Thursday, December 31, 2009

Public-private pairing envisioned for S.F. parks

San Francisco may rely more on corporate and philanthropic sponsors and community volunteers to fund and maintain its parks and recreation centers as it struggles with a mounting budget deficit. That is the hope of Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, who recently returned from New York City and was wowed by the public-private partnership operating Central Park. The Central Park Conservancy, relying heavily on money from sponsorships, has invested more than $500 million in the showcase urban park in nearly three decades. "Everything- everything - is named: every bench, every tree. And it's done very modestly, very tastefully," Ginsburg said. Under his money-generating vision, more coffee kiosks and hot dog stands would be allowed to operate in San Francisco parks, and fields would be rented out more often for concerts and other special events. Longtime park concessionaires may be ousted by new leaseholders who offer more money. Donors would be recognized by having a grove of trees, playground, golf course or recreation center named in their more

Rare New Year's Eve 'blue moon' to ring in 2010

Once in a blue moon there is one on New Year's Eve. Revelers ringing in 2010 will be treated to a so-called blue moon. According to popular definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. But don't expect it to be blue - the name has nothing to do with the color of our closest celestial neighbor. A full moon occurred on Dec. 2. It will appear again on Thursday in time for the New Year's countdown. "If you're in Times Square, you'll see the full moon right above you. It's going to be that brilliant," said Jack Horkheimer, director emeritus of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium and host of a weekly astronomy TV show. The New Year's Eve blue moon will be visible in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Africa. For partygoers in Australia and Asia, the full moon does not show up until New Year's Day, making January a blue moon month for them. A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month - a blue moon - occurs every 2.5 years. The last time there was a lunar double take was in May 2007. New Year's Eve blue moons are rarer, occurring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990; the next one won't come again until more

Senate climate change fight looks as tough as healthcare reform bill

Senate Democrats will face a problem when they return in January every bit as tough as crafting the healthcare bill: Assembling a climate and energy package that can be shoehorned into the election-year calendar. Imposing limits on greenhouse gases is a White House and Democratic priority, but it’s stuck in line behind healthcare, Wall Street reform and jobs legislation. It’s also become increasingly apparent since the Copenhagen climate summit that the Senate will go forward in a dramatically different direction than the House, which approved its own climate bill last summer. Environmentalists familiar with Democratic plans say party leaders remain committed to bringing up a bill next year. They are looking to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) effort to craft a compromise plan with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). But in a sign of how difficult it will be to cobble together 60 votes, Kerry and Graham have provided few details about what their plan will contain. They hope to blend emissions limits with wider offshore oil-and-gas drilling, expanded federal financing for nuclear power and a lot of support for low-emissions coal projects, among other measures aimed a navigating a thicket of regional and partisan more

New groups join climate lobby fray

The next round of the battle over climate change policy on Capitol Hill will involve more than the usual suspects — way more. Watch soup makers face off against steel companies. Witness the folks who pump gas from the ground fight back against those who dig up rock. And watch the venture capitalists who have money riding on new technology try to gain advantage in a game that so far has been deftly controlled by the old machine. An analysis of the latest federal records by the Center for Public Integrity shows that the overall number of businesses and groups lobbying on climate legislation has essentially held steady at about 1,160, thanks in part to a variety of interests that have left the fray. But a close look at the 140 or so interests that jumped into the debate for the first time in the third quarter shows a marked trend: Companies and organizations that feel they’ve been overlooked are fighting for a place at the more

Beef Group Challenges U.S. EPA Climate Finding

A beef industry group has challenged a ruling by U.S. environmental regulators that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health, saying the move would hurt agriculture. The ruling earlier this month by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier opens the way for regulation of six heat-trapping gases without new laws passed by Congress. Livestock farms emit carbon dioxide from the tailpipes of machinery and trucks, while waste from cattle also emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association filed a petition in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week, saying EPA climate regulations would hurt large farms. "This unilateral move by the EPA jeopardizes our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace," said Tamara Theis, chief environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. She said potential EPA rules could force many farms to get permits to emit greenhouse gases or slow operations. If farms had to buy the permits in a market or curtail beef output it could help force many of them to more

Can farming save Detroit?

John Hantz is a wealthy money manager who lives in an older enclave of Detroit where all the houses are grand and not all of them are falling apart. Once a star stockbroker at American Express, he left 13 years ago to found his own firm. Today Hantz Financial Services has 20 offices in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia, more than 500 employees, and $1.3 billion in assets under management. Along the way he passes vacant buildings, abandoned homes, and a whole lot of empty land. In some stretches he sees more pheasants than people. And that, he says one afternoon in his living room between puffs on an expensive cigar, "is how I got onto this idea of the farm." Yes, a farm. A large-scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise, wholly contained within the city limits of Detroit. Hantz thinks farming could do his city a lot of good: restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists from all over the world; and -- most important of all -- stimulate development around the edges as the local land market tilts from stultifying abundance to something more like scarcity and investors move in. Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the more

Famous San Francisco sea lions leave in droves

Two mysteries surround a huge herd of sea lions that were hanging out on a pier in San Francisco Bay: Why did so many show up, and why did so many leave at once? Just last month, Pier 39, famous in San Francisco for its sea lions and the throngs of tourists they attract, was groaning under the weight of more than 1,500 of the animals. The record number delighted tourists and baffled experts. "Most likely, they left chasing a food source," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which runs an information center and gift shop at Pier 39. "It's probably what kept them here in the first place." The animals began leaving in droves the day after Thanksgiving, almost as if someone had issued an order. But Boehm said the fact that so many sea lions stayed for so long is even stranger than their more

AC/DC concert in doubt over rare bird risk

AUSSIE rockers AC/DC could have to cancel a sold-out concert because their big sound poses a danger to rare birds. Animal rights campaigners are threatening legal action if the veteran band goes ahead with a gig planned for Wels airport in Austria in May. Hans Uhl of BirdLife said birds nesting in the area at the time would be threatened by anthems such as Highway To Hell and You Shook Me All Night Long. "The second biggest colony of curlews in Upper Austria and various other ground-nesting birds must not become endangered," Mr Uhl said...

Damn, guess I'll have to cancel my trip plans.

Horse floaters may be a dying breed

Ever wondered the origins of the saying 'long in the tooth' or 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth?' Horses's teeth, unlike humans', continue to grow with age. They also wear down with use, but the changes in the characteristics of the teeth over time make it possible to make an estimate of a horse's age. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether. It's the obscure job of equine dentists - known colloquially as 'horse floaters' - to ward off the problems that wear and tear can have on a horse's pearly whites. Using instruments roughened with diamond grit, horse floaters file down equine teeth so that they don't grow into sharp points that can cut the horses' cheeks or throw off their chewing rhythms. But US veterinary oversight boards in Texas and several other states have moved to curb unlicensed floaters, who use specially modified power tools and sedatives without veterinary supervision or authorisation. Carl Mitz has been a horse floater for 25 years. He and three fellow floaters have responded with a suit accusing the board of violating Article 1, Section 19 of the Texas state constitution, which holds that 'no citizen of this state shall be deprived of life, liberty, property, privileges or immunities, or in any manner disfranchised, except by the due course of the law of the land.' Regulating teeth floating, they say, deprives them of their right to earn an honest living, which is what they believe this clause explicitly more

I'm gonna start a new group - The Freedom For Floaters Foundation.

Down on the Farm, an Endless Cycle of Waste

Day and night, a huge contraption prowls the grounds at Frank Volleman’s dairy in Central Texas. It has a 3,000-gallon tank, a heavy-duty vacuum pump and hoses and, underneath, adjustable blades that scrape the surface as it passes along. In function it is something like a Zamboni, but one that has crossed over to the dark side. This is no hockey rink, and it’s not loose ice being scraped up. It’s cow manure. Lots of cow manure. A typical lactating Holstein produces about 150 pounds of waste — by weight, about two-thirds wet feces, one-third urine — each day. Mr. Volleman has 3,000 lactating Holsteins and another 1,000 that are temporarily “dry.” Do the math: his Wildcat Dairy produces about 200 million pounds of manure every year. Proper handling of this material is one of the most important tasks faced by a dairy operator, or by a cattle feedlot owner, hog producer or other farmer with large numbers of livestock. Manure has to be handled in an environmentally acceptable way and at an acceptable more

E. coli-tainted beef infects 21 people in 16 states

Twenty-one people in 16 states have been infected in recent days with a potentially lethal strain of E. coli bacteria, after consuming beef in restaurants supplied by the same Oklahoma meat company, federal officials said. The outbreak spurred the company, National Steak and Poultry, to voluntarily recall 248,000 pounds of beef Dec. 24. The products, which range from steaks to sirloin tips, were packaged in October and shipped to restaurants, hotels and institutions nationwide, according to the company. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has only a partial list of restaurants that received the potentially tainted beef, including two chains, Moe's and Carino's Italian Grill, primarily in the West and Midwest. The recall is considered a "class 1" or a "high health risk" by the USDA, which regulates the meat industry, because among the pathogens that can harm human health, E. coli O157:H7 is one of the most lethal. Even for those who survive, there can be long-term health effects. Nine of the 21 sickened have been hospitalized, the USDA reported. The department has identified cases in six states -- Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington. The agency said the contamination appears to have begun with tainted beef used for chopped steak that was "co-mingled" with other products in the more

Song Of The Day #212

Ranch Radio will continue with early country music from the 20's.

Our first tune is Sweetest Girl In Town by Ford & Morris, The Georgia Songsters and is on their 22 track CD Georgia Songsters 1926-1930.

The second selection is Sam McGee performing Buck Dancer's Choice and it's available on his 23 track CD Sam McGee 1926-1934. Old Sam could pick.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Senator Tester vs. Senator Bingaman: Two Different Approaches

Since Sen. Jon Tester introduced his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in July, it has been praised as the first legislation in two decades to bring Montana wilderness advocates and logging advocates together. It also has been criticized by people on both sides of the public-lands debate who want more or less than the proposal would provide. The bill, which deals exclusively with portions of national forests in Western Montana, had a Senate Energy Committee hearing earlier this month. This week, Denny Rehberg announced that he will hold a series of public meetings in five Western Montana towns next week to find out what Montanans think of Tester’s bill. The state’s lone U.S. representative said he hasn’t made up his mind on that Senate bill and may introduce his own bill. It’s important for members of Montana’s congressional delegation to communicate with their constituents. Tester held nine public meetings before introducing the legislation, which he said is the result of years of comments from industry, environmentalists and local more

Interesting. Senator Tester held nine public meetings before the bill was introduced. That's not the way our senior senator treats us. Senator Bingaman held zero public meetings before introducing his wilderness legislation.

Both are Democrats and both represent western states. One values the opinions of his constituents and the other...apparently doesn't.

Suit Seeks Kangaroo Rat Delisting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must stop dragging its feet and issue a delisting decision in response to petitions from the Riverside County Farm Bureau to remove the Stephens kangaroo rat from listing under the Endangered Species Act. So argues a lawsuit filed in federal court by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, representing the Riverside County Farm Bureau. PLF is the nation's leading legal watchdog for property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. "For 14 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been disobeying the legal deadline for properly responding to the Riverside County Farm Bureau's petition to delist the SKR," says PLF attorney Damien Schiff. "Now we are asking a federal court to order the agency to get off the dime, obey the law, and issue a decision on SKR delisting." The listing has led to significant restrictions on private property. For instance, to protect the SKR, government officials began restricting brush-clearing by farmers and ranchers. In 1993, after these prohibitions were implemented, intense brush fires destroyed several more

Little orphan easement?

The second land trust in a small community, the Animas Conservancy never quite achieved financial stability, and in 2006, it asked the older La Plata Open Space Conservancy to take on its 25 easements so that it could dissolve. But that complex transfer has stalled: La Plata worries that it can't enforce Sugnet's two easements because it's unclear what development they allow. And the two organizations still haven't secured the $150,000 or more necessary to help La Plata take care of all of Animas' easements. Land trusts rarely dissolve, but it's likely to happen more frequently as regulation tightens and the number of groups reaches a critical mass. There's no set process for transferring a trust's easements, and it can get complicated if there are a lot of easements or if some have problems, says Larry Kueter, a conservation attorney and board member of the Land Trust Alliance, an umbrella group. But conservation easements represent a massive public investment, and people expect the land to be protected forever, Kueter says. So it's important that easements aren't orphaned: "We want to make sure there's not an abyss that these public assets fall into." more

Follow wolf pack's Arctic journey online

Federal scientists are using a GPS-enabled collar to track the movement of a wolf called Brutus and his pack as they roam near the North Pole. And they are posting updates on Brutus' movements on a "Wolves of the High Arctic" blog. Scientists are using the satellite technology to understand the movement of wolves in an area where there is 24 hours of darkness in the more

But they can't find terrorists.

BLM OKs plan to place 805 wild horses at Ennis-area ranch

The Bureau of Land Management said Monday it is moving forward with a plan to place up to 805 wild horses on the 16,000-acre Spanish Q Ranch in Madison County by February. The agency originally proposed placing 1,500 horses on the Ennis-area ranch, but an environmental study found that those numbers would be destructive to wildlife habitat and soil. Susie Stokke with the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program has said the ranch will hold horses that have been captured to control population levels on public land, as well as those that that were not adopted at auction. Even though the BLM pared back the proposed herd size, concerns remain about the affects the horses will have on wildlife and the costs associated with placing the animals on private land. Fences around the horses' pasture are expected to be 6 inches higher than what the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommends for fences to be passable by wildlife. Also, the average cost for long-term holding pastures is around $1.30 per horse per day, putting the cost holding 805 horses at nearly $400,000 per more

74 wild horses caught in first day of controversial roundup

The Bureau of Land Management captured 74 mustangs in northern Nevada on the first day of a two-month roundup expected to relocate about 2,500 wild horses to other lands. BLM spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said Tuesday that there were no reported problems with the horses on the first day of the capture on Monday, with officials using helicopters to corral the animals from a mountain range about 100 miles north of Reno. The capture was suspended on Tuesday because of heavy more

HSUS ‘Rescues,’ Forgets Baltimore’s Horses

The so-called “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS) has once again proven why its name – which conjures up images of saving helpless pets – isn’t deserved. A new Baltimore Sun investigation reveals that the 19 horses HSUS and Baltimore city officials confiscated last month from "A-rabbers" (street peddlers who sell produce in urban neighborhoods) have been penned up in unsanitary conditions and mostly forgotten about. Can someone tell us what's so “humane” about that? On November 10, Baltimore Health Department officials – with HSUS spurring them on – seized 19 healthy horses owned by these streetcart operators from their stable in southwest Baltimore. They were then moved to a rat-infested tent under a bridge shared by 51 other ponies that the city confiscated in 2007. But Bob Wood, a Baltimore veteran of training horses for polo, grew suspicious while viewing photos of these most recently seized horses. After looking into it further, Wood couldn’t disguise his disgust when talking to the more

Pressure Rises to Stop Antibiotics in Agriculture

The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat. The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on." But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing. The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer. Like Kremer, more and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people. Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs — 28 million pounds — went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 more

Piroplasmosis Found in New Mexico Horses

As part of a racetrack screening program, three New Mexico horses have been identified as infected with Theileria equi, a causative agent for equine piroplasmosis. These infections are noteworthy as these horses are not epidemiologically linked to those involved in a larger ongoing investigation centered on horses from a South Texas ranch. Information on the new cases, and an update on the Texas investigation, was included in a Dec. 24 report issued to the World Organization for Animal Health (Office International des Epizooties, or OIE) by John Clifford, DVM, deputy administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. See the report. The positive New Mexico horses did not show any clinical signs of disease. Preliminary results of the investigation indicate that the transmission of the organism might have resulted from management practices (use of shared needles or substances between horses) rather than by a tick vector, the OIE report noted. More than 1,300 New Mexico horses have been tested via the screening more

New Mexico exhibit honors Navajo Code Talkers

The largest and most comprehensive exhibition on the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II will be on display at the Gallup Cultural Center through Jan. 29. Part of the Southwest Inaugural 2009 Tour of "Our Fathers, Our Grandfathers, Our Heroes," the exhibit traces the story of the famed U.S. Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers. It begins with the original pilot group of 29 volunteers, who in 1942 developed and tested the original Navajo Code. Proven fast and accurate, the Marine Corps recruited nearly 400 more Navajos who utilized the code, sending and receiving encrypted messages throughout the Pacific island hopping campaign. The ingenuity of the Navajo Code Talkers baffled Japanese cryptographers and greatly helped in the effort to win the war in the South Pacific.Of the original Code Talkers, about a handful are still living, most in Arizona and New more

On Plants: Baxter Black Was Right

...But before we cede the entire moral penthouse to “committed vegetarians” and “strong ethical vegans,” we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way. The more that scientists learn about the complexity of plants — their keen sensitivity to the environment, the speed with which they react to changes in the environment, and the extraordinary number of tricks that plants will rally to fight off attackers and solicit help from afar — the more impressed researchers become, and the less easily we can dismiss plants as so much fiberfill backdrop, passive sunlight collectors on which deer, antelope and vegans can conveniently more

VIDEO: A Vegetarians Nightmare

Song Of The Day #211

In 1922 Fiddlin' John Carson was the first genuine old-time country artist to play country music on the radio, and in 1923 the "country-music recording industry was launched" when Carson recorded his first songs. OKEH records was finally convinced to let him cut two sides. Unimpressed they pressed 500 copies. It sold out in a week and final sales wound up around 500,000. The tunes he recorded were The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane/The Old Hen Cackled And The Rooster's Going To Crow. The 1923 recording of the first side is one of our selections and is available on his Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1, 1923-1924.

When you are listening to George Strait, Kenny Chesney, etc., remember where this all got started.

For our second selection we'll bring back John Dilleshaw and his recording of Streak O' Lean Streak O' Fat.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Senate Democrats to W.H.: Drop cap and trade

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least a half-dozen Democrats who've told the White House or their own leaders that it's time to jettison the centerpiece of their party's plan to curb global warming. The creation of an economywide market for greenhouse gas emissions is the heart of the climate bill that cleared the House earlier this year. But with the health care fight still raging and the economy still hurting, moderate Democrats have little appetite for another sweeping initiative — especially another one likely to pass with little or no Republican more

Plan to turn farms into forest worries Obama official

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has ordered his staff to revise a computerized forecasting model that showed that climate legislation supported by President Obama would make planting trees more lucrative than producing food. The latest Agriculture Department economic-impact study of the climate bill, which passed the House this summer, found that the legislation would profit farmers in the long term. But those profits would come mostly from higher crop prices as a result of the legislation's incentives to plant more forests and thus reduce the amount of land devoted to food-producing agriculture. According to the economic model used by the department and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation would give landowners incentives to convert up to 59 million acres of farmland into forests over the next 40 years. The reason: Trees clean the air of heat-trapping gases better than farming does. Mr. Vilsack, in a little-noticed statement issued with the report earlier this month, said the department's forecasts "have caused considerable concern" among farmers and ranchers. "If landowners plant trees to the extent the model suggests, this would be disruptive to agriculture in some regions of the country," he more

So, you revise the model to get different outcomes and everything will be OK? I thought Obama vowed to take the politics out of science. Not hardly.

Illegal dumping fouling up federal land

During a warm spell this fall, vandals hauled 18 decrepit televisions and computers down a narrow gravel road in Utah's picturesque Skull Valley, dumped them on a hillside, blasted them with guns and left them for dead. Nearby on the scrubby valley floor, other items have met the same fate: a hot water heater, paint cans, a candy vending machine, a couch and even a pile of mannequin heads. Illegally dumped garbage is piling up on federal lands, often creating toxic hazards and costly cleanups. And nowhere is it more apparent than on the vast, often-stunning tracts owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the nation's largest landlord with about 412,000 square miles, mostly in 12 Western states. "We can't keep up with it," Ray Kelsey, a BLM outdoor recreation specialist said on a recent trip to an outlaw dump site about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. "It's happening every day." more

If you "can't keep up with it", sell it to someone who can. By the way, the BLM has an annual budget of $1 billion, but they just "can't keep up with it." What that really means is their priorities lie elsewhere.

Cities get chunk of rural stimulus aid

More than $2.7 billion of stimulus aid for struggling parts of rural America has gone to the nation's biggest metropolitan areas. That's nearly a quarter of the $12 billion in rural assistance the government has paid out so far under President Obama's economic stimulus package, a USA TODAY review shows. It went to small, far-flung suburbs in metropolitan areas with more than a million residents, including growing towns around Atlanta and Phoenix. The spending reignites a longstanding debate over what "rural" really means in an increasingly urban nation. To Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., co-chairman of the Congressional Rural Caucus, the question is arguable only up to a point. "Ask Nebraskans to define rural and they'll have different ideas," he says, "but clearly Phoenix and Atlanta are not rural at all." more

The whole stimulus package is just another Uncle Sam Scam. Let'em waste it in town.

Conservation groups hope to buy forestlands to manage

Brad Chalfant eases a 12-passenger van over a jagged logging road just miles from the Three Sisters. Once owned by a timber company, the 50-square-mile forest that Chalfant, executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust, hopes to buy isn't the kind of place that typically attracts tour groups. Invariably, someone on a fundraising tour will ask about the stumps and slash piles, which are everywhere. "Why would I give money to cut trees down?" asks a woman on a November day. The question highlights Chalfant's challenge as he shapes the future of forestry in Oregon: How do you convince the public that logging forests is a means of saving them? Conservation groups are now the forest industry's biggest allies, as institutional investors buy millions of acres of forestland nationwide. From Maine to Montana, they're giving rise to a new model of private ownership, called community forests, hoping to save them from homes and subdivisions. They're finding creative ways to finance big purchases and pushing a surprising tactic to preserve trees: harvesting more

Get The Frackin' Gas

An oil company wants to invest its profits in clean-burning American natural gas. A Hungarian billionaire and a "green" politician want to stop it. This is the real Climate-gate scandal. While the greenies of the world united in Copenhagen to talk about the weather, emitting a Third World-country-size chunk of greenhouse gases to gather there, the world's largest oil company, Exxon Mobil, was doing something about it. On Dec. 14, Exxon agreed to buy XTO Energy, a natural gas firm, in a deal valued at $41 billion. XTO is one of the leaders in something called "fracking" technology, in which water, sand and additives are pumped into the ground to unlock trillions of feet of natural gas previously thought to be unobtainable. Because of these new technologies, it is estimated that the U.S. sits on 83% more recoverable natural gas than was thought in 1990. Pro Publica was started by billionaires Herbert and Marion Sandler, who, along with billionaire George Soros, funded the left-wing Center for American Progress, run by John Podesta and touted as the Obama administration's "idea factory." Soros owns a major stake in a company called InterOil, a company that has discovered a large natural gas field in Papua, New Guinea, with which American shale resources would compete. Soros would rather have us import his liquefied natural gas than develop our own. His allies in the media, the environmental movement and the Democratic caucus are all too eager to exploit public fears to do more

Chilly Climate for Oil Refiners

Only a few years ago, a cry went up that the United States needed more oil refineries. The perceived shortage was so acute that George W. Bush, president at the time, even offered disused military bases as sites for building them. Not only did that never come to pass, but the reverse is now happening. The business of oil refining is mired in a deep crisis, with five refineries having shut down this year, including plants in Delaware, New Jersey, California and New Mexico. Gasoline demand, which many analysts had long expected to keep rising for decades, is down sharply in the recession. And refiners are increasingly convinced that even after the economy recovers, demand will not grow much in coming years because of the rise of alternative fuel supplies and the advent of tougher efficiency standards for automobiles. Plagued by boom-and-bust cycles of rapid expansion followed by sharp belt-tightening, refining companies have often struggled to operate at a profit. That is a contrast to the production side of the oil business, long a road to riches. “Oil production creates wealth, but oil refining has often destroyed it,” said Costanza Jacazio, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York. Even so, these are unusually harsh times for oil refiners. The recent drop in gasoline demand could result in more refineries being closed in the coming more

Earth-Friendly Elements, Mined Destructively

Some of the greenest technologies of the age, from electric cars to efficient light bulbs to very large wind turbines, are made possible by an unusual group of elements called rare earths. The world’s dependence on these substances is rising fast. Just one problem: These elements come almost entirely from China, from some of the most environmentally damaging mines in the country, in an industry dominated by criminal gangs. Western capitals have suddenly grown worried over China’s near monopoly, which gives it a potential stranglehold on technologies of the more

Taxpayer-Funded Wind Farms Prompt Concern; Jobs for China?

Wind-power projects funded in part by the $787-billion Recovery Act (stimulus law) are coming under scrutiny at a time when President Obama and other Democrats have promoted alternative forms of energy production. Two New York Democrats – Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Eric Massa – are among the lawmakers criticizing specific wind-power projects that are getting hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies. A “definitive agreement” was reached on one of those projects two weeks ago, according to a Dec. 20 news release from the Austin, Texas-based Cielo Wind Power. The deal is between Cielo, U.S. Renewable Energy Group and China-based Shenyang Power Group. The $1.5 billion project – which is getting $450 million in stimulus funds – is supposed to create 2,000 to 3,000 jobs. The problem is, most of those jobs will be in China, Sen. Schumer said, because that’s where the wind turbines will be constructed. Another 300 temporary jobs will be created in more

Senator’s legacy: Range protection

The late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas worked tirelessly in the last years of his life championing a bill to put portions of the Wyoming Range off-limits to future oil and gas leasing. The legacy of Thomas — who drafted the Wyoming Range legislation in 2006 and pushed for the bill until his death from leukemia in 2007 — was finally realized this year. Originally introduced in 2007 by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Thomas’ replacement in the Senate, the Wyoming Range Legacy Act spent 18 months in Congress until its passage in March. The passage was spurred by a grass-roots coalition of area residents, conservationists, sportsmen, union labor officials, church organizations and others. The Wyoming Range Legacy Act provides permanent protection from future oil and gas development for 1.2 million acres within the scenic Wyoming Range, located on the state’s western flank within the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The bill prohibits any future oil and gas leasing, mining patents or geothermal leasing along an approximately 100-mile-long stretch of the Wyoming Range. The act also allows for conservation groups and individuals to buy and retire some 75,000 acres in the forest already leased for oil and gas development in the Wyoming Range, but only if the leaseholders are willing to more

Invasive species lawsuit expands

Legal forces in the Upper Midwest arrayed against the invasive Asian carp Monday, as Minnesota joined a lawsuit with Ohio and Michigan applying legal pressure to seal off Illinois' carp-infested waterways from the Great Lakes. The lawsuit, filed by Michigan before the U.S. Supreme Court last week, raises the potential that the Chicago and O'Brien locks in downtown Chicago and south suburban Burnham might be ordered closed -- an outcome that would have major repercussions in the Chicago area. Hundreds of millions of dollars in freight and recreation in northeast Illinois would be rerouted or reorganized if the locks closed. But Michigan says it is suing to protect a more vital economic interest: a fishing industry on the lakes worth a reported $7 billion annually. Ohio joined the suit last week. On Monday, so did Minnesota. The sums at stake underscore the powerful interests aligning on either side of the advance of carp. A trade group for the barge industry, American Waterways Operators, says closing the locks would disrupt shipments of jet fuel, coal, road salt and other products. Backers of the Michigan lawsuit, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes, downplay the impact, arguing much of the inland navigation would remain unchanged except for transfers at or near the locks. Still, new infrastructure would have to be built to transfer more

EPA publishes interactive map of clean air, water violations

The Environmental Protection Agency has published an interactive map with its enforcement actions from 2009. You can use the map to zoom in on locales, like the Portland area, and see what steps the federal environmental regulator took to rectify violations of clean air and water laws from October 2008 to September 2009. Most entries link to a report describing the violations and the subsequent settlement or penalty.

GPS gets couple stuck for three days

Are you submissive? Do you do what others or other machines tell you to do? Well, according to the Associated Press, John and Starry Rhoads took a high road that almost turned into a very low road indeed, all because they did what their Toyota Sequoia's GPS told them to. Apparently, the high desert of Eastern Oregon is a lovely place. Until you ask your GPS for the shortest route to your destination and it sends you down a remote forest road, without actually saying: "Yo, people. You go that way and it's really remote and foresty." Once they had gone where they were told, the Rhoads were on the road to no return. They ended up stuck in 18 inches of snow near a place called the Thompson Reservoir. The Rhoads, from Nevada, are not dilettantes in a dilemma. They had plenty of warm clothing and food. And they had cell phones equipped with, yes, GPS. There was only one slight, delicate problem. They had no more

Brett Comments On Wild Horse Issue

Sunday's post of a link to the article Judge allows wild horse roundup in Nevada has generated quite a few comments. Today's post on the same issue may do the same. One of the more reasonable posts was by regular reader Brett. I'm reposting his comments here so any further comments will hopefully adopt his manner of addressing the issue.

Brett said...

It is unfortunate that the slaughter issue, public lands use problems, and the Wild Horse program are all in one infmammatory mess here at the moment. At this point, there are a multitude of problems to address here. I will try my best, and try to avoid dragging anything else into it.

I am disappointed that those of us who do not square perfectly with the opinion of some advocates are typecast as unenlightened, selfish, cruel and hateful people. The notion of sainted advocates in white hats doing mighty battle with the dark-hatted cattle barons might make a great Western, but I think it is too manichean to square with reality.

I have never heard tell of anyone securing loans by virtue of a grazing permit. The loans in question will be secured with the herd itself as collateral. That in and of itself is not what I would term sound business, but this isn't about how I would run things. Pulling cash on the speculative value of a grazing lease, though? Perhaps such things are going on and I am not aware of it. Most of my activity with public lands type ranching are of the rosin jawed variety. I thank God for that, as I would never have the patience to handle that kind of paperwork and the continual jerking around of allotments. I would much rather handle the farming/water end and wrangle horses, personally.

The history of the horse on this continent is a fascinating study. Most things I have read on horses suggest that the horse evolved here, after which they migrated across a land bridge to Asia. Most believe that the herds in North America more or less died out, and that the creatures that took their spot in the ecosystem were bovines, specifically bison. It was not until the 1500s that horses returned courtesy of the Spanish. The Spanish deliberately turned horses loose in an effort to placate natives and reduce horse theft. The Vaqueros turned their surplus horses loose to the feral herds as well. The feral herd was seen as a resource, and it was still seen that way long after the United States gained control of what we know today as the West. It was that way right up to 1971, when the Wild Horse program started up. Ironically, the program started to preserve the legend, but the true history of the herd is dying.

The question was asked as to why nobody noticed the so-called horse population issue until ranching arrived in the area. There are probably several ways to tackle that. One way would be to point out that ranching is not exactly new in the West, having long predated the Wild Horse program's inauguration in the late twentieth century. Prior to the program, Mustangs were just another type of livestock competing for resources. Nobody gave it much more thought than that. Today, the regulations force them to. No matter. Ranchers are not averse to managing the range to accomodate competing species. A few outfits literally run both cattle and sheep.

The other approach I can think of is a bit more basal. If not for the ranchers, who are directed to manage their allotment, who exactly would notice a problem with the balance of grazing and grazing animals? They're the ones that are out there. Once again, they are caught in the middle. If it were only as easy as the stereotype suggests it is...

I hope more people from both sides comment on this situation. There needs to be a better dialogue on it, and I am not equipped to do it any better. I do know, though, that our food supply, and the health of both the dmoesticated and feral herds, depend on efficient management of the rangeland.

Nevada reins in horse herds, but critics decry methods

A two-month roundup of about 2,500 wild horses from public and private lands in northern Nevada began on Monday amid protests that the plan is unnecessary and inhumane. Federal officials said the roundup counteracts overpopulation on 850 square miles of land, which could become unlivable to wildlife and livestock within four years. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency began gathering horses on Monday in the eastern portion of the Black Rock Range, a stretch of mountains more than 100 miles north of Reno. A contractor transports the horses to corrals using two helicopters under BLM supervision, Worley said. The animals are then trucked to Fallon, Nev., for immunizations and veterinary care, she said. Long-term plans call for the mustangs to be put up for adoption or sent to holding facilities in the Midwest. The agency said a facility in Reno was full of adoptable horses, making it unclear when new animals could be housed pending adoption. Horse advocates say the use of helicopters is inhumane and risks the animals' injury and death. Opponents also contend that winter roundups expose horses to respiratory illness. Suzanne Roy, program director of In Defense of Animals, said the group questions the plan's timing and methods, which prevent public monitoring of the more

Trail camera records images of hiker's missing dog, Zulu

Where's Zulu? That question has been on many people's minds these past few weeks. Calls and e-mails have come in from as far away as California and Montana asking about the hero dog who helped save her master Robert Sumrall's life while he was lost for six nights in freezing temperatures in the Black Range mountains of New Mexico. It's been three weeks since the 67-year-old El Pasoan was found, but no one has been able to catch Zulu, who ran off after ranchers Tom and Melba Parra found Sumrall lying in an arroyo, with Zulu on top of him. Since then, a dog that appears to be Zulu has been picked up on a trail camera set up by Silver City resident Jason Amaro, who uses the camera to scout an area where he hunts. The camera is at the bottom of a deep canyon up near Emery Pass -- miles from Royal John Mine Road, but where Sumrall and Zulu started their hike. It seems that the dog has been making loops from the Emery Pass area down the canyon, probably following the route that she and Sumrall took those nights they wandered lost in the more

Song Of The Day #210

Ranch Radio will stay in the 20s this a.m. with Sand Mountain Drag performed by John Dilleshaw and the Kessinger Brothers performing Old Jake Gillie.

The Dilleshaw tune is on his 24 track CD Complete Recorded Works (1929-1930) and the Kessinger Brothers tune is on their Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1: 1928-1929

The Kessinger Brothers tune goes out to Bobby Jones who I think will enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming Soon: An 'International Environmental Organization'?

As the Copenhagen climate conference staggers toward the finish line of a star-studded plenary of political leaders on Friday, a number of influential countries — including France and Britain — have been calling for the creation of a new, global regulator to act as the world's environmental steward, equipped with still unspecified powers. Similar discussions, it appears, have also been taking place for several months inside the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the world's current environmental watchdog. According to documents obtained by Fox News, a high-level group of dignitaries from 38 countries, including a bevy of environment ministers and other top environmental bureaucrats, held their first meeting under UNEP auspices last June in the Serbian capital of Belgrade to begin hammering out details of the task of "improving international environmental governance." The group's plan, according to an elaborate timetable presented at the meeting, was to present its ultimate conclusions on the topic at a meeting of UNEP's supervisory Governing Council, along with a tandem meeting of the world's environmental ministers, entitled the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Indonesia next February. Just how far, and how fast, UNEP hoped to go with its expansive thinking is unclear from the documents obtained by Fox more

Federal Waste Dump Sells Tons of Excavated Salt

Hundreds of tons of salt excavated from the Department of Energy's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico are destined for cattle feed in Texas. The DOE's Carlsbad field office has reached an agreement with Magnum Minerals LLC of Hereford, Texas, which will buy up to 300,000 tons of salt from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, known as WIPP. Magnum Minerals has contracted for $600,000 worth of salt, most of which will go into cattle feed, company president Tim Gearn said. Cattle feed is required to have certain minerals, including salt. It's the first such sale from WIPP, which eventually will have to get rid of the salt that's excavated for waste disposal rooms, said Vernon Daub, deputy manager of the field office. WIPP, which opened in March 1999, has an expected 35-year lifespan. The DOE has estimated it would cost $15 per ton to haul the salt to a municipal landfill, Daub said. Daub could not say how much salt already has been excavated, but said there will be plenty to fulfill the more

Feds May Regulate Drug Residue in Drinking Water

Federal regulators under President Barack Obama have sharply shifted course on long-standing policy toward pharmaceutical residues in the nation's drinking water, taking a critical first step toward regulating some of the contaminants while acknowledging they could threaten human health. A burst of significant announcements in recent weeks reflects an expanded government effort to deal with pharmaceuticals as environmental pollutants: -- For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency has listed some pharmaceuticals as candidates for regulation in drinking water. The agency also has launched a survey to check for scores of drugs at water treatment plants across the nation. -- The Food and Drug Administration has updated its list of waste drugs that should be flushed down the toilet, but the agency has also declared a goal of working toward the return of all unused medicines. -- The National Toxicology Program is conducting research to clarify how human health may be harmed by drugs at low environmental more

Ranchers, activists at odds over mustang roundup

Bob Depauli, whose family has been ranching in Nevada for four generations, remembers a wild horse he saw in the Nevada desert one drought-parched year in the late 1970s. "The herds were really poor that year, starved," he said. "I saw (a dead mustang) whose two hind legs had quit working and it had use of only its forelegs. It had walked in circles and dug a hole in the ground with its hindquarters." It dug its own grave. Depauli runs cattle on federal allotments, including one about 30 miles north of Gerlach in the area where the federal government plans Monday to start rounding up 2,500 wild horses of the more than 3,000 in the area. The government said the roundup is necessary to check overpopulation. Opponents said the land mangers exaggerate the number of mustangs and the damage they do to the range, and that gathering horses using helicopters traumatizes, injures or kills the animals. About 32,000 wild horses are in government holding pens waiting for adoptions that, for most, will never come. Range managers plan to remove another 10,000 from ranges in Nevada and elsewhere in the West next year. The government, Depauli and others see the wild horse gathers as necessary to ensure the health of the rangeland, water supplies and native species. Opponents say the horses are a symbol of America and are being swept aside for the benefit of cattlemen like more

Rancher knowledge: An untapped resource

Land management and conservation agencies have traditionally performed rangeland management activities based predominately on technical information resulting from scientific research. However, rancher experience and knowledge is an untapped resource that could help broaden the scope of these activities and lead to more sustainable land management. The number of ranchers in the United States is steadily decreasing. Therefore, it is more important than ever to document rancher knowledge and share it with other ranchers and with those involved in rangeland management. Researchers gathered and codified the knowledge of ranchers in northwest Colorado; their results appear in the journal Rangeland Ecology and Management. Numerous studies document the local knowledge of pastoral communities in developing countries. However, only a few studies have focused on rancher knowledge, and until now, none has systematically studied rancher knowledge in a developed more

When the land's worth more than the trees

For 100 years, Ponderosa pines nourished this logging town of 500 nestled along Mount Adams' southeastern flank. But in the past few years, a change has taken over the woods, unsettling residents and their relationship with the land. Here and throughout the Pacific Northwest, investors have been buying millions of acres of forestland, betting on big payouts for their clients -- pension funds, university endowments and foundations. Today, timber investment management organizations and real estate investment trusts represent the largest private landowners in Oregon and across the country. Over the past decade, investor-owners have used one big advantage as they've quietly replaced traditional forest products companies: They don't pay corporate taxes. This month, Weyerhaeuser, the nation's last major publicly-traded integrated forest products company, announced it will become a real estate investment trust next year. With timber prices flatlining and real estate values rising, many private forestland owners are shifting their gaze to building homes rather than growing trees. Landowners elsewhere in the country, under pressure to maximize returns, have looked to convert forests into subdivisions and resorts as trees become less valuable than the land they occupy. The unprecedented change in land ownership raises concerns about the impact on wildlife and natural resources, as well as the increased costs of protecting residents from forest fires. Nationwide, about 1 million acres of forestland are lost to development every year. In the Pacific Northwest, it begs the question: What does the future for forestry look like in a region defined by it? more

Hunting the hunters

Livestock predators are an unwelcome fact of life for many ranchers, particularly where coyotes are active. Unlike wolves, these year-around hunters can work in packs, in pairs or singly, making wholesale killing raids on poultry flocks and on herds of sheep, goats and young cattle. Their numbers and the number of costly attacks they make on livestock in eastern North Dakota’s Red River Valley appear to be increasing. John Paulson, supervisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Bismarck, N.D., says coyote predation is at least partly to blame for the reduced number of deer fawns sighted by hunters this year. Also known as the American jackal or prairie wolf, the coyote is a canine predator found throughout North America and Central America. It evolved in North America, unlike its cousin, the gray wolf, which migrated from Europe and Asia. Coyotes are found all over the Lower 48 states, Alaska and about a half of Canada. Nineteen different species of coyote are recognized, 16 of which live in the U.S. and Canada. Typical coyote packs are made up of six closely related adults, yearlings and young. They generally are smaller than wolf packs. Coyotes are thought to be mostly nocturnal, but often can be seen during daylight hours. They once were diurnal or daytime hunters, according to research, but have developed more nocturnal hunting behavior since faced with human more

Senator Max Baucus Drunk / Intoxicated on Senate Floor

2009: NHSFR finishes run in Farmington

The 2009 edition of the National High School Finals Rodeo was a success inside the arenas of McGee Park, but not so much in the San Juan County community. Despite back-to-back years of action that filled the bleachers night after night, the Tres Rios High School Rodeo Association voted against bidding for the right to host the 2014 NHSFR, citing significant financial losses and the perceived apathy of the national organization toward the host communities. "In good conscious, I just don't think I see that benefit versus the loss that we incurred," said Farmington Mayor Bill Standley after the November vote. "I think they're thumbing their nose at the communities." According to figures provided by Tres Rios, local communities incurred more than $186,000 in losses while hosting the 2008 NHSFR, and figures for the 2009 edition could reach $325,000. However, the effect of those financial losses wasn't evident during the event itself. Unlike the 2008 rodeo, when riders Corbin Carpenter and Blake Arp each suffered horrific injuries, the 2009 NHSFR finished without a significant incident. In fact, the week began in electric fashion when Carpenter rode into the rough stock arena atop his horse prior to the first performance of the week, eliciting a roar from the more

Words often switch order in English

More than 15,000 common English words were borrowed from French during the course of several centuries. Some terms retain their French form and spelling: fait accompli, rendezvous, tête à tête. Thousands of other words have been Anglicized — courage, dignity, easy, forest, fool, fruit, male, sacrifice, secret, sober. Even our lowly biscuit is a French borrowing. It means “twice cooked”— bis (twice) + cuit (cooked). Usually borrowings from French and other languages did not affect the structure of English. Usually borrowings from French and other languages did not affect the structure of English. But there are some exceptions. Under French influence, we say Surgeon General (instead of general surgeon), Postmaster General (not general postmaster. Before English-speaking settlers came into contact with Spanish speakers in the Southwest, terms dealing with cattle and herding were pure English. Thus in the Revolutionary War there was a battle of “Cowpens.” Spanish “Corral” replaced the English term. A cattle owner was a “stockman” in pre-Spanish times; later “rancher,” based on the Spanish word ranchero, became more popular. Rodeo means “roundup” and replaced the old English term in many cases. “Cowboy,” a translation of vaquero, replaced “herder,” but English “drover” more

45 years later, they still miss ‘old Klamath’

It all happened so quickly. On Monday night, Dec. 21, 1964, Del Norte County Civil Defense Chief William Parker was first alerted that floods were expected from a strong winter storm already onshore. But floods were not uncommon. There had been floods in 1953 and 1955, and the people of Del Norte County had always recovered, and at the time Parker had no indication that the flooding would be anything out of the ordinary. In Klamath, Mark Mellett watched and listened as huge redwood logs rushing down the river rammed into the Highway 101 bridge, making the whole bridge shake — something Mellett had never seen before. By Tuesday morning, the people of Klamath needed no weather forecasts to tell them a flood was on the way. They could see the water line begin to swallow neighborhood roads and then their own property lines. Mellett could no longer watch the bridge because floodwaters kept him away from it. In haste, the residents of the Klam­ath River valleys began to evacuate. Writing for the Crescent City American newspaper, George Mer­riman described the eerie sight of logging trucks pulling mobile homes to higher ground, dragging TV and electrical cables, telephone wires and sewer hoses behind because there was no time to properly disconnect the lines. By afternoon, the river rose to a record height of 55 more

Santa's helpers reside in Roosevelt County

Every year around Christmas, Santa’s helpers appear around Portales, handing out gifts and making children smile. And it’s Roosevelt County men who are under those red suits, hats and beards. Roosevelt County farmer and rancher Matt Rush and C&S Dairy Supply employee Mark Clark are two of the local men behind St. Nicholas. “I enjoy watching the kids get so excited,” said Rush, now in his sixth year as Santa. The job has taught him Christmas really is about the children, he said. Clark said it’s the season of giving. Playing Santa is his way to do that. He doesn’t request money, but Dairi Concepts offered him payment and a family may give him a few dollars and a plate of cookies for his work. Clark first became Kris Kringle 22 years ago, when he visited Junior Gresham’s family in Dora on the invitation of Gresham and his wife. “And it went on from there,” Clark more

Christmas dinners weren’t so easy for pioneers

Preparing an elaborate Christmas dinner for family and friends can be a logistical and technical challenge for even the best cooks. But most modern holiday feasts are a cinch compared to those cooked in the frontier West more than a century ago. “Have you ever tried plucking a goose?” asked John Rumm, curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. “It’s not an easy process. The feathers don’t come off easily. And you have to singe the skin to get some of the quills out of there. It’s a pretty labor-intensive thing, which is why I suspect nobody eats that much goose anymore for Christmas,” he said. Settlers in remote Western frontier towns lacked most of the modern conveniences taken for granted by today’s cooks, and had limited or no access to fresh foods during the winter, Rumm said. Minnie Williams was a rancher in Red Lodge and later, Meeteetse. Her husband, Frank, was a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. One year, when planning a Christmas visit, Cody sent word ahead of his special dinner request: fried chicken. “So Cody was a man of cosmopolitan tastes. He had dined in the finest restaurants in New York and Europe. But when push came to shove, he wanted his fried chicken,” Rumm more

Of LBJ & Tiger

Once, many years ago, there was a Texan in the White House by the name of Lyndon Baines Johnson, better known as LBJ. And there were many legends about LBJ. A number are recounted in a privately printed best-selling book, "A Texan Looks at Lyndon" by J. Events Haley. Haley, born in 1901, was a rancher, a segregationist, a fierce opponent of FDR and his policies, and a good friend who had ridden the Texas cattle trails to Chicago as a young man. He died at 94 when the horse he was riding fell on him. LBJ was above everything a Texas politician. He worked hard and played every angle as only a Texan politician knows how to. One of the most infamous legends was the tale of how a political rival committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the back of head -- with a shotgun. And how each of three witnesses who could have given evidence against him in the Billy Sol Estes scandal died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their cars. During his White House years, LBJ would, during the fall and winter, host an "off-the-record" dinner for an ill-assorted group, usually about 20 guys, about once a more

It's All Trew: Farmers bend to advances in plows

The transition from horse-drawn to tractor-drawn farm equipment was both welcomed and resented by farmers. Age of the farmer had a lot to do with the resentment, as the older farmers did not want to change longtime familiar practices. But with each passing year, the fields grew larger, forcing the change, whether the farmer liked it or not. Some were not capable or did not want to study and learn how to set and adjust the new-fangled equipment to work properly. As a result, the few who did understand and learned the methods of adjustment were in great demand within the community. An example was the Krause one-way, a disc plow which cut the soil, stalks and weeds loose and tossed the lot to one side a few inches, severing roots and preventing regrowth. It cleaned the ground almost miraculously, but it had to be adjusted properly, especially if the soil was dry and hard. My father, J.T. Trew, was one of the few who understood the workings of the plow, having learned his expertise from years of experience. If the plow was set properly, it would do a better job, pull more easily and stay in its proper space while conserving fuel. After the Dust Bowl ended, with normal annual rainfall resuming, it was a common practice to plow the wheat stubble immediately after harvest. A month or so later, depending on rainfall, the stubble was again plowed to mulch it into the soil. When fall came, the land was again plowed to kill the weeds and volunteer wheat and to plant the next year's more

Song Of The Day #209

Ranch Radio will get your feet stompin' this Monday am with two tunes from way back in the twenties. The first is Hollywood Rag by Cannon's Jug Stompers followed by James Cole & His Washboard Fourperforming Runnin' Wild.

See Cannon's Jug Stompers: The Complete Works 1927 - 1930 and A Richer Tradition: Country Blues and String Band Music 1923-1942 for the songs.

Jack Bauer Interrogates Santa Claus

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Judge allows wild horse roundup in Nevada

The Obama administration said Wednesday it is going forward with a contentious plan to round up about 2,500 wild horses in Nevada. A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said herds in the Calico Mountains Complex in northwestern Nevada are overpopulated and need to be reduced to protect the horses and the rangelands that support them. "The current population in the five Calico herd management areas is three times what the range can handle, so this gather will ensure high-quality habitat for the wild horse and burros and other wildlife while protecting the public rangeland from overuse," said spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff. She called the dispute over the roundup "yet another clarion call to develop and implement a long-term solution to the challenges we face concerning wild horses and burros on our public lands." The Interior Department announcement came after a federal judge on Wednesday denied a request to block the roundup, saying opponents had failed to demonstrate that removal of the horses would violate federal more

Landmark deal protects artifact-rich Utah canyon

An unusual agreement to protect a Utah canyon decorated by ancient American Indian art is expected to allow energy development to move forward. The pact is scheduled to be signed Jan. 5 by federal and state agencies, conservation and archaeology groups, tribal leaders and a Denver-based natural gas producer. It calls for road work to cut down on abrasive dust that can erode the rock art panels of Nine Mile Canyon. The canyon — actually 78 miles long — has been called the world's longest art gallery, with thousands of prehistoric drawings. Bill Barrett Corp. is awaiting federal environmental approval to add 800 gas wells on high plateaus that are accessible only from Nine Mile Canyon. The company said it was happy to end years of dispute with an agreement that brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny to its more

Twitter Tapping - Feds Monitoring Facebook

The government is increasingly monitoring Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for tax delinquents, copyright infringers and political protesters. A public interest group has filed a lawsuit to learn more about this monitoring, in the hope of starting a national discussion and modifying privacy laws as necessary for the online era. Law enforcement is not saying a lot about its social surveillance, but examples keep coming to light. The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that state revenue agents have been searching for tax scofflaws by mining information on MySpace and Facebook. In October, the F.B.I. searched the New York home of a man suspected of helping coordinate protests at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh by sending out messages over Twitter. In some cases, the government appears to be engaged in deception. The Boston Globe recently quoted a Massachusetts district attorney as saying that some police officers were going undercover on Facebook as part of their investigations. Wired magazine reported last month that In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, has put money into Visible Technologies, a software company that crawls across blogs, online forums, and open networks like Twitter and YouTube to monitor what is being more

It's The Pitts: The Check IS In The Mail

Lee Pitts

When I was a little boy my father put me on a chair and said, “Jump and I’ll catch you.” I did and he didn’t. As I gathered myself up off the floor he said in a stern voice, “Let that be a lesson to you. Don’t ever trust anybody.”

While that might be good advice for preparing someone to go into politics, believe me, it’s no way to go through life, and I have spent my life trying to totally disregard that lesson. My experience has taught me that you can trust people. For 25 years I’ve sold books that I’ve written and quite often a person has called up wanting to place an order over the phone. Until recently I never took credit cards and the people were always taken aback when I said, “I’ll just send you the books and when you get them you can just send me a check.” Keep in mind these were complete strangers. You may find the following fact hard to believe but I swear it’s 100% true. In all that time I’ve NEVER, EVER, been stiffed. Not once. Everyone of those people paid me just like they said they would.

People deserve more credit than they receive, at least the folks I tend to hang around with. I think the record is untarnished because of the kind of people who purchase my books; mostly country folks, farmers and ranchers and those who would like to be. People, who by their nature are simply just honest folks.

Like everyone else, I like to be paid money that is owed me. I’m a “cash and carry” kind of guy and my preferred terms for selling anything are 100% down with no payments. While I am a trusting soul by nature I still take precautions when big money is involved. For example, I never sold my calves directly off the ranch, preferring instead to sell them at auction because after watching them sell I could go eat a piece of pie and by the time I was finished the gals in the office would always have a check ready for me. I cannot fathom that some people will sell their year’s worth of work and let them go out the front gate without being paid for them, or at least having a check that they called the bank on to make sure it was good. While I’m sure 99.999% of the time everything will be all right I was always afraid that with my luck I’d be the one getting stiffed. It happened to us once when my wife and I sold a house.

Escrow was supposed to close on a Friday but was delayed so we went ahead and let the buyers move in while we loaded a U-Haul and moved to New Mexico. On Monday morning we learned that the owner of the escrow company had absconded with all the funds. It took us three years and $8,000 in lawyer fees to get our house back! As a result I’m careful when I deal with any big company with the word “Trust” in its name.

An auctioneer friend tried to reteach my father’s lesson to me one time when we worked a sale for an owner who was a tad bit suspect. He was a rich guy from the city who’d left behind a string of unpaid bills, so to make sure he got paid for his day’s work the auctioneer bought a bull during the sale. Sure enough, the auctioneer never got paid but by selling the bull he made up for the loss.

I recalled this lesson when I was asked to take bids at a bankruptcy sale years ago. I too wasn’t sure if I’d get paid the $250 we agreed on as my fee. The whole thing just didn’t feel right on the day of the auction so I looked around for something to buy as insurance in case I didn’t get paid. My eyes settled on the most gaudy, ugly mirror ever made. It was huge and the cherubs and vines adorning it dripped with fake gold. I swear, it would make Martha Stewart have a coronary. I bid $350 for it and after struggling to load the huge, ugly thing in my car I took it home. My wife took one look at the grotesque object and shrieked in disgust, “That thing is not going in my house!”

But it did. And to my surprise the check for my day’s work got home almost before I did. So, I belatedly paid for the mirror and ended up losing a hundred bucks for my labors. And every day when I look into the ugliest mirror ever made I am reminded that you really can trust people most of the time.

Song Of The Day #208

Today's Gospel tune is Your Long Journey by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss from their Raising Sand CD.

This song goes out to a long-time and very special friend.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas To Everyone From The Westerner

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

North Star, OnStar and the Christmas Star

Julie Carter

For centuries and long before time was recorded, our ancestors used the stars for their navigation around the globe.

Fixing the location of the North Star in the night sky, they would head out in that direction in the morning, slay a mastodon or two and return by evening.

The Vikings, and later Columbus, after Isabella sold her jewelry for him to get to America, navigated by sextants and the constellations to maintain a course on uncharted waters.

It could be speculated that the Indians that greeted the New World travelers on the eastern shores of America, had ancestors that got there by crossing the Alaskan land bridge following the migration of reindeer, using the North Star for a point of reference.

The new Americans followed the stars across the country from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and even some from Yankee territory, to the open ranges of Texas and the gold fields of California and the Rocky Mountains.

They came with dreams of riches and a new life on the frontier.

The estimated 13 million cattle driven from South Texas to Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Montana were guided by a cowboss' fixation on the North Star at night to give direction in the daylight.

Later cattle drives could simply follow the trail left by the earlier herds, but they were still capable of star navigation when the need arose.

Since the time of man, it has been known that in the winter, the run rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest.

In the summer, it rises in the northeast and goes down in the northwest, making the transition at the equinox. The stars shift slightly with the changing of the seasons.

Today, we have this wondrous invention for our most popular mode of transportation - the automobile. OnStar is the push-a-button technology that puts you in touch with a voice to tell you where you are, where you need to go, call for emergency help and a plethora of other options.

Recently, a member of the cowboy set partnered with the bank to own a new pickup truck that came fully loaded with gadgets, digital bells and whistles and, yes, even OnStar.

Manfully, he mastered the owner's manual and learned how to operate this wondrous vocal guide, determined to become a member of the modern generation.

One of the first opportunities to use it came when he ventured across the cattle guard and even a few county and state lines, to compete at the U.S. Team Roping Championships in Oklahoma City.

He purposed to use for the first time his new navigational system.

His wife, not so sure about the technology, brought her along her worn, but trusted Rand McNally.

The new Onstar was activated at departure time, and gave vocal directions at every highway change, telling the cowboy which direction and highway number to take.

He later reported that the helpful instruction by the insistent voice was wrong at each and every turn.

"It was like having my mother-in-law in the back seat," he said.

When he turned into the parking lot of the arena in OKC, the Onstar voice told him, "go 12.2 miles east and you will be there."

The cowboy didn't bother to turn on the OnStar guide for his trip home. He decided the stars and Rand McNally would get him there just fine.

Wise cowboys in all seasons are known to be guided by the stars. In this season, we are a reminded of the navigational star that led some other wise men, mounted on camels, along with a few sheepherders, to Bethlehem.

The Star of Bethlehem was the miraculous sign that told the world of the birth of the Christ and led the magi to the stable where they presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It was not the only navigational tool in the history of the world, but surely the most important one.

May you all have a blessed Christmas season and keep your eyes on the heavens.

Julie, who is frequently lost in thought and beyond the help of OnStar, can be reached for comment at

Christmas on the Frontier

By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

It’s not every day that men are asked to check their spurs at the door before they can enter a party or social gathering. But for three nights every December in the small West Texas town of Anson, checking your spurs is a must-do if you want to gain admission to one of the region’s oldest and most celebrated festivities – the Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.

The frontier dance, held in Anson as early as 1885, earned its title after New York poet Lawrence Chittenden visited Anson in the late 1880’s. Chittenden stayed at the Star Hotel which was the site for an annual Christmas dance held by hotel operator M.G. Rhodes in appreciation of the region’s ranchers and cowboys. Chittenden was inspired by the colorful scene and traditional dances to later write a poem: “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.”

Anson’s Texas Western published Chittenden’s poem on June 19, 1890, after the Star Hotel was demolished in a fire. Though the dance was shelved for several years after the hotel fire and during Prohibition, its legacy was preserved by Chittenden’s poem, which slowly gained wider recognition. In 1893, it was published in the first volume of Ranch Verses, and also in the book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads in 1910.

More than 40 years after the Star Hotel was destroyed, local teacher Leonora Barrett revived the Christmas Ball and hosted a reenactment of the original dance in a high school gymnasium. In 1940, Pioneer Hall was constructed as a project under the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, and the dance has been hosted at Pioneer Hall ever since.

It wasn’t until 1946 that “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” was set to music by Gordon Graham, a cowboy folklorist from Colorado. He sang it at the 1946 ball and it became a tradition to have the ballad sung before the ball every year. Grammy-award-winning cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey, who recorded the song “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” in 1985, has sung the ballad at the dance nearly every year since 1993.

Today no detail is forgotten in the effort to reenact the 19th Century ball. The 22-member Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Association, which sponsors the dance and owns Pioneer Hall, strives each year to create a setting that transports guests back to the frontier days from the moment they enter Pioneer Hall. Men bow and women curtsy. The hall is decorated with quilts and cedar boughs. Association members don matching outfits with the men in black vests and cowboy attire, and the women in Victorian blouses and taffeta skirts over hoop petticoats. There is a strict no-jeans policy for women, and men are still required to check their hats, spurs and guns at the door.

This year marks the 75th consecutive re-enactment of the original dance. From December 17-19, families will gather to dance, enjoy pot luck dinners, and socialize at Pioneer Hall. The ball is commenced each night with the traditional Grand March, led by a newlywed couple. There are seven approved original dances: the waltz, Paul Jones, Cotton-Eye Joe, polka, Virginia reel, Schottische, and square dance.

Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Anson men and women spanning more than a century, the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball is a unique Texas tradition that has been preserved with great detail and is sure to be enjoyed for years to come.

Song Of The Day #207

Ranch Radio started our Christmas Season with Gene Autry and that's who'll bring it to a close for us. Here he is performing Merry Christmas Waltz.

Ranch family honored

The Frost family, Duane and Shelly Frost, and their sons Dal and Rankin, from Claunch, N.M., and formerly of Grant County, was named the 2009 New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau Family of the Year at the organization's 92nd annual meeting in Albuquerque.

The Frosts manage the Surratt Ranch, a cow/calf operation that covers portions of Lincoln and Torrance counties. They have been active in Farm Bureau for more than four decades.

Farm Bureau President Michael White, of Dexter, said the Frost family represents "the gold standard" in the areas of leadership and volunteerism.

"Duane and Shelly were raised with the strong values taught by their parents who were ranching and mining pioneers in our state," he said. "They, in turn, have passed these ethics on to their two children who are also pursing careers in agriculture."

The couple grew up on opposite sides of the Continental Divide in Grant County and met at a sheriff's posse dance where Shelly played fiddle in the band "Girl Country." Duane graduated from Cobre High School in 1975 and Shelly from Cliff High School in 1976. They were married in 1976 and Duane went to work for the Flying A Ranch. Shelly then began her college career at Western New Mexico University. She graduated from WNMU in 1979 with a minor in music and a major in accounting.

They began their Farm Bureau career in their county and statewide Young Farmers and Ranchers Committees. Duane was later elected to the Cliff/Gila/Grant County Farm and Livestock Bureau Board of Directors and Shelly served on the Farm Bureau Women's Committee and was one of the founders of the Frisco Cowbelles in Catron County in 1981. After Shelly graduated from college, the couple moved back to her family ranch at Big Dry Creek to help run that operation, which covered portions of Catron and Grant counties.

In 1989, the family moved the ranching operation to Ramon, N.M., and got involved with the Lincoln County Farm and Livestock Bureau, where Duane served on the board of directors and later was elected president of the organization. He currently serves on the state board of directors for the N.M. Farm and Livestock Bureau. Shelly is active in the Crown Cowbelles and is a volunteer at Corona High School. She also runs the post office at Claunch. Duane serves on the board of directors of the Central New Mexico Telephone Cooperative and the Lincoln County Natural Resources Advisory Committee. In addition, he was a New Mexico Beef Council director in 2003-2004.

For more than 50 years the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau has recognized a family each year that epitomizes the goals and ideals of the state's largest private agricultural organization.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Substitute For Fossil Fuels

Earlier this year, Congress approved a scheme to pour $80 billion — on top of the tens of billions already spent — into renewables. A government report released last week indicates the money will be wasted. Renewable energy is the shiny gem that everyone wants but no one can have. Not even a president. Campaigning last year in Lansing, Mich., President Barack Obama said that it was his goal for the U.S. to generate 10% of its electric power from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025. But he cannot, by the force of will or executive order, change the laws of physics and economics. America has long relied on fossil fuels to power its economy. Oil, natural gas and coal provide about 84% of the nation's energy. And for good reason. They are plentiful and typically easy to retrieve, and, consequently, cheap. At the other end of the spectrum are renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. They supply only about 4% of our energy, the remainder coming from hydro and nuclear power. t's clear that renewables, which have benefited from government subsidies far in excess of what fossil fuels have received, can't compete in today's market and won't be faring much better a quarter century from now, according to the government's own more