely scrutinized the NAIS since he took the under secretary position. "I've been taking a hard look at the program, basically took it all the way down to the frame and rebuilding, trying to make it simpler, make it more evident of what it's all about, trying to dispel some of the misinformation and rumor and innuendo that's been associated with it," Knight said. "I think the most important thing for everybody to recognize is this is a voluntary program." Knight said one the keys to improving producer support for the NAIS is assuring confidentiality of producer data. Knight said confidentiality of producer data remains a primary concern about the NAIS, and he promised he will aggressively move to tighten rules on confidentiality within the NAIS....
Pennsylvania's Animal Health Database System Offered Nationally Pennsylvania's award-winning animal health database system has become a national model for use by other states, the Department of Agriculture said today. Launched this week at the U.S. Animal Health Association annual meeting in Minneapolis, the U.S. Animal Health Emergency Response and Diagnostic System (USAHERDS) is the national version of PAHERDS, Pennsylvania's innovative program to protect millions of livestock and poultry flocks from the outbreak of disease. Indiana and Kentucky were the first to adopt the technology and entered into a new partnership with Pennsylvania to work together to better protect the health of animals and consumers. USAHERDS is a computerized data program available to state departments of agriculture, which helps to prevent, detect, contain and eradicate outbreaks of dangerous diseases among animals. Key features of the system includes premises identification, animal testing and inventory, program disease management, import and export management, licensing, and emergency response management. Consortium members are using the systems for emergency planning, daily operations and mapping....
Russia To Lift Ban On Canada Breeding Cattle Russia has agreed to lift its ban on the import of Canadian breeding cattle, according to a release from Chuck Strahl, Canada's Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister. Following discussions between senior officials from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, representatives of the Canadian genetics and meat sectors and Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev, Canada and the Russian Federation have agreed on imports of Canadian breeding cattle, the release said. The Russian Federation has also indicated that it intends to lift its ban on the importation of certain boneless beef products, subject to final approval of technical conditions. Russian officials will visit Canada to approve beef plants and shipments of live cattle....
Japan to OK customs clearance for stored U.S. beef The Japanese government is poised to give its permission soon to customs clearance for some 900 tons of U.S. beef that has been stored in bonded warehouses since January, government sources said Saturday. The beef arrived in Japan after the country eased its all-out import ban on U.S. beef on Dec. 12, 2005. But customs procedures for the meat have been suspended since Tokyo slapped a total import ban again on Jan. 20 this year due to the discovery of cow parts with high risks of mad cow disease infection in a veal shipment from the United States. The second ban was partially lifted July 27 as the government found few problems with meat processing at related U.S. facilities through its on-the-spot inspections. The government plans to approve customs clearance for the stored beef if no problem is found through its inspections, the sources said....
Groups: Halt elk test-and-slaughter A trio of conservation groups asked a federal judge Thursday to halt a year-old test-and-slaughter brucellosis program on elk feedgrounds in western Wyoming. A lawyer representing the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Wyoming Outdoor Council also asked U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson to require an environmental review of the program and 12 elk feedgrounds. Lawyers for the groups and the government made their arguments during a two-hour hearing in U.S. District Court here. Johnson took the case under advisement, with no signal of when he might announce a decision. The feedgrounds have drawn criticism for their potential to breed disease -- brucellosis already infects the herds, and environmentalists insist that chronic wasting disease could eventually have a devastating effect. Lawyers for the state and federal governments countered that a sudden halt to the test-and-slaughter program could jeopardize Wyoming's newly regained brucellosis-free status. And they said Wyoming has the legal right to manage its wildlife without federal review....

Column - Going left isn’t the best way to go green The midterm elections are approaching fast, and as usual the environment is considered a Democratic issue. I had no problem with that when I was fighting strip mines in Ohio in 1973; environmentalism was synonymous with leftist politics. In the early ’80s, when a friend told me someone named Dave Foreman was forming an environmental group named EarthFirst, I was among the first to become involved. Now that I’m older, I've come to believe that an automatic identification between the left and the environmental movement is neither good for the environment nor for environmentalism. The main reason for this change of mind and heart is that I've become convinced that the private sector is more effective than government at producing just about anything, healthy ecosystems included. In 30 years of activism, the most impressive environmental successes I’ve encountered were achieved by individuals operating according to principles that make up the conservative playbook. In each case, individual initiative, personal accountability, the free market and rewards for results were more effective at saving endangered species, healing damaged ecosystems in the West, and even combating global warming than the government alternative of regulation. Take just one example: In Arizona, in 1946, the Forest Service created the Drake Exclosure to protect a tract of damaged rangeland from grazing and human use under the assumption that this would restore it to ecological health. Sixty years later, 90 percent of the plant species within the exclosure have disappeared, and the distance between plants can be measured in yards. But outside the exclosure, on land that has continued to be grazed under the management of a responsible rancher, the distance between plants can be measured in inches. Leftist environmentalists have lobbied to expand the preserve to include the rest of the ranch....
A Matter of Trust Teachers, environmentalists, homebuilders, ranchers, business leaders, politicians and--of course--lawyers have been wrestling for nearly a decade over how to best handle more than 9 million acres of state trust land scattered across Arizona. Now voters have a chance to settle the disputes on Nov. 7, when they'll decide the fate of Proposition 105 and Proposition 106, a pair of dueling reform measures on the ballot. The teachers, environmentalists and business leaders have embraced Proposition 106, which would set aside almost 700,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land, create a new public board to review State Land Department decisions and provide more planning resources for trust land. On the other side are homebuilders, cattle ranchers and school board officials, who are supporting Proposition 105, which would set aside about 40,000 acres (with as much as 400,000 acres down the line--if the Legislature approves of such conservation efforts), but otherwise preserve the status quo of current trust-land management....
Reservoir Hogs Keep driving past the point where dust coats your teeth and eyes, past any sign of human habitation to the very west end of the state. There, smack on the border with Nevada and seemingly rising out of nowhere, you’ll find some of the highest peaks in Utah—the Deep Creek Mountains—and the Snake Valley stretched out below. The Deep Creeks are 12,000-foot-high collectors of water, and home to seven creeks that flow year round, giving the mountains their name. Isolated since the Pony Express stopped passing through in the 1860s, the Snake Valley is thought by some to be one of few places left to search for the liquid gold needed to satisfy the thirst of the West’s growing population. It’s also here that Las Vegas is digging for water. It’s on the Nevada side of the mountains that Las Vegas is planning hundreds of wells and a 285-mile-long pipeline that will move the Deep Creeks’ water to Las Vegas. A total of 200,000 acre-feet of water—that’s 65 billion gallons—would be shipped from rural Nevada to Las Vegas each year under the plan. Nine of the wells are planned just five miles from the Utah border in a valley straddling the Utah-Nevada line. Las Vegas’ water officials have targeted the Snake Valley to produce up to 50,000 acre-feet of water per year, pumping water into Nevada that would otherwise flow into Utah’s Great Basin. Not all of those 50,000 acre-feet would have flowed into Utah. Nevertheless, those who populate one of the sparsest corners of Utah warn that such a massive transfer of water will cause irreparable environmental damage....
Inventor helps grasslands go native Montana rancher and inventor Lee Arbuckle may soon change the nation's market for native grass seed, a tricky-to-harvest crop worth hundreds of millions and vital to restoring wildlands. With the help of the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center at Montana State University, Arbuckle and his wife Maggie have spent the last five years researching and developing a native grass seed harvester. The Arbuckle Native Seedster will be manufactured in Billings, with the first one on the market in 2007. "We're going to change the economics of the native grass seed industry," Arbuckle said. "The Seedster isn't a combine or a stripper, but a new-fangled plucker. This harvester isn't a better mousetrap; it's the first one." Native grass seed is a growing market. Federal, state and local governments purchase large amounts of native seed, as do ranchers and landscapers. Such seed produces grasses that are prized for their drought and wildfire resistance, ability to stabilize eroding soil, desirability as forage and reseeding capacity. Much of the seed market is for the restoration of lands disturbed by mining, road construction and fires....
Local Author has Critics Howling Question: How do you make a ballroom filled with 300 nicely attired adults, including the mayor of Denver, bay at the moon? Answer: You demand it of them, especially if you’re one of the editors of Comeback Wolves; Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home and you just won the Colorado Book Award in the Anthology/Collection category. “I had the whole crowd howling to call back wolves to their home habitat in Colorado,” says Gary Wockner, a Fort Collins writer, conservationist and one of three editors for Comeback Wolves. “So every one ripped one out full-throated. “That was fun.” Comeback Wolves features the work of 51 contributors, including Wockner, each of whom have written poems, essays and short stories celebrating the reintroduction of one of the most iconic animals of the American West: the gray wolf. Wockner says he conceived the idea for the book after he was appointed to the Colorado Wolf Working Group by the Division of Wildlife. When he made the call for entries, he says he was stunned by the response....
Man Arrested Again For Unlawful S. UT Jeep Tours A man once convicted of failing to get a license to lead Jeep tours in the canyons of southern Utah was arrested for doing it again, the U.S. Forest Service said. Agents for the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and Kanab police arrested Kenneth Paul Church, 57, Tuesday for operating "Blindfold Tours" out of Kanab, guiding trips to slot canyons and other scenic vistas on public lands. Church is appealing a conviction of operating without a permit in 2004, a statement from the Forest Service said....
Search begins in N.M. for uranium in hopes of reviving industry A Nevada company is looking to drill in a uranium-rich area in western New Mexico in hopes of reviving the industry there. Urex Energy Corp. of Reno plans to drill 21 exploratory holes on 2,700 acres of La Jara Mesa at the base of Mount Taylor. Urex is one of seven companies that have mining claims in the Mount Taylor area near Grants. Canada-based Laramide Ltd. already has approval for exploratory drilling on the mesa, and Cibola National Forest officials expect more companies will apply for permits on forest land by the spring. "There's a lot of interest, so there are new companies, for the most part, (that) went and bought old existing claims," said Rod Byers, minerals project manager for the forest. "They already know from the previous stuff that there is uranium out there. They just need to confirm it." In 1978, New Mexico had 55 bustling uranium mines _ the most in the nation. But low prices forced the companies out of business. The state's last major operation, Chevron Resources Co.'s Mount Taylor Mine, closed in 1990....
$236 Million Lawsuit Filed By Cedar Fire Victims A group of residents whose properties were damaged or destroyed by the 2003 Cedar fire accidentally set three years ago Wednesday is suing the federal government for more than $236 million, arguing that officials should have stopped the blaze in its early stages. The suit, which plaintiffs' lawyers hope will be certified as a class action, also says federal officials should not have allowed hunting or other recreational uses in the Cleveland National Forest because an extreme fire hazard existed, the North County Times reported. Sergio Martinez, of West Covina, admitted setting the fire on Oct. 25, 2003, to signal for help after he became lost while hunting in the Kesslar Flats area. The suit filed Friday asserts that the federal government had a legal obligation to "eliminate known dangerous conditions" on federal land, the Times reported. The government failed to fulfill its obligations by allowing hunting at a time of known fire danger and by failing to suppress the fire when it had just begun, the lawsuit alleges, according to the North County Times....
Weight Gain Means Lower Gas Mileage Want to spend less at the pump? Lose some weight. That's the implication of a new study that says Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960 because of their expanding waistlines. Simply put, more weight in the car means lower gas mileage. Using recent gas prices of $2.20 a gallon, that translates to about $2.2 billion more spent on gas each year. "The bottom line is that our hunger for food and our hunger for oil are not independent. There is a relationship between the two," said University of Illinois researcher Sheldon Jacobson, a study co-author. "If a person reduces the weight in their car, either by removing excess baggage, carrying around less weight in their trunk, or yes, even losing weight, they will indeed see a drop in their fuel consumption." The same effect has been seen in airplanes. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heavy fliers have contributed to higher fuel costs for airlines....
Ag Department gives $20 million in powdered milk for catfish feed The Agriculture Department was faulted Wednesday for donating $20 million in powdered milk to a Mississippi feed mill that sold it as catfish food. The department's inspector general said there was no legal authority for the department to donate the milk and urged Agriculture officials to try to recover the value of the milk and the $579,000 cost of shipping it. At issue is a stockpile of powdered milk stored in manmade caves near Kansas City, Mo., and in warehouses across the country. The government buys the milk to prop up prices paid to dairy farmers, and it has spent more than $20 million annually to store it. The department was looking for ways to get rid of the powdered milk when a Mississippi State University professor asked for some so he could study its use as a protein substitute in catfish food. In their eagerness to unload the milk, agriculture officials "did not follow prudent business practices in donating" the milk powder, the audit said. Officials offered the professor much more milk powder than he requested and also offered to pay for shipments....
Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore Many cows, pigs and chickens will soon be living cushier lives. But in the end, they will still be headed for the dinner plate. Whole Foods Market is preparing to roll out a line of meat that will carry labels saying “animal compassionate,” indicating the animals were raised in a humane manner until they were slaughtered. The grocery chain’s decision to use the new labels comes as a growing number of retailers are making similar animal-welfare claims on meat and egg packaging, including “free farmed,” “certified humane,” “cage free” and “free range.” While the animal-welfare labels are proliferating, it remains unclear whether they appeal to anyone other than a niche market of animal lovers, particularly since the meat and eggs are as much as twice as expensive as products that do not carry the labels....
Wealthy Weekend 'Amenity' Ranchers Taking Over the West A new study suggests that in many parts of the American West, the grizzled, leathery rancher riding the range to take care of his cattle and make a buck is being replaced by wealthy "amenity" owners who fly in on weekends, fish in their private trout ponds, and often prefer roaming elk to Herefords. They don't much care whether or not the ranch turns a profit. And many of them think that wolves are neat. In a 10-year survey of ranchland ownership change on private lands around Yellowstone National Park, scientists found only 26 percent of the large ranches that changed hands went to traditional ranchers, while "amenity buyers" snapped up 39 percent of the properties, and another 26 percent went to investors, developers or part-time ranchers. The study was done by researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Colorado and the University of Otago in New Zealand, and published in Society and Natural Resources, a professional journal. It was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Yellowstone Heritage. This phenomenon, scientists say, is a reflection of forces affecting many parts of the American West, in which ranchlands become getaway retreats for the rich, or vehicles to fulfill a childhood fantasy. Livestock production often takes a back seat to scenic enjoyment, fishing and solitude. In a number of cases, wealthy owners are experimenting with restoration of native ecosystems, large scale conservation projects, and innovative approaches to blend conventional ranching with non-lethal predator control. Traditional ranchers are finding themselves priced out of business, while a whole new cottage industry is emerging of managers who jokingly call themselves "ranch butler," "ranch ambassador," or simply "mouse trapper." They are well-trained professionals responsible for the complex operations of a modern ranch, but also are required to keep it looking nice for when the owner comes to visit....
Five inductees honored at Cowgirl Hall of Fame Two ranchers, a pair of rodeo stars and a women's rights advocate will be inducted Thursday into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The inductees are Texas resident Minnie Lou Bradley and Hawaii cowgirl Rose Cambra Freitas; rodeo stars Sharon Camarillo and the late Bonnie McCarroll; and suffrage leader Esther Hobart Morris. Ed Bass, chairman of the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo, will receive the Fern Sawyer Award, which is given periodically to a notable contributor to the hall of fame. Minnie Lou Bradley was the first woman to receive a degree in animal husbandry from Oklahoma State University. In 1952, she was the first woman to win the collegiate livestock judging title at the International Livestock Show in Chicago. She has worked with the Ranch Management Program at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth for the past half century, helping students learn about the industry. Born in 1897, Bonnie McCarroll made history in 1922 by winning the cowgirl bronc riding championship at the two most prestigious rodeos in the nation. She performed in front of kings, queens, dignitaries and an American president. After she died in a bronc riding accident in the 1929 Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Ore., the key organizers of the day all but banned women's roughstock riding at rodeo performances....