Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama’s green achievements at 100 days

Seventy-nine percent of Americans think President Barack Obama will do a good job protecting the country’s environment, according to the latest Gallup poll on the topic, released on Earth Day. That includes 95 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents and – most surprisingly— 65 percent of Republicans. At 100 days, what has he done to meet those expectations? Obama sent good signals on environmental policy early on, with the appointment of a host of advisers that has been called the “green dream team.” Perhaps the most strident appointee was Carol Browner, the Clinton-era Environmental Protection Agency head, tapped to serve as special advisor on climate and energy to the White House. Browner was seen as a tough regulator at the EPA, and by all accounts would have been more aggressive had the Clinton White House given her more latitude. She’s now charged with coordinating efforts across federal agencies and the administration, a second chance to fulfill her green dreams. She’s joined by a host of other top-ranking officials with solid green credentials: EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Council for Environmental Quality head Nancy Sutley, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Two key administration figures are also taking the lead on green jobs: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and green jobs adviser Van Jones...Grist

Cap-And-Trade: Al Gore's Cash Cow

When Gore left office in January 2001, he was said to have a net worth in the neighborhood of $2 million. A mere eight years later, estimates are that he is now worth about $100 million. It seems it's easy being green, at least for some. Gore has his lectures and speeches, his books, a hit movie and Oscar, and a Nobel Prize. But Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., was curious about how a man dedicated to saving the planet could get so wealthy so quickly. She sought out investment advice we all could use in a shaky economy. Last May, we noted that Big Al had joined the venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers the previous September. On May 1, 2008, the firm announced a $500 million investment in maturing green technology firms called the Green Growth Fund. Last May, we also noted that on March 1, Gore, while speaking at a conference in Monterey, Calif., admitted to having "a stake" in a number of green investments that he recommended attendees put money in rather than "subprime carbon assets" such as tar sands and shale oil. He also is co-founder of Generation Investment Management, which sells carbon offsets that allow rich polluters to continue with a clear conscience. It's a scheme that will make traders of this new commodity rich and Bernie Madoff look like a pickpocket. The other founder is former Goldman Sachs partner David Blood. As Stephen Milloy, author of "Green Hell," points out, Goldman Sachs is lobbying for climate change legislation and is part owner of the Chicago Climate Exchange, where carbon credits from cap and trade would be traded...IBD

Is a Green Housing Development Too Close to Home for Robert Redford?

Robert Redford, the actor and environmental superhero, is a vocal supporter of renewable power and sustainable growth — but it seems that doesn’t include a proposal for an ecofriendly housing development in his corner of the Napa Valley. Mr. Redford managed to raise a few eyebrows recently when he joined forces with Save Rural Angwin, a group opposing the construction of an eco-village on a 63-acre swath of privately-owned land in the wine country hamlet of Angwin, Calif. “I believe that the citizens of Napa Valley, from American Canyon to Calistoga, care about preserving our beautiful agricultural and rural heritage,” Mr. Redford said, according to a published statement at the group’s Web site. “That is why I am happy to join the Advisory Council of Save Rural Angwin in its efforts to preserve this naturally carved land-basin from development.”...NYTimes

Oh no, the Sundance Kid says NIMBY.

Humans Halfway to Causing Dangerous Climate Change

When human injection of carbon into the atmosphere reaches 1 trillion tons, dangerous climate change with average global warming of more than 2 Celsius degrees will likely occur, a new analysis finds. And humans are hurrying toward that 1 trillion mark. So far, We’ve added about 520 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere. With the addition of an estimated 9 billion tons of carbon a year — a number that’s been growing since 1850 — dangerous warming is likely to occur within half a century. That’s the message from a new paper in the journal Nature, which — along with half a dozen other papers in the issue — provides a simpler way of looking at the climate change problem. What matters is the total amount of carbon that we release into the atmosphere, and focusing on that number as a budget can shape the way policymakers look at the problem, argues Myles Allen, lead author of one of the papers and a climatologist at the University of Oxford. “The important thing about the cumulative budget is that a ton of carbon is a ton of carbon. If we release it now, it’s a ton we can’t release in 40 years’ time. Every ton we put out is using up a ton of that atmospheric capacity,” Allen told “Reducing emissions steadily over 50 years is much cheaper and easier and less traumatic than allowing them to rise for 15 years and then reducing them violently for 35 years...Wired

A battle brewing over NREPA

Two distinct sides are preparing to battle over a recurring piece of legislation that would dramatically alter land management in Wyoming and the West. On one end of the ideological spectrum are environmental groups who have introduced the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) to Congress. The act, contained in H.R. 980 and co-sponsored by 71 house members primarily from California and states east of the Mississippi River, sets aside 24 million acres of public land in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington as wilderness, meaning the land would be off limits to motorized vehicles, road building, mining and timber sales. In response to the act, local leaders and Wyoming’s entire congressional delegation are preparing a counter attack. They contend NREPA is nothing more than a land grab by meddling outsiders that would debilitate local economies with strict land use rules by squashing traditional recreation and industry from large tracts of public land...Initially nameless, movement ecology developed from the concept that animal species are being deprived genetic interchange by geographic isolation resulting from human encroachment. In other words, human roads, cities, railroads and subdivisions are fragmenting native animal species populations into isolated “islands” that limit their natural movement thereby shrinking the genetic pool. And that shrunken genetic pool slowly erodes the genetic viability of entire animal species. To combat it, ecologists proposed creating ecological corridors to facilitate the large-scale movement of individual animals across otherwise impassable terrain (e.g. terrain bisected by an interstate or developed into a sprawling suburban zone.) For the past 16 years, movement ecology grew in popularity, as did the concept of global warming. Now the two ideas have merged into a movement that says corridors must be established to accommodate animal movements as those creatures respond to the effects of global warming...Sublette Examiner

Branding Wilderness Lite

Last week, I wrote about options hikers and wilderness groups had to make peace with mountain bikers so the two key constituencies could work together to protect roadless land. One option was urging Congress to pass another organic act creating a true alternative land designation. But what to call it? In past commentaries, I’m used the words “Wilderness Lite” to refer to various land designations that provide almost as much protection as the “Big W” Wilderness Congress designates under the Wilderness Act of 1964. Basically, cutting to the chase, I can more precisely define “Wilderness Lite” as “Wilderness that allows mountain biking.” Creating this option preserves the holiness of the current National Wilderness Preservation System. All 107 million acres of Wilderness would not have mountain biking, nor would any new additions. But with this new organic act, in some cases, roadless land would have a congressionally mandated designation that preserves wilderness qualities but allows mountain biking. In many cases, I suspect legislation might include some of each. Wilderness Lite might also allow other acceptable “mechanized” advancements like various climbing equipment, game carts, scouting cameras, chainsaws, hang gliders, and strollers, but the main issue is bicycles...New West

People For Preserving Our Western Heritage has been working on an alternative to wilderness for the last three years. Mr. Schneider and others interested in this issue should check it out.

Ruling should help protect Western lands, groups say

Environmental groups say a federal appeals court decision in a New Mexico case this week should aid in efforts to protect other Western public lands from energy development, including the Roan Plateau in Colorado. “We think in particular it will have important implications for the Roan Plateau case,” said Michael Freeman, an attorney for Earthjustice. Freeman is helping represent environmental groups in a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing of the Roan Plateau, northwest of Rifle, last year for oil and gas development. On Tuesday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s decisions on issues surrounding the appropriateness of oil and gas development on Otero Mesa in New Mexico. It said the BLM had to consider leaving Otero Mesa undeveloped under the agency’s multiple-use mandate.Environmental groups including the Wilderness Society had sued over the BLM’s Otero Mesa management plan, as had the state of New Mexico. Said Freeman, “We don’t see how the Roan Plateau case should come out any different from Otero Mesa’s in light of the 10th Circuit’s direction here.”...Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Green Agenda May Shift Farm Policy

Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives, Senate and White House means that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is likely--perhaps as early as this year. Agricultural producers and agribusinesses are concerned about the impact of new regulations on their industry, because it appears increasingly unlikely that it will be exempt from new rules. However, instead of resisting climate change reforms, many agricultural lobby groups have shifted their emphasis to a pro-active examination of how to position the sector to benefit from climate change legislation. The farm sector's new approach has been given a boost by Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack, who has suggested that agriculture would be wise to agree to the tying of "direct payments" (federal cash subsidies) to climate change mitigation efforts. At present, these direct payments lack any rationale other than maintaining income flows to producers of a handful of crops. Although the idea has not yet attracted much visible support from the agricultural community, the underlying message has been absorbed...Forbes

Residents say Gov. Otter has abandoned rural Idaho

Gov. Butch Otter spent six hours Tuesday fending off accusations he's abandoned rural Idaho and surrendered state sovereignty to the U.S. government. Doris Baker told Otter that she saw him on TV vetoing bills last week and found him wanting. "If I had been your mother, I would have come up there and spanked your little butt," said the retiree from Indian Valley. "You say that you're for the people of this state, then you better start showing it and don't let the Forest Service and these environmental groups tell us what to do." Otter escaped Boise on the Legislature's 107th day for the friendly confines of Washington County, where he got 64 percent of the vote in 2006 - 11 points above his statewide mark. But he found no respite from a session of grief at his 26th Capitol for a Day event. Instead, he spent the day defending his reputation as a champion of states' rights. At issue was his veto Saturday of a bill that would have required the state to kill or remove bighorn sheep that wander onto federal lands grazed by domestic sheep. Otter is working on a new bill that passed the Senate Tuesday and promised to do everything he can to protect grazing on public lands. "The gas tax is not the most pressing issue, because if these guys can't put their animals to pasture, they're not buying gas," said Midvale Mayor Ed Meyer. "They'll lose the farm." Ron Shirts of Weiser, a third-generation sheep rancher whose grazing allotments in Hells Canyon are at risk because the Forest Service wants to separate his sheep from disease-prone bighorns, also confronted Otter. After Otter, Shirts was the star of the day, supported by most of the 60 people in the room and pickets outside. "I'm damn mad," Shirts said. "I'm getting my head cut off right now." Shirts said he'll be forced to unload his sheep for what it costs to haul them to slaughter if the issue isn't resolved soon. "We draw a line in the sand and we tell the federal government and these environmental agencies we're not taking it any more," Shirts urged, winning hearty applause...Idaho Statesman

House panel approves bill to ban slaughter of wild horses

A key House panel approved legislation Wednesday that would bar federal officials from slaughtering healthy wild horses and burros. Bureau of Land Management officials have raised the possibility of killing as many as 30,000 wild mustangs they can no longer afford to house in holding facilities after removing them from land that cannot sustain the growing herds. But Democratic leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee said sterilization of herd members and an expanded adoption program are more humane options. The bill by committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., would step up fertility control measures, encourage more adoptions of the animals and provide the more than 60,000 wild horses and burros under federal control with as much as 19 million additional acres on which to roam freely. The bill would allow the federal government to buy and exchange land and enter into cooperative agreements with private groups that want to establish wild-horse sanctuaries on private land. Grijalva said the bill provides for federal officials to preserve the health of the entire ecosystem, not just the horses...Gannett

Song Of The Day #030

William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell was born in Corsicana, Texas, in 1928, a son of an oiler; he was the first of eight children. He started performing as a teenager, and played on radio shows and in nightclubs. In 1950 he cut some demos which resulted in a record contract with Columbia. His first release, "If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time" was a big hit going to #1 on the charts. Even the B side, "I Love You A Thousand Ways" became a #1 hit. In 1951 Frizzell had 4 songs in the top 10 at the same time, a record that's never been broken. Frizzell developed an alcohol problem, had a scattering of hits in the sixties, and died of a stroke in 1975. He had an enormous influence on artists like George Jones and Merle Haggard, and has been inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall Of Fame.

Today's selection is one of his early recordings, "My Baby's Just Like Money." There's plenty Frizzell music still available. A good, reasonably priced collection of his fifties music is the 29 track A Proper Introduction to Lefty Frizzell: Shine Shave Shower

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BLM, Forest Service sued over air pollution

Environmentalists are taking aim again at the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, accusing the agencies in a lawsuit of failing to curb air pollution in the San Juan Basin - 1 of the largest natural gas fields in the nation. WildEarth Guardians, Dine CARE and Carson Forest Watch sued Wednesday in federal court. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of protests and complaints filed over the past year over the impacts of emissions from energy development in the region. The lawsuit targets the BLM's decision to lease 28,510 acres through three lease auctions in 2008. The groups contend the decision could lead to development of 712 new wells with no safeguards. It also targets the Forest Service's decision to authorize drilling in the Jicarilla Ranger District. AP

Van Hollen: Climate bill could wait

The House may not vote on a climate change bill this year, according to a high-ranking Democratic leader. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill on Monday that leaders could opt not to bring a climate measure to the floor if the bill has little chance of passing the Senate. Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had previously indicated they would pass a climate bill through the House by the August congressional recess. The competing allegiances of Van Hollen — charged with leading Democrats into what is arguably their most challenging election cycle since 1994 and serving as a policy hand to Pelosi — were on display during his interview with The Hill. Van Hollen, 50, became the highest-ranking House Democrat to say that even if an agreement is reached, the House may not vote on a cap-and-trade bill if the bill appears to have little hope of clearing the upper chamber. “The first thing we need to do is see whether we can come together around a consensus position in the committees in the House, and that’s what we’re working on. And then, of course, if we were able to arrive at that, the question is whether you would take it to the floor, or do you wait to see if anything develops on the Senate side,” Van Hollen said...The Hill

Why don't they want their House members to vote on it? I thought it was so popular.

Specter's switch likely to have limited impact on energy, climate bills

Sen. Arlen Specter's party switch sent shockwaves across Washington yesterday, but it appears unlikely to significantly alter the prospects for President Obama's agenda on energy, climate change and other major legislation. As for the calculus on one of the biggest legislative and political battles facing the Senate -- climate change -- it does not appear much of anything has changed. "It does not change that," Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said of the prospects for climate change legislation. "I don't think climate change is a matter of party. It is really more a matter of region. So I don't think it changes that much." As a senator from Pennsylvania, Specter represents a state that has a heavy manufacturing base and still leans on coal for a significant number of jobs -- though less so than in the past...NYTimes

Sins Of Emission

The public has grown skeptical of the global warming threat. Polls show a growing number of Americans think the risks are inflated and consider many other issues to be in greater need of attention. Pew Research found that the public ranks global warming dead last out of 20 concerns facing the country. Congressional Democrats, who want to pass a climate change bill this year that will limit carbon dioxide emissions, are running into resistance in the Senate — where they'll soon have a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority with the defection of Arlen Specter from the Republican Party to the Democrats. Passing an economy-crippling climate bill, be it based on a cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax, will be an easier task in the House. In addition to the 256 Democrats in that chamber, enough of the 178 GOP members want to appease trendy nonthinkers and radical environmental groups to pass the legislation with a large margin. Sweeteners thrown to undecideds by Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy Committee that's responsible for writing the bill, almost guarantee passage. The Senate, though, is likely to be less accommodating...IBD

Salazar and Locke Restore Scientific Consultations under the Endangered Species Act to Protect Species and their Habitats

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the two departments are revoking an eleventh-hour Bush administration rule that undermined Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. Their decision requires federal agencies to once again consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the two agencies that administer the ESA – before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species. In March, President Obama directed the Secretaries to review the previous Administration’s Section 7 regulation of the ESA – which governs interagency consultation – and Congress, in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, specifically authorized the Secretaries to revoke the regulation. Locke and Salazar said the two departments will conduct a joint review of the 1986 consultation regulations to determine if any improvements should be proposed...DOI

Top Lawmaker Wants Mileage-Based Tax on Vehicles

A House committee chairman said Tuesday that he wants Congress to enact a mileage-based tax on cars and trucks to pay for highway programs now rather than wait years to test the idea. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said he believes the technology exists to implement a mileage tax. He said he sees no point in waiting years for the results of pilot programs since such a tax system is inevitable as federal gasoline tax revenues decline. Oberstar is drafting a six-year transportation bill to fund highway and transit programs that is expected to total around a half trillion dollars. A congressionally mandated commission on transportation financing alternatives recommended switching to a vehicle-miles traveled tax, but estimated it would take a decade to put a national system in place. "I think it can be done in far less than that, maybe two years," Oberstar said at a House hearing. The tax would entail equipping vehicles with GPS technology to determine how many miles a car has been driven and whether on interstate highways or secondary roads. The devices would also calculate the amount of tax owed...AP

This type of tax would dixcriminate against The West and rural folks who drive long distances.

"Eminent Domain Through the Back Door"

What is happening in the cradle of the modern civil rights movement? Jimmy McCall would like to know. "It was more my dream house," he laments, "and the city tore it down... It reminds me of how they used to mistreat black people in the Old South." In 1955, Rosa Parks took on the whole system of Jim Crow by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus. Today, McCall is waging a lonely battle against the same city government for another civil right: the freedom to build a home on his own land. Though McCall's ambitions are modest, he is exceptionally determined. For years, he has scraped together a living by salvaging rare materials from historic homes and then selling them to private builders. Sometimes months went by before he had a client. Finally, he had put aside enough to purchase two acres in Montgomery and started to build. He did the work himself using materials accumulated in his business including a supply of sturdy and extremely rare longleaf pine. But from the outset, the city showed unremitting hostility. He has almost lost count of the roadblocks it threw up including a citation for keeping the necessary building materials on his own land during the construction process. More seriously, he was charged under the state blight law, which allows a municipality to designate a building as a "public nuisance" and then demolish it. Critics have accurately called this "eminent domain through the back door" and warn that opportunities for abuse are almost limitless. In contrast to the standard eminent domain process, for example, property owners do not have any right to compensation, even in theory. The reaction of Montgomery's city fathers seemed strange to McCall. Wasn't he trying to fight blight by building a new home? McCall suspects that wealthy developers were trying to get their hands on the property: a rare two-acre parcel on a major thoroughfare. Unlike countless others in similar straits, McCall fought back and hired an experienced local lawyer. In the middle of last year, he negotiated a court-enforced agreement, which gave him 18 months to complete the home. Only a month after the agreement took effect, the city demolished the structure. Local bureaucrats, obviously in a hurry to tear it down, did not even give him notice. The bulldozers came in the same day as the court order that authorized them...Reason

Forest mulls changes to N. Idaho grazing allotment

Officials with the Nez Perce National Forest say they will consider modifying or ending domestic sheep grazing on a tract of public land east of Riggins. Forest officials said Monday they will write a new environmental impact statement to determine if domestic sheep grazing poses a threat to native bighorn sheep on the north side of the Salmon River canyon. Sheep grazing on the so-called Allison-Berg grazing allotment has been banned since 2007 when a federal judge ruled domestic sheep put wild bighorns at risk of contracting a deadly respiratory disease. A sheep grazing plan was approved for the 40,000-acre tract in 1996. But at the time, forest officials didn't believe native bighorns roamed the area. But forest officials say conditions have changed and it's time to do a full environmental review...AP

Idaho Senate OKs new bill to help resolve sheep conflict

The Senate passed a new bill to help remedy conflicts between wild bighorn sheep and their domestic brethren after Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed an earlier bill he said shortchanged domestic sheep and wildlife. Tuesday's vote was 26-8. The measure now goes to the House. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game must develop a plan to keep bighorns away from domestic sheep within 120 days, if the measure becomes law. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, the measure's sponsor and a sheep rancher, says he hopes this will help douse a brewing fight in the Hell's Canyon area of western Idaho, where federal agencies could shutter public grazing allotments on concern domestic sheep pass deadly illnesses to bighorns. Area ranchers are on guard, fearing for their livelihoods. Siddoway, a Terreton Republican, says, "The big horns certainly are valuable, but the domestic sheep industry is worth saving, too."...AP

Protecting frog could cost $1.83 Billion

Protecting the California red-legged frog, enshrined in literature by Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” could mean costs ranging from $44.8 million to $125 million or even as much as $1.83 billion, according to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The FWS on Tuesday re-opened the public comment period on a proposal made last September to designate 1.8 million acres as critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog (“a frog so modest and straightforward,” as Mr. Twain described.) The new 30-day comment period coincides with the release of the estimate of possible economic impacts from designating critical habitat. The economic analysis looks at the range of incremental costs linked to the critical habitat designation. The direct incremental impacts include up to $44.8 million through 2030 to protect the frogs and their habitat in new developments. Delays due to further consultations with the FWS could cost up to $126 million through 2030, according to the analysis prepared for FWS under contract by Industrial Economics Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The economic analysis says costs of protecting the frog unrelated to the designation of critical habitat could be up to $1.83 billion...CVBT

A solution to overgrazing

In the 1990s, ranchers and environmentalists in the west were at each others’ throats. For decades, the ranchers had been granted permits by the federal government to graze cattle beyond their property lines so they could raise enough steers to make ends meet. But the Western grasslands are a brittle environment, and after years of overgrazing the land was showing signs of stress: Grasslands were turning into deserts, invasive plants were moving in from Mexico, and crucial topsoil was eroding. On some ranches, fences could be seen floating in the air over gullies ten feet deep. Environmentalists blamed the cattle and went after ranchers with lawsuits, legislation, and sometimes even violent action to stop the grazing on public lands. In one instance, two young ranchers refused to follow new limits on the number of cattle they could graze in the federal areas. Environmentalists pounced, and eventually the men lost both their permit and their land. To archeologist and Sierra Club member Courtney White, the battle was a tragedy, as he writes in his book Revolution on the Range. “Nothing had been gained—lives had been ruined not enriched; land had been abandoned, instead of stewarded properly; bad blood had been created, instead of hope; anger ruled, not joy.” White decided to take action. With rancher Jim Winder, he founded the Quivira Coalition, an organization named after the designation for unexplored territory of the Southwest on Spanish colonial maps. The organization works to make peace between ranchers and environmentalists, while also working to improve Western grasslands. White dubs the harmony between ranchers, environmentalists, and the land as the “New Ranch,” and over the past ten years, the group has made seen signs of hope in efforts to transform the range...MNN

Plum Creek closes Montana mills

Yet another sawmill is closing and two more are on the chopping block as Plum Creek Timber Co. continues to stagger beneath a collapsing real estate market. “It really is getting rougher and rougher,” said company spokeswoman Kathy Budinick. “We're working hard to manage the situation, but there's not much good news.” The bad news Monday: Plum Creek will close its Pablo sawmill in 60 days, and may do the same at mills in Evergreen and Columbia Falls. Combined, the mills employ nearly 300 people. In March, the company permanently closed its Ksanka sawmill, shedding the last 90 jobs there. That Eureka-area mill will be dismantled, Budinick said, and its equipment sold at auction. Now, Plum Creek has announced it will permanently shut down its sawmill in Pablo. Budinick said it's possible another operator will be found to run the mill; otherwise, it will be dismantled and auctioned...Missoulian

Environmental Economics

I consider myself an "anthropocentric environmentalist," which is a fancy way of saying that I care about environmental issues because I care about human flourishing. This doesn't come at the expense of economic reasoning, though, and economics leads us to surprising and often counterintuitive conclusions. Economics shows how appearances can be deceiving, and I find a lot of environmental initiatives are like rotten Granny Smith apples: They're green on the outside, but they're brown on the inside. Here's how and why. Private property is essential to a well-functioning social system because it allows that system to generate prices. Prices provide the crucial information people need to make rational decisions, but prices do not mediate all environmental conflicts because some things are not owned. When resources are not owned and therefore outside the price system, the information we would need to evaluate the costs and benefits of different environmental initiatives literally does not exist. I stress that it is not just that environmental issues are difficult or complex. The problem is that--given the absence of prices, profits and losses--we do not have the information we need to articulate what responsible environmental stewardship would mean, much less exercise it. Endless debates about land use illustrate this principle. Development is opposed by people saying that we owe it to our children to conserve our precious natural resources, but University of Rochester economist Steven Landsburg asks the right question. Who are we to say that our children will prefer an old-growth forest to the income produced by a parking lot or high rise?...Forbes

Easement Protects Salmon River Tributary

A 300-acre conservation easement along Carmen Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River, protects a working ranch and important wildlife habitat, including stream habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. The Nature Conservancy purchased the conservation easement and will transfer it to the Lemhi Regional Land Trust, a local organization that provides incentives and options for ranch owners to preserve their agricultural lifestyles. The easement property is owned by Tom McFarland, a third-generation rancher in the area. The McFarlands will continue to own and operate the property as a working ranch. “If we truly want to keep what’s good about this valley, we need to keep the small, local landowners on the land,” says McFarland. The conservation easement was made possible by both private and public grants. A grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided funding through a program to support protection for ecologically important lands identified in state conservation plans. A grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided important funding through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. Additional private grant funding was provided by the Page Foundation...Nature Conservancy

Getting Real on Wind and Solar

Why are we ignoring things we know? We know that the sun doesn't always shine and that the wind doesn't always blow. That means that solar cells and wind energy systems don't always provide electric power. Nevertheless, solar and wind energy seem to have captured the public's support as potentially being the primary or total answer to our electric power needs. Solar cells and wind turbines are appealing because they are "renewables" with promising implications and because they emit no carbon dioxide during operation, which is certainly a plus. But because both are intermittent electric power generators, they cannot produce electricity "on demand," something that the public requires. We expect the lights to go on when we flip a switch, and we do not expect our computers to shut down as nature dictates. Solar and wind electricity are available only part of the time that consumers demand power. Solar cells produce no electric power at night, and clouds greatly reduce their output. The wind doesn't blow at a constant rate, and sometimes it does not blow at all...WPost

The next great hunt

On a cold, sunny day on the treeless plains of north-central Montana, hunters close in on their prey. Several bison and their calves watch nervously as a pickup truck slowly circles them, a rifle pointed out of the passenger window. A shot rings out, and a few minutes later, a young bison calf plops down on the ground, grunting and squirming. The hunting party—a team of biologists—moves in, warily eyeing the larger bison, eager to get a blood sample and move away from the agitated creatures. Once they fill a giant plastic syringe, they give the calf a shot, and it stands up on wobbly legs and staggers back to the herd. Welcome to the American Prairie Foundation preserve, the front lines of the efforts to save America’s bison and restore a large swath of the North American Great Plains. The bison is often heralded as the nation’s first and greatest conservation victory—in the last century the population grew from fewer than 1,000 to half a million—but the story is not that simple. In the late 1990s, James Derr, a geneticist at Texas A&M, discovered that most of the roughly 500,000 bison in North America have a tiny amount of cattle DNA mixed into their genome—the consequence of ranchers crossbreeding bison and cattle a century ago. The revelation that all but 10,000 bison are hybrids shook the conservation community. In 2004, the American Prairie Foundation learned that their bison, which today number 45, are among the few that are pure. Others haven’t been as lucky. When Derr’s discovery came to light, scientists realized that conservation efforts then underway wouldn’t ensure the survival of genetically pure bison. Extinction is still a threat...MNN

US appeals court sides with NM in Otero Mesa fight

The Bureau of Land Management failed to comply with federal law in developing a plan for managing oil and natural gas development on southern New Mexico's Otero Mesa. That's the ruling today by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver. The judges say the BLM skirted the National Environmental Protection Act by not considering an alternative that would have put the mesa off limits to drilling and by not analyzing all of the likely impacts of the agency's chosen alternative. The BLM says it's reviewing the panel's decision. The panel says Otero Mesa is the largest publicly owned expanse of undisturbed Chihuahuan Desert grassland in the United States. It has become a battleground for environmentalists, state officials and the oil and gas industry...AP

Same Cow, No Matter How You Slice It?

ON a stainless steel table in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association test kitchen, a meat scientist named Bridget Wasser began dissecting a piece of beef shoulder as big as a couch cushion. Her knife danced between long, thick muscles, then she flipped the whole thing open like book. After a tug and one final slice, she set before her visitor the Denver steak. The three-quarter-inch-thick cut is an inexpensive, distant cousin of the New York strip. And it didn’t exist until the nation’s 800,000 cattle ranchers began a radical search for cuts of meat that consumers would buy besides steaks and ground beef. The idea was simple. Dig around in the carcass and find muscles that, when separated and sliced in a certain way, were tender and tasty enough to be sold as a steak or a roast. “People know how to cook steaks,” said Dave Zino, executive director of the cattlemen’s Beef and Veal Culinary Center. The Denver was invented after meat and marketing experts spent more than $1.5 million and five years on the largest study anyone had ever done on the edible anatomy of a steer. The point was to increase the $15.5 billion a year that people spend at the supermarket buying beef. The association thinks consumers may pay $5.99 a pound for a Denver steak. As ground beef, it’s about $2.99...NYTimes

Song Of The Day #029

Running out of time, so here's some early Hank Thompson, "Cryin' In The Deep Blue Sea." His music is widely available, a good start would be his Vintage collection.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Interior sends revised endangered species rule to OMB

The Interior Department is proceeding with a final rule revamping changes that the Bush administration made to Endangered Species Act regulations in its final months. The department sent a final rule on ESA consultations to the White House Office of Management and Budget yesterday, OMB said. The move suggests Interior will use authority given it by Congress in a recent spending bill to fast-track the regulatory rewrite without going through the normal full review process. At issue is the Bush administration's revision of a rule that required federal agencies to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service biologists before undertaking actions that might threaten a protected species. The Bush rule made biological consultations optional, allowing agencies to proceed with projects if they maintained there would be little threat to a species...NYTimes

The Bushies and the R's waited until the last minute for revisions to various environmental regs, and now they're getting their ass kicked.

If these revisions had been implemented early on, we would have 6+ years of data and experience to evaluate their effectiveness. That, however, would have taken brains and balls they apparently didn't possess.

Groups want Snake River dam removal on Obama's table

The Sierra Club and six other big environmental groups are asking the Obama administration to consider major changes to federal dam management on the Columbia and Snake rivers, "up to and including removal of the four lower Snake River dams." The letter, addressed to Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is signed by the leaders of American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club...The Oregonian

Global Warming Overreach

Congressman Henry Waxman played to the crowds this week with high-profile hearings designed to boost his climate legislation. To listen to the Energy and Commerce committee chair, a House global warming bill is all but in the recyclable bag. To listen to Congressman Jim Matheson is something else. During opening statements, the Utah Democrat detailed 14 big problems he had with the bill, and told me later that if he hadn't been limited to five minutes, "I might have had more." Mr. Matheson is one of about 10 moderate committee Democrats who are less than thrilled with the Waxman climate extravaganza, and who may yet stymie one of Barack Obama's signature issues. If so, the president can thank Democratic liberals, who are engaging in one of their first big cases of overreach. Not that you couldn't see this coming even last year, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered her coup against former Energy chairman John Dingell. House greens had been boiling over the Michigan veteran's cautious approach to climate-legislation...WSJ

Votes on wildlife funds illustrate struggle Obama faces over spending

As President Barack Obama last week pushed his new campaign to cut government spending by $100 million, the House of Representatives authorized $50 million to help protect cranes, snow leopards, wild African dogs and other endangered species. Critics called last week's votes symbols of Democratic budget hypocrisy. "With federal spending, bank failures and home foreclosures reaching historic levels," asked Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, "is it really appropriate to spend our constituents' hard-earned money to conserve an African wild dog, an Ethiopian wolf or a Borneo bay cat?" Sure, said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. He called the effort "a very, very modest step to try to preserve these endangered species that, in fact, are threatened and are listed on international lists." The House overwhelmingly passed "The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act" and the "Crane Conservation Act." Each would authorize $5 million annually from fiscal 2010 to 2014 to help preserve the species. The debate captured in miniature the struggle that Obama faces as he tries to trim anything in the federal budget. Every line, it seems, has a congressional champion and an army of special interests; for instance, more than 80 conservation, sportsmen and hunting organizations backed the cats act...McClatchy

Learning from Macho B – Jaguars can thrive in Arizona if we act now

The death of the jaguar Macho B has left an enormous void in Arizona's wild lands, but another jaguar may be moving in to fill that void. Large cats cover large areas, and when one departs, another often takes up residence. The loss of this jaguar is a tragedy - one that must not be repeated. The Sky Island Alliance calls on state and federal agencies, other environmental conservation groups, and our fellow scientists and citizens to work together to preserve jaguars and to avoid a repeat of the Macho B tragedy. Specifically, we call for: • Withdrawal of the non-binding Jaguar Conservation Assessment document drafted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Recently, the U.S. District Court ruled that jaguars deserve the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. A real Recovery Plan makes the assessment document irrelevant and insufficient. • Prompt creation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a true and effective recovery plan for jaguars and a jaguar recovery team that includes full and meaningful participation of conservation organizations and scientists. • Dissolution of the Arizona-New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team, which for the past decade has failed to include all stakeholders (non-agency scientists, conservation groups, landowners), has failed to make progress on many of its goals, and has failed to improve conservation of jaguars. • Accelerated preservation of jaguar habitat. Macho B has shown us what good habitat looks like, and scientists have modeled where good habitat likely exists; the time is now to preserve that habitat...Tucson Citizen

Worker in jaguar capture cited earlier

The biologist at the center of the controversy over the capture of a jaguar in Southern Arizona once was fired from a wildlife research job after being cited for hunting with another person's license. A Montana game warden cited Emil McCain in 2001 after he killed a deer, then used another person's tag on it. McCain, then 23, paid a $200 fine and did not fight the citation. McCain's supervisor on a mountain-lion research project in Yellowstone National Park subsequently fired McCain because of the violation. "We were working in a national park, and my project was on the up-and-up," said Toni Ruth, the wildlife biologist who led the study. "I didn't want any question about how we were operating and who was working on the project."
McCain's citation and firing is significant now because his credibility is key to two investigations being carried out by the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The investigations center on the Feb. 18 capture of Macho B, the only wild jaguar known to be living in the United States, and his death by euthanization March 2...Arizona Daily Star

Growing the green generation

As environmental conversation becomes part of elementary school curriculum, it seems more and more kids are going green. To inform young readers about wildlife conservation and endangered species preservation, author Jeanne McNaney presents her debut book, “The Legend of Honey Hollow.” The story is intended to teach children about the different endangered bears of the world and importance of community, sharing and trust. McNaney introduces young readers to Grendel, a polar bear, who along with the other bears of Honey Hollow, illustrates how significant it is for children to grow up in a healthy world. “I hope ‘The Legend of Honey Hollow’ will bring environmental awareness to a younger generation,” said McNaney. “We must teach our kids how to keep a clean and safe world as they are the planet’s future.” For more information, visit

Parks eye federal funds for wider pastures

Conservationists who for years have struggled to win federal funding for new or expanded parks suddenly are seeing green, even in these lean budgetary times. President Obama has proposed spending $420 million next year to buy land for national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, and to help states fund parks and recreation projects. That is more than double the amount Congress provided for 2009. What's more, Obama has called for boosting the annual pot of money to $900 million within five years -- a level that has been reached only once, during the President Clinton years, since President Johnson signed the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act in 1964. Environmentalists are drawing up wish lists for enlarging parks and wildlife habitats nationwide, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on the coast of Maine and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state...LATimes

Tribes look to Obama for protection of sacred peaks

The Navajo Nation Council has given its approval for the Nation’s attorneys and leaders to meet with the Obama administration in hopes of working out a settlement to protect the sacred San Francisco Peaks from desecration. The Nation is seeking an expedited meeting prior to May 8, when the U.S. Solicitor General’s response brief is due to the U.S. Supreme Court. In “Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service,” the Nation and three other tribes challenged the Forest Service’s approval of an expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The expansion included using reclaimed sewer water to make artificial snow, which in the view of Indian religious practitioners, desecrates the mountain. In 2008, the 9th Circuit, in an en banc decision, held that the Forest Service’s approval did not violate the tribes religious freedom because the proposal does not place a substantial burden on their exercise of religion by forcing them to act contrary to their religion under the threat of a legal penalty or choose between their religion and the receipt of a government benefit...Gallup Independent

U.S. House committee to hear bill on May 5 closing 24 million acres to OHV riding

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on May 5 to consider a bill that would designate more than 24 million acres of public lands in western states as Wilderness or Wilderness Preservation System land. If approved by the full Congress, the measure would close off more than 24 million acres in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming to off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports. This is equivalent to a land grab the size of the state of Indiana. Even though H.R. 980 -- The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act -- only affects western states, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York City introduced it. "This is one of the biggest OHV land grabs in our nation's history," said AMA Vice President of Government Relations Ed Moreland. "Even more disconcerting than the fact that the bill is being proposed by a representative from a densely populated urban area, New York City, is that the bill is being considered without the support of a single member of Congress who represents the affected districts. Shouldn't the people who live in these areas have some say in whether or not they should be banned from riding in it?...Off-Road

Cement Makers Decry Emissions Rules

Cement industry representatives say that proposed federal air emissions regulations announced last week will lead to closure of American plants and outsourcing of cement production to countries with lax environmental regulations. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed rule changes that would require significant reductions in emissions from cement plants. The new rules call for an 81 percent reduction in mercury by 2013, as well as steep cuts in sulfur dioxide, particulates and other pollutants. According to the E.P.A., cement kilns are the fourth-largest source of atmospheric mercury. Reducing emissions from the nation’s cement plants will prevent between 620 and 1,600 deaths a year (PDF), and reduce health costs by between $4.4 billion and $11 billion (PDF), according to separate E.P.A. reports. The agency, which will be hearing public comments on the proposed rules for 60 days, estimates that meeting the new standards will cost the cement industry between $222 million and $684 million...NYTimes

Judge halts further water cuts

A federal judge on Monday rejected a request to cancel or renegotiate more than three dozen Sacramento River water contracts that environmentalists claimed were drawn up using flawed information. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger appears to keep in place the Central Valley's intricately woven water system -- and to spare agricultural users north and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from potentially losing even more water. Trent Orr, an attorney for environmental group Earthjustice, said it appears that water amounts outlined in the Sacramento River users contracts will be "there in perpetuity. We just don't think that's right." Westlands Water District spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said it was "nice to see [environmentalists] simply didn't win one." Wanger's ruling involves one of the last outstanding issues in a federal lawsuit involving the endangered delta smelt...Fresno Bee

EPA Edict Stirs Debate About Rural Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued its proposed finding that greenhouse gases may be an endangerment to public health. Since that report was released April 17, the atmosphere has definitely heated up in the debate over which emissions should be regulated and how it should be done. This declaration could set the stage for tighter regulations on vehicles, power plants, factories and — according to Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.) and some farm organization leaders — cattle. The EPA estimates that U.S. cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions. According to Thune, the EPA’s new declaration could set the government down a “slippery slope” toward a permit process for methane emissions of cattle and other livestock. The permit process, which is actually a cap-and-trade system, according to Thune, would amount to a “cow tax.” A cap-and-trade system sets an emissions limit — or cap- for each emitter or company. The emitter must have an “emissions permit” for every ton of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere. These permits set an enforceable cap on the amount of pollution it is allowed to emit. Over time, the limits become stricter, allowing less and less pollution, until the ultimate reduction goal is met.On Friday, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) co-sponsored legislation designed to protect the U.S. livestock industry from any future “cow tax” arising from livestock emissions. Johanns wants the Clean Air Act amended to preclude regulation of “naturally occurring” livestock emissions...Press & Dakotan

EPA seeks remand of Navajo power plant permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday asked an appeals board to allow the agency to reconsider an air permit issued last year for a planned coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. Regional EPA officials want to reconsider the parts of the permit for the $3 billion Desert Rock Energy Project that were appealed by the state of New Mexico and environmentalists who were concerned about air quality, carbon dioxide emissions and violations of the Endangered Species Act. EPA spokesman Darrin Swartz-Larson said Monday it was unclear when the Environmental Appeals Board will rule on the EPA's request, but environmentalists were already hailing the agency's motion as a big roadblock for Desert Rock. ''It's still our position that the project should not be built,'' said Nick Persampieri, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents a coalition of environmental groups. ''There's no demonstrated need for the project and we are hopeful that the final outcome will be that the project will not be built.'' The tribe's Dine Power Authority and Houston-based Sithe Global LLC have partnered to build the 1,500-megawatt power plant on the Navajo reservation south of Farmington...AP

NM cavers set sights on Snowy River trek

Saturday marked the beginning of the season's first expedition into the uncharted depths of a cave in southern New Mexico that is home to Snowy River - believed to be the longest continuous calcite formation in the world. More than four miles long, the Snowy River passage is becoming more of a challenge as the cavers push their limits, crawling on their bellies and trudging through sticky mud in some spots all while keeping sane enough to record scientific history. Fort Stanton and Snowy River are now part of a national conservation area that was designated last month with President Barack Obama's signature of a massive public lands bill that set aside millions of acres as wilderness, conservation areas and monuments. Goodbar says the BLM and the scientists studying Snowy River are hopeful the designation will mean more funding to continue exploring the cave system, which has already produced some intriguing microorganisms and raised plenty of questions about the region's hydrology...Lubbock A-J

Song Of The Day #028

Elton Britt (1913-1972) was born in Zack, Arkansas and bought his first guitar when he was ten. Like many in his era, he started out by imitating Jimmie Rodgers. In 1930 he replaced Hugh Ashley in the Beverly Hill Billies. He made his first solo recording in 1934, and recorded for RCA from 1937-1956. His biggest hit was the 1942 "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" which sold an estimated 4 million copies and got him an invite to the White House from FDR.

There is plenty of Elton Britt's music available, such as The RCA Years , Ridin' With Elton, and Country Music's Yodelling Cowboy Crooner

Today's selection is his 1948 recording of "Chime Bells." He had recorded two earlier versions, but I believe this one best showcases his outstanding yodelling.

Monday, April 27, 2009

RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as 'Indentured Servant' to Coal Industry

"Clean coal is a dirty lie," says environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who calls President Barack Obama and other politicians who commit taxpayer money to develop it "indentured servants" of the coal industry. Despite a series of expensive false starts and failures, President Obama proposed $3.4 billion in stimulus legislation to fund continued research on "clean coal" projects. "Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes, it does not exist," says former Vice President Al Gore. The coal industry has been running a multi-million dollar advertising blitz to promote the theory that coal can be made clean, using one of Obama's campaign speeches in its television commercials...ABC News

Public lands coalition plans to 'Take Back Utah'

The dust may have settled from the Obama-inspired tea party last week, but get ready for the next storm of rallying cries to sweep Utah's capital city. Call it Sagebrush Rebellion Two. Representatives from a variety of groups met Monday to plan the "Take Back Utah" Rally, a protest over federal rules, regulations, policies, laws and practices that critics say unfairly strip Utahns of their rights of access to public lands. While dormant for several years, the Utah Public Lands Multiple Use Coalition has been reinvigorated by necessity driven by dismay over several key decisions made by newly-named Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I really believe the federal government has lost its way," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who had a seat at Monday's planning meeting. "It's critical we have our voices heard with so much of our land locked up in a management system full of roadblocks, additional bureaucracy and impediments to prudent development policies." Coalition member groups include the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, the Utah Wool Growers Association, the Utah Shared Access Alliance and the Utah Rural Electric Association. Randy Parker, the farm bureau's chief executive officer, said the ultimate goal of the coalition is to ensure greater self determination for Utah. "Utah is at a disadvantage because so much of our land is controlled by the federal government. We are subject to the political whims of the (presidential) administration and Congress." Organizers say they expect 10,000-plus attendees at the Aug. 8 event, planned to begin at 500 South and end at the Capitol...Deseret News

Fires make climate change worse - report

In a vicious cycle made worse by humans, scientists now believe fires spur climate change, which in turn makes blazes bigger, more frequent and more damaging to the environment. Climate experts have known that a warmer world would spawn more fires, but in research published on Thursday in the journal Science, scientists reported that fires -- especially those set by humans to clear forests -- influence climate change. Smoke particles sent into the atmosphere by fires inhibit rainfall, which makes the land drier and encourages more fires to start, said study co-author Jennifer Balch of the University of Santa Barbara in California. On a global scale, burning releases vast amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, making fires more likely in a warming world, Balch said in a video news briefing. The report's authors estimate that greenhouse emissions from the world's fires equal about 50 percent of emissions that come from the burning of fossil fuels...Reuters

Why are fires "especially those set by humans to clear forests" worse than naturally occurring fire? What makes them "special"? Do they emit more or different smoke particles? Seems to me those set fires, by preventing future larger and hotter burning fires, will over time result in fewer greenhouse gases being released.

What we have hear is a clear bias against humans and human activity.

To get votes, Waxman offers cap-and-trade breaks

In exchange for votes to pass a controversial global warming package, Democratic leaders are offering some lawmakers generous emission “allowances” to protect their districts from the economic pain of pollution restrictions. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, represents a district with several oil refineries, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. He also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which must approve the global warming plan backed by President Barack Obama. Green says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who heads the panel, is trying to entice him into voting for the bill by giving some refineries favorable treatment in the administration’s “cap and trade” system, which is expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming years. Under the plan, companies would pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, but Green and other lawmakers are angling to get a free pass for refineries in their districts. “We’ve been talking,” Green said, referring to a meeting he had with Waxman on Tuesday night. “To put together a bill that passes, they have to get our votes, and I’m not going to vote for a bill without refinery allowances.” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the top Republican on the energy panel, said Waxman and others are also dangling allowances for steel and coal-fired power plants to give political cover to Democrats whose districts rely on these companies...Washington Examiner

Democrats May Ease Bill's Emissions Rules

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are negotiating among themselves on whether to scale back legislation that would impose a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases, with some conservatives and moderates calling for electric utilities to be given free pollution allowances and for more modest cuts in the targets for reducing emissions. Many environmentalists argue that all emissions allowances should be auctioned off under a cap-and-trade system, using the proceeds to finance development of clean energy sources or to offset the resulting higher energy costs for consumers. The talks suggest that utilities that distribute electricity from coal-fired plants are making progress in their efforts to get free access to 40 percent of the emissions permits, underscoring the challenge lawmakers face in seeking strict limits on carbon dioxide and other contributors to warming. Some of the proposals to ease the impact on utilities, which lawmakers are discussing behind closed doors, were summarized in a four-page document authored by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), whose district is dependent on coal and who sponsored his own climate legislation in the last Congress along with the panel's chairman at the time, John D. Dingell (D-Mich.). The draft list of suggestions, which Boucher spokeswoman Courtney Lamie described as "a very early version" of what Boucher is seeking, includes lowering the proposed targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts proposed by committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the panel's energy and environment subcommittee...WPost

Dust Storms Escalate, Prompting Environmental Fears

The scene Landry witnessed that day was the most severe example of a phenomenon that has overtaken parts of the West this year, one that could exacerbate a slew of environmental problems there in the years to come. The Colorado Rockies, including the headwaters of the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, have experienced 11 serious dust storms this year, a record for the six years researchers have been tracking them. More important, an increasing amount of airborne dust is blanketing the region, affecting how fast the snowpack melts, when local plants bloom and what quality of air residents are breathing. The dust storms are a harbinger of a broader phenomenon, researchers say, as global warming translates into less precipitation and a population boom intensifies the activities that are disturbing the dust in the first place. Dust storms are not new in the West, but the fact that so much dust is on the move reflects that across vast areas, soil is being loosened by off-road vehicles, livestock grazing, and road development for oil and gas production, much of it on public land. A Washington Post analysis of federal data from areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management found that between 2004 and 2008, off-road vehicle use rose 19 percent, the number of oil and gas wells increased 24 percent and grazing acreage climbed 7 percent...WPost

Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate

For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming. “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue. But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted. “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995. The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others...NYTimes

Environmental group runs ads targeting Republicans who oppose clean energy bill

An environmental group is increasing the pressure to pass a sweeping environmental measure by taking out ads in the home districts of Republicans who oppose the bill. The League of Conservation Voters will advertise in the Michigan district of Republican Rep. Mike Rogers starting Friday, officials at the group said. It will be the second in a series of ads accusing members who oppose the legislation of lacking faith in America. The previous ad attacked Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “Reps. Blunt and Rogers have made it clear they are siding with Big Oil and saying no to millions of new jobs and no to making America a global leader on clean energy,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinksi. “Why do they seem to have such little faith in American ingenuity and know-how?” Though the White House has signaled that environmental legislation may take a backseat to health care reform, congressional leaders have been moving ahead with legislation that would establish a cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions tied to global warming...Politico

Judge rules prairie dog trapping can continue

A judge said this week the trapping of the threatened Utah prairie dogs in Cedar City can continue. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has denied an effort brought by environmental groups fighting the trapping, which allows Cedar City officials to relocate the threatened prairie dog from its golf course. Waddoups ruled Wednesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed proper procedure when it issued permits to the city and the Paiute Tribe to trap and relocate the animals, which have occupied the golf course and adjacent tribal land for nearly two decades. In 2007, WildEarth Guardians, formerly Forest Guardians -- along with the Utah Environmental Congress, Center for Native Ecosystems and naturalist-author Terry Tempest Williams -- sued the agency claiming its actions would harm prairie dog populations...Salt Lake Tribune

California Fuel Move Angers Ethanol Makers

Ethanol producers reacted with dismay to California’s approval of the nation’s first low-carbon fuel standard, which will require the state’s mix of fuels to be 10 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In a 9-1 vote late Thursday, the state’s Air Resources Board approved the measure. “The drive to force the market toward greater use of alternative fuels will be a boon to the state’s economy and public health — it reduces air pollution, creates new jobs and continues California’s leadership in the fight against global warming,” said the California board’s chairwoman, Mary D. Nichols, in a statement. But the ethanol industry is concerned that the regulations give a poor emissions score to their corn-based product, in some cases ranking it as a bigger emitter than petroleum. “This was a poor decision, based on shaky science, not only for California, but for the nation,” General Wesley Clark, who is a co-chairman of the pro-ethanol group Growth Energy, said in a statement...NYTimes

FAA releases data on 89,000 wildlife strikes

Airplane collisions with birds or other animals have resulted in five fatalities and 93 injuries and destroyed 28 aircraft since 2000, with New York's Kennedy airport and Sacramento International reporting the most cases with serious damage, according to Federal Aviation Administration data released for the first time yesterday. The FAA list of wildlife strikes, published on the Internet, details more than 89,000 incidents since 1990. Most cases were bird strikes, but deer and other animals have been hit on runways, too. The situation seems to be getting worse: Airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major US airports since 2000, including New Orleans, Houston's Hobby, Kansas City, Orlando, and Salt Lake City. Wildlife specialists say that birds, particularly large ones like Canada geese, are increasingly finding food near near cities and airports and living there year round rather than migrating. The figures are known to be far from complete. Even the FAA estimates its voluntary reporting system captures only 20 percent of wildlife strikes. But the agency has refused for a decade to adopt a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to make the reports mandatory...AP

Obama admin hands offshore aquaculture oversight to NOAA

The Obama administration will develop federal aquaculture regulations, including a system that could permit offshore fish farming in the ocean waters for the first time, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today. Locke addressed a Senate hearing as another Cabinet agency, the Interior Department, turned away from a controversial Bush administration proposal that would have expedited a permitting system for offshore aquaculture under the Minerals Management Service. He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will oversee the preparation of the Obama administration's fish-farming guidelines. In its final rule (pdf) for offshore renewable energy projects, released yesterday, Interior said it would not authorize aquaculture projects. The move is a reversal from the Bush administration's proposal, which would have opened the door for the government to fast-track offshore fish farms. The new rule passes oversight of any deepwater fish farms to Commerce's NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service...NYTimes

Scary Green Monsters

If you have somehow missed the fact that April 22 is Earth Day, it's probably because you are grown up. Were you a child, there's not a chance you'd be allowed to miss the urgent chthonic nature of the day -- nor the need to recycle, to use water sparingly, to protect endangered creatures and generally to be agitated about a planet in peril. Contemporary children are so drenched with eco-propaganda that it's almost a waste of resources. Like acid rain, but more persistent and corrosive, it dribbles down on them all day long. They get it at school, where recycling now competes with tolerance as man's highest virtue. They get it in peppy "go green" messages online, on television and in magazines. And increasingly, the eco-message is seeping into the pages of novels that don't, on their face, necessarily seem to be about environmentalism at all. Thus children who might like to escape into a good book are now likely to find themselves pursued into that imaginative realm by didactic adults fixated on passing along endless tellurian warnings. Susceptible children are left in no doubt that we're all headed for a despoiled, immiserated future unless they start planting pansies in their old shoes, using dryer lint as mulch, and practicing periodic vegetarianism...WSJ

School teacher attacked by irate mother squirrel

A visiting school teacher learned a lesson about letting nature take its course Thursday when police say she was attacked by a mother squirrel on the University of Michigan campus. The 52-year-old Detroit Public School teacher was with a group of students touring the campus at about 11:30 a.m. when she spotted some baby squirrels that were outside of their nest at the Student Activities Building in the 500 block of Jefferson Street, according to the U-M's Department of Public Safety. The teacher noticed the mother squirrel appeared to have left behind one of her babies and also noticed a crow was starting to take interest. The Detroit teacher tried to scare away the crow. When that didn't work, the woman tried to alert the mother squirrel about the left behind baby. Instead, the mother squirrel turned on the teacher, DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said. Brown said the woman tried to escape back to the school bus, but fell to the ground and injured her ankle. Seeing an opportunity, the mother squirrel attacked and either scratched or bit the teacher on her leg...Mlive

Hat Tip: Outdoor Pressroom

Teacher Jill,
Went up the hill,
To save a little varmint.

Teacher Jill,
Tumbled down the hill,
And the varmint bit the hell out of her.

I can just see what happened in my mind's eye, and I'm sorry folks, but I think it is funnier than all getout.

Who said education can't be fun!

'Green initiative' by Charles will cost £80,000 and leave 53-ton carbon footprint as he flies in 12-seat private jet

Prince Charles is being accused of hypocrisy after it was revealed that he is chartering a luxury private jet for a five-day tour of Europe to promote environmental issues. The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall, plus ten Clarence House staff, will fly from London to Rome this evening. Then they will fly on to Venice and Berlin, before returning to Britain. Clarence House aides stress that the trip is at the request of the Government to promote its climate change policies. But instead of using scheduled flights, the Royal party has hired a private plane, thought to be an Airbus A319. According to experts from the Carbon Managers company, which carries out environmental audits, the aircraft's four European flights over 2,200 miles will leave a carbon footprint of 52.95 tons - nearly five times the average person's 11-ton footprint for an entire year. Each member of Charles's party will leave a carbon footprint of 4.41 tons - 13 times more than if they had used a scheduled flight on the same type of plane, which can carry up to 156 passengers...Daily Mail

He better watch out for them European squirrels.

The carbon footprint may be on agriculture's face

A ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put into play all kinds of possibilities for land use in the new century. This is not just conjecture, as a court ruling required the EPA to declare greenhouse gasses to be detrimental to public health and to open a comment period on how to regulate them. This will either result in regulation or legislation to address how to manage land and livestock in the global warming era. I can hear some of you seething right now, and I sympathize; however, the political reality of global warming is real, regardless of the scientific basis for the conclusion that man is heating up the planet and must change practices to reverse the trend. To moderate your emotions, go back to the conservation provisions that were put into farm legislation in the 1980s. Remember "sodbuster" and "swampbuster" as radical concepts to prevent land from being converted from native vegetation to cropland? Then, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) came along and enticed farmers to set aside millions of acres of marginal land. Each of these was resisted until the economics were examined. It is quite possible that programs to counter global warming will make another offer and this time it will be to "re-forest" America. The key is carbon. It is released into the atmosphere naturally by our environment but also by acts of man. Plowing the soil releases it, while growing a crop collects it. The most efficient way to bring the carbon in our air back into balance is to put it back into the ground. This can be done on a very large scale by planting trees on land that was once farmed. The initial talk is to "re-forest" 300 million acres of land. (breathe, breathe, OK) What is it worth to you (government) for me (landowner) to do this? The projection is that farmland converted to growing trees can capture seven tons of carbon per acre/per year. The value of the carbon, per ton, goes as high as $70! Now, you are talking! At $490 per acre, per year, global warming ain't that bad!...High Plains Journal

Hawaii conducts feral cattle hunt by helicopter

At least one member of the Big Island's county council is angry that the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife conducted helicopter-borne hunts of feral cattle in mid-April. North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell said the forestry division and its parent state agency, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, ignored a consensus against the hunts in a portion of the Honuaula Forest Preserve among council members worried about harm to the public. But Paul Conry, administrator of the forestry division, said the helicopter hunts on April 15 and 16 were authorized by the board of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and were conducted only after safety measures were taken. Generations of feral cattle have roamed the preserve, mostly the progeny of animals that escaped nearby ranches. "They are a large animal that really is destroying the forest," Conry said. "They trample, they consume. They basically can destroy the koa forest by just constantly eating any of the regeneration that comes up, new koa seedlings trying to get established." Koa is a native hardwood tree that grows in the preserve. There had been about 550 to 600 feral cattle within a 2,650-acre portion of the preserve, Conry said. Over the last two years, the division worked with a nearby rancher to remove about 400 of them with the use of traps. But more than 150 remained in fairly inaccessible areas, he added...High Plains Journal

Windmill Country - Feral Hogs

In 20 years, the feral hog population has grown to more than 2 million head across Texas and has wreaked havoc on property, livestock, crops, pastures and more recently, city parks and golf courses. "The wild hogs are as prolific as cockroaches, destructive as rats and as surly as badgers. "The dirt-slingin' critters roam free in Texas, rooting up pastures and fences, wallowing in creekbeds and gorging themselves on crops and gardens," said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas' state veterinarian. The female hogs have litters of eight and 12 pigs at a time, several times per year. They can double their population in an area in four months, Aubrey Lange told me over lunch recently. Hunters can't make a dent in their numbers. Lange, who operates Lange Helicopters from Mertzon with his son Kyle, has hunted the wild hogs and coyotes for the famous Pitchfork Ranch near Guthrie in King County and the San Angelo-based Sheep & Goat Predator Management Board. "From 1993-2003, the damage from feral hogs that was reported to AgriLife Extension's Wildlife Services increased an average of 105 percent per year," said Ken Cearley, Extension wildlife management specialist in Canyon. "The price tag for that damage now is conservatively estimated to be about $52 million per year." Former Gov. Dolph Briscoe, who at one time ran several thousand head of Angora goats and sheep on his ranch near Uvalde, told me a few years ago that feral hogs put the family ranch out of the goat and sheep business. "They ate everything, including hoofs and horns, and left little evidence of the animals," he said...San Angelo Standard Times

Scientists Unravel Cow Genome to Improve Milk, Meat

While poet Ogden Nash had cow basics down, it took 300 scientists six years to outline the genetic sequence of "L1 Dominette 01449," a Hereford cow living on a research farm near Miles City, Mont. Researchers led by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture report their findings in a herd of 20 papers appearing in Friday's edition of the journal Science and other journals including Genome Biology. The researchers believe the findings will help improve the quality and safety of beef and dairy products and can be used to develop better ways of treating and preventing diseases that affect cattle. Among their findings: • Modern cattle developed from a diverse ancestral population from Africa, Asia and Europe, that has undergone a recent rapid decrease in population size, probably due to domestication. • The genome of the domestic cattle contains approximately 22,000 genes, compared to 20,000 to 25,000 for humans. • Cattle and humans have about 80 percent of their genes in common. • The organization of human chromosomes is closer to that of domestic cattle than to those of rats or mice, which are often used in lab tests of drugs intended for people. • Cattle chromosomes, like those of humans and other mammals, contain segmental duplications, which are large, almost identical copies of DNA present in at least two locations in a genome. They found that in domestic cattle, the duplications related to immunity, metabolism, digestion, reproduction and lactation...Fox News

Former NM state historian dispels hanging myths

New Mexico abounds with macabre tales about "hanging trees" where Wild West miscreants were strung up in the days of frontier justice — but as former state historian Robert Torrez discovered, there's more myth than truth in many of the stories. It provided the title of his book, "Myth of the Hanging Tree," published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2008. As state historian from 1987 to 2000, Torrez was often asked by researchers about hangings and mob lynchings before New Mexico became a state in 1912 and later, in the early days of statehood. When he looked into their queries, "they'd find out that things often were not as we imagined them," Torrez said in a recent interview at his Albuquerque home. But he did glean some hard facts amid the myths. From 1849-1923, 71 people, including one woman, were legally hanged in what is now New Mexico. The practice ended when the Legislature changed the method to electrocution in 1929. Torrez's book also lists 125 lynchings in New Mexico from 1852-1928, but he acknowledges the list is likely not complete. He turned up references to at least a dozen more he could not confirm. The last known lynching took place in Farmington in 1928. Rafael Benavides, a sheepherder, was kidnapped from a local hospital after being shot by a sheriff's posse that arrested him for assaulting the wife of a rancher who owed him money.There was the botched hanging of William Wilson, who was placed in his coffin still alive, in Lincoln in 1875. "They decided they had to string him up again to make sure that he was dead before they could bury him," Torrez said...AP

Song Of The Day #027

Bill Boyd (1910-1977) was born on a ranch near Ladonia, TX, and grew up as a working cowboy, which may be why he stuck to straight western swing without the horns and other adornments used by some of his contemporaries. Bill and his younger brother Jim made their debut in 1926 on radio station KFPM in Greenville, Texas. The first incarnation of the Cowboy Ramblers was in 1932 on WRR. Bill and his band moved to San Antonio in 1934 and cut their first sides for Bluebird. They would eventually record 229 singles. Boyd retired from the music business in the early 50's and was poshumously inducted into the Texas Westerm Swing Hall of Fame.

Today's selection is the 1935 tune "Thousand Mile Blues" by Bill Boyd & The Cowboy Ramblers. There's several collections of Boyd's music, such as Saturday Night Rag: 1934-1936 and Lone Star Rag: 1937-1949, Vol. 2. Or, you can go to Western Swing On 78 and download from the original 78s.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

Cowboys gone fishing

Julie Carter

I know many cowboys that, if close to a pond or other some such fish habitation, like to throw a line in from time to time.

Curly, Robby, Darrel and Jim slipped off to do little fishing one year. Curly and Robby opted to sit on the bank of the lake, casting lines and consuming adult beverages.

There were more beverages going down than there were fish coming up, but, after all, it was spring and you don’t have to clean the beverages.

Darrel and Jim were drifting along in a flat-bottom boat they’d brought along, casting lines and sometimes catching old tires and other like treasures. Once in a while, they’d even catch a fish.

One of them whipped back a perfect cast after catching a tree limb on the bank. He shook loose the lure, along with it came a snake he’d managed to pick up in the commotion.

The snake hit the bottom of the boat and both the anglers bailed over the side. When Curly and Robby, still bank-side, quit laughing, they had to go save the boat that was continuing to drift on the current.

Cowboys that live where there is a lot of water, specifically lakes, will tell you of a common phenomenon, a culture of people called the Lake Dwellers.

You know you are in the neighborhood of a clan of them by the number of catfish heads on the fence posts and the abundance of Heinz-crossed mutts in every yard. They seem to live off one another, trading belongings back and forth as available cash ebbs and flows.

Occasionally, the cowboys will attempt to mingle with the Lake Dwellers. Jim and Curly had been down to a beer-swilling, pool-playing joint and picked up a couple gals who invited them to a party down at the lake.

When they arrived, they immediately deducted they were overdressed. Having gone home and showered, put on their starched jeans and best boots, they were no match for the crew in Bermuda shorts with no shirts and rubber boots.

Immediately unpopular with the men of the Lake Dweller clan, it didn’t improve when Jim spotted a deer’s behind mounted over the fireplace, tail up.

He promptly stuck a cigarette in the deer’s south opening and things went downhill from there. It didn’t take them long to enjoy all of that party they needed as they were considerably outnumbered.

The recent event where the captain of a hijacked ship managed with the help of a few Navy Seals, to fend off some scruffy pirates, has the cowboys swapping “cowboys as boat captains” tales.

If cowboys are anything, they are storytellers and are the very best at it when it involves themselves. The running dialog speaks of leaky boats (poor folk always have leaky boats) and bailing water to the extent it drove them all to the time-honored sport of bank fishing.

Curly has rounded up a gal to fantasize about – his flavor of the week. He says she has a “just a touch of the Lake Dweller in her.” That means you don’t ever have to worry about what she’s thinking.

Over cold longnecks, they’ve had some relationship discussions about kids and child support. He pays through the nose for one but she announced she’d never birthed a baby (and she has three) from a guy that ever paid a dime.

While Curly was digesting this information, she, in her Lake Dweller directness said, “You wasn’t thinking about getting married again anytime soon was you?”

When this question came forth, Curly was just putting his beer bottle to his mouth. His hand started shaking so bad he was afraid he was going to chip a tooth, and it wasn’t the grammar that was appalling him.

Recalling a previous commitment, he managed to free himself from the immediate Lake Dweller danger, and of late, has limited his vices to full time team roping.

Julie can be reached for comment at

It’s The Pitts


One of my favorite self-help programs in the beef business is the Beef Ambassador program which trains the next generation of cattlewomen and cattlemen to speak up and, on behalf, of beef. Our best and brightest young people compete each year for the chance to become one of five members of a Beef Ambassador team to travel the country on behalf of all cattlemen. The competition features mock media interviews, classroom presentations, response to issues and consumer promotion.

I wonder if our enemies have any such program to brainwash future vegetarians and animal rightists, and if so, how do they train their spokesidiots? Surely they would place their emphasis on other things than public speaking and rational writing. Here is how I imagine the scorecard for young PETA Ambassador contestants would looks like. (100 points possible)

Balloon Toss Accuracy- Because one of the main functions of PETA members is throwing paint filled balloons at anyone wearing fur it’s important that they be able to hit their target. You wouldn’t want them hitting a reporter for USA Today or one of their own woolly haired members. They should also be able to tell what is real and what is fake fur or whether the target just needs a haircut and a shave.(5 Points)

Animal Identification- This phase of the competition would involve the identification of a pig, cow, circus elephant, seeing-eye dog, lab rat and Sean Penn, because you really need to know who it is you are protesting on behalf of. (5 points)

Gag Reflex Test- If you are going to be a sincere PETA member you must be a vegetarian and if you are going to be a vegetarian it means you are going to have to survive on squash muffins, tofu pasta and soy milk. In the gag reflex test contestants will be fed a variety of vegetarian dishes to see if they have a strong enough stomach for the job. (5 points)

Background Check- This is to determine if you or any of your relatives have ever had a life threatening disease and, if so, did any drugs or medical procedures that were tested on lab animals save your relative’s life? If so, turn in your PETA badge. (5 points)

Lie Detector Test- Contestants will be asked questions to determine if they have led a “cruelty free lifestyle”, such as, have you ever eaten a cheeseburger? Have you ever worn a pair of shoes? (5 points)

Pet Care- In light of recent charges leveled at PETA by the Center for Consumer Freedom this test has recently been added. The Center alleges that PETA killed 95% of the adoptable pets in their care during 2008. They say that public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services show that PETA killed 2,124 pets last year while placing 7 in adoptive homes. Since 1998 they allege that 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers. In light of this report PETA is going to want to know if their spokesidiots know how to do simple, life saving tasks such as opening a can of cat food or pouring water in a dog’s bowl. (1 point)

Accounting Skills- Let’s face it folks, when it comes to PETA it’s all about the money and they are going to want to know if you can count the cash. (40 points)

The Nudity Test- Really, about the only thing PETA members do well is take off their clothes for the protest pictures, so they are going to want to see what you look like in your birthday suit. (Their philosophy is that people won’t be interested in facts if they are busy looking at nude bodies.) If you look like ancient PETA members Angelica Huston and Cloris Leachman don’t worry, PETA will cover you up with lettuce and cabbage leaves. But you WILL NOT become a PETA Ambassador. (40 points)

Editor’s Note: You may note that the total score does not add up to 100 points. Hey, we never said these were the smartest centerfolds in the book.