Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama Signs Major Land Conservation Law

President Obama signed a massive lands package into law today, protecting more than two million acres as wilderness and creating a new national system to conserve land held by the Bureau of Land Management. At the signing ceremony Obama said, "This legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support." The law also establishes the 26-million acre National Landscape Conservation System, which aims to protect the most environmentally and historically-significant lands controlled by the BLM. The new system, which encompasses 850 sites including the Canyons of Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona and Nevada's Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area, requires the agency to make conservation a priority when managing these areas...Washington Post

Here's a video of the signing ceremony:

Obama to sign lands bill before 5 days of comment

President Obama on Monday will sign the omnibus land conservation bill - yet again breaking his vow to allow five days for public comment before he affixes his signature to legislation. The bill passed the House on Wednesday, but the White House didn't post the measure for comments until Friday, leaving just two weekend days and parts of Friday and Monday for the public to register comments - short of the president's five-day pledge. The bill was posted for only several hours before the White House announced that Mr. Obama would sign it, indicating the president had made up his mind well before many comments could have been submitted...Washington Times

Lands bill includes federal wolf-kill compensation

A public lands bill signed Monday by President Barack Obama includes a program under which ranchers could get money from the federal government to compensate them for livestock killed by wolves. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming sponsored the so-called "Wolf Kill Bill," which authorizes the federal government to spend up to $1 million annually on the 5-year demonstration program. The money also would cover grants to states and Indian tribes to reduce the risk of livestock attacks, by erecting fences and improving grazing practices. Tester said money for the program would likely be split evenly between compensating ranchers and paying for ways to prevent wolf attacks...KPAX

National Landscape Conservation System Signed Into Law by President Obama

At a ceremony earlier today, President Obama signed into law legislation permanently establishing the National Landscape Conservation System, which will protect and restore the most scenic, ecologically and historically significant lands under the jurisdiction of the Burhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifeau of Land Management. The System, the first of its kind in 50 years, consists of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails and other protective designations totaling over 850 sites and 26 million acres. "This is an historic moment for our public lands. Future generations will look back at this day as one of the most important dates in American land conservation history," said William Meadows, President of The Wilderness Society. The National Landscape Conservation System contains areas of rich archaeological and cultural significance including Canyons of Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, and Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona as well as vast wild areas such as Nevada's Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area and California's King Range National Conservation Area. The Conservation System protects critical habitat for fish and wildlife, provides access to world-class hunting and fishing, and offers challenging recreation for the self-guided adventurer. "These places tell the story of America -- they truly are the 'crown jewels' of the Bureau of Land Management's land. Now, thanks to a concerted effort by many people, their future is more secure. That's good news for everybody," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation...Press Release

Winds of Change Evident in U.S. Environmental Policy

Daniel Reifsnyder, a 25-year State Department veteran, knew even before President Obama was elected that U.S. environmental policy was going to change. So in early November, he called a couple of his Environmental Protection Agency counterparts about drafting documents to lay the groundwork for endorsing a treaty to curb global emissions of toxic mercury. By Feb. 20, the efforts of Reifsnyder and dozens of other rank-and-file federal employees had borne fruit: After the United States voiced support for the idea of a new, binding mercury treaty, the world community embraced it in Nairobi. The rapid policy reversal is just one of more than a dozen environmental initiatives the new administration has undertaken in its first two months. In nearly every case, the decisions were based on extensive analysis and documentation that rank-and-file employees had prepared over the past couple of years, often in the face of contrary-minded Bush administration officials. After years of chafing under political appointees who viewed stricter environmental regulation with skepticism, long-serving federal officials are seeing work that had been gathering dust for years translate quickly into action. After years of behind-the-scenes disputes with their superiors who favored regulatory restraint, many longtime federal workers are now what Cox calls "more in sync" with the new political hires running their agencies. This shift has helped produce broad policy reversals that encompass such issues as writing new regulations and prosecuting violators of old ones, with still more in the pipeline...Washington Post

Meet The New Boss

A president of the United States orders the chief executive officer of General Motors to resign. The same president is further ordering Chrysler to merge with Fiat, the Italian firm specializing in flimsy cardboard boxes on wheels. This new reality should send a chill down the spines of all Americans. The federal government has begun to run U.S. companies. President Obama said Monday, "my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan." To that confident assertion he added these stern sentiments: "They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can't make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?"Imagine if it were not GM, but your own small business employing a handful of people. How would you like the country's highest-ranking elected officeholder telling you that he and "my team" know better than you about cleaning up your balance sheets and competing against your rivals? How would you like being ordered by the government to fire the person you hired as manager of your company?...IBD

Big business has been in cahoots with big government for years, and now they are seeing the result of their efforts. They sold their soul long ago and are now losing their autonomy to their "friend."

They should accept no federal dollars, declare bankruptcy, reorganize and work their way back.

Scope of new oil & gas rules on federal land unclear

When the state Legislature approved new oil and gas rules last week, a plan to implement them on private lands Wednesday became a sure thing. That’s anything but the case when it comes to the state’s plans to put the rules in place on federal land a month later. Industry officials doubt the state and federal governments will reach agreement in the next month regarding how the state rules would work on federal land — if they reach an agreement at all. “I’ll put money down that there’s going to be a need to delay” the May 1 implementation date, Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said in an interview. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have yet to meet on the matter. “The federal government does not work fast when it’s working on agreements like this,” said Wayne Bankert, who now handles regulatory and environmental matters for Laramie Energy II but formerly helped regulate the industry as a BLM petroleum engineer. Dempsey said during a recent legislative hearing that the industry needs clarity about the matter. Dave Neslin, acting director of the oil and gas commission, has said the state is prepared to delay the federal lands implementation date if need be. But timing isn’t the only issue; so is legality. The BLM last year warned that the state does not appear to have the authority to put some rules in place on federal land, such as geographic area plans that could conflict with federal land management plans, and surface-occupancy restrictions that exceed similar federal limits and that the BLM fears would impede energy development. Neslin and other state officials say court rulings have made clear the state’s authority to impose its rules on federal land...Grand Junction Sentinel

Federal court's injunction against National Park gun ban repeal fails giggle test

Don't get me wrong. US District Court for DC Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly might have gotten the law exactly right when she temporarily reversed the administrative repeal of the National Park gun ban on the grounds that the Department of the Interior "abdicated their Congressionally-mandated obligation to evaluate all reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts, whether authorized by the Final Rule or not" [under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.]. But does this opinion pass the giggle test? The new regulation merely permits the carriage of loaded handguns - not discharge of any ammunition from them. Millions of Americans now routinely carry handguns in public in virtually every city and park in America, as well as in National Forests and on lands managed by Bureau of Land Management. Negligent discharges are extremely rare, as are discharges in defense of self or others. Could a few dozen or so possible bullets per year fired onto the 84.4 millions of acres of National Park lands possibly justify mandating environmental studies? OK, let's think about this. What if Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar decided that Park Rangers, currently unarmed, should start carrying side arms on DOI lands near or adjacent to the Mexican border due to rising violence from Mexican drug gangs. Would Salazar first have to conduct an environmental study before Rangers could be armed?...DC Examiner

EPA to monitor 66 schools' air

In its most sweeping effort to determine whether toxic chemicals permeate the air schoolchildren breathe, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce plans today to monitor the air outside 62 schools in 22 states. Texas and Ohio have the most schools on the list, with seven each; Pennsylvania has six. The plan will cost about $2.25 million and includes taking samples outside schools in small towns such as Story City, Iowa, and Toledo, Ore., and in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. It comes in response to a USA TODAY investigation that used the government's own data to identify schools that appear to be in toxic hot spots. USA TODAY's investigation, published in December, used a government computer simulation that showed at least 435 schools where the air outside appeared to be more toxic than the air outside Meredith Hitchens Elementary, an Ohio school closed in 2005. At Hitchens, the Ohio EPA found levels of carcinogens 50 times above what the state considered acceptable...USA Today

Plan to help schools "go green"

Lawmakers Sunday unveiled a plan to offer school districts low-interest loans to install solar panels on rooftops, build wind turbines or convert diesel-guzzling buses to battery power. The cash for the loans would come from the vast swaths of land set aside to benefit schoolchildren in the 1800s. The state already invests proceeds from land sales, spends part of the interest and boasts a $581 million balance in the account. Rather than investing that money as the state typically would, it would lend some to schools at rates that are lower than a bank's but high enough to match or outstrip the fund's traditional return. The fund's rate of return is 5.1 percent at the moment, said state Treasurer Cary Kennedy...Denver Post

Delay sought for hearings on pumping water to Las Vegas

The Southern Nevada Water Authority sent a letter Monday afternoon to the State Engineer asking that hearings on the Water Authority's right to pump water from Snake Valley be postponed a year. The hearings were supposed to begin Sept. 29 and last through much of the month of October. They were expected to be contentious, with fierce opposition from farmers, ranchers and conservationists from affected Nevada and Utah counties. The Water Authority has asked to pump more than 50,000 acre feet -- about 16 billion gallons -- of water a year from the valley that lies about 250 miles north of Las Vegas in Nevada and across the Utah border. The agency already has received permission from the state engineer's office to pump 40,000 acre feet from Spring Valley and 18,755 acre feet from Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys to provide Las Vegas water that the Authority says may be needed in the event of a prolonged drought. An acre foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons. The Water Authority would like to postpone the Snake Valley hearings because it will not be able to complete in time a computer model that shows the impact of the water removal, Deputy General Manager Kay Brothers said in the letter sent Monday...Las Vegas Sun

Collecting Rain Water Is Now Legal In Colorado

Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that loosens a 19th century ban on people who want to collect rainwater. Many people were surprised to learn they're not entitled to snow and rain that falls on their homes. A state senator recently found that out when he tried to conserve rainwater for his flower garden. In New Mexico it is common practice to harvest rainwater and store it in cisterns. That's what Sen. Chris Romer had hoped to do in Colorado. "I truly wanted to collect the rainwater off my roof to use in my garden, because I love gardening, but unfortunately, I got in big trouble," Romer said. That's because Colorado law dating back to the 19th century said every drop of rain must flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, that it was the property of farmers and ranchers and anyone else who had purchased the rights to those waterways. Residents still can't harvest rain without a permit from the state engineer's office, and the permits are targeted for those who live in rural areas, not people living the suburbs...CBS 4 Denver

PETA Killed 95 Percent of Adoptable Pets in its Care During 2008

Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) published documents online showing that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed 95 percent of the adoptable pets in its care during 2008. Despite years of public outrage over its euthanasia program, the animal rights group kills an average of 5.8 pets every day at its Norfolk, VA headquarters. According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers. Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year...CCF

'Mad Cow' Regulation Affects Equine, Rendering Industries

The equine and rendering industries are anticipating a pinch from a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation intended to prevent the proliferation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease"). The regulation on the 1997 legislation prohibits the use of most mammalian proteins in feed for ruminant (cud-chewing) animals. The final rule, which is slated to take effect April 27, specifies that the cattle body parts most at-risk for containing BSE prions, plus entire carcasses of BSE-positive cattle, be excluded from all animal feeds and pet foods. However, there's concern within the horse industry that the stringent collection and processing guidelines could cause rendering companies and haulers to eliminate livestock carcass pickups, including horses. Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association, said it will be an economically driven decision. "Cattle have been the largest portion of pickups. If renderers can't pick up enough volume or it's no longer financially viable, some might discontinue handling livestock altogether," Cook said. Laura Alvey, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine deputy director of communications, suggested that those affected by the rule find alternative means of disposal during the 12-month implementation process...The Horse

Song Of The Day #007

Eddy Arnold was responsible for the Lonzo & Oscar duo. In the mid-Forties Arnold wanted a comedy act for his performances. He asked two band members, Lloyd George (Lonzo) and Rollin Sullivan (Oscar) to put something together. They become so popular that in 1948 they went out on their own. Over the years there were 6 Lonzo's, but Sullivan was always the Oscar.

The selection today is their 1948 recording of There's A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea. This version is from a 26 track cd by the same name, BACM 198.

Emailers go here to play song.

Monday, March 30, 2009

US Hopes to Avoid Repeat of Kyoto Protocol

President Barack Obama's administration will be guided by a mix of "science and pragmatism" as it helps craft a global deal on climate change, the top U.S. climate official said Friday. Todd Stern said that would help the administration avoid a repeat of what happened with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, when U.S. officials negotiated a deal in Japan that failed to win domestic support. The U.S. refusal to join the program to reduce emissions drew sharp international rebuke, and fueled views that George W. Bush's administration was opposed to global cooperation and environmental preservation. On the eve of talks marking the Obama team's debut in the U.N. climate change negotiations, Stern said the U.S. is committed to getting a deal that will help prevent the devastating effects of global warming and also be politically viable. "We do not have any interest in the United States in having a repeat of the Kyoto experience, where we signed an agreement that is dead on arrival when we brought it back home," Stern told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin...CNS News

U.S. to raise vehicle fuel standards for 2011

The Obama administration plans to raise fuel efficiency standards by 2 miles per gallon to an average 27.3 mpg for new cars and trucks in the 2011 model year, marking the first increase in passenger car standards in more than two decades. Under the changes, which are slightly less stringent than those proposed by the Bush administration, new passenger cars will need to meet 30.2 mpg for the 2011 model year and pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and minivans will need to reach 24.1 mpg, an administration official said Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak in advance of an announcement expected today. The fuel efficiency rules are the first step in meeting a 2007 energy law that will require carmakers to meet at least 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent increase over the current standard of about 25 mpg...AP

California to ban black and dark colored cars

If California regulators get their way, auto makers may soon be forced to rewrite a cliché from the Ford Model T era and start telling customers they can have any color they want as long as it isn’t black. Some darker hues will be available in place of black, but right now they are indentified internally at paint suppliers with names such as “mud-puddle brown” and are truly ugly substitutes for today’s rich ebony hues. The problem stems from a new “cool paints” initiative from the California Air Resources Board. CARB wants to mandate the phase-in of heat-reflecting paints on vehicle exteriors beginning with the ’12 model year, with all colors meeting a 20% reflectivity requirement by the ’16 model year. Because about 17 other states tend to follow California’s regulatory lead, as many as 40% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. could be impacted by the proposed directive, suppliers say. Heat-reflecting paints for black and other dark colors on vehicles have not been invented yet...Ward's Auto

Spokane residents smuggle suds over green brands

The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don't work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states. But it's not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green. Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand...AP

Dust, Not Humans, Chief Cause of Atlantic Warming

The warming of Atlantic Ocean waters in recent decades is largely due to declines in airborne dust from African deserts and lower volcanic emissions, a new study suggests. Since 1980, the tropical North Atlantic has been warming by an average of a half-degree Fahrenheit (a quarter-degree Celsius) per decade. While that number may sound small, it can translate to big impacts on hurricanes, which are fueled by warm surface waters, said study team member Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Evan and his colleagues had previously shown that African dust and other airborne particles can suppress hurricane activity by reducing how much sunlight reaches the ocean and keeping the sea surface cool. In the new study, the researchers investigated the exact effect of dust and volcanic emissions on ocean temperatures. They combined satellite data of dust and other particles with existing climate models and calculated how much of the Atlantic warming observed during the last 26 years could be accounted for by simultaneous changes in African dust storms and tropical volcanic activity, primarily the eruptions of El Chichón in Mexico in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. The results: More than two-thirds of this upward trend in recent decades can be attributed to changes in African dust storm and tropical volcano activity during that time...Fox News

Meat vs. Climate: The Debate Continues

At least since a 2006 United Nations report asserted that livestock is responsible for a full 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions — a higher percentage than that caused by transportation — a debate over meat consumption and climate change has been cooking. The latest round involves a recent editorial in the Archives of Internal Medicine by Barry M. Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina. In it, Mr. Popkin revisits several studies linking meat not just with heart disease and other health issues, but also with worldwide consumption of energy and water resources — and global warming. Water use, Mr. Popkin writes, is two to five times greater worldwide for animal-source food than for basic crops such as legumes and grains. He further argues that livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process in the United States and is also responsible for one-third of the total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous to surface water. Not surprisingly, the Center for Consumer Freedom, which describes itself as a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers, issued a press release this week disputing Mr. Popkin’s editorial. “It is beyond dispute that any connection between meat production and global warming is a false one,” said David Martosko, the group’s director of research, in a phone interview. The C.C.F. said the United Nations’ conclusion that 18 percent of global greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture was also exaggerated. The group instead points to an Environmental Protection Agency report that puts the figure for all agriculture production — including meat — at just 6 percent. Mr. Marosko says that Mr. Popkin is “stretching the truth beyond recognition.”...NY Times

Steller sea lions gobbling up sturgeon below Bonneville Dam

Last month, government agencies gathered the media at Bonneville Dam to discuss the problem of sea lions eating endangered salmon. As if on cue, a sea lion surfaced below the dam, feasting on a fish as birds circled overheard. Cameras clicked, videotape rolled. But most missed that the sea lion wasn't eating a salmon. It was eating a sturgeon. Amid debate over the government's response to salmon-eating sea lions, which includes killing the mammals with gunshots or injections, a parallel but very different predator-prey phenomenon has evolved. Sea lions have gone from practically ignoring sturgeon at the dam to eating them by the hundreds, which could eventually threaten the fish and force wildlife experts to make some difficult choices. And though California sea lions eat most of the salmon at Bonneville, it's their larger cousins, Stellers, that eat nearly 98 percent of the sturgeon below the dam, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Compounding the problem is that Stellers, unlike California sea lions, are protected under the Endangered Species Act, limiting what wildlife agencies can do to keep them from sturgeon that spawn below the dam...The Oregonian

Innovative Retirement Planning for Cows and Sheep

Hank Fischer manages a special program called Wildlife Conflict Resolution for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). In English, that means he negotiates with ranchers to sell or “retire” public land grazing allotments to minimize conflicts between wildlife and domestic livestock. Since the early 1900s, western stockgrowers have leased public land for livestock grazing. These grazing permits or “allotments” have grown in value through time and have essentially become false equity for ranchers. They’re used for collateral in bank loans, and you’ve seen the real estate ads selling ranches touting figures like: “5000 deeded and 10,000 leased acres.” The private landowner isn’t actually selling those “leased acres,” usually federal land managed by the Forest Service (FS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Instead, he/she is selling or transferring the right to exclusively run cows or sheep on certain sections of public land. Such transactions have, in essence, created an after-market for these grazing allotments, and the NWF has become a player in buying, selling and trading them as a way to solve chronic conflicts between livestock and controversial wild animals like bears, wolves and bison. “At first, it was all about the conflict with bears and wolves,” Fischer told NewWest.Net. “Now we’re seeing we can also address the conflict between bison and cattle as it relates to the brucellosis problem.” And the success has been sweet. To date, Fischer and his NWF comrades have raised more than $2,000,000 of mostly private money and retired 31 grazing allotments totaling 530,000 acres of conflict-ridden public pasture...New West

Cost Works Against Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources in Time of Recession

Windmills and solar panel arrays have become symbols of America’s growing interest in alternative energy. Yet as Congress begins debating new rules to restrict carbon dioxide emissions and promote electricity produced from renewable sources, an underlying question is how much more Americans will be willing to pay to harness the wind and the sun. Curbing carbon dioxide emissions — a central part of tackling climate change — will almost certainly raise electricity prices, experts say. And increasing the nation’s reliance on renewable energy will in itself raise costs. Federal efforts to rein in carbon dioxide emissions are starting to seem inevitable. The Environmental Protection Agency last week moved to regulate heat-trapping gases as harmful pollutants. And the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are hoping to push through a cap-and-trade bill that would force polluters to curb their emissions or buy permits from cleaner producers. Congress is also discussing whether to require that a certain percentage of the nation’s electricity come from renewable sources. The effect of any these measures will be to increase the cost of electricity. Regulation of carbon dioxide emissions will increase the cost of burning coal, a carbon-heavy energy source and currently the cheapest form of fossil fuel. Higher production costs will result in higher electricity rates. A quota for renewable energy sources will also raise rates because utilities will pass on increased costs to consumers. And wind and solar power are generally more expensive than the fossil fuels they are meant to supplant...NY Times

EPA Awards $800,000 in ‘Environmental Justice’ Grants

Communities in 28 states will receive $800,000 to address “environmental justice challenges,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced this week. Forty grants of up to $20,000 each are going to community-based organizations and to local and tribal governments for community projects addressing environmental and public health issues. One of the grant recipients is the Women's Environmental Institute at Amador Hill in North Branch, Minn., which describes itself as a “retreat center” where people can “renew, learn and organize for environmental justice.” The institute deals with environmental issues and policies relevant to women and children as well as communities “especially affected by environmental injustices.” The institute says it promotes “agricultural justice, organic and sustainable agriculture and ecological awareness.” It also supports “activism that influences public policy and promotes social change.”...CNS News

Taking Logging Into 21st Century

Booming timber towns with three-shift lumber mills are a distant memory in the densely forested Northwest. Now, with the housing market and the economy in crisis, some rural areas have never been more raw. Mills keep closing. People keep leaving. Unemployment in some counties is near 20 percent. Yet in parts of the region, the decline is being met by an unlikely optimism. Some people who have long fought to clear-cut the region’s verdant slopes are trying to reposition themselves for a more environmentally friendly economy, motivated by changing political interests, the federal stimulus package and sheer desperation. Some mills that once sought the oldest, tallest evergreens are now producing alternative energy from wood byproducts like bark or brush. Unemployed loggers are looking for work thinning federal forests, a task for which the stimulus package devotes $500 million; the goal is to make forests more resistant to wildfires and disease. Some local officials are betting there is revenue in a forest resource that few appreciated before: the ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that can contribute to global warming...NY Times

A win-win Idaho water deal

Idaho Power has agreed to let the state send Snake River water underground to recharge the aquifer that many Eastern Idaho irrigators rely on to sustain their crops. In exchange, the company could see increased and more stable flows of water through its power-generating dams - and a way to help resolve issues holding up the federal relicensing of its primary hydroelectric facility in Hells Canyon. For Treasure Valley residents and other power customers, the deal could slow the rise in electric power rates, since Idaho Power's cheapest generation comes from the Snake River dams. State and company officials announced Thursday that they had resolved the issues that had clouded their historic 1984 Swan Falls water agreement, which established minimum flows in the Snake River at the company's Swan Falls dam southwest of Boise. In addition to recharging the aquifer, the plan includes programs to reduce groundwater pumping and take other measures that could increase flows from the springs that feed the Snake River below the Milner Dam near Burley - when that happens, more stable and predictable flows could drive the turbines. Recharging the aquifer also can help Idaho Power's efforts to meet federal and state water temperature requirements below its Hells Canyon Dam. Endangered fall chinook salmon have historically spawned there, but now, the temperatures are too high early in the fall. The company plans to work with farmers, irrigation companies and others to find ways to cool the Snake River water that flows into Brownlee Reservoir...Idaho Statesman

A Tale of Two States: Texas vs. California

...You couldn't have two states moving in more opposite directions. One is unabashedly pro-growth and aggressive in courting industry, while the other seems content to spin an ever denser spider web of laws, regulations and red tape that is driving business out of the state. One state accounts for a whopping 70 percent of all jobs created in the United States last year, while the other seems bent on increasing taxes on business and individuals to pay for an unsustainable, out of control government that wants to be everything to everyone despite the fact that it simply cannot. This doesn't mean that Texas doesn't face very real problems in the current recession: they do, as Brendan Case at the Dallas Morning News blogs here. But even so, the silver lining for Texas is that the recession will nick the Lone Star State while it gouges the Golden State. California's addiction to funding ongoing programs through debt financing, its permanent structural deficits on the horizon, its fondness for taxation, and other governance weak suits will really hamper the economic recovery in the state, ensuring it will occur long after Texas is off to the races. Hence, it's good to see a direct Texas vs. California comparison drawn out in the American Legislative Exchange Council's updated Rich States, Poor States report. The full report is worth a read, but I found the comparative analysis of tax and regulatory climate between the two states to be particularly illuminating. Here's the takeaway: Matched up in a head-to-head competition, Texas’s economic environment beats California’s – in fact, it is a knockout. [...] California continues to increase regulations, raise taxes and spend profligately. These anti-growth policies will continue to sap the economic vitality of California. Texas, on the other hand, has a pro-growth economic environment with a competitive tax system, sound regulations and spending discipline that will help Texas maintain its superior economic performance well into the future....Reason Foundation

Shasta Land Trust adds 5,000-acre ranch to its conservation holdings

A wealth of animals, habitat and agriculture on a cattle ranch between Millville and Whitmore will remain protected under a deal struck by the Shasta Land Trust. "When you drive through that area, through the mountains, it's just nice to see the wildflowers, the wildlife," said Francis Duchi, chairman of the nonprofit group's board. "We're very appreciative." The recently completed conservation easement on the 5,000-acre Cow Creek Ranch is the latest for the group, which now has some 16,000 acres under similar agreements, said Executive Director Ben Miles. A conservation easement is a legal pact that permits certain uses of the land and prohibits others, while the property remains privately owned. The recently completed conservation easement on the 5,000-acre Cow Creek Ranch is the latest for the group, which now has some 16,000 acres under similar agreements, said Executive Director Ben Miles. A conservation easement is a legal pact that permits certain uses of the land and prohibits others, while the property remains privately owned...Record Searchlight

A Texas tale: Oil, business meet history and sabotage

No oilman expects to easily re-enter an abandoned well, but Glenn Lynch couldn't fathom why his drills had trouble piercing almost every old hole he tried to open in 1993. The unexpected snags, hidden thousands of feet below oil-rich Refugio County, more than doubled the drilling costs for some wells. Other holes proved impossible to reopen or, if completed, produced below expectations. At first, Lynch chalked it up to bad luck, a common oil field affliction. Six years later, however, a Refugio County jury fingered a far different culprit: Exxon Corp., then, as now, the nation's leading oil producer. Jurors found that Exxon, before abandoning the oil field in 1991, maliciously sabotaged the wells by cutting underground pipe, placing thick cement plugs at random depths and dropping metal junk down the holes - including one perforating gun still loaded with explosive charges. Exxon was ordered to pay $18.6 million, but the emphatic verdict was only the opening salvo in a legal war that continues today, pitting a historic Texas oil family and Lynch's small independent company against a multinational giant...Austin American-Statesman

Vilsack open to mandatory livestock traceback

The United States may need to consider mandatory farmer participation in a livestock traceback system, but insight must first be gathered from opponents of the idea, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Friday. "There is very serious dissatisfaction with the current system" among lawmakers who are convinced the voluntary process is not working as well as it should be, Vilsack said in an interview with Reuters. "What I'm hoping to do is get a system, whether it's voluntary or mandatory ... that works," he said. "It may very well be that you need a mandatory system, but in order for it to work you have to have people understand why you are doing it and understand that they have the opportunity to have their concerns voiced and listened to." Ultimately, he said whatever path livestock tracking takes, it must protect the country from market disruptions and homeland security threats. It also must be supported by a majority of the people who are willing to comply with the system rather than find a way around it...Reuters

It's one thing to "voice" your concerns and be "listened to", and quite another to actually have USDA act on those opinions.

Vilsack may bite his lower lip and tell you he feels your pain, but that won't cut it on this issue.

Notice they are now mentioning "homeland security" and "threats." The livestock producers are being set up - are you patriotic or not?

You better believe there is a mandatory program sitting on the shelf and the first "crisis" or "threat" that comes along will see it dusted off and implemented muy pronto.

Speaking of Homeland Security, thank you George Bush for bringing that concept to America and for supporting the creation of that godawful agency. Your legacy lives on.

A way of life slips out of range

The highway is jammed with people who wanted to live in the country inching their way toward jobs in the city. A few miles and a universe away, the last cowboy is making a living in what's left of that country. Steve Tellam is bent over in a foul patch of mud and cow dung stroking a calf and feeding it milk from a bottle. He is wearing a straw Bangora hat, checkered shirt, Wranglers and a belt buckle the size of a salad plate. His hands are misshapen by decades of labor, hard as ax handles and rough as an old baseball glove. Two bicyclists pedal past the corral in Day-Glo outfits and don't even glance at Tellam and the starving newborn. Tellam, 54, is a fourth-generation cowboy working in a region where being a cowboy no longer makes sense. A century ago, San Diego County was a cattleman's paradise -- endless open range, plentiful water, tall grass and convenient transport to slaughterhouses and growing cities. Tellam's great-grandfather, George Sawday, was Southern California's largest cattle baron. At a time when the Wright brothers were demonstrating that man could fly, Sawday ran vast herds on land stretching from the coast to the desert and from the Mexican border to Riverside. A semblance of the Old West survived in the folds of the backcountry around Ramona and Julian well into the 20th century. Today, the range has been subdivided and developed, the water sucked away by cities, the grass thinned by years of drought. With the beef industry consolidated far from Southern California, raising cattle in these mountains is as viable a business as selling surfboards in Nebraska. Tellam doesn't need a full hand to count the number of full-time cowboys in the area. "It's not going to survive into the next generation," he says...LA Times

Go to the LA Times link and watch the video.

The last 50 seconds tells it all.

Kentucky Derby Winner Alysheba Euthanized

Alysheba, a Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year, was euthanized March 27 at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute near Lexington. The 25-year-old pensioned stallion, who resided at the Kentucky Horse Park, and was buried at the Park’s Hall of Champions across from the grave of the great John Henry. Alysheba fell in his stall and was not able to get up. Dr. Nathan Slovis was immediately called to the Horse Park, and an equine ambulance transported Alysheba to Hagyard Equine across the road from the Hores Park. Dr. Slovis and his team treated Alysheba and evaluated his condition. By evening, it was clear that he had sustained an insurmountable injury. Bred by Preston Madden at his Hamburg Place near Lexington, Alysheba (Alydar--Bel Sheba, by Lt. Stevens) was sold as a yearling to Dorothy and Pam Scharbauer for $500,000 at the 1985 Keeneland July yearling sale. As a 3-year-old in 1987, Alysheba not only won the Kentucky Derby but also the Preakness Stakes and the Super Derby. He was beaten a nose by subsequent Horse of the Year Ferdinand in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Alysheba was voted champion 3-year-old male. At 4, he was even better, winning six grade I stakes: the Breeders' Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, Philip H. Iselin Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Meadowlands Cup Handicap, and the Charles H. Strub Stakes...The Horse

Kelly Leak wins $900K Sunland Derby

Kelly Leak used a strong kick down the stretch to win the $900,000 Sunland Park Derby by a length Sunday, proving he can win just about anywhere he goes. The 3-year-old son of Runaway Groom, the 2-1 favorite, covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.02 for his third career win with jockey Mike Smith aboard. The stirring run down the stretch came before 16,388 fans. Mythical Power, trained by Bob Baffert, finished second, and Scorewithcater was third. Kelly Leak, who has raced in California and Florida, has earned more than $620,000 and could be headed for the Lone Star Derby or the Peter Pan Stakes down the road. Kelly Leak was in seventh halfway through the race, then slowly moved up to fifth at the three-quarters pole, where he made his stirring move...AP

Song Of The Day #006

Here is Eddy Arnold's 1951 recording of There's Been A Change In Me. It's available on the 5 cd collection The Tennessee Plowboy & His Guitar .


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Strike up the fiddle, tune up the band

Julie Carter

This is a "do you remember" moment for those old enough to recall the days in rural America after World War II and young enough to remember what it was like for our parents.

Since the days of covered wagons and cattle drives, dancing in the country has been a social culture that brought levity to times of hard work and hard living.

History documents with a pen and photographs the moments of cowboy dancing around the campfire with the camp cookie still in his apron while a lively tune is belted out of a harmonica or strummed from a guitar.

After the war, when men from the country came home, changed by what they lived and what they had seen, and attempted to reconnect to the people and lives they had left behind, country dances made a way.

The cities moved into the bobby sox, loafer and jukebox era and was fueled by the music from Broadway musicals like Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun and South Pacific.

In the backwoods, hills and the plains of the West, the music culture was full of fiddle tunes that formed an important base for the contemporary versions of bluegrass, Western swing and country and Western.

I remember the community dances at the Grange Hall.

The neighbors would come, those that could play a musical instrument would and those that could sing, did.

Kids ran in and out the door while parents danced. Babies slept on pallets in the corner, or as my siblings and I did later in the night, bedded down in the back of a Studebaker station wagon.

There was a fiddle, a couple of guitars, piano, harmonica and occasionally an accordion to round out the music source.

My dad didn't always know the words to the songs, but he could yodel, so that was his contribution.

As the night wore on, and there was no closing time, the fun would kick up a notch as silly songs were created on the spot.

My parents courted going to country dances at a place that was no longer a town, but had a dancehall converted from an old one-room schoolhouse.

In later years, they rarely missed a dance that was held in the school gymnasium sponsored by the town firemen or the saddle club.

I grew up with the sounds of the Hanks (Snow, Locklin, Thompson and Williams) twanging in my head and feeding my love of the music. Jimmie Rodgers of "Honeycomb" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" fame, Earnest Tubb, Farron Young, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Ferlin Husky, Ray Price, Sonny James, Pasty Cline, Kitty Wells, Slim Whitman ... you get the idea.

The cowboys of that era tell about riding 10-12 miles to a dance, dancing all night, and riding back to the ranch to work. Some of them were the musical talent for the dance, some of them went to find the pretty girls, but they all went for the fun, the social and the levity their hard working lives needed.

When the trend moved the "party" to the honky tonks and bars, the dances held in halls, schools and barns dwindled and changed, except in the country where the families were held together by hard work, family values and simple lives.

I'm fortunate enough to still live in a place in the West where a country dance isn't all that foreign and yes, it is still a family affair.

If you need a refresher for your memories of those days, drop by Capitan, New Mexico on April 25. Head over to the fairgrounds and listen to the Joe Delk Band throw open the doors to those memories when life seemed just a little better.

The recipe for fun is still just as good today as it was then. Everything goes better with a country dance.

Julie, loves God, country and dancing, and can be reached at www.julie-carter.com

Rural Revolt

The Rural Revolt

By Jeff Warren

No one could write dialogue like Paddy Chayefsky. Who can forget Howard Beale (the Anchorman in “Network”) galvanizing a generation with, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”?

Who amongst us didn’t want to throw open our windows and shout that we weren’t going to put up with it anymore?

America is no stranger to rebellion. We were ripped from the womb of tyranny in 1773 by some angry folks who felt His Majesty’s tea was better suited for the bottom of Boston Harbor than the top of a certain East India Company’s sailing vessels.

Of course, it didn’t begin with those intrepid souls protesting a series of “intolerable acts” being levied against them from afar.

It began in 1215 when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, which guaranteed “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized ... or anyways destroyed … unless by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.”

We recognize this more readily in our Fifth Amendment, “no person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

John Locke articulated this in his Second Treatise on Government. Locke wrote that in a natural state all people, are born free and equal, and possess certain rights. He said that these “natural rights” were life, liberty, and property.

As a prelude to the Revolution, Thomas Paine (in “Common Sense”) expanded “property” to include the phrase “pursuit of Happiness,” which Thomas Jefferson ripped off and declared an unalienable right which he placed at the top of our Declaration of Independence.

“Property” has only recently become a dirty word. Until the ‘60s, “private property” was not considered obscene.

City folk tend to rent rather than own. Nothing wrong with that.

They tend to rely on government services or merchants, rather than being self-reliant. Among other things, government provides buses for transport, merchants provide food and clothing. Rural people often fend for themselves, raising their own food, repairing their own equipment, building their own infrastructures — wells, roads, fences, barns, etc.

It stands to reason that a man who adds a porch onto his house with his own hands is going to feel different about it than a man who rents a home with a veranda in the city.

A man who raises cattle, grapes or corn is going to feel different about their relationship to him and the land, than the man who only sees these commodities in Safeway.

A rancher might have to capture his own water. A city dweller turns on a tap and expects it.

A farmer might cut wood to heat his hearth. An urbanite turns up the thermostat.

A farmer worries that untimely rain might destroy his hay crop. A metro-sexual worries that untimely rain might cancel his tennis match.

Small towns tend to be surrounded by agriculture, so rural people have a natural affinity for farmers.

For some reason, like England abused the colonies, urbanites are now declaring war on small-town, rural life. Why is this? Why have our fellow Americans in the cities lost respect for the way small town people live?

Through government bureaucracies with odd acronyms like BAAQMD, they’re attempting to take land and infrastructure from country folk.

Statewide, water is being denied to farmers. In Napa County, alone, movements are underway to de-commission roads in the hills, tear down dams on private property, restrict plantings, limit cattle grazing, limit the number of livestock one may own, monitor private wells, prevent growing grapes in the hills, ban fireplaces — the list goes on.

The assault has been relentless. It’s usually based on scare tactics centered around health. Recently, 1,700 people turned out in Santa Rosa to protest an onerous septic system inspection and “tax.”

Besides mandatory $350 inspections, they wanted to require government-mandated upgrades costing up to $45,000 per system.

That upset a lot of folks. Something’s in the air, and it ain’t coming from septic tanks. It’s the stench from governmental abuse of power.

Google “Rebellions in the United States.” From Boston Harbor to the Whiskey Rebellion, to the Haymarket Riot, to the Civil Rights Movement, you will see a list of hundreds of uprisings. Americans will only be pushed so far. I’m not sure we want a bunch of country folk rising up and shouting, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” But if it comes to that, count me in.

(Jeff Warren is a newcomer whose family didn’t arrive here until the ‘50s. He is a businessman, husband and father of three. His Web site is www.jeffwarren.com.)

St. Helena Star

Song Of The Day #005

Sundays will be old-time or traditional gospel.

Please enjoy Hank Snow's 1953 recording of The Gloryland March.

Email recipients go here to play the song.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Anchorage Daily News - Redoubt Volcano Photos

Go here for a neat set of photos of the Redoubt eruptions.

If you're drivin', you're being watched

The village of Schaumburg, Ill., installed a camera at Woodfield Mall last November to film cars that were running red lights, then used the footage to issue citations. Results were astonishing. The town issued $1 million in fines in just three months. But drivers caught by the unforgiving enforcement -- which mainly snared those who didn't come to a full stop before turning right on red -- exploded in anger. Many vowed to stop shopping at the mall unless the camera was turned off. The village stopped monitoring right turns at the intersection in January. Drivers -- many accusing law enforcement of using spy tactics to trap unsuspecting citizens -- are fighting back with everything from pick axes to camera-blocking Santa Clauses. They're moving beyond radar detectors and CB radios to wage their own tech war against detection, using sprays that promise to blur license numbers and Web sites that plot the cameras' locations and offer tips to beat them...WSJ

And you thought it was just red light cameras? Check this out from the same article:

Municipalities are establishing ever-more-clever snares. Last month, in a push to collect overdue taxes, the City Council in New Britain, Conn., approved the purchase of a $17,000 infrared-camera called "Plate Hunter." Mounted on a police car, the device automatically reads the license plates of every passing car and alerts the officer if the owner has failed to pay traffic tickets or is delinquent on car taxes. Police can then pull the cars over and impound them. New Britain was inspired by nearby New Haven, where four of the cameras brought in $2.8 million in just three months last year. New Haven has also put license-plate readers on tow trucks. They now roam the streets searching for cars owned by people who haven't paid their parking tickets or car-property taxes...

South Park on the Treasury Dept.

Like a chicken with it's head cut off.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's Deputy EPA chief nominee withdraws

Another Obama administration nominee withdrew his name Wednesday as questions emerged about a nonprofit group with which he had been affiliated. Jonathan Z. Cannon, nominated as deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, cited questions about the now-defunct America's Clean Water Foundation, for which he had been a board member. He said he didn't want to be a distraction. In 2007, EPA auditors accused the foundation of mismanaging $25 million in taxpayer funds. The foundation had won that much in federal contracts to identify environmental risks at beef, poultry and pork plants, and to help states and Native American tribes comply with the Clean Water Act. EPA auditors questioned the foundation's accounting of almost all that money and alluded to allegations of embezzlement. The report did not mention Cannon, who is a professor of environmental law at the University of Virginia and the former top EPA lawyer...LA Times

Environmental policy a specialty of Obama's solicitor general

President Obama's newly confirmed solicitor, Elena Kagan, is receiving a warm welcome from environmental lawyers and scholars who are hailing the former Harvard Law School dean for her background in administrative law and for revitalizing the school's environmental law program. After the Senate confirmed her, 61-31, last week, Kagan became the 45th solicitor general -- and the first woman ever to hold the position. She will argue for the government in Supreme Court cases. "Dean Kagan has a lot of experience in administrative law, so she will be especially well-attuned to these regulatory issues that typically come before the high court in environmental cases," said John Nagle, an environmental law professor at the University of Notre Dame's law school. Kagan, 48, served in the Clinton administration from 1995 to 1999, first as associate counsel in the White House Counsel's Office and then as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law, she clerked for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Abner Mikva and later for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, himself a former solicitor general. She returned to Harvard Law as a visiting professor in 1999 and joined the school full-time in 2001. She has served as dean since 2003. "She left a nationally visible mark on environmental law at Harvard," said Jim Rossi, a visiting environmental law professor at Harvard on loan from Florida State University. "For many years, Harvard was not known for a primary expertise in the environmental jurisprudence, and that changed under Dean Kagan's watch." Nominated by Obama, her former colleague at the University of Chicago Law School, Kagan is widely regarded as a serious candidate for an opening on the Supreme Court...NY Times

Unlikely partners savor victory, but work's not done to protect Owyhee Canyonlands

Environmental groups and Owyhee County ranchers went from bitter enemies to friends and partners in their ambitious effort to preserve the awesome scenery of the Owyhee Canyonlands; miles of habitat for wild sheep, imperiled sage grouse and rare redband trout; and the cultural treasures of both cowboys and Indians. But they're also looking ahead to the work to complete a hard-fought compromise that was included as one small measure in a sweeping public lands bill sent to President Obama on Wednesday. The bill could become law as soon as Monday. The ranchers overcame their traditional opposition to wilderness and wild rivers restrictions to help conservative Republican Sen. Mike Crapo pass Idaho's first wilderness bill since 1980. Now the burden shifts to environmentalists, who have to follow through on promises to find the money needed to keep ranchers whole as the region transforms. They agreed to help raise at least $10 million in private money and convince a Democratic administration to back $15 million more in tax dollars to help pay for the land transfers, grazing buyouts and other accommodations for ranchers who now live and work in the area. About $8 million is authorized for buying private lands in and around wilderness areas. But the $10 million from private sources, including foundations, would buy easements and water rights and pay ranchers to retire grazing permits...Idaho Statesman

Government Should Compel Consumers to Use Alternative Energy, Congressman Says

Government policy should be crafted to raise the price of carbon-emitting energy sources so consumers are compelled to choose alternative energy, House Democratic Conference Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) told CNSNews.com on Thursday. Larson agreed that such a policy would likely result in higher electricity prices for consumers but said this is needed to protect the environment from the possible “catastrophic results” of not implementing a pro-green energy policy. With cap and trade, the amount of carbon an energy company can emit is capped. If it exceeds that limit, the company can purchase credits (“trade”) that would go towards investment in green or alternative energy firms. “I think the government should serve as an impetus to do so, because as I said at the outset, not doing anything -- the catastrophic results that can come from that – are what drives this issue,” Larson told CNSNews.com when asked if boosting electricity prices through government policy to drive consumers to green energy was a good idea...CNS News

Property Rights: Do It for the World's Poor

One of the favorite mantras of the left is the need to protect people rather than property. But very often the best way to protect people is protect their property. Those with power and influence can steal what they want. Only when property rights are protected do average people have a shot at both liberty and prosperity. The question of property ownership goes far back into human history. Individual sovereignty over land was alien to hunter-gatherer societies, but they died out because they were "unsustainable," in current parlance. Larger populations required greater productivity, which required some form of property rights, even if by a tribe or some other group. The latter could sustain a certain level of life, but as peoples ancient through modern have discovered, collectivizing production inevitably limited available food and other goods. Rulers in a strong empire might succeed by plundering everyone else, but civilizations were unlikely to develop without a system of ownership which rewarded those who invested in developing and improving property. The right to private property evolved out of a basic moral notion. While one could argue endlessly about how to initially distribute unowned property -- Locke's picture of mixing one's labor with land was particularly influential in Britain and the American colonies -- land acquired through purchase and improved through work or expenditure embodied value based upon one's own efforts. Property owners also use knowledge, insight, and vision to enhance the worth of their assets. Although land and chattel long were the most important forms of property, today intellectual property has assumed much greater significance. The productive value of human creativity has expanded from hands to minds. The software programs on a computer, not the physical components of a computer, are that instrument's most productive property...American Spectator

Groups sue to protect endangered Calif. condor

An environmental group this week sued two federal agencies over a land management plan it says fails to protect the endangered California condor from lead ammunition. The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to ban lead hunting ammunition that can poison or kill condors that feed on gut piles and carcasses. The BLM adopted a management plan for an area north of the Grand Canyon known as the Arizona Strip last year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, issued an opinion on the plan a year earlier that environmentalists say is flawed. Scott Sticha, a spokesman for the BLM's Arizona Strip office, said the management plan does not address hunting ammunition and declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit. Brenda Smith, assistant field supervisor for Fish and Wildlife in Flagstaff, said the agency is taking another look at its opinion but did not say what the review might entail or when it would be completed...Arizona Republic

Subprime Carbon: Environmentalists Warn About the Next Big Bubble

President Obama and Congress are nowhere near drafting a climate bill, but the angst over the future carbon market is in full bloom. There are two good reasons for that: The recent financial meltdown in the U.S., and the recent carbon-market meltdown in Europe. Today, even as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is urging Congress to adopt greater financial-market regulation, another Capitol Hill hearing room is full of concern about another market subject to price gyrations: the carbon market. The biggest worry is how businesses are meant to adapt to a world where the price for a new must-have asset—the right to emit carbon dioxide—can swing so violently. In Europe, for instance, prices for carbon permits have whipsawed from a high of 30 euros a ton to a low of 2 euros a ton. Just as sketchy home mortgages set the stage for the subprime mess in U.S. banking markets, sketchy environmental initiatives threaten to create a “subprime carbon” mess, environmental group Friends of the Earth warned today. If correctly valuing McMansions was tough, how hard will it be to properly price the environmental benefits of a Mongolian wind farm, or other measures meant to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases? Carbon permits are still derivatives, after all...WSJ

Study: Pharmaceuticals found in fish across US

Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and depression, researchers reported Wednesday. Findings from this first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand similar ongoing research to more than 150 different locations. A person would have to eat hundreds of thousands of fish dinners to get even a single therapeutic dose, Brooks said. But researchers including Brooks have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues can harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species because of their constant exposure to contaminated water...Newsweek

House passes bill to pay for fighting wildfires

With fire season approaching, the House Thursday passed legislation to protect funding for fighting fires so government officials won't have to siphon money from other programs to handle the emergencies. The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement or FLAME Act moved easily through the House on a vote of 412-3. Wildland fire activities now account for approximately 48 percent of the Forest Service budget, up from just 13 percent in 1991. Last year, the Forest Service and Interior Department spent a combined $2.4 billion to fight fires. Meanwhile, the annual funding for fires has not kept pace, forcing officials to raid other important accounts to deal with a crisis that must be immediately met. The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, attacks the chronic shortage of money by establishing a dedicated reserve fund for catastrophic, emergency wildland fire suppression activities, separate from money Congress approves each year for other fire activities...Oregonian

Rabid bobcat attacks 3 inside Arizona bar

A bobcat was on the loose inside an Arizona bar. The bobcat in the bar caused a panic Tuesday night in Cottonwood near Sedona. Three people were hurt and the bobcat was killed. Cottonwood Police were called out to three different scenes Tuesday night all within an hour and a mile of each other. Everyone was complaining of an aggressive bobcat that attacked three people. 3TV has learned the bobcat was rabid. One patron tells 3TV, “I was sitting in the back and watched the bobcat run in.” That bobcat caught patrons off guard, causing some to jump on pool tables and grab pool sticks before pulling their cell phone cameras out for pictures. Another patron explains, “My friend got down with his camera phone and the cat jumped up and hit him in the face.” Kyle Hicks is now undergoing treatment for rabies...azfamily.com

How Green Are Your Grocery Bags?

You feel pretty good about yourself toting those green woven bags back and forth to the supermarket. But how much — and what — do they really save? And what's wrong with the old plastic and paper kinds? Reusable fabric bags are most commonly made from cotton, but the cotton-farming process is extremely fossil-fuel-intensive because of the machinery involved. Cotton is also responsible for 25 percent of all chemical pesticides — insecticides, fungicides and herbicides — used on American crops. Chemical fertilizers are used to enrich the soil. Most of the cotton grocery bags are woven outside the U.S. where labor is less costly, but that increases the use of fossil fuels in getting them from the factory to these shores. The process for making paper bags is also far from ideal. Huge machines log, haul and pulp trees. The entire paper-making process is heavily dependent on chemicals, electricity and fossil fuels. Surprisingly, plastic may be greener than paper. The EPA reports that making paper bags generates 70 percent more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than making plastic bags. The former also uses more energy and generates more solid waste. With any sort of bag, the best solution is to not throw it away at all. Paper should have an advantage here, right?...Fox News

Polluters, Beware: These Eco-Police Officers Are for Real

The woman at the desk of A & L Collision, an auto repair shop in Brooklyn, eyed Officer Neil R. Stevens suspiciously. “You’re not from here,’” she said. “Yes I am,” Officer Stevens replied. “You dress differently,” she insisted. She had a point. Officer Stevens’s unifor is olive green, not blue, and he wears a Stetson hat that gives him a friendly Smokey Bear look. But drivers of smoke-bellowing trucks, owners of oil-oozing body shops, vendors of undersize fish and other city dwellers underestimate him at their peril. As a member of a small force of police officers whose sole focus is enforcing environmental laws, Officer Stevens carries a gun and handcuffs and can haul a suspect off to jail. These environmental conservation officers number barely 20 in New York City, out of about 300 around the state, but issue about 2,000 summonses for violations and criminal charges annually...NY Times

New “Green” Pesticides Are First to Exploit Plant Defenses in Battle of the Fungi

Exploiting a little-known punch/counterpunch strategy in the ongoing battle between disease-causing fungi and crop plants, scientists in Canada are reporting development of a new class of “green” fungicides that could provide a safer, more environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional fungicides. They will report on the first pesticides to capitalize on this unique defensive strategy here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Developed with sustainable agriculture in mind, the new fungicides — called “paldoxins” — could still do the work of conventional pesticides, helping to protect corn, wheat and other crops. These crops increasingly are used not just for food, but to make biofuels. The new fungicides also could help fight the growing problem of resistance, in which plant pests shrug off fungicides, the researchers suggest...Newswise

Doctors Reattach NM Man's Arm After 900-Pound Pig Attack

A 26-year-old Curry County man had his arm nearly severed by a 900-pound boar that attacked him when he reached into the animal's pen to grab a water hose. Curry County sheriff's deputies say Juan Cruz, a dairy worker, was attacked March 16 when he was feeding the boar and about 18 other pigs at his home in rural eastern New Mexico. Cruz, speaking through an interpreter, says doctors in Lubbock, Texas, reattached his arm, but he is waiting to see if the operation was successful. Cruz says the pig wasn't mean and the attack was unexpected. A sheriff's report shows the family asked that the animal be shot and killed. After a test for rabies came up negative, the family was given the meat at its request. Fox News

Mutilated Cows Still A Big Mystery

In the past month, three different ranchers in Southern Colorado have all reported that their cows were mutilated. Three Separate cows, three separate ranchers...all with the same bizarre story. Each of them found one of their cows' dead...and we're not talking death by natural causes...the cows were reportedly mutilated. NEWSCHANNEL 13 received pictured to prove it, some of them are too disturbing to show. The cows ears were cut off by what ranchers say had to have been a laser, their organs all pulled from their body. The ranchers say no animal tracks or human tracks were found anywhere near the bodies, and the attacks have nothing in common with an animal attack. Each rancher says there are no bite marks on the cows, and no blood trails around the body that you would typically see in an animal attack. One of the ranchers, Tom Miller, told NEWSCHANNEL 13 that he's not sure what to believe. "It's still a mystery," said Miller. "Both their ears were cut off, they were very smooth cuts, no animal or knife could have done it."...NEWSCHANNEL 13

Montana, North Dakota Horse Slaughter Bills Advance

Legislation to establish privately owned horse processing plants in the United States advanced this week in two Western states. On March 24, the North Dakota State Senate approved HB 1496, authorizing a $50,000 study to evaluate potential legal challenges to slaughter plant development in that state. The bill will return to the North Dakota House for final consensus before moving on to Gov. John Hoeven's desk. "The bill is pretty veto proof, so I don't see the Governor not signing it," said State Sen. Joe Miller, a co-sponsor. Meanwhile, a Montana bill arrived on Gov. Brian Schweitzer's desk March 24 after its passage by the state's Senate. HB 418 prohibits Montana courts from granting injunctions to stop or delay horse processing plant construction based on permit or licensing challenges, or on environmental grounds. It also requires that anyone challenging permits submit a surety bond representing 20% of the facility's estimated building cost, and awards attorney and court fees to plaintiffs in cases District Courts deem harassing or without merit...The Horse

Death tax could mean end for fifth-generation rancher

I am the owner of a ranch that has been in my family for five generations. If current trends continue, I'll be the last in that line. My family's way of life is threatened by the death tax. My great-great-grandfather was a rags-to-riches pioneer. In the late 1860s, James Clayton Stribling Sr., son of an immigrant from England, moved from his birthplace in Tennessee to Texas. Arriving with little more than the shirt on his back, he began leasing land to graze cattle. Stribling gradually increased his ranch land by buying small tracts from neighbors. Over the course of his lifetime, he bought several thousand acres. When he died, the land then went to his children. His children continued the ranching tradition and passed it on to their five children, including my grandmother. It is with my grandmother that my family first discovered the death tax. When she died in 1997, the Internal Revenue Service handed my father an invoice of 38.5 percent minus a small deduction, on the appraised value of the land — the land that her grandfather had worked so hard to purchase, protect and work. As is the case with so many ranchers, her estate didn't have many liquid assets or a large amount of cash with which he could pay the debt. His only choice was to sell or take a loan. He took the largest loan available and, even then, was forced to sell several thousand acres. Fast forward to the summer of 2006. My father began to get ill and so we began planning his estate. We put together an army of attorneys, CPAs and tax planners in hopes of avoiding the tax burden my grandmother's estate left. Alas, our hope in tax-shelter magic was not to be realized...Austin American-Statesman

Song Of The Day #004

Dorsey Murdock Dixon (Oct 14, 1897-Apr 1968)was born in the mill town of Darlington, SC, quit school in the fourth grade, went to work in the mill at age 12, and started playing the guitar when he was 14. His younger brother, Howard (Jun 19, 1903-Mar 24, 1951), followed him to the mill and to music. In 1932 they formed a fiddle-guitar duo and played in local venues. They joined the WBT Jamboree in 1934, which led to a 1936 recording contract with Victor where they cut 60 sides. Their musical career was over by the start of WWII. During all this time they continued to work at the mill. Dorsey retired in 1951 and Howard died at the work-site in 1960. It should be noted that Dorsey was also a songwriter, having penned Weave Room Blues and Wreck On The Highway among others.

Today's selection is their 1936 recording of Sales Tax On The Women. It is available on the cd Dixon Brothers, Vol. 1: 1936.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

House Votes to Protect 2 Million Acres of Wilderness

The U.S. House passed a conservation plan that will protect 2 million acres of natural wilderness and preserve monuments, trails and rivers across the country. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, approved today 285-140, goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The measure combines more than 160 environmental bills in 1,294 pages to conserve water and protect 1,000 miles of scenic rivers. It would block mining and drilling on millions of acres of land. The measure authorizes up to $10 billion in spending for wildlife and land protection. It would add 2 million acres, or about 800,000 hectares, in nine states to the National Wilderness Preservation System. That system currently consists of 10 million acres, or about 4 million hectares, in 44 states. Opponents of the plan said it had not been properly vetted for wasteful spending and that it would block access to tens of millions of acres of natural gas and oil reserves. Representative Tom McClintock, a California Republican, called the bill a “massive land grab.” On the House floor, he said the public good is not served by “mindless and endless acquisition of property” that blocks access to natural gas and other resources. The House rejected an amendment from Representative Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican, to allow people to carry concealed weapons into national parks. The provision would have reversed an Interior Department firearms policy...Bloomberg

For local cattle grazers, bill may bring painful transition

Wednesday was bittersweet for rancher Bob Miller, whose family has been running cattle for more than a century on what is now the 53,837-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument southeast of Ashland. He is one of five major lessees whose cattle grazing will end on the monument after the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 becomes law. Passed by the U.S. Senate last week, it was overwhelmingly approved by the House on Wednesday and is expected to be signed soon by President Obama. He and other ranchers have been working with conservationists to come up with an agreement that would allow conservationists to pay the ranchers to retire their grazing leases. The act includes language that makes the grazing retirement possible. The buyout will include no funding from Uncle Sam. "This is not what we wanted, but it's better than nothing," said Miller, who added he would have preferred to continue the lifestyle his family has long followed. The amount being paid to the lessees has not been disclosed. "Nobody is getting enough to start over again," he said. "It's like selling your house for 20 cents on the dollar. You can't replace it." But health reasons, coupled with poor market conditions and growing opposition to grazing on public lands, persuaded him to make the difficult decision, he said. "It's hard," he said. "I'm the fourth generation — for over 100 years my family has been running cattle up there." The language in the act provides for permanent and voluntary retirement of public lands cattle grazing leases by private buyout on up to 106,672 acres of federal land in and around the monument...Mail Tribune

Obama nominates Gov. Richardson's former chief counsel for solicitor at interior dept.

The White House says it plans to nominate Gov. Bill Richardson's former chief counsel to the post of solicitor in the U.S. Department of Interior. Hilary Tompkins served as chief counsel and deputy counsel in the governor's office from 2003 to 2008. She advised the governor on legislation, political appointments, executive orders and litigation as well as provided expertise in American Indian affairs. Tompkins managed the legal staff in the governor's office as well as the general counsels in over 20 state agencies. Before working for the state, she was an associate at a national law firm where her practice focused on water and environmental law. Tompkins, a Navajo, also has served as general counsel to several Indian tribes nationwide...AP

This is from a March 5th article at Indianz.com:

President Barack Obama plans to name a Native woman to serve as the top legal official for the Interior Department, Secretary Ken Salazar said on Wednesday. Speaking to tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., Salazar said the expected nominee is a member of the Navajo Nation. He didn't mention her name but sources identified her as Hilary Tompkins, a prominent attorney from New Mexico. "We are just now in the process of getting her vetted," Salazar said at a summit held by the Council of Energy Resource Tribes. Salazar described Tompkins, who was adopted at birth, as someone Indian Country "can be very proud of." If nominated and confirmed as Solicitor General of the Interior, Tompkins would be making history as the first woman and the first Native American to serve in the post. Tompkins currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where she is sharing her experience in tribal-state relations. It's an area she knows well, having served as chief counsel to Gov. Bill Richardson (D) from 2005 to 2008 and as his deputy counsel from 2003 to 2005. As the first Native American chief counsel, Tompkins helped Richardson hire and appoint a record number of Native Americans, both in his cabinet and in agencies, boards and commissions. She oversaw the elevation of the state's Indian agency to a secretarial position, the first in the nation, as the governor supported a record number of Indian bills in the New Mexico Legislature. Tompkins and the legal team also sought to extend their influence to other states by taking a pro-Indian stance in a controversial U.S. Supreme Court case. Shortly after taking office, Richardson filed a brief in Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe in defense of tribal rights. "It's something we're really proud of," Tompkins, whose name appeared on the brief, told High Country News in an April 2003 article. The move prompted other states to sign onto tribal-friendly briefs, a big shift since states have historically sided against tribal interests in Supreme Court cases...