Thursday, January 31, 2008

Judge tosses Katrina lawsuit against Engineer Corps A federal judge in New Orleans on Wednesday dismissed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the failure of the city's levee system during Hurricane Katrina's floods in 2005. U.S. Judge Stanwood Duval ruled that the Corps, which designed and built the levees and floodwalls meant to keep the below-sea-level city from being inundated, was shielded by a 1928 law that protects the federal government from lawsuits over flood control projects. In his ruling, Duval scolded the agency for "its failure to accomplish what was its task." "Millions of dollars were squandered in building a levee system ... which was known to be inadequate by the Corps' own calculations," Duval wrote in his ruling, issued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana....All that, and they are still immune. Remember that the next time a politician lectures you about "personal responsibility". Making the gov't responsible for it's actions would be a good start.
Corn on the Mob All over the world, food prices are on the rise. For most of the late 1990s and up until 2005, the price of beans on the Chicago Board of Trade had remained stable at about $5 a bushel. Since then, they have shot up over 150 percent, to around $13. Corn has doubled, to $5. Wheat prices have tripled. It all started with the 2005 Energy Policy Act, passed by a Republican congress and signed by a Republican president, mandating that an increasing amount of ethanol be admixed with gasoline. The bill was sold as a road to "energy independence" and as lowering the amount of carbon dioxide we emit, reducing dreaded global warming. By now, 15 percent of our corn crop is being distilled, diverted from the proper purpose for such distillates (i.e. drinking), combusted, and sent out your car's tailpipe. The Act required production of four billion gallons of ethanol in 2006, increasing by approximately 700 million gallons each succeeding year. Enter those familiar characters supply, demand, and price. Supply tightens, prices escalate, and more and more farmers divert cropland from other crops (mainly soybeans and wheat) to corn. In the U.S., most crops are turned into animal feed, but in poorer countries, such as Indonesia (soybeans) or Mexico (corn for tortillas) they are consumed directly. IT'S ONLY GOING to get worse. As if to add more 200-proof to the fire, President Bush, citing global warming in his 2007 State of the Union speech, called for production of 35 billion gallons of ethanol by 2017, displacing 20 percent of our current gasoline consumption with this intoxicating elixir. This is five times the amount mandated in the 2005 Energy Act. He claimed that this would help us get off Middle Eastern oil....
Seashore deer culling resumes The hunters were out with their high-powered rifles but nobody among the growing legion of opponents spotted any deer being killed at Point Reyes. It is no secret, though, that blood is mixing with the rain at the Point Reyes National Seashore this week. Park officials acknowledged Wednesday that gun-toting contractors have resumed what is the most intensive campaign in park history to get rid of exotic deer. The news prompted several protests, including a demonstration Wednesday by nearly two dozen children, and helicopter overflights in an attempt to capture the carnage on video. The National Park Service approved a plan last year to get rid of about 1,100 fallow and axis deer using a combination of contraception and high-powered rifles. A Connecticut company, White Buffalo Inc., was hired to do the shooting. About 400 fallow deer were killed in the late summer and fall, park officials said. At least 80 does have been captured and sterilized with an experimental contraceptive drug called GonaCon....
Appeals court upholds $10.2 million award to injured snowmobiler A federal appeals court panel has upheld a lower court's decision ordering the U.S. Forest Service and a snowmobiler to pay more than 10 million dollars to a Michigan man who suffered severe brain injuries when he was struck by a snowmobile near West Yellowstone in 1996. The panel's ruling stems from a 2004 decision by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula. Molloy ruled that the Forest Service must pay 40 percent of the award for the crash, which left Brian Musselman of Hope, Michigan, with permanent disabilities. Molloy said the Forest Service failed to fix dangerous conditions along the groomed trail where the crash occurred, or warn snowmobilers of the hazard. He also assigned 50 percent of the liability to Jamie Leinberger of Bay City, Michigan, one of two snowmobilers Musselman's family originally sued. The Forest Service appealed Molloy's ruling. But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Molloy, in an opinion issued today....The Forest Service is being held accountable...reckon they will appeal again?...the BLM appealed their "accountability" case all the way to the Supreme Court and won.
Senate panel backs Oregon, Idaho deals A Senate committee Wednesday endorsed an Idaho land swap and a plan to create federal wilderness protection for nearly 14,000 acres of national forest land along Oregon's southern coast. The Copper Salmon Wilderness, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will be included a huge public lands bill to be debated by the Senate. The measure was among 42 separate bills approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Seventeen bills -- including the Oregon measure and the Idaho land exchange -- will be combined in a measure that includes about 60 individual land bills, Senate aides said Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor soon....
N.M. plans to restore high-mountain toad New Mexico environmental officials said they will reintroduce the boreal toad into the state in hopes of restoring the high-mountain amphibian to the region. There have been no reports of the toad in New Mexico since 1996, and the last confirmed sighting was 10 years before that, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Leland Pierce of the state Fish and Game Department said biologists continue to look for the toads but are almost certain they are locally extinct. The closest confirmed wild population is in Colorado. The toad -- 2 to 4 inches long, black and covered with red warts -- might seem unattractive. But it is the only toad found more than 10,000 feet above sea level. The Colorado Department of Wildlife has been breeding the toad and can supply New Mexico with tadpoles, Pierce said. If the U.S. Forest Service approves the plan, New Mexico could begin its recovery plan this spring. Biologists suspect the chytrid fungus wiped out New Mexico's toads....
Bill on track for off-road enforcement State wildlife rangers could give tickets to illegal off-road riders under a bill that gained new strength in the House on Tuesday. Colorado has 14 million acres of national forests and 8 million acres run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, but only 18 forest rangers and eight BLM officers dedicated to law enforcement, said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison. "That's a million acres per officer. Obviously, they can't be everywhere," said Curry, sponsor of House Bill 1069. The bill would let state and county officers enforce federal laws on all-terrain vehicles. It was weakened last week in the agriculture committee, when opponents amended it to require the federal government to post signs whenever a trail is closed to motorized vehicles. Representatives were angry about a change in the way the Forest Service allows all-terrain vehicles. Trails used to be open unless marked closed. Now, everything is closed unless a trail is specifically marked open. Curry convinced the full House to strip off that amendment Tuesday and pass her bill on a voice vote. It still faces one more recorded vote in the House, which could come as early as today....
Group threatens suit over cattle grazing An environmental group announced plans Wednesday to sue Washington state if it approves a proposal to allow cattle grazing on portions of Central Washington's Whisky Dick Wildlife Area, a parcel of rural sagebrush situated between the state's two remaining sage grouse populations. The Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project contends that the state must first produce an environmental impact statement before allowing 160 cattle to forage on two pastures in the Whisky Dick area, about 110 miles east of Seattle. The two pastures proposed as grazing land comprise 8,418 acres of the 28,549-acre wildlife area, a rolling series of ridges and canyons above the mid-Columbia River. Under the proposal, grazing would occur for 30 days this spring. Fish and Wildlife officials say the grazing management plan is part of a larger process to improve land management in the area with the cooperation of local landowners, conservation and environmental groups, and others. Moderate grazing by livestock removes older, rank grass and increases the availability of more-nutritious spring or fall regrowth for elk, thereby reducing chances elk will forage on farmland, according to Fish and Wildlife. The area in question has not been grazed by livestock for 10 years....
Interior orders mineral royalty reforms after report US Interior Secretary Dirk A. Kempthorne, after receiving the final report of an independent study panel on Jan. 25, ordered immediate implementation of recommended mineral management reforms that can be carried out administratively. The report, having more than 100 recommendations, came from a bipartisan panel the secretary formed last year which was cochaired by former US senators Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and Jake Garn (R-Utah). "Where it is within our power to do so, the responsible officials will take action to rectify identified problems. However, other recommendations may require further study or legislative action," Kempthorne said. His directive to Minerals Management Service Director Randall B. Luthi and Bureau of Land Management Director James L. Caswell also orders the two agencies to develop action plans based on the report's recommendations and submit a progress report within 30 days. The recommendations, to be implemented immediately, include additional ethics training for all MMS employees, especially those who deal with oil, gas, and other lessees in a regulatory, collections, or enforcement role....
Video of workers abusing cows raises food safety questions A video showing California slaughterhouse workers abusing dairy cows -- a violation that raises questions about U.S. food safety -- was released by the Humane Society of the United States on Wednesday. The video, which one lawmaker said raises questions about the safety of the nation's food supply, shows Hallmark Meat Packing Co. workers administering repeated electric shocks to the downed cows -- animals that are too sick, weak or otherwise unable to stand on their own. Workers are seen kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter. The society says the video was shot last year by an undercover investigator who wore a hidden camera under his clothes when he worked at the facility. Hallmark Meat Packing Co., based in Chino, California, sells beef to its sister company, Westland Meat, which distributes it to various federal programs, including the National School Lunch Program. Downed cows are more easily contaminated and may carry diseases harmful to consumers. U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations prohibit allowing disabled or contaminated animals into the food supply. Officials said they would investigate....Go here to see the video.
The bovine TB challenge When bovine tuberculosis showed up in a northern Minnesota cattle herd, state officials acted quickly to slaughter the herd and stop the disease. They believed it was an isolated case. It's been nearly three years since that first case of bovine TB, and last week the disease was found in a ninth cattle herd. TB has also been found in 17 wild whitetail deer, including four killed last fall. "With every year that we continue to find infected herds and infected deer it becomes more of a challenge," says Minnesota State Veterinarian Bill Hartman. "We were hopeful we would be able to go up there and eliminate the infection from the cattle rapidly and do the same with the deer. Continuing to find herds this far into it is certainly not a good thing," Hartman says. Controlling TB in a cattle herd is less complicated than fighting the disease in wild deer. An infected herd can be quarantined and slaughtered. Minnesota used a special hunting season and federal sharpshooters in an effort to kill hundreds of deer around farms where TB was found. But a recent aerial survey found the deer population in the area is nearly the same as a year ago....
An orphan becomes the King of Texas An eight-year-old boy in New York City was apprenticed to a jeweler. His parents, Irish immigrants, died when he was five. He worked for the jeweler two years before he ran away and hid in a ship bound for Mobile. It was 1834. After four days at sea, the boy was found and taken to the captain of the Desdemona. The boy said his name was Richard King and that he ran away because he didn't like minding the jeweler's kid. The captain made him his cabin boy to earn his passage. When the ship docked at Mobile, the captain found King a job on an Alabama steamboat. A few years later, the steamboat captain sent King to school in Connecticut, but he left school and returned to the riverboat life, this time in Florida, where he met Mifflin Kenedy, captain of the steamboat Champion. Kenedy took the Champion to New Orleans and then up the Mississippi. He had been hired to select boats for Zachary Taylor's campaign in Mexico. Kenedy wrote his friend King, urging him to join him on the Rio Grande. King arrived in 1847 and became the pilot on the Corvette. King and Kenedy spent the war ferrying supplies up the Rio Grande. After the war, the two formed a partnership with Charles Stillman and bought three surplus Army steamboats. On July 10, 1850, King celebrated his 26th birthday at Miller's Hotel in Brownsville. Two years later, King rode north to attend the Lone Star Fair at Corpus Christi. After passing the alkali flats (El Desierto de los Muertos), the land opened into prairie covered with rich grass. King's party camped near a creek named Santa Gertrudis. King supposedly was struck by the idea that this was ideal cattle country; perhaps there was an epiphany, a thought that, "Here it is; and here is all that is to come." Grass and possibilities. King talked it over with his friend, Capt. Robert E. Lee, who told him it wasn't Virginia, but it was a country with a future. In July 1853, King bought 15,000 acres, part of the Santa Gertrudis grant, from the heirs of Juan Mendiola. He paid two cents an acre.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

States, environmental groups ask EPA to impose emission standards A coalition of states and environmental groups is urging the federal government to curb greenhouse gases from tractors, snowmobiles, riding lawn mowers and other off-road vehicles. California, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey and Pennsylvania plan to file a petition Tuesday asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop emission standards for construction and farm machinery, logging equipment, outdoor power equipment, recreational vehicles and lawn and garden equipment. Off-road vehicles were responsible for about 220 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2007, or roughly the same amount of emissions produced by 40 millions cars, according to California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The EPA also is reviewing other requests filed last year by the same groups to regulate emissions from cargo ships, cruise liners and aircraft....
Property-rights measure qualifies for June ballot A Farm Bureau-sponsored drive for enhanced property-rights protection gained added momentum this month, as an initiative to enact meaningful reforms qualified for the statewide ballot. The measure, known as the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act, will appear on the June ballot. The measure would allow government to take or damage private property only for a stated public use. It would specifically prohibit a government agency from condemning private property in order to turn around and sell it to another private owner. It also requires agencies condemning property to provide just compensation to owners, including reasonable relocation expenses and payment for temporary business losses. "Our measure provides a sensible solution by continuing to allow use of eminent domain for legitimate public needs such as roads, schools and water projects," Mosebar said....
Humans banned on federal lands near Gunnison The federal Bureau of Land Management announced today it has closed federal public lands in the Gunnison Basin to human activity where a series of snowstorms and minus 40 temperatures have stressed wildlife. Mel Lloyd, BLM spokeswoman, said today that such closures don't happen often. "Rarely, if ever, has it happened in Colorado in the last 30 years," said Lloyd. "BLM managers don't like to implement these types of closures, but because of the weather and the herd numbers, it is important." She added that BLM officials haven't seen "snow levels like this since the early 80s and they are approaching the levels of the early 70s." The BLM manages 600,000 acres of land in the Gunnison Basin. Last week, the BLM closed the lands to motorized vehicles with the aim of protecting endangered herds of pronghorn antelope, mule deer, big horn sheep and elk. But the BLM said that other types of human activity near the herds called for today's immediate ban on all human activity now through May 15. Lloyd said that the current closures may overlap into closures in the Gunnison Basin that customarily run from mid-March to mid-May and are used to protect the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a BLM "sensitive species." Because of the depth of snowpack, the length of the BLM closure could be extended several weeks longer, she said....
Green group backs corridor plan A federal plan to designate energy corridors through 11 Western states won support from a Laramie environmental group Wednesday despite being harshly criticized by speakers in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday. Erik Molvar of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance said at a public hearing on the plan that his group commends the federal agencies in charge of the project for taking Wyoming's vast wildlife and nature reserves into account and altering corridor locations based on them. The project to designate routes for power lines and natural gas pipelines is part of an energy bill Congress passed in 2005 to provide more energy to Western states. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and several other federal agencies are overseeing the process. The areas designated by the federal agencies are only "potential" locations for power lines and oil, natural gas and hydrogen pipelines, the Department of Energy's Laverne Kyriss said. She said the aim for the 6,055 miles of energy corridors would be to improve energy reliability and relieve congestion. The corridors as they're proposed right now would mostly cross federal land. About 86 percent would cross BLM land, and another 11 percent would cover U.S. Forest Service land. Any private, state or tribal land that is involved would require more discussion, officials said....
Dead trees may fuel future It could be a solution to Colorado's 1.5 million acres of dead and dying lodgepole pine trees struck by an infestation of mountain pine beetles: turning the rotting trees into ethanol. Canadian companies Lignol Innovations and Suncor Energy plan to build Colorado's first cellulosic ethanol plant, which would convert beetle-kill and other wood residues into motor fuel. The $88 million project received the federal government's blessing Tuesday, with the U.S. Department of Energy announcing its decision to foot more than a third of the total bill, or $30 million. The plant, to be completed by 2012, could be built in Commerce City. "For this plant in particular, its use of beetle-kill was one of the factors considered during evaluation for federal investment," said Kevin Craig, a DOE project manager. The plant's potential for commercialization, its technology and a byproduct of the process, lignin, which is used to make lubricants and other industrial products, were other factors that helped attract federal dollars, Craig added....
This is no time to step back from the Roadless Rule While researching a new book last spring, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Dale Bosworth, chief of the Forest Service. I found him to be an honest, straightforward, forthcoming, and, at times, courageous man. So when I read that he had agreed to the repeal of the Clinton-era Roadless Rule on our national forests--a ruling he supported as a career forester in the Clinton administration--I was shocked. I wrote to Chief Bosworth, suggesting that if he couldn’t deter the Bush administration from its reversal of this epic act of conservation, he should consider resigning in protest. This public act of conscience would draw attention to a tragic step backward. In response, he called me to talk. That the chief of the Forest Service would reach out like this impressed me once again. His willingness to discuss big issues with ordinary citizens and his openness about his beliefs were rare and refreshing. Bosworth expressed two concerns about the original ruling: This sweeping rule, he said, which preserves more than 58 million roadless acres on national forests from further road-building, left no room for boundary adjustments based on what’s really out there. And, he added, the Forest Service needed more outreach to locals who were feeling disenfranchised. He assured me that "we don’t need more roads, we need to decommission roads." He said that large timber companies are dinosaurs with little remaining power, and that our 58 million acres of roadless public lands are not in danger. I was not reassured....
New U.S. Forest Service data reveals positive gains The most recent USDA Forest Service data confirms that US forestland is roughly as abundant today as it was 100 years ago. The Forest Services Resource Planning Act 2007 (RPA data) reveals both state and regional increases in forestland across the country. Among the key findings in the report are: -- There are 750 million acres of forestland in the U.S. today, about the same as in 1907. -- 11 states had increases of over 25% over the last century, and nine had increases of over 30% -- Overall, forestland in the northern U.S. has increased by almost 30%. For more details go here.
Ptarmigan ‘potty break' could bring fines, costs The owner of a Canadian helicopter that crash landed atop Ptarmigan Mountain on Nov. 6, 2007, may face a citation and fines in connection with the incident. Ron Ostrom, law enforcement officer for the Shoshone Forest, said last week a preliminary investigation of the rough landing that disabled the chopper has been completed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He said the agency's preliminary findings, which have been posted on its Web site, indicate the chopper deliberately set down on the mountaintop for what forest officials have termed a “potty break,” as opposed to a malfunction or forced landing. But they set down in the Washakie Wilderness, an area where motorized vehicles are prohibited. The 2001 Agusta A-119 helicopter was unable to leave the mountaintop because its skids were damaged in the landing. When the occupants discovered the damage, they called for help and had to be plucked off Ptarmigan by search and rescue and medical personnel. Apparently the helicopter's three nearly full fuel tanks were damaged during the rocky landing, and fuel spilled both on top of the mountain and at two airports where the craft later was taken, Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody and the Bozeman airport, Ostrom said. He said when snow and weather conditions allow a landing on Ptarmigan Mountain this summer, the Forest Service plans to return to the crash site via a rented helicopter to determine just how much fuel may have spilled from the tanks. Ostrom said estimates now range from a couple of gallons to as much as 50 gallons. He said if the amount is determined to be the greater, based on dead grass and other indicators in the area where the craft set down, the owner could be billed for all costs associated with a hazardous materials clean-up...Could be the costliest crap in the history of The West.
House panel hears of vain efforts on Delta smelt Millions of dollars and untold gallons of water have failed to save the environmentally prominent Delta smelt, officials acknowledged Tuesday. In a sobering assessment, state and federal officials told a House panel that their big investment in the smelt hasn't paid off yet. The concession comes as officials contemplate spending an additional $10 billion or more for new California water projects and related environmental work. "Obviously, we haven't had the success with the Delta smelt that we would have wanted," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson said. "It has declined significantly." The tiny Delta smelt found in the sprawling estuary where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meet has taken on an outsized importance for farmers and politicians....
BLM to Auction Impounded Cattle The Bureau of Land Management is accepting bids to sell 58 head of impounded cattle. Bids must be submitted by 9 a.m., Friday, Feb. 1. The livestock will be offered in three lots: 21 dry cows; eight cows with calves; and 21 calves/yearlings. Successful bidders will receive a certificate of brand inspection for transport and ownership from the Nevada Brand Inspector. The livestock are available for inspection through Thursday, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. Inspections are available by appointment only by calling Amanda DeForest at the Winnemucca Field Office (775) 623-1500. A sale packet is available on-line at www.blm.gov/nv. On Jan. 25, the BLM issued the owner of the impounded cattle a notice of public sale. The owners may redeem the livestock up until the sale time.
California Chinook Salmon Numbers Hit Record Low California Central Valley fall Chinook salmon stocks appear to be undergoing a "significant decline," said Pacific Fishery Management Council Director Donald McIsaac today. Dr. McIsaac warned that if the low abundance is confirmed, all marine and freshwater fisheries that target these salmon stocks could be affected. "The low returns are particularly distressing since this stock has consistently been the healthy work horse for salmon fisheries off California and most of Oregon," he said. The Pacific Council is a federal advisory panel responsible for managing fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. Chinook salmon are also called king, spring, or tyee salmon, and are the largest of the Pacific salmon....
Legal war rages over 3-foot-long, spitting worm Described in 1897 by a taxonomist as "very abundant" a now rarely-found 3-foot-long worm that spits and smells like lilies is at the center of a legal dispute between conservationists and the U.S. government. When Frank Smith discovered the giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus) in 1897, he described it as "very abundant." Nowadays, however, sightings of the worm are rare. The only recent confirmed worm sighting was made in 2005 by a University of Idaho researcher. Before that, the giant worm had not been spotted in 17 years, since 1988. It reportedly grows up to three feet long and has a peculiar flowery smell (Driloleirus is Latin for "lily-like worm"). The cream-colored or pinkish-white worm lived in permanent burrows as deep as 15 feet and spat at attackers. "This worm is the stuff that legends and fairy tales are made of. A pity we're losing it," said Steve Paulson, a board member of Friends of the Clearwater, a conservation group based in Moscow, Idaho. Unlike the European earthworms now common across the United States, the giant Palouse earthworm is native to the Americas. Specifically, the giant worm dwelled in the prairies of the Palouse, the area of the northwest United States. The Palouse has been dramatically altered by farming practices, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted....
Gas pipelines have few rules, property owners discover The roar of an uninvited bulldozer woke up George and Barbara Woodroof on a recent Tuesday morning. Mr. Woodroof took a last look outside his bedroom window at the hill covered with oak trees. A week later, bulldozers had cleared hundreds of trees and a wide swath of nature on the couple's property to make way for a 36-inch-wide, high-pressure natural gas line that passes 290 feet from their home. The Woodroofs don't want the pipeline, but they can't stop Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners from taking their land. Neither can county or state officials. Neither can most courts. The reach of the gas-drilling boom in Denton and Tarrant counties extends to properties miles from the nearest gas wells, adding a twist to the long-running debate over Texas' eminent domain laws. Gas companies often use eminent domain powers similar to governments' to acquire land for pipelines. But unlike government, for-profit businesses condemn land largely without oversight or democratic process. They don't typically go through public hearings, environmental reviews or impact studies. Gas companies need only to fill out a one-page form and pay landowners for whatever land they take – a system far more lax than federal standards....hat tip to Julie Smithson
$9.25M Verdict in Cattle Case Reversed Cattle ranchers who won a $9.25 million federal jury verdict against four large meat packers failed to show that the companies intentionally manipulated or controlled prices, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's 2006 ruling in favor of the ranchers, who had said in their lawsuit that large meat packing companies underpaid producers for live cattle. The ranchers had claimed that the packers knew or should have known of the USDA's error. The appeals court ruled that the ranchers produced no evidence that the packers intentionally violated the Packers and Stockyards Act by manipulating or controlling, or attempting to manipulate or control, cattle prices. To prove a violation, a plaintiff must show that a packer intentionally committed unlawful conduct, the panel said in its ruling. "Therefore, the district court erred when it instructed the jury that a showing of intent was not required and reversal of the district court is necessary," the judges said. From April 2, 2001, to May 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Agriculture misreported the boxed beef cutout prices for choice and select cuts of meat. The lawsuit alleged the meatpackers knowingly used that information to pay less to cattle producers than they would have if the cutouts were correct. The packers denied knowing about the faulty reports before the USDA acknowledged them....
Helmet Use on the Rise in Rodeo Nearly eight seconds into the ride at a rodeo this month, a wildly bucking, 1,400-pound bull named Bruiser thrust a horn toward Justin Koon's face and tossed him into the air. He hit the ground head first - but walked away with only minor cuts. Almost a decade ago, a similar spill left Koon with a fractured skull and in a coma. After that, he traded his cowboy hat for a protective helmet. "I would never put one on because I wanted to look like a cowboy, with my boots, long-sleeved shirt and cowboy hat," said Koon, now 24, said at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. "Now I don't think I'd get on without one." Rodeo, a sport in which the cowboy hat is as much an icon as a bucking bronco, has been reluctant to require its riders to wear helmets. Even for children as young as 5, they remain optional under association rules. But bull riders, including some of the sport's stars, are increasingly donning their own. Rodeo officials estimate just under 40 percent of adult riders now wear helmets, up from 10 percent five years ago. Doctors and researchers say it's not enough. Studies show helmets can prevent catastrophic injuries that can end careers in a sport that paid its top bull riders up to $1.8 million last year. Some medical experts are pushing the sport to encourage adult bull and steer riders to wear helmets, and require them for riders under 18....
FLE

Justice Dept. accused of blocking Gonzales probe The government agency that enforces one of the principal laws aimed at keeping politics out of the civil service has accused the Justice Department of blocking its investigation into alleged politicizing of the department under former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, wrote Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey last week that the department had repeatedly "impeded" his investigation by refusing to share documents and provide answers to written questions, according to a copy of Bloch's letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The Justice Department wants Bloch to wait until its own internal investigation is completed. A department official signaled recently that the investigation is examining the possibility of criminal charges. But that, the regulator wrote, could take until the last months of the Bush administration, "when there is little hope of any corrective measures or discipline possible" being taken by his office. Bloch's allegations show how the controversy, which mostly focused on the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, continues to boil inside government....
Six senators urge delay of new ID rules Six senators from northern New England and New York asked the US Department of Homeland Security yesterday to delay implementation of stiff new identification requirements for people entering the United States by land from Canada. In a letter to Secretary Michael Chertoff, 19 senators said commerce will be stifled and lives disrupted if federal officials go ahead Thursday with plans to end the practice of allowing people to enter the US after showing a document, such as a driver's license, and declaring their nationality. But federal officials say the "honor system" must end now. "There is enormous downside and very little upside to the new hoops they want to put everyone through on the Canadian border," said US Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. "These paper padlocks won't make us safer." Implementing the new rules now would violate the spirit of a law passed last month that delays until June 2009 a requirement that people carry passports or similar documents when entering the United States by land or sea, they said. The senators want Chertoff to delay the new ID requirements until the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is fully implemented. The extra time is needed to ensure the requirements are implemented smoothly and do not disrupt commerce and lives along the border, they said....
Congress Passes Extension of Surveillance Law The House and Senate yesterday approved a 15-day extension of an expiring intelligence surveillance law and the White House backed off a threatened veto, allowing more time to resolve a dispute over the administration's proposal to immunize telephone companies from lawsuits stemming from their cooperation with warrantless wiretaps. Both chambers passed by unanimous voice votes the temporary extension of the Protect America Act, and members then left town for a one-week break. The White House gave its blessing last night to the short-term measure rather than allowing the surveillance law to expire Friday. President Bush had insisted that Congress act immediately to approve a new surveillance measure that includes the immunity provision. "We've had ample time for debate. The time to act is now," Bush told Congress in his State of the Union address Monday, the same day he threatened to veto a 30-day extension....
Greater Use of Privilege Spurs Concern The U.S. government has been increasing its use of the state secrets privilege to avoid disclosure of classified information in civil lawsuits, prompting legislation in the Senate that would provide more congressional oversight of the practice. Though there have been modest increases in the use of the state secrets privilege every decade since the 1960s, some legal scholars and members of Congress contend that the Bush administration has employed it excessively as it intervened in cases that could expose information about sensitive programs. These include the rendition of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation and cases related to the National Security Agency's use of warrantless wiretaps. The privilege allows the government to argue that lawsuits -- and the information potentially revealed by them -- could damage national security. It gives judges the power to prevent information from reaching public view or to dismiss cases even if they appear to have merit. Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit legal organization that has fought the Bush administration's secrecy efforts on the NSA surveillance program, said the state secrets privilege is being abused regardless of the number of times it has been invoked. "The administration is attempting to use the privilege as a back-door immunity to obtain dismissal of any case that attempts to put the NSA wiretapping issue in front of a judge," said Bankston, who is scheduled to testify at Nadler's hearing today. "It is no secret such a program existed."....
Virginia state senator's 'Deliverance' comment riles gun-rights supporters A Bristol Virginia man sparked a statewide political reaction after he said he heard the state Senate’s majority leader insult rural gun owners while standing in a public elevator. "He turns to his companion and says, ‘You can tell we’re debating a gun bill today. Half the cast of "Deliverance" is in town,’ " said John Pierce, a local gun-rights activist who was in Richmond to lobby the General Assembly against a bill to close the so-called gun-show loophole. "I was absolutely floored. ... I think what you’re seeing is bigotry aimed at rural voters and the issues that they tend to support," Pierce said. "Deliverance" is a 1972 film based on the novel by James Dickey in which Atlanta businessmen encountered a backwoods Appalachian culture on a canoe trip in the north Georgia mountains, where rape and murder ensue. The senator’s elevator comment on Monday has been buzzing through conservative Web sites since Wednesday, when Pierce said he sent out an e-mail alert and a news release. "I believe that Sen. Saslaw and many of those who oppose gun ownership truly believe that those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms, those who hunt, those who come from a rural background, are somehow less deserving of respect than the elite urbanites that they consider themselves and their peers to be," Pierce said....
NYC, gun dealers both see benefits in gun sting ruling City officials say a federal judge helped their lawsuit against gun dealers by ruling that there was no crime in sending undercover investigators into gun shops to try to buy weapons illegally. But gun dealers see the same decision as support for their argument that they didn't do anything wrong. The sting operation was conducted two years ago. It was the basis for a civil case Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration brought against 27 gun dealers in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. Bloomberg targeted shops that the city believes are responsible for selling guns traced back to crimes in New York City. Fifteen dealers have settled and agreed to let a special master monitor their sales. Litigation continues against several of the remaining 12 in federal court in Brooklyn. As part of the legal process, attorneys for some of the gun shops argued that the city had itself violated the law by attempting the illegal buys. Gun rights advocates and organizations like the National Rifle Association also have complained that Bloomberg's gun sting was a criminal stunt. And the Justice Department even did its own inquiry as to whether the city was out of bounds. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak said Friday the court had found "that the city's actions do not constitute a crime or fraud."....
Driver’s license privacy Actress Rebecca Schaeffer, co-star of the television series “My Sister Sam,” had a lot of admirers. One admirer, a crazy gentlemen named Robert Bardo, decided he wanted to kill the actress. Killer Bardo had no idea where the actress lived, but luckily for Bardo, the state government of California provided him with his victim’s address. Bardo went to a private investigative agency, claimed that Ms. Schaeffer was a long-lost friend, and asked for help in tracking her down. The investigative agency went to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, paid a one-dollar fee, and was told the address that Ms. Schaeffer had listed on her driver’s license. Bardo took a bus from Tucson to Los Angeles and walked 12 miles to her house. He pressed her intercom button. It was broken, so Ms. Schaffer came down to see who it was. Startled, Bardo left. He came back in an hour and pressed her intercom button again. When she came down a second time to answer the door, he shot her dead. This happened on July 18, 1989. The teenage rock star Tiffany was harassed by another deviant fan who learned her address from the motor vehicle records. Most states, including Colorado, make lots money from selling the private information in your driver’s license, auto registration, and voter registration files. Companies like Equifax buy the records, and then resell them to insurance and other companies. Some of the groups who buy facts about your private life from the state include political organizations to compile voter profiles, universities for research, the Selective Service to check compliance with draft registration, attorneys and prosecutors who want to check out defendants, witnesses, and jurors, and most of all, and companies that sell mailing lists to other companies. Plus the occasional criminal. The government makes you register to vote, register to get a driver’s license, and register to own a car. To lead a normal life, you must give the government these facts. And right now, there’s nothing to stop the State of Colorado from selling its information about you to all comers....
For Sheer Bureaucratic Stupidity, the Winner Is… Hate is a pretty strong word. But not strong enough to express how I feel about the TSA - the Transportation Security Administration or Thousands Standing Around, depending on your point of view - which runs those security checkpoints at American airports. I may fear the IRS, and I may dread the DMV - but for sheer bureaucratic stupidity and its affront to personal liberties, the TSA has earned a special place of loathing in my heart. And apparently I’m not alone. An Associated Press story this past December on MSNBC’s website is titled, “TSA draws travelers' complaints: Security screeners are the most familiar - and hated - face of government.” The story notes that TSA receives about a thousand complaints about its operations every month - which doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of Americans who quietly seethe at security checkpoints but don’t waste their time filing a formal complaint. Deaf ears and all that [...] The story notes that over $5 BILLION a year is being spent on airport security operations and that the vast majority of items confiscated by screeners are cigarette lighters - which at one time were deemed by the TSA to be extremely dangerous, but now are OK. Toothpaste and deodorant are apparently the new weapons of choice by the world’s most vicious, cold-hearted terrorists....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Groups sue over rules for killing wolves Seven conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging new rules intended to make it easier to kill wolves in the Northern Rockies that are killing livestock and having a detrimental effect on elk herds. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Monday. The group's said the rule, published Monday in the Federal Register, could allow wildlife officials to kill all but 600 of the estimated 1,500 wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Federal officials, in announcing the rule last week, said that estimate was unrealistic. The new rules announced Thursday will give state wildlife agencies authority to take out wolves if it's shown they are one of several major factors in keeping down elk herds. The rules prohibit each state from having less than 200 wolves and 20 breeding pair. Before wolves are killed, though, there would have to be a public comment period, peer review and approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most ungulate herds outside of Yellowstone in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are at "record high" levels and above state management goals, according to a federal assessment of the new rules released in September....
Group a force of nature for endangered species From a cluttered, borrowed warehouse in an industrial neighborhood on Tucson's near North Side, a small group of environmentalists is changing the world - one lawsuit at a time. The Center for Biological Diversity staff brandishes the Endangered Species Act like a blunt-force instrument. Leverage from its petitions and lawsuits - more than 500 in 18 years - helped gain protection for nearly a fourth of the 1,351 endangered or threatened plants and animals in the United States. The nonprofit organization that started in 1989 as three idealists in a Phoenix apartment, two of them on unemployment after being fired by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has grown to more than 40,000 members with 11 offices in six states. The center's budget grew tenfold in the past decade. In 1989, Peter Galvin, KierĂ¡n Suckling and Todd Shulke were counting and mapping Mexican spotted owls for the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico. When they saw that the Forest Service was planning to allow logging in owl territory, they told a newspaper where the birds' nests were, Suckling said. "That was the end of our Forest Service jobs," he said with a chuckle. Suckling, then a doctoral candidate in philosophy, and Galvin, who was studying conservation biology, moved in with Silver, who had recently written the petition to add the Mexican spotted owl to the endangered species list. Together they formed the nucleus of what would be the Center for Biological Diversity....
Green groups combine efforts Forest Guardians of Santa Fe and Sinapu of Boulder, Colo., have joined forces to create WildEarth Guardians, which organizers say will be in a better position to pressure government agencies to protect and restore lands, wildlife and water. WildEarth Guardians will do much of the same work the two organizations did in the past, but also will increase its focus in some areas. "We've created a bigger, bolder and better organization to achieve our goals to restore wolves across the West, protect iconic western rivers such as the Rio Grande and keep wild places like the Sagebrush Sea intact," said John Horning, who headed Forest Guardians and is now executive director of WildEarth Guardians. The two groups have collaborated in the past two years, and agreed to merge a year ago. Forest Guardians was founded in 1989 to save old growth forests in northern New Mexico. Sinapu was founded in 1990 to protect and restore native carnivores in the Southern Rockies. The priorities of WildEarth Guardians are to restore wolves to the West, including protecting Mexican gray wolves in the Gila area of southwestern New Mexico and reintroducing wolves to the Southern Rockies; protecting the Rio Grande from its headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico; restoring species such as prairie dogs across the West; restoring wildfire as a natural process in healthy western forest ecosystems; abolishing the wildlife killing program of Wildlife Services; and inspiring residents of the West to become a cohesive voice to protect nature. The organization has 18 staff members and a budget of nearly $1.5 million. It has offices in Denver, Boulder, Santa Fe and Phoenix....
The Preservation Predicament Conservation organizations that work to preserve biologically rich landscapes are confronting a painful realization: In an era of climate change, many of their efforts may be insufficient or beside the point. Some scientists say efforts to re-establish or maintain salmon runs in Pacific Northwest streams will be of limited long-term benefit to the fish if warming makes the streams inhospitable. Others worry about efforts to restore the fresh water flow of the Everglades, given that much of it will be under water as sea level rises. Some geologists say it may be advisable to abandon efforts to preserve some fragile coastal barrier islands and focus instead on allowing coastal marshes to migrate inland, as sea level rises. And everywhere, ecologists and conservation biologists wonder how landscapes already under preservation will change with the climate. “We have over a 100-year investment nationally in a large suite of protected areas that may no longer protect the target ecosystems for which they were formed,” said Healy Hamilton, director of the California Academy of Sciences, who attended a workshop on the subject in November in Berkeley, Calif. “New species will move in, and the target species will move out.” As a result, more and more conservationists believe they must do more than identify biologically important landscapes and raise money to protect them. They must peer into an uncertain future, guess which sites will be important 50 or 100 years from now, and then try to balance these guesses against the pressing needs of the present. “It’s turning conservation on its head,” said Bill Stanley, who directs the global climate change initiative at the Nature Conservancy....
Does leasing land gouge hunters or protect owners?(Montana) The fee hunting comes in several forms. Some landowners and outfitters may charge hunters a trespass fee. Other ranchers and farmers may provide an exclusive lease to their ranch to a single group of hunters. New to the equation are hunting clubs that, after a membership fee, provide access to cooperating ranches for a fee. Some ranches are owned exclusively to provide hunting and recreation for the landowner, some of whom reside out of state. Realtors even advertise such properties as "private sanctuaries" and tout the landlocked public land to which the new owners will have exclusive access. "There's a fair amount of leasing going on where the licensed outfitter has ranches leased and they're not taking clients out, but if a hunter gets a license and wants to pay to hunt, they'll let him on," Charles aid. "I know of individual resident hunters paying for a lease for their own use. But we're limited in what we actually know." There are an estimated 20,000 private farms and ranches across the state. Private and reservation lands account for more than 60 percent of the acreage in Montana. Out of that 60-plus percent, about 20 percent is in Block Management or leased by outfitters....
Uranium 'capital' awaits good times When a uranium boom hit this former logging and farming community in the mid-1970s, housing was so scarce people slept in campgrounds and cemeteries. Schools, hospitals and bars were jam packed with miners and their families. And young people could buy cars and houses with the good pay they earned in the mines. It was the second boom for the central New Mexico town's uranium industry that started when a Navajo sheepherder, Paddy Martinez, picked up a bright yellow rock in 1950. Then the so-called "Uranium Capital of the World" suffered the bust. In the early '80s, the price of uranium plummeted as the anti-nuclear movement grew and domestic demand stagnated. Eight-thousand jobs disappeared in a few years. "It kind of devastated Grants with all these people leaving, houses empty everywhere, businesses closing," said Terry Fletcher, president of Rio Algom Mining LLC, who has lived in Grants for 50 years. "On my block alone, every two out of three houses was empty." But these days something is stirring. Hotels are booked, restaurants and retail businesses are busy and local drilling companies are swamped with work. A 40-house development, the town's first in 25 years, is being built ahead of the expected arrival of more residents. With the price of uranium up to $90 to $100 per pound, Grants is anticipating good economic times ahead. Uranium company executives say uranium could be a $2 billion industry for New Mexico over its lifetime and bring in as many as 4,000 jobs to the Grants area....
Ranchers take side of power company in dispute over 'tax' But the primary focus of their meeting is what they refer to as the "streambed water tax." The state, however, says the "tax" is actually a lease charged to privately owned power companies for use of the state's navigable riverbeds where hydroelectric dams sit. But ranchers Larry LuLoff of Boyd, Bill Burgan of Roberts and Ed Draper of Red Lodge are not splitting hairs over terminology. They oppose the state's effort to extract payment from power companies, saying it could be a steppingstone to charging similar fees to other users. "It's a bad, bad deal for the people of the state of Montana," LuLoff said. "We got concerned, if they could put a streambed water tax on power companies, the next big usage of water is agriculture." To date, two power companies - Spokane, Wash.-based Avista and Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp - have agreed to pay Montana for their use of the riverbed. PPL Montana is contesting the matter in court. Not surprisingly, the state has a different take than the ranchers. Anthony Johnstone, assistant attorney general, insists that the court case is not about water, but about the use of state trust lands underneath the dams and reservoirs. The constitution dictates that the state, as a trustee of state lands, has a duty to get full market value for the use of those lands, he said....
Sleek Critters Get Second Chance The elusive fisher, famous for its fabulous fur and for picking fights with porcupines, slipped back into the wilds of Washington Sunday. Its mission: to re-establish a homeland. Fishers, cat-sized members of the weasel family, have been missing from Washington's forest landscape for decades, wiped out by early 20th-century trappers. On Sunday, biologists released 11 Canadian fishers -- five males and six females -- into the dense thickets of the park's Elwha River and Morse Creek drainages, near the Olympic Peninsula city of Port Angeles. "They just took off like a shot," said Jeff Lewis, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. "You just see a streak of black rushing across the ground and they disappear." Sunday's release was the first step in a state, federal and privately supported effort to revive the state's population of the sleek, dark carnivores. While Canada's fisher population is hardy, on the U.S. West Coast, fishers have been on the official waiting list for federal Endangered Species Act protection since 2004....
Feds approve Jonah man camp EnCana workers in southwest Wyoming's lucrative gas fields will be housed a little closer to the job site this coming year, after federal officials approved the construction of a new man camp. EnCana Oil and Gas Inc. proposed building the 350-worker man camp -- dubbed the Jonah Workforce Facility -- last fall on 20 acres of Bureau of Land Management land near the company's Jonah Field leases southeast of Big Piney. BLM spokeswoman Kellie Roadifer said the agency concluded in an environmental assessment released Monday that the man camp would be "beneficial" to the workers and residents in the region. Federal officials said the company proposed the facility in an effort to reduce the travel required of gas field workers coming from nearby Big Piney, where an existing man camp houses them. Officials said the worker camp will also reduce impacts to the environment and improve safety on roads around the Jonah Field and Big Piney....
Increase in OHV Use Leads to Stricter Regulations Colorado Division of Wildlife officers would be allowed to issue tickets and fines for unlawful use of off highway vehicles (OHV) on almost 23 million acres of federally-owned land under a bill scheduled for debate this week in the state House of Representatives. One of the most contentious issues to be resolved is which trails will be marked with signs and on maps – those that are open or those that are closed. House Bill 1069, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, was crafted by a coalition of sportsmen, environmentalists and OHV users to support new management policies of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. “For the first time, non-federal officers will be able to enforce regulations on federal land,” Curry said. Violators would be fined $100 and given 10 license suspension points if the violator is hunting, fishing, trapping, or engaged in similar activity on public land. The penalty increases to a $200 fine and 15 license suspension points if the violator is in a federal wilderness area....Ms. Curry must not be familiar with legislative jurisdiction. Either that, or Colorado has waived legislative jurisdiction to the Feds.
Fish and Game tells employees to avoid Marvel Idaho Department of Fish and Game employees have been instructed to halt communications with an environmentalist who is accused of harassing staffers and assaulting a top state official, the agency said Monday. Agency Deputy Director Virgil Moore sent a memo Monday to Fish and Game employees urging them to avoid phone conversations with Jon Marvel, head of Hailey-based anti-grazing group Western Watersheds Project. "Jon's behavior is simply out of hand," Moore said in an interview after the memo was released. "It's a pattern of behavior we've seen toward public officials. And I've asked (employees)to politely withdraw from communicating with Mr. Marvel." Moore alleges Marvel shouted at Wayne Wright, the Fish and Game commissioner who represents the Magic Valley, on Dec. 17 after a public meeting in Hailey about removing wolves from the endangered species list. Moore and another official stepped between the two as Marvel began to shout, and as the men were leaving the building, Marvel cursed at Wright and shoved him in the back or side, Moore said. Fish and Game officials said they didn't press charges or alert police because they didn't want to inflame tensions between Marvel and the department. Marvel has repeatedly harassed and threatened Fish and Game employees in phone calls, Moore said, which also prompted the memo. Marvel has a history of run-ins with government officials. The Bureau of Land Management banned its staffers from communicating with Marvel for one year after an incident in May 2000, when officials said he orally and physically threatened BLM workers during a public tour of rangeland in Cassia County. Marvel disputed the accusations, and no charges were filed after a U.S. Attorney's Office investigation....
The Navy and the Whales ON ITS FACE, the battle between the Navy and environmental groups over the use of sonar off the coast of Southern California pits national security against the preservation of marine life. It is a false choice. The Navy in 2007 began exercises off California to train sailors in the use of mid-frequency active sonar, which emits high-intensity underwater blasts of sound. But the California waters are home to several endangered species, including whales, which can suffer permanent injury or death from the sonar. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued last year in federal court to stop the training exercises unless the Navy adopted mitigation measures to prevent harm to marine life. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California concluded that the service was bound by environmental laws to implement such measures, including a prohibition against using sonar within 12 nautical miles of the coast or when marine life came within a certain range of a vessel. The Navy balked, claiming the court-ordered measures were unnecessary; it cited its preliminary analysis that sonar would not significantly harm marine life. After losing several rounds of litigation, the Navy turned to the White House, which two weeks ago concluded that the service was exempt from one law, the Coastal Zone Management Act, and had the right to disregard the court-ordered mitigation measures and rely on "alternative arrangements" to comply with a second law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Navy has a strong case with respect to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which allows exemptions to the law if the president deems such exemptions to be in the "paramount interest of the United States." It is on far less solid ground in its challenge under NEPA....
Species denied federal protection Two rare salamanders do not need Endangered Species Act protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday. The agency said neither species is threatened by habitat loss, and increased survey efforts are turning up more Siskiyou Mountains and Scott Bar salamanders. "The perception of extreme rarity that's been sort of perpetuated is really not turning out to be the case," said Brian Woodbridge, a Fish and Wildlife biologist. "The more people are looking, the more people are finding them and the wider the variety of habitats that they are being found in." The announcement comes one year after a federal judge ruled that the agency illegally rejected a petition to protect the salamanders and ordered the agency to reconsider....
Going green — at a cost
Increasingly, federal buildings are falling into one of two camps: those that are certified green by the country’s leading independent rating system, and those that just say they are. But Congress last month ordered the government to certify all new buildings and large renovations as eco-friendly and, by March, administration officials will decide which certification will be used. The smart money is on a certification system called Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design, or LEED, which was developed seven years ago by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is the most recognized green building certification program in the country today and has been endorsed by the General Services Administration, which will make the key recommendation on what system to use. But that certification comes at a significant cost. Achieving basic LEED certification can add anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent to the overall cost of a project, while the paperwork requirements alone take hundreds of hours. The LEED system is seen as so costly and time-consuming by some agencies that they’ve given up seeking certification, even though they claim to be building facilities that meet the LEED standards. “I don’t think it’s worth the certificate,” said Lloyd Siegel, director of facilities strategic management at the Veterans Affairs Department. “We’d rather use that money to get more efficient in our energy systems or [window] glazing systems or whatever, rather than just have a certificate to hang on the wall.”....
Senate Confirms New Ag Secretary Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer was confirmed in short order by the full Senate Monday. There was no vote; Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., read a simple request for unanimous consent. "Governor Schafer is a distinguished former governor from our state," Dorgan said. "It's a great honor for our state to have him nominated for Secretary of Agriculture. I ask for unanimous consent." Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., also addressed the matter. "We obviously need a good strong Secretary of Agriculture," Bond said. "And we are pleased to see this body move forward." There was no dissention and Schafer became head of the USDA. Schafer was nominated last fall following former Ag Secretary Mike Johanns' resignation to run for the Senate from Nebraska....
97-Year-Old Cattleman Got Start in 4-H 4-H in Louisiana turns 100 this year and with the livestock show coming up this week we wanted to speak with some cattlemen who got their start in 4-H. In the first of a two part series News Channel 5’s Joel Massey shows us a rancher who’s been going strong almost as long as 4-H has been in Louisiana. For 97 year old Cecil Price of see-per Louisiana working cattle has been a part of his life his whole life. He still moves them from pasture to pasture every day. He opens the gates and they respond to his voice. Like countless Louisiana ranchers, as a boy Price gained skills showing livestock through a 4-h club. It’s a tradition passed on in his family of cattleman. His nephew Clayton Brister is the state president of the Cattleman’s Association and was named cattleman of the year. Brister said, “I was in 4-h when I was young and my sons have too, it’s just been all of our lives.” Price’s herd is unique, since the 1920’s he’s only replaced females with cows born on his farm and the LSU Ag Center thinks his is the oldest crossbred foundation herd in the state....
It's All Trew: Dust Bowl was deadly Until 1930, most agriculture workers, and especially the cattlemen, had retained their independence from government help and interference. However, the Crash of 1929 ushered in the beginnings of the Great Depression. By 1931 severe drought set in all across the Great Plains from Canada to Texas with annual rainfall averages cut in half from normal. By 1933, areas in the Southern Plains began to experience dust storms that eventually grew into the Dust Bowl. Wind velocities often ranged from thirty to sixty miles per hour, with Amarillo experiencing 192 "dusters" between January 1933 and February 1936. Commodity prices dropped approximately 50 percent by 1933 while taxes and interest rates remained unchanged. A total collapse of the agricultural industry threatened in spite of efforts by the Hoover administration and numerous commodity marketing boards. The situation became so desperate, massive federal action seemed to be the only alternative for relief. In June of 1934, almost as a last resort, Congress authorized a Drought Relief Service for purchasing drought-stricken cattle. Depending on weight and condition, the agency would pay $4 to $8 for calves, $10 to $15 for yearlings, with cows, big steers and bulls bringing $12 to $20. Those in the worst condition were killed immediately and buried while others were sent to packing plants for slaughter. Starting in June of 1934, the program ran until late January of 1935 with the government eventually purchasing almost 8.3 million head of livestock providing $111 million in payments to the livestock owners and their creditors....I need to write about the experience my dad had as a kid hiring out to Willis Lovelace to gather cattle for this program.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Administration Forest Plan Assailed Millions of acres of the country's largest national forest would be open for logging and other development under a Bush administration forest management plan released yesterday, a move critics said will hurt wildlife and destroy pristine lands. Under the plan, about 2.4 million acres of roadless areas within Alaska's 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest could be used for logging and building roads, critics said. They described the plan, and similar efforts in Idaho and Colorado, as an attempt by the Bush administration to help the timber industry by circumventing federal court rulings protecting roadless areas. The dispute is the latest skirmish in a years-long battle between environmentalists and the Bush administration over the Clinton-era "roadless rule," which put nearly a third of the national forests -- about 60 million acres -- off-limits to most development....
Plan allows for sheep killing Trying to keep the management of bighorn sheep and domestic sheep out of federal courts, an Idaho plan to prevent the two species from mingling calls for the killing of both bighorns and domestic sheep that enter "sheep free" zones. The Idaho Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Working Group met this week at the state Department of Agriculture to discuss its interim policy for the management of bighorn sheep and domestic sheep. That interim plan, which officials said is likely to change little before being given to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Feb. 15, could be implemented this spring ahead of domestic sheep being turned out onto grazing allotments on federal land. The interim plan calls for buffer zones to be set up between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep, although it is unclear where or even how many of the zones would be created, or how they would be formed. The goal of the plan is to create areas for bighorn sheep and areas for domestic sheep, doing so in a way that allows bighorn populations to remain viable while also keeping domestic sheep operations in business....
Utah resident makes living hunting coyotes Newell Fredrickson doesn't enjoy killing coyotes. It's just something he does to earn a living. In 40 years with Wildlife Services--the branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged with removing problem predators--Fredrickson has trapped and shot all sorts of animals, crashed in helicopters half a dozen times, roped eagles and seen a lot of country. But the large majority of his job these days focuses on one thing: killing coyotes. Folks with Wildlife Services (formerly Animal Damage Control) tend to tiptoe when discussing their work. The Utah Wildlife Services Web page states that "Utah WS is uniquely positioned to assist livestock producers, industries and our cooperating agency partners with wildlife damage issues. Professional wildlife biologists and trained technicians provide direct assistance (their emphasis) when wildlife damage requires special skills." Fredrickson, on the other hand, doesn't trade in euphemisms. "That old coyote supported me for 40 years and let me be as free as a bird on the wing," Fredrickson says. "He's my brother, but that don't mean I won't kill him." Which is not to say that he does it for fun or, as some people imagine, that he guns down every coyote he sees: "I ain't going out there to see how many I can kill." The Hyrum resident targets offending animals in specific areas, answering calls from ranchers and sheepherders after they lose livestock to suspected wild predators. And he knows that his solutions, final as they may be for the targets, are a temporary fix at best, since coyotes reproduce rapidly....
Wolves breed their way out of protection This is the year that the new wolves of the Old West step out of the protection of the Endangered Species List and into the crosshairs of those who wish they had not been reintroduced to Yellowstone and Idaho, but I wouldn't sound the funeral dirge just yet. Ten years ago, gray wolves were captured in Canada and flown south, sneaked into the park in horse trailers, then acclimated and released into the wild to make more wolves. The Fish and Wildlife managers who planned the reintroduction said that in the most optimistic circumstances there would be 300 wolves by now. They forgot to tell the wolves. The canines happily replicated themselves to the point that there are more than 1,300 wolves now living in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and some say those wolves have been wandering off into Washington, Oregon, Nevada and even California, maybe. If the wolves just hung out on street corners or pool halls, that would be one thing, but in order to keep on breeding the way they have, wolves need to eat. Bears might sup on berries and grubs. Not wolves. They're meat eaters - big meat eaters....
Proposed law may restrict hunting Members of Colorado's House Agricul-ture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee this month will hear the outlining details of proposed legislation, which may have a significant impact on the future of hunting in the state, if approved. Colorado State Represen-tative Debbie Stafford (D-40) has introduced House Bill 08-1096, which may, under the initial language of the draft, ban all hunting within confined areas. HB-1096 "Prohibits a person from offering another person the opportunity to hunt, wound, or take any mammal that is intentionally confined, tied, staked, caged or otherwise re-strained from engaging in normal movement." Specifically, proposed HB-1096 would amend Article 6 of Title 33, by making it unlawful for a person to hunt, or provide hunting opportunities of any animals considered confined, regardless of the size of the enclosure. Stafford's proposed legislation has already come under severe fire from the National Rifle Association (NRA,) as well as the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA.) Together the associations say the language of Staf-ford's bill is vague, and its far-reaching wording could seriously jeopardize the future of hunting in Colorado. "Every piece of fenced property would be off-limits to hunting behind enclosures in Colorado," the associations worry. "As written, it could preclude a farmer or rancher who fences his or her property from allowing anyone, including family and friends, to hunt; regardless of the size of the property," warn the associations....
In Search Of Wild Horses New Mexico’s high desert is an unforgiving land, one of climatic extremes, sparse water and dry forage. But to the bands of wild horses lurking within the juniper, sagebrush and pines, it’s a place of freedom and peace. Active ImageAs dawn breaks over the hills of the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory in northwestern New Mexico, a bay stallion stands alert on the horizon while his band of mares contently graze below. But when triggered by a mere rustling of a branch or crunch of a fallen leaf, the stallion abruptly leaves his post to guide the fleeing herd through a labyrinth of dense brush. Framed by a hazy, gray-green panorama, this scene represents the West’s strength, spirit and boundless freedom. Located 40 miles east of Bloomfield, the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory consists of 76,000 acres within the Carson National Forest, bordering the Jicarilla Apache Reservation. The land was one of 303 areas set aside for the horses in 1971 with the passing of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Today, 186 designated wild-horse territories remain, and, according to the latest Bureau of Land Management census, approximately 25,689 wild horses and 2,874 burros roam these lands....
Wolves raise emotions is western Montana A new federal rule being issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is going to make it easier for ranchers to kill wolves that threaten pets and livestock. The ruling hits especially close to home for ranchers who are trying to protect their cattle from wolves, as well as those who are trying to protect wolves. However, the rule may also affect those who take their pets into the back country. Wolves elicit emotion like no other predator, and when their prey changes from an elk to the family dog, that's when emotions really explode. Rancher John Myers has some first hand experience. "They killed Yukon, our black lab within 25 yards of the house." Wildlife officials eventually wiped out an entire wolf pack because the wolves also killed two steers and three calves on neighboring Sula ranches. "Down outside Hamilton, they're losing dogs, cats, llamas and really rattling the horses." One wrinkle of the regulation has to do with pets, and not just those that are around the ranch house. The rule also protects Rover when you take them into the back country." Those who look out for wolves, including Suzanne Ahsa Stone with Defenders of Wildlife say the new rule is a step backward....
Grazing's future still up in the air The long-anticipated cattle grazing impact studies on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument were released Thursday afternoon, but the roughly 500-page document contains no recommendation about the future of grazing within the monument. "We're not in the decision-making process," explained Paul Hosten, the monument ecologist and scientist heading up the study group. The studies will help U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials determine whether livestock grazing is consistent with the 2000 presidential proclamation creating the monument, he said. A decision on the grazing issue is expected later this year. The studies have cost an estimated $1.2 million, officials said. The 52,940-acre monument in the mountains east of Ashland with Soda Mountain as its centerpiece was created because of what scientists described as one of the most biologically diverse places on the continent. The proclamation directed the BLM to study the impacts of livestock on the "objects of biological interest in the monument with specific attention to sustaining the natural ecosystem dynamics." Should grazing be found incompatible with that goal, then the grazing allotments within the monument shall be retired, it stated....
Idaho wolf spotted in northeast Oregon A gray wolf from Idaho was spotted from the air Wednesday by wildlife biologists on a flight over the western fringes of northeast Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness. The radio-collared female was the fifth -- but only the second living -- wolf identified in Oregon in eight years. The sighting validates beliefs that wolves have been migrating into the state from Idaho, Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in La Grande, said Thursday in announcing the sighting. The animal is a 2- to 3-year-old female that biologists are calling B-300. She probably weighed 80 pounds to 90 pounds and has been wearing a radio collar since Idaho biologists captured her northeast of Boise in August 2006, Morgan said. The wolf was spotted in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest between Medical Springs and Wallowa near the boundary of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Ranchers reported seeing her near the town of Wallowa several days earlier....
How public wildlife became something for sale Wildlife management in North America has been based on more than a century of inclusion between the hunting public and landowners. But that has been changing over the past 30 years in Montana. The so-called North American model of wildlife management began with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1842 that declared that fish and wildlife are owned by the states and their people as a public trust. It also got a big boost from Theodore Roosevelt during his presidency, when he began protecting land and conserving wildlife, said Jim Posewitz, founder of the Helena-based Orion, The Hunter's Institute. "The model has seven basic principles," Posewitz said. "Wildlife is a public resource. Wildlife was recovered by eliminating the markets for wildlife. Wildlife can only be allocated by law. Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Wildlife is considered an international resource. Science is the proper tool for the discharge of wildlife policy. And the crown jewel of the seven is the democracy of hunting. Nobody gets privilege. We're all equal. We all conserve, and we all share."....
The battle for access Deer, elk and antelope are undeniably owned by all of us. Public lands are owned by all of us, too. And private agricultural lands are undeniably owned by farmers and ranchers. Those are the facts. Somewhere in between lie the management and harvest of that public wildlife, tangled in a mess of access issues and fights among the stakeholders in who gets to hunt what, when and where. The problem of access and hunting is an old, old story. Our European forebears knew better than to even try to shoot the king's deer. When they came to America, they reveled in the freedom of its wildlife bounty.With that bounty available again, some say that we're heading back to the days of the king's deer as more and more people seek to control access to wildlife, privatize it and profit from it. The public is being squeezed out, they say. The sport is being turned into a pastime reserved for the privileged few. In Montana, the stakeholders in the access battle are outfitters, landowners and the average resident hunter. Friction among them has been growing for at least the past 30 years, and with each passing hunting season, it seems to get worse. Why is the access battle blowing up into a firestorm right now?....
Ranchers say they're being squeezed out Ranchers operating around the Bighorn National Forest say ongoing drought, tougher environmental oversight, disputed monitoring techniques and growing legal challenges are making it increasingly difficult to effectively use their federal grazing allotments. U.S. Forest Service managers say they are working to support grazing in the Bighorn National Forest, but must balance it against a host of other appropriate public land uses. Dozens of ranchers met with Forest Service managers this week for the first of what is likely to be a series of discussions aimed at improving relations between the two sides. There are 91 permit holders operating on grazing allotments in the Bighorn National Forest, said Bernie Bornong, a Forest Service resource specialist....
Groups object to wolf rule The number of wolves killed as a result of a new federal rule could number in the dozens, state and federal officials say. But critics contend officials in Wyoming and Idaho -- spurred on by anti-wolf livestock interests -- are gearing up to kill hundreds of the animals. Those critics say that could knock down the animal's population in the region by more than half, undermining a decade-long restoration effort that has cost more than $24 million. "There's just no biological justification for killing that many wolves," said Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife. "It's politically driven." The rule announced Thursday was crafted to meet the demands of Wyoming lawmakers, who made it a condition of their acceptance of a federal plan to lift endangered species protection from wolves. Officials from the state said they wanted to have a way to deal with wolves if delisting is blocked in court. The rule would empower state wildlife agents to kill packs of wolves if they can prove the animals are having a "major impact" on big game herds such as elk, deer or moose. It also would allow hunting guides and others to kill wolves caught harassing dogs or stock animals on public land....
Too much? Senators indicated Thursday that they will pass a less-sweeping reform of 1872 hardrock mining law than the House did late last year, imposing royalties on new mines but perhaps not on existing ones. At a hearing on the issue, senators generally agreed to put in place a royalty on future mines, to create a fund to clean up abandoned hardrock mines and to replace the outmoded patenting system with a more modern practice. But they expressed more reluctance than their House counterparts to impose a royalty on mines already operating. The House-passed bill would charge an 8 percent royalty on the gross revenue from new mineral production and a 4 percent royalty on existing operations. That includes gold, silver, copper, uranium and more. The royalty would be used for cleanup of abandoned mines. Under the 1872 law, federal land can be sold for $2.50 or $5 an acre. Congress for more than a decade has annually approved a moratorium on such sales, and the House bill would permanently end them. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, objected to some of the increased environmental regulations in the House bill. He said that because other national environmental laws already apply, the new rules are "solutions in search of a problem." But some Democrats and environmental groups want to keep a House-passed provision that gives the Interior secretary the power to veto a mining operation if it would cause undue degradation of the environment....
BLM follows Nev. cattle seizure with horse impoundment at McDermitt Federal agents who seized more than 100 cattle from Nevada ranchers accused of trespassing on public rangeland this week have confiscated 200 horses from an American Indian and his son they say were grazing the animals without a permit near the Nevada-Oregon line. The Bureau of Land Management's roundup of the privately owned horses near a reservation at McDermitt, Nevada, yesterday followed Monday's impoundment of 107 cattle near Winnemucca, Nevada. Larry Crutcher was cited by the BLM along with his father, Leonard. Agency officials say the Crutchers ignored warnings for years that their horses were trespassing on federal land....
Don't List the Polar Bear Under the Endangered Species Act The Department of the Interior (DOI), in response to litigation from environmental groups, is considering whether to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For the first time in the history of the ESA, the threat of global warming would be the reason for listing a well-known species. Given the ESA's sweeping powers, such a move would raise energy prices by putting an end to promising new oil and natural gas production in Alaska. Even more troubling, listing the polar bear could be used as a back door to implement global warming policy nationwide by restricting energy production and use throughout the U.S. This would obviously harm the economy and—considering the ESA's poor track record—could also harm the polar bears as well. The President should tell the DOI not to take this highly problematic step....
Suspected “eco-terrorist” on trial
Nearly seven years after an arson caused about $1.5 million in damages to UW’s Center for Urban Horticulture, Briana Waters, 32, will be facing trial on Feb. 11 for her alleged participation in the attack. Federal prosecutors said Waters was a part of the five-person Earth Liberation Front (ELF) team that set fire to professor Toby Bradshaw’s office on May 21, 2001, according to a Jan. 21 article from The Seattle Times (“Arson suspect facing trial”). “Ms. Waters naturally has very little recollection of exactly what she was doing in the early morning hours of May 21, 2001,” said her attorneys Robert Bloom and Neil Fox, in a statement to the Times. “She is, however, certain that one thing she did not do is participate in the arson at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture.” Waters’ trial will be the first of the 18 men and women accused of being involved in the series of attacks that caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to institutions they believe to be threats to the environment and animals. Bradshaw’s research on genetically modifying poplar trees was seen as an “ecological nightmare” for the biodiversity of native forests, according to an ELF news release....
Forest Service, OSHA reach agreement on Esperanza Fire report The U.S. Forest Service has reached a settlement with federal investigators over a report outlining violations of safety standards that led to the deaths of five firefighters during the Esperanza blaze, a spokesman for the fire service said. The settlement, which was announced Friday, comes after negotiations between the Forest Service and officials with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA released a tentative report in July that criticized the crew of Engine 57 and the forest service for committing six serious violations during the October 2006 fire. Serious violations are those that created a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could happen and employers knew or should have known about the danger. An OSHA spokesman said previously that the federal agency sometimes amends its findings after negotiations or an appeal hearing. Under the settlement, two of the six violations were withdrawn and the four others were amended, said Jason Kirchner, public affairs specialist for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service....
Swaths of Tongass opening for logging More than 3 million acres in Alaska's Tongass National Forest is being opened to logging, mining and road building under a new Bush administration decision that supporters say will revive Alaska's timber industry but environmentalists fear will devastate the forest. The Tongass is the largest remnant of the rich coastal rain forest that once stretched from northern California through modern-day Seattle and on to south-central Alaska. The Bush administration on Friday released a revised management plan for the southeast Alaska forest, the largest in the country at nearly 17 million acres. The plan would leave about 3.4 million acres open to logging and other development, including about 2.4 million acres that are now remote and roadless. About 663,000 acres are in areas considered most valuable for timber production....
Access facts hard to run down At the heart of some Montana residents’ discontent with hunting outfitters is the perception that they are responsible for resident hunters’ loss of access to private lands. In addition, outfitters are sometimes vilified for keeping the public from accessing public lands that are landlocked or difficult to access, giving the outfitters and their clients exclusive use of public property and wildlife. Mac Minard, executive director of Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, blamed the media for the public’s negative perception of outfitters. “It is far more popular to bash the outfitting industry and nonresident sportsmen and blame them for all that is wrong with the sporting tradition in Montana,” Minard wrote in an e-mail. Trying to sort out the numbers and replace rhetoric with facts is difficult. Some numbers simply aren’t available, and others don’t tell the whole story....
Utah guv stakes a claim on roads
Employing a 2-year-old state law for the first time, the Governor's Office is claiming ownership of roads that cross federal lands as a way to keep them open to off-highway recreation and oil and gas drilling. The maneuver, which relies on a bill sponsored by Kanab Republican Rep. Mike Noel that passed during the 2003 and 2006 legislative sessions, could be a tidy way to skirt federal law. Or it could set up yet another expensive series of courtroom fights and ratchet up the New West's already intractable civil war over wilderness and access to some of Utah's most beautiful wildlands. The state law allows counties to record the roads on their master land documents. Federal agencies, organizations and other members of the public have 60 days to protest the action in state court. If no one protests, the county assumes ownership of the right of way. In its first action under the 2006 Noel bill, the state's Public Lands Policy Coordination Office has sent a list of 60 Class B roads to Box Elder County for recording, and will do the same with 23 more counties by mid-summer, said coordinator John Harja....
Calif. Farmers Want to Sell Water With water becoming increasingly precious in California, a rising number of farmers figure they can make more money by selling their water than by actually growing something. Because farmers get their water at subsidized rates, some of them see financial opportunity this year in selling their allotments to Los Angeles and other desperately thirsty cities across Southern California, as well as to other farms. "It just makes dollars and sense right now," said Bruce Rolen, a third-generation farmer who grows rice, wheat and other crops in Northern California's lush Sacramento Valley. Instead of sowing in April, Rolen plans to let 100 of his 250 acres of white rice lie fallow and sell his irrigation water on the open market, where it could fetch up to three times the normal price. What effect these deals will have on produce prices remains to be seen, because the negotiations are still going on and it is not yet clear how many acres will be taken out of production. Environmental restrictions, booming demand for water, and persistent drought along the Colorado River have combined to create one of the worst water shortages in California in the past decade, and prices are shooting up in response....
Ban only hurts horses it tries to protect No one likes to contemplate the idea that Flicka will someday end up on the menu in a Paris restaurant, and the success of the ban is certainly seen by many as a step forward in our treatment of animals. Only agriculture groups argued against the ban, and celebrities like Bo Derek and groups like the Humane Society easily defeated them. But repealing the right to turn horses into steaks was easy: It’s more difficult to repeal the law of unintended consequences. Neither the animal rights groups nor the various legislatures have provided funding to take care of horses whose owners can no longer provide for them. Horses eat a lot, and need veterinary care, and clean water, and a place to live. The ability to sell horses to the slaughterhouses was the most efficient, and yes, the most humane way to handle horses whose owners wouldn’t or couldn’t take care of them. Public animal rescue facilities are full, and horses without caring owners have been sentenced to a long, slow, painful death. Three years ago, a fully-grown horse sent to slaughter was worth around $600. Even though only 1 percent of horses were sent to slaughterhouses each year, the ability to market horses in this manner put a floor under horse prices. Now the same horse will net around $30. It costs about $70 per year to vaccinate horses against West Nile and to treat for parasites. It takes about $200 a year for feed to maintain a horse, and that assumes plenty of grass is available. The ban on horse slaughter has guaranteed that more horses will be mistreated and will be abandoned. “We have cases where they have been turned loose in parks,” said Dave Howell of the American Horse Council. “They’ve been turned loose in coal mine areas, they’ve been turned loose on private property.”....
Yaketty yak? Ranchers listening in new way Sitting in the sun munching on a yak burger, Bob Hasse sees the future in a stocky bovine with a thick wooly coat, a gentle disposition and an independent streak. "This is an idiot-proof cattle breed," he says of the yaks he is showing at the National Western Stock Show. "They are definitely the breed of the future in the beef business." Hasse, 58, bought his first yak after moving to a ranch on the Western Slope 10 years ago. He wanted an animal that required little care and could thrive in country where coyotes, mountain lions and bears all have a taste for beef. "A yak will confront its enemy. It wants to be in charge," he said. Yaks are smarter by far than their cousin cattle. Some of those visiting the row of penned yaks gave another reason for enjoying the beasts. "They're adorable," said Tyra Finch, 12, of Parker....
A steak and a smile Occasionally, there comes an idea that everyone can grab a hold of. One that farmers and ranchers can get behind, regardless of where they live or their political leanings. All American Beef Battalion is one of those missions. AABB aims to show support for American soldiers by putting steaks on their plates and smiles on their faces. AABB is the brain child of long-time cattleman and Vietnam war veteran, Bill Broadie. About a year and a half ago, Broadie was tired of hearing all of the bad news about the war and the American soldiers fighting in it. He wondered what he could do. He turned to what he knew--beef--and the good people in the beef industry. All American Beef Battalion was born. Broadie's original idea was to provide a steak to all soldiers in the combat zone. And not just any old steak. AABB wants the steak to be one they will remember, long after the steak knife has been put away. As their goals took shape, Broadie's idea was expanded to include deployment and homecoming steak feeds for soldiers and their families, as well as helping military families in need. AABB hopes to provide "beef debit cards" that will allow those families to buy beef with donated funds....
A Dying Breed GERSHOM MUGIRA COMES from a long line of cattle-keepers. His people, the Bahima, are thought to have migrated into the hilly grasslands of western Uganda more than a thousand years ago, alongside a hardy breed of longhorns known as the Ankole. For centuries, man and beast subsisted there in a tight symbiotic embrace. Mugira’s nomadic ancestors wandered in search of fresh pasture for their cattle, which in turn provided them with milk. It is only within the last few generations that most Bahima have accepted the concept of private property. Mugira’s family lives on a 500-acre ranch, and one sunny day in November, the wiry 26-year-old showed me around, explaining, with some sadness but more pragmatism, why the Ankole breed that sustained his forebears for so many generations is now being driven to extinction. As we walked down the sloped valley path that led to a watering hole, we found a few cows lolling beneath a flat-topped acacia. They looked like the kind of cattle you might encounter in Wisconsin: plump and hornless creatures with dappled black-and-white coats. Mugira, a high-school graduate, was wearing a pair of fashionably baggy jeans and spiffy white sneakers. To a modern African like himself, he said, the most desirable cattle were the American type: the Holsteins. In recent decades, global trade, sophisticated marketing, artificial insemination and the demands of agricultural economics have transformed the Holstein into the world’s predominant dairy breed. Indigenous animals like East Africa’s sinewy Ankole, the product of centuries of selection for traits adapted to harsh conditions, are struggling to compete with foreign imports bred for maximal production....
Stock dog does cowboy's job Much of a dog's score comes from how well each one listens to its handler's commands. Jim Gilligan, one of the five judges, said the dogs know many commands such as right, left, stop or walk up. They respond both to the handler saying the command or whistling. A tone of voice tells the dog to speed up or slow down, and dogs also recognize commands by how loud or soft the handler says them. "It's amazing what the dogs will pick up on," Gilligan said. One third of each dog's score is based on strength. Judges look at whether the dog displays enough power to stop or turn the cattle when challenged. One third of the score comes from obedience, where judges look at how well the dog obeys commands and tries to help its handler accomplish a goal. And one third of the score comes from control. Judges determine how well the dog balances the cattle to the handler and how effectively it keeps the cattle together. They also see if the dog can think for itself and is not overly dependent on the handler....
Rancher turned writer Earl Ray Forehand considers himself a rancher. From the boots on his feet to the cowboy hat without which he won't leave the house, it's a persona that's deeply ingrained. And he's got the black Angus calves out back to prove it. But now Forehand has revealed an alter ego: that of newly published author. A couple of weeks ago, several boxes of freshly printed and bound books arrived at the Forehand home on Cherry Lane, just north of Carlsbad. Inside was the first printing of "The River Calls," a historical novel that tells how Forehand's ancestors converged on Eddy County and helped build the little town of Eddy that would one day become Carlsbad. The book opens just after the fall of the Alamo, when Tennessee farmer Martin Forehand decided to leave his worn out farmland for the reputedly rich land available in Texas. At about the same time, an Indiana man named Levi Lockhart signed up to fight in the Texas war of independence from Mexico. By the time the Civil War rolled around, the two families were still in Texas, but on different sides of the conflict. Rich Forehand hauled cotton to Mexico for the Confederacy, while Joe Lockhart, as a Union soldier, tried to stop the traffic....
Self-rediscovery arises in the West Salt Lake City author Jana Richman began writing her debut novel, The Last Cowgirl, about four years ago. But she's been carrying the book around her entire life. The novel, published this month by William Morrow, was inspired by two pivotal events in Richman's childhood. The first happened when she was about 10 and her father bought a small, run-down ranch near Rush Valley, in Utah's west desert. From then on, Richman grudgingly spent her summers hauling hay and working cattle - experiences, she later realized, that fed her love of the arid West. The second occurred two years later in 1968, when malfunctioning Army jets from Dugway Proving Ground reportedly released nerve gas over a west-desert valley, killing some 6,000 sheep. Richman was amazed to discover that because the Army was the largest employer in the area, residents didn't complain or even discuss the incident publicly. This love-hate relationship between Westerners and the federal government is a key theme of The Last Cowgirl, a bittersweet and redemptive story about a middle-aged woman coming to terms with her past....
Cowboy poets bound for Alpine's annual festival Cowboy poetry lets cowboys tell their story without spangled myth or Hollywood treatment. Tales told in verse about barbed wire, horses and campfire cooking mingle with tributes to friendship, wide-open spaces and philosophies of life that developed during days and nights of solitary work. It's an oral tradition of the American West. More than 40 cowboy poets, storytellers and singers will mosey to Sul Ross State University in Alpine from Feb. 29 through March 2 for the 21st annual Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the country's second-oldest such festival. Over two days, tales will be shared in themed sessions, which are called "recitations," in Sul Ross classrooms, conference rooms and auditoriums adorned for the event with mock cowboy camps and hand-painted backdrops depicting West Texas vistas. At the Alpine gathering, classic cowboy poetry shares the bill with contemporary poetry about modern ranch and cowboy life. Cowboy music and nonrhyming storytelling about cowboys and Western life also are included....