Friday, January 30, 2009

Mountain lion shot near school, dies in garage

The AP reports:

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says a Scottsbluff police officer shot a mountain lion that had wandered into a neighborhood. Conservation officer Scott Brandt says the 70-pound female cat was seen in a tree near Scottsbluff High School on Sunday morning. When she came down from the tree, the police officer shot her, causing critical injuries. The cat ran, but was found in a garage a few blocks away. Brandt says the cat was then euthanized with a dart gun. Mountain lions — also known as cougars, pumas, panthers or catamounts — became a protected species under Nebraska law in 1995 and can’t be hunted. They can be killed if they are threatening livestock or the safety of others.

World heads for 'water bankruptcy', says Davos report

Grist reports:

The world is heading toward "water bankruptcy" as demand for the precious commodity outstrips even high population growth, a new report warned Friday. In less than 20 years water scarcity could lose the equivalent of the entire grain crops of India and the United States, said the World Economic Forum report, which added that food demand is expected to sky-rocket in coming decades. Water has been consistently under-priced in many regions and has been wasted and overused, the report said. Many places in the world are on the verge of "water bankruptcy" following a series of regional water "bubbles" over the past 50 years. The report said that energy production accounts for about 39 percent of all water used in the United States and 31 percent of water withdrawals in the EU. Only three percent is actually consumed, but competition for access to water will intensify over the next two decades. Water requirements for energy are expected to grow by as much as 165 percent in the United States and 130 percent in the EU, putting a major "squeeze" on water for agriculture, said the WEF.

EPA board to review Navajo coal plant air permit

News From Indian Country reports:

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency appeals board has agreed to review the approval of an air permit for a proposed coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation, but carbon dioxide emissions won’t be part of that process. The EPA issued an air permit for the Desert Rock power plant in July. The state of New Mexico and a group of conservationists sought a review, citing concerns over air quality, carbon dioxide emissions and violations of the Endangered Species Act. The Environmental Appeals Board granted the review in an order filed recently. The board intends to hear oral arguments after allowing the parties to file additional briefs. The only issue that won’t be under review is whether limits on carbon dioxide emissions are required for the plant. The EPA’s regional office in San Francisco withdrew the portion of the permit related to such emissions and opened up a revised statement for public comment.

New scrutiny for Interior unit

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday that he has ordered a re-examination of the scandalized Interior Department division based in Lakewood, including why the U.S. Justice Department did not pursue more criminal prosecutions. Two convictions resulted from a wide-ranging inspector-general inquiry that last year exposed improper relationships between Minerals Management Service employees and energy firms, in addition to self-dealing by some staffers. As many as 10 people were terminated or disciplined. But Salazar stressed that he wants to examine why Bush administration prosecutors in the public-integrity unit didn't pursue criminal cases against others. "There's a new sheriff in town," Salazar said during a news conference at the MMS complex. "We will be visiting with the new U.S. attorney general and take a new look at it."

From the Denver Post.

Salazar to take preservation nationwide

The Durango Heraldreports:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants to invigorate a national land conservation program based on a successful Colorado organization. In his first briefing for reporters as head of the Department of the Interior, the former Colorado senator said he wants to revamp the royalty system for federal gas and oil leases and use some of the money to preserve farms, ranches and rivers. His inspiration is Great Outdoors Colorado, he said. The organization has helped preserve 700,000 acres statewide since 1994, GOCO spokeswoman Chris Leding said. Salazar helped write the 1992 constitutional amendment that created GOCO, and he was the group's first chairman. The group uses lottery money to buy open space and conservation easements, which pays farmers and ranchers to leave their property undeveloped.

Alaskans brace for volcanic eruption

A volcano just 100 miles from Alaska's largest city has stirred back to life after nearly 20 years of tranquility, sparking a round-the-clock eruption watch, seismologists said Thursday. The fresh wave of seismic activity at Mount Redoubt suggests that the eruption could occur within days or weeks, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported. Redoubt's renewed tremors sparked worries about potential ashfall in Anchorage, where city officials advised residents to stock up on supplies ranging from extra food and water to respirators, plastic bags and windshield washer fluid.


Boy Scouts dispose of land holdings

From the Houston Chronicle

The last large stand of woods in a Seattle suburb. A unique desert canyon just outside of Los Angeles. Rangelands deep in the heart of Texas. All are set to be felled, filled and bulldozed so that stately homes, a sprawling reservoir and perhaps even a massive hydroelectric dam may one day rise in their place. Aside from their still unspoiled settings, the lands share another common bond: The Boy Scouts of America sold them for development. From Arizona to Virginia, New York to Washington, senior housing complexes, retail offices, even a casino’s golf course have risen in place of timberlands and green spaces where boys once learned about nature. Over the past 20 years, local Boy Scouts administrations across America have reaped tens of millions of dollars from selling decades-old campgrounds and other properties.

Advocates want bison managed as wild animals

The Casper Star-Tribune reports:

A coalition of bison advocates and owners of property near Yellowstone National Park said Thursday that bison wandering out of Yellowstone should be managed by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, rather than by livestock interests. A long line of people asked a legislative committee to support a bill dubbed the Wild Bison Recovery and Conservation Act. Primarily, the measure would make the wildlife agency rather than the Montana Department of Livestock responsible for managing bison that wander out of Yellowstone. Opponents, mainly ranchers, said the proposal puts them at risk. The bill's sponsor said management of bison has been bungled by the Department of Livestock, which answers to a board run by ranchers. Rep. Mike Phillips of Bozeman said that after two decades, policies of the livestock agency have failed to prevent transmission of brucellosis, a disease found in some Yellowstone wildlife, to domestic animals. He said the Department of Livestock has slaughtered bison even if they were not really a threat. Interests of ranchers have trumped the interests of hunters and other landowners, said Phillips, a Democrat.

Feral hog population threatens NM agriculture industry

From the Portales News-Tribune

The feral hog is rapidly becoming the new coyote, or pest, for farmers across eastern New Mexico, a state agriculutural official said Thursday at the 41st annual Agricultural and Home Economics Seminar in Tucumcari. State officials outlined the problem as well as a creative program still being developed to help control feral hogs. Feral or wild hogs damage land and crops and carry at least 37 parasites that can affect people, pets, livestock and wildlife, said New Mexico Department of Agriculture disease biologist Justin Stevenson. Stevenson said feral hogs can also be carriers of bovine tuberculosis and pseudo-rabies. “When a feral hog spreads the pseudo-rabies to livestock, it usually results in...death,” Stevenson said. “The livestock start exhibiting symptoms such as a mad itch and die within one day.” The agency is working on a new way to cut back the population of the wild omnivore population in New Mexico. The population control program has been dubbed the “Judas Hog Operation.” The program would release a sterilized female feral hog into the wild. The female would be equipped with a tracking collar. Once located with a pack of hogs, the hogs would be killed and the female would be released again to locate another pack.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Salazar vows review of Interior scandals

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is calling for a top-to-bottom review of ethical misconduct and reforms at the Interior Department, raising the possibility that investigations closed by the Bush administration may be reopened. Appearing at the White House, Salazar told reporters Wednesday the department over the last eight years "has been tarnished by ethical lapses and criminal behavior that has extended to the very highest levels of government." He said he wants his own review of what happened, what has been done to address it and what steps still need to be taken.

From the AP

Grim water outlook for Nevada and California

The AP reports:

Experts have offered a grim water outlook for Nevada and California, saying farmers can again expect to receive less water than normal this year because of a drought. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials, meeting with water users at a conference last week in Reno, said the snowpack water content is again averaging below normal so far this winter in both states. In Nevada, it's currently running 71 percent in the Lake Tahoe basin, 68 percent in both the Truckee River and Carson River watersheds, 62 percent in the Walker River basin and 78 percent in the Humboldt River watershed, said Kenneth Parr, the agency's Lahontan Basin Area Office manager in Carson City. Parr said that in addition to his fear for farmers, he also is concerned about the impact of a skimpy snowpack on smaller ski resorts around Lake Tahoe. Ron Milligan, the bureau's Central Valley operations manager in Sacramento, Calif., said his office's initial water allocations will be "relatively low" this year because of the drought. His office, which oversees farmers in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, plans to wait until Feb. 20 to announce specific figures to gain a better idea of the Sierra snowpack.

Judge orders 10-day jail term for bison slaughter

From the Denver Post:

A 45-year-old Texas businessman who engineered the slaughter of 32 bison in South Park last winter was sentenced today to 10 days in the Park County jail for cruelty to animals. Park County District Court Judge Stephen Groome said he would have given Jeffrey Hawn a longer jail term if he could, but he was bound by a plea agreement between Hawn's lawyer and the district attorney's office. Groome said that the manner in which the animals were killed — sometimes riddled with as many as eight bullets — was appalling.

If you have any interest in where this country is going on animal rights, read this article.

The Judge finds the killing of the bison "appalling" and "severe cruelty" and the County Sheriff's employee who investigated the incident said it was "horrific." True, they didn't follow the hunters code, but "appalling", "severe cruelty", "horrific"? The Native Americans used to run them off cliffs for god's sake.

Sadly, you won't read one single quote or comment from the public officials about one man destroying another man's property.

County suing federal government to get road

The Press-Enterprise reports:

San Bernardino County officials this week agreed to sue the federal government to gain control of a 42-mile stretch of mostly dirt road that cuts through undeveloped public land between Barstow and the San Bernardino Mountains. The county's 6-year-old effort to wrest legal rights to Camp Rock Road from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has raised concerns among some environmentalists, who say they fear county control could put wildlife at risk. San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said the county has no plans to pave or otherwise improve the road, which he said is used principally by recreationists and miners. The county already maintains it. "We just seek to keep it open for the various uses, as it has been many years," Mitzelfelt said. "We have an obligation as a county to keep it as a county road." He added that the county is also in court to fight road closures on public land in the Mojave National Preserve.

Too bad more counties don't protect their rights and thus their citizens. Dona Ana County refused to sue even when someone else was paying all the costs.

Reflectors on fences can keep grouse from killing themselves

The Idaho Statesman reports:

By adding reflectors to fences funded by the federal government on public lands, managers can reduce one of the major killers of sage grouse. Environmental Defense says the relatively inexpensive addition to the thousands of miles of fence build on public lands can help the bird that is facing listing as an endangered species and its Midwest cousin the prairie chicken. Studies have shown wire fencing to be a major cause of death for sage grouse and prairie chickens, which live in 15 states across the West. The birds cannot see the thin wires and fly into them. A study in Oklahoma found that fence collisions caused 39.8 percent of lesser prairie chicken deaths from known causes, and a similar study in Utah found fence collisions responsible for 18 percent of sage grouse deaths. Since 2005, the Bureau of Land Management has built 3,150 miles of fencing in the 15 affected states, at a cost of about $10,000 per mile. The Natural Resources Conservation Service funds more than 1,000 miles of fencing each year in the counties where the birds live, at roughly the same cost. For an extra $200 per mile -- or a two percent cost increase -- all new fencing could be built with reflectors or flagging.

Tying Economic Package to Energy and Environment Plan Is Not Workable

Ben Lieberman writes that a green stimulus is a contradiction in terms, that renewable energy is anti-stimulus and that the proposals are just throwing new money after old:

Several leading environmentalists even admit that reduced economic growth is part of their strategy. For example, scientist and activist John Holdren, President Obama's choice for chief science advisor, once stated that "[a] massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States."[3] The environmental movement's many successes in imposing this agenda has for decades been a drag on the economy and a net destroyer of jobs, especially high-wage blue-collar jobs in such areas as manufacturing and energy production. And even when environmental obstructionists do not ultimately prevail, their routine use of protracted litigation and other delay tactics would almost certainly negate any attempts at an immediate boost to the economy. Granted, the environmental community does support some politically correct projects for things like renewable energy, public transportation, and efficiency improvements in buildings. These types of endeavors will comprise the green component of the stimulus package. But in terms of economic activity and jobs, these items are miniscule compared to the myriad activities environmentalist continue to oppose, including virtually all heavy industry, the production and use of the fossil fuels, and many if not most major construction projects such as new roads and housing developments.

Group to sue U.S. over rare species

From a MarketWatch report:

An environmental group announced Wednesday it plans to sue the U.S. government for not protecting 21 species of plants and animals. WildEarth Guardians said it filed three notices of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The species involved include six plants, a salamander, a tortoise, a bird, seven mollusks, a crayfish, two insects and two mammals. Collectively, they are found in 19 states. Nicole Rosmarino, a spokeswoman for the group, said the service under the Bush administration failed to investigate whether 12 species should be listed under the Endangered Species Act, failed to give protection to eight and placed one on a waiting list. She said WildEarth Guardians hopes President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be more sensitive to endangered wildlife.

Shutting off the water pumps to save delta smelt unwarranted

This opinion piece originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle:

There's great cause for concern over the biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the form of a new rules to protect the delta smelt, a fish species that is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. That's because millions of Californians depend upon the continued operation of two large irrigation projects for a reliable supply of water. And the scientific reasons for shutting them down to protect the smelt are dubious at best. Myriad factors negatively affect the well-being of the delta smelt. These include, but are not limited to, a low food supply, presence of predatory fish and a toxic water habitat for the smelt. The pumps play a role through entrainment, meaning that smelt can sometimes get sucked into the pumps. But the significance of this and how it affects the species is unknown. No one knows how many smelt are in the delta. Moreover, no study has shown a definitive link between the pumps and smelt viability. As a federal judge overseeing litigation concerning the delta smelt has noted, there is no one cause for the smelt's decline.

U.S.-Canada Commission Will Halt Drive To Tear Down a Couple’s Backyard Wall

From the Pacific Legal Foundation:

In a victory for Americans’ property rights against infringements by international regulatory agencies, Herbert and Shirley-Ann Leu of Blaine, Washington, will get to keep the four-foot retaining wall that they built in their backyard, and the U.S.-Canada International Boundary Commission will cease its drive to have the wall torn down. The agreement was filed today in federal court in Seattle, as a formal settlement of a lawsuit brought by PLF attorneys on behalf of the Leus. The Leus’ home in Blaine is right next to the Canadian border. As retirees, they live on fixed pension and Social Security benefits. In November, 2006, they built a four-foot concrete retaining wall to keep their yard from washing into the ditch behind their property. But in February, 2007, the United States International Boundary Commission, an obscure federal agency with ill-defined powers, declared that the wall must be destroyed immediately because it allegedly encroaches slightly onto a “boundary vista” that extends 10 feet each way across the United States-Canadian border. “This demolition order was unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional,” said PLF attorney Hodges. “There were no formal hearings or condemnation proceedings. No legal precedents were cited to back up the demand. And the Leus weren’t offered a penny in compensation.”

Montana Man Loses Hunting Ban Fight

From the Mountain States Legal Foundation:

A Montana man who challenged a state regulation barring him from hunting on his family’s private property that lies inside an Indian reservation learned today that the Supreme Court of the United States would not review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which upheld a Montana federal district court’s ruling against him. Randy Roberts has the right to use 1,500 acres of deeded property within the exterior boundaries of the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Mr. Roberts, who is a non-Indian, operates a commercial bird shooting preserve, licensed by the State of Montana, on that property; however, for more than 35 years he has not hunted big game on the property because he is prohibited from doing so by Montana State law, which provides that only tribal members may hunt big game within the boundaries of a reservation.

Outdoor shooting in Arizona imperilled

Alan Korwin writes in Read It News:

Do you remember the Forest Service meetings several years back? The announced purpose was to improve and enhance outdoor shooting in the National Forests, the main place everyone used to go. The actual result was closure of more than 80,000 acres to shooting -- all the places near Phoenix metro (they're all listed in The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide ) that people had used for decades. The details are posted here. Now the Bureau of Land Management is holding hearings on the use of Table Mesa Road off I-17 for outdoor marksmanship. This is one of the few remaining outdoor spots for target practice anywhere near Phoenix metro, and it gets a lot of use.

Feds return ancient jar to NM pueblo

The U.S. Attorney's Office and investigators with the Bureau of Land Management returned an ancient clay jar to its rightful owners Wednesday after it had been stolen from a New Mexico archaeological site. Dignitaries of Acoma Pueblo accepted the jar, called an olla, during a ceremony. The jar was made sometime between 900 and 1100 A.D. Archeologists believe it may have originally served as a vessel for food left for travelers along the Zuni-Acoma trail in western New Mexico.

Reported by

Stimulatin' STDs - $400 million

From the Washington Times:

The two sides of Capitol Hill appear to be engaging in a bidding war to see who can put more money toward the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases in its version of the economic stimulus bill. The House included $335 million in its package. But the Senate, not to be outdone, provided $400 million in STD spending in its bill.

There are so many things I could say...

PBS: NSA could have prevented 9/11 hijackings

Muriel Kane writes:

The super-secretive National Security Agency has been quietly monitoring, decrypting, and interpreting foreign communications for decades, starting long before it came under criticism as a result of recent revelations about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Now a forthcoming PBS documentary asks whether the NSA could have prevented 9/11 if it had been more willing to share its data with other agencies. Author James Bamford looked into the performance of the NSA in his 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, and found that it had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden's operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden's satellite phone, starting in 1996. "The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington," Bamford told PBS.

Please remember, this was before the PATRIOT Act and all the other recent incursions into our civil rights and privacy. They didn't use the tools they had, but still used 9/11 as the excuse to grab more power. The federal law enforcement agencies have these legislative proposals sitting on the shelf, just waiting for the next crisis. For example, much of the PATRIOT Act was originally proposed by Clinton after the OKC bombing, but was rejected by the Republican Congress. So it went back on the shelf, 9/11 occurs and off the shelf it comes and is approved by both R's & D's. Later, encouraged by their success, Bush proposed PATRIOT II. The bill went nowhere and is back on the shelf...just waiting for the next "crisis."

Don't Confirm Holder

Professor Halbrook writes in Human Events on Eric Holder's nomination to the Justice Department:

Holder is a long-time adherent of the chicanery that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” means no such thing, and instead only protects a state’s power to conscript a person into a militia. He said as much in a friend-of-the-court brief filed just last year supporting a total handgun ban in District of Columbia v. Heller. The Supreme Court fortunately disagreed, holding that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to have a handgun for self defense. Asked at his nomination hearing if he would support the Heller decision if the Court reconsidered it, he replied irrelevantly that it would depend on the “facts” and that precedent is “a factor” he would consider. The evasive response makes clear that he would seek to blot out the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights. Even if he is stuck with Heller for now, it’s no problem for Holder, as he doesn’t think that any infringement of the right is “infringement.” He wants to reenact the expired “assault weapons” ban in which that derogatory term is applied to whatever firearm he doesn’t like. Yet Heller held that firearms that are commonly possessed by law-abiding persons are constitutionally protected. He wants to “close the gun show loophole,” the left’s code phrase for making any private transfer of a firearm without government permission a felony, and for registering all gun owners with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). He advocated that just after hijackers armed with box cutters struck on 9/11. Speaking of gun shows, anyone who so much as “plans” one should go to prison unless they are registered with the ATF, Holder proposes....

Dr. Halbrook testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Holder nomination. You can view his testimony here.

Panel Backs Justice Dept. Nominee, Republican Revolt Fizzles

The NY Times reports:

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved, and sent to the full Senate, the nomination of Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the nation’s 82nd attorney general. The committee vote was 17 to 2, with only two Republicans, Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, voting against the nomination. Some Republicans had hoped to make the Holder nomination a demonstration of party strength in the face of a Democratic-controlled White House and Congress. But the air went out of that effort even before Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican, said on Tuesday that he would support Mr. Holder’s nomination. The nomination of Mr. Holder, who would be the nation’s first African-American attorney general, will go to the Senate floor in the next few days.

Obama lawyers set to defend Yoo

Josh Gerstein, reporting for

In Democratic legal circles, no attorney has been more pilloried than former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, chief author of the so-called torture memos that Barack Obama last week sought to nullify. But now President Obama’s incoming crew of lawyers has a new and somewhat awkward job: defending Yoo in federal court. Next week, Justice Department lawyers are set to ask a San Francisco federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought against Yoo by Jose Padilla, a New York man held without charges on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda operative plotting to set off a “dirty bomb.” The suit contends that Yoo’s legal opinions authorized Bush to order Padilla’s detention in a Navy brig in South Carolina and encouraged military officials to subject Padilla to aggressive interrogation techniques, including death threats and long-term sensory deprivation. That’s not all. On Thursday, Justice Department lawyers are slated to be in Charleston, S.C., to ask a federal magistrate there to dismiss another lawsuit charging about a dozen current and former government officials with violating Padilla’s rights in connection with his unusual detention on U.S. soil, without charges or a trial.

In other words, defend the state at all costs, even if you think they are wrong.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Firms aim to tap NM's deep water

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports on private firms seeking to harvest deep water before the state legislature acts on a bill to regulate same:

Private interests are rushing to tap lightly regulated supplies of briny water deep under New Mexico before the state can adopt new laws aimed at gaining more control over the valuable commodity. On Monday, five companies with undisclosed ownership notified the state engineer that they intend to drill deep wells in the Santa Fe area and pump out up to 24 billion gallons a year. They are among various companies that in the past year have been preparing to exploit a rare, unappropriated water supply that underlies the Rio Grande Valley before the New Mexico Legislature considers a bill that could give the state engineer authority over deep wells. The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday recommended passage of House Bill 19, sponsored by Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. However, the bill's fate is uncertain. While the state engineer is charged with managing New Mexico's water, state law contains an exception — wells that tap into aquifers that start at least 2,500 feet below the land's surface, contain briny water and are disconnected from upper aquifers.

Hat Tip Cocoposts

Biofuel firms hope for share of stimulus cash

The Houston Chronicle reports:

If things go as Houston Rep. Gene Green hopes, the area’s biofuel producers would qualify for some of the $8 billion in federal loan guarantees contained in the proposed $825 billion economic stimulus package facing House action on Wednesday. The White House-backed loan guarantees for renewable energy production are part of a broad effort by the Obama administration to expand alternative energy sources, But the bill does not contain incentives for the biofuels producers in Houston. Green, D-Houston, told the Chronicle that the area’s facilities could qualify for some of the loan guarantees if Congress broadens the definition of alternative energy production.

They are all lining up at the trough.

Gore: ‘We Need to Put a Price on Carbon’

The AP reports:

Former Vice President Al Gore is urging Congress not to be sidetracked by the current financial crisis and to take "decisive action" this year to reduce the heat-trapping gases responsible for global warming. Gore, scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, planned to tell lawmakers that a bill capping greenhouse gas emissions is needed if the U.S. is to play a leading role in negotiations for a new international climate treaty. He also was pressing Congress to pass President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, saying investments in clean energy and green jobs will help dig the country out of its economic rut, according to his prepared testimony....

Climate Change Guru May Be Special ‘Envoy of Disappointment,’ Critic Charges


Signaling a departure from the Bush administration’s environmental policies, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has named Todd Stern as special envoy for climate change and vowed that America will “vigorously pursue negotiations, those sponsored by the United Nations, and those at sub-global, regional, and bilateral level that can lead to binding international climate agreements.” In his acceptance speech on Monday, Stern, a veteran of the Clinton administration, also foreshadowed the United States signing on to international environmental treaties, including the Kyoto Protocol. “The time for denial, delay, and dispute is over,” Stern said. “The time for the United States to take up its rightful place at the table is here.” But William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market group, said Stern and the State Department cannot act unilaterally to approve global agreements. “No international agreement is going to be binding. No treaty is going to be binding unless the Senate were to approve it,” Yeatman told, adding that the Senate has a history of voting against legislation that agrees to environmental standards that could harm the U.S. economy....

Salazar on executive position, disses Cheney and White House

Interior Secretary Salazar tells the Rocky Mountain News he's more executive than legislative:

"I am much more comfortable being in an executive position than in dealing with the very slow, deliberative processes of the U.S. Senate," Salazar said in his first sit-down interview since joining President Barack Obama's cabinet last week. He said he respects the institution of the Senate. "And I dearly love my fellow senators, both Democrat and Republican," he said. "But it is a slow process in terms of getting things across the finish line and having an impact on humanity in a positive way."

Salazar says DOI was run out of the White House and blames Cheney:

Salazar blames the highest levels of the White House, specifically former Vice President Dick Cheney's "rifle-shot agenda" to "drill under every rock" for creating some of the culture in the department he now wants to change. "I think the door was opened to the special interests," Salazar said. "And I think that's what created many of the problems." "I think this department was very much run out of the White House, as opposed to having a strong Secretary of Interior who developed a strong mission for the Interior Department and then executed that mission," he said.

Salazar on energy, endangered species

At his first formal press conference since being confirmed as Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar said he was "very concerned about a number of the midnight actions that were taken by the Bush administration."

The Chicago Tribune reports,

Salazar said the list of the late-inning decisions to be reviewed include starting the process for resumption of oil exploration in coastal areas, the move to open federal land near national parks for oil and natural gas drilling, opening parts of the Mountain West for oil shale development and several rulings on the Endangered Species Act.Almost all the Bush decisions were strongly opposed by environmental groups, many of which supported Barack Obama in last year's election.

On offshore drilling the AP reports:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the expansion of offshore oil drilling should be worked out with Congress as part of a broad energy blueprint. In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Salazar indicated the broad drilling plan left on his desk by the Bush administration likely will be scrapped. It would open the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts for drilling. Salazar declined to single out any waters considered automatically off limits to oil exploration. But he said he wants to work with Congress on "a plan that makes sense." And he said while some offshore waters are appropriate for energy development, "there are others that are not."

Geography Is Dividing Democrats Over Energy

The NY Times reports on the brown state-green state clash:

Already, the Congressional Democrats Mr. Obama will need to carry out his mandate are feuding with one another. By coincidence or design, most of the policy makers on Capitol Hill and in the administration charged with shaping legislation to address global warming come from California or the East Coast, regions that lead the country in environmental regulation and the push for renewable energy sources. That is a problem, says a group of Democratic lawmakers from the Midwest and Plains States, which are heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing. The lawmakers have banded together to fight legislation they think might further damage their economies.

Interior Ignored Science When Limiting Water to Grand Canyon

The Wahington Post has uncovered documents which suggest DOI distorted it's environmental assessment to protect itself in court:

Interior Department officials ignored key scientific findings when they limited water flows in the Grand Canyon to optimize generation of electric power there, risking damage to the ecology of the spectacular national landmark, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. A Jan. 15 memo written by Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin suggests that the department produced a flawed environmental assessment to defend its actions against environmentalists in court. The Grand Canyon Trust, an advocacy group, has sued Interior for reducing the flow of water from Glen Canyon Dam at night, when consumer demand for electricity is low, on the grounds that the policy hurts imperiled fish species such as the endangered humpback chub and erodes the canyon's beaches. "The government's brief as presented continues to misinterpret key scientific findings related to the humpback chub, status of downstream resources in Grand Canyon, and the need for the Secretary to acknowledge [National Park Service] authorities and responsibilities to protect resources under [National Park Service] administration," Martin wrote in a memo that The Post obtained from the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Martin added that his agency continues to fear that the current policy "will significantly impair Grand Canyon resources."

Real Power In Washington Resides In Person Of Environmental Chief

Margo Thorning pens this oolumn at IBD:

Think the most powerful person in the U.S. government is President Obama? Think again. It reality it may be Environmental Protection Agency Chief Lisa Jackson. In the race for action on climate change and to curb man-made greenhouse gases that moves swifter than the pace of legislative change, many are turning to the EPA and the Clean Air Act, which empowered the federal government to enforce clean air standards to improve human health and living conditions. If President Obama moves to classify carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant to be regulated by the EPA, as he pledged during the campaign, the change in policy could significantly alter the lives of Americans. While the Clean Air Act has been legitimately and usefully used to combat ozone depletion, acid rain, pollution and smog, using it to curb greenhouse gases is about as good an idea as using a power drill to do brain surgery...

Environmentalists call on appointee to end waste

From the Casper Star-Tribune:

Western environmentalists are holding the Obama administration to its pledge to make the federal government more efficient, asking that it investigate several natural resource programs they describe as wasteful and environmentally harmful. WildEarth Guardians sent a letter Tuesday to Nancy Killefer, President Barack Obama's new chief performance officer. She was hired earlier this month to make federal programs more efficient and to help eliminate those that don't work. John Horning, WildEarth Guardians executive director, said the administration's interest in stamping out waste can have a positive impact on the environment aside from chipping away at the federal deficit. The group also claims revenue is being lost on public lands grazing. Ranchers were charged the federal minimum of $1.35 per cow per month to graze public land last year, while grazing fees on equivalent private land averaged $15.90 in 2007, according to the letter.

Where is the call for market value charged for recreational use of the federal lands? Or, does their crusade for efficiency only apply to programs they don't like.

Gates Backs Army Commitment On Pinon Canyon Land

From this AP story:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he will support any commitment the Army has made not to condemn private land to expand its Pinon Canyon maneuver site in southeastern Colorado. "I'm not familiar with the details, but if the Army has made that commitment to you then I would stand behind it," Gates told Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gates also said he will try to get the Army to respond to questions raised by the Government Accountability Office about why the Army was able to reduce the amount of land it wants to acquire from 418,577 acres to 100,000 acres and how much of that land would be used for actual training.

Udall stops short of backing Pinon Canyon cutoff

From the Pueblo Chieftain:

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall repeated his complaint Tuesday that the Army has still failed to justify its request to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, but the freshman Democrat stopped short of saying he would help block any funding for the Army's effort to purchase another 100,000 acres just south of the training site. The Las Animas County commissioners gave unanimous support this morning to a resolution asking Congress to block any expansion whether the Army can find a willing seller or not. That is tougher language than opponents of the expansion have used in the past. The 238,000-acre training site northeast of Trinidad is entirely within the Las Animas County and adding another 100,000 acres would shrink the county's tax base further. Udall said he hadn't seen the commissioners' latest resolution but said the recent Government Accountability Office studies of the expansion left many questions unanswered, such as how often the Army uses the current Pinon Canyon site and why it was willing to shave its land acquisition plan from 414,000 acres to just 100,000 acres.

Texan could face jail in bison deaths

Jeffrey Hawn, who authorized the shooting of 32 bison on his ranch, could face jail time according to the Denver Post:

Forty-five-year-old Jeffrey Hawn could be sentenced to up to 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to one count of criminal mischief and one count of cruelty to animals. He already has served 100 hours of community service and paid $157,000 in restitution, plus accepted two years of probation. As part of the sentencing process, the court accepted letters from people affected by the slaughter. Hawn's family wrote, and there is a previous letter from the victim, South Park rancher Monte Downare. His bison had wandered onto Hawn's property, and Hawn became increasingly angry.

Another use for national monuments

This Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 photograph provided by the Colorado National Monument shows a 1987 Dodge van that got stuck on a rock overhang , near Grand Junction, Colo., after the driver sent the vehicle off a cliff in an apparent suicide attempt. The 34-year-old male driver survived the incident. But park officials said that 27 people attempted suicide at the national monument last year, which has prompted administrators to train staff at entrances and visitor centers in suicide prevention. AP photo

Calling All Dutch Oven Cooks

Come to cook --- see how Dutch Oven cooking is done --- come to eat --- listen to music --- or just visit with the happy crowd at the Southwest New Mexico 7th Annual Dutch Oven Cook-Off on Saturday, March 28 in Glenwood, New Mexico!

The event will be held again at the Glenwood Community Park on CatWalk Road in Glenwood, New Mexico (just an hour north of Silver City)

This email is being sent to give some folks plenty of time to think about entering this year.

In previous years, we had cooks from Glenwood, Cliff, Gila, Reserve, Albuquerque, Cuba, Las Cruces, Silver City (New Mexico) and communities in Arizona.

Everyone is welcome to enter, no matter where you call home!

(If you need overnight lodging, there are several unique motels in Glenwood.)

Those interested in entering as a Dutch Oven Cook this year, please contact: Event Organizers:

Leah Jones (Glenwood) (575) 539-2800 Email ~
Linda Locklar (Silver City) Email ~
Zana Wood (Las Cruces) (575) 805.7170 Email ~

These ladies can give you all the details, but here are the basics:

Cooking categories are one pot or three pots (Main Dish, Bread, Dessert). Cooks can enter on their own, or as a team. Entry fee ~ $ 15 for Single Pot, $ 30 for Three Pots.

Cooks can set up their camp and start their fires at 8:00 am. Some entrants bring cowboy-camp setups, teepees and tents, and one entry even drives a mule-drawn chuckwagon to camp! (The Glenwood Park features shady trees and open spaces for camp set-ups)

There will be a Cooks’ Meeting at 9:45 AM. Cooking time is from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm., during which time spectators always enjoy going from camp to camp, seeing “what’s cookin’” and getting to know the cooks. Judging is done on Presentation, Cleanliness, and Taste.

After the Judges have tasted all the dishes and are tabulating their results, here comes the best part of the day ~ about 3:00 pm, Dutch Oven cooks bring their pots to the Pavilion, multitudes of folks show up to purchase Taster Plates ($5.00 for adults, $2.00 for children under 12), and the “Tasters’ Delight” eatin’ begins! Each Dutch Oven cook will put a spoonful of their dish on each plate, and there are usually about 30-40 different dishes on the buffet line.

We have some musicians lined up to entertain on this special day, and invite others to join in the fun!

Tables and benches are provided for the diners, and after everyone is served, Awards and prizes are presented to the winning cooks. (Proceeds from this event each year go towards the upkeep of the Glenwood Community Park.)

Glenwood’s Dutch Oven Cook-Off was first started by Wendy Peralta, owner of the Glenwood Trading Post, in 2003. Each year since, the event has grown --- in size, number of cooks, and fun! This event is reminiscent of the old days when members of small communities would gather for shared food and “visiting.” This is the seventh annual year for the Dutch Oven, and it promises to be another memorable occasion, one you won’t want to miss!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bingaman, Udall support logging as stimulus

Rocky Barker, columnist and reporter for the Idaho Statesman, writes:

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined a bipartisan group of senators urging the stimulus package include $1.52 billion in funding to log and thin national forests to reduce the potential for huge fires. The money, which would be spent over two years, would go to the $2.75 billion worth of hazardous fuel reduction projects identified by the Forest Service. Sen. Ron Wyden, the principal author of a letter calling for the spending, said it would create 50,000 jobs. In additional to Wyden, Crapo and Risch, the letter was signed by Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Montana Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and New Mexico Democrats Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They said the projects will quickly create jobs and help rural communities. "The projects would also lead to significant cost savings in the long term as the reduction of the hazardous fuel loads and the restoration of forest health would help prevent uncharacteristic and costly wildfires."....

Army's Pinon plan still under fire

Opposition is still running strong, according to the Pueblo Chieftan:

There is a new president in the White House and a new Congress in office, but the Las Animas County commissioners want them to know that some things don't change - especially the county's opposition to the Army expanding the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site northeast of Trinidad. "We're asking Congress to bar the Army from considering any further expansion of Pinon Canyon, period," Commissioner Gary Hill said Monday. "We've lived with this hanging over our heads for the past four years and that's enough." The three-member board of commissioners is meeting at 10:30 a.m. today to consider the new resolution of opposition, which contains tougher wording than previous resolutions. In this case, the commissioners are asking Colorado's federal lawmakers to shut the federal wallet and prevent any further expansion of the 238,000-acre training area, whether the Army can find a willing land seller or not.

Madeleine Pickens Steps Up to Rescue 30,000 Mustangs

This story, from Bloomberg, tells more about the plan and about Madeleine Pickens than previous news accounts:

Madeleine Pickens wore a brilliant orange-and-black scarf printed with leaping mustangs for our meeting -- and not just because she’s an ardent supporter of wild horses. “These are my husband’s school colors, so I got this for the football games,” she said...The rescue plan calls for transporting 8,000 to 10,000 mustangs by helicopter to the preserve in the first year. Many of the horses would be neutered, and contraceptive controls would help maintain the herd at about 30,000. Pickens wants to create more than a sanctuary. She envisions a nonprofit eco-destination with RVs, teepees, and environmental education programs supplementing the main event -- the experience of seeing horses in the wild. “Imagine the Americans who have never seen the wild mustang,” says Pickens, who only this year enjoyed that experience herself in a helicopter over Nevada. “I can tell you it is absolutely life-changing.” Pickens is setting up a foundation, which she expects will attract tax-deductible donations and corporate sponsors. The foundation is not yet named, nor is the land purchase a done deal, though she now has the short list down to three parcels. She won’t disclose their location until a deal is struck...

Get ready for Picken's Pintos and Madeleine's Mares to replace Disney as the top tourist destination.

Kane County, BLM can't agree on road-maintenance solution

There's been a long simmering dispute in Utah and in particular Kane County, over road jurisdiction and RS2477. The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the latest controversy:

The Kane County Commission met with officials of the Bureau of Land Management on Monday night to try to work out an agreement over snow removal and other maintenance on roads across public lands. The county claims a recent U.S. District Court ruling by Judge Tena Campbell wrongly took away its authority and jurisdiction to maintain the roads on BLM land in and around the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, forcing them to create a new snow-removal policy. The county has appealed that ruling. The BLM officials claim that the county can continue to maintain the roads, including snow removal, as in the past under existing maintenance agreements with the county reached in 1972 and 1977 that have never been abolished. County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw on Monday claimed the county maintained the roads prior to Campbell's ruling because the roads belonged to the county under provisions of a congressional statute from the 1860s, S2477, which allowed for the creation of roads on most public land to facilitate settlement in the West. Though the statute was revised in 1977, it grandfathered in roads claimed by counties prior to the change. Kane County has been fighting the federal government for several years in costly legal battles to prove its rights-of-way claims...

Environmentalists push for massive north-state conservation area

This report is from the Sacramento Bee:

Schneider is board president of Tuleyome, a Woodland-based environmental nonprofit organization working to establish a National Conservation Area – the third in California – encompassing nearly half a million acres in six counties. The country's 13 existing National Conservation Areas create a single, cohesive plan to preserve and manage vast landscapes typically managed by a patchwork of public agencies, including counties. The designation, which must be approved by Congress, provides a more logical way to properly care for an ecosystem, which doesn't acknowledge political boundaries, Schneider said. Some farmers and ranchers, particularly in Glenn and Colusa counties, oppose the conservation area because it could exacerbate existing problems, said Ashley Indrieri, executive director of the Family Water Alliance in Colusa County. Public lands aren't adequately managed to curtail trespassing and other infringements that plague private property owners, she said. If the conservation area expands, so will the problem, Indrieri said. Habitat restoration could also threaten adjacent agricultural land owners, she said. "Restoring the land means increasing pest species," she said. "You bring these critters back to the land."....

Tribal Attempt to Halt Nevada Gold Mine Fails in Court

From the Environmental News Service:

A federal judge has decided not to grant an injunction sought by the Western Shoshone Tribe and four other plaintiffs to stop construction one of the largest open pit gold mines in the United States - the Cortez Hills Expansion Project on Mt. Tenabo. Barrick Gold based in Canada, the world's largest gold mining company, has been granted a permit to construct and operate the mine in an area that the tribes' lawsuit states is "located entirely within the territory of the Western Shoshone Nation." Judge Larry Hicks of the federal district court in Reno today ruled that because tribal members would continue to have access to areas they claim for religious and spiritual purposes, including the top of Mt. Tenabo, the White Cliffs, and Horse Canyon, the gold mine could go ahead and the mining permit would not be revoked. A key question in this case was whether the permit granted by the Bureau of Land Management imposed a "substantial burden" on the tribe's religious conduct under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Judge Hicks concluded that while tribal members' spiritual experience may be diminished by the project, that does not amount to a substantial burden....

Testimony continues in Esperanza wildfire murder trial

The Desert Sun reports:

Prosecution testimony is slated to resume today in the murder trial of Raymond Lee Oyler, a former Beaumont mechanic accused of igniting the 2006 Esperanza wildfire, which killed five firefighters. Oyler faces five counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Esperanza blaze and is also charged with multiple counts of arson and possessing destructive devices. He could face the death penalty if convicted. In his opening statement Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Michael Hestrin told jurors the 38-year-old defendant was ``a man bent on destruction'' when he allegedly lit the Esperanza blaze and 22 other fires in the Banning Pass. The Oct. 26, 2006, Esperanza fire killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters, scorched more than 41,000 acres, destroyed 34 homes and 20 outbuildings, killed livestock and damaged a highway.

Wily in the pursuit of coyotes

The LA Times has this story about the conflicts between wildlife and suburbia:

For years, coyotes have fed on pets in this hilltop neighborhood. When residents complain to the county, the county calls Rizzo. The trapper, born and raised in the hardwood forests of the Mississippi Delta, specializes in California's big predators: coyotes, bears and mountain lions. Bear and lion problems make news. Coyotes make business. Rizzo spends about 80% of his time tracking, trapping and putting down wild canids from Pacific Palisades to Twentynine Palms. His services are at once widely sought and controversial, reflecting suburbia's conflicted relationship with its wildlife. This month, animal rights groups demanded the Huntington Library halt Rizzo's trapping of coyotes in the botanical gardens, threatening in a letter to make a "broader public issue of the case." At the same time, neighbors in San Marino have demanded the library do more to cull the coyotes living on the 207-acre property and feeding on their pets. One woman even sued the Huntington after her Pomeranian was killed a couple of blocks away.

Nature Conservancy Fights Planned Border Fence

National Public Radio reports on this controversy in south Texas:

The Nature Conservancy owns the Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve — a thousand acres that include one of the largest remaining forests of native sabal palm. There, imperiled wildcats like the ocelot and jaguarundi still skulk through the underbrush. Birdwatchers come from around the world to check green jays, chachalacas and black-bellied whistling ducks off their life lists. So last month, when the Department of Homeland Security announced its intention to erect an 18-foot tall, concrete-and-steel barrier for a mile through the preserve, the Nature Conservancy was not happy. Though the fence would be built on mainly nonforested land, conservationists worry it will sever the refuge. "If the fence is constructed, it will trap three-quarters of the preserve between the fence and the river. That includes all of our facilities, includes the home of our preserve manager who lives there full-time," Najera says. The conservancy has refused to accept the government's offer of $114,000 in compensation for the land under the fence. Now, Homeland Security has sued in federal court to force the sanctuary to let it build the barrier.

There’s no ‘moo’ in the word ‘stimulus’

The Hill reports on the proposed dairy buyout:

Stimulus legislation under consideration in Congress may have a little something for everyone, but it won’t include a government buyout of dairy cows. Cattle ranchers who worried that the provision would lower the price of beef lobbied against the buyout, although it is unclear how seriously lawmakers in the Senate or House considered it. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) wrote members of the Senate last week asking that they oppose any effort to use stimulus funds to buy older dairy cows from farmers. Heather Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the group, said they believed an effort to take about 6.5 billion pounds of milk off the market would involve purchasing 320,000 dairy cows. Those cows would then end up in the beef market, probably for use as ground beef, Vaughan said. While this would help dairy farmers by raising the price of milk, NCBA argued it would hurt cattle ranchers by lowering prices by as much as 49 percent.

Ag Secretary's News Conference

For a transcript of the news conference, go here.

Here's what he said on environmental issues:

I also want this Department to be a national leader in climate change mitigation, adaptation efforts. This of course will involve conservation, greater efficiency with the energy that we have, as well as new technologies and expanded opportunities in biofuels and renewable energy. I'm going to work to advance research and development and pursue opportunities to support the development of additional biofuels, wind power, and other renewable energy sources. We need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn while at the same time promoting policies that will speed up the development of second and third-generation feedstocks for those biofuels that have the potential to significantly improve America's energy security and independence. I expect our farmers and ranchers will play a role in making progress on the great challenge of climate change and on other major environmental challenges. It's important to me that the USDA lead efforts to incentivize management practices that promote and provide clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat, and to help farmers participate in markets that reward them for sequestering carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It is my hope that the Farm Bill's provisions in terms of energy and conservation can be implemented promptly and properly and that we see the Forest Service as a new opportunity for us to engage in climate change mitigation/adaptation strategies...

Later, in response to a question, he said:

Meanwhile, I think it is important for us to take a look at the fairly significant set of legislative proposals that were made in the energy title of the Farm Bill and to work very quickly to implement as many of those as possible. We need to create additional demand for advanced biofuels and renewable energy, working with farmers for example to determine how best they could change their operations to embrace renewable energy and fuel in their operations, working with rural communities to encourage the same, working with farmers to encourage them to produce biomass crops, working with the Forest Service to take a look at how the woody biomass operations may be called into play to increase the supply of second and third generation biofuels. There are a series of tax credits, grants, and loan programs designed to expand production facilities and to convert existing production facilities to use these new fuels. All of that is in the realm, if you will, of the USDA, and I think it's important for the USDA to aggressively promote these efforts. I think we are in a position to begin the march which President Obama has laid out of creating new green collar jobs. It can and should and I believe ought to begin in rural America, and I think USDA is prepared to do this.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Global warming effects to last 1,000 years

From the Houston Chronicle:

Carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere today from power plants and cars will affect surface temperatures and sea levels for more than 1,000 years, scientists from the U.S. and Europe reported. Coastal regions and small islands could be submerged for centuries, even if carbon dioxide emissions are completely stopped in the next 100 years, according to a new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency’s report appeared on Monday in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Clinton climate change envoy vows 'dramatic diplomacy'

Hillary Clinton, according to this report, has appointed a special envoy to lead U.S. policy on global warming:

Todd Stern, a senior White House official under former President Bill Clinton, will be the administration's principal adviser on international climate policy and strategy and its chief climate negotiator. Stern coordinated climate change policy from 1997 to 1999 in her husband Bill Clinton's administration, acting as the senior White House negotiator in the Kyoto talks. About 190 countries are trying to craft a broader climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that binds wealthy nations to emission targets between 2008 and 2012. The new deal is supposed to be wrapped up in Copenhagen by December.

Obama moves toward regulating greenhouse gases

The AP reports:

For a decade, environmentalists and states have urged the federal government to limit greenhouse gases from automobile tailpipes. On Monday, President Barack Obama took a step toward making it happen. He ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider allowing California, 16 states and the District of Columbia to control the amount of greenhouse gases — mainly carbon dioxide — in truck and car exhaust. It was the clearest signal yet the Obama administration plans to regulate the emissions blamed for global warming.

Officials, Catron residents discuss wolf program

The Silver City Daily Press reports that Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the USFWS met with local citizens concerning the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program. Tuggle told the group he was not in favor of any changes to the EIS. Tuggle told the group, “We have to modify the protocol" and "We have to look at the carrying capacity, pack dynamics and enough land space." He also told the crowd said he was seeking interdiction funding to reimburse ranchers for cattle loss.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Alan Tackman, Catron County rancher, spoke with emotion and sometimes seemed on the verge of tears. “One day I was pulling a trailer with cattle in the front and horses in the back, when wolves chased us,' Tackman said. “They aren’t wild. She came right up beside my truck. Female 923 stood looking at me. I told her I wasn’t going to feed her.' Last year, Tackman reported losing 15 grown, productive cows, and 20 to 30 of his 150 calves last year. Between eight and 10 of the cows died due to wolf depredation and the others probably succumbed to bear attacks and eating toxic weeds.
“I was constantly finding dead stuff,' Tackman said. “The country is so rough that it would be two or three days before I would find the carcasses.' In July, he also found five injured calves with bite marks corresponding to the width of wolf teeth. In August, the district ranger allowed him to move one-third of his cattle to a grazing permit 60 miles from his property. At the time, he said, he was told by Matt Wunder of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish that the department did not care how many calves were killed, “they weren’t going to remove the wolves.' Tackman was faced with the Dark Canyon Pack denning on his fence line and raising pups. To protect his cattle, he moved them from the area close to the den. As a result, the wolves moved to the neighboring ranch and that rancher had to move his cattle to his winter grazing area. “So the wolves came back to us,' Tackman said. “The bottom line for us is that wolf depredation is costing me $20,000 a year. “I’ve tried everything,' Tackman continued. “I kept the cows in with the calves. I rode the range and had additional range riders, but the wolves hunt at night. It’s a pretty hard thing to swallow...

...Tackman was approached by John Horning of WildEarth Guardians asking him to retire his permit and the organization would pay him for it. “(My family and I) talked about retiring and selling the permit so we could keep living here,' Tackman said. “I called him back to tell him yes, and he said the organization couldn’t afford it.' Although ostensibly Defenders of Wildlife has a reimbursement program for cattle losses due to wolf depredation, Tackman said he has been paid for one cow in 10 years. “ I don’t even call anymore,' he said. “Build a wolf sanctuary or something, but don’t keep killing us.' Tackman said three of his ranching neighbors have sold their land and moved away because of the wolf.

Bucky Allred, owner of the Blue Front Café in Glenwood, said that late last summer his daughter, Sarah, and a Blue Front Café employee, Dave Hathaway, saw what they believed was a wolf at the Catron County landfill. The next morning, she reported it to the Catron County wolf investigator, Jess Carey, who was in the field investigating a wolf kill. The same day, Allred received a call from a biologist at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish who said he was passing along a message that the site had been checked by a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf officer. The report said he found only quail, skunk, and dog or coyote tracks. Allred asked how the officer how found the site, because only his daughter and employee knew where the wolf had been seen. The biologist told Allred he had no idea and didn’t care. He was just passing on the message. The next day, Carey was shown the place where the wolf had been sighted and he took six castings of a wolf track...

If you're interested in the wolf program and want to know it's impact on people in the recovery area, you need to read this article. It's hard to understand how any elected official, federal or state, would impose this program on these families.

Billions of dollars are spent on "rural development" by one government agency while another is running families off. It's shameful.

If the link has expired, you can read the full article here.

Warming Trends Alter Conservation

From the Washington Post:

As climate change begins to transform the environment in the United States and overseas, policymakers and environmentalists are realizing that the old paradigm of setting aside tracts of land or sea to preserve species that might otherwise disappear is no longer sufficient. It was an idea that worked in 1872, when one of the reasons cited for establishing Yellowstone National Park was to help preserve the few remaining buffalo. But as temperatures rise and animals and even plants migrate to more hospitable habitats, fixed boundaries set years ago no longer provide the protection some species need. Experts are exploring new strategies, focusing on such steps as protecting migration corridors, collecting and transplanting seeds, making sanctuary boundaries flexible and managing forests in novel ways.

...NOAA Assistant Administrator Richard W. Spinrad advocates creation of a national climate service to give agencies across the federal government better access to scientific projections so they can anticipate and plan for eventualities such as extended droughts and changes in water flows.

...Protecting wildlife, these experts say, can involve setting aside more land for species to migrate, protecting higher-elevation habitats that have lower temperatures and rooting out invasive species that threaten native ones.

...Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne created a climate change task force in March 2007 that outlined 80 climate policy options on Dec. 3; the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a more detailed draft climate plan less than two weeks later, urging the agency to find ways to connect broader landscapes and assess which species are at the highest risk because of global warming.

...Academics and conservation groups have just begun to calculate the costs of trying to protect landscapes and species in light of climate change. The Wildlife Federation has called on the government to set aside $7.2 billion annually for the next two decades to help natural resources in the United States adapt to global warming.

That should give you a flavor for what's coming.

When you start hearing about "flexible boundaries", and "protecting landscapes" and "migration corridors", you better get ready to lose your property.

Bush legacy leaves uphill climb for U.S. parks

From the LA Times:

...Cannon has been focusing on this view after the federal Bureau of Land Management decided in November to auction oil and gas leases on 360,000 acres of public land in Utah, including 93 parcels on or near the boundaries of these parks and nearby Dinosaur National Monument. The leasing decision was put on hold by a judge Jan. 17, after protests from the park service and environmentalists who complained that the view from the famed sandstone arches and spires would be despoiled by the new roads, heavy equipment, drilling platforms and veil of dust that would accompany the exploration for fossil fuels. But it is only a temporary victory on the heels of what some in the park service see as a string of defeats in which the nation's parks often acquiesced to the encroachment of commercial interests and energy projects during the eight years of the Bush administration. Among the recently approved projects is a uranium mine two miles from a Grand Canyon visitors center. Critics of the Bush administration -- former park directors among them -- say its emphasis on commerce over conservation left a legacy that the national parks could be grappling with for decades to come.

Few wild horses find homes during BLM auction

362 Horses were brought to the auction and only 8 were sold.

This article in the Salt Lake Tribune quotes a BLM official who says wild horses sold at auction in 2004 and 2006 brought up to $3500 per animal.

So what did they bring this year? The total paid for all 8 horses was $725. That's 90 bucks a horse!

Thank the do-gooders in Congress and state legislatures who killed the horse market, and thank the deep thinkers in Congress whose energy policies have driven up the price of feed. Maybe someday we'll get a total on how many horses they've caused to starve to death.

Stimulus Policy and Western Politics

Joan McCarter of New West gives her take on recent politics in the west and it's impact on environmental policy. I think it's safe to say she doesn't like Republicans.

She's a proponent of the restoration economy and calls for the stimulus package to include "restoration projects" for National Parks, Forest Service lands, etc.

To understand where all this is coming from, you can visit Progressive States Network and Western Progress.

Economic stimulus or just more pork?

Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, Zachary Coile has a column questioning whether the Dem's stimulus package will stimulate the economy:

Is $200 million to rehabilitate the National Mall a crucial way to stimulate the U.S. economy? How about $276 million to fix the computer systems at the State Department? And what about $650 million to repair dilapidated Forest Service facilities?...Some of the biggest winners in the package are federal agencies, which would see a huge infusion of money. The Social Security Administration would get $400 million to replace its 30-year old computer system. The Agricultural Research Service would receive $209 million for deferred maintenance at its facilities. The General Services Administration would get $600 million to replace its older fleet of vehicles with new alternative-fuel cars and trucks.

The Park Service will get $1.8 billion to repair it's facilities and the USDA will receive $44 million to repair it's headquarters.

Coile also notes:

...the Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 7 percent of infrastructure money would make its way into the economy by the end of the year, and only 38 percent would be spent by the end of the 2010 fiscal year.

So, are they stimulating the economy or feeding the hog?

Silver City Paper To Tour Ranches

Holly Wise, News Bureau Chief for the Silver City Sun-News, will be touring ranches and getting to know ranch families. Holly says:

I'm going to travel off the beaten path, talk to ranchers, their families and experts, take pictures and report back to you. In the end, I think we're both going to enjoy exploring this cultural way of life and the incredible people who have been at the helm of forming this history. My credentials for writing the series could be questioned, I know. After all, I am from Kentucky, where we are more known for horse racing and bluegrass than our beef cattle. Though I'm relatively new to the New Mexico way of cowboy life, I have been on my fair number of "round-ups," "gatherings," "the works," (whatever name suits you) on my family's ranch in Otero County. Probably more noteworthy than that is the fact that I'm curious and want to learn.

I look forward to reading and linking to these articles.

HSUS adds another animal rights organization

This article lays out the recent action by the Humane Society of The United States:

High feed costs aren’t the only threat facing America's livestock producers today. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) announced Monday a corporate combination agreement creating the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. It's the latest effort by HSUS to further the anti-meat agenda of its vegan (vegetarian) leader Wayne Pacelle. A news release from HSUS, announcing the launch of yet another in Pacelle's "family of organizations" explains that both groups have long expressed frustration with the positions taken by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The release points to the stand AVMA has taken on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, the continued use of dogs and cats in research, cruelty to ducks and geese in the production of foie gras, the confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens in crates and cages. So what's the big deal? Why should you care? According to HSUS, of the approximately 80,000 veterinarians in this country, 11,000 are already supporters of HSUS. How many large animal vets are located and currently practicing in your community?

Change Agenda for Animals

This is another item brought to us by the Humane Society of the United States and their legislative fund. According to the article, HSUS wants ear of new administration, this organization has issued a report with 100 recommendations.

Among those recommendations are the creation of an Animal Protection Liaison in the White House and an appointment of a new Assistant U.S. Attorney to head a new Animal Protection Division in the Justice Department.

From the article:

The proposed 100-point "Change Agenda for Animals" lists changes at several federal agencies, including 18 at USDA, 20 at Department of the Interior, 5 at EPA, 4 at Department of Justice, 6 at Commerce, 1 at HUD, 1 at FTC, 10 at State Department, 1 at USAID, 7 at USTR, 4 at HHS/NIH, 8 at HHS/FDA/CDC, 7 at DOD, 2 at Transportation, 1 each at Education and Treasury, 2 at U.S. Postal Service and 1 at Consumer Product Safety Commission. What does the U.S. Postal Service have to do with animal rights? HSUS wants to halt the shipment of baby chicks or other agricultural animals through the postal service.

Go here(pdf) to view the report.

Horses, wagons plied Oregon Trail even into 1900s

John Terry, a columnist with The Oregonian, writes that a question he answered several weeks ago about when animal-powered migration ended drew quite a response from his readers:

Though travel on the Oregon Trail subsided substantially with the advent of rails, a good many folks still made their way to Oregon via the method traditionally linked to the great wagon trains of the 1840s and '50s. "My mother . . . traveled with her parents and siblings by mule and horse-drawn wagons from Larned, Kan., in 1878 to Silverton, Ore.," wrote Don Bryant of Lake Oswego. "They settled somewhere in what I believe may have been called Howell Prairie. They were one unit of what was a rather considerable wagon train." "My grandfather, John Ross, and his brother, Clifton Ross, came across the Oregon Trail in 1891 from Nebraska," said Carole Putman of West Linn. "My maternal grandparents started out in Ogallala, Neb., which is on the Oregon Trail, around 1896," said Chuck Barrows of Portland, and, based on birth records, lived in Vernal, Utah, in 1897, Walla Walla in 1899, Laramie, Wyo., in 1900, Mackey, Idaho, 1902, arriving in St. Johns in 1906. They used horses to pull their wagon and buffalo chips to cook with in areas where wood was scarce."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

DOD - The Largest Landlord In The World

In a post on Friday I linked to a Denver Post editorial on the Army's proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Training Facility. According to the editorial the Army says its training land shortfall will reach 4.5 million acres by 2013. My comment was "What a laugh."

I decided to look into this further. I knew the military had a bunch of land, but I didn't know exactly how much.

The Base Structure Report(pdf) for FY 2008 contains the land profile for the Department of Defense. The introduction to the report states, "The Depart of Defense remains one of the world's largest 'landlords' with a physical plant consisting of more than 545,700 facilities (buildings, structures and linear structures) located on more than 5400 sites, on approximately 30 million acres."

The land profile further refines that to 29.8 million acres owned or controlled by DOD. More than 98% of the land is in the US, with the Army managing 52% and the Air Force 33%.

29.8 million acres equals 46,562.5 square miles. How do you put that in perspective? Let's try this: Of the Thirteen Original Colonies, six of them (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire & Massachusetts) would fit into the land mass controlled by DOD, with 8359 square miles or 5.3 million acres left over. In other words, you could add another New Jersey.

29.8 million acres and they don't have enough land to practice? They may have a turf problem or a setting of priorities problem, but they don't have a lack of land problem.

This and other proposed military expansions across the west point out another issue. You don't need 29.8 million acres for training if your mission is to defend the U.S. You need that kind of acreage if you are establishing an empire and policing the world. And that has costs beyond the dollars appropriated as witnessed by the landowners being threatened in Colorado. Expansion abroad means an expanding government at home, and less freedom for all.

Go here to learn more about the Pinon Canyon expansion

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Cowboy economics

Julie Carter

As a rule, cowboys are generally so broke they can go through several downturns of the stock market and most of a major recession without noticing much change.

However, let there be an extended drought and they will begin to ponder some serious changes in their business. Sometimes the drought and the recession happen at the same time.

True to form, Dan went to his Uncle Tex for some advice about weathering the current hard times.

Tex thought for a minute and then told Dan that when he personally faced similar economic conditions, he would supplement his income with a little hunting and trapping of varmints, usually coyotes, for the fur market.

Dan thought it was a good idea, but not one that would help him financially at this time because currently, nobody was buying many furs. But, the recreational aspect of such a project was enticing.

That night Dan called his buddies Tim and David and a coyote hunt was organized. They stopped by the beer store for refreshments and nourishment (Slim Jims) and headed for David's back pasture.

David had indicated there was a little heel fly tank on the backside where all kinds of varmints watered. When they got to the tank, it was nearly dry and had crusted over a long ways out to where the little bit of water stood.

David eased the truck down fairly close to the remaining puddle and they set up shop. Coyote calls, guns, snacks and sharp hunter instincts all were ready.

While waiting for the coyotes to respond to the calls, the trio discussed the possible ways of alleviating their cash-flow problems.

The lottery was the best option they could come up with and at the current $43 million - they determined it could help out.

Dreams always come easy to cowboys, so these three quickly moved past the buying of the ticket to planning what to do with their winnings.

David's No.-1 priority was to buy a new deer rifle. Tim thought about it for a while, said Becky Jean had been campaigning for a new house, so he would get that for her.

Both Dan and David quickly cautioned Tim to consider that option very carefully because they'd heard Becky say she wanted the wheels off her next house and they knew they'd be roped into helping with the work.

Dan's frugal nature directed his thinking in that he felt one might need to keep a little in reserve.

He thought he had about all the things he needed, although he did consider buying a new saddle and saving the other $42,998,000 for hard times.

Soon the dedicated hunters spotted a pair of coyotes coming to the call. The plan was for David to ease out of the truck and take a shot.

When he stepped out the door, he was immediately in mud up to his knees.

He looked at the truck. While they had been counting and spending their lottery winnings, it had slowly settled in mud all the way to the axles.

The crust on the banks of the tank has just been a cover for the very sticky, gooey stuff underneath.

It was a long walk back to the road to fetch a tractor, but they managed to carry the cooler with them as well as make a decision as to where they would buy their lottery tickets.

Hard times don't discourage cowboys as long as they keep their priorities in order.

Find Julie on her website –

It’s The Pitts: Color Blind

Lee Pitts

Old timers thought you could tell a lot about a horse just by what color it was. They believed white horses had constitutional weaknesses as a result of inbreeding, bay horses were the meanest and chestnuts were the most easily injured. I wouldn’t dare make such glittering generalities about horses... but I would about the people who ride them. You see, I have the uncanny ability to tell what people are like and to predict their future just by the color of the horse they ride. For example:

Brown: If you ride a brown horse you are the no-nonsense, quiet type whose capacity for hard work is amazing. You are also a tightwad and very boring. As a rule, never travel the rodeo circuit with a cowboy who rides a brown horse; he won’t pay his way and will practically bore you to death. By the time you get to Phoenix you’ll be so depressed you’ll have a death wish and enter the bull riding instead of the team roping.

White: I will try to be gentle with my analysis here because riders of white horses are emotionally vulnerable and have thin skin. You are a good listener and depress easily so you should avoid any long term commitment with anyone who rides a brown horse. Although you and your horse are good swimmers you provide an easy target and attract bad karma like a white horse attracts lightning.

Palomino: Riders of golden horses tend to be wealthy and are more apt to be a member of a Sheriff's posse and ride in parades. If you ride a palomino there’s a good chance you and your horse wouldn’t know a cow from a chicken pot pie and the only thing you or your horse are apt to catch is sleeping sickness. It is a little known fact that those people who ride palomino horses are more likely to show up on The World’s Biggest Loser. Do your horse a favor and enroll in a gym or fitness club today.

Bay: Bays are light red in color and red just happens to be the most frightening color of the spectrum. That ought to tell you something. You and your horse are cunning, alert, stable, and loyal, but can also be vicious. You are both sensitive around the head and ears. Just like your horse, you can be balky at times and like to kick up your heels on occasion. I foresee many solitary long walks in your future.

Gray: You are a slow, plodding unflashy person with a big collection of trophy saddles and buckles won at jackpot and USTRC ropings. You are an easy keeper, slow and steady, good with kids and as emotional as a refrigerator. Even though you often win the race, nobody bets on you because you have a poor marketing campaign. You excel as a spouse and a teacher, but the life of the party you are definitely NOT.

Roans: Strawberry roan riders are cowboy poets and blue roan riders are usually running for, or away, from something. When you buy your next horse beware of roans because they are like beautiful women: more trouble than they’re worth.

Paints and Pintos: You are a show off who likes to be the center of attention. You own the best horse trailer in the parking lot and the silver on your bit, bridle, saddle and spurs would melt down for more than your horse is worth. You are not good with money and don’t keep a tight rein on your spending. Divorce and bankruptcy run in your family. Riders of paints and pintos are either top hands or complete doofuses. I won’t say which one you are.

Black: You have boundless energy, an explosive temper and fall in love blindly. You make hasty decisions which you later feel remorseful about: such as buying a black horse to ride in Tucson in the middle of July. More so than any other rider, you are more likely to be kicked by your horse and spend time in the hospital as a result of being launched so high that birds built nests in your beard before you hit the ground.

Sorrel: People who ride sorrels are original, intelligent, ambitious and have few, if any, faults. They are also easily offended and angry readers should not write nasty letters to them just because they happen to ride a paint, pinto, palomino or roan.