Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Governors Seek 'road Map' For N. Rockies Wolves

After years of legal wrangling over wolf management, the Obama administration and three governors on Monday discussed crafting an end-game - including whether Congress should pull the plug on the debate by declaring the animals' numbers have fully recovered in the Northern Rockies. The federal government has been turned back twice in its efforts to get wolves off the endangered species list. Success would open the door to public hunting - something the governors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming say is badly needed to keep the predators' expanding population in check. All three states are anxious to reduce wolf numbers to protect other wildlife and reduce livestock attacks. The frustration from the governors and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "is that everybody recognizes that the (wolf) population is not only recovered, but it is robust," Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal said after the meeting. "And why we can't get to de-listing, I think, is very frustrating for all of the people sitting around that table." The federal government originally said it wanted a wolf population of 300 wolves when it started its reintroduction program in the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. Biologists say there are now at least 1,700 wolves in parts of six states. Yet through a series of legal challenges over several years, environmental groups have stymied efforts to transfer wolf management from the federal government to the states...more

They sue to get them on and they sue to keep them on. The enviros have a national, coordinated administrative and legal strategy for endangered species, and we just stand around a say "damn, wish they wouldn't do that."

Until industry and land owners are willing to meet them punch for punch they'll continue to get whipped.

Step back and think about it. Three duly elected Governors and a Cabinet Secretary knowing the wolf has recovered but all they can do is meet and wring their hands. That's pitiful.

BLM posts response to climate change

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has posted new web pages that describe its efforts to respond to climate change and related environmental challenges. The BLM's Climate Change Home Page is found at www.blm.gov. "Public lands managed by the BLM are facing widespread environmental challenges that transcend traditional management boundaries," said BLM Director Bob Abbey. "These challenges include managing wildfire, controlling weeds and insect outbreaks, providing for energy development, and addressing impacts from climate change." These new web pages highlight two connected initiatives the BLM is undertaking to address these complex resource management issues. One initiative is the preparation of science assessments, called Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs), to improve the understanding of ecological conditions, how they might be affected by climate change and other environmental trends, and to inform future management actions. The second initiative is the development of a proposed landscape approach for managing public lands. A landscape approach looks across large geographic areas to identify important ecological values and patterns of environmental change that may not be evident when managing smaller, local land areas. A landscape approach uses this broader understanding of the environment to inform, focus, and coordinate management efforts on-the-ground. "The REAs and proposed landscape approach offer a way to integrate the BLM's conservation, restoration, and development programs in a cohesive manner," said Abbey. "An integrated approach is essential to sustain the diverse values and uses of public lands, and meet the Nation's energy needs, in an era of profound environmental change." Press Release

Let's see, there are "Rapid Ecoregional Assessments", a "landscape approach", "patterns of environmental change" and "diverse values" all to be implemented in a "cohesive manner."

What bullshit.

When did you ever see BLM do anything rapid?

All that the "landscape approach" means is no matter how well you manage your allotment, they can still get you for something going on in the landscape.

BLM plans to give fertility control drugs to wild horses

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to step up temporary roundups of wild horses to treat the animals with fertility control drugs before releasing them back to the range instead or permanently removing them from public lands. The agency plans 11 gathers of wild horses on federal land in Nevada, Idaho and Utah in the coming year for the primary purpose of applying the vaccine to about 890 mares. “If these fertility control treatments prove successful, we can lengthen the time between some gathers, saving taxpayer dollars,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said Wednesday. Horse protection advocates said the temporary roundups are a step in the right direction but complained that the strategy will be used in less than one-fifth of BLM gathers planned in the coming year...more

They might want vaccinate a bunch of politicians while they are at it, since they are surely doing more than anybody to screw up the "landscape". Put a "rapid" in front of that too - I'm sick of these guys.

Thank you, Janet Napolitano & BLM, for saving us from pot terrorists

Thank you, Janet Napolitano. I feel so much safer now that the Bureau Of Land Management's Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program is over. That recent realistic scenario of crazed pot terrorists taking over the Shasta Dam to demonstrate how efficiently federal agencies can respond to this very real possibility deserves every American's praise. Bravo! I want to congratulate everyone involved for recognizing that pot terrorists are an immediate threat to America's national security. As we all know, pot terrorists are the No. 1 threat to this nation, thus the reason for The War on Drugs. Forget about al-Qaida. We need to address real-world things like pot terrorists boarding planes with hidden doobies or glass pipes. It's common knowledge that people high on pot can be violent and dangerous. Homeland Security officials warn that even medical marijuana can cause problems. Patients freak out and run through the streets naked if they don't get their pot fix. Janet Napolitano rightly recognized the seriousness of the growing number of pot terrorists, mostly in California. The Feds have turned up the heat and are offering rewards to children. If they turn in their pot-smoking parents they'll get a set of DEA playing cards. I say it's about time the word gets out about these pot terrorists in our country. We've ignored them for too long. I can't tell you how much better I'll sleep, knowing the authorities are on the ball. It's comforting to see how much work went into the Crisis Response Exercise Program. Just think, for 18 months, at the cost of $500,000, these dedicated people prepared for the very real possibility that stoned pot farmers would try to take over the nation's dams...more

Can Nevada’s Black Rock playa survive Burning Man?

The Black Rock Playa is an exceptional place. Stretching across about 200 square miles, the sandy stretch of Black Rock Desert is as flat as a tabletop. Often flooded in winter, it's dusty dry come summer. Silent, empty and harsh, few places like it exist on the planet. "It's a really special place," said Ken Adams, a geologist with the Desert Research Institute in Reno. "What makes the Black Rock Desert playa unique is its size, its smoothness and its flatness." But if the ancient lake bed is unique in its nature, there's more to it. Much more. For the past 20 years, the playa has been home to the Burning Man annual counterculture art festival. Desert silence is replaced with costumed desert craziness, culminating with the burning of the towering effigy of "The Man." Last year's event, climaxing over Labor Day weekend, attracted more than 51,000 people to the remote playa about 120 miles northeast of Reno. The festival's organizer, Black Rock City LLC, is asking the federal Bureau of Land Management to issue a five-year permit to continue Burning Man on about 4,400 acres of public land from 2011 to 2015. It would increase the number of people potentially attending the event to 60,000...more

Will BLM do a "Rapid Ecoregional Assessment" or just a plain old EIS?

Everybody should be watching to see how the "landscape" approach handles this.

Better have the BLM Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Team there too. After consulting with the vast supply of intelligence sources available to The Westerner, I can almost guarantee there...will...be...pot at this function. No dams in sight, but you never know.

Cancun climate change summit: scientists call for rationing in developed world

In a series of papers published by the Royal Society, physicists and chemists from some of world’s most respected scientific institutions, including Oxford University and the Met Office, agreed that current plans to tackle global warming are not enough. Unless emissions are reduced dramatically in the next ten years the world is set to see temperatures rise by more than 4C (7.2F) by as early as the 2060s, causing floods, droughts and mass migration. As the world meets in Cancun, Mexico for the latest round of United Nations talks on climate change, the influential academics called for much tougher measures to cut carbon emissions. In one paper Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the only way to reduce global emissions enough, while allowing the poor nations to continue to grow, is to halt economic growth in the rich world over the next twenty years. This would mean a drastic change in lifestyles for many people in countries like Britain as everyone will have to buy less ‘carbon intensive’ goods and services such as long haul flights and fuel hungry cars. Prof Anderson admitted it “would not be easy” to persuade people to reduce their consumption of goods. He said politicians should consider a rationing system similar to the one introduced during the last “time of crisis” in the 1930s and 40s. This could mean a limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has travelled from abroad may be limited and goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture. “The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face,” he said...more

Obamanomics applied to the world.

Vandals spray-paint prehistoric rock art in Red Rock Canyon

That "knucklehead," who marred the visit the Smiths had made from Lake Orion, Mich., to the scenic national conservation area west of Las Vegas, left other damage to the pristine rock shelter, including a name, "Pee Wee Rodo," and the words "Nevada Has Cronic." In all, three prehistoric rock art panels were vandalized with the same maroon spray-painted graffiti. Archaeologists think Southern Paiutes made cultural paintings, or pictographs, there centuries ago until as recently as the 1800s. One rock art panel that was vandalized contains a petroglyph, or stone etching, that depicts a figure similar to an arched window divided into six sections. On Monday, the BLM announced in a news release that the Friends of Red Rock Canyon and the Conservation Lands Foundation are offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the suspect or suspects. Bureau officials estimate the cost of restoring the site will be $10,000. The crime is a felony violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and carries a fine of up to $100,000 and five years in jail...more

Idaho proposal would bring almost 40,000 acres in Lochsa to public domain

A proposed land exchange just over the Idaho border could bring almost 40,000 acres of Lochsa River headwaters into public ownership. The U.S. Forest Service is working out a deal with Western Pacific Timber Co. that would exchange about 28,000 acres scattered across the Panhandle, Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests for the private timberland. Most of that private property is mixed in checkerboard fashion with public land. The timberland has healthy fisheries and wildlife habitat, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Laura Smith. It also covers portions of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail - the route that Chief Joseph's band of Nez Perce Indians followed in their attempt to resist being confined to a reservation. After some initial public comment, the Forest Service is considering four options, according to Nez Perce Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell. The preferred option would swap the lands over three years, starting with an exchange of 6,200 acres of federal land for Western Pacific Timber ground of equal value. Some of the private land could be bought outright if a $2 million Land and Water Conservation Fund award is confirmed in the fiscal 2011 federal budget. The money could underwrite exchanges in the remaining two years of the deal...more

Hill pressured to kill 'death tax'

Anti-tax and family advocacy groups are pressuring lawmakers not to breathe new life into the "death tax" — a levy on personal fortunes that was taken off the books this year, but is scheduled to return at a higher rate in 2011. The fate of the tax, officially known as the estate tax, is directly tied to the ongoing game of political chicken that has sprung up between Democrats and Republicans over whether tax cuts passed under President Bush in 2001 and 2003 should extended before they expire next month. Although the debate has been dominated by the scheduled hike in personal income tax rates, lawmakers also must consider what to do with the other parts of the Bush tax packages, including the refundable child tax credit, taxes on capital gains tax and the "death tax," which is levied on big inheritances. "Out of all those 2011 tax hikes, the one that is the most up in the air is the death tax," said Ryan Ellis, tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform. "No one can honestly tell you what is going to happen with it."...more

UCLA Animal Researcher Gets Threatening Package

An official says a primate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, has received a package containing razor blades and threatening messages. UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said Tuesday the package was sent earlier this month to David Jentsch, a psychologist and neuroscientist who does research on rodents and primates. The Animal Liberation Front on Tuesday released a statement saying it had sent razor blades covered in AIDS-infected blood to Jentsch and one of his researchers. It was not known if the blades Jentsch received were contaminated. No one was injured and the other researcher had not received any packages. UCLA researchers have been the target of several recent attacks. Last year, Jentsch's car was set ablaze. AP

Obama’s Pick for ATF Chief Is ‘Anti-Gun,’ Say Pro-Second Amendment Groups

Gun rights advocates are unhappy with President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Obama announced on Nov. 15 his intent to nominate Andrew Traver, presently the special agent in charge of the ATF's Chicago office, to be the director of the agency. Both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) criticized the president’s selection. According to the NRA, "Traver has been deeply aligned with gun control advocates and anti-gun activities. This makes him the wrong choice to lead an enforcement agency that has almost exclusive oversight and control over the firearms industry, its retailers and consumers.” Alan Gottlieb, chairman of CCRKBA, told CNSNews.com that as ATF director, Traver would exercise vast control over all levels of the firearm industry. “First of all, the big concern that we have is that the agency that he would be overseeing controls all the firearm regulations against everybody in the United States starting with the manufacturers and the wholesalers and the distributors down to the gun dealers,” said Gottlieb. “They can deny dealers licenses, they can decide that a person doesn’t sell enough guns to be a dealer or sells too many guns and should be a dealer, all kinds of regulations on how the stores have to operate, what kind of security devices they have to have, all kinds of inspections,” said Gottlieb. “There are a whole lot of monkey wrenches that can be thrown into the firearm industry very quietly behind the scenes.”...more

Song Of The Day #444

Ranch Radio is thinking that after a long Thanksgiving weekend you may need another up tempo tune to help you float through the week. So here is Outlaw Social performing When He's Gone from their 11 track CD Dry Bones.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Livestock Industry Opposes Lame Duck Omnibus Public Lands Bill

November 29, 2010
The Honorable Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
361-A Russell Senate Office Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Omnibus Public Lands Bill and Land & Water Conservation Fund

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

    The undersigned livestock groups are concerned with statements from the administration supporting both an omnibus public lands measure and legislation to increase funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Both measures could threaten the livelihoods of livestock producers during a nationwide economic recession. During these final days of the 111th U.S. Congress, we ask that you approach these matters using congressional oversight to promote limited federal spending, continued use of our natural resources, and local input in the decision-making process.
    We cannot support an omnibus lands bill, which could restrict access to millions of acres of federal land across the west by creating new land designations such as wilderness areas and National Conservation Areas. Although reports vary as to the number of bills that would be included (we have heard between 60 and 120 separate bills), multiple-use on those lands could be threatened. Livestock grazing, oil and gas leasing, logging, mining, and other business activities important to rural economies would be jeopardized. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars would be spent administering the sweeping new special land designations, year after year.
    Similarly, increasing funding to the LWCF will not only add to the national debt, but could harm productivity on our federal lands as well. Between 1965 and 2002, the LWCF—even without full funding and with the requirement of authorization from Congress for every expenditure—put $8.7 billon toward federal acquisition and “conservation” of 4.5 million acres of land. It also gave around $3.5 billion to state and local projects to set aside another 2.3 million acres. We are wary of the proposal to increase funding to the LWCF by $5 billion through year 2016, while removing the requirement of congressional approval on expenditures. Such a proposal could well pave the way for federal land agencies to acquire productive private acres without local stakeholder involvement, and to make special designations on public lands without local grassroots involvement. We believe it is critical that the local stakeholders remain part of the process of land sales and potential land use designations. The federal government owns and struggles to manage nearly 650 million acres of land—almost 30% of our nation’s land area. Our country can ill afford the added costs of LWCF acquisitions, not to mention the removal of more natural resources from productive use in the rural west.
    While we may not know how many bills would be included in an omnibus measure, this we know with certainty: every public land bill is unique and deserves thoughtful congressional deliberation and local input. While some bills may have the support of local stakeholders, others could be damaging and restrictive to the people who live adjacent to and work on that land. Furthermore, although we cannot know which or how many acres the LWCF would set aside, the citizens who comprise our rural western economies and who count on the natural resources on federal lands should be given a voice in these special designation decisions. Increasing federal spending, heightening restrictions and regulations, and bundling together and forcing through Congress masses of federal lands bills are not legislative actions we deem appropriate or necessary.
    Wise, beneficial use of our public lands’ natural resources is a means of improving the lives of not only the families of the rural west, but of people across the nation and world. We appreciate your consideration of our desire to give voice to our hardworking rural citizens and ensure their continued ability to add value through responsible productivity on public lands.

American Sheep Industry Association
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Public Lands Council
Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Wool Growers Association
Colorado Cattlemen’s Association
Colorado Public Lands Council
Idaho Cattle Association
Montana Stockgrowers Association
Montana Public Lands Council
Montana Association of State Grazing Districts
Nevada Cattlemen’s Association
Oregon Cattlemen’s Association
South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association
Utah Cattlemen’s Association
Washington Cattlemen’s Association
Wyoming Stock Growers Association
Cc: Senator Bingaman, Senator Murkowski, Senator Wyden, Senator Barrasso

Wolves confront North Idaho woman in driveway

A North Idaho woman said she was confronted by at least four wolves as she walked alone up her rural driveway between Tensed and Plummer at dusk on Saturday. Karen Calisterio, 52, was trudging up the snow-plugged lane when she saw two dogs about 200 yards ahead near her house. At first she thought they were her two cow dogs coming to greet her. “Then I saw two more of them, and all four were walking toward me,” she said. “That’s when I said, ‘Oh shit, I’m alone and I’m in trouble.’” Read on to get her full account of the next 20 minutes of terror...

"I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and called my husband in a frantic and said, “Get back here fast, there are wolves in the driveway and they’re coming towards me.” He said to keep my phone in my hand, don’t panic and he was turning around to come back. This call was placed at 4:37 PM and lasted 27 seconds. For a second, I started to turn and run back down the driveway then thought, “I don’t think I’m supposed to run.” Then I started crying, saying to myself, “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do.” I turned back around so could keep watching the wolves and walked backwards as fast as I could. They kept coming toward me, but they didn’t appear to be running. It was getting dark fast"...more

Ruling: State Can Be Sued Over Fatal Bear Attack at Campground

A Utah woman whose child was killed by a bear while they were camping near American Fork Canyon in 2007 can sue the state for not warning her family about a bear attack that took place earlier that day. Eleven-year-old Sam Ives was pulled from his tent by a bear and mauled to death at the same campsite a bear had ravaged earlier that day, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article. Previously, the Utah 4th District Court found that the state was protected from liability based on the Government Immunity Act. The Utah Supreme Court overturned that ruling Tuesday. The campground on which the attack occurred is on U.S. Forest Service land, and the court found the Forest Service is responsible for issuing camping permits and closing the campground, the state supreme court found. However, it ruled that to use the Government Immunity Act as a defense, as the state of Utah did, the agency in question must have the authority to make the decision. The boy's family also is pursuing a $2 million negligence suit against the U.S. Forest Service in federal court...more

Salazar must reverse bad trend toward 'no more wilderness'

But nearly two years into his term, and in spite of his recent orders to federal land managers to make conservation their primary focus, the secretary appears to be twiddling his thumbs while the worst of policies from Bush and from Salazar's predecessor Gale Norton rolls merrily along: That's the "no more wilderness" agreement struck between then-Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and then-interior secretary Gale Norton back in 2003. It was to have affected only the Beehive State -- and that would've been bad enough, given eastern Utah's gorgeous-but-threatened vistas. But next thing environmentalists knew, this ya basta policy applied nationwide to Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction. That could be devastating to our part of the country, where wildernesses -- those officially designated and those dying to be -- are most often found. A century and a half after serious industrialization of the West began, there are still stretches that need saving; Otero Mesa, south of Carlsbad, that stretch of Chihuahuan Desert grassland where antelope and other animals often struggle to survive, is a prime candidate. It's also a prime target of the drill-and-despoil lobby. Ideally, Secretary Salazar would rescind the Utah agreement, which has all the high-handedness of the Ulysses Grant-administration giveaways of the American West. But if he can't see his way to doing that, he must clarify Interior Department policy to say, loud and clear, that whatever deal was cut with Utah is not -- repeat not -- department policy. Gov. Bill Richardson, standing up for the environment in the fading days of his term, has written to the secretary asking him to rescind his predecessor's deal and her policy. For good measure, he's asking Salazar to make use of his department's wilderness-study powers while there's still wilderness to save...more

Hunters Flock To Grady for Fundraising Event

Grady doesn't have a store or a gas station. Road trippers could pass through it in less than a minute and would be out of luck if they had planned to stop for necessities. But the town of about 100 was alive on Saturday with an annual fundraiser for the girls athletic program at Grady public schools, which has brought criticism and also support this year. It is the annual coyote hunting contest, in which teams of hunters have two days to bring in as many coyotes as they can. This year's winning team returned with four coyote carcasses. The second-place team also brought in four, and the tie was broken by the weight of the largest coyote. Chapman's family stepped in to sponsor the contest this year after Grady newcomer Cliff Sagnotty raised concerns about whether public schools should sponsor a hunting event. Mackechnie Chapman said she and her husband stepped in to sponsor the event because they wanted to make sure it didn't go by the wayside. In brief remarks to all the teams before handing out prizes, she thanked them for participating. "We believe this hunt is a necessity for this community, and we believe in girls athletics," she said. Since Sagnotty first raised his concerns about the fundraiser, a swirl of publicity has descended on this tiny village. Coyote conservation groups have been sharply critical of the event, writing in e-mails to the Journal that hunting coyotes is cruel and ineffective at controlling the coyote population. But athletic director Alicia Rush said she has also been inundated with support since the fundraiser became a statewide issue. "We've gotten phone calls and phone calls and phone calls," Rush said. "A lot of people are saying, 'please don't not have the contest, we want to be in it.' " The publicity also led to about double the participation of past years. Eighteen teams signed up this year, compared with about nine last year. And although organizers would not estimate how much the contest made this year, they said it was on course to raise more than ever before. "We were actually worried about it getting too big," Rush said...more

Thank you Mr. Sagnotty, for making this a bigger and better event, with more coyotes killed than otherwise would have been the case.

La Niña predictions stir up drought fear

An unwanted visitor has made her way to the border region. Continuing this winter and into the spring, a moderate-to-strong La Niña is predicted to reign across most of the United States. This natural cycle, brought about by cooler temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, has historically meant lower-than-average precipitation for the Southwest. “The Pacific jet stream is weaker, and it’s pushed a little north, so the winter storms that form in the Pacific Ocean get pulled north of us and we are drier,” said Zack Guido, associate staff scientist with Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), a program at the University of Arizona Institute for the Environment. La Niña could mean bad news for parts of Arizona and northern Mexico, where most of the last 10 years have been dry, leaving water levels dangerously low. In an effort to “improve the region’s ability to respond sufficiently and appropriately to climatic events and climate changes,” -CLIMAS will debut the La Niña Drought Tracker in early December. The monthly online publication will provide information on current and future drought conditions to ranchers, water managers, wildlife managers and others who could be affected by La Niña. “The major impact of the La Niña will likely be the expansion of drought,” Guido said. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the exacerbation of drought conditions will also put the Southwest at risk of above-normal wildfire conditions in coming months...more

Trial to revisit American Indian Movement's past

The American Indian Movement grabbed headlines and international attention in the early 1970s when the group occupied the South Dakota reservation town of Wounded Knee. Those days are long past. AIM has since faded from public view, though some of its offshoot groups still operate. But the upcoming trial of a former AIM member in the late 1975 murder of Annie Mae Aquash - who left her two young daughters to join AIM at Wounded Knee - will likely revisit AIM's past and the actions of its former leaders. Prosecutors say AIM leaders ordered Aquash's death because she was suspected of being a government informant at a time when FBI agents and AIM members routinely exchanged gunfire. John Graham, a Canadian accused of shooting Aquash, is scheduled to stand trial this week. In the years since her death, one AIM leader, Russell Means, has blamed another, Vernon Bellecourt, for issuing that order. Bellecourt denied the claim before his death in 2008. Aquash, a native of the Mi'kmaq tribe of Nova Scotia, took part in Wounded Knee and remained active within the group afterward. But rumors began to circulate that Aquash might be a government informant, particularly as she became more involved within AIM, witnesses have said. She was killed in late 1975, two years after the Wounded Knee uprising. A rancher found her body in February 1976. AIM splintered in the 1980s due to infighting between Means and other AIM leaders, according to Northern Arizona University professor Jon Reyhner. Vernon Bellecourt and his brother, Clyde Bellecourt, led one faction, the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council, and Means led another, the American Indian Movement of Colorado...more

Spread of 'devil' weed threatens ranching

Ranchers in Northern Nevada's remote Paradise Valley first noticed the weed some 20 or 30 years ago. Growing sparsely and mainly in sagebrush-covered foothills, the plant wasn't really much cause for concern. It is now, with Medusahead quickly spreading and in some places, replacing prime grazing range with a weedy "wasteland," said Daryl Riersgard, a Paradise Valley rancher and coordinator of the area's weed control district. Believed introduced in the United States as a seed contaminant in the 1800s, Medusahead already infests 2.5 million acres and is spreading at a rate of 12 percent per year, according to a study released this month by researchers at Oregon State University. The weed crowds out native vegetation and profoundly impacts grazing range. Livestock, deer and elk won't eat the spiny weed because it hurts their mouths and is high in silica. According to the study, once established, Medusahead reduces an area's grazing potential by 80 percent. High silica content also causes mats of the weed to remain on the ground after it dies "like a thick, cheap carpet," Riersgard said...more

Proposed rule sparks controversy

When the 2008 Farm Bill was signed into law, it included language directing USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration to establish new criteria for the U.S. secretary of agriculture to consider in determining whether an undue or unreasonable preference had occurred in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. In June, nearly a year after the congressionally mandated deadline for release, new regulation proposals were announced. Known as the GIPSA rule, the proposals have become very controversial throughout the livestock and poultry segments of the agriculture industry. “Concerning to us is that many of the provisions in this rule are based on proposals and amendments that were defeated by Congress during debate on the 2008 Farm Bill,” said Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “The components of this proposed rule hurt producers and could drastically change the way cattle are marketed in the United States.” The new GIPSA proposals will take away producers’ ability to market on their own, said Charley Christensen, general manager of Producers Livestock Auction in San Angelo. “If we have to start reporting everything we do to the government, that is going to be the biggest issue that I can see,” Charley told me. “If we have to turn our marketing agreements into the government and it is posted for the public to view, we are giving up our last measure of freedom.” The proposed GIPSA Rule was a main topic of discussion during the 66th annual National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention in Kansas City, Mo., in mid-November. A report by Informa Economics during the opening session of the NAFB convention showed the GIPSA rule could result in nearly 23,000 job losses, an annual drop in gross domestic product of as much as $1.56 billion and a yearly loss in tax revenue of $359 million...more

Food bill concerns local producers

A bill that would expand federal powers to regulate food producers has raised concerns among small-business owners and local food advocates in Wyoming. Protections for small producers that were recently added to the Food Safety Modernization Act have addressed some fears, but critics still question the bill's potential to harm local ranchers and farmers. The bill, which is awaiting a final Senate vote, would give the Food and Drug Administration more power to regulate food producers and conduct inspections. It was introduced in response to several high-profile outbreaks of illnesses from tainted foods. Criticisms from small food producers led lawmakers to include an exemption for businesses that sell goods directly to consumers and conduct less than $500,000 in annual sales. Those critics, including Recluse rancher Frank Wallis, argue the new the regulations would be too onerous for family-sized operations and could ultimately force them out of business. "That is the real fear, that they are going to treat everyone the same, and they are going to treat them like Tyson Foods," said Wallis, who sells beef, eggs and other foods. The family-scale exemption is known as the Tester Amendment, after its author, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana. While the lawmaker and grain farmer says the amendment protects family farmers from unnecessary new regulation, it hasn't entirely eliminated concerns about the bill. Wallis says the amendment is a positive step. But he worries a foodborne illness allegation would allow the government to revoke a small-scale food producer's exemption without affording the business due process to challenge regulators' claims...more

51 Ag Groups File PSA Abuse Brief With U.S. Supreme Court

This weekend, while most Americans were counting their blessings and watching football, 51 farm groups filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. They're asking the court to consider a lower court case involving deceptive practices by a large food processor. The particular case was Terry v. Tyson Foods, which involved an effort by a contract poultry producer to receive a fair price for his broilers and organize farmers to battle deceptive conduct by Tyson Foods. "The Terry case is critical to fulfilling Congressional intent that the Packers and Stockyards Act protects farmers from abusive practices by dominant processors," says Bill Bullard, president of R-CALF. The PSA is a 1921 statute enacted to protect farmers from deceptive and abusive practices by processors. Some courts have mistakenly concluded that in order to prevail under the PSA a farmer must demonstrate an antitrust violation. That wasn't the intent of its authors, argues the group. "The PSA was enacted as the antitrust laws had failed to protect farmers and Congress recognized the need for a separate statute to protect farmers," explains Attorney David Balto. Groups leading the effort include National Farmers Union, R-CALF, National Family Farm Coalition, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Rural Advancement Foundation International, and the Organization for Competitive Markets...more

Texas buffalo killings spark range law questions

The slaughter of dozens of buffalo amid an apparent spat between neighboring ranches in northwest Texas has reopened a long unresolved debate about what ranchers legally can do when somebody else's animals roam onto their property. Wayne Kirk recalled the horrific scene in January when more than 50 of his buffalo were found shot to death on a nearby ranch. Some of them had been "caped," meaning their hides were removed. "Babies, pregnant mamas, bulls, everything," said Kirk, owner of the 14,964-acre QB Ranch. "It was terrible, pitiful. It looked like a death zone." The then-foreman at the adjacent Niblo Ranch was charged with criminal mischief for the killings, and both ranches filed lawsuits. The farming and ranching partnership that leases Niblo was the first to sue, contending QB's bison had become a "public nuisance." The animals improperly roamed freely and interfered with Niblo's ranching operations by destroying fencing, eating wheat crops and livestock feed and mingling with its cattle, threatening those animals with crossbreeding and disease, its lawsuit said. In a countersuit, QB Ranch accused its neighbor of negligence and of being responsible for the animal slaughter, seeking damages equal to the value or replacement cost of the lost buffalo. While ranchers across Texas closely followed the legal dispute, figuring it could set some precedent, the two sides largely resolved their differences out of court. A judge ordered QB to keep its remaining herd penned, and QB eventually dropped its lawsuit. So almost a year after the shootings in King County, where only some 300 residents over 913 square miles make it the nation's third least-populous county, little has changed. Still unresolved is whether an animal native to Texas — the bison — can be protected when it wanders away from its home ranch and whether range laws that protect cattle and other livestock also should apply to bison...more

Thousands of Ranches Abandoned in Northern Mexico Due to Violence

Thousands of ranches have been abandoned in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas by owners who do not want to end up like Alejo Garza, a rancher who died defending his property from a drug cartel. Garza, considered a hero by many in the region, refused to hand over his property to a drug cartel, which gave him 24 hours to leave his property. The 77-year-old rancher barricaded himself inside his house and took on 30 cartel gunmen, killing four of them and seriously wounding two others before being slain. The drug cartels, which have been engaged in a turf war since the beginning of this year, take over ranches and use them as bases, a Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office source told Efe on condition of anonymity. “They use them as recruitment centers or as hiding places to avoid being spotted when federal forces do aerial reconnaissance,” the AG’s office source said. Many ranchers have decided to abandon their properties or switch occupations to avoid becoming victims of the cartels, the Tamaulipas Regional Ranchers Association, or URGT, said. “It’s a scourge that is hurting everyone. The ranchers have stopped going to the ranches and are working at something else, so the industry has been falling. They are abandoning the ranches,” URGT president Alejandro Gil said. About 5,000 properties may have been abandoned in the state, Gil said...more

Trew: Shotgun shacks cheap, practical

History explains the shotgun house was named because one or more rooms were built in a row, with connecting doors arranged so a shotgun could be fired in the front door and would send its pellets completely through the house and out the back door into the prairie beyond. In reality, there was a reason for the shotgun structure. In the early days of the West, lumber came at great cost and the longer the length the higher the cost in producing and hauling. The long skinny houses used short lumber that could be hauled easily on wagons, most of which had beds only 14 feet long or shorter. Cost took precedence over a larger building. Another reason was that during the "homestead era" shotgun houses were more practical as they could be easily hauled or skidded on poles to a new location. Though no records exist, it is estimated that most homesteads changed, sold or were abandoned at least three times. Our ranch headquarters had a shotgun house set up on native rocks and was open around the bottom. We had everything from greyhounds, stray hogs, skunks, cotton tails, pack rats and lots of rattlesnakes live beneath where we slept. We had to remember always to jump out the door to clear ground when exiting. Supposedly during the ownership of Jules Bivins, during the early 1900s, the bunk house was skidded in from an old homestead for ranch employee use. My favorite shotgun house story happened on the old Hugh Parsell ranch on the Canadian River, upstream from Canadian. In the early 1940s, there was a large two-story frame house and a shotgun house located at the headquarters. A middle-aged couple lived in the shotgun house and the husband was sent to Borger to pick up pipe and sucker rod for windmill repairs. Without all the good country roads and highways of today, the trip required two days to go, load up and return to the ranch. When the driver returned, he was suffering from a bad limp in his left leg. He explained he was sitting in the hotel bar the night before when a fight broke out. During the melee he was shot in the thigh with a .22 bullet. Remember, this was during the later rough days of "Old Booger Town." After reporting, he limped on to the shotgun house to his wife. About an hour later, he came running from the house with the wife after him, swinging a broom. He slept at the big house for a couple of weeks after that. It seems his wife discovered he - despite having a bullet wound in his upper thigh - had no bullet hole in his Levis...more

Song Of The Day #443

Ranch Radio is on the air and it's Swingin' Monday. Today's selection is That's What I Like About You by the bluegrass performer Tommy Edwards. The tune is on his 14 track CD Heartbroke and Lonesome.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

These cowboys are gone, but not forgotten

 by Julie Carter

I'm right up there with the rest of you - stumbling and bumbling through life the best way I know how and hoping to come out on the other end a better person with at a least a few credits to my name when the Book of Life is checked.

And just when I think I am occupying only a relatively small space in the universe and moving only the air I touch, I learn that absolutely isn't so.

I recently completed a series of "Empty Saddle" stories to honor members of the World Series Team Roping Association that threw their last loop this year - accidents or illness taking each of them without warning.

There are seven of them and not one of them have I ever met.

I'm not new to writing features about people, but in almost every case before, I sat down in front of them, heard them speak, saw them smile, and watched them as they recalled their lives. Often, I was in their home where their personalities resonated from every area of their "space."

This time it was a deeper, more personal "interview" in that I spoke only with the people that knew and loved them. Over the phone, with no face to go with the name that they heard when they answered the call, these bereaved wives, sons, daughters and friends gave me words to breathe life into a remembrance of each of their cowboys now gone. 

While grief was ever present in each of their voices, so was gratitude. 

Across the board, those left behind were excited that their loved ones were being remembered, being honored.

They were more than willing to share with the world what was wonderful, what was special, about the cowboy they continued to mourn.

And laugh. Each one of them could and did laugh about things they knew their respective cowboy would laugh about.

With emotions tempered by a little time along with some necessary acceptance, their sadness was blanketed with memories of happier times.

Age, marital status, geography, occupation and financials were not factors in the bottom line of loss. While a mother grieved over the loss of a young son in one way, the wife, sons and daughters of others found an equally overwhelming crevasse in their day-to-day lives.

From Canada to Arizona, California to Texas and Oklahoma; from ranch cowboy to ranch owner; from oil fields to Fortune 500 corporate offices  -- the loss of a cowboy who wore a grin as easily as he swung a rope, touched more lives than they ever knew.

Each one affected many, many people in their living and perhaps by divine ordinance, affected even more in their passing.

I am one of those. And, I, for one, am sad I never had the chance to meet each one of these cowboys in person.

Loss has a way of humbling us to a better appreciation for all that we do have. So I'll be a little more careful about appreciating those I do know and those I may meet, for one of us may not get another chance.

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarter@tularosa.net 

Al Gore's Ethanol Epiphany

Welcome to the college of converts, Mr. Vice President. "It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol," Al Gore told a gathering of clean energy financiers in Greece this week. The benefits of ethanol are "trivial," he added, but "It's hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going." No kidding, and Mr. Gore said he knows from experience: "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for President." Mr. Gore's mea culpa underscores the degree to which ethanol has become a purely political machine: It serves no purpose other than re-electing incumbents and transferring wealth to farm states and ethanol producers. Nothing proves this better than the coincident trajectories of ethanol and Mr. Gore's career. Ethanol's claim on the Treasury was first made amid the 1970s energy crisis, with Jimmy Carter and a Democratic Congress subsidizing anything that claimed to be a substitute for foreign oil. Mr. Gore, freshman House class of 1976, was an early proponent of what was then called "gasahol." The subsidies continued through the 1990s, with the ethanol lobby finding a sympathetic ear in Clinton EPA chief and Gore protege Carol Browner, who in 1994 banned the gasoline additive MTBE and left ethanol as the only option under clean air laws. When the Senate split 50-50 on repealing this de facto mandate, then Vice President Gore cast the deciding vote for . . . ethanol. That served him well in the 2000 Democratic primaries against ethanol critic Bill Bradley...more

I sure wish they would have an "epiphany" before they vote and saddle us with these programs.

Anyway, it may just be a mini-epiphany. The editorial says:

"But the boondoggle lives on in dreams for so-called advanced fuels like cellulosic ethanol. Note Mr. Gore's objection only to "first generation," though we've been hearing that advanced ethanol is just a year or two away from viability for two decades."

U.S. Senate Okays Taos Pueblo water right settlement

Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Act, also knows as the Abeyta Settlement, was included in legislation approved by the U.S. Senate, Friday (Nov. 19). The settlement is an agreement between interested water rights owners to settle water disputes in the Taos Valley that began 40 years ago. The House of Representatives already approved a similar bill sponsored by Rep. Ben Ray Luján in January, but it must now vote on the bill that passed the Senate on Friday. Jude McCartin, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s office, explained that Luján’s bill only authorized the settlement but did not provide any funding. “This bill is different in that it not only authorizes, it also finances the settlement,” McCartin said. McCartin said Bingaman’s office was hopeful that the bill would go to a vote before the new Congress takes over next year. If not, she said it would have to be reintroduced and put to a vote in the new Congress. Palemon Martínez of the Taos Valley Acequia Association — one of many parties represented in the settlement — said the Senate’s approval puts the settlement one step closer to finalizing what has been a long process. Martínez’ organization resurrected talks with the Pueblo in 1989 to find a solution to long-standing disagreements over water rights.“ According to a joint release from Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall, the legislation would initially provide $66 million to purchase water rights and construct a number of projects to help improve water-use efficiency, groundwater management, and water quality in the Taos Valley. Another $58 million in future federal spending is also authorized in the bill, and the state is expected to contribute an additional $20 million. In addition to the Abeyta case, the bill passed Friday includes water rights claims of the Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque pueblos. The legislation also authorizes $180 million to implement a Navajo settlement enacted last year...more

Smugglers' Paradise

For borderland residents living with the spillover from the Mexican drug wars, luck is a necessity, a commodity to be prized above all others, because it can spell the difference between a good day in paradise and a very bad one. Rob Krentz was working on his ranch near Douglas in Cochise County on March 27 when he ran into the wrong person and was shot to death. The killer, his identity and motive unknown, is still at large. Krentz lived in an area, the Chiricahua Corridor, that has been pounded by illegal aliens and drug-smugglers for years. The crossers are growing ever more aggressive, with break-ins, home invasions and late-night phone calls threatening retaliation against citizens fighting to shut down drug routes on their land. The federal government was ineffective, even condescending—until finally, shots were heard around the country. Something eerily similar is happening in another part of Arizona's border, the place Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says is "largely secure." Call this increasingly dangerous smuggling route the Peck Canyon Corridor. It begins west of Nogales, at border-crossing points stretching from the Pajarito Mountains and the Pajarita Wilderness all the way east to Cobre Ridge...But for David and Edith Lowell, the land is home. Since 1975, they've lived on the Atascosa Ranch headquartered in Peck Canyon, 11 miles from the Mexican border. "As far as I'm concerned, what Napolitano is saying is a flagrant lie," says David, 82, an explorer and geologist. "We have the misfortune of living on a very active smuggling route, and in the past year, we've had five shootings on my ranch, including a Border Patrolman. It annoys me the government can't stop these crimes from happening right under their nose. I'd say it's gotten significantly worse for us, rather than better." Jason Kane, who lives on the edge of the forest four miles south of the Lowells, says the situation at his house, in Agua Fria Canyon, has calmed down since August. But from January through July this year, he heard gunfire coming from the national forest on a regular basis, some of which could've been hunters. But on at least four occasions, Kane has heard what he's sure were gunfights involving one fully-automatic weapon firing, and another pumping back return fire. He has also seen ultra-light airplanes swooping over the mountains at night to drop drug loads, and he calls law enforcement often enough to keep the phone numbers of the Border Patrol and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office affixed to the family refrigerator...more

The author, Leo Banks, says that crime is down in the city:
"But in the remote areas east and west of the city, the much-feared spillover from the Mexican drug wars is occurring. Most troubling is the willingness of gangs to use lethal force against lawmen. Since late 2009, there have been at least five episodes in which Border Patrol has taken fire, and the Nogales police have faced similar danger. In early June, at Kino Springs east of the city, two off-duty policemen on horseback captured two drug loads in the same week, resulting in a threat against city police to "look the other way, or be targeted by snipers or by other means." As a result, Kirkham says his department is giving assault and ambush training to officers, and he has advised them to wear bulletproof vests if they ride horses at Kino Springs."
If you want to get a feel for what it's like living near the Border, and what we will be creating if the Bingaman wilderness bill becomes law, then read this excellent article.

Innocence Lost

By Stephen L. Wilmeth

     The movement found its creator in 1922.  It was then that Aldo Leopold sat horseback on the ridgeline of Black Mountain and looked south into New Mexico’s Gila River drainage.  To the west were Mogollon Baldy and the headwaters of the west fork of the Gila.  To the south and immediately in front of Mr. Leopold was the Middle Fork and to the east were the Black Range and the headwaters of the East Fork.  Leopold would be awed by that view and its memory would remain with him until he died. 
     In 1924, the regional forester approved the draft of plans to create the management concept that Leopold envisioned.  Wilderness was transmuted from a generalized reference of wild lands to a land management designation.  Still fresh from the impression Leopold felt that day, the upper Gila drainage became America’s first wilderness area.  It would be some time before Congress would be involved, but the model was set out and the process began.
     Without Congressional oversight, the management of wilderness by the Forest Service began to take shape.  In 1944, the first legitimate American stakeholder was evicted from wilderness.  It was that year that the Peter McKindree Shelley estate and Mr. Shelley’s successor, Thomas J. Shelley, were served notice that their grazing permit would not be renewed.
      The blow to that family was crushing.  They had been on those lands since 1884, some 15 years before there was even any designation of a “Forest Reserve”.  Still on the heels of the Great Depression and the settlement of the Shelly estate, the family had no ability to defend themselves from the action and less idea they even had any rights to do so. 
     That forest supervisor, L.R. Lessel, who so matter-of-factly orchestrated the nation’s first destocking of cattle from wilderness, was heard discussing among forest officials in 1948 that all ranchers must eventually be removed from Forest lands.  Although the word environmentalist had not yet been invented, the individuals who would eventually fill that niche existed and their influence would spread.
     Finally, in 1964, New Mexico’s Clinton P. Anderson (D-NM) drove the Wilderness Act through Congress and the Forest Service policy initiated in 1924 was officialized.  The Gila Wilderness was designated.  Within the bill was the allowance that grazing could continue where it existed at the time of the bill’s signing. 
     Lessel had cleared the way for not having to deal with any evictions from the heart of the Gila Wilderness in a public exposé, but he had created such an outrage among those who knew what was going on that wording was added to the bill.  The wording was the tradeoff, but, to those who would find themselves in the sights of the Forest Service and the growing environmental  groups, those words would have little comfort.
     The wilderness wrecking ball would gain such momentum that by the end of the ‘60s the Colorado Wilderness Act would demand of the Forest Service to rewrite its own grazing guidelines.  Congress warned that grazing would not be eliminated by any interpretation of the Wilderness Act. 
     Fast forward into the ‘70s and the Arizona Wilderness Act would again stress the fact that wilderness would not be used for the destocking of lands so designated.  In 2002, a subtle hint of the federal land agencies’ regard for Congress’ mandate surfaced in a study done by the Park Service at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  The study dealt with the destruction of natural resources in that Monument emanating from Human and Drug Smuggling activities.  The study clearly stated that the agency had overcome cattle grazing and it would overcome the affects of the United States Border Patrol in their actions to curtail the human and drug smugglers!  Cattle grazing had been eliminated on that wilderness so what does such a conclusion suggest to the American people?  Was the ultimate goal to eliminate the Border Patrol as well?
     The underlying antagonism has, in fact, suggested that very thing.  The obstacles thrown at the Border Patrol parallels the intent and the actions of federal land management agencies against other legitimate stakeholders on federal lands.  This time, such idealism and agency fiefdom expansion has put every American at risk.   
     The expansion of designated wilderness on America’s southern border is tied directly to the environmental groups and their influence on the minds and actions of Congressional leadership.  It isn’t hard to understand that the outgrowth of wilderness idealism has expanded into the idea of Rewilding with its introduction of wildlife corridors north/south, east/west, intracontinental, and intercontinental. 
     The problem is, though, the idealism of the whole scheme has erupted into real world crisis on America’s southern border.  It is there that environmentalism with its favorite charity, designated Wilderness, finds itself in a weird alliance with Drug Cartels, and worse yet, with groups that seek to do harm to America.  They all love the safe havens on the border that disallow legitimate mechanical entry.
     Innocence has come of age!
     Innocence has come of age with 8000 miles of illegal roads at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge that cannot be accessed by the American public but can by Mexican drug cartels.  Innocence has come of age with 254 illegal foot trails in any given square kilometer in Organ Pipe wilderness.  Innocence has come of age in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector where murders and drug smuggling will hit historic highs against a backdrop of diminished human smuggling. 
     Innocence has also come of age in the de facto wilderness management schemes that Supervisor Lessel foretold of 62 years ago when he suggested to fellow fledgling environmental workers that all cattle must be removed from federal lands he oversaw regardless of designation. 
     At Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, the US Fish and Wildlife admits that its mission of destocking that land for the purposes of renewing the integrity of the grasslands at that refuge will never happen.  That agency’s management resulted in a devastated infrastructure and areas that are so dangerous that legal entry is not allowed. 
     Similarly, it was at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge where more examples of the “Lesselized” management schemes allowed the entry and escape of rancher Rob Krentz’ murderer.  With all cattle gone at San Bernardino, the Border Patrol is only allowed mechanical access in the event of a human life endangerment. 
     Yes, innocence has come of age and it loads on the back of Americans the fallout from ill conceived, dangerous and idealistic pursuits and decisions. 
     Former Border Patrol Officer Zack Taylor’s much used comment harkens truer every day.  He reminded us last year that, “nature abhors a vacuum.  In the case of wilderness on the border, when you lock out or prohibit ordinary law enforcement activities in an area you invite illegal activity and create a safe haven for the criminal to operate.” 
     What we are also learning in wilderness, and other federal lands managed with de facto wilderness intentions, is that when human populations reach certain levels, any legal void will eventually be filled by illegal activities.
     Peter Shelley holds the distinction of being the first American rancher evicted from federal Wilderness.  His lifelong pursuit became a focus by those who had not walked in his shoes nor understood the abject terror he felt at times dealing with the obstacles of his labors.  The immensity of his accomplishments relative to his means will never be properly understood nor credited, but Mr. Shelley, if he were still alive, might be interested in a developing fact.  That is the degree of danger relative to current illegal activities, those associated with Human and Drug Smuggling activities on the American border, is an inverse relationship with the cattle numbers on that border.  The greater the number of cattle, the less obtrusive and dangerous the border is.  Likewise, the fewer the cattle the more dangerous the border becomes.
     A more understandable explanation is that where there are engaged American private property rights in place, there is less likelihood that illicit activities will occur.  That is not the case where federal land agencies are present and legitimate American stakeholders have been eliminated. 
     As the 2010 midterms showed, Congressional leadership which adheres to this debilitating and dangerous agenda will be taken to task . . . the truth of environmental innocence has been discovered and America has been placed in a position of extreme peril.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “If all federal land agency presence on the border was removed and the Border Patrol was ordered to adhere to its mission, the Constitutional mandate to secure the border would occur.  Additionally, if honest American pursuits were applauded and encouraged rather than condemned and destroyed, natural resource degradation would be halted and reversed.  The southern border is America’s Achilles heel.  Leaders better recognize it.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: According to Greek mythology Achilles was killed by Paris with a poisoned arrow to the heel.  Our wounds, however, are self-inflicted.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sen. Bingaman is making a big mistake with his dangerous wilderness bill

By: Ron Arnold

Sen. Jeff Bingaman is being called our worst border security threat. Angry Dona Ana County residents have branded the New Mexico Democrat's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act as "Bingaman's Bandit Boulevard" for proposing a 50-mile-long safe haven for Mexican drug runners -- and worse.

John Hummer, former chairman of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, reminded his community of the no-motorized-vehicle clause in wilderness laws. The Border Patrol can't patrol.

Wilderness laws allow our own park and forest rangers to keep the cops out. That's supposed to protect nature, but ends up protecting drug cartels, illegal immigrants -- and terrorists.

Steve Wilmeth, fifth-generation New Mexico rancher, told me that Bingaman's north-south strip and two mountain clusters don't worry him for the inevitable Mexican intruders, but for the OTMs -- Other Than Mexicans.

A U.S. Border Patrol document obtained by The Examiner shows the nationality and number of OTMs arrested last year. A few samples: Afghanistan (12); Indonesia (95); Iran (42); Iraq (42); Jordan (52); Saudi Arabia (6); Somalia (70); Yemen (22).

Members of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers say they weren't smuggling drugs. Retired Border Patrol Officer Zack Taylor said Bingaman's wilderness boundary is just a stroll from violent Juarez and El Paso.

Terrorists want terror, said Taylor -- unexpected targets with severed body parts and dead babies. A dozen relays of three sunburned hikers carrying big backpacks could trek unmolested up Bingaman's Boulevard, stockpiling materials to obliterate the balloon festival, the state Capitol, the Acoma Pueblo -- anything we treasure.

Frank DuBois, a Reagan-era deputy assistant secretary of the interior, told me that interdicting criminals in wilderness is losing priority. Bingaman's bill makes his wilderness a "component of the National Landscape Conservation System." That's ominous.

In a previous Examiner report, I exposed Wendy Van Asselt's Wilderness Society campaign with Bureau of Land Management officials that led her to the House Natural Resources Committee, where she helped create that hands-off conservation system. (She resigned last month).

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has elevated the Office of the National Landscape Conservation System to the level of a directorate within BLM, with preservation its priority.

Given that newly exalted status, questions arise. First, who led the campaign for Bingaman's bill?

That's easy: the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, a purist group out to "re-wild" and restore the Americas to pre-Columbus conditions.

NMWA has been more effective than its $1 million revenue suggests. Its IRS Form 990 shows why: The "affiliations" disclosure shows NMWA "works together on ongoing basis" with three rich Big Green groups: the Wilderness Society (which led the campaign to create the conservation system), the Pew-supported Campaign for America's Wilderness, and, most importantly, the Sierra Club, which can spend limitless sums lobbying legislators.

But the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance dances on the strings of its foundation funders. The top donors are the Wyss Foundation, which also bankrolled Wendy Van Asselt's conservation system campaign for the Wilderness Society, and the Wilburforce Foundation, which specifically donated to "the Organ Mountains Wilderness Campaign."

Top donor Wilburforce ($750,000), based in Seattle, is the money of Gordon Letwin, one of the 12 original employees of Microsoft -- which was born in Albuquerque and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1978.

Letwin quit Microsoft in 1993 to "kick back" with his $20 million fortune. His wife Rosanna now runs Wilburforce with the income from 300,000 shares of Microsoft stock as a money spigot for green groups.

The first of this month, Wilburforce hired Van Asselt as a program officer, giving her a credential on all three sides of an Iron Triangle -- activist, government, donor -- and illustrating the revolving doors of Big Green.

Examiner contributor Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner. Posted with permission.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Pilgrims and Property Rights


A Lost Thanksgiving Lesson

By John Stossel

Had today's political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow's holiday would have been called "Starvation Day" instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn't be alive to celebrate it.

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.

Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That's why they nearly all starved.

When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.

"So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented," wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."

In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

"This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many."

Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.

What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. The problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."

If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free-rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty.

What private property does -- as the Pilgrims discovered -- is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there's a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

Here's the biggest irony of all: The U.S. government has yet to apply the lesson to its first conquest, Native Americans. The U.S. government has held most Indian land in trust since the 19th century. This discourages initiative and risk-taking because, among other reasons, it can't be used as collateral for loans. On Indian reservations, "private land is 40 to 90 percent more productive than land owned through the Bureau of Indian Affairs," says economist Terry Anderson, executive director of PERC. "If you drive through western reservations, you will see on one side cultivated fields, irrigation, and on the other side, overgrazed pasture, run-down pastures and homes. One is a simple commons; the other side is private property. You have Indians on both sides. The important thing is someone owns one side."

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

That's the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sage grouse habitat map released

A breeding bird density map for the greater sage-grouse released today by the Department of Interior could be a step in controling development to help keep the prairie bird off the Endangered Species list. The map identifies important areas having high density occurrences of greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that inhabits much of the West. These areas were determined by estimating the male’s attendance on “leks,” the name biologists use to describe the communal breeding grounds of the bird. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will work with the state fish and wildlife agencies to refine the map by incorporating more specific state-level data. “This map and initiative will help advance our collaborative efforts with states and stakeholders to develop smart policy to enhance the sustainability of our sage-grouse populations,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said today. “The final map will give Interior a strong foundation to identify land uses that do not compromise areas that are so critical to the greater sage-grouse.”...more

You can view the map here.

Bingaman hopes to pass public lands bill

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman hopes to pass an omnibus public lands bill during the lame-duck session that could include protection for hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Doña Ana County. “As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, Sen. Bingaman is working to develop a package of public lands bills that could be considered if there is time on the Senate floor during the lame duck session,” Bingaman spokeswoman Jude McCartin said. “It’s still unclear what bills would be in such a package, but he’ll be focusing on legislation with bipartisan support.” McCartin added that the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act, which would designate hundreds of thousands of acres in Doña Ana County as wilderness, received unanimous support in July from the committee Bingaman, D-N.M., chairs. The New York Times says the outlook for such a bill is unknown. Ultimately, it is up to Majority Leader Harry Reid to decide what bills will be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor...more

The odds are heavily against this passing.

Palin 'snuff film' outrages animal rights advocates

US Republican darling Sarah Palin is under fire for apparently clubbing a fish to death, then holding its still-beating heart in her hands for television cameras in what a US animal rights group calls a "snuff video". Palin and her daughter Bristol were featured on a halibut fishing excursion for the ex-vice-presidential nominee's new reality TV show Sarah Palin's Alaska, which has premiered to record ratings in the US. Halibut clubbing is standard practice among anglers, but Palin's apparent relish in the animal's suffering has outraged animal rights advocates In Defence of Animals. The group claims the scene is "a snuff video" and says her lack of compassion is disgusting, particularly her lack of remorse. However, the Alaska Charter Association - a recreational halibut fishing group - claims the clubbing technique is "humane", as it aims to "minimise the suffering of the fish". During the episode, Palin explains why clubbing halibut to death is necessary saying: "stunning the halibut may seem a bit harsh to some but it's the safest and most humane way to harvest these massive fish."...more

Taking a look at new cuts

Meat scientists are taking another look at beef carcasses and finding some great products hidden in cuts that are usually ground or roasted. “We’ve got some fantastic products that historically we’ve been grinding or putting in pot roast,” said Jim Ethridge, director of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s beef innovation group. He demonstrated some of those new cuts during a talk at the Idaho Cattle Association’s annual meeting. For decades restaurant chefs and home cooks alike have been taught that if a cut of beef comes from the shoulder or the rump, it’s a locomotion muscle and it must be cooked slowly and with liquid to make it edible. But a muscle profiling study that began in 1998, not only identified 39 individual muscles in the chuck and round but also outlined the attributes of each of those muscles. Even more surprisingly, 7 of the 10 most tender cuts on a beef carcass are found in the chuck or round. Suddenly, instead of having a huge chuck roll that can only be made into a pot roast, new products such as the Denver steak can be harvested and featured on a restaurant menu. The Denver steak is considered the fourth most tender cut of beef...more

Broken Neighbor, Broken Border

Between August 2nd and 6th of this year, a team of investigators working for the House Immigration Reform Caucus examined the border between Texas and Mexico. They prepared a report for Caucus Chairman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (R-TX). The report, entitled “Broken Neighbor, Broken Border” has been released to the public today. It paints an alarming portrait of illegal entries, reduced in number since the passage of reforms in 2005 and 2006, but “increasingly dangerous to the homeland security of our nation, based on the near-collapse of civil authority in the northern states of Mexico.” The cartels are increasingly less concerned with committing their atrocities on Mexican soil. Their violence is spilling across the border into American towns and cities. Their troops outnumber American police and Border Patrol agents, and are more heavily armed. Sometimes the Border Patrol has to back away from engaging them after detection, understandably concerned about starting a bloody battle they can’t win. Captured cartel members speak of “sleeper agents” planted in U.S. cities for “future combat” against both competitors and law enforcement. Cartel protection rackets are knocking on the doors of legitimate businesses owned by Mexicans in the United States...more

Mexico’s War on America’s Border

Texas Governor Rick Perry caused a stir last week when he suggested that the deployment of U.S. troops into Mexican territory may be necessary, pointing out that five of his state’s citizens died in the past two weeks. The fight against the barbaric drug cartels has escalated each year since 2007, and terrorist groups are looking to benefit from the chaos. It has become a full-scale war worthy of attention, but Perry seems to be the only major politician sounding the alarm. “I think you have the same situation as you had in Colombia,” Perry accurately said. About 31,000 people have been killed in the Mexican drug war since December 2006 — more than five times the number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. And it is getting worse. There has been a 53 percent increase in murders since last year, with 10,000 murders so far this year. Last week, four people in Tijuana were murdered in one day, with two having their corpses hung from a bridge and one being decapitated. Almost the entire population of 6,000 of Ciudad Mier near the Texan border has fled. A Pentecostal minister who fled said, “We have no mayor, no police, no transit system. We have been left to fend for ourselves.” The drug cartels are so strong that the authorities fighting them must be genuinely concerned for their lives...more

Mexico Bleeds over the Border

Although most journalists and pundits admit that the drug violence afflicting Mexico has become very bad indeed, many of them also argue that there is no evidence of a spillover into the United States. Nevertheless, there are growing indications that the spillover effect is not a myth. There have been ominous signs for some time. Mexican drug organizations had established close connections with domestic gangs in some two hundred fifty U.S. cities—and all fifty largest cities—by mid-2008. The increasing Mexican domination of all phases of the drug trade in the United States carries with it the obvious risk that the turf battles in Mexico between rival cartels could become proxy wars in U.S. communities. There is evidence that such struggles are already underway. In at least three cases, members of La Familia kidnapped competing drug dealers in Houston and held them for ransom. Similar events have occurred in Phoenix, Las Vegas and other U.S. cities. Cartel hit men have not only killed victims–including Americans–in Mexico, but they have apparently struck at individuals inside the United States. During 2008 and 2009, seven individuals were killed execution style in Laredo, Texas, across the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo—a major arena in the turf wars between the drug gangs. Authorities arrested and convicted two Gulf cartel enforcers for the string of executions. In October 2008, a Las Vegas child was kidnapped because a relative owed money to one of Mexican drug gangs. In September 2009, three armed men dragged Sergio Saucedo, a resident of Horizon City, Texas, out of his home and shoved him into an SUV. Saucedo’s wife, as well as school children in a packed bus, witnessed the abduction. His body was found several days later in Ciudad Juárez, with its arms chopped off and placed on the chest. U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested four men, including two who were U.S. citizens, the following February in connection with the crime. The drug lords are now bold enough to put Americans living in the United States, including law enforcement personnel, on target lists for execution...more

Cornyn: U.S. cannot ignore escalating violence in Mexico

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn again called on President Barack Obama’s administration to present a comprehensive plan to address national security threats along the Southwest border. Referencing a Rio Grande Valley media report that drug cartels have threatened U.S. law enforcement officers, Cornyn told reporters in his weekly teleconference Wednesday that the federal government has not prepared a “comprehensive and credible plan” to help the Mexican government quell the violence that threatens to destabilize the country and spill over into the United States. The drug cartels are emboldened by Obama’s refusal to take the violence in Mexico seriously, he said in a statement. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez told KGBT-TV Wednesday that his office has received telephone threats from drug cartel members. Gonzalez, who did not return a call from The Monitor seeking comment Thursday, told the station that Mexico needs help fighting the cartels...more

Mexico: migrants should form convoys for safety

Mexico's government is telling migrants driving home for the holidays from the United States that they should form convoys for their own safety while traveling through Mexico, and an official said Monday that police will accompany convoys on the most dangerous stretches of highway. A seemingly intractable wave of drug cartel violence has made some border highways, especially in the states of Tamaulipas, Sonora and Sinaloa, so dangerous that the U.S. State Department urges travelers to avoid driving on some of the roads. "When there are hot spots, we can request that a patrol escort the convoy," said Itzel Ortiz, the director of the Paisano Program, which is in charge of welcoming returning migrants and ensuring their trips home are safe. Demands for bribes by police and officials at Mexican customs checkpoints used to be the worst problems for returning migrants, who often bring cash, new vehicles and appliances with them. But that seems almost innocuous compared to the challenges posed by drug cartel gunmen, who frequently set up roadblocks on northern highways to steal vehicles and cash, kidnap or kill travelers...more

Ciudad Juarez Officer Seeks U.S. Asylum

A police officer from the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez who fled to the U.S. along with his wife and children asked for asylum Tuesday in a Dallas immigration courtroom. Jose Alarcon, 27, and his attorney must prove that as a municipal officer, Alarcon belonged to a persecuted social group and the government was unable to protect him. Houston immigration lawyer Gordon Quan says, to obtain asylum, Alarcon must also demonstrate that his life would be in jeopardy anywhere in Mexico. "The way the law is written," said Quan, "if they could find refuge in another part of the country, they would not be eligible. So that's something probably the immigration judges are looking at; 'Well, instead of living in Juarez, why don't you live in Puebla?'" Alarcon's attorney, Ludo Perez Gardini, told The Dallas Morning News that he believes Alarcon was a specific target because he was an officer who dared to arrest the wrong people. He also said he believes Alarcon was set up to be hunted...more