Thursday, June 30, 2011

The incident commander says the Murphy Fire was started by a man in distress

The Murphy Complex Fire, which torched more than 68,000 acres of Coronado National Forest land north and west of Nogales, was started by a man in distress, according to the lead firefighter. Asked how he knows the cause of the fire, Incident Commander Mark South, a longtime wild-lands firefighter, says, "Well, when they pull out a guy who is dehydrated and going into renal failure, and he admits starting it and says he needs help, that's a pretty good indication." The man's identity and legal status have not been released. But South says Border Patrol agents at the scene told him that the man was likely part of a group of 10 or 12 people. The area where the fire started is along the Peck Canyon Corridor, heavily used by drug-smugglers, illegal aliens and armed bandits who prey on both groups. Lobo Tank is about three miles north of Mesquite Seep, where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered on Dec. 14, 2010. Speaking out for the first time, South tells the Tucson Weekly that the Lobo and Murphy fires were both distress fires. He says Border Patrol and Forest Service agents on the scene believed the distressed man, rescued from Lobo Tank on Monday, May 30, might also have started the Murphy Fire, but they weren't sure. "But we do know that certain individuals came out of the burned area in the couple of days while we were out there in Arivaca," says South. "They took the dehydrated guy out Monday. Then Tuesday, there were two or three (people who) they picked up who were struggling, and I think Wednesday, there were a couple more." Forest Service officials did not return several calls for comment. When the Weekly asked the Border Patrol to respond to South's statement that they removed a distressed man from the scene of the Murphy Fire, Alilia McNeal, the agency's branch chief of external communications, responded with an e-mail statement provided to them by the Forest Service: "The U.S. Forest Service did interview a person of interest that the U.S. Border Patrol had in medical custody. The U.S. Forest Service did not request the U.S. Border Patrol to detain the person of interest. The investigation continues and the U.S. Forest Service will not comment on continuing investigations." A federal source familiar with the matter says the Forest Service decided not to prosecute the case because it was a signal fire under life-and-death circumstances. Is it standard federal policy not to prosecute distressed individuals who start signal fires? Is the policy the same for citizens and illegal aliens?...more

A big Hat Tip to Hugh Holub.

Hugh says:

It is becoming clearer and clearer all three recent border fires were linked to illegal aliens or drug smuggling.

The fires were started by people who should not have been on federally-managed lands if our border was secured.

In the case of the Murphy Fire west of Nogales there is mounting evidence that not only did illegal aliens start the fire, they were caught and then deported because the Forest Service did not want to prosecute them for starting the fire.

Read the rest of his excellent coverage here. Also see his Leo Banks is getting closer to the truth about the border fires

Meanwhile, in Montana the Forest Service has filed charges against a man for illegally cutting down 5 trees (see my next post).

So, Forest Service policy must be the following: A citizen who cuts down 5 trees - fines and jail time. Illegal aliens responsible for burning down over 300,000 acres - no fine, no jail time, just go home and we'll see ya again next fire season.

But don't worry, Smokey Bear is back.

Kalispell man sentenced for illegally cutting down 5 trees

A Kalispell resident was sentenced to one year of probation for illegally cutting down trees on public lands. Ronald Brandt, 60, was sentenced in Missoula federal court Wednesday morning and is facing $450 in fines. In 2006 the Forest Service awarded a contract to Tough Go Logging and they contracted Brandt to be the primary harvester. Cutting began in the fall of 2008 and in December, the Forest Service discovered five trees cut in violation of the contract. Brandt admitted he knew the trees could not be cut and pled guilty to the charge. Link

You have to wonder how long a jail term and how big a fine he would have risked if he hadn't copped a plea.

Catastrophic Wildfire Summit: Part one

Recently, College of the Siskiyous (COS) hosted a Western State Resource Summit sponsored by the National Institute for the Elimination of Catastrophic Wildfire. Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Jim Hubbard spoke about the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (NCWFMS) – the creation of fire adapted communities, the “all-lands” approach to landscape restoration and the Flame Act response to wildfire. According to Hubbard, the NCWFMS will focus more attention on protecting communities where there is the greatest exposure to the threat of wildfire. Expectations will be placed on the homeowner to take greater responsibility for preparedness in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI,) creating fire-adapted communities. Unfortunately, grants to local Fire Safe Councils will now require a 50 percent match. The “all-lands” approach to integrated resource restoration will cross multiple ownerships on a broad landscape level. Statewide assessments will analyze forest resources, identify threats, incorporate related plans and provide resource investment strategies. Studies have shown that at least 15 percent of the landscape must be treated in order to impact fire behavior. By working with private cooperators and industry, enough of the landscape can be treated to make a difference. Restoration priorities are to conserve working forest landscapes, to protect forests from threats, and to enhance public benefits from trees and forests...more

I guess that 15% will have to be on private forested land, cuz it ain't getting done on Forest Service land.

Erosion, floods may follow severe fire season in NM & Az

An intense fire season has burned more than 1.5 million acres in two states, and for people in small communities such as this one, the ordeal is far from over. With seasonal rains anticipated in July, local leaders and federal Forest Service officials said they are beginning the first steps toward restoring national forestland, hoping to minimize severe erosion from mountainsides laid bare by fire. Corbin Newman, regional forester in charge of the national forests in Arizona and New Mexico, called the fires of recent weeks "amazingly intense" and worse than anything seen in the region in 50 to 75 years. Fires have burned more than 935,000 acres in Arizona and an additional 653,000 acres in New Mexico this year. There have been more than 1,650 fires in the region this year, the vast majority attributed to human causes. "We have never seen the scale and intensity of fires this year," Newman said. Bob Leaverton, fire and aviation director for the Forest Service in the Southwest, said the first steps will be to try to stabilize the soil damaged by fire with seeds and mulch to encourage regrowth of grasses and to keep as much material as possible from running into populated areas. Longer-term reforestation efforts will follow, including planting trees in some areas where natural regrowth is unlikely. For people here who survived the fire, the next threat is from rain runoff, which can flood homes and destroy fish habitats over the next two to three years. "It's not just fires," Vilsack said. "It's fires followed by floods."...more

ATF halts Idaho Fish & Game use of non-lethal 'cracker shells'

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will no longer issue non-lethal “cracker shells” as a way of scaring off intrusive wild animals. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a letter last November announcing that all explosive pest-control devices are only to be issued to individuals with a federal explosive license. However, Fish and Game officials are still determining how that affects cracker shells, which are fired from a single-barrel shotgun directly above an animal. The loud shot is used to scare off animals such as geese, elk or wolves from farms or roads. The state agency in the past has distributed the shells to landowners. Both parties may need the explosive license to use them now...more

Sell them guns to the Mexican Drug Cartels but stop those non-lethal "cracker shells" at home.

Hey Republicans, looking for a place where you can make big cuts in the budget?

The U.N.’s climate of desperation

As the United Nations wrapped up its recent climate conference in Bonn, talks organizer Christiana Figueres proclaimed that climate change is the “the most important negotiation the world has ever faced.” Faced with real problems - financial meltdowns, unemployment, war and genuine human suffering - the world no longer agrees. It’s a good thing human productivity doesn’t threaten the global thermostat the way the U.N. would have us believe. If it did, we’d be cooked. Countries rich and poor are backing away from commitments they made years ago during rosier economic times, before the public became aware of Climategate, renewable energy costs and genuine debate. The Kyoto Protocol, the only binding international agreement signed since the global warming scare began, expires after 2012. Canada, Russia and Japan have declared they will not renew; China and the United States never signed it, and the U.S. has made it plain it is not about to. And poor countries are becoming less enamored about signing on, as they realize hard economic times mean there will be little climate “mitigation” and “restitution” money coming their way from (formerly) rich countries. Even die-hard warmists increasingly recognize that bureaucratic solutions hatched at these conferences are rife with waste, fraud and abuse. They may enrich a few, but they are powerless to control Earth’s climate...more

Simpson plan includes trims, scrutiny of federal budget

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson is working on a proposal to trim federal spending and put more accountability into the agencies under his watch as chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment. In that position, Simpson, R-Idaho, has a leadership role in crafting budget proposals for agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency.
With the BLM, Simpson said there will be language in the bill to help resolve grazing disputes that end up in court. He also wants to require more transparency for payments through the Equal Access to Justice Act, which allows plaintiffs who successfully sue the federal government to recoup their legal costs. That fund has been heavily used by environmental groups, among others. Simpson said he doesn’t want to end the payments, just disclose where the money is going and the rates that attorneys receive. “I have a right to know where my tax dollars are going,” he said...more

NM: Wolf vs. State

The Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program has a simple premise: reintegrate an endangered species into its natural habitat. In practice, however, bringing the wolf back to the Southwest has proven to be anything but easy, with environmental groups and ranchers maintaining a heated debate during the 13 years the program’s been in existence. The state’s Game Commission voted unanimously on June 9 to withdraw from the reintroduction effort. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed four new members to the six-member board in March. Bill Montoya is one of those new members. “It was costing us a lot of money,” says Montoya, who worked for the Game and Fish Department for 28 years. “We didn’t think we were going in the right direction.” Laura Schneberger is the president of the Gila Livestock Growers Association. Her cattle ranch has been in her family since 1964, though it’s more than a century old. She lost three calves to wolves in the spring, she says, and in 2003 she lost six. Schneberger’s main contention with the program is that she’s not allowed to treat wolves the same way she treats other large predators in the area. “The wolves don’t bother people nearly as much as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s and the environmentalists’ handling of it,” she says. She adds that she wouldn’t mind the wolves as much “if I could shoot the ones that cause problems.” When black bears or mountain lions kill a calf, ranchers are allowed to shoot them, she says. But because the wolves are endangered, there’s not much ranchers can do to stop them. Ranchers are supposed to be financially reimbursed for the cattle they lose due to wolves, but proving a wolf is responsible for a kill can be tricky. Schneberger says she’s only been reimbursed for two out of the nine calves she’s lost. But it’s not just about money. She says when wolves are staking out a ranch, “sometimes you lose a cow and calf pair a day. It’s very stressful. ... There’s an emotional response to what you see, what gore is inflicted on you and your kids.”...more

One Speed Bump Too Many

Fasten your seat belts farmers and ranchers, it could be a bumpy ride. As if farmers and ranchers need yet another speed bump in their way when it comes to trying to make their livelihood, up pops the possibility of the US Department of Transportation, or more accurately the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposing rules that would encompass many farm implements and normal farming or ranching practices as being engaged in interstate commerce. This could be anything from hauling grain to the elevator, or moving equipment from the shed to the field. This type of ruling would require ag trucks and machinery to have federal registration and farmers and ranchers to have commercial driving licenses. This issue actually first surfaced back in February and has resulted in growing concern and much consternation for farmers and ranchers. While no ruling has been made, the FMCSA is preparing to draft a “regulatory guidance”; an action which invariably spells trouble for all those concerned. This issue of CDL’s generates many questions, not the least of which being how much more can farmers and ranchers take? Lacy Gray

Montana rancher, who lost half of livestock, humbled by ag community support

On June 6, Ryegate area rancher and farmer Jay Streeter lost about half of his livestock when a late spring hailstorm herded 100 calves, 80 cows, and 30 yearlings off a cliff of rimrock. "It was a pretty devastating day," admits Streeter. "You re-evaluate a lot of things when something like that happens to you." Word traveled quickly to nearby ranchers and farmers and it didn't take long before the Wheatland County Stockgrowers organized a fundraiser for the Streeter family. "Anybody that's been in agriculture has lost some stock and that's tough," explains Ryegate rancher, Gordon Bruner. "But when you lose as much as Jay lost, that just stirs something in you to do something." The urge to help didn't stop in Montana. The news spread like wildfire beyond the Treasure State's borders and soon the Streeters were receiving hundreds of phone calls, letters, and donations. "From Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, I mean, just everywhere," says Streeter. As a result of the "Spare a Pair" fundraising event, spearheaded by Bruner and Rob Tierney, 32 cow/calf pairs and three yearlings have been donated to the Streeters so far...more

Song Of The Day #611

Flatt & Scruggs broke up in 1969 when Earl Scruggs wanted to take his music in a more progressive direction. Lester Flatt was a traditionalist and founded the Nashville Grass and kept on recording straight ahead bluegrass.

A good example is his 1971 recording of I Can't Tell The Boys From The Girls.

Remember the haircuts from that era?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rep. Issa on ATF's Fast and Furious Gun Scandal

Here is the Fox News interview with Rep. Issa, Chairman of the Oversight Committee:

New Mexico Forestry Division Access To Private Lands

Over the past several months many New Mexico landowners have received requests from the New Mexico State Forestry Division requesting access to private land for surveying purposes. Some have returned them granting permission. Others have simply not responded, assuming that was an answer in and of itself.

Not so much. Landowners are now receiving call from a private contractor requesting permission for access. NMCGA talked with the Forestry Division today asking why the phone calls were being made if permission wasn’t granted. We were told that this was a final attempt to gain access.

If landowners do not want this survey done on their property,
they need to tell the contractor “no” and asked to be removed from the Forestry Division’s list.

The survey is part of a “forest inventory analysis” that states do in order to receive federal funding. Apparently New Mexico is many years behind in its’ analysis. The funding for this current project came from federal stimulus funds. There are 6,000 plots that have been randomly chosen for surveying.

It is difficult NOT to remember that it is the New Mexico State Forestry Division who, about five years ago, put in place regulations REQUIRING that private landowners obtain a permit for clearing more than 75 acres on their OWN PRIVATE LAND if they going to receive compensation for the cleared materials. No doubt these regulations, including penalties, have impacted landowners’ willingness to participate in any program with the Division. Additionally, the places where requests are being made are not necessarily “forest”… like northeast New Mexico. Finally, with the fires burning across the state, now might not be the best time to be surveying anything.

Some of the requests for access may be on State Trust Lands leased for grazing purposes. It is NMCGA’s understanding that unless the access is during scouting and hunting seasons anyone accessing State Trust Lands must have a permit from the State Land Office. The Association has contacted the State Land Office for clarity on this issue, but have not yet received a response. As soon as we do it will be passed on.

NMCGA members have also received similar requests from the University of New Mexico regarding surveying “wetlands”. Again, “no” is an acceptable answer.

If you have questions, please let us know.

Caren Cowan
Executive Director
New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association
POB 7517
Albuquerque NM 87194
505.247.0584 phone
505.842.1766 fax

Owners of land taken over by feds getting day in court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider a determination by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that it controls what happens on a privately owned parcel of residential land in Idaho and the landowners must do its bidding. The EPA had warned the owners, Mike and Chantell Sackett, they could be fined millions of dollars if they disobeyed the federal officials' instructions to undo the preliminary construction work they had begun on what was supposed to be their dream house. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled they would have to go through a $200,000 government application process even to get a judicial review of the decision. But that changed when the high court notified the Pacific Legal Foundation, an organization working on behalf of the Sackett family, that it had accepted the dispute for review. "The decision to take the case and review an anti-property rights ruling by the 9th Circuit should be encouraging for all property owners, all across the country," said Damien Schiff, senior staff attorney with Pacific Legal. "With this case, the Supreme Court confronts important issues for property rights and due process. When the government seizes control of your land, and you disagree with the justification, shouldn't you be allowed your day in court? Just as important, should EPA be a law unto itself, without meaningful accountability to the courts and the Constitution?" he said...more

The Petition to the Supreme Court is here and a video made in Nov. of last year is below.

State, feds plan high-level talks on wolves; Barrasso lifts hold on nominee

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director nominee Daniel Ashe will visit Wyoming next week to work toward a deal on delisting Wyoming wolves. In a phone call with U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Tuesday, Salazar committed to the visit to “aggressively pursue a solution” to the yearslong dispute over wolves, according to Barrasso’s office. In response, Barrasso announced that he will lift a monthlong hold on a Senate vote to confirm Ashe as Fish and Wildlife director. The Department of the Interior said Salazar and Ashe would visit with Gov. Matt Mead sometime next week, though further details weren’t available. Salazar met with Mead in late March about wolves, suggesting a deadline of a month to reach an agreement on a management plan. Following the meeting, Wyoming’s wolf negotiators sent a formal letter to Fish and Wildlife detailing the state’s position, said Mead spokesman Renny MacKay. But for the next 40 days or so, they got no reply. In the phone call Tuesday, Barrasso told Salazar he would lift his hold on Ashe’s nomination only if the two personally visited Wyoming to work on a wolf deal, said Barrasso spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore in an email...more

The enviros say if you nationalize something, such as a wildlife species, all decisions will be made on the best "science". Experience teaches us just the opposite. The only science involved is Political Science.

Judge allows logging to proceed despite challenge

A federal judge has refused to block logging, road building and other activities on a 25,000-acre timber sale in Oregon's Umatilla National Forest. U.S. District Judge Anna Brown in Portland has rejected claims by an environmental group that the Wildcat II project will have a significant impact on the forest. The League of Wilderness Defenders had filed a legal complaint against the U.S. Forest Service after it approved the fuels reduction and vegetation management project last year. According to the complaint, the agency violated environmental law by insufficiently studying the potential impacts of the project. The group particularly objected to disturbing two "roadless expanses" within the forest because it said these areas are ecologically significant...more

A good example of the philosophy of Wilderness advocates: Let it absolutely burn to the ground, just keep it "roadless".

OHV Riders testify in support of Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act

Supporters of H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, testified that the bill would free up almost 43 million acres of public land that now may be off-limits to off-highway riding. "As it stands, the BLM [federal Bureau of Land Management] currently restricts activity on nearly 7 million acres of WSAs [Wilderness Study Areas] despite the fact the BLM itself has already determined these areas are not suitable for Wilderness designation by Congress," testified Thomas Crimmins, spokesman for the group Professionals for Managed Recreation. "The situation with the Forest Service is even worse," he said, "as access is restricted to over 36 million acres of IRAs [Inventoried Roadless Areas] that have been deemed unsuitable for ultimate designation as Wilderness." The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 would remove stringent use restrictions on 6.7 million acres managed by the BLM and on 36.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land that was evaluated for strict congressional Wilderness land-use designations. The federal agencies have determined the 43 million acres aren't suitable for Wilderness designation, yet because of various laws and rules they must continue to strictly manage the land until Congress "releases" it for other possible uses, which H.R. 1581 would do. Crimmins, who worked for the Forest Service for 32 years, was involved in the process for evaluating Forest Service land to determine whether it deserved a Wilderness designation. A Wilderness designation bars off-highway riding and most other uses. "The intent of the process was to identify any and all areas that could potentially be considered for Wilderness designation and then, once and for all, make recommendations for areas that should be considered for Wilderness designations and areas that should be managed for multiple use," Crimmins testified. "This would allow the agency to move forward with its mission to manage the national forests."...more

Study: Recreation trumps ranchers on BLM land

A new federal study shows recreationists and the industry that supports their outdoor activities on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are outpacing traditional users like ranchers, loggers and miners. The results are a look into the Department of Interior’s economic effects in Idaho, a state where the BLM manages more than 11.9 million acres, mostly desert and canyon lands at lower elevations. The report finds that recreation accounts for more than six times more jobs than grazing and timber industries, and three times more than energy and minerals. Jobs and economic benefits from recreationists using BLM land include rafting and hunting outfitters and their support staff as well as the stores and merchants who sell food, gas and other supplies for the trips, the Idaho Statesman reported in a story published Tuesday. The report’s findings could renew the debate and criticism that the BLM has catered more to ranchers and the timber and mining industries, groups that traditionally have wielded more political clout. Wyatt Prescott, executive director of the Idaho Cattle Association, doesn’t dispute the findings of the report. But he takes a different approach to the results. Prescott says ranchers ultimately save the agency money because they fix fences, practice conservation and are on the lookout for fires and weed invasions. “It saves the agency money because the ranchers are out on the ground doing stewardship,’’ Prescott said. Budget figures show the BLM manages its land more cheaply than comparable federal agencies. It averages $1.70 an acre for management costs, compared to $8 for the National Forest Service and about $9.50 for the National Park Service...more

Check out those budget figures and you will see why the BLM is jealous of the other federal land management agencies. Instead of being proud of their efficiency they covet the money. This also helps explain their creation of the National Landscape Conservation System and the push for more protected areas, as they believe this will result in increased appropriations from Congress.

Rosemont CEO says worker caused May 2 blaze

Rosemont Copper's president says welding work done by a ranch hand working for the company accidentally sparked a fire that burned about 2,200 acres near the Santa Rita Mountains in early May. The ranch worker was welding a broken well bracket in the back of a pickup truck in a manner that followed procedures outlined in the ranch operation's permit to graze on federal land, said Rod Pace, Rosemont Copper's president and CEO. The fire started on the company's Rosemont Ranch, which spans about 30,000 acres of mostly federal land in the grasslands and oak woodlands east of the Santa Ritas and west of Arizona 83. Although the fire didn't burn any structures, it came to 75 yards of a ranch house on private land, said Joseph DeWolf, chief of the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District. Its firefighters were the first to respond to the blaze, he said. The U.S. Forest Service has the wildfire under investigation by its law enforcement division. It has refused to comment on the origin and has turned down a Freedom of Information Act request from the Star for information on the fire due to the investigation. For some time now, local fire district officials and the former owner of the Rosemont Ranch's private land, Bob Bowman, have said the fire started on this ranch, where Bowman lives on private land owned by the mining company. Bowman continues to live there under what's known as a "life estate" agreement with the company, he has said...more

County Seeks Review Into Forest Service Restrictions On Fire Retardant

On a motion by County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich, the Board of Supervisors will send a five-signature letter to the United States Forest Service, the Secretary of Agriculture and California congressional leaders asking for a review and further investigation into the Forest Service’s intention to reduce aerial application of fire retardant during wildfires. Antonovich’s motion included the serious concern raised by the Los Angeles County Fire Department that retardants and gels have significantly assisted the suppression of wild land incidents by slowing the spread of the fire and giving fire fighters the ability to keep the fire small. “Limiting aerial retardant drops could allow a fire to grow larger and out of control – as we saw during the Station Fire,” said Antonovich. “To protect life and property, we need to utilize all fire fighting weapons to control fires – not less.” The United States Forest Service released a programmatic environmental impact statement suggesting that the continued nationwide aerial application of fire retardant on National Forest System lands may have negative environmental impacts. Wild land fires do not respect jurisdictional boundaries, management policies and guidelines adopted by the USFS directly impact local communities and fire agencies...more

Watching a wildfire hit home--from 5,000 miles away

Facebook has been a source of direct commentary from folks who are seeing this firsthand. That's helped me keep tabs on people whose welfare I'm concerned about, but the collective commentary also has provided information that I couldn't find initially on more official sources. Joe Martz, a lab scientist and former classmate of mine from Pueblo Junior High School, stayed put even as the rest of the Los Alamos town emptied out. He's been posting updates about the fire's status on Facebook. I highly recommend LANL's Flickr photostream for sights that non-authorized personnel aren't likely to see. Its shots show the terrible beauty of a wildfire in an arid area as well as the sobering reality of the evacuation exodus. The most surprising find for me was satellite-supplied fire data from the U.S. Forest Service that can be viewed as a KMZ file in Google Earth.  There are useful official sites: the interagency fire officials' Las Conchas fire site and Twitter feed, the Forest Service's Las Conchas incident page...more

NMSU Researcher Looks For Ways To Better Protect Forests From Wildfire Risk

Wildfires may be nothing new to the arid Southwest, but extremely dry conditions have led to several high-profile fires in just the last month, including the massive half-million-acre Wallow Fire in Arizona and the recent-and-growing Las Conchas Fire just outside of Los Alamos. "Obviously, it's been really hot and really dry," said Doug Cram, a New Mexico State University researcher and Extension specialist who studies forest and riparian health issues. "When you have those weather conditions and elevated fuel levels, it's going to burn - hot." He works regularly with the U.S. Forest Service and the state forestry division on forest health issues. He says he's curious to see what can be learned from a forest management perspective following a year as dry as 2011. "New Mexico is in a drought 66 percent of the time," he said. "Fire is a part of these systems; it always has been. The question is, 'How are we going to manage our forests from a resource perspective?'" Cram said that historically, forests and grasslands across the West were maintained through frequent, natural wildfires, which thinned fuels and made high-intensity wildfires less common. Smoke from those fires is also natural, but made worse and a bigger health concern when fuels are abundant. "We need to make the land more resilient to wildfire," he said. "We can modify the fuel loads of these areas, and help prevent intense, tree crown fires by thinning the forest and conducting prescribed burns." He said particularly in the Southwest, trees grow slowly. If precious topsoil is washed away when the rains return, it's hard for those trees to grow back. If the fire is intense enough, it's also possible for some forest areas to turn to shrubland or for grassland to turn to barren land for a time following a fire...more

Famed Australia ranch to be sold due to export ban

Australia’s best-known Outback cattle ranch has been put on the market by an owner who on Wednesday blamed the country’s ban on livestock exports to Indonesia for destroying her livelihood. The decision to sell iconic Bullo River Station in the Northern Territory is the latest evidence of the economic hardship gripping tropical Australian cattle country since the government announced on June 8 that livestock exports to Indonesia were banned for up to six months because of animal cruelty concerns in Indonesian slaughterhouses. The 40,000-acre (160,000-hectare) family owned property was made famous by matriarch Sara Henderson, who wrote about it in six books including her best-selling autobiography “From Strength to Strength,” published in 1993. It told of her family’s struggle to manage the remote and expansive ranch – known in Australia as a cattle station – after her American-born husband Charlie Henderson died in 1985. Sara Henderson retired from ranching before she died in 2005, aged 68. Her daughter who now owns the ranch, Marlee Ranacher, said Wednesday that the ban was the last straw for her and other ranchers like her in northern Australia. “I wish for a miracle, but there aren’t many of those around at the moment, and this is definitely the last straw because the government, I believe, is legally and morally negligent to have done what they have done,” she added. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of livestock. Many ranchers rely entirely on the 330 million Australian dollar ($350 million) per year live cattle trade with Indonesia because there are no large-scale slaughterhouses in northern Australia – and the southeast market where most Australians live is too distant...more

Song Of The Day #610

In the 60's Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan reunited and cut a remake of their 1938 hit Ida Red. Normally Ranch Radio likes the originals, but this modern version is hard to beat.

'Project Gunrunner' Whistleblower Says ATF Sent Him Termination Notice

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is being accused of retaliating against an agent who helped publicize the agency’s role in allowing thousands of guns to cross the U.S. border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug gangs. The agent, Vince Cefalu, who has spoken out about the ATF's so-called "Project Gunrunner" scandal, says he was served with termination papers just last week, and he calls the move politically motivated. Cefalu first told about the ATF’s embattled anti-gun smuggling operation in December, before the first reports on the story appeared in February. “Simply put, we knowingly let hundreds of guns and dozens of identified bad guys go across the border,” Cefalu said at the time. Since then, Cefalu’s claims have been vindicated, as a number of agents with first-hand knowledge of the case came forward. The scandal over Project Gunrunner led to congressional hearings, a presidential reprimand – Obama called the operation “a serious mistake” – and speculation that ATF chief Ken Melson will resign. Yet last week, Cefalu, who has worked for the agency for 24 years, was forced to turn in his gun and badge. He can appeal but will be on “paid administrative leave” during the process...more

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

EDITORIAL: An inconvenient cooling

Reports of imminent climatic catastrophes are turning out to be rather anticlimactic. That’s because rather than heating up to life-threatening levels, new scientific findings indicate it’s more likely the Earth will cool in coming years. That’s bad news for a global-warming industry heavily invested in a sultry forecast. Cornelis de Jager, a solar physicist from the Netherlands and former secretary-general of the International Astronomical Union, announced that the sun is about to enter a period of extremely low sunspot activity, which historically is associated with cooling trends. Backed by other scientists, he predicted the “grand solar minimum” is expected to begin around 2020 and last until 2100. The ebb of solar activity is shaping up to resemble what occurred during the Little Ice Age, the period from 1620 to 1720 when sunspot activity diminished and temperatures dropped an estimated 3 degrees Celsius. The era was noted for colder-than-usual winters in North America and Europe, when rivers and canals froze over, allowing for ice-skating and winter festivals. It also resulted in crop failure and population displacement in northern regions such as Iceland. To characterize the impending grand solar minimum as an “ice age” - with glaciers forming at temperate latitudes - would be an exaggeration. The correlation between decreased sunspot activity and falling temperatures means it’s likely to get colder when the sunspots begin to disappear. Global-warming zealots are steamed. They’ve already cleverly rebranded their movement as “climate change” in order to appear relevant no matter what the thermometer reads, but the recent findings could undermine the basis for their cause...more

Supreme Ct. to ACORN: Taxpayer funding isn’t a right

America’s long-suffering tax- payers scored a resounding victory as the Supreme Court told one of the nation’s fore- most tax-eating groups to take a hike. The high court denied an appeal last week by the radical left-wing gangster group ACORN, ruling in effect that Congress was entitled to cut off federal taxpayer funding for the group, which routinely perpetrates voter fraud and encourages welfare recipients to buy houses they have no hope of paying for. ACORN still matters because reports of its demise have been exaggerated. Although the national ACORN organization filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Election Day last year, ACORN is restructuring itself in time to help re-elect its former employee, President Obama, next year. ACORN’s voter-mobilization arm, Project Vote, is conducting business as usual out of ACORN’s D.C. offices...more

Saving the Chiricahua Leopard frog

Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service are salvaging threatened Chiricahua leopard frogs from a pond at Beatty's Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon, burned by the Monument Fire. The Chiricahua leopard frog is listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The south face of Miller Canyon above the ranch is severely burned and sediment flows into the pond are likely when monsoon rains start. The owners of the ranch, an official Safe Harbor site for the frogs for more than ten years, requested assistance. The pond is a source population for introduction of the frogs elsewhere. Approximately 50 frogs and 100 tadpoles will be netted, placed in aerated and cooled containers and transported on Tuesday, June 29th to Glendale Community College until the threat to their habitat has passed. KVOA

When you don't manage forests because of endangered species it damages...endangered species.

Wolf hunts prove divisive as states prepare

Public opinion on gray wolves remains sharply split as Montana and Idaho wildlife officials prepare to resume hunts for the predators after Congress removed their endangered species protections. Montana State Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners are scheduled to meet July 14 to adopt a quota of 220 wolves to be killed during fall rifle and archery hunts. Idaho's hunt is scheduled for adoption in late July. Final details still are being worked out. More than 450 people submitted comments on the Montana proposal in recent weeks. They ranged from calls to sharply increase the quota and allow trapping and poisoning of wolves, to pleas for a less-aggressive approach so the wolf population could further expand. There were an estimated 566 wolves in Montana at the end of 2010. Once this year's pups are factored in, wildlife officials say the fall hunt will reduce the number by 25 percent to approximately 425 wolves. Dozens of individuals and livestock and hunting groups said the proposed quota was too low. They warned that the predators' population would quickly rebound, leading to more attacks on cattle and sheep and further reductions in elk herds that are pursued by wolves and hunters alike...more

Judge won't delay impact report on mine, sees apparent missteps

A federal judge refused Monday to grant an injunction delaying the release of a draft environmental report on the proposed Rosemont mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. But the judge also found "an appearance of impropriety" by Rosemont Copper and the U.S. Forest Service in their handling of meetings about the mine issue that triggered this lawsuit. Senior U.S. District Judge Frank Zapata ruled late Monday that opponents failed to show that they would prevail on the merits of their lawsuit. They charged that the Forest Service violated federal law by having mining-company officials, but not representatives of the general public, attend numerous meetings on the controversial proposed mine. About two dozen such meetings, many attended by Rosemont officials or consultants, were held in 2009 and 2010 with representatives of 17 local, state and federal agencies who have been advising the service on the mine's environmental-impact statement, Zapata wrote. But Zapata ruled the service was "less than prudent" in having Rosemont representatives as the only nongovernmental entities attending. Such action, "at a minimum, presents an appearance of impropriety on the part of the USFS as well as Rosemont."...more

Developer Introduces New Rig

As the U.S. continues to work towards energy independence, one Western Slope energy developer says its latest innovation will open up stores of natural gas that could never be reached before -- all while minimizing impacts to land. When it comes to heating America's homes and providing a possible bridge fuel of the future, natural gas drillers say they're constantly having to overcome new challenges. And for Williams Energy, one of the biggest obstacles is Colorado's rugged terrain. "It's one thing to have an area where you know there's natural gas, but when you're in the Rocky Mountains it can be another thing to actually get to that location," said Susan Alvillar, Community Relations Representative for Williams Energy. What they came up with -- the Nabors Sundowner split rig. "Our core intention was to have part of the rig here and part on a lower pad," said Robert Brown, Drilling Superintendent for Williams Production. "In other words, have two smaller pads."
Williams says the rig will be able to drill 20 wells on the small, narrow pad where it's located -- a space they had already been leasing. "We can drill so many more wells on one site instead of making a number of sites," said Brown. And they say they can do more of it without disturbing additional land...more

NW spotted owl recovery plan due by end of week

After months of tinkering, the Obama administration is due out this week with its last-ditch plan for saving the northern spotted owl from extinction. Timber industry and conservation groups that have battled for decades said Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been unusually closed-mouth while developing the final recovery plan, and they have no idea what it will say. The draft plan it is based on drew harsh criticism from both sides. Conservation groups felt it didn't protect enough habitat. The timber industry felt it didn't allow enough logging to supply mills and reduce the threat of wildfire...more

Timber group suing Interior for more trees

To force the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to increase its timber harvest in Western Oregon, the timber industry, including Rough and Ready Lumber Co. in the Illinois Valley and the Swanson Group Manufacturing in Glendale, filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday. The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar seeks to require the BLM to sell at least 502 million board feet each year, the amount provided for under the resource management plans for the agency's districts in Western Oregon. The agency has sold only a small fraction of the annual timber harvest mandated by the plans approved in 2008, according to the lawsuit. For instance, the Medford District's fiscal year 2011 planned target calls for harvesting 19 million board feet out of the 97 million board feet called for in its management plan, the plaintiffs said. Others joining in the lawsuit are the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, Carpenters Industrial Council, Douglas Timber Operators Inc., C&D Lumber Co. of Riddle, Feres Lumber Co. Inc. of Lyons, Seneca Jones Timber Co. of Eugene and Starfire Lumber Co. Inc. of Cottage Grove. "At a time when our mills need this timber to survive, it is outrageous that the Obama administration is directing the BLM not to sustainably harvest," said AFRC president Tom Partin in a prepared statement...more

Suspect arrested in attack on cattle drive

A Camptonville man was arrested in connection with a cattle drive hit-and-run, the Sierra County Sheriff's Department said Saturday. Justin Phillip Lombardobarton, 19, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism and animal cruelty for allegedly striking five cows, running over a cattle dog named Maggie and threatening to hit several horseback riders last Sunday. The horseback riders were participating in the annual Reader Ranch Cattle Drive near Henness Pass in Pike City, a town in southwestern Sierra County where Sierra, Nevada and Yuba counties meet near the Middle Fork of the Yuba River. Participants in the cattle drive and ranch owner John Reader described the attack to The Union newspaper in Grass Valley. A man in a white Jeep Cherokee drove past the cattle, stopped in the middle of the herd and then whipped his steering wheel to the right and gunned it, Reader told The Union. When riders tried to cut the driver off, he aimed toward them and then twice drove over Maggie, the ranch owner's best cattle dog who was trotting behind the cows...more

EBID Announces Shortest Irrigation Season In It's History

     (Las Cruces, N.M.)  The Elephant Butte Irrigation District is alerting farmers in the Hatch, Rincon and Mesilla Valleys that the last day to order EBID irrigation water is Friday, July 1, 2011.  EBID Treasurer-Manager, Gary Esslinger says all orders must be placed by this Friday and as early as possible.
      The EBID system will run its remaining allotment until the water plays out in the system around July 5.  A disappointing snow pack in the upper Rio Grande Basin, the continuing drought and a lack of relinquishment of New Mexico compact water have all combined to limit this year’s irrigation season.
      This shut down marks the first time in the history of the EBID, since it took over the system from the federal government, that the district has experienced such a short water year.  Esslinger pointed out that during this time farmers in the district have also seen some of the wettest years in the history of the project.         Esslinger says monsoon summer rains could revitalize the system but for now the EBID has implemented a day to day “adoptive management” plan that holds no guarantees.
      Growers can place orders through the EBID dispatch office at (575) 524-8003.

Cowboy recalls era when cattle trail went up 37th

Longshoremen loaded more than 1,000 heifers on a Russian-bound ship earlier this month in an efficient operation nowhere near as spectacular as in Galveston’s wilder days. From the late 1800s through the roaring ’20s and decades following, cowboys drove herds of cattle down the seawall, steering them left at 37th Street and to the port. An occasional stray would wander in search of greener grass in area neighborhoods. “If you close your eyes, you can try to imagine the difficulty in trying to drive 300, 400 or 500 cattle up the boulevard all the way to 37th and then turning them and heading them to the docks,” said Gerald Sullivan, of Galveston. His father, the late John R. Sullivan, was among the drovers. “It has always fascinated me that you had cowboys that were really good enough to do that.” The elder Sullivan, an accomplished rodeoer as well, relished recalling the shipment of mules being herded to a waiting ship one day until the drovers caught sight of famous actress Alice Faye. “The cowboys paid more attention to her, and less attention to the mules and got the devil kicked out of them,” said John Sullivan, Gerald’s brother, recalling his father’s rendition of the tale. But it was the cattle drives the elder Sullivan described most often. “They would drive the cattle from the Lykes Brothers Ranch, up the beach to where the seawall began, then drive them up the seawall,” Gerald Sullivan said. Cattle would be driven into pens, and then loaded in various ways, depending on the ship’s configuration. Special portable pens might be used to hoist cattle aboard the ship, or ramps might be built alongside the ship and cattle herded through chutes, up the ramps and into pens in the hold of the ship. Slings were also used to hoist cattle aboard...more

Song Of The Day #609

Ranch Radio's tune today is Goodbye Little Darlin' Goodbye by Gene Autry.

The song was recorded in Los Angeles on March 12, 1940 and was released as Vocalion 05463.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Border Patrol: Agent spotted wildfire

The Border Patrol says one of its agents had spotted the Monument Fire as the blaze near the U.S.-Mexico border was beginning to grow. The agent who reported the fire wanted to extinguish it but realized it was too big to fight, said Steve Adkinson, a Border Patrol spokesman. The Border Patrol’s statement comes after Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said he believes illegal immigrants started the 47-square-mile Monument Fire near Sierra Vista. Dever had said a border agent had been pursuing a group of illegal immigrants nearby when the fire broke out on June 12. The agent wasn’t pursuing illegal immigrants but was instead looking for footprints and other signs of illegal border-crossers, Adkinson says. Investigators declined to say whether the human-caused fire was started by illegal immigrants. AP

See Hugh Holub's comments here.

Environmental lawsuits: Bill would reform rule on payouts when government loses cases

In the coming battle over the Equal Access to Justice Act, the one thing everybody agrees on is nobody knows what's going on. "EAJA was something I was involved in as a young, newly crafted congressional aide back in the late '70s and early '80s," said Rep. Denny Rehberg, one of 38 co-sponsors of the Government Litigation Savings Act that's intended to reform the law. "I came into Congress in 2000, and had no idea the accounting had changed since I was involved in it. I had no idea why. It doesn't make sense." The Equal Access to Justice Act says any government agency that loses a lawsuit to a private individual, group or business must pay the legal costs of the winner. The money comes out of each agency's budget, rather than a central fund. And in the past couple of years, it's become the target of agriculture, sporting, energy and recreation groups as the "gravy train" that fuels environmental lawsuits. "When I was a congressional aide for Ron Marlenee, it was one of the single biggest issues brought by the National Federation of Independent Businesses," Rehberg said. "It was always intended to help small businesses having some kind of problem with federal government, so they had equal access to the court system without putting them out of business. "It's morphed into something entirely different that wasn't intended. It's become a cottage industry for lawsuits, especially in the environmental arena." The Equal Access Act was signed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and permanently funded in 1985 under President Ronald Reagan. In 1995, the requirement for annual accounting of EAJA awards lapsed and was never reinstated. Since then, no one has been able to track who's got what in legal-fee reimbursements...Other applicants for Equal Access to Justice money include businesses challenging federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and military veterans fighting the Veterans Administration or Department of Defense. Because there's no central accounting of EAJA spending, there's no easy way to find out how much is spent. A spokesman at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service couldn't provide figures on how much it had paid in reimbursements, referring a reporter to the Department of Justice, which handles its legal affairs. A DOJ spokesman said he couldn't find Fish and Wildlife Service accounts either. But a phone call to the U.S. Forest Service Northern Region office in Missoula produced a six-page spreadsheet of EAJA payments made between 2000 and 2010. It showed $1,984,981 in payments over the decade, almost all to environmental organizations...more

Endangered Species Act attacked through the back door

The Endangered Species Act has long had its foes, particularly in the West. But in recent months, the law has taken an unprecedented hit from Congress. Republicans, led by Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, used a budget bill signed into law by the president to return to the states of Idaho and Montana the right to manage their wolf populations. It's the latest move in a long-raging battle over how to manage gray wolves that has pitted environmentalists, ranchers, state wildlife managers and the federal government against each other. It effectively took the wolves off the federal endangered species list in those two states, sidestepping provisions in the Endangered Species Act that give citizens the ability to use the courts to force the government to act on endangered species. Environmentalists say they fear the successful wolf delisting language will open the act to new legislative attacks. It "has certainly emboldened certain members who for political reasons see a benefit in stopping new listings," said Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law at Defenders of Wildlife. "It set exceedingly bad precedent." They were particularly alarmed by one of the first evidences of fallout: an amendment filed earlier this month by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who wants to stop the proposed listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard in New Mexico. He joins House Republicans, who have filed legislation to stop the potential listing of the lizard and the lesser prairie chicken. Cornyn, who has joined Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., in saying that the proposed listings could shut down oil and gas production in parts of west Texas and eastern New Mexico, called the lizard a "scaly political pawn." Its listing would "score points with radical environmentalists," he warned earlier this month...more

A single federal judge can shut down an entire industry and that is ok.

The Congress passes legislation that is signed into law by the President and that's "through the back door."

Why are the R's funding this at all? The ESA hasn't been reauthorized in years.

Wildfires: Forest regeneration stymied by hot crown fires

Wildfires that have burned across almost 750,000 acres in Arizona are doing more than turning forests into charred stumps. Researchers with Northern Arizona University say the fires, burning in unnaturally dense stands of ponderosa pine, are turning the forests from carbon sinks into net carbon producers — and, the fires have burned so hot that they aren’t finding many signs of regeneration. Mike Stoddard, a forest ecologist with NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute, has been looking for a sign, any sign, of ponderosa pine seedlings 15 years after the 1996 Hochderffer Fire, a crown fire that burned hot through 16,000 acres west of the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff. “These large fires are devastating our forests,” Stoddard said. “We’re concerned that ponderosa pine is not regenerating after these wildfire events.” Crown fires burn into the canopies and treetops or crowns of the trees — massive, intense crown fires, such as the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona, are not natural in the ponderosa pine forest. Naturally occurring ponderosa pine fires burn along the ground, or base, of the trees...more

Writers on the Range: The revolution will be motorized

Growing threats of violence; increasing rage; calls to restore liberty by throwing off unjust and unconstitutional government rule. The voices of the angry are loud, and they're likely coming soon to a Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service office near you. The issue that inspires this fury is closing roads through public lands. It makes me ask: Does a Sunday drive merit all this outrage? Do we have so few problems in this recession-rattled, deeply divided country that access to roads is worth this war of words? In Moab, the Sagebrush Coalition recently formed to protect the motorized access that already exists on federal lands. They've held public meetings, met with BLM and Forest Service personnel and promoted their message in the newspaper. Their rallying cries at gatherings include, "We want our public lands open!" and "They're ours — take them back!" At issue is the federal government's authority to manage and, more specifically, accept or decommission roads. The matter is currently coming to a head across the West as numerous BLM field offices update their resource management plans and determine what routes remain open for travel. We desperately need updated management plans. Existing management documents were drafted 20 or more years ago — well before the current explosion in motorized recreation...more

High -Tech Part Of Owl Plan Drawing Fire

Henson says the goal was to chart with a computer model how the owl is doing. "We asked the modelers to collect as much data as they can, to use state-of-the-art technology, whether it’s computer modeling technology, or it's Google-earth," he said. Henson says this technology wasn’t around when the spotted owl first appeared on the Endangered Species list. He says the technology - the modeling tool – can help his own agency, as well as the Forest Service and other land managers, forecast how activities could affect the owl. "We do not read the models as doing those things," Ann Forest-Burns said. Forest-Burns is with the industry group, American Forest Resource Council. Her group filed a lawsuit late last year over the modeling – or more specifically, the team the feds put together, to build the model. The modeling team’s work was not being done in the open light of day, as required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act," she said. Forest-Burns has reservations about the information the model produces, as well. The model has three main components. The foundation is a database of habitat information. On top of that is a program intended to test how habitat would respond to different things – like logging or conservation measures. And last is a population model, to predict the behavior of the owls themselves...more

Cattlemen's group opposes federal easement plan

A key cattlemen's group has come out against a federal proposal to offer easements to preserve rangelands in the foothills around the Central Valley. At their summer meeting this week, California Cattlemen's Association board members voted to oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's controversial California Foothills Legacy Area project. CCA President Kevin Kester said in a statement that members "by a substantial margin" oppose the plan, which would provide lump-sum payments for landowners who agree to keep their properties as open space. In a resolution, the CCA explains it dislikes the fact that the California Foothills Legacy Area does not allow third parties to hold, enforce and negotiate easements and is not based on a statewide competitive process for easement funding. The organization's vote comes as Fish and Wildlife has held six "scoping sessions" on the project and is accepting comments until July 15. At a meeting in Red Bluff, Calif., on June 14, ranchers and tea party groups argued the federal government shouldn't spend money on things such as conservation easements and landowners shouldn't invite government scrutiny of their operations...more

The future of the American car

On This Day: Air Force Issues Report Debunking Roswell Incident

On June 24, 1997, the U.S. Air Force issued its second report in three years regarding the alleged government cover-up of the 1947 UFO sightings in Roswell, N.M. The report revealed that supposed alien bodies were actually crash dummies and repeated the Air Force’s earlier claim that the wreckage discovered near Roswell was a balloon from a top secret project. In June 1947, William Ware “Mac” Brazel, a rancher living in a remote area 30 miles east of Corona, N.M., stumbled upon “a large area of bright wreckage made up on rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks” while walking with his son, reported the reported the Roswell Daily Chronicle on July 9, 1947. Brazel thought little of the debris and left it alone. A few weeks later, however, after hearing reports that pilot Kenneth Arnold had spotted what the press dubbed “flying saucers” over Mount Rainier, Wash., Brazel returned to the scene with his family to collect some of the debris. On July 7, he told local Sheriff George Wilcox, who alerted the Roswell Army Air Field and Maj. Jesse A. Marcel. On July 8, the RAAF announced that it had “come into possession of a flying saucer.” The story made national news. That same day, the Army Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas, which had been sent the debris for analysis, announced that the debris was nothing more than the wreckage of a weather balloon. Brazel, in his interview with the Daily Chronicle, said that he had previously seen crashed weather balloons, but in this case, “I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon.”...more

Coming soon, the test-tube burger

The first ‘test-tube’ hamburger is only a year away, scientists claim. They believe the product, beef mince grown from stem cells, could pave the way for eating meat without animals being slaughtered. The Dutch scientists predict that over the next few decades the world’s population will increase so quickly that there will not be enough livestock to feed everyone. As a result, they say, laboratory-grown beef, chicken and lamb could become normal. The scientists are currently developing a burger which will be grown from 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle, which are then left in the lab to multiply more than a billion times to produce muscle tissue similar to beef. The product is called ‘in vitro’ meat. Mark Post, professor of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who is behind the project, said: ‘I don’t see any way you could rely on old-fashioned livestock in the coming decades. ‘In vitro meat will be the only choice left. He told Scientific American magazine that he thought the first burger could be made within 12 months...more

Study: City life can make you crazy

Between the crowds and the noise and the pressure, city life often seems to set one’s brain on edge. Turns out that could literally be true. A study of German college students suggests that urbanite brains are more susceptible to stress, particularly social stress, than those of country dwellers. Meyer-Lindenberg’s findings, published June 23 in Nature, are a neurological investigation into the underpinnings of a disturbing social trend: As a rule, city life seems to generate mental illness. Compared to their rural counterparts, city dwellers have higher levels of anxiety and mood disorders. The schizophrenia risk of people raised in cities is almost double. Literature on the effect is so thorough that researchers say it’s not just correlation, as might be expected if anxious people preferred to live in cities. Neither is it a result of heredity. It’s a cause-and-effect relationship between environment and mind...more

Herding dog, cattle and ranchers attacked

Deputies are searching for a man who witnesses watched run down cattle, try to hit horse riders and purposefully crash into a beloved family cattle dog twice before fleeing the scene of an annual event. The cattle dog, Maggie, is now fighting for her life at a Loomis veterinary clinic. Sunday, June 19 was the perfect day for the Reader family’s annual cattle drive run by rancher John Reader, who has been driving cattle for 70 years. The event is a chance for family, friends, and locals to gather, drive cattle to the mountains, and celebrate Father’s Day. Each year, 200 cattle are herded by Reader, a pilot car, horseback riders, and Reader’s cattle dog named Maggie, up Alleghany-Ridge Road in a rural town east of Highway 49 above North San Juan in Sierra County. “The cattle are herded up the road for about two miles before we turn them onto a mountain trail,” Osterholm said. “Locals set up chairs roadside, take pictures, and wave to us as we go by each year. It's usually a special event and most people love to watch it.” Forty minutes into the drive, the riders at the front of the herd saw a vehicle coming down the mountain. “I watched him turn the wheels turn toward the cattle and I could hear him accelerate. He went out of his way to hit the cows. I was stunned. He sped right into the cows and their calves,” Osterholm recalled. When the riders called to the driver, telling him to stop, Osterholm said “he gunned the car toward us,” missing riders and horses by inches. “It was very gruesome. We all yelled at the driver to stop, to spare the dog, but he kept going and hit her twice,” Osterholm continued...more

Song Of The Day #608

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio and here's Big Smith with Texas Can Wait.

The tune is on their 16 track CD Roots Shoots & Wings.

Mexican police say La Familia drug gang extorts farmers, miners, bullfighting

Mexico’s federal police agency, the Public Security Secretariat, outlined the local businesses preyed upon in a new report on the extent of the gang’s corruption and intimidation tactics in its home base of Michoacan state. In order to supplement drug-trafficking income, La Familia forces miners to pay $1.50 per ton of metal they sell and cattle ranchers to pay $1 per kilogram of meat, it said. Michoacan’s rich lime and avocado farms are subject to “quotas,” or a percentage of farmers’ earnings. Bullfights, cockfights and concerts also are extorted, the report says. The report charges that Michoacan state police commanders aid La Familia in its operations by permitting cartel operatives to use patrol cars, radio frequencies and police uniforms. The report relates how one former state police official used patrol cars to block off streets and help hit men escape other police. “They used state police infrastructure to establish routes and ensure the safety of their armed commandos,” the report says...more

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Just another day in the neighborhood
 by Julie Carter

I doubt that a “prize” egg from a “prize” chicken tastes measurably different, but beauty, and perhaps taste, is in eyes and taste-buds of the beholder.

One local cowboy has gone into the chicken business. Milton has six new-to-him hens that he got from someone that raises prize chickens.

The criteria for these particular prize chickens is that some other farmer-type cowboy leased a reputation rooster to put with his run-of-the-mill hens and now he is labeled a prize chicken breeder. Seriously. 

Milton is only concerned that they lay eggs. So he built them a pen out of one of those dog kennel kits with cyclone fencing and for a roof he added some old tin he had lying around. Some neighbor gave him a nest box. He deemed this “good” and is expecting prize eggs any day now. It takes so little to entertain a cowboy.

Not one to watch chicken’s work, Milton went to rope. Upon arrival at his roping partner’s place for practice, things went downhill fast.

When his buddy came around the corner of the barn he saw Milton’s ancient one-horse trailer laid over on its side and his horse Boomer was firmly tied to a big oak tree. Boomer was bleeding a little here and there.

Milton was red in the face and mad as one of his prized wet hens. Seems during saddling, Boomer had set back hard while tied to the trailer, pulling it completely over on himself and on Milton.

Milton managed to crawl out from under the trailer and commenced to have a serious “discussion” with Boomer. His roping buddy wasn’t sure which of Boomer’s wounds were from the trailer and which were from the “discussion.”

They tied a rope to the trailer, pulled it back up with the truck and everybody's consensus was that before them now stood three of the sorriest things a fella could have -- the truck, the trailer and the horse.

During the melee of Milton, Boomer and the trailer up-righting event the  roping steers were standing in the snake of the alley leading to the chute, waiting to be roped.

When the ropers finally go to the arena, they found that one of the steers had gotten down in the alley, neck twisted and nose in the dirt while another steer backed over him. Nearly smothered, it took some cowboy CPR (a unique form of encouragement), letting out the lead steer and a good bit of cussing to get the downer on his feet.

He finally he got up, wobbled down to the catch pen and laid back down. The following morning, you couldn't pick him out of the herd so apparently the short period of oxygen deprivation didn’t cause much brain damage. However with roping steers that is hard to judge.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Ritadammit and Valentine, resident dog and cat, were keeping a close watch on the new cluckers. Not quite sure they liked sharing their domain with chickens and certainly not impressed with their “prize-winning” status, the duo found some satisfaction in knowing that at least the hens would never be housebroke.

But then, neither was the resident cowboy and he had his own recliner.

Julie can be reached for comment at